Advice – I am struggling with my husband’s girlfriend who moved into our house.

My husband and I have been married about 10 years. We’ve been completely open to the idea of polyamory the entire time. Each of us has seen others before, but never for long periods of time. We’ve done a few things as sex only with others as well. Some separate, some together.

A little over a year ago my husband met someone (before COVID19) and they hit it off really well. I liked her, and she seemed to get along well with the kids and such. I loved the fact that my husband was smiling more, and just seemed happier. I know that he doesn’t get AS much attention from me sometimes as we have kids, I have a job, etc… So it was great to see, and I loved him being in a great mood.

Over the summer she moved in (probably sooner than she should but COVID19 kind of screwed up all sorts of things…). I did everything I could to make her feel welcome, even made sure she got enough sleeping time next to him so she didn’t feel left out. This is what we’d really been talking about for years, so putting it all together seemed like a “finally!”

Well not too long after I started feeling very out of place in my own home. I felt almost like a third wheel, like I was just getting in the way. I chatted with them and we all started making changes.

Then I started to get to know her more and realized some of her beliefs are FAR off from mine, or what I would consider a decent human being to believe. I was really thrown off and got pretty mad. I talked to my husband about it because I couldn’t believe he would want to date someone like that. He said that we all see the world differently and as long as she isn’t pushing her opinions on others it was fine.

I also told him her anger issues were going to drive me bonkers. She goes from 0-60 in seconds and sometimes over things I can’t even understand. I feel like I am walking on thin sheets of glass trying to not get them to break while I am around her. Making my decisions based on what won’t piss her off.

Fast forward a few more months. She gets more comfortable, starts reprimanding the kids (more harshly than I), even before I can start a sentence to stop them doing what they are doing.

I finally realized how she REALLY makes me feel. It’s like I am in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone I’m not even in a relationship with! And as someone that has been in a horrid relationship even worse than this, it’s really hard.

Part of me wants this to work. I want my husband happy. I like the extra effort of help around the house. And she and I DO get along often, go shopping (ish… COVID19), watch TV shows, etc… and she CAN be great with the kids. But the other part of me is SO SAD. I am emotionally exhausted. I want my husband back, but I am terrified he will stop being happy. I want my house back. I don’t want to make all my decisions based on others.

I’ve talked to my husband about it so many times. I hate continuing to bring it up. I think he’s blinded by a new relationship as well as the fact that he doesn’t think exactly like I do.

Am I just being selfish? Am I overreacting? I mean I DO have mental health issues (anxiety, PTSD) that maybe are blinding my view. Is there a way for someone like me to fix this? I’m so stuck at this roadblock feeling like there is no good option to make. Kicking her out would be a huge mess. She’s so integrated into our lives. And what if he goes back to not being as happy as he is now? (Keep in mind we have realized the things we as a couple need to work on since this started and are doing that. So HOPEFULLY we wouldn’t go back to exactly the way we were, even though where we were wasn’t BAD.) What if he resents me? I don’t want him to have to go through such a loss.

Please someone give me some feedback.

Munchkin Goggles, Reddit.

Dear Munchkin Goggles,

It sounds like you have been doing an immense amount of behind-the-scenes emotional labor associated with not just the changes in your relationship with your husband but his new partner who moved in rather quickly due to the pandemic circumstances. Imbedded in that transition is a multitude of loss – a loss of the pre-pandemic family life, a loss of ability to authentically occupy your space, a loss of control over your emotional landscape. It is important to acknowledge the underlying grief in those losses and transitions.

The pandemic in and of itself contributes heavily to the emotional exhaustion we all feel. We are currently in the middle of a global traumatic event that will determine much of our adulthood, well past the end of 2020. Constant risk assessment, everyday effusion of mortality, and the uncertainty of the post-pandemic future is both an active and a passive drain on our emotional reserves.

One of the other reasons you feel that way is because you unfortunately have very little agency in your husband’s relationship with his girlfriend. Even if your husband’s girlfriend is emotionally abusive, you can only limit your own and your children’s engagement with his girlfriend, which is obviously further limited in scope by the current shared living space.

Another reason you feel that way is because of how his relationship reflects on your husband. You said that neither of you had serious long-term partners even though you’ve been doing non-monogamy for some time. And deeply embedded in your exhaustion is the dissociation around why he chose someone who is so different from who you are. Internally reconciling that moral and philosophical difference takes time and energy, even if unaccounted for.

I sincerely hope that you can find some restorative space to heal and recover when you aren’t busy being a great mother to your children, a great partner to your husband, and a great pup-parent to your dog.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

We must also discuss how you envision your parenthood directly conflicts with the role your metamour has taken on in such a short amount of time.

As you have experienced, intermixing polyamory with childrearing intensely complicates both polyamory and childrearing. It is why many polyfolks decide to hold off on introducing any new partners to their children until the relationship has solidified. It helps to create a buffer between their love lives and their family lives. You did not specify what type of previous discussions you and your husband have had about the possibility of a polycule household. But it is evident that maintaining a poly household has been very different in practice than in theory. And it is clear that you’ve gathered quite a bit of present evidence on how your landscape might look in the future.

In the process of gathering evidence, you have outlined several points of data that seem to indicate that your husband’s partner might not be a great fit for how you want to raise your children. In specific, stepping in to reprimand your children even before you – their mother – have had an opportunity to intervene reflects a major disconnect between how different you, your husband, and your metamour each envision her role as it pertains to your children. It is also very, very important to note that she has only had a couple months of seeing how you and your husband parent together. That is nowhere near enough time to study how she fits into a possible co-parenting role. Unless you’ve had an extensive discussion about the role your metamour was to take on in regards to childrearing, it might have felt so disempowering and upsetting to see someone new significant disrupt your parenting style.

Another thing to consider is that children quickly absorb the personal values and worldviews of those around them, especially if they are trusted adults. You did not clarify how vast the moral differences were between you and your metamour. But we as parents absolutely need to be mindful of the values we surround our children with, especially if those values could be harmful to their maturation and growth.

Another important point of note is how she behaves around your dog.

You mentioned that she hit your dog. Similar to the disconnect in your respective childrearing philosophies, that disconnect clearly extends to your respective pet-rearing philosophies.

Many researches show that “using harsh punishment based techniques to change behaviour is frequently counterproductive.” One of the reasons why pain- and stress-based training regiment fails is because high levels of chronic stress greatly inhibits a pet’s ability to learn and retrieve memories. This is one of the reasons why many current obedience training revolves around positive reinforcement and positive habit forming. You mentioned that she treats her own dog this way, and that too is not a good sign for things to come. It just merely reinforces that what happened with your dog was not an aberration but a continuing pattern of behavior that is incompatible with how you want to raise your pets.

Most importantly, it is not your metamour’s responsibility to train or reprimand your own dog, much like it is not your metamour’s responsibility to educate or parent your own children. She didn’t have a say in adopting your dog. That responsibility falls on you and your husband’s alone. And it is clear that your metamour has overstepped both pet-rearing and childrearing boundaries.

One of the concepts that come up often in this column – and with polyamory in general – is the role and responsibilities of a hinge partner.

Inter-relational conflicts commonly appear as metamour problems, rather than as hinge partner problems because an improper or inexperienced hinge partner can perpetuate those issues. It is a hinge partner’s role and responsibility to facilitate and manage their multiple relationships.

No two people will see eye-to-eye on every single issue. What is more important is to consider if your respective perspectives are close enough that you can arrive to a compromise with your metamour. It is especially challenging in this case because not only do you and your husband need to compromise on each of your respective parenting styles, but also need to compromise with your metamour’s parenting style as well.

