Advice – How can I deal with hypersexualization of my racial identity?

I had a an experience recently that made me question whether I had experienced a micro aggression…

A good friend (M), who is in the loop about my partner and my polyamorous relationship, was over at my place hanging out with just me (F). My partner (M) was at work due to be home in a few hours. This friend, we’ll call him Fred, has had lots of conversations with my partner and I about our experiences being poly-am and has shared a lot about their own sexual experiences as well. I find it very refreshing to normalize talking about sex with friends who are comfortable having those conversations. Anyway, Fred brings up the spa shooting and asks how that’s affected me (I am Asian) and brings up that it’s always white men who are causing problems. I hadn’t had much time to really contemplate how that shooting impacted my own experience and we took a few minutes to unpack that.

Later as Fred and I are hanging out, he brings up that he thought I was implying that my partner and I were hinting at wanting to include him in our relationship, sexually. I let him know that my partner and I are always very clear/explicit about whether or not we want to be with someone and apologized for making him think that I was coming on to him.

Fred persists on insinuating that I was coming on to him because “you know, since you’re not openly poly and you opened up to me” and let’s me know that “He’s down.” At no point had I made any hints or claims that I was attracted and was honestly very confused where Fred could have gotten the idea I was interested in him. I apologize again for making him think that I was interested and awkwardly change the subject.

Looking back at it, I’m feeling confused and honestly a bit torn about being open about being polyam with this person. I thought that he was someone I could trust with this information but I’m wondering if this is just that white guy hypersexualization of poly-am Asian girl BS.

FYI my partner and I are not out to our family, only to our closest friends.

Any thoughts? Appreciate your feedback.

V, Reddit.

Dear V,

I am really sorry to hear that you had this experience with someone you thought you could trust. Your experience is an experience that is unfortunately far too common among far too many people. We are shaped by the summation of our categorical experiences. Many of those experiences are used to tell narratives about ourselves, about the world, and about our connections. And I understand the core source of your confusion. It comes from series of misunderstandings, which is then perpetuated by these reinforced stories about ourselves, about the world, and about our connections.

This is one of the main reasons why I remain so selective and vigilant about the people I am close with. It can be so disorienting to be around people who downplay, disregard, or even perpetuate the harm and the pain from overt racist actions and subtle microaggressions. The right type of people will support and amplify my reality, or help me heal from the ongoing societal trauma.

There are many layers to your situation, which all not only relate to each other but further compound the core issue at hand: misunderstanding. So we’ll spend some time in this post navigating through each of the three layers before we talk in-depth about what you might be able to do to avoid similar situations in the future.

The first layer is polyamory.

More and more people are becoming aware of the existence of polyamory. From this research, it was estimated that there were about 4% who were practicing polyamory in 2016. But from this research, that 4% grew to 10.7% in 2020. So while more people are aware of polyamory, there still exists a significant gap in understanding of how polyamory actually works.

I’ve already written quite a bit on what it is like to be a newbie in polyamory. And in 2019, I wrote a piece about what it is like to date a newbie, as an experienced polyamorous individual. But I have not written quite enough about what it is like to date a newbie, as another newbie looking in. It could be possible that Fred has had absolutely no previous experience with engaging with someone who is polyamorous. And it could be possible that he incorrectly associated your expression of relationship orientation as a way to communicate sexual interest. That might not be something that you do personally, but few do communicate their availability and interest by openly talking about their orientation with people they are interested in.

In truth, just because you are polyamorous doesn’t mean you are available to date. And just because you are looking to date doesn’t mean that you are interested in dating this particular person. That was a faulty double-assumption that only one person is responsible for: Fred.

I’ll also add the additional caveat that most people are bad at having conversations about sex and sexuality. That is in part due to the poor quality sex ed in here in American schools, in part due to negative stigma around sex & sexuality, and in part due to the pervasive sex shame culture. And so, many folks incorrectly associate conversations about intimacy as uniquely intimate conversations. In reality – as you noted – we should be working to normalize a more frank dialogue about sex & sexuality that goes beyond shame and judgment. But that could have been another element that contributed to the overall miscommunication.

The second layer is gender.

While I myself am not a woman, I have had many conversations with past and current partners who are women about what it is like for them to navigate the polyamory space as women. One partner in particular complained about how difficult it is to date because there are so many men who claim to be open-minded about polyamory but lack basic emotional foundations to attempt dating a polyamorous woman. Another communicated how reticent she is to date cis men because the men she matched with were only interested in having sex with her, even though she laid it out clearly on her profile that she doesn’t do casual sex. Take their word for it; it is a wreck out there.

In dating, many men have this toxic idea that they can turn a “no” into a “yes” by consistently disrespecting the boundaries of the person they are romantically or sexually interested in, even after they’ve already said their “no”. Few of them even operate under the false assumption that the worst they can get is a “no”, which they’ve already got in spades. On the flip side, many women are conditioned to keep deflecting, “play hard to get”, and romanticize otherwise toxic behaviors from their pursuers. Both of these rotate in a negative feedback cycle that perpetuates cyclical abuse and misunderstanding.

That could be one of the reasons why Fred continued to disrespect your boundaries by reasserting and advancing his sexual interest in you despite you making it very clear that you were not interested in him. That was another faulty assumption that only one person is responsible for: Fred.

I have also noted that you apologized twice in this exchange with Fred. Many women are socially conditioned to appease and downplay bad intentions because actually establishing healthy boundaries is “unacceptable.” It is not your responsibility to manage his perception around your behavior; you are only responsible for your intention and your subsequent reaction. And in the same way, only Fred is responsible for his intention to violate your boundaries and his subsequent reaction to push against your boundaries.

Imagine going to a restaurant and selecting an entree. If that entree is bad, it isn’t your fault; it is the cook’s. In the same way, only Fred is responsible for misreading your cues and then subsequently pushing on your boundaries.

The third layer is race.

In many ways, your race acts like an accelerant to a chemical reaction already in motion.

Parts that were already activated become even more animated. For example, the generalized experience of navigating the dating space as a woman is already very challenging because they are often presented with much more back-end emotional labor than it appears. Because you are an Asian woman, your sexuality becomes an intense hyperfocus that lies in the intersection between two independent characteristics.

In addition, parts that were already muted become even more suppressed. As we have already noted, there is a prevailing social pressure for women to defer and appease. But Asian women are seen as even more subservient and accommodating in American subcultures, compared to other races. As such, your desire to apologize for the misunderstanding that you were not responsible for could have originated from that intersection of two societal stereotypes.

As you had noted, you didn’t have that much time to truly process what happened in Atlanta. So in this particular discussion, you were taking an active role to process the violence in past tense. But what is even more tricky is that this was all under the context of the pretense, that Fred as a white man acknowledges and broadly generalizes that it is “always white men who are causing problems.” This is actually misleading. While it is true that majority of the hate crimes are committed by White Americans (52.5%), anti-Asian hate crimes appear to be committed by and large by other minorities. In his article Combating Anti-Asian Sentiment, Dr. James H Lee hypothesizes that “race and racism in the United States operate along a Black/White binary,” and therefore non-Black POC experience is perceived in relation to “Blackness and anti-Blackness.”

In reality, Asian American experience with racism in the US cannot be defined by Blackness and anti-Blackness. It is a distinct and unique experience as perceived in the model minorities myth. And all of our Asian experiences cannot be simply boiled down to just the term Asian either. Our Asian experiences can vary enormously between a Korean American’s experience and an Indian American’s experience.

I do think that it is quite strange that Fred opened up a conversation about race and race relations about Asians. It assumes that you wanted to talk about this incident at all. We have to be mindful of the emotional resources we expend on the day-to-day, especially when our resources were already stretched thin as is. And as an Asian woman, this could have absolutely been a triggering experience for you. In spite of all this, considering the incident was specifically targeted toward Asian women, I do think that it is very strange that a white man would think it an appropriate topic of conversation to initiate. This just wasn’t his place.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Now let’s put this all together.

