My partner insists on dating other people, which makes me miserable

my girlfriend cheated on me with one of our friends. she told me before she cheated that she had feelings for him, but i told her i was not comfortable with it because i am mono and feel horrible about the idea of her with someone else but she kissed him anyways. she now has decided she is dating both of us without my consent. i really do not want to leave our relationship, we both love each other so much and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and i feel like leaving would endanger both mine and her lives. she is not mentally stable but sees a therapist. i don't know what to do, because she says she needs both of us to be happy, but if that happens i’m going to be increasingly depressed. i’m just so lost right now and there doesn’t seem to be any way to solve this.

Your partner cheated on you, is trying to force you into polyamory without your consent, and is holding your emotions hostage by saying that you being happy is a "need" that somehow she deserves to have met. You know that staying in this relationship on these terms will make you "increasingly depressed." Friend, you've got to leave this relationship.

What you want to keep is your ideal, best-case-scenario possibility of this relationship, not the reality of it. What you're holding onto doesn't exist anymore. The sooner you get out, the sooner you can start healing.

It is not okay, and not healthy, to be held hostage to implied, or explicit, threats of suicide. You are not obligated to stay with someone just because their mental health would be impacted by you leaving. It's okay to call your partner's therapist and see if they can help you and her through this; or to ask your partner if you can come to a session with her. You also absolutely need to see someone yourself - please find a therapist asap. Reach out to friends for support. Don't get dragged into a spiral of managing her mental health for her; if she threatens self-harm or suicide, connect her to her therapist, a hotline, or a friend, and then take space. 

Check out my mental health resources here, and good luck getting out of this situation. You don't deserve to feel so trapped and unhappy.

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Why don't I feel pretty or sexy anymore when I'm with my partner?

Why don't I feel pretty or sexy anymore when I'm with my partner?

I have genuinely no idea; I am not psychic! 

Think about what usually makes you feel sexy, and ask your partner for more of that! Whether it's flirty touches, compliments, specific types of sexual behaviors, etc. Sometimes couples just fall into a 'routine' and it can take some intentional effort to re-ignite the sexy spark. But you gotta identify what creates that spark for you!

Consider getting a bit out of your comfort zone and trying something new together, like taking sexy photos, shopping for a new sex toy or lingerie, getting a couple's massage, going to a sexy event together, sexting each other, etc.

Consider what else might be affecting your sense of self and what you can do to improve your self-esteem independently of your partner. I often feel less sexy when I'm tired or stressed, so think about whether therapy, a lifestyle change, or just some patience through a tough time could help. Some people really enjoy how they feel about their bodies when doing dance, yoga, or martial arts.  

If, after you've tried talking to your partner, putting some effort into re-igniting that spark, and finding your inner sense of sexiness, you still feel like this around your partner, it might not be a healthy relationship to stay in. Partners should make you feel precious, cherished, and wanted - and if your partner can't or won't do that, that's not okay.

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My partner and I started seeing someone else, and they're worried they'll break us up

My partner and i just added a third. Our third is afraid of splitting my partner and I up. Is there anyway we can prove to our third that we both want it to be the three of us for the long haul?

Short answer, no: there is very little you can do to change how someone else thinks or feels, and there is nothing you can do in the present to provide 'proof' of something in the future.

However, you can try and talk things out and help everyone understand where everyone else is coming from. Ask your new partner: where are these feelings coming from? Is there something we're saying or doing that's sparking this anxiety? What could we do to help you feel more secure?

You can be reassuring, and let them know that you're both happy with the way things are now, and that you will let them know if concerns come up or something starts to change. Stick to your word on that - be open, honest, and vulnerable. People often find it easier to trust you after you've demonstrated that you're willing to say awkward, uncomfortable truths and share difficult feelings, even if it's a smaller-stakes issue.

Let them know that this isn't their problem to worry about, that you two are committed to making the triad work, and that if something comes up in the future, you'll handle it then. Talk about what you like about this new triad and your best-case-scenarios for the future.

Sometimes, things like this fade with time. Newness and change are scary, and our brains sometimes funnel that nebulous anxiety into specific fears, whether or not they're grounded. Stay in the present, knowing that the three of you can cross future bridges when you come to them, trusting your future selves to handle what comes up, and doing your best not to 'borrow trouble' if things are working out right now.

