I'm in a monogamous relationship, but there's someone else in my life I have strong feelings for

I'm in a committed relationship with someone and I know he has plans to marry me. There's another guy I've been friends with for a while and he split my last relationship up (not intentionally - I realized I had really strong feelings for him and we ended up having a little bit of a thing going on, which my ex found out about.) I still love him and always have the urge to kiss him. How do I tell my now partner. Am I poly?

I can't tell you whether you're poly; that's up to you to figure out! I have an FAQ page about that here.

Some people in monogamous relationships do have feelings/urges for other people, and consider it part of their commitment to their partner that they choose not to act on those feelings. Only you can decide for yourself whether having feelings for another person means you should try to change the terms of your existing relationship, or whether you need to take some space from that other person and accept that monogamy often requires work and sacrifice, just like polyamory.

Or, you can decide that these feelings are not something you can, or are willing to, ignore. In that case, it's worth bringing up with your partner. However, be prepared for the possibility that your partner is unwilling to be in a non-monogamous relationship with you. In that case, you'll need to decide how to act on that information from him. If it's a dealbreaker, you'll need to leave the relationship - it'll suck, but at least you learned about this incompatibility issue before you got married.

If you want to say "okay, now I know where you stand, I'm glad I checked," and continue with monogamy, be prepared for your partner to wrestle with some insecurity or jealousy, since this is being brought on by your strong feelings for someone that you've already shown a willingness to cheat with, or leave another partner for. This is a pretty fraught situation, and you'll need to really clarify for yourself whether this is about you realizing that you have the ability to love more than one person and want to be able to pursue that; or you realizing that you just really, really want to be with this one specific person.

It's entirely possible that your friend wouldn't want to be your second partner; or if you leave your current partner for him, that things wouldn't work out with him anyway. Try to maintain clear lines between "I want to try non-monogamy" and "I really want to date this particular guy" and know what you are, and are not, willing to sacrifice to pursue one or the other.

My boyfriend wants me to be comfortable trying polyamory, but I am not

My boyfriend wants to have a poly relationship and I've expressed how uncomfortable it would make me. He says he wants me to be comfortable and trusting enough to do it. I'm afraid that if we end up trying it, that I won't like it and he'll continue and I'll be uncomfortable.

When you say that he wants you to be comfortable enough to do it, I'm not sure if you mean he's said "I want to do this, but only if you're comfortable with it" or "I want you to become comfortable with this."

The first one is fine; he's told you what he wants, but seems to understand that you don't want that. If you're not able or willing to try polyamory, that's totally your right. He can decide to stay in a mono relationship with you, or decide he has to leave the relationship because being able to pursue polyamory is a dealbreaker for him.

The second one is less fine. You don't get to just ask someone to have a feeling; we don't have little knobs inside our brain we can fiddle with and get ourselves to the settings that someone wants us to have. If he is trying to pressure or guilt you into "being comfortable" with something you simply aren't comfortable with, that's not okay. Tell him to drop the issue, and if he won't, leave him.

Your last sentence also concerns me. You're dating someone who, somehow, through his actions or words, has made you worry that he'd continue doing something even if you're uncomfortable with it. It has nothing to do with polyamory - if my boyfriend invited me to try rock climbing with him, but I was worried that if I tried it and didn't like it, he'd continue to pressure me into doing it, not accept my expression that I didn't want to anymore, and try to hold me permanently to my initial willingness to try it out, that would be a major red flag that he just isn't healthy to date.

It's completely fine to try something in good faith, then realize, based on what you learned while trying it, that you don't like it. If someone won't accept that, or bulldozes over your feelings, they are not someone you should be dating. Do not be with someone who makes you worry that they won't listen to or respect how you feel. 

My partner and I have an open arrangement, but I feel like he did something that violated the terms we agreed on.

My partner and I have agreed that we’re allowed to have sexual encounters with other people from the start of our six month relationship, but have never been intimate with anyone else without the other being present. While I was out of town, he slept with a woman we were entertaining playing with together. He didn’t tell me about it until yesterday, almost a week from the event. He said that he didn’t want to ruin my holiday and last night was the first opportunity when he felt we had a chance to talk. We didn’t discuss when we would disclose encounters to each other, although I did state that I preferred he told me beforehand. That’s alright, that was a learning moment. However, what’s really bothering me is that he said that he wouldn’t sleep with her by himself and that the three of us would play together first. Additionally, I feel hurt that we were intimate before he finally told me that he has slept with her. I’m simply hurt/confused... This is my first foray into open relationships, and my boyfriend’s first intimate encounter outside the relationship. Am I overreacting because I’m jealous or so I have a valid bone to pick?

You've got a false dichotomy in your question there. When a couple is in conflict, remember that it's you two vs. the problem, not you vs. each other. Your feelings are totally valid, but that doesn't necessarily mean he did anything wrong.

Stuff like this happens all the time - you set up rules and expectations to protect yourself, but life has a funny way of getting around those. Events unfold, energy between two people sparks along its course, and things play out differently than how the ideal would be. Your partner was probably very startled and frustrated by the whole thing, and anxious about telling you. 

