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!

Advice – Is it wrong to feel more for one partner over another?

I have been married to my wife Hannah for around a dozen years. She was my second ever girlfriend. We have been poly for the last five years. We both have had partners come and go, but nothing seems to stick. We date separately. We do not have rules for each other, we are fairly autonomous, and we are working on becoming non-hierarchical.

I have been talking/dating someone new – Belinda – for a couple of months. She is very similar to me. Similar love languages. She and I connect romantically in a way I’ve never connected before.

I am very teen-like in my love: making out, high sex drive, clingy, etc. My wife is not that way at all. Sexually, we are different. And while we were monogamous, I just thought the way I loved was silly. Being polyamorous, I’ve seen that others can love this way and it be accepted. Belinda and I connected amazingly, and while Hannah never wanted kids I always did. I accepted it may not be in the cards. And that the romantic relationship with each other was more worth it than sacrificing the relationship by having kids. She was open to the idea of me having kids with a partner, something Belinda was excited about.

Hannah’s mother passed away a couple of months ago. She and I have been at each other and fighting a lot. I met Belinda just after this happened. Due to srcumstances, Belinda is staying with us for a few months. The plan was to build a polycule and have a home all together (myself, Hannah, Belinda, and a possible partner of Hannah’s). This has been the goal for years now.

Hannah was not sold on Belinda as it is still newer, but does not know the depth of feelings between her and I. Hannah and I got into an argument last night where I was asked “Do I feel more for Belinda?” and I was honest and said I do romantically. For me, romance is one aspect of love and relationship. Hannah and I have long known we are on different levels of love. I am a hopeless romantic. I am clingy. She is fine being in the same room and not touching.

Belinda fits me more than Hannah does, so to me it is more natural to feel that romantic connection. I do not love Hannah any less, but it is a different love. She feels I should feel the same and equal to everyone. To which I said that things are not always going to be equal. She may enjoy a sexual aspect with someone more compatible to her, and as long as she enjoys it and loves it with me, we are good. She feels as though poly should be equal.

I am truly asking… am I wrong here? Am I wrong for loving Belinda more romantically or deeper on a romantic level?

/u/PolyGuyBlue, /r/polyadvice.
Photo by Burst on

Dear Poly Guy Blue,

Since you and your wife have been polyamorous for the past five years, I will assume that both you and your wife have already considered the impact of New Relationship Energy when you connect with someone new and exciting, and that you two already know how to manage NRE in a mindful and respectful way. Instead, we will lightly touch on the transition process to a more non-hierarchical polyamorous arrangement, the role of honesty in polyamory, and revisit the recent fight you had with Hannah. Then at the end, we’ll come back to answer the main question: can partner preference be unethical?

Transitioning from an assumed hierarchical polyamorous relationship with your married partner to an explicitly non-hierarchical arrangement is a very challenging and potentially treacherous journey. There are many inherent couple’s privileges and protection that are legally baked into your marriage with Hannah that your or her other partners will never be able to exercise. While the goal of any non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship isn’t to level the playing field for everyone in the polycule, there needs to be a concerted effort for everyone to try their best to smooth out those inherent privileges wherever you can.

You mentioned that you and Hannah never intend to have a child together, while Belinda is open to the opportunity. I don’t have a legal background to give you any legal advice on how you can ensure that the child you might have with Belinda (or with any future partner) is properly and legally accounted for, or how you can protect your paternal rights. So I would strongly advise you to consult with a family law attorney to make sure that all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed long before you and Belinda start trying for kids.

Photo by on

Conscientiousness of honesty in polyamorous relationships

Like food you can order at a dine-in restaurant, there are three main parts of any message you deliver.

The first part is the content of the message itself. It is the exact transcription of the words that you type or speak to whoever is receiving your message. It is the words you choose in your head as it leaves your lips or fingertips. In our restaurant metaphor, content would be akin to the very basic ingredients being used to make the food. If you have any singular poor quality ingredient, it’d likely ruin the taste and soul of the food. In the same way, poor diction will mean annihilate a message no matter how it gets delivered.

Delivery is the second part of the message. Delivery is how the words you chose – content – leaves your mouth or fingertips. So the tone of the language, speed & volume in which those words are spoken, and body language are all crucial part of the delivery. In an online conversation, how quickly you deliver those messages in a conversation as well as timeliness of response would constitute delivery. In our restaurant metaphor, delivery would be the service staff as well as the plate or the bowl the food arrives on. Delivery is the presentation of those cooked ingredients and how it is displayed. It won’t matter if you are being served food cooked by a top Michelin Star chef if the food arrives on a used paper plate from last night’s takeout. In the same way, even if the content of the message is perfect, delivery determines how that message is received.

The last part is the context. Context is all the surrounding environment as well as the tone of the previous conversations leading up to this particular message. Context is also represented in the overall mood of the message recipient as well as the room this message might be delivered. On an online conversation, the messaging platform might be considered the context of the message. Context would be the quality of the service staff as well as the table presentation in a restaurant. Even if the food itself is great and arrives on an enchanted plate, your restaurant experience would certainly be soured by a rude waitstaff or a dog poop you stepped on on your way into the restaurant.

It doesn’t matter if the content of your message comes from a good place if they are shouted at each other (i.e. poor delivery). And it doesn’t matter if you thought all about how the message was going to be delivered if you were inconsiderate in your choice of words. Sometimes, even if you choose the perfect set of words and say those words perfectly, it might not be received because the message was delivered in exactly the wrong circumstance. It is important to take into consideration all three parts of a message when you do say those words.

Laying down true honesty in the heat of the moment without any emotional filter is not a healthy way to communicate. Doing so leaves out both the delivery and the context part of the content you aim to get across. Exercising mindfulness and approaching each of your connections with a sense of compassion and sympathy is crucial to your relationship’s success.

