Advice – I am struggling with my husband’s girlfriend who moved into our house.

My husband and I have been married about 10 years. We’ve been completely open to the idea of polyamory the entire time. Each of us has seen others before, but never for long periods of time. We’ve done a few things as sex only with others as well. Some separate, some together.

A little over a year ago my husband met someone (before COVID19) and they hit it off really well. I liked her, and she seemed to get along well with the kids and such. I loved the fact that my husband was smiling more, and just seemed happier. I know that he doesn’t get AS much attention from me sometimes as we have kids, I have a job, etc… So it was great to see, and I loved him being in a great mood.

Over the summer she moved in (probably sooner than she should but COVID19 kind of screwed up all sorts of things…). I did everything I could to make her feel welcome, even made sure she got enough sleeping time next to him so she didn’t feel left out. This is what we’d really been talking about for years, so putting it all together seemed like a “finally!”

Well not too long after I started feeling very out of place in my own home. I felt almost like a third wheel, like I was just getting in the way. I chatted with them and we all started making changes.

Then I started to get to know her more and realized some of her beliefs are FAR off from mine, or what I would consider a decent human being to believe. I was really thrown off and got pretty mad. I talked to my husband about it because I couldn’t believe he would want to date someone like that. He said that we all see the world differently and as long as she isn’t pushing her opinions on others it was fine.

I also told him her anger issues were going to drive me bonkers. She goes from 0-60 in seconds and sometimes over things I can’t even understand. I feel like I am walking on thin sheets of glass trying to not get them to break while I am around her. Making my decisions based on what won’t piss her off.

Fast forward a few more months. She gets more comfortable, starts reprimanding the kids (more harshly than I), even before I can start a sentence to stop them doing what they are doing.

I finally realized how she REALLY makes me feel. It’s like I am in an emotionally abusive relationship with someone I’m not even in a relationship with! And as someone that has been in a horrid relationship even worse than this, it’s really hard.

Part of me wants this to work. I want my husband happy. I like the extra effort of help around the house. And she and I DO get along often, go shopping (ish… COVID19), watch TV shows, etc… and she CAN be great with the kids. But the other part of me is SO SAD. I am emotionally exhausted. I want my husband back, but I am terrified he will stop being happy. I want my house back. I don’t want to make all my decisions based on others.

I’ve talked to my husband about it so many times. I hate continuing to bring it up. I think he’s blinded by a new relationship as well as the fact that he doesn’t think exactly like I do.

Am I just being selfish? Am I overreacting? I mean I DO have mental health issues (anxiety, PTSD) that maybe are blinding my view. Is there a way for someone like me to fix this? I’m so stuck at this roadblock feeling like there is no good option to make. Kicking her out would be a huge mess. She’s so integrated into our lives. And what if he goes back to not being as happy as he is now? (Keep in mind we have realized the things we as a couple need to work on since this started and are doing that. So HOPEFULLY we wouldn’t go back to exactly the way we were, even though where we were wasn’t BAD.) What if he resents me? I don’t want him to have to go through such a loss.

Please someone give me some feedback.

Munchkin Goggles, Reddit.

Dear Munchkin Goggles,

It sounds like you have been doing an immense amount of behind-the-scenes emotional labor associated with not just the changes in your relationship with your husband but his new partner who moved in rather quickly due to the pandemic circumstances. Imbedded in that transition is a multitude of loss – a loss of the pre-pandemic family life, a loss of ability to authentically occupy your space, a loss of control over your emotional landscape. It is important to acknowledge the underlying grief in those losses and transitions.

The pandemic in and of itself contributes heavily to the emotional exhaustion we all feel. We are currently in the middle of a global traumatic event that will determine much of our adulthood, well past the end of 2020. Constant risk assessment, everyday effusion of mortality, and the uncertainty of the post-pandemic future is both an active and a passive drain on our emotional reserves.

One of the other reasons you feel that way is because you unfortunately have very little agency in your husband’s relationship with his girlfriend. Even if your husband’s girlfriend is emotionally abusive, you can only limit your own and your children’s engagement with his girlfriend, which is obviously further limited in scope by the current shared living space.

Another reason you feel that way is because of how his relationship reflects on your husband. You said that neither of you had serious long-term partners even though you’ve been doing non-monogamy for some time. And deeply embedded in your exhaustion is the dissociation around why he chose someone who is so different from who you are. Internally reconciling that moral and philosophical difference takes time and energy, even if unaccounted for.

I sincerely hope that you can find some restorative space to heal and recover when you aren’t busy being a great mother to your children, a great partner to your husband, and a great pup-parent to your dog.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

We must also discuss how you envision your parenthood directly conflicts with the role your metamour has taken on in such a short amount of time.

As you have experienced, intermixing polyamory with childrearing intensely complicates both polyamory and childrearing. It is why many polyfolks decide to hold off on introducing any new partners to their children until the relationship has solidified. It helps to create a buffer between their love lives and their family lives. You did not specify what type of previous discussions you and your husband have had about the possibility of a polycule household. But it is evident that maintaining a poly household has been very different in practice than in theory. And it is clear that you’ve gathered quite a bit of present evidence on how your landscape might look in the future.

In the process of gathering evidence, you have outlined several points of data that seem to indicate that your husband’s partner might not be a great fit for how you want to raise your children. In specific, stepping in to reprimand your children even before you – their mother – have had an opportunity to intervene reflects a major disconnect between how different you, your husband, and your metamour each envision her role as it pertains to your children. It is also very, very important to note that she has only had a couple months of seeing how you and your husband parent together. That is nowhere near enough time to study how she fits into a possible co-parenting role. Unless you’ve had an extensive discussion about the role your metamour was to take on in regards to childrearing, it might have felt so disempowering and upsetting to see someone new significant disrupt your parenting style.

Another thing to consider is that children quickly absorb the personal values and worldviews of those around them, especially if they are trusted adults. You did not clarify how vast the moral differences were between you and your metamour. But we as parents absolutely need to be mindful of the values we surround our children with, especially if those values could be harmful to their maturation and growth.

Another important point of note is how she behaves around your dog.

You mentioned that she hit your dog. Similar to the disconnect in your respective childrearing philosophies, that disconnect clearly extends to your respective pet-rearing philosophies.

Many researches show that “using harsh punishment based techniques to change behaviour is frequently counterproductive.” One of the reasons why pain- and stress-based training regiment fails is because high levels of chronic stress greatly inhibits a pet’s ability to learn and retrieve memories. This is one of the reasons why many current obedience training revolves around positive reinforcement and positive habit forming. You mentioned that she treats her own dog this way, and that too is not a good sign for things to come. It just merely reinforces that what happened with your dog was not an aberration but a continuing pattern of behavior that is incompatible with how you want to raise your pets.

Most importantly, it is not your metamour’s responsibility to train or reprimand your own dog, much like it is not your metamour’s responsibility to educate or parent your own children. She didn’t have a say in adopting your dog. That responsibility falls on you and your husband’s alone. And it is clear that your metamour has overstepped both pet-rearing and childrearing boundaries.

One of the concepts that come up often in this column – and with polyamory in general – is the role and responsibilities of a hinge partner.

Inter-relational conflicts commonly appear as metamour problems, rather than as hinge partner problems because an improper or inexperienced hinge partner can perpetuate those issues. It is a hinge partner’s role and responsibility to facilitate and manage their multiple relationships.

No two people will see eye-to-eye on every single issue. What is more important is to consider if your respective perspectives are close enough that you can arrive to a compromise with your metamour. It is especially challenging in this case because not only do you and your husband need to compromise on each of your respective parenting styles, but also need to compromise with your metamour’s parenting style as well.

I am very, very curious what your husband’s reaction was to discovering that his girlfriend hit his dog and reprimanded his kids in such a way.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that your husband – as a hinge partner – has failed to properly step up to do what was expected of him. There is a world of difference between recognizing the difference in each person’s view and quite another perpetuating the difference in each person’s worldview. The first acknowledges and celebrates the differences and the second breeds unnecessary contempt and conflict. It can be difficult to stay grounded in the midst of NRE, but he absolutely needs to step more into the role of a father, a pet owner, and a hinge partner to enforce proper boundaries, to renegotiate conflicting agreements, and to set the tempo for how his household is run. Doing anything less than that is naive at best, neglectful at worst.

That was all a really long way of saying that You Are Not Overreacting.

Underneath that initial layer of guilt and self-shame lies the ever-present ambivalence. Clearly, there are some positive aspects to your husband’s relationship (“I loved him being in a great mood.”) as well as her presence bringing obvious benefits (“I like the extra effort of help around the house.”). But it is brought down by a deep-rooted resentment for her general disrespect for your previously established boundaries in a home that you have already nested in. That resentment is anchored around your emotional exhaustion, which then feeds into your difficulty around actively addressing problems in your poly household through your hinge partner.

This is just one part of your emotional burnout.

In his groundbreaking 1974 study, Herbert J. Freudenberger identified three major components of emotional burnout: emotional exhaustion, decreased sense of accomplishment, and depersonalization. We have already talked extensively about your emotional exhaustion, but there are also signs of other two components as well.

Specifically, “decreased sense of accomplishment” is manifesting in the disempowerment in your own relationship with your husband. It could be that your reticence to bring this up again with your husband is because you see so little improvement or changes. It is also manifesting in the perceived lack of control over your own decisions (“I’m so stuck at this roadblock feeling like there is no good option to make.“). The “depersonalization” on the other hand is manifesting through the depletion of empathy and detachment you feel towards your own place in your home (“Well not too long after I started feeling very out of place in my own home.“).

Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

Now that we have fully fleshed out what you are experiencing, let’s finally talk about what you can do.

In a recent episode of Unlocking Us, Brene Brown interviewed Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski about emotional burnout and the process of completing the stress cycle. I strongly recommend that you give that episode a listen. In that episode, they discussed that removing the stressor doesn’t mean the stress cycle is complete. So even if your stressor – your metamour in this case – moves out, that doesn’t mean your stress cycle is complete. You are still in the middle of your stress cycle.

The only way a stress cycle is completed is through fully experiencing the breadth of the emotions that accompany the stress itself. It can be as simple as a twenty second hug from a loved one, or as intense as going on a run. Sometimes, competing your stress cycle can look like scream-cry during a solo drive, a routine yin yoga with plenty of breathing exercises, or a creative expression such as writing a 2700-word advice column for a complete stranger. Whatever it is, it is very important to allow yourself to complete the cycle of your internalized stress.

In addition to completing your stress cycle, I also advise you to outline what you have experienced and engage in a meaningful conversation about how this past year has gone. 2021 is finally upon us. So take time to revisit how 2020 has gone, outline what did & didn’t work in 2020, and lay out what your goals & expectations are for the brand new 2021. That doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone has to move out, de-escalate, or end their relationships.

But it does mean that things can no longer simply continue as is.

Lastly, I want to touch on this comment (“Kicking her out would be a huge mess. She’s so integrated into our lives.“). This is a simple manifestation of the sunk cost fallacy. It is a false narrative we tell ourselves. Just because we have already invested so much time and energy into something doesn’t mean that it needs to continue even as it is no longer a fulfilling or rewarding endeavor. In the same way, just because you spent a lot of time and energy trying to be okay doesn’t mean that you are or will be okay. It isn’t like she is going to get any less integrated into your lives as long as she continues to be a very dysfunctional part of your lives.

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 suddenly feel so insecure about my RA metamour.

My (32F) and my husband (31M) have been married for 6 years, poly for 5. We didn’t purposefully pursue polyamory, but kind of fell into it. Like many, we have our ups and downs, but overall things are extremely good – our marriage and how polyamory sits with us.

Anyway, my husband has been seeing his girlfriend for quite a bit over about a year and a half. She is really nice and they suit each other well. My meta has been in the poly community for a decade, give or take, and considers herself to be a relationship anarchist. My husband and I have a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, for clarity. She and I have even spoken about this whole thing and she very much accepts and supports our hierarchical relationship. All in all, she’s an amazing meta.

I am a very logical person, always have been, and it’s also how I process difficult emotions. I don’t tend to “feel things out”, but think them out. I like having a logical purpose or being able to look into my emotions and figure out the “why” as best as possible to help me process things. As an aside.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had near zero issues with polyamory over the years. Minimal jealousy, and when I did experience it, I was quick to analyze, communicate, and address it. However now I am feeling this overwhelming illogical sense of jealousy and insecurity in my marriage, for which I could use this community’s thoughts on to help me process through everything. Since I’ve been long winded already, I’ll try to make this more brief.

My meta is in the process of moving out of her nesting partner’s home and into her own place. I think I have identified this as my illogical turning point.

I feel extremely and illogically insecure/jealous of their relationship, and find myself wanting to do things very outside the norm to distance myself from my meta. For instance, I catch myself trying to keep my life and her life as separate as possible now, and her relationship with my husband separate from mine with hers in illogical ways. This is very new for me, and I’m really struggling to process this overwhelming wave of extremely unwanted and unfounded emotions.