I am very, very curious what your husband’s reaction was to discovering that his girlfriend hit his dog and reprimanded his kids in such a way.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that your husband – as a hinge partner – has failed to properly step up to do what was expected of him. There is a world of difference between recognizing the difference in each person’s view and quite another perpetuating the difference in each person’s worldview. The first acknowledges and celebrates the differences and the second breeds unnecessary contempt and conflict. It can be difficult to stay grounded in the midst of NRE, but he absolutely needs to step more into the role of a father, a pet owner, and a hinge partner to enforce proper boundaries, to renegotiate conflicting agreements, and to set the tempo for how his household is run. Doing anything less than that is naive at best, neglectful at worst.

That was all a really long way of saying that You Are Not Overreacting.

Underneath that initial layer of guilt and self-shame lies the ever-present ambivalence. Clearly, there are some positive aspects to your husband’s relationship (“I loved him being in a great mood.”) as well as her presence bringing obvious benefits (“I like the extra effort of help around the house.”). But it is brought down by a deep-rooted resentment for her general disrespect for your previously established boundaries in a home that you have already nested in. That resentment is anchored around your emotional exhaustion, which then feeds into your difficulty around actively addressing problems in your poly household through your hinge partner.

This is just one part of your emotional burnout.

In his groundbreaking 1974 study, Herbert J. Freudenberger identified three major components of emotional burnout: emotional exhaustion, decreased sense of accomplishment, and depersonalization. We have already talked extensively about your emotional exhaustion, but there are also signs of other two components as well.

Specifically, “decreased sense of accomplishment” is manifesting in the disempowerment in your own relationship with your husband. It could be that your reticence to bring this up again with your husband is because you see so little improvement or changes. It is also manifesting in the perceived lack of control over your own decisions (“I’m so stuck at this roadblock feeling like there is no good option to make.“). The “depersonalization” on the other hand is manifesting through the depletion of empathy and detachment you feel towards your own place in your home (“Well not too long after I started feeling very out of place in my own home.“).

Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Now that we have fully fleshed out what you are experiencing, let’s finally talk about what you can do.

In a recent episode of Unlocking Us, Brene Brown interviewed Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski about emotional burnout and the process of completing the stress cycle. I strongly recommend that you give that episode a listen. In that episode, they discussed that removing the stressor doesn’t mean the stress cycle is complete. So even if your stressor – your metamour in this case – moves out, that doesn’t mean your stress cycle is complete. You are still in the middle of your stress cycle.

The only way a stress cycle is completed is through fully experiencing the breadth of the emotions that accompany the stress itself. It can be as simple as a twenty second hug from a loved one, or as intense as going on a run. Sometimes, competing your stress cycle can look like scream-cry during a solo drive, a routine yin yoga with plenty of breathing exercises, or a creative expression such as writing a 2700-word advice column for a complete stranger. Whatever it is, it is very important to allow yourself to complete the cycle of your internalized stress.

In addition to completing your stress cycle, I also advise you to outline what you have experienced and engage in a meaningful conversation about how this past year has gone. 2021 is finally upon us. So take time to revisit how 2020 has gone, outline what did & didn’t work in 2020, and lay out what your goals & expectations are for the brand new 2021. That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone has to move out, de-escalate, or end their relationships.

But it does mean that things can no longer simply continue as is.

Lastly, I want to touch on this comment (“Kicking her out would be a huge mess. She’s so integrated into our lives.“). This is a simple manifestation of the sunk cost fallacy. It is a false narrative we tell ourselves. Just because we have already invested so much time and energy into something doesn’t mean that it needs to continue even as it is no longer a fulfilling or rewarding endeavor. In the same way, just because you spent a lot of time and energy trying to be okay doesn’t mean that you are or will be okay. It isn’t like she is going to get any less integrated into your lives as long as she continues to be a very dysfunctional part of your lives.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Is my bisexual girlfriend polyamorous?

My (33m) girlfriend (26f) and I have been together for about a little more than 6 months and everything has going smoothly between us so far. But there has been something that doesn’t sit quite right with me.

To give you some background, we met on Tinder and after having sex a few times told me she had to break up with the other guys because we’re on the same wavelength. We just clicked. Then she asked me to be her boyfriend after dating for a few months.

We have had a few discussions about our relationship boundaries and expectations in the six months we have been together. We have decided to stay monogamous, but every conversation that we’ve had about the subject has not left me feeling very reassured about our future. For example, she has mentioned polyamory during a couple of conversations but not that she actually wants that to be part of our relationship, she just mentioned it when talking about how well our communication is. I told her that wasn’t something I was interested in and she said she was not either but again mentioned that if it did come up she knows we could communicate. So it has left me confused because she sometimes posts pro poly memes and quotes on her social media and follows a page called She says she wasn’t interested in that and that when she was on Tinder dating guys she was sort of already getting that experience.

We had another talk about our relationship recently because I guess I’m not feeling reassured that we’re not going to change away from monogamy. She got a little upset that I wanted to talk about it again since she said we already “agreed to remain exclusive to each other until we decide to change our relationship agreement” and that last part left me feeling confused but I don’t want to bring it up anymore and try to take her word. Another detail is that she is bisexual and has only kissed a woman but never slept with one and I’m thinking she is still open to making a connection with one if she finds the right one. Also, she told me there was a girl she liked while she was with her baby daddy but he was abusive towards her and she wanted to leave. Basically, it all just seems like she is still making herself available to women and our conversations have not reassured me that we will remain monogamous in the future.

Is she open to the possibility and maybe not sure that is what she wants or is she waiting to see how things go with us?

Help Me I’m Frozen, Reddit.
Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Dear Help Me I’m Frozen,

There are quite a few misconceptions around polyamory and bisexuality that I believe that we should first spend some time deconstructing and analyzing before we can get to the meat of the advice.

First things first. Being cognizant of polyamorous lifestyle is very, very different from being in polyamorous relationships. And being in polyamorous relationships can look very different for a person who is more ambiamorous (as in ambivalent about polyamory/monogamy) and for another who is strictly polyamorous (as in cannot ever do monogamy).

And let’s talk more about being polyamorous as compared to doing polyamory. I am a firm believer that too many folks use the identity “polyamorous” to forsake the emotional labor that accompanies ethical non-monogamy. It is a serious problem in the poly-spaces I reside in because that poly label is frequently misused by people who aren’t ethically non-monogamous. It is often a much more fruitful endeavor to ask “Can I do polyamorous relationships?” rather than “Am I polyamorous?” The first question allows us to inspect the context of the relationship landscape as well as pre-existing relationship agreements, whereas the second question often lends itself to a much higher burden of proof. The current exclusive relationship agreement in your relationship does not allow for any non-monogamous arrangements. And since she is clearly aware of polyamory, she is consciously choosing monogamy with you when she agreed to be exclusive with you. And it even sounds like she has continued to reemphasize her stance on exclusive monogamy with you.

Photo by An Nguyen on Unsplash

Another thing for you to consider is that there are positive aspects to polyamory that are absolutely applicable to monogamy as well.

In my opinion, is a great blog that talks a lot about poly-specific and poly-adjacent materials that doesn’t just provide value for staunchly polyamorous folks but also for staunchly monogamous folks who want more information on how to improve their own monogamous relationships. And perhaps that is what your girlfriend is doing by acknowledging and celebrating polyamory even if she doesn’t ever want to do polyamory herself.

