My friend says they're polyamorous, but is not doing it right

I’m gonna sound hateful or like an anti but please hear me out. My friend has vented to me before that they have issues with commitment and are scared of being in a relationship because it means they’re "trapped", now they’re apparently poly but I feel like they actually aren’t and are just making things worse for themself by dating a bunch of people and keeping it secret from all of them (so each partner thinks they’re the only one) What do I do

You could do nothing, because this isn't your circus or your monkeys. Your friend being wrong and making bad choices is not your problem or responsibility. Maybe they're polyamorous, maybe they're not; it's not your call to make, and being skeptical of someone else's self-stated identity is rarely a good look. 

The bigger issue is their behavior, which is decidedly not polyamorous, but is cheating. Seeing multiple partners who all think they're the only one is immoral and cruel. But, again, there is nothing you're obligated to "do" about this - you did not make this choice and you cannot do anything to change or mitigate it.

You could tell your friend that what they are doing is wrong, and try to convince them to stop. You could take a step back from this friendship, not because you disagree with what they say about themselves, but because their behavior makes you question whether you want to be friends with someone of that character. 

You could get more involved and tell their partners what is going on. Some people feel a moral imperative to tell victims of cheating about the situation. Some people feel strongly that it is not their place or business. Some people just have to decide on a case-by-case basis how much they want to get involved.

You have to figure out whether you want to take a huge step back from this whole mess, or get more deeply entwined by reaching out to the people your friend is cheating on. That would likely torpedo your friendship and establish you as an active participant, emotional baggage handler, mediator, etc. for all the people whose hurt you'll be bringing to the surface. That's your call.

I'm okay with my partner seeing other people, but he's secretive about it, which makes me feel like he's cheating

Do you consider it cheating when your partner hides the fact they have other partners? My partner is poly but he often hides when he's started a new relationship or he hides how serious the relationships are and this has really damaged my trust in him. I'm not sure if it can be considered cheating since he is in fact poly but I don't think it's okay for him to hide these other partners? What is your opinion?

There is no standard "cheating" that you can measure various behaviors against. For some people, this wouldn't feel like cheating - but it feels that way to you, and it's not a dynamic you want in your relationship. That's what matters.

Talk to your partner about this issue. Tell him that he does not need to hide his relationships, and that when he does, it feels sketchy and cheat-y. Let him know that you're okay with things as long as they're out in the open.

Ask him if there's anything you've done or said that makes him feel like he should be doing this. Figure out why he seems to be more comfortable hiding and downplaying his other relationships. Work out a way that's safe and comfortable for both of you to be open and honest.

If he's not willing to do this - if he denies that he's been hiding things from you, or says that's just how he wants to do things, or insists you're overreacting or have no right to be annoyed when you find out he's been lying by omission (or straight up lying) - end the relationship, because he's not someone you can be in a healthy polyamorous relationship with. 

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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My boyfriend cheated on me, but said it was okay because he's polyamorous

My boyfriend just told me he's been dating someone else behind my back, but it's ok and it's not cheating because he's polyamorous. I don't know the person and from talking to them over the phone they're really annoying. I don't want to lose my boyfriend but also I feel really bad he didn't even tell me he was dating someone else.

What!? Your boyfriend is wrong. Your boyfriend cheated on you, full stop. He doesn't get to tell you what is and isn't okay. If you're not okay with it, it's not okay. 

"I took your stuff without asking, but it's not theft because I'm a communist." No, taking people's things without permission is stealing, even if you don't believe in the concept of private property. They also need to be in on the philosophy. 

What your boyfriend is doing is not practicing "polyamory," but cheating. Polyamory requires open communication and consent of all parties. Just because he has a fancy word for what he's doing doesn't mean you need to go along with it. Stop talking to his other partner on the phone, stop bending over backwards to accommodate his twisted worldview where he can do whatever he wants without consequences. 

Leave this relationship - he cheated on you, acted without your consent, then told you how to feel about it and continued making demands on you. This is not polyamory, it's a person acting cruel and selfish and obnoxious. Dump him. 

My partner is in a cheating relationship with someone else

My fiancé is seeing a girl who has a bf but the bf doesn’t know about my fiancé. I know that polyamory preaches ethical practices. While I would never choose a partner that didn’t have another partner’s consent, I believe it’s my fiancé’s right to choose who she sees and the girl’s right to keep it a secret, as long as it does not directly affect me. I guess I’ve made a decision for myself but just wanted to hear someone else’s thoughts.