Anonymous, /r/polyamory.
Photo by Taryn Elliott on

Dear Anonymous,

One of the most difficult aspects of developing polyamorous connections is that you are not only dating the person but also their circumstance. When your husband started dating your current metamour, she had to implicitly accept and embrace your role in her husband’s life as well as you hers. In the past year and a half, you’ve understood your metamour’s role as a devout relationship anarchist whose current living happenstance (with an existing nesting partner) put an artificial ceiling on the relationship that your husband could have with your metamour. It could be that that artificial ceiling helped you manage an underlying anxiety or insecurity that you always felt toward this particular partner. And now that your metamour is moving out on her own, you can read her new living happenstance as a particular absence that your husband can now fill, which is subsequently triggering that same underlying insecurity.

The way you can dissect and analyze tells me that you are generally committed to relying on logic to resolve issues. It has been such a reliable problem solving method for you, even when it came to addressing complex feelings like jealousy. But in the same way that aluminum baseball bats make terrible baby pacifiers, approaching a wholly emotionally driven problem with a purely logical perspective might be the wrong way to resolve the new feelings you are feeling now. The new feelings perhaps need a new approach.

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on

Let’s entertain your logical thought process to develop a new resolution by explicitly mapping out your current emotional landscape.

I too am incredibly driven by reason. So I personally like to write my own feelings down in order to engage in a dialogue with my inner monologue, when I can’t just rely on my inner monologue to drive my feeling resolution process. Seeing my words out on page allows me to think my feelings out loud. You may already have your own process of engaging with your ego. Externally processing new information by thinking out loud with your partner or a therapist could be one valid way to converse with yourself. Another way could be to incorporate a meditation process for yourself. What’s more important is to draw the feelings out into the light, no matter how uncomfortable and amorphous they seem.

Once you have those feelings out in the open, it is important that you allow those feelings some room to breathe. Some of those feelings are going to be difficult to actualize and feel urgent. But you need to draw those feelings out so that you may dive deeper into the source of those feelings. Like learning any new skill, it is going to be very difficult to let those difficult feelings stand for an extended amount of time. But since you already have previously had success in acknowledging and managing jealousy, think of it as if you’re using some new pots and pans to cook your favorite dish. You just need some practice is all.

Remember that feelings by default are illogical. There need be no rhyme or reason to the feelings you feel. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves can explain why we feel a certain way. However, most of the time, those narratives are just retroactive rationalizations on our part to explain why we feel and not at all reflective of the true cause of those feelings.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on

There are three more things to consider.

First is your own dating happenstance. You mentioned in the comments that you haven’t been able to forge any new connections in the past couple months. It could be that putting so much focus on developing and maintaining a kitchen table poly-type connection with your metamour has taken up a lot of your emotional capital without you even realizing so. And in spending so much emotional energy in connecting with your metamour, you’ve isolated yourself in your current polycule. That could be why you are gravitating toward a more compartmentalized, parallel approach to your metamourship.

Second is to consider that we are living through a pandemic where a lot of our emotional resources are used up in order to deal with the ongoing emotional trauma. Completing mundane and simple tasks are a lot harder to do when you have fewer tools to work with. So be kinder to yourself and only commit to the type of emotional labor that really feels rewarding and reciprocal for you.

Last thing for you to consider is that you did point out two very distinct polyamorous relationship types between what you and your husband practice and what your metamour practices. It could be that witnessing your metamour commit deeper into her relationship anarchy is unearthing some deep personal insecurities about this specific mismatch in style. Even if your metamour completely understands and accepts your hierarchical polyamorous relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t open to change. And your mind could be tricking you to believe that this change in her living happenstance could lead to a change in your husband’s perspective about hierarchical polyamory, which is manifesting in the insecurity you feel toward your metamour as an agent of change.

It could be that you are just becoming more comfortable with more distance from your metamour. It could be temporary or it could be permanent. Both are reasonable and valid ways to do polyamory. What’s more important is to be grounded in your own reality by not just acknowledging but accepting your feelings at its face value.

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 is in an abusive relationship [NSFW].

[TW: Abuse, physical violence.]

Context: When I (25NB) first started seeing my primary partner, Morgan (29NB), they were living with Zach (30M) and Morgan’s two children from a previous relationship. Morgan disclosed all of this to me on our first date, I accepted, and we began a casual relationship. Within two weeks of our initial meeting, they confessed to me that Zach had been physically abusing them and that the relationship was officially over. I supported them through this initial break-up, providing a non-judgmental space for them to vent. I recognize that abusive relationships are difficult to leave and that having feelings for your abuser is nothing to be ashamed about.

Zach later resumed living with my partner, during which time they lost primary custody of their children (partially due to Zach) and Morgan has since been grieving this loss. After multiple breakups and physically violent incidents, Morgan asked if they could move in with me. I thought it was a great idea and supported them wholeheartedly.

Morgan continued seeing Zach romantically while living with me and for a while, it seemed to work. Not living together meant my partner could leave unstable situations and they would split their time between Zach’s house and ours. I met Zach as my partner wanted us to get along and I tried to convince myself that he had changed. He seemed genuinely interested in being my friend, so I let my guard down despite knowing this man’s history. I wanted to appease my partner by showing that I was open to second chances, and I knew that his sins weren’t mine to forgive. I was cordial when he came over although Zach and I were never friends.

A couple of weeks ago, Zach became violent in response to my partner taking on another pal. He sent threatening messages to both me and my partner, saying that he was going to commit suicide on our front lawn in front of the kids. We called the police who did little to help. The next day, while dropping off his things, he began kicking my car aggressively and repeatedly. My car is still damaged as we do not have money to fix it. Again, the police were unhelpful in this situation.

After a brief period of silence, my partner started sending Zach messages again. They missed him even though they denied that was the intent of the messages. I could see that they wanted to reconcile. Zach was resistant, and last night replied to my partner’s messages, saying that he was going to go out and “rape a bunch of people”. I woke up this morning to Morgan talking to Zach on the phone and as I write this, they are going to be meeting again. I told them that I disapproved and that he doesn’t deserve any of the kind words they were using on the phone, especially as he hasn’t apologized or taken any accountability for his shit up until this point. He is emotionally manipulative and uses self-loathing as a substitute for apologies to turn sympathy towards himself instead of his victims. If he chokes my partner, it’s because his feelings were hurt and he’s the one who needs to be coddled, and he wouldn’t have hurt anyone if he wasn’t naturally a piece of shit, etc. He is a textbook abuser. My partner acknowledged my feelings but went to see him anyways.

I don’t know what to do. I’ve made my boundaries perfectly clear. I feel unsafe around Zach and my partner’s continued association with Zach keeps me in a constant state of worry and fear. Zach is no longer welcome at our house and I do not approve of my partner going to his house either. I do not want to deal with the police again but it seems inevitable; I am a PoC and Zach is a white man. I don’t trust the cops and I feel like no one is capable of keeping me safe. I also don’t know how to offer support for my partner. They are addicted to Zach and the things I do/don’t do all seem to enable that addiction.

Right now, I’m holding firm my boundaries and the things I can control (e.g. Zach cannot come to the house). I don’t know how to proceed from here; I feel stuck, just waiting for the next calamity to hit. Their off and on relationship affects my partner’s mood from day to day and I am subject to all of it. I want so much to “rescue” my partner from this relationship but those thoughts seem to belong to a toxic, paternalistic mindset. How do I steer myself away from unhealthy thoughts and blame? What can I do to protect myself? What conversations should I be having with my partner and how? I am feeling very alone in this. I have not discussed this with any of my friends as I feel this is personal to Morgan.

Morgan has made strides to ending the cycle of abuse. They know better than me how abusive Zach can be; they are not blind to it. Moving in with me was a huge decision to remove themself from a hostile environment. They are going to school in September and I am sometimes hopeful that their accomplishments and the building up their self-worth will come out on the side of Morgan that knows leaving Zach for good is the best option. Other times, I’m not so optimistic.

Zach has a restraining order against Morgan from a previous fight. This means that he can have Morgan arrested anytime for meeting him. The law protects abusers, we know this. If Zach visits at our house, we have a better case for removing him. If Morgan visits at his house, he can have Morgan arrested. While banning Zach from our house is a hard boundary for me, I worry that this will push my partner into dangerous situations at Zach’s house.

I love my partner. I do not want to leave my partner. Morgan is financially dependent on me and does not have a vehicle of their own. If I leave them, they will lose their children for good and will quite literally be homeless. They do not have other supports or options.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous, /r/polyadvice
Photo by Pixabay on

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry to hear that you and your loved one is going through this. Your situation is incredibly complex.

We as polyfolks are often put into completely new situations that which do not necessarily have exact comparison to draw experiences from. Many of the problems we face are unique to our circumstances, which vary greatly depending on the relationship style preference. There hasn’t ever been a manual written about what to do if your partner’s other partner is being abusive. Your situation too is a one very unique to your happenstance, but I believe we can infer from what we’ve already learned about abuse in relationships to apply to what is happening here.

I am first going to go into what appears to be happening with your metamour Zach, beyond what you’ve already acknowledged. Then we’ll talk about your partner Morgan’s headspace. Lastly, we’ll answer your questions about what you can do to protect yourself and your partner.

Photo by NO NAME on

Relationship Trauma and Trauma Bonding

As you recognized, it appears that Zach is a textbook abuser. Based on what you have shared through first- and second-hand witnesses, Zach displays characteristics of the Rambo and the Victim from Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That, a phenomenal book that dives into the inside of abusive men.

In short, Rambo utilizes extreme aggression (i.e. choking his partner, kicking and damaging your car) in order to intimidate others through subvert or overt fear. Rambo often “enjoys the role of protector, feeling like a gallant knight.” Lundy even goes further to claim that most Rambos recognize that while violence is not always the answer, “exceptions to this rule can be made for [their] own partner[s] if [their] behavior is bad enough.” In comparison, the Victim appeals compassion through his traumatic past in order to manipulate and control their partners. In addition, Victims justify their behaviors through the language of the abuse victims, which further deviates the actual abuse victims from being able to acknowledge themselves as victims. This can often show up in the form of self-loathing, as you noticed.

I am going to introduce you to a word you might already be familiar with: trauma bonding.

Trauma bonding is defined as a cyclical nature of abuse where the intermittent reinforcement of reward and retribution enforces a powerful emotional bond between the abuser and the abused. That emotional bond can sometimes be very similar to substance addiction in how it is perpetuated and reinforced.

Tanya Evans goes into detail about the cycle of an abuse from a parent-to-child context here, but the model is also applicable in romantic relationships. Tension builds after the initial period of calm. Then it culminates in a moment of abuse, quickly followed by a burst of affection and care. The cycle continues when the honeymoon phase stems off, again into a period of calm. The abuse cycle interval gradually shortens and the intensity of the abuse usually escalates over time as the abuser gets more and more empowered through the cyclical abuse.

Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like there has been numerous instances of abusive incidents – both that you’ve witnessed first-hand and heard about through second-hand – that indicate that Morgan is bonded to Zach through repeated trauma. The constant threat of restraining order that Zach has is another way to actively manipulate Morgan and passively manipulate you.

Photo by ShonEjai on

Codependency and Abuse

So let’s talk about Morgan.

It is a very common pattern among codependent folks that they partake in and/or enable their partner’s destructive behaviors. Sometimes, even when they can recognize that their partner is abusive, the codependents often feel it impossible to break the cycle and eventually relapse back into abuse. Many abusers condition their abuse victims through trauma bonding in order to make them believe that it is only through their abuse and subsequent affection that they can feel happiness.

It could be very possible that Morgan is codependently attached to Zach’s abuse in the same way a substance abuser is addicted to their object of addiction. And even if Morgan themself recognizes that Zach is abusive and manipulative, they might not feel in control of their relationship with Zach. Through their attachment, Morgan enables, facilitates, and perpetuates Zach’s abusive behavior in their relationship with him as well as their relationship with you.

There are also some codependent behaviors reflected in your relationship with Morgan as well. It is natural to want to alleviate your partner’s suffering. But in your efforts to alleviate their suffering, Morgan is not actively learning to manage their own suffering that is inflicted upon them. Each time you step in to rescue them, more it reinforces in their brain that they need to be rescued, further entrenching the level of dependence they heap onto you as well as you onto them. While it could be true that Morgan might know the scope of abuse better than you do, there just seems to be a terrible cognitive dissonance to acknowledge and act upon that abuse assessment. And in the same way that while you recognize that the scope of abuse is enough for you to set some hard boundaries against, the frustration boils over when you see their actions not matching their intentions.