We have already talked a bit about the complex intersection between polyamory and gender, specifically what it is like to exist in a poly space as a woman. We also talked a bit about the accelerant nature of the intersection between gender and race, specifically what it is like to be an Asian woman.

Then there is the intersection between race and polyamory to consider as well. According to Sheff et al (2011), an overwhelming majority of people who identify as polyamorous are white and middle class. And because there are so few active polyamorous POCs, the misunderstandings are further perpetuated within the confined walls of polyamory. As a polyamorous Asian man, I can personally attest to hypersexualization and fetishization – from folks of all different genders and racial backgrounds – of my racial identity at a greater margin than when I was a monogamous Asian man. So I hear you. This is a real challenge, and one that we have to be aware of.

And I don’t think it is enough that you are just made aware of these different intersections and how your experience might be affected because of how you present in this world. As an educator who is a person of color, I do make a conscientious attempt to share knowledge and understanding in every opportunity I can, whenever I have the emotional resources to do so. It can be difficult to make space to speak out when you are already so spread so thin. But remember the work you are doing today isn’t for any immediate yield, and it might not even be for you specifically. It might be for the person of color in the next generation or someone who is so downtrodden that they just can’t afford to speak out against systematic racism against folks of color.

Now that we’ve finally unpacked all that has happened, let’s spend some time taking about what you could do to avoid future Freds.

Instead of assessing what is and isn’t a mistake, it might be more beneficial to use this experience to grow and adjust your expectations or finetune your communications for the friends you might want to make in the future.

Because many folks are ill-equipped to dissociate intimacy from a conversation about intimacy, it might be beneficial for you to revisit the desire to normalize open conversation about sex and sexuality. For me personally, I never talk about my sex life with anyone unless it is strictly anonymous, in a clinical setting, or it is accompanied by an explicit consent from my partner(s). In the form of an inward-facing boundary, my boundary reads, “I will not have conversations about my intimate sex life outside of those three exceptions.”

The boundary that you’ve established with Fred is a passive one. “If I were interested, you would know about it” is a nice but indirect reframing of “I have not communicated my interest with you, and thus I am not interested in you.” Passive boundaries are just as valid as active ones, but work in different ways. A passive boundary is like the cup holding hot tea. Without the cup, tea would spill. But there are other ways to hold the tea that isn’t with a cup. In the same way, passive boundaries are a valid way to establish boundaries. But the inverse of the passive boundary is not always true (as in, you could still have feelings for someone without communicating so), and not everyone wants to drink tea from a cup (as in, not everyone knows how to do passive boundaries). Comparatively, an active boundary is like the steel rails on a train track. Trains would not go anywhere without those rails. It can be more difficult to establish an active boundary as opposed to a passive one, but they both aim to do what boundaries do: creating the necessary protections.

Speaking of boundaries, now would be a great time to figure out a way to preemptively de-escalate your next boundary-violating conversation. It can be as simple as “I don’t want to talk about that right now”, as direct as “You just said something really weird”, or as straightforward as “I don’t appreciate what is going on right now, and here is why.” What is more important is to recognize the breaches in your boundaries and to halt or to redirect the conversation when your boundaries are breached.

As we all navigate through polyamory, racial tension, and gender dynamics, I think it is important to accept that uncomfortable conversations are inevitable. That does not mean that you have to engage in every uncomfortable conversation. Your initial boundary of “my partner and I are always very clear/explicit about whether or not we want to be with someone” is very good. And I think it might better serve people who can actually respect your boundaries.

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 and his friend behaved inappropriately in front of me.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over three years and I can say that we’re having a very happy relationship in all aspects.

Day before yesterday, my boyfriend told me about his female friend whom he hadn’t seen or talked to in a very long time. He told me that she’s in our city at the moment and that he invited her over for lunch. I was okay with it. I tidied the house and prepared food and we welcomed her. We three talked for some time and then we had lunch. After lunch, my boyfriend and his friend decided to watch some Netflix and I excused myself and went to my room to finish some pending work that I had.

I worked for one hour and then I went to the living room where my boyfriend and her friend were cuddling on the couch and watching TV. He was lying down on the couch and she was lying down on top of him and his hands wrapped around her waist and her head was resting on his shoulder, which is totally not a position for two “friends” to be in. Maybe it is, but at least not when one of them is already engaged to someone else.

I didn’t know what to do, whether to break them up or to somehow intervene, but I wanted to do something, either because it’s fucking wrong, or it’s because I’m too paranoid, I don’t know, but in my personal opinion, it’s not right for my boyfriend to cuddle another woman in front of my eyes! I don’t like it one bit.

I let it slide for the time being, while convincing myself that I’m probably thinking too much. She was in our house till around 6 in the evening and I noticed more weird behaviour from my boyfriend and his friend who are just “friends”. I wasn’t with them the entire time. I was in my room doing my work, and my boyfriend and his friend were in the living room. They were having conversations, they were laughing, they were goofing around, which is totally fine for two friends to do, but I saw that they both would randomly touch/grab each other’s intimate body parts as if it wasn’t a big deal at all. They did it multiple times. It was so fucking inappropriate. Now I won’t lie, my boyfriend and I randomly grab each other’s intimate body parts, but I think it’s fine because we’re in a relationship, but she’s just a friend to my boyfriend! A friend whom my boyfriend hasn’t met in a long time, should I be okay with her grabbing my boyfriend’s crotch and my boyfriend just laughing about it?

I desperately wanted her to leave, and after she left, I questioned my boyfriend about their fucking behaviour in a rather stern tone. He told me something like “noooooooo, you’re just thinking tooooo muchhhhhh. We’re just bestttttt friendssssss but we were just reallyyyyyyyyyyy excited to seeeee each other because we hadn’t met in a very longgggggg timeeeeeee”.

It has been a very weird couple of days for me. I haven’t been able to think much apart from this, and I guess my thoughts are expanding and now I’m actually doubting that he’s probably in touch with her from quite some time and he’s probably cheating on me. I’m super frustrated and I don’t know if I’m either paranoid or my reasons are valid.

Anonymous, /r/relationship_advice.

Dear Anonymous,

Your feelings here are all very valid. You have every reason to feel weirded out, frustrated, paranoid, and worn out.

When you first acknowledged the breadth of the connection he had with his friend who he hasn’t seen in a long time, you were rightfully weirded out by the type of touching between them. In most traditionally monogamous relationships, that type of intimate touching and cuddling would be considered a boundary violation.

Your frustration also makes sense. After his friend left, you immediately communicated with your partner that you felt weird about their connection and that their behavior felt inappropriate from your perspective. And instead of acknowledging your perspective, your partner instantly dismissed your feelings & perspective while excusing his behavior. It is frustrating to feel unheard by our loved ones, especially from our romantic partners.

Your paranoia also makes sense. You only witnessed slices of their connection, and what you saw were either in gross violation of your boundaries or definitely pushing upon them. So it could be possible that your mind is wandering to fill in the gaps of your experience, adding to the paranoia of what you are projecting and what has definitely happened.

Then all of this contributes to your emotional exhaustion as you are expending your emotional capital on not just grounding yourself in your own reality but also rejecting what your partner says happened between him and his friend. It is one thing to assess what happened in front of you. And it is quite another to project what happened when you weren’t there two days ago. But it is meager compared to project upon the entirety of their connection.

Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

For the sake of this section, let’s assume that your boyfriend and his friend didn’t do anything beyond what you saw two days ago.

Generally, around pre-school to kindergarten is when most children start to figure out what is and isn’t an appropriate level of physical contact to have with someone else. At twenty six, your boyfriend should already know what is a level of intimate touching that is appropriate to have with a romantic partner compared to a platonic friend. It doesn’t matter if they were best friends. Even the bestest of platonic friends should and do have proper boundaries to ensure that it doesn’t have to toe the very thick line in between cheating and friendly banter.

I’ll also mention this. While the definition of infidelity is ever-growing and constantly changing to keep up with the modern technological developments, the definitions themselves are entirely personal and up to the relationship itself. Based on your reaction and your feelings, I get the sense that this is at best a gross violation of a social boundary and at worst a humiliating experience bordering on infidelity.

