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!

I'm in a polyamorous relationship, crushing on someone else, and feeling lots of guilt and confusion

I (M-18) have two bi-monogamous (F-18) partners and wish to add a third (F-18) who is a straight-monogamist. She (F3), is aware of what poly is and knows that I am poly but not that I have romantic feeling for her. No, I'm not just getting more and more partners to boast and use them as trophies but still do have a want for her. For 2 different reasons, I am feeling guilty about it and have resorted to comedy in order to partially cope. The first is simply that I am relatively new to polyamory and up until recently wasn't aware it was possible. The second is an irrational fear that either I am physically stronger or am more experienced with relationships or both that if I make some grand mistake and end up in court that there will no possible way to defend myself due to a couple of other factors. Due to this guilt, I have come to grinding halt and am completely unsure of how to continue. Being new to poly, neither of my partners know what to do. Side note that I should make is that out of the 4 of us only the last girl (F3) does not depression and or anxiety.

If she is monogamous, then I’m not sure how it would work for you to date her while you’re dating two other women. It’s possible to have a crush on someone and not date or pursue them, and it sounds like that’s your situation. You can “have a want” for someone and not “get” them. That’s part of being a person and interacting with other people, who all have their own agency and desires. If it’s causing you pain to be around this person who you “want” but can’t “have,” it’s okay to take a step back from that friendship and spend less time around her.

There is nothing “to do” about this, really - wanting to date someone is not something that absolutely must be acted on and this is not a problem that demands a solution. Sometimes we like people who don’t want to date us, or can’t date us, or are otherwise incompatible! Liking them does not make us bad people and we should not feel bad about it. Try to let that go. Continue cultivating the two relationships you are in, and don’t let this unrequited crush convince you that you are somehow stuck.

This “guilt” that comes from a fear that you will “make a grand mistake” is a serious problem and you need to with with a professional on this. If you genuinely fear that you are a risk for assaulting women who you’re “physically stronger” than, you should stop being around women immediately and start working with a therapist who specializes in helping men with this kind of warped view of women, sex, and power; or with managing impulses; or with healing trauma, or whatever is leading you to worry that this is a behavior you’re going to engage in. If this is more of an intrusive thought based on anxiety, then you need to work with a therapist who specializes in that kind of problem. I know that a lot of men are worried about being falsely accused and “ending up in court,” but know that false accusations are incredibly rare, and the best way to not get accused of assault is to not assault someone.

As far as just feeling “guilt” around being polyamorous in general, the best way to manage that is to learn more about polyamory and develop your own polyamorous identity and philosophy. Instead of “using humor to cope,” don’t joke away or dismiss your feelings. Own them. Acknowledge them. Don’t exaggerate for effect, don’t downplay them, don’t deflect or distract. Be honest about what you’re feeling and give yourself and your partners the change to think about address what’s going on. I’d suggest that the three of you read some blogs or books about polyamory together and discuss them! Be open with each other, talk about your fears, your desires, your best and worse case scenarios.

And since all three of you are dealing with diagnosed mental illnesses, you all need to be working with therapeutic professionals to manage them. A diagnosis isn’t permission to go “well things are just going to be harder and more complicated because there’s this Other Thing in the room.” It’s a tool you’re supposed to use to find ways to feel better. Learning you have strep throat is just the first step in a process toward finding the right treatments to feel better; it’s not the end of the line and a sentence to spend the rest of your life going “welp I have an infection in my throat so certain things are more painful for me.” Mental illness diagnoses are the same way! See my Mental Health Resources page.

My wife is in crisis, and citing a newfound desire for polyamory as part of it

My wife has depression and I’ve noticed she’s been feeling extra down lately so I sat her down to talk about it and she told me she’s polyamorous and has developed feelings for her friend at work. I have known her since we were kids and she has NEVER ever mentioned anything about this in that entire time. She also followed up with “I don’t want to have kids or to buy a house with you.” And I told her polyamory isn’t for me and I’m not willing to compromise on having children, but that I’m willing to give her some time to think about things and make sure we both know what we want etc. Then she started rubbing it in if she would talk to her coworker and saying hurtful things. And then she tried to kill herself so I had to take her to the hospital. And then she suddenly was like “I’m not poly, I never had feelings for her. I was just trying to push you away because I was depressed and wanted to kill myself hope you can forgive me also let’s have a baby.” My head is spinning. I’m so confused. I love her so much and only want what is best for her but she also just broke my heart. I don’t know what to do to take care of her or what to believe right now. It almost feels like she’s either afraid of the change this would bring her life or maybe she’s just being a jerk and using polyamory as a scapegoat. I don’t know I’m having trouble seeing this clearly.