As a result, you are frozen, trapped, and stuck until the next instance of abuse, further perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on

When Boundaries are Not Enough

Your situation is so uniquely complex because while you are not the primary recipient of abuse, you are still experiencing emotional trauma through second-hand emotional abuse that Zach inflicts onto Morgan.

First step is to acknowledge and take ownership of each person’s actions. You are not responsible for Morgan’s behavior; only Morgan can claim responsibility over their actions. In the same way, neither you nor Morgan are responsible for Zach’s behavior; only Zach can claim responsibility over his. In addition, you are not responsible for Morgan’s feelings in the same way that Morgan is not responsible for Zach’s feelings.

I know how difficult and painful it is to watch someone you love in distress. But it is not your responsibility to manage and oversee their abusive relationship. The most caring thing you can do is to treat Morgan as their own, let them manage their own relationship, and maintain your space as safe space while holding firm to your own boundaries. That could mean rewording your boundary such that it states “I will not be in a relationship with someone who constantly brings negative baggage from other relationships into our relationship.”

As it stands, this abuse will continue until you or Morgan can take a stand. I would argue that a breakup is always an option, for both you and Morgan. But if you really do not consider breaking up as an option, you can de-escalate your relationship while continuing to allow Morgan to live with you until they start attending their school in September. That will help you better shield your emotional well-being from the current intensive, abusive experience.

Keep in mind that it isn’t your place to tell Morgan when/if they should terminate their relationship with Zach. Even clinical therapists cannot tell their patients to terminate their relationships, and they’re trained specifically to address these situations. That is Morgan’s responsibility to own, and no one else’s.

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Responsibility to Self

You didn’t say how long you’ve been dating Morgan. But based on what you’ve shared, that is a lot of heavy stuff that Morgan threw on your plate just two weeks into dating you. A lot of heavy stuff that most folks would keep to and work through by themselves before miring anyone else for support. This tells me that Morgan has been severed from any of their support network to reach out to and lack the ability for mindfully forge new support networks.

Short of other human resources, there are a lot of support they’ll be about to find through books. Lundy’s first book Why Does He Do That? would be good for both you and your partner. Lundy’s second book Should I Stay or Should I Go would be a great next read for your partner if they need help on deciding whether they should stay in this abusive relationship with Zach or not. If Zach is open to also reading, Lundy also has material available for abusive men that might also benefit Zach.

The best thing that you can do is to point them in the right direction by providing resources, and let them know that you’re here for to support their journey back to well-being. But it doesn’t sound like stating your distaste and maintaining your boundaries are cutting it anymore. You owe it to yourself to be in and seek happy relationships with people that can maturely and properly manage their own well-being.

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 – Can my marriage be salvaged?

[TW: Physical abuse, miscarriage.]

“I have been in a polyamorous marriage with my spouse (he/him) for the last 5 1/2 years.  He has been in a relationship with my metamour (they/them) for the last 2 1/2 years.  My spouse and I are currently separated due to boundary issues in the poly dynamic which led to a physical altercation between my spouse and I in which he pinned me down.

I take responsibility for my part in the toxic poly dynamics.  When my spouse started dating my metamour who was a member of our friend group, things progressed quickly between them at a speed that was uncomfortable to me.  I did significant work around my insecurities so I wouldn’t set boundaries that put limits on their relationship (which I did a couple times throughout the 2 1/2 years).

My spouse and I were in the process of starting a family and we had the desire to live together in our own family unit with anyone we were dating living separately from us.  We were open to other partners being in our future children’s lives as an aunt/uncle figure but had no interest in co-parenting with another partner(s).  We acknowledged this was a hierarchical arrangement that would regard my metamour as a secondary partner.  

It became quickly apparent that my metamour did not want to be regarded as a “secondary partner” due to their own past trauma of feeling “less than.”  My metamour voiced the desire to my spouse to have children with him and co-parent our children with us.  I felt that these spoken desires crossed a line and felt like a threat to what my spouse and I wanted for our family dynamic.  My spouse at times has had difficulty setting boundaries with my metamour about what we want in our marriage that may impact my metamour.  This has caused me confusion about whether or not I can trust my spouse to set appropriate boundaries with my metamour or whether he wants something different than we originally agreed on.  It has also led to resentments toward my metamour with the belief  that they are crossing lines and pushing boundaries that I am unsure of how strongly were set by my spouse.

In March 2020 when I found out I was pregnant after having miscarried in 2018, things seemed to be going better with our poly dynamic.  The three of us no longer regarded my metamour as the “secondary” partner.  I had worked through my insecurities and didn’t need that distinction at that point.  My metamour and I were working on our friendship and even attended a conference together without my spouse present the month before finding out about the pregnancy.

In the moments after finding out I was pregnant, I asked my spouse not to tell anyone about the pregnancy yet especially my metamour due to stress related to the poly dynamic in my first pregnancy.  My spouse agreed to this but was concerned that my metamour would find out.  I said we can just tell people who ask about my pregnancy that we are still waiting for the results and we left it at that.

The next day my metamour and spouse were spending time together and my metamour asked my spouse if I was pregnant.  My spouse couldn’t hide the truth and admitted that I was.  My metamour was very hurt that we chde my pregnancy from them (even if it was just temporary until we were ready to tell people).  My spouse in turn hid the fact that my metamour found out about the pregnancy for over a month because he wanted to protect me from stress.  I found out about the withholding and lying from my spouse on the same day I found out I had another miscarriage.  I felt hurt and betrayed that my spouse could hide this information from me for so long.  I also felt upset that my metamour pried to get information about my pregnancy that I didn’t feel ready to share with them yet.  

This incident has eroded the trust I had with my spouse and I also feel like I lost a friend in my metamour who also didn’t come clean and let me know my spouse was withholding the truth from me.

The day after my miscarriage procedure and finding out my spouse had been lying to me for a month, I felt numb and emotionally unavailable to my spouse.  He wanted to grieve with me but I was in a state of shock and couldn’t process things with him.  When I turned away from him and told him I couldn’t be there for him in that moment, he was triggered, pinned me down and demanded I look at him.  I went limp and dissociated because it was too much for my nervous system to handle.  He left that day (April 4) and we have been separated ever since.

Currently my spouse and I are in couples therapy and are beginning to take responsibility for our parts in these dynamics, build up trust again and trying to see if we can salvage the marriage. There is significant mistrust between my metamour and I and at this point I am terrified to put in the effort to work on that relationship.  My metamour has often projected hurt feelings onto me which I don’t know if I can even deal with going forward.  My spouse and metamour are talking about moving in together which is bringing up a lot for me because it’s something my spouse and I never discussed as a possibility before.  I am afraid that it could lead to my spouse changing his mind and wanting a family with my metamour instead of with me.  I also don’t know what would happen if my spouse and I repair things between us and want to move back in together while he is living with my metamour.

I know in order for the marriage to work I need to accept my metamour completely (even their desires to have a child with my spouse) and repair the mistrust and resentments that have built up on both ends over the past 2 1/2 years.

Do you think the marriage can be salvaged and what steps would need to be taken to get there?  What structural changes would be necessary in our poly dynamic to have harmony between the three of us?”


Photo by reneereneee on

Dear Anonymous,

I am so, so sorry that you experienced two miscarriages, as well as a severe physical and relational trauma. I can’t imagine the multitudes of pain that you are currently experiencing as well as the dread for the uncertain future ahead.

There is an incredible amount to unpack and discuss from what you’ve shared with me. We first need to talk about your perception of hierarchies in a polyamorous relationship. There’s another discussion about parenthood. We also need to talk about agreements and boundaries before we can talk about your metamour. Then there is a wholly separate discussion to be had about your spouse’s behaviors. Then we can finally talk about what this all means for you personally and for your relationship with your spouse. For the ease of discussion, we’ll name your spouse as Tom and your metamour as River.


So let’s start with hierarchies. Last year, I talked about how hierarchies in a polyamorous relationship can be ethically presented and practiced. Prescriptive and descriptive hierarchies in polyamory aren’t always inherently toxic. Even if your and Tom’s goal was to aim for a strictly non-hierarchical relationship where there is no inherent privileges in any one relationship over another, you will each find that it is nigh impossible to have everything be equal. Some of this is due to the mono-normative social structures. Some of it is due to inherent couple’s privilege. Some of it is due to the stigma we polyfolks face. So at best, things will be fair and equitable where y’all can best manage descriptive hierarchies. It sounds like River immediately perceived the existing agreement between you and Tom (“Tom and I will not have children with our other partners”) to be a restrictive and prescriptive hierarchy that felt unfair for them and the vision of the relationship they wanted to have with Tom. And instead of working on their big hurt, it sounds like they decided to weaponize their hurt feelings into breaking down the pre-existing agreement Tom established with you. We’ll talk more about what other red flags I’ve noticed in River’s behavior in the Metamour section.



I am curious if you and Tom ever sat down to discuss why you two had this particular agreement not to have children with other partners. There are a lot of very valid reasons not to have children with more than one partner. One such reason is in childcare finances. Childrearing is very expensive. Even if you had the financial bandwidth to afford a child, the emotional and physical tax that comes with the first several years of parenthood is not something to be overlooked. A lot of polyfolks talk about how polyamory will highlight your deepest insecurities and relational issues. Parenthood is very much the same way. So let’s go back to hierarchies. If you personally feel that you need to have a long-term stability of a partner who is as dedicated to your child as you are, then the agreement regarding parenthood is not only a fair one, but a necessary one. And as such, it needs to be an agreement that Tom needed to specify from the initial dating phase that parenthood wasn’t an aspect of relationship he could pursue with another partner.

Let’s assume for a moment here that you two did alter the agreement to make space for River to also have a child with Tom. How would that have been implemented? Who is going to pay for what childcare? Even in an idealistic scenario of a holistic poly family unit, who will ensure that everything is running smoothly? How does Tom intend to balance his two distinct parenthoods? And no. “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out when I get there” is not a good enough answer.

Agreements & Boundaries

You said, “This has caused me confusion about whether or not I can trust my spouse to set appropriate boundaries with my metamour or whether he wants something different than we originally agreed on.” These are two very red flags that I noticed when I first read your message. Part of what makes relationships – not just polyamorous ones – so difficult is that your partners have to enforce boundaries that they themselves might not have established themselves. Agreement and boundary enforcement is an explicit price of admission to being entangled with another human being, which gets magnitude more difficult to manage when you have multiple relationships. When you cannot trust your partner to behave in ways that is mindful and respectful of his relationship with you displays a significant lapse in judgment regarding his emotional priorities that I’ll get to when we talk about Tom’s behaviors.

This particular behavior is illustrated again when he failed to uphold the agreement he had with you regarding pregnancy disclosure. In the medical field, HIPAA rules dictate who can disclose what medical status to whom at what time. Violation of HIPAA rules usually mean a professional end to their healthcare careers. I don’t believe that it is important for River to know exactly when you got pregnant. It is only important that you and Tom were trying to get pregnant. Based on the timeline you’ve shared, River was likely around when you had your first miscarriage. Even if they weren’t, it is possible that River knew that your first miscarriage devastated you and caused you a significant amount of anxiety regarding your pregnancy. With all that considered, River’s big upset makes sense when you later revealed that your metamour “often project[s] hurt feelings onto [you].” That is exactly what they did here. Considering your first miscarriage, your decision to not talk about your pregnancy status on a minute-by-minute basis is not a badly intentioned one, but a necessary one.

Upholding your agreements even when you are not present is not a trait you should only aspire to have in your ideal partner; it is a necessary skill the same way you need to breathe in order to live.

Photo by La Miko on

Metamour’s behaviors

Your metamour River has displayed some very concerning behaviors over the past two and a half years. You say that you feel like a line was crossed when they spoke to Tom about their desire to have Tom’s child. I don’t think this is a boundary violation as much as a discussion of expectation. In any relationship, you are entitled to discuss what you aim to accomplish in your relationship, even if that goal is not achievable, so that you can proactively consent to the relational space ahead of you. When River communicated their discontent at not being able to have a child with Tom, Tom had a decision to own the agreement that he made with you and defend his own rationale (outlined in the Parenthood section). And then River can decide at that point if they were okay with a childfree relationship with Tom as a price of admission to be with Tom. But based on what I have gathered, I get the sense that Tom did not defend your agreement, and instead left a lot of room (intentionally or unintentionally) to have children with River as well.

To pick up where we left off, River got upset when they weren’t immediately told that you were pregnant. But instead of trying to understand why there was a delay, they immediately assumed that you chose to hide for all the wrong reasons. I can understand why River hesitated to talk to you about what she knew. It could be possible that they were upset about not having heard it directly from their friend. It is also possible that they expected Tom to communicate that he broke the agreement that he had with you. Either way, you were hurt to find out that River saw through the plausible deniability of your pregnancy status. It is humiliating to know that you were misled in your own self-assessment, especially for reasons outside of your own control.

