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

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

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

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

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

Stupid Libra, Reddit.

Dear Stupid Libra,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Am I the asshole for messaging my partner’s FWB?

When my husband and I first started this journey into poly, I joined a local-ish fb group, and a few people on there friended me. Fast forward a few months and I am seeing this wonderful woman, who mentions that we have a common fb friend. I explain to her that a few people had friended me and I probably had quick hello chitchat with them at some point, but nothing ever evolved. Come to find out, this is one of her play partners, more of a FWB situation. Ok, fun fact to know about this person that I have never met before, that’s cool.

I come across this person on Bumble, swipe for yes, because I figure that if my gf likes them, they must be good person as well. Gf and I still VERY loosely use the term gf, she is seeing at least one other person other than me. And as far as I know, things are pretty open to my understanding.

I message the person on FB, just a general “hey, I noticed you on bumble and remembered we are fb friends. Covid really puts a damper on meeting anyone new, huh?! How have you been / what have you found of interest in these weird times / whats up?” and we have the general easygoing introductory conversation.

A few days later, gf brings up this person in general conversation, stating they are going to get coffee or something this coming weekend. I ask if she had ever mentioned me to this person, she says no… why?

I explain that I saw them on bumble, and it triggered my memory that we were fb friends so I started a conversation.

She says that doesn’t make her feel great, “is weird to seek out someone I’ve slept with”, starts making jokes about “[her] replacement”, and then says she needs space. “It will be fine, I’ll get over it.”

Then I started apologizing and explaining that I didn’t know this was a boundary, I should have mentioned it to her (gf) before starting a conversation with the other person, etc etc

It has been a few days and part of me feels so empty now, I hate that I hurt her, or made her feel uneasy at all, that was not my intention. I was just trying to broaden my friends base with more open-minded people.

Am I the asshole? How do I make this better? Obviously we need to have a talk about boundaries because I didn’t think things through first.

/u/kdassatti, Reddit.

Dear Kdassatti,

Before we dive deeper into the right-and-wrongness, let’s first define the term boundaries.

The term boundary comes up a lot in discussions about modern relationships. I have previously deferred to Vicky Tidwell Palmer’s general definition of boundary as a form of personal or relational protection from unforeseen harm. I also believe that a sound boundary has three distinct characteristics.

First is that they are internally driven. Boundaries need to be assessed and determined by the person who owns the boundary. For example, a common boundary in modern non-monogamous relationships states, “I will not be in a sexual relationship with someone who exhibits extremely risky sexual behaviors with others.” The internal driver of that boundary falls on the “I” to discontinue the sexual relationship if the connection is deemed too risky to continue, not the person breaching the boundary. In your girlfriend’s case, this boundary never appeared to be driven by her. Instead, it appears that you interpreted her hurt feelings as a boundary violation. Feelings are not facts.

Sound boundaries are also mindful and conscientious. Boundaries are a powerful way to create protection around yourself and your loved ones. Even though boundaries are owned and enforced by one person, the responsibility of boundary acknowledgement is shared by many. So being mindful about how others can interpret and assess your boundaries on your behalf is crucial. In your girlfriend’s case, limiting a partner’s connections to a mutual friend through a boundary is neither mindful nor conscientious. It is controlling to ask your partner to clear an introductory greeting to a friend.

Most importantly, good and sound boundaries are clearly communicated. Personal and relational boundaries can vary from person to person. As such, boundaries need to be explicit and clear, especially if those boundaries deviate from the common social norms or implicit societal boundaries. You are not responsible for the emotional labor of practicing and enforcing others’ non-standard implicit boundaries. It is evident that your girlfriend has never communicated this as a boundary. So even if this classifies as a boundary, it is definitively not a sound one you were expected to honor.

Now that we have defined what boundaries are, let’s revisit what happened with your girlfriend.

It is difficult to peer into true and precise reasons on why she felt upset. It could be possible that your reaching out did trigger a deeper sense of insecurity that she unknowingly harbored. It could be that your girlfriend felt very insecure about her connection with you or her play partner. And she assessed that your independent connection with her play partner jeopardized either or both of her connections. It could also be possible that the contextual framing around this discussion – Bumble – made her think that your intentions were more romantic/erotic than you initially let on.

