Advice – Managing infatuation for a secondary partner.

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

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

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

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

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

Helen, Reddit.

Dear Helen,

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

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

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

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

Photo by Miti on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – How much should I share with my husband?

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

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

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

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

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

Amante Apacionado, Reddit.
Photo by Katrin Hauf on Unsplash

Dear Amante,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – How can I verify my open status while I am on dates?

I have a question about navigating dating in a newly opened marriage. When I reveal to a date that I’m married but honestly “open”, is the woman I’m with just supposed to trust me? Apparently, some guys lie about this kind of thing.

This happened to me today and I had no good answer for my lovely friend to back up what I was telling her. Fortunately in this case, I have a long platonic relationship with her and she knows me well enough to know I wouldn’t deceive her. But I’m wondering about a prospective date who would want to verify that I’m not lying to her.

My wife and I talked about it. She joked about writing me a hall pass. Seems kinda ridiculous. And why would a date believe a piece of paper I produced if they’re not believing me? Maybe get it notarized haha. My wife is not keen on the idea of being contacted directly by my dates, she’s pretty clear about that. One of the ground rules is that I date women who do not know her, and she doesn’t want to hear about it. Any ideas?

Waterloo SD, Reddit.

Dear Waterloo,

Based on what you have shared, I gather that you have what is traditionally known as a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell open relationship – or DADT for short. And in every DADT arrangement, you need to figure out a creative but meaningful ways to verify that things are above board without the in-person verification from the spouse. But maybe flashing your gold-embossed, notarized print of your wife’s consent to non-monogamy isn’t the best idea for a first date.

Dating is in part a practice in mindful suspension of underlying fears. For the women you date, they might fear that they might unknowingly engage in an unethical relationship with a partnered person. For you, that fear manifests in the form of rejection from the women who cannot reasonably suspend that fear. Each sides of that fear are valid. And without proper verification, it can be difficult to establish a basic level of trust to help dispel that fear.

And that type of initial trust can be difficult to establish because, as you noted, there are unethical people who misuse or lie about their non-mono status. One particular former metamour of mine never discloses that he is solo poly until after they’ve already established an emotional connection. But the existence of these unethical non-monogamy does not mean that there can’t be a way for your dates to confirm and verify that you are indeed in an ethical non-monogamous relationship with your spouse.

At its core, verification process emphasizes that everything is “above board”.

So if a written permission slip is out of the question, perhaps your wife can record a short pre-recorded video of herself outlining that she is totally into the idea of non-monogamy. The video specifically accomplishes two different goals that a “hall pass” could not.

First is that the video verifies that your wife is a real person with real feelings. As a potential interest, it can be very difficult to estimate the context of your other relationships from a distance. But with this video, there would be a face to a name. Since it isn’t like the DADT goes both ways, you don’t have to be secretive about your relationship with your wife to your potential interests. And since the words are in wife’s own words, your dates can confirm that the consent wasn’t forged.

Second is that it provides immediacy. There is no real way to verify when a hall pass is written. But time-stamping on videos can be provided as a receipt to give your prospective dates an idea of when the permission was last refreshed.

For your wife, it is going to feel a little awkward having to record a video for your prospective matches. But this will only have to be done once. You didn’t specify if your wife is also dating others. So this might be something that you can record for her as well.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Even if you have a written hall pass or a pre-recorded video, the goal isn’t to show them on a first date unprompted.

Your goal on first date should be to establish basic emotional chemistry. Multiamory recorded a great podcast episode on the initial six topics to talk about on a first date, abbreviated as MOVIES. And MOVIES stands for:

  • Metamours – What should you expect from your metamours? In general, what is your current poly circumstance?
  • Openness – How open are you about your non-monogamy?
  • Vetoes – Do you have vetoes in your relationship with other partners?
  • Intimacy/Intercourse – What does your idea of intimacy entail? If it is sexual intimacy, what does that look like?
  • Events – Are family/friends events off the table? Can you travel with your non-primary partners?
  • Scheduling/Sleepovers – What type of advance notice do you need to schedule time? Can you do sleepovers with your non-primary partners?

Hopefully, they already know that you have a primary partner before the first date. So you can probably talk about the general idea of your DADT arrangement here, and mention that you have verification from your wife available if they need it. It might be more fitting to send them a link on later dates or if they specifically request for it after a date.