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some lovely fanmail

I don't usually publish letters that don't have a question, but here are a handful of lovely notes from lovely readers! If you like my blog, please consider supporting me on Patreon!

Just want to say I'm relieved to have found this blog. It has been a week since I realized I am polyamory and this blog is helping me to understand this new bit I just learned about myself. I can't believe I'm 26 and going down another journey of self-discovery ahahaha I thought I was done with it after realizing I was bisexual, but apparently not. Just thanks for existing!

I'm so happy for you, and glad my blog could help you on this journey of self-discovery. I've known I'm polyamorous for most of my life, but realized I was bisexual at age 27, so we're in this together!

Hi honestly i just wanted to message you again and say thanks i left my partner a few weeks ago and honestly its probably the best thing i ever did he was incredibly possessive and used his own insecurities to control me he made me miserable but i was stuck because i didnt want to hurt him. Now im much happier i have my one boy who doesnt make me cry and im so happy but without you without your blog im not sure i would have had the courage to do it or even to see it for what it was. Thank you.

I'm so, so happy for you! Hugs kudos for having the strength and courage to leave a relationship that made you miserable. Never stay with someone who makes you cry! 

This isn't really a request for advice, but I just wanted to say that thanks to your blog my boyfriend has gained a better understanding and acceptance of polyamory, and this week he and my other boyfriend and I all shared a bed for the first time (non-sexually) and it was just really nice waking up between the two people I love most and seeing them interact with each other in a healthy and loving way. I hope our relationship continues in this manner.

This is so lovely! I love cuddling up with multiple partners/metamours, and I'm so happy my blog could help you and your boyfriends make this happen for yourselves and each other!

Not an ask, but just wanted to say thank you! I just started my first poly relationship and your blog helped me so much in understanding and articulating my feelings.

I love hearing things like this! Understanding and articulating your feelings are SUCH powerful skills, and you should be super proud of yourself for developing them.

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I told my girlfriend I wasn't comfortable with her dating other people, but she did anyway

If my polyam girlfriend dates someone else at the same time as me when I've made it clear that I'm not comfortable with it, that it hurts me, isn't that cheating? She acts like I'm not even there, and it hurts so much.

If you have not given your consent, and you consider it cheating, then it's cheating. End of sentence. If your partner is doing something that hurts you and makes you uncomfortable, especially after you made it clear to her that you weren't okay with it, you should probably leave the relationship.

No one is obligated to change their behavior because someone asks them to. I could say to my partner "if you wear a green shirt, it would hurt me, make me uncomfortable, and I would consider you wearing a green shirt after I told you this to be a betrayal." Then, he could decide to wear a green shirt - he still has that right. But then I have enough information to know that we're probably not compatible, since I'm not comfortable dating someone who wears green shirts.

It sounds like polyamory is a dealbreaker for both of you - she needs to be in a relationship where she can date other people, and you need to be in a monogamous relationship. So the deal has effectively been broken. 

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some quick questions

Hey, what is the difference between polyamorous and polysexual? I saw two flags and I am a bit confused.

Polysexual is a sexual orientation and it has to do with who you're sexually attracted to. Polyamory is a relationship orientation and it has to do with how you date. Polysexual means being attracted to multiple genders. Polyamory means having multiple relationships.

Do you answer asks for advice?

Yes. That is the point of this blog. You can send them here.

How do i begin my adventures of polyamory?

Check out my FAQ here.

Is it okay to want to be in a closed triad with a man and a woman?

Yes, that is a perfectly fine thing to want! It may be hard to find, but it's perfectly okay for that to be your best-case-scenario!

Can I still consider myself polyamorous if my partner and I are not currently looking for someone to add to the relationship, but consider it an option for ourselves in the future?

Sure, just like someone who is gay but choosing to stay single for a while is still gay. But reconsider the "add someone to the relationship" framing

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My girlfriend wants to be in a polyamorous relationship with her ex, but I'm not sure

I'm open to a polyamorous relationship and my girlfriend wants to have one with me and her ex. This would be my first polyamorous relationship and I don't really know the guy. Should I be worried about it? Possibly if he steals her away from me instead of it being a group relationship?

