A documentary said all polygamy is abusive, but isn't most polyamory healthy and consensual?

Hello my grandmother is watching this show called "Escaping Polygamy" with me now about a giant polygamist cult that has camps all over the us and it absolutely horrible what is happening to these women. Abuse, rape, incest, marriage to minors, etc. This show makes it seem that all of polygamy is abusive which is not true at all most relationships are understanding, healthy, and consensual. How do I explain this when I don't fully understand myself?

Polygamy as practiced by these dangerous cults is NOT the same as polyamory as practiced by consenting adults. I discuss the differences here. A lot of people find it easier to see the difference in things when there are different words for them. "Polygamy" is not the same as "polyamory," so you can start there. Polygamy carries connotations of cults, forced marriage, abuse, misogyny, etc. and polyamorous people do not use that word.

What you and your grandma saw in that show is real, and it's horrible. It is the truth of polygamous cults. Child marriage, patriarchal oppression of women, and sexual abuse are wrong in every way, and we should advocate against them. The show is correct that "all of polygamy is abusive" if we give over the term "polygamy" to those oppressive cults, which we've generally decided to do. Polyamorous people do not believe the same things, do the same things, or defend any of what the polygamous cults do. 

Polyamory means "many loves," and it involves freely consenting adults living in love, joy, community, and freedom. It has nothing to do with religious or cult-based polygamy, and is in many ways the polar opposite! 

It's sort of like saying "violence against your partner is always abuse and never okay" and also saying "consensual impact play in BDSM is healthy and fine." Both statements are true; they don't overlap, one does not need to yield or make excuses for the other. They are two completely different things, and it's important to be able to recognize the differences. We can honor the pain and reality of the victims of polygamous cults, and honor the freedom and health of consenting polyamorous adults, without having to hedge, make excuses, or compromise.

I'd encourage you to read through some of the introductory resources on my FAQ page, so you can have more examples, terms, and arguments for healthy polyamory next time it comes up. But don't feel like you have to equivocate or defend the disgusting practices of polygamous cults; it's not relevant in this case. 

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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. 

How do I move past trauma related to polyamory?

I grew up in an abusive household that used polyamory to justify some of my parent's behavior. My partner is poly, but when they tried to date a friend they've known for years, she became violent and abusive. I want to be rid of my trauma, but now I have new trauma. What do I do?

I am so sorry to hear that you continue to experience trauma at the hands of people calling themselves polyamorous. The first thing I can suggest here is therapy - preferably with a trauma-informed therapist who can work with you on the abuse and trauma from your childhood.

The next step is to talk with your partner about this. It sounds like this second trauma was something you and your partner went through together after your metamour became violent and abusive. What have you two done to heal together? What do you need from each other? Consider attending therapy together, or helping her find a therapist to see as well.

You could also do a mini book club where you read a book together about trauma survival or healing from abusive relationships and talk about it. Some partners find it really powerful as a bonding experience to read out loud to each other; or you could just read it independently and talk about it afterwards.

It is OK if you need to take a break from polyamory for a while - it sounds like you have two pretty significant traumas associated with it and you may need time to heal. This is something you can ask of your partner - "hey, while we're working out the abuse we suffered together and figuring out how to heal from the past and how to build boundary-setting and red-flag-recognition skills to keep it from happening again, can we temporarily suspend the addition of new partners?"

Your partner may be unwilling to do this, which is their prerogative, but then you'll need to decide whether it's critical for your healing to step away from this relationship if that's the only way to step away from polyamory. But don't go there just yet - start working with your partner on healing.

 

My partner is living with another partner who won't allow me in the house

Due to an emergency, my primary partner has to live with their partner (my metamour) for a few months while they get back on their feet. My metamour and I haven't had the best relationship because my introduction to and early experiences with her were traumatic, but I'm trying. Trust me when I say I want to be friends with my metamours. Now, my metamour has barred me access from her home and told our partner I'm not allowed to visit them in her house because she's not "comfortable" with me because I haven't tried hard enough to be friends with her. I think barring me from her home without opportunity for a conversation is unethical. Isn't it? Because the way I see it, regardless of how I feel about any of my metamours, I wouldn't forbid them from seeing our partner in a space that is my partner's and mine unless safety is a concern. I understand it's her home and it's her decision, but I think there's a right thing and a wrong thing to do. Not being able to see my partner, spend time with them, and just be home with them will weaken our relationship and my metamour knows that. I'm afraid this could cause my relationship with my partner to end; things have already been rocky for the past few months because of this specific metamour. Both my partner and I are talking to my metamour (separately) to have her understand that the circumstance she's putting us in is messed up. My partner is trying their hardest to get back on their feet so we won't have to endure this situation for long (but it could still take up to 6 months for them to be able to live away from this metamour again). What advice could you give me? What else can I do here? I'm losing my mind.