As your girlfriend noted, one of the things that polyfolks seem to do well is in communication. Many polyfolks I know do intensive monthly check-ins similar to the RADAR model from Multiamory to address relationship conflicts, engage in each other’s vulnerabilities, and keep each other accountable for necessary personal developments. And it sounds like she wanted to celebrate the communicative strength in her monogamous relationship with you, similar to what she has read about in polyamorous relationships. And instead of acknowledging that bid and diving deeper into how your communicative chemistry is on par with those of polyamorous relationships, you immediately jumped to reject polyamory and get defensive about some underlying insecurity that you might have.

See how that is ironic considering she initially approached you to celebrate your communication skills?

If you dig deeper into why that feels so sore and so sensitive, you might find that there is an underlying fear of the unknown. Specifically, it is a fear that she might change her mind about monogamy. In a later comment, you mentioned that you would like your girlfriend to be upfront and clear about any future intentions to be non-monogamous. And it sounds like she already has. She did exactly that when she said she “agreed to remain exclusive to each other until we decide to change our relationship agreement.” It could be that you aren’t hearing what she has to say; that even though she knows about polyamory, she is choosing monogamy with you.

Photo by Miska Sage on Unsplash

Even your internal dialogue and subsequent projection about her own bisexuality is rife with misunderstanding and reflects on your deeper insecurities.

I wrote a column about the intersection between bisexuality and monogamy in this post from a year ago. And in that post, I specifically talked about how bisexuality can and often does exist in the same space as monogamy. Bifolks need not be in multiple relationships with people of different genders in order to be a card-carrying member of the Bisexuals. Bifolks who are in a monogamous relationship with same or opposite sex partners are still bisexual. In a more recent column from about a month ago, I wrote about how the number of same sex partners do not define bisexuality; bisexuality is justified in the mere virtue of its existence. What I am trying to say is that she is still choosing to be with an opposite sex partner – like 84% of the bisexuals who end up in opposite sex relationships. And her choice to be with you does not diminish or reflect negatively on her bisexuality.

You say that you think “she is still open to making a connection with one if she finds the right one.” That is completely contradictory to both what she has agreed to with you and what she has shared about her sexuality. Consider that straight folks have crushes on opposite sex friends and coworkers too. And crushing on people is natural. Exclusivity does not mean that you won’t have crushes on other people. Exclusivity just means that you will develop proper boundaries to avoid indulging in those crushes. In the same way, just because she is bisexual doesn’t mean that she can’t make close connections with people of genders that she happens to be attracted to. And part of building upon a relationship is to develop that trust that your partner will honor all the relationship agreements even when you aren’t omnisciently present in all of her personal connections.

It is deeply problematic to override her own experience of bisexuality into how she wants to experience her romantic relationship with you.

How you have internalized her bisexuality is not at all how she herself experiences her bisexuality. It is not your responsibility to comprehensively understand what her bisexuality means for her. It is however your responsibility to acknowledge and accept her sexuality as she experiences it.

Photo by An Nguyen on Unsplash

It is time to fix the broken bucket.

There is a popular Korean proverb that goes like this –

안에서 새는 바가지 나가서도 샌다.

It strictly translates to “A broken bucket that leaks inside will also leak outside.” And in the same way that a broken bucket will never hold water, all the reassurances your girlfriend can possibly pump into you will hold no water as long as it leaks through the fundamental holes that are your deeper inner insecurities.

Consider all the information you have in front of you. You say that you don’t feel reassured. But it isn’t really your girlfriend’s responsibility to make you feel reassured. It sounds like she has already done a lot to make you feel reassured. But that relationship anxiety that you feel is very likely coming from deep inside of you, a part of you only you can alter and make changes to. It is manifesting in the insecurity you feel about her potentially changing her mind about monogamy. It is also manifesting in the way that you envision her bisexuality to mean something else. Take time to acknowledge these as growth opportunities that you need to work on either by yourself or with a trusted therapist.

As you have experienced, continuing to revisit and re-trigger these conflict points with your girlfriend will not go well. The remaining work is yours and yours alone.

You say that you want to take her at her word. So take it.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – I want my husband to break up with his girlfriend.

Hi. Two year ago I (F38) finally convinced my husband (M41) to try opening up our marriage. He was very much against it when I first told him but I finally convinced him.

I really wanted to have one of my coworkers and we immediately started dating after I got my husband to agree. It was hard for him to hear about us but he never complained. We’re both working partners and he would often stay home taking care of the kids while I was out with my boyfriend. I was and I am very grateful for all his support.

A year ago my husband found himself a girl and they also started dating. Now I’m gonna be honest here. SHE IS SEXY!!! and I’m actually very jealous of her. She’s also 10 years younger than me and apparently great in bed. They spend a lot of time together and two months ago he even introduced her to our sons (as his friend) which is fair enough because I’ve told them about “mommy’s friend” too. They even went out together with the kids.

Anyway. Last month my boyfriend and I broke up and I’m not really into the open marriage idea anymore. Most of all I don’t want my husband to date his girlfriend. I wanna wait for them to break up but it seems like it never going to happen.

On the other hand I feel like a jerk to tell him to not do the thing that I tried really hard to convince him to do. Plus I don’t think it would be right to tell him to end a relationship that he has invested so much time and effort into just like that.

What do you think I should do?

REAJX, Reddit.
Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash


Two of the most common misconceptions among previously monogamous couples who open their relationship up is that a direct request to close the relationship will always be honored and that if they do return to exclusivity that things will return back to what it was like prior to opening up. Each of those misconceptions are dangerous because they each operate under the assumption that it is of utmost importance to maintain the existing relationship, no matter the cost. But as with any other absolutes, such a perspective disregards any established or expected personal and relational boundaries.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that the discussion around opening up was not framed as a negotiation but rather as an ultimatum. As common with other “take it or leave it” approaches, there is often very little room for proactive discussions around expectations, mutual agreements, or planning. They are the foundational cornerstones which are built upon trust and communication, both of which are clearly absent in your personal connection with your husband.

Your husband is clearly poly under duress. When you initially requested to open up your marriage, that request was pitted against the life he already had: a husband of ten years and a father of two. You were not successful in “convincing” your husband. Opening up was a mere mate retention and abandonment prevention strategy he had to make in order to maintain his self-image as a husband and father. This is further elaborated in not only the coworker you selected to pursue but the household and parenting responsibilities your husband had to pick up on.

Coercion is not consent.

Photo by Matcha & CO on Unsplash

We also need to consider your respective relational landscapes.

I gather that a part of your motivation to open up originated around the specific person you wanted to be with. Polyamory is a subset of ethical non-monogamy, and your approach to not only open up with someone specific in mind, but have that person also be your coworker tells me that there is a fundamental lack of respect for essential boundaries. Enmeshing your erotic life with your career is challenging enough without having to consider that your relationship orientation is not a protected status in all states. There is always an inherent risk of relationships going sideways. And just because your relationship with your boyfriend happened to end without any lasting negative impact around your workplace, that doesn’t mean that your decision to pursue your coworker was not a risky one.

In the same way, just because your husband didn’t decide to leave you when you started seeing your coworker doesn’t mean that your decision was not a risky one. Everyone has a risk threshold, a level that each person deems is too risky before they opt out. And in your case, the opt out has such severe consequences – the same consequences you appear to threaten your husband with in this very comment.

This is all compounded by the intense jealousy you appear to harbor for your husband’s new partner. While jealousy can be a very intense feeling, there are ways to manage the bad with the good. Perhaps your jealousy is a manifestation of the homework you did not do with your husband when you opened up. It could also be possible that you need to establish better boundaries around your metamour. What is clear is that the pain from the end of your relationship with your boyfriend/coworker is manifesting in intense jealousy for your metamour.

