My partner isn't affectionate to me when his other partner is around

I’ve been dating this guy casually for a year or so, and he has a partner that he’s been with for almost 10 years. They’re a wonderful couple and we speak openly about our relationships together, but when she’s around he doesn’t flirt with me at all. I know I’m not the main girl, but it sucks being treated differently just in front of her. Do I ask for more attention or should I just look for attention else where? How do I not offend anyone and address this in a formal manner?

Healthy polyamory, and healthy relationships of all types, are about communication! This is totally something that's valid to bring up. Be specific and focus on what's observable. "Hey, whenever we're around Esmeretta, you never call me 'babe'/kiss me/hold my hand/etc. and that's starting to bother me. Is that something specific you two have negotiated, or is this something we can talk about and work on?"

It's possible that he's doing it subconsciously or just assuming that it would be more comfortable for everyone if he acted in this way. A little more intentionality and awareness is never a bad thing! 

Don't just assume that because you've been dating him for less time that you're "not the main girl." Polyamorous relationships don't need to be ranked - you can both be on a 'level' where you have his flirty and affectionate attention. Don't relegate yourself to a place where you don't get to ask for what you want because you think that's how things are set up. 

If he comes right out and tells you that it's intentional - that he, or she, or both of them are uncomfortable with him being flirty while she's around - then you have to decide whether you want to be in an arrangement where, after dating someone for a year, you still don't get the type of attention you want because of another person's preferences. 

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My girlfriend wants to be in a polyamorous relationship with her ex, but I'm not sure

I'm open to a polyamorous relationship and my girlfriend wants to have one with me and her ex. This would be my first polyamorous relationship and I don't really know the guy. Should I be worried about it? Possibly if he steals her away from me instead of it being a group relationship?

If your girlfriend wants you to just start dating a guy you don't really know, that's not very fair or reasonable. You cannot 'assign' or 'agree' people into relationships - it doesn't work that way. Don't date a guy just because your girlfriend wants you to.

It makes more sense for her to start dating him, and you get to know him, and see how the two of you feel about each other. There is nothing wrong with a V-shaped polyamorous relationship. Being friendly metamours is often the best way for people to relate.

If she's adamant that she only wants a closed/triad/group relationship, then she'll need to be patient and wait for you two to meet someone or grow close with someone that you also want to date.

As for your second question - no, I would not advise you to be worried about that. I can't promise you that it won't possibly happen, since no one can predict the future, but polyamory tends to make it less likely that someone will leave you for someone else, not more. Also, it's impossible for him to "steal her away" - if she leaves you to be monogamous with him, or anyone else, it would be because she made that decision herself, and you can't control her decisions. Unless he's saying and doing things that make it seem like he's trying to shift into a monogamous relationship with her and get her to break up with you, I wouldn't worry about this.

Something to be worried about, though, is that he's her ex. Why did they break up? Does that reason still exist? Are there any red flags or concerns you have about him? Getting back together with exes is not typically a great idea; so be sure you understand what his deal is, why she wants to get back together with him, and whether you want to be part of a situation that involves him.

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My partner is going through a rough time and I want to arrange something nice for her with her other partners

My girlfriend recently broke up with one of her partners she's been dating for a long time and is not feeling well because of their reaction. I am thinking about contacting the others to met and organize a surprise to cheer her up, like spending a week with everyone near the sea. 
The problem is that we never talked to each others (except one time at Pride, to say a quick hello and shake hands). I fear she would feel uncomfortable, but at the same time it would be great for her to see the ones she loves instead of playing video games all day to not think about it. What would you advise me to do?

This is a sweet and adorable idea, but you're right that it might be a big, uncomfortable thing to spring on her as a "surprise." My recommendation is to plan something less intense - a weeklong vacation is a pretty big deal, but you can still set something nice up for her. I don't know your gender or the genders of her other partners, but since she's a woman, she's probably used to the expectation that she do a lot of the logistics and organizing for fun things, so doing that for her will be lovely.

I don't think it would be out of line to reach out to her other partners on Facebook or wherever, to explain that she's feeling down and you want to put together something nice for her. It might not be wise to throw everyone together - she may feel anxious or responsible for managing the relationships if all of her partners are at an event together - so you could consider planning something individual for her to do with her various partners. 

