I'm in a polyamorous relationship, crushing on someone else, and feeling lots of guilt and confusion

I (M-18) have two bi-monogamous (F-18) partners and wish to add a third (F-18) who is a straight-monogamist. She (F3), is aware of what poly is and knows that I am poly but not that I have romantic feeling for her. No, I'm not just getting more and more partners to boast and use them as trophies but still do have a want for her. For 2 different reasons, I am feeling guilty about it and have resorted to comedy in order to partially cope. The first is simply that I am relatively new to polyamory and up until recently wasn't aware it was possible. The second is an irrational fear that either I am physically stronger or am more experienced with relationships or both that if I make some grand mistake and end up in court that there will no possible way to defend myself due to a couple of other factors. Due to this guilt, I have come to grinding halt and am completely unsure of how to continue. Being new to poly, neither of my partners know what to do. Side note that I should make is that out of the 4 of us only the last girl (F3) does not depression and or anxiety.

If she is monogamous, then I’m not sure how it would work for you to date her while you’re dating two other women. It’s possible to have a crush on someone and not date or pursue them, and it sounds like that’s your situation. You can “have a want” for someone and not “get” them. That’s part of being a person and interacting with other people, who all have their own agency and desires. If it’s causing you pain to be around this person who you “want” but can’t “have,” it’s okay to take a step back from that friendship and spend less time around her.

There is nothing “to do” about this, really - wanting to date someone is not something that absolutely must be acted on and this is not a problem that demands a solution. Sometimes we like people who don’t want to date us, or can’t date us, or are otherwise incompatible! Liking them does not make us bad people and we should not feel bad about it. Try to let that go. Continue cultivating the two relationships you are in, and don’t let this unrequited crush convince you that you are somehow stuck.

This “guilt” that comes from a fear that you will “make a grand mistake” is a serious problem and you need to with with a professional on this. If you genuinely fear that you are a risk for assaulting women who you’re “physically stronger” than, you should stop being around women immediately and start working with a therapist who specializes in helping men with this kind of warped view of women, sex, and power; or with managing impulses; or with healing trauma, or whatever is leading you to worry that this is a behavior you’re going to engage in. If this is more of an intrusive thought based on anxiety, then you need to work with a therapist who specializes in that kind of problem. I know that a lot of men are worried about being falsely accused and “ending up in court,” but know that false accusations are incredibly rare, and the best way to not get accused of assault is to not assault someone.

As far as just feeling “guilt” around being polyamorous in general, the best way to manage that is to learn more about polyamory and develop your own polyamorous identity and philosophy. Instead of “using humor to cope,” don’t joke away or dismiss your feelings. Own them. Acknowledge them. Don’t exaggerate for effect, don’t downplay them, don’t deflect or distract. Be honest about what you’re feeling and give yourself and your partners the change to think about address what’s going on. I’d suggest that the three of you read some blogs or books about polyamory together and discuss them! Be open with each other, talk about your fears, your desires, your best and worse case scenarios.

And since all three of you are dealing with diagnosed mental illnesses, you all need to be working with therapeutic professionals to manage them. A diagnosis isn’t permission to go “well things are just going to be harder and more complicated because there’s this Other Thing in the room.” It’s a tool you’re supposed to use to find ways to feel better. Learning you have strep throat is just the first step in a process toward finding the right treatments to feel better; it’s not the end of the line and a sentence to spend the rest of your life going “welp I have an infection in my throat so certain things are more painful for me.” Mental illness diagnoses are the same way! See my Mental Health Resources page.

My partner is going through a rough time and I want to arrange something nice for her with her other partners

My girlfriend recently broke up with one of her partners she's been dating for a long time and is not feeling well because of their reaction. I am thinking about contacting the others to met and organize a surprise to cheer her up, like spending a week with everyone near the sea. 
The problem is that we never talked to each others (except one time at Pride, to say a quick hello and shake hands). I fear she would feel uncomfortable, but at the same time it would be great for her to see the ones she loves instead of playing video games all day to not think about it. What would you advise me to do?

This is a sweet and adorable idea, but you're right that it might be a big, uncomfortable thing to spring on her as a "surprise." My recommendation is to plan something less intense - a weeklong vacation is a pretty big deal, but you can still set something nice up for her. I don't know your gender or the genders of her other partners, but since she's a woman, she's probably used to the expectation that she do a lot of the logistics and organizing for fun things, so doing that for her will be lovely.

I don't think it would be out of line to reach out to her other partners on Facebook or wherever, to explain that she's feeling down and you want to put together something nice for her. It might not be wise to throw everyone together - she may feel anxious or responsible for managing the relationships if all of her partners are at an event together - so you could consider planning something individual for her to do with her various partners. 