You must own the emotional labor associated with non-monogamy.

Just like your husband learned to manage his own jealousy regarding your new sexual adventures, it is time for you to figure out how you can manage your own jealousy regarding his new sexual adventures. Emotional labor, as the name implies, is work. Figuring out mitigation strategy for jealousy can feel really hot and intense. But it is absolutely a worthwhile labor.

What might help is to acknowledge that each of you are responsible for each of your relationships.

In the same way that your husband did not or was not able to dictate the type of relationships you were a part in, you cannot step in and veto his partner – or “convince” him otherwise. They have been dating for over a year. And, as you pointed it out, their relationship required a lot of work. As such, it is ultimately and wholly within your husband’s agency to decide who he is in a relationship with. You are welcome to express your own feelings about how difficult it has been to manage your jealousy. But you’ve also had two years to develop those skills on your own.

No matter what you decide to do, you will have to reflect on the state of your marriage as it applies into the future. You absolutely do not have to stay in a marriage that does not feel rewarding to you.

At least then you will finally be doing your husband a favor by removing one manipulative partner from his life.

Merry Christmas and good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Should I tell my girlfriend I slept with other people while we were on a break?

For clarification; we’ve been dating on and off for about 8 years and she is my best friend.

A couple of years ago we had a year or so apart, she broke up with me. We still had some same friends so we saw each other around on and off through that time and around a year or so later we got back together and are together still. We are as strong as we’ve ever been and there is no immaturity about it all.

In our time apart I did what any newly single person would do and had fun, met up with people and had a few drunken ONS. But I never mentioned it to her, as we were not together ofc. And haven’t since then, I didn’t bring it up when we got back together.

However, in a jokey game recently with friends where we had to answer questions about each other to see how well we knew each other, the number of people each of us has slept with came up. I didn’t correct her number she gave me, mostly because I didn’t want the first time she hear about it to be in front of friends, when were having fun etc.

It has played on my mind a bit all this time. The line between being honest and being too honest.

Would bringing it up, long after the fact, be pointless?

Or would her finding out through other means, and me having not told her, be worse?

Anonymous, Reddit.
Photo by Vee O on Unsplash

Dear Anonymous,

I understand your initial decision not to tell your girlfriend about who you slept with in the year apart. It is possible that you didn’t feel the need to disclose how many partners you slept with for couple different reasons. The safe and obvious assumption from when you were apart from your girlfriend is that both you and your girlfriend found others to meet your sexual needs for that year. In addition, you might not have been emotionally prepared to hear how many people she slept with while on break, even if you operated under the assumption that you both slept with others.

Your recent decision to not correct your girlfriend also makes sense. Not only would it have been incredibly humiliating in that specific circumstance, I agree with you that it would not have been a safe place to openly talk about vulnerable topics. This in turn explains the retrospective ambivalence and guilt you feel about not being upfront about your sex life during the break. This current ambivalence and guilt stems from the initial decision to not share, because at least a small part of you believed that you should have shared.

As you pointed out, there is a very fine line to toe between being honest enough and being honest to a fault. And the thing is, that fine line varies wildly between person to person. There is no universal morality around when or if you should talk about your previous sexual history with your partner because it greatly depends on your overall comfort level as it pertains to discussing previous sexual experiences, the context of that discussion, and your personal intention leading to that conversation.

Photo by Nashad Abdu on Unsplash

Another wrinkle in this circumstance is your intentions.

If you sit back and reflect on why you want to share your sexual history during the break, you might find that the inherent ambivalence flows deeper into each of those possible intentions.

If your intention is that open and honest communication should be always be exercised, then you might find yourself contending with the decision you’ve already made not to share. The difference here is clear. Timing is all different. You might not have known back when you got back together that you would continue to stay together. And for those couple years, you were able to build upon the baseline of trust that you had before you two decided to went on a break. And so, because the context of your decision back then was different from the context of your decision now, this decision need not be the same.

Your intention could also be brewed with the desire to gain control over the narrative of your own sexual history. Built into the initial assumption of sexual activity during break are two separate foundational beliefs. The first belief is that you and your girlfriend were on the same page about your respective sexual activity during the break. The second belief is that you and your girlfriend would each inform the other any aspects of your sexual history without each other, if it was deemed relevant. As such, your desire to correct the wrong comes from a deeper place where you want your girlfriend to live in the same reality as you do. That is both fair and sound.

However, if your only intention is that revealing the full extent of your sexual history will alleviate your feelings of guilt, then that is neither a compassionate nor safe way to approach this revelation for your girlfriend. After all, your girlfriend could find her anxiety and insecurity triggered to hear that she wasn’t exactly on the same page as you for the past couple years.

What is the ongoing price of admission that you are willing to pay to keep this hidden from your partner?

Your decision will also have to reflect your girlfriend’s headspace.

How has she handled learning about your sexual history or general sexuality in the past? If the overarching modus operandi regarding sexual history in your relationship has been a more of a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell approach, then the risk of unknown and the risk of negative reaction greatly outweighs the overall benefit of alleviating your guilt and true honesty about the past. However, if she has taken talks about your and her sexual history well in the past, then this conversation could absolutely be an opportunity for you and your girlfriend to connect deeper as a couple and as individuals.

I sometimes jot down my own thoughts down on paper (or screen) as a way to have a dialogue with myself over complex decisions. On paper, my idealistic self would outline all the good a potential decision might bring. Then I would sit back and talk back in person to my idealistic self all of my worries and fears about that decision. And this back and forth would go on until I decide that either:

  1. The overall goodness of the decision outweighs the possible badness, at which point I push ahead with my decision.
  2. The possible badness of the decisions outweighs the overall goodness, at which point I take time to grieve through the decisions unmade.

My two cents: take this opportunity to develop yourself or your relationship. If that means sharing this very vulnerable and neglected part of your past history, then use that momentum to share why this felt so vulnerable to share and connect deeper with your girlfriend to explore other vulnerable spaces. Even if this doesn’t go well, you can still use this as a learning lesson for yourself on the boundaries of your and her fine lines on honesty.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – How do you stand monogamy?

I have (33F) been with my partner (33M) for 14 years and I am horrified at the thought of never, ever having sex with another person for as long as I live. I’ve struggled with it for years. And yes, we talk to each other about what we like and don’t like, we experiment together to find new ways of making each other feel good, etc. The sex still isn’t the best, and maybe that’s part of the problem. But we are still working on ways to make it feel better for both of us. However, I feel so stifled by the thought that this is it, he’s the only one I get for the next 50 years or so, until we die. I honestly feel so anxious, depressed, and angry.

I’ve talked to him about this struggle, so he is aware. But he is unwilling to experiment with any form of non-monogamy. Outside of the sex issue our marriage is good, we both think we’d have a very difficult time finding a new love as good as what we have now. So how do I deal with my struggle with monogamy? How do I stay content with one partner?

Just to clarify, I was not a virgin when we got together, I had a few partners before him. He wasn’t a virgin either. Also, there was a very unfortunate miscommunication around the non-monogamy issue when we married. But this is the situation and I’m trying to make the best of it.

Anonymous, Reddit.

Dear Anonymous,

Monogamy is a discipline.

Monogamy is a constant dedication, everyday practice, and a relationship-binding promise. Monogamy is by far the most popular and most socially accepted relationship orientation. For many, monogamy is not only the de facto standard model for relationships, but the only model for relationships. The few who do question the standard and take the lesser beaten paths often face criticism, rejection, and shunning. And because the consequences of rejection is so severe, even those who are aware of non-monogamy stick to monogamy for the simplicity’s sake.