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 wants to spend the holidays with her other partner.

My partner [29F] and I [28M] been together for a few years and non-monogamous from the start. We live together and consider each other our primary partners. We’ve had a few dates and flings here and there. But for the first time this year, she has a stable secondary partner of two months during the cuffing season which coincidentally includes her birthday. It came up recently that we seem to have different ideas about what the holidays mean and how we navigate them with other partners.

She doesn’t see any issue in just divvying up the day and celebrating partly with me and partly with her partner, and I guess I have a more traditionalist view and want the holidays to be special moments for just our relationship. Am I being too selfish and caught up in the romance of it all? Holidays were really important for my family, maybe I just need to tone all that down given that they don’t seem to be as “sacred” for my partner?

Anonymous, Reddit.
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash

Dear Anonymous,

I understand where your retro-perspective on your own feelings regarding who your partner spends their holidays can appear as selfishness. After all, much of non-monogamy mindset revolves around finding joy and celebrate in the act of sharing. And in a way, your current discomfort around parsing your partner’s holiday schedules for the first time in your relationship experience with this particular partner can drum up some previously unnoticed relationship insecurities.

It sounds like some of that relationship insecurity arises from the perceived conflict between what you and your partner each envision for the upcoming holidays. You believe that due to your more traditional background that you should spend your holidays with your partner, in exclusion from all others. On the other hand, you perceive that your partner has a more liberal approach to holiday scheduling where she spends her holidays with her multiple partners. And your perceptions of your holiday vision directly conflicts with your perception of hers, which in turn is manifesting in the form of self-shaming (“Am I being too selfish…?”).

It might be a good time to reassess and redefine what that primary partnership actually means for each of you individually and for both of you collectively.

You say that you each consider each other to be primary partners. But it is unclear based on what you have shared that her desire to spend holidays with her other partners constitutes a violation of an explicit personal boundary that you have or a mutual agreement you two made together. Better fleshing out what it really means to be primary partners will help keep the two of you connected and aligned.

Another possibility is that when your partner communicates her desire to spend a part of her holidays with her other partner, you hear something different.

It is possible that, for you, spending holidays with your one partner is of such importance that trumps the current non-monogamous aspect of your relationship. Especially in a year filled with such uncertainty and confusion, your desire to celebrate important events such as Christmas and birthdays with your close, loved ones is valid and fair. And it sounds like you have done your best to express that desire to your partner. But just like your desire to turn inwards and celebrate with your partner is valid, so is your partner’s desire to turn outwards and celebrate with others.

Because the holidays are so important for you, your partner’s desires to spend a part of her holidays elsewhere is instead translated to a more extreme interpretation of “I don’t want to spend the holidays with you” in your head. This mental mistranslation can stem from various sources. It could be an unforeseen jealousy as you realize you will be alone for a part of the holidays. It could be an emotional pushback to a deeper insecurity you might have about this specific relationship. Or it could even be anchored in a desire to harken back to what feels familiar in an otherwise turbulent time.

The truth is that both your and your partner’s perspectives are as valid as each other. And she clearly does want to spend a part of the holidays with you, just not in its entirety. Her desire to spend a part of the holidays with her other partner does not at all invalidate her desire to spend a part of the holidays with you, in the same way that her desire to sexually connect with others does not invalidate her desire to sexually connect with you.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

There is a more important discussion to be had than what is to be done about this specific holiday season.

Winter holidays are once a year, but there are many more other holidays to a year. And while you don’t have a stable partner through this particular holiday season, you might for next year’s holiday season.

This is a great time and an opportunity to have an explicit dialogue about what each of your expectations are before finding a compromise that works for both of you. Expecting the two of you to share the exact same vision for everything in life is an extreme relationship goal. A more reasonable perspective to have is to be close enough together that you two can safely arrive to a compromise through negotiation and conversation.

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 should you flirt as a non-monogamous person?

So this situation is happening all the time to me: I’m at a party with my GF, and I meet a girl I’m interested in, and she’s being friendly but ignoring my flirting attempts. If she’s just not into me or not interested in intimacy with someone taken that’s fine but how do I find out? I can’t just be like “oh by the way I’m in an open relationship so this is fine,” when she doesn’t even acknowledge my flirting attempts and it’s far too early to be this upfront.

