Advice – Managing infatuation for a secondary partner.

I feel a little weird even asking this but I actually have no idea who to talk to in my life about it. I’ve been in a relationship that’s only grown stronger with my partner for five years. We have kept it open the entire time in the physical / sexual aspect. We have come across all sorts of situations in this time, and are really open about discussing any potential issues that come up. But overall we are really happy and tied to just each other emotionally.

My partner was the one who wanted it open initially and has been comfortable with keeping it that way. But I’ve been way more active with pursuing physical relationships with others.

For the most part, it’s been fine but I have felt really strange because I’ve had an on/off thing with one individual for the last few years and I find myself thinking about him a lot and wanting to see him. Let’s call him Peter. Peter knows about my relationship. Throughout the years, we occasionally stop communicating usually when he’s in a relationship (that’s not open), but we always end up seeing each other again and fall into the same routine. I don’t see anything romantic with this person, and I know there is no future or anything so I don’t know why I can’t control my thoughts of wanting to see him. I’ve met lots of other people and never have these issues. Even if there’s an initial thrill or fantasy of thinking about someone constantly, it always dies out.

Is this something that has happened to others? I’m so confused and I’m getting really sick of it because it’s been a few years of the same sort of thing and then I end up feeling sad when he stops communicating with me but I also feel like I shouldn’t be because I’m in a really solid relationship. The only thing I can think of is that I don’t have a lot of friends in my area anymore, and when I do see this person, we end up actually hanging out and it’s always enjoyable. So maybe he’s fulfilling a friendship aspect that I’m missing.

I think I need to stop contacting him since it is feeling more emotional than I want it to, but I’m also at a loss as to why I’ve even gotten so hyper focused on this one person. I hope this makes sense. If anyone has recommendations, I would really appreciate it.

Helen, Reddit.

Dear Helen,

Let me tell you about this cherry blossom tree that I have in my backyard. The tree came with the house when my nesting partner and I first purchased our home. And while I generally love the aesthetic of cherry blossom trees, I wasn’t a big fan of the placement of this tree – it felt too close to home. So we chopped it down ourselves and thought it’d be gone.

Well, it came back the next year. This time, the branches out of the bark we cut weaved into our deck. This made the tree management even more difficult. But, again, we trimmed all the branches off. I remember looking at my nesting partner in her eyes and saying, “I guess that is that.”

What do you know, the tree came back the following year. This time, we threw our hands up in the air and decided we’ll just keep it trimmed to the best of our abilities. And we will hire someone to move the tree when we can budget for a relocation.

Trees don’t just die and wither because the branches are cut off. Nature inevitably find ways to survive and thrive, even in uncharacteristically challenging environments. In this way, our feelings resemble my very resilient cherry blossom tree. We cannot truly control our feelings; we can only acknowledge those feelings, then manage them by altering the context around those feelings.

Photo by Miti on Unsplash

Let’s do an even deeper dive into your feelings.

You say that you don’t see anything romantic happening between you two, and that this present agreement works for both of you. You also say that you feel sad when Peter drops in and out of your life. And you also mentioned that you don’t have a whole lot of other friends in the area you can authentically engage with. As you’ve already laid out, it appears that you’ve grown to depend on Peter to engage with you as friends and as partners over the years.

And those types of feelings are a natural response to developing attachment, whether they are a platonic friendship, quasi-romantic sexual connection, or a full-spectrum romantic relationship. Your feelings regarding your connection with Peter is further compounded by the uncertainty of your connection. It sounds like Peter is forging monogamous connections with others, so you never know if the next time he disconnects from you will be the last disconnection. That is very difficult to manage.

And your fears here are very valid and real. You want to be able to depend on people you share vulnerabilities with.

Then you have complicated meta feelings related to the your connection anxiety. I get an underlying sense of guilt as you reflect on the casual nature of your connection with Peter. More specifically, you feel like you are not allowed to have these intense feelings of longing for a connection that you know probably won’t be “forever and ever.” And because you have such difficult time navigating your negative meta feelings, you feel a desire to sever this connection. That desire comes from wanting a semblance of control – a sense of security – in that if you can assert control over this connection with Peter, then you might also be asserting control over the feelings you have about this connection with Peter.

So let’s spend some time with the core issue within your situation.

The question you initially asked – “Should I end this connection with my secondary partner?” – might not be the right question to ask. A better question is – “Should I allow myself to feel emotionally connected in my secondary partnerships?” You said that you are content just being emotionally involved with your primary partner. And if you want to reserve exclusive emotional vulnerability around your primary partnership, then it makes sense to sever this tie so that you can remain compliant with your relationship agreement. If so, then setting proper relationship boundaries should be something you should implement for any of your future connections.

Those boundaries can look like limiting the amount of time with your secondary connections (i.e. only seeing them once or twice a month), limiting the amount of vulnerability you share with your secondary connections (i.e. not talking about certain topics beyond basic sexual chemistry), or even setting a time limit on your secondary connections (i.e. “burn notice” clause). All of those can help manage the context around your feelings for not just this secondary connection but your future ones as well. Do note, this won’t manage your feelings themselves. It’ll only help alter the circumstances around those feelings.

But if you’ve never struggled with setting those boundaries around other secondary connections, maybe this is just a Peter thing. And there is something special and unique about this connection that is making you much more vulnerable than you really want to be with your secondary partners. These feelings aren’t wrong or unethical. But if you don’t want to have attachment-based connection with your secondary partners, then it might be for the best to sever this connection so that you can focus on connections where you have positive meta feelings about.

Cherry blossom trees can also be beautiful in the right places.

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 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 – How much should I share with my husband?

My husband and have begun opening up our relationship. We will likely have a variety of partners. Ones we both share, and ones we both have for ourselves.

I am more open than my husband who leans more monogamous. He doesn’t have the desire to have much outside our marriage and us sharing together but is open to me having other partners.

I have been chatting with some people online and I understand that it is important to discuss these sorts of communications with any partner I might have before sharing with my spouse. I am open about any information I might share.

So, for those of you in similar positions, how much do you share with your spouse/SO? Do they want to know more than you share? Do you keep things more private?

I ask because I get the feeling that he would want to know more details but as someone with chronic anxiety, I think he would spend too much time overthinking things and it would eat at him. I keep him informed that I am talking to people and often share some of the messages with him, but I don’t know if I should tell him any more than we had sex or we didn’t.