If your girlfriend wants you to just start dating a guy you don't really know, that's not very fair or reasonable. You cannot 'assign' or 'agree' people into relationships - it doesn't work that way. Don't date a guy just because your girlfriend wants you to.

It makes more sense for her to start dating him, and you get to know him, and see how the two of you feel about each other. There is nothing wrong with a V-shaped polyamorous relationship. Being friendly metamours is often the best way for people to relate.

If she's adamant that she only wants a closed/triad/group relationship, then she'll need to be patient and wait for you two to meet someone or grow close with someone that you also want to date.

As for your second question - no, I would not advise you to be worried about that. I can't promise you that it won't possibly happen, since no one can predict the future, but polyamory tends to make it less likely that someone will leave you for someone else, not more. Also, it's impossible for him to "steal her away" - if she leaves you to be monogamous with him, or anyone else, it would be because she made that decision herself, and you can't control her decisions. Unless he's saying and doing things that make it seem like he's trying to shift into a monogamous relationship with her and get her to break up with you, I wouldn't worry about this.

Something to be worried about, though, is that he's her ex. Why did they break up? Does that reason still exist? Are there any red flags or concerns you have about him? Getting back together with exes is not typically a great idea; so be sure you understand what his deal is, why she wants to get back together with him, and whether you want to be part of a situation that involves him.

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I'm 18, and a 26 and 29 year old couple with kids want to date me

I'm 18 and I've never actually dated someone, and this 26/29yo couple wanna date me. I knew the 26yo's kids for a year and a half when they lived right by me, but never knew their dad. Met him and after an hour of talking I said how I hope to have kids like that one day, and found out he's their dad. Turns out he's got a boyfriend, and they both wanna date me. I'm wanting to, but I have 0 dating in real life experience. The kids are 4-10. He pulled strings at work and got me $110 of perfume. We have our expectations for the future line up just right. I already love him, but how would I get to know 7 people? They're where I'm hoping to be in 10 years, not 2, but they're great people, just older. What are good things to talk about when getting to know someone? What should I ask about their relationship? What should I ask regarding the age difference?

Do not date these people. They are much older than you, and in a completely different stage in their lives. They also have a strongly established couple, which adds to the power dynamic. "Pulling strings" to get you expensive stuff is a red flag for grooming behavior. You do not "already love" this person; love grows out of a long period of commitment and intimacy, which you haven't had yet. Especially with kids involved, it will be way too easy for you to get quickly sucked into a situation that won't be healthy for you.

You're 18 - date people your own age. Let your future grow organically and make choices based on what you want without hitching your life to people with very different priorities.

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My boyfriend has tons of other partners and doesn't pay much attention to me

I'm in a situation that I used to think of as poly...tbh lately it feels like a harem. My guy has a gf, it's all good. But he's a traveling musician and has a LOT of other girls he sees (FWBs). I'm comfortable with just the idea, but then seeing his pics on FB actually gives me a twinge of jealousy. I try to relax and be ok with it, but he ignores my messages when he's with them yet when he's with me he's always messaging other girls. How can I chill out and not be bugged by this?

If the situation overall feels okay, but seeing his photos on Facebook bothers you, consider not looking at his photos on Facebook. You can "unfollow" or "hide" posts by him.

It sounds like he has a case of "vacation girlfriend," which is a phrase my therapist used with me and which is really helpful. When you're dating someone long-term, and you see them every day, time with them starts to feel less 'special.' They just sort of blend into your day to day life, where you're running errands, checking your phone, etc. With people you see less often, or whose relationship is less settled-in and secure, it feels more like "oh, I have an afternoon with Angleesa, I should plan ahead of time and get all my stuff done and not be on my phone during it."

There are pros and cons to both type of relationship, but it's important to be intentional and realize when someone is a "day to day" vs "vacation" partner. It sounds like when he's with you, he's still in his daily life, where errands exist, phones need to be checked, and it isn't this set-apart bubble of time to enjoy each other. It's perfectly fine for you to point this out and say "hey, when you're with me, you're often on your phone - can we set aside some time to just be present with each other? Can you do more to cultivate our relationship, even though I'm around more?"