There are situations where someone will reciprocate without addressing the elephant in the room, or just say “what is going on?” and I get the chance to explain, or situations where I can elegantly drop a hint or bring it up in a conversation and out myself. But very often my nonverbal cues get ignored or I just don’t know how to do the next step without making it awkward.

Often times we will add each other on Facebook or she will become part of a circle of friends, making it even more awkward, because then it’s the whole “how do I approach a friend” deal but in hard mode. This creates a different situation and I’d like advice on both.

My GF can be an amazing wingwoman and girls ease up considerably with her encouragement (or just start making out with her instead) but she doesn’t actually want to be involved in my awkward hookup attempts.

I know this isn’t the most efficient method and I could try apps or swinger parties or go clubbing alone or go to a sex worker instead. My question isn’t where I can find hookups, it’s how to bring up your open relationship with friends and strangers you’re interested in or make sure your nonverbal rejection isn’t just because of a misunderstanding.

/u/CrispyCyanide, /r/nonmonogamy.
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Dear Crispy Cyanide,

It is very important to remember that even as different variations of ethical non-monogamy gains traction in the modern dating atmosphere, monogamy is still the presumed relationship orientation for most folks. As you have experienced, that makes cold approaching folks with non-mono romantic/sexual intention nearly impossible.

About nine months ago, I gave someone else a basic roadmap to forging a connection with someone new. In that post, I outlined three functional step-by-step process to engage with someone new out in the wild. But I didn’t go too into detail about what different methods there are to gauge initial interest, especially if you are regularly encountering new potential interests.

First is to gauge their general interest / knowledge in non-monogamy. You can do this in a couple different ways. You can mention the prevalence of non-monogamy by referring to a show or a movie you watched lately that had non-monogamy in it. The purpose of this specific first step is three-fold. First is that it gives you an easy “out” in case they are definitely not interested in non-monogamy full stop. If they shut down the conversation at the briefest mention of non-monogamy, then this particular connection was never meant to be sexual or romantic in nature. Second is that because this discussion starts off at a distance, (if you’re not already out as non-monogamous) it gives you a reasonable way to still remain in the non-mono closet. This step also has the advantage of naturally introducing the topic of non-monogamy into the conversational space, which flows nicely into our second step where you can talk more about what your non-mono experience has been like.

Photo by Tove Liu on

A more in-depth and risky first step is by casually asserting that you are in a non-monogamous relationship yourself. Personally, I am already out to my family and friends as polyamorous, but I sometimes just mention “one of my partners” or “my partner’s other partner(s)” in conversations with my acquaintances or potential interests to see if they’d catch on. This option is much more preferable if you’re out. But since your situation only applies to new friends or strangers, this also opens you up to the risk of the word getting out that you are in a non-monogamous relationship with your partner (which is already an inherent risk in pursuing friends) or a negative reaction to your relationship orientation (which too is already an inherent risk in practicing ethical non-monogamy).

This alternative first step also helps you get past the initial awkwardness. While you aren’t directly declaring your interest, you are still indicating your availability. If the initial feedback is negative, then you can either disengage or elaborate on what your own experiences have been like.

The third and last option is to be direct and upfront about your relationship orientation and interest. Just lay it on straight that you are in a non-monogamous relationship with your girlfriend, and that you are interested in them. This option works best if you already know this person is single or available. If you are finding that your non-verbal cues are whiffing, this is a great way to get an immediate feedback – whether it is positive or negative. So you won’t have to play a guessing game. It has the same risks as the second option with the added risk of outright rejection.

The last thing I’ll mention is that having a reputation as a shameless flirt who hits on everyone is not always a good reputation to have. Be mindful of others’ social expectations, acknowledge that not everyone is cool with being hit on, and move on upon rejection.

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 wants me to be MORE jealous and possessive.

I [36M, bi] have been dating my partner [28F, straight] for 3 years. I have known that I’m non-monogamous since before we started dating. It has always been part of our relationship since the beginning, although she would probably prefer a more monogamish relationship. She comes from a pretty traditional background but has been generously open to the relationship style. I make use of my non-monogamous freedoms more than she does, although she does like to flirt a bit with some boys. I think that’s about the most honest summary I can give.

Oh, also, we are in a long distance relationship. I probably see her once a month for about a week at a time. When we are together, we are mono. When we are apart, we are non-mono.

