Is it normal for me to be dating two people who aren't dating each other?

Is it a "normal poly thing" for me as a female to have a gf and a bf but the two of them don't have a relationship? What are some tips to making this work and comfortable for everyone?

Yes, that is called “V-shaped” polyamory and is one of the more common polyamorous arrangements. It’s actually pretty rare for there to be three or more people where all parties are dating. Even though media depictions, news stories, fanfiction, etc. tend to focus on triads or polycules where everyone is in a relationship with everyone, that’s not as common.

Tips for making it work are going to be the same as in all other healthy polyamorous relationships. Open, honest communication. Everyone taking responsibility for identifying and articulating their own needs and feelings. Since this is a very common polyamorous relationship configuration, most of the advice you’ll find in my FAQ resources will be helpful.

Also, the idea of a “normal poly thing” is useless. Even if you three were the only people in the world doing this, that wouldn’t really matter. And plenty of things that are “normal” or common in polyamorous relationships are not healthy and happy. Normalcy is not a measure of anything meaningful. You don’t need to find out if something is “normal” before trying it out. If it’s healthy and happy for you, it’s fine.

Your girlfriend and boyfriend are what’s called “metamours,” linked not by their own relationship but because they’re dating the same person. It’s wise not to complain to one of your partners about the other one, or involve them in relationship issues. If you want to introduce them, keep things low-key and low-pressure. Let their relationship be what it’s going to be, don’t try to push for more intimacy than is naturally present. I wrote about introducing metamours to each other here.

If I'm capable of being in polyamorous relationships but don't want to, am I polyam?

Is it possible to stop being polyamorous? I haven't had good luck with dating other women, I'm married and the past 2 gf's I've had turned out to get feelings for my husband and basically toss me aside. There was also cheating, lies, and I honestly don't want to go through that again. I still feel capable of loving another person but if I never date another and stay mono to my husband am I still poly? I'm just confused and not sure if I ever want to risk getting hurt again.

If you don’t want to date other people right now, or ever, that’s totally fine. If you feel that means you’re no longer polyamorous, that’s fine. If you feel that you’re still polyamorous but choosing not to practice polyamory or don’t feel like acting on those feelings, that’s fine!

If a straight woman has a series of bad experiences dating men and decides to take an indefinite break from romantic relationships and be happily single, she can still identify as straight - she’s just choosing not to date men. She doesn’t have to, though - she could conclude that, although she’s capable of sexual-romantic attraction to men, her lack of desire for such a relationship makes that identification no longer useful or applicable or relevant.

You should do what’s best for you. You can be a polyamorous person in a monogamous relationship. You can be someone capable of loving multiple people who does not indulge, act on, or pay much attention to that capacity. You can be a person who had active polyamorous desires and no longer does, for whatever reason.

Or, you can be a person who doesn’t identify as polyamorous or monogamous - you’re married, your relationship with your husband is what it is and it’s working, and so it’s not super necessary or useful to come down on a relationship orientation. Identity labels are there to serve us, not the other way around - if you’ve already found what works and you know what you want and how to get it, then labels are entirely secondary.

My friend knows I have a crush on her, and jokes about dating me, and I'm not sure how serious she is

My friend knows I and other mutual friends have a crush on her. She says she’s polyamorous and makes jokes about having some us as partners. I know she’s only joking and I don’t have anything against her but when she jokes about it, I feel like there’s some desire but I ultimately believe she’s only joking. How should I go about handling this? It’s so confusing, you know?

In my opinion, you know someone has a crush on you and you tease them about it by joking as if you want to date them, but you don’t mean it, that’s very rude and borderline cruel. But it’s possible there’s something else going on. You say you “know” and “ultimately believe” she’s only joking, but then that there might be “some desire” behind her jokes.

Often, people use jokes to test the waters or explore something you’re not ready to fully jump into yet. It sounds like she might actually be interested in dating you, but isn’t sure how to have that conversation or manage those feelings, so she resorts to this kind of push-pull of saying something she isn’t sure whether she really means and hiding it behind layers of irony and humor. That’s pretty common, and it’s understandable, but it can also be really hurtful!

If I were you, I’d bring it up with her, not as an accusation or a confrontation, but as a real, honest, vulnerable conversation where you’re removing the pretense of all the goofing around. “Hey, Antrabella, you often say that you’re polyamorous and talk about dating me or Constancio. I know you act like it’s just jokes, but I do actually like you, and would be interested in trying something out! If there’s feeling behind those jokes, can we talk about what that might mean and look like? And if you really don’t mean it, could you please stop joking about it, because it makes me feel uncomfortable, since I don’t know whether to take you seriously?”

