How do I deal with liking someone, but knowing a relationship is impossible because of when we met?

Dealing with impractical relationships: I love this guy who broke things off with me because it just wasn't practical. He's a father and hasn't even started his divorce yet. I'm having trouble accepting that even if there's chemistry and I'm sure he wants to also be with me - it's just impossible to have a relationship. I want to ask him how he feels, but I don't think that he'll give me an honest answer. How in the world do I move on?

A tough thing about the world is that sometimes, things don’t work out for annoying reasons. It’s always been a dream of mine to get a pet rodent as a baby and hand raise it, rather than getting a skittish adult from a pet store. But when my friend’s hamster had surprise babies that needed homes, I couldn’t take one in for health reasons. If the hamster had given birth six months earlier or a year later, I might have gotten my fuzz buddy, but the world doesn’t work on my timelines. When I was living in Ireland, I was offered an amazing job working at a theatre company in Dublin - but I was still a student and it would have been logistically impossible to rearrange my life, postpone my graduation, get a work visa, etc. I knew the offer would not be around a year later when I graduated, and it sucked.

So it’s not just relationships where this happens. We’ve all missed out on the gorgeous apartment because our roommate’s lease is a month out, made a great new friend who was moving to a new city a few weeks later, or been unable to control the family planning of hamsters. And we’ve all survived - there are other apartments, new friends, local hamster breeders. And those all do work out. It’s tempting to assume that the thing we missed out on was Perfect, while the thing we ended up with is imperfect. But that’s because it’s easy to idealize the thing we don’t have. That apartment may have had a crappy dishwasher; that job may have had an obnoxious coworker; the future hamster will be just as cuddly. But as long as it stays the Might Have Been, we don’t know any of that. We compare our imperfect present to our Idealized Missed-Out-On.

I think we have done ourselves a huge disservice with all our cultural talk of “soulmates” and “one true love” - and polyam people are not immune. We assume that having chemistry with someone means we must be with them, that we are missing out on something necessary to our happiness, that somehow the universe must bend to the will of our romantic-sexual desires, or something has gone terribly wrong. But, the reality is, sometimes things don’t work out. If we can move on from apartments or jobs or potential pets, we can move on from might-have-beens in relationships too. It’s frustrating and disappointing when we want something but we can’t get it, and it’s okay to be upset, but try not to give it such an outsized significance. You’ll meet someone who’s better situated to be with you, and it’ll work out, I promise.

I'm crushing on a couple and I don't know if it's wise to tell them

so i’m kind of in love with my two friends who have been dating each other for over a year. i have basically no emotional intelligence bc of mental stuff so i have almost no way to know how they feel about me, and i can’t really talk to or ask my other friends about it. i don’t know what to do about this and my feelings aren’t subsiding with time; i kind of want to tell them, but there’s a significant chance that it won’t go well and it’ll be weird, especially since i live with one of them

The good thing about knowing this about yourself - that you struggle with EI because of “mental stuff” - is that you can do something about it! Especially since you can’t talk to your friends about this, you should really find a therapist you can work on this with. There are also DIY resources out there - search for “emotional intelligence workbook” or “emotional intelligence DBT.” If you have a diagnostic term for the “mental stuff” you’re dealing with, you can also search for workbooks or other self-help resources with that term.

In general, my advice is usually to tell people how you feel, and let the chips fall where they may. There’s always a chance that things don’t go well and “be weird,” but if you don’t say anything, there’s a 100% certainty that things won’t go the way you want. However, every situation is different. Since you live with one of them, and living-space stress is one of the worst types of stress, you may want to be a bit more cautious. I don’t know what makes you say that there is a “significant change” that it won’t go well - is this couple explicitly monogamous? Have they expressed discomfort with that type of advance?

Only you have the full context to decide whether the risk is worth it. It might be worth it to find a polyamory-friendly therapist to talk things over with, or do some “pros and cons” journaling, or chat with a polyamory-support forum or chatroom, to try and work through all of the details. Best of luck!


My partner sometimes dates much younger people, and I'm not sure how I feel about that

My partner and I generally tend to be attracted to the same types of people, but sometimes when I find out how young someone is I'll start to feel nervous about my partner continuing to spend time with them. I know he doesn't have any sort of predatory or otherwise ill intentions, but we are almost 25, and I'm worried that someone else might get the wrong idea about seeing us hanging around an 18/19 year old who's still in high school. Is this a valid concern, or am I over thinking it?