I also want to point out that you’ve called out and acknowledged the work you’ve had to do to overcome your own insecurities. But I didn’t see where River has worked on themselves to make sure that they overcame their own insecurities. If they’ve acknowledge that they have past traumas in feeling “less than”, what kind of therapy work have they done to get over feeling “less than” in their current and future relationships? What kind of self-improvement process have they committed to in order to make sure that they were also making space for your relationship in their lives?

I do think that it is also important to point out here that a lot of what you know about River is through Tom. And it is possible that Tom could have misportrayed River’s feelings and expectations to you in the same way he has misportrayed your feelings and expectations to River.

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Spouse’s behavior

The biggest red flags I noticed in your message were regarding your partner Tom. I will list out what I noticed.

I’ve already talked about your concerns about his portrayal of your boundaries in his relationship with River in the Agreements & Boundaries section. And I’ve also talked about his inability to uphold the pregnancy disclosure agreement as a red flag in the same section. But I do think that the timing of this is also very important to call out. It wasn’t months down the line after you’ve established this agreement. He broke the agreement literally the day after he agreed to it. And it wasn’t for the lack of contingency plans. You talked about how Tom can defer to “still waiting for the results” as a deferment mechanic for River if River did ask about your pregnancy status. And while that itself is bad, it isn’t even as bad as his failure to communicate with you that he failed to uphold that agreement with you. Perhaps it was out of shame that he couldn’t communicate with you. But in his failure to do so, you’ve been humiliated you by allowing you to live a lie as a fool in a play you did not sign up for.

I want to take a step back here to point out an obvious discrepancy. You said that you wanted Tom to withhold information from River out of necessity. River got upset because they felt like they were being misled. And it could be possible that River asked Tom not to talk about what they found out. That is the best case scenario.

In this best case scenario, Tom chose to honor River’s agreement with more conviction than he did with your agreement, the agreement that he not only made the night before but for all the right reasons. In this, he has displayed yet another instance of his inability to respect your boundaries.

The worst case scenario is that Tom himself decided not to share what agreement he broke with you. And let’s talk about that worst case scenario. It is either reflective of a codependent behavior (in that he thinks he knows your emotional landscape better than you do, so he needs to caretake you in this way) or a manipulation tactic from an abuser (in that he can better control the narrative and decide what is better for you by robbing you of your autonomy to make informed decisions).

Both of those are terrible, and not at all representative of a healthy partnership. Both of those are justifications and self-enforced narratives he is using to explain why he committed an unethical behavior.

But nothing quite amounts to the physical altercation in April. I want to make sure that I am understanding this correctly. The day after you had your miscarriage procedure, I’m sure you were not just experiencing the emotional trauma of losing yet another child, but also the physical trauma of the procedure itself. His role is pretty clear cut from a societal expectation here. He was to be a sound support for you in your recovery. Your emotional bucket was full, so you established a boundary that you can’t be there to support him through his loss because your loss was magnitudes greater than what he was experiencing. And instead of supporting you in this difficult time, he took away your autonomy – bodily this time – to pin you down to address his hurt feelings. In this particular incident, he explained that he was “triggered” and behaved in a way that was unsound. I don’t buy it. What trauma has he experienced in the past where he wasn’t addressed and thus required him to physically pin down his partner to get an answer? And even if your particular behavior triggered him to pin you down, what kind of therapy work has he committed to pre-emptively address that in the past? It doesn’t sound like he actually considered your own traumatic experience and instead inflicted trauma on you – someone who is actually traumatized – to only again explain his poor behavior.

Based on the words you used (like dissociation), I get the sense that you are somewhat familiar with traumatic response to an abusive situation. And I’m concerned if that was something you learned about because it was something you’ve experienced in the past with this particular partner. So as your spouse, I wonder if he also knew that you could dissociate in that particular moment as a way to trauma bond you into submission.

I haven’t even gotten to the developments following the separation either. You shared that your partner and metamour were talking about moving in together. This is at best reflective of woefully short sighted approach to relationships, completely detached from the reality of his failing marriage. And this is at worst a form of retaliatory behavior to show you that “he has other options” in order to force you into complying with a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship that is more amenable for your metamour.

Photo by Evie Shaffer on

Putting it all back together

At the onset and at the end of the message, you asked “can your marriage be salvaged?” And I don’t think you are asking the right question. I think you should be asking yourself “do I want to salvage this relationship?” Your metamour has consistently displayed a lack of respect for your existing relationship with Tom. Tom has continued to enable and facilitate this metamour who weaponized their hurt feelings against you. And your partner has consistently displayed a complete lack of self-awareness, respect for your boundaries and agreements, and failed to meet the most basic level of communication becoming of a partner who can have healthy relationships with others. Are you sure you want to be in a relationship – much less a marriage – with such partner?

Another thing to consider is that in polyamory, you don’t just date the person – you also date the situation that this person is in. This is why I believe that proper practice of proactive consent is necessary for polyamorous relationships. River had to analyze and assess that you were already a major component of Tom’s life when they decided to pursue a relationship with Tom. Forcefully cutting out and demanding Tom to make space for them in his life is not only disrespectful of his relationship with you, but also the friendship that you two eventually developed. Based on what we know about River –and again, it’s mostly through Tom’s eyes here – they chose to erode trust in a deeply dispassionate and selfish way in order to maximize their personal relationship happiness quotient. Their inability (or failure) to be honest with you and imbue good will behind your actions tells me that they aren’t necessarily in a place of mind to be a good metamour (or friend) to you.

Take some time to assess this situation ahead of you. You did not initially sign up to be in a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship with a person who assaulted you. In this particular abusive behavior, you discovered what he is capable of in a moment of emotional distress. And while miscarriage is indeed very stressful, parenthood will bring a wholly different degree of stress that neither you nor he can visualize. How can you be sure that in his next moment of emotional distress that he will not escalate to the next level of assault?

You say that you are terrified to put in the effort to work on the connection you need to have with your metamour. Why aren’t you more terrified to put in the effort to work on the connection you need to have with your spouse? Your partner has done magnitudes more damage to your relationship than your metamour ever allegedly did.

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Steps to salvage your relationship

If you do decide that you want to salvage your relationship with your spouse at all costs, there are some really momentous steps ahead of you.

You and your spouse are already in couple’s counseling. That is a great start. If you and your partner are not already receiving individual therapy to work through each of your respective relational and physical traumas, I strongly urge both you and your partner to do so as soon as possible. At minimum, your partner needs to pursue therapy to better manage his feelings to avoid future acts of assault – of you or your metamour.

Eroded trust is hard to recover from. But a place of healing will always start from acknowledging that your old marriage is no more. That ended when your spouse assaulted you. Instead, realize that your relationship with your spouse need to start from a fresh place where you two can throw out all the old existing agreements, expectations, and goals. Most importantly, you and Tom will need to start anew. Parenting together is out of the question, at least for now. And you’ll need to work back together to being in a collective headspace to live together again, if that is something both of you want somewhere down the line.

As for the poly structure itself, you will need to step back and assess his poly relationship landscape. Since you and Tom are starting anew, are you okay with dating someone who is in a serious relationship with River? Would you date your spouse if you met him on a first date? I would also disagree that you need to accept every aspect of your metamour. That isn’t your responsibility; that is their partner’s and their partner’s alone. Instead, you just need to acknowledge, coalesce, and learn to cohabitate with their quirks and habits. You don’t even need to be friends with your metamour if you choose not to be.

A lot of folks get caught up on the sunk cost fallacy of a long-term relationship. Longevity of a relationship is not necessarily a reflection of the strength of that relationship; it is merely the history of previous success. That is it. What has your partner done for you lately? Was he there for you when you needed him the most? Does he make you feel safe and protected in your most vulnerable spaces?

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 is dating someone who is in a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell arrangement.

“So my primary (F) and I (M) have had a long, thus far happy poly relationship for several years now. We’ve both played outside the relationship but they’ve never been anything serious.

She has recently met a new guy, and she had a crush, and they seem to be extremely compatible and happy together, and I’m so excited for her to have that.

But this guy says he has a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy with his wife. Which is an immediate red flag to me, but it’s ultimately my partner’s decision to be with him, and I let her make it after voicing my concerns.

My question is this: am I right to feel extremely uncomfortable with the fact that this man not only refuses to meet me (my partner and I do not have a DADT policy by any means). In every successful poly encounter I’ve ever had in all my life, it has been accomplished with open dialogue and full disclosure, and every time secrets have been kept it has gone badly.

This man not only refuses to meet me, or to share our phone numbers in case of emergency, he didn’t even want me to know his name or his occupation. He doesn’t like that she tells me when they’re going out together or where they’re going, and the first thing he did after telling her that he didn’t want to meet me is block me on social media, so even if there was an accident or something, I could not even begin to contact him.

Confusing all the more is that, at the beginning of their relationship, he was asking my partner if she would be willing to come to his home to be friends or fuckbuddies with his wife, at the same time he was saying he wouldn’t even meet me to shake my hand and talk about our boundaries, or message me on facebook.

I don’t want to make a huge deal out of the first real happy extracurricular experience she has had in our poly relationship, but these are massive red flags to me, and they make me incredibly uncomfortable. I feel like a man should be able to look the husband of his girlfriend in the eye and shake his hand when that husband is buying them hotel rooms to spend the night in, you know?

Thoughts or suggestions are welcome. This is putting a lot of tension on our relationship, and the happiness I feel for her being with someone she likes is so big that my misgivings almost seem small, but this is the one that doesn’t seem to be going away or getting better.

I just don’t want to cost her her happiness if I’m being unreasonable. He agreed to our guidelines and rules before seeing her, and then changed his mind as soon as they went out.

I just want to know what other people think before I mess things up much more than I already have.”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Blank Space on

Dear Anonymous,

Compatibility is such an odd concept in the context of dating. Humans are so innately complex, conflicted, and compromising that to wrap all the intrigue of sexual, emotional, physical, and circumstantial chemistry into one word feels criminal. And let’s talk about that term: circumstantial chemistry.

Circumstantial chemistry is in essence how well your life’s happenstance matches up with your romantic partner’s own life’s happenstance. For example, we could say that a couple has poor circumstantial chemistry for a romantic relationship if one or both partners are in an explicitly monogamous relationship with different partner(s). When we decide to pursue a romantic connection with another, we should first assess how all four of those chemistry align. If you happen to have really bad sex with your partner, that sexual component of your relationship might not be feasible. If you happen to have really great sex with your partner but they lack other physical intimacy (like cuddling and massaging), you are probably going to have to go find that physical chemistry elsewhere. Circumstantial chemistry often gets left behind. But the truth of the matter is that you are never just dating a person as they are today; you are also dating their history as well as who they could become throughout the course of the relationship.

It can be very difficult to fully understand your circumstantial compatibility especially while you and your new partner are both enveloped in the intoxicating NRE. Even I have had past relationships where I was scratching my own head about how I allowed myself to get in that mess.

Based on what you have shared with us, your partner might not have recognized how little circumstantial compatibility they have with this new connection. The NRE blindspot makes sense, especially since your primary partner never had intense connections like this one before.

Photo by Ichad Windhiagiri on

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policies deservedly get a lot of negative criticism around most poly communities.

Often, DADT policies are set in place due to insecurity, emotional capital mismanagement, and poor judgment. DADT policies make it impossible to cross-verify if they are ethically practicing non-monogamy not just from your perspective but from your partner’s perspective as well. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that your metamour is not actually cheating on his wife; either she doesn’t want to know about it or he is incapable of maturely handling emotionally sensitive information with his wife. If he is unable to maintain a connection with you, I get the sense that your partner’s hearsay – that his wife is really jealous – is not as true as his inability to properly manage his own emotional resources. It doesn’t sound like your partner gets jealous about what he has with his wife. So why can’t he maintain a reasonable and sensible connection with you, even if for the simple sake of your shared partner’s safety?

There is a very fine but important distinction to be made here between what is ethical / consensual and what is not.

Setting personal ethics aside, it is important to recognize when someone is pushing on your boundaries. And your metamour definitely neglected your and her pre-existing agreement when he “agreed to [y]our guidelines and rules before seeing her, and then changed his mind as soon as they went out.” And your partner has failed you in failing to uphold the agreement that she has previously agreed to with you. He doesn’t just get to unilaterally uproot the guidelines and rules he has already consented to. If he wanted to change any rules, it should have been a discussion or a negotiation so that their newfound deep emotional connection is adequately represented in her life.

You mentioned that this is the first time your partner connected deeply with a person outside of her relationship with you. And I get the feeling that she is not used to setting boundaries with other people, especially if they are pushy. An experienced polyamorist would have recognized the boundary pushing, communicated what they saw, then re-establish and enforce the boundary. For some, this skill to develop, communicate, and enforce boundaries come with time and practice. For many, it is a very painful development process.

