Advice – What is considered emotional affair?

I (27/F) am very upset that my relationship has ended because my ex boyfriend, “Todd” (30/M), thought that I have an inappropriate relationship with my best friend, “Zach” (27/M).

Zach and I met over a year ago and quickly became best friends. We are in the same professional program and rely on each other a lot. He is also my lab partner and I am required to spend at least 3-4 hours with him a week. Todd and I met four months ago, and our relationship had been incredible aside from his issues with Zach. He checks all the boxes, and I could see us having a serious and long term relationship.

Now this is what I don’t understand. I do talk to Zach everyday. We text frequently about school or ongoing drama with our friends. We’ve never had a romantic or physical relationship. However, I’ve told Todd that I don’t have an interest in Zach as anything more than friends, but Todd still sees the relationship as inappropriate due to the frequency that Zach and I talk, and because we’ve talked about intimate details of our lives. Nothing too graphic, but Zach supported me when I was having trouble in school and when my dad had a health scare. I would say that Zach has been an excellent friend to me and one that I can trust.

Todd doesn’t like Zach because he thinks Zach would sleep with me if given the chance. And thus, this is why Todd thinks I’m having an emotional affair. He thinks I’m too close with Zach and he shouldn’t have to “share me” with anyone. He thinks it’s wrong that I asked for support from Zach and that I’m leading Zach on. I can see his point – Todd should be the number one guy in my life. And I thought he was.

So I guess what I’m asking has two parts. How do I get over Todd’s judgment when I feel like I haven’t done anything wrong? And was my relationship with Zach truly inappropriate and emotional cheating?

/u/TomorrowProof9689, Reddit.

Dear Tomorrow Proof,

Let’s start by defining an act of infidelity. An act of infidelity is loosely defined as an intentional violation of any explicit or implicit relationship agreement(s). There are few socially agreed-upon and implicit relationship agreements, such as “Do not have sexual encounters with other people while we are in a monogamous relationship.” However, most of the specific relationship agreements are for the people in that specific relationship to determine.

Based on what you have shared, I don’t get the sense that “Do not have close friendships with someone of the opposite gender” was not an explicit relationship agreement. As such, I don’t think that we can qualify your deep and rewarding friendship with Zach as infidelity.

Even if we look only at the emotional infidelity, I don’t think we can qualify your connection with Zach as an emotional infidelity. In general, emotional infidelity is even more ambiguously defined as any pursuit of forging a romantic connection without a physical/sexual component that usually earmarks any infidelity, which is distinctly untrue for your connection with Zach.

It is difficult to fully gather Todd’s rationale on how he saw your connection with Zach. But I think we can make some educated guesses based on what he said and what made him feel insecure before we get to what this means for you personally.

Let’s first talk about what Todd said.

Todd said that he saw your connection with Zach as inappropriate because:

  1. Of how frequently you and Zach exchanged messages;
  2. Of the depth of your connection with each other.

Both of those rationale speak more about what he personally assesses as inappropriate, completely without any reflection from what your actual stated intentions were. In fact, the context of your connection with Zach alone should have explained the frequency of your communication with Zach (since you two are in the same professional program) as well as the depth of your connection (since Zach helped you manage your emotional labor associated with school as well as with your dad’s health scare). So in his words, he not only disregarded the context of your connection with Zach but also disregarded your own words that defined your lack of romantic intention toward Zach.

I also want to touch on Todd’s comment about how he thinks Zach will sleep with you “if given the chance”.

What does “if given the chance” even mean? Is he implying that you have poor judgment and therefore should feel unsafe around Zach because he will disregard your lack of interest and disregard your complete lack of consent? Or is Todd saying that he doesn’t take you at your word when you declared your lack of romantic or sexual intention toward Zach?

I get the feeling that his animosity towards Zach is more likely a product of his own projection rather than one that is grounded in the reality of your connection with Zach.

That gives us a better idea on what made Todd feel so insecure.

In modern monogamous relationships, we are so often programmed to believe that we must be everything for our partners – emotionally, physically, and sexually. And any failure to fulfill all of your partner’s needs is immediately unbecoming of you as a partner. It is at core an incredibly faulty and dangerously unhealthy premise because asking one person to meet all of your needs for your entire life is too much of a Big Ask. A much more reasonable expectation to uphold is that you’ll do your best to meet as many of your partner’s essential needs as is reasonable.

It could be that when you sought out Zach’s emotional support, Todd could have felt like he was unable to meet your emotional need in that specific way. And that inability to meet your need fed into his insecurity about your connection with Zach, which in turn manifested through his underlying animosity toward Zach for providing that which Todd himself could not or were not made available to provide. Note that what Todd believes as his perspective on your reality is very different from your own perspective on your own reality. This is important.

You can also see his rationale spreading and manifesting in your retrospective justification as well.