Photo by Wellington Cunha on

Revisiting the Fight

Now let’s go back and talk about what actually transpired.

First consider the context of your message. Hannah had just lost her mother couple months ago. I’m sure that has put a significant emotional stressor on your relationship with Hannah as you were asked to step into a more of a caretaker role for your partner. As she is processing the loss and the grief of losing a parent, she also had to witness her partner fall deeply in love with someone brand new. Even if she is a master class professor of jealousy and insecurity management, her current lack of emotional capital in processing those feelings of jealousy and insecurity could have easily overwhelmed her. Based on what you’ve shared, it isn’t just anyone that you fell in love with; it is someone her partner is considering having children with. That is an immense potential commitment that she’ll have to do emotional labor for, even if the initial plan was to maintain a very polyamorous household. Another factor to consider is that you never specified if this is the first time either of your partners have lived in the same house as you and Hannah. If so, learning to live with your metamour is not a level of emotional labor you might truly understand. Then there is the pandemic going around as well as the nonstop news cycle that adds a continuous trauma processing task to all of our plates. Lastly, this question that she asked was delivered in the heat of the moment. You two were in the middle of an argument where the collective emotions were running high.

Then let’s look at the delivery. Now, I wasn’t in the room with you and your partner to know exactly how that message was delivered. But I am guessing based on how she received your message that you were straightforward in your honesty about your romantic and sexual preference for Belinda over Hanna herself. That explains why she gravitated toward objective fairness in all relationships (as opposed to a relative fairness) since your message was delivered in such a way that indicated that her relationship with you was under threat of a direct supersession. And because she felt threatened in her standing, she appealed to equality as a way to remind you that she too is a person who deserves your affection – even if you might not feel that exact same way as her.

You later revealed that the intent of your message was that, while your relationship with Belinda functions at a different level, it does not diminish or otherwise adversely affect your appreciation for your relationship with Hannah. The relationship you have with Belinda is by essence and element different than the relationship you have with Hannah. And Hannah has had dozen plus years to establish herself as a trustworthy life partner for you, through opening up and more.

If that was your true intent in the content of your response, it definitely got lost between the contextual clues and the delivery method, leading to the miscommunication.

Photo by alleksana on

In defense of implicit partner preference

This is all to say that there is nothing inherently wrong with preferring one partner over another in specific circumstances. We all come from wildly different personal backgrounds with completely different personal values and ethics. Our goal in seeking particular partnerships is to find partners who can align close enough with our own values but also different enough that you two don’t immediately cannibalize each other’s beliefs. So it could very well be possible that you do have a romantic preference for Belinda at this specific time at this specific place in your current relational landscape.

However, communicating so when Hannah is already experiencing and handling so much on her own was discompassionately removed from her own personal headspace. Being that upfront and honest to the point of unintentionally hurting others is not a healthy way to communicate with someone you have been dating for the past dozen plus years. For a moment, step away from defending your own perspective out of necessity and step into her perspective to relate with her headspace even if she can’t do so herself at this moment. Think for a moment how much emotional labor she is currently contending with. So even if that partner preference was true, both the context and the delivery were both incorrect from your part.

Polyamorous connections are rarely ever equal. Even if for some reason, you started dating both Hannah and Belinda at the same exact time and did not have preexisting marital commitments to honor, they are very different people. So your relationships with either of them are going to be very, very different, depending on circumstance, personality, and the relationship history that you’d be carving out with each of your partners. But Hannah wasn’t looking for an honest answer from you. She was looking for a supportive answer from you. The kind of answer that would ground her back in reality with you as her partner while she is shouldering so much burden so that she may rest on your kindness for just one more evening.

Even if it wasn’t complete honesty.

So to go all the way back to answer your question…

No. It is not ethically wrong to have preferences. But it is wrong to communicate in such a way at this time.

Especially not to a partner who has been there for you for the past dozen plus years. And especially in comparison to a new partner who has only been around for a couple months.

Photo by Lina Kivaka on

Childrearing and wrapup

As a new father, I also have a couple to add here about the complexities of raising a newborn in a polyamorous household. Like polyamorous dating space, there isn’t really a popular model for you to follow as for how you can raise a child with multiple partners. Almost all the models out there are designed for monogamous households with varying degrees of community support. While some of the new parenting stressors – such as lack of sleep – seems as aligned in a poly household as would a monogamous one, polyamory does bring unique challenges that cannot be experienced in a monogamous parenting scenario.

As such, I strongly advise you to read this article from New York Times from yesterday. It is very rare that such a large publication would cover non-monogamy as something other than a modern fad. This particular article goes into a pretty deep detail into the types of agreements you can implement with your partners to ensure all your grounds are covered.

I am four years into my own personal polyamory journey. And there are days when I feel completely on top of my relationships, cruising between my different relationships like a fish through a stream. Then there are days where I am completely humbled by my lack of expertise and sense. I too am often knocked a loose by an illogical strand of jealousy or insecurity that I once thought I had a better handle of. So even if you feel that you’ve been able to manage NRE better in previous relationships, that wasn’t with Belinda. And that wasn’t while Hannah was shouldering so much external and internal stressors. Stay grounded and rooted in your own experience while fearlessly stepping into other perspectives occasionally. Even if you aren’t as romantically aligned with Hannah as you would with Belinda, love is not a competition nor is it a zero sum game. More you love Hannah, more you can love Belinda. And more you love Belinda, more you can love Hannah.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – My partner and my metamour are leaving me behind.

Hello, so I am in a poly relationship where my friend and I are dating the same person but not each other. We have been living together for a couple years now and things have been good, a few bad moments but they were all resolved after we all would sit and talk about it.