I personally would not be okay in such a situation, but I recognize that my options would be limited. I could make it clear that I was not okay with this situation and would not stay in a relationship under these terms, but if my fiancé chose to keep seeing this person, I would need to break up with someone I loved enough to get engaged to. Which is a pretty major choice and serious compromise. Different people will make different choices about what their core dealbreakers are and are not.

Consider what might be at stake in terms of drama. If the boyfriend finds out, he might make vengeful choices that blow back on you. If your fiancé's partner feels the need to act irresponsibly or selfishly to protect herself, that also puts you at risk. Are there any personal or professional threats that would be too big to make this worth it? Consider also that STI risks are much higher when all partners are not open and honest about their multiple partners. Again, different people have different risk tolerances. Make sure you know yours.

Consider what this says about your partner as well. Are there any questions about her judgment or character that this raises for you? How has she explained this situation to you? Has she asked you to do anything you find questionable to help her maintain this secret relationship? Are you okay being engaged to someone whose values differ from yours in this way?

There's also the issue where, any time someone is part of a minority group, they are expected to represent that entire group. It's bullshit and unfair, but it happens. Your fiancé is doing the polyamorous community a disservice by acting unethically and participating in cheating under the guise of a polyamorous identity. If/when the boyfriend finds out, there will be one more person in the world with a justifiable belief that polyamorous people are immoral predators - and if my inbox is any indication, there are plenty of those people out there. If you are someone who identifies as polyamorous, you may want to have a talk with your partner about her concept of what 'polyamory' means and how you are personally impacted by her choices.

My partner wants to date someone who I do not want in my life

my partner wants to enter into a second relationship with their ex, who hates me and is part of a group of people who regularly talk about how terrible I am behind my back (confirmed by three separate people so I know for sure it's happening). this makes me wildly uncomfortable. what does it mean for them to enter into the relationship despite knowing I'm not okay with it and never will be okay with it? is that technically cheating or should I be the one to back off on this?

You can't control your partner's choices, but you can control your own. You can say "I don't feel comfortable being in a relationship where Berthen is involved, even as my metamour. That is a dealbreaker for me." Then, armed with that information, your partner can decide whether or not to date Berthen. If your partner decides to date Berthen, then you decide to leave the relationship. Your partner has the right to do things you don't want them to do; you have the right to not tolerate that behavior in a relationship you're part of. 

There is no such thing as "technically cheating," because what constitutes cheating is not a scientifically quantifiable thing. There is no secret safe in France where they keep the essence of cheating and measure various things against it. I would consider it a relationship dealbreaker if a partner of mine had unprotected sex with someone else. Not everyone feels this way, but that's one of my rules that, if broken, feels like "cheating" to me. Only you get to decide what boundaries are non-negotiable for you. 

I started dating a man, but his wife has made things really complicated - is there a way to stay with him but avoid the drama?

For about two or so months, I was in a "V" polyamorous relationship with a much older married man. His wife is much younger than me. He and I both had one-on-one conversations with her and we even had a group conversation about the dynamics right up front when he and I discovered we had feelings for each other. She said up front, on several occasions, she was okay with it. It gave her a chance to have her space as--her words--he was "incredibly needy". As the weeks went on and we continued to see each other, she started becoming very jealous, accusatory, saying mean and snide things to him about me or to him about himself. He would constantly check in with her when she'd make these awful comments and make sure she was still okay with things. It all came to a head about a week and a half ago. And he attempted to break it off with me. I accepted it, but he didn't want to let go. Resorting to social media to put me on public blast for moving on. I forgave him. Now, we've resumed some semblance of a relationship, but without his wife's knowledge. I know I am complicit in this, and thus, a guilty party, but I'm wondering if there's someway else better to handle this? We love and care about each other. And we want to be together. I've never once asked him to leave his wife or gave him ultimatums. It's been her doing. I find her very controlling, emotionally abusive, she gaslighted me and him. I want to be with him, but I also don't like the secrets and the affair-esque, don't ask don't tell dynamic.

Facts: You only dated this guy for about two months. This guy is the kind of person to try and break up with you, then use social media to publicly shame you for moving on. Dating him comes with all the baggage and drama of his wife. You don't like the dynamic the relationship currently has.

WALK AWAY. This is not a healthy relationship. I promise you can find someone who is just as funny or sexy or interesting or thrilling who is also more mature and doesn't make unreasonable demands and put you in unpleasant situations. The better way to handle this is to stop putting up with his nonsense.