Either way, she reacted by misreading your intention (“weird to seek out someone I’ve slept with” was not your intention), then threw a self-deprecating joke (“finding a replacement” was not your intention either), then pushed back by asking for space to analyze her feelings deeper. Underlying each of those subsequent reactions are emotional management strategies and coping mechanisms that help her reframe her hurt feelings around internal language that only she understands.

What might be a more productive endeavor is to dig deeper into your headspace, rather than hers.

It is clear that your girlfriend experienced some hurt feelings – justified or not, valid nonetheless – when you shared that you connected with her play partner. And when you recognized that her feelings were hurt, you acknowledged that her feelings were hurt then immediately leapt to make things right by making future amends. It could be that your desire to apologize and find fixes is a deeply ingrained reaction to resolving a stressful scenario. Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do for our partners in distress is to hold them tight and let those bad feelings stand without jumping to an immediate problem-solving mindset.

Let’s take your stated intention at its face value, that you only intended to connect platonically with her play partner. If so, then your intentions clear you of any wrongdoing. Not only is it not wrong to make new friends, it is also not wrong to expand upon a connection you have already made before your girlfriend became your girlfriend. So consider digging deeper into why your emotional aspect had such a strong kickback reaction to your desire to connect with others.

Some of the hardest lessons that I have learned through dating was to provide enough space for my partner to experience those bad feelings, as much as it hurt to see my partner suffer.

There might not be anything active you can do to make things better. There’s no threading the needle in that regard. Instead, allow your girlfriend to process those bad feelings and anticipate a reconnection. By providing space for your partner to process those feelings, she will learn to cope with any future bad feelings they might encounter in not just this relationship with you but her other current and future relationships as well.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – What is considered emotional affair?

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

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

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

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

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

/u/TomorrowProof9689, Reddit.

Dear Tomorrow Proof,

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

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

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

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

Let’s first talk about what Todd said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck.

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

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

Advice – I am meeting someone for coffee, but I am unsure what their intentions are.

“I met a guy on a dating site and we started chatting. In his first message to me, he said he “wasn’t looking for another big relationship” but was “always interested in talking to poly people.” I took this to mean he only wanted to be friends.

We’ve been texting now for nearly a year but never met in person because we live a couple hours away from each other and it hasn’t seemed urgent to meet in person. But I feel like I really know him well and I’ve gotten to the point where I’d really be interested in a more romantic/sexual connection, even though I know it would only be occasional because of the distance. He’s going to be traveling through my city soon on his way to a work trip and he suggested that we meet up for coffee.

What should I do? Assuming that I’m as interested in him in-person as via text/photos, should I point-blank tell him that I want to smooch him? Should I ask him if he’s interested in more of a relationship or assume that he is still in “friends-only” territory? Are there certain signals I should look for or that I should try to give off to get a feel for whether we are on the same page?

I feel like I’m putting a lot of pressure on this one-hour coffee meeting and I don’t know how best to use the time to suss out his intentions (as well as my own!) I don’t want to blow the friendship by making a move or having an awkward conversation that then makes it hard for us to go back to our regular friendly texting.

So, if you had an hour to spend with someone you may or may not want to be in a relationship with….but that you don’t know when you’d see again if you don’t both start making an effort . . . what would you do with that time?”

Onions and Olives, /r/polyamory.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Dear Onions and Olives,

Dating is very vulnerable. Through dating, we are often put into an environment that makes us emotionally susceptible to heartbreaks and emotional entanglement. We are often hurt, challenged, and also nourished through meeting and connecting with people we might not have otherwise ever introduced ourselves to. The threat of rejection sometimes scares us to inaction.

Based on what you have shared, it sounds like you have developed a bit of crush on this person you matched with online over the past year. You also recognize that you are romantically and/or sexually attracted to this person, but you are unsure how interested he would be in you considering her first said he wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with you. It is very interesting to see you take a couple steps back even in this post when you say that you aren’t even sure what your own intentions are. And because you can’t really know his intentions, you are getting very emotionally involved in figuring out what his intentions could be through his words and actions instead.

Let’s start with the obvious. You can try directly communicating this with him either before grabbing coffee together or during this coffee get-together to understand where his headspace is. But if that feels too abrupt, you can start by asking him about where his headspace is now after he has gotten to know someone polyamorous (i.e. you) over the past year. That question will allow you to get some visibility into how open he is to pursuing anything romantic or sexual with you. If there are positive feedback, it’ll be a natural segue to talking more about romantic or sexual intentions with each other.