Amante Apacionado, Reddit.
Photo by Katrin Hauf on Unsplash

Dear Amante,

Like many others, I immersed myself in the art of baking over the pandemic as a coping mechanism. Majority of my first-time bakes were flops. But after many burnt gob cakes, I came to a realization that much of baking happens to be different variations of the same set of ingredients: sugar, flour, and water. You can add new ingredients, like butter or lemon zest, to make new end result. Or you can even add different proportions of the same ingredients to get a different result.

In the same way, the answers you seek vary wildly from person to person, from connection to connection. Part of this reason is – like baking – we are all made of different types of ingredients, with our histories and lived experiences. But a big part of this is also because the comfort level you might have with your partner might be completely different from a comfort level he might have with you. And the best way you might be able to gauge where your and his headspace might be around disclosure is by communicating how you feel and see how he reacts, and for him to communicate how he feels and see how you feel. It is only at that point you can learn to adapt and adjust how much you share with your husband.

It’s also really important to keep in mind that disclosure cuts both ways. As you noted, it is important to also gather information from the new people you have been getting to know. Everyone has a different comfort level, especially as it pertains to more intimate or personal details. Not everyone wants to have their personal information be disclosed to the polycule they’ve not yet gotten to know yet. So as you gather what your husband’s comfort level is, you might also want to sift through and find out what other’s comfort levels are as well.

A common point of struggle for non-mono newbies like yourself is the shame from the internalized monogamy programming.

I get the sense that you have a pretty generalized idea about how you should conduct your newly open marriage. As you said, your husband leans more towards monogamy while you lean more towards non-monogamy. And built into that gap is an understanding that his responsibility is to maintain a status quo, while you have to do extra work to make sure everything is okay for him. Truth is, non-monogamy takes work from everyone. If what you say is true – that your husband is really okay with you having other relationships – then learn to trust him at his word.

It is also very easy to get caught up in the trappings of morality projection. By this, I mean what you said about how your husband might internalize what he does or doesn’t know about your other relationships. It is very unlikely that your husband knows exactly what he needs to hear about your other relationships, especially if this is his first open relationship experience. At best, he might have a theoretical idea about how much he wants to hear. But in reality, it might be very different in practice. It will take a collective effort to figure out what you feel comfortable opening up about, what he feels comfortable hearing, and what your new connections feel comfortable sharing.

In her first podcast episode of Unlocking Us, Brene Brown talks about FFTs (Effing First Times). She says, “The more we’re willing to embrace the suck and try new things, the more new things we’re willing to try.” And I think this is something you can carry forward in your shared experience with your open relationship. Many parts of what you are effing first time is going to suck. And instead of swimming against the current of suck and figuring out how you avoid the suck, learn to dance with and sit in the ocean of suck for a while. Your sea legs will become stronger the more you swim, and it’ll progressively get easier. I promise.

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 we address couple’s privilege in a quad?

I am in a square-shaped polycule where my nesting partner is dating my boyfriend’s wife. It had very complicated beginnings due my nesting partner breaking my trust early on but we eventually settled into this dynamic.

For a while now, it feels like our lives revolve around the other couple. At first I thought it was more of an adjustment period but I’ve been with my boyfriend 8 months and nesting partner with meta now 4 months.

There’s kids and jobs in both households and we live about an hour from each other. I completely understand having to work around schedules but lately feel like it’s always their call and I have little to no say, almost like a “third”. My nesting partner also doesn’t get treated well in regards to time, but he doesn’t like to speak out and just accepts as things are which is frustrating because I feel like I am on my own here.

How do I discuss in a non-confrontational way that they are using their couple’s privilege in a harmful way that feels unhealthy for all of us and that my pain is not just an over-reaction but I’m actually being hurt by the way things are and honestly they are hurting each other when they bump heads on how to divvy up time, attention, and resources especially without involvement of us as their partners in the conversation.

Mary, Reddit.

Dear Mary,

Couple’s privilege is usually defined as the strength of the originating dyad improperly overpowering any new existing partnerships from occupying the appropriate relational space. A common example of couple’s privilege is relationship priority, or explicit hierarchy. There is actually a pretty good example of an implicit couple’s privilege inherent in your post as well. When you say that you don’t feel that your nesting partner gets treated well, you are able to say so with conviction because you have added clairvoyance into his thought process that the other couple isn’t immediately privy to. So I’m not sure if there is a problem with a couple’s privilege in your situation, even if there exists a natural privilege in your own relationship with your nesting partner.

In fact, I think that when you say that you feel like “a third”, you are actually trying to say that you feel like you lack a sense of agency in the decision making process within your polycule. And that lack of agency is really the core issue at hand.

In a recent column, I wrote that “[y]ou never just date people on a blank slate; you also date their circumstances.” And Mary, I think that philosophy is something we all need to be considerate of in our relationships. As you noted, there are existing life commitments that need to be accounted for, such as careers and children. Not only that, you two live an hour away from the couple you are dating together. However, even if those aspects were not in the picture, we have existing agreements and expectations to uphold and honor with our existing partners. And those can conflict with emerging new agreements and expectations, creating inevitable friction between the echoes of two dyads.

This isn’t to say that your pain is invalid.

It can feel incredibly disempowering to feel out of your element in your romantic relationships. In specific, if you feel that you have to constantly check in with and clear schedules through them, of course it is going to feel unhealthy and painful.

It is further perpetuated in the echoing conflicts in your own relationship with your nesting partner. Even if he can also recognize that this aspect of the relationship is challenging, he doesn’t feel as bad about the imbalance and relative lack of agency in his two relationships. And from your perspective, that unfortunately exacerbates the underlying frustration you feel. This in turn makes you feel alone and isolated in a love of four.

When you say that your partner does not get treated well in terms of time, it is possible that he himself doesn’t necessarily feel that way in his relationship with your metamour. It is very difficult to truly assess someone else’s lived experiences without being in their bodies. And externally projecting your internalized pain upon your partner’s relationship is a possibility you need to be aware of.

So when you ask how you can engage in a non-confrontational but meaningful dialogue, you aren’t just asking how you can talk to the other couple; you are also asking how you might engage in a non-confrontational but meaningful dialogue with your nesting partner as well.

And I think that might be the best place to start this discussion: with your nesting partner.

Sympathetically connecting with your nesting partner on the subjective reality of your feelings accomplishes two specific goals.

The first goal is that it helps ground you into your feelings. While your pain is valid, many of the feelings we feel are often irrational. And like dusting a house with open windows, we sometimes just need open channels to get our bad feelings pass through us.