This is not a situation where the core issue is polyamory, it’s a situation where the core issues are safety and mental health. Your wife is clearly in a very disordered pattern of thought and behavior - from the suicide attempt to the bizarre back-and-forth with you. It sounds like she is dealing with a lot of fear, pain, and confusion about her present life and the possibilities for her future. This is not something you can resolve on your own or with the help of an internet advice blog.

Start working with professionals immediately - she absolutely needs to be working with a therapist after her suicide attempt, and you should work with your own therapist, and the two of you should also see a couples therapist. I know it sounds expensive and time-consuming to see three separate professionals, but it will be much more disastrous to skip that healing work and go into parenthood or property ownership with these issues unresolved. Talk to the hospital where she was after her attempt; they often have outpatient programs, social workers, or other resources that can help the two of you access mental health care. You can also check out support groups and other resources for loved ones of suicide attempt survivors or other people in crisis.

Whatever you do, do not make any large scale commitments like opening the relationship, buying a house, or having a baby! Don’t worry so much about figuring out exactly what the right call is for the future or exactly what her true intentions and motives were. Drop the issues of parenthood, home ownership, polyamory, etc. Focus instead on getting your feet back under you, listen to the professionals in your life, and remember that she herself might not have a clear understanding of why she’s doing and saying these things. Mental illness and suicidal ideations are incredibly complex and difficult; it’s not that she is “just being a jerk” - though it’s important for you to honor when her behavior was hurtful to you and unacceptable.

Take time and space and focus on healing. Be willing to acknowledge your own needs and boundaries - you’ve been hurt a lot, and it is not healthy or productive for you to try and repress your own feelings because hers are louder or more acute. It might turn out that this is the beginning of the end of your relationship, and it’s okay to reach that conclusion based on the information in front of you. It may be that you two need to take some space from each other, or that she needs to make some serious life changes to facilitate her recovery. I am so sorry that you and your wife are going through this; you have my support and best wishes.

I've been using alcohol to manage my feelings around polyamory

I normally get drunk to cope with my boyfriend calling/video chatting his fiancé and I don’t know how I’m gonna cope when he tries to move her into our house.

You should never ever stay in a situation that is so emotionally painful that you turn to alcohol (or other numbing behaviors) to get through it. Something serious needs to change, immediately.

Please talk to your boyfriend about how you’re feeling. If there’s something specifically that you two can work on to help you manage whatever feelings are coming up, find and start that. But it just might not be healthy for you to continue dating someone who also has a fiancé. It will be better for you in the long run to leave a relationship that is driving you to “get drunk to cope.”

Please also see a therapist for help with your use of alcohol to self-soothe. There is nothing wrong with drinking, but using it as a coping strategy is dangerous both physically and psychologically. You deserve help finding better ways to get through painful feelings, and to stand up for yourself in situations that hurt rather than trying to drink yourself through them.

I was dumped by a polygroup a few months ago, and it still hurts

My polygroup dumped me - like they're all dating and I'm just out of the picture. It was at least a couple months ago and I don't even see them in person like at all anymore but I'm still hurting. I want to be over it, but for some reason I find myself still getting sad and angry when I see reminders of them.

Friend, this is entirely normal! Getting dumped by one person is miserable enough - getting dumped by an entire group is going to hurt like nobody's business. You have my deepest sympathies.

This is not really a problem with a solution besides "wait it out." You're already doing the right things by not seeing them in person and trying not to wallow in the sadness, but a few months is NOT much time to get over such a painful breakup!

Be patient and gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and tenderness when you're sad and angry. Nothing is wrong with you for feeling this way. It's not that you're sad and angry "for some reason" - you're sad and angry because a really sad, maddening thing happened to you! It's okay, and you're okay.

