Advice – How can I learn to heal after a breakup?

My boyfriend [29M] and I [27F] have decided to mutually split up after lockdown. We are very different people; he wants children and I don’t, for example. A lot of things in the short term have been the final nail in the coffin for me. We had a chat today and agreed that we will break up sooner rather than later. Do any of you have any tips in terms of getting over the love of your life who would be perfect if it wasn’t for one thing? Our relationship is great but then we can’t be together. How do you reconcile yourself with that? My brain hurts trying to figure it out.

Bebe, Reddit.

Dear Bebe,

I am so sorry to hear that you are in the middle of such a disorienting end to an otherwise good relationship.

Even quality relationships can end for countless different reasons. Some of them explode spectacularly over a discovery of a chance infidelity. Some of them collapse through many years of built-up and unresolved resentment. Some ends are completely irrational while others are calm transitions to something other than a romantic relationship.

And perhaps that is a potential mindset where we can first rest in, that this does not necessarily have to be a definitive end to your connection with your ex-boyfriend. Queer communities often comment on the importance of chosen family, or a group of people who are bound by choice and not necessarily by blood. For many of those chosen family members in queer communities, they happen to be former lovers or distant flings. And so, it could be possible that the end to your romantic connection with your ex-boyfriend can instead be reframed as a transition and a beginning to your platonic connection.

Another important point to make here is your perception and experience with grief and loss.

It sounds like both you and your ex-boyfriend understand logically and rationally that the breakup is necessary. But even if you and your ex-boyfriend logically agree and accept that the end is inevitable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your ex-boyfriend have each come to terms with it emotionally.

And Bebe, I think it is possible that you feel a sense of regret, not for the great relationship you had with this incredibly human being, but how things could have been different if those things were different. It is very easy and also dangerous to trap yourself in that mental loop of different hypothetical scenarios. That trap is easy to fall into because it lives entirely in your own headspace, and therefore requires no change or growth from the people involved. That trap is dangerous because it really is a hypothetical disguising as reality. The trap itself is an emotional distress coping mechanism. But there are cleaner ways to recover and heal than through this mental loop.

It is important to keep in mind that this one thing isn’t just any One Thing. Along with openness of your relationship and clear emotional incompatibilities, disagreement on parenting has very little room for negotiation or change. So be kind, allow yourself to breathe through those hypotheticals, and break the loop if you can see the repeat patterns in your head.

Photo by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

And I want to come back to reframing this breakup as a transition to a new beginning.

If you feel it is necessary, many do take the time off to heal before reconnecting with their former paramours. And if it is true that everything else was perfect and this was just the one thing that didn’t work for your romantic relationship, then you can be there for each other after you’ve both healed and recovered from the pain of this breakup. And perhaps from the charred remains of your former love can rise a different but equally meaningful friendship.

I want to leave you off with a thought that the process to heal from breakup looks different for everyone. For me, I get comfy and watch my two breakup flicks: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Through those movies, I conscientiously chew on my pain through the similar pains the characters on the screen share. And it could be that your healing process can involve a reservation at a rage room (with proper safety precautions), long stomps at a local hiking trail, or multiple scream-cries into your squishiest Squishmallow.

In the meantime, make sure that you have space away from your ex-boyfriend so that each of you can heal.

I feel for your heart and I really hope that your healing process can be as fruitful as it is meaningful.

Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Poly Guy Blue,

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

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

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

Photo by on

Conscientiousness of honesty in polyamorous relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Wellington Cunha on

Revisiting the Fight

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by alleksana on

In defense of implicit partner preference

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

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

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

Even if it wasn’t complete honesty.

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

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

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

Photo by Lina Kivaka on

Childrearing and wrapup

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Can my marriage be salvaged?

[TW: Physical abuse, miscarriage.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo by reneereneee on

Dear Anonymous,

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

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


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



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

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

Agreements & Boundaries

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

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

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

Photo by La Miko on

Metamour’s behaviors

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

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

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

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

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Spouse’s behavior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Putting it all back together

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

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

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

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

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Steps to salvage your relationship

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck.

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

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

Advice – My former coworker doesn’t know that my partner and I have a polyamorous relationship.