He thinks it’s wrong that I asked for support from Zach and that I’m leading Zach on.

Just because he thinks that it is inappropriate for you to seek emotional support from a friend doesn’t mean that you should think so as well. Just because he thinks you are leading Zach on doesn’t mean that you are actually leading him on. Zach knew that you were in a monogamous relationship, and you knew you had no romantic or sexual feelings towards Zach. You are grounded in your own beliefs and needs; and if you believe that diversifying your emotional support portfolio by maintaining close connections with multiple people of different genders is better for your mental health, it isn’t your partner’s place to judge you or critique your connections. And in a way, it looks like his projection of his own insecurity has morphed and manifested in self-internalized guilt for you (“I can see his point – Todd should be the number one guy in my life. And I thought he was.“).

So let’s go back to the two-part question you asked at the end of your post.

I’ll answer the second question first (“And was my relationship with Zach truly inappropriate and emotional cheating?”). No. I don’t think the connection you have with Zach qualifies as cheating. It is perfectly okay to maintain a close connection with anyone who feels good for you to stay connected with as long as you feel confident in your own ability to set appropriate boundaries.

As for getting over Todd’s judgment, it is okay to feel some guilt over the end of any intimate connection. Your feelings are real and valid. And if you feel that you did nothing wrong in fostering a deep connection with a platonic friend in Zach, then your feelings also have weight. Regardless of the happenstance surrounding the end of your relationship with Todd, give yourself some space and time to grieve the end of your intimate connection with another human being. Allow your feelings to complete the cycle.

It is important to remember that the narrative you want to create from here on out is yours and yours only. Will you choose to beholden to a twisted story that your ex will weave in order to avoid resolving his insecurities, even as an echo? Or will you choose to write your own story based on your own experiences using your own words?

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!

Is it unethical to date someone who is in a monogamous relationship?

Is it ethical for a polyamorous person to pursue or date someone who is in a monogamous relationship (married or otherwise) and does not have the consent of their partner? I am getting some mixed input from friends, so I figure more feedback the better. Thanks.

Just to clarify, I considered dating someone who hit on a monogamous married man in front of me and she didn’t have an issue with it but I did.

/u/_whataboutjohnny, /r/polyamory.
Manki Kim, @kimdonkey. Unsplash.

There is actually a lot of nuance here. So my quick answer is that it depends on the circumstance.

As a polyamorous person, there is a world of difference between dating a monogamous person who is currently single and dating a monogamous person who is in a monogamous relationship with another. And both of those are completely different in the context of dating a monogamous-minded person compared to hitting on a monogamous-minded person. All of it boils down to intention, and statement of those said intentions.

When a polyamorous person dates a monogamous person, the onus of consent lies exclusively with the two individuals in the engagement. Each person has an opportunity to consent to the relationship they are each participating in. The polyamorous person will have to acknowledge that the person they are dating is monogamous. As such, dating monofolks come with an added emotional commitment to deprogram existing monogamy-based societal norms, to manage emotional/sexual insecurities, and to facilitate their commitment in a meaningful and fruitful way. In turn, the monogamous person will have to acknowledge that the person they are dating is polyamorous. As such, dating polyfolks come with the added emotional commitment to accept their ability to form multiple connections, to familiarize themselves with literature surrounding ethical non-monogamy, and to acknowledge and accept that polyamory isn’t always about sex. With those two layers of consent, a mono-poly relationship can be ethical.

This is a completely different experience than dating a monogamous person who is already in a monogamous relationship with another person. In this particular scenario, there is an existing exclusive agreement that the monogamous person has in their monogamous relationship. Sometimes, that agreement isn’t explicit. After all, we do live in a world where monogamy is the accepted standard. Consent of all involved parties is core to ethical non-monogamy. Therefore, pursuing a relationship with someone who does not have explicit consent of all involved would be unethical, even if the person consenting is unaware.

Both of these scenarios are completely different in the context of flirting. Personally, I am a shameless flirt. I am outwardly effusive and generous with genuine compliments. So even with people I know are unavailable for me to date and even when I’m not looking to date, I tell people what I like about them. I generally operate under the function that I’ll let the interested parties know if I am actually interested in pursuing them as partners. In all other occasions, my friends understand that it is harmless flirting, a general way to spread acknowledgment and validation of their inner and outer beauties. As such, my explicit intention puts an arbitrary boundary on my flirting so that it isn’t misunderstood or misconstrued. So I would consider that flirting in itself isn’t unethical, especially when the intentions are explicitly stated.

On the other hand, if the intentions about flirting are dishonest, then it would be unethical. So for example, if the intention of your poly-identified friend when they hit on a monogamous married man was to coerce and entice him into engaging in an unethical behavior with them (i.e. cheating), then it would be non-consensual on his partner’s behalf and therefore unethical. I would say that, for me personally, that type of behavior would be unbecoming of a partner as it reflects deep character flaws that could mean that they might otherwise facilitate other unethical behaviors in my relationship with them as well.