If she responds by acting defensive, insisting that you should “take a joke” and that her behavior is totally fine, or if she denies making that kind of joke, then I think you should take some distance from this friendship. But if she responds by either saying “actually, yeah, I think there is something there, let’s talk about it” or “omg, sorry, I didn’t realize how confusing I was being - I don’t actually feel that way and I’ll stop teasing like I do,” then there’s your answer!

Is it possible, or common for straight women to be in V-shaped arrangements with multiple straight men? (

So it seems really uncommon to have a polyamorous relationship with two or more males with one woman. Am I just looking in the wrong places (just in terms of seeing how others handle this dynamic, not looking as in seeking). I am not really interested in other women. But i feel like it’s not realistic to want a relationship with two straight men who would want to both be with me, more than sexually. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Up until very recently, that was exactly the situation I was in - I identified as a straight woman and dated mostly straight men. For most of my dating life I have been in “V-shaped” relationships that looked like: me, a straight woman, dating Scorpio, a straight man, and Leo, a straight man, and maybe also Orion, a straight man. (Sometimes the men I dated were not straight; I don’t want to erase anyone’s identities, but mostly, they have been.) Often the men I dated got along well, but they were not romantically or sexually involved with each other. And typically they were dating other women as well.

This is, in my experience, actually a very common polyamorous configuration! Straight men are socialized in such a way that they are a population very well represented in polyam circles. If what you’re hoping for is a triad, where both straight men are involved romantically or sexually with each other, well, that’s not usually how straight men work - but it sounds like you’re looking for the opportunity to have multiple straight male partners who are okay with you having other male partners. That is very, very possible!

Try checking out my page on finding polyamorous people to date - be clear about what you’re looking for, set up a dating profile with that goal, get out there and meet some polyam dudes, and you’ll find your V! And to answer your first question, yes, it’s pretty common, and you may just be looking in the wrong places. Keep poking around Tumblr, YouTube, and the rest of the internet and you’ll find plenty of stuff being written by, and about, people in that exact situation!

I'm crushing on a couple and I don't know if it's wise to tell them

so i’m kind of in love with my two friends who have been dating each other for over a year. i have basically no emotional intelligence bc of mental stuff so i have almost no way to know how they feel about me, and i can’t really talk to or ask my other friends about it. i don’t know what to do about this and my feelings aren’t subsiding with time; i kind of want to tell them, but there’s a significant chance that it won’t go well and it’ll be weird, especially since i live with one of them

The good thing about knowing this about yourself - that you struggle with EI because of “mental stuff” - is that you can do something about it! Especially since you can’t talk to your friends about this, you should really find a therapist you can work on this with. There are also DIY resources out there - search for “emotional intelligence workbook” or “emotional intelligence DBT.” If you have a diagnostic term for the “mental stuff” you’re dealing with, you can also search for workbooks or other self-help resources with that term.

In general, my advice is usually to tell people how you feel, and let the chips fall where they may. There’s always a chance that things don’t go well and “be weird,” but if you don’t say anything, there’s a 100% certainty that things won’t go the way you want. However, every situation is different. Since you live with one of them, and living-space stress is one of the worst types of stress, you may want to be a bit more cautious. I don’t know what makes you say that there is a “significant change” that it won’t go well - is this couple explicitly monogamous? Have they expressed discomfort with that type of advance?

Only you have the full context to decide whether the risk is worth it. It might be worth it to find a polyamory-friendly therapist to talk things over with, or do some “pros and cons” journaling, or chat with a polyamory-support forum or chatroom, to try and work through all of the details. Best of luck!


Some FAQ-answerable questions

Hello! I just need help finding the tag for where it explains what poly is. I know a little bit like enough to explain it but I’d like to have a link to go into more detail for those who want/need it. Please and thank you! (also I’m really sorry you have a lot of tags I can’t find the one I need in particular)

I use tags more for SEO and tumblr promotion and less for content finding. You’d be better served checking my FAQ page about general polyamory resources. You can also google “what is polyamory?” and find lots of resources that will meet your needs!

Sorry to bother you, but I sent an ask to your website nearly a month ago about being a polyam teen and it hasn’t been answered. Is this because you have a long queue or did you just not get my question?

Here’s my FAQ page about that.

I might be poly. I find myself reading and seeking out more poly fics than mono ones? how do i know if i'm, poly? What does being poly mean?

Here’s my FAQ page about this!


I'm dating two guys, and want to make it serious with both of them, but am not sure how to have that conversation

I've been - openly, but they don't know each other - seeing two different guys, for about the same amount of time but not really seriously on either side. I want them to hopefully turn into actual relationships I'm just not sure how to bring about the conversation of "I want to be serious with you, but also him at the same time" and am scared that will send them both running. Any advice?