“My nesting partner [31M] and I [32F] have been together for five years and non-monogamous for three of those years. Last year has been full of personal transitions and professional growths for me. This time last year, I found out that I was pregnant with a baby. I wanted to focus more on nesting and taking care of my baby through pregnancy while my husband continued to date. So I haven’t been dating anyone else other than my nesting partner for the past year. Shortly after I gave birth, my nesting partner’s girlfriend [34F] moved in with us temporarily. And it wasn’t too long after that that I gave my two weeks notice before starting my new job which had better flexibility for my evolving home life. It wasn’t too long after that that the COVID-19 forced us all to work from home. The stress levels with all these changes have really taken a toll on my mental and emotional health, especially with the constant emotional labor in regard to my metamour living with us. I have also experienced emotional and sexual loneliness because I chose this path to not date anyone in order to focus on my little one.

I have been keeping in touch with a couple folks I was very close with from my old workplace in order to combat the loneliness I’ve been feeling. It was my way of doing emotional labor with my metamour living with us. While I’m not out as polyamorous in my professional environment, there has been some flirtation with one particular coworker [29M] from my old workplace. He recently revealed to me that while he is bad at commitments if it weren’t for the current circumstances, he would have liked to ask me out on a date. The catch is he doesn’t know that I am in a polyamorous relationship with my husband. For all he knows, I am in a strictly monogamous marriage with my husband.

Considering my new role as a mother as well as being out of the dating mindset for the past year, I’m not even sure if I am actually ready to date. I had put an emotional block on myself for any of my coworkers because I had a personal “no dating coworkers” boundary. After some emotional processing, I think if it wasn’t for the fact that I just had my baby, I would have seriously considered coming out as poly to him to see what would happen. My partner has been very encouraging for me to hash things out and see what comes out of this specific connection, even if it is purely casual.

How do I even begin to explain the concept of polyamory much less navigate my own feelings around this new development?”


Photo by Marcus Aurelius on

Dear Anonymous,

First of all, congratulations on your new baby. This is indeed a very interesting time to be a parent. I hope that you and your polycule are staying safe in this COVID world.

We live in a mono-normative society where the societal expectations revolve around a traditional relationship structure is an exclusive dyad. Every time you have to explain your non-monogamous relationship structure to another person is yet another glass wall that you’ll be breaking for someone else. It isn’t always easy to be anyone’s first. But I am afraid that as we continue to grow and develop as a human society, there will be many, many glass walls to break.

Even before we start to figure out what your next steps should be, you should figure out what your own intentions and feelings are.

Think for yourself whether you want to or do not want to pursue this connection.

About four months ago, someone wrote in asking about what would be the most appropriate way to come out to someone who doesn’t know about their non-monogamous background. At that time, I advised to take the revelation step-by-step at a time, to gauge their interest and reaction. If you decide you do not want to date, you can skip to the picture of a bird. However, if you do decide that you want to pursue a romantic or sexual connection with your former colleague (or anyone else who might initially be more monogamous), I think the same three-step process could work for you.

Photo by Tatiana Аzatskaya on

First is to open up the existence of non-monogamous relationships.

You can do this in couple different ways, but the easiest way I’ve personally found was to link an article about the prevalence of non-monogamy in modern media. Getting them to talk to you about what they think of non-monogamous relationships will be a great first step to gauge whether or not they’re actually open to non-monogamy themselves. And it sounds like your old coworker will have to be okay with ethical non-monogamy to some extent since you are married and have a kid with your nesting partner.

Another way to breach this otherwise uncomfortable topic of discussion is to talk about non-monogamy portrayal in popular media. There has been a noticeable increase in the way modern pop culture talks about non-monogamous relationships. From movies like Professor Marston and the Wonder Women to shows like Tiger King, there have been no better time than now to bring up how Hollywood has recently portrayed non-monogamy / polyamory – both in positive and in negative ways.

Based on how your coworker reacts, you should be able to gather if he’ll be open to non-monogamy at least in theory. If he has any negative reaction to it at all, then it’s a pretty good point for you to establish some boundaries to make sure that you can establish and maintain some distance away from this ex-coworker.

Once you’ve gotten an understanding of where he sits on non-monogamy, then you should talk about how you’re in a non-monogamous relationship.

Ideally, you would give them a couple days for them to do their own research. After that brief hiatus, this would be a great point to talk about how your current relationship is structured and how everyone is in the know. Talk about how you’ve come to learn about your own brand of ethical non-monogamy. Share your personal relational history (if applicable). And if he has any ENM experience of his own, don’t hesitate to use this moment to gauge what type of non-monogamy he personally prefers / practices. This would also be a great place to get through the initial set of questions, like how you manage your feelings of insecurity, logistics of your polycule, and any rules or agreements that he might need to know about.