Okay, first things first - trauma is very serious. If someone in your life is traumatizing you, that is a crisis. Traumatizing someone - by definition, treating them in such a way that their psychological ability to cope with the pain or stress is overwhelmed - is abuse. If you are being, or have been, traumatized, you need to work with a therapist as soon as possible to start healing, learning to recognize your needs and set boundaries, and working on the patterns of thought and behavior that lead you to continue trying to be friends with people who traumatize you. (And if you feel that I am overreacting or the situation does not call for this response, then you need to not use the word ‘trauma’ - someone being rude, exclusive, unpleasant or nasty is not “traumatizing.”)

Second, you’re asking me to make a call as to whether this person’s behavior and demands are unethical and unreasonable, but it really doesn’t matter. Has this person said “oh, sure, I’ll amend my restrictions if you can get an internet advice blogger to agree with you?” Ultimately, you cannot change her mind or control her behavior. All you can do is decide what is best for you to do in this situation.

You could decide that dating someone who is dating or living with someone who traumatizes you and acts in a way you feel is unethical is not working for you, and leave the relationship. That is a choice you make for your own safety, not something anyone else is forcing you to do.

Or, you could decide that you want to try and make things work with your partner. Perhaps they are happy to spend lots of time where you live, and have sleepovers often. Perhaps they are willing to stand up to their partner/your metamour and say “I am going to have Salmertha over this Saturday to watch movies - you can make other plans to be out of the house if you want, but I’m not going to let you limit my ability to see my other partners.”

But if you ask your partner for that, and they tell you that they’ve chosen to give in 100% to the metamour’s demands, that’s their choice. You can’t control your partner, but you can control how you respond: “I’m sorry, I just can’t be in a relationship with someone who won’t risk any friction in another relationship to try and find a compromise for me.” Let go of trying to change someone else’s mind or see them as a controlling force in your life.

My therapist likes to say, of other people’s behavior and choices, ‘it’s all information.’ Your metamour has given you a lot of information about what being in a polyamorous network with her is like. Your partner has given you a lot of information about what being in a relationship with them is like. Now you get to decide, based on that information, what you want to do. 

It’s like if you interview for a job and they tell you “we’ll pay you a bajillion dollars, but to work here you’d have to come to work in five-inch heels every day and you’re not allowed to talk to your coworkers.” They’re not opening a debate with you, they’re stating their terms. You’d run yourself ragged trying to change their policy, even if you think it’s totally bonkers. All you can do is decide whether the bajillion dollars is worth it, or, based on what you know about this workplace, it’s best for you to decline their offer.

Someone I was dating stopped speaking to me after one of her other partners decided he didn't like me

At the beginning of the year i met a wonderful poly woman online who is married and has other partners. we met in person (we are many states away) and i think we really hit it off and her family was totally welcoming and i felt super at home. As soon as i got back she confessed one of her boyfriends had some issue with me and told her to stop talking to me. so she did. I am hearing from our mutual internet friends that she seems very depressed and is kind of isolating herself. I think he is showing some abusive behavior, and have thought that for some time, but she's blocked me everywhere. What do you think I should do? is there anything I can do from this far away when none of our friends are willing to talk to her?

If she has blocked you everywhere, then that’s a pretty clear boundary that she has set. You can think that this boundary is unreasonable, or that she set it for reasons that are unhealthy, but right now, she has made the decision to stop speaking to you, and there’s not much that you can do about that. And if your mutual friends are unwilling to have this conversation, there’s not much you can or should do to try and push them into being an intermediary in a situation they don’t want to be a part of.

It is so, so painful to know that someone you care about is out there in a bad situation, or making bad choices, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It feels agonizingly frustrating and helpless. I know. But sometimes that’s the place we find ourselves in. It’s okay to feel angry or sad at how things worked out, through no fault of yours, to be painful for you.

She may be in an abusive situation; or she may simply be in a relationship that isn’t compatible with her seeing you - either way, she has decided to end contact with you, and your mutual friends have decided that this isn’t a safe, healthy, or worthwhile situation to try and step into. It sounds like the best thing you can do is try to let go. You don’t have the ability or obligation to ‘save’ her; nor do you have the right to change her mind even if you think the choice she’s made is unfair or unhealthy. 