If he argues, denies, or refuses, if he acts like you're being unreasonable, then he probably isn't great for you to date. If he's willing to acknowledge what's going on and re-engage in your relationship in the ways you're asking for, great!

It can also help sometimes to just find a distraction of your own - casual dating, more time with friends, hobbies, new creative projects - so that his flightiness is less of your problem. 

Ultimately, if you continue to feel like there's a part of your relationship that you need to "chill out about" and it's just on you to relax and let him act how he wants and not feel any feelings or ask for anything he's not willing to give, then you should leave the relationship. But talk it out with him first and see if he's wiling and able to make some changes!

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My partner is going through a rough time and I want to arrange something nice for her with her other partners

My girlfriend recently broke up with one of her partners she's been dating for a long time and is not feeling well because of their reaction. I am thinking about contacting the others to met and organize a surprise to cheer her up, like spending a week with everyone near the sea. 
The problem is that we never talked to each others (except one time at Pride, to say a quick hello and shake hands). I fear she would feel uncomfortable, but at the same time it would be great for her to see the ones she loves instead of playing video games all day to not think about it. What would you advise me to do?

This is a sweet and adorable idea, but you're right that it might be a big, uncomfortable thing to spring on her as a "surprise." My recommendation is to plan something less intense - a weeklong vacation is a pretty big deal, but you can still set something nice up for her. I don't know your gender or the genders of her other partners, but since she's a woman, she's probably used to the expectation that she do a lot of the logistics and organizing for fun things, so doing that for her will be lovely.

I don't think it would be out of line to reach out to her other partners on Facebook or wherever, to explain that she's feeling down and you want to put together something nice for her. It might not be wise to throw everyone together - she may feel anxious or responsible for managing the relationships if all of her partners are at an event together - so you could consider planning something individual for her to do with her various partners. 

Going to a local spa, seeing a band she likes in concert, going to a movie, booking a nice dinner, a picnic at a pretty nature spot - choose something you think she'd like. The key is that, after you make sure the time and date and plan works for her, you and her partners put everything together. You call and make the reservations; you book the tickets; you find a campground; you pack the picnic; whatever. All she has to do is show up and enjoy.

Then you say "Elbreth is taking you out to a nice dinner on Friday - she'll be here to pick you up at 6:30." Or "Let's go on a picnic this Saturday, I've got everything sorted out - you just need comfy shoes." You could also expand this effort to include her close friends, not just her partners. I would lose my mind with joy if someone close to me said "hey, I arranged for a babysitter and did the calendar-wrangling with your friends, Galadriel and Arwen are taking you to dinner and that art show in Rivendell on Friday."

When it comes to the larger thing, like a trip or a get-together with all her partners, my advice is to check in with her about what she would like, when works for her, etc. Once she's told you what she wants to do, who she wants to be there, and the dates that work for her, it's on you and her other partners to coordinate and organize. That's the real gift; the "surprise" bit is less relevant. Of course, you know your girlfriend - if she really loves surprises, keep some details secret and do what would make her feel most cared for!

Why didn't you answer my question?

Can you add a "why didn't you answer my question" section to the FAQ?

Okay! Here are the main reasons that questions don't get answered:

1.) I just get too many questions to answer them all.

I post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - that's three posts a week. I get an average of 3-6 messages per day. Mathematically, it is impossible for me to answer every question I get. So I screen for the most interesting, concise, and easy-to-understand ones. This is the main reason, BY FAR, that your question didn't get answered. It's not because you did something wrong, it's just because I have to pick and choose what to answer. 

2.) I have answered it, but it's in the queue/it's time-sensitive in a way that would make it useless to queue.

As I write this, it's July 1. It will be queued to post on August 3. I do take this blog pretty seriously and try to keep the queue full to avoid lapses in posting. If your question is an emergency or time-sensitive, this is not the place to get what you need. If it seems like the letter writer won't be helped by the time it posts (like if the question is about what to say on a date happening the night of the letter's writing), I typically won't answer it. 

3.) It's repetitive.

I get a lot of similar questions. Some are answerable with the FAQ, and others are just similar to ones I've already answered. I prioritize questions that differ from any that I've answered recently. I always encourage folks with questions to read through the archives or use the search feature. Sometimes I get a cluster of questions on the same topic since people are responding to a recent post, and those are very unlikely to get answered unless they have a specific and un-trodden question.