So the ethics of it all really boils down to…

  • Was it consensual?
  • Was it intentional?

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 broke the rules of our open relationship.

“My boyfriend and I did long distance for 5 months. Before those 5 months we had been together for a year and it was seriously the best year of my life. We had an amazing relationship. We were honest with each other, he was so incredibly supportive, and we were so in love. Because I was so happy and confident with our relationship I decided to give him 5 passes to have sex while we were apart. He agreed and thanked me and told me the 5 passes applied to me as well. However, I told him there would be some rules. The rules were: no cuddling/sleeping with the other person, can’t sleep with a same person twice and the biggest rule of all was that we must be honest about it. I told him multiple times this rule was extremely important and it goes hand in hand with the pass. No honesty, no free pass.

About a month into the long distance, he told me he doesn’t want to use the passes. I was secretly a bit happy because I thought it was since he was just so in love with me.

Fast forward to Christmas. I went to visit him for three weeks and we had an amazing holiday travelling around his home country. I was always a little shocked that he didn’t use his passes because before me he had slept with quite a few women and was (still is a little bit but I don’t mind) quite flirtatious. So I asked him once or twice to give him the chance to fess up in case he didn’t have the heart to do so before. Both times I asked he said no.

Fast forward to March where we finally close the gap and he moves to Canada (where I live) permanently. The second day he arrives he tells me he used one of his passes while he was away. My initial reaction was surprise but I really wasn’t that shocked because I was more shocked by the fact that he had the opportunity to sleep with other women and didn’t use it. I wasn’t hurt as well because he told me it was very mechanic and he respected the rules (she left right after the act and he never kept contact with her). But then I started wondering…..”if he used 1 of his tickets why wouldn’t he have used more?”. So a few days later I asked him if he was being completely honest and he finally admitted he had used all of his passes. But then he told me that one girl slept over and another girl he saw twice (and on the second time she slept over). I was so saddened by this. He told me he was scared to tell me when we were apart because he wouldn’t be there to comfort me while he was away and he didn’t want to tell me at the Christmas break because he didn’t want to ruin our small amount of time we had together. I trust him on this because he is a really really nice guy and I know he hates the idea of me being hurt. Every time I cry he cries.

He’s apologized and I know he feels sorry for what he did but I just can’t get it out of my head. For the first month he arrived we talked/fought about it a lot and every time he apologizes but I still find myself thinking about it. I feel like the relationship isn’t the same and I don’t feel the same about of security and love that I used to feel.

Does anyone have any advice?”

Canadian Dumpling on /r/nonmonogamy.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Dear Canadian Dumpling,

I am really sorry to hear that you experienced such a betrayal in trust. It sounds like you’ve done your best and gave him many opportunities to be honest with you about what happened. It is truly heartbreaking to hear how many times he has neglected to be honest with you about what happened.

The “ethics” portion of ethical non-monogamy compels every participant to seek consensual and mindful connection with not just new connections but also to maintain strong connections with our existing relationships. As you have outlined as one of your rules, honesty is absolutely crucial for any relationship – not just ones that are ethically non-monogamous – to be successful.

And let’s talk about honesty. You said that honesty was one of the core rules in which your non-monogamous agreement functioned. And even as you’ve repeated so, it was something that your partner should have understood was important even without the reminder. His failure to disclose his other experience appears to be a firm agreement/boundary violation for you, as would be for many other non-mono folks. His failure to communicate put you at a level of emotional and sexual safety risk that you did not consent to. Even if we give your partner the benefit of the doubt that the timing of his revelation (i.e. waiting until March after he moved in with you) was benevolent, I’m afraid that his behavior would fall under cheating.

What is infidelity but a misguided act of deceit?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

It is important to first acknowledge your pain that stems from these continued acts of betrayal. He failed you in multitude of ways. He failed to communicate with you which put you at a risk of contracting STI from an unknown vector. He also failed to uphold his own agreed boundaries with others by sleeping with a same partner more than once. In addition, he also failed to fully disclose to what extent his violation of your boundaries has been. Instead, he opted to drip and drip little revelation one after another.

It could be possible that his inability -if his failure to communicate is indeed his lack of ability – could stem from a sense of mono-normative guilt. That for him, he could see his sleeping with others felt unethical and wrong, even with your direct consent. Many of us do have to actively deprogram several beliefs hammered into us from early age. But I don’t really know if that is a price of admission that you need to pay for on his behalf. And if he did have such a difficult time revealing to his girlfriend that he slept with other women, it could also be possible that he also struggled or failed to disclose that he had a girlfriend when he slept with these four women. So in essence, he didn’t just cheat on you; he cheated on five total women by failing to disclose his sexual/relational risk profile in a timely manner. No amount of apology is going to be able to bring him back to the first person he slept with post-agreement. The damage is already done.