There is nothing you can do to change his behavior or make his choices for him, you can just decide whether you want to be part of this disaster of a situation. If you decide to stay, you'll need to accept that staying will include dealing with his wife's tantrums, his propensity for social media drama, and the fact that this is now a cheating situation instead of consensual non-monogamy. 

I found out my partner has a "thing" with a former lover of his, and I'm not sure it's a healthy situation

I'm in a poly relationship with a guy, we talked about his other partners. Fast forward to months later and I'm talking to him about a former lover, encouraging him to talk to her despite my terror/insecurity of his feelings for her. But he's comfortable with his heartache about her. She's married to a monogamous man and happy. I asked questions about them and their history. During this he casually said they occasionally have a Thing via the internet. I wasn't happy about it but didn't berate him, only stated clearly that he should have told me that when we discussed metamours. But I'm bothered. I'm wondering now why he didn't tell me then. Her husband is why they broke up after trying poly. But now I'm wondering if he knows about them having their occasional Thing at all. If not, I'm not okay with that. But I don't know what to do. I'm still not sure what I want to do. If they're cheating I can't condone it. I don't want to leave him. I'm just feeling lost and heartaching.

The main issue here is that your partner is doing something that seems sketchy or not entirely above board here, because A.) he didn’t disclose to you the whole story about this former lover when you first talked about her, and B.) you’re not sure whether this is an open and consensual polyamorous arrangement for all parties involved.

This is something to bring up with your partner: “In order for me to feel like my polyamorous relationships are safe and healthy, it’s important for me to that the extended network that I’m involved in has a shared commitment to openness. This “thing” that you have with your former lover - can we talk about the terms of that? Does her husband know? It also bothers me that I didn’t get the whole story the first time we talked about her. Can we revisit our expectations and commitments around honesty and openness?”

It’s up to you how you react to his response. If he insists on continuing to have a relationship that you don’t want to be party to, even as a metamour, then you have to decide whether that’s a dealbreaker for you.

I’m married to a man and I have a long distance gf. She came to visit me for the first time and it was amazing. My mono husband got along great with her. We’ve talked about him possibly being with others since I’m ace. He insists he doesn’t want to do anything with anyone else. Yesterday while I’m showering he gets on top of her and bites her ear, neck, and thigh. My gf told me because she was happy about it, she started getting interested in him. I had a huge fight with my husband I felt betrayed and cheated on because he didn’t talk to me about it first before doing anything. I need communication. I felt cheated on. Hurt and angry. He said it just happened, that it’s a grey area. He said sorry and felt bad for hurting me. I just kept asking why, and he didn’t know. How do I gain back my trust in him? I wasn’t mad at her, just him. If he had talked to me about it first I would have been ok with it. He thought maybe I would find it hot but he wasn’t gonna tell me until after she left to go back home and that upset me too. He never cries but he cried when he talked because he would never outright hurt me and cheat on me. I feel a little better after talking to him but I’m still hurt. I don’t know how to get over that. I’m not mad at her because she has so much more freedom in her poly relationship than me so she’s used to doing stuff without really having to talk to partners about it. My husband and I agreed to talk to each other when something happens. He wants to know who and what we did. 

Situations like this can feel really complex, but I think this one breaks down pretty simply:

1.) You and your husband have an open relationship 

2.) You and your husband have a rule in your open relationship where you “agreed to talk to each other” about their other partners/dates

3.) Your husband did something with another person without checking in with you before or after

The core issue is that your husband violated a core agreement of your relationship. You feel betrayed by that.

The steps to resolving it are:

1.) Figure out whether you and your husband were on the same page about the agreement. Did he, in good faith, genuinely think he was staying within the terms of your arrangement? Did he think just planning to tell you afterwards, on his own timeline, was totally fine? If so, the issue here is confusion and miscommunication. He did something hurtful, but not intentionally - so while he doesn’t need to apologize or be punished for acting with malice, he should own the consequences of what he did. You two then need to figure out how to clear up misunderstandings about the terms of your relationship going forward.

2.) If it turns out that he did have a sense that he was doing something that would hurt you, you two need to figure out why he did it anyway. Did he think telling you would create an emotional situation he didn’t feel up to managing? What can you two do to create a safer strategy for openness and honesty? Did he just get caught up in the moment and do something impulsive that he now regrets? What can you two do to manage your relationship in a way that makes space for the dynamic weirdness of humans without setting someone up to get hurt?

