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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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. 

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 love my previously mono hubby but he has never been a very emotional/physical person and isn’t very open to changes. My bf however is very emotional and physical. Well recently my H has started to talk to people a little (one girl in particular) just as friends for now but he “might want to date someone in future”. And i admit I am jealous and confused. I am worried he will give this other girl what I wanted from him for a long time but accepted he couldn’t give me and he will leave me. I know it is hypocritical. But it makes me feel inadequate to think that he could give to someone else what i wanted. It makes me feel like saying ok i will be mono so i don’t have to see that happen…but then, i love my bf and he loves me so no. This feels so complicated. I feel like i’m constantly having an anxiety attack and have started taking my panic meds daily instead of like 2x a month like i used to. Please help

The first thing you should do is see the doctor who prescribed your medication for panic attacks. Suddenly increasing your dose like that, and experiencing your symptoms with such a new intensity, is something you deserve help and support with. Even though you know what’s going on in your life to spike your anxiety, mental health issues are nothing to mess around with.

Second, it sounds like there are a few issues here. One is that there is something your husband isn’t giving you, but you never specify what that is. It might be worth taking another crack at explaining to your husband that he’s not meeting your needs, and working with him to figure out a change that works better for both of you.

The other issue is that you’re worried that your husband will suddenly find himself emotionally and physically capable of providing for his new girlfriend what he can’t provide for you, and that he’ll realize he wants to leave you for her. All I can say to that is: you’re not psychic, and you can’t predict the future. All we have is the present, and you’ve always been able to handle that. Try to let yourself “cross that bridge when you come to it,” and not worry about things that haven’t happened yet. 

I know “don’t worry about the future” is easier said than done, especially for someone who deals with anxiety severe enough to be treated with medications. But I’d encourage you to work on it with a therapist, try some CBT strategies, and when all else fails, remember this Welcome to Night Vale quote that really helps me:

The past is gone, and cannot harm you anymore. And while the future is fast coming for you, it always flinches first, and settles in as the gentle present. This now, this us, we can cope with that.

ive recently fallen for someone other than my partner, and everyone’s ok w it, that’s all cool. and my partner has fallen for them too, and we’re thinkin about a polyfi triad, maybe? its all really nice!! but i’m suddenly intensely jealous and it’s ass. i know it’s rooted in a combination of my bpd and history of abandonment, but i feel super, super hopeless. is jealousy something that can be overcome with effort? i love them both so much but i hate feeling like they’re going to leave me. like everything was fine until my partner fell for my ambigusweetie too, and then suddenly i can’t stop “knowing” that they’re plotting to leave me together. i’m severely paranoid+mentally ill, so even tho jealousy is something lots of ppl go through it’s particularly intense and since it’s not something that can be overcome Immediately, i just. feel super hopeless. i am actively talking to them both about it, bc nothing happens without communication.

First off, you deserve major kudos for recognizing that your perceived reality might be influenced by your illness. It can be really hard to validate your feelings without falling into the trap of thinking they represent reality, and it sounds like you’ve made serious strides in handling the paranoia and fear that your brain makes you deal with. You are working hard, you are tough, you are strong, and you should be very proud of yourself. 

My first piece of advice would be to communicate with your partners about this, but you’re already doing that! Ten thousand gold stars for you. Hopefully they can work with you to find things that reassure you of their commitment and affection for you. Try identifying specific things they can say and do that help you manage your painful thoughts. Mental illness are no joke, and they’re really tough, but you have two supporters at your back to help you fight.

I am not a mental health professional, but I can tell you that the paranoia and fear of abandonment that come with bpd can be treated with DBT and CBT. If you aren’t already, start seeing a therapist who specializes in helping people overcome jealousy, fear of abandonment, and other symptoms of bpd that you’re dealing with. If possible, find someone who works with the poly community.