Recently, we all have been planning on doing a nomadic life style by getting one vehicle for us and our 3 cats to travel in. We have been talking about it, planning it and even went to see a few places to see what our options are. We all were really excited about doing this cause we don’t like the state we live in, we just never felt like it was home.

One day though I went for a walk and I was planning on telling my mom the news, my partner asked where I was and I told them the situation, but before I could my partner stopped me and said not to tell her and to come home. They wouldn’t go into details so I was expecting the worst. After coming home I was sat down by both my partner and my friend saying that they decided to change the plan and instead of all of us going together, it would just be my partner and my friend getting the vehicle and they would travel together without me.

They said I could get my own vehicle and I could do my own thing and at some point when they are done doing what they want to do they will come back and we can meet up again or I could just do my own thing with my own vehicle.

I already told them that I felt betrayed because they made a major decision on something all of us were a part of and they didn’t even consider that I should be part of the conversation. They already talked and made up their minds so I literally couldn’t and can’t really stop them. They did apologize after though.

I do want to add that my friend wants to do something very personal on the trip. The reasoning they had on changing the plan was because it was hard finding something that would accommodate all 3 of us and the cats, so it gives more options to them if it’s just them two. Also my partner is planning on leaving their cat with me to take care of while they do this trip.

I never got unemployment even though I’m eligible and I do have a full time job, but before the pandemic I had 2 jobs and after all the expenses I have to pay for I don’t really have much left over to save a good amount and the same applies now with my current job.

I want to leave my state, I hate and have always hated living here so getting my own vehicle and leaving sounds ideal. But because of the pandemic I don’t really know if leaving is such a good idea. Not only that but my partner and friend have unemployment and haven’t been working since March. They have been getting more money they ever made in their jobs and they have all this flexibility to plan and research all day long to do this.

While I on the other hand am working 40 hours a week, making 9 dollars a hour and I can barely pay a months worth of rent on my first pay check. I work from 9-6 5 days a week and when I’m done I’m so tired and mentally exhausted that I can’t do research or even plan for doing this.

My partner said that there is no guarantee that they will do this by April (that’s when our lease ends). They might postpone it. But I still feel like I’m being left behind and that I’m just dead weight. I don’t know maybe I’m just over thinking this, my biggest fear is living alone and that’s going to be my reality in 8 months so maybe I’m just scared.

I understand why my friend wants to do this voyage and I understand why my partner wants to be there with her on a personal trip, but I still feel like I was wronged and it doesn’t seem fair, but I don’t know these times are very scary and uncertain so I don’t really know how to feel anymore.

I’m sad, scared and I feel like I was tossed to the side. But there’s another part of me that understands their reasoning.

Am I over thinking this?

/u/OtterSupport, /r/polyamory
Photo by Olenka Sergienko on

Dear Otter Support,

The pain that you feel appears to be deeply rooted in a sense of betrayal and abandonment. After all, you three have already committed to a collective plan to leave behind your current state to travel as a polycule. You did not go into detail about what personal feat your friend/metamour would be accomplishing on this trip. But I do have a difficult time understanding whatever it is necessitating your exclusion from this entire trip.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that there is a sense of resentment that you are experiencing through the current income/work imbalance, where you are still working full-time while they are collecting unemployment benefits at home. That aspect does open your polycule up to a significant emotional resource imbalance, which you are seeing through the travel plans they have altered.

Then there is the financial aspect that also needs to be addressed.

I want to use this post to go into more detail about each of those conflict points – altered travel plans, household labor, and financial aspect – before we can talk about what you can do to remedy this situation.

Photo by Lu00ea Minh on

The Un-Invitation

I get the sense that your polycule has mostly operated as a unit – you, your friend/metamour, and your shared partner – when making life decisions. It is as present even how you describe the initial travel plans. And when they communicated their intention to travel without you, that decision could have been a bit of a glass-shattering moment for you. As you laid out, this was a plan that involved everyone. And for your partner and your metamour to make a decision that had such a big implication for you was not only hurtful but also quite dispassionate.

At any point, your partner or your metamour could have approached you about how difficult it is to find housing/traveling accommodations for three people and three cats. But instead of communicating with you in a timely manner, they only approached you after they’ve already made their collective decision about you to exclude you. To further elaborate, they even made a decision about your transportation method while they were on their trip. I’ll get more into why this part is so troubling in the next section.

In essence, they are also asking you to be fine with being alone with the cats they too are responsible for. That is a lot of labor you did not sign up for in order to be in this relationship with your partner, at a cost you do not have to accept.

You said that you understand why your metamour wants to go on this trip and why your partner wants to accompany her. So it sounds like you logically understand and empathize with their decision, but you are struggling with coming to terms emotionally with the feeling of exclusion from a trip that is still early on its planning phase.

Photo by Kehn Hermano on

Labor Imbalance

Pet ownership is a serious commitment. Their companionship is one that is predicated on their well-being and faith in our ability as pet owners to take reasonable and good care of them at all times. You said that your partner already decided to leave their cat with you while they are on this trip. That is, again, expecting you to do a lot of labor that you do not have to consent to.

What’s more important to discuss here is the growing sense of resentment toward your partner and your metamour that started growing even before this travel plans started materializing. You are still working eight to nine hours a day five days a week, whereas your partner and metamour are not. Instead, you believe that they’re using this moment of laborless income to research more on planning this trip. I want to get away from whether or not that’s actually true, but talk more broadly about how you feel about the current emotional capital imbalance.

Labor balance should be inversely time-reflective, not directly income-reflective. The household chores should be based on the hours they don’t work, rather than the money they earn. The more “free time” they have, more of it should be represented in the household chores they do.

Since you are still working forty hours a week, they should ensure that you have minimal chores to do when you are at home. Unemployment benefits are not perpetual. But even if they continue to earn laborless income through unemployment benefits, they still have a lot more free time to help out with the household chores they might not have been responsible for in the past when they were all working.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Money and Pandemic

It sounds like you definitely have a pulse read on your household finances. And I see a lot of difficult financial decisions ahead of everyone.