My partner says mean and hurtful things to me to provoke fights

When I met my partner, he was poly and I was monogamous. When I started to explore more into polyamory myself, he expressed jealousy over the person I went out with and said he wanted to become monogamous with me. After ending it with his other partners, we were exclusive for several months before recently discussing opening things back up. I suggested that we reopen it because it was obvious he still loved at least one of his previous partners very much, but he always said he wanted to remain monogamous. He told me he wanted to get back together with his previous partners, which I was fine with, but then he went on a rant where he compared my influence on his life to my mom's influences on my dad's which was far from healthy and told me he loved his previous two partners more than me. When I told him those comments were unnecessary and hurtful, especially when he knows how I feel about my parents relationship, he said he didn't fully understand their relationship, but agreed that the comment on loving his previous partners more than me was not needed, though he thought at the time I needed to hear that because he expected me to fight back and then admitted that he had considered just cutting me out of his life completely at the time. Now every time he says he loves me it feels like a pit in my stomach and it makes me want to cry. I'm at a loss of where to go from here because I love him very much and I wonder if part of this is just New Relationship Energy taking over for him right now with the reintroduction of two former partners plus the added excitement of two new ones, or if he genuinely doesn't care for me that much.

This letter was originally about twice as long, and I edited it down for length, but what got cut was just a few more examples of your partner being cruel.

LEAVE THIS RELATIONSHIP. This is a person who attempts to pick fights with you just to trigger some conflict, who intentionally brings up and uses against you things that are sensitive points in your life, who threatens you with being cut out of his life, who explicitly says that he loves his other partners more than you.

NONE OF THIS IS OKAY and it borders on abusive. This is NOT excusable as “just New Relationship Energy.” NRE makes you do things like text your new partner all the time or have less time for your long-term partners for a brief period. NRE does not make someone use lies, accusations, insults, and threats to make your existing partner “want to cry.” This person is being cruel and unfair to you. “Love” is not enough here. LEAVE. THIS. RELATIONSHIP.

I was with my ex for almost three years, he was my everything. He was my only friend. We would always fight over who I talked to( as in guys). He was also very controlling. I honestly wanted us to last. But the accusations weren’t worth it anymore. So I gave up. I dumped him and blocked him. He’s met someone else and I can’t seem to stop checking his social media to see what he’s been up to. Do you think I really loved him or that it just hurts that he’s moved on?

That sounds like an unhealthy relationship, and you did the right thing by leaving it. But few things in life are 100% black-and-white. Having feelings of sadness and pain after a breakup is NOT evidence that a breakup was the wrong choice. 

Stop checking his social media - block him even harder if that’s possible, enlist a friend to help you break this habit, take a social media fast - and give yourself the time it will take to heal from this. It’s okay to have complicated feelings, it’s okay to need time to feel better. Focus on what makes you happy right now.

What is love? I’ve been with this guy for a year and we fight a lot and he always tells me how horrible he thinks I am and I know most of the stuff he says isn’t true or its just an exaggeration of the truth and so it makes me not want to be with him because it really affects my mental health ( i have severe depression) and i’ve told people about him and they always say he’s abusive and i always say i cant leave because i ‘love’ him but what is love? Do I really 'love’ him or am i just afraid.

If you’re with someone who tells me how horrible you are, lies to you, exacerbates your existing mental health issues, and people in your life believe he is abusive: leave him.

Sometimes “love” isn’t enough. Sometimes you can love someone’s ‘potential’ - who they might be if they could let go of the hatred and anger and pain that cause them to act in abusive ways. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the positives - maybe the sex is great, maybe on his good days he’s really really good, maybe he’s very funny - and we become convinced that those positives absolutely must cancel out the negatives. 

Sometimes, we mistake any heightened emotion for love. This is why people like to take dates to horror movies, and why people will report that someone is more attractive to them if they first see that person in a dangerous situation. I am sure that this person makes you feel very strong feelings - but the strength of those feelings doesn’t mean you should stay with him.

Love does not hurt. Love is incompatible with abuse. Love does not make you afraid. Leaving this guy might feel hard, and lonely, and scary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. You deserve to find love that makes you feel good, that builds you up, that doesn’t make you wonder whether you are in love or “just afraid.” Let go of the messiness here and set yourself free. You can do it. You’re worth it. If you are worried about him using emotional, psychological or physical violence to make it harder for you to end things, enlist the help of friends or a professional. Check out my resources here.

