Advice – How much should I share with my husband?

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

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

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

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

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

Amante Apacionado, Reddit.
Photo by Katrin Hauf on Unsplash

Dear Amante,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Making a relationship feel meaningful without a relationship escalator.

For context, I’m establishing a new V dynamic, with me as the hinge; the points being comprised of my nesting partner and a new partner I’ve been seeing for about 3 months, and really enjoy.

I’m somewhat new to polyamory, and I’ve never started a new relationship, from scratch, in this context. In my previous monogamous life, I would have pushed for exclusivity early on to provide a security blanket of sorts to explore our feelings and get on the old relationship escalator. Obviously, that’s not the course of action I want or am able to take.

So, I’m struggling a little bit to know how to ethically go about things- what questions should I ask, or conversations should be had, to make sure my new partner is well supported, and to set up our new relationship for success? It’s important to note this person I’m seeing does not identity as polyamorous, but hasn’t had any concerns or issues thus far, and seems (on his own accord, without prompting or encouragement from me) very open minded and interested in pursuing things.

Also, without monogamy or the “relationship escalator”, what are some ways you can recognize the relationship/connection is growing? Or in the same vein, are there steps I can take to undo this innate thinking that every good connection absolutely needs to grow? Obviously I’m fighting through some monogamous programming. Thank you in advance!

Helen, Reddit.

Dear Helen,

Before we can talk about how we can deconstruct the relationship escalator, we must first talk about what relationship escalator is and why it exists.

In short, relationship escalator is defined as a set of societal expectations or norms built around intimate relationships – that intimate relationships must follow specific steps in order to be meaningful. Amy Gahran / Aggie Sez does a great job of outlining the specific steps for the relationship escalator in her book Off the Relationship Escalator and her blog. Sometimes, the relationship escalator manifests in the invalidity of a relationship until it passes a certain milestone or threshold. A good example of this type is in explicit exclusivity. As you had noted, exclusivity can provide security since it stabilizes the external aspect of your romantic relationship. Sometimes, the relationship escalator can also manifest in specific thresholds and internalized hierarchies as well. Think of this like an imagined “glass ceiling”, an invisible boundary that which your non-nesting relationship with your new partner cannot cross. Built into that acknowledgement is also an implicit admission that you buy into the substance of the relationship escalator.

There are very good reasons why relationship escalator exists. As we just talked about, the security is nice. But when we are taught from a young age to associate exclusivity to security, the escalator then becomes an internalized manifestation of our societal norms. The escalator also acknowledges explicit steps, which can be used as an inherited structure to measure the health of your relationship compared to the duration of your relationship. Many folks have a pretty good idea of how long you should date before you marry someone, and that is just one example of this structure. And the structure is comfortable, because it doesn’t ask you to ask the really important questions on what makes your relationships meaningful. The structure tells you the each step make it meaningful.

That is all to say, I don’t think the relationship escalator was created in bad faith. It clearly has virtues and values.

The structure itself falls apart when unaccounted factors are added into the equation.

In one specific way, marriage rates have been going down from the Boomers (91%), to Gen Xers (82%) , to Millennials (70%). So it is apparent that society as a whole is getting better at deviating from assigning marriage as the final step of that relationship escalator. But as you’ve discovered, this structure holds even less weight when we bring non-monogamy into the equation.

Since you have been with your partner for three months, you should each have a pretty good idea on how your relationship might look in the next month or so. So this might also be a good time to gauge what the next six months to a year might look like by having an explicit conversation about it with your new partner. Having a proactive conversation about the future of your relationship will accomplish two goals.

First is that you can better align each of your respective values on what you two collectively find meaningful in romantic relationships. Each person has different set of values and looks for different things to validate their relationships. For some, it is through social acceptance by introducing partners to new friends. For others, it could be more about making impactful life decisions such as getting an apartment together or adopting a pet together. But more importantly, having an explicit discussion about the future of your relationship will also allow you two to build toward that future in a more conscious and accountable way. Spoken words have power. And even just speaking out loud what your intentions are and where you feel like this relationship is going can be a powerful way to bring that vision into existence, just by the virtue of saying so.

I also want to touch on something very specific. Poly communities online are not always a great representation of how your poly relationships should look and function like. I often repeat in my column that different people love in different ways. And you don’t necessarily need to step completely away from the concept of relationship escalator to acknowledge that it might have some practical application for your relationship. For example, many polyfolks do cohabitate with their multiple partners. Just because that happens to be an explicit step in the relationship escalator doesn’t mean that when polyfolks also cohabitate with their multiple partners is a bad thing.

I also want to touch on “successful polyamorous relationships.”

Like the relationship escalator structure, successes in a polyamorous relationships can look wildly different from person to person, and from relationship to relationship. One person might classify a handful of comet-type relationships as a success. Others might only consider their relationships a success when they’ve been together for at least ten years. And a third person might only consider it a success when they can have series of fulfilling short-term threesome relationships with their spouse.

When we dig deeper into what defines success and attributes significance in our relationship, we might find that success is not always defined in very explicit or measurable metrics. Instead, it is more often felt than assessed. Part of this is because our logical sides do not always communicate well with our emotional sides. There is only so many different ways we can fragment and compartmentalize our romantic relationships in small segments as a measure of success, which isn’t always going to be validated through your feelings. So as you connect with your monogamous-minded new partner about the benchmarks that might be measured as success markers for your relationship, keep in mind that growth and success looks and feels different for everyone.

We often don’t always know we are in the good parts of our relationship until we are no longer in the good parts of our relationship. So keep that in mind as you progress through this relationship and find creative ways to celebrate the goodness of your relationships in their own unique ways.

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 polyamorous wife is uncomfortable with me dating others.

We started opening our relationship in June as an “exploratory” thing we were doing. At that time it seemed like she was just “looking for fun” and she got to have her fun with a handful of people. I started to talk with a close friend and found out this friend is also polyamorous and wanted to explore with me.

My wife has been intensely jealous of this new development between me and my friend. She does not feel comfortable with it but also totes around “fair is fair. I’ve done way worse”. I hate to admit it and I never say it out loud but I feel like she is right in that sense. She has slept with 5 guys in the span of a month and then suddenly me having my first experience is too much for her. To give you some context, my wife has been my only sexual partner my whole life.

At this same time my wife started a friendship with my friend’s roommate. She came out to me a couple days ago that she is actually polyamorous and isn’t looking for casual flings, something I’ve been asking since the start. Basically telling me she has feelings for this roommate.

