Advice – My wife is dating someone who is in a rocky marriage.

My wife has been seeing someone for a couple of months and she really seems to like him. In getting to know each other, he has let it slip that he and his partner are currently working with marriage counselors and therapists to get through a few of their past mistakes. Until recently, he told my wife that they are currently separated but he still wants to talk and go out with her. Everything I’m reading is telling me how difficult it is for everyone in the situation. She is leaving it up to him on deciding to continue. Is it normal to continue dating even with something as bad as a separation? We have always said we stop dating if we aren’t in a good place. I think my fears are her bringing that toxicity into our house. Either through increased anxiety or stress etc. She says if she sees anything like that starting she will end it immediately.

Porter Francis, Reddit.
Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

Dear Porter,

Your feelings of fear and of the unknown are very apparent. It sounds like you sense the potential turbulence in your metamour’s marriage deeply affecting your wife, and subsequently affecting your marriage as well. Those are valid feelings and concerns, and we will spend some time in this post unpacking the true source of those concerns and what you and your wife can do to alleviate those feelings, individually and collectively.

Let’s first distinguish the different relationships. There are three different relationships in your current polycule as you described: the relationship between you and your wife, the relationship between your wife and your metamour, and the relationship between your metamour and his wife. And in those three different relationships, there are two hinges: your wife and your metamour. The distinction between the different relationships and how each of them function in relation with and isolation from each other is a really important concept in polyamory.

In this column, I have repeatedly upheld that the hinge partners are responsible for facilitating theirm multiple relationships. That means that the hinges are responsible for managing any inter-relational conflicts, smoothing transitional inflection points, and upholding the relevant boundaries & agreements. Even the most experienced hinge partners will find it impossible to completely compartmentalize struggles in one relationship from bleeding over in their other relationships. While complete isolation from drama is impossible, a mindful filtration is not only possible, it is also functionally necessary for long-term success in polyamory.

We have to use our own experiences to measure the world at large.

Consider how your own personal worldview colors your assessment of external relationships. It could be that you have had some very dysfunctional relationship with relationship therapy or counseling that has shaped how you are envisioning your metamour’s separation process. But it is not always the case that therapy is a premonition of failure. In a way, going to therapy is a lot like going to a gym. You get to work out any kinks in your form, strengthen your core, and become more durable in the process. Going to therapy or counseling is a good thing for them because they are taking an active measure and interest in improving their relationship together, even if their marriage does not survive.

It is true that most separation / divorce process is going to be difficult. As someone with a partner going through a divorce, I can personally attest to how challenging it will be for both your metamour and your wife. But she is the one who is in that relationship with your metamour, and is the one that will be doing the emotional labor associated with supporting her partner through the separation and divorce. Not you.

On a first date with one of my former partners, my former partner and I talked at length about how the main challenge of polyamory lies in that you are also dating circumstances. You don’t just get to date the person you are interested in. You also have to welcome their existing agreements, their polycule status, and their extended relational worldview. So take that into consideration that when you are actively choosing to date your wife, you also have to take her poly happenstance into consideration… in the same way that she is doing her partner’s.

Instead of allowing your fears to hold you hostage, take this as an opportunity to connect deeper with your partner.

Instead of saying “I don’t think he should be dating while going through a separation process”, say “I am afraid that your relationship with your other partner might bring emotional baggage into our relationship.” And dig deeper and flesh out what that “toxicity” might look like. Have a dialogue about how you and your wife can each develop your own respective coping mechanisms to ensure that your own marriage isn’t too disturbed by the transition that is taking place in her partner’s life.

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 isn’t as out about his polyamory as I believed.

I (25F) have been dating him (27M) since March, we’ve only met in real life twice but our online relationship was very intense and exciting. I have been curious about polyamory for years but this is my first actual experience with it. He has an NP (26F) who I’ve met after both our IRL dates and really like. They’ve been together many years and have been poly for almost their whole relationship. Due to the virus both our dates were at social distance, we haven’t physically touched.

