My boyfriend has tons of other partners and doesn't pay much attention to me

I'm in a situation that I used to think of as poly...tbh lately it feels like a harem. My guy has a gf, it's all good. But he's a traveling musician and has a LOT of other girls he sees (FWBs). I'm comfortable with just the idea, but then seeing his pics on FB actually gives me a twinge of jealousy. I try to relax and be ok with it, but he ignores my messages when he's with them yet when he's with me he's always messaging other girls. How can I chill out and not be bugged by this?

If the situation overall feels okay, but seeing his photos on Facebook bothers you, consider not looking at his photos on Facebook. You can "unfollow" or "hide" posts by him.

It sounds like he has a case of "vacation girlfriend," which is a phrase my therapist used with me and which is really helpful. When you're dating someone long-term, and you see them every day, time with them starts to feel less 'special.' They just sort of blend into your day to day life, where you're running errands, checking your phone, etc. With people you see less often, or whose relationship is less settled-in and secure, it feels more like "oh, I have an afternoon with Angleesa, I should plan ahead of time and get all my stuff done and not be on my phone during it."

There are pros and cons to both type of relationship, but it's important to be intentional and realize when someone is a "day to day" vs "vacation" partner. It sounds like when he's with you, he's still in his daily life, where errands exist, phones need to be checked, and it isn't this set-apart bubble of time to enjoy each other. It's perfectly fine for you to point this out and say "hey, when you're with me, you're often on your phone - can we set aside some time to just be present with each other? Can you do more to cultivate our relationship, even though I'm around more?"

If he argues, denies, or refuses, if he acts like you're being unreasonable, then he probably isn't great for you to date. If he's willing to acknowledge what's going on and re-engage in your relationship in the ways you're asking for, great!

It can also help sometimes to just find a distraction of your own - casual dating, more time with friends, hobbies, new creative projects - so that his flightiness is less of your problem. 

Ultimately, if you continue to feel like there's a part of your relationship that you need to "chill out about" and it's just on you to relax and let him act how he wants and not feel any feelings or ask for anything he's not willing to give, then you should leave the relationship. But talk it out with him first and see if he's wiling and able to make some changes!

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My boyfriend doesn't want to see me after I have sex with someone else

I’m with my boyfriend and this is the first open relationship for the both of us. He doesn’t want to see me after I go to a sex party or go out with someone else. Should I be concerned that this isn’t working for him? I don’t have a similar rule; I’d prefer to see him the next day after he does out with someone so I can hear about or just cause I miss him when we’re apart. He says it’s cause of STIs even though I always ask my partners about testing and use a condom with men and we both already have HSV-1 and HPV. Not sure how to react to his absence after I go out and it makes me feel bad.

It's pretty common for humans to be 'squicked out' by things that aren't entirely rational, but are strong enough that we can't reason ourselves out of it. The disgust response is one of our deepest survival instincts. I got a similar letter about a similar problem last year. So it's very possible that this is just a quirk of your partner's feelings about the world, and not evidence that he's judging you for the way you conduct yourself in this open relationship.

Sometimes, two partners can be in an open relationship and just have different levels on enthusiasm for things like sex parties and active partner-seeking. It could also be the case that he's uncomfortable with something and is channeling that discomfort into a boundary around seeing each other after sex. Your best bet is to ask him!

Make room for him to be honest: ask him whether it bothers him that you're having sex with other people, whether he feels threatened or unsafe by anything, and what he needs from you to feel okay. Let him know that if he really is okay with the way you two are conducting the relationship, he just prefers to leave a time barrier between things, you want to hear that in the affirmative - and if he isn't okay with the way things are, you want to hear about that!

If it comes out that he really is bothered by something else, figure out what to do there. If he genuinely just wants a time buffer around sex parties, figure out how to manage that. You two may have different comfort levels around sharing details and seeing each other after sex with other partners. Your job is to figure out whether there is a compromise you're willing to make - plan to go without his company for a day or so if you want to attend a sex party - or whether this is a dealbreaker for you that needs to be addressed another way. 

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'd like to try polyamory, but I'm worried about the impact on other partners if I decide to stick with monogamy

I really like the idea and concept of polyamory but I'm scared that if I try it and decide I'd rather go back to being exclusive with my original partner that it'll be too unfair. Is that normal or is that being selfish?

You’ve set up a false dichotomy in your question, there - that is both normal and selfish. It is really common for monogamous couples to try “opening up” their relationship, decide that didn’t work for them, and “close it back up.”

In theory, this is fine - it’s totally okay to try things and decide you don’t like them. That is, in fact, the point of trying things. You’re not obligated to do something forever just because you wanted to try it.