Photo by cottonbro on

There are several different ways this can play out.

Closing the relationship (if you haven’t already done so) would be the most obvious first step. Trust has eroded to the point of no return. So take this time to get tested for STI risk then assess where your relationship stands.

Dig deep and discuss what led to this constant miscommunication. If it is something internal to himself, you’re going to need to see some indications of progress. Whether that is through self-improvement or therapy to resolve guilt, that improvement will need to be initiated and committed to for and by himself.

Work little bit at a time to re-establish trust. With what has transpired, you and your partner are going to need some time to heal and rebuild something anew. It could be possible that the next phase of your now-local relationship could look a lot like what it was prior to your long distance experience. But it is in no way assumed or guaranteed in the same way that a garden after a replanting consists of wholly different plants. Even if you end up picking out the same plants, it won’t be the same garden. And it won’t be the same relationship.

I’m really sorry that this happened to you. My heart really goes out to you and I sincerely hope that you and your partner can find some healing, either individually or as a couple.

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 just found out that the guy I went on a couple dates with is actually married.

“I [28F] went home last month for a week to visit family. During that time, I matched and met up with a seemingly nice, sweet guy [27M] for my last 2 nights at home. He knew I was visiting from across the country, but we really hit it off. I didn’t think much of it and never expected to stay in touch, but when I did leave, he continued texting, flirting etc. I had said he was free to visit me any time and he took me up on that offer. A couple weeks after our first 2 outings, he told me he had booked a ticket to come see me and would work remote during the week while I went into the office and then on the weekends I showed him around town and we took a mini road trip to some local hot spots and tourist destinations etc.

When he left, I knew things would change and I wouldn’t hear from him as much, if at all, and I was already mentally/emotionally prepared for that. What I was not prepared for was to find out that this man was married all along. He claimed he wasn’t big on social media but I picked up on enough stuff in conversations etc. to find his family members and ultimately his WIFE’s Facebook account – yes, she is alive and well, they are not divorced, and she was posting from their Instagram pet’s account about her husband being away “on business” during the time that he was visiting me.

I’m definitely in shock and sick to my stomach, and I have no idea how to handle this. Like I said, communication has significantly tapered since he left (about 4 days ago, at the beginning of this week). Some friends have advised calling him out, others have said to tell his wife either directly or discreetly, and others say I should just pretend it never happened and never contact this guy again.

I’d really appreciate any advice. I don’t condone homewrecking at all by the way, and I would never knowingly get involved with a married man.”

It’s Me Again 1717, /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on

Dear It’s Me Again,

I am really, really sorry that you went through this. I know how difficult you must feel to know you possibly unknowingly engaged in an extramarital affair, which risked their marriage, your sexual well-being, and your sanity all without your explicit consent.

When someone is involved with an unavailable party, it is easy to get caught up in the trap of trying to rationalize how this person could have done this. And it is indeed a trap. You might never know why he decided to sleep with someone else outside of his marriage. And even if you did know, it will not ease any of the pain you’re suffering now. Instead, you’ll end up with even more questions such as what you could have done to prevent this, or why he lied about his marriage, or why he is lying to her about his affair. The truth is that there is no one reason why people commit adultery in monogamous relationships.

So think about the shock and anger. You are right to feel that way. And you are entitled to feel your own feelings. And as your initial shock and anger eventually discolor into resentment and retribution, recognize that your feelings too are not always rational.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

I will add here that there is a small possibility that he and his wife are in a non-monogamous relationship. Whether they are open or polyamorous, it could be that they have a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy to not talk about each other’s other relationships. It could also be that they are in the closet about their non-monogamy.

However, even if he did have a non-monogamous arrangement with his wife, I still think that it is unethical to hide the other partner(s) from you. Even though it was brief, he exposed you to emotional harm in not being up front about his marital status before you’ve had your opportunity to consent. You said in a follow up message that you slept with him. So he also exposed you to STI transmission risk as well. Who knows if he has had partners other than his wife? That was not the sexual risk profile you consented to when you consented to sleeping with him. Those are all unethical and wrong.

Photo by Plush Design Studio on

As for what you should do, I think it greatly depends on your own personal ethics.

I have a feeling that in the reddit advice thread, you’ll get a lot of recommendations to contact his wife. That is a common, viable scorched earth policy. But I don’t think that is sensible, even if it feels good initially. Even if you did have evidence, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to convince someone in denial of your new reality, especially if it flies against the years of experience his wife thought she had with her husband. You also said that you wouldn’t want to be a homewrecker. And doing this will definitely wreck their marriage.