When we ascertained that our attraction was romantic rather than just physical/sexual, he asked how I’d feel about eventually becoming his partner. He wasn’t out to his family at the time. I thought about it and realised that jealousy wasn’t an issue for me, I feel a lot of compersion for him and his NP, but what I didn’t feel comfortable with was dating someone who wasn’t out and would have to keep me a secret. I wanted a proper relationship, not to feel like someone’s dirty little secret. He understood and said he and his wife did plan on coming out to his family, and they were already out to their friends. He couldn’t give me a timeline for when it would happen, but said they definitely planned on it. I said I was happy to carry on with our online friendship in the meantime and if social distancing lifted I’d enjoy hanging out with him, perhaps a FwB situation.

In June, his NP was speaking to her parents and the opportune moment to come out to them as poly came along so she went with it. It went really well, and my boyfriend felt emboldened to come out to his parents. They took it reasonably well and are coming around to it with time. Immediately after coming out to them he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I gladly accepted.

At the end of our second date, we took a (socially-distant) selfie together. I later posted it on Facebook with a message about having a great day with my favourite person. I didn’t say he was my boyfriend or anything, and I thought it would be fine because he was now out to his family and he told me he was already out to his friends.

He then messaged me asking me not to post things like that in future as he wasn’t out to everyone. I was confused, as I had understood that he was out to everyone important to him, and I thought I had made it clear that I only wanted to date if I didn’t have to be kept a secret. He said he thought I was only talking about being a secret from his family. I said no, of course not, I don’t want to have to pretend we’re not together in front of anyone, I want a proper relationship not having to hide. He apologised for the misunderstanding. I asked him why he had told me he was out to his friends if it wasn’t true. He said he was out to most of them, but there are a few friends he wasn’t out to and would like to tell face-to-face. Due to them living in different parts of the country and the pandemic situation, he doesn’t anticipate seeing them face-to-face before next summer, potentially.

I asked him if he expected me to be semi-secret until then, and he said that it would probably be necessary. I know it’s probably petty, and since he won’t see these people IRL surely it’s not a big deal for me to keep stuff about our relationship off social media? But it hurt me, and I feel a bit like I’ve been bait-and-switched.

Is this just a silly misunderstanding? Am I making too much of this?

I really care about him and haven’t had a connection like this with anyone before. But I don’t feel comfortable being kept semi-secret from people who are apparently very important to him for potentially more than a year after we started dating. Is this just a conflict in boundaries? Am I in the wrong here for being hurt?

/u/secretsecondarysub, /r/polyamory.

Dear Secret Secondary Sub,

Your pain is understandable and justified. It comes from a misunderstanding of your boundary (“I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who is not open about their relationship orientation”) which was then exacerbated by the miscommunication (“I’m out to all of my friends and family”) seemingly triggered by a relatively innocuous event (posting a picture on Facebook).

Let’s unpack each of those disconnect points.

Misunderstanding a boundary

The boundary itself is sound. If you are already out as polyamorous, going back into the closet for someone else can feel so incredibly restrictive. The way you communicated that up front with someone you were interested in says a lot about how fundamental this boundary is for you. But I’m even more impressed with your ability to self-reflect. Upon recognizing that you have romantic feelings towards this person, you were still able to step aside and rationale behind your own boundary.

The problem is in his interpretation of your boundary. I’m not sure how thorough you were initially in explaining why you felt uncomfortable about indulging on those mutual romantic attraction toward each other. But based on his response, I am going to assume that you were very clear on not just what the boundary was but why you had it in the first place. Even if he didn’t fully understand your boundary, this would have been a great opportunity to better flesh out the extent of this boundary with you.

Because you were clear and forward in your boundary establishment, he should have known that you would not have accepted the role of his girlfriend had he not completely come out as polyamorous to everyone he needs to. While he does not own the boundary you stated, it is his responsibility to respect and understand the boundary you’ve outlined for him. And misunderstanding of said boundary is his responsibility.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not fully comprehend your boundary, misunderstanding of this kind is something to be very cognizant of, especially since it was your boundary that he overstepped.

Miscommunication of the resolution

This misunderstanding is further aggravated by this particular miscommunication when he said that he was out. What he really should have said in that moment he came out to his parents is that he made some great personal progress that he wanted to celebrate.