The great thing, and the terrifying thing, about relationships is that there is no set of magic words you can say to ensure someone else responds well. You should definitely have that conversation, and then if one or both guys goes running, well, that’s just what happened. You can’t prevent or control that. Hiding your feelings/desires from a partner for fear of scaring them off is miserable, and not something I ever recommend.

You’ve got to just come out and say “hey, we’ve been seeing each other for a while now, and I really like you! I’m interested in talking about how we see this relationship moving forward, how committed we feel, and what we both want! And that should include the fact that I’m also having the same feelings about, and conversations with, Orzaggo.” And then you two can talk about how he feels about non-monogamy, and about dating you, and about feelings, and all those super sticky but worthwhile conversational topics!

And if he runs, well, that’s information you have - that he isn’t someone who wants to date you as all of who you are, which is someone capable and desirous of dating multiple people. You would have found that out eventually; delaying this risky conversation doesn’t reduce the risk, it actually just raises the stakes. Best of luck!

My boyfriend is interested in a friend of his, and wants to try polyamory, but to me it all seems like cheating

My bf and one of his close friends have developed feels for each other. The friend is poly and knows that my bf and I identify as mono but flirted with him anyway. One night while they hung out and drank, they had a close call where they almost kissed. They now both realize that a sexual connection/tension has developed between them. My bf recently brought up trying poly, but I can't help but feel like he's using it as a fail safe and to not be accountable for cheating if it happens. Any advice?

The thing about polyamory is that it is not a “fail safe to not be accountable for cheating” - it’s a different way to think about relationships, feelings, and sex. If you two were polyamorous, and he kissed or had sex with this friend, it would not be cheating. He would still be accountable for his choices and their consequences, but “cheating” would not be the issue. Yes, it sounds like his newfound interest in polyamory is a desire to be with this other person without losing you - but you get to decide whether you are okay with that. Your boyfriend is essentially trying to keep things above board - letting you know that he wants to pursue a relationship with this person, but that he wants to do it with your knowledge and consent.

It sounds like you consider yourself monogamous and are not interested in dating someone who is romantically or sexually involved with someone else, and that you would consider it cheating regardless. In that case, you should not be polyamorous with this person (or anyone else). He can ask, and you can say no. He can then respond to that with his own choices. Polyamory is not a secret loophole where he can trick you into being okay with cheating; it’s a relationship framework that you can choose not to be part of.

If it’s important to your boyfriend to try polyamory, or to try a relationship with this person, he may choose to leave the relationship. You’ll give him information - that you only want a monogamous relationship - and he’ll have to act on that information. And he’ll give you information - that he wants to be in a relationship that allows him to be with other people - and you’ll have to act on that information.

What do polyamorous people find attractive?

What do poly people find attractive? I ask because I regularly get asked out by people who tell me that they are polyamorous. I am curious why so many poly people approach me.

For the most part, polyam people find the same things attractive as mono people. We like people who are interesting, charming, and genuine - and it helps to be good looking. So, congrats on being generally attractive! In specific, polyam people are going to be more likely to be drawn to someone who is a clear communicator, demonstrates healthy self-knowledge, and is skilled at drawing appropriate boundaries.

It’s also much more likely for you to encounter polyam people who want to date you if you run in circles where a lot of us tend to hang out and seek new partners. Any other type of “alternative lifestyle,” from the Pagan/Wiccan community to the kink/BDSM crowd, is going to attract a larger than average slice of polyam folk. We’re also more out and open in big coastal cities or liberal arts colleges, so if you live in one of those, you’re more likely to be approached by polyamorous people.

Honestly, unless you’re accidentally wearing polyam pride colors/symbols, or wandering into polyam meetups, it’s probably just that you’re a generally attractive person who happens to regularly encounter polyam people! If this bothers you, you could try putting it out there in your extended social circles that you’re happily mono and don’t want to be approached for polyam dating, and keep some rehearsed lines in your back pocket: “Sorry, but I don’t date polyamorously - so it won’t work out.” “

I want to date a friend of mine who is polyam, but am afraid of bringing it up with her

I am very close friends with a poly triad and I want to pursue one of them (though I would happily be with all of them). Is it better to check in with her other partners who I also love and want to make sure they would be comfortable with me pursuing her before I talk to her about it? Or should I talk to her first, or just talk to them as a group? My main fear is ruining our friendship or making them feel weird. The power dynamic scares me b/c their friendship is really important to me.