Your goal here is not to establish even a romantic or sexual connection, but to weed out your initial dealbreakers. Keep on the lookout for obvious incompatibilities – such as mismatching long-term expectations and obvious lack of sexual chemistry.

Since you have already established his interest (mutual?), he should be able to have a better understanding about where he would specifically fit in in your life. Whether it is as a casual secondary partner, evolving co-primary, or something in between, he should be able to develop his own expectations and consent to the level of enmeshment he will get from this particular connection with you. I cannot emphasize the importance of this statement enough, especially in regard to experienced non-monofolks dating newbies.

The last step of this three-step process is to establish your own connections in its own individualistic way.

In openly addressing the existence of non-monogamy, you have opened a way for him to associate you with non-monogamy. Through revealing your non-monogamous orientation, you can also open up about the kind of emotional bandwidth you currently have available. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that your connection with your former colleague is unique, just like each of your relationships are unique.

And as someone who is much more monogamous-minded, your former colleague is going to have a lot of growing pains to embrace and change through his personal exploration of non-monogamy. Being on the forefront of someone else’s first explorations of non-monogamy is always going to come with its own set of challenges, such as establishing your own boundaries, assimilating their boundaries with your own, and creating proper emotional safeguards.

Dan Savage once coined the term “Campsite Rule” which is defined as “Leave someone in the better position when you first met them.” It’s a pretty reasonable, sensible guideline for approaching any of your relationships. To aim to improve others also means to aim to improve yourself as a lover and a partner. And while not all relationships will be meaningful or even productive, keeping an open mind while you’re not misusing your poly experience to hurt others is always a good mindset to have.

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If you decide that you are not attracted to your former coworker or at least not in a mental headspace to date, then you’ll have to set some firm interpersonal boundaries.

These restrictions could look like:

  1. Avoiding deep and personal discussions, especially about romantic relationships.
  2. Limiting or eliminating the in-person and/or online time together.
  3. Or distancing yourself until the initial attractions have calmed down.

If you wanted to approach this in a more mindful way, you can implement these restrictions as boundaries. So for example, the first restriction as a boundary could read, “I will not discuss deeply personal topics such as my relationships with a decidedly platonic connection.” Or you can choose to take a softer approach such as one outlined in the third option of creating distance. One of the few positives to gleam from the current COVID-19 pandemic is how folks interpret and participate in social distancing as a societal boundary. And only indulging yourself in the connections you deem appropriate is a fairly straightforward boundary you can implement in your future conversations (or lack thereof) with your former colleague.

I want to add a couple more words about dating while parenting.

You say that you would have loved to come out as poly and connect with your former colleague to see what kind of relationship you two can establish. There are plenty of non-mono parents who choose to date again a couple months after you had your baby – and it sounds like your nesting partner has certainly continued to do so. For a lot of moms, they already have a lot of difficulty connecting with their own bodies after they give birth. So it is completely understandable that you cannot mentally place yourself in a role where you can have a great date with someone who finds you attractive. So you don’t need to rush into anything you don’t feel prepared for.

It is important to live a life worth commenting on. You aren’t just a mother. You are also a coworker, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and so many more. If life is about carving out new identities and new roles for you to step into, then even if this connection doesn’t even spark it will make for a great story to tell one day.

After all things settle down, what do you have to lose for a night out?

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’s FWB is pregnant.

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/u/camping_paige writes on /r/polyamory…

My nesting/primary partner just found out that his other FWB partner is now pregnant with his child. They have been together for about month, we have been together 4 years with a child of our own. I obviously have thoughts and feelings that I am working through but right now we are going to meet on Wed to find out how we all want to proceed. It seems like the most logical way would be to combine households in some way. She seems to be open to this, we all obviously want to take this on a slow timeline. What I am trying to get at here is what has worked for people, what has not. I have a disorganized list of things I want to talk about but I feel like an experienced person would have some good points. Feel free to DM me if that is easier because honestly I have so many questions. I just have no resources to lean on except for her and him. I want to work this out because I love him and I know that he just wants to be a wonderful dad. I just also want to be realistic to myself that if I can put my anger aside what kind of life can we build, and how what steps do we take to get there. Currently we are reading More Than Two but we are only on Chapter 2.”