I’ve been feeling a lot worse knowing it’s not just a casual fling for her while she simultaneously does not want me to pursue anyone. It feels very hypocritical.

/u/ImOkButIsThatOk, /r/polyamory
Photo by Pixabay on

Dear I’m Okay But Is That Okay,

Let’s slow down.

This situation is deceptively complex. So let’s first start by discussing everything that happened with your wife since opening up in June.

In a very short amount of time, she has found five different casual connections. We often find change and progress through our intimate connections. Sometimes, the shortest flings often bring about the biggest changes in us. It could be possible that your wife has found significant growth and development over the past month that allowed her to better fully flesh out the type of relationships she wants to have. That means a personal growth for herself as well as a deviation from the original vision of non-monogamous arrangement with you.

The timing of her declaration appears coincidental and circumstantial. But let’s assume for a moment that her acknowledgement of her polyamorous identity comes completely independent from the recent developments in your own non-monogamous journey. If we give her the benefit of the doubt that her growth is the result of the past month’s experience, then there are some really big questions she needs to ask herself before she can actually claim the polyamorous identity.

  • What does it mean for her to be polyamorous?
  • Hierarchical vs non-hierarchical?
  • What type of interactions is she willing to facilitate between her multiple partners?
    • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
    • Parallel Polyamory
    • Kitchen Table Polyamory
  • What does this mean for your rules and agreements from a month ago?
  • What does her ideal version of polyamorous arrangement look like?
  • What does this mean for our future?

I’ve written in the past about polyamory as an identity. And in that column from two weeks ago I wrote, “[P]olyamory as an identity is too often used as a blanket excuse for unethical and selfish relationship habits.” In short, it could be possible that your wife is utilizing her declaration of polyamorous identity as a way to neglect or disregard the emotional labor associated with polyamory. We’ll go into more detail what that means in the next section.

Photo by Scott Webb on

Now let’s talk about what is happening with you. Just like the discussion about your wife’s development, we’ll talk about your current predicament as completely independent from your wife.

It sounds like you found someone you connected with in your close friend. I’m not sure if your close friend has had much experience with non-monogamy prior to connecting with you, nor your friend’s current balance of relationships. But considering that your wife has been your only sexual partner, there is going to be a lot that you’ll need to unlearn, re-learn, and newly learn in regards to developing a romantic/sexual connection with your close friend.

Hear your friend when they say that they are polyamorous. If they have already had a lot of experience with non-monogamy/polyamory, then this is a great time for you to ask them what their experience has been like, what they expect from their relationships, and what preexisting agreements they have with their current partners. If they are coming into polyamory just as fresh as you and your wife are, then they too should be asking the same questions that your wife should be asking herself. I strongly urge you to take a look at the newbie tag on my column. This post in particular has a lot of resources that can benefit everyone.

In polyamory, you don’t just date your partner; you also date the situation. Your friend has to be introspective about the relationship situation their partner – you – are in, just like you have to be cognizant about their situation as well.

This is a good time for you to reassess what you personally expect from both your current and future relationships. One of the ways I have a dialogue with myself is by writing down my feelings in a journal. It helps me distance myself from my own perspective in order to have a dialogue with myself about myself. Another way is through therapy. Through our therapists, we can better hear and engage with our own voices in a more productive, clinical way.

Photo by Pixabay on

Now let’s bring everything together.

I am going to assume that your wife connected with the roommate of the same close friend that you are interested in pursuing a connection with. I’m not sure if her decision to connect with this particular individual was one of choice to limit COVID exposure, of sheer luck that she happened to connect well with your interest’s roommate, or perhaps something more questionable. Either way, intermixing their current living situation with your exploration with open relationship appears ripe for disaster, with almost no safety nets.

I have a feeling that her reticence and reservation regarding your decision to pursue others is heavily and deeply rooted in a sense of insecurity and jealousy, which is common for a lot of polyfolks. It is something that I – an experienced poly person – struggle with on occasion as well. It is also common for a lot of poly newbies that jealousy and insecurity often gets weaponized to influence their partners’ actions, which might be happening with your wife. It could be that in better circumstances that she has enough resources to manage her feelings of insecurity and jealousy. But because she’s trying to juggle her multiple connections, at the same time trying to figure out what polyamory means to her, her emotional capital is tapped out.

Similar could apply to you as well. You spent so much time accepting and being okay with your wife’s other connections over the past month that you are losing sight of the type of connections you want to make. And now that you found a potential connection through your close friend, your wife’s proclamation of poly identity is rocking the boat so heavily that you can’t tell what’s up from down.

In a way, it is like trying to tango on roller skates while the dance floor is also an escalator and also your eyebrows are on fire.

Photo by Burst on

You and your wife should seriously consider slowing things down and only adding one variable at a time. I understand that both you and your wife are tempted to match each other pace-for-pace, and I think this is a mistake. If your wife wants to explore polyamorous relationships instead of more ephemeral casual connections, then this is a great time for her to stop dating for a month and read/listen to materials for polyfolks. If she is really intent on and serious about pursuing a polyamorous connection with this specific individual, this person will still be there when your wife is actually ready to date polyamorously. And in this time, they too can take some time to think about the type of polyamory they want to be a part of. Reading and listening material should give your wife some good ideas on how to manage her insecurity and jealousy in a more productive and meaningful way.

While your wife and her potential connection is researching into polyamory, it is time for you to explore the type of connection you want to make by being in it. Like your wife has discovered, you’ll learn a lot when you start dating others. Only through experience, you’ll get a better idea of how you can connect with yourself, your wife, and others at a deeper level. It’ll also give you a different perspective on what you think that your wife gets out of non-monogamy as well. You might find that your preference could be very different from your wife. But you won’t really know until you’re out dating on your own. This is all going to fold into your wife’s research material as she’ll have real life examples to apply her learning to. And just like you’ll have to explore your own relationships in order for you to discover what you want, she’ll have to explore her own jealousy management skills in order for her to discover what works for her.

Photo by Pixabay on

Last thing I’ll comment on is in the necessity of consent regarding ethical non-monogamy.