You should always talk directly to the person who you’re having feelings about, whether it’s attraction, conflict, confusion, boundary issues, whatever. Asking other people sends the message that you think she needs their ‘permission,’ which isn’t a healthy framing of any relationship, and it risks causing extra drama because of all the cross-communication and triangulation. Talk to her! She has the best perspective on what she wants, how her current relationships are framed, etc.

Only you can decide whether it’s worth bringing it up. A lot of people think that expressing romantic feelings might “ruin a friendship,” but if she’s mature and a good friend, she’ll be able to say “thanks for having the courage to bring that up, but I don’t want to be anything more than friends,” and you two can move on as friends. I think the fear of “friendship ruining” by expressing feelings is generally overblown, and a friendship that would be “ruined” by that is probably not on solid ground to begin with. The fact is that you do want something to change about your relationship with her, and the only way to have any chance at getting what you want is to try.

You have just as much agency and control in this situation as she does. You can choose when, how, and whether to express yourself. And you can choose how to respond to whatever she says. I know that this friendship is important to you, but framing it as “she has all the power to give, or withhold, what I want” is dangerous and inaccurate. You two are friends - she cares for you, she sees you as an equal - so trust her, and trust yourself, to be able to talk through this without fearing that she will attempt to manipulate you based on how much you value her friendship. If you think this fear is founded; if she has a history of holding her friendship over people’s heads to control them, then this isn’t a healthy friendship in the first place.

What are some of Zinnia's opinions?

Hello! I see tons of asks about advise and now I'm actually wondering what are some of your opinions about the whole community? I'd like to know more about the lovely creator of this amazing blog❤️ :)

This reads to me like “please, sir, could I have some discourse?” but I, like most humans, adore being asked for my opinion, especially if it comes with some flattery, so here ya go, some Zinnia Opinions, RIP my inbox:

I think more, if not all, of us should be in therapy! I think working on our own issues and patterns is critical for healthy relationships, whether you’re polyamorous or monogamous. I think we as a culture should be fighting for more accessible mental healthcare, and one of the best things we can do for our people is help them find therapy that is helpful and affordable for them.

I miss the word '‘poly.” I fully understand why we are making a shift to polyam, and I would never put my linguistic comfort over someone else’s very real cultural hurts and needs, but I find “polyam” clunky and it makes me sad that we are facing this namespace collision right now.

I think “ground rules” and “boundaries” are incredibly misunderstood and mis-used in polyamory. I’ve almost never seen “ground rules” work out well - they’re often arbitrary, lead to unnecessary ‘betrayals,’ and let people hide behind them to avoid actually interrogating their true feelings and needs. And people need to realize that “setting a boundary” does not obligate everyone to do what you say or else they’re toxic abusers.

I think we need to do a better job with our language. I’ve written about this before, and I stand by it. I especially think we need to be very careful about words like “abuse” and “trauma,” because they really do mean things beyond ‘made me feel bad.’ I strongly recommend Sarah Schulman’s book Conflict is not Abuse as an in-depth discussion of this and think it belongs on any standard polyam reading list.

I don’t think polyamory is a better, more enlightened or truer way to be in relationship. I disagree with Dan Savage and the Sex At Dawn crowd that all humans are ‘naturally’ non-monogamous and therefore polyamory or monogamy are just personal choices anyone can make freely. Some people are better served by monogamous relationships, and polyam people need to stop evangelizing polyamory as a one-size-fits-all solution to existing problems.

That said, I think monogamy culture is pretty destructive. When practiced with intentionality and as meets the needs of the individuals in the relationship, monogamy can be plenty healthy! But I have seen so much abuse in the name of monogamy, of possessiveness, of jealousy; damage done out of fear of cheating; repression and rejection and violence - we need to better understand and interrogate the social, political, economic, religious, and sexual power structures that drive our assumptions around monogamy.

I wish we had better pride colors and/or full ownership of the infinity heart. I love symbols! I would love to be able to wear my polyam pride on my sleeve, but tons of mono people use the infinity heart to just mean “endless love,” which makes it a pretty diluted symbol, and the pride colors are not great.

I think more polyam families should become foster parents. I think more people should, honestly; but being polyam gives you an advantage in that you have more adults to help out, and most of us have already done a lot of self-work around healthy emotional management and communication styles, which is critical for foster parents. It’s not always easy to get certified as an “unconventional” family, but it is doable, and we should be doing it!

My polyamory is queer. Not all polyamory is queer, but I truly believe that polyamory can be queer, when it is a ‘queering’ of the dominant monogamous culture, a re-understanding of relationships, an individual reclamation and rejection of culturally imposed assumptions, and love as “praxis” that challenges economic, political, and sexual systems of dominance.