3.) Figure out what you need to heal from this. He cannot go back in time and undo what he did. So you need to sit down with your emotions and have a chat with them about what you need, in a realistic framing. Do you need a sincere apology? Do you need some time and space? Do you need a specific commitment from him to adhere to a specific, newly-clarified agreement? Figure out what you need, and ask for it.

So I was cheated on and when I confronted him about it he said “I thought you knew”. Of course I broke up with him and it’s staying that way. There’s just one problem. He’s in my club that comes over to my house once every week. I haven’t made a fuss over it or complained about it but I’m emotionally confused about what I’m supposed to do. P.S. he’s my first kiss

It’s very okay to feel emotionally confused when you have to see your ex at your house once a week! There is nothing you are “supposed” to do - besides do what is best and healthiest for you.

If you feel up to it, there is nothing wrong with just keeping a cool distance from him, being polite and civil but focusing your energy on anything or anyone else. It can be a really powerful feeling to know that you are Being The Grownup and Taking The High Road, if that’s how you can frame it. If he tries to use the club meetings to “win you back” or jockey for your attention, tell him once that he needs to give you space, and if he continues, let him know that he’s not welcome at your house anymore.

But you are not obligated to even try being around him! And if this club is small enough or does something emotionally intimate, like discussion groups or improv or anything else that makes it uncomfortable to do with the ex who cheated on you, it might not be feasible.

Since he is the person who let you down and torpedoed the relationship, he should have been gracious enough to offer to bow out of the club. But he didn’t, so, boo on him. You would be well within your rights to ask him, privately, “hey, since we aren’t together anymore, and since our breakup was really painful for me, I think it would be best if you stopped coming to club meetings at my house.”

Now, there’s always the potential that he could decide to blow this up into some drama, try and insist that he has every right to be there, try and get people on his side, etc. The key is that you do not engage. Do not participate in, or escalate, any of the drama. Simply go about your club-hosting duties, don’t gossip or vent to anyone else in the club about him, and let everyone see you being your best self.

You will get over this jerk, I promise! It will be annoying to have to keep seeing him because of this club, but just know your boundaries, set them clearly, and hold others to them. 

My partner has recently developed a new crush on one of his friends that I’ve always been suspicious of them being a little more than friends. He’s recently told me they’ve been fucking around and stuff and it makes me feel very overwhelmed and uncomfortable. He’s told me for so long he didn’t like her and nothing would EVER happen with her and now they’re fucking around and that hurts. I don’t feel comfortable around her anymore and I don’t know what to do. Idk if I can handle this?

I have genuinely no idea what you mean by “fucking around” and I am not clear from your letter whether you and your partner have any kind of open/non-monogamous relationship, so I am afraid I don’t have quite enough context to give great advice.

What I can say, though, is that if your partner is doing things that make you feel uncomfortable, talk to him about it. If he is dismissive of your discomfort, or has any stance besides total willingness to resolve this in a healthy way, then leave the relationship. If you are already done with him about the lying and the hiding, leave the relationship. You deserve to be with someone who isn’t going to minimize your concerns, deny that they’re doing something they’re actually doing, and put you in situations that make you feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed.

My boyfriend and I got into an argument earlier in the week because if I saw him liking girls pictures (supermodels asses) So I spoke to him and told him I didn’t like it, and that it was disrespectful to the relationship and just made me feel quite insecure.. He apologized and we talked about it, explaining how it can be avoided, and worked through things. So later on, days passed and I decided to look. So when I looked on his account (tumblr) he had dms sent to girls, saying that they were beautiful and/or they had a pretty smile. So I got upset and started yelling at him and crying because I felt like this was a type of cheating.. and so we talked about it, he told me why he did it or at the time he did it. And he says that it’s his dark mindset he’s in right now - he feels like he’s losing himself and he can’t control his life ATM. So I took that all into consideration and I didn’t forgive him, but I said maybe we could work through it. But I feel like I’m naive for letting him back so quick - I mean I didn’t let him back, but the way my friends are saying it sounds like I’m this love sick puppy or something. Like I do know it’s wrong, and I wouldn’t put myself through this, but I don’t feel like I made the wrong decision, if that makes sense - but at the same time I don’t want him to think I’ll let it slide…I don’t know what to do :( Any advice?