You don’t need to make yourself vulnerable to degrees of emotional, relational, or sexual risk that you yourself don’t find acceptable through your partner. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to be okay with your wife’s behavior. She has been displaying some very selfish behaviors with reckless disregard for COVID happenstance, your relational landscape, or the type of connections she wants to pursue. And you don’t have to accept this type of behavior from your partner. If your personal boundary is such that you will not be in a romantic relationship with a person who seeks romantic relationships with others, that is a perfectly valid boundary for you to have and a perfectly valid boundary for your wife to adhere to for the sake of your marriage and your kids.

Dating you should be a privilege she gets to enjoy, not a guarantee she gets to settle on.

Jase from Multiamory once said dating multiple people doesn’t make you polyamorous. What makes you polyamorous is in learning to accept and celebrate your partners’ other relationships. The much more difficult part of polyamory is in committing to and doing the emotional labor that comes with jealousy and insecurity. I hate to act the part of a gatekeeper to polyamory. But if your wife cannot (or refuse to) mindfully manage her jealousy and insecurity that comes with polyamory, she does not get to claim to be polyamorous in the same way that enjoying cocktails doesn’t make that person a bartender.

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 moving too fast in dating his other partner.

My husband [30M] and I [29F] have been seeing each other on and off for more than fifteen years, and got married less than a year ago. He came to me a couple of days before the 4th of July and told me that he met a woman at the botanical gardens to hang out. He told me that he really cares about her and thinks he is poly (which I do believe him, he always has had a lot of love to give). I love him and I don’t want to stop him from exploring himself. But he is kinda throwing this at me and getting a girlfriend before I even get the chance to catch up with what he is wanting. I did meet this woman twice and I found out yesterday that he went to her house while I was at work (working from home right now because of the pandemic). I just feel like everything is moving so fast, and I’m so uncomfortable.

What should I do? I love him and I accept him for whoever he is, I just feel it hasn’t been very fair.

/u/ykpruiett, /r/polyadvice

Dear ykpruiett,

Based on the timing of everything, it sounds like everything has quickly unfolded in the past two weeks. So the way you feel – discomfort at his pace – makes sense.

Your husband is experiencing what we polyfolks call New Relationship Energy, or NRE for short. Your husband appears to be trapped in a constant vortex of newfound lust for his new partner, invigorated by the grand potential of expanding upon his bucket of love. Managing NRE is a necessary skill to develop in dating polyamorously. It’s easy for poly newbies to get lost in the incredible vitality that is NRE and let new relationships accelerate way too fast while letting old relationships fall by the wayside. Lack of mindful management of NRE is a mistake that every polyfolk needs to make and eventually learn from.

Ethical exploration of polyamorous relationships requires a wholly different skillset than what he has displayed in your on-and-off fifteen year connection with you. In his long relationship with you so far, he has displayed his consistent commitment to come back to you in his relationship with you. In this new arrangement, he’ll have to figure out what it means to come back to you even in the presence of another partner. And he’ll also have to earn your trust in coming back to you even in the presence of another partner.

While I am a strong advocate for polyamory, I believe that polyamory as an identity is too often used as a blanket excuse for unethical and selfish relationship habits. Instead, “polyamorous” is better defined as a relationship style preference as well as a personal relationship orientation depending on how important exploring other partners is. So I do feel immediately doubtful in your partner’s declaration of their poly identity as absolution and with such conviction. How can he know what polyamory even means to him when he hasn’t had a chance to explore what it means? It is like taking a whiff of a vanilla extract and suddenly claiming you love vanilla ice cream.

The question he asked himself (“Am I polyamorous?”) was not the right question to ask here. The better question to ask is, “Can I do polyamorous relationships?”

Photo by Nu00e9o Rioux on

Now let’s talk about your next steps.

Consider that there isn’t a truly healthy way for you to dictate the pacing of his other relationship. There aren’t any ethical agreements or boundaries you can establish that is both sensible and agreeable. I think you noticed this when you said yourself that you don’t want to stop him from exploring himself. At the end of the day, he needs to be the one to own and implement his multiple relationships.

Absence of control doesn’t mean that you can’t communicate your observations and discomfort. But before we can communicate externally, we should be certain of our own realities. If you feel that he is going too fast for your own comfort, dig deeper and figure out what is making you feel this way. Are there any particular behaviors that which make you feel insecure about his other partner? How does the pacing of his other relationship make you feel? Once you have the proper words to describe how you feel, communicate so with your partner. I would imagine that his exploration of ethical non-monogamy also hinges on having your buy-in and acceptance as well. And kindly remind him so.

I do think that the pandemic aspect is another discussion topic as well. We talk about using protection and implementing best safe sex practices when it comes to having multiple sex partners. Same logic should broadly apply to this new COVID world. When he is going out to date and see other partners, he is introducing new vectors of COVID transmission to you (especially so if you are nesting with him at the moment). His desire to date others should include your sense of safety from this pandemic. If you have to work from home due to pandemic, why is it okay for him to go out and expose himself and you to a higher level of risk for COVID?

Photo by Pixabay on

Once he can understand and re-verbalize what you are feeling, then you two can have a discussion about possible agreements to implement to ensure that the pacing is at a level both you and he can accept. If you want to institute a “number of days in a week” agreement where he is permitted to be with his other partner a certain number of days in a seven day period, that might not be a bad idea. Setting up different agreements to address the changed STI transmission risk (i.e. regular STI screening) or the changed COVID transmission risk (i.e. mapping out external risk vectors) seems necessary.

The difference between an unethical non-monogamy (i.e. cheating) and an ethical one is consent of everyone involved. Consent is absolutely critical to any ethical exploration of consensual non-monogamy. And consent should embody PRISM: Proactive, Resilient, Informed, Simple, and Mutual. And his declaration of poly identity does not mean that he has fully earned your trust and consent. And your acceptance should not be granted by the virtue of your past history but earned through this new history that you two are building together.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – I feel so insecure about my new connection when he updates his Tinder profile.

“The backstory is that my wife has been transitioning MTF for a few years. And as she has gotten more comfortable in her body, it became apparent that ultimately we were both straight girls who enjoy dating men. So we decided to open up our marriage to the idea of separate “boyfriends” to fill that need while remaining partners and co-parents for life. I am genuinely happy for her when she spends time with someone else and she is very supportive of my dating as well.

I met a guy on Tinder that I clicked really really well with. He is ultimately looking for a serious partner but a friendly sexual relationship fits his current lifestyle best (very busy guy) and I have been very honest about my situation (very busy girl). Since meeting him I haven’t been particularly interested in other men and we see each other several times a week for sex and cuddling. We recently even discussed that we are not having sex with other people and can be a little more relaxed, etc.