Both your partner and your metamour are currently unemployed. How do they plan on funding this trip? With the unemployment checks they’re collecting? In most US states, unemployment certification only applies if they are still actively looking for work but cannot find work. I don’t believe that they’ll get to claim unemployment benefits while traveling since they aren’t also actively looking for work. Not only that, but it looks like unless the Senate Republicans get their sense in order, the unemployment benefits are set to expire this week for majority of the 1.5 million Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week. Additionally, what do they intend on doing with the current place of residence? Do they just expect you to re-sign the lease while pitching in for their share of the rent? Or do they plan on letting the lease expire while expecting you to hold on to all their stuff while you struggle to make your own ends meet?

I also have a lot of questions on how they plan to manage their COVID transmission risk while they’re traveling. I understand that April is quite some time away. But unless an affordable COVID vaccine becomes readily available, they’ll be constantly exposing themselves to new and unknown vectors of COVID transmission. What is their plan just in case one or either of them contract COVID while they’re traveling? How do they plan on managing that transmission risk level when they eventually return?

I also want to talk about the vehicle situation. What did they mean when they said you could “do your own thing with your own vehicle”? Are they saying that you should get your own car? With what money?

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on

What should you do?

Talking about this all the way through with your partner needs to happen. You need a better understanding on why there was this massive gorge of a communicative disconnect before you can talk about the actual disconnect. You are entitled a robust explanation so that you may start preparing emotionally and financially before April.

Talking things out loud with your metamour might also be a good idea. There was a real sense of “me vs. them” in your story and that should really be embraced and resolved before it becomes resentment.

Once you’ve discussed with both of the affected parties, you should start thinking about adjusting your expectations with both your partner and with your metamour. If they are willing to exclude you from a trip that initially involved all three of you without involving you in the discussion, what else are they willing to exclude you from without your involvement? If it means altering your relationship agreement, restructuring your personal boundaries, or erecting some new ones, do so while including everyone on what you personally decide are your own fault lines.

I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. You deserved a much more collective approach to problem solving than a unilateral decision.

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 became a part of a triad when the quarantine struck.

“Hey guys, I’m new to polyamory so please be gentle! Fair warning this is gonna be a bit, I’ll try to break it up relatively bite-sized. A lot has happened in two months. Please be kind, I think we’re all a little sensitive at this point.

So since about August of last year I [22NB] have been hanging out with two great people, Jamie [23NB] and Adrian [25M]. They’ve been in a relationship for almost three years as of this post. We all became quick friends, hanging out all day every day. About three months ago, I moved out of my parents’ house to live with them upon their invitation. Two weeks after that Adrian made a move on me, and we hooked up. The next day, we all talked together, and decided to be a polyamorous triad. Adrian is brand new to things, as am I, but Jamie has had previous experience with polyamory, which has made things a lot smoother and easier, all things considering.

A little after hooking up I felt like Adrian and Jamie were very affectionate and inclusive, and I felt happy. I was excited and the extra attention was nice. Then things got kind of weird. They both left on a pre-planned week-long trip to see Jamie’s family. When they got back, Jamie got really self conscious about their body, and didn’t want to keep being intimate with me (but continued to show lots of interest in Adrian). My love language is physical touch and after about 20 years of skin hunger my body was not ready to stop a couple weeks into a relationship, but I didn’t want to force them into anything so when they asked, I agreed to stop asking about being intimate. It’s important to note I also happen to have BPD which has essentially put a magnifying glass on my feelings: I started feeling jealous and sad and unsatisfied in my relationship, as well as a little trapped by not being able to ask for intimacy (IMO it’s one thing to ask and say no, another to ask a partner not to ask to satisfy a need at all).

Then Adrian started seeming a little more distant, like Jamie. Not necessarily less affectionate or asking me to not ask to be intimate, just not going out of his way to be more affectionate, spending less time around me, shorter replies, etc. I lost that extra little bit of physical touch I needed and slipped into a slump for two weeks, right when the pandemic started setting in. My hours got cut at work. A started getting even more distant. Half my family got sick, a couple got quarantined in Mexico, and my grandpa died alone and confused from COVID-19. I was crying and nauseated daily and just having an all around bad time with all the stress and anxiety and depression. I talked with both Jamie and Adrian about what we could do to help prevent me from feeling this way, and we all agreed on a couple things.

Then… nothing quite changed. Had to remind both Jamie and Adrian that I need physical touch to function, even though they seem to go out of their way to be physical together throughout the day. Asked them to read some articles on my mental illness to understand a little, since I’ve been struggling a lot and we all live together, Adrian likes to spend all day playing video games or reading stuff in different subreddits, Jamie works half the time and games and sleeps the rest so neither of them have made the attempt yet. The only problem was, I sent those two weeks ago now and there’s been plenty of opportunities.

I’ve just been feeling a little forgotten, left out, and like my partners could make a tiny bit more effort. It is hard to communicate this to them because I feel like I have already done it a lot and nothing has changed, and I don’t want/it is hard to be pushy. My partners tell me I’m overthinking it to try and be a comfort, but I am still feeling unsatisfied, sad, now with the added bonus of self anger and resentment because I don’t feel like I have any right to feel left out or unhappy in the first place.

Any advice is welcome, but please be kind!”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Dear Anonymous,

I’m really sorry to hear that you are experiencing such difficult times. In her weekly workshop Love, Loss, and Loneliness under Lockdown, Esther Perel talked a bit about anticipatory grief in these turbulent times. Regardless of how close you were to your grandfather, you are experiencing a very intense form of loss and grief of your connected kin. So allow yourself to experience the sadness without criticizing or pathologizing it.