Find distractions - whether it's rearranging your hamster's cage or getting back into playing The Sims or hitting a local concert or foraging for mushrooms. Reach out to friends who are not connected to that group of people. Indulge in some comforts. Consider talking to a therapist or an informal support/venting chat or forum. And know that you will get through this. 

My partner is going through a divorce - what now?

My partner is currently going through a divorce. What the hell do I do?

That question is probably best posed to your partner. Ask them what they need from you to get through this tough time. Maybe they need patience on your part and an acceptance that you'll see less of them while they hunker down and deal with this. Maybe they need a soft shoulder and someone to vent to. Maybe they need cheerful, upbeat distractions from someone who isn't involved and doesn't need to talk constantly about the divorce logistics. 

You also need to make sure you're getting your needs met during this high-stress time. Your partner probably won't be able to do a bunch of emotional labor for you, so you'll need to find somewhere to 'dump out' while you 'comfort in.' Friends, a therapist, a hobby, other partners - make sure you've got outlets as well. 

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I'm polyamorous, my boyfriend is not, and this tension is making me miserable

I think I need to break up with my boyfriend. I love him so dearly but the only options are break up and be poly or stay together and hurt my own feelings when I crush on others. There is no way he wants to do polyamory, and every option makes me feel terrible. It doesn't help that I relapsed on self harm and drugs....I know it's bad but I just am so distressed and don't know what I'm doing anymore. I'm desperate. How do I compromise, and is it even possible?

If a relationship is making you feel desperate and distressed to the point that you relapse into self-destructive behavior, it's not healthy for you to be in anymore. Sometimes "love" isn't enough - sometimes two people are mostly great together, but one major issue makes them not compatible in a relationship. It's heartbreaking and frustrating to have to break up when there are still things you love about being together, but it sounds like it's necessary in this situation. 

Please reach out for help with the drug use and the self harm - you don't deserve to be this miserable, and you do deserve support through this difficult time. Not having the freedom to live into who you are as a polyamorous person is really unhealthy for you, so you need to start taking the steps toward a healthier relationship arrangement, even if that means no longer being with this current partner. 

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.

I found out an ex of mine has changed his tune about being polyamorous

I was in a relationship with a poly man for 3 yrs and was open to polyamory. I had a hard time because he was constantly gas lighting me. He felt strongly against monogamy and would break agreements/boundaries that I needed to feel safe. I finally cut him off 2 months ago after he tried to pull me back into dating him. Recently I started having ptsd and I contacted him & he told me that he has a new gf and has realized he is monogamous and was never poly. I feel very confused and hurt and angry.

PTSD is a serious mental illness, and people with PTSD need and deserve treatment. If your relationship with this man left you with trauma, the solution is to work with a mental healthcare professional, not to try and re-open those wounds by contacting him.

If you were able to rationalize his mistreatment of you as “oh, he’s polyamorous, so he has to act like this, he can’t help it,” but suddenly he’s identifying as monogamous, you now have to face the realization that he was just acting badly, without that salve of a pseudo-rationale. That’s painful. It’s possible he’s saying this to you because he knows it will be painful for you. But do NOT let it re-frame his behavior as something that you “deserved” or somehow brought on yourself. He was a jerk to you and treated you poorly, and whatever excuse or explanation he had at the time doesn’t really change that fact.

This guy sounds like he was, and still is, unsafe for you. Stop contacting him - you don’t need him to make sense, or apologize, in order for you to heal and move on. He can be out there in the world being wrong, and being someone who wronged you. Let that be the truth. He lied to you, he mistreated you, he strung you along - he’s the bad guy. The rest doesn’t really matter. Find someone to work with on the PTSD and let yourself move forward, not back.

Hi…I just can’t get over the guilt of my polyam relationships. I’m a woman with two male partners. I just - they deserve better, they ID as monogamous (initially anyway, probably still by preference) and I feel I’ve forced them into this. Heck, *I* ID as monogamous at heart. I just love both these two men. Nobody else, but…I can’t shake the hideous guilt. None of us looked for this. But it’s my fault. They say they’re ok and it’s just how it is. But…

Sometimes things just fall into place in ways we didn’t expect. It’s okay to let the present be the present, even if it wasn’t what you planned for in the past.

If everyone is happy, if all needs are getting met, if communication lines are open and clear, if the relationships are fulfilling - then there’s really no need for guilt. You’re not doing anything wrong. No one is being hurt. 