Your metamour too has a right to establish and communicate his own boundaries. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like he was very clear to establish his communicative boundaries with you, something you’ve been doing your best to respect. But it doesn’t mean that those boundaries have to be compatible with yours. It sounds like you want to be closer with your metamours (as evidenced by your previous experiences) while he wants to maintain a DADT not just with his wife but also with your partner as well.

But this part really confused me. How can he maintain a DADT policy with his wife while also asking your partner if she’d be open to becoming friends or fuckbuddies with his wife? It sounds like it is at best another instance of him pushing his boundary, and this time it is with his wife. If they’ve agreed to a DADT arrangement, then it falls on your metamour’s shoulders to do the emotional labor associated with extreme compartmentalizing that comes with DADT relationships. He doesn’t get to talk about or much less introduce his partners to each other. That is the whole point of DADT policies. By asking your partner to be friends or fuckbuddies with his wife, he either…

  1. Changed that agreement with his wife without properly communicating with you and your partner, or;
  2. Is disrespecting the boundary he previously agreed to with his wife before he met your partner.

Either way, those should be dealbreakers in and of themselves.

Photo by Alina Isaieva on

And now let’s talk about what you can do.

Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that your metamour’s intentions behind implementing DADT with his wife was disingenuous at best. But the more surprising aspect of this relationship is that your partner has appeared to agree to a DADT arrangement with your metamour as well, even though that is not the type of relationship that you’ve ever had with your partner.

I think you can do so much better than looking at him in the eyes and shake hands before he takes your partner off to a hotel room. You are not entitled to any kind of engagement with him if he doesn’t want to interact with you. However, you are entitled to having a healthy and happy relationship with your partner. And if their agreement (which clearly comes at your self-sacrifice) is causing you great harm and distress, you need to be forthcoming about how your partner’s enabling of your metamour’s actions have hurt you.

In the comments, you mentioned that your partner tends to be very passive in her relationships. Her passiveness is not suitable or healthy for non-mono relationships. What will happen when she decides to forgo the next really important boundary because he pushed? What happens if he engages in sexually or physically risky endeavor with your partner without implementing proper safety measures? Where is the line?

You say that your partner is your primary partner. It is time for you to kindly remind your primary partner that you will not accept your own boundaries being trampled on by her secondary partner. And it is time for your partner to stand up for what she believes in. You too are entitled to your own boundaries, just like she is entitled to her own relationships and he is to his DADT agreement. Even if that is his own right, you do not need to make a personal compromise on behalf of your partner’s relationship of questionable ethics.

So. I agree with you. These appear to be massive red flags to me as well. And I don’t think you are making enough big deal about how many dealbreakers he presented in a very short amount of time.

Good luck.

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

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

Advice – How can I be a better metamour?

“My primary partner and I have been together for almost ten years and polyamorous for five, but we’ve experienced real deep romantic love outside our relationship in the last couple years.

We are discovering our difference in values might mean he can’t date other people without causing pain.

For me, you should be willing to go to war for your family. I’d do anything for him. If someone doesn’t like him, it forever taints how I view that person. I would, without a doubt, break up with anyone who doesn’t respect him or my relationship with him.

He finds compassion and understanding for everyone. Everyone’s opinions are valid and he will hold space for them. If I’m struggling, he’ll be there to cheer on my success and comfort me in failures, but my battles are my own. All these characteristics are what made me fall in love with him. I love that he doesn’t have a judgmental bone in his body. I love the balance of commitment and autonomy in our relationship.

This all falls apart when he dates someone I don’t get along with. He will never take sides, in any way, which leads to me feeling trapped with someone I don’t like. (He usually dates someone from our larger shared friend circle, so I always know my metas.) We’ve been solving this by just creating more space between me and his other partners. But there always seems to be a new way that the his other partner can do something that gets back to me and affects me. And every time I don’t understand why he won’t do anything to find reconciliation. It’s impossible to keep us completely separate in our small town and our small community. At some point he has to do something to help us heal and get along. But he’s just not good at this type of problem solving.

He’s not dating anyone else now, but does that have to be forever? What can we work on so small fights with metas don’t always blow up? I don’t have these problems anywhere else in my life. Except with my last two metas, I’ve always been able to solve conflict without fighting. The fact that I feel abandoned in these conflicts is what makes it worse for me.”

Fishy in the Middle on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on

Dear Fishy in the Middle,

I am really sorry to hear that you are experiencing this particular disconnect. There could be multiple contributing factors to why you are experiencing difficulty connecting with your metamours. It could be specific problems with your two former metamours. It could be a hinge problem with your partner. And it could also be a personal problem with you. Let’s dive into those one by one, and talk about what you can do personally about each of those problems.

Metamours pose a set of questions unique to polyamory.

Polyfolks’ relationships with our metamours is a lot like our relationship with our in-laws. They are close to our partners but we often keep them at some distance. It obviously comes with its own idiosyncrasies. But the overall sentiment still holds true.

You said you have had a lot of problems with your two former metamours. You did not specify the type of problems they each had. But I get the sense based on what you’ve shared that they did or said things that you weren’t totally on board with. I am curious what type of disconnects you had with your metamours, and would love to do a deeper dive to see where the responsibilities actually lie.

In my own personal experience with challenging metamours, I have found that my personal challenges with my metamours often boiled down to differing tastes and preferences. We all grow up with our own respective personal histories, which all contribute to the different styles and preferences we have as adults. As such, I found it difficult to assume that everyone was going to be exactly on the same page about our respective styles and preferences. Some of my metamours really understood this aspect. Some could not. It could be possible that your former metamours could not successfully assess what type of words and actions would upset you. That presents a specific type of challenge that is ultimately out of control for you: metamour incompatibility.

As for what you can do about the incompatibilities you had with your former metamours, it sounds like you’ve done your best to create distance to protect yourself and your metamours from any more hurt feelings. And I do think that boundary setting is generally a pretty good solution to people-problems. With that said, setting boundaries around people who are not used to being set boundaries on could have exacerbated and aggravated the growing disconnect you and your metamours felt around each other.

Photo by Just a Couple Photos on

Your partner also has a lot of responsibilities to manage in his multiple relationships.

Hinge partners are responsible for managing their multiple relationships. By this, I mean it is your primary partner’s responsibility to resolve conflicts, communicate expectations, and uphold boundaries & agreements. That is the price of admission we must pay to engage in polyamorous connections: emotional labor.

This also includes facilitating productive discussions between their partners especially if they don’t get along.

It is clear that your partner does his relationships a bit differently from the way you do your own relationships. Based on what you’ve shared, I get the sense that your partner is very easy going and relatively conflict-averse. In his deep sense of care for others, he struggles to evaluate conflicting values and instead strives to spread a sense of understanding. He is very open to cherishing all the success as well as to supporting through any of the failures. Those are all really great open-minded characteristics to have in relationships; and it is one of the many reasons why he has had such a great, lasting relationship with you over the past decade.

His perspective allows for him to form the kind of connections he wants to nurture in his life. And it is apparent that his personality could attract a certain type of people – folks who are more driven and intentional. And when those folks – in the form of your metamours – butt heads with your more driven and intentional perspective, it creates conflict.

If his preferred role in conflict resolution is as a peacemaker, it is understandable why he would take a more cautious approach to resolving issues. It also explains why you have such a personal problem with the way he addresses conflicts. You see a refusal to reconcile in his slower approach to resolving conflicts. And he sees you pressing him for action before he is ready. Neither of those perspectives are accurate because each of your intentions are different than assumed. But it is a reasonable enough assumption that ultimately led to his latest realization, that he doesn’t think he can date others without causing you or his other partners pain.

Photo by Viktor Lundberg on

Now that we talked about where his head is at, let’s now talk about what this means for your relationship.

For the sake of this section, I am going to assume that every other aspect of your connection with your partner is great. How does problem resolution traditionally work out in your relationship with your partner? Are you generally much more assertive than he is in solving problems in your relationship? Does his problem resolution skills present a direct conflict for your personal relationship with your partner? Or is it only in regard to his other relationships?

Let’s suppose that your partner dates a person who is cheating on their spouse. For most polyfolks, enabling infidelity is a hard boundary. In this particular situation, you would be justified to set boundaries around interacting with someone who is so clearly involved in an unethical behavior. But this scenario poses a deeper question into the character of your partner than it does for your hypothetical metamour. You aren’t in a relationship with your metamour. But if your partner is enabling infidelity, then your partner’s judgment too is flawed. It should be his responsibility to recognize when there are irreconcilable differences and only seek partnerships with people who also practice ethical non-monogamy, with people who are compatible with his own personal brand of polyamory.

So you should really ask yourself if he is consistently picking partners who are practicing unethical non-monogamy or folks who are deeply incompatible with his current poly happenstance. Both of those would reflect a deep character flaw which should make you re-think about the status of your relationship.

However, if he just happens to pick partners who become more incompatible down the line, then it might be more of an issue with you than him. Like I mentioned, it is the hinge partner’s responsibility to manage their multiple relationships. But he needs to have the space to manage in order for him to manage his multiple relationships. And if there isn’t the kind of space he needs to manage his multiple relationships, then he just doesn’t have enough resources to do what he needs to do.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

I am going to tell you about the best metamour I’ve ever had. His name was Dave. He was monogamous, but cherished his wife’s other relationships better than any non-monogamous metamours I have ever had. He never outwardly expressed his insecurity or jealousy. His confidence was quiet and unassuming, but naturally flowed out of every interaction I’ve had with him. But better than anyone else, he knew how to manage space in his life. He knew exactly when he was welcome to join at the dinner with our shared partner. And he knew exactly when to leave us alone. He was the most unintentionally charming man I have ever met. I never had to do any kind of emotional labor with Dave because he was so secure and self-aware that he could manage his own feelings. Even though my relationship with Dave’s partner never worked out, I strove to be as self-assured, as socially aware, and as polyamorous as Dave was for me.

At the end of the day, you only really have control over your own actions.

There is a big difference between loyalty and autonomy. The perspective you have in loving someone so wholeheartedly is respectable. But based on what you’ve shared, it could be possible that you ask a lot from your partner. You say that you live in a small town with a small community. So you should already know how difficult it is to create distance among folks with whom you were already familiar with. That kind of boundary setting is ripe with potential misunderstanding.

I am also very curious about how you personally define “respect” with regards to respecting your partner or your partner’s relationship with you. There is already an explicit hierarchy in your polyamorous relationship. Demanding respect when you haven’t shown yet that you’ve earned so is going to prove incompatible for a lot of folks who want to explore a long-term connection with your partner as well. Instead, show them who you are by mindfully exercising your secure attachment with your shared partner, very much like Dave confidently made space in my relationship with our shared partner.

Based on your label, I also get the sense that you two have a very strict hierarchical polyamorous relationship. And based on what I gather, I get the sense that when you don’t get along with a particular metamour, you ask your partner to end his relationship. That is fine if that is the preexisting agreement you have with your partner. Whether it is an implicit veto (i.e. I’m going to But that veto agreement is unfortunately going to rub a lot of people the wrong way.

I’ll also float the possibility that your partner just happened to have had an unfortunate encounters with two incompatible partners. I don’t imagine that it has always been an issue in your five year polyamory journey together that he always pursued folks who were clearly incompatible with you as a metamour. But I also think that we – the non-monogamous folks – represent a small subsection of the overall dating population. The more selective you and your partner are about his secondary partners, the more difficult it will be to find any suitable match. So it might not be a bad idea to keep an open mind and more kindly approach your partner’s interests.

At some point, you are going to have to trust that your primary partner can solve his problems on your behalf – even if it looks like he lacks agency. And you are also going to have to trust that he will pick out the type of partners who will also get along with you. You’ve had a lot of opportunities to build trust around each other’s capabilities to be partners to other folks. The inherent part of trust is in having faith that your partner does have your best interests at heart. It looks like there are a lot of room for improvement and growth for both you and your partner as you continue to explore polyamory. So be patient!

Good luck.

Advice – Backsliding in a non-monogamous relationship.

“My husband [34M] and I [32F] have been in an open relationship since December. We initially opened it up because he had an interest in a co-worker and I realized I didn’t feel jealous or hurt by the idea.

At the time, we both decided he should pursue casual connections as romance wasn’t something he wanted. I also communicated that I wasn’t ready for the more emotional implications of a truly polyamorous relationship. Since then, we discovered that my husband is demisexual so he needs to forge a deeper connection. And the FWB was also dealing with a lot of loneliness and is monogamous. So although she communicated she only wanted to be FWB, to maintain their relationship he has had to stay the night a few times per week. Otherwise, she gets angry/passive aggressive on the phone and degrades his feelings and words to her.