Resources to identify, cope with, or leave a bad relationship

Most of the resources here use the term “abuse,” but if that word feels too big, too scary, too clinical, or otherwise not right for what you’re experiencing, that is okay.

Not all bad relationships are abusive. You don’t need to convince anyone that you’re being mistreated to a specific degree. You may just be struggling with a relationship that’s run its course, that doesn’t feel good, that isn’t healthy, or just isn’t right for you. That’s okay! If you don’t want to be in a relationship, you can leave it. That’s it!

Not all relationships have to be forever. You are not obligated to stay with someone indefinitely just because you were with them for a while beforehand. Ending a relationship doesn’t mean everything that came before was “meaningless.” You can have a lot of good times, and then come to a point where it’s best for you two to stop seeing each other.

“The reason we got together” and “the reason we broke up” can co-exist simultaneously. Part of dating is learning what you do and don’t need in a relationship. Some of that learning process means relationships will end. That’s okay.

Not all struggle equals growing. Some relationships hit “rough patches” and the partners work through them and come out stronger. But don’t let the narrative of “love takes work” and “relationships need compromise” convince you that you have to pour endless emotional labor into something. Leaving something that isn’t working takes its own courage and effort. It’s not “giving up,” it’s just learning and growing and making new choices.

If you need help figuring out whether to leave a relationship, consider:

  • Reading through the “identifying abuse” section of this post
  • Talking to people you trust about whether they think the relationship is good for you
  • Thinking about your reasons to stay vs. your reasons to leave, and whether any of those are based on fear, insecurity, or other warped thinking
  • Talking to a mental health professional
  • Asking yourself whether your partner seems committed to improving or resolving the issues in your relationship
  • Noting how often you feel happy, content, loved, afraid, guilty, angry, exhausted, etc. and whether the relationship makes you feel good overall

Abuse

If you know, or fear, that you are in an abusive relationship, the rest of this page is for you. I am not a professional or an expert in this field, so I will just state a few core truths and link as many resources as I can.

It is not your fault. Nothing you do can ever justify or deserve abuse. 

It is not your responsibility. If someone is acting in a way that hurts you, that is their problem. There is nothing you can do or say to fix it. It doesn’t matter whether they have their own pain, life situation, or diagnosis. You don’t owe them anything.

If it feels bad, it’s bad. You don’t need to prove to anyone that a relationship is worth leaving. There isn’t a “threshold of abuse” that needs to be crossed before it’s okay to leave. If you’re unhappy, leave. 

It doesn’t have to feel like this. Relationships should, at the core, make you feel happy, able to grow, free to be yourself. Yes, relationships take work and compromise - but if you feel angry, afraid, exhausted, or guilty in your relationship, you deserve better, and you can find better.

It is not selfish to leave. If you are unhappy or afraid in a relationship, you can leave it. Even if your partner believes that you owe them your emotional labor, or insists that they need you, you don’t have to stay. 

You deserve help. There may be people who refuse to help you, or who can’t help you. Sometimes friends, family members, police, etc. let us down. Your partner may isolate you from people who can help. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help. Reach out to any sources of help. Cut off people who aren’t helpful. Fight for your own safety. Call a hotline, see a therapist, tell your manager - you may have to get creative. But you’re worth it.

Healing is possible. Abuse can impact your mood, self-esteem, future relationships, and other aspects of your life. If you need help identifying abuse and working up to leaving, or if you’ve already left and want help moving through the trauma of abuse, please work with a mental health professional.

Many of the resources linked here focus on adult, heterosexual women - though if you click through, many of the links also include resources for men, children, LGBTQ people, etc.

Identifying relationship abuse:

General abuse resources:

Abuse resources on tumblr:

Safety planning:

Internet safety and stalking:

Other sources to find help:

How do you leave an abusive relationship? I’m worried the person will show up at my home or stalk me on social media. We’ve separated before and they’ve always come back to recollect me on social media and I feel like there’s no way to escape them without not having social media and not being in my own home which just is very unsettling to feel this way? I’ve always felt they were slightly abusive but it’s escalated recently and I want out.

First off, let me give you a big virtual hug and a huge outpouring of support. Leaving an abusive relationship is really hard, but it’s very much worth doing. You’re fighting for yourself, and that takes courage and strength. I’m proud of you.

If at all possible, enlist help. You may want to speak with a lawyer or social worker, call a domestic violence hotline, check in with a local shelter, or call the police non-emergency line in your area. If you have a job with an employee resource program (many employers have one through their insurance), they may also be able to connect you.

