I'm dating someone who's polyamorous, and can't help feeling unhappy about his other partner

Hello! I'm a 16 year old woman dating an 18 year old man, while he is also dating a 25 year old woman. I've been in love with this man for almost 2 years now. We've been technically together for about 8 months, but he has been dating the other partner for 6 months. I'm new with polyamory and I keep finding my self jealous whenever he usually talks about her. He reassures me constantly about how he loves us the same, but I still can't hide the jealousy. The other woman, I'll call her Jane for now, is a very nice and great person! I just can't escape the fact that I don't want them to be together because I'm constantly jealous, the age difference, and so on. He makes me so happy I can't imagine my life without him. But I also don't feel too happy about Jane. I'm very scared to tell him.

It sounds like maybe polyamory just isn’t for you! You like this guy, you even like his other partner, but the arrangement at its core doesn’t feel good. That’s okay! 

This is why I will continue to hold to my point that for some people, monogamy or polyamory is an orientation, something at the core of who they are, and not just a choice they can rationalize themselves into. Everything here is healthy, but it’s just not working for you. 

You may love this guy, and really want to be with him, but sometimes things get in the way of being with people. That’s life, that’s dating. Sometimes you’ll find yourself falling for someone who only dates other vegans, and sees your meat-eating as an irreconcilable difference, but you’re not willing to make such a drastic lifestyle change, and so it doesn’t work out. Sometimes you’ll develop a massive crush on a friend who only dates men. Or who is moving to Alaska next month.  

If this relationship makes you feel jealous and "not too happy,” it’s not the right relationship for you. It sounds like right now, you’d be happiest in a monogamous relationship. It’s awesome that you took the leap to try polyamory - but at your age, the point of dating is mostly data gathering, learning what you like and don’t like, learning who you are in relationships. So this has been a resounding success on that front! You got to sample healthy polyamory, and discovered that it isn’t for you. It’s now on you to act on that new knowledge.

Hello. I’m fourteen and in a polyamorous relationship (As in, I’m with two people of the same sex as me, and they both know and consent even though they don’t personally have feelings for each other). However, I’ve been seeing articles and such that claim that being poly is a lie and that I should be ashamed of myself for being ‘slutty’. How can I help get those thoughts out of my mind?

First off, stop reading those articles!!! I don’t know where you’re hanging out online or in real life where you’re encountering those attitudes, but start minimizing your exposure to them if at all possible. You are under zero obligation to put yourself in the ‘line of fire’ of statements that make you feel ashamed. If someone is going out of their way to put those ideas in front of you, that person is being cruel and unsafe and you are well within your rights to minimize contact with them, block or unfollow them, etc. 

Second, start filling your mind instead with poly-positivity! Read articles, forums, blogs, and other content that is affirming and healthy for you. Start with some of these links, and branch out from there. If you use tumblr, instagram, reddit, facebook, etc. search for poly-positive tags, groups, and users and create a safe space for yourself! Read books and watch movies that are poly-positive! Check out the resources here to start. 

Third, find ways to help yourself heal from the damage that has already done by those nasty things you read. It is okay to be who you are, and your relationship is not a lie. It is okay to be “slutty,” so if that is something that resonates with you, feel free to take pride, not shame, in that label! But if that doesn’t resonate with you, feel free to completely reject that label. Simply being in a polyamorous relationship does not make you “slutty.” No one else gets to tell you who you are. No one else gets to say that because of your choices or relationships, that you are wrong or bad or should be ashamed. I answered a similar question here, which includes some other suggestions for how to heal from anti-poly and poly-shaming nonsense.

Congrats on finding a relationship that is healthy and happy and working for you! Know that there will always be people out there who disapprove of what you do, whether it’s “getting an art degree” or “adopting a dog from a kill shelter” or “being a millennial” or whatever. The reality is that no matter who you are or what you do, there will always be someone out there writing thinkpieces about how you are bad and wrong for doing whatever it is that you do. Try to let it go. Other people are welcome to have their dumb opinions, but you don’t have to agree or even engage. 