It’s up to you, and only you, to decide what’s best for you - if you want to stay with this guy, you have the personal agency to make that choice. That said, it sounds like this relationship is in a pretty rough place. If you’re interested in salvaging it, I think you need to get really specific and goal oriented, identifying the problems and ways to address them, rather than just rolling with this mess of emotions and unmet needs. Here’s my analysis - you’re free to interpret it any way you’d like:

Problem One: Your partner is doing things online that you feel qualify as cheating

You two need to seriously talk about this and figure out where you can align your values on this. Is it just that he’s looking at supermodels’ photos? Or is it that he’s interacting with them by liking and messaging them? How does he see it - does he see it as just consuming content, or does he feel kind of cheater-y about it? Going forward, what do you two agree is the best way for him to enjoy this type of content?

Problem Two: You have a low enough level of trust in your partner that you’re looking at his online accounts

If this is a thing you two do in your relationship, if this is the level of openness you two have agreed to, then that’s fine. If not, then you need to identify where the trust breakdown happened and immediately take steps to address it. This might mean you need to apologize for violating his privacy, even though what you found when you did means he’s also in a position to apologize for something as well.

Problem Three: Your partner seems to have made a commitment to you to stop doing something, and then kept on doing it secretly

I think it’s important to separate the thing he was doing and the fact that he was lying and hiding it from you. If he felt that your request for him to stop was unreasonable, it wasn’t okay for him to pretend to agree with you and say that he would stop, and then just do it behind your back. That speaks to him not taking you and your feelings seriously and thinking that he is so right that he can just ignore what you’re saying while pretending to humor you. This is an issue of respect more than trust, and you need to address this.

Problem Four: Your partner is refusing to take responsibility for his behavior, making himself the victim of a “dark mindset” and claiming that he “can’t control” his choices

This, to me, is a glaring red flag sort of hidden in a story that, on the surface, is about him liking and messaging supermodels, but really, is about your partner being accountable for his choices and the way they affect you. If you confront your partner about something they did that hurt you, and they insist that they couldn’t help it - that’s a major problem. Either he’s being manipulative and refusing to take responsibility; or he’s really in such a dark place that he has lost control of his life. Both are deep, serious problems that need to be addressed immediately.

You two need to work together to make a plan for how he can get out of this position where he feels he isn’t in control and is making choices he doesn’t want to. What has brought about this dark mindset? Perhaps he needs to see a doctor or a therapist. Perhaps he needs to take decisive action to relieve a source of major, destructive stress: a job or career change, a medical issue addressed, a financial or court-related problem solved with the help of a professional, a living situation adjustment, etc.

If he isn’t interested in working with you to identify and resolve the source of this dark mindset, that’s a problem. He can’t continue to insist that when he does things that hurt you, he’s also a victim, he also doesn’t want to do them, you two are trapped together in this cycle of bad choices and apologies, and not work toward a solution. That’s emotionally toxic and manipulative. If this is a pattern with this person, get out.

Problem Five: You haven’t forgiven your partner, but want to stay together - there’s a balancing act of “what you did isn’t okay, and I need you to understand that, but I’m not clear on how I’m communicating that besides just staying mad.”

There is a lot of space in between “this is a dealbreaker and I am leaving you over this” and “this is no big deal, whatever” - but you need to be intentional about being in that in-between space. The goal should be some kind of resolution. Simply staying mad indefinitely will lead to simmering resentment, passive-aggression, and acting out of a desire to “punish” your partner for his transgressions.

Find a way to be clear and communicative about your anger - “this wasn’t okay, and I’m still hurt, but since we’re not going to break up over this, let’s figure out how to work through it.” Maybe you just need some time, maybe you need a sincere apology with a strategy for avoiding the same problem again, maybe you need him to help you feel heard and understood about what bothered you. Figure out what you need and then ask for it.

Problem Five Point Five: Your friends don’t seem to like this guy

I said at the top that you, and only you, get to make your decisions. And that’s true. And there are cases when someone’s partner is lovely and their friends don’t like them for bogus reasons. However. A lot of times, your friends have a more well-rounded view than you and can see patterns you’re ignoring. If your friends think you’re giving your partner too many chances or making too many excuses for them or letting them get away with things that impact you negatively, they might be right. Consider talking to someone you trust about this relationship situation - not just the supermodel pics, but how good this guy is for you overall - and taking what they say into consideration.

I just found out one of the people I’m dating is cheating on me and I know that sounds so stupid even to me but the three of us had one simple rule you can date anyone you just have to let the rest of us know and he broke it I just I don’t know if I can leave I found out he was cheating because the other person broke up with him and called me to get me to check on him to make sure he wasn’t going to kill himself … just don’t know what to do.