The most challenging part of this discovery is that even if your boyfriend didn’t do anything more on this particular trip, this event caused a significant loss of trust, especially regarding not just this particular friend but with all of his other friends with whom he could have (or already had) these types of inappropriate interactions with.

With all that said, this is tea time after all. And in our column, we don’t advise end to a relationship that isn’t abusive. This doesn’t necessarily need be a relationship ending experience for either of you. You two can definitely recover and learn from this experience.

First step is to have him understand how dire and serious this situation is. Perhaps have him explain to you what he thinks you experienced two days ago. Allow him to live in your shoes for a little bit to help him understand how uncomfortable, awkward, and humiliated you felt in that moment. Once he understands the gravity of the situation, then you two can both re-establish the boundary he seems to have crossed here, which I personally read as “I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who cannot establish proper social boundaries around other his lady friends.”

Once that boundary has been re-established, you two will have to work to re-establish a healthy level of trust again. That trust re-establishment can look like seeing him stay true to his words without dismissing your feelings, but it will be a gradual development nonetheless. Brené Brown’s Anatomy of Trust will be a worthwhile watches for both of you, if you’re both set on working through this experience together.

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 isn’t as out about his polyamory as I believed.

I (25F) have been dating him (27M) since March, we’ve only met in real life twice but our online relationship was very intense and exciting. I have been curious about polyamory for years but this is my first actual experience with it. He has an NP (26F) who I’ve met after both our IRL dates and really like. They’ve been together many years and have been poly for almost their whole relationship. Due to the virus both our dates were at social distance, we haven’t physically touched.

When we ascertained that our attraction was romantic rather than just physical/sexual, he asked how I’d feel about eventually becoming his partner. He wasn’t out to his family at the time. I thought about it and realised that jealousy wasn’t an issue for me, I feel a lot of compersion for him and his NP, but what I didn’t feel comfortable with was dating someone who wasn’t out and would have to keep me a secret. I wanted a proper relationship, not to feel like someone’s dirty little secret. He understood and said he and his wife did plan on coming out to his family, and they were already out to their friends. He couldn’t give me a timeline for when it would happen, but said they definitely planned on it. I said I was happy to carry on with our online friendship in the meantime and if social distancing lifted I’d enjoy hanging out with him, perhaps a FwB situation.

In June, his NP was speaking to her parents and the opportune moment to come out to them as poly came along so she went with it. It went really well, and my boyfriend felt emboldened to come out to his parents. They took it reasonably well and are coming around to it with time. Immediately after coming out to them he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I gladly accepted.

At the end of our second date, we took a (socially-distant) selfie together. I later posted it on Facebook with a message about having a great day with my favourite person. I didn’t say he was my boyfriend or anything, and I thought it would be fine because he was now out to his family and he told me he was already out to his friends.

He then messaged me asking me not to post things like that in future as he wasn’t out to everyone. I was confused, as I had understood that he was out to everyone important to him, and I thought I had made it clear that I only wanted to date if I didn’t have to be kept a secret. He said he thought I was only talking about being a secret from his family. I said no, of course not, I don’t want to have to pretend we’re not together in front of anyone, I want a proper relationship not having to hide. He apologised for the misunderstanding. I asked him why he had told me he was out to his friends if it wasn’t true. He said he was out to most of them, but there are a few friends he wasn’t out to and would like to tell face-to-face. Due to them living in different parts of the country and the pandemic situation, he doesn’t anticipate seeing them face-to-face before next summer, potentially.

I asked him if he expected me to be semi-secret until then, and he said that it would probably be necessary. I know it’s probably petty, and since he won’t see these people IRL surely it’s not a big deal for me to keep stuff about our relationship off social media? But it hurt me, and I feel a bit like I’ve been bait-and-switched.

Is this just a silly misunderstanding? Am I making too much of this?

I really care about him and haven’t had a connection like this with anyone before. But I don’t feel comfortable being kept semi-secret from people who are apparently very important to him for potentially more than a year after we started dating. Is this just a conflict in boundaries? Am I in the wrong here for being hurt?

/u/secretsecondarysub, /r/polyamory.

Dear Secret Secondary Sub,

Your pain is understandable and justified. It comes from a misunderstanding of your boundary (“I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who is not open about their relationship orientation”) which was then exacerbated by the miscommunication (“I’m out to all of my friends and family”) seemingly triggered by a relatively innocuous event (posting a picture on Facebook).

Let’s unpack each of those disconnect points.

Misunderstanding a boundary

The boundary itself is sound. If you are already out as polyamorous, going back into the closet for someone else can feel so incredibly restrictive. The way you communicated that up front with someone you were interested in says a lot about how fundamental this boundary is for you. But I’m even more impressed with your ability to self-reflect. Upon recognizing that you have romantic feelings towards this person, you were still able to step aside and rationale behind your own boundary.

The problem is in his interpretation of your boundary. I’m not sure how thorough you were initially in explaining why you felt uncomfortable about indulging on those mutual romantic attraction toward each other. But based on his response, I am going to assume that you were very clear on not just what the boundary was but why you had it in the first place. Even if he didn’t fully understand your boundary, this would have been a great opportunity to better flesh out the extent of this boundary with you.

Because you were clear and forward in your boundary establishment, he should have known that you would not have accepted the role of his girlfriend had he not completely come out as polyamorous to everyone he needs to. While he does not own the boundary you stated, it is his responsibility to respect and understand the boundary you’ve outlined for him. And misunderstanding of said boundary is his responsibility.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not fully comprehend your boundary, misunderstanding of this kind is something to be very cognizant of, especially since it was your boundary that he overstepped.

Miscommunication of the resolution

This misunderstanding is further aggravated by this particular miscommunication when he said that he was out. What he really should have said in that moment he came out to his parents is that he made some great personal progress that he wanted to celebrate.

Again, his misunderstanding of your boundary (if it really is a misunderstanding) speaks volumes about what led to the ensuing miscommunication. My guess is that – at the very best case scenario – he was just very excited from his coming out going so well that he pinned your boundary against his own elevated emotional state. And you had no real reason to doubt what he said, especially since – again – you were very clear and forthcoming about your boundary of not romantically engaging with anyone who isn’t fully out.

At the very worst case scenario, this isn’t just an issue about a misinterpretation of words; it becomes an issue about an absence of one. If he fully understood that you would not romantically engage with him while he wasn’t fully out to everyone, then he should have been much more clear about who he was and wasn’t out to, especially since this particular boundary is so important for you.

And his misfire here reveals a lot about his internal decision making process, especially when it pertains to a heightened emotional state.

Sharing an image on Facebook

And this is the part that I am the most confused by.

A distant selfie of you two with that particular message is not explicitly romantic or sexual, unless people are already coming into it knowing your relationship statuses. But even if that breached on his boundaries, he never specifically stated or asked you to not post anything on social media. An unstated boundary is not a real boundary. You had the right initial assumption that since he asked you to be his girlfriend that he was out to everyone he needs to be out to.

My guess is that his history of being in the closet for so long has made his social media nerve hypersensitive to the point that even this innocuous selfie was determined a gross violation of his unspoken boundary. It could even be that that hypersensitivity triggered an underlying sense of guilt about his violation of your boundary, almost as an internal projection onto the very person who he should be apologizing to.

What’s really interesting is that there are Facebook settings he could have implemented to prevent something like this from happening, if it really was his unspoken boundary. He could have untagged himself, reduced the shared photo visibility, or changed his privacy settings such that only a curated list of people he was out to were privy to his polyamorous connections. He didn’t do any of those. Instead, he took that anger right out on you, which reveals a deeply conflicted perspective he has about the role of social media in his personal life as well as a deeply troubling inability to manage non-monogamous relational conflicts.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Putting it all together

Let’s just go back to comparing the two specific boundaries here.