We often have conversations about our needs and reactions to different things and experiences. She expressed something a few days ago that neither of us can quite figure out. She says that she likes that I’m not jealous or controlling but wishes I were a little more possessive of her. For example, I don’t feel defensive if an attractive man shows interest in her. I have a bit of a hot wife thing. I like it. (If the attention is inappropriate and unwelcome by her, then I do get confrontational.)

I had the thought that maybe there is another way I can meet whatever need she has through some other way. I asked her “What does that possessiveness mean to you? Like what does my being possessive of you communicate to you about my feelings?” She is usually very thoughtful and articulate, but couldn’t very well describe it. It’s an ongoing discussion. I would like to solicit other thoughts.

What could be an underlying need of wanting one’s partner to be more possessive?

Anonymous, /r/nonmonogamy
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on

Dear Anonymous,

On her TED Talk titled Rethinking Infidelity, Esther Perel noted that the act of infidelity as “universally forbidden, yet universally practiced.” The concept of infidelity has been pathologized and vilified to the point of senselessness, and yet we continue to devour popular media that depict this break in monogamous agreement as the ultimate act of betrayal. In a way to adapt and adjust to this immense expectation regarding monogamy, we came to understand possessiveness and jealousy as a positive quality that indicates security and safety in the social institution of monogamy instead of a reflection of relational and personal insecurity.

This is one of the reasons why jealousy and possessiveness is such a heavy topic of disdain in the non-mono space, as development of new and other connections contend with our monogamy conditioning to feel jealous when our partner is with another.

So let’s consider that as a backdrop to what your partner could stand to gain from her partner acting possessive. As you said, she comes from a more traditionally monogamous background. So it is possible that, through the filter of her social conditioning, she perceives her partner feeling jealous and possessive as a way for her partner to display how much they care about her and as a reflection of the security she should feel in her relationship. And when she doesn’t sense that same jealousy and possessiveness when she flirts and connects with other folks, she doesn’t have the same tools to verify the security in her relationship with you.

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on

This can also relate to your current long distance non-mono agreement.

Long distance relationships come with an added challenge of more infrequent connections. We all want to feel desired and sought after in our relationships. But the expression of that need is often delayed, poorly communicated, or misrepresented through distance. Because you two are in a long-distance, non-monogamous relationship, that same sense of security and safety that comes from sharing the same physical space day-to-day is not as present as it would be if you two were closer in proximity.

As such, expression of possessiveness and jealousy could be understood as another form of security and safety from her perspective as well.

It sounds like you two have already started the discussion on what this means for your relationship with each other. That is a great start. My guess is that her inability to link possessive behaviors to the security they appear to provide could stem from a sense of guilt as well. You have been so open-minded and accepting of her exploring and forging other connections, even if her freedom isn’t as frequently realized and practiced as yours. She has to contend with the societal expectations from the twenty five years of her life prior to meeting you that non-monogamy is wrong. That is an unprogramming she’ll have to take on for herself.

One thing for you to consider is that even if you’re not innately jealous or possessive, implementing a jealousy or possessiveness roleplay might not be a bad option for you two, even if she isn’t actively dating. Doing so might help her understand what feelings accumulate through her partner feeling jealous and possessive.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – My boyfriend broke the rules of our open relationship.

“My boyfriend and I did long distance for 5 months. Before those 5 months we had been together for a year and it was seriously the best year of my life. We had an amazing relationship. We were honest with each other, he was so incredibly supportive, and we were so in love. Because I was so happy and confident with our relationship I decided to give him 5 passes to have sex while we were apart. He agreed and thanked me and told me the 5 passes applied to me as well. However, I told him there would be some rules. The rules were: no cuddling/sleeping with the other person, can’t sleep with a same person twice and the biggest rule of all was that we must be honest about it. I told him multiple times this rule was extremely important and it goes hand in hand with the pass. No honesty, no free pass.

About a month into the long distance, he told me he doesn’t want to use the passes. I was secretly a bit happy because I thought it was since he was just so in love with me.

Fast forward to Christmas. I went to visit him for three weeks and we had an amazing holiday travelling around his home country. I was always a little shocked that he didn’t use his passes because before me he had slept with quite a few women and was (still is a little bit but I don’t mind) quite flirtatious. So I asked him once or twice to give him the chance to fess up in case he didn’t have the heart to do so before. Both times I asked he said no.