Suicide threats are very serious. You are not his doctor, therapist, or emergency responders, and it is not your responsibility to keep someone from killing themselves. When things are at that point, you need to get professionals involved. If he, or anyone else, does that again, let him know what you can and cannot provide, and encourage him to call a suicide hotline or a healthcare professional. If he refuses, it is always okay to call for professional help yourself.

Someone threatening suicide is in crisis and it is not a crisis you can or should handle yourself. It feels shitty and miserable and dramatic to call 911 on someone you care about, but it is not overreacting, it is the right thing to do. Either he means it, and he is really at risk, which means he needs professional help; or he does not have a strong intention to kill himself, in which case you are the person at risk, and you need to redirect him to professionals who can help him handle whatever feelings are causing him to try and get his needs met by manipulating you. 

What you should do is take some time and get safety for yourself. This person violated a boundary in your relationship, which is not okay. He then reached out to you for help with suicidal thoughts - which was okay on his part, but your role then becomes to connect him with the right services, not to take on his crisis as your own. Just because he is having an emotional breakdown does not change the fact that he violated a boundary, lied to you, and hurt you.

It is okay to set boundaries for yourself. If he calls to get you to check on him again, you can tell him that you cannot do that, but you can help him get the help he needs by providing information about hotlines, connecting him to another friend he can talk to, or calling professionals. You can tell him now that you are not able to be his mental health crisis responder, and make recommendations to help him find a support system that can function for him. His emotions are not your fault. His behavior is not your responsibility. 

I know this isn’t necessarily about polyamory but I need help. The person I’m dating cheated on me. They’re still friends with the person they cheated on me with and sometimes they chose to hang out with them over me. I have massive breakdowns every single time and I’m so worried about them cheating on me again or about there still being a relationship there or something and I just don’t know what to do because it hurts so bad and I have such a hard time with this.

If being in a relationship is making you have “massive breakdowns” and “hurts so bad,” it’s probably not a healthy relationship for you to be in.

I’m not saying everyone who gets cheated on should instantly leave the relationship, but it is a pretty serious dealbreaker for most people. Staying together after the betrayal of cheating requires lots of effort and energy directed toward healing the relationship. If your partner isn’t willing or able to do that work, don’t stay with them.

Have you asked your partner to stop spending time with the person they cheated on you with? Have you told them how hurt and upset you feel in this situation? If they are willing to work with you to help get through this painful period and heal from the cheating, great. But if not - or, even if they are willing, they aren’t able to give you what you need - leave the relationship.

What is your opinion on someone who is poly having ‘casual’ sex with people who are not one of their partners despite one (or more) partners being uncomfortable with it? Would you consider this cheating or simply them being inconsiderate/disrespectful?

It doesn’t really matter what I, a person not involved in that relationship, would consider it. If to you, something is a dealbreaker, then break the deal.

If your partner consistently does something that makes you feel disrespected, is that part of a larger pattern of not respecting your wishes, or is this just one boundary they are pushing back against? If it’s part of a larger pattern vs. one thing they just cannot/will not do for you, that’s important.

Have these feelings been made clear and discussed? If someone says “if you do this thing, I will consider it cheating, and act accordingly,” and their partner says “Well, I refuse to stop doing this thing,” then both parties need to seriously discuss whether to end the relationship or re-negotiate the terms. People have the right to do what they want; their partners have the right to respond in ways that work for them.

It’s only ever up to an individual what they consider intolerable or a dealbreaker. Other people’s opinions don’t have the power to validate or invalidate someone’s feelings, choices, or boundaries. 

I fell in love. Then he fell out of love…I didn’t. I love him with every ounce of myself. I fucked up. I hooked up with him & I found out about all the other girls. Right now, I feel a numbing pain everywhere. I cant do it anymore. I want ME to end.

Listen to me. You didn’t fuck up. Nothing about this is your fault. It’s perfectly common to have strong feelings for someone who doesn’t return them. And it’s unfortunately very common to follow those strong feelings into someone’s bed. It sounds like he took advantage of you for that hookup, knowing he couldn’t be what you wanted him to be, but that you were still willing to give him your time and energy.

Let him be the bad guy in this situation. It’s okay to be angry and hurt. To feel cheated and resentful and regretful. But it’s not your fault. It’s just a terrible situation. Know that this feeling will pass. Lots of people throughout history have dealt with unrequited love, have been let down by someone they wanted more from. This numbing pain is survivable. Truly, honestly, you will make it through this.