  • I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who is not completely out to everyone in his life. (Your boundary)
  • I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who outs me on social media without my explicit permission. (His boundary)

You asked if this really is a conflict in boundary. I think it is a conflict of boundaries, but I also think it is worse than just a conflict of boundaries. I believe the most likely scenario involving his headspace was that he was careless with the boundary you established with him, and overly strict with the boundary he didn’t know he had (or maybe he knew that he had, but did not proactively volunteer that information for you).

What I am much more troubled by is his relative lack of agency in resolving his ongoing boundary violation. If he isn’t out to everyone he needs to be out to, then he should be making a diligent attempt to come out to everyone as soon as possible, not waiting for the next best opportunity to come out in person. This tells me he doesn’t actually care about honoring the spirit of your boundary (if he understood it at all). You want to have a proper, authentic relationship, not one that you have to selectively filter.

And to quote the venerable Doctor Horrible, the status quo is not quo.

Photo by Egor Lyfar on Unsplash

There is a Japanese proverb that says if you chase two rabbits, you’ll not catch either. Your boyfriend does not get to both:

  • Rabbit 1: Ethically pursue a relationship with you while knowing that this is your boundary.
  • Rabbit 2: Remain in the closet with his distant friends and ask you to selectively filter your social media activity.

If he wants to pursue the first rabbit, he needs to have more proactive plans to ensure that he is fully out of the closet, so that he can adhere to the boundary you initially stated and continue the romantic relationship with you. If he wants to pursue the second rabbit, he needs to acknowledge that he will have to discontinue this romantic relationship – permanently or temporarily – until he decides he is ready to be fully out as polyamorous.

Consider that a lot of cis het ladies are conditioned and socialized to work around cis men in their respective dysfunctions and miscommunications. As such, consider shifting the burden of responsibility onto him – as the person who was responsible for the misunderstanding as well as the miscommunication – and not let him push his responsibilities of doing the emotional labor associated with the process of coming out onto you.

Perhaps a reconciliation of your boundaries as well as reassessment of your relationship status are due. Consider if you’d again accept his proposal to label you as his girlfriend if he asked tomorrow, knowing what you know now. Would you enthusiastically consent to romantically entangling with a person who either so egregiously misunderstood or disrespected your boundaries?

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 nesting partner keeps on going out to meet new partners despite the stay-at-home orders.

“I recently went through major surgery to become who I was always meant to be. I just barely got in before the pandemic kicked off. I feel very lucky. My partner has been my caregiver since the surgery, which was in a different state, but the moment we got home she had to see my meta. I understand missing her but we both know my immune system isn’t back up to par yet and my meta works in a public facing job. I bought up my concerns which were downplayed and she continues to see her partner every couple of days. I’m so hurt that she’s prioritizing cuddles/snogging over my health and well-being.

What do I do?”

Hoe Ray Me on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on

Dear Hoe Ray Me,

First off, congratulations on your surgery! What great and fortunate timing. I sincerely hope that your recovery process is going well.

Your partner’s relative lack of regard for taking care of you following a procedure is really concerning. COVID is no joking matter, and your partner’s disregard of your critical health boundary is deeply alarming. She either doesn’t care enough to stay at home – like how many other polyfolks are doing so at this moment – or refuses to acknowledge the gravity of this situation.

Let’s completely take you out of this situation first. It is really important to think about how folks even in non-risky groups also need to be mindful in this critical time of humanity. The real core of the problem isn’t the direct threat of COVID but the indirect threat of the resource scarcity. Almost all fact-based health projections regarding COVID estimates that our healthcare resources cannot meet the spike in healthcare demands that will come with COVID patients in the next several weeks. And when that spike comes, there won’t be hospital resources available to treat other common emergency issues such as car accidents, overdose, or abdominal/chest pains. Severe non-COVID cases will have to go un- or undertreated due to resource allocation being directed to manage severe COVID cases.

By disregarding the stay-at-home stays, your nesting partner could be contracting and/or spreading COVID to not just your metamour but every other human being she interacts with in between, possibly to folks who are in the risk group (i.e. you) or to folks who nest with folks who are in the risk group (i.e. your partner). Her behavior reflects a complete disregard for the dire circumstances that will define our next several years.

Photo by Johannes Rapprich on

It sounds like you have already communicate your personal boundary as well as the justification for such boundary, that your partner subsequently downplayed and rejected.

Next step is escalation by boundary enforcement. If you are finding that the current living situation is too hostile for your health and untenable, strongly consider either moving out temporarily or asking your partner to move out temporarily. AirBnb and local hotels should offer pretty cheap deals since no one is booking right now. And it might be a healthier but pricier alternative than contracting a COVID infection at home. If she doesn’t want to pay for a hotel, then she can stay with her other partner while you recover. If staying elsewhere is not a viable option for either of you, consider maintaining a six-foot social distancing from your partner in addition to adopting a strict self-sanitation process. Sleep in different beds and eat different foods for a couple weeks following her last visit to see her other partner. She will need to maintain a sanitized home-safe clothes that she can keep and wear at home. But in addition to keeping her clothes separate, she will also have to make sure she showers right after coming home to limit the virus spreading inside of your home if any happen to get on her shirt.

I don’t think there should be ifs or buts about health and safety in insane times like this.

We hold partners to a very stringent criteria when it comes to sexual well-being. And a sexual wellness boundary violation often spells an end to any sexual relationship. Why should we treat our actual well-being any different? How is her COVID-risky behavior any different from engaging in sexually risky boundary violations such as not using proper protective measures around new partners? I strongly urge you to address this with the same sense and gravity as a sexual boundary violation. What she is doing to you and others she could be spreading COVID to is frankly dangerous, reckless, and mindless. And she needs to be held accountable for her dangerous, reckless, and mindless actions.

And don’t accept no for an answer.

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 slept with someone before I had a chance to meet her. Am I the asshole?

“My primary partner wanted to bring his new girlfriend to our home and engage in sexual activities. I had initially requested to meet her ahead of time in a neutral location so that I might feel better about this. I’m not comfortable with people I don’t know being in my home, especially while I am also there. At the same time, I understand that it is his home too. After we set up to meet at a neutral location, I ended up coming down with the flu. He then canceled the meet up, but still chose to have her come to our home as we have separate bedrooms. When they started having loud noisy sex, I had to leave our house because I was so angry at them. I’m now not comfortable with her being here at all and no longer wish to meet her. She also knew that I was sick and still in the house. Am I being unreasonable? He has apologized after the fact but I feel like if I see her all of that rage will come back. I’m mad at both of them but is it unfair that I’m not willing to give it another chance, or am I just going to be hurting myself in the long run?

It is a known thing between us and I also think he’s not the only person who suffers with this. But his brain seems to forget to function beyond the moment when his dick is involved. No, that does not excuse his behavior, and yes he is working on it. And by all means it sure as hell is not get out of jail card free deal.

Am I the asshole?”

The Fox Raccoon on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Lidia Costea on

Dear The Fox Raccooon,

There is a lot of things going on in here. So let’s start with what is happening from your own perspective.

It appears that you and your primary partner have agreed to set up a meet and greet before he gets intimate with his girlfriend. And when he invited his girlfriend into your home after the meet and greet was cancelled, he directly violated the agreement that you two set. As you outlined, you’ve communicated the rationale on why you strongly prefer / need to meet your metamour before all of this happened. And in his break on your mutual agreement, you sense that your partner does not respect your personal wishes. You are feeling betrayed and upset at his personal disregard for your comfort level. You are feeling upset at your partner’s girlfriend also participating in this breach of personal boundary and relationship agreement. So your feelings make sense.

Photo by Pixabay on

Now let’s talk about things from the perspective of your partner’s girlfriend – your metamour.

It sounds like your partner at least communicated to his girlfriend that you would like to meet with her first. So when she was invited over, it could be possible that:

  1. She didn’t know or realize how important this particular relationship agreement was to you and – by extension – her boyfriend;
  2. OR thought that her boyfriend had talked it out with you about making concessions on easing this agreement due to the circumstances;
  3. OR she knew about this particular agreement and how important it was for you, but chose to overstep her boundaries anyway.

