I'm planning to start dating someone who already has a partner, but I have some concerns

I am about to go into a relationship with a woman who already had a boyfriend. Usually I'm very territorial but I'm willing to make it work for her. Her other boyfriend is also quite territorial and the boundaries have been set by him. I am not very committal in relationships and his boundaries have benefited that side of me, however I'm worried his influence may have a negative effect on our relationship. How can I respect his wishes and also make sure I feel fulfilled in my relationship?

To be honest, I have never seen it work well when someone isn't really okay with polyamory but is "willing to make it work" for a specific person. It's like moving into a house with one horrible feature that you know you'll hate. You promise yourself that you'll "suck it up and ignore it" and then "get used to it" and that the low rent and sunny bedroom are worth the stove with only two burners in a micro-kitchen with no counter space. But over time it drives you nuts. It isn't really what you wanted. It will always feel like a frustrating compromise. Think hard about what you are committing your future self to. Be very, very intentional about this.

I cannot write you a specific plan to "make sure" you feel a certain way. I don't know you, I am not you, and even you can't ensure that everything goes smoothly. What I can do, though is strongly recommend that you do a lot of introspection about this. I can ask questions - your answers to those questions are actually the answer to the question you asked me.

This guy sounds like he has a lot of boundaries that you'll need to respect. Whatever you think has been laid out, know that this will create complications that you can't foresee right now. Do you have the patience, flexibility, and security in yourself to manage that?

You say that you're "very territorial" - what self-work have you done to make sure that whatever behaviors and feelings lead you to that conclusion are being managed in a healthy way? Are you working to get to a place where you're more okay with the polyamorous relationship, or just working to ignore the negative effects and territorial feelings? What are the "negative effects" you're worried about? Which ones are dealbreakers? Which ones do you plan to just muddle through? What's your plan for that?

Why are you deciding to do this? What is it about this woman that makes it worth it, to you? Does she seem willing to help you manage the newness and the fears going into this? How much do you expect this woman to take accountability for situations that negatively impact you and be willing to help resolve them? What will you do and feel if she doesn't meet those expectations? Has she been willing to compromise, or is she expecting that you get 100% on board with whatever it takes to keep her current partner happy?

Are you trying to ignore certain things? Hoping some issues will just go away? Is there any denial or willful ignorance going on? Anything you're hoping will change as time goes on? What's your timeline for that? Would you be okay in this relationship a year down the road if nothing has changed?

This is a time to be really honest with yourself and really intentional about the choices you're making. Don't just assume that things will work out because you want them to. 

What should my partner and I make sure to discuss before opening our relationship?

What are some good questions to ask at the beginning of changing a monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one? My husband and I recently decided to make this change, we've talked about it for a while and this is something we've agreed on. However, I want to make sure we cover all our bases on everything that might need to be discussed.

First off - and I know this isn't the answer you were looking for - let go of the idea that you can actually get all your bases covered. There is no foolproof way to ensure that no one gets hurt or that nothing unexpected comes up. You can't prepare for everything. This isn't just true of opening up a relationship - it's true of everything. I just listened to a podcast about the killing of Osama bin Laden - they had everything lined up perfectly, all their "bases covered," and then a helicopter crashed. Some things you just can't protect yourself from, even if you prepare thoroughly.

But, you are correct that there are things you can do to lay a strong foundation for your relationship. My recommendations - and this is not an exhaustive list - are to at least discuss:

What are your best-case-scenarios? Indulge in daydreams and outline exactly what you'd get in a perfect world. Do both of your fantasy futures line up perfectly? (If so, one of you probably isn't being totally honest.) Where there are gaps, dig in and discuss. Consider reading accounts of polyamory (check my resources page) and discussing what you do and don't like, what you do and don't want, etc.

What are your worst-case-scenarios? What are you most afraid of? What would be a complete dealbreaker for you? Relatedly, what are some "rough spots" you anticipate not enjoying, but wouldn't consider absolute dealbreakers? Again, wherever you two aren't totally aligned, dig in and discuss.

How do you two plan to present this new relationship to friends, family, and potential new partners? Do either of you have personal or professional concerns? How will you present a united front? Does someone want to be more open or more private about this than the other person? How will you navigate that?

How are you defining everything? For words you two have been using (monogamous, polyamorous, relationship, partner, sex, etc.) make sure you two have the same definition. It's easy to assume you both mean the same thing when you say "relationship," but that's actually a pretty nebulous word!