Going to a local spa, seeing a band she likes in concert, going to a movie, booking a nice dinner, a picnic at a pretty nature spot - choose something you think she'd like. The key is that, after you make sure the time and date and plan works for her, you and her partners put everything together. You call and make the reservations; you book the tickets; you find a campground; you pack the picnic; whatever. All she has to do is show up and enjoy.

Then you say "Elbreth is taking you out to a nice dinner on Friday - she'll be here to pick you up at 6:30." Or "Let's go on a picnic this Saturday, I've got everything sorted out - you just need comfy shoes." You could also expand this effort to include her close friends, not just her partners. I would lose my mind with joy if someone close to me said "hey, I arranged for a babysitter and did the calendar-wrangling with your friends, Galadriel and Arwen are taking you to dinner and that art show in Rivendell on Friday."

When it comes to the larger thing, like a trip or a get-together with all her partners, my advice is to check in with her about what she would like, when works for her, etc. Once she's told you what she wants to do, who she wants to be there, and the dates that work for her, it's on you and her other partners to coordinate and organize. That's the real gift; the "surprise" bit is less relevant. Of course, you know your girlfriend - if she really loves surprises, keep some details secret and do what would make her feel most cared for!

My partner chose a monogamous relationship over staying with me

I was with this really amazing girl - the love of my life, and she and I are both poly. But her main wasn't. Her main said that she wasn't comfortable anymore with the fact her girlfriend was dating other people. I thought that maybe I would be chosen. That she could love me more. And we could live our lifestyle together. But no. They're getting married next month. I still love her so much. I want so much to be a part of her life. I could even deal with her partner not liking me. I just need her.

It's okay to grieve the end of this relationship, but there's nothing else to be done - I am sorry to be the one to tell you that. Sometimes this happens, not only to polyamorous people, but to monogamous people as well. A partner who you love chooses their work, or the freedom of singlehood, or another partner, or something else, over their relationship with you.

And it hurts. It really does. But you will survive. It feels like you 'need' her, but you don't 'need' her like you need air in your lungs or food in your belly, even if the loss of her does feel like drowning or starving. You will get through this. It's okay to mourn, to be angry, to feel hurt. Breakups suck. Loss is painful. 

Do whatever you need to do to feel okay: Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in grief at the end of relationships. Eat a bunch of ice cream. Join an online dating site. Go for a long bike ride. Have some drinks with your friends. Block your ex on all social media so you don't see any wedding nonsense. Pet a dog. Go camping. Write a letter to your ex and then burn it. You'll get through this, I promise.

My partner violated my boundaries in a newly-open relationship

My partner and I have recently opened our relationship. Because I am currently prioritizing my mental health, I have asked only one thing: please do not let me see your relationships. Don't Ask Don't Tell is not my ideal scenario, but for the moment it is what I need. My partner agreed, but he continually pushes and even breaks that boundary. In one case, he said his new partner wanted to be publicly acknowledged, so he chose her comfort over mine. I feel violated and disregarded. My heart hurts.

You have the right to set the boundaries that you need, but other people aren't required to do everything you ask if they are unable to. In that case, it's their responsibility to say "I'm sorry, I can't meet that need/stay within that boundary" - it's pretty crappy to make a promise and then keep breaking it.

The issue here is that you asked your partner to abide by specific rules for opening the relationship, and he is not abiding by those rules. You can't force him to change his behavior - you can just decide how to respond.

You can say "I'm actually not comfortable having an open relationship now that we've tried it and learned that your way of practicing non-monogamy isn't compatible with my needs. We tried it, it's not working for me, and I am rescinding consent to open the relationship." If he 'refuses,' then the relationship is over - if you want to be monogamous, and he doesn't, then that's a serious impasse.

You can also decide that you're already done, if him pushing at your boundaries this way is a dealbreaker for you. (It would be for some people; it wouldn't be for other people.) You can say "You've demonstrated that you're willing to ignore, disrespect, or fudge boundaries with me, and that makes me feel uncomfortable dating you now that I know that." 