That leaves two other options.

One option is to ghost him. I don’t generally condone ghosting as a breakup strategy. But it is a very effective strategy in definitively ending an engagement you don’t want to further indulge in in a non-confrontational way. He’ll probably get an idea what happened on his own anyway. But you get to set your own closure your own way. Commitment to absolute inaction is an action.

The other option is to confront him. Show him what you found and demand explanation. Doing so might help you get some form of closure in his way, perhaps get a visibility into his heaspace that might help you avoid experiencing the same issues again in the future. This will also allow you to hold him somewhat accountable for his actions. But you won’t be able to fully trust what he says. Or he might just flat out deny anything you found.

Photo by George Becker on

No matter what you decide to do, you are starting on your own journey back to balance, back to a place of healing. Your pain is legitimate, and you are experiencing some degree of loss over the potential future you thought you could have with this man – or at least your idea of this man in your head. So allow yourself some room to grieve, to feel your own feelings.

I disagree with others that you should just pretend this didn’t happen. It did. Doing so will mean you have to continuously live your life in fear of your own lie. The ones who suggest so are not paying that price of admission to be the you who you need to be tomorrow. So recognize that even though the path to a place of healing might be full of thorny anger, the journey to recovery will be worth your time as a learning experience in and of itself.

I’m really sorry you’re going through this. I wish you 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 just found out about his girlfriend.

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/u/hank_scorpio_the3rd writes on /r/polyamory…

“I’m a 29/m in my first gay relationship with a 23/m. I genuinely love him with all my heart, he’s my favorite person. He had always talked about his best friend who lived out of state who was moving back home to where we are (friend is 20/f). I knew something was up by the amount of time they’d talk but passed it off. When friend moved here last month, he totally changed. Spending most of his time with her. His friends are telling me something’s up and i confronted him multiple times. He denied it. I flat out asked if he was interested in dating both of us, he denied it.

Then the other night i picked up his phone and went through text. He’s been dating and sleeping with this girl the whole time. Now, after confronting him he admits it obviously and so does the girl. We’ve had long talks about it, and she is ok with it. I would’ve been ok with it had he told me beforehand. Now I’m just so unsure because of the lying. What would you do? The girl is nice, sweet, and attractive however she also has been lying the whole time. They both claim they’ll do whatever to make it work.”

Dear Hank Scorpio the 3rd,

Let’s get a few things straight.

Ethical non-monogamy is a relationship model in which…

  1. All the parties have consented to
  2. Honest and sensible set of agreements and boundaries
  3. To facilitate non-exclusive sexual, romantic, and platonic connections.

Number 1 is straight forward. I talked a bit more about consent in a previous column here. But the gist of it is that consent must have three characteristics. It must be clear (i.e. were the terms definitively communicated?). It must be well-informed (i.e. did everyone know what they were agreeing to to a reasonable extent?). And it must be mutual (i.e. did everyone involved agree to the same terms?). The best kind of consent will have the following two bonus characteristics: proactive and ongoing.

You did not consent to having a non-monogamous relationship in practice. You were not informed and it was not mutual. So it was non-consensual.

Number 2 is relative. Most people arrive to some basic set of rules or agreements which essentially outlines the kind of relationships they would like to have. Almost all sets of agreements and boundaries will shift throughout the course of their non-mono journey.

Since you didn’t even explicitly consent to a non-monogamous relationship, I don’t think the agreements you previously had (implicit monogamy being one of them) was honest or sensible.

Photo by Dids on

This is a classic case of unethical non-monogamy.

I don’t think you should excuse him because of his age. ENM is not rocket science. And if he is disguising his unethical behaviors under the guise of ethical non-monogamy, then he is continuing to be dishonest with you about the harm he is continuing to inflict on you.

Even if you decide to stick around, at the very least you should consider de-escalating and taking sex and relationship off the table while you sort out if you want to have a non-monogamous relationship with a person who so clearly displays dishonest relationship and sex philosophies. He is either so incredibly deep in denial about what infidelity looks like or is so incapable of understanding reasonable and informed consent that he is currently unable to have healthy relationships.

I really hope for his own sake that he can work things out. But you certainly don’t have to be his romantic / sexual partner while he works things out. I’m really sorry.

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 cheated on my ex-boyfriend.

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/u/morganwwinter writes on /r/relationship_advice…

“Me [22F] and my ex partner [24M] had been together for 3.5 years and we were best friends. Pretty much soul mates – we both wanted the same kind of silly rules and standards in a relationship as one another, we always had each other in tears of laughter, sex was great etc. Sometimes I wished he was a little more romantic but other than that we really did have the relationship everyone wanted and that a lot of people strive for.

I’ve never had one night stand or anything like that, in fact all of my ex partners cheated on me in that way.