4.) It's too long.

I often have to condense questions to keep them short and simple enough to answer. But sometimes that's too difficult, or the question includes way too many details and narrative. More concise letters with clear, specific questions are more likely to get answers.

5.) It was too difficult to understand.

I do edit messages for spelling and occasionally for grammar, though I try to preserve the style and voice of the original writer. But sometimes they are just too hard to parse or would take tons of work on my part to edit into something easy to answer.

6.) You asked to be answered privately or over chat.

I do not do private or live answers - you can read about my policy here

7.) It's not a question.

If it's just a description of a situation, or a "vent," or an attempt to tell me something without a question, it's probably not going to get a response. If you're just pre-asking permission to ask a question, like "do you give advice?" or "can I ask you a question about XYZ?" I am not going to answer it.

This goes double for people: trying to say something to a letter-writer through my platform, being hateful about polyamory, being rude or nasty about a letter-writer or person discussed in a letter, trying to revise my advice, or trying to use my platform to sell or promote something.

Is it possible to have more than one primary partner?

Is it possible to have more than one primary partner?

Yes. "Primary" does not have to mean "the one person you're committed to above all others." It could also mean "someone you're deeply committed to, see a future with, and will make sacrifices for."

A lot of people think "primary/secondary" stuff is about who ultimately has the 'final say' - like if Hermeneutic is your primary and Metaphysic is your secondary, Hermeneutic can demand that you break up with Metaphysic, but not vice versa. Or if Metaphysic wants to move for his career and Hermeneutic says no, you won't move, but you'd move for Hermeneutic. 

That's not what it means, or has to mean. It doesn't have to set up partners as oppositions or placing one 'above' another. "Primary" marks a certain level of commitment, willingness to sacrifice, and place in your life. More than one person can have that place in your life. 

But this is just the general case; for some people, wrapping their heads around having multiple primaries is impossible. For others, having any "primary" partner or partners just doesn't make sense. So while it's possible, it might not be possible for every individual.

It's a lot messier when things aren't neatly hierarchical. If conflict arises, you don't have someone to 'default' to. You don't have an external structure to dictate your choices. You need to be flexible, dynamic, intentional, and present. If Hermeneutic wants to move, or Metaphysic wants to become monogamous, you have to decide what's best for you, you have to talk things out, you have to think through all the risks and possibilities. And you have to be accountable to the choices you make, rather than throwing your hands up and going "what can I do? He's the primary!"

If that risk doesn't sound like something you can handle; if the tidiness of hierarchical polyamory feels safer and healthier for you, then maybe having multiple primaries isn't right for you. And that's okay! Something being an option doesn't mean you're obligated to do it. But if it's something you want, and you're just worried that it's "not possible," relax! Do what's best for you and your relationships, and don't worry about how other people frame it. 

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Patreon reminder!

Now that Polyamory Advice is posting 5 days a week, rather than 3, you're getting almost twice as much content - always for free!

I spend a significant amount of time and energy on this advice blog, and I'm thrilled to be at a place where I can answer even more questions every week. But I'd also love to be able to grow even more. If just 10% of my tumblr followers pledged $1 a month, it would have such a huge impact on my life and my ability to keep writing, educating, and advocating.

Patreons who pledge $2 or more will get two Polyamory Advice stickers! And all Patreons get exclusive extra content, which in the coming months will include:

  • "Polyamorous playlists" of love songs carefully selected to exclude monogamist tropes
  • Interviews with polyamorous and monogamous people about their relationship philosophies and experiences
  • Polyamory jokes & silliness by yours truly
  • Polyamory-related comics & artwork (commissioned from friends of the blog)
  • ...and more!

If you enjoy my work, please consider heading over to Patreon and supporting me!

How do we honor our serious commitment when marriage isn't an option?

I am married and have been poly since we started dating 10 years ago. In general, everything is very smooth and works well between us. Almost two years ago I started dating someone else who was a bit of a game changer - I've dated other people, but this has turned into a deep, serious long-term relationship. He has always been monogamous but was willing to explore poly to be with me and has taken to it wonderfully. My question is not so much advice about how to manage my multiple relationships, but if you have ideas of a way to acknowledge my other partner with a significant gesture or in a major way when we I can't legally marry him. We've discussed the fact that, in a different situation, we would have approached marriage by now, and while we both are content with the fact that we can't, I would like to do something tangible to demonstrate my long-term commitment. I know it will have to be something that is meaningful to both of us, but I'm struggling with even gathering ideas in the first place at this point!