How will you manage "couples privilege"? This probably will come up in your best-case/worst-case discussion and your definitions talk, but should be placed on the table explicitly. Are you going into this as a solid couple unit who will make decisions together about new partners, whether to re-close the relationship, etc. or are you two polyamorous individuals free to explore dating externally? If being polyamorous together doesn't work out, is your intention to re-close the relationship or break up?

Those are some conversation starters - you will probably find many more things to talk about as you begin this journey. Note that I didn't talk about "rules" like "veto power," or "sexual limits," etc. In my experience, setting up rules like "no sex on the first date" or "no saying 'I love you' to other partners" have the opposite of their intended effect. Rather than add more coverage for your bases, they just create new bases that can then become points of conflict or require more coverage. Best of luck!

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.

okay so i think i am poly but i’m not sure and i was wondering if you have any for sure signs

Here is a terrible, miserable, terrifying truth about the world: there are no “for sure” signs that can tell you who you are.

There are no “for sure signs” that you should invest in that bee farm, start that company, or buy that expensive shirt.
There are no “for sure signs” that you’re meant to be a librarian, or a banker, or a kayak guide.
There are no “for sure signs” that you belong in Chicago or Portland or Iceland.

The good thing is, we always have the past to learn from and the future to create.

You may be poly if you can see yourself feeling fulfilled by having a relationship with multiple people and seeing your partners have other relationships. But you won’t really know for sure without introspection and experimentation.

Identities are not like concrete, objective things that can be detected or disproved. They help you navigate reality, they don’t determine it.

Think through your “what-ifs,” read up on polyamory, be smart and safe when identifying your boundaries, and go for it. Remember that you can check in with yourself to see if a label or an identity works for you at any time.

My partner and I have been in a monogamous relationship for almost 2 years. A few months ago, I brought up polyamory to them. Baby steps and a lot of talking later, we’ve conditionally opened up our relationship. I’m so happy that they’re giving this a shot, and actually putting themselves out there. My concern is that they feel like they will not be successful at finding other partners, as they have had issues dating in the past. How can I help both emotionally and wingman-ly? <3

Dating is hard! It’s hard for all folks. How many standup routines, sad songs, sitcom scenes, etc. focus on that whole “I’ve been single forever; when am I going to find someone?” problem. People of all types - mono and poly, gay and straight - go months, even years, without finding a romantic partner. And that’s okay! You and your partner should remember that simply opening up your relationship doesn’t magically invite the universe to start raining down potential partners into your life.

As for acting as a good wingman, I find it pretty fun to help my partners through their dating adventures. I do things like coach them through how to write a nice message to someone they like on OKCupid, help them pick out a first date outfit (or make sure their one nice shirt is clean that day), and mysteriously find somewhere else to be when they start chatting with someone cute. Talk to your partner and find out what they see as areas where they need support in this, and keep the lines of communication open as they step out into the open waters of dating as a newly poly person!

I am in my early-early 20s and have never been in a relationship; I’m realizing now that part of my aversion to romantic relationships has to do with monogamy, and I think I’m polyamorous (I’ve third-wheeled with friends on dates, and it felt… really right to me, somehow.) I’m really new to exploring this idea. My question is this: can one know that they are polyamorous without having been in a monogamous relationship first?

Can one know that they are gay without having been in a straight relationship first? Can one know that they want to be a teacher without having tried a career as an investment banker first? Can one know they want to live in Alaska without having lived in New York City first? Of course! You do you!

Take it slow, do your homework (I recommend reading More Than Two and The Ethical Slut), communicate openly about your inexperience, and be grateful you’ve figured this out so early in your dating career! Go forth and be poly!

Okay, I’ve been recently introduced into the Poly world and to be honest im pretty ignorant to the topic but all I know is most of my life has consisted of long term relationships. With my husband now I love him dearly and couldn’t imagine my life without him well this other man is in the same boat loves his wife but we both agree that were drawn to each other like a moth to a flame were both so confused I don’t know how else to explain it just need advise

This is a tough situation - I wish I had more clarity on what you mean by “recently introduced into the poly world.” Does that mean you’ve been learning about it, or you’re starting to explore polyamory yourself?