Photo by Dana Tentis on

I do think that even though the core issue is with dating in general, there is a poly-related addendum to all of this. When it comes to dating as a polyamorous person, there is a lot of nuances to keep track of. Non-monogamy is gaining a lot of traction in public space, but it’s still looked down upon in some parts of the western society. So being able to subtly pick up on differing levels of interests and make emotional investments appropriately is a skill that openly polyamorous folks need to develop quickly.

As someone who is naturally flirtatious, I have found it immensely difficult to associate intent behind acts of flirtation. Sometimes, folks just flirt for the sake of flirting even without any interest to pursue that interest. So to make communication a lot easier, I instead opted for directly communicating my interest when I am interested in pursuing a relationship with someone. That might not be a bad path for you to take even beyond this one person.

As for what to do, why not just get to know this person you’ve been talking to for that one hour? You must’ve gotten to know this person really well in the past year. So even if there isn’t a romantic spark there, just being able to compare the mental image you have established in regards to each other might be a pretty good discussion for you two to have.

Don’t worry about it too much. Go into it with the expectations to get to know this person better and step away from any of that internal hype. You’ll have a better time for it anyway.

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 found a porn video featuring my high school sweetheart who I am still friends with.

“We used to be pretty good friends when we were in high school about four years ago, and we still talk from time to time (3 to 4 times a week). We had a bit of history together in high school when we kissed a few times but nothing came out of it – we were stuck in some kind of friendzone. I still think very fondly of her. I even told her the other day that I still like her. We went a few days without talking but she eventually wrote back to me and we are doing fine for now. A few weeks back, I found the video online. At first, I thought that it was just a look-alike. So I tried to ignore it, but when I took a closer look and it really was her. I saw some unique marks in her hands and legs. I want to know what I should do. I really care about her as a friend – even more than a romantic partner – and I know that telling her will probably fuck up our friendship. But I also think that she should know what is online so she can take care of the problem and stop trusting those assholes. She is a teacher and where we live, we all know each other. I want to know what is my best option.

I don’t give a fuck about sacrificing our friendship by telling her if telling her is the best thing for her. I just want do my best to make sure that she is fine. If I don’t do anything the video could get lost among the millions of porn videos on the internet. But the person sharing the video online could keep doing it. It is possible that she could also already know what is happening and me telling her could just make it worse as she sees me as a pretty important person to her who she respects a lot. I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I can’t imagine a good outcome for her either way. I think that the best thing I can do is tell her so she can cut her losses short which will probably include me. Can somebody give me a different perspective, please? Please specify your gender as it is important.”

Anonymous on /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by Kate Amos on

Dear Anonymous,

There is a lot to unpack here. And I actually think the porn video that you found is the least of your worries. A lot of the advice you received in reddit focused a lot on whether or not you should let your friend know that there is a porn of her out there. I agree with their assessment – she does have a right to know. But I am not convinced that it should come from you.

I’m not sure you recognized but there is this really interesting way you use your words. There are really subtle intentions buried between your words that you refuse to engage with on any material level.

You say that you used to be romantically involved with this person in high school, and that you were stuck in some kind of friendzone with her. You also said that you confessed your feelings to her a while back, which was met with several days of no contact. So I get the sense that you still have quite intense unrequited feelings for her. Based on what you’ve shared, I’m not sure if she has outright told you she doesn’t have the same kind of feelings for you or if you ignored what she did say with you. Either way, it is time for you to accept that you need to set some adult boundaries around her so that you don’t continually make her feel uncomfortable with your feelings. She is clearly not interested in pursuing a relationship with you. If you keep developing feelings, learn to keep her at a distance.

You also talked about how she seemed to be inebriated in the porn video where she is fucking multiple guys at once. Or that you might contact her therapist to let the therapist handle it. Those are both incredible mental leaps you are making on her behalf. How many times and how closely did you have to look at that homemade video to determine that she was inebriated? And how do you even know which therapist she has? Both of those are so, so wrong on so many different levels.

Photo by Maris Rhamdani on

But the kicker was this comment.

It is possible that she could also already know what is happening and me telling her could just make it worse as she sees me as a pretty important person to her who she respects a lot.

Do you hear how self-serving and narcissistic you sound here? You have absolutely no regard for how she would actually feel about finding out about her videos being posted online possibly without her explicit consent. Instead, you assert your own claim about how you think you are important to her in your life because she respects you. You even said so yourself: you don’t give a fuck about sacrificing your friendship with her. Does she know that you value your friendship with her so low that you’re willing to stake her claim on this very fragile friendship upon a porn video you masturbated to then subsequently felt guilty about?