Or, you could try and dig down to the root of your need for DADT right now, and try to work something out with your partner that recognizes his need for relationships in the open while also helps you manage your mental health. Consider finding a poly-friendly therapist to talk to about this, and set some treatment goals. Sit down with your partner and talk about what needs, fears, and desires you're trying to address with your DADT request, and what needs, fears, and desires make this so hard for him. There might be a way to learn and heal and move through this to an arrangement that's healthy for everyone. But you're not obligated to do that work; it's always your right to leave a relationship that's just not working for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm okay trying out polyamory, but I don't like the person my partner is dating

My partner and I have been dating for a year and we both realized we are polyamorous some time ago. Some months ago, they started dating this other person, an older girl she met online. I was OK with it but I insisted I meet this girl. We got close, in a way, and I wanted that, I needed to trust my partner's partner otherwise I'd feel wrong with the whole deal. As I got to know her I realized she's a toxic person, she's possessive, overly jealous and plain rude at times. I can't even talk to my partner on social media without her throwing a tantrum about "not being loved by (my partner)". In addition to that, she has misgendered me a couple of times (I'm a trans boy) and done things that make me highly uncomfortable (and I've told her those things make me uncomfortable but she keeps doing them anyways). How do I talk to my partner about this? I am afraid to do so because they might think I am just not okay with the poly. And honestly I'm not too sure I am but only if they have a girlfriend as possessive as the one they have right now. I feel constrained and I am afraid they might hurt my partner.

It’s okay to just come out and tell her basically what you told me: “I have some concerns about how your girlfriend is behaving - it’s negatively affecting me. I don’t want you to think I’m not okay with polyamory in general, but polyamory with this specific person isn’t working for me and I need to talk to you about it.”

I’d advise against coming out and saying that this person is toxic, possessive, etc. - that’s too subjective and opens you up to unwinnable arguments. Focus instead on specific behaviors and examples. “When she misgendered me, that was painful and not okay, and makes her an unsafe person for me to be around. When I asked her to stop doing [thing] and she kept doing it anyway, it made me feel like my boundaries were being violated and that I can’t trust her to take my feelings or needs seriously.”

Be clear in this conversation about what you want from your partner: do you want your partner to stand up to the girlfriend more and say “hey, you can’t talk to my partner like that, please stop”? Do you want to spend less time interacting with this metamour and need your partner to help facilitate this space? Have you realized that you don’t want to be in a polyamorous relationship that includes this person, so you’re letting your partner know you’re going to have to leave the relationship as long as she’s involved? (Note that this framing is very different from “dump her or I’ll leave you” - you’re not making demands or threats, just identifying the right choice for you to make based on whether this situation is healthy for you to be part of.) 

I really dislike my girlfriend's partner - how do I feel compersion?

When I started seeing my gf she had just gotten out of a mono relationship and her ex was extremely mean to her after the breakup and I was there for her. Recently they have started a romantic relationship again and it is like all of that didn't even happen. My gf knows that I don't care for her now-gf because of that but I want her to be happy so I don't make a big deal of it. So my question is how can I feel any sense of compersion when all I have is negative feelings towards her?

It’s typically an exercise in futility to try and force yourself into a feeling you don’t have. You don’t need to try and conjure a sense of compersion or a feeling of goodwill about this person who you have every reason to dislike. 

It sounds like you’re doing everything right here - not “making a big deal of it,” letting your partner make her own choices, and just sitting back and staying disengaged from a situation you find irritating and frustrating. 

Try to re-frame this as not being about the metamour, but about your girlfriend. She is making a choice that she thinks is best for her, and all you can do is support her in that, recognize her agency, give her space to make her own choices. Sometimes people we love do things that we wish they wouldn’t. Sometimes they make choices that we think are bad choices. But that’s the beauty and the aggravation of having relationships with people. They insist on being their own people and doing their own thing even if it means refusing to quit a job that clearly makes the miserable or dating someone you don’t think is right for them.