The second goal is that getting on the same page with your nesting partner will help you rebuild that troubled trust from prior violations. It can be very difficult to mindfully rebuild upon a shaky foundation. And intentionally re-establishing a more fundamental foundation will help you feel more aligned for not just this quad relationship, but for all other relationships you might forge together in the future.

This discussion might look a bit like a deeper fleshing out of the pain that you each feel in this quad relationship dynamic where you take turns candidly speaking your respective experiences, then relate to each other about each other’s pains.

And that brings us back to the core conflict at hand: lack of agency.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to ground your experiences in each other’s lived realities, the next goal is to communicate so with the couple you two are dating together. In the same way you sat down with your nesting partner to have a frank and honest discussions about each of your pains, sit down with your partner and metamour and have a frank and honest discussions about the challenges you four each faced throughout this relationship.

It might be very beneficial for you to phrase your experiences in “I” statements (such as “When the dates are scheduled around your availability, I feel that I lack agency in our relationship.”) to help each of your partners understand how you feel about your relationship. This will give each of your partners an opportunity to step in and acknowledge to your pains. And only once you’ve all acknowledged that this is a pain point that needs to be address can you proactively move forward to an action plan that might help you feel more empowered in your relationship.

In reality, that action plan might look a bit more like your partner and metamour being more intentional in planning around meet ups that is both mindful to your schedule as well as theirs. Nevertheless, it’ll have to be a group effort to make sure that you all can deconstruct this specific privilege in your quad 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 – Our full-swap went wrong [NSFW].

The night was perfect. The other couple was great.

I couldn’t rise to the occasion at all and now I’m awake the next day and I’m just bitter at myself.

This is not how I was planning for my morning to be. We were meant to be excited together. Instead I feel like I’ve just dampened the whole mood because I am so angry with myself.

What am I supposed to do? What was I meant to do? Just considering organizing another night makes me cringe to my core.

Jeremy, Reddit.

Dear Jeremy,

I hear your anger, frustration, and disappointment. Your disappointment lives in the gap between anticipation and reality.

It could be possible that you indeed had a very specific idea of how that swinging experience was going to go. Whether it was from a previous successful experience or it was a proactive planning on this one, it is clear that your feelings of disappointment and frustration overwhelmed you.

There could be a couple different contributing factors here. So we’ll take some time to elaborate on them, talk a little about where they might come from, and then find a way to manage those feelings in a productive & healthy way.

I also think we need to talk about sexual performance.

A lot of guys are too stubbornly wound up in their own internalized ideas about masculinity. In specific, a lot of guys attribute their sexuality entire to the hardness of their penis. This is problematic for three different reasons.

Let’s first talk about the misconception around arousal non-concordance. Arousal non-concordance is a fancy way to say your erotic headspace is aroused, but it isn’t reflected in physical arousal. This phenomenon is much more common among women than men. According to this 2010 study, around 74% of women and only 34% of men had experienced similar arousal non-concordance. That means that roughly a third of the male population that have experienced arousal non-concordance according to this research. So it is that even though you were aroused mentally, it just wasn’t being reflected physically.

Another important aspect for you to consider is that your sexuality is more than just your penis. Your perineum (area between your scrotum and anus), prostate (the gland that produces your seminal fluid), and sacrum (the small of your back) are all erogenous zones that can be incredibly sexual and sensitive. So even if your arousal does not manifest in a diamond hard penis, there are ways for you to be intimate with your partners that doesn’t involve your penis at all that is more centered around sexual pleasure rather than anyone’s orgasmic release.

More importantly, your partner’s erogenous zones extend beyond their genitals too. It might be worthwhile to expand upon your sexual repertoire beyond just penetrative intercourse. If you do want to have a penetrative intercourse but cannot maintain an erection, you might want to consider using your fingers, your tongue, or even a strap-on to simulate PIV intercourse. Do your part to close the orgasm gap.

Now let’s talk about what it might look like to successfully manage those feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.

According to this study, Chadwick et al (2017) theorize that “men felt more masculine and reported higher sexual esteem when they imagined that a woman orgasmed during sexual encounters with them.” So it is possible that you might consider reframing or broadening your idea of “rising to the occasion.” For some partners, that image of you rising to the occasion can look like a masterful wielding of a diamond-hard cock. But for others, rising to the occasion can look like a sensitive wielding of a delicate tongue. I just think it’ll continue to be problematic for you to use your genital response as the only measure for your sexuality; you are far more than just your penis.

Another aspect to consider is to communicate this insecurity with your partner and engage in a more thoughtful & proactive dialogue about your vulnerabilities. In this, you don’t need to do anything or make any immediate changes to your swinging experience. Instead, you can use this experience to relate to your partner about being more mindful in your next full swap attempts.

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 friend declared that she is polyamorous, revealed an affair, and then moved out.

M (28 M) & F (28 F) are two of my very best friends. I love them both and they’ve both been incredibly consistent and supportive figures in my life as a couple and individually for years. I do not know what to do here.

A few days ago, I found out they had separated (they’ve been together for 10 years and married for 4). I have spoken to both of them separately, and the particulars of the stories are consistent although their perceptions/feelings are quite different. Recently, F came to M and announced that she was poly. She wanted to have sex with other people and this was non-negotiable. She arrived at this conclusion after a couple of months of serious reading on the subject and listening to podcasts. They had casually discussed opening their relationship/having a threesome, but due to the pandemic, nothing had progressed. But now, she was insistent that she needed to open the relationship immediately. She brought up a mutual male friend (T) that she had been discussing polyamory with and wanted to try sleeping with him. M was hesitant but she said she was absolutely certain she needed to do this or she would have no choice but to leave.

She ended up convincing (it is now clear that this meant coercing through threats of divorce) M to have a threesome with this other man. It went poorly, in that M did not enjoy it and did not want to do it again. F was insistent that she now not only wanted to have sex with T, but was also in love with him and needed it to be okay that she nurture a romantic relationship as well. M said no. So, she moved out.

She wants to continue to see T and live separately for a couple of months while she decides whether or not she wants to work on their marriage. She told me with great apparent clarity that M is “incapable” of meeting her sexual and emotional needs and that she does not see herself growing old with him. But she isn’t sure she’s ready to leave him entirely and wants to “take it slow.” She also said a lot of things about M “holding her back,” and said she’d always wanted to live all over the world and he was preventing her from doing that–even though the entire time I’ve known her all she has talked about is buying a house and settling down in our city. Not to mention M supported her while she was in school and until she got her first serious job.