Based on the history of the two of you, the romantic relationship you really want to have with her, and your incredibly fragile friendship that just got repaired, you clearly do not have altruistic intent or her best interests at heart. I don’t know if you recognize how creepy it is that you are projecting her intent using your words, words that she hasn’t shared with you. And how weird is it that you are making this a power play about your role in her life. You are being so weird.

If you really feel like it’d be the best for her to know, then please do so anonymously. And refer her to the BADASS army, which is an organization for people who’ve suffered online sexual assault.

And leave her the fuck alone.

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 – Becoming close friends with an ex-partner.

“We [32M] started talking and became friends more than two years ago. She [26F] lives literally on the other side of the planet.

We had a romantic relationship for about a year. It was very intense. Then one day she said that it wasn’t realistic for us to be together. It was hard for me to hear that, but I respect it.

We talk literally every day. She’s a huge part of my life. She’s my best friend. I’m trying really hard to navigate this in a dignified way.

I want to remain friends. In the past, I would just end a friendship because perceived rejections and all of that. I’m trying to grow and I want to get beyond that pain. I want to value friendship properly.

We love each other on a friendship level and I value that highly. It’s something I’ve been missing for a long time. She’s my family.

Sometimes, it’s really hard. I’ll feel everything rushing back and it takes everything to not break down and cry. Most of the time, I just remember how much I love her, want her to be happy, and to thrive.

I am looking for any advice to deal with this. Most people say to go on dates or create distance with her. Honestly, I don’t feel ready for dates. I also don’t want distance.”

/u/datawillnotsaveus, /r/relationships.

Dear Data Will Not Save Us,

For me personally, relationships are about managing and occupying space. It is about the space you create and curate for your partners, friends, and family. What kind of emotional bandwidth and time can you allot for each person in your life? Does that space match their expectation of a space they’d like to occupy in your life? Can they reciprocate and create spaces for you to reside in in their lives? Are you okay only occupying that size of space that they’ve left for you?

These are all really great questions for you to ask as you think about the space and role you expect to take up in your best friend’s life. You say that you two had once been romantically entangled, but since decided to remain as platonic friends instead. Are you mindfully consenting to the space that she has asked you to occupy? Are those being reciprocated in the space you have created for her?

Photo by Pixabay on

For whatever it is worth, give your pain too some space to breathe. Acknowledge and embrace that you are experiencing one form of heartbreak. One that comes is exacerbated by the massive physical distance between you two. Realistic or not, it ended for the reasons that you both feel are justified. And because it was such an intense relationship, you are left longing in the shrinking container in which you’re asked to occupy. Do you know what happens when you shrink a container with the same amount of air inside? It gets pressured, keen for the thinnest layer to burst through.

So instead of pressuring yourself under this shrinking container, why not just step away for some time, re-evaluate what this means to you, then come back smaller chunks at a time? It doesn’t matter if that means you step away for two days or five months or decades. Whatever time you feel is necessary in which you can feel ready to reinvent with her this new phase of your connection yet.

I am really sorry to hear that she broke your heart. But you don’t have to continue to take part in activities or connections that do not add to your life and passively causes you pain. That’s just self-inflicted emotional harm. So treat yourself better. You deserve some rest that isn’t contingent upon another. If she really is family, she’ll be hurt but she’ll also understand. And if there’s a friendship to be rekindled in the future, today is as good as any day to start your journey to recovery. Once you have recovered, there will be room for friendship somewhere.

I can guarantee you that that new container will be better than this 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 – I wasn’t invited to my close friend’s wedding.

“My [26F] friend [25F] and I don’t often meet up because our schedules often don’t line up. I usually try to make room for her in my schedule. To her credit, she also tries but is usually too tired after work. Despite this I still consider her a close friend from way back. She had a family-only ceremony and will be holding one for friends and family soon.

I know it’s dumb but I considered her family. Knowing she never saw me as one hurts a bit. Also, she hadn’t talked about marriage and it seemed to have come out of nowhere when she told me she was getting married . It had been radio silence for months before she sent me pictures saying she is now married.

I feel hurt and have yet to really say anything besides asking why I wasn’t invited.”

– Transferring to Earth, /r/relationship_advice.