No matter what, he first person you need to talk to about this is your husband. Too many people get caught in an affair (or another situation that makes their partner feel betrayed and threatened), and then retroactively try to suggest polyamory. I have never seen this go well. Before you even discuss anything with this other man, you need to get everything on the table with your husband and figure out how to proceed. Your husband may be interested, cautious, or entirely put off by the idea, but it’s his input you need first. If he’s absolutely against the idea, the choice you need to make is whether to stay with him monogamously, or make the break that allows you to investigate polyamory.

Be patient and let things go as slowly as they need to, because your husband may need lots of time to process what you’re telling him. You just discovered that you have the capacity in you to love your husband and be simultaneously drawn to another man, and you’ve been learning about polyamory, so this situation makes more sense to you. You understand that your love for your husband isn’t at risk, and you see the internal logic in polyamory. But remember that your husband hasn’t had the same experiences, and may not have the same exposure to poly concepts as you - so the fact that you’re attracted to another man and thinking about acting on it might be very threatening to him, no matter how it’s explained.

Give him space and gentleness, because society sends people lots of messages that if your partner is interested in someone else, it means you’re not enough and you’re at risk of losing it all, so be attuned to his needs. Look out for your own needs too, and make choices that are right for you, but make sure you also care for your husband through this.

I’m new to polyamory and I’m not quite comfortable with my partner cuddling, flirting, etc with other people in front of me just yet. I’ve talked to him about it, but he doesn’t see what the big deal is and calls me “crazy”. Am I being irrational?

You are absolutely not being irrational. Your use of the language “not quite comfortable just yet” indicates that you’re doing the work of self-awareness and self-compassion that healthy polyamory takes. You know what work you need to do, and you are doing that work, but you’re also being honest with yourself about where you currently are in the process. Then, you communicated those needs clearly to your partner! All of that is totally awesome, and it’s something your partner should be proud of and encouraging. I am sorry to hear that he has made a far worse choice, and is invalidating your feelings in a really callous way. 

Anyone who brushes off your feelings and calls you “crazy” is not practicing good communication or healthy consent, and I’m wary for you as a new poly person who’s being treated like this. My recommendation is for you to firmly and clearly remind your partner that you are working on all this, but you deserve patience and understanding from him, and that he needs to make accommodations to help you get your needs met just as you are doing for him. If he refuses and puts your feelings down again, that is a significant red flag that he may not be as good at this as he thinks he is.

I think I might be poly? I am a female and I am dating a man that I absolutely adore. But also I want to find another female to be part of our relationship.

You might be poly, you might not. The key here is to figure out where this desire for another woman to be part of your relationship is coming from. Are you feeling isolated by being part of a couple, and want more intimate female companionship in your life? Are you feeling an attraction to women that you want a safe space to explore? Is this emotional? Sexual? An intellectual curiosity about polyamory? What’s your best case scenario?

Bringing other people into your relationship complicates things - it’s not a solution to an existing problem. If there’s an issue you think a third person would resolve, you need to identify and resolve it before you two are ready to invite a third person in. 

Im a woman, and im bi, my boyfriend and I talked about polyamory for the past year, and finally became polyamorous about 4 months ago. We both have individual dating profiles up that are honest and open about being polyamorous and what each of us is individually looking for as well. Although I have women writing me, it seems to go nowhere at all, whereas my boyfriend has one woman he has great chemistry with and is planning on taking out soon. Im jealous, how should I cope?

I often say that monogamous people could learn a lot from the poly crowd, but it’s also true that poly folks could take some lessons from monogamy. It’s a pretty common refrain among single people that meeting partners is hard. Plenty of books, movies, songs, standup routines, and poems lament the immense gap between wanting to have a partner and having a partner. And that doesn’t change for poly folk, unfortunately.

Four months is not a lot of time when it comes to meeting someone you click with. If one of your single friends complained that they’d been in the dating pool for four whole months and had yet to meet someone, you’d probably advise them to stay positive, be patient, and recognize that compatible partners don’t come custom order with overnight shipping. Your boyfriend got lucky, but his timeline isn’t a standard or a benchmark.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma around bisexuality - being an openly bi, polyamorous woman currently dating a man and looking for female partners could be handicapping you. Be gentle with yourself and try to remember that finding a partner is difficult for everyone. Consider increasing your odds of success by checking out local poly meetups, social events for gay and bi women, and adding other dating sites to your repertoire. 