Based on what you’ve shared, an incredible amount of development happened over a very short amount of time in terms of your living arrangement and relationships. And because it all happened so fast, there wasn’t really enough time for anyone to process all the new information as they were presented. So it could be very possible that neither Jamie nor Adrian were prepared for this new polyamorous development in their relationship with each other. Even if Jamie has had some previous experience with polyamory does not mean that they have talked about or were ready to be date others.

Consider that if Jamie and Adrian did not have an initial agreement to open their relationship, Adrian’s initial decision to hook up with you without Jamie’s explicit consent could have been defined as an act of infidelity. Even if you three had a productive conversation thereafter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their trust for each other and in themselves haven’t been shaken at the very foundation. And it definitely doesn’t mean that Jamie and Adrian didn’t have difficult conversations about what that meant for their existing relationship during their pre-planned trip for a week without you. That could be one of the reasons why both Jamie and Adrian slowly started de-escalating with you in the intimate aspects of your relationship with both of them. It could also be possible that they saw how much you were struggling and that added another level of emotional labor they had to engage with you in before either of them could be intimate with you. Close intimacy isn’t the same intimacy without the labor associated with it.

I’ll also point out that Jamie and Adrian suggested you to move out of your parents’ and move in with them. In their ask, both Jamie and Adrian asked you to take a leap of faith, to house and shelter you in a safe place. It is worth noting that Adrian made a move to hook up with you after only two weeks, which makes me think that it is possible that Adrian (and perhaps Jamie as well) had intended to hook up with you all along.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I also want to talk about your needs – specifically, how to best advocate for your needs in a relationship.

There is a major difference between saying “I need both of you to touch me”, “can you please touch me?”, and “I miss the feel of your hands on my body”.

First is a demand for their immediate action. It reads as emergent and urgent. While that kind of communication can be effective short-term, this can also rob your partners in their ability to prioritize what is urgent and what is not urgent in the long-term.

The second is an ask for a need as an appeal to your relationship. Though the ask doesn’t have the same sense of urgency as a demand, it allows for agency; the “ask” allows for each of your partners to judge for themselves on when your need needs to be sated.

The last is a bid for a need with a specific projection. In this particular bid for your need, you also leave room for your partners to reciprocate their needs as well. That is the one advantage a bid has over both a demand and an ask. In addition, it can be an emotional labor for your partners to translate your need (physical touch) to a mean (cuddle). A bid specifically outlines what you want done.

There are outliers and hybrids to each of these different means to advocate for your needs. You might lean heavily on one mean over another. So it might be worth an effort to

It sounds like you’ve already tried a couple different ways to communicate that your need is not being met and even suggested ways in which your partners can meet those needs. And your needs are still not being met even after communication.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Further escalation will mean conflict. So what do you do?

It should be in both Jamie and Adrian’s best interests to meet your needs for the sake of your connections with both Jamie and Adrian. However, it isn’t either of their obligation to meet your needs. At the end of the day, only you know which needs are being met and which ones aren’t. And if you honestly feel like you’ve done your best to communicate your need to be touched (physical touch) and to be understood (BPD), then you will have to figure out how else you can get your needs met.

It might be worth considering dating other people who can supplement and meet your needs that Jamie and Adrian cannot or will not meet. If you feel like the triad label that you three have settled on does not meet the level of expectation you would normally demand out of your relationships, then consider de-escalating back down to roommates.

In these difficult times, we depend even more on those we are quarantined with. For many, we’re in the company of their family. For some, we’re in the company of their lovers. But the challenge therein lies not with our support network, but with supporting ourselves through these difficult times. You have to be your strongest advocate and support.

I’ll add this bit as someone who is also neurodivergent. Folks who are not neurodivergent in the same way often have difficult time sympathizing with mental illness. The onus of education isn’t on you to teach your partners about what BPD means. That part of research is on them, as a part of their compassion package for you as partners. You’ve already done way more than you needed to do when you provided reading materials for them that they did not to look at for the past two weeks. But their inability to peruse dense materials is on you as much as it is on them. You have to own your mental disorder because even if your partners completely and holistically understood your illness, the battle is still your own to fight. So don’t aim for understanding. Settle for acceptance.

With all that said, you have been going through a lot: BPD, passing of your grandfather, recent developments in your relationships. Now is as good a time as any other for you to look for a therapist who can help you sort through all the feelings you’ve been feeling. A therapist might be a more efficient mean through which you can channel your own personal journey to emotional harmony.

Good luck.

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

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

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

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

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

Am I the asshole?”

The Fox Raccoon on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Lidia Costea on

Dear The Fox Raccooon,

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Mike on

Now let’s talk about your primary partner.

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

And he needs to take responsibility for what has happened.

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – My husband will not take care of himself.

“My husband [28M] and I [26F] met when I was 20. His hygiene was great and it was definitely something that attracted me to him. Even if I didn’t have diagnosed OCD, I know I would care a lot about hygiene. But the OCD makes it feel physically painful and anxiety-inducing to be around poor hygiene. I will admit that I am more sensitive to feeling “disgust” than other people due to my OCD.

My husband’s hygiene started to decline during a bout of unemployment right after we got married. I thought it would be temporary but the problems have only increased even though he has been employed for a few years now. He has an extreme case of dandruff and he showers every 2-3 days and goes a long time without haircuts. As a result, he ends up with greasy hair and flakes of dandruff and stray hairs that get all over the house. He’s balding (which I am fine with, I understand that when you marry young you sign up for appearance changing over time, this is much easier to accept than poor hygiene) but he’s very upset about it; as a result, doesn’t put any effort into the hair he has left. He usually has lint in his belly button. For a while, his oral hygiene was so poor that it always looked like there was popcorn in his teeth, but it was plaque and tartar. He has very thick saliva and when he talks there are spit strings that connect his upper and lower mouth. For a long time he smelled terrible and wouldn’t take it on himself to research body washes or deodorants that would help. I had to find both for him, and he still refuses to shower daily. I know lots of people don’t shower daily, but I think it depends on the individual. And if you smell or have dirty hair, it might be time to shower. This combination did help the smell, but the other problems remained.