You are allowed to ask things of others. They are allowed to give you what you ask. This doesn’t make you evil, or them the victim. 

People are allowed to choose to be with you. Even if that requires some work or even some compromise. You’re worth it. You don’t need to be perfect or ask nothing of your partners for you to be what they ‘deserve.’

The fact that your partners find themselves in a polyamorous arrangement is not your “fault.” If no one is getting hurt, then no one is at “fault.” Let go of this projected, pseudo-psychic assumption that you’re hurting them. If they say you’re not, trust them.

Your partners chose to be with you. You chose to be with your partners. Respect this choice. Honor the agency of everyone involved. You’re not holding them hostage to a crappy relationship. There is freedom and choice here. 

If the feelings of guilt come from something specific that your partners do or say; if they are sending hints that they are being hurt - talk to them about it. If this is coming from external messages, from media or other people, disengage from the sources of that guilt.

And if this “hideous guilt” is keeping you from living and enjoying your life, or if it’s cropping up in other areas of your life as well, please consider talking to a poly-friendly therapist about this.

Some resources:

My partner explains that his anger and negativity are because of his anxiety, but I still feel really hurt when he blows up at me after I go on dates or says tons of negative things about anyone I have even slight interest in. How can I be both supportive of his anxiety, which I know he’s trying to work on, and also take care of my own emotional needs? I feel like I’m taking on all the emotional labor because my anxiety isn’t as “loud” as his is and it’s really starting to make me miserable

Mental illness is never an excuse to be hurtful. It can be an explanation, a way to give language to the challenge, a way to help understand and communicate through tough spots. But explanations are not the same as excuses.

You are not obligated to simply bear your partner’s anger and negativity because he can tie it to a diagnosed mental illness. Your partner’s behavior - making extreme emotional demands, refusing to take responsibility for his behavior, guilting you about your feelings for other people, blowing up at you - is not healthy and it is not okay. Period.

If this relationship is making you miserable, leave it. If you want to try and make things work, let your partner know that some pretty big changes need to happen. He can no longer dump negativity and anger on you simply because he has tough-to-manage thoughts and feelings. Not all thoughts and feelings need to be acted on. He needs to make some major steps to start working on this unfair and unhealthy behavior, stat. If he is not seeing a therapist, he needs to do that. If he is seeing one, he needs to make this a treatment priority.

You have the right to set down clear boundaries: “I am no longer going to accept this kind of treatment. I am no longer going to have this kind of conversation. You need to come up with a healthier way to relate to me about these issues. Your current strategies for managing your anxiety are not working and you need to commit to serious changes for the sake of our relationship.” If he cannot or will not do this, this relationship isn’t healthy for you.

I recently started therapy for anxiety. The therapist is nice enough, but, when I mentioned being poly, he said it’s okay while I’m young, but that I need to choose one partner if I want to get married or have kids. I have tried to tell him that I disagree, but he just retorts with something to the effect of, “It’s statistically impossible.” I am not out to my parents, so telling them I don’t want to go to therapy anymore would be difficult because I don’t have a reason. How do I approach this?

First off, I am really sorry that you’re dealing with this - therapy should be a safe and affirming place, but therapists are people too, who often bring their biases or baggage into the session as well. It sucks and it’s not what you deserve from a mental healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, you are not alone - many healthcare professionals are uninformed about polyamory, which can be frustrating and block polyamorous people from getting the best care. One gynecologist insisted that I was in an abusive relationship because my male partner had manipulated or brainwashed me into thinking it’s okay that he has other partners and pressed a bunch of domestic violence pamphlets into my hand. She was well-intentioned, but it was sad and alienating for me to be told that my healthy, consensual relationship is actually abuse.

You have a few options here - none are ideal, but the situation itself isn’t ideal. Choose whichever one sounds safest to you.

One: Keep your polyamory out of the sessions. If you’re seeing the therapist for anxiety, talk about your anxiety and avoid the topic of polyamory. Of course it’s suboptimal to feel closeted or like you can’t share the whole story of yourself with your therapist, but if your anxiety is primarily about things besides relationships, you may be able to re-frame therapy for yourself as a sort of ‘targeted’ medical procedure rather than an open-ended talk-therapy relationship. Ask your therapist about CBT or DBT, talk mostly about your anxiety and how it feels and what triggers it, and clarify for yourself and your therapist what your treatment goals are, keeping them focused on reducing the anxiety and its symptoms.