And you seem to have that pretty well figured out - you’re leaving her to make her own choices and figure her own stuff out, without adding pressure or ultimatums or futile cajoling. Give yourself a break for not being able to feel thrilled and excited about this situation. If it starts to negatively impact you, set the boundaries you need to set; otherwise, no one can really fault you for only being able to achieve a sort of detached neutrality at best about this person’s re-entry into your girlfriend’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

My partner's partners say they're okay with our relationship, but I still worry that they're not

So first off I’m really new to the poly world i feel as though it is something that’s right for me but I don’t really know that much about it. I’m in a relationship with a married woman who’s a mom of two kids, to the kids I’m their aunt, and I love that part. But what I do need advice on is how to act around her husband and boyfriend (we’re all friends we hang out at her place as a group pretty often but I’m not into men so I’m not ok with like making it a group thing and they all get that) but I’m always kinda nervous when she kisses me around them or anything like that. I know they don’t mind, every time they see us cuddling they just say we are super cute and make awing noises so i don’t understand the nerves...any advice?

First off, congrats for finding a healthy, sweet, fun polyamorous relationship! The issue here comes down to one of trust. Even though your partner’s husband and boyfriend say that they’re totally fine with your relationship, and even seeing physical affection between you and your partner, it sounds like you don’t entirely trust that they’re being honest here.

And that’s perfectly understandable - lots of us have been in situations where someone says they are “fine” with something, but they really aren’t, and we’re expected to psychically figure that out and address it, and are often emotionally or socially punished for not doing so. If this is a dynamic that has been present in your family, or in previous relationships or friendships, you may be feeling like this is all a trap and eventually the false okay-ness will give way to anger, alienation, and accusations.

But, it’s not! It won’t! It sounds like these people have their act together, and it’s okay to let your guard down and trust them. If they are welcoming, let yourself be welcomed. If they are comfortable, let yourself relax. It’s okay to ask for a little extra validation - check in with your partner and say “hey, since this is all new to me, sometimes I worry that your other partners aren’t okay with me being around.” If she reassures you that everything is fine, trust her! It is okay to trust her.

If there is something that they do or say that makes you feel like their “aww”s and their friendship is less-than-sincere, bring that up. If you feel comfortable, you can also just pull one aside and have an upbeat check-in: “hey, since I’m pretty new at this, I just wanted to check in and make sure everything is going well - you seem like you’re all okay with our dynamic, but sometimes I need to just hear it straight and clear. We good?” And, again, if they reassure you that it’s all good, let yourself believe them.

This is the kind of thing that gets easier with practice - the longer you’re around, the more opportunities they’ll have to prove to you that you are welcome, that you’re not under some kind of emotional microscope, and that you won’t be punished for letting your guard down and taking them at their word. If this is the kind of thing you have an especially hard time with because of previous unhealthy experiences, it’s also worth considering therapy to work out some of that internalized sense that you’re always responsible for other people’s feelings even if they aren’t being clear about what that means.

I'm dating someone who's polyamorous, and can't help feeling unhappy about his other partner

Hello! I'm a 16 year old woman dating an 18 year old man, while he is also dating a 25 year old woman. I've been in love with this man for almost 2 years now. We've been technically together for about 8 months, but he has been dating the other partner for 6 months. I'm new with polyamory and I keep finding my self jealous whenever he usually talks about her. He reassures me constantly about how he loves us the same, but I still can't hide the jealousy. The other woman, I'll call her Jane for now, is a very nice and great person! I just can't escape the fact that I don't want them to be together because I'm constantly jealous, the age difference, and so on. He makes me so happy I can't imagine my life without him. But I also don't feel too happy about Jane. I'm very scared to tell him.

It sounds like maybe polyamory just isn’t for you! You like this guy, you even like his other partner, but the arrangement at its core doesn’t feel good. That’s okay! 

This is why I will continue to hold to my point that for some people, monogamy or polyamory is an orientation, something at the core of who they are, and not just a choice they can rationalize themselves into. Everything here is healthy, but it’s just not working for you. 

You may love this guy, and really want to be with him, but sometimes things get in the way of being with people. That’s life, that’s dating. Sometimes you’ll find yourself falling for someone who only dates other vegans, and sees your meat-eating as an irreconcilable difference, but you’re not willing to make such a drastic lifestyle change, and so it doesn’t work out. Sometimes you’ll develop a massive crush on a friend who only dates men. Or who is moving to Alaska next month.  