It is a valid concern. I am of the belief that partners should generally be at “relatable” stages of life. If someone is in high school and living with their parents, and someone else has their own place and a full-time job, there is a power difference and a life experience gap that can very easily become problematic. The younger person may become dependent on the older partner for certain freedoms or may rely on the older partner to define what is normal in relationships. That’s dangerous. And one wonders what the partners talk about or do together when they have such different daily lives and priorities.

There are always going to be exceptions, and I’m sure I’ll hear about plenty of them after publishing this. There is nothing necessarily predatory about a 19 year old in their last few months of high school, with a job and a lot of independence, dating a 24 year old who just left college and is in a similar stage of early adulthood. Since the dating pool for polyamorous people can be smaller than average, it’s common to expand your ‘accepted’ age ranges a bit beyond what your average monogamous person might. But there is no “list of acceptable reasons for people with this kind of age gap to date,” and if it’s making you feel concerned, you should listen to your gut.

In general, if you’re not a high schooler, you should not be dating someone in high school. I share your concerns and agree that you and your partner should be seeking out people whose lives are more aligned with yours in terms of priorities, independence, and daily experience.

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.

REMINDER: Comments are now open on the main site, www.askpolyamory.com! Check out the commenting rules, and come join us! 

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!

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. 

Am I still polyamorous if I only want to be polyamorous with certain people?

Can I be poly if I only want to be with certain people. I'm not poly in general but I'm in love with multiple people, like I'm only poly for them if that makes sense. Does that count?

That is exactly what being polyamorous means. Being polyamorous means you are interested in a relationship with multiple specific people, not everyone on the entire planet! 

Monogamous people don't think "hm, I can't see myself in a monogamous person with my hairdresser or my coworker - maybe I'm not really mono!" Straight men don't think "oh no, there are women out there who I don't want to date - do I count as a straight man?"

Of course you only want to date the people you want to date. Of course you can only see yourself being polyamorous with the people you want to date polyamorously. That's totally fine. You're in love with the people you're in love with - and it happens to be multiple people - so you're polyamorous. It doesn't matter how you feel about anyone else! 

Sure, maybe there are people you'd be happy in a monogamous relationship with. But forget about the maybes. In this reality, in this universe, you're in love with multiple people and want to be in a polyamorous relationship with them. That's all the information you need!

How does one flirt while polyamorous?

So I'm poly and I have no idea how to flirt. A lot of people say "I want to spend my whole life with just you" and stuff like that, but what for poly people?

First off, I'm assuming you mean "flirt" when already in a relationship? I always associate flirting with trying to get someone's attention and subtly telegraph your interest and gauge theirs when you have a crush on them - once you're secure in their affections for you, it stops being flirting (in my mind). For the record, it's never a good idea to say something like "I want to spend my whole life with just you" as a way to try and probe for someone's interest in you or signal yours without being sure how they feel!

There are many, many ways to express affection for someone without implying a monogamous relationship or worldview! One of my partners often says "I'm on your side," which carries a lot of meaning between us. One of my partners calls me "boo" - pet names can be great flirting tools! Saying things like "you're wonderful," "I really like spending time with you," "you make my life better," "I enjoy you," etc. etc. etc. don't require a lifetime commitment to monogamy! Use whatever compliments fit you and your partners and feel genuine.

Sweet gestures are always great too! If the flirt-ee likes matcha green tea, bring them a little green tea candy that you saw in a Japanese store. If they like sloths, message them a picture of a sloth. If they've been stressing about an errand, offer to run it with or for them. Sharing experiences is a powerful way to show affection: listen to a band or read a book that they like so you can talk about it with them. Inside jokes are great too!

Some people flirt with teasing, but be careful not to get into the territory of "negging." Playful, silly banter and getting into good-natured mischief together is great! Trying to put someone in a position of feeling put down or in danger of losing your respect is not good flirting practice. 