Congrats on having found two deeply loving, committed relationship! Some ideas:

  • Saving to go on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that you'll enjoy together
  • Matching tattoos or an investment in high quality, daily-wear jewelry like rings or watches
  • A "commitment ceremony" that is not a legal wedding but includes traditions and people who are important to you
  • A joint project, like fixing up an old camper van, starting a chicken coop, organizing a community event/meetup, etc. together
  • Adopting a pet together
  • Moving in together
  • Working together on a new term for your partnership (spouse, partner, lifeshare, etc. also, you can say 'husband' even if you're not legally married.)
  • Legal name changes - a blended last name, adding each other's last names as middle names, etc.

Do you have thoughts or ideas for this letter writer? You can leave them in the comments on the main blog,

How do I throw a baby shower for a multiparent family?

Hey there, my best friend is in a poly relationship, and one of his beautiful wives is pregnant with their baby boy! I want to throw a baby shower for their new little one. But I want to honor both mothers and looking for poly baby shower ideas that includes the mom carrying the little one and the mom who is still going to be his mom. And for once Pinterest has failed me! I want to honor both mothers and looking for respectful ideas for both mommies!

Although it's tradition for baby showers to be planned without much input from the mom-to-be, this is a case where I think it would be best to just go directly to both women and ask them how they want to be honored and included. It's possible that both moms want to be equally included and are placing less emphasis on who's biologically carrying the baby. It's also possible that the pregnant mom prefers to be the center of attention and the other mom intends to be less central to the celebrations. You'll only know if you ask! You can ask your best friend to ask them, or go to them directly, depending on your relationships with them.

Most standard baby shower activities could work for a multiparent family, anyway - crafts, games, etc. don't tend to rely on there being Only One Mom. Some fun stuff that doesn't explicitly center the pregnancy:

  • A pretty book or another write-on-able thing where attendees can give the parents advice & support
  • Blind taste-testing baby food flavors
  • Having attendees bring baby photos of themselves & guessing who's who
  • A make-your-own activity for a self-care item like lotion or salt scrub
  • Blank white onesies & fabric paint/pens for guests to decorate for the baby
  • Just getting together with friends to eat and chat and hang out and have a nice party
  • A trivia contest with fun facts about weird historical baby-care notions (opium for sleep! keep them in boxes!)
  • An "open mic" for participants to tell funny stories from their childhood or parenthood

When it comes to gifts, most baby shower gifts are for the baby, but you could consider specific gifts for both moms, like self-care kits, spa gift cards, their favorite easy to prepare snacks, fun t-shirts (if they wear them) with polyamory pride or parenting stuff on them, and other stuff that they like. You can also make sure that things like the invitations (if you do printed invitations) name both women; that both women are acknowledged in toasts (if there are toasts). You as the host can try to make sure that people aren't exclusively congratulating the pregnant mom and you can actively include the other mom in conversations and congratulations. 

But really, your best bet is to ask them how they want it to go! Some people like the cheesy, on-theme Pinterest style baby showers with crafts and activities; some people just kind of want to hang out with their friends and eat something tasty. 

Do you have thoughts or ideas for a multiparent baby shower? Share them! Comments are now open on the main site, Check out the commenting rules, and come join us! 

We are a triad and want to travel to somewhere accepting

We are a triad and want places we can travel where we can be ourselves, are there any good places for us?

If you just want to be able to be out in public and hold hands and be generally affectionate as three people, I'd figure that most major cities have enough going on that you won't be attacked or kicked out of a restaurant for that. San Francisco, New York, Portland - places that have reputations for being progressive and cosmopolitan.

You could also book a getaway somewhere remote where there isn't anyone to bother you. Camping, cabins, somewhere in nature where your business is no one else's business. In my experience, places like naturalist hot springs and other retreat spots that attract the "crunchy granola" crowd tend to be really chill and accepting. 