So why am I so crushed when he updates his Tinder profile with pictures and things that are going on in his life right now? I am happily married for goodness sakes and expecting him to be fine with that (which he is). I actually froze my Tinder because I was enjoying my time with him and stopped dating because I enjoyed spending that extra time with him. He has made it clear that he is attracted to me and goes out of his way to be available to me when it’s possible. I feel like my feelings are definitely unreasonable. Is this just a huge crush? How do I chill out?”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Dear Anonymous,

Start of any relationship is insecure. Some of that insecurity is simply masked by the surge of lust and energy that we call New Relationship Energy (NRE) in the polyamory world. What NRE doesn’t do is to provide an actual backdrop of support for a sense of safety and security in your relationships.

It could be very possible that when you see your connection update his Tinder profile that you are worried about eventually losing him to someone he can be more serious with because the implication in “ultimately looking for a serious partner” is that you are not the serious partner he is looking to settle down with. Even if that isn’t something you want with him, you can still feel some sense of rejection from having had that particular door closed on the breadth of his potential connection with you.

Another possibility is that because you froze your Tinder account so that you can focus on developing this specific connection, his continued engagement with Tinder might possibly threaten the amount of space that you are currently taking up in his life should he add another partner into the mix. And the possibility of not getting all your sexual needs met through this specific connection because he does not have enough energy or time to spare could also cause you some sense of insecurity as well.

So actually, your feelings are actually very reasonable.

They are rooted in the assessment of how much you are enjoying this connection now, as well as the uncertainty of the future for when he finds another, more serious connection he wants to pursue. And your feelings are valid.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo once reflected that we often confuse love with attachment. The Tibetan Buddhist nun further elaborated that we sometimes misunderstand the clinging and grasping as signs of love, when in reality it is better described as attachment. Instead of holding someone tight until your hands hurt, it is sometimes a much more ethical way to care by holding just strong enough to not let go.

In the same way, it might be a good idea to reflect on and iterate how much you mean to each other now without holding any expectations about your future together. Another really important perspective to consider is that because you have such a strong and fundamental connection with your wife and co-parent, it is easy to get caught in the trap of comparing how secure you feel with your wife going on dates to how insecure you feel with your new sexual partner also going on dates. That is not fair as they are two different people with two completely different backstories on how they became established in your life. It wouldn’t be fair to read the National Geographic magazine thinking it is going to have the same kind of literary depth as Don Quixote. Two completely different literary experiences. Two completely different relationships.

Wrestling with some level of insecurity will always be a theme in any kind of relationship – mono or non-mono; it just happens to come up more often in non-mono dating as we are constantly forging new connections while also sunsetting incompatible connections. It is much more important for you to develop tools that allow you to manage your insecurities in a more productive, healthy way. Your insecurity management toolbox might look completely different from mine, but I commit more to meditation, self-care, and quality time with my partners when I feel insecure about any of my partnerships. Sometimes, even when I know that I have a good handle on my insecurities, I let my partners know what I have been chewing on just so that they can appreciate and recognize the progress I made.

So keep trying things out. Your belief in yourself is just as valid as the insecure fears that you feel; you just happen to be much more resilient than those insecurities.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Am I polyamorous?

“I’m [M] still trying to articulate this but, I think I might be polyamorous. I can definitely see myself in an exclusive triad or quad and living with them where we each see each other as equals. A few times in my past, I have had crushes on multiple guys at the same time but never really thought about dating more than one at a time. My life has been a series of throwing off the chains from my upbringing. I have done some research already on being polyamorous and I think I could do it but just haven’t tried it yet as I’m single. But I’m also afraid to try it because what if it fucks up the relationship I was already in?

Essentially, what advice do you guys have so i can think about it more and be more sure whether i am poly or not?”

The Real N7 Inquisitor from /r/polyamory.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Dear the Real N7 Inquisitor,

You are asking a lot of big questions. But I think you are asking the wrong kind of questions. Instead of asking yourself if you are polyamorous, you should first ask yourself if you can date polyamorously.

I wrote about this in a previous column about the difference between polyamory as an identity compared to polyamory as a dating orientation or preference. But I think it is first important to deviate away from understanding monogamy as something we humans are hardwired to do, but instead as a relationship model we consciously choose. You say that you have had crushes on multiple people but never acted upon it. Many others – both poly- and monofolks – have experienced that same desire for more than one partner. And just because you are more monogamous-minded doesn’t mean that you won’t have infidelitous relationships. And just because you are more polyamorous-minded doesn’t mean that you’ll pursue ever single sexual/romantic connection whenever you crush on someone else. We are taught from a very early age that commitment means only dedicating yourself faithfully and sexually to one specific partner. As a queer man, one of the walls you have had to breakdown is the heteronormative social conditioning that your partner has to be of the opposite sex. So this mononormative social conditioning that you have to only date one person at a time is the next wall for you to break down.

Let’s first define monogamy as an implicit/explicit agreement that even if you have feelings for others, you’ll establish proper boundaries to remain emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually exclusive to your on partner. It is a relationship model a lot of folks implicitly choose in our modern society because there is a lot of support and history to back up what a healthy monogamous relationship should look like. If that is how monogamy is understood, then it makes sense to define non-monogamy as an explicit and intentional agreement that you will choose to be involved – emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually – with each other regardless of sharing relational privileges. Because monogamy is the common standard, opting into non-monogamy or polyamory is almost always an explicit discussion to have with your partner. Notice the difference in how exclusivity plays a role in each type of relationship structure. Monogamy allows for a very intimate bond between two partners where each can share a lot of vulnerabilities and also be supported by all the common resources such as religious, familiar, and platonic support networks. Non-monogamy allows for a wider expansion and growth of self through developing intimate non-exclusive relationships that all support each other.

It is really important for you – and many others thinking about non-monogamy – to understand that there are a lot of benefits that come with the inherent structure of monogamy as well.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Here are some questions for you to think about before you can date non-monogamously.

Dating non-monogamously – not even just polyamorously – come with its own unique set of challenges. There are logistical challenges, sexual challenges, and emotional challenges that are unique to non-monogamy.