Fourteen years is a long time. That means that for almost the entirety of your adult life, your sexual experience has revolved around the context of your and your husband’s respective sexualities. And you say that both you and your husband had other partners before you met each other. But the type of sex that you have when you are twenty one is very different from the type of sex you might have when you are twenty five. And it can be very different from the type of sex you might have when you are thirty or thirty five.

And sex is a lot like cooking; you work with the ingredients you have available.

Even with limited ingredients, you can still make many great dishes. And with limited sexual context, you can still have great sex. There are multiple different uses and preparation methods for even one ingredient plate. But just like it takes very creative cooks to make otherwise dull ingredients really sing with well-established recipe, it takes two very creative monogamous people to make the sex in long-term monogamous relationship work over the duration of their relationship.

You are currently stuck between an impossibly hard rock – sexual stagnation – and an impossibly hard place – monogamous agreement.

Before you are crushed between the rock and the hard place, you can choose to either work on the stagnated sex life or renegotiate on the monogamous agreement. For many, working on innovating their sex life can be a creative endeavor that holds off exhaustion regarding monogamy. For many others – and I’ll include myself here – reworking or renegotiating the original monogamy agreement is a fundamental relationship saving strategy. And for all others, they endure as long as they can until they break.

And it sounds like you have worked very hard to keep your sex life with your husband afloat and upbeat in the fourteen years that you have been together. But I feel a deep and fundamental sense of exhaustion from how you feel about the sexual aspect of your connection to your monogamous husband. That exhaustion is manifesting in anxiety, depression, and anger.

The anxiety comes from the vast expanse of your erotic future ahead of you. Much of it you can already project based on the fourteen-year erotic history. Like I said, limited ingredients. And even if both cooks are working to creatively approach a recipe, if the ingredients aren’t pristine to begin with, the final plate was never going to be great. In the same way, if your and your husband’s erotic foundations never had the fundamental chemistry it needs for long-term survival, then there was always going to be a limit in terms of the sexual experience you can have with your husband.

The depression comes from acknowledgement of that projection. The state of your current sexual headspace is already not great. And it just disappoints you more to think about how much more stagnated your sex life can get. Part of it could even extend into the dread as you foresee how much more you’ll have to endure in order to have, not just the sex you want to have, but the sex you find acceptable.

The anger comes from the difference between the realistic projection of your future erotic life and the idealistic vision of your erotic future. The larger the gap, the more it makes you angry. It is in part due to the miscommunication that you had about non-monogamy. It could also be in part that you imagine yourself having missed out on an erotic revolution that you could have had in your twenties but didn’t. It could even be placed upon your spouse’s unrelenting resolution around strict monogamy.

One thing is clear. As they stand, status quo is not okay.

And it is okay to admit that the status quo is not okay. And if indeed status is not quo, then it is time to figure out what your next steps are.

First step is to communicate the urgency and the degree of your unhappiness. It doesn’t matter if 95% of your relationship is great. If sex is important to you and the sex sucks, then it is 95% of the problem. Then at that juncture, you can both talk about how you can keep working on introducing new and innovative ways to keep your sex life energized. There are more kinks and erotic fantasies than you and your partner can reasonably keep up with. The sex toy industry will keep churning out more innovative ways to be erotically connected to your partner. The possibilities there are endless. You and your partner just need to be enthusiastic and open-minded about those endless possibilities.

Or you can both talk about renegotiating on the initial monogamy agreement. You mentioned that your husband is pretty firm on where he stands about monogamy, but that you haven’t had a serious conversation with him about non-monogamy since about seven years ago. Now would be a great time to revisit that conversation and figure out if there are any brand of non-monogamy that might be available to you.

In a later comment, you said that your husband was open to an emotional non-monogamy, as long as sex was off the table. That is not a bad start. It actually reminds me of one of my first steps into non-monogamy. At the time, I was unfulfilled in a long distance monogamous relationship. My partner at the time and I had an agreement that we can engage in romantic / sexual flirtations or conversations with others as long as there was a hard boundary on meeting that person. That relationship didn’t end up working out, but it allowed me to make a more informed decision for the next partner I dated with whom I pursued a more explicitly non-monogamous arrangement with.

We will also have to consider the possibility of this as an irreconcilable difference.

You can’t make yourself not feel bad feelings in the same way you can’t make yourself force good feelings. Feelings are moment-to-moment manifestations of your perceived headspace. And if you are anxious, depressed, or angry all the time, maybe it is because you are not and will not be happy in this relationship. And that is okay.

It could also be possible that your husband would not consider opening up as a spouse retention strategy, then subsequently decide to end the relationship. And that too is okay. Each one of us has a rightful say in what happens in our relationships, especially if it deviates too far from the type of relationship we truly aim to have.

Fourteen years is a remarkably long time for any relationship. Just because this relationship didn’t go all the way to the end of your life did not mean that it wasn’t meaningful or successful in its own way. Some of the best relationships I have ever had were measured in months. And one of the most memorable conversations I had with someone else was with a person I only met that one night. What I am trying to say is that longevity of a relationship is a great measure for the work you’ve already put in. But it is not a sound argument for why you should continue to be in an unfulfilling relationship.

I will leave you off with another personal story.

As someone who is polyamorous, I will tell you that sex with one specific person will always plateau. And that too is okay. Managing that erotic plateau is the main conflict point for almost all the long-term relationships I’ve been a part of, read about, and witnessed second hand. Even the polyamorous ones.

“How can we spice up our sex life” is the most common relationship and sex advice I see online. And the common advice to that question is to question the very elements we find comfortable, and step into that discomfort to find “spice.” By that, I mean if you are only having sex at night in bed, your erotic headspace is limited to what you can do at night in that bed. Of course your sex life is going to plateau if that is all you have to work with. Have sex in the morning. Have sex in the car. Have sex without a penis involved. Have sex without a vagina involved. Have sex watching the porn you like. Have sex watching the porn he likes. Have sex where the other person is penetrated. Just learn to step away from the accepted erotic norms and dare to be creative in how you and your husband approach your shared erotic space.

What is important is to make different aspects of sex a challenge and then accomplish that challenge.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – Is it okay for me to contact my best friend’s ex-husband to provide support?

One of my best friends (M28) just divorced his husband (M28) and moved across the country to start anew.

I (F26) was the maid of honor in their wedding. My best friend left him because he didn’t have any motivation, wouldn’t get a job, was basically useless financially because of several hinderances including anxiety.

Would it be okay to cross “enemy” lines and reach out in support of his ex? He’s gay so there’s no chance of him being interested in me, so it can’t be seen as me trying to snatch his ex man or anything. The ex has always been a great friend to me, but I don’t know if it would be seen as an asshole move to my long time best friend.

Would it be wrong of me to contact his husband to offer my condolences and tell him everything will be okay?

Stupid Libra, Reddit.

Dear Stupid Libra,

How very Libra of you – to seek harmony and diplomacy!

It sounds like your motivations are pretty clear on why you would want to reach out to a former friend of yours – to provide support and offer condolences. So it doesn’t sound like this would be a matter of your own intentions, but rather an issue of optics to your best friend who moved away.