I’ve tried to have conversations about this with him and I have even told him that his lack of proper hygiene is affecting my attraction to him. I am really struggling to kiss him. And even on days that I am turned on, being intimate with him is a turn off. But he is convinced that this is just my OCD and his hygiene habits are fine. I’m sure this escalates the problem, but I know even if I was cured I would still be bothered by this. His siblings have some of the poorest hygiene of anyone I’ve spent time with even though his parents take great care of themselves. So I feel like his perception is warped by comparison. He’s frustrated at our declining sex life (and so am I! I love him but I don’t want to imagine going the rest of my life without having sex with a partner who I feel turned on by!) He says nobody at work has mentioned bad hygiene so it must be my own personal issue but like… who would confront a coworker about dandruff, plaque, and spit strings?”

Anonymous on /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by on

Dear Anonymous,

Prochaska and DiClemente from the University of Rhode Island developed something called a transtheoretical model, which is sometimes referred to as stages of change. Prochaska and DiClemente theorized that there six prominent steps to people who enact change upon their lives.

Article by Kendra Cherry. Illustration by JR Bee. “The 6 Stages of Behavior Change”, Verywell Mind.

The first stage is Precontemplation. In precontemplation, people do not consider change as a viable option. Instead, they are in strict denial or unaware of the problem at hand. People in this stage of behavior change struggle by overestimating the hassle of implementing a change against the absence of consequences.

Contemplation immediately follows precontemplation. This is a stage where people become more and more aware of their problematic behavior and start investing more time and energy into assessing the pros and cons of change. Many in this stage find that the ambivalence and uncertainly greatly aggravate the cons column in their assessment. As a result, many fail to make it past this initial assessment phase.

In the third stage of Preparation (or Determination), people start taking very small and minute steps to set intentions and start on healthier behavior patterns. The timeframe of the preparation phase is sometimes defined as the first six months of new pattern of behavior. It is in this phase where people can gather more data about the pros and cons they’ve outlined during the previous contemplation phase.

Photo by Ella Olsson on

Once they’ve gathered enough data, most move on to Action. This stage is largely defined by making a long-term habit out of short-term behaviors either by correcting their old problem behaviors or investing in new healthier behaviors. Support and reinforcement are very valuable in this stage of change as the immediate results of changed behavior is not always readily apparent.

Maintenance immediately follows Action, and it is a low-key, long-term sustenance of the changed behavior. The endorphins of initial stages have subsided. One of the pitfalls of this stage is that it is ripe with temptation to revert back to old behavior. So developing coping strategies in triggering situations or managing positive feedback loops so that they can reward themselves for good behavior is necessary to making a lifestyle out of just a decision to change.

Then the stages of change go in two different directions. Succumbing to those temptation leads to Relapse. Relapse is very common and it is also not as devastating as it initially appears. It is important to take a step back and analyze the circumstances around the relapse experience to see if there’s anything they can do to avoid such future temptations or enabling experiences. Then it is important to regroup, then start back up at the pre-/contemplation phase of the stages of change. If they were able to rid themselves of the problematic behavior for good, then they would be at the Termination stage.

Photo by Steve Johnson on

Now let’s get back to where we were. It could be very possible that your husband has been adamantly stuck in his precontemplation phase for years. He does not recognize that he has a hygiene issue, which is propped up by his enabling family history and supported by his previous behavior patterns following unemployment. And his refusal to acknowledge also appears to be feeding back into your self-affirmation and self-doubt that your OCD could be the problem. Instead of acknowledging that he has a problem, he is deflecting blame onto you for your diagnosed mental illness because it is just easier to do so. Don’t allow him to manipulate you into thinking that he doesn’t have a hygiene problem. I don’t know if he is doing that intentionally or accidentally, but his toxic deflective behavior needs to stop. His manipulation needs to stop.

My partners and I all agree that not showering for two to three days (outside of extreme circumstances) is subjectively filthy. But his hygiene issues need not be an objective problem. If it is a problem for you, the next step is for you to establish boundaries. And it sounds like you already did, repeatedly, when you told him that his lack of basic hygiene is driving a wedge into your relationship with him. So you have to be prepared for the next step: escalation and boundary enforcement.

It might be beneficial for you to reiterate your boundaries in no uncertain terms. Perhaps even get the boundary/agreement in writing. If you do not feel comfortable kissing him while his teeth is full of plaque and tartar, then tell him that he may not kiss you unless he properly brushes his teeth first. If you do not feel comfortable being intimate with him while he still has greasy hair, tell him that you will not sleep with him unless he has showered in the last X hours. If you do not feel good around him while he refuses to put on deodorant, tell him you will not occupy the same room with him. Lay out your boundaries in clear and certain terms that outlines what the boundary is and what the consequences are for violations of your boundaries. Then follow through on your boundaries if/when he violates them by enacting the consequences you’ve outlined for him.

Boundary enforcement is going to feel radical at first because we are so heavily conditioned by our society that we are to please our partners at all costs. But you have to acknowledge and value your own sanity and well-being as well. If he really does commit to changing his hygiene habits, then be sure to acknowledge his progress, celebrate his accomplishments, and support him in his recovery from a toxic habit.


Let us take a wild leap of faith and assume that he really doesn’t have a hygiene problem, and that your OCD is entirely at fault. Then why is it not a compassionate thing to help manage his partner’s OCD by taking a better care of himself anyway? What does he have to lose by taking a better care of himself? What is at cost here? How out of touch is he to neglect his own well-being and even delegate responsibilities to have you look for his own deodorants? That all sounded so weird to me after I laid it all out.