Challenges with logistics is defined as making space for your relationships, directing schedules, and committing to communication. So here is a unique challenge that I’ve faced in my personal experience with polyamory. I commit to a weekly mini check in with each of my partners and also do a monthly deep-dive into each of my relationship with my partners as well. Mini check ins can be as short as twenty minutes but sometimes extend into several hours, depending on the intensity of the discussion. And the monthly deep-dives – I call them RADARs – are almost always several hours long. Some RADARs I’ve had were eight to ten hours long! Scheduling these intentional quality times to commit to dedicated communication can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you’re not used to communicating so thoroughly with your partner(s). Other logistical challenges you might face can look like figuring out what your week’s plan looks like sometimes a month ahead of time. When I and my partners are dating actively, our respective schedules frequently booked up weeks in advance. So I had to get really good at utilizing calendar apps such as Google Calendars to figure out what I was doing on a week-to-week basis. That too is a skill mostly unique to non-monogamy.

Challenges with sex and intimacy is defined as establishing sexual boundaries and implementing your own safe sex practices. If you read my other column posts, you’ll find that I talk a lot about establishing and enforcing boundaries. It is an unfortunately a very common issue among modern relationships. Figuring out what you are and are not okay with, communicating your expectations, and following through to consequences can be the hardest thing to do for a lot of folks who aren’t normally used to saying “no” or “enough of that”. Non-monogamy also come with its own set of STI testing schedule and plans. A lot of monogamous-minded folks might get tested once or twice early in the relationship, but non-monofolks need to be tested more frequently due to the larger amount of sexual partners we do have. I personally get tested every three months even if no one in my polycule is dating just for the peace of my own mind. And I’ve heard of folks who get tested every month, especially if they’re dating more actively. And folks who only get tested when they get intimate with a new partner. You’ll have to figure out your own schedule for regular STI screenings.

The most challenging aspects of non-monogamy is in the emotional regulation realm. A major part of the emotional labor is in accepting that your partner(s) will connect with and fall in love with others.

You said you are currently single. Non-monogamy will highlight the most insecure parts about yourself and force you to immediately address them. If your plan is to get together with someone who will be open to opening up more down the line, then that is a lot of emotional labor to do to selectively filter for people who also want that same vision as you do. And opening up an existing relationship come with its own unique set of challenges such as managing jealousy, learning to make space for your partner’s or partners’ other relationships to expand into, and redirecting your new relationship energy into old relationships.

I noticed that your username paid homage to Mass Effect. Think about the scene in ME2 where Shepard has to decide whether he should eradicate the rogue Geth sect that rebelled against Shepard or rewrite their programming to embrace and love Shepard instead. Regardless of the Paragon or Renegade option you chose, for Shepard had to do in the physical sense of that decision was a button press. What that decision doesn’t include is the morals and ethics that come with eradicating or brainwashing an entire subsection of an artificially intelligent race. Emotional labor is a lot like that; it is massive undertaking below the surface, and very often go under- or unappreciated. But it is a lot of work. And committing to and following through on managing your jealousy, making space, and redirecting your NRE could feel a lot like meaningless, progress-less work. The difficult part is in continuing to do that emotional labor anyway, even with no recognition.

Photo by Chevanon Photography on

Closed triads and quads do get a lot of hate in the non-monogamy and polyamory communities, especially online. But I think that some of the reservation and the negativity around closed triads and quads are, unfortunately, fair and warranted. A lot of triad- and quad-seekers are often preexisting couples (specifically, a two-person dyad) who already have a very strict idea of what that relationship dynamic looks like without accounting for anyone else’s feelings. I personally write a lot about seeking autonomy and an sense of agency in your own relationships. And it is impossible to assert your own autonomous values when others already have a strict idea of what that relationship dynamic looks like. Ethics part of ethical non-monogamy implores you to pursue consent-based non-monogamy

In what you’ve shared, I also get the sense that in your own head you have an idea of the kind of a polyamorous triad or quad relationship you would like to have. While that kind of ideal is nice to have, to actually put it into practice would be very unreasonable or require very specific types of people. It is a much more productive way to approach your relationships with mindfulness and broad intention rather than with specific goals in mind.

And let’s talk about those specific goals. There are so many different variations of non-monogamy available. From monogamish, to open relationship, to relationship anarchy, each different variations of non-monogamy are often incompatible with each other. So it is better to have a generic idea of what you’d like to accomplish in your non-monogamous relationship rather than a specific ideas such as “an exclusive triad or quad and living with them where we each see each other as equals.”

Whenever you do decide to date, make clear what your long-term relational landscape looks like.

If your specific goal is to eventually have a fully polyamorous relationship, communicate so with the folks you date long before you go on a first date with them. Dating is already very time-consuming and non-monogamy is a pretty massive dealbreaker for a lot of people. So make that clear upfront as to not waste anyone’s time.

So remember to ask, even before you decide that you can do non-monogamy.

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 met someone while on a break with my partner. How can I initiate opening the relationship?

“My partner Ashley and I have been together for five years. The first four years were pretty great, but the last one was really difficult. She started partying a lot with her friends. This new change made me feel like she forgot about me since she was very absent in our relationship even when she was with me. I just didn’t know how to handle it. So in October, she came home a bit drunk and broke up with me. She left the day after for three weeks but communicated her regret at breaking up with me.

When Ashley came back, she told me she wanted to be with me, but as an open relationship. At the time I was still devastated with the breakup. So I asked for some time apart because I just wasn’t in a mindset to be with her at that time.

During this time apart, I decided to see if I was able to meet someone else. Through Tinder, I met a wonderful girl named Belinda and we had a nice time together though nothing sexual or romantic happened between us. She then left for another country for three months.

I got together with my Ashley not too long after that. Things have been amazing, just as it used to be. We communicate better and she isn’t partying as much. She hasn’t been with anyone else and I haven’t either. But she reminded me that if she haven’t been with anyone else is because she wasn’t feeling like it, not because she couldn’t.

Now, Belinda is back in town from her time abroad, and she has been looking forward to seeing me. I would like to meet her since last time was quite nice, but I don’t know how to tell it to my girlfriend without feeling that I am doing/did something wrong. I really love her and I don’t want to mess things up again, but I know that my girlfriend will not hesitate when someone interesting is on her way.

How can I handle this situation?”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Dear Anonymous,

I can definitely sense a lot of confusion and ambivalence in your story. The rules of exclusivity in the context of monogamous relationships are sometimes a little ambiguous and bears a heavy emotional weight in managing your own feelings by society’s standards. It sounds like you have experienced a pretty heavy relational trauma through your breakup and reconnect with your partner Ashley, but never really gave yourself enough time to sit back and assess the damages done from that heartbreak. I see this kind of behavior in cis men a lot, especially in serial monogamy, where they jump into building new connections with potential partners way too quickly after their previous relationship has ended. Hell, you’re reading from a person that did exactly that when he met his future wife on OkCupid a week after a breakup with his long distance girlfriend!