I’m 15 years old and in a polyamorous triad. I recently came out to my mom about it, and I think she’s… really disappointed. She even told me, “I don’t to hear anything about it.” I don’t know what to do anymore. This is tearing me up inside. Do you have any advice on what I should do? I don’t want my mom to ignore this about me, but I don’t want to disappoint her! I’m at the point where I’m wondering if I should break up with my partners

You don’t want your mom to be disappointed with you, or ignore a part of your identity that’s important to you, but I think that falls in the category of “unpleasant things to cope with” rather than “circumstances within your power to change.” Sometimes, “I don’t want this” is a signal that you need to change something. Other times, “I don’t want this” is a signal that you need to figure out how to deal with it. All this to say: your mom’s feelings are something you need the serenity to accept, not something you need the courage to change. And like they say, there is wisdom in knowing the difference. (I wrote about this here.)

If you’re worried about your own safety while you live with your parents, that’s a different issue. But if she’s just using emotional manipulation to make you feel ashamed for who you are and how you live a healthy, fulfilling life with healthy relationships, try to let go of that. She can throw as many tantrums as she wants. It’s your choice to live your own life and be your own person. It’s her choice whether to accept that. You do not exist to please your mother. You are your own person. Don’t break up with your partners just because you living your truth is bumming your mom out.

Same goes for any teenager whose parents are sulking, guilt-tripping, or otherwise engaging in ‘emotional terrorism’ to get you to: stop being gay, grow your hair out, pursue a law degree, tolerate boundary-violations, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s good to recognize when your actions hurt someone and commit to stopping your hurtful behavior! If someone is upset with you because you violated a boundary or did something hurtful, by all means, apologize and stop doing that thing. But being who you are does not fall under that category. Your relationship doesn’t hurt other people. In this case, her “disappointment” is her problem, not your fault.

I know how painful it can be to feel like you’re responsible for your parent’s emotional wellbeing. I know how strong the sense of obligation is. I know how easily it is to conflate “mom is upset” with “I did something wrong.” But you have not done anything wrong. You’re getting to an age where you’re going to end up making plenty of choices that your parents might not want you to make. It will be emotionally messy, because they will make it emotionally messy. But stand strong. Say “Mom, this is who I am and what makes me happy. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t like it, but this is my choice to make.“ Focus on grieving the fact that you didn’t get a mom who can accept and embrace all of who you are, rather than fighting to change something about her or yourself. 

Hi um I’m 13 and I’ve just started thinking that I might be poly, but I feel like I would only be okay if it was, say, a group of 3 people all dating each other, not like dating two people separately? Idk how this works really but I’ve seen it being a thing where the partners are completely separate? But I don’t think I’d like that? Also I think I would be okay in a mono relationship as well? Like if I loved the person I was with and they weren’t comfortable with it? Is all of this okay?

Dating multiple people who are all dating each other is called polyfidelity, and specific arrangements are called a a triad (3 people) or quad (four people), and so forth. It is okay to identify as polyamorous and only want polyfidelity! It’s a good thing to know what you want and be able to speak that.

It is also okay to identify as polyamorous and also be okay in a monogamous relationship! Being able to be happy, healthy and fulfilled in a polyamorous or a monogamous relationship is very possible, and very much okay. All of this is okay - you are you, and you are okay. 

Know that, at thirteen, a lot of your self is still developing and being discovered. It is very okay to identify one way, then realize something else is more accurate later. It is very okay to try out different relationships and identities and let go of the ones that don’t work for you. Let yourself grow and learn! Take pride in who you are now, but don’t become so entrenched in who you are at thirteen that you aren’t able to learn and try new things!

Some people figure out who they are at thirteen and it doesn’t change much, and other people see their identities grow and shift as they get older and have new experiences. Both are very normal, and very okay. At every stage in your life and relationships, check in with yourself: are you happy and healthy? are you safe and secure in your relationships? If so, you’re fine. Take care of yourself, let you be you, and the words for who and what you are will come.

Hi! I’m pretty young, I’ve never been in a relationship before, and I think I’m probably poly. If I do get into a relationship, how would I ask if the other person is comfortable with that and, like, if they would be interested in forming a triad? Also, do you know of any places online to meet other poly people? And do you know of any books/TV shows/movies with a poly main character? Thanks!

How would you ask? By asking! There’s no special trick to that - you just gotta take a deep breath and make the words come out. “Hey, the way I prefer to be in relationships looks like XYZ - how do you feel about that?” Have that conversation early on, and be upbeat but honest about what you need. Make space for them to ask questions and share their thoughts.