Going to a local spa, seeing a band she likes in concert, going to a movie, booking a nice dinner, a picnic at a pretty nature spot - choose something you think she'd like. The key is that, after you make sure the time and date and plan works for her, you and her partners put everything together. You call and make the reservations; you book the tickets; you find a campground; you pack the picnic; whatever. All she has to do is show up and enjoy.

Then you say "Elbreth is taking you out to a nice dinner on Friday - she'll be here to pick you up at 6:30." Or "Let's go on a picnic this Saturday, I've got everything sorted out - you just need comfy shoes." You could also expand this effort to include her close friends, not just her partners. I would lose my mind with joy if someone close to me said "hey, I arranged for a babysitter and did the calendar-wrangling with your friends, Galadriel and Arwen are taking you to dinner and that art show in Rivendell on Friday."

When it comes to the larger thing, like a trip or a get-together with all her partners, my advice is to check in with her about what she would like, when works for her, etc. Once she's told you what she wants to do, who she wants to be there, and the dates that work for her, it's on you and her other partners to coordinate and organize. That's the real gift; the "surprise" bit is less relevant. Of course, you know your girlfriend - if she really loves surprises, keep some details secret and do what would make her feel most cared for!

I agreed to a polyamorous relationship, but after trying it, realized it's not what I want

My boyfriend wants to be poly but I don't. I agreed to it to make him happy. I don't know what to do anymore because I don't want to be in this kind of relationship but I gave it a try.

It sounds like you know exactly what to do. That's all life really is - trying things to see if you like them. If you like them, you keep doing them. If you don't, you stop! 

You gave it an honest try. You realized it's not for you. So stop doing it! This relationship isn't something you want anymore. You said it yourself. That's a totally okay thing to realize. Now you have some really clear information to act on.

It's possible that your boyfriend is amenable to ending the polyamorous experiment if you tell him "now that we've tried it, I've learned that this really isn't working for me." So that's your first step. If he feels unable or unwilling to be in a monogamous relationship, that's okay - the type of relationship he wants isn't the type of relationship you want, and so you two are incompatible.

The point of dating someone is to learn whether or not you're compatible in a relationship - that's why we don't get married on the first date! You're doing everything right - trying new things, learning what works and what doesn't, and moving forward based on what you've learned. 

Have you ever heard of a person forming a polyfidelitous relationship with their childhood/long-time friends?

Try asking yourself: why does it matter whether I’ve heard of this situation? I’m just one person! Lots of things happen in the world every day that I’m not present to. 

Deep love between lifelong friends is very common and well documented. I can’t point you to a specific memoir or anecdote from my life that covers this this exact situation, but again, it really doesn’t matter whether my experience encompasses something.

If this is a situation you’re exploring and you are looking for advice or mentorship from people who’ve walked this road before, try checking out other polyamorous resources and communities. I’m pretty sure most of the advice out there about polyamory applies to this situation. If you have a specific situation you want advice about that’s unique to a polyfidelitous relationship formed by childhood or long-time friends, send that specific question in! If you just want validation that it’s a thing that has happened and can happened, don’t worry about it.

Can you please explain polycule and metamour to me from your last ask?

A polycule is a polyamorous network; think like a chemistry diagram of a molecule where a bunch of little circles are connected in various configurations. It’s a group of people who are all connected in some way by various relationships.

A metamour is a partner of a partner. So if I’m dating Leslie, and Leslie is dating Ben, then Ben is my metamour.

But - good news - you don’t need to wait for me to explain things to you! My FAQ page includes lots of resources and links with things like glossaries and term lists. I also have a specific post with lists of glossaries and indexes for poly-specific terms.

Before you send me a question, it’s always good to check the FAQ and search my blog’s tags! That may keep you from having to wait for a while or never get your question posted, since I don’t answer everything I get, especially if it’s something I’ve already covered. You can also try Googling specific terms or concepts, since there are a lot of great polyamorous resources out there besides my blog.

Can you be a rebound in a poly relationship?

I don’t see why not. Polyamorous relationships have not magically transcended all of the other junk that sometimes comes along with relationships. People in polyamorous relationships are capable of being abusive, telling lies, leaving passive aggressive post-its, taking advantage of people, texting while driving, or otherwise making bad choices.

If you’re worried that someone you’re dating is treating you like a rebound; if you’re worried they are not committed to you or willing to meet your emotional needs; if you’re worried they are using your time, emotional labor, sex, etc. to soothe the pain of a breakup in ways that you’re not okay with - talk to them about it! Let them know your concerns and needs and expectations and give them a chance to process this with you. 