I think the first things you need to do is to take Belinda completely out of the equation and hammer out your relationship with Ashley. It is implied but unclear from what you’ve shared if you even have a non-monogamous relationship with Ashley. Her unilateral end to your relationship in October caused you a major relational trauma and could have shattered your trust in Ashley not not out of the blue break up with you again.

Have you ever thrown a big stone into a lake that is just starting to freeze over? When it makes an impact on the surface of the lake, it disturbs all of the icy surface surrounding its still surface. Sometimes, shards of the broken ice will float back to the top and help the lake continue to freeze over. But it would never be the clean sheet of ice it once was. Your relationship is a lot like that frozen lake. Just because it looks thick enough for you to ice fish in doesn’t mean that the spot you threw the big stone in before it all froze over would be a stable spot for you to sit either. Just because it feels like everything is okay between you and Ashley on the surface, it doesn’t mean that it is strong enough to support opening up a relationship (if it isn’t already open).

Photo by Hert Niks on

Your guilt and hesitation about reconnecting with Belinda tells me that there is a strong possibility that you did not fully reveal that you met with Belinda while your monogamous relationship with Ashley was on a pause. And it could also be possible that Belinda doesn’t know about what happened between you and Ashley in October or that you and Ashley has gotten back together. And the phrase “being with someone else” is a bit loaded, don’t you think? It really isn’t important if either of you slept with other people while you were on a break or since you got together. What is more important is what your intentions were when you met Belinda on Tinder.

Focusing just on your budding connection with Belinda, it sounds like you only went on one or two dates with each other. So this is on a very casual level still yet. I don’t imagine that you brought up a potential open relationship scenario with Belinda since you were on a break with Ashley when you met Belinda. The potential depth of your connection with Belinda remains a murky unknown. How would Belinda feel about starting a non-monogamous relationship with you while you continue to be involved with your long-term ex-ex, now-girlfriend Ashley?

There is a LOT more questions that we still need answers to.

How intensely would you have pursued Belinda if she never went out of country? Is this a connection you really want to pursue completely regardless of your relationship status with Ashley? Do you think there is a distinct possibility you might have ended up in a monogamous relationship with Belinda if you never got back together with Ashley? How does Belinda or Ashley feel about verifying with each other that you aren’t cheating on either of them?

Photo by Pixabay on

What I am trying to communicate here is that open relationships are so much more than just finding someone else to sleep with. It requires extensive communication skills, very firm foundation in either yourself or the relationship being opened up, and the right type of people to make it all work. If any one of those three facets are lacking, opening up your relationship will prove to be a mistake as it will highlight all of those foundational flaws that might otherwise be covered up in a traditional monogamous relationship.

If you and Ashley have already discussed opening up with Ashley (and it just happens that neither of you found someone to connect with), then it might not be a bad time to get those early agreements down pat. Have discussions about what each of you consider best safe sex practices. Talk about how each of you will make space for each other to explore other connections. Flesh out what kind of trust you two need to have in each other to make this work. At the very least, come up with a better idea of why each of you would like to have a non-monogamous amendment to your previously exclusive romantic relationship.

Then have the same discussions with Belinda. Belinda too needs to have informed consent in who she is involving herself with.

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 do I get started with non-monogamy?

“My boyfriend and I have been together for 1 year and ~7 months and I finally told him I’m polyamorous a few days ago. It was also the first time I came to terms with it. I had the doubt since dating my previous bf, but that wasn’t a good/healthy relationship so I dismissed it because of that. This relationship is absolutely perfect so it confirmed I’m definitely not monogamous. He was really understanding and absolutely fine with it, but he asked me what we’re gonna do about it now and I honestly have no idea.

I’m certain I’m not interested in other serious relationships, but more in casual encounters. I just don’t how to start or what rules to establish. I’m also afraid I’ll do something wrong or that I dislike and that it’ll affect our relationship.

Any advice you have would be really appreciated!”

/u/flower_san, /r/polyamory.
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

Dear Flower San,

Welcome to ethical and consensual non-monogamy!

Your first steps in non-monogamy would be to figure out exactly what type of non-monogamous relationship you would like to have. My first ever column post was exactly about the different types of ethical non-monogamy, which will greatly benefit you to read. Based on what you have shared with me (i.e. casual encounters), it sounds like either swinging or open relationship type of non-monogamy will suit you best. Polyamory is much more about establishing multiple intimate and romantic relationships. It is also very important recognize that different styles of non-monogamy aren’t just static, distinct islands but a spectrum with varying overlap between different styles. And you’ll learn and adapt as you go, so you are definitely not locked in to just one style/type of non-monogamy.

Then the next thing you should consider is how involved you want your boyfriend of one and a half year to be in your ENM journey. By that I mean, are you planning on looking for respective independent relationships or if you are only going to seek partners that both of you can play together with. The general consensus among polyamorous folks is to date separately, but I’ve also seen some very successful folks in the swinger lifestyle who only sleep with new partner(s) together or stick to swapping partners with other swinging couples. Both sides come with their own unique set of struggles.

Photo by Mareefe on

As for rules and boundaries, it really greatly depend on the type of non-monogamous relationships you would like to have, whether or not y’all are dating together or separately, and your respective comfort levels for sexual risk profile assessment, emotional stability, and nesting situation.

Regardless of your styles and preferences, the first place to start would be to determine what each of you would consider best safe sex practices are. Since you’ve been monogamous to each other for over a year, it might not be a bad idea to get your STI screening done. Some folks ask for recent STI test results to assess your overall risk profile, while many others just use extra protection to make sure no fluids are exchanged (i.e. dental dams, gloves in addition to condoms). Almost every non-mono folks I’ve ever met used barriers to some extent – sometimes even in long-term relationships – in order to mitigate the STI transmission risk. And most non-mono folks have established a regular testing cycle (monthly or every other month) even when they weren’t regularly adding new sexual partners just for their own sanity. So it might be a good idea to discuss what you and your partner are comfortable with to make sure that both you and your partners (and all their partners) are utilizing best safe sex practices.