Again, his misunderstanding of your boundary (if it really is a misunderstanding) speaks volumes about what led to the ensuing miscommunication. My guess is that – at the very best case scenario – he was just very excited from his coming out going so well that he pinned your boundary against his own elevated emotional state. And you had no real reason to doubt what he said, especially since – again – you were very clear and forthcoming about your boundary of not romantically engaging with anyone who isn’t fully out.

At the very worst case scenario, this isn’t just an issue about a misinterpretation of words; it becomes an issue about an absence of one. If he fully understood that you would not romantically engage with him while he wasn’t fully out to everyone, then he should have been much more clear about who he was and wasn’t out to, especially since this particular boundary is so important for you.

And his misfire here reveals a lot about his internal decision making process, especially when it pertains to a heightened emotional state.

Sharing an image on Facebook

And this is the part that I am the most confused by.

A distant selfie of you two with that particular message is not explicitly romantic or sexual, unless people are already coming into it knowing your relationship statuses. But even if that breached on his boundaries, he never specifically stated or asked you to not post anything on social media. An unstated boundary is not a real boundary. You had the right initial assumption that since he asked you to be his girlfriend that he was out to everyone he needs to be out to.

My guess is that his history of being in the closet for so long has made his social media nerve hypersensitive to the point that even this innocuous selfie was determined a gross violation of his unspoken boundary. It could even be that that hypersensitivity triggered an underlying sense of guilt about his violation of your boundary, almost as an internal projection onto the very person who he should be apologizing to.

What’s really interesting is that there are Facebook settings he could have implemented to prevent something like this from happening, if it really was his unspoken boundary. He could have untagged himself, reduced the shared photo visibility, or changed his privacy settings such that only a curated list of people he was out to were privy to his polyamorous connections. He didn’t do any of those. Instead, he took that anger right out on you, which reveals a deeply conflicted perspective he has about the role of social media in his personal life as well as a deeply troubling inability to manage non-monogamous relational conflicts.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Putting it all together

Let’s just go back to comparing the two specific boundaries here.

  • I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who is not completely out to everyone in his life. (Your boundary)
  • I will not be in a romantic relationship with someone who outs me on social media without my explicit permission. (His boundary)

You asked if this really is a conflict in boundary. I think it is a conflict of boundaries, but I also think it is worse than just a conflict of boundaries. I believe the most likely scenario involving his headspace was that he was careless with the boundary you established with him, and overly strict with the boundary he didn’t know he had (or maybe he knew that he had, but did not proactively volunteer that information for you).

What I am much more troubled by is his relative lack of agency in resolving his ongoing boundary violation. If he isn’t out to everyone he needs to be out to, then he should be making a diligent attempt to come out to everyone as soon as possible, not waiting for the next best opportunity to come out in person. This tells me he doesn’t actually care about honoring the spirit of your boundary (if he understood it at all). You want to have a proper, authentic relationship, not one that you have to selectively filter.

And to quote the venerable Doctor Horrible, the status quo is not quo.

Photo by Egor Lyfar on Unsplash

There is a Japanese proverb that says if you chase two rabbits, you’ll not catch either. Your boyfriend does not get to both:

  • Rabbit 1: Ethically pursue a relationship with you while knowing that this is your boundary.
  • Rabbit 2: Remain in the closet with his distant friends and ask you to selectively filter your social media activity.

If he wants to pursue the first rabbit, he needs to have more proactive plans to ensure that he is fully out of the closet, so that he can adhere to the boundary you initially stated and continue the romantic relationship with you. If he wants to pursue the second rabbit, he needs to acknowledge that he will have to discontinue this romantic relationship – permanently or temporarily – until he decides he is ready to be fully out as polyamorous.

Consider that a lot of cis het ladies are conditioned and socialized to work around cis men in their respective dysfunctions and miscommunications. As such, consider shifting the burden of responsibility onto him – as the person who was responsible for the misunderstanding as well as the miscommunication – and not let him push his responsibilities of doing the emotional labor associated with the process of coming out onto you.