I’ve spoken with her best friend (BF), who thinks she is having some sort of manic episode. Unfortunately, F is not receptive to discussing mental illness as a factor in this. She does have a psychiatrist, but we are under the impression she is sugar coating the situation to them and they are just validating her. She has also apparently gotten seriously into horoscopes and other forms of spirituality, whereas before she was a staunch atheist. T is known to be unreliable/flaky by mutual friends and is unemployed and nomadic, so we are not expecting him to stick around long-term.

F’s friends are pretty unanimously of the opinion that she is suffering from some sort of mental illness and that she’s also being a total a-hole. I am utterly speechless–this is just not the person I thought I knew. I know she suffered with depression and anxiety during the COVID lockdown, but it seems to me that she used polyamory as something to latch onto and used that as an excuse to nurture an emotional and eventually physical affair. She has not expressed real interest in making it work with M–she is spending all her time with T, and getting into all the same hobbies and spiritual stuff he is into. BF thinks from their conversations that she was having an emotional affair with him well before she “came out” as poly to her husband.

I don’t want to dismiss the possibility that she is actually polyamorous and that is something that will be a lasting priority for her–but the way this developed is disturbing to me and our friends. She is treating M terribly. We are all focused on supporting M and trying to help him set boundaries with her (she is still calling him for reassurance that what she’s doing is okay and he is struggling to tell her that no, it’s not). At the same time, I want to sit her down and lay out for her how unfair/awful she’s being, but I’m concerned that if she is genuinely in some sort of mental distress that this will just alienate her when she crashes and needs support. Up until now she was literally just the sweetest, most reliable person from my perspective, and I do feel obligated to try to help or at least tell why before I ice her out.

Tl;dr: My friend has made a lot of drastic decisions in the last month including leaving her husband. I am struggling with how to talk to her and hold her accountable while also not alienating her in case she needs help.

Any suggestions or advice on whether or not to try talking to her and what tone to take would be appreciated.

Anonymous, Reddit.

Dear Anonymous,

My heart breaks for you and your friend’s husband.

Let’s first start with this. Coercion is not consent. If the context of their opening up was measured against an ultimatum, then the consent derived from that context is not meaningful. Her behavior is neither kind nor respectful of the ten-year relationship they’ve fostered together. And even if he had to say yes, that was more of a partner loss prevention strategy rather than an informed and fair consent. It should be disqualifying of a partner to unilaterally change agreed-upon rules of the relationship without any negotiation.

In addition, it also sounds like the context of her ultimatum didn’t come from an ethical place either. Going from casually discussing threesomes to deeply discussing polyamory with a mutual friend shows how massive that disconnect has been between his and her perceptions of their marriage. That divide is further elaborated in the ensuing threesome experience with the very mutual friend who she has been flirting with online. He clearly wasn’t into bringing in another person, much less involving a mutual friend he feels no sexual attraction toward. And that too is coercive, and therefore non-consensual.

I also want to touch on how wild it sounds that even though M did not consent to a polyamorous relationship, F is sort of forcing herself into being in a polyamorous relationship with both T and M by not immediately pursuing a divorce with M. In doing so, she gets validation of self-worth when she is calling M for reassurances, without doing any of the actual emotional labor required to do polyamory with M. It shows how incredibly disconnected from reality F is, and how she is taking advantage of M at his weakest. It just sounds like F is keeping M as a safety net in case this polyamory experience doesn’t (and likely won’t) work out. And since they are still married, what else could M do but take F back when she says that “this was all just a mistake”?

Photo by Egor Lyfar on Unsplash

It is important to remember that polyamory is a subset of ethical non-monogamy.

And if their behavior is unethical (like strong-arming a partner into an uncomfortable sexual scenario), then it doesn’t matter how much they stomp their feet into the mud and claim that they are polyamorous; they are not. Reading all the books, listening to all the podcasts, and flirting with all the polyamorous people doesn’t make you polyamorous. And F would be no more polyamorous than she would be a good partner. And she is unfortunately neither of those things.

The truth is that you are never an island in relationships. You never just date people on a blank slate; you also date their circumstances. We all have people we already care about, long before our partners arrive into our lives. And in polyamory, that can look like your overall polycule, the pre-existing agreements you’ve established with your existing partner(s), and everyone’s relative transmission risk profiles (COVID and STI). Not only that, polyamory takes a different set of skills than monogamy. Proactively abridging communicative gaps between all relationships, keeping everyone informed on any changes to COVID or STI transmission risk profiles, and managing multiple relationships so that each relationship is still meaningful in its own way are all skills that a 401 course in monogamy will never cover. And there is no better example of how to fail at polyamory than what we have here.

This is one of the reasons why I think it is more prudent and beneficial to ask “Can I do polyamory?” rather than “Am I polyamorous?”

Even if we operate under the assumption that whatever transpired between F and T could never be classified as an emotional affair, it should be clear to T that whatever is happening prior to F’s unilateral decision to open up has been not only unethical but harmful to his lover’s marriage. And his inability or negligence to take accountability for the harm he has caused in F’s relationship should be unbecoming of T as a friend.

Photo by Emre on Unsplash

Now let’s talk about your friendship with F.

You have gathered a mountain of data here, both through your personal reflections and through cross-referencing your data with her childhood best friend as well. And in the data you have gathered, it is very clear that F is no longer the best friend you once knew her as. And in the face of these changes, consider reassessing what it means to be a friend to a person who is in denial of their potential mental illness, who is possibly manipulating her psychiatrist to gain validation, who in her mighty “clitful thinking” shattered the very relationship she has been in since she was just eighteen, who continuously talks bad about your mutual friend M in such humiliating and dehumanizing way, who constantly disrespects M’s boundaries around the relationship he wants to have.

If you met this person tomorrow, would you have fostered a friendship with this person?

Your friend is a grown adult, unfortunately very capable of making her own decisions, however destructive or dispassionate they may be. But it isn’t like seeing all these things unfold in front of you gets rid of the connection you’ve already fostered with her over the years. However, there is a significant display of codependent patterns here – both from you and from M. I strongly, strongly urge you (and M) to take a look at this list of common patterns and characteristics of codependence because, even if you aren’t out there validating her perspective like her psychiatrists might be, not addressing it perpetuates through enabling.

Your friend is responsible for her mental headspace. Even if you are right that this is a reflection of her mental disorder, F is responsible for acknowledging it and addressing it. So I don’t really know it would be fair to retroactively justify her bad behavior through the filter of her undiagnosed mental disorder. That feels like trying to read a book before the book is printed.

And I think it is a good time to establish some healthy boundaries here.