Reach out to friends you trust and let them know what’s going on and what kind of help you need. Tell people in your life that you are LEAVING this person and you do NOT want them to be able to get any information about you from anyone, or be able to pass messages through anyone to you. Create a defensive barrier around yourself of people who can clearly and firmly resist this person’s attempts to control you, and who are willing to do what it takes to protect you.

If you’re worried that your abusive ex will show up at your home, stay with a friend or find a hotel. I know it’s frustrating and unsettling to feel like you can’t be safe in your own home, but it’s most important to stay safe. Staying with a friend or asking someone to stay with you can help with that. Be sure to take anything irreplaceable from your home if you’re worried about them breaking in. If you want to stay at your home, you can call the police on them for trespassing if they show up. 

If they use social media to stalk you, it’s okay to shut down or block your social media accounts, at least temporarily. I know it can feel really frustrating that something you enjoy and use to connect with your friends has been threatened by this abusive person, but again, safety comes first. You can block them on all platforms, make your accounts private, delete or turn off your accounts, or make separate secret accounts for just a few close friends you trust. If this person harasses you on a social media platform, report them through that platform’s channels. If you’re worried about losing data or connections, find a backup program for that social media platform.

Keep thorough documentation of what this person does and threatens, so if you need to file for a restraining order or call the police, you have a record. 

I am not a professional, so please arm yourself with as much help and resources as you can. Leaving an abusive partner can be very dangerous. Here are some resources:

I know that it really sucks to feel like you have to give up things that are important to you - like social media and the safety of your own home. That is really unfair and it’s okay to feel angry and unsettled about that. You can grieve the things that the abuser took away from you. Please consider talking to a therapist for help healing through that. Once you’re through this escape, you can start rebuilding a life with the safety and comfort that you deserve.

What should I do? My partner forced me to give up the one hobby I really enjoyed and is still accusing me of participating in said hobby and I’m not. I’ve had to defend myself and provide evidence that I’m being truthful on multiple occasions and I just feel that’s not fair at all? I’ve done nothing to deserve this and I’ve never lied about it. Why are they being like this? What can I do?

What you can do is leave this relationship. It is NEVER okay to “force” a partner to do anything, from sex to taking out the trash. It is NEVER okay to continuously accuse a partner of lying and hold them hostage to your own issues with honesty and trust. And it is NEVER okay to simply demand that your partner give up something that makes them happy. Isolating someone from things they enjoy is a major red flag for abuse.

Why are they being like this? I don’t know why. Often possessive, manipulative, and abusive behavior stems from an unmet need or a confused assumption about their own worth and value. But that’s for them to work on healing, possibly with the help of a professional. You are not obligated or even able to identify the reason behind someone else’s bad behavior or choice to hurt you. This is not your fault, nor is it your problem. 

There is no magic set of words or behaviors you can employ to “convince” this person to believe you. They are committed to this mindset and behavior, and it is hurting you. You need to get out of this relationship and find people who will support you in your hobbies and treat you with love and respect.

I’m polyamorous and I hate my metamours. It’s not coming from a place of jealousy or hating them just because they exist, but because they have displayed inappropriate behavior towards me (disrespecting clear boundaries several times, displays of dominance, disrespecting my time with our shared partner) or have displayed manipulative/abusive/neglectful behavior towards my partners. It started with my boyfriend’s partner, I gave all the resources I could but when he ultimately decided to end the relationship his partner became physically abusive and dangerous. Now, my other partner is terminally ill and her partner doesn’t do anything to care for her, support their household (won’t get a job), and is self-centered and delusional. But, when I say anything about my metamours my partners defend them. How can I take care of the people I love when it’s not my place to tell them to break up with their partners but their partners are toxic to them and our relationship?

First, you gotta care for yourself. If someone is creating drama and tension in your life and your relationships, you have the right to step back from that. It can be maddening to see someone you love in an abusive relationship and not be able to convince them to leave it - but, ultimately, the only person whose choices you can control are yours.

Set clear boundaries for yourself and stick to them: “I’m happy to help you strategize about leaving Jern, but I cannot simply receive your venting about him mistreating you. If you only want a sympathetic ear, I am sorry, but you need to find it elsewhere.” Or, “I made plans to spend time with you, and if Jern is going to demand that you text him the whole time, I’m sorry, but I’m going to leave.”

Sometimes it’s necessary to take some distance from a toxic situation so you can breathe clear air for a while. You are not obligated to stay mired in someone else’s drama just because you care about them. You cannot force them to leave their problematic partners, but you can refuse to engage with the situation according to whatever boundaries you set. 