There are also polyamory-focused conventions in various places, if you want to travel to an event that's focused on polyamory explicitly. Here are some events from Loving More, something called Poly Big Fun, and a list of polyamory events. Conventions and festivals focused on kink or BDSM are also very poly-friendly, if that's tangential to any of your interests. 

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My family thinks my relationship is abusive because it's polyamorous.

I became polyamorous because my partner was and wanted to open up our relationship. I'll admit I struggled with it at first but did so consensually and after a while I realized I loved it and never want to go back to being monogamous. Well, my family found out and now they are all convinced that I'm being abused and manipulated by my partner who introduced me to the idea. I've expressed myself as clearly as I possibly can that I agreed to it and love the lifestyle but they still treat my partner suspiciously/accusingly and it's making life really hard. I don't want to lose my family and I appreciate they care but it really messes with my head and makes me question my own sanity which isn't fair or helpful, they talk like they need to rescue me from a cult or something. Establishing distance seems to only make their concern worse and more stalker-y. What would you suggest?

This is a tough one to answer, because I don't have any perspective on your relationship. So I'll try to answer in two parts:

If you're confident that your relationship is not abusive, then your family is just being judgmental and ignorant, and it's okay for you to take distance. I have personally had this experience - once, an ob-gyn I was seeing insisted on pressing domestic violence pamphlets into my hand when she found out I had multiple partners. She was very concerned and kept telling me that "men will twist your head to get you to think that this is okay," which is funny because I was the initiator of polyamory with my male partner ten years ago. There are people whose partners sleep around on them and employ abusive tactics to get them to accept it, but you and I are not those people!

It's okay to tell your family "it's rude, alienating, and cruel of you to continue to act and talk like my partner is abusing me. My relationship is one of consent and love, and if you can't accept that, then for my own health I need to take some distance." And then do that. Surround yourself with people who understand you and lift you up. Sure, taking distance makes your family more concerned, but it sounds like they're committed to their warped worldview and they're just going to up the emotional pressure if you try to get out from under it. Making you "question your sanity" is a nasty tactic and anyone who makes you feel like that is awful. Let them be concerned and wrong over there. Far away from you.

If, however - and this seems very unlikely based on the language in your letter, but - if you have any thoughts in the back of your mind that they might be right, if there's a chance that those conflicted thoughts that bubble up when they put the pressure on could be meaningful - check in with friends, other people in the polyamorous community, read up on healthy polyamory. Sometimes families are just bigoted and manipulative. But sometimes, if a ton of people are flagging your partner as abusive, it's worth thinking about a bit more deeply. Sometimes we are too deep in things to really see the whole story. I know I've been in abusive relationships where all my friends were telling me that he was no good, that I should leave him, etc. but I had a hard time hearing them. They could see from the outside what I was in too deep to see.

Polyamory isn't abusive, but polyamorous people can be abusive. If that sounds at all possible, just check in with yourself about it. You might realize that no, your family is just getting you all twisted up with their own nonsense. In that case, loop back to part one. Take some distance and work to build a healthy, affirming polyamorous community around yourself. 

I've realized that my polyamory is a dealbreaker and I need to leave my 5-year mono relationship

I have been in a monogamous lesbian relationship with my girlfriend for 5 years, when about a year and a half ago, I realized that I am both bi + poly. I did a lot of research + soul searching, and then 8 months ago I told her how I was feeling. It didn't go well, we swept it under the rug and I've tried very hard just to sit on these feelings. I realized now that for me, it's my identity and likely a deal breaker: how do I have this conversation again, knowing it will end in a breakup?

If you know it will end in a breakup, there's not much else to be done, or scripted, or strategized. It's heartbreaking and painful to end a 5 year relationship, but it's understandable, and normal, to have to do so after learning about a dealbreaker.

You let her know that you've tried monogamy with her, and you've tried to 'sit on' these feelings, and now you have 8 months worth of information about how it feels and whether it's working for her. You explain that, unfortunately, you've realized this is a dealbreaker, and so you need to break the deal, and leave the relationship. This conversation will suck - breakups always do. But it's important and necessary.

Try not to frame it as "you wouldn't let me date polyamorously, so I have to leave - this is your fault." It's no one's fault, it's just how the universe has shaken out. You two were good together for five years, and nothing can change or erase that, but you're not good to continue dating into the future. Give her the space she needs to grieve, and rage. Best of luck. 