TL;DR – My partner’s FWB partner of one month is pregnant.How do I organize and process what is happening to our lives?

Dear Camping Paige,

As a new father, I personally cannot see a more difficult scenario to bring a new child into. And I will not pretend to know the kind of anger and pain you have had to compartmentalize for the sake of dealing with the situation ahead of you. I deeply envy your strength and resilience in these difficult times.

I want to first discuss how insane this is.

Let’s suppose that you weren’t romantically involved with your primary partner, but you knew them as a purely platonic but close friend. If this close friend revealed to you that he got his casual fling pregnant within the first month and decided that he wanted to raise that kid, what kind of advice would you have for your friend? Would you have told him what a bad idea it is to make any major life commitments one months into a casual relationship with someone he barely knows?

This is a terrible. terrible idea.

This isn’t just your friend. This is your nesting partner. That makes this so, so much more difficult and all the more unacceptable.

In the follow up exchange, you have also told me about how this is a (major) boundary violation not to have kids with anyone else. He has also displayed a lack of sound decision making skills regarding his own sexual safety when he decided the pull out method is equivalent to wearing condoms. Your metamour has not yet displayed any good characteristics of being a good mother currently in his relationship with her. But mostly, they’ve only been together for one month. This is madness.

I agree with you that it is ultimately her decision to keep the child since it is her body. But how could your partner not discuss this very possible probability of her pregnancy with his FWB? This is an intense and immense life commitment he is about to make to someone. And it is undoubtedly going to completely change not just his life but also your and your child’s life forever.

Photo by kelvin octa on

So let’s talk about what options you have ahead of you.

The obvious first step that I can see is to establish some very firm (maybe non-negotiable) boundaries with your nesting partner. If this is how he is going to approach all of his future relationships, it might not be sustainable for you to nest with him any longer. You already have a child with your partner. So you know how expensive child care can be. If you are currently financially enmeshed with your partner, it is very important to discuss how he expects to budget and take financial responsibility for the decision he made here. I don’t feel that bringing his now-pregnant FWB into your household is a good idea. You have no idea what kind of person she is actually like. So committing to even more commitment due to your partner and his other partner’s decision to remain pregnant will exacerbate your already turbulent nesting relationship. Instead, focus on budgeting for what you can and cannot afford for your own child and determine how best to take care of yourself and your child first before bringing your partner’s financial well-being into the picture. This wasn’t anything you did. This is something that has been thrust onto your plate.

Maybe a better discussion to have here is to ask your metamour how she expects to take care of her newborn. Your partner is responsible for financially and emotionally providing for the child he helped create. But how does she expect to burden her share of the financial and emotional responsibility in rearing a child with someone she has only had a casual relationship with in the past? Does she know what childcare and parenting entails? What kind of role does she expect you to play in their child’s life? What kind of role does she expect to play in your child’s life? How will this reflect on the real life implications of raising this child?

I cannot fathom in how many different ways I can comment on what a tremendous mistake they have made and are continuing to make. If anyone ever asks what infidelity looks like in polyamorous relationship, I will point them to this circumstance. I am intensely infuriated at your partner and metamour’s complete lack of responsibility and accountability in safe sex practices. As a father, I am deeply, deeply sorry that you are going through this. I wish you the best of 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!

Story Time – How does poly make you feel more connected in your LTR?

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/u/Seenoshadows asks on /r/polyamory…

“I have searched in many places and either my google searching skills aren’t that good or what but I can’t seem to find the answer to the following question.

As I’ve explored polyamory and all it entails, Ive consistently read that polyamory brings you and your partner closer. My question is HOW? How does polyamory bring you closer to your partner?

Some context: my partner and I have been dating for 5 years and have explored some nontraditional relationship models and are tinkering with a poly relationship and all the conversations/tribulations that comes with and our major question is how does this (poly) bring us closer to each other?”

One of my absolute favorite aspects of going on dates.

I love, love, love meeting new people. Most of the time, I have a great time on these dates. I love getting to know people, and that intense presence and curiosity mixes well for mostly great first date experiences. I am a great date. But I don’t always get along with everyone. I have probably gone on maybe one or two truly bad first dates.

One particular bad date remains very memorable.

At this time, I had just come out of a long distance relationship and wanted to jump into online dating platforms for the first time. I had already gone on really great first and second dates with my now-wife/nesting partner. But I figured I could date around a bit now that I’m actually single. My date – let’s call her Jenny – invited me over to her house for our first date, where she promised she’d make us some baked goods for breakfast. I immediately knew something was up when Jenny opened her front door; she looked nothing like the picture. I was surprised, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s a great cook. Then I walked into her apartment and realized another mistake. She had a cat.