I went away on my first ever girls holiday, got insanely drunk (the drunkest I’ve been in a long, long time) and I slept with someone. The rest of the holiday was ridden with guilt. As soon as I got back, we broke up but we agreed to stay as friends eventually. I couldn’t tell him what I did because A) he’s had a past of self harm and B) I was being selfish and didn’t want his last thoughts of me to be that.

This was 2 months ago and I am in a pit. I don’t know what to do. I miss my best friend, I miss his love and him as a human being. All I want is him. But the options I have are: not telling him what happened, getting back together and somehow living with that guilt for god knows how long? Or telling him, erasing anything of a second chance, and having him hate me for the rest of his life. Or of course, to say nothing and let time heal our wounds and hope we both move on. I’ve never felt so down in my life, I spend everyday missing him and in floods of tears. I’ve tried talking to people online, to get over him and distract myself, but it doesn’t work. I just need advice on what to do from here, so if anyone is willing, then thank you.

Also, I am aware that what I did is awful, I really am – I think I’ve bullied myself more than anyone possibly could in the last 2 months. So please, even though I know I am not the victim, please keep nastiness away :(“

Dear Morgan,

It sounds like you had a very intense and intimate experience with your ex, and are idealizing a lot of different aspects of your relationship after it ended.

Let’s start with this. Two months is not a lot of time to process the loss of your relationship with your ex partner of three and a half years. I don’t believe there is any magical formula to conjure up and determine a mystical amount of time that you need before you “get over” your partner. I personally believe that there are some exes who you never really “get over.” Some are just meant to be those special, special people with whom you’ll always cherish that special connection with after the romantic component of your relationship has ended. As your first real adult relationship, you and your ex had an immense part to play in each other’s lives together. Those changes you experienced through your three and a half years worth of relationship will stay with you.

In addition, it is important to realize and recognize that those feelings you have to miss his company are completely and totally justified. Like you said, you had a very close and intimate connection with him. And the loss of that closeness and intimacy will remain a big empty gap. It is natural that the hurt feelings and pain populate and emanate from such gap.

Photo by Akwice on

Let’s talk more about those feelings. I am of belief that while every feeling has a say and originate from a deeper source, not every feeling needs to warrant an action. For you, the feelings of loss and grief originate from the premature and unfortunate end of your relationship. It is also very closely associated to the guilt you feel over the infidelitous experience you had on your trip, and is further compounded by the guilt from lack of clarity at the end of your relationship.

The guilt you feel in regards to the act of infidelity is something only you can work through. Whatever happened has happened. And you’ve already been suffering from the consequences of your own actions. Determine for yourself if it really was your intention to have that infidelitous experience on your girls’ trip. And think about how much the role of alcohol played in lowering your inhibition. Alcohol is not to be blamed here; but the over-consumption and its subsequent enabling of your actions are certainly responsible. Alcohol may have served as a facilitating agent, but it was you who decided to drink so.

The guilt you feel in regards to lack of clarity at the end of your relationship is also something only you can work through. You had your own reasons on deciding not to reveal the true reasons in which you ended your relationship with your ex. So I’ll ask you two questions.

  • Have the circumstances changed regarding your original rationale on why you decided not to share why you and your partner ended things?
  • Will sharing your true feelings help both you and your ex in any positive way?

Think about and embrace the deeper most intentions behind what you wish to accomplish through revealing your most vulnerable mistake. It has been two months since both you and your ex have started on your respective journey to recovery. If things have changed for either you or him, reassess how and why it might be beneficial for both of you. Would you be doing this for him? For you? Or for the possible reconnect in the distant future?

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on

Pain is often impatient. It forces us to redirect our focus from internal excavation to external resolution. If you strongly feel that sharing this detail with your ex will lead to exculpation – for both yourself and from him – then do so with kindness. Otherwise, recognize and embrace that sometimes the best words are left unsaid.

I’m really sorry you are experiencing this. I wish you luck in your journey to recovery.

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 friends knew I was dating a married man.

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/u/globetrottinggal writes on /r/relationships…

“I’m [27F] living and working in a developing country with less than 5,000 expats in it. Because of this, everyone knows everyone and our dating pool is small.

I matched with someone [32M] on Tinder and saw he was Facebook friends with 2 people [20sF] from my organization. Before meeting with him, I asked them both if he’s a nice, good guy, and they said yes and that I should go for it.

Well, one of the FB friends who dated him “Tara” ended things because he has a wife and two kids in another country. She told everyone in my organization, and nobody told me.

My good friend who we’ll call Deanna knew this as soon as I started talking about him to her, but didn’t wanna say anything to me because she didn’t want to “seem judgmental.” She assumed I already knew he was married, which I did not. I would message her occasionally about him, clearly with a crush and showing excitement. She herself is very free-spirited and open, and probably would date a married man without guilt.