I never truly understood why folks were so adamant about implementing a full scorched earth policy, especially following breakups. I guess it is WAY easier to avoid the difficult conversation with all the mutual friends following a breakup rather than to just cut them out and pick sides as a show of loyalty. It also makes sense in the context of the American culture where extreme boundary setting regarding friendships is not only socially acceptable but celebrated. That particular aspect of friendship – ephemerality of it all – has always confounded me as a person who came from a different cultural background. In short, I guess what I am trying to say is that your best friend’s divorce does not necessarily mean that all of your friendships revert back to before marriage. You can still choose to be a friend with your best friend’s ex husband.

Many of the queer circles I happen to be a part of also seem to harbor the same tenacity and perseverance I grew up with. I believe a part of it is due to the fact that there are a lot fewer queerfolks than there are cis/het folks. After all, there is power in numbers, especially in marginalized subgroups. And so, many of queerfolks I know seem to handle transitions and challenging conversations better than many of cis/het folks I know. But another important aspect to consider is that for many of the queerfolks I know, their chosen family is their family – in place of the biological ones who shunned them for their sexuality and identity.

And perhaps that very tenacity is a quality we should hold onto now more than ever.

Especially in critical, socially traumatic times like a global pandemic that forbids us from being close to the ones we love.

Based on what you have shared, it doesn’t appear that there was any great ill will or a specifically traumatic event that ended your best friend’s marriage to his former paramour, regardless of anyone’s sexuality or gender identity. But instead of looking toward your best friend’s perception, why not defer to what you really want? You say that his ex-husband has always been a great friend to you. So I assume that the inverse of that – that you have also been a great friend to him – was true as well.

If so, isn’t it imperative for you to reach out to a great friend in distress?

I don’t think this is necessary. But if you feel it is necessary, you might also consider reaching out to your best friend who moved across the country and let him know that you might stay connected to his ex-husband. Just to dot all your i’s and to cross all your t’s.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My partner wants to spend the holidays with her other partner.

My partner [29F] and I [28M] been together for a few years and non-monogamous from the start. We live together and consider each other our primary partners. We’ve had a few dates and flings here and there. But for the first time this year, she has a stable secondary partner of two months during the cuffing season which coincidentally includes her birthday. It came up recently that we seem to have different ideas about what the holidays mean and how we navigate them with other partners.

She doesn’t see any issue in just divvying up the day and celebrating partly with me and partly with her partner, and I guess I have a more traditionalist view and want the holidays to be special moments for just our relationship. Am I being too selfish and caught up in the romance of it all? Holidays were really important for my family, maybe I just need to tone all that down given that they don’t seem to be as “sacred” for my partner?

Anonymous, Reddit.
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

Dear Anonymous,

I understand where your retro-perspective on your own feelings regarding who your partner spends their holidays can appear as selfishness. After all, much of non-monogamy mindset revolves around finding joy and celebrate in the act of sharing. And in a way, your current discomfort around parsing your partner’s holiday schedules for the first time in your relationship experience with this particular partner can drum up some previously unnoticed relationship insecurities.

It sounds like some of that relationship insecurity arises from the perceived conflict between what you and your partner each envision for the upcoming holidays. You believe that due to your more traditional background that you should spend your holidays with your partner, in exclusion from all others. On the other hand, you perceive that your partner has a more liberal approach to holiday scheduling where she spends her holidays with her multiple partners. And your perceptions of your holiday vision directly conflicts with your perception of hers, which in turn is manifesting in the form of self-shaming (“Am I being too selfish…?”).

It might be a good time to reassess and redefine what that primary partnership actually means for each of you individually and for both of you collectively.

You say that you each consider each other to be primary partners. But it is unclear based on what you have shared that her desire to spend holidays with her other partners constitutes a violation of an explicit personal boundary that you have or a mutual agreement you two made together. Better fleshing out what it really means to be primary partners will help keep the two of you connected and aligned.

Another possibility is that when your partner communicates her desire to spend a part of her holidays with her other partner, you hear something different.

It is possible that, for you, spending holidays with your one partner is of such importance that trumps the current non-monogamous aspect of your relationship. Especially in a year filled with such uncertainty and confusion, your desire to celebrate important events such as Christmas and birthdays with your close, loved ones is valid and fair. And it sounds like you have done your best to express that desire to your partner. But just like your desire to turn inwards and celebrate with your partner is valid, so is your partner’s desire to turn outwards and celebrate with others.

Because the holidays are so important for you, your partner’s desires to spend a part of her holidays elsewhere is instead translated to a more extreme interpretation of “I don’t want to spend the holidays with you” in your head. This mental mistranslation can stem from various sources. It could be an unforeseen jealousy as you realize you will be alone for a part of the holidays. It could be an emotional pushback to a deeper insecurity you might have about this specific relationship. Or it could even be anchored in a desire to harken back to what feels familiar in an otherwise turbulent time.

The truth is that both your and your partner’s perspectives are as valid as each other. And she clearly does want to spend a part of the holidays with you, just not in its entirety. Her desire to spend a part of the holidays with her other partner does not at all invalidate her desire to spend a part of the holidays with you, in the same way that her desire to sexually connect with others does not invalidate her desire to sexually connect with you.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

There is a more important discussion to be had than what is to be done about this specific holiday season.

Winter holidays are once a year, but there are many more other holidays to a year. And while you don’t have a stable partner through this particular holiday season, you might for next year’s holiday season.

This is a great time and an opportunity to have an explicit dialogue about what each of your expectations are before finding a compromise that works for both of you. Expecting the two of you to share the exact same vision for everything in life is an extreme relationship goal. A more reasonable perspective to have is to be close enough together that you two can safely arrive to a compromise through negotiation and conversation.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – I started hooking up with a couple out of impulse, and I’m starting to catch feelings.

About 5 months ago my girlfriend of 4 years and I [28F] separated after some unexpected infidelity on her part. I was devastated but got myself back together with help of friends and family. I wasn’t AT ALL ready to date and I’m still not. I was however feeling very impulsive after the break up and had a few hook ups that I’m not too proud of.

In the midst of these sexual exploits, I also started hooking up with a “seeking couple”. I cannot express enough how out of character this is for me, but I had a great time. We all hit it off right away and became fast friends. My impulsive sexual behavior came to a halt, but I kept seeing them and continue to do so at present day.

The two of them have even alerted me to some shitty behavior from my ex after I recently opened up to them about my break up. Basically, they are just pretty chill people and we get along really well.

Flash forward to present day- one half of the couple [28f] has admitted she has feelings for me. The other half [29M] is fully aware and encouraging of this. I can’t say the feelings aren’t mutual. I even really like the male counterpart despite being super gay. We play video games and hang out and its honestly all just easy and feels good.

I am however really panicked I’m going to get into this too deep. I’m debating breaking it off with them and just refocusing my time and energy on myself (not that I’m not still doing that). I’m also afraid to lose something really special we might be developing.

Does anyone else have experience with this sort of thing?! I am FREAKED and don’t know what to do.

At Sign Work, Reddit.

Dear At Sign Work,

It sounds like you are experiencing an intense bout of relationship anxiety that stem from multiple sources. Your anxiety can come from your previous relationship trauma as you heal from the traumatic and unexpected end to your previous long-term relationship. Your anxiety can also come from the uncertainty regarding the future and where this newfound relationship might lead. And it can also come from as well as the internalized stigma regarding the non-traditional aspect of your non-monogamous arrangement. Let’s unpack each of those.

While each person has a different recovery timeframe, five months is not an appropriate time for you to mourn and heal from the end of your four-year relationship. Many of us recovering from breakups channel our frustration and confusion at the end of a relationship in different ways. And it sounds like you could have channelled a part of your pain from your breakup into forging and exploring new sexual connections.