My husband’s relationship with his FWB accelerated very quickly. My husband quickly discovered that he is demisexual. So he decided that he needed to establish a more emotional connection with his FWB. She struggles a lot with jealousy and insecurity to the point that my husband has to stay at her place multiple nights a week. Otherwise, she has a tendency to get angry or passive aggressive by degrading his feelings/words to her. They recently stopped using barriers. My husband also told her that he loved her, even though he told me that he meant it only as a friend. My FWB is also very monogamous and once told my husband that she wants him all to herself.

Lately, I feel that he has been responding more to her needs. And although they put a hold on sexual activities currently, I can’t help but struggle with low self-esteem. I see how much it feels like she needs him and how much he responds to her both physically and emotionally. I went into this experiencing expecting a friendship with some romps in the hay, not anything this emotionally charged.

He tries to reassure me with words, but right now it doesn’t feel like enough. I feel like I want to grab at what’s mine and feel validated by knowing he loves and wants me. But I don’t know what to ask for, and for it to feel like enough. At this point, I feel like I’m drowning in emotions and self-esteem issues. I’m not sure how to build myself up and ask for what I need when I’m not sure what that is.

To clarify, we have worked together towards this, and we all agreed that staying over multiple days was fine. And I did a lot of jealousy work previously, but I feel like it is slowly getting out of control.”

Nuthatch Ash on /r/nonmonogamy.

Photo by Cadeau Maestro on

Dear Nuthatch Ash,

The threads are quickly unraveling, faster than either you or your husband can recognize.

First things first. There is a good reason why a lot of non-mono folks establish a rule/boundary early on to not date any coworkers. And it is because if/when things go awry, your husband will be put in a very difficult place of continuing to work at a place that feels hostile. In addition to this, non-monogamy isn’t completely accepted by everyone yet. And he might have to defend his non-monogamous orientation at that same hostile workplace.

Also, this relationship quickly grew out of control for both of you. It sounds like both you and your husband had a pretty good idea on what kind of non-monogamy you personally felt safe consenting to. And while he quickly discovered that that type of non-monogamy is incompatible with his demisexuality, it doesn’t sound like you two ever coalesced as his NRE ballooned his relationship far beyond what you feel comfortable consenting to.

The most alarming thing I see in your situation is the distinct lack of boundary setting on either you or your husband’s part. I’ve written in a very recent column that it is the hinge partner’s responsibility to manage their multiple relationships. And your husband – the hinge partner – is doing a very poor job of establishing boundaries, communicating those boundaries, and upholding those boundaries when the push comes to shove. I get the sense that his FWB – your metamour – is very good at advocating for her own needs, almost to the detriment of others. In your husband’s insistence to please his FWB, he is neglecting his relationship with you. And his actions speak louder than words here.

Photo by Haley Black on

I am also noticing a lot of codependent habits and behaviors from both you and your husband. Take a look at this link from Codependents Anonymous. You are presenting with a lot of the denial and self-esteem patterns, such as…

  • Difficulty identifying what you feel or need,
  • Failing to recognize the unavailability of your husband,
  • Difficulty making decisions,
  • Seeking recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than, and;
  • Difficulty setting healthy priorities and boundaries.

On the other hand, your husband is firmly rooted in compliance patterns while also displaying avoidance patterns, such as…

  • Compromising on their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger from his FWB,
  • Being hypervigilant about FWB’s feelings and taking on those feelings of insecurity,
  • Making decisions to sleep over multiple nights without a regard to the consequences to your self-esteem,
  • Suppressing his own feelings toward his FWB to avoid feeling vulnerable, and;
  • Avoiding emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.

You communicated back in December that you weren’t “ready for the more emotional implications of a polyamorous relationship.” And it doesn’t sound like you are today. It doesn’t really matter what label your husband uses to describe his coworker – FWB or partner. He already said I love you to her. He is doing an immense amount of emotional labor, and subsequently asking you to accept a much smaller slice of him than you originally consented to. So you need to communicate that with your husband as soon as possible. Reconnect on your respective, original visions of how this experience was going to go and determine if you are both really okay with the way things are now. Remember. Consent is ongoing and proactive. If your mental well-being is threatened beyond reasonable path of recovery, you can renegotiate the terms of your relationship to match the level of exposure you’re personally comfortable with.

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on

Both you and your husband need to establish some safeguards and boundaries immediately.

You said you aren’t sure how to figure out your own needs or how to ask for what you need. But your needs are pretty clear in what you’ve laid out on your post. You want validation of his feelings far beyond just words. You want your original commitments to be honored. You want to feel like you are enough.

It could be possible that your hesitation on communicating your needs comes from relative lack of trust in your husband as he continues to expand on his other connection while neglecting his connection with you. And you aren’t sure whether or not he’ll honor and advocate for your needs when you communicate so. If this is the case, then you have a lot more to worry about as your trust in your hinge partner has clearly eroded past what would be considered healthy.

It could also be possible that your hesitation is rooted in your lack of trust in your metamour to honor your needs. Based on what you’ve communicated, there appears to be a lot of ill will on her part. In her desire to replace you is her inability to acknowledge your importance in your shared partner’s life. And her perspective regarding her own role in her relationships reflects a woeful short sight that should warn both you and your hinge partner of dread to come.

I think the biggest problem is in your husband’s inability to see logic. He is clearly deeply mired in NRE. And I am afraid that he just can’t see clearly what poor life choices he has been making in regard to his FWB. At any point, he could have established a boundary that said, “I will not be in a relationship with someone who disregards or badmouths my other relationships.” And he hasn’t. He could have also developed a personal boundary of his own that limited the amount of engagement he has with people outside of his marriage, as he originally sought out to do when you two discussed opening up. But he too has failed to do that. And based on how you have portrayed your husband, I don’t even know if he would be a trustworthy narrator in his own story about how his two relationships have been progressing.

He can’t even be honest with you or himself about how he feels toward his FWB because he’s afraid of upsetting you.

You do know that, right?

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

There’s a slang term for people like your metamour in the poly-verse called cowgirl. In short, cowgirl is monogamous woman who “lassos” a non-mono person away from the herd to “make them hers.” And that slang term honestly doesn’t get bad enough press, as much as unicorn hunters do. You are acting like you are playing on an even playing ground with his FWB. In doing so, you are doing great disservice not just to yourself but to the marriage you two have cultivated together before this particular cowgirl came along.

You are not in a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship. You are in a very hierarchical open relationship with your husband. So act like your partner’s wife, and not just his other partner. And lay it all out on the table that his recent behavior to enable his FWB has been unacceptable. Remind him that his enabling of her continued assault on your marriage is no longer something you’ll try to reason with. If you and your partner have agreed to veto powers, this would be a great time to exercise it. If you feel like you need five or six days a week together, then set that as an agreement or a rule. And until he has earned back your trust by showing you that he is able to restrain himself in presence of NRE, kindly and repeatedly remind him that breaching on your personal boundary is a dealbreaker and potential grounds for ending this marriage.

As for your metamour, stop caring about what she thinks. You already know what she thinks of you, and it’s not good. She has deserved none of your good faith in what she has said and done. Based on what you’ve shared about her, she treats your husband really poorly. Are you sure you want to just stand by and allow someone else to abuse your husband like this? Or watch as your husband refuses to grow a backbone to defend his marriage with you? She is not entitled to upgrade this relationship just because she feels insecure. She is entitled to managing her own feelings, or getting out of this tragic relationship to find a monogamous relationship that works better for her.

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 metamour hates me. How can I feel compersion again?

“I’ve been with my boyfriend for a little over a year now. We are both polyamorous and fell quickly for each other. The first couple of months were rough – because he and his wife (who is very monogamous) had freshly opened their relationship. We were all new to this and I started out as a strict secondary partner which felt extremely unhealthy for me. Since then, we decided to go non-hierarchical and come out to almost everyone around us last summer. The relationship with my boyfriend has been very stable and beautiful. We consider each other life partners and see each other about every other day.

For most of that year, polyamory was extremely intuitive and almost easy for me. It just feels right for me. I felt compersion and empathy for my boyfriend, his wife, and their marriage.

Unfortunately, she struggled from the start. Most of my own difficult feelings stemmed from specific issues (like the hierarchy thing or when I felt like my metamour didn’t really want our relationship to work), almost never from the fact that my partner loves someone beside me.

But now something has shifted. I’m still poly, I would probably go crazy in an exclusive relationship. But I feel almost no compersion anymore. And I think it’s because I feel extremely rejected by my metamour.

She makes her intent very clear with her behavior, her demands, and her comments about our relationship that she hates the fact that I’m with him. And that she still wants him to treat me like a secondary. Whatever the topic, she’s not willing to really take my needs, my feelings, or my relationship with her husband seriously enough.

The logic seems to be that if her husband is poly and she will never be his only partner again, then at least she wants to be the main one. The one who always comes first. The one who calls the shots and is able to limit his time with me. The only one he can ever live with. He doesn’t want those things, so he keeps saying no and tries to find other ways to fight for the marriage and make her feel loved. But somehow it’s never enough.

And I think she’s projecting all her frustration onto me. After my first vacation with my boyfriend, she decided that she doesn’t want to be my friend after all. She wants me to stop coming to their house (just a month before, I had spent a Christmas day with the family. I had cups of coffee with her alone, built a friendship with their daughter, and helped out wherever I could), she doesn’t want to talk to me or even see my face anywhere. She basically wants to live her life and marriage as if I didn’t even exist. And she wants her husband to treat me like an affair or a hobby, something that only exists when he’s with me.

I feel so rejected. Mistreated. Unwanted. Unimportant. I wanted to be friends with her for so long. I wanted to be a part of this family. And now I’m starting to hate her, too. I’m starting to be all mad and jealous and anxious when my boyfriend is with her. I even find myself wishing he would leave her. And it scares me. Because I used to root for their marriage so much. And I don’t think I can really like living poly without that.

So what do you think? Is there a way to feel compersion again? Or at least indifferent? To love my enemy, so to speak – even though she hates me? Cause I don’t want to feel this shit anymore.”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Ngô Trọng An on

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry to hear that you are experiencing this loss of a valuable connection and a rejection from your metamour. Your hurt feelings are very valid. This particular connection is something you’ve clearly intended to strengthen and forge as your own. And your metamour’s thoughts, actions, and words have clashed against not only your intention but what appears to be your shared partner’s intention as well.

I do think that everyone is making some degree of mistake that contribute to the ongoing conflict. So in this post, I’ll lay out what each person’s perspective looks like and what mistakes each person is making, before I get to the actual advice portion of the post.

Photo by Pixabay on

First things first, your metamour probably doesn’t hate you as much as you think.

You – his other partner – just happen to be a convenient lightning rod in which to direct all of her frustrations with polyamory towards. So her current distanced disposition toward you probably isn’t about you personally, but rather more about the resentment she cannot place onto her husband and the father of their child. It isn’t easy to hold a loved one accountable for their mistakes. It isn’t right or fair that your metamour is structuring her boundaries in such a way that makes you feel boxed out of developing a long-term future with your boyfriend. But it is the way that she has decided is more reasonable and reassuring for her soul, that you – as the other woman – is to be blamed. What I am trying to say is that it isn’t so much about you as it is about the resentment building in their relationship as their agreements and boundaries crumble.

With all that said, her perspective also makes a lot of sense. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like they only opened up when you first started dating your boyfriend. Your boyfriend and your metamour both had a collective vision for the type of polyamorous arrangement they were both comfortable with – strict hierarchy – that quickly eroded over the summer. Your metamour could feel that sudden shift in his perspective towards lack of hierarchies to be very painful because she is kinda sorta being left behind.

It is very easy for her to point at the catalyst of this change – you – and establish new boundaries in a more forgo-able connection with you than the more essential one she has with her husband.

Her assertion that her husband should treat his relationship with you a certain way is also very problematic. Doing so robs both you and your boyfriend of your autonomy in your romantic relationship. But not doing so conflicts with the original agreements she made with her partner to prioritize their marital relationship above all else. I don’t think she quite anticipated the amount of change that she and her partner would go through when they first opened up. There are a lot of initial growth and challenges that come with opening up: disentanglement, determining your brand of non-monogamy, and establishing & managing boundaries. Living in a state of denial of her changed relationship is neither healthy nor helpful.

Her recent boundary to bar you from entering their home is probably one that stemmed from a sense of jealousy. It seems aligned with the timing after your first vacation together. One of the skills that new polyfolks need to learn early on is in managing and creating spaces for those relationships to exist, even if they’re not your own relationships. In her decision to exclude you from his nest is an incorrect sense of mind to take action over temporary feelings of insecurity, one that she will have to own and course correct on her own. But that motivation to change isn’t suddenly going to spring up. After all, she is married to her partner and has a child together. At the very least, she could hold this boundary and maintain an unstable status quo until either you bow out of a hostile metamour situation or your boyfriend ends his marriage. It will be important for her to acknowledge that both of those are undesirable outcomes.