My partner and I have an open arrangement, but I feel like he did something that violated the terms we agreed on.

My partner and I have agreed that we’re allowed to have sexual encounters with other people from the start of our six month relationship, but have never been intimate with anyone else without the other being present. While I was out of town, he slept with a woman we were entertaining playing with together. He didn’t tell me about it until yesterday, almost a week from the event. He said that he didn’t want to ruin my holiday and last night was the first opportunity when he felt we had a chance to talk. We didn’t discuss when we would disclose encounters to each other, although I did state that I preferred he told me beforehand. That’s alright, that was a learning moment. However, what’s really bothering me is that he said that he wouldn’t sleep with her by himself and that the three of us would play together first. Additionally, I feel hurt that we were intimate before he finally told me that he has slept with her. I’m simply hurt/confused... This is my first foray into open relationships, and my boyfriend’s first intimate encounter outside the relationship. Am I overreacting because I’m jealous or so I have a valid bone to pick?

You've got a false dichotomy in your question there. When a couple is in conflict, remember that it's you two vs. the problem, not you vs. each other. Your feelings are totally valid, but that doesn't necessarily mean he did anything wrong.

Stuff like this happens all the time - you set up rules and expectations to protect yourself, but life has a funny way of getting around those. Events unfold, energy between two people sparks along its course, and things play out differently than how the ideal would be. Your partner was probably very startled and frustrated by the whole thing, and anxious about telling you. 

You're right that this is a learning moment. You two are learning to be more clear with yourselves and each other about what, exactly, you need and want out of this arrangement. You're also learning that the real world might not play nicely with your clearly defined boundaries, and that you'll need to find areas of flexibility and compromise. Figure out what's a need vs. a desire, what might not be realistic, and where you can give each other and the world some 'wiggle room.' Remember that the more rigid and specific your rules are, the easier they are to break, which feels like a betrayal. But, if they're too wishy-washy, then you might accidentally hurt the other person without realizing that they were more serious about something than you thought.

Keep talking this out! Remember that feeling hurt is totally okay, but it does not mean that the other person is in the wrong. This is a sticky, feeling-laden thing you're doing, so feelings are going to happen. Work through them and with each other.

I'm trying to date, but I keep getting ghosted

I've been ghosted more than I've had dates this year, been stood up a lot too. I just joined the local polyamory community recently, though I've been polyamorous for 7 years, and some of those ghosters are in it too. I'm getting therapy to help with my anxiety, but my certainty of getting ghosted or stood up again prevents me from trying to connect to anyone. Do I even qualify as polyamorous if nobody wants to date me? Do you have any advice for my predicament?

First off, of course you are polyamorous even if you're not currently dating anyone polyamorously. Other people's feelings about you do not dictate your identity or your worth.

It's great that you've been getting therapy to help with your anxiety - keep doing that! Be open and honest with your therapist about the social and romantic aspects of your anxiety and how they're affecting your life. If this is impacting you significantly, it's okay to take a break from dating for a while, not because you're "giving up" or you don't think you're worth it, but because being ghosted is a real risk, and if it's not worth taking right now, don't do that to your mental health!

Remember that you are not psychic! People "ghost" for tons of reasons, and usually they have nothing to do with the other person. They get busy, they can't think of what to say, they get distracted, they think you're not interested. It rarely means that they don't like you!

Consider whether you're part of the pattern, too. It can be easy, and tempting, to go for a 'light touch' with these things and figure that "if they like me, they'll reach out" - but they might be thinking the same thing! Try being a bit more forward, invite them on a date earlier in the conversation, send that double text - don't make ghosting you the 'default.' 

Know that tons of people get ghosted all the time; it's just part of dating in 2018. It's awful and obnoxious, but you gotta be willing to get back on that horse. I'd say that when I start chatting with someone, 9 times out of 10, it 'fizzles out' or I get ghosted. I currently have 4 partners - so that means at minimum, I've been 'ghosted' or fizzled out on 36 times! But if I'd given up after the first handful, I wouldn't have the amazing partners I do now. Be patient, and try not to take it personally, though that's much easier said than done, I know!