You can also flirt with physical affection - one of my partners and I have an elaborate game where we are always trying to blow raspberries on each other. Butt taps, pokes, smacks, and caresses are frequent between me and my partners. If you're not actually physically involved yet, flirting classics like borrowing their hoodie or touching their arm are classics for a reason. Never underestimate the power of eye contact either. 

A handful of FAQ-answerable questions

My boyfriend and I are looking for someone into polyamory to add to our relationship.. But were having trouble finding anyone. Is there a secret to finding other poly people?? Please help :'(

You don't "add people to your relationship," that's not how it works - your trouble probably stems from the problematic framing there. Second, it takes a while to find people to date - be patient. Check my FAQ page for more on this.

Are we allowed to have convos with you about poly relationships? i'm super inexperienced and would like to have someone one on one to talk to.

Sadly, no - at this time I cannot do private or live conversations. You can read more about this policy and find more resources here. 

I've never had a polyam relationship, but I'm wondering if I'm polyam. I know you can't really tell 'til you try, so how exactly do you even start a polyamorous relationship??

Here's my FAQ page on how to tell you're polyamorous (note that most people don't assume that you have to try monogamy to know whether you're monogamous) and my FAQ page on finding polyamorous people to date!

I have insecurity issues particularly because I have a history of being left for other people. The man I’m with now (6mo LDR) had done so prior, married her. He’s divorced now. He doesn’t want to label what we’re doing but he tells me he loves me. He wants me to think about moving in with him from another state with my kid. I want to but I’m scared about his commitment. I can’t for a while yet. How do I talk to him about “us” and labels? I’m taking a risk, but it needs to be a calculated risk?

Hold up. If I’m reading this right, you’re currently dating a person who previously left you for another woman, married her, then divorced her and got back together with you. You’ve been together in this second relationship for six months now, all long distance. He wants you to move to another state to be with him. But he isn’t willing to use language to commit to you. 

I do not think you should make this move. I do not think you should continue to sidestep your own needs because this guy “doesn’t want to label” things. You do not “have insecurity issues,” you are in a fundamentally insecure situation. He is making sure that he provides you no security, then making you feel like your sense of insecurity is coming from your own “issues,” not a clear-eyed observation of the reality of the situation.

You have the right to ask for what you need. If he refuses to give it to you, walk away. Say something like: “The fact that you refuse to “label” what we’re doing isn’t working for me anymore. Am I your girlfriend? Are you my boyfriend? How would you define our relationship? Are we committed to seeing each other exclusively? What do you see as our future together? Are you committed to staying with me unless an issue comes up between us, not just until you don’t feel like it anymore? I need honest, clear answers to these questions before I’m willing to make any more commitments to this relationship.”

That is an appropriate and fair thing to ask. If he acts like you’re being demanding or controlling or pushy or “moving too fast,” then there’s your answer: that he is not able or willing to provide you the security that you need. He doesn’t want to make a commitment to you. He doesn’t want to give an inch, but he wants you to cross the miles for him. Stop doing 100% of the emotional heavy lifting here. Stop sacrificing your security for his freedom. Ask for what you need. If he can’t or won’t provide it, find a more secure relationship.

my boyfriend always complains i act like im not interested in spending time with him but whenever i ask to spend time with him he acts like i’m asking too much of him and like he has so many things to do he just can’t and if i act sad about him having to leave or do something he gets annoyed and that’s why i don’t ever ‘act interested’ because whenever i do i get called annoying and clingy and told how he cant spend all this time with me. i feel like no matter what i do im going to be wrong.

It doesn’t sound like this is a healthy relationship. Your boyfriend criticizes you for acting “not interested in spending time with him,” but when you do, he says you’re being “annoying and clingy.”

Making someone feel like “no matter what you do, it’s wrong” is emotionally manipulative and cruel. When with a partner, you should feel welcome and accepted and free to relax into your feelings. Being constantly critiqued, policed, and put down for how you act and how you feel is not healthy at all.

You deserve to be with someone who has the emotional maturity to identify their needs and work with you to meet them, rather than demanding some psychic perfection. Leave this relationship.

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.