Photo by Pixabay on

I love cats. But I am deathly allergic to them. Staying around a cat – especially in shedding seasons – could lead to asthmatic reaction for me. Touching my eyes right after touching a cat (or cat hair flying into my eyeballs) could puff up my eyes to the point that I cannot see through my eyes anymore. Well, because I did not know that my date had a cat, I did not bring my antihistamines or inhalers.

It gets worse.

After I walked in, I sat down on Jenny’s couch and played with her cat while she cooked our breakfast. Jenny was very occupied with cooking, so I made conversation with Jenny’s roommate. Her roommate was very cute, bubbly, and still a bit tipsy from a Friday night out with friends where she consumed a copious amount of alcohol. She had just moved to Illinois for a job and told me a lot about what her childhood in New Jersey was like.

All the while I was innocently flirting away with her roommate, my date was busy struggling with our breakfast. Based on all the smokes and the occasional expletives, it wasn’t going well. I was also busy petting her cat and rubbing my eyes as it was watering from the cat dander. It took about thirty minutes before my eyes started puffing up. And about another five minutes before I realized I was hitting it off with my date’s roommate while my date was totally removed from her first date experience. So I told Jenny and her roommate that my cat allergy was getting out of control, and that I had to get out of there.

The point of the story is this. After I had that really bad first date with Jenny, I realized quickly what a catch my nesting partner was after just two dates. She knew how to hold conversations. She had an outrageous sense of humor that today I still appreciate. Her personality was a great blend of easy-going and stubbornness. Those were all characteristics I didn’t fully embrace until my bad first date. After that experience, the second date with my nesting partner turned into third and fourth dates. Two years after our first date, we got married. A year later, we bought a house. And last week, she gave birth to our daughter.

Lucia, born December 3rd, 2019. Image credit to Bella Baby Photography.

This was a really long way to talk about how I became closer to my partner through dating. I’ve had a couple poly experiences where my nesting partner further showcased her flexibility and friendliness. And each of those experiences reinforced what I saw in my partner when I first fell in love with her. For me, that recognition has given me all the tools to feel closer with my partner. It helped me see in what others are not able to provide for me, what I’ve grown accustomed to over time in my existing partnerships, and what strengths the dust of time has covered.

Another way I grew closer with my partners is through seeing how deeply and passionately they can love another. In the poly world, we call those rewarding emotions compersion. I talked a bit about compersion in a recent column here. When my nesting partner first fell in love with her play partner, I saw in how many different ways she can express her love for another human being. I was able to celebrate her success as openly as she has done so for me in my polyamorous journey. And seeing how deeply but differently she felt gave me validation in the “trueness” of my relationship with her, that it wasn’t just a fluke. I hear the intense and intimate way my girlfriend talks about her girlfriend. I see the fluffy sense of excitement my partner holds in her eyes when she comes back from a promising first date. All of those vulnerable moments make me feel closer to each of my three partners. That my place in their lives are justified and substantial. That they choose to keep dating me not because they have to, but because they actually want to.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on

But beneficial comparison and compersion are all very incremental aspects to polyamory. What hit me the most was in the strengthening of our communication skills over time. Polyamory really forces you to be mindful, timely, and impeccable in not just the words you share but also the actions and the intent behind those actions. Both my nesting partner and I had to really hone that ability to accurately deliver our messages in an appropriate and respectful manner. Misunderstanding was common at first, but we both got much better at communicating because of polyamory. And through sound communication, I became closer to my partners.

On one of our first dates, my girlfriend and I arrived to a discussion about how difficult compartmentalization in polyamorous relationships can feel. One of us jokingly made a comment about how polyamory sometimes feels like a “rapid fire self-improvement process” because of how much it forces you to address your innermost vulnerabilities and insecurities. Nothing is more rewarding than working through your vulnerabilities and sharing your progress with your partners. Each day of progress was acknowledged and celebrated with the people I love the most.

And that’s how polyamory made me feel closer to my partners.

Advice – Partner wants to move out.

“Tea Ave Oolong” by TATABI Studio is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 

/u/trixy_treat on /r/relationship_advice writes…

“Myself [30F] and my partner [32M] have been romantically entangled on and off for the last 15 years. We have been together for nearly 5 years and he has lived in my house for the last 2 years or so with my 2 kids- 9 & 6 who adore him.