With all that said, I also think that your metamour is making an ongoing mistake by not addressing her hurt feelings with the appropriate parties. In blaming you, she is refusing to acknowledge that her partner has grown, and that their original vision has deviated so far from each other. And she will become more and more disconnected from her husband the longer this fib goes on. And her refusal to welcome you into her life and their home is just another manifestation of that disconnect.

So if you and your boyfriend consider each other to be life partners, be prepared for a long and harsh period before your boyfriend proves to his wife that neither you nor your boyfriend is willing to quit on this poly relationship.

Photo by Retha Ferguson on

Your boyfriend also has a lot of work cut out for him.

It sounds like there has been a lot of shifts for not just you but in your boyfriend’s relationship with his wife in the past year. You were initially introduced as a secondary partner, but things became non-hierarchical over the past summer. Mere months into your entry into her life as her metamour. It could be very possible that your metamour either did not explicitly consent to his relationship with you being on an even playing ground, or that she changed her mind after witnessing his relationship with you blossoming into a potential long-term connection. Either way, your metamour is entitled to changing her mind and settling on a more parallel style of polyamory, where there is a very limited interaction between the metamours. Based on what you’ve shared, I gather that you are more in tune with the kitchen table style of polyamory, where there is a lot of non-romantic interactions between the metamours. That is a direct conflict that neither you nor your metamour is entitled to manage; that is wholly and entirely your hinge partner’s responsibility to manage.

If the initial agreement between your hinge partner and your metamour were such that she will always be a primary partner where she can veto and determine the trajectory of all other relationships, then your hinge partner subsequently broke that agreement when he decided that you will be a co-equal partner to his wife. And if your metamour is infringing upon your personal boundary (“I will only be happy in a polyamorous arrangement where I can be friendly with my metamours.”), then your hinge partner is doing a poor job as he fails to communicate and assert the importance of your boundary with your metamour. If you are infringing upon her personal boundary (“I will only be happy in a polyamorous arrangement where there is a lot of distance between my domestic circumstance and my partner’s other partners.”), then your hinge partner is doing a poor job as he fails to communicate and assert the importance of her boundary with you. Something will have to give, whether it is the change in the status of your relationship with your boyfriend or the change in the status of your boyfriend’s relationship with your metamour.

Remember what I said above about creating space? The same applies to your boyfriend in maintaining that space in his relationship. If you are no longer welcome in the same space that you had before, he will have to figure out how to make space for his relationship with you to exist. He could designate a specific space in his home that his wife has no say in and therefore could welcome you into. Or you’ll have to resort to staying at your own living space to be together. Both of those are temporary measures as long as she remains his only nesting partner.

I do want to say a thing or two about New Relationship Energy (NRE).

It could very well be possible that both you and your partner are entangled in NRE that informs the kind of relationship you two want to have, rather than it actually being justified. Think about how quickly things started changing in his relationship with you. It’s much easier to change when the object of your affection is there to motivate and fuel the change. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the changes themselves are rational or well thought out.

Managing NRE and expectations are one of the most challenging things for new polyfolks to get right. And it could very well be possible that while his NRE drove most of the changes, he needed to defend with materials of substance in his conflicts with his wife. Specifically, using his relationship with you as a specific justification of polyamory.

I do think that the biggest mistake your boyfriend is making here is in perpetuating and permeating relationship and marital struggles.

You shared a lot about the inner workings of what is going on in their marriage that you did not have a firsthand experience with. That tells me that either your connection with your metamour was way stronger initially than you let on (where you two openly talked about the difficulties of opening up) or that your boyfriend shared a little too much detail about the struggles he has had in his marriage.

Part of what makes being a hinge partner so difficult is in selectively filtering what needs to be shared while maintaining a commitment to open communication. You really do not need to hear about the kind of relationship your metamour wants to have with your hinge partner; at the end of the day, your relationship with him is your own. And he needs to do a better job of not sharing too much about the every day struggles while keeping you informed about the big picture relational landscape.

Photo by Erik Karits on

The biggest mistake you are making is in seeking compersion when you should be addressing the resentment.

Compersion is great when it happens. Being able to associate positive intent behind your metamour’s actions are necessary to long-term survival of any healthy polyamorous arrangement. And while compersion is a good goal to aim for, it is not always a necessity nor will it happen in every poly relationship.

As someone who has practiced polyamory for several years and met with many more who’ve practiced poly for decades plus, I am always astounded with the poly community’s inherent fascination and obsession with feeling compersion. It is almost like people want to avoid dealing with any kind of negative emotion, so they fixate on the one positive feeling unique to polyamory – compersion – and make it this big thing that is necessary. And I honestly think that this particular mentality is doing great disservice to not only the feeling of compersion but also to the emotional labor that comes with the negative feelings such as jealousy and insecurity.

Dr. Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are, talks about accelerators and brakes in an erotically charged scenario to explain why some folks have a lot of trouble getting turned on while others seem to get horny on demand. In this particular scenario, the resentment that you and your metamour harbor toward each other is a lot like a concrete slab resting on your poly-relational brakes. It doesn’t matter how much compersion and benevolent faith you heap onto this poly-relational accelerator, if the resentment keeps on building up. You’re just gonna end up damaging your torque converter by pressing both the accelerator and the brake.

There are a couple ways for you to preemptively address this build up of resentment.

First recognize that we are all human, and we all make human mistakes. Your metamour too is a human. And while her perspective is very limited, it is deeply rooted in saving the vision of marriage that has long been outgrown. So learn to forgive her for the mistakes she has made, mistakes she is currently making, and the mistakes she will make in the future. And learn to forgive your partner for the mistakes he has made, mistakes he is currently making, and the mistakes he will make in the future. Hopefully some of that goodwill will boomerang back and earn you some brownie points as your relationship with your boyfriend progresses.

Allow yourself to mourn the loss of this connection you built not just with your metamour but with your boyfriend’s family at large. That shift in expectation following your vacation together is something to properly grieve over. Step into and sit in the discomfort of this changed reality and learn to accept that you two will not have the type of relationship you two want to have at this exact moment. It isn’t going to be easy, but it will be necessary for you to move on.

And only when you have finally accepted this new reality, figure out what this means to your relationship. How else can you carve out a space for you two to exist as a couple? If your current living situation is not viable to host your boyfriend, is your boyfriend amenable to getting an apartment with you? Is your metamour willing to acknowledge that she’ll be left behind if she chooses not to grow with the two of you together? And what is she willing to do about it?

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It is a very common saying among poly circles that when you have a metamour problem, you really have a partner problem.

Others have sympathized with your metamour, assuming that she is poly under duress. I’m not sure if I agree with that assessment, based on what you have shared. She has consented to opening up. And she just needs do the emotional labor associated with opening up or decide that that is too much emotional burden for her and bow out.

You need to see that she too is being put in a very difficult place, just like she is putting you in a very difficult place. Most importantly, you need to recognize that your personal romantic entanglement with your partner could be clouding how well he is actually treating his two relationships. He unilaterally and quickly altered his relationship agreement when he was enveloped in NRE. Are you sure that your partner is really fault-free here?

Everyone has room for growth here.

In my personal experience, I have had some of the best relationships that fell apart due to bad metamours. And for a long time, I was quick to blame my toxic former metamours or my partners who refused to coalesce together as reasons on why my previous poly arrangements didn’t work. It wasn’t until I recognized my room for personal growth as a hinge partner and a metamour that I was able to have more successful and healthy poly relationships. So even if this particular relationship doesn’t work out, remember that the work you put in could be for your next relationships to bloom.

Fight not for your current partner, but for yourself and for all the future partners you’ll have.

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 feeling very jealous about my partner’s new partner.

“I [35F] have been poly on and off since I was teenager. I’ve felt jealousy and insecurity here and there, but for the past 2 months I’ve been experiencing jealousy and insecurity so intense that nothing in my toolbox can help me manage it.

I’ve been dating Brian [31M] for the past three years. Our relationship hasn’t been in a great place for the past 4 months or so, mainly due to an ongoing pattern of behavior on his part. When sex with someone new is in the picture, it feels like the empathy and common sense parts of his brain seem to go offline – he’ll do things like talk about other partners while we’re literally in the middle of having sex, or make out with one of my ex girlfriends. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this, and he’s working to improve his behavior. But I don’t feel like he has made any real progress yet.

Last August, I reconnected with one of my exes, Peter [37M]. A couple months before that, he had started dating Logan [25NB]. Peter and I were spending time together platonically, but it gradually evolved back into a romantic friendship – we say “I love you”, and kiss and cuddle, but nothing more intimate. It didn’t go any further than that, primarily due to Logan struggling with jealousy and insecurity.

I felt a lot of empathy for what Logan was going through, and did my best to reassure them that things with Peter and I wouldn’t progress any faster than what Logan felt comfortable with. I made sure that Logan and I spent time together one-on-one, and got to know one another better, and it seemed to help.

I was unhappy with my dynamic with Peter, though, as Logan’s insecurity meant he was explicitly prioritizing them above me. He felt comfortable kissing Logan in the same space as me, but not the other way around. He and I had to make plans a week in advance, because Logan needed to be able to make advance plans of their own, in order to make it easier for them to manage their jealousy. Spending time with Peter on the weekend or overnight seemed like it would cause a lot of friction, so it was something we just didn’t do.

I felt a lot of insecurity around my relationship with him not being of equal importance – the first time we dated, despite him having other partners, there had been no restrictions. I could kiss him no matter who was in the room, see him whenever I wanted, engage in whatever level of intimacy. The insecurity was manageable, though, and I figured these restrictions would shift with time.

In January, Brian and Logan decided to spend some time together. Logan had told me in previous conversations that they weren’t looking to date until their mental health was in a better place, and Brian told me that he was just looking to spend time with Logan platonically. This is not how things actually turned out, as they had some pretty serious initial chemistry, and so they started dating. Brian decided he did not feel comfortable with being intimate with Logan until they had worked through their jealousy about Peter and I, so they held off on that.

In February, Peter and I were spending time together, and he told me that he and Logan had discussed boundaries, and that they felt comfortable with Peter and I doing things “above the waist”. Both Peter and I took that to mean “keep your pants on”, so we made out for a while. While we were kissing, he grabbed my (clothed) butt.

The next day, I got a series of upset texts from Logan, demanding to know what my definition of “above the waist” was, and telling me that they felt like they couldn’t trust me or Peter. I defused the situation as best as I could, and told them that while I want to respect any boundaries they’ve worked out, this was ultimately a conversation they needed to have with Peter.

I waited for two weeks to see what the outcome of those conversations would be, but never got a clear answer from Peter or Logan. I got the feeling that Logan felt pressure to be okay with something they really weren’t, and I was not really interested in being involved in more drama, so I decided to back off. I told Peter that I wanted to reset our relationship back to “romantic friends”, and that we could revisit things in about six months.

Since backing off of things with Peter, I’ve started to feel jealousy like I’ve never experienced before. Brian has continued to date Logan, despite their behavior, and wants to start being intimate with them. I am extremely not okay with this, even though I want to be – I want to be a good poly person!

I’m used to feeling compersion and happiness when my partner meets someone new, but instead I literally feel like I’m going to vomit when I think of them together. I feel like screaming and crying and throwing things. (Obviously I have not done any of those :-P)

Things have gotten to the point where I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s affecting my ability not only to enjoy spending time with Brian, but also to be able to focus at work and relax when I’m alone. I don’t think I can tolerate this level of jealousy much longer.

Brian knows about the level of jealousy I’m experiencing, but he has continued to bring up the topic of being intimate with them. When he does, I always tell him that I can’t give him permission to do or not do something, it’s his decision. Since we don’t practice veto (and I don’t want to, either), I’m seriously considering ending things with Brian.

I don’t want to have to end a 3 year relationship because I can’t figure out how to cope with my jealousy. What are your coping skills for dealing with unusually intense emotions like this?”

Anonymous from /r/polyamory.

Photo by Eli Verenich on

Dear Anonymous,

What a polycule! Let’s first unpack what we’ve learned so far.

Peter: Your former partner of a couple months and Logan’s current partner of several months. Previous poly history with Peter that clued you in on the kind of relationship he was capable of having with you. There were initial sparks with Peter, but as Logan continued to make your relationship difficult you decided to bow out.

Brian: Your current partner of three years and Logan’s current partner of two months. Things haven’t been that great for the past four months because they made emotionally immature decisions when he feels emotional labor approaching. Decided to date Logan two months ago even though he stated his intentions as platonic. Haven’t been intimate with Logan yet, but openly talks about how much he wants to.

Logan: Brian’s current partner of two months and Peter’s current partner of several months. Had a lot of insecurity with your budding relationship with their partner Peter. And continued to escalate and flaunt their insecurities around until your relationship with Peter was no longer feasible. Got closer with Brian in January, at which point Brian and Logan decided to date even though they stated their dating intentions as on halt until they get their emotions in order. Looking to be intimate with Brian soon.