Long story short, I found out. Told the guy he was a scumbag and blocked him on everything. I would never ever date a married man, ever. I didn’t know he was married because we spent every weekend together, went out in public together, added each other on social media with no problems, met each other’s friends, and so on. He told me he’s never been married and I didn’t question it.

The guy is a jerk and I’ll never see him again. But I don’t know what to do/say/think about the two girls who didn’t warn me. Tara, the one who dated him before, and Deanna, the close friend who knew all along. Should I talk to them? Cut them off? Say live and let live?”

TL;DR – Everyone knew I was dating a married man except for me. A heads up would’ve been nice.

Dear Globe Trotting Gal,

I agree. A heads up from those who knew would have been nice.

I will give Deanna the benefit of the doubt here. As you said, she is much more free-spirited. And she could have reasonably convinced herself that he was in an ethically non-monogamous relationship with his wife at the time. She could have also reasonably deduced that you could have known about it as well and chose to date anyway. I don’t think any of those are indicative of her as a bad friend, just not one that knew exactly what you needed to hear. She had a reasonable emotional alibi in supporting your relationship in its entirety, possible unethics and all. Her only crime is that she did not know you well enough to know this would have been a dealbreaker for you.

It is a little bit more complicated for Tara who has had a very personal experience with him. It would have been much easier to accept if she did not publicize the reasons behind her falling out with the 32M. But she was very open and honest about it, but just didn’t clue you in to something that could be such a dealbreaker for you, as was a dealbreaker for her. She definitely had an opportunity to tell you as much when you reached out to her. On the other hand, what obligation did she have to stir to pot in your relationship with him? She too could have reasonably doubted that you knew what she knew. And if you aren’t particularly good friends, I can see why she might have hesitated to revisit a relationship that she has had such negative personal experience in the past.

I do think that you are placing an inordinate amount of pain and blame onto your friends here, when it honestly needs to be placed on the cheating spouse. For both Tara and Deanna, it might be beneficial for you to give them the benefit of the doubt but respectably and respectfully allow them each to earn back the trust they lost through this particular incident.

I am really sorry that you are going through this. Your pain is very apparent from your language. You clearly have done your best to make sure you were in an ethically sound and appropriate relationship of your own by checking in with your limited network of expat friends. And while there are plenty of blames to go around, there aren’t a ton of islands here to burn bridges in between.

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 can I get over my cheating ex?

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/u/pineapple1715 writes on /r/relationship_advice…

“[She [34F] and I [24F]] were together for three years, lived together for two. We were amazing and everyone loved us together. We were so happy and she planned to propose and took me to try on rings 6 months ago.

Due to immigration reasons I had to go home for 5 months. After 3 months of her being amazing she suddenly got distant and then she came to visit me in my home country and I caught a text between her and one of my friends.

I confronted them and they admitted they started seeing each other behind my back. She told me she “fell out of love with me” but yet was planning my move back and living together and looking at apartments with me.

She brought this girl home to our apartment. Someone who used to be my friend. They both betrayed me. I was so in love with my gf and she destroyed me. Now they’re “talking” and my ex friend blocked me on everything.

Now my ex is telling me she loves me and just dealt with the distance badly and she just convinced herself she fell out of love at the same time she’s still texting my ex friend she cheated with.

I don’t know how to let go of this. I don’t know how to get over this. Please help me. It’s been a month and I have barely slept, barely eaten and I have anxiety all the time. “

Dear Pineapple 1715,

I am really sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time. It sounds like you’ve had a very intimate and intense relationship with this person when it all came crashing down. I really feel for your history with this person, your pain, and the loss of not just the relationship but also the friendship you had with the ex-friend your ex-partner cheated with.

Let’s start with this. You did not do anything wrong in this relationship. You are not responsible for your ex’s mistakes and infidelity. You are also not responsible for your ex’s emotions. Long distance relationships are just really fucking hard to do. I’ve been there. I’ve had a handful of long distance relationships as well. But long distance is NOT an excuse to cheat. I need you to accept that you do not have any personal responsibility in the end of your relationship here.

What you do have a personal responsibility for is to continue to look out for and take care of yourself. Take some time to treat yourself, forgive yourself, and absolve yourself of any guilt you might have over this experience. One of the ways you can take a better care of yourself is by distancing yourself from this incredibly traumatic experience, and allowing yourself patience & time to heal.

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on

It is time to establish some very firm boundaries regarding your ex. Your ex was not the person you initially fell in love with. If there is a future space for a friendship to develop, it will be a completely new one devoid of any past pains. It’ll be akin to a total transformation, built back up from the barest foundations. Until then, you need to determine if these interactions with your ex are hurting you more than helping you. If you decide that they are doing more harm than heal, consider at least a couple months of complete no-contact while your open wounds close up. If you receive a text, ignore it. If you get an email, set it aside. You will not be held hostage to a series of mistake someone else made. You’ll know if you ever feel ready to get back in contact with your ex. Until then, keep her at a distance.