You're right that this is a learning moment. You two are learning to be more clear with yourselves and each other about what, exactly, you need and want out of this arrangement. You're also learning that the real world might not play nicely with your clearly defined boundaries, and that you'll need to find areas of flexibility and compromise. Figure out what's a need vs. a desire, what might not be realistic, and where you can give each other and the world some 'wiggle room.' Remember that the more rigid and specific your rules are, the easier they are to break, which feels like a betrayal. But, if they're too wishy-washy, then you might accidentally hurt the other person without realizing that they were more serious about something than you thought.

Keep talking this out! Remember that feeling hurt is totally okay, but it does not mean that the other person is in the wrong. This is a sticky, feeling-laden thing you're doing, so feelings are going to happen. Work through them and with each other.

I’ve been dating my partner for about two years. when we first started dating they said it was okay with them if I ever got crushes on other people, but it was never brought up again. now I’ve met someone new who likes me back. I still want to be with my datemate, but I also want to date this other person. the only problem is, I know I’m not going to be comfortable with it unless they’re dating each other too. how should I initiate that? I’m not going to force it, but I want to at least try.

You can’t just ask that two people date each other because it would make you comfortable. Even “initiating” without forcing it is a pretty big leap considering you and your partner haven’t discussed being in a triad together, you only briefly talked about having crushes on other people, two years ago.

You need to talk to your partner about how they feel about polyamory. When they said it was okay if you had crushes on other people, did they mean it was okay if you acted on them, or just that they don’t mind you indulging in the attraction of a crush? How do they feel about you dating vs. sleeping with other people? If you do see other people, how do they feel about hearing/knowing about it?

The conversation should start in the abstract so you can get everyone’s feelings out in the open - my advice would definitely NOT be to open with “hey so there’s this person I want to date, so I want you to be okay with that, and also I want you to date them too!” - that is a pretty massive thing to drop on someone and requires excessive emotional leaps on their part. This means you may need to put the brakes on whatever is developing with this new person while you and your current partner work out needs and expectations for transitioning your relationship into new territory.

I know my partner should consent if i want to date other people, and he does enthusiastically… but what if he doesn’t agree with the person im seeing because he doesn’t like them? Should my partner get a say in who i date?

This is a really thorny issue, and different poly people have different arrangements about. Some people prefer a “veto policy,” where their partner can ask them not to see someone that they find obnoxious or unpleasant. Other people have zero tolerance for a partner’s attempts to “veto” their partners. This often relates to whether there is a “primary” partnership that supersedes others, or whether all relationships are managed on their own terms.

As with most things, there needs to be a balance, and open communication, and compromise on both parts. If your partner just doesn’t like someone, they can try and be scarce when that person is around, or try to find some common conversational ground, or suggest that you gently ask your partner to try and be less pretentious, more polite, etc. But you two need to decide whether one person dating someone your partner doesn’t like is a dealbreaker, or not being allowed to freely choose partners is a dealbreaker.

If your partner thinks someone is toxic, abusive, or actively unhealthy, if they’re making you so miserable or manipulating you such that your other relationships are suffering, then I’d say they have a right to walk away. But no one can “force” another person to do something - their choice is whether to stay with you, not whether to demand that you leave the other person.

I think of it this way: my partners can’t command my behavior, and I would be very upset if they tried. If they hate the smell of lotion, they can’t say “I forbid you from wearing lotion.” They can let me know that it bothers them, and ask if I’d be willing to stop, and I can choose to honor that, or decide that I need to wear lotion and they need to deal. Then they can decide whether being with a lotiony person is tolerable for them, or not. 

When it comes to relationships and feelings, there is no “should” - I can’t give you some supreme dictate for how you and your partner are allowed to manage your relationships. It’s up to you two to find balance and openness and to both clearly understand and agree to the terms of your relationship.

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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 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.

i’ve been poly for a while now, but for the first time i’m in a situation where my bf is also considering trying to be poly, and i’m really uncomfortable with that, but he’s been so supportive of me also having a gf that i dont want to be like, ‘no, only date me’. does this make me, like, a SUPER terrible person?

I don’t know if you’re a terrible person, though I sincerely doubt that you are - there are very few truly terrible people. Most of us are at least a little bit scared, confused, or oblivious, which can make us behave irresponsibly or hurtfully. But no one is a terrible person. Being gentle and self-compassionate with ourselves - while remaining accountable for behaviors and thought patterns that need to change - is often the best way to break patterns of hurt.

But to answer your question more specifically: while that doesn’t make you a terrible person, it definitely strikes me as something that could cause a lot of problems and is worth working through. All he’s asking is to be afforded the same freedoms you asked him to give you, and it seems only fair to do so. At the same time, all feelings are valid, and this isn’t to say you’re obligated to just swallow your discomfort. I think it needs to be worked through, but with the express goal of helping you get comfortable with it. 

Ask yourself: Why are you less comfortable with him dating someone? What are you afraid of, specifically? What do you think will change? What’s your “worst case scenario?” Talk this through with him, and also think it through on your own. You yourself have lots of evidence that a person can date multiple people without losing their feelings for their other partners - it’s there inside your own head, it’s proven in your own experience.

Maybe there’s something you enjoy about the imbalance - investigate your own motives here and figure out why you prefer a situation where you’re poly but your boyfriend isn’t. When you find something, examine it closely to see whether it’s healthy. This sounds like something that’s not only very much worth getting through as a couple, but something that can be surmounted with some honest introspection and communication. Good luck!