Perhaps a reconciliation of your boundaries as well as reassessment of your relationship status are due. Consider if you’d again accept his proposal to label you as his girlfriend if he asked tomorrow, knowing what you know now. Would you enthusiastically consent to romantically entangling with a person who either so egregiously misunderstood or disrespected your boundaries?

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 girlfriend’s parents rejected her relationship orientation.

My boyfriend and girlfriend are married. A few months ago I spontaneously called my mom while he was on video call with me and outright told her that “This is my boyfriend. Oh, and by the way, he’s married and she’s my girlfriend.” And my mom was okay. As long as I’m happy, shes happy. And then we called my dad with my mom on the line and told him, and he was also glad as long as I was happy. My parents are very openhearted. They understand that even if they wouldn’t do something or if they don’t understand something, that in the end, it’s my choice, my life and if I’m being safe and happy, that’s all that matters. To say I’m blessed with my parents in this way is an understatement.

So soon after, my boyfriend called his parents and we told them. His mom wasn’t completely surprised because she had met me once before in a video call, but she didn’t know me past that. But although the two of them weren’t “expecting” their son to end up having two women in his life in this way, and they might not have agreed with it or understood it, at the end, they accepted that it was his choice, and we were all consenting adults. They weren’t like let’s celebrate this woman, but they would be welcoming during holidays and whatnot. As long as he is happy and can support the responsibilities.

Now, my girlfriend has been avoiding telling her mom because her mom is very traditional, often closed minded. However, she loves her mom more than anything in the entire universe. Her mom is her rock. I don’t know how to express this more. Anyway, she knew it would break her mom if she told her, 1, that she’s bisexual, and 2, that there is a second woman in the relationship, that shes poly. She has been hiding the Bi thing for years. And just recently was it that the 3 of us had become serious to the point of talking about children in the future and whatnot. So the other day when my boyfriend and I were spending time together, we got a call that she finally told her mom. And, it was the outcome she feared so much. Her mom was not okay with it. She was confused and angry and just didn’t look at her daughter with an open heart. And of course this shattered my girlfriend because she loves her mom more than anything. But why she’s so torn is because she also loves her husband equally. But her mom now hates him. Said a lot of terrible terrible things about him. Telling her that she deserves so much better. Telling her that he obviously doesn’t love her if he can love another woman at the same time. Saying that he manipulated her into the triad, and some other just insanely crazy things.

She’s torn. Because she loves and respects her mom and her views, but she’s also worked her ass off to be with her husband. And I promise you, he loves her just as much.

So now we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Because if I leave them, he’ll be shattered.

If he leaves me, he’ll still be shattered, and her mom will still hate him and she cares about her mom.

If girlfriend leaves him, or if he leaves her, she loses everything because her mom can’t honestly support her. And he still loses a part of his heart, but he will still have me.

If girlfriend stays, she loses her mom, who she loves more than anything.

Just, none of us know what to do.

/u/perplexed_panda, /r/polyamory.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Dear Perplexed Panda,

I am a huge fan of Dan Savage. I have been listening to his podcast Savage Lovecast for over a decade. So when his Savage Love Live came into town last year, I convinced both of my partners to attend with me.

If you haven’t been to Savage Love Live, you get a blank paper when you walk in. You can fill it out with a random question, and Dan (and Dan’s team) will pick out what he’ll answer on stage in front of the live audience. Most of the questions he answered on stage were very basic, like “How can I spice things up in the bedroom?” and “Why are chastity belts becoming more common?”

Then he picked my question.

“How can I explain polyamory to my very Christian, very Korean mother?”

I was so shocked. I leaned in, grabbed crushed both of my partners’ hands in each of my hands, and listened intently. After the audience laughter (and audible “oofs”) died down, Dan answered my question with a different question.

He asked…

“What is the burden of not knowing?”

It really is a deceptively short and simple question at sight, but gets to the heart of many relationship questions. What is the price of admission we are willing to pay in order to be with our loved ones? How much does it cost to live in denial or non-recognition of an integral part of who you are?