As for the jealousy issue, know that another person’s success is not your failure. You two decided to open up your relationship, which is awesome, but that doesn’t come with a guarantee that you’ll both find partners at exactly the same time. You’re getting what you wanted - both of you have the freedom to pursue other partners - so try to enjoy the ride, be happy for your boyfriend when he finds something exciting, and remember that his ability to date other people now builds the foundation for you to start dating when you do find the right person.

Im not sure where to start, but I’m starting to think I’m polyamorous, but Im not 100% sure since I dont know a lot about polyamory. Back in highschool I was very much in love with two people, but I didn’t end up dating them because I couldn’t choose one. I dated someone else, but still longed for others.I wasn’t happy in that relationship so idk. Since then, there seems to be a pattern of when I want someone or grow really close to someone, I still want others beyond just sex. Am I polyamorous?

No one is an arbiter of anyone else’s identity. Especially not strangers giving advice on the internet! There’s no magical wand you can wave over a person that will print a readout of their sexuality. And that’s okay! Discovering who you are is part of being a person. Being confused is an even bigger part of being a person. 

You very well may be polyamorous. For now, if you need a label, see if “poly-curious” works for you. Try it out and see! Read up on The Ethical Slut and More Than Two and see if those books resonate with you. Picture your best-case-scenario and work from there. Dip your toes into a poly relationship, visit some local poly meetups, and do what seems healthy and fulfilling for you at the time. You can always back out or go deeper - trying something out doesn’t mean you have to be that at the core of your being forever.

Good luck!

Do you have any advice or resources for a triad where everyone involved is completely new to polyamory? Most of the info ive found so far seems to be written for groups where at least one partner has some experience with poly relationships which would be fine but since all three of us are new to this im especially cautious about taking advice that was written for someone else. Also do you have any tips on how to handle scheduling? I want to get closer to both partners but we can rarely all meet.

Advice: Take it slow, and communicate. Talk through everything, and cultivate an atmosphere where no one is shamed or accused for sharing their feelings and needs. If you’re angry about something someone said, do your best to express anger at the content of their words, not the fact that they said it. Check in with each other often. You three are in an interesting spot because you get to start from a blank slate and define what polyamory means for you - let that definition unfold organically, don’t try to contort yourselves into how you think things should go. Good luck, and enjoy the journey.

Resources: My favorite introduction to polyamory is The Ethical Slut. A lot of people also recommend Opening Up, but I greatly prefer TES - check out both, and see what perspective you like. I have a personal distaste for Dan Savage and anything his hands have been on, including Sex At Dawn, but it’s also a well-trod text in the poly world, so your mileage may vary. There are a ton of good poly blogs and websites out there - some focused on activism, others on community support, poly parenting, polyamory in the media, or simply telling the story of one poly family or network. I’m working on a resources page for Poly Advice, but for now, the good old Google will help point you toward specifics depending on what you’re looking for.

Scheduling: If there’s one stereotype that holds true about the poly crowd, it’s that we are completely beholden to our Google calendars. Make one that all three of you can share and see, color-coded per person or in whatever way makes sense to you. Work on prioritizing time together (like planning a “date night” each week that is considered “off limits” for planning other things - tell bosses and classmates that you are busy if asked to meet at that time) and try stretching your definition of “time together.” Maybe you don’t have time to all go out for dinner together, but you could all snuggle up and watch a Netflix show later in the evening, or grab coffee together if your lunch breaks line up. Also, a group-text thread or app like GroupMe can help foster closeness even without physical togetherness. 

I recently talked to my partner about being poly and I don’t think he really understands. Do you have any good articles or resources you could point me to to help him along?

I really need to make a Resources page. In the meantime:

Grab a copy of The Ethical Slut - it’s a great introduction for people just starting out with polyamory. Other people like Opening Up, but I’m less of a fan - your mileage may vary.

More Than Two also has a good set of introductory essays and FAQs for people new to the idea of polyamory. (This used to be on Xeromag and is one of my favorite poly-newbie resources).

Freaksexual has a pretty extensive start-from-the-very-beginning guide to polyamory.

Those are the best suggestions I have for you, considering that you feel that your partner doesn’t really understand where you’re coming from. Other sites with lots of resources, like Modern Poly and Practical Polyamory, can be pretty overwhelming at first but would be great resources for you.

Good luck! Sometimes this early learning curve can be really exciting and rewarding if you both go into it with a spirit of adventure and honesty.