I have a whole FAQ page about finding poly people to date! If you’re young enough that you’re looking into colleges, consider a more liberal college known for being LGBTQ+ friendly and not sexually conservative!

Unfortunately, I have had a hell of a time finding positive, accurate representations of polyamory in fiction. (I initially thought Parks and Rec was doing it with April and her boyfriends, but they whiffed on that one pretty hard.) Your best bet for finding media with poly characters is Poly In The Media, a really well curated blog. Here is a Goodreads list of books and an IMDB list of movies with poly relationships, but I can’t vouch for any of them in particular.

I’m a 15 year old demisexual girl and I’ve never been in a real relationship before. I’ve just discovered polyamory and I feel like I might be poly. But I’m not sure and I don’t know a lot about it and it sounds really right in my heart. I’m not sure and I need help learning more about it.

Most 15 year olds have never been in a “real relationship” yet. You’re definitely in the majority there!

There are tons of resources out there to learn about polyamory! You can find a bunch of them on my poly resources page here. There lots of resources online that you can read, and I also strongly recommend the books listed there as well! If you don’t have the ability to order books on Amazon, you can ask a local librarian to help you out with that.

It can feel daunting to just jump feet-first into a whole whirl of information, though, especially since much of it is aimed at adults and has a focus on things like sex, marriage, health insurance, parenting, and other stuff you may not be interested in at 15. So here are some things to start you off:

Remember that you don’t need to pin down your identity and carve it in stone at 15! This is an age to get to know yourself, experiment, figure out what works for you, try new things, make mistakes, try more things, and have a lot of fun. Put yourself first, do what feels good, and you’ll find your way!

I am an 18 year old bisexual female that has never been in a relationship or engaged in anything sexual. However, I’ve always been intrigued by polyamory and sexual freedom (including threesomes). Being that I have relatively no experience, how would you suggest I go about exploring polyamory? Is it something to wait until I gain some background with at least one monogamist relationship? I’m ready to be sexually adventurous in college but I’m afraid my virginity will be a hindrance.

Way, way, way more people will be headed off to college as virgins. That does not prevent you from being sexually adventurous in college. I was a virgin when I went off to college. I was quite sexually adventurous in college. That is really common. You are not at any disadvantage in this, trust me. 

Monogamy is not polyamory with training wheels on, and polyamory is not an advanced level of relationship that you need to complete prerequisites for. The best way to explore polyamory is…to explore polyamory. Do your homework on what it means for you to be poly, then be open with potential partners. You can start being actively poly in your own way. I learned about polyamory my freshman year, from a boy I was interested in. He was only a year older than me, and had come into his poly identity somehow. He lent me a copy of The Ethical Slut. He was very cute and into anarchist philosophy. Let’s just say we learned a lot from each other.

College is a place where many people are starting their sexual adventures, and everyone is unsupervised for the first time, and there is lots of flirting and partying and sleepovers and general sexual experimentation. Unless you’re going to a college with a culture known for being straight-laced and traditional, you will not lack willing partners for whatever you’d like to experiment with. Be safe, be healthy, and have fun. 

im underage and poly, i never dated before but im way more comfy with the idea of poly (principally 3date). Im actually bi/pan sexual but if i ever found a partner i dont want this to be problematic, but is very complicated. Help?

Why are you concerned that being bi or pan would be problematic for people you want to date? It is totally possible to be bi or pan and polyamorous! Being a person in the world with feelings and relationships is complicated - who you are doesn’t add any unsurmountable new complications. 

You’re young, and you already know a lot about who you are and what you want, which is a great foundation. Think about what kind of “complications” you are worried about in the future, and work on developing the skills, tools, and vocabulary to help you navigate those situations in a healthy way. All you can do is be your best self. Complications will arise for everyone, no matter who they are, and all you can do is respond to them with strength, grace, and honesty.

Many people ask “How can I talk about polyamory to the person I like?” and I know the answer is communication. The problem is that I am 17 and kids my age aren’t very open minded. How can I tell a guy/girl what I like without being bullied?

I work with teens, and I can confirm that while they do tend to rebel against the status quo in many ways, teenagers actually do tend to be more conservative when it comes to things like gender roles, homophobia, etc. Online, you may find many young people who have very open minds, but the average teenager right now tends to have pretty rigid attitudes about how relationships should be.