Out of the three possibilities, I think the first or second seems much more likely that she was either misled or uninformed about this broken agreement.

Either way, she has granted a lot of good will and faith upon her boyfriend to do his job as a proper hinge to communicate your personal boundaries with her, communicate her personal boundaries with you, and to communicate any relationship agreements that might impact the two relationships managed by the hinge partner.

So when you asserted a physical boundary to walk out, she could have felt really uncomfortable mid-coitus about that particular illusion being shattered. It is awkward to be in a hostile environment for everyone involved. And I’m not sure if they’ve had any further conversations on why you are so furious with both of them, which could make it difficult for her to be in the same space as you anyway. As you can see, she’s also in a very difficult situation.

I do think that you are putting an immense amount of burden on your metamour – which is understandable considering she is an outsider to your primary partnership. But it might be more prudent to take a step back and realize that she too is in a very difficult situation, one that she isn’t wholly responsible for. Please recognize that the anger you feel toward your metamour – while fair – is not entirely justified.

Photo by Mike on

Now let’s talk about your primary partner.

In this column, I have long since maintained that it is the hinge partner’s responsibility to manage each relationships. His failure to communicate the importance of this relationship agreement, his inability to reconcile his sexual desire in new relationships, and his lack of personal insight on why this might upset you all reflect attributes of a very poor hinge. You mentioned in a later comment that you two have been open for four years, and this kind of breach in agreement is simply not acceptable.

And he needs to take responsibility for what has happened.

It is entirely within your own personal rights to own your own dominion, which in this case is your own personal bedroom. Since you share a home, he is welcome to conduct his relationships in a way that is agreeable to you in a shared space within a reasonable timeline and set of expectations. It doesn’t matter that you two have separate bedrooms. If he is inviting people you are not comfortable with in your shared space, then that could very well be a boundary violation (“I will not be in a relationship with someone who invites people into our home without my consent.”). If you personally consider the ongoing sexual relationship between your primary partner and his girlfriend to be unacceptable and a continued violation of this specific boundary is not sustainable, then it is time for you to move on to establishing and following through on the consequence phase of your boundary setting.

Take a really deep look at and assess what you do have control over in your own personal relationship with your primary partner: convenience of living in a space that is shared with you, the status of your relationship, and your ongoing companionship. And strongly consider de-escalating or reassessing certain aspects of your relationship with your primary partner until he is ready to show that he will respect the relationship agreements you two have established. That could mean reiterating your personal boundary that you will not be in a relationship with a partner who invites people you don’t feel comfortable with into your shared home. And in the meantime, if he plans to continue to be intimate with his girlfriend, then they can go over to her place where there is a space for them to be intimate.

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I want to wrap this post up by talking a bit about new relationship energy (NRE). We often associate NRE with temporary surge of lust and vigor in presence of an exciting new connection. And while many do experience it, most experienced ethically non-monogamous people know how to manage it. That could mean establishing a time/energy quota on how much you are investing in your new connections. It could also mean mindfully redirecting and channeling some of that surge of new energy into your old relationships. Proper management of NRE is essential to making any long-term open relationships work, and it does take work to manage it.

You mentioned that your partner generally likes to dive headfirst into his relationships. So I get the sense that this isn’t the first time he made a big mistake in managing his own NRE with other partners. And like it will continue to be a challenge for him to manage his NRE, recognize that it also takes work for you to manage your own anger at this situation as well. I sense a lot of undue anger and frustration projected upon your partner’s girlfriend. It wasn’t really her job to make sure your partner has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s; that was his own.

Going back to answer your initial question, no. I don’t think you are the asshole. I also don’t think that your metamour is an asshole either. Before you decide to wield your anger to suspend any future activities involving your metamour, decide if you want to step away and recognize that your relationship style is very different from his, and consider if that difference is too wide of a gap for you two to arrive to a compromise on.

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 – What is the common etiquette regarding open phone policies?

“My wife [42F] and I [41M] have been dabbling in non-monogamy for a while and my wife has been pretty much full on polyamorous with her boyfriend since August. She is really proactive about sharing everything – too much sometimes to be honest – but I do completely understand how communication is the most important thing in polyamory and ENM and it has definitely brought my wife and I closer together.

My polyamory / ENM journey has been much slower. And I have recently been developing a much closer relationship with a long time friend. Nothing physical yet but our communications (some phone calls but mostly texts due to our busy schedules) have become increasingly personal. We are planning to take a hiking trip together in June, so it looks to be more serious than a friendship at this point. My wife is excited about my new connection and sometimes she will pick up my phone to read my texts. I know the “open phone” policy is common in polyamory but I also want to respect my girlfriend’s privacy. Last night, my friend and I had a very personal conversation where she shared things with me that I don’t think is appropriate to share with my wife. I haven’t talked to my wife about it yet but I feel that I want to end the open phone policy. But I also don’t want my wife to think I am trying to hide anything from her either.

Just wanted to see if anyone here had this issue and if there is an accepted balance regarding this. I really want my girlfriend to know I value her privacy but also don’t want my wife to think I am hiding things from her.”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by cottonbro on

Dear Anonymous,

I’ve dated my fair share of polyamorous folks and connected with many more through my extended polysphere. And out of all the people I’ve met or gotten to know about, I have only ever heard of one other couple who had an open phone policy. So I do not believe that open phone policies are at all common in modern polyamorous relationships. If it is, I hope to hear from those who can maintain separate relationships without the veil of privacy.

I have often repeated the phrase, “Different people love differently” in my column. And every relationship is different because the people in those relationships are also different. And the same can apply to the level of communication you can have in your relationships. You say that your wife is almost too comfortably open about sharing the details of her other relationships. You do not need to consent to hearing about details that which make you feel comfortable. I’m also curious if your wife has gathered proactive consent from her other partners to share that kind of details with you, or if she has gathered proactive consent to share information that which you have shared with her that you might not feel comfortable being shared with her other partners as well.

I’ll also add here that as new information comes up, your agreements too can adapt and change. When I first started out in my own personal ENM journey, my nesting partner and I had a rule that we had to immediately end our relationship with our respective new partners after we were intimate with them (as a way to assert a time limit). And that rule didn’t last long after my first relationship ended. This is a journey with a lot of development and growth packed into the first couple years. So both you and your partner will need to adapt as you go.

Photo by Anne on

One of the most necessary skills to develop in polyamorous relationships is in compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is defined as an ability to sequester or partition your time and energy into smaller parts of a whole that may exist and house yourself and your relationships in non-intersecting, independent spaces.

One of those ways you can create and maintain a separate space in your relationships is by having some sense of privacy in your communications. Remember that one couple that I said I knew had an open phone policy? They had a lot of difficulties establishing long-term connections with people who were okay with that particular agreement. Eventually, even they revoked that agreement when one of them started dating someone who had a pretty firm boundary about communication privacy.

I think it might also be beneficial to dig deeper on and assess why you two needed to establish an open phone policy in the first hand. What insecurities are being triggered when you think about the texts either of you exchange with your partners? Why does your wife feel like she needs to share every detail with you even beyond your own comfort levels? And is there a better, a more healthy alternative to address those insecurities without resorting to potentially unethical behaviors?

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 keeps on throwing tamper tantrums.