Polyam people need to make a lot more space for relationship anarchy in the conversation. Related to my opinion that not all polyamory is queer, but polyamory can be a queering of relationships. It’s sad to me that so many people think polyamory is only about sexual-romantic relationships, and often looks in practice a lot like monogamy culture just with more people, where the sexual-romantic relationships are prioritized in terms of values, commitment, finances, etc. Polyamory can be an invitation to re-understand relationships in a whole new way. Who say that the people we have great sex with have to be the people we live with have to be the people we co-parent with? Let’s make our own way, friends.

I think “best case scenario” daydreaming is an under-utilized tool in polyamorous relationships. Thinking through what you really want, having words for the feelings you want to have, understanding what you want your day to day life to look like - this is so helpful! We should all have a clear picture of where we’re headed, what our goals are, and what our deal-makers and deal-breakers are. I don’t know why so few people are able to really articulate what they want out of their relationships - grab a journal, or a questionnaire, or a boring work meeting, and dig in!

I think people should make my life easier when writing in to this blog. People should check my FAQ, not send me thousand-word letters that don’t include a clear question, and not do these other things. I also think it would be super swell if people contributed to my Patreon!

There we go; some of my most strongly held opinions about polyamory. I have many other opinions, like:

  • People should stop assigning moral value to food and eating habits and drop the food-negative fear-of-calories nonsense; diet culture is absolute bullshit, and the concern-trolling about fat bodies is cruel, disingenuous, and needs to die.

  • Caffeine is an addictive drug and we are way too relaxed about young children becoming dependent on it to the detriment of their sleep health.

  • Being critical or ironic about something does not make you smarter, more mature, or better than someone who earnestly enjoys it.

  • Genetic connections do not a ‘family’ make, and no one is obligated to stay connected to someone who isn’t healthy for them just because they are ‘related.' And if you are deeply connected to someone whose connection to you isn’t recognized by monogamy-culture - like a kid who isn’t genetically related, or a life partner you aren’t romantic-sexual with, that’s great! Ignore the haters.

  • Movie theatre popcorn is always better than anything you can make at home, and is always worth the $7 it costs at the theatre. Drinks and candy, you should smuggle in.

  • If someone isn’t drinking, people should leave that alone and not harass, pester, or tease them about it.

  • Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” music video is not cultural appropriation, because she brings in people who are skilled in those dances to perform them well, and the point of the video is that she can’t do what they do and is just being herself alongside performers she is sharing her stage with. Cultural appropriate is a real issue in pop music (and everywhere else) but I think that video is absolutely not an example of it and don’t understand why it’s constantly used as one.

  • Alcohol is a lot more dangerous and addictive than marijuana and the reasons it’s legal and socially acceptable are racist and classist and are not based in reality.

  • Tumblr and Instagram should do more (that is, literally anything) to fight pro-eating-disorder content on their platforms.

  • No one should feed me food with tomatoes in it, ever, ever, ever! (And I don’t want to hear about how I haven’t had a “real, good” tomato - those ones taste worse because they taste more like tomatoes!)

I'm married and polyam, but everyone I try to date gets too "weirded out"

I’m poly and have been for the past 3 years. My husband and I got married before I knew that’s what I wanted but no matter what I do, people I date keep dumping me because they say they’re too weirded out by it and the fact that I’m married is too much. I know there’s nothing I can do to change anyone’s mindsets or views on monogamy/non monogamy but what can I do to protect myself from taking this all to heart? I’m tired of getting dumped and hearing “you’re amazing but this is too weird.”

My two pieces of advice for you are: One, think about whether there’s a way you’re acting or talking that is setting off alarm bells for other people. Do you prioritize your marriage over everything? Stick to rigid “ground rules” that limit how you can connect with other people? Talk about your husband constantly? You may be able to mitigate some of the feeling of “weirdness” by making some adjustments in those areas.

Two, start actively seeking out people who are polyamorous and already understand non monogamy. You’re going to run into a lot of confusion and stigma if you are trying to meet people in the majority-monogamous parts of the population. Check out online dating, local polyam meetups, and my FAQ page on finding polyamorous people to date.

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.

I had a bad experience with polyamory, and am not sure if I want to try it again

My ex girlfriend was poly but didn’t communicate to me about her other partners and saw my discomfort and continued anyways. She would purposefully do this to hurt me and broke my heart. It really hurt me and I am scared to date anyone else who is poly. What should I do? I don’t want to be rude to poly people but I feel like my ex girlfriend kind of ruined the idea of me dating someone who identifies as poly. Can I get some advice please?

It’s totally okay for you to decide that, because you got burned by past experiences, you just don’t feel like dating polyamorously is right for you right now. You are not being “rude” to polyamorous people by not wanting to date us! You tried it, it didn’t work out for you, and you can act on the information you gathered. You are not obligated to be open to doing something that feels scary or just isn’t something you want to do! I give you full permission to not want another polyamorous relationship - there are plenty of monogamous people out there and you might be happier with one of them.