Dan went on to explain how strained his relationship with his parents became when his conservative, Irish Catholic parents rejected his gay identity. His mother eventually came around to be his most ardent supporter until she passed away in 2008.

I eventually went on to come out as polyamorous to my very Christian, very Korean mother because I thought the cost of living in the closet for the sake of my mother was too high a price of admission to be in my mother’s life. I also considered that my mother had a right to not know. But it went against every fiber of my ethics to continue lying, both by intention and by omission, even if it was for my mother’s benefit.

Photo by Athena on

There is always an inherent risk in opening up to and sharing our vulnerabilities with the ones we love. And that is in rejection or misunderstanding of that vulnerability. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like your girlfriend already acknowledged that there was a very real, implicit risk of rejection when she opened up to her mother about her relationship with you. But decided that opening up to her mother even at the risk of rejection was worth it for the sake of the legitimacy of her relationship with you.

But let’s step away from what your polycule is experiencing at the moment and try to gain a better understanding of your girlfriend’s mother’s perspective. In coming out to her mother, your girlfriend revealed that she is bisexual and polyamorous at the same time. In addition, she revealed that she has a girlfriend that her husband is also dating at the same time. That is a lot of “walls” that were shattered in one singular conversation. Even if her mother wasn’t traditional and more closed minded, it would have been a lot for her to acquiesce with. She had to contend with an image of her daughter that she had in her own head that was very, very different from who she actually is today. In a way, it was a self-perpetuated betrayal, manifesting in her mother’s rejection of reality. And because she didn’t want to believe that she had grown so distanced from the idea of the daughter that she thought she was really close to, she instead redirected all of her pain onto her son-in-law (your boyfriend). Admittedly so, it was not fair for her mother to besmirch her partner in front of her in that way. But recognize that even as irrational and hurtful as it was, it likely wasn’t really intended to be that way.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

This isn’t to say that your girlfriend made an errant calculation or a mistake. You and your partners are talking about eventually caring for a brand new life. That is a level of life commitment that often trumps existing family connections, including the ones you already have with your parents and siblings. She made the right choice.

If we hold that her mother will maintain her view that polyamory is wrong, there is very little that her partners – both married and unmarried – can do. And the best you two can do for your partner in distress is to support, to cherish, and to remind each other that you are all here for each other. Ultimately, your girlfriend’s relationship with her mother is for her to manage, even if that anger is unfairly directed toward your boyfriend and her husband.

And let’s talk about that management for a bit. Your girlfriend isn’t here to receive this advice, but she first needs to acknowledge and understand that the previous relationship that she had with her mother is no more. That past relationship is already lost. It doesn’t mean that it is beyond repair, but it will need to compose of new parts that were lost in part due to this traumatic exchange, but also due to the histories they didn’t share with each other.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice of picking her mother over her relationship orientation. Instead, she needs to focus on how to survive in this new reality. One where she might have to compromise by living in a subdued universe where you both exist. One where she might have to set some strong boundaries against her mother so that she does not openly disrespect your girlfriend’s multiple partners. One where she might have to step away to heal and recover.

Photo by Little Visuals on

To go back to my story, my mother did not take the news well, the news to her that her son had multiple partners. And that rejection completely shook me. I took some time to heal. And when it wasn’t so painful anymore, I reached back out to my mother to let her know that I’ll still be here as her son whenever she is ready to reconnect.

I am really sorry to hear that you and your polycule is going through such a traumatic experience together. It is a big loss, to lose the support from the loved ones. It is traumatic, and I hope that you can use the support that you found through your parents, his parents, and any other poly support networks all three of you developed to heal and recover.

It is important for you three to remember – now more than ever – that an explicit action is not necessary. Healing from pain of rejection is action enough.

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 – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – I suddenly feel so insecure about my RA metamour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Anonymous,

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

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

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on

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

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

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

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

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on

There are three more things to consider.

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – My partner is in an abusive relationship [NSFW].

[TW: Abuse, physical violence.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Anonymous, /r/polyadvice
Photo by Pixabay on

Dear Anonymous,

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

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

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

Photo by NO NAME on

Relationship Trauma and Trauma Bonding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by ShonEjai on

Codependency and Abuse

So let’s talk about Morgan.