Reach out to friends or family. Take care of yourself. Go for a spa day, see a movie, eat some ice cream, distract yourself with something that feels good. And if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts or can’t handle the emotional pain, reach out for help with that immediately:

My girlfriend and I are in a very serious relationship, we have been for years and plan to get married. She introduced me to polyamory which was a new concept to me. I told her I’m open to trying it, but due to my mental health I had boundaries and things I’m not comfortable with her doing with her new partner. She agreed & so far its been going okay, with her being very attentive to my needs. But I was wondering, if she were to do something I’m not comfortable with, would that be cheating?

Only you can really make that call. I think “cheating” is defined as “violating the agreed-upon terms of a relationship.” If you feel like her violating those boundaries is cheating, then yes, it’s cheating. If it feels more nebulous to you - like she did something you’re not comfortable with, but it isn’t a complete betrayal, then maybe it’s not cheating. 

For instance, if I ask my boyfriend “hey, do you mind if we reschedule our dinner date because I just got invited to a really exciting party?” and he says “well actually, I would be really bummed out, I was very much looking forward to hanging out tonight,” then I have a decision to make based on the information I have. I could choose to go to the party, knowing full well it would upset him, and face the emotional consequences of doing so. Would that be cheating? It would certainly be doing something my boyfriend didn’t want me to and told me he would be sad if I did it, but is it violating the fundamental terms of our relationship? That would differ across couples, as it should - there is no immutable relationship law that determines what is and isn’t cheating.

In general, I think specific boundaries in polyamory like “if you do XYZ with your other partners, that counts as cheating” very very rarely work out. Emotions and desires don’t ever stay neatly in the boundaries we prescribe for them. Setting up instances in which you consider yourself “cheated on” puts you at a pretty high risk of feeling/being cheated on. My advice is to think through the boundaries you’ve set to try to understand where they’re coming from. Consider whether you can address your emotional needs and safety using strategies that don’t create such a clear-cut “cheating zone” for your partner to risk straying into. How can your partner help you feel secure in a ‘positive’ way (by actively doing certain things) rather than a ‘negative’ way (by not doing certain things)?

Also, if you know there are mental health issues at play, definitely discuss this with your mental health care provider. These kinds of boundaries can be useful for easing a nervous partner into a poly relationship, but I have rarely seen them work out in the long term. Seeing them as temporary tools to help you understand your needs and how to meet them, rather than new core terms of the relationship, would help a lot to alleviate your concerns about what counts as cheating and whether it’s happening.

My Fiancé of 6 years and I have an amazing personal relationship. We live together and he is great with my kid too! Everything is wonderful except for the severely lopsided sex life. Originally I tried to push it, but he couldn’t handle it. Because of not wanting to pressure him, our arrangement for the past 5 years has been that if he is feeling amorous he just needs to make the first move. About 2 years ago I found myself spiralling into darkness in search of some unhealthy things to help fill the void where my sexual nymph is to help control her. Luckily, I found a person who was kind and gentle yet offered me the safe place to be myself entirely no judgement, and its been amazing to feel whole and wanted. I continued to see both men.

My fiancé had an ex who said she wanted to be poly but it was unhealthy, so I definitely didn’t want to bring up that again. But I have made hints and references to “imaginary”/real life situations to try and breach this with him. In all his responses he’d prefer to be ignorant. He has always joked about me continuing to have multiple bf’s (I was in an open physical group before him) even though I was completely monogamous until I met my Dom. I tried to keep that part of myself separate and contained and it worked, for a while. Since meeting my Dom and gauging how my fiancé would prefer to be aware I only spend time with my Dom when my F is at work and I’m off. I only talk sparingly w my Dom when my F is off so as to be present and engaged in both of their lives.

Hurting either of them is anathema to me and I know if we could all cohabitate I could make them both happy simultaneously. He knows my Dom as we’ve had him over for dinner, but he wasn’t overly fond of him (mainly BC my F sensed my Dom wanted me) I know I’ve made a mess of things but I know they both love me and I them!! Yet I cannot seem to bring myself to lay out the truth of the matter to my F and risk hurting both of them.