Within those boundaries, you can continue to be there for your partners - be a positive, supportive voice, continue reminding them that their metamours’ behavior is not okay and not something they deserve or need to endure. But it’s possible that these are wounds you alone cannot heal, and this is a problem you cannot solve even if you throw 110% of your emotional energy and time and effort at it. 

If someone is being threatening and physically abusive or dangerous, call the police. It may seem like a drastic move, but if you are concerned about domestic violence, it’s time to get the authorities involved. For your partner who is terminally ill, you may be able to get help from Adult Protective Services or a social worker at the hospital where they get treatment. But again, it’s nearly impossible to help someone who won’t let you - if your partner doesn’t want that kind of help, you may not be able to do much. 

Please check out some of my previous answers about similar issues:

My boyfriend is seeing this girl who I really dislike. I’ve told him I don’t like her and I wish he wouldn’t be seeing her. He tells me it’s just sex but he’s also told me I have no right to tell him who he can and cannot date or who he can or cannot sleep with. He even told me he cares more about sex than my opinion which really hurt me. I don’t know what I should do because I feel if I say anything more I will lose him but I’m really hurt by all this.

He told you he cares more about sex than your opinion, and he has made you feel like if you voice any issues you will lose him? That is not a safe or healthy relationship. This is not about whether and how to implement veto powers in a polyamorous relationship - this is about disrespect and cruelty.

You should always feel like you can share your needs with a partner - you do not have the right to demand that they always change to accommodate them, but you do have the right to voice them. A person who makes you fearful of doing that by using implicit or explicit threats to leave and withholding their affection is dangerous and unhealthy. 

You should always feel respected and cared for in a relationship - that does not always mean you get your way, but that your perspective is heard and considered. A person who flat out tells you they do not care about your opinion as compared to their own desires is dangerous and unhealthy.

Stop dating this person. It doesn’t matter who else he is sleeping with or how you feel about them. It does matter how he is treating you: completely inappropriately and unfairly. Run. 

So he cheated on me with this chick and we are poly. And he wants to be with her and me. I’m so angry and upset and I feel even more upset that he’s pressing the issue now, right after I found out. I’m angry that he cheated and he thinks that there is a way to stay with me and her. And to add to the conundrum, he’s basically beat it into my head that she’s better than me and better suited for him then me. But when i try to leave, then he is apologetic. How do I deal with this??

If he cheated on you, that’s a problem…but what sticks out to me is this part where he “beat it into your head” that she is “better than you.” That is abuse. That is abusive behavior. And this thing where he is apologetic when you try to leave? Part of the classic cycle of abuse. You deal with this by leaving the relationship. He is not healthy for you to be dating. Run.

Hey there. So since the day I’ve met my best friend, I’ve dreamed of being in their relationship with him and his boyfriend. That chance finally opened up, but within those two years, I’ve had one relationship that was abusive and absolutely destroyed me. I want it, but I am absolutely afraid still. What should I do? They said they’re ready to wait for me and that they’ll wait for me to be 1000% and even allow me to leave if things go bad, but what’s the next step?

Therapy!!! If you’re not already, please get some help with healing after that abusive relationship.

Please know that while you might have been terribly hurt by the abusive relationship, you were not “destroyed” - you are still you, you are still valuable and worthy and awesome and completely whole, totally deserving and capable of a happy, healthy relationship. Let yourself be open to this relationship that seems like it would be really positive for you. The person who hurt you is in the past - they cannot take away anything from you in the future.

You say you’re still very afraid. Try to identify what you’re afraid of so you can talk it out with the two people you want to date. You say they will “even allow you to leave” which makes me think you’re afraid of getting trapped, of them trying to control you, of them acting like your decision to date them at one point in time indebts you to them forever. Remind yourself that the abusive person who acted like that was not normal, not healthy, and not okay. That is not how relationships are supposed to be.

The variable that created the abuse was the abuser, not you. Nothing about you invites or allows abuse. Nothing about relationships is inherently dangerous or controlling. If the two men you’re thinking about dating haven’t shown any red flags of abusive or controlling behavior, let yourself trust them. Be open with them about your fear and let them do their best to alleviate it. Let them know that you might need some extra patience, some more explicit reassurances than they may be used to giving partners - then let them give it to you.

If you want this, let yourself have it. Be gentle with yourself and accept gentleness from others. Don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid. You deserve a happy, new, loving relationship. Good luck! <3