“My [26F] partner [33F] and I have been together for 2.5 years. She is poly and has another partner [34M] and has been with him for 15 years. When I met her I fell for her hard and we just moved in together a few months ago. The problem: she acts like a toddler sometimes. It started with little things like refusing to cook (NEVER cooks) or clean (except on Sundays when she is home…if she’s away on a Sunday, the cleaning has to wait for a week). I cook, I maintain cleanliness of our apartment, I drive everywhere (she has a car but doesn’t like driving). In all honesty, that stuff doesn’t bother me too much because she contributes a lot for financially, plans date nights/weekends, and is generally great company. This issue is that she yells when she doesn’t get her way. Like, legit yells. And when we have disagreements, it’s impossible to have a productive conversation. Our fights last an average of 3–5 days. This last fight started when I asked if her dog (Jack) could not sleep in our bedroom with us temporarily (with her other partner instead – we all live together – because I hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep lately and the dog keeps me up at night). Her immediate response was “Jack goes where I go. If Jack can’t sleep with me, I’m not sleeping with you, and we’ll have to renegotiate rent.” She went on this whole Tirade about how I’m trying to kick Jack out of my life and how much more she loves Jack than me. I know she loves her dog. When I told her that this reaction was hurtful, she responded by saying that she’s not apologizing for defending Jack and I need to figure out if I want to be with her or not. There’s a lot of other stuff going on in our relationship in terms of stressors (we just moved; her and 34m looking at buying a house; new jobs) but this reaction is making zero sense to me. I left town for a few hours one night after work to take some time for myself to figure all this out (3 people, and 2 dogs in an apartment is suffocating sometimes) and I told her that I was leaving and would be back later that night. Her response to that was that she’ll never trust me again and I’ve broken her heart…by taking 4 hours to myself one night after work. It’s starting to dawn on me that all of our past fights have started by me expressing an opinion or feeing that she either doesn’t agree with or doesn’t understand. And instead of being able to talk about it, she lashes out and I come crawling back a few days later.

I’m at a loss. I don’t know if I can fight like this anymore – it’s emotionally exhausting and I don’t feel like I can ever express myself without her going off the handle. Am I being too patient? The good times are really good and we typically go a couple months without a fight. But when we do fight….I just don’t know if it’s worth it. Is it time to leave? Or should I stay and try to make things work?”

TL;DR – My partner explodes if I share an opinion or feeling that she doesn’t agree with or understand, and instead of talking to me about it, she gives me the silent treatment and is extremely rude to me for days at a time.

/u/annonyandro on /r/relationships

Photo by Godisable Jacob on

Dear Annonyandro,

First thing I noticed when I read your story was how there appears to be a significant power imbalance between you and your partner in your relationship. You mentioned how there appears to be a major gap between the amount of chores you each do in house and the amount of money each of you makes. I think it’s important to point out here that it doesn’t necessarily matter how much money each of you makes. Household chores are an even playing ground regardless of your income and you absolutely have a right to ask that their balance of chores is done especially in a shared living situation.

I am also deeply concerned with how little compassion and empathy your partner displayed in their actions. When you suggested to your partner for her pup Jack to sleep elsewhere, her immediate reaction to defend Jack instead of relating to you tells me that her priorities are all out of whack. You have essentially stated your own boundary (“I will not sleep in the same bed with a dog that interrupts my sleep”) and your partner has dismissed your boundary instead of listening. It is perfectly within your own write to establish, communicate, and enforce your own boundary in your own living space. It’s not really your partner’s place to tell you whether or not that boundary is valid. That’s not the worst part. She rebuffed by asserting her own boundary (“I will not sleep with a partner who will not sleep with my dog”) and immediately jumped to weaponize the financial power imbalance by suggesting rent renegotiation, an aspect of this arrangement that she knows you feel sensitive about.

But I think the backbreaker is when you mentioned you couldn’t even have a four hour night out for yourself without her blowing up at you about how you’ve betrayed her trust. It was just one night out from an otherwise crowded household.

Photo by Pixabay on

Here are three interpersonal traits of your partner that I am seeing in your recollections of their behavior.

Your partner has poor relationship management skills. Instead of acknowledging your needs, she constantly asserts her own needs above your own. She does not manage her relationships with authenticity and good faith. Instead, she appears to assume the worst possible intent (i.e. she doesn’t trust you after you spent four hours on a night out) and immediately uses her insecurity to control your behavior.

Your partner lacks proper emotional regulation skills. Instead of having successful and meaningful dialogues about working on issues together as a team, she immediately internalizes any criticisms to herself, her possessions, and her space as critiques to her ego. Her inability to de-escalate heated situations and productively discuss solutions with you does not reflect healthy internal interactions she has with herself or with others.

Your partner appears to utilize very basic manipulation tactics (i.e. cold shoulders, guilt tripping) to take advantage of your vulnerabilities. She might or might not be utilizing those manipulation tactics with intention. But at the end of the day, does it matter if she is intentionally or unintentionally hurting you when she doesn’t even acknowledge that she is hurting you?

Photo by Pixabay on

Regardless of what you decide to take away from my reflections, I think it is a good time for you to establish some really difficult and hard boundaries about what you are and are not willing to tolerate in your partnership. One of those boundaries could be, “I will not continue to take part in a discussion where my partner raises their voice in an effort to silence my input.” If your partner continues to raise their voice even after you communicate this boundary, you might want to step away and remove yourself from this situation until there can be a more productive discussion on what is unfolding.

Another hard boundary you can set for yourself is to determine what is your own personal space she has to ask for permission to be a part of. Just because she pays more in rent or makes more money than you does not mean that you are not entitled to your own space in your own apartment. You are paying rent after all.

And start thinking about a possible exit plan. As you said, you’re getting emotionally exhausted from tolerating this kind of behavior from your partner. Gottman Institute published an article that said the magic ratio that makes happy relationships click is five positive interactions to one negative interaction. That means, you need five good experiences with your partner in order for that one bad experience to even out. When you say that the good times are really good when things are smooth. But even when things are smooth, would you say that you have an even balance of five good interactions with your partner to each bad interaction?

Photo by Vitória Santos on

I’ll leave off with this. Since you are in a polyamorous relationship with your partner, you might not necessarily have to end your relationship even in the face of these incompatibilities. I don’t think the problem here is the poly arrangement. The problem is with your partner and what more you’re willing to tolerate before you decide to take an action. You’ve had two and a half years of history together. And like you said, when things are good, they’re good. If you feel like there are still qualities to your partner that you can appreciate better from a distance, you might benefit from moving out to create some distance from your partner or even de-escalating so that you can keep some distance between you own sense of sanity from her emotional outbursts.

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 – Partner broke a boundary.

Photo by Jill Wellington on

/u/zmeyka_ writes on /r/polyamory…

“My partner H and I have been open for a few years. I had a casual relationship with someone for two years with no issues that ended a year ago. Recently H started dating someone he met and they have been hanging out once or twice a week for the past two months. This is a lot more serious than the relationship I had.

We don’t really have rules or boundaries and just communicate with each other however we did discuss safety sex and talking about recent tests and always using condoms. My partner agreed to this and agreed to use condoms. They have had sexual contact multiple times but had PIV sex two days ago. H says they talked about testing and birth control and decided not to use a condom. The person he has been dating is not on any birth control and relies on condoms.

They got plan B and we all plan on getting tested but I am completely devastated. I am totally upset they both knew they are not on birth control and we had agreed on using condoms.

H has had impulse issues before with money and stuff and said it was just impulsive. I found out they didn’t use condoms because I asked when he told me they had sex. He has been upset and apologetic but I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have to start over trusting him again and it doesn’t feel worth it. I also feel highly disrespected by his partner who agreed to not use condoms despite having other partners and not being on birth control. Does anyone have advice for me?”

TL;DR – Partner had unprotected sex with his other partner.

Dear Zmeyka,

I am really sorry that you are going through this.

The first thing that came to my mind when I read your situation was that your partner has made a really short-sighted decision. Ethical non-monogamy and safe sex practices go hand-in-hand. And his decision not to use a condom with his new partner clearly broke an implicit agreement you had with your partner about practicing best safe sex practices with all other partners.

His explanation that his decision was not impulsive but intentional and precise tells me that there is something more to worry about here. It is downright dangerous to have unprotected sex with no birth control methods. I think it might have been a bit more understanding of they have been dating each other for a long time with established barriered sexual chemistry. But they only had their first intercourse two days ago. Do they plan on not using any protections going forward? How do they expect to avoid pregnancy while she isn’t on any birth control? Even if she starts taking oral contraceptives, how do they expect to limit the risk of possible sexually transmitted diseases and infections from spreading?

His decision to be fluid bonded with a brand new sexual partner is disrespectful, dispassionate, and selfish.