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on

Dear Transferring to Earth,

Wedding is but a celebration of their relationship. I can’t tell if you are actually happy about your friend’s wedding, just that it is deeply buried in the feelings of pain from not being invited to their family-only wedding ceremony.

Maybe a better way to think about this is to re-frame your mindset around what you can do to celebrate your friend’s marriage instead of dissecting reasons on why you weren’t invited. The reasons themselves are ultimately inconsequential; she already made them. And even if there was a good reason on why you were not invited to her family-only ceremony, neither you nor I will be able to figure that out without living in her head for a little bit.

I also have a close couple friend with whom my partner and I chose not to invite to a very close wedding & reception. At the time, I felt that we weren’t all that close. But I have very often regretted not inviting them to my ceremony. Since then, we have had many a doggy double dates and board game get-togethers where we all bonded well, to make up for what was lost. They invited my partner and I to their very extravagant wedding they held a year and a half later, an event in which I felt very privileged to be a part of.

So instead of questioning why she doesn’t envision her connection with you the same way you envision her connection with her, why not choose this as a great opportunity to grow closer together. This way, you can become a better friend so that you can be invited in any future close gatherings your friend decides to host even if you’ve missed out on this one. And should you ever host your own events, maybe you can extend an invitation to her to let her know how much she means to you.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – How much can you love a friend?

“I recently have come to realize that all of my close friends are a little bit in love with me. I am pretty open about being bisexual and polyamorous and I tend to show a lot of love and affection for my friends. Lately I’ve been finding it difficult to keep everyone at the distance of only being platonic. I want more and they want more, and I don’t know how long I can go fighting myself from acting authentic about just how much I do love them.

I’m not exactly sure if I want to end up in a romantic relationship with everyone but I feel at least wanting to express affection outside of the realm of socially accepted platonic behavior. (Aka, hand holding, kissing, cuddles, and openly saying ‘I love you’s.)

That’s what my heart says, but my head keeps telling me that you keep friends longer by keeping things as they are, as strictly platonic. Is there any advice out there for my situation?”

– /u/King_C_21, /r/polyamory.

Photo by fotografierende on

Dear King C 21,

Let me introduce you to the world of relationship anarchy.

“A relationship anarchist begins from a place of assuming total freedom and flexibility as the one in charge of their personal relationships and decides on a case by case basis what they want each relationship to look like.”

“Relationship Anarchy Basics.” The Thinking Aro, May 7, 2013.

It is impossible to define relationship anarchy (RA) in one sentence. But I would like to start from a place that RA throws all the rules out and starts from the very basic nature of human relationships: a connection. And instead of assigning expectations or preconceived ideas about what platonic or romantic even means, RA folks blur those lines and state that even those lines are a spectrum. Instead of pigeonholing each connection into a box, RA folks build the fluidly moving boxes fit for each of those connections as appropriate so that they may decide for themselves what each of those connections may look like. The core facets of RA are inherently independent and autonomous.

Relationship anarchy asks for us to challenge all of our ideas about what is a romantic relationship as opposed to a platonic friendship. Instead of the society telling us what is proper and improper behavior embedded in the hierarchy of connections, RA folks each own their own personal ideas and guidelines on what they feel are appropriate and inappropriate with each of their connections. One person’s practice of relationship anarchy might look completely different from another’s RA.

Photo by Pixabay on

I myself am not a relationship anarchist, but I am very close to a few.

My first encounter with relationship anarchy was on a sushi date that I didn’t know was a date. Let’s call them R. R was from a local polyamory meetup group we both frequented and matched each other on OkCupid. Over dinner, R told me about their very personal journey to accept and embrace relationship anarchy. They revealed to me how closely it aligns with their solo poly practice and how they could never go back to how structured and regimented their relationships felt prior to RA. R had two long distance connections in which there were some form of romantic and sexual entanglement with and held that they were open to exploring as many (and as deep) connections as necessary.

The second relationship anarchist I have ever met is my current partner of six months. Let’s call her L. She found that the completely lack of restraint of RA most closely represented the way she wanted to live her life. L once described being introduced to RA with the same kind of closeness as coming home. She has many very close connections with countless people with whom she would identify as her soul humans, and never value one connection over another regardless of existence of romantic or sexual component to that specific connection. Instead of obsessing over the fit of the predetermined roles, L decides at the level of each relationship what she is and isn’t comfortable with. L is openly affectionate with each of her soul humans, many of whom she kisses and cuddles.