There is no surefire way to prevent people from bullying you, and there is no guarantee that you can explain polyamory to a peer of yours and have them understand. Dating polyamorously in a culture that is hostile to it - whether it’s due to age, politics, religion, or another demographic - can be very difficult.

My advice to you is to read up on polyamory and develop a strong sense of yourself as a young poly person, so you are prepared to explain and perhaps defend yourself when people ask you questions. You may want to have some quick definitions and examples ready to pull out, and some “Poly 101″ resources to share with people who are more interested.

As a student, you can also use that to your advantage - if an assignment permits, you may be able to do research on healthy nonmonogamy and present it to your classmates! You could also see if there is an LGBTQ+ club on your campus that you could partner with to raise awareness about polyamory and host events for any student interested in “alternative” (as much as I hate that term) relationships.

When you like someone, it’s okay to be clear about what you’re interested in - “I want to date you, but also be able to date other people. It’s called polyamory, and I’m happy to answer your questions about it!” They might say they’re not okay with it, which is their right. But hopefully anyone worthy of your affection isn’t someone who will turn around and bully you over that. And if people do, keep your head up and know that as soon as you get into your late teens and early twenties, your world will open up to include a lot more people familiar with, and down for, polyamorous relationships.

So im 13 and pan and recently ive realized that hey im open to poly relationships and i want to have one but i also am open yo mono relationships? Im thinking that i might be poly but i keep asking myself if im too young to know that? and im doubting myself but i really would and want to be in a poly relationship? Idk

When I was thirteen, I was an atheist. Now, I am a person of faith.

When I was thirteen, I had zero interest in sex. My sexuality kicked in at about 19, and now I love sex.

When I was thirteen, I took lots of pride in “not being like other girls.” Now, I embrace my femininity and challenge internalized misogyny.

When I was thirteen, I absolutely loved Fall Out Boy. Now, I still love Fall Out Boy. They are an awesome band.

My point is this: who you are at thirteen is who you are at thirteen. It may not be who you are permanently. And that’s okay! Give yourself room and space to grow. Find a balance between claiming and owning your identity in the present, and not locking yourself into it for the rest of forever.

If you could see yourself in a mono or a poly relationship, that’s great! It could be that you’re one of those people who would be happy and fulfilled in either arrangement. Or, you might explore them both a bit more and find out that one works better for you than the others.

You’re young! Now is the time to experiment. Date people, hang out with people, get to know people. Get to know yourself, too! You don’t have to have everything figured out right now, but you also don’t have to reject any claim to identities because you’re young. Let yourself be you, live your most fulfilling life, and embrace learning and growth.

I’m a Senior in High School and feel secure in being Pan and Poly. Problem is, I haven’t dated since elementary school, which doesn’t really count in my opinion, and I don’t really know anything about dating in general, never mind as a young, queer woman. I’d like to explore that before I graduate, but I’m not sure exactly how to start.

Honestly, you can’t really set a deadline on dating. It might not happen before you graduate - you can’t force it no matter how badly you want it. And you may find that moving on from high school, whether it’s to college, a job, travel, the military, etc. without trying to maintain a high school relationship is easier in many ways.

There is no rule that you have to have your first dating relationship before you graduate high school. Many people don’t, and you won’t be at a disadvantage or get left behind in knowledge or experience. It can easy to feel rushed or pressured, especially when it seems like everyone else is dating or if you think there is something you need to be learning that you’re not. But trust me, everyone’s dating life moves at its own pace.

But it’s totally understandable to want to start dating now that you feel ready and while you’re still in high school. The best thing to do, in my experience, is to be yourself, be patient, and be open to experiences as they come. Join clubs or activities where you can meet people who share your interests. Cultivate the boldness and courage it takes to ask someone out if you’re interested! Learn to let go of the fear and desperation that can come with rejection - because everyone actively seeking to date will experience that.

And there’s plenty you can learn about dating without having to be actively practicing yourself. Read up about healthy relationships, safe and consensual sex, setting boundaries, self-love and self-esteem. Learn about yourself and what you need in relationships. Masturbate, read erotics, and/or do other things to help you explore what your sexual fantasies and interests are. Think critically about the subtle lessons you’ve been taught about relationships. Tend to your non-dating relationships, because close friendships are just as important as romance. Read narratives by other queer women. Try to let go of any hard deadline to start dating and enjoy the journey you’re on. You’ll get where you want to be. I promise.

Here are some resources:

Good luck!