It’s also okay if you think you’d like to try polyamorous dating again, but with someone who isn’t going to be hurtful and bad at it. (Lots of people have horrible monogamous partners and are willing to date monogamously again with someone who’s better at it! You can decide that you don’t want your ex to have the “power” to “ruin” an entire area of relational experience for you.) Be gentle with yourself and start small! Hang out with polyamorous people without dating them, and just get a sense for what a healthy polyamorous relationship looks like. Read about healthy, functional polyamory, and think about what your “best case scenario” might look like. Be honest with potential partners about your ‘once bitten, twice shy’ situation and ask them to go slow and be gentle.

You don’t have to rush into being ready for another polyamorous relationship, or even another relationship period! Give yourself time to heal from that very painful relationship. Consider being open to a monogamous or polyamorous relationship, go at your own pace, relax, and let the right person come into your life. Keep trying things and be honest with yourself about what does and doesn’t work for you. If you’re struggling with a lot of difficult feelings after how your ex hurt you, talk to a therapist to get your feet back under you. Best of luck!

I told a good friend I've been considering trying polyamory, and they were nasty about it

Ok, so recently I’ve been considering trying polyamory, and told someone who I thought was a good friend but apparently because I’m interested in dating both a guy and a girl, (because I don’t want to ignore/erase anything about my bisexuality) I’m a slut. Don’t know whether to continue this friendship or end things. Help!

First, I have to point out that there are plenty of monogamous bisexuals, and they are not ignoring or erasing anything about their bisexuality by being with one partner. For some people, polyamory is part of their bisexuality or vice versa; and it sounds like that’s your experience - but be careful not to imply that monogamy “cancels out” bisexuality or that bisexuality necessitates non-monogamy. You want to be free to date people of multiple genders, and that’s a completely reasonable reason to be polyamorous, but it’s not an inherent property of bisexuality.

To answer your actual question: only you can decide whether this is a friendship you want to try and preserve. It’s a frustrating fact of life that people we’re close sometimes do and say things that hurt us. Sometimes the healthiest thing for us is to take space from that relationship to honor our own safety. Sometimes the healthiest thing is to try and take a communicative, restorative position and attempt to heal and resolve the issue.

If you want to end the friendship, that’s totally your right; you’re not obligated to stay close to someone who calls you names or shames your identity and choices. If you want to try and talk things out with this friend, let them know that you don’t appreciate being called a slut, and that you’re not asking them to be polyamorous yourself, but to be understanding and accepting of you. You can explain that you shared these thoughts with them because you hoped they would be safe and helpful, and then let them know what they can do, specifically, to be safe and helpful in the future.

You can also make space for their questions, confusion, or discomfort - just saying something ignorant doesn’t make someone an irredeemable bigot, so do your best not to be shaming or accusatory. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to be intentionally cruel, and are willing to try and understand if given another opportunity and a gentle nudge in the right direction. Be open and willing to explain how you feel and the truth of your bisexuality and non-monogamy, and be patient, since no one is going to get everything right all the time.

My partner has never dated a woman, or dated polyamorously, before - and she says stuff that makes me feel ashamed

I’m (F) in a polyamorous relationship with my husband and recently started dating a girl. She has never dated a woman before let alone one with a husband and she is very obviously struggling with this. Her friends aren’t supportive, she generally thinks all the wrong things about polyamory and what that means for her and I’m struggling to not feel shameful from her comments and feelings about it. She hasn’t broken it off with me but the shame is building inside me and I don’t know what to do!

Generally, if someone is in a relationship with someone who is acting and speaking in a way that makes them feel shame, my advice is to leave the relationship. It’s not your responsibility to try and educate someone out of ignorance if that ignorance is causing you personal pain.

That said, just because it isn’t your responsibility doesn’t mean you can’t decide to do it, if it sounds like something you’re willing to take on. Be open and clear with her: “Bethilda, when you say things like ‘you’ll never truly be all mine,’ it implies that you’re thinking of relationships in a possessive model, and that bothers me. I worry you feel like Dirkfell ‘owns’ me and you’re trying to ‘have’ some of me by taking me away from him. That’s a common way to think about relationships, but it’s now how I see myself and my relationships, and it’s not the best framing for what you and I, or Dirkfell and I, have together."