What does it mean when someone dumps you constantly and then says ‘let’s be friends’ only to turn around and continue acting like you’re still together? :( I don’t know how to talk to them about it because i know they’re going to get upset or give me some lame excuse of 'i love u i just dont want u to go’ but they’re always the one pushing me away and saying they don’t want to be together and they’re the one who doesn’t want anything real. :(

What does it mean? It means this person is jerking you around for their own benefit. They want to do none of the emotional labor of being in a relationship with you, while getting all the benefits.

If an employer told you they don’t want to have you on the payroll, but really like having you around, would you keep doing work there? I know that it can feel gross to think about romantic or intimate relationships in economic terms, but this person is using you in a similarly exploitative manner.

If you are having sex with this person, stop. If you are doing emotional work for this person, stop. They don’t want to be with you, so don’t be with them. They do not get to have their cake and eat it too. Walk away, and find someone who is willing to actually be with you and not be weirdly cryptic and manipulative about it.  

i had my first experience in a triad, and i loved it. but things didnt work out. its been a while since its been over. I want to get back out there in the poly world but dont know how or where to look. the situation i was in before was with friends turned more. i need help

Here is my FAQ page about this

hi, i want to talk to you something about problems , can we chat via chat box? because i have long message to tell you :/ thanks!

Here is my FAQ page on that.

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.

My boyfriend and I got into a really big fight and almost broke up and he’s been really cold towards me since. I send little hearts and he ignores them. I say I love him and he doesn’t say it back. I don’t know what to do. He started doing this a week before we got into our fight and it’s been really bugging me which is partly why we got into such a huge fight and I don’t understand why he’s being this way?

Have you asked him why he’s acting this way?

Maybe he needs some space.

Maybe he does want to break up.

Maybe he just expresses affection differently than you.

Maybe he’s been replaced by an alien pod person.

Maybe he doesn’t like little hearts. 

Maybe he’s feeling overwhelmed by other obligations and doesn’t have the emotional energy to respond to you, even in a positive context.

You gotta ask him! Don’t do it with pressure or accusations; just gently ask him why he seems so avoidant with you and whether there’s anything he needs from you to solve the problem. If he really seems to just not want to be present to you in ways that you need in a relationship, then maybe this isn’t the relationship for you.

Is it irrational to want my partner to message me in the mornings when they wake up? I understand if they have things to do but I’d just like to know they’re thinking of me and for them to let me know if they’re going to be busy or not and they act like I’m asking something really difficult and irrational? It just makes me feel like they always think of me last because they wake up and do things and message me hours later. I rarely even get a good morning from them first.

It’s not irrational of you to want it, but it’s also not irrational of your partner not to do that. Some people don’t like to start their day immediately with texting. It sounds like your partner prefers to wake up, get their day started, then settle into whatever daily conversation you two are going to have. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a priority; or that they think of you “last,” it’s just a difference of preferences and routines. Just because someone’s behavior bothers you doesn’t mean they’re obligated to change it; neither of you is being “irrational,” but neither of you gets the right to put unilateral demands on the other one either.

For many people, taking a few hours to start their day is key to their mental and physical wellbeing, so your partner might feel really threatened by an imposition on their morning routine. For other people, their morning routines aren’t as important to them, or they can reasonably accommodate post-wake-up texts.

Try letting go of the framing here that makes you take this personally. I doubt your partner is going “Ah, I’ve just woken up, and I could text my partner, but they are NOT IMPORTANT TO ME so I’m just going to do something else and make them wait!” Instead, it’s probably more like “Ah, I’ve just woken up! I need some time to get started and settle into my day before I feel up to using my phone or talking to other people. As soon as I’m ready, though, I’d love to connect with my partner about how our days are going to go!”

It feels to you like they’re putting you last, but really, you two just have different morning routines. If this is an absolute dealbreaker for you, then you have the right to seek a partner who likes the same exact type of connections and routines as you. But you might be able to find a compromise with your current partner. Maybe they text you before lunch every day, and that can be early enough for you but late enough for them. Maybe you need to find something else to focus on during your mornings. Maybe they could text you before bed and you could read it in the mornings. This isn’t about who is being “rational,” it’s about finding a way to meet in the middle so that neither of you feel hurt or ignored or unfairly put-upon.