Fast forward to March where we finally close the gap and he moves to Canada (where I live) permanently. The second day he arrives he tells me he used one of his passes while he was away. My initial reaction was surprise but I really wasn’t that shocked because I was more shocked by the fact that he had the opportunity to sleep with other women and didn’t use it. I wasn’t hurt as well because he told me it was very mechanic and he respected the rules (she left right after the act and he never kept contact with her). But then I started wondering…..”if he used 1 of his tickets why wouldn’t he have used more?”. So a few days later I asked him if he was being completely honest and he finally admitted he had used all of his passes. But then he told me that one girl slept over and another girl he saw twice (and on the second time she slept over). I was so saddened by this. He told me he was scared to tell me when we were apart because he wouldn’t be there to comfort me while he was away and he didn’t want to tell me at the Christmas break because he didn’t want to ruin our small amount of time we had together. I trust him on this because he is a really really nice guy and I know he hates the idea of me being hurt. Every time I cry he cries.

He’s apologized and I know he feels sorry for what he did but I just can’t get it out of my head. For the first month he arrived we talked/fought about it a lot and every time he apologizes but I still find myself thinking about it. I feel like the relationship isn’t the same and I don’t feel the same about of security and love that I used to feel.

Does anyone have any advice?”

Canadian Dumpling on /r/nonmonogamy.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

Dear Canadian Dumpling,

I am really sorry to hear that you experienced such a betrayal in trust. It sounds like you’ve done your best and gave him many opportunities to be honest with you about what happened. It is truly heartbreaking to hear how many times he has neglected to be honest with you about what happened.

The “ethics” portion of ethical non-monogamy compels every participant to seek consensual and mindful connection with not just new connections but also to maintain strong connections with our existing relationships. As you have outlined as one of your rules, honesty is absolutely crucial for any relationship – not just ones that are ethically non-monogamous – to be successful.

And let’s talk about honesty. You said that honesty was one of the core rules in which your non-monogamous agreement functioned. And even as you’ve repeated so, it was something that your partner should have understood was important even without the reminder. His failure to disclose his other experience appears to be a firm agreement/boundary violation for you, as would be for many other non-mono folks. His failure to communicate put you at a level of emotional and sexual safety risk that you did not consent to. Even if we give your partner the benefit of the doubt that the timing of his revelation (i.e. waiting until March after he moved in with you) was benevolent, I’m afraid that his behavior would fall under cheating.

What is infidelity but a misguided act of deceit?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

It is important to first acknowledge your pain that stems from these continued acts of betrayal. He failed you in multitude of ways. He failed to communicate with you which put you at a risk of contracting STI from an unknown vector. He also failed to uphold his own agreed boundaries with others by sleeping with a same partner more than once. In addition, he also failed to fully disclose to what extent his violation of your boundaries has been. Instead, he opted to drip and drip little revelation one after another.

It could be possible that his inability -if his failure to communicate is indeed his lack of ability – could stem from a sense of mono-normative guilt. That for him, he could see his sleeping with others felt unethical and wrong, even with your direct consent. Many of us do have to actively deprogram several beliefs hammered into us from early age. But I don’t really know if that is a price of admission that you need to pay for on his behalf. And if he did have such a difficult time revealing to his girlfriend that he slept with other women, it could also be possible that he also struggled or failed to disclose that he had a girlfriend when he slept with these four women. So in essence, he didn’t just cheat on you; he cheated on five total women by failing to disclose his sexual/relational risk profile in a timely manner. No amount of apology is going to be able to bring him back to the first person he slept with post-agreement. The damage is already done.

Photo by cottonbro on

There are several different ways this can play out.

Closing the relationship (if you haven’t already done so) would be the most obvious first step. Trust has eroded to the point of no return. So take this time to get tested for STI risk then assess where your relationship stands.

Dig deep and discuss what led to this constant miscommunication. If it is something internal to himself, you’re going to need to see some indications of progress. Whether that is through self-improvement or therapy to resolve guilt, that improvement will need to be initiated and committed to for and by himself.

Work little bit at a time to re-establish trust. With what has transpired, you and your partner are going to need some time to heal and rebuild something anew. It could be possible that the next phase of your now-local relationship could look a lot like what it was prior to your long distance experience. But it is in no way assumed or guaranteed in the same way that a garden after a replanting consists of wholly different plants. Even if you end up picking out the same plants, it won’t be the same garden. And it won’t be the same relationship.