Near the end of the post, you say that you “feel obligated to try to help or at least tell why before [you] ice her out.” Let’s assume that F’s behavior is a result of an undiagnosed mental disorder. Even so, it isn’t your responsibility – as her friend – to diagnose how her depression and anxiety has manifested in the form of polyamory. That would be the responsibility of the trained medical professional like a psychotherapist or a couple’s counselor who have had extensive clinical experiences. It also isn’t your responsibility to help M or F patch up and fix their broken marriage; that would be their own responsibility should they choose to reconvene their marriage. Lastly, it isn’t your responsibility to hold F accountable in how she is failing in her relationship with M; that one falls solely on M.

It is however, your responsibility as a friend to let her know that you cannot support her current destructive behavior. At this juncture, you can continue to be friends with her, but establish boundaries around talking about relationships such that you don’t perpetuate and continue to enable the relationship trauma upon M. As in, “Hey F. I really miss the reliable and compassionate version of you. But please stop telling me about your relationship with T or M. It costs me too much sanity to keep hearing your hurtful comments regarding my friend M.” Or you can just put a contingency pin on this friendship with F until she comes to you for support. As in, “Hey F. The way you hurt M made me reconsider our friendship. I can’t be a part of your life while you keep hurting M. So we can’t be friends for X amount of time. I really want to be able to celebrate your polyamorous connections, but it’s too painful right now. Let’s reconnect when the pain isn’t so raw anymore and catch up with each other then.”

I understand your inclination and desire to be there for your friend F. Like I said, it isn’t like your appreciation for F disappeared the moment she stopped being a compassionate partner to M; that is still there. But a fond recollection of your good times is not enough to sustain a failing friendship, in the same way that ten-year relationship history between F and M is not enough to sustain a failing relationship.

Lastly, we should also touch on your friendship with M.

In the same way that F is entitled to make destructive decisions, so is M. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should establish the same boundaries you’ve had to establish around F. As someone who has supported a partner through a devastating end to a decades-long relationship, I can tell you that, based on experience, M could be experiencing major relationship withdrawal, desire to “relapse” back to F, and severe depression from this traumatic experience. M has to work through the pain from grief and loss of not just his past-tense marriage, but the loss of the future he intended to have with his wife. That is way above your pay-grade. If he isn’t already speaking to a therapist, I would strongly urge M to seek therapy and counseling.

If you have the (emotional) resources to do so, grieve with him because you too have lost a best friend in F, someone you’ve known to be dependent and reliable. And perhaps that dependent and reliable F will re-emerge when she recognizes that her heart is writing checks that her brain cannot cash.

I personally hate to see polyamory get such a bad rep, like it does here. Because when it works, it is great. But F is not polyamorous. She’s just an asshole justifying her shit behavior through words of polyamory.

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 have no idea how to date.

I was single for 4 years since I moved cities for a job after graduating college. Since my field is very competitive, and with not many women, I decided to put my dating life on hold and focus on my career.

I have no regrets as to that decision and I am now professionally established and doing quite well.

I have however been working from home since March for obvious reasons and suddenly I realised that I was lonely. I live with two close friends and while we spend a lot of time together, it felt like something was missing.

Like everyone at home, I decided to download a dating app and try my hand at it.

Enter Peter (26M). By all means, the perfect partner: we have similar interests, make the same dumb jokes, and he is both brilliant and attractive.

We have been dating for a little over 3 months now, my friends love him, I get along with his friends and it’s all going great except- I am not feeling it. He often talks about the future and my immediate reaction tends to be just freeze up, pipe up a platitude and smoothly change the topic.

When this first started, I thought I wanted something casual and in the now, and we were on the same page but I feel like that might have changed for him after seeing how well we click?

For me though, I still have trouble being vulnerable around him, and instead of excitement, I feel increasing amounts of dread before every date.

On Sunday evening, he confessed to loving me and I told him that while I wasn’t at love yet, I did like him and he said that was enough for him for now.

I know I should break up with him before it gets any more serious and I hurt him, but at the same time I am terrified: if I can’t love someone like him, am I going to find love outside of this relationship? Should I settle for this camaraderie?

Lily, Reddit.
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

Dear Lily,

I am a big fan of Brene Brown’s work.

I’ve referenced her work once or twice on this column. I often recommend her podcasts – Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead – to others who want to learn more about what she has to offer. At the end of each podcast episode, Brene Brown asks her guests a series of rapid-fire questions that start with this question.

“Fill in the blank: Vulnerability is ….”

Recently, she had President Obama who answered, without hesitation, “Inevitable. Be open to it.” And Lily, I think this advice would be remiss if I don’t echo the same sentiment to you.

Part of what makes dating so thrilling and scary at the same time is that becoming vulnerable is an essential part of dating. If dating was a book, vulnerability would be the very binding that holds all the pages together. It is through the vulnerabilities shared that we weave together and bind our histories in a relationship. For some, shared vulnerability can look like making impactful life decisions together. For others, it can look like being open and honest with each other about sensitive topics. And for your partner Peter, his acknowledgment of his deep adoration for you as a person could have been another vulnerable thread to weave into your history together.

And let’s talk more about that concept – a history together.

Each person in a relationship comes with our own respective personal histories – narratives that we each tell ourselves which define who we are as individuals. It could be as simple as characterizing yourself as a poor picker of fruits, enforced through series of bad experiences with spoilage. Or it can be as complex as repeat behavioral patterns found in our partners.

As I was reading through your initial post, I gathered that you are quite adept at acknowledging your own context and making quick decisions based on your desires. That ability is reflected in your decision to pursue your career. It is also in your decision to start dating three months ago. And your interpersonal assessment even extend to those around you – specifically in the ways you can assess how Peter fits into your life and how your friends feel about him. You have even had the clairvoyance to pick out your own avoidant patterns whenever Peter brings up what your relationship might look like in the future.

Then I wondered what type of stories that you might tell about yourself, beyond what you’ve already shared in this incredibly brief history of you. You say you initially wanted something more casual. But I am curious if that was in response to the absence you felt when you first started dating or if it was a learned one you adapted through your history with Peter.

So let’s go back and ask ourselves the same question that Brene Brown asked Obama: Vulnerability is _____.

There was a point in my life when my answer to that question would have been “terrifying.” I was gripped with the insecurity and anxiety about the folks I was dating. It made me rigid and held me tight until I could no longer bear the weight of the insecurities and anxieties. And so, I found myself going through relationships against a checklist of flags. I asked myself the same exact questions you did. I wondered that if I couldn’t make it work with this particular partner, I just couldn’t see how I could make it work with someone else.