I met this guy on OKC and we had a very intense emotional connection and messaged every day and talked about really deep stuff but when we finally met in person I found that I wasn’t attracted to him. I felt awful. I knew he was still attracted to me and all i ended up feeling was anxious. I had a 2 day long anxiety attack and am riddled with guilt because even though he is a great person I just am not attracted to him romantically and I feel awful about it. got any advice or encouragement? Of course I admitted to him that I wasn’t attracted to him but I was really into him before we met so I know even though he was understanding he was also confused. I feel so shallow but I just wasn’t attracted to him physically when we met and I tried to deny it but in the end I know how I feel and despite our deep emotional connection I am just not attracted to him and I just feel so guilty about it. I’m not sure how to calm down. My guilt based anxiety keeps coming in waves because of it.

You are not obligated to be sexually or romantically interested in anyone. Ever. No matter how you met. No matter how well you connect in other areas. Period. End of story.

It can be really frustrating to connect emotionally with someone over messages, then realize that you aren’t physically or sexually into them. I think it’s unfair that our culture conflates those feelings - there are people I have spectacular sexual chemistry with who I don’t click with emotionally; and there are people who meet my emotional and intellectual needs on a deep level, but I don’t want to sleep with them. One thing polyamory and relationship anarchy have helped me do is find the space and the language for different kinds of relationships.

It’s okay to tell this guy that you really enjoy your conversations and would love the opportunity to pursue a friendship based on your connection, but that you aren’t interested in a sexual or romantic relationship. It’s okay for him to say no - he might see online dating exclusively as a way to meet people for sexual/romantic connections. But he might say yes! Either way, neither of you have done anything morally or ethically wrong, you’re just being honest about what you want and whether you can provide what the other person wants.

If this is creating a serious issue for you, it’s okay to take steps to mitigate this in the future. You can take a break from online dating while you work through the underlying causes of this severe anxiety (more on that below). Or, you can add a note to your OKC profile saying that it’s possible for you to meet someone there and discover that you’re better suited to be friends, and that you don’t expect or demand that every OKC connection turns into a sexual/romantic connection. We don’t assume that everyone we get along with well who we meet through work or mutual friends must become a sexual/romantic connection, so we don’t have to make that assumption about OKC as a way to meet people either.

Finally: a two-day-long anxiety attack and continued waves of guilt and anxiety over a social situation like this is not normal, and you deserve help for this. You can get help learning how to set boundaries, identify and meet your own needs, and say no. I don’t know if you identify as female and/or were socialized female, but this is a really common source of pressure and guilt for women and people socialized as women. The world likes to act like we owe men our attention and affection, and like we’re shallow and cruel if we don’t return their sexual interest. That’s garbage, and it’s a lie designed to control us. It can be really hard to find healing and learn to let go of this shame that’s been pressured into us for our entire lives, but there are lots of therapists who specialize in issues like this. Please consider reaching out to a mental health professional for help.

I’ve met this guy recently and me and him have became really good friends. I’ve started to like him but I don’t think he likes me because I’m 17 and he’s 25. So he looks at as a friend. Any advice on how how I can maybe change his opinion of me and to not think of the age gap?

Nope, I don’t have that advice, because it doesn’t exist. There is nothing anyone can do to change another person’s thoughts or feelings. You can never argue, cajole, prove or convince someone into having feelings for you, or really anything else. This goes for crushes, coworkers, parents, bosses, siblings, exes, elected officials, clergy, teachers…you see where I’m going.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but if your problem boils down to “I want someone else to think, feel, or act a different way,” there is no real solution. The only thing we can ultimately control is ourselves. Shifting our perspective to “What can I do to keep myself healthy and safe while this other person makes this choice, has these feelings, or behaves this way" is our best bet for happiness.

Also, that is a pretty serious age gap. A 17 year old is in a different place in life than a 25 year old. You two have different emotional landscapes, different lifestyles, different worlds. It’s okay for him not to want to date you - it would be okay for someone your own age to not want to date you, but since this person is so much older than you, it’s also healthy and responsible on his part.

It sucks when you want something, or someone, that you can’t have. I’ve crushed on and pined after my share of people who simply were not appropriate for me to date, and I know that it’s painful and frustrating. But the solution is not to try and change his mind - it’s to respect his lack of interest. This isn’t the last time you’ll wish you could change someone’s opinion of you, so figure out what you can do for yourself to make it through this.