I’m really sorry that this happened to you. My heart really goes out to you and I sincerely hope that you and your partner can find some healing, either individually or as a couple.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Becoming a secondary partner.

“My polyamorous partner of around a year just told me that she was committing to a primary – and despite wanting to continue seeing m – would need to scale down the relationship.

To give you some background, I have had previous experiences of being with people in open relationships before I met my partner. She was my first true introduction to polyamory while she has been polyamorous for two to three years. We both currently have multiple partners and consider ourselves more non-monogamous rather than polyamorous. We also have a BDSM component of our relationship, which adds another wrinkle to this situation. While I have never assumed that I was ever her “favorite”, it still feels really odd to be part of a ranking. And I am finding it difficult to work it out from an emotional standpoint.”

Anonymous on /r/polyamory.

Photo by Ada Okwuosah on

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry to hear that you are experiencing a de-escalation in your relationship. Based on what you’ve shared, this will be a major disruption to not just the relationship you had but your own personal exploration with non-monogamy as well.

Each person’s perspective on how each “hierarchy” is defined is very different. For many, secondary partner could mean a very limited engagement (i.e. one day a week) with prescriptive hierarchies (i.e. I will not have overnights with my secondary partners, veto rights). For some, secondary partner could imply more subtle differences like limiting the overall trajectory of the relationship (i.e. we will date but with no plans to develop it any further) or with subjective emotional investment (i.e. I will not fall in love with my secondary partners). Because what each person’s definitions of primary partner and secondary partner is very different, it is important for you to communicate with your partner about what this means for you specifically.

It also sounds like you and your partner have a bit of a disconnect in the type of non-monogamy you two are practicing. You say that you consider yourselves non-monogamous rather than polyamorous. But based on what you’ve shared, it’s apparent that your partner practices hierarchical polyamory. There is a very sizable gap between plain non-monogamy and hierarchical polyamory. And the main difference is in permissible feelings across different connections.

Photo by Pixabay on

So what does all of this mean for you?

I wrote a previous column about the PLEASE method for de-escalation and another about an end of a polyamorous arrangement. In the latter column, I took the perspective from a perspective of someone similar to your partner and advised that there is a very real possibility that there is always a real possibility of an end to that connection if the person being de-escalated on decides that adjustment in expectation is not worth the emotional labor. And you do. You can decide to end this relationship in the face of a de-escalation. You are entitled to the type of relationship you want to have. And you absolutely do not have to consent to be in relationships with people who do not have the same level of expectation for you. And you do not have to be with people who’ll rank where you belong in their hierarchy of partners.

Ending the relationship is only one of your options, so let’s flesh out what other options you have.

Accepting the de-escalation seems like the most obvious alternative. This is the best way for you to stay connected with this partner. For whatever reason, she decided that she could not have the primary partner level of commitment with you. So accepting that the previous phase of your connection has ended and moving on to the next phase of your connection could be an answer. If you do decide to go down this route, fleshing out what the exact expectations are with your secondary partner in regard to your relationship would be necessary.

Another viable option is to take a break and regroup when you can think more logically about what this connection means to you. This does not mean just flat out ending your connection. It also doesn’t mean exchanging long text messages or grabbing coffee in a week. Take the time to grieve the end of what you thought was a primary partnership and think about if this connection still has enough in the tank to make secondary partnership work. Like the alternative I just outlined, it is imperative that you figure out what will change in this new transition before you commit to a break. For whatever reason if you decide you want the break to be permanent, text her and let her know you are moving on.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

I will also touch on the BDSM aspect of your connection.

You didn’t say what type of BDSM connection you specifically had. But there is a special level of intimacy associated with the power exchange fetish that will add another level of challenge to this transition. If you or your partner are participating in impact plays, that could be subject to change depending on what she agrees to with her primary partner. If you or your partner has collared each other, this would be a great opportunity to revisit this power exchange privilege as well.

Keep in mind that the most rewarding type of power exchange dynamics are the ones that grow and change with the participants. We the non-mono folks tend to subject ourselves to constant growth and change through numerous, deep intimate connections. So don’t think of this particular relationship as the end-all-be-all. Instead fight for the type of person you want to be tomorrow – for the sake of your future partners.

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 – 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 – 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!