But in reality, this creates a lot of pain and heartbreak for the other people involved. Imagine if someone started dating you, and then, for a reason that you have zero control over, on the whims of someone else, just dropped you. It hurts! This pattern is often referred to as “couples privilege” in the polyamorous community. 

That’s not to say that it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Just that you should be careful, self-aware, and go into it with very clear, honest, open terms and expectations. Do as much self-work as possible in the beginning, unpack your own baggage, get your own house in order. Talk with your partner about best and worse case scenarios. Daydream together about what you’d like. Strategize together about meeting needs.

If you do decide to take this step, make sure anyone you date knows that your relationship with your partner takes priority and may ultimately be a threat. Be patient about the fact that you’ll have a hard time finding someone to date on those terms. Consider starting out with something casual, identified as a fling or no-strings-attached arrangement. Be as gentle and giving as possible with any other person you date or sleep with. Keep them informed about where you are emotionally, and give them space to express where they are.

Or, you could realize that you’re just not at a point yet where you trust yourself to be healthy in any potential polyamorous relationship. If you feel that your concern about protecting your existing relationship will overshadow your ability to be flexible and healthy in another relationship, it’s totally okay to decide that that takes priority, and you’re not ready to try polyamory right now.

Hi! My boyfriend just asked me if we could be in a polyamorous relationship, but it seems a bit off. He just wants to have a different sexual partner once in awhile; no romantic ties to anyone but me. Is this a legitimate thing? How do I go about this? I’ve only ever been monogamous and this scares me.

That is a “legitimate” thing, sure! It sounds like perhaps he has the sexual desire and energy for other partners, but not the romantic and emotional energy. Some people aren’t up to raising a puppy and all the challenges of dog ownership themselves, but really like playing with a friend’s dog or volunteering at a shelter! 

If you’re not okay with this, that’s okay - but if you just feel like it shouldn’t be the arrangement, think about why, and where those conclusions are coming from. Is it because you’ve never seen this kind of relationship portrayed in a healthy way? is it because you suspect that he actually does want to be romantic with other people and is using ‘just sex’ as a way to ease into that? Is it out of concern that he’s dissatisfied with your sex life and you want to see if you can resolve that another way? Identify where your fear and discomfort come from, and then discuss those specifics with your partner. 

I recently started to date a couple. I made it clear I wasn’t going to be a sex toy. I have fun with them. They want a relationship with me. I only talk to them in group texts or see them together. Is this sustainable long term? When do I ask them if this is what they want the situation to always be? Can they know after four dates? Also I am not dating anyone else. But if I can’t have separate relationships with them I think I need to still date others. How do I tell them this? (New to poly)

You tell them this by telling them this! Give them a chance to clear this up and set expectations going forward. Only honest, open communication can resolve issues like this, which come from assumptions and ambiguity.

Next time you’re together, in a calm way, say something like “Hey, Bob and Linda, I realize that the dating pattern we’ve fallen into looks like me dating you two as a “unit,” and I only ever interact with you as a couple. Is that a purposeful choice?” Find out whether they’re interested in developing one-on-one relationships with you, either romantically or just as friends. If they are open to that, talk about next steps.

If they are not open to that, talk with them about your needs and expectations going forward. “I just want to make sure that you two are aware that I consider myself in an open relationship as well, and will be pursuing other dating relationships.” If they’re not okay with that - if they want you to date them as a couple, but exclusively, then your needs are incompatible. That’s okay! The point of dating is to figure out what you want and who can provide that for you. 

I have just discovered the poly world. I’m a girl seeing a guy and I think we’re both comfortable w the concept and might explore it. But I’m afraid I have the wrong idea, and I don’t want to hurt anyone. What I truly want is for me and my guy to be a couple while occasionally bringing other girls into the mix. Not even relationships, just sex partners. Is this truly polyamory then, if there’s no commitment or long-term partners, just occasional fun? I don’t want the girls to get hurt either.

While I constantly tell people on here that I’m not the arbiter of who gets to use the polyamorous identity label, I’m going to be a little bit of a hypocrite about this: I wouldn’t say that’s polyamory, necessarily. Swinging, perhaps; an open relationship; non-monogamy with a sexual focus; or just a couple who likes to have threesomes. You’ve got options!

That said, if identifying as polyamorous helps you and your partner understand what you’re doing, communicate openly, and identify and meet needs, then that’s totally fine! Resources about being “polyamorous” could be really helpful, and you may feel that identifying as polyamorous gives you two what you need to do this in a healthy and fulfilling way.

However, I would caution you to be really, really, really clear with all your potential partners about this. Saying that you are “polyamorous” without defining what that means to you can cause serious problems if the person has a different definition of “polyamorous” than what you mean. Assumptions and miscommunications like that are how people get hurt.