If this relationship makes you feel jealous and "not too happy,” it’s not the right relationship for you. It sounds like right now, you’d be happiest in a monogamous relationship. It’s awesome that you took the leap to try polyamory - but at your age, the point of dating is mostly data gathering, learning what you like and don’t like, learning who you are in relationships. So this has been a resounding success on that front! You got to sample healthy polyamory, and discovered that it isn’t for you. It’s now on you to act on that new knowledge.

I’m in an open relationship and I have two partners- my boyfriend also has a girlfriend as well as me, and while I’m okay with his girlfriend I just don’t particularly like her. Like as a person. I can stand being around her for small amounts of time, but I don’t think I could ever consider her a friend. I worry that, if my boyfriend ever asked for me to hang out with her, that when I say no he’ll get upset. I just want him to understand that, and I don’t want to offend him.

A healthy relationship includes the freedom to be honest, even about unpleasant or inconvenient truths. Both of my partners have friends that I don’t particularly like, and we make it work. The conversation usually goes like this:

“I don’t really like your friend Blevin.”

“That’s fair. I won’t invite him to things you host and won’t be annoyed if you make yourself scarce when he’s around.”

The trick is not to be accusatory about the friend or metamour - don’t say or imply that they’re a bad person, or that your partner is blind to some critical flaw, or wrong for liking them. Just let it stand as a personal preference of yours. I hate jazz and metal music (I know, musically my palate is Unrefined), so when my partner goes to jazz or metal concerts, he finds someone else to go with. Not everything, or everyone, must be mutually enjoyed.

So if your boyfriend suggests that you become one-on-one friends with his girlfriend, it’s okay to politely decline. “I’m happy to be nice to Stephanda when you have her around, but she’s not someone I’m interested in hanging out with more.”

If your boyfriend wants to know why, try to take a shrugging but gentle tone. “She and I just don’t click. I know she makes you happy, and I love that you two have a good relationship, but I’d rather just let her stay on the edges of my life as your partner.”

If he can’t handle this honesty, if he gets angry or defensive or demands that you give her another chance, that reaction is his problem and inappropriate on his part, and you’ll need to think about whether you can be in a polyamorous arrangement with someone whose terms of the relationship include “you are not allowed to dislike my other partners ever” - but I wouldn’t worry about this unless it actually happens. Give him a chance to be healthy and accepting of this imperfect and inconvenient, but not really problematic, situation.

So my Significant Other’s partners are like these wonderful super amazing people and I feel inadequate in comparison. What advice do you have…

When I cook a beautiful, veggie-packed, colorful, well-plated meal (with gluten free and vegan options!) and have it with my friends, I post it to Instagram.

When I neglect to feed myself and end up having half a bag of Doritos and a spoonful of peanut butter at 8pm while watching an episode of Brooklyn-99 that I’ve already seen…I do not Instagram that.

We see other people’s highlight reels, but our own behind-the-scenes. It’s not fair to compare everything you know about yourself to what other people choose to share!

Or, you could think of it another way, as an issue of trust: do you trust your significant other? Do you trust them to make wise choices? If you trust your significant other to do what’s best for them, and they’ve chosen to be with you, then you’ve gotta trust that they’re making a strong choice!

Doubting your value to someone who believes that you are valuable means you’re doubting them - don’t deny your significant other their agency or insist that you know them better than they know themselves. If they want to be with you, then they want to be with you!

If there is something your significant other could do, or stop doing, to help you work through these feelings, please talk to them about it! It’s okay to tell your partner that you’re feeling a bit inadequate and need some reassurance. Sometimes hearing from other people what they see in you can help you reframe things!

If this is a feeling you struggle with in other areas of your life, or that is crippling or paralyzing in ways that affect your happiness and daily life, please consider working with a therapist on these feelings of inadequacy and comparing yourself to other people.

I been dating this guy for two years and he started to hit it off with my friend too. He dumped me for her but then after a short time he asked me out again. I didn’t know he was still dating her. We all had a long talk till I asked if we should try Polyamory dating with each other. It’s been awhile and I still can’t stand the thought of them together and get jealous easy because they hang out with each other and a girl that they both wanted to add to the relationship but I said no. Any advice?