Moran et al (2020) found support for the hypothesis that many women feel bad about themselves after engaging in breakup/rebound sex. That seems to mirror your own experience with sexual exploration following the end of your relationship with your ex girlfriend, manifesting in regret for the past hookups. And in that phase of promiscuity, your stress was not allowed to complete its cycle to resolution.

That leads to the very next point about the uncertainty of the current relationship.

One of the reasons why you are debating breaking things off with this couple is because of your unresolved trauma from your previous relationship is manifesting through relationship anxiety regarding your current relationship. You’ve been so hurt and betrayed from someone you had feelings for, so you feel anxious about the feelings you are starting to develop. Because you did not have full control in the end of your previous relationship, you seek to have better control over the current relationship, which is through breaking up.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that this was a very fast and hot connection that materialized very quickly. One of the things about immediate connections is that they often have rushed foundation. I think the significant part of the draw of this relationship for you was how easygoing and free this connection felt to make. And the very airiness of it is now manifesting as an uncertainty as the innate insecurity dances with the developing feelings.

This isn’t to say that you all need to sit down and have a Very Serious Discussion tonight. Since you already know that the feelings are shared between you and the female-half of the couple, you can start the discussion by talking out loud about what those feelings mean to each of you. You don’t necessarily need to settle on a label, but at least having some base level of expectation would be a good way to facilitate the talk.

Then there is the added wrinkle of the internalized stigma around non-monogamy.

I’m not sure if you have had any previous experience with non-monogamy. But there are a lot of internalized stigma around non-monogamy that many non-mono newbies shed as they explore what it is like to date multiple folks and to date folks who might also be dating multiple folks.

One of those internalized stigmas non-mono newbies learn to manage is guilt and shame about the number of partners. Sometimes, that internalized stigma can look a lot like that internal voice that says you can’t be open about the relationships you are a part of. Sometimes, that can sound like sex shaming. Each person’s social programming might look a little different, but each of those toxic foundations needs to be reworked or renovated.

It is okay to feel scared and anxious about the unknown. Part of what makes life so grand is in its unpredictability. No one could have truly anticipated how 2020 would have turned out. But we all learned to adapt through the constant stream of changes. For you, that meant an expansive sexual exploration that led to the current couple you are seeing.

The last thought I will leave you with. As a polyamorous individual, I always thought the implication that you have to be single in order to focus on yourself to be very strange, because it also implies that you don’t truly grow when you’re in relationships. You can definitely grow, change, and develop in many different areas of your life regardless of your relationship status. So learn to accept and enjoy this moment of your life. In the immortal words of Britta Perry,

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – My boyfriend is going on a couple’s cabin trip with nineteen other people.

My boyfriend (26M) invited me (25F) on a couples cabin trip that will be this Thursday-Sunday. Since I’m very paranoid about catching COVID, I am declining. (Side story: We went on a couples cabin trip with two other couples last month, and a guy from the trip ended up testing positive a day after the trip. Luckily though, we did not catch it.) However, since my boyfriend hasn’t gotten to see his frat brothers in over a year, I told him that he can still go if he’d like, even without me (he really wants to see them and I didn’t want to seem like a fun sucker), so he is choosing to go. Including him, it will be 11 guys and 8 of them are bringing their girlfriends, so 19 people total (yikes). I am now having some worries. Should I have asked him to not go? Should I make him get COVID tested when he gets back? Is there any way that we can compromise? I am scared for both his and my health.

Sweetheart V, Reddit.

Dear Sweetheart V,

I am really sorry to hear that you and your partner are struggling with the COVID risk management. The pandemic has put to test the strength and durability of each of our social connections. Many of us have faltered in maintaining our human connections with the people outside of our safety bubbles. And so many of us have had to develop a conscious and effective COVID risk management strategy to balance our social sanity against the risk of contracting COVID. Many of my extroverted friends have had to opt for a more lenient approach to assessing transmission risks because the overall cost to their sanity from losing social connections outweighed the cost of increased transmission risk.

Like many couples, it appears you and your boyfriend each have different comfort level when it comes to COVID transmission risks. It is time for you to take a step back and assess just how different your respective levels are, then brainstorm on what you and your boyfriend can do to amend that gap. Much like any other compromise, the process to amend the gap will not reflect what you or your boyfriend truly desire. Instead, it’ll be a close approximation of the level in between that both of you are comfortable settling for.

First things first, I don’t believe that you were being paranoid when you declined the invitation for this upcoming cabin trip. There is a slew of unknown variables, unsubstantiated risks, and a relative lack of payoff from your perspective.

At the time you declined, it wasn’t apparent how many people will be in attendance, if any of them had any recent COVID exposure risks, or if anyone lives with someone who is at a high risk group. We currently live in a country where the officials mostly do not do contract tracing for COVID transmission.

In addition, you did not have any information on any of their respective COVID risk profiles. Incubation time and the transmissible window (14 days after exposure according to the CDC) for COVID does overlap with Thanksgiving holidays. This means that if any of them traveled to attend a Thanksgiving dinner (against the CDC recommendations and guidelines), then they are at risk of transmitting COVID without showing the primary symptoms of COVID during this very upcoming trip.

Not only that, there were also very few benefits that you could personally stand to gain from this trip. The obvious benefit to socializing in close proximity to other people and the ability to spend this weekend together with your boyfriend are the only parts that truly stand out to me. Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that these were more his connections from his previous frat days rather than mutual friends that you two share. So the close proximity socialization isn’t as big of a pay off should you have instead connected with the friends you are close to.

We have really only been dealing with COVID for the past eightish months. But COVID is already known to cause adverse long-term health effects. Seriousness of this disease cannot be overstated enough. With that in consideration, we should really reflect on not just the moment-to-moment risk analysis for COVID transmission, but also weigh the intense negative consequences of contracting COVID (should you survive it). We take marriage, financial enmeshment, and childrearing so seriously for the same reason that they can have such sever and lasting impact in your personal life. Unlike marriage and financial enmeshment which only affect you, COVID transmission affects everyone around you as well.

Now let’s talk about what you can do to mitigate the risk of transmission for yourself.

However you look at it, your boyfriend has the ultimate agency over his actions. He is permitted to make his own decision on what is worth the risks assessed. And it appears that even with a first-hand experience with COVID exposure, his risk assessment of this cabin trip is inadequate to balance out the benefits he personally stands to gain from it. You cannot control whether or not he goes. That is on him.

With that being all said, you can still establish your own boundaries to ensure that your own risk level remains at the level you are comfortable with. You can ask for him to take proper safety precautions after he returns from the trip. He will have to self-quarantine for five to seven days after the trip, then immediately get tested following the incubation period before he can share the same physical space with you again.

But I think there are deeper, more fundamental issues that you two need to talk about. Even when COVID goes away, it might be beneficial for you and your boyfriend to have a deeper discussion around risk tolerance, relationship agreements, and intention setting. Today is as good a day as any other to have the foundation-establishing type of discussion so that you two can better avoid any similar communication disconnects like this one in the future.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

Advice – In a long distance relationship, fantasizing about strangers.

My partner (M27) and I (F21) are in a long distance relationship thing, we met in early 2019 and eventually got back together half a year ago. He is literally halfway across the world from me and due to this situation we have to wait a little bit more to see each other again in person (we haven’t seen each other for nearly 2 years). During the time we were apart, we had bf/gf and later realised that we should be together. I love him more than anything and we believe that we are made for each other.