Another suggestion I have for you is to regularly check in with your boyfriend to stay current on how things are going between you two and in other connections. On the second date with my girlfriend, we talked about how polyamory has been such a rapid speed maturation process for each of us. Ethical non-monogamy will shine a bright light into each of your personal and relational flaws and force you and your boyfriend to address them as soon as possible. Regular check ins will help you stay connected with your boyfriend and for your boyfriend to stay connected with you as each of you grow and develop as human beings outside of your relationship with each other.

Photo by 高子良 on

As for getting started, every non-mono relationships I’ve been a part of started from an online dating platform. For me as a polyamorous man, OkCupid has worked the best for me. But I’ve heard a lot of positive feedbacks for Tinder, Bumble, Feeld, and #open. Just make sure that you talk about your non-monogamous relationship orientation before you meet those potential partners in person. If you live in a big city, you might also want to look for meetups, social events, and swinger clubs that you can attend to start forging more in-person connections. After that, dating non-monogamously is like any other dating.

The final piece of advice that I’ll give you is that you will inevitably make mistakes. Both of you will do things wrong. And each of you will hurt each other to some extent. Once each of you grow and change through your respective non-monogamous journeys, your current relationship as it is today will be no more. But that is just the course of any long-term relationship. And…

Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.

Jake the Dog. “His Hero.” Adventure Time. Cartoon Network. September 20, 2010.

It is perfectly okay to make mistakes. And it is okay to make repeated mistakes. You were never meant to be perfect, especially with decades plus of monogamy conditioning. And you were never meant to get it right the first time. No one ever gets it right the first time. You just have to keep committing to working on issues together, and recognize that a bad feeling does not necessarily need to solely determine your next course of action. If things feel awry and your connection with your boyfriend feel shaky, take a look at this article from 2017 often shared among poly newbies. If either of you like to read, the Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and the Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory are all three great starting points that’ll give you basic ideas on what to expect when you first open up. The third book’s author – Dedeker Winston – also contributes to the Multiamory podcast, which has helped me a lot. If you’re looking for more online resources, /r/nonmonogamy and /r/polyamory are great resources.

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 – Overwhelmed with feelings when first trying open relationships.

“I need advice on how I should handle my overwhelming emotions when it comes to my [25F] partner’s [25M] feelings on polyamory and open relationships.

Some background on myself. I’ve been a unicorn in the past to heterosexual couples and I thought it gave me an understanding of what open relationships and polyamory are like. When my BF and I got together over a year ago, I told him I wasn’t opposed to the idea of looking for unicorns ourselves. About 9 months into the relationship, I decided to bring it up to him to try it out together. We created our own sets if rules for each other and then downloaded Tinder. At first everything was great! We felt the rush of excitement together and even grew closer as a couple.

Then I went out on my first date. Everything quickly changed for me after I kissed another person who wasn’t my partner. I immediately regretted opening our relationship after that kiss. I don’t know what happened to me. I’ve always considered myself to be very open minded, but I felt like I cheated even though I had permission. Maybe it was reality sinking in, but the idea of being with other people and especially my BF getting intimate with others sent a jolt of anxiety through my body. We got into a massive argument which lasted days. Eventually we mended everything and went back to being monogamous.

My partner does not believe in monogamy or serious relationships and that has been our #1 problem. I want a serious relationship in which I am given stability and security. I’m not talking about marriage, but I want a partner who is okay with the idea of a future together and even looks forward to it. We love each other and are trying to make things work despite having different views on relationships.

Last night, we had a fight about why he wants to have an open relationship in the first place. He told me that his ideal relationship would be him and me being the main relationship in addition to other relationships outside of the main relationship. He grew up a missionary kid in southeast Asia, so his sexual experiences are not as colorful as mine and he wishes he could have time to experiment with other people but also have me to come home to. I couldn’t stop ugly crying the entire night. I felt so dirty and disgusted by the idea of him sleeping with other people and then crawling into bed with me. I know he didn’t mean it maliciously; he was simply stating what he wishes could happen, but now I can’t help but feel like I’m not enough for him and he doesn’t want me. I wish he could have had his sexual escapades before he met me.

Basically, what it comes down to is that my BF doesn’t like that I’ve changed my mind about non-monogamy. He went into this relationship thinking I was as open minded as he was; but when it came to practicing the lifestyle, I couldn’t do it. But he has made it very clear to me that he is happy in our relationship and doesn’t want to break up. He loves me and our relationship, but I can’t help but feel like I’m keeping him from living his life the way he wants to.

I know people are going to tell me to break it off with him. That’s been my thoughts about it too. But I want to know if anyone has any other advice to give me. I love him dearly and we have a very healthy relationship besides all of this. Has anyone been in a situation similar to this? What would you do in my shoes?”

TL;DR – Tried opening up. I’m not as cool with non-monogamy as I originally thought. What should I do?

– Anonymous

Photo by Snapwire on

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry to hear that you are experiencing so much pain. There is a lot to unpack here.

Let’s start with this. Your previous experience as a unicorn isn’t necessarily equivalent to you looking for unicorns in a committed relationship. The contexts are completely different here. You might be totally fine going out to eat a burrito at Chipotle; but making a burrito from scratch would be a lot more difficult. And even if you were an absolute master at making burritos from scratch with the exact same ingredients, it is not going to taste exactly like the one you could get from Chipotle.

In the same way, the couples you unicorned for were completely different from the relationship you maintain with your boyfriend. And even if it was, you might just not be okay with it in this context due to your feelings. And that too is okay. Your hurt feelings and anxiety are completely and totally justified. If this combination of ingredients don’t mesh well, it wasn’t ever going to be a good burrito anyway. Open-mindedness is not a binary state, but a spectrum. You can still be open to unicorning for other couples even if you don’t necessarily want to have a threesome with your boyfriend and a unicorn.

Photo by Nishant Aneja on

I also think that you can benefit from slowing down a little bit to analyze the feelings you are feeling, determine wherein lies source of those negative feelings, and make sense of your next steps.

It sounded like fantasy of non-monogamy immediately came crashing down when the practicals of non-monogamy became a reality. That the mental images of you and your boyfriend being with people other than each other were too much for you to bear at that moment. You didn’t go into too much detail about why that bothered you so much. That anxiety and the overwhelming negative emotions could be anchored in so many different aspects of your own psyche. You talked a little bit about how your love alone felt inadequate for what you think he desires in your projection of his erotic and relational headspace. This is a very common fear & anxiety pain point in non-monogamy; it is often deeply rooted in societal conditioning that one love should be enough for everyone. And for you, it could be that his love is enough for you.