Two: Find another therapist. Lots and lots of people take a few tries to find a therapist they really click with, and it’s totally okay to shop around. You don’t need to tell your parents exactly why you don’t feel 100% safe and comfortable with this therapist, you can just say that you’d really appreciate the chance to try a different one. Or, make up a white lie - you’d prefer someone younger, or of a different gender, or you don’t like how he approaches [other issue]. You can review some articles with them like this one and ask if they are open to letting you do some research and find another person to talk to. Of course, there may be barriers to this, including time, distance, cost, and insurance - so let your parents know that you are grateful to them for helping you access therapy in the first place, and be as collaborative as possible about this request. 

Three: Try to educate your therapist. I hesitate to suggest this, because it’s really not your responsibility, and you may end up feeling even more alienated or unsafe if he refuses to receive what you have to say. But if you want to try, there are materials out there to help therapists understand polyamory in an accurate and healthy way. You could write him a letter or bring it up in conversation. You can print or email him some resources like:

You could say something like “When I mentioned my relationship orientation [or however you define/experience your polyamory], you were dismissive of polyamory. In order for me to feel safe in therapy, I need to know that my whole self and my relationships are accepted and understood here. It sounds like you’re working from outdated information or a misunderstanding of polyamory. In reality, it’s well-documented that polyamorous relationships can be as healthy and long-lasting as monogamous ones, and it is a valid [identity/orientation/relationship style]. As your patient, I’d ask that you read this and work with me to become better informed so that our treatment relationship isn’t harmed by misunderstanding or prejudice. I’m happy to answer any questions.”

No matter what you choose, know that you are valid, you are awesome, and you deserve a happy, healthy, fulfilling life. Anxiety is a beast (I also am in treatment for an anxiety disorder), but you are doing the hard work of fighting it! I am proud of you and you should be proud of yourself. And this period of your life, where your parents and other adults are all up in your business about who you are, will end eventually. I promise. 

Both my partners are living together hours away from me and I don’t have any way of contacting either of them and recently I’ve been having a lot of relationship insecurities. Usually I talk them out with my partners but I can’t do that and I don’t know when I’ll be able to speak to them again. I don’t know what to do.

It sounds like your inability to contact them is the core issue here - my advice is to consider that situation an emergency and do what you need to do to resolve it. Is it a person in your life or their lives who is being controlling and restricting contact? Is it an issue of access to technology? Is it funding? Make a plan to get some kind of contact in place, whether it’s sending emails from a library or writing letters or buying a burner phone. Start a GoFundMe, enlist a friend to help - do what you have to do.

If you really can’t talk to your partners, you’ll have to find other ways to work on those insecurities. Try journaling about them, joining a polyamorous chatroom or forum, talking to a therapist, spending time with friends you trust, or working on a self-help workbook focused on whatever you’re specifically struggling with.

i’ve been in a relationship for about 8 months now. my partner is occasionally suicidal and is not very good at regulating their emotions and dealing with negativity. they are not clinically diagnosed with anything because their family is averse to the idea of it. For a few months now i’ve been spending a lot (like 60-70%) of my energy coping with my partner’s distress, be it moodiness and irritation directed at me, or being ignored for a hours at a time, or rebutting unending thoughts of self hatred, and dealing with suicide attempts (twice) late into the night. i feel very drained and tired, but feel as if i cannot leave because of their instability. it is a vicious cycle of me constantly reassuring them that i love them to prevent them from overthinking and becoming insecure about the relationship, making it difficult for me to leave because I keep telling them that I’m not going to. truthfully, i say most of my “i love you"s and "i miss you"s to even it out with how much they say it to me. i am at a loss and don’t know what to do. I feel an immense loss of self esteem, emotional regulation, self identity and social interaction with my family and friends i love. the responsibility for their emotional well-being is becoming unbelievably difficult to carry, but i cant bring myself to put it down because of some stupid promises i’ve made.