Let me get this straight: your partner dumped you for someone, then asked if you would date him again while he was still dating her, you decided to try it out, but you still feel jealous about her. You, my friend, are a saint. Very few people are even willing to try making the transition from mono to poly in that kind of situation. 

It’s very reasonable that her relationship with this guy would feel like a threat to you, because at one point, it genuinely was. Dating polyamorously with a guy and the person he dumped you for is a serious emotional minefield, and you made the brave choice to try and navigate it, but it’s not working for you, and that’s very fair.

They have a right to hang out with someone you don’t want them to date, but again, it sounds like nothing about this relationship is emotionally healthy for you. You don’t deserve to be put in that kind of situation and expected to swallow your feelings of jealousy and insecurity while they just do what they want with no consequences. But the logical consequence here is that since they aren’t willing to be with you in a way that works for you, they don’t get to be with you. 

You may be someone who can be happy and fulfilled in a polyamorous relationship in the future, with someone else - but it sounds like this situation isn’t healthy for you. My advice is to say to yourself and to them that “hey, I tried to make this work, but this just isn’t something I can do. I wish you all the best, but I am going to leave this arrangement.” Then find someone to date, monogamously or polyamorously, who doesn’t make you feel this way!

Is there certain boundaries y’all have set with your primary partner when it comes to them finding a new partner? Whether it be for a relationship or just sex?

There’s only one of me here, so I can only answer for myself: first, I don’t have a “primary partner,” because I don’t practice hierarchical or tiered polyamory. There is no “primary” relationship that I try to protect or prioritize at the sacrifice of other relationships.

With my partners, however, I do have a few boundaries. Most of them are about general safety: they need to wear or use condoms with me and their other partners, and they need to not date anyone who is abusive or toxic. But I don’t have any specific ‘rules’ about how they can and can’t find a new partner or how they can and can’t behave with new partners or other partners.

If there was a specific case where something was an issue - if I had a concern about their behavior while dating or pursuing someone - I’d bring it up and we’d address it. Because we have boundaries and expectations around being honest and willing to work on issues in good faith. I find that it’s easier to have generic agreements about how to address any issue that comes up rather than specific rules or boundaries made in an attempt to prevent or circumvent problems we imagine may arise in the future.

But that’s just me. When it comes to your relationship, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else does. You don’t need someone else’s pattern to follow when practicing polyamory - in fact, trying to fit yourself into a space someone else carved out for themselves will likely end in frustration. Identify your needs and work on methods of meeting those needs!

Here are some more resources about rules and boundaries in poly relationships:

I’m in a polyqueer community, my metamour & partner have been emotionally hurt by my ambigusweetie “L” & especially their partner’s “O’s” bad politics re: trans/nb stuff. I, metamour & my partner see O&L’s relationship as volatile, mutually abusive & codependent. I’m taking a month long break from L now and its hard for both of us, esp since they’re grieving death of a loved one i promised support for. I’m hoping that I can say what i need to about O’s influence, abuse & politics after cooling off. halp?

You have a right to take distance from people you feel are abusive or toxic. If O makes you and people you care able feel unsafe or disrespected, you don’t need to be around this person. If O is using violent, transphobic language, no one needs to be exposed to that, especially if it directly affects them.

You cannot make that call for L, though. If you think they are in an abusive relationship, you can let them know that you’re concerned, but you can’t do much more than that. It can be hard to take distance from someone you care about, but if they insist on bringing negativity, drama, and toxic people into your life, that’s what you need to do.

Do not set ultimatums or make demands: “You have to break up with O if you want to stay close to me.” You can’t use your choices to control other people. Frame it like this instead: “I can’t be around this situation, and since you’re part of this situation right now, I can’t be around you.” L can do what they think is best with that information.

You may know what you want to say to L about O, but recognize that there are no magic words to convince someone else to see things your way. L might not agree that O is abusive, or L might not feel that O’s political beliefs warrant cutting O off. Go into it as a way to get things off your chest, not as a project to change L’s mind. You cannot be, and are not, responsible for L’s perspective or choices.