But mostly, you need to allow yourself time and patience to heal and recover. You might never be the same person you were before this happened. The way your ex has completely and dispassionately taken advantage of your trust is something you are going to have to work on recovering.

You might never truly get over this experience. And that’s okay. Baggages are necessary part of human experience. How else are we supposed to travel through life without our belongings?

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 wife of twelve years used to be an escort.

“Dobra Teas” by Adam Franco is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

/u/Trainwreck1980 on /r/sex writes…

“Last week I [39M] was going through some old computer files, backing up all our stuff. I found an old folder of hers [35F], on an old stored computer that was filled with “risque” photos, some nudes and XXX style photos. It was obviously my wife (I know her tattoo’s and body). I also found another file talking about how much her “donations” were, incall vs outcall.

I really don’t know what to do or think. When I asked her about it she, she at first tried to say it was silly youth, or how it was not what I thought, but finally admitted she had for several years worked escorting. She also admitted she had done so when we were first dating, although she would not say when she had “quit” working.

I am devastated! We have 2 children a daughter and a son, I really don’t know what to do. I love this woman, but now, its like she is damaged in a way.

I have not stayed at home since I found this out, I have rented an extended stay hotel. Lucky our kids are away with their grandparents for another week, they do not have to experience all this havoc.

I really just don’t know if I can accept my wife now, It has totally changed my perspective of her, and our whole relationship.

How can I move past this, my mind is filled with all sorts of AWFUL things.”

Dear Trainwreck 1980,

There are some very crucial missing information here.

We do not know if her sex work continued into your relationship with her, and, if so, how long. We do not know to what kind of sex work she did. We do not know why your wife decided not to tell you about her work history. And we do not know to what extent that is all a violation of trust for you.

Let’s first talk about sex work.

Sex work is work. It is a very valid career option that has been around since as early as there has been a trade of goods. It is as valid as a career choice as any other profession out there. I know it will be hard to accept this right now while in the midst of your fresh pain. But please understand that it was a career-choice she made for herself at some point in her life. Respect that it was a decision she made for herself. Her sex work does not mean she is any more damaged than someone else is for having previous relationships or a speckled work history full of minimum wage jobs. And understand that this current situation is damaging her more than any of her previous sex work has done for her.

Photo by Alan Cabello on

Now let’s talk about what this means for you.

I really feel for you. The pain is clearly evident in your language. The misunderstanding around validity of sex work, the way you feel protective around your kid even though nothing specific has changed in regards to your wife’s history as a mother, and these images your brain on anxiety is producing… I am so sorry you are experiencing all of these emotions.

I know it feels difficult to do so right now, but embrace and talk to that pain you are feeling. Have a dialogue with your insecurity and determine how much of that insecurity is rooted in your prejudice about sex work and how much of it is based in the breach of trust you feel about the preexisting agreements you’ve set with your wife.

And it really does come down to agreements. One of the implicit agreements in traditionally monogamous relationship is that you are sexually exclusive with each other. You two might not have had that explicit agreement to be sexually exclusive, but that is the basic assumption in monogamous relationships.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

So what does this mean for your marriage?

You don’t have to forgive your wife. But you should. Not because you feel like she is owed forgiveness, but because you want to for your own sake. And once you’ve decided on forgiveness, consider what this means for your relationship going forward.

Once you do a bit more digging around your pain, you might discover that the pain does not come from the fact that she used to do sex work. That pain might come more from the fact that she was not forthcoming with this information until you discovered that part of her life and continued to press her on her past. Your pain might also originate from the mismatch in the expectations of a monogamous relationship you’ve had with her compared to the realities of the early parts of your relationship. You are right. You aren’t going to accept your wife because that was a bit of a mirage. Your wife has always been a painting of your own mind. It might have been very close to reality, but is ultimately not the truest picture of her.

Instead of trying to connect with this false picture of your wife that you initially fell in love with, it might be more beneficial for you to figure out whether or not you can fall in love with this new version of your wife. Think about the fifteen years of relationship you’ve had together, twelve of which you’ve been married. That version of her is just as valid as the one you just discovered. It makes her no less of a mother, no less of a wife. Just different.

I am really sorry to hear that you are in so much pain. I am sorry for your two children who deserves two loving parents who are struggling with their marriage. I am sorry for your extended family who might be confused as to why your marriage is suddenly on the rocks. Your pain is legitimate. But it is an underlying symptom for the pain of insecurity and confusion. I really hope you can find some space among this chaos for yourself, to heal, to breathe, and learn to judge her entire history with the backdrop of your otherwise problem-free relationship with 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!