Photo by Vitaly Vlasov on

What is trust in another but a developed and intentional faith in others to look out for our best interests? And what is infidelity but a gross negligence and mistreatment of strongly assumed agreements to be kind to our partners even in their absence? Your pain is completely and wholly understandable.

Your next steps are intense. Internally, consider the extent of damage this broken boundary has caused. Determine if/how you want to continue to be sexually connected with a partner who does not display a good behavior in safe sex practices. You could choose to step away from this sexual connection or decide it might be for the best for barriered sex for you and your partner going forward. Risks of pregnancy is a major emotional cost, so you’ll have to start establishing some really fundamental boundaries around your relationship with your partner and possibly distance yourself away from this dangerous situation. At the end of the day, you cannot control what kind of sex your partner has with his other partners. The only thing you CAN control is whether or not you remain sexually entangled with someone who makes sexually unhealthy decisions.

Then you’ll have to communicate your newly realized boundaries with your partner, review the consequences of broken boundaries, and enforce the consequences if boundaries are broken.

If you decide that you’d like to work on rebuilding this trust with him, understand that it will be a mutual effort to rebuild the trust. However, the onus of convincing falls upon him to display that the rebuilding of trust is a worthwhile emotional and romantic endeavor for you.

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 – Functional veto and metamour drama.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

/u/thelonepill writes on /r/polyamory…

“I was in a relationship with C, during which we lived together and planned to move in officially. We had always been explicit about wanting a poly dynamic where we can love other people too. I really fucking love this person, I could see myself growing old with him.

C was also seeing H. There was some tension due to the fact that I lived with him, I was his nesting partner, and she felt kinda excluded from that. I also had some insecurities but I talked them through with C and worked on them alone. I asked if I could meet H after 5 months of them seeing each other, and we did end up having coffee together at the flat one day, it went pretty well. I wanted H to be able to come over to the flat, be included, and for us to be able to say ‘hi’ at events, that kinda stuff. We don’t have to be friends or anything, but since I lived there and she had expressed she wanted to come over I felt like it was a good move to have coffee and just chill out at least once.

A few months later, I left the living situation. It wasn’t the right time for us to move in together, for loads of reasons. There was a lot going on. Relationship fizzed out with C for a few months. I found a new place, new confidence, new independence. C and I started talking again, and I realized that I was still very much in love with C, and he is still in love with me. Great!! I thought. We’ll be able to finally have a real shot at a relationship, without living together, with a better dynamic! H will have less insecurities about me being in the picture because I have my own place and it’s a much more symmetrical situation.

C went to H with this, and she basically categorically refused and said that she didn’t want a poly relationship anymore. This was heartbreaking for me.. H wrote me a letter, in which she says that she doesn’t want a poly thing, but that she feels like she has to because C loves me. I was worried about this, and replied via email saying that poly dynamics should always be a consensual thing…

Since then, H said that ‘maybe it could work’ but only if her and I open a direct line of communication so that she can ‘trust me’. She seems very insecure and I understand. However, I feel like my boundaries are being crossed. I feel very vulnerable right now. I’m all for meeting my metas and even being friends, but this is weird as hell. I’m not even a real part of the dynamic and she wants to meet me to ‘have a chat to see if it could work’.. She’s sent me 3 emails.. Saying she ‘doesn’t want poly’, then she says ‘maybe’ but ‘when she’s ready’, then now it’s ‘ maybe, but only if you open up emotionally to me via email/agree to a real life chat’… I feel completely lost and very weird and sad.

Am I the problem or is this weird? I feel like my boundaries aren’t being respected. She feels like her needs aren’t being respected. How would you react to these requests? I feel like this communication is a lot. I haven’t even been able to rekindle my relationship with C yet. I’m usually so open to the idea of being friendly and communicating with metas, but this feels kinda weird and controlling. I don’t feel like I should have to prove to my potential meta that I’m trustworthy before even entering the dynamic. I don’t know what to do.”

TL;DR – Poly relationship revisited after a few months. His other partner refuses to consent to a poly relationship.

Photo by Mareefe on

Dear The Lone Pill,

It’s not just you. This is weird.

But I do think that everyone had a part to play in this really difficult situation here. H for being a bad metamour. C for being a bad hinge. And you for allowing this person to consistently cross your boundaries. Let’s start with H.

There is a term in the poly-verse called cowboy/cowgirl. Mistress Matisse used it on her Stranger column – the Control Tower – here. Cowboy/cowgirl is defined as “a monogamous person who meets someone who openly identifies as polyamorous, becomes romantically involved with them, and attempts to “cut them out of the herd,” meaning: persuade them to sever existing relationships and embrace monogamy.” Part of the cowboy/cowgirl

It appears that H very closely fits this definition of someone who is deeply monogamous who is attempting to lasso C out of the herd. H is staking her claim on her relationship with C over those few months you and C were apart. H is weaponizing her insecurity and jealousy to stomp all over your and C’s boundaries. I agree with you that ethical non-monogamy should start with consent, but consent only works if it is enveloped in good intention from those who provide it. Ethics and consent go hand-in-hand. The way that H is lashing out and pinning her consent on a workable friendship with you is outrageous for more than one reason.

For one, you’ve already successfully displayed what kind of metamour you would like to be. You had coffee with her after five months of their relationship. You’ve also repeatedly communicated that you would love to maintain a friendship with her in a more “kitchen table poly” situation. But most importantly, you’ve previously displayed that you can have a successful relationship with your shared partner C. The time period of separation and realignment between you and C does not involve H at all.

In addition to all of these, she is continuing to push and pull on your boundaries by sending you letters and emails about how she is and isn’t okay with polyamory. That is all really inhumane and dispassionate. I wonder if she’d feel differently if the shoes were flipped and someone else was doing this to her relationship with him.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on

That leads me to my next discussion point; C is not being a very good hinge partner.

I have said so in the past and it bears repeating here. It is the hinge partner’s responsibility to maintain and manage their respective relationships. It is C’s sole responsibility to determine whether or not he wants to be polyamorous. He can be mindful and approach his authentic self with caution, as to not upset his relationship with H beyond repair. But that is still his own decision to make. He is his own autonomous person, able to pursue relationships in his own way. Should he decide not to pursue a relationship with you – as it appears he is doing so – it is a decision he needs to own rather than deflecting on H’s comfort level or her consent.

C has made some really obvious mistakes along the way here.

First was in not doing his homework with H prior to discussing what kind of romantic space that you and he can occupy. He might not have known the full extent of your feelings for him, but he definitely knew of his. He could have started the discussion with H earlier to make sure that he was preemptively creating a snug space for a relationship with you. Instead, he waited until the issue was hot at hand, after the feelings were shared.

He then made a mistake to not take any responsibility for the fallout when H did not react well to his feelings for you. I’m not sure if they have ever discussed veto powers. But the way she has reacted to pin her consent against his relationship with you and suddenly not being okay with polyamory tells me that she is in essence asserting her veto by continuing to strangle the life out of his connection with you. That’s his responsibility to assert the emotional load on what relationships he wants to pursue.

But I think the most important issue here is that H does not get to “categorically refuse” and not want to be a poly relationship anymore. That is C’s prerogative to pursue the relationships he wants to pursue. H’s prerogative here is to accept that as part of him, or move on so that she can pursue a monogamous relationship with a monogamous person. It is C’s responsibility to recognize, enforce, and follow through on that sense of autonomy in his relationships. Not H. Healthy kind of polyamory is not permission-based; it is acceptance-based.

Photo by Walter Torres on

Then let’s talk about your boundaries. It is clear from your reaction that your boundaries are being stepped on. But I’m unsure what specifically those boundaries are. Maybe we’ve already outlined them above (i.e. sense of autonomy over your relationships). But these feelings of hurt from overstepped boundaries mean very little if …

  1. They are vague;
  2. Non-verbalized; Or,
  3. Unenforced.

So it is time for you to sit down and recognize what some of these boundaries are. Then communicate with both C and H about what those boundaries are. And stick to what those boundary violations mean to you, your & C, and you & H.