And how long will you continue to enable this toxic behavioral pattern for the sake of love?

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 watches too much porn [NSFW].

“We [25F] [23M] are in a long distance relationship and about 3 months in while staying at his parents house for a week I walked in on him watching porn while he said he was packing for a trip. Ever since then I noticed a pattern of him watching porn or looking at explicit photos of women behind my back. I say behind my back because I told him that while we are apart I don’t care if he watches porn but to please not do it while we are together in person. He agreed to this. Almost every time we had/have sex it is initiated by me. He often can’t maintain an erection during sex either. This worried me and I made the mistake of checking his internet history to find he had been watching porn while I was in class, at work or sleeping. Every time I bring it up he tells me he won’t do it or blatantly denies it. I’m not really sure what to do at this point anymore. The people I confided in told me that they think it’s best to break up but is there another solution?”

/u/nvbii, /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by Huỳnh Đạt on


There is a major communicative and sexual disconnect taking place in your relationship with your boyfriend. The fact that he is dishonest with you about his porn usage actually reveals a bigger issue than whether or not he can maintain an erection. At least his inability to maintain an erection can be explained away by his porn usage. His inability to be honest with you about how his porn usage is impacting your sex life is very concerning. I wonder to what extent that hesitation is a manifestation of social conditioning that porn usage is to be ashamed for and how much of that is determined by your personal perspective on his porn usage.

And let’s talk specifically about his porn usage. Different folks masturbate differently. But a lot of guys do masturbate because there is a lot less pressure to perform in masturbation. You only have to please yourself and your eyes and hands are basically doing all the work. Adding more pressure around his performance is only going to drive you further and further apart. I get the sense that you’re very bothered by his dishonesty as much as how his usage affects your sex life with him. If this is how he likes to conduct his own sexual headspace, then this might just reflect mismatch on sexual chemistry. You’ve already communicated your expectations around his porn usage (“Since we are in a long distance relationship, please limit your porn usage so that we can have more intercourse when I’m in town.”), so the next steps might be to reiterate your agreement. Have him recommit to the agreement you’ve made and hold him responsible for breaking your agreements.

I also don’t think you made a mistake in checking his browser history. Dan Savage often says snooping isn’t wrong when the act of snooping is justified (even retroactively). You found what you needed to find – evidence of broken agreement – and the best thing to do is to address what you found.

Photo by Markus Bürkle on

I strongly disagree with your people that you need to breakup. So I’ll provide a couple alternative solutions in place of a breakup.

It is always surprising to hear to what extent male sexuality is linked to the ability to maintain an erection. That if we cannot get or stay hard, then we are somehow less of a man. Truth is that male sexuality is much more than just our genitals, just like female sexuality. We have larger erogenous zones that isn’t just our penises, despite what mainstream porn claims. We are much more than our penises. We have fingers, tongue, lips, and other body parts to which we can augment with sex toys.

Your boyfriend is much more than his penis. If your boyfriend really cannot maintain an erection during intercourse, he has fingers, tongue, lips, and other body parts to which he can augment with sex toys to help please you. If you feel that genital penetration (or at least simulation of) needs to happen in your sexual intercourse, he can always wear a strap on to simulate penetrative intercourse. If he refuses to wear a strap on, he can always hold a dildo with a flared base near his pelvic area to simulate the same sensation of penetrative intercourse. You might have a deeper issue if he further disregards your sexual needs by refusing to please you in other ways – orally or digitally – while he pleases himself through masturbation.

If none of these alternatives above work for you and your boyfriend, kindly remind your boyfriend that long distance relationships are hard enough without that sexual disconnect even in close proximity. If your boyfriend continues to disregard your sexual needs in place of his own immediate satisfaction, ask yourself if all of this is a price of admission worth paying to be in this long distance, sexually dysfunctional relationship with your boyfriend.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – My partner keeps on throwing tamper tantrums.

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

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

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

/u/annonyandro on /r/relationships

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Dear Annonyandro,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck.

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

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

Advice – Lost desire for my wife.

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/u/PolyThrowAway0000001 writes on /r/polyamory…

“There’s no easy way to say this, but I am no longer/infrequently interested sexually in my wife. This realization has weighed heavily on me, and I have nobody to share this with.

We have been together for ten years. This feeling of little to no desire for her began approximately two years ago. We have been in an open relationship since the first year of dating. We have a wonderful relationship and partnership, and we love each other deeply. Currently, she has a boyfriend (two years) she loves, and I have a girlfriend (one year) I love. The four of us get along well, and hang out all of together a few times a month.

My wife and I have fallen into routine/maintenance sex. 80% of the time it doesn’t involve intercourse which is fine because neither us feel in the mood for that, with each other, most of the time. I go down on her and she goes down on me. We have sex this way about once a week to every ten days or so; sometimes I would rather just masturbate. We used to have frequent (2-3 times a week) and more exciting sex up until year six or seven.

Today, I have more exciting and frequent sex with my girlfriend.

My loss of sexual interest in my wife bothers me greatly because I feel like this shouldn’t be happening. I finally mentioned it to her recently and she admitted she felt the same way as I do. We talked about the loss of our sexual energy for one another. Though no solutions were found, it felt good we talked about it. It’s painful this is happening. She said that this is ‘just how life is for long-term relationships; desire waxes and wanes’ and that ‘this is normal and happens to everyone’. Neither of us is angry at one another, just sad this is happening. I do not want to leave my wife and I am pretty sure she doesn’t want to leave me, but I forgot to ask. We rarely fight or argue, and the times we do is never in a way that tears the other person down. I feel emotionally very secure with my wife.”