Spoiler alert. I don’t think that you have a problem with jealousy. Traditionally, when polyfolks have jealousy problems, they really mean that they have an internal insecurity problem. It doesn’t really seem to be an issue here. Based on what you’ve described, you are clearly a very emotionally intelligent person who manages her own feelings very well.

I do think that you have a problem with one former very shitty hinge partner, one current very shitty hinge partner, and an impossible metamour. I’ll first outline what Peter, Brian, and Logan are all doing wrong before I get into the meat of the advice on what you need to do next.

Photo by Yevhen Timofeev on

I’ll start with Peter.

I have long held a belief that it is the hinge partner’s responsibility to manage and maintain each of their multiple relationships. While it is nice when metamours can come together to resolve problems and issues, but the core needs to be the shared hinge partner to manage who is responsible for what in the same way that a Monopoly board is responsible for telling the players which set of properties they’re buying the full set of hotels for.

And Peter was a bad hinge partner for you and Logan.

Peter has completely and utterly failed you in his approach of developing a polyamorous connection with you while also dating Logan. He did not in any point assert himself into equalizing this discussion. While it isn’t Peter’s responsibility to manage Logan’s jealousy – that is wholly Logan’s to own – Peter has done next to nothing to point out and address Logan’s issues inside of their relationship. Most importantly, Peter has utterly failed in his role as a hinge partner to manage his relationship with you. He kept on asserting implicit hierarchies such as being able to kiss Logan in front of you but not kissing you in front of Logan. And instead of acknowledging and bridging that gap with intention, he chose to flaunt that implicit privilege in front of you.

I get the point of appeasing partners, but that should not come at an unwilling sacrifice of another.

I will also dive deeper into the “above the waist” boundary that Logan asserted. But I have a lot of trouble accepting that someone else outside the relationship can push and pull permission regarding the kind of sexual or romantic acts one person can do with another. It’s like telling a surgeon in middle of surgery that they did a poor job with that incision. Even if you had the visibility and the experience to do so, doctors and surgeons have authority and autonomy to determine what kind of techniques they use for their own practice. In the same way, Peter should not have agreed to Logan dictating and robbing him – and you – of your own sexual autonomy. And Peter should have pushed back and demand a sound explanation beyond “Logan wanted me to, so we are doing this.”

Permission-based relationships are not autonomous by definition. And in this specific case, very unhealthy and extensive.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

Now, let’s talk about Brian.

Brian is also being a pretty bad hinge partner.

Intention declaration is a really important skill and a necessary mindfulness practice to develop in adulthood, but especially so in polyamorous relationships. We are so often judged by others by the results of our actions and not the thought that goes into our actions. In declaring our intent, we provide a clear visibility into our headspaces for others to visualize and assess. Doing so helps us mitigate risk, budget for future emotional labor, and adds an extra layer of accountability. Breaking that intention could feel a lot like betrayal since they’re betraying their own words to you.

It is very possible that when Brian first declared his intention to keep things platonic with Logan, he could not have anticipated the kind of chemistry he would develop with them. But Brian should have known about the kind of struggles you were going through with having Logan as your metamour long before you even ended your romantic relationship with Peter. By the time you ended things with Peter, Brian should have known that Logan as a metamour was the dealbreaker and should have subsequently backed off or set some boundaries so that things were on hold until the animosity between you and Logan died down. After all, it is also the hinge partner’s responsibility to broadly gauge the emotional landscape of each of their partners and act accordingly. In this regard, Brian has failed as a hinge partner, as your partner.

Brian’s past emotionally immature behaviors – talking about past partners mid-coitus, kissing your exes – seem to be in alignment with his current emotionally immature behavior – to seek a relationship with a “dealbreaker” metamour.

The “jealousy” you feel also makes a lot of sense in this context. Brian is continuing to choose and date someone you have had a very recent, very bad experience with. But you only have control over what you have direct control over. In this particular situation, the only thing you have direct control over is the amount of exposure you have to Logan – and we’ll get to boundary setting in the next section – or the status of your relationship with Brian.

I do not want you to get caught up in the amount of time you’ve spent with any one partner as a reason to stay. That is a sunk cost fallacy. It doesn’t matter if the relationship lasted ten months or ten years; if you’re unhappy, it is right for you to consider ending things. Brian has displayed time and time again that he is unwilling to recognize your needs and refuse to rationally think through the people he pursues. If three years is however long it took for you to figure that out, then that is three years well-spent. It’s better than thirteen years.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Where both Peter and Brian have been difficult, Logan has been impossible.

Remember what I said about Peter being a bad hinge partner? Peter should have sussed this out and called Logan out when he found out Logan went straight to you with their internal relationship problems.

Also, remember what I said about intention declaration regarding Brian? The same applies here too, except I don’t think I can make the same generous assumption with Logan as we did for Brian. It doesn’t sound like Logan’s mental health is in any better place compared to January.

Logan is what I would call “the sword and shield” type. They utilize all the sharp edges of their insecurity to hurt others and deflect away with their dense charm and charisma. It is no wonder you had such difficulty with Logan because all you saw were their very sharp sword as they hacked and slashed into your relationship with Peter into a very tiny piece until it was no longer sustainable as a whole.

Logan also appears to the type of “polyamorist” who is completely okay with seeing multiple partners themselves but not okay with their partners seeing multiple partners. I’ve met many metamours who intentionally or unintentionally make things difficult by dramatizing their mental health, weaponizing their boundaries which stem from their deep insecurity, and/or subtly influencing the hinge partner to focus an inordinate amount of sexual/relational/emotional energy to the point of exclusion of all other relationships.

Here is a good example of the second point. The part about “keeping things above the waist” really grabbed my attention. Instead of choosing to address this boundary violation themself or addressing this boundary violation with their shared partner Peter, they went straight to their metamour instead. That was really weird for them to do. While friendship is nice to have between metamours, it is not always a necessity. And it was rude for Logan to confront you with their own insecurity. It is also very clear to me how that particular boundary screams like the “I have issues and I don’t want to deal with them productively. So I’m going to say a bunch of words to dictate others’ behaviors so that they align with what I want instead of what everyone else wants collectively” kind of boundary, rather than the “I went to therapy to work through this, but it still remains a dealbreaker for this and that very valid reasons” kind of boundary. Logan needs to understand that asserting and enforcing unreasonable and mindless boundaries should be a dealbreaker in and of themselves.

I am also having a lot of difficulty understanding how someone who would implement that kind of harsh boundary regarding intimacy in relationships she is not even a part of is suddenly okay with becoming sexually intimate with Brian so soon.

I also hate to point this out, but Logan’s age and maturity definitely appears to be an issue. Everyone else is in their thirties while Logan is in their twenties. And age does play a mild role in their maturity level. That does not excuse their behavior, but does explain some.

Photo by cottonbro on

Finally, let’s talk about what you need to do better.

You are being way too nice. With Brian. With Peter. And with Logan.

None of those three have displayed good character or attributes of high quality partners in what you have shared with us. And it is absolutely not necessary for you to maintain any kind of friendly or romantic connection with connections that you deem inherently toxic.

Completely setting aside what has transpired between you and Logan, Brian’s past behavior and the observed lack of progress can be dealbreakers in and of themselves. But Brian should also know that you ended things with Peter because of Logan. If it isn’t already clear, state your own intentions clear that his continued pursuit of a relationship with Logan will continue to cause difficulties for his relationship with you, possibly contributing to a potential end to your romantic connection with him. And stick to it. You ended things with Peter for a good reason. And you can end things with Brian for a good reason too.

I know parts of the boundary setting with Brian are going to feel an awful lot like “veto.” But that is not what you are doing. Even if vetoes are generally considered unethical, there are traditionally unspoken boundaries such as “Do not date my family members” and “Do not date my or your coworkers” that preemptively rule out groups of folks from the dating pool. Why can’t that boundary extend to toxic metamours?

As for Logan, since you two are “friends,” it would be a very good time to establish a very firm boundary in regard to interacting with Logan. Your boundary could look like, “I will only spend X amount of hours per week discussing Logan” or even “I will not be in a same shared space with Logan”. Once you have determined your own comfort level, communicate that specific boundary with Logan and immediately halt contact. If you share a living space with Brian, I strongly suggest that you take a look at this column I published earlier this week for a more directed advice on how to manage your shared space with a person you do not want to welcome into your own home.

I’m really sorry to hear that you are going through this really difficult transition. I really hope that you can forgive yourself for not establishing proper boundaries and having the right kind of discussions with your partners. But you really are not at fault here. You’ve done the best you can with the resources that you had.

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 long distance partner is separating from his wife.

“I’m a long distance branch off of a kitchen table polycule, my companion and I have been dating for over a year.

Recently it’s become clear that my companion is separating from his primary partner, wife, and nesting partner. She and I have become quite close over the past year, a slow burn of friendship and sharing special time together. I have spent weeks at the group house, and feel close to everyone there.

I’m struggling so much with if I have the ability to remain in a romantic companion relationship as the chaos ensues in the family. My parents went through a very unhealthy divorce 9 years ago, I ended up in the middle, and am still dealing with the emotional fallout and damage from that. I have been feeling certain aspects of that cPTSD triggered over the past week, as communication trickles in.

I feel like this is a cement wall that I’m facing with the poly world, maybe because of my past, maybe because there’s a lot more healing for me to do.

I don’t want to dial back our relationship, but I don’t know if I can handle it any other way. I’m completely caught between playing the supportive companion during this difficult time, and putting myself and my emotional well-being first.

I feel like a bad companion asking for space and pulling back into a platonic friendship. But I feel my heart hardening and my teeth being bared in self-defense, which wouldn’t be good support either.

Has anyone else gone through the split of a primary couple/cule? Any advice on navigating this ENM-specific situation?”

Barefoot Q 47 on /r/polyamory.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on

Dear Barefoot Q,

I am so sorry to hear that you and your polycule are going through such a rough transition. I can definitely empathize with the amount of pain and insecurity that can stem from wanting to be present for your partner while also managing your own pain and grief from the loss of this idyllic polyamorous future. I’m also really sorry to hear that this current experience witnessing their fallout is triggering your cPTSD of your parents’ divorce.

It can be really difficult to witness any friend group or couple break up, much less a couple that you are romantically intertwined with. So I think the first things you should be asking is… Are you okay? It is really important to make sure that you take care of yourself first before you opt to take care of others, especially in emotionally draining circumstances such as this one. Intentionally commit time and space to self-care in whatever form that works for you. If you haven’t already done so, checking up with a local poly-friendly therapist to have them reconfirm your reality might not be a bad idea. They might even help you work through your cPTSD in the context of your polyamorous relationships.

Once you feel like you can stay afloat, the next thing to do is to be kinder to yourself. Recognize that their separation and eventual divorce might have happened anyway completely regardless of your involvement in your boyfriend’s life as his secondary partner. It isn’t your fault. And forgiveness of yourself won’t come easy, especially when you aren’t seeing what is happening behind their marital curtains.

Photo by Pok Rie on

Managing your partner’s breakup is never easy, local or long distance. But maybe it is good that you had some physical distance as a buffer to the end of their relationship. The one major advantage that you have due to the circumstances is that you should be able to set some really clear and firm boundaries about what is going on. You said that you have become close friends with your metamour. But that does not mean that you have to hear about exactly everything is going on in their marital fights. You might benefit from establishing a boundary with your partner as well as your metamour that you will not be a venting channel through which they can talk to you about what is going on in their marriage. This will probably trigger some of your cPTSD symptoms. But at least it’ll be a controlled communication rather than the trickling of communication that itches as it drip, drip, drips onto our skins.

De-escalating – as you mentioned – is also a viable option as well. It does not make you a bad partner to say this is not a level of emotional labor you want to commit to your relationships. It is one thing to help and support because you can but another thing entirely to do so at an immense price of self. The first is kindness while the latter is codependency. It is difficult to be vulnerable with each other in general; it is impossible when all the senses are cranked up to eleven. You need not authorize your emotional bandwidth for that which you cannot reasonably budget for yourself. If this price of admission is too high, de-escalation is the kindest thing you can do.

Photo by asim alnamat on

Coming from experience, I’ll also tell you that things will get both a lot easier and a lot harder as time goes on. It’ll get easier because each of you will get better acquainted with the overall process and respectively develop routines that help you better manage the stress that comes with the separation process. But it’ll also get harder because you’ll have to constantly adapt and adjust as new information comes to light. This will put undue and unanticipated stress factors into your life you cannot reasonably allocate bandwidth at this time. You absolutely do not have to consent to what you don’t know, especially if things as they are today is already too much for you to handle.

I’m really sorry that you are going through this. I’m sorry for everyone. It’s hard enough to manage polycule breakups – doubly so if you also have to manage your cPTSD symptoms. As another who is coming from a divorced household, know that I see you and I see how difficult it has been for you.

Good luck!

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

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