We have had a lot of stuff happen over the last year or so, I lost a whole bunch of friends, developed an allergy to something we still haven’t figured out what, broke out in full head to toe psoriasis over night for the first time ever, got bullied at work, lost my dream job due to said bullying, his parents went mental at me on Facebook over a meme, its been a heck of a year. At the same time his band is up and coming and he’s trying to find out what he wants to do for a career. I suffer anxiety and depression and have a whole abused childhood thing going on which creates issues itself.

We’ve been rowing a lot recently but there has been a general problem with communication as a whole. We do love each other very much and want to make it work – I do anyway, I just have to take him at his word really.

My mum, who is crazy BTW, asked him if he just moved in with me cause he had nowhere else to go, and now he’s decided he wants to move out instead of break up after a recent argument, and has gotten himself a flat nearby. I am trying to be optimistic and hope maybe it will work cause I really do love him but I really just feel like it’s just a long drawn-out break up :/

I don’t want to tell my kids it will work out and then have to deal with the fall out if it doesn’t. Cause when their dad (not my current partner) was asked to leave for our best interests (he was an alcoholic, quite nasty) my eldest blamed me, hated me for ages and it took me so long to build up that trust with him again. I don’t want to tell them it will be fine when I don’t believe it myself and what happens if it isn’t? It’s only temporary right?

So basically my question is – Am I doing the right thing? And wtf do I tell my kids?”

Dear Trixy Treat,

I am so sorry to hear that this year has been so filled with incredible inter- and intrapersonal challenges this year. I really feel for all the difficulties you’ve faced and overcome in such a short amount of time, while managing your resources that were already stretched incredibly thin.

There is a lot going on in your story.

Your relationship with your ex. Your relationship with your mother. Your relationship with his parents. Your relationship with your kids. His relationship with your kids. Your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with your past. And your relationship with him. All these connections are interwoven and reveal something very deep and complex about the way you generally manage your personal relationships. In this advice column, I will focus on two of those: the relationship you have with your partner then the relationships you have with your kids.

Photo by Lena Khrupina on

Let’s first consider the relationship you have with your partner.

You mentioned that you’ve been having an on-and-off relationship with your partner for fifteen years, predating your children. In that time, you’ve gone through a lot of changes. Even in the five year relationship that you developed with him following the end of the relationship you had with the father of your children had a lot of growth and challenges baked into the very fabric of your connection. You’ve always reconnected after difficult times, as evidenced by your experience from the past fifteen years. So it might be a good time for you accept that this is just the nature of your relationship. The constant push and pull, the general sense of ambivalence, and the inevitable reconnect. You say that you aren’t sure yourself whether things will work out. And that’s fair. But I think you might be asking the wrong question. The question to be asking isn’t if you have trust in him to reconnect with you. The right question to be asking is if you have the faith in your relationship with him for that inevitable reconnect to come.

He has been there for you through the thick and thin. So if the communication is being challenged, we often look to our past history to connect the dots to figure out what the future might reveal. Give him an opportunity to figure out his professional life out for himself as well, and see what kind of room you can make for each other thereafter.

“Jealousy for Wysokie Obcasy Extra” by Bartosz Kosowski is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 

Let’s now discuss the relationship you want to have with your kids.

You mentioned that your eldest had a lot of difficulty with accepting the departure of his father. Since you’ve been seeing your current partner for five years, your eldest must’ve been four or five when his father left. At that age, he was probably aware of his surroundings and the kind of relationship his biological father had with alcohol. But he might not have fully understood why that was the best decision for you, for his brother, and for himself. That kind of radical awareness and acceptance will come with time, as he understands and accepts that his parents are imperfect. They will also have to come to accept that your relationship with your current partner is also imperfect.

In the past five years of your relationship together, they’ve developed a pretty good idea of the kind of father figure he can be in their lives. I am not of belief that your kids need to know every little intimate detail about their parents’ relationships. It is almost a privilege for them to know only what they need to hear. So you’ll have to consider what you want to disclose. And come up with a convenient explanation for why your partner has moved out. Your kids will learn to adjust. We all want our kids to live that idyllic childhood, but we all have to face the reality that the world is often what it is: imperfect and flawed. Kids are surprisingly resilient and they’ll get through this with you one way or another.

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.

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