I talked about in this previous column that the best boundaries are “internally driven, mutually communicated, and externally exercised.” Recognize that all you can do is to mindfully set your own boundaries, communicate those said boundaries to affected parties, hope that they’ll follow your boundaries, and hold them accountable if boundaries are broken.

Honestly, seeing how emotionally charged everything is, the best thing for you to do here is to create some distance between you and H. At least until she can have a more reasonable dialogue with you about what your relationship with C is supposed to mean. If that means you have to give C space to work things out with H to hammer out what polyamory means to them, so be it. But I don’t see how continuing to engage with someone like H who is belligerently engaging in bad faith discussions with you is healthy for you, for C, or for herself.

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 I handle the transition from being open to poly?

Photo by Thought Catalog on

[TW: mentions of self-harm, ideation.]

Anonymous writes…

“… So my primary partner is my fiance [22M] of 4 years and my secondary is my boyfriend [37M] who has been one of my closest friends for over a year and a half. I’d almost say he’s my one of my best friends. He has helped me with depression, talked me down from being suicidal and once (way predating the poly-ness) called my fiance because I had self harmed and was in bad shape and was refusing to tell anyone. We clicked almost instantly and talked constantly even before having a relationship. He also is the person that helped my fiance and I with our poly issues. I came out to my fiance first as wanting to open the relationship as purely a sexual thing and he was not having it at all. Flash forward to a few weeks later we both broke down and compromised that I could sext with someone so naturally I picked my now boyfriend, lets call him C. I chose C because there was already weird sexual tension and I knew he was a safe option because he wouldn’t catch feelings and neither would I. Well we were both wrong.

Some background on C before I go any further. C is 37 and married with children. He and his wife have an open relationship and always have. Up until me he always believed he was a swinger. Purely sexual, no emotions.

About 2 weeks into sexting and just hanging out we both realized that feelings were developed and needed to be addressed. So finally, when my fiance asked me how things were going I just spilled my guts and told him I was Poly. He seemed crushed. We cried together and talked for hours before he finally realized that it wasn’t a me issue. It was a him issue. He finally told me that it was ok and that I could see someone else. So C and I started dating. Things were going amazing. I’ve been so happy. I feel like I’ve even been happier with my fiance. Happier than ever. Then the other night he (my fiance) dropped a huge bomb on me.

He has been holding it in. He’s poly too. All of those feelings he had all of the tears and anger weren’t at me. They were of walls breaking down after 2 years of him building them up and I came in at full force and knocked them down. He said he felt horrible for not telling me immediately but he didn’t know what to say and he was afraid because 2 years ago we jumped into a triad without any consideration or talking beforehand and it ended in me nearly committing suicide. And he was shocked when I told him how happy I was that he felt the same way. We talked more and he told me he had a huge crush on this guy and wanted permission to ask him out and I was elated.

Now back to C. C has never had feelings for a person he was doing a poly/swinger thing with. So he’s nervous too. I’m his first poly relationship. His face lit up the other day when I called him my boyfriend. But here’s the thing. C is 17 years older than me. No one has batted an eye. Except me. A while back he tried a swinger thing with this girl and my fiance laughed and said it was weird because the girl was only a year older than me. C has a daughter only a year younger than me. My best friend and I were talking and C is older than both of her step parents. Now that being said, none of that is a turn off for me. I’m not grossed out. I still really care for him, dare I say I’m head over heels but I think part of me is scared of being judged due to the age gap.

Also C hasn’t told his wife yet. He isn’t cheating on her, it’s always been an agreed upon thing that they could do whatever with whomever as long as they were safe. I get along with her really well and we have a lot in common. This is also a first for him because she has always either not known his other person or she didn’t really get along with them. The fear I’m having is that she’ll either react horribly or she’ll be super happy and possibly want to join. That’s a problem for me because I don’t like her in that way and as a human she’s not great. Odds are she’ll be fine with it. He knows she’ll be fine with it and he keeps reassuring me. He has been with the woman for 20 years. He knows her. But I can’t stop overthinking. Help?”

“nateia – tea packaging” by wera piatek is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Dear Anonymous,

There actually isn’t a whole lot to discuss regarding your relationship with your fiance.

It sounds like there have been a lot of changes in your relationship with your fiance in a very short amount of time. It first started out as a very monogamous relationship. Then you and your fiance went through a pretty difficult time as you suggested opening up the relationship to a sexual connection. As your relationship with your secondary partner deepened, you quickly realized you wanted to have more romantic connections than the purely sexual ones you previously agreed to. In the meantime, your fiance has tagged along until he realized how much he is open to developing polyamorous relationships of his own as well. There was some history between you and your fiance that led to a lot of negative trauma, that rightfully justified in how scared he felt about approaching you about his newfound relationship orientation. I am really happy to hear that your fiance has found someone he fancies and you were able to be there for him in celebration of his newfound orientation. Your fiance sounds like he is very emotionally intelligent, based on the way he communicates his feelings, mindfully addresses his own emotional labor, and how in touch he is with his feelings. What you have with your fiance is truly special.

Photo by Harry Nixon on

Now let’s talk about your relationship with your boyfriend.

It sounds like C has been a very critical part of your growth and the changes in relationship dynamic over the past year or so. He was your depression accountability buddy, who became your close friend, who became your sexual partner, who became your boyfriend. There is a certain reverence and respect in the language you use to describe your relationship with your boyfriend that tells me that there is a bit of idealization / NRE blinding going on in your relationship. That is fair. He was your first poly partner and instrumental in helping you realize this really crucial aspect of your relationship orientation and identity. And since this is his first poly relationship as well, there is a lot of pressure on his side to get things right too.

I actually do not believe the age gap between you and your boyfriend is relevant at all. There is a point in your twenties when you sort of hold steady to the level of maturity you have. The bursts of growth come in more irregular intervals in adult life. And I don’t think it is pertinent to our discussion here.

What is pertinent is in how he is handling his relationship with his wife of twenty years, and how you are envisioning your metamourship with his wife panning out.

Photo by David Bartus on

I am a firm believer that there are very few absolute ethics that apply strictly to ethical non-monogamy, and there are a lot of moral relativism. There are a lot of gray areas and the magical sprinkle of consent often makes a lot of otherwise-questionable actions completely acceptable. I do believe that there is a big gap between being open/swinging and “do[ing] whatever with whomever as long as they were safe.” The lines of infidelity are much more blurred in ENM relationships because sexual intercourse is no longer a hard line. Instead, infidelity is much more rooted in the agreements you make with your respective partners (both implicit and explicit). If the implicit agreement between your boyfriend and his wife is that he will set hard boundaries to not develop feelings for each other’s other partners, then he has broken that implicit agreement of an open relationship. Right now, you have a sense of plausible deniability in that you don’t know what specific agreements he and his wife has had. But it sounds like based on how he has not revealed the full extent of his romantic relationship with you that it does breach their implicit agreement to some degree. That needs to be addressed as soon as possible, not because it poses a changes in sexual risk profile, but because it poses an internal changes in emotional risk profile. But that should be left up to him to determine when/if he should disclose that to his wife. It’s just of my personal opinion that he should do so so that his wife doesn’t have too much of a negative reaction at his current lying by omission.

I also want to talk a bit about your projected relationship with his wife. Assuming that this above conversation goes well, you might already be coming into this connection with your metamour with some pretty difficult ideas about who she is as a person and what she might want from her husband’s connection with you. It is not a healthy mindset to have to negatively frame your metamour even before you meet them. So try your best to recognize the silver linings and learn to appreciate her presence in her life in your own language. Consider that a lot of what you know about her is strictly filtered through your boyfriend. Should there be a platonic connection to be forged between you and your metamour, form your own opinions about who she is as a person. I do think if you are feeling uncomfortable about her pushing to date you, then this is the perfect time to have this discussion with your boyfriend about only dating him, and that you are not at all interested in dating her together. And once you’ve established that boundary, then it is on your boyfriend to communicate your boundary with his wife. And then it becomes his wife’s responsibility to respect your communicated boundary. Allow him to be the hinge partner you need him to be.

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!