So be sure that you are very up front and clear about the fact that this is a sexual thing for you two, and that you’re looking for someone to have a threesome with, not commit to emotionally or involve in any other aspect of your relationship. 

I have a strange situation. I have a friend who I dated for two and a half years, monogamously. All his relationships have been monogamous. We were each other’s first significant others. I broke up with him, in part because I wanted to experience things with other people. it has been three years since then. He knows now that I’m poly, and that I’m dating someone. I want to talk to him about dating again but I’m not sure how to approach it now that it would not be monogamous. Any tips?

Hey, I was in this exact situation about seven years ago! It turned out well for me, so it is possible. 

My tips is to be direct, but not demanding. Have a conversation with him in a neutral, safe space, and mention that you still care deeply about him, and would be interested in getting back together now that you’ve found a relationship practice that lets you experience things with other people without losing other partners.

Let him know that it’s okay if he isn’t interested - if his feelings for you have faded, or he’s uncomfortable with polyamory - and don’t pressure. Try to keep the conversation simple and casual and don’t drag up all the emotions from when you were dating. Be clear that you’re happy to take things slow, answer his questions about polyamory, and encourage him to explore other partners as well.

Good luck!

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My companion of 2 years came together wanting to be open. Until 2 months ago we hadn’t pursued anything sexual. We were Involved with on guy friend for 2 weeks and that went well although it is not ongoing. Now he has fallen in love with a female that I don’t have much interaction with and nothing sexual. He did not use a condom which was my only request and I don’t know how to get over that breach of trust. He thinks he loves us equally and talks with her often but has neglected me.

As for the “talks with her often but has neglected me,” I think that sounds like a case of New Relationship Energy, or NRE. It’s common for people to favor newer partners for time and attention, because they’re new. You’re Woody, she’s Buzz. It’s frustrating and annoying for the incumbent partner, but if you can ride it out, it usually fades. I’d recommend gently letting him know that you’d like to set apart some time together.

But as for him not using a condom, that’s a huge violation. If that’s your only rule, he absolutely should have followed it. It’s a basic safety issue for everyone involved. That’s a rule I have with my partners, and not following it would be cause for immediate cessation of intimacy until I felt like I could trust them again. I’d suggest you talk to him about how not okay this is, and how he needs to follow that simple request if this open thing is going to work. But try to keep that separate from the “you spend more time with her” issue, because I think they’re different issues, and this one deserves to be addressed with focus. 

I want adventure with other men but my bf is against it and I have no idea what to do. I’m only allowed to hook up with women as of now. I don’t want to cheat but the desire is so strong.

Ah, the one dick rule. As in all things, communication and honest self-inquiry are the best way through this (alarmingly common) poly issue. Ask your boyfriend why he doesn’t want you to hook up with other men, and encourage him to give you a thoughtful answer. I have yet to hear a man’s explanation for this rule that really holds up to honest examination.

Explain that sex with women is the same as sex with men, and the specifics another partner’s genitals don’t threaten your commitment to him. Say that you don’t understand this rule, and need him to be clear with you about why you having sex with women isn’t a problem for him, but sex with men is.

Be open, be a good listener - don’t be condescending or accusatory, but continue asking clarifying questions until you feel like he’s done the honest work of explaining himself. If he’s unwilling to have this conversation, or his responses strike you as unhealthy, that will give you a lot of information about whether an open relationship with this person is sustainable in the long term.

Hey there! My long term boyfriend and I have recently decided to open our relationship up and include a third person. I was wondering if you knew of any online communities or dating sites where we could find said person? Thank you!

3ndr is an app for finding threesome partners, and OKCupid is a dating site that lets you be pretty open about who you are and what you’re looking for.

But remember that other people aren’t toys you can pull off a shelf when you find one that suits your desires - there’s no online warehouse of single people waiting for a couple to come along and invite them into their relationship. In fact, it can be very difficult for couples to find thirds, even in the poly community. Make sure you and your boyfriend are in a healthy place as a couple and are prepared to enter a new relationship with open hearts. Take no one for granted, be generous and gracious, and be patient.

So me and my wife have been together for twelve years and have two kids and about two years ago we invited my friend of about nineteen years into our relationship. At first is was all about the sexual aspect and nothing more. Then over time my wife developed emotional intimacy with him and at first it didn’t bother me but recently I am feeling jealousy and inadequate and it’s causing problems. I don’t want to lose my family but she says she wants both of us and needs both of us. Is this normal?

Lots of people write to me asking whether feelings or situations or choices are normal. I want someone to make me a staff that says ARBITER OF NORMALNESS. But seriously - humans are weird and messy and silly and frustrating and fascinating. I am metaphorically burning my hypothetical staff.