The thing is I do have this “wild dream” that I want to have different sexual experiences with different people as “you only live once”, and I’m bisexual which makes it sound really promising. And I’m pretty sure that my partner has had way more fun in this field than I do, and I’m a bit petty about that. Not like I’m dying to have sex with any human beings, just I have always wanted to know everything, to live the typical “college sex life” thing that I don’t have. In the past, I have only had sex with less than 10 guys, and they were just.. fine, like nothing special about it, and I know that I wanted more. But also a part of me acknowledge that I love my partner and I only want him for honestly the rest of my life and we will for sure have a healthy steamy sweaty sex life.

So what should I do? I haven’t told him about this, I think I will when we are in person, but still this thought is stuck in my head.

KK Healing, Reddit.

Dear KK Healing,

As someone who has also been in a handful of long distance relationships, I can definitely relate to the difficulties that come with lack of physical intimacy in long distance relationships. Long distance relationships were already difficult enough as is pre-pandemic. And now with the added complexity of COVID risk management in addition to the uncertainty of the future, I can definitely empathize with how difficult it has been for both you and your partner. For the sake of the discussion below, I am going to assume that you have a traditionally monogamous arrangement with your partner.

In your case, it is further complicated by your perception of the “college sex life”, the assumed sexual experience gap between you and your partner, and your bisexuality. Each of those aspects adds a different wrinkle to your perception. So let’s unpack those one by one before we get to the actual advice portion of this post.

We are socialized and conditioned to envision an idealistic, hyperactive college sex life. But contrary to common beliefs, National College Health Association (NCHA) reports that in the spring of 2020, 40.2% of undergraduates have never had vaginal intercourse and 34.7% have never had oral intercourse. What is even more interesting is that that number is actually lower than what NCHA reported in fall of 2015, which indicates that less college undergrads are having sex today than five years ago. So the conditioning around sexually active college undergrads might be more rooted in fantasy than reality. The same 2020 NCHA survey further found that out of the 54.4% of the undergraduates who had sex in the past year, 15% had more than four sexual partners. That means only 8.16% of the college undergrad population maintains that perceived “college sex life” story we tell ourselves in our heads. And in reality, most folks – 82.5% to be exact – either never have sex in college or only have had one sex partner in the last year.

The Contemporary Group puts it succinctly – “Perceptions can often be distorted. When everyone in a small social group is engaged in a particular activity, it may seem as if everyone on campus must be doing the same.”

Then there is the COVID layer to add to all of this. Most people aren’t really seeking new sex partners while there is a global pandemic going around. Instead, more folks are turning to sex toys and established sexual connections to meet their sexual needs. And according to Dr. Justin Garcia of the Kinsey Institute, 71% of singles did not have sex with anyone since the pandemic started ramping up. So even if the “college sex life” perception were to be true, that sexual aspect would be even more depressed in the context of the pandemic.

“Sexual fantasies: our misperceptions about the sex lives of young people.” IPSOS. Aug 8, 2018.

Now that we have deconstructed the myth surrounding “college sex life”, let’s talk about your perception of the sexual experience gap.

According to this study from IPSOS, we perceive that others have three times the amount of sex than they actually do in reality. Bobby Duffy’s Perils of Perception theorizes that such a gap could stem from a couple different factors, such as misrepresentation of our sexual activities and misleading portrayals in popular media and entertainment. Duffy further hypothesizes that “part of it seems likely to be ‘social desirability bias’, where we give the answers we think are socially acceptable, which pushes men to inflate the reality and women to deflate it.

Let’s now apply this to your perception. Based on what you have shared, I gather that you and your partner never had a frank and complete discussion about your respective past sexual history. It could just be possible that you anticipate that he has been more sexually active than you were, even though it isn’t necessarily the truth. It is even more interesting to see you apply the word pettiness to the experience gap. That could be a reflection of your six-year age gap, in that you almost want to “catch up” to the perception of the sex life your partner has had before he met you.

Even if we assume that there is indeed a gap in sexual experiences that you and your boyfriend have each had, the number of sex partners – as you yourself experienced – is not at all indicative of the quality of the sex life that he maintained before you have. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had five sex partners or fifty. What is more important is the type and depth of those connections as well as what they can bring to the relationship you have with them now. And the question you should really be asking is if the type of intimacy you currently have in your long distance relationship (and will have when you two eventually close the distance gap) is satisfying enough for both of you collectively and each of you individually.

Now let’s talk about your bisexuality.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that you have had no or very limited same-sex sexual encounters. And because you are currently in a monogamous long distance relationship with an opposite-sex partner, there isn’t an opportunity for you to experience same-sex relationships, which is feeding into your fear of missing out. You commented in a later thread that you and your boyfriend have discussed having threesomes so that you can still experiment with and experience your bisexuality in a space that is still safe for your relationship with your boyfriend. But threesomes are really only a small subset of the whole bisexual experience and expression of your sexuality.

Let’s first separate your bisexuality from your desire to sleep with others.

Bisexuality probably does not exist in a gender-scarcity vacuum where bifolks need to have two partners of the opposite-sex in order to be satisfied. Bisexuality and monogamy often does exist in the same space, in the same way that heterosexuality and monogamy exists in the same space. Straight monogamous folks can still miss sleeping with other people of the opposite sex too. Monogamous bifolks that happen to be in opposite sex relationships are still bisexual in the same way that bifolks in same sex relationships are still bisexual. Your fantasy/desire to experience a wider spectrum of your sexual expression is actually independent from your bisexuality. Bisexuality just happens to be the medium through which your desire is manifesting.

Many bifolks feel that they are not “bisexual enough” simply because they have not yet had an adequate amount of same-sex encounters. But in honesty, there is no quota or expectation around how many people one need to have slept with in order for that person to be qualified as a sexual being. Your bisexuality does not need first-hand experience in order for your sexual identity to be justified; it is justified in the mere virtue of your existence.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

So let’s finally put it all together.

You asked what you can do with your desires.

Fantasy is healthy, even when the fantasies themselves are not viable in reality. If you find yourself frequently fantasizing about sleeping with others, think of it as a result of your current sexual headspace instead of feeling shame or guilt about how promiscuous you want to be. In your current absence of sexual and physical intimacy, finding creative solutions and outlets for your sexuality is not only sane but necessary for your survival. Lady Vivra wrote a great piece about embracing your sexual fantasies here that might be worth a read.

Dare to be more sexually honest with yourself.

Allow yourself to freely indulge in the kind of sexual headspace you need to be in in order to survive this current long distance aspect of your relationship with your boyfriend. Many find fantasizing about the unreality to be very challenging, especially if it deviates so far from what is deemed possible. Self-acceptance will come with the self-honesty.

Once you feel more comfortable with expressing your desires by yourself, you can then use this opportunity to connect with your boyfriend at a more vulnerable, foundational level. Since it has been two years since you last shared the same physical space, I am sure he too is feeling the sharp longing for a physical reconnection with you. And it is very possible that he too has fantasized about sleeping with others the same way you have. Even if exploratory non-monogamy is off the table, being able to connect with your partner about the honest desires that you two have will lead to greater enjoyment in your current intimate connection.

Don’t just wait until the distance is closed; do it now. A great way to start this conversation is by sharing how you have been feeling and the challenges you have been facing. This will give your partner an opportunity to empathize with the sharp longing that you have been experiencing, to share his own experiences with his own longing for you, and to work together for a solution – even if temporary – that works for both of you collectively and each of you individually as you weather the long distance portion of your phenomenal relationship. That will help you both get to that healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life not just when the distance is closed, but also to ensure that you two keep having healthy, steamy, sweaty sex life.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!