TL;DR – Not very interested sexually in wife after ten years; sex with girlfriend is more exciting and enjoyable.

Dear Poly Throwaway 0000001,

You are right. Desire does wax and wane. And your and your wife’s respective sadness also makes sense; both of you are grieving the gradual loss of the incredibly intense sex life you used to have several years ago. In a way, both of you are experiencing a loss of that intense connection and sadness could be a reflection of that pain. So recognize and embrace it. Allow yourself to feel sad.

It might also be beneficial for you and your wife to do a complete refresh on your marriage and gather some new data points.

Ten years is a long history to have with another human being. And much of that history is enmeshed together. But try your best to distance yourself from long history you’ve built together and reframe your mind from the mindset you have today. If you had to completely restart your relationship with your wife from the first date today, would you continue to date her? How would you want to explore a sexual connection with her? What kind of enmeshment would you be comfortable fleshing out with your wife if you could start over? Do you actually want to have a sex life with your wife?

Sexuality does ebb and flow, but the material of that ebb & flow is the same: lust. And lust is a lot like lively grass on a hiking trail; it’ll only exist in places in which that are left untrodden. Traditional advice in fading sexual connections is to repave some new trails. To reinvent your connection. To try different kinks. To fuck in unfamiliar environments. To mindfully and intentionally (re)introduce risk back into your sex lives. Continue to get to re-learn about each other if you want to reconnect and stay sexually connected with your wife.

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I also want to contextualize this advice with polyamory in mind as well.

Think about what makes the sex life you have with your girlfriend much more enticing and excitable. Don’t just compare what your girlfriend does that your wife doesn’t do, or vice versa. Instead, dig deeper and think about the concepts that drive your sexual connection with your girlfriend. Can you tap into that same kind of energy and exuberance in the same way you aim to reconnect with your wife? How are you approaching your sexual connection with your girlfriend differently than you are approaching your sexual connection with your wife? How is she approaching her sexual connection with her boyfriend of two years than she is approaching her sexual connection with you?

If both you and your wife deem it necessary, taking sex completely off the table could also be a viable option. Especially if it continues to feel like maintenance work. First determine if an ongoing sexual connection is necessary for your relationship with your wife, and her relationship with you. Step away from what society tells you that sex has to happen between two loving people in a relationship. None of that traditional mono-normative advice works here for you since you have other sexual partners with whom you are both having fulfilling sex lives. Instead, think about what is and isn’t working for you. If it is not necessary for you to have a sex life with each other, then your lack of sexual desire is not necessarily a problem. The current end of your sexual connection does not have to mean the End. Both of you could revisit your sexual connection when you both feel better prepared and ready after some grass had regrown back in your hiking trail.

I’m really sorry that you and your wife are going through this. And I sincerely hope that you two can work this disconnect out 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 – Swap went south.

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/u/eldobhato_profil writes on /r/nonmonogamy…

“My [29F] husband [28M] and I swapped with a couple [28F] [34M] last Saturday. Things went quite well initially, until we got down in the bedroom and my husband came a little earlier than he expected to. No worries, it happens, we thought. I checked in with him, and asked him if he was okay, if he wants me to play with him until he can get it up again, or if he wants to tap out altogether. He told me that he’s fine, he just needs some time to recuperate, and that I should enjoy myself until he joins back in. I asked him if he was sure, and he said yes.

He went upstairs. After about 15 minutes, I excused myself and checked on him because he wasn’t back yet and I was starting to worry about him. He was sitting on a chair on our balcony, smoking a cigarette and typing away on his phone, clearly upset. I asked him if he was okay, and he told me that yes, everything’s okay, when that was clearly not the case.

He refused to give me a straight answer when I asked him what did I do wrong. I went downstairs and told the couple that they should feel free to finish up without us because a couple things came up. They took a shower afterwards and we saw them off.

Later that night I tried to initiate sex with my husband but he didn’t want any of it. Ever since then we only had sex once on Monday night and it felt very impersonal and cold.

I’m not sure where I went wrong. Should I have not let him go upstairs by himself? Should I have checked in with him sooner? What can I do now to remedy the situation?

I’m sorry for all these questions but I just feel lost and stressed out by all this.”

TL;DR – Husband finished early and went upstairs. Things are weird now. What did I do wrong?

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Dear Eldobhato Profil,

I don’t think you did anything wrong here.

You did an incredible job recognizing and preemptively noticing when something was amiss. You went upstairs to check in on your husband while he was processing what happened. And promptly ended the night when you recognized that something felt off. You did your best to read and act on a difficult situation.

A lot of guys have a lot of hangups about ejaculation. So much of our male sexuality is wrapped around our manhood and its performance. Society tells us we have to be rock hard for sex, that we can’t cum too early or last too long, that we have to be ready to go without any foreplay, that our penis is the only symbol of our masculine sexuality, that ejaculation automatically means the end of our intimate rendezvous. All of these ideas are incredibly toxic ideas embedded into many men’s upbringing that shape and define our sexuality. Have you ever thought about how the words “premature ejaculation” and “impotence” only apply to men with such viciously negative connotations? And instead of proper tools to deal with these negative perceptions about premature ejaculations and impotence, we are instead shown male enhancement and virility ads in Golfers Digest.

It sounds like your husband is struggling with at least some aspect of what I’ve outlined above. What stands out more to me is the communication breakdown. I’m not sure how your husband generally prefers to process new information. If he likes to chew on his thoughts before coming to you with his realizations, it might be beneficial to give him space to work through this on his own instead of constantly checking in with him about what is wrong. Both of you know that something is wrong. But nothing will get accomplished until he has first done his share of emotional labor.

Your husband just needs some time to process what happened on his own. So give him time and space to work it out while reminding him you’re still here and ready to talk whenever he is.

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!