The pain you are feeling could also come from a mismatched expectations about your own self. You said that you thought of yourself as much more open-minded than this. And you might feel powerless in the face of overwhelming anxiety responses while trying to figure out if this relationship with your boyfriend is going to work out. To that, I would advise for you to be a bit more patient with yourself. It was your first time kissing someone other than your boyfriend. And it was one bad experience. Not every bad feeling needs to be acted upon. Part of anxiety that makes living with anxiety so difficult is that anxiety amplifies every single feeling to a very urgent and emergent state. It might be beneficial for you to take one or two steps back from those really powerful feelings and rationalize why you might be feeling that way instead of letting those powerful feelings take the wheel in determining your action plans.

It is okay to cry. Scream-cry if you have to.

Photo by Spencer Selover on

Breathe. You are going to be okay.

I feel that it is completely okay for you to change your mind about non-monogamy for whatever reason. You have gathered some new data points. Some new statistics and hypotheses that you are crunching. And in the face of new information, it is not only reasonable but necessary to adapt to your new reality. Doing anything less than communicating your headspace and what your expectations are currently is just about the most honest thing you can do with your partner.

Let’s talk a bit more about what your boyfriend is feeling here.

I feel like he too has done a pretty good job of communicating that non-monogamy is something that is essential to his current romantic and erotic headspace. And I think you are right that a lot of his pain comes from mismatched expectations about the type of relationship he had with you. He thought that there was going to be a point in which you and he will be able to open up your relationship to other external partners. And now he is realizing that that very important point of expectation has been suspended indefinitely in his relationship with you. That is a significant new development in this relationship of less than a year that he will now have to adjust to. And it sounds like you completely understand where he is coming from, and it sounds like he too has a pretty good grasp on the feelings that you are feeling as well.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

And now we have arrived to the advice section of this column.

I have a personal philosophy to never advise an end to a non-abusive relationship. So you won’t be receiving advice from me to end your relationship.

What I will advise is to take two steps back to realize that what he is looking for in his relationship with you (i.e. main relationship) is not all that much different from the stability and security you are looking for in your relationship. If we are operating under the assumption that you and your boyfriend will stay together to make this relationship work no matter what, then I think the question “how can I stop feeling this way?” is not the right question to ask. The better question to ask yourself is “how can I manage these bad feelings so that they aren’t overwhelming every time?” And a good question that he can ask himself is “how can I align my relationship philosophy in ways that are compassionate to both myself and my relationship with you?”

I’ll also add that ethical non-monogamy need not be reciprocal. Mono-poly relationships are a thing. I’ve even advised about a similar situation in the past. If you are really set on staying together, then this might be a viable starting point for you to become okay should he decide to date others while your side of the relationship remains closed.

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 – Non-romantic Non-monogamy.

“Just opened and honestly a little a naive of me, but I never really thought about the whole getting romantic attachments to people we have sex with. I know, duh, but like there’s a lot to process in these early stages.

Is it doable to try and keep things casual with our FWBs? My partner and I (together 4 years) are very much in love and are sexually and romantically happy with each other, we’re just also very open to trying new things and being sexually experimental.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts in this sub and realized how many non-mono people are in multiple relationships rather than committed to their primary and just having sex with other people, and it dawned on me that it could well be likely that romantic attachments will result from sex with others. It’s not that I’m definitely against this, it’s more that I just genuinely hadn’t really considered it and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.

Basically, do you think it’s a plausible way to go about our boundaries to say romantic relationships are a no-go but sex and friendships is fine, or do you think that’s not likely to work?”

– /u/TheOceanColiseum, /r/nonmonogamy.

Dear Ocean Coliseum,

Various swingers have already perfected the practice of establishing basic emotional boundaries so that their sexual connections can remain at a purely sexual level. So that is honestly what I would advise, to establish proper boundaries to ensure that you are not getting too emotionally entangled with your partners.

Here are some basic boundaries and rules you can initially set up and tweak as you go.

Many have found that emotional entanglement is very natural and very closely associated with the amount of time they spend with a new person. Strictly identifying and limiting the amount of time you spend with new partners (whether that is measured in days of week or number of hours in total) could be a good personal gauge to make sure that things don’t get too romantic between you and your new partner. Upsides of this boundary are pretty clear: ability to quantify emotional entanglement in compartmentalized time investment.

A similar boundary/rule you can implement is to put a “sunset” date on any new engagement. This means that you put an expiration date on how much you can see the same partner. Some folks even only do one night stands to meet new partners. Applying this boundary/rule will help you further identify when you are getting too emotionally involved with a new partner.

Photo by Tuấn Kiệt Jr. on

There are some other practical boundaries and rules you can implement to ensure that you and your partner of four years are keeping things casual with your respective or collective FWBs.

It might be beneficial for you and your respective FWBs to establish early on that this is a strictly sexual connection. So that means no going on one-on-one dates after the first meet & greet to establish basic chemistry. It can feel really awkward to have explicit discussions about sex and sexuality, but first impressions and expectation settings are really important to ensure that these connections remain casual.

It’ll be important for you and your partner to acknowledge that you will both need to have a failsafe plan in case either of you develop feelings for your respective or collective FWBs despite all these boundaries and rules. Sometimes, emotional chemistry is instant. And sex does stir up hormones that cloud our best judgments. So coming up with an external good-faith rule to immediately end any connections via veto might not be a bad discussion to have. I’ll add that veto itself comes with its own heaviness as it recognizes that you are acquiescing some power in your own engagements to your partner. But as long as it comes from a good and sound place that isn’t jealousy- or insecurity-driven, vetos can be ethically practiced as well.

The last piece of advice and recommendation I have for you is to implement a “test period”, which is to say set a time frame in which you are open. I get the sense that this is your and your partner’s first experience with non-monogamy. And your first steps are going to be rife with mistakes. Setting a sunset clause to your open arrangement before you two can close up and reassess how this trial period went can also help you establish and set expectations to reconnect with your partner.

Traditionally, men have harder time finding non-mono partners than women. And depending on where you and your partner are located, it might take you more than a couple months to find interested parties who want to opt into this arrangement. So it’s important to recognize that with each and every boundary and rule you place on your external relationships, the harder it will be for each of you to explore non-monogamy. So please be mindful in not over-committing to boundaries and rules.

Good luck!

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