Then, follow it up by suggesting a re-framing. Don’t argue with how she feels, just explain your perspective and how that might help with some of the assumptions that are leading her to say and think those things. Try not to sound accusatory - “you’re wrong and you shouldn’t say these things because they make me feel bad” - frame it like you’re on her side and want to help her understand things in a clearer way, which could alleviate some of her confusion or fears. Consider pointing her to some resources - don’t just overwhelm her with links, send her one blog post that you think helps, or buy her one copy of a book and offer to read and discuss it with her.

Ultimately, though, being someone’s first same-sex partner, and/or someone’s first polyamorous partner, can be emotionally exhausting, as you help them untangle a lot of internalized shame, fear, confusion, and misunderstandings. Give yourself space, surround yourself with positivity, and be willing to set boundaries: “I know your friends are saying hurtful things to you, but it’s also painful for me when you repeat that judgmental stuff about our relationship back to me. I’m happy to answer your questions and support you, but I can’t just listen to you vent about someone else’s bigotry, because being exposed to bigotry sucks.”

My partner and I are emotionally and sexually close with a third person - what do we call this?

So my boyfriend and I are in a very committed relationship with each other, but there's this girl were kind of in, like, an open relationship with? (We'll call her E.) My bf and I are intimate with E, but only when the three of us are together. We kiss, cuddle, etc. We all love each other A LOT, but E is free to date/be intimate with whoever she wants without us. We don't consider ourselves in a "serious relationship," but we're way more than friends. Is this polyam or just complicated?

P.S. I apologize deeply if I misused any terms, and I did not at all mean to imply that polyam relationships are less serious than monogamous ones, I was referring to our situation individually when I said "we don't consider ourselves in a 'serious relationship.'" Sorry if that came off wrong!

There are more options in the world than “polyam” or “just complicated.” Because it doesn’t sound like your situation is “complicated” at all! It sounds like you all know what you want and how to get it, and that you’ve found a relationship arrangement that works for all parties involved. I wouldn’t call that “complicated” at all!

It’s up to you whether you want to identify your relationship as polyamorous. Here’s my FAQ page on that. If identifying as polyamorous helps you find language and resources to keep things happy and healthy, great! If it doesn’t seem relevant or necessary, great! You might also consider checking out Relationship Anarchy, which is a way of thinking about relationships that makes lots of space for different types of emotions, arrangements, etc. without trying to force them into pre-existing formats and boxes, including “polyamorous!” I’d say this is a pretty great example of RA, personally - people who know how they connect sexually and emotionally, and who don’t assume that those connections mean they have to do everything else a certain way. But I don’t decide what and who you are, you do!

I also really loved the sweet little postscript. It’s rare that I get hurt or offended by a letter-writer’s language (with some notable exceptions); I usually try to gently steer people toward a linguistic re-framing for their sake, not mine. I think it’s clear that you’ve thought intentionally and honestly about the language you use around “commitment” and “serious relationship” and how that applies to your relationship, which is probably one reason it’s working so well for you three. It’s good to recognize that your application of certain terms and ideas doesn’t generalize to other people, and to be considerate with your language. You’re good, letter-writer; keep on keeping on!

My partner's friends are telling her that being polyamorous with me sets her up for hurt and abandonment

I’m married to a man and poly with a woman as well. We just started dating and she said she told her best friends about me and my lifestyle and they freaked! They told her she is going to get hurt and that she should find someone else. I don’t know what to do without having support from the closest people in her life and I don’t want to be seen as a flight risk just because they don’t understand commitment and polyamory. I have no idea how to meet these people eventually without feeling hurt.

This is not actually an actionable problem for you right now. Some people you don’t know, but who know someone you’re close to, are being ignorant. There’s nothing you can do, or should try to do, about that.

Be there for your partner - she’s dealing with the pain of being judged and rejected by her friends. If she asks, help provide her with resources about coming out as polyamorous, or ways she can explain to her friends that what she’s doing is healthy and consensual. But if she doesn’t ask, leave the topic alone. Don’t try to argue with her friends through her.

She may be believing these people, and worrying about the security of your relationship with her. Do what you can to reassure her, through words and actions, that you are safe and committed. Answer her questions when they come up. Don’t get defensive or act like it’s her obligation to either change her friends’ minds, or shut out their opinions completely. Be open, reassuring, and loving.

There is a chance that if these people are adamant enough or close enough to her to be convincing, she could get freaked out and wants to take some distance or leave the relationship, that will be frustrating and painful for you, but even though she’s acting on wrong information that other people are telling her, it’s her choice to make.

Don’t worry so much yet about meeting these friends of hers who you know don’t approve of your place in her life. It doesn’t sound like she’s pushing for that, or like you’re all about to go on a cruise together. If you’re at a social gathering with them, be charming and sweet while keeping enough polite distance to protect your own feelings.