At some point, I realized how that process made me feel and started investing more of myself into my relationships. That meant I had to make myself more available to not just sharing my own vulnerability with others but to respond when others shared their vulnerabilities with me. At that point, my answer to the question changed to “empowering.”

And Lily, that particular reflection has made all the difference in my relationships.

Ask yourself what factors contribute to your hesitance to be vulnerable around Peter. Perhaps you’ve had some bad past dating experiences that conditioned you to associate vulnerability as something to be avoided. It could also be a reflection of your male-dominated career where vulnerability is seen as a weakness. Or perhaps your experience with vulnerability has deeper roots in your childhood or adolescent experiences. Try to dig deeper and see why your perception of vulnerability is so intertwined with fear and avoidance.

Vulnerability is the main way we build our marbles of trust.

It does sort of become a catch-22 when you think about the feedback loop of trust building. You need to be vulnerable in order to build trust. But you can’t trust enough to be vulnerable. If we define trust as a basic building block of relationships, we need to be mindful in the way we build on trust through our relationship experiences and shared vulnerability.

Perhaps a good starting point is to openly discuss with Peter how you sometimes freeze up when the topic of your relationship’s future comes up. You can use this discussion to assess and accomplish three different goals.

First goal is to create a safe and secure space for yourself. For me personally, I have found that it is easiest for me to get comfortable when I am surrounded by softness – such as blankets, bare skin, and compassion – and the people I trust – such as lovers, close friends, and family. The contextual clues that allow you to be comfortable in your vulnerability might look different than mine. In your head, visualize a mental and physical space that brings you safety and comfort. And do your best to bring that vision into reality. Even if your first attempt isn’t perfect, it’ll get you closer in your next attempt.

Second goal is to set some expectations. You can do this by drawing a basic idea around how you think this conversation is going to go. Anxiety will likely have some say on perpetuating your internalized dread. But anxiety is not the only feeling that needs to have a say. Sometimes, it can be as simple as saying out loud “This conversation is going to make me feel very vulnerable”, either to yourself before the conversation or as a preface to the conversation with Peter.

The last and the most important goal is to measure the trust building. Spoken words have power. Stating out loud “This conversation made me feel closer to you” can feel a bit sentimental. But it is very meaningful to communicate how intense the conversation felt and make space for reflection & reciprocation as well.

I will leave you off with this final thought.

There is a big misconception in modern dating. And it is that you should love and care for your partner to the exact same way that your partner loves and cares for you.

This perception is flawed because it incorrectly assumes equality. As we talked about, each of us come with our own respective histories that determine who we are as individuals. As such, we harness different characteristics and present our care and affection in unique ways.

This misconception is one of the reasons why there is such a heavy weight and burden around the words I Love You in the western culture, because a non-immediate reciprocation is considered a red flag.

The truth is that different people love in different ways. And to expect that you should care for Peter in the same exact way that Peter cares for you might be misguided and unfair. Instead of immediately jumping to a breakup, it might be more beneficial for you to first reflect on the quality of the relationship from your own perspective, isolated from how Peter perceives his relationship with you. Because even if this particular relationship doesn’t stand the test of time, this exercise will help with your next one.

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 girlfriend’s best friend wants to watch us have sex [NSFW].

My girlfriend (“Izzy”) and her best friend (“Mel”) are obviously very close. They talk pretty much about everything. I’m pretty sure she has told her a lot about our sex life. Sometimes, we even talk about it occasionally when the three of us are together. I’d say we are all about the same sexually, in terms of our openness to trying new things and our kinkiness. Well, the other day, her friend mentioned something that turned her on that she hasn’t ever done before. She admitted to my girlfriend that she really wants to watch another couple have sex. They spoke more about it and went into the details of it.

My girlfriend asked her if she thought the idea of watching us have sex would turn her on. She agreed and said that’d be even better since she knows both of us. The friend clarified that she doesn’t want to join, but may would want to touch herself if we were okay with it. My girlfriend pretty much agreed on the spot to it all. Later, my girlfriend brought it up to me all excited. It sounded like she had already made up her mind for both of us. She was telling me when we were going to do this and how great it’d be. I had to stop her to tell her that I never agreed to it. She said “yeah but I knew you would.” She is honestly probably not wrong about that, but it still hasn’t given me much time to think about the logistics of it.

The plan was for it to happen this coming weekend. I wanted to see if anyone had any advice on this. I honestly think it could be hot. I just want to make sure there isn’t anything that I’m not understanding or thinking through about it. Because honestly it’s mostly my other head that’s doing the thinking right now lol. Has anyone else ever done this? How does it work? Is it enjoyable? What should I do?

Michael, Reddit.

Dear Michael,

What you are describing here is a bread-and-butter voyeur/exhibitionist kink scene. But even before we get to what it might actually look like or what you can do to make this an enjoyable experience, we need to talk about how this was all initiated.

Let’s first talk about your ambivalence. It is one thing to have open and frank conversations about sex and sexuality, but another to become part of it. I get the feeling that the conversations about sex and sexuality that you’ve had with Izzy and Mel are deeper and more practical than it appears on surface, especially so if you can gauge each other’s kinkiness through conversations. But like you, I don’t really get the sense that this is much about what you or Mel wants to do, but rather what Izzy wants you two to do.

Here is a good example of why this feels so icky. When you initially pushed back and said you never consented to this, her response was that she knew you would say “yes.” So in that one set of exchange, she not only disregarded your “not yet” but also inserted intent behind her presumed “yes.” Like you said, she had already made up her mind, with very little regard for your actual consent. Based on how Izzy has steamrolled your consent, consider that it is also very possible that Izzy could have steamrolled Mel’s consent here as well.

Remember, a lot of what happened beyond what you saw or heard and are only framed in Izzy’s recollection and retelling of her conversation with Mel. And because much of what we have here are she-said-she-said, it is also unclear if Mel actually initiated this conversation about watching you two have sex or if Izzy did.

Let’s now operate under the presumption that everything was on the up-and-up.

Preparation is absolutely important because there are two connections at risk from this going wrong: Izzy’s romantic relationship with you and Izzy’s best friendship with Mel. There is a lot at risk and committing to this weekend is far too early!

It might be beneficial for you to confirm with Mel on your own that this conversation happened as Izzy claims it did. This accomplishes two specific goals.

First goal is that it clarifies the questionable consent. Hearing it directly and clearly from the third party of interest is one of the reasons why Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies in non-monogamous relationships are such a bad sign. This also allows you and Mel to develop your own connection. Voyeurism and exhibitionism operate under the assumption of safety and security above all. And it sounds like most of your conversations about sex with Mel has been attended to by Izzy as well. Even if the quick touch-base with Mel doesn’t immediately spark a sexual connection, allowing for a space for her to feel safe with you will also help her (and you) feel safe when she watches you and Izzy have sex.