Sure it’s normal. Plenty of people have feelings of emotional intimacy for more than one person. You love, want, and need both of your kids, right? If your wife wants and needs you both, then you’re not in danger of losing your family - he isn’t a threat to you, just like neither of your kids are a threat to the other when it comes to your love.

My advice to you is, figure out where these feelings of jealousy and inadequacy are coming from. Are they coming from specific things she’s doing or saying lately? Know that there is a thing called “new relationship energy” in polyamory where shiny exciting new partners might get more attention, making more established partners feel left out. Talk to your wife about these feelings - spending more time with him, sharing experiences with him and not you, etc. - and be open about how you’re feeling and how the two of you can work them out together. 

They may also be coming from your ingrained ideas about relationships and masculinity. Ask yourself whether it might be time to let go of some of those ideas. You have a wife of over a decade and a trusted friend of almost two, and it sounds like there’s a lot of love to go around, if you allow it. Check out some books on polyamory - The Ethical Slut and More than Two are my favorites - and give yourself some time and space to enter this new reality.

I broke up with my only partner a while back. I’m open to poly things just not how he wanted to do it. I would never want to be in a triad situation, I’m a really passive person and always end up the third wheel even in friendship, social and group situations and it would break my heart to be that way in a relationship. So instead I would rather have one on one relationships with different people. How important are dynamics in poly relationships in your opinion, was I right to feel this way..?

There are as many ways to be poly as there are poly people. It’s totally okay if your vision of a healthy, fulfilling poly arrangement doesn’t match with someone else’s. It’s rough when we want to date someone whose ideal arrangement differs, but being able to articulate those incompatibilities is super important and difficult.

It sounds like you really have your house in order - you’re open to trying new things but at the same time you know yourself well, and you know what types of dynamics would and would not work for you. That’s an incredible amount of self-awareness and boundary-drawing ability, and you should be proud. I think you’re very well equipped to try out polyamory since it sounds like you have a lot of the central skills on lock. 

People often write to me asking whether their feelings are valid or make sense, and I always say that it’s not on me or anyone else to say whether you’re right to feel a certain way. You are correct, however, the polyamory is not one-size-fits-all and you deserve to be in the type of relationship that’s most healthy for you.

I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend for almost a year now but lately I’ve been considering a polyamorous relationship. We’ve been at an all time high together for a while now but I feel like a third person could possibly make it even better. We’re both bisexual so we could find someone we both love and are attracted to. I really want to discuss it seriously with him but I don’t know how to bring it up without seeming pushy or unhappy with how we already are. Any suggestions?

When it comes to communication, the best strategy is to be clear and open. Tell him you’ve been thinking about this lately, and outline what your hopes and desires would be in a best-case-scenario. However, be clear that this is your best case scenario. Keep in mind that just being bisexual doesn’t mean a person necessarily wants a poly or open arrangement, so avoid making assumptions about his needs and wants based on that.

Tell him what you told me: that you’ve been very happy with how the relationship is going, and this doesn’t mean you’re unhappy with him or feeling unfulfilled. It’s just the opposite - because things are so happy and healthy, you think the two of you are in a good position to try something new together.

While you talk, be sure to check in with him frequently. Make space for him to be open and honest with you. Don’t be defensive or dismissive if he voices concern. Make the goal of the first conversation to have both of you share your thoughts about this in a way that is understood by the other person - don’t come at it like the goal is to convince him.

Hey! For some time now my boyfriend and I have been in a monogamous relationship with each other…well so I thought. We have been together for 7 months and I recently found out that he sleeps with his bestfriend/companion/ex-boyfriend. Basically, they used to have feelings for each other and now it is close friendship with cuddling and the occasional mutual masturbation. However, most recently (my boyfriend’s bestfriend) and I made out during a mutual sexual encounter, is this poly?

That’s not really a question I can answer for you! If the situation works for you guys and feels good and everyone feels secure and happy and fulfilled, then feel free to consider yourselves poly. Dan Savage suggests the term “monogamish” for people with the arrangement you have, and “open relationship” might also work. It’s up to you guys to self-identify. Sometimes labels can be helpful to define the terms of what’s going on, other times they’re extraneous, and just “a person who does what seems like the right thing to foster joy all around” is enough of an identification.

The only thing that would prevent that from being polyamory would be any kind of lies, deceit, selfishness, irresponsibility, or any shade of cheating, on anyone’s part. If all of you are not being open about what’s going on, if you haven’t laid out for yourselves and each other your desires, needs and expectations in all of this, if anyone is getting hurt or being kept in the dark - that’s not poly. It’s not really clear from your story how much honesty and communication is going on, so I suggest that you talk to your partner about all this, ask him if he considers this arrangement to be polyamorous, and put all the cards on the table.