My wife is in crisis, and citing a newfound desire for polyamory as part of it

My wife has depression and I’ve noticed she’s been feeling extra down lately so I sat her down to talk about it and she told me she’s polyamorous and has developed feelings for her friend at work. I have known her since we were kids and she has NEVER ever mentioned anything about this in that entire time. She also followed up with “I don’t want to have kids or to buy a house with you.” And I told her polyamory isn’t for me and I’m not willing to compromise on having children, but that I’m willing to give her some time to think about things and make sure we both know what we want etc. Then she started rubbing it in if she would talk to her coworker and saying hurtful things. And then she tried to kill herself so I had to take her to the hospital. And then she suddenly was like “I’m not poly, I never had feelings for her. I was just trying to push you away because I was depressed and wanted to kill myself hope you can forgive me also let’s have a baby.” My head is spinning. I’m so confused. I love her so much and only want what is best for her but she also just broke my heart. I don’t know what to do to take care of her or what to believe right now. It almost feels like she’s either afraid of the change this would bring her life or maybe she’s just being a jerk and using polyamory as a scapegoat. I don’t know I’m having trouble seeing this clearly.

This is not a situation where the core issue is polyamory, it’s a situation where the core issues are safety and mental health. Your wife is clearly in a very disordered pattern of thought and behavior - from the suicide attempt to the bizarre back-and-forth with you. It sounds like she is dealing with a lot of fear, pain, and confusion about her present life and the possibilities for her future. This is not something you can resolve on your own or with the help of an internet advice blog.

Start working with professionals immediately - she absolutely needs to be working with a therapist after her suicide attempt, and you should work with your own therapist, and the two of you should also see a couples therapist. I know it sounds expensive and time-consuming to see three separate professionals, but it will be much more disastrous to skip that healing work and go into parenthood or property ownership with these issues unresolved. Talk to the hospital where she was after her attempt; they often have outpatient programs, social workers, or other resources that can help the two of you access mental health care. You can also check out support groups and other resources for loved ones of suicide attempt survivors or other people in crisis.

Whatever you do, do not make any large scale commitments like opening the relationship, buying a house, or having a baby! Don’t worry so much about figuring out exactly what the right call is for the future or exactly what her true intentions and motives were. Drop the issues of parenthood, home ownership, polyamory, etc. Focus instead on getting your feet back under you, listen to the professionals in your life, and remember that she herself might not have a clear understanding of why she’s doing and saying these things. Mental illness and suicidal ideations are incredibly complex and difficult; it’s not that she is “just being a jerk” - though it’s important for you to honor when her behavior was hurtful to you and unacceptable.

Take time and space and focus on healing. Be willing to acknowledge your own needs and boundaries - you’ve been hurt a lot, and it is not healthy or productive for you to try and repress your own feelings because hers are louder or more acute. It might turn out that this is the beginning of the end of your relationship, and it’s okay to reach that conclusion based on the information in front of you. It may be that you two need to take some space from each other, or that she needs to make some serious life changes to facilitate her recovery. I am so sorry that you and your wife are going through this; you have my support and best wishes.

My partner insists on dating other people, which makes me miserable

my girlfriend cheated on me with one of our friends. she told me before she cheated that she had feelings for him, but i told her i was not comfortable with it because i am mono and feel horrible about the idea of her with someone else but she kissed him anyways. she now has decided she is dating both of us without my consent. i really do not want to leave our relationship, we both love each other so much and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and i feel like leaving would endanger both mine and her lives. she is not mentally stable but sees a therapist. i don't know what to do, because she says she needs both of us to be happy, but if that happens i’m going to be increasingly depressed. i’m just so lost right now and there doesn’t seem to be any way to solve this.

Your partner cheated on you, is trying to force you into polyamory without your consent, and is holding your emotions hostage by saying that you being happy is a "need" that somehow she deserves to have met. You know that staying in this relationship on these terms will make you "increasingly depressed." Friend, you've got to leave this relationship.

What you want to keep is your ideal, best-case-scenario possibility of this relationship, not the reality of it. What you're holding onto doesn't exist anymore. The sooner you get out, the sooner you can start healing.

It is not okay, and not healthy, to be held hostage to implied, or explicit, threats of suicide. You are not obligated to stay with someone just because their mental health would be impacted by you leaving. It's okay to call your partner's therapist and see if they can help you and her through this; or to ask your partner if you can come to a session with her. You also absolutely need to see someone yourself - please find a therapist asap. Reach out to friends for support. Don't get dragged into a spiral of managing her mental health for her; if she threatens self-harm or suicide, connect her to her therapist, a hotline, or a friend, and then take space. 