Remember, proactive consent is sexy.

If you have confirmed that Mel is as into this as Izzy said she would be, great! Now is a great time for you three to get together and each weigh in on how you each think this is going to go. Even if it is a dry mechanic-oriented conversation (“We are going to take clothes off. Then you sit down in the chair some distance away where you can masturbate while watching us.”), this conversation can be used to elevate the sexual tension. This also has the added benefit of no unexpected Big surprises on the next evening that Mel comes over, since ya’ll would have already talked it out.

Another important conversation you three need to have is a safe word. Since Mel won’t be physically engaging in this kink scene with you, determining and agreeing to a safe word will allow anyone to halt the scene if necessary.

Another aspect of this to consider is that there is going to be a lot of new elements for you as well. You aren’t just having sex. You will be having sex in front of someone new, which is already complicated enough without having to consider that that same person will also be masturbating to you. You might get in your own head about whether or not you are hard enough to be able to perform for two people. So figuring out how you can manage performance anxiety ahead of time is a good idea.

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 – It started as a hotwifing dynamic. But I’m having a hard time with my husband dating.

My husband and I have been together as a couple for about twelve years and open for two of those years. in the last two years, I have been with two other men solo and ongoing (about once per month), and we’ve played with couples together.

It first started strictly as a hotwife dynamic, that quickly turned into more of a polyamory/FWB dynamic. Admittedly, in the beginning I was open to the hotwife idea for him. But when things happened in reality I realized I actually do like connecting with people on a more friendship/personal level. In the beginning, it was all about me, him seeing me in my element, him seeing me as an individual, him seeing me feeling so alive and excited. When we discussed his desire to sleep with other women solo, he insisted that wasn’t the priority; that wasn’t where the “hot” factor came in. So while a part of me feels a little misled now that he wants to also have solo experiences, I do understand that things change and it’s ok to want something new that you didn’t want before (or, didn’t want enough to go seek it).

At this point, I have a FWB, we continue to play with other couples when we want to, and he has been on two solo dates. During the two solo dates, I basically died inside. Sex didn’t happen on those dates, and yet the difficult feelings still shook me. I am trying very hard to sit with my feelings and think rationally before I react. I know that he has also dealt with some sadness/jealousy on some of my early solo dates, but there is a sexual turn on for him even if he isn’t participating. Whereas, there is no sexual turn on element for me when I picture him being sexual on his own with another woman. So his feelings are more like, a mixture of jealously and turn on, while mine are only jealousy and sadness.

He has made clear that if the icky feelings are too much to handle, then he doesn’t need to continue the solo stuff (and in turn, I would also need to stop my solo stuff). He hates seeing me hurt, he truly does. I am pushing myself HARD to become okay with this but I don’t feel okay yet. I don’t know if my solo stuff is worth having to deal with the sadness I feel when he does solo stuff. I don’t even know if I have a question, but I think I’m just looking for advice or experience that someone else has had and can relate. I do understand how hypocritical this sounds. Should I suck it up and deal with the jealousy when he goes on dates because I get to have solo experiences? Or is it understandable that I am way more uncomfortable with him doing solo stuff since there isn’t a sexual turn on element in it for me?

Hotwifing For Fun, Reddit.
Photo by Nada Gamal on Unsplash

Dear Hotwifing For Fun,

Because rapid personal growth and emotional development is very common (especially in the early stages of non-monogamous exploration), two major parts of that growth and development are in staying connected with your partner through those changes and extending empathy & compassion whenever they have a difficult time with emotional management. And the thing is, your exploration with non-monogamy brought a separate set of challenges than the one your husband’s exploration did. This is a very, very important distinction to make.

So let us separate the your motivations behind non-monogamy from the his motivations behind non-monogamy. Each of you, while compatible, are two very different people. In the same way that two jigsaw puzzle pieces fit well together, it might be more productive to see each of your relationship styles as separate and distinct from each other. While the ideal is to be fair and equitable in our relationships, approaching our relationships as if everything should be equal is often an incorrect way to approach fairness and equitability.

You say that your non-monogamous journey initiated around the desire to explore and expand on his hotwife fetish. It is unclear who initiated the conversation to open up. But I don’t get the sense that the initial conversations were met with significant resistance, even as the initial casual hotwifing over time became a more polyamorous arrangement.

For you, exploring and connecting with others represented a self-empowerment and self-validating exercise. It is true that were aspects of his enjoyment in your erotic awakening that reverberated back into you in the form of self-assurance. But based on your subsequent push for the hotwife dynamic to evolve into a more polyamorous dynamic tells me that you were adequately content with your growth and desire superseding his. Which is a bit puzzling considering how discontent you are with his growth and desire to also date others on his own.

For your husband, it sounds like your husband might have worked through the initial phase of jealousy and subsequent changes to the relationship agreement by productively channeling them through a hotwifing sexual outlet with you. The truth is that this is not the case for most non-monogamous people who are not explicitly sexually attracted to the idea of our partners sleeping with others. Most non-mono folks I know just learn to manage our emotional labor because the overall joy of being with our partners greatly outweighs the negatives of being without them.

Since your husband made it clear that solo play agreement needs to be reciprocal, you have three main options in front of you.

First option is to concede that emotional management is not a worthwhile price of admission to keep engaging in solo play without your partner. It is a testament to the strength of any relationship to survive changes and endure challenges. And if you deem that committing to growing and changing to meet the needs of a polyamorous relationship is not something you can handle at this moment, it is ethically imperative for you to let your partner know as such. This will mean that you and your husband will have to scale down on your existing connections and renegotiate on your now-outdated relationship agreements. Swinging together only might be the next best option for your relationship. That way, you don’t get any of those intense negative feelings of him on solo dates while still exploring the type of non-monogamy that appeals to you both. Downside of this option is that it does restrict the amount of available matches since the scope is only for swingers who want to play with a couple as a package deal.

The second option is to accept the emotional labor associated with solo play and strive to improve your emotional hygiene. This option opens both and each of you up to the widest range of connections possible. The overlaps between swinging and polyamory as well as the overlap between solo play and couple play allows each of you to be able to flexibly form the type of connections each of you are comfortable with. The obvious downside is that this requires some labor of love from your part. Much like your husband, you will also have to put some effort into managing the intense feelings of jealousy and sadness. Whether that is through channeling your negative feelings through a creative medium, processing those feelings with your husband or close friends, or distracting yourself through other partners, you will need to complete the stress cycle of the negative feedback loop.

