My wife and I are talking about polyamory, but have different ideas of how we'd like to date

My wife and I have gone back and forth for awhile and have agreed to try being poly/open. However, I don't have the time to explore much more then casual hook ups. She seems interested in more serious emotional experiences and is offended that I just want sex from other people. She's also got a lot of body issues that she uses as reasons for her not making the first move. How can we help each other to find some middle ground here?

If you two keep going back and forth, make sure that this is really what you two want to do and that you’re ready for it. Consider reading a book about polyamory, like More Than Two or The Ethical Slut, together, and talking about it. Talk together about best-case and worst-case scenarios. Ask questions. Be open. The fact that this continues to be a contentious subject between you two is a bit of a red flag.

You two can have different styles of dating - there’s this weird obsession with rigid score-counting ‘equality’ when previously mono couples ‘open’ their relationship, and I’d encourage you to let go of that. You can have lots of flings, one-night-stands, casual sex, etc. She can have more emotional connections, long-term dating relationships, etc. That doesn’t really change or threaten anything between you two, unless you decide that it does. 

Talk to her about why that offends her. Is she feeling, perhaps, like your preference for “just sex” means that your motives for opening the relationship are that you’re no longer sexually attracted to her? That can feel vulnerable and threatening. Maybe she’s framed it as “if being polyamorous is about who he is as a person, about his capacity to love and desire to connect with more people, then that makes sense. If he just wants to sleep with other people who aren’t me, then that bothers me.” You two need to figure out how you’re both framing this and do some work on the assumptions and fears behind that framing.

Anxiety and insecurity around body image can be pretty serious, especially for women. She is not “using these as reasons,” they are her reasons. If she is feeling held back in her life by them, I strongly encourage therapy focused on radical self acceptance and healing from toxic ideas about our bodies. You can find some resources here. Recognize that and have compassion. She doesn’t need to “make the first move” or be more sexually outgoing for this to work; so don’t pressure her to do that. Again, if you two let go of this need for things to look identical on both sides, you don’t need to push her to date a certain way just to swing permission for yourself to do that.

I don’t identify with monogamy. I’m on my first open-relationship - not poly - for several months no. But there’s a little complication: I’m demisexual. I rarely - don’t want to say never - get sexually interested in someone unless I feel a really deep emotional connection. It’s different to my partner, he has several sexual partners. I have none - except him. I rarely connect to people. And it’s been an uncomfortable situation. Don’t know what to do…

The first thing to do is to ask yourself what, specifically, is uncomfortable about the mismatch between you two. The fact that your partner has more partners than you doesn’t need to reflect on how you two relate to each other, as long as you’re both fine with the situation otherwise.

If, for instance, you’re frustrated because he spends time away from you with his other partners, but you don’t have other partners to fill that time with, that’s a conversation that needs to be had - but that’s about behavior and priorities, and can be solved by communication rather than one of you magically changing your sexual preferences to match the other.

In my experience, poly people generally fall into one of two camps: “partner-seeking” and “partner-accepting.” (Of course, few people are 100% partner-seeking or partner-accepting all the time - like everything related to how humans experience ourselves and our world, it’s a spectrum, and can differ based on circumstance.)

Partner-seeking folks actively search out new partners. They often take joy in flirting and going on first dates, and they sometimes crave “new relationship energy.” Partner-accepting folks don’t often feel that push to be finding new partners. Many of them are bored or exhausted by early- and pre-dating things like flirting. But when they do meet someone they click with, they’ll take the opportunity to invite someone new into their life.

My point is, when someone who’s more partner-seeking and someone who’s more partner-accepting become partners, they often worry about the mismatch in needs and behavior. But it’s okay! If you’re perfectly happy having sex with fewer people, and he’s perfectly happy having lots of partners, that doesn’t need to affect your partnership. The fact that you only have one partner right now doesn’t mean you’re not poly or that you’re doing poly wrong. You’re open to other partners, it just might take a while for one to come along. 

My boyfriend’s libido tends to disappear with stress, which means during the week I rarely ever get sex, but I have a HUGE libido, and zero luck with finding other partners. My boyfriend is going away for the weekend to see his other lover who I am not as comfortable with compared to his other partner and I its kinda feeling like salt in the wound that I might not be able to get sex for almost two weeks. Is there any way to bring up the problem without pressuring him for sex?

First off, high fives to you for being so sensitive to not wanting to pressure your partner for sex. Pressuring people for sex is the worst! But I do think there’s a way to bring this up without making him feel pressured. Relationships are all about compromises - you go without sex when you want it, but he can meet you halfway.

Maybe suggest that the weekend after this one, you two spend some “quality time” together. Maybe suggest that one weeknight next week, he try relaxing with you - take a bubble bath or shower together, cuddle up and watch a movie - so you get some of the romantic time you need and he doesn’t have to commit to all-out sex.

And then, focus on the larger picture. If his work or school life is so stressful that he isn’t present to you during the week, that’s a bigger problem than two sexless weeks. Talk to him about working on a work-life balance. Maybe you two can come up with some new routines or lifestyle changes to make it so he can relax more when he’s home in the evening. Maybe he could see a therapist or doctor about his stress levels.

At the same time, you should keep looking for other ways to get your own needs met. Get on OKCupid and/or Tinder, go to some local poly meetups, invest in some awesome sex toys - whatever you have to do to keep this pressure from building up into frustration with your partner.

Good luck! (And remember that in the grand scheme of things, two weeks without sex is unpleasant, but survivable!)