I feel wholly responsible for carrying the mental load of my entire polycule

I am the "glue" in my polycule (their words, not mine, though I agree with them), and it requires a LOT of emotional energy, scheduling, etc and I feel like the lot falls to me. When I'm low-energy, it feels like the polycule is in "danger" because I feel this pressure. I'm positive that other poly folk have felt this way! What do I do to cultivate my own security (cause this is a me problem)??

Wow, it’s been a while since I got a letter that could have been written by me. I totally feel you, Letter Writer! I’ve been there; I am there.

Part of it is recognizing where that desire and behavior comes from, for you. You mention security, and that’s a huge thing for me. (I’m an Enneagram 6, if that sort of thing helps you give language to the situation - my core need is to feel secure). I’m a Type A control freak, and planning everything is a great way to be in control, but then people get used to you planning things, and it can get exhausting. I try to recognize when I’m doing something because I genuinely enjoy it, and when I’m doing something out of a draining sense of obligation.

It’s okay to try to “wean” people off their social/emotional dependence on you. It’s hard, but totally worth it. Next time you’re feeling down, if people are over at your house, it’s totally okay to say “y’all are welcome to keep hanging out, I’m going to go lie down and have some me time. You know the wi-fi password and where to get drinks. Peace.” I’ve done that before, and the first few times it’s nerve-wracking, but it usually works out fine. And the more times it works out fine, the more reassured you can feel next time.

If people try to wheedle you back into doing the work, or seem lost and confused without you, hold your boundary and let them figure it out. Often, feeling responsible for the group’s cohesion is a self-fulfilling prophesy, and when you let yourself let go of that responsibility, people will be a bit directionless for a bit, then they’ll figure out how to manage themselves.

But be careful - when you do this, it can be very tempting to passively sabotage things to prove to yourself and everyone how critical but under-appreciated you are. Don’t just neglect to plan dinner and then wallow in how everyone will starve without you. Let your people know that you won’t be able to shop and cook, and that someone else will need to orchestrate dinner for movie night. But then, don’t hold their hand through it, making them a shopping list, texting them reminders to go to the store, and running out to get some backup snacks just in case. If it falls through, it won’t be your fault. Don’t play the “clearly you’re useless without me” martyr, just give some guidance about what it actually takes to plan, shop, and prep dinner.

You’ll need to be explicit about what you need them to step up and do. “Look, folks, I’m not feeling up to the task of choosing a board game, corralling everyone to play, and teaching it. But I also don’t want the evening to devolve into a boredom-mope-flop session. Can someone else please take point on organizing a board game?” Or, “There’s a 3-day weekend coming up, and I know some of us were talking about going camping. I don’t have it in me right now to find a camping spot, book the spot, organize carpools, make sure we have enough tents, and plan a grocery list. But I’ll show up to whatever y’all plan. Who’s willing to set this up?”

It will be an adjustment, because in many ways being the “glue” for a group of people feels good, and empowering, and letting go of that control means giving up some of the good with the bad. But if you’re clear and intentional about it, you can make that subtle shift.

I don’t know the gender makeup of your polycule, but this article does a good job articulating the sort of emotional and psychological labor that certain people end up doing to keep relationships and households running - it might help you find some language or definition for what you’re struggling with.

Some short, FAQ-answerable questions

my significant other recently came out as Poly to me. I understand them but while looking up what it means to be poly I found the term Polygamy I was wondering what it means because all the dictionary and google searches for its meaning say pretty much the same thing that its a marriage between more than two people. While searching I found the term Polygamist and I was wondering are Polygamy and polygamist the same thing? I don't want to offend them and you’re good at explaining stuff like this.

Polyamory and polygamy are not the same thing. Polyamory is a way of being in relationships that prioritizes consent, intentionality, and communication. Polygamy is the institution of plural marriage, typically associated with oppressive cults. You can read more about that here. The term you should be searching and reading about is “polyamory” - that should lead you into corners of the internet where you won’t be getting confused. Start with the resources here.

How can I find people who would actually like to be in a poly relationship?

Check my FAQ page on this here!

Hi! I was wondering if we could talk pm!

I’m sorry, but no. You can read about my policy here.

I've sent in several questions over the past year and not seen them answered. Is this a case of Tumblr eating them, or are you just really busy? How long is your queue? I love what you do and don't mean to complain. I'm just wondering.

I answer this here!

I think I might be poly but I'm not sure. As of right now I am happy in a mono relationship, but I do not think I would be opposed to being in a poly relationship. I have had crushes on more then one person at a time and even have one now while in a mono relationship I am happy in. What is your take on this, and do you have any advice on how I could figure this out?

Here’s my FAQ page on this!