The last option is to acknowledge that each of you have different but compatible styles of non-monogamy. The goal here isn’t to commit to casual swinging or to full-blown polyamory as a pair; rather, it is to compromise that even if you two don’t share the same exact non-mono motivations. It is very possible that your husband’s desire to maintain reciprocity in your non-monogamous arrangement is because that self-channel to hotwife fetish isn’t as clean as it appears; he could still feel jealous and sad in emotional context even if he is erotically charged in sexual context with you. And the reciprocity suggestion could then come from anticipation of retribution from you (because he too sees the hypocrisy of it all). In reality, your side of the non-monogamy isn’t “broken”. What’s broken is just your method for emotional hygiene. This last option obviously comes with an immense cost: imbalance. But life has a strange way of evening itself out, and the balance will always come due. You just need to find a fair balance that isn’t equal but equitable.

I also want to touch on the difference between your internalized perception of your husband’s sexuality and the way he experiences his own sexuality.

We are not our partners. While we should aim to holistically understand our partners’ sexualities and sexual expression, our perceptions are limited by the filters of our own personal views. It might be true that for your husband, there was indeed jealousy and turn on when he saw you go on your solo dates. But we don’t truly know what that balance looked like or if there were any other complex feelings present that he did not want to share with you.

We also don’t know that what his exact thought process was when he “insisted” that it wasn’t a priority for him to go on solo dates with other women. Depending on the context, he could have said those under pressure from you to provide a definitive answer. Or it could also be a reflection of the internalized self-guilt about ethical sluttery. It is evident in his appeal to step back if you also step back on solo dating. So while your feelings of deception are valid, you have to try your best to extend your compassion and understanding for the partner who has been there for you from not just the two years of your open marriage experience, but for the twelve years you’ve been together.

In short, yes. Your feelings are valid. But your feelings are not facts. You might not have the tools to deal with the bad feelings that come up today. But you might tomorrow.

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 husband didn’t react well when I told him that I wanted to find a new career.

I have a career where I make good money. But it is an hourly position with no pension or benefits that tie me to it. I also have “side gig” that I love and enjoy, but obviously make less doing. I discussed my desire to further my learning, maybe take some courses, even start my own business this year, or at least move in a direction that will get me closer to my own personal happiness. We have no financial stress, he makes good money, we have rental properties that cover most of our own personal bills…

His response was just to keep doing what I’m doing, that’s it’s good money, he doesn’t just quit his job because he doesn’t love going every day.

The conversation didn’t end well, I got upset, we both got a little defensive, and I’m just feeling really really let down.

How do we get past this?

Emma, Reddit.
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Dear Emma,

Let’s first take a quick step back and review what happened.

In the cusp of a new year, you looked back upon your current financially satisfying but personally dissatisfying career. And when you decided that you wanted to expand upon your personal growth by exploring a more personally rewarding career or enrolling in personally enriching courses, you communicated so with your husband. And instead of nurturing or engaging in the type of constructive dialogue you wished to have with your spouse, he got defensive about your desire to keep growing.

It is no wonder you feel disappointment and sadness from that interaction! Disappointment is the gap between your expectation and your reality. And you might have had a very different expectation of how that conversation was going to go than how it actually went in reality. You did expend quite a bit of emotional labor on what you wanted to accomplish in the new year, long before you approached your husband. And when you did come to him with what you have internally processed, you already knew the gravity and sincerity of what you wanted to communicate with your spouse – the very gravity and sincerity your husband appear to have missed or misunderstood. That is where your pain is coming from.

And I think that is the best place to start your next conversation with your spouse.

Even you acknowledged within the very first sentence that your current career is financially rewarding. But your career dissatisfaction is a deeper reflection of your personal desire to keep expanding upon your foundation, not as a reflection of how much money you earn from your hourly job. And it could be possible that your husband could not or did not see how much of a role your personal dissatisfaction played in your overall dissatisfaction with your current career.

A good way to help your husband understand how you feel is to relate his actions and words to how you felt. When your husband dismissed your desire to take new courses, you felt disappointed. You currently feel very disconnected as a result of the last conversation with your spouse. It could be that his intent wasn’t necessarily to be dismissive or defensive. Perhaps his emotional hygiene was cluttered with other aspects of your collective lives together that disconnected him from being fully present in that vulnerable conversation with you. But your recollection of that memory – the feelings they brewed – are just as valid as his recollection of his words.

Here is an exercise I believe you can implement into your next conversation with your spouse about your intention to expand. Try having your husband explain to you in his own words where he thinks your headspace is at. Relating to others and teaching others is one of the most effective ways for us to learn and absorb new information – 90% of new information, actually. And he might have a better time understanding the gravity and sincerity of your intention setting if he had an opportunity to empathize with your deeper desire to grow in his own words. After all, this is your own experience and reflection. Clearly, your husband has a different relationship and experience with his own career. It is important for him to acknowledge and understand that your experience with your career is not at all the same from his experience with his career.

It might be a good practice for you to also take on his role in this conversation. Try and speak out loud what you thought he felt during the conversation and gauge where his deeper motivation or insecurity could have stemmed from.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

If the first step was for your partner to validate your feelings and intentions, then the next step is to figure out why this happened and how you can avoid this type of disconnect in the future.

I am curious if there have been any other instances of obvious communicative disconnect in your relationship history with your husband. We only have a smallest slice of your relationship at this specific conflict point. So you might have a better idea if this is a next example in a general dismissive pattern or if it was a truly random one-time occurrence from an otherwise attentive partner.

It is also very important to note that we are all experiencing a massive societal trauma through this pandemic. We are all on edge, pushed to the brink of our own respective sanities. So it could be possible that your spouse just did not have the adequate emotional capital to process what you shared in a meaningful and productive way. Explicitly allocating time and space for a discussion of this magnitude might be a good way to avoid this type of miscommunication in the future.

I’ll leave you off with one last consideration. In each of our engagements, we sometimes make emotional bids for our partners. Gottman Institute defines emotional bids as “the fundamental unit of emotional communication” where we request to connect with our partners in an emotional, physical, or sexual nature. This video explains emotional bids in more detail. In your case, your partner turned away from the bid you made, which prompted you to retaliate in defense of your vulnerability. It is important that both you and your husband acknowledge and understand that what happened was not okay, before you two can even attempt to reconnect and rekindle over this miscommunication.

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!