Do polyamorous individuals have to have their partners interact with one another, or is it that they don’t have to have anything to do with each other?

I always say there are as many ways to be poly as there are poly people. There’s no set of laws governing how polyamory works - each person, and each network, has to figure out what works best for them.

Some poly people are uncomfortable if their partners don’t get along, and it’s an integral part of their poly experience to have a cozy, well-connected network. Other people prefer to keep their relationships primarily separated, for whatever reason. Others exist somewhere along this spectrum, where they appreciate partner interaction, but aren’t fussed about situations that prevent it.

Of course, it can be very difficult when two people in the same poly network actively don’t get along, or when someone doesn’t think one of their partner’s partners is healthy for them. But as long as an arrangement works for everyone, there are lots of different ways to handle interactions between partners. I hope that answers your question!

My fwb’s gf is mono and even though he’s been with me and his wife since before the gf got involved, she’s always complaining about how he must not really love her because he won’t leave me and his wife for her. I’m trying to be patient, but damn :(

That sounds like a tough situation - but not one you can do much about, or are really responsible for, unless she’s making these complaints directly to you? In that case, you have the right to be clear with her and/or your FWB that you don’t think that’s healthy or appropriate for her to say around you, and that you need partners of partners to be understanding and accepting of the terms of your relationship.

But if you’re hearing this secondhand from your FWB, there’s less that you can do. If you’re worried that he is eventually going to give in to her demands and leave you, bring that concern up with him, and see what he says. If you’re worried that her pushing for this is hurting him, you can speak up - it is our business when our partners are in unhealthy situations. And if you think he’s somehow leading her on or taking advantage of her, say something. But beyond that, it sounds like this isn’t your problem.

Not to say it isn’t a problem - this woman seems to be in denial and is clearly in a situation that is unhealthy for her. But if you believe that your FWB is doing things in an above-board way and this isn’t affecting his health or yours, sometimes all you can do is step back and let other people make bad choices. 

Is it considered bad taste to ask a partner about their other partners? I’m dipping my toe back in the poly pond after a few years off and there’s a guy I’m very interested in. He got out of a LTR about 6 months ago, but otherwise has been dating a lot recently. He knows I have a primary partner, but beyond that we haven’t really discussed it. Is it considered OK to ask about other people the person is seeing without them bringing it up?

Every poly person has their own level of personal comfort when it comes to discussing partners with other partners. Generally, I think a more open policy is better than a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, because the more things are kept secret, the more they look and feel like cheating. There are some practical concerns as well - STI info, marks from rough sex, taking phone calls in presence of other partners - that are easier to deal with healthfully under an open policy.

But there’s no way for me to really say whether there’s a blanket policy in poly etiquette about this - because there isn’t. I think as long as you do it in a healthy way, it should be fine to at least see if he wants to open those lines of communication. If you’re asking about them from a place of insecurity, he’ll be able to tell - but if you’re genuinely interested, because they’re part of his life and he’s part of yours, go for it.

If he seems resistant or put off, it’s worth it to explore that and find out what his level of comfort is about this sort of conversation. If that doesn’t match yours, that’s a conversation that needs to happen. You shouldn’t feel like he’s hiding things from you or that you need to be careful about what you share about your partner. Finding a healthy communication practice is 100% key to a functioning poly relationship.