Remind yourself that you are not psychic - whatever you think other people are thinking is just coming from inside of you, it’s not an objective observation. I do not have bpd, but I often deal with fear and anxiety about what I worry other people are thinking, and this self-exercise often helps me walk through it:

  • Do I trust myself to enter into healthy relationships with trustworthy people?
  • If I trust myself to identify trustworthy people, then doesn’t it follow that I would trust this person?
  • If this person says they care about me, and I trust them, why not believe them?
  • Is it more likely that this person is lying to my face and putting effort into pretending to care about me, or that they really do care about me?

Now I don’t think a thought exercise of four questions is going to cure a mental illness, but it’s something that helps me rebalance when I find myself spiraling into fear and paranoia about whether people close to me really care or are planning to abandon me. Good luck, great work - keep on keeping on. <3

I have seasonal affective disorder so my normal antidepressants aren’t really making a dent anymore and I’ve recently brought a girl into a relationship with me and I feel like I’m failing so badly at making her feel wanted and welcome. I’m always sad and antisocial, I never want to leave my house or do anything, having her over here stresses me out because I feel the need to be a good host, etc. on top of me feeling like crap physically and mentally almost always. I’m afraid this is hurting her

I am not a therapist, but I have been on the other side of the couch - and I can tell you that one common aspect of cognitive behavioral therapy is gently reminding yourself that you are not psychic. You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head, even if you feel like you’re sure that they must be hurt, or angry, etc.

My first piece of advice would be to ask her whether she actually is hurt, or feels unwanted and unwelcome. Say that you worry about being a good host and a fun partner, and you want to know what her needs are in this relationship. Remember that if this person got into a relationship with you, it means she likes you for who you are. Maybe she wants to be with someone cozy and low-key, who’s okay hanging around the house instead of going out!

Second, it sounds like this is actually bothering you, even if she’s okay with it. Again, the solution is open communication. Let her know that you feel frustrated with your low energy these days, and you’re struggling to be present to this relationship. She might be able to help plan some things you can do together that help you feel proud and relaxed without a lot of effort. There are lots of ways to find intimacy and joy together that don’t take a lot of work! Consider trying an at-home date, like:

  • Take a bubble bath or shower together
  • Build a blanket fort and lay around in it together
  • Pick a TV show or movie to watch together
  • Order in food or cook something low-key to eat together
  • Play a card or board game together
  • Color some coloring pages or do another craft together
  • Go for a walk or drive around your neighborhood together 

Tell your new partner that you really do care about her, but are struggling to show it in ways that make you feel good about your ability to provide for her needs. If she’s a healthy partner for you, she’ll help reassure you that she does enjoy spending time with you, and help you find ways to keep the relationship fun and romantic without overextending your capacity right now.

so, i met this poly couple. they’re married. they’ve expressed great interest in me, but my only interest is in the wife. it’s been about three months since we’ve met, and a lot has gone on since then. i often feel jealous or envious when i see him touching her. but i know that they’re married, and have been with each other for seven years, so i never feel like taking her from him. that’s just wrong. i’m just debating on whether or not i should continue to pursue a relationship with her. i just always feel so bad when i go over there, ya know? the last time i stayed i got a panic attack from seeing him dry hump her. it was just so terrible… but i like her alot. she told me she thinks she’s falling in love with me. a part of me wants to leave, but the other part wants to see how things will play out.

Panic attacks are nothing to mess around with. If a relationship is putting that much psychological and emotional strain on you, it’s usually healthiest to get out of it. Even if this woman is great for you, the circumstances just aren’t. 

It’s okay not to be okay with polyamory. I wouldn’t date a guy who’s a smoker, even if he’s otherwise amazing, because being around smoke and the smoky smell makes me so uncomfortable. You aren’t obligated to put up with a situation that makes you sick, for any reason.

Find someone to date whose relationship terms work better for you. And, if you aren’t already, I strongly recommend that you get treatment for the panic attacks. It’s totally valid to get upset in upsetting situations, but if you’re having panic attacks, that’s a different animal, and you deserve to get help and feel better.