I’ve been in a happy committed relationship with my boyfriend for over a year now. I love him to death and would do anything for him as he would for me. lately I started wondering about having a poly relationship with him and I don’t know how to bring it up. We have friends who are in poly relationships so we’re both fine with it but when it would come to us I’m not so sure. I don’t know how to tell him I’ve been thinking about us in that way (being in a poly relationship).

The best way to tell someone anything is clearly, gently, honestly, and with your words. When you two are alone and things are calm, and it seems like a good time to have a serious chat, say “Hey, you know how our friends Harry and Ron and Hermione are poly? Have you ever thought about trying something like that out?”

Think beforehand about what your best case scenario is: do you just want him to be open to the idea so you two can start discussing your own needs and hopes? Do you want him to be open enough to the idea to start taking active steps toward practicing polyamory? Do you just want him to be made aware that you’ve been thinking about this? Identify your goals going in, so you can be clear about what you want from the conversation.

However he responds, make space for that. If he’s totally shut off about it - “Yeah, I can see that it works for them, but it’s never something I’d be interested in” - then you have to decide what to do from there. But your current issue is not knowing how to bring it up, and the answer is just to find a comfortable moment and put it out there for discussion. There’s no secret trick to it!

How do I begin? I feel like I’ve always been poly, but I don’t know how to approach the topic with people I flirt with. Is it something I drop at the beginning to get something going, or something I bring up after the goings gotten started? I’m in a difficult situation trying to begin polyamory as a single cisgendered male. Or am I? Any advice I can glean to get the ball rolling? I read the ethical slut, great book, btw. Thanks for being you! And all the work you do!

First, thank you for your lovely compliments, and kudos for doing your homework and stepping into this journey informed! You are right that cis men trying to date multiple people may be up against some mistrust or skepticism - not your fault, but your reputation has been marred by a bunch of other skeezy cis men out there peeing in the dating pool.

The best bet is to have polyamory on the table from the start - that’s one reason I like online dating, because I can filter for people who are also listed as non-monogamous and I can bring it up and check-in about it before putting in the effort of going on a date. But if you’re flirting with someone in person, it’s harder. My personal rule is to bring it up on the first or second date and always before sex happens. Some people will back out on you! That’s okay. Learn to be gracious and honest.

Also, be smart about how you communicate the fact that this will be your first polyamorous relationship, or that you’re new to practicing polyamory. I, and many other polyamorous people, are very weary of acting as “training wheels” for people exploring polyamory. There is a lot of emotional labor that goes into walking someone through their first ride on the roller coaster of polyamorous feels, so be conscious of that. Don’t lie about being more experienced than you are; but don’t treat anyone like they’re obligated to be your polyamorous mentor. Ask for help when you need it, be honest and open, but don’t depend on anyone else to help you process or learn. 

So I’m pretty sure I’m polyamorous but my mom is completely against polyamory (it came up because my friend and his boyfriend are moving in with their boyfriend).

Your mom’s opinions and reality do not have to be your opinions and reality. It is okay to do or be something that other people don’t approve of.

If there is an issue of safety - if you still live with your mom and feel that she would act in a way that threatens your well-being, security, or relationships - then it is okay to stay closeted and wait it out.

But it’s not your job to convince your mom that polyamory is healthy and acceptable. Changing her mind is not a prerequisite to you living a healthy, happy life and having fulfilling polyamorous relationships. 

I have family members who disapprove of my polyamory. I have people in my life who disapprove of my career choices, my diet, my hairstyle, whatever. There are a frighteningly large number of people in my country who disapprove of my beliefs and my personal right to exist. That means I need to take steps to protect myself, emotionally, physically, financially, etc. but it doesn’t mean I cannot or should not be my real, best self.

Some other posts about this:

I am a married man mid 50’s and really want to bring another person into our relationship. We have done this in the past but it was on a more casual basis. My wife has zero interest and it doesn’t matter to her if it was a male or female she has no interest. I’m feeling like the years are slipping away for this type of fun and would like to do this again. I am not interested in leaving my wife we are just different in this respect please give me some advice.

If your wife has “zero interest” in doing this, and you are not interested in leaving your wife to pursue this, it sounds like you’re at an impasse. There are no magical words I can give you to say that will change her mind.

You might want to ask yourself why you feel drawn to bring another person into the relationship. If it’s about reinvigorating your sex life, talk to your wife about some things she might be more willing to try that interest both of you. If it’s about additional companionship, consider trying to make close friendships with other couples that aren’t necessarily sexual, but could be intimate in their own way. 

Remember that all relationships require some sacrifice. If your wife one day decided she wanted to move to a tropical island and open a coconut smoothie shack, and you really wanted to stay with the home and life and career you’ve built, one of you would have to budge or you’d have to split up. All relationships hit big decisions at some point - this is a hard one to make, but you’ve got to make it and commit to your choice.

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