With both relationship anarchists, I’ve learned how radically but differently they both approached boundary setting. R was very clear about the boundaries they set early on. They were very intentional and direct about everything that was said and done. L was much more flexible and agreeable. She approaches each of her relationships with nuance and generosity that welcomed many to sit by her hearth. Like I said, no two people’s practices of RA look alike.

Photo by Anne on

One of the patterns I am committed to breaking this year is to live more true to myself regardless of what others think. In that, I recognize I need to be more brave. Brave in the authentic self I believe in. Brave in face of external critiques and judgments. Brave in faith that this will be good for me long-term even if I have to burn some bridges.

You say that you struggle to fight against the authentic parts of yourself who want to realize all these feelings and express all these affections around the people you care for. Then I ask you, why is your head telling you all these ideas about what it takes for longevity of different connections? How much of it is monogamous programming you’ve not yet unshed?

How brave are you willing to be so that you may be more true to yourself?

Should you decide to heed my advice and venture into relationship anarchy, your own secular practice of relationship anarchy could be very different from how R or L or any other relationship anarchists do relationships. What’s more important is whether or not you are being more true to yourself. You are the master of your own domain and who am I to tell you otherwise?

What is socially acceptable is only socially acceptable in your own headspace and the community you surround yourself with. You are already out as bi and poly to your folks. So you already broke two walls. What’s a third?

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Should I meet up with my ex?

Photo by Elle Hughes on

/u/More-Bison writes on /r/relationships…

“I [26M] have been dating my gf (Rachel) [24F] for a year, everything is going great, no problems between us. To be absolutely clear if I decide to meet Phoebe [26F] I will tell my GF before the meeting. I told Phoebe I have a Gf but I would love to have Phoebe as a friend. But my question is should I meet Phoebe or am I just inviting problems into my relationship?

A month before I started dating Rachel I was dating Phoebe for 4 months and the only reason we broke up was because she moved back to her home town after completing her PhD. Now Phoebe is back in town starting her career and reached out asking to meet up and catch up. I told her I have a gf but I’d be willing to meet as friends. Truth is we were really into each other but only broke up because of her move. If I’m being totally honest, there are still some residual feelings there but I have no intention to act on them. I have few female friends and Phoebe was one of the few women I really enjoyed hanging out with so I would like to pursue a friendship with her but I’m afraid doing this while those lingering emotions are there would be cheating/wrong.”

Dear More Bison,

I don’t think it would be considered infidelitous to have feelings for others. It would be infidelitous and unethical to indulge on those feelings.

Crushes happen all the time. So we have to do our best to establish and withhold our personal boundaries to make sure we are not breaking any agreements with our partners.

As for you, you will need to determine what those boundaries look and feel like. It sounds like you do have your head on straight, in that you recognize the value of her friendship while you are also cognizant of possible residual feelings. And those residual feelings are also natural. For you, those boundaries could look like “I will not spend any extended one-on-one time with Phoebe, especially if her or my personal feelings start to interfere in our friendship.” Remember that these boundaries have to be self-enforceable with your own buy-in. Only you can hold yourself accountable.

As for Rachel, you do have a personal history with Phoebe that I think Rachel will probably need to know about, and there is a strong possibility that she could feel insecure/jealous about this meeting. While it is not your responsibility to resolve Rachel’s insecurity, you have to do your best to remain compassionate, communicative, and clear about how you expect to only remain as friends with Phoebe. If you’ve established any personal boundaries around your friendship with Phoebe, communicating those boundaries would be greatly helpful for Rachel to know about as well: not because those directly affect her, but because they’ll reflect more about your good character and give further evidence to her trust place upon you.

As for Phoebe, you’ve already done your best to clarify intentions with Phoebe. You did a great job in lay out what your expectations are here: platonic friends. Just keep reiterating and contextualizing what this new connection will mean to both of you going forward. If you’ve established any boundaries up ahead, then it would be a really great time to communicate those boundaries with Phoebe as well.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

Even if you were able to reconnect with past romantic connections in a more platonic light, this will be a new endeavor for you since it’ll be with Phoebe. If at any point if you or Phoebe does not feel comfortable with just maintaining this friendship, it is completely within reason to suspend or even end your connection until things settle down a bit more. It’s really easy to get in the habit of letting your emotional bull run wild, so make sure that your enclosures are strong and fundamentally sound.

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!