Check out my mental health resources here, and good luck getting out of this situation. You don't deserve to feel so trapped and unhappy.

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Thank you for all your advice. I am in a polyamorous relationship and insecurity comes up a lot for me. I realize that the more I work on building my confidence the smoother things are for me. Do you have any tips on dealing with insecurity?

Therapy! I should probably get a tattoo across my forehead that says “You too can benefit from therapy!” (Actually, my therapist says I shouldn’t do that.) If you have the resources, find a therapist - ideally a poly friendly one - and work with them on confidence and insecurity!

If you don’t have the resources, you can try other things, like online therapy, self-help books and workbooks, or counseling programs through your employer or school. Yoga and meditation, done with the intention of building your sense of security and confidence, can also do wonders. 

Try to dig down to find the root of your insecurity. Did an earlier trauma leave you with a fear of abandonment? Are you a perfectionist who worries you’ll never be good enough or lovable enough? (If so, read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown). Are you caught in a pattern of interpreting your partner’s behavior as coded clues that they secretly hate you? (The CBT/DBT skill of separating ‘fact’ from ‘story’ is helpful with that.) Once you know what wound you’re healing, you can look for therapists, meditations, books, etc. that specifically address that issue.

Being aware of your insecurity and wanting to heal it is a huge first step. You should be proud of yourself for doing the self-work to be your best, healthiest self. Good luck!

Mental Health Resources

Polyamory & Mental Health resource list!

I am finally getting around to making some resource lists for this blog!

I get a lot of questions about mental health/mental illnesses and polyamory, and I’m always telling people to seek therapy, but I never do much to point them in the right direction!

So here is a list of polyamory related mental health resources! Everything from finding a poly friendly therapist to self-help worksheets on issues relating to polyamory. Plus, lots of non-poly-specific mental health resources as well. 

Now I have a one-stop-shop I can point people to when they ask me a question relating to mental healthy and polyamory. You’re welcome, future me!

I’m grey-ace and poly. my partner has bpd and is adverse to being open even though they pushed for us to be poly when I wasn’t ready. now I’m finally at a place where I can open my heart to others, but they are extremely jealous. what should I do?

There’s a lot going on here. If your partner pushed you to do something you weren’t ready for, that’s a red flag and something that needs to be addressed.

When a partner deals with borderline personality disorder, all the communication processes and healthy practices required for polyamory can be difficult, but are all the more necessary and rewarding. If they are seeing a therapist, I recommend you ask them to work on this in therapy, and even offer to attend a few sessions. Ask for some concrete things you can do (usually DBT techniques) to help them manage their jealousy and the fears that jealousy might stem from. Shit Borderlines Do has a great collection of resources on BPD, including a section on relationships.

If your partner’s jealousy can’t be handled in a healthy way such that you two can be polyamorous in a way that meets everyone’s emotional needs, your choice is to stay monogamous, or break up if being mono is a dealbreaker for either of you. Realizing that polyamory doesn’t work for you isn’t a failure, it doesn’t mean you were wrong - it’s totally okay to try things out, and it’s important to be honest with yourself about whether it’s working!

Overall im excited and happy about my poly relationship, sometimes ill get in a real sad dark place. Happens maybe once every few of months but i cant shake. Is this occasional depression and regret normal? Should i care since it’s so infrequent?

I’m not a trained psychiatrist, but I think it’s pretty common for people’s moods to fluctuate over the course of months. If you find that these sad, dark places are something you can’t tolerate, or you’re afraid you’ll do lasting damage to yourself or your relationships while you’re in one, I strongly suggest you talk to a doctor or therapist about these waves of depression.

Journaling can also help you get to the bottom of what’s happening. If you’re a person who gets periods, you might find that the hormone fluctuations before or during menstruation often trigger these bouts of depression. Or, they might happen when you’ve been stressed or after something affects your sleep, diet, or other parts of your routine. They may be tied to weather, stressors from your job, or something else.

Or, they may truly come out of nowhere - the mind is a mysterious and sometimes frustrating thing. But paying attention to when and how these moods show up, what they feel like, how long they last, and what helps you get through/out of them can really help.

And if you find that these depressions are exclusively focused on issues with your poly relationship, I’d encourage you to figure out what is bothering you during those periods and discuss it with your partner(s). You may have some unresolved problems or unmet needs that surface when you don’t have the mental energy to keep them at bay, and addressing them can help ward off these eruptions of sadness.

Good luck!