This is not polyamory, it is cheating. You are cheating on your fiance. By carrying on a relationship that he doesn’t know about, you rob him of the chance to consent. You don’t get to decide for him what he would want to know - you say you “gauged how he would prefer to be aware,” but you are not psychic and you cannot make decisions for him. You don’t get to decide that because he makes jokes about polyamory, he somehow acknowledges and consents to your affair deep down. You speak for your fiance a lot here - you “know” you could make them both happy if you lived together; you say he would “prefer to be ignorant.” You need to rely less on assumptions here and recognize that others are not obligated to share your reality. Open, direct, honest conversation is what’s needed here. 

I think you need to take a bit more accountability for the situation you’re in and the choices you made to get there. You refer to your sexual desires in the third person, as if you have to do certain things to “control her.” But you are responsible for your behavior, you are not at the mercy of some sexual force within you that demands you do certain things. You say you cannot seem to bring yourself to tell your fiance the truth, but what’s standing in your way is yourself. It’s not an issue of “I physically cannot do this thing,” but “I am unwilling to do this thing because the consequences will be so unpleasant.”

You say hurting either one is “anathema” to you, but that ship already sailed. It isn’t telling your fiance about the cheating that will hurt him, it’s the cheating. And you’ve already done that. It’s no longer about the “risk” of hurting him. That’s pretty much a given. You can’t undo what has already happened. You can’t spin this situation so that you come out getting everything you want - you are going to have to face the consequences of the choices you’ve made and take steps to move forward in a healthy way. You don’t want to have a conversation with your fiance where you confess to cheating, you don’t want to have to face the hurt your decision caused - but you still have to do it. Not wanting something doesn’t mean you can avoid it. 

From what I have seen, it is nearly impossible to transition from cheating to healthy polyamory. Saying “Hey, I’ve been seeing this guy behind your back, but it’s totally working out, so now that I’ve confessed to this betrayal, I’m asking you to be cool with it!” does not work. If your fiance is not meeting your needs - if you need someone else to make you feel “safe” and “whole” - then maybe you need to leave that relationship. It sounds like you found an arrangement that works for you - you get some of your needs met by your fiance, and others met by the man you’re seeing on the side - but just because it works for you doesn’t mean it’s right or works for anyone else.

I think you need to come clean to your fiance and let the chips fall where they may, then take accountability and be mature when you go to clean them up. He will almost definitely be angry and hurt - you can’t prevent that, and you need to do your part to accept and honor his response. If he is able to take the higher road and open up your relationship, he is a saint and you should work that much harder to support him emotionally. But that is, honestly, an unlikely scenario. Do not try to argue him into it, don’t act like he has no right to be upset because he ‘joked’ about polyamory or because your affair hasn’t prevented you from being present to him (in your opinion). Do the right thing now and handle the consequences with grace and accountability.

My best friend is poly but has committed themselves to a mono relationship. Or tried to. They asked their mono partner to open the relationship recently, and when the partner refused they started seeing someone else anyways behind their back anyways. I understand not wanting to hurt the mono partner by breaking up, but in the long term this will hurt the both of them even more. They just keep saying they’re not ready to break up with the mono partner because they live together.

Your friend is cheating on their partner. That is wrong, and has nothing to do with polyamory.

You can’t control someone else’s behavior, but you can choose how to respond. If you feel like you need to tell your friend’s partner that they’re being cheated on, you have that right, though it will likely destroy your friendship. If you feel like it’s best to keep out of things, that’s also your right. You may find the friendship drifting apart anyway if you feel uncomfortable keeping this secret or even tacitly endorsing your friend’s behavior.

You can try to advise your friend that if they’re unhappy in a relationship, they need to leave it, not put the other person at risk by cheating. But they may not listen. All you can do is decide how involved you’re willing to be in a situation that you know is unhealthy for all parties.

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Hi i have got a question. My boyfriend was flirting with girls over text and chatting them up there was over 30 girls. I know it’s not cheating but it still hurt. After many times of fighting and showing him how much he hurt me he has said to me that he never wants to put me through that again. He said it kills him to see himself hurt someone that he loves he never knew he was like this. Is it worth staying im confused need advice

In this situation, it comes down to what you personally find unforgivable, and how much you trust his promises to change. It’s up to you to determine whether it’s worth staying with this guy after the choices that he made. 

If you choose to stay, you two should have a clear, honest talk with him about why what he did hurt you, and seek to understand why he chose to do it in the first place. He says he “never knew he was like this” - you need him to clarify what he means by that, and what he expects his behavior and needs to be in the future of your relationship. Come up with a plan to heal, covering how you can both meet each other’s needs in a healthy way, without resorting to this sort of emotional cheating that gets addressed through fighting. Good luck!