Let me be the first person to release you from this sense of obligation. You are never, ever required to shoulder the emotional weight for another person’s problems. If a relationship is causing you “an immense loss of self esteem, emotional regulation, self identity and social interaction,” then it is not healthy for you and you need to leave it. It is okay to do what you need, do what’s best for you, even if it will make someone else unhappy. Their mental health is not your responsibility.

Whatever you decide to do, this situation cannot continue. It is not fair to you, and it is not fair to your partner. You are not a mental health professional, and even if you were, it is inappropriate for “mental health support caregiver” and “romantic partner” to be the same person. Suicide attempts are serious, and next time, you need to call 911 instead of trying to handle it on your own. You either need to take serious steps to set new boundaries with this person and help them find healthier sources of help and support. Something needs to change so you can shift your position to “supportive partner” instead of “24/7 crisis counselor.”

That, or you need to leave the relationship. If you want to leave the relationship, you should. You do not deserve to be in a situation where you are draining all of yourself, and you don’t owe anyone your continued presence in an unhealthy relationship, regardless of what you have promised in the past. You may need to enlist friends, adults, or professionals to support you and your partner through the breakup. A breakup will be messy, and painful, and you may feel guilt, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that you are not allowed to leave the relationship.

If this person is unable to access mental health services through their family, there are still options for them. You can point them to a crisis hotline or text line. If your partner is in school, speak to a teacher or counselor in a position to help them. You can talk to your own parents and get their help to advocate for your partner as well. You can offer to sit with your partner and help them draft a letter to their parents asking for mental health help, or offer to sit with them and have that conversation in person, or help them strategize about how to get professional help through other avenues. What you cannot - and should not - do is continue to take on all of this yourself. 

Also, since your mental health is being so poorly impacted, you may also benefit from talking to a therapist - talk to your parents, an adult at your school, or someone else who can connect you with services. 

My fiance and his girlfriend had been having issues recently and it causes me a lot of anxiety. They have worked on things but I panic when they hang out because I was abused and I noticed red flags. But also I have a lot of issues and feel like I can’t ask for help if they are hanging out. I end up feeling like I messed up everything if I do ask for help and she held me asking him for help against him. But also feel bad because I now feel like I need help so often that they dont have time to help

Anxiety and panic from past trauma can be big, hairy, and challenging. It is good that you are reaching out for help, but it is also okay for other people to recognize that they cannot be your 24/7 crisis management team. I am sorry to hear that your partner’s partner is “holding it against him” - that is not a healthy way for her to set that boundary. But it sounds like there are unmet needs all over the place here.

You have done the work of recognizing that you need help, and reaching out for it, which is awesome. But you may need to start expanding your network of resources. When your partner is with his girlfriend, it is okay for him to want some uninterrupted time without also needing to be present to your struggles. If you aren’t already working with a therapist on this, please consider doing that. Check out online support forums or chats, self-help workbooks and activities as well. Reach out to other friends who may be able to sit with you or talk with you when your partner isn’t available. Work on developing independent self-soothing techniques.

This can help you take some of the weight off your relationship with your fiance, so he has more “emotional bandwidth” for the times when you really need him, and so you two can enjoy each other in a relational context that isn’t always centered on helping you. I am not saying that it’s not okay to ask for help, or to need help, but since you’ve recognized that you have more needs than your fiance can meet and the level of that need is causing strain, the solution is to find some more hands to help carry that load and work to lighten the load overall.

I have really bad anxiety and depression and whenever my partner is away or not responding I start getting really negative thoughts and thinking they’re with someone else and ignoring me because they think this other person is better than me and it’s really messing with me and my relationship. What can I do to make this go away?

Ooh! I know this one! The answer is therapy. Specifically DBT and/or CBT designed to address anxiety, obsessive thoughts, and intrusive thoughts. This is a well documented phenomenon and we have lots of tools to help address it! Talk to a professional for help, and in the meantime, you can also find self-help workbooks and apps for this. Check my resources here

Do you have any resources or tags that deal with having personality disorder and being in a poly relationship?

Here is my resource page on mental health and polyamory! As far as I can recall, the only personality disorder I have fielded questions on is borderline personality disorder, and you can check my “bpd” tag if that is relevant for you.

Most of the resources I found also focused on BPD, though I know that is not the only personality disorder. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of these, since I don’t have a personality disorder, but this is what I’ve found:

Polyamory and Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD tag at PolySkeptic

“Hysterical Woman Problems” & Jealousy

Dependent Personality Tag at Pragmatic Poly

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.