Focus instead on the people who are healthy and safe for you right now. You, your metamour, and your partner seem to be a united front on this, so invest in those relationships rather than taking on the futile endeavor that is “fixing” O’s politics or L’s perspective on the situation to align with yours. 

Can you be in a poly relationship if the person’s partner hates the 3rd party that’s coming into the relationship

Well, to be fair, you can do anything you want. It might not be wise, or responsible, or healthy, but there are no Polyamory Police who will forcibly prevent you.

Should you? Probably not. If you mean “coming into the relationship” to be that the 3rd party is somehow dating both existing partners, one of whom hates them…then no, that doesn’t really work. Don’t date someone you hate. Don’t date someone who hates you. That’s not a relationship, it’s some sort of weird emotional hostage situation.

If you just mean Person A is dating Person B, and Person A also wants to date Person C, but Person B hates Person C, that is possible, but opens you up to plenty of drama nonetheless. In theory, if Person A kept their relationship with Person C from affecting their relationship with Person B - say, maybe, Person A was an airline pilot and their partners lived in different cities, that might work. But barring some unique circumstances, it would be pretty hard.

You’d need to think about:

Why one partner hates the new person. If that person thinks they are abusive, dangerous, or threatening, that’s something to take strongly into consideration. If one person is violent, racist, sexist, intolerant, or actively hurtful or hateful, it’s probably best not to date them. But if the “hatred” stems from some previous drama that involved other people, or simply incompatible personalities that are independently perfectly charming, that’s a different story.

How to navigate the relationship. Can the two simply not be in a room together? That can be an issue when it comes to shared friendships, parties, holidays, etc. Will one or both partners cultivate shame, guilt, secrecy, and other nastiness by refusing to hear about or support their partner’s relationship? Or do they just prefer not to have much to do with each other and are happy to maintain a cool civility when their orbits intersect?

It’s ultimately up to the people involved. Weigh the potential risks and rewards, communicate openly with everyone involved, and handle conflict like a grownup.

I’ve recently started dating someone who is polyamorous but they like to constantly talk about their other partners. Is it wrong of me to be jealous and upset or is this a normal thing? I’m monogamous and I’ve never been with a polyamorous person before. I’m okay with the idea but it upsets me how they constantly talk about how great their partners are and how they wish they could be spending time with them. It makes me feel less important. Is this wrong of me?

Okay, this needs to be unpacked a bit. There are three different things you mention that should be disambiguated:

  1. Feeling jealous and upset that your partner has other partners
  2. Feeling jealous and upset when your partner talks about their other partners
  3. Feeling jealous and upset when your partner talks constantly about how great their other partners are and how they’d rather be spending time with them

It sounds like you’re experiencing #3, but holding yourself accountable for #1. Don’t do that! 

If the real issue is that your partner is being insensitive by talking about their other partners in a way that makes you feel less important, say something to your partner! “Hey, I know you really care about Flemily and Borbra, and I’m so glad they make you happy, but when you constantly talk about how great they are and how you wish you were with them instead of me, it makes me feel bad.”

Your partner may not be doing this on purpose - they may not even realize what they’re doing. Maybe they say the same thing about you to their other partners! Maybe they’re nervous about you liking their other partners and think they need to talk them up to you. Maybe you’re the first new person they’ve dated in a while and they just don’t know how to make conversation without talking about these people that are a huge part of their life. The first step is to just gently bring it up and see if there’s a solution!

If they keep making you feel less important, re evaluate whether this is a healthy relationship for you. No one, mono or poly, should ever be with someone who makes them feel that way. As for whether your feelings are “wrong,” I think it’s perfectly reasonable to feel uncomfortable in the situation you’ve described. It would be one thing if you were trying to pretend they didn’t exist and just ignore your partner’s polyamory, so you bristled at any mention of their partners - that’s unhealthy and disingenuous - but it sounds like you are okay with this arrangement and doing your best to enter into it in a positive way, but you struggle with your partner talking insensitively about how great their other partners are. That’s a very specific and solvable problem, so first try talking it out with them, and consider their response to be a crucial point of information to tell you whether it’s healthy to stay in a poly relationship with this person.