Hey, do you have to focus on sex to find a good poly relationship? I would like to start seeing women, but my husband insists that the only way to find someone is to sleep with them. I have sex related PTSD and it takes me a long, long time to be ready for sex. My husband is sure that we can never find anyone because I’m not capable of having endless one night stands to find someone to stay. I feel totally worthless and unlovable and he seems pretty miffed that I can’t just screw strangers.

What!? Of course you can meet people without sleeping with them. The first thing that comes to mind is making an online dating profile where you make it clear that you want to make sure you “click” with someone before hopping into bed. You can also hit it off with someone at a bar, get their number, and text-flirt for as long as you like before touching bits. There are lots of ways to meet people and establish chemistry besides one-night stands. Sure; it’s sometimes easier to flirt really sexually, then “invite them up for drinks,” then go in for the heavy petting, but it is pretty lazy and uncreative thinking to imagine that that’s the only way to find a partner. 

If you two are trying to find women to see together, and your husband insists that he has the best strategy for picking up women, let him do it his own damn self! He can go out and be like hey, I’m married, I’m interested in women, let’s bang, would you be interested in my wife? Or, you two can date together - make an online dating profile, go to poly meetups, join hobbyist groups and communities where your-kind-of-people hang out. Or, you can date on your own; pick up people’s numbers, go dancing, whatever.

It’s a huge problem that your husband is acting in a way that makes you feel “worthless and unlovable,” that he isn’t respecting your totally valid boundaries, or that he’s pressuring you to do something that triggers your PTSD. If this is any kind of pattern with this guy, you may need to reconsider the health of this relationship overall. And if you’re not already seeing a therapist for these feelings and this PTSD, please do yourself a huge favor and do that!

It’s hard for any couple to find a woman to date; if you two are having struggles, it is NOT the result of you setting reasonable boundaries. Your husband is very wrong that his imagined way of finding someone to day is the only way. He should not be blaming you for the fact that you two haven’t found someone to date, or pushing you to do something you’re uncomfortable with. This is definitely a relationship dynamic that needs to be addressed; partly because you deserve to be in a safe and healthy relationship; and partly because it’ll be totally impossible to date a third person while you two are acting like adversaries, not partners, in this project.

I need more space time away from a partner who has severe depression/ anxiety; he often wants more of my time/energy than I feel is healthy for me. I’m having trouble maintaining relationships with my friends because much of my time goes to my partners. Sometimes I want more space from all of them. I especially don’t know how to approach this subject with my mentally ill partner. How do you tell someone you don’t want to be there for them when they feel like they need you to be?

It’s okay to set boundaries and make space for yourself, no matter what! My recommendation is to do concrete things to get that space, rather than just ask for it in the abstract.

Make plans with your friends, or for some alone-time, and put them on your calendar. If your partner asks you to get together or be on the phone with them during that time, say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that - I have other plans.” You always have the right to set your own schedule! You can suggest sharing your Google calendar with him, so he can see whether you’ll be free; or asking for hangouts to be planned in advance, or whatever works for you. If your partner throws a fit, tries to guilt or manipulate you into leaving your plans for him, or otherwise doesn’t respect your very reasonable boundaries, that is a serious red flag that the relationship isn’t healthy for you. 

Does your partner have a therapist or other support system? Try talking to them about making a plan to get support from someone other than you. You can say, “It feels like lately you’ve needed a lot of support from me, especially when it comes to your depression and anxiety. I care about you and want to be there for you, but I’m not a professional, and I don’t want you to just be stuck suffering if I can’t be there for you. Let’s brainstorm some strategies for how you can get support in different ways that don’t rely on my availability.” That could be identifying some other people he can talk to; or having you write him some affirmations he can read over any time he wants; or him setting up some self-soothing techniques like taking a long shower, coloring, etc. 

If asking for specific things doesn’t work, then try having an honest conversation about how much emotional labor you’re doing, and how much you’re willing to do, and concrete steps you and your partners need to take in order to get the space you need. No relationship should make you feel exhausted or weighed down; you are never responsible for another person’s mental health; and you always deserve to have time for yourself and your friends!