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

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

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

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

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on

When Boundaries are Not Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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Responsibility to Self

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

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

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

Good luck.

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

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

Advice – My polyamorous wife is uncomfortable with me dating others.

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

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

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

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

/u/ImOkButIsThatOk, /r/polyamory
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Dear I’m Okay But Is That Okay,

Let’s slow down.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Scott Webb on

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

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

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

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

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

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Now let’s bring everything together.

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

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

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

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

Photo by Burst on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – Our triad is breaking up.

So, we’ll call my gals Jane and Mary. Not their names obviously. We’re all F24, and Jane and Mary have been together 2 years, Mary and I 1 year, and Jane and I 7 years.

Jane wants to break up with Mary.

Mary has severe anxiety, abandonment issues, depression, a lot of Things. We all 3 live together. If Jane breaks up with Mary, I’m afraid I’ll end up pulled between them, a high-pressure crutch between two vulnerable people, and I frankly don’t have the emotional strength for that.

To be perfectly honest, if I’m forced to choose between them, I will choose Jane. We’re basically soul mates, and to be fair, a lot of the same things driving Jane and Mary apart have been putting a thorn in the relationship between me and Mary as well. But I feel weird and wrong dumping her as a duo, just kicking her out of the triad completely. It would destroy her. I’m terrified she’ll need to be hospitalized or something. But I don’t know if Jane and Mary’s relationship is salvageable at this point, either.

I don’t even know if this is a vent or advice post. I’m so confused. Should I just stand back and let Jane do as she wishes, or try to fix this before it’s too late?

Anonymous, /r/polyadvice
Photo by Ena Marinkovic on

Dear Anonymous,

I am really sorry that your polycule is going through this. We already live in a deeply troubling and stressful times, and it sounds like this end to Mary and Jane’s relationship has been some time coming. I’m sure this has been adding additional stress to you to see two of your lovers disconnecting more and more over time. It is never easy watching a romantic connection come to an end, even if you have absolutely no personal stakes in that relationship. You have arguably the most to lose as you’ll have to help both of your partners deal with their respective end to the relationship with each other.

Let’s start with this. Jane has always been able to do as she wishes. It’s part of the relational autonomy we grant ourselves by proactively consenting to the relationships of which we are parts of. Just like you are free to walk away from either Mary or Jane at any point for whatever reason, Jane too is free to walk away from you or Mary at any point for whatever reason. If Jane wants to break up with Mary for whatever reason, there is nothing you can do but to accept and respect Jane’s autonomous decision to do so.

Second is to understand that just like Jane has the autonomy to choose her relationships, so do you. Jane does not get to dictate who chooses whom. I’d argue that a partner who forces you to choose should be no one’s partner. Instead, it might be more beneficial to envision your two post-breakup relationships as individual, non-intersecting planes that now run parallel. Your relationship with Jane will need to be independent from your relationship with Mary.

Photo by Vladyslav Dushenkovskyi on

If you foresee that your relationship with Mary will be too heavy for you to carry on your own following the end of the relationship between Mary and Jane, that it is your own prerogative to also end that relationship with its own unique set of reasons that are independent from Jane’s decision to end her relationship with Mary.

You mentioned that some of Jane’s problems with her relationship with Mary is echoed in your own relationship with Mary as well. Then that should be discussed separately and independently from Jane’s relationship issues with Mary.

Think of it like this. Your relationship with Mary is like chocolate milk. Mary’s relationship with Jane is like cereal with milk. I suppose that makes your relationship with Jane is like chocolate cereal. Chocolate milk, cereal with milk, and chocolate cereal all share similar basic theme with similar ingredients. But the combination of those ingredients make each of those end results completely unique. Even if all the ingredients are the same, how it is prepared and cooked will make it completely different. In the same way, just because Jane could not make a relationship with Mary work does not necessarily mean that you cannot make a relationship with Mary work. Jane is a wholly separate person and human being with completely different human experience than you. The end to their relationship does not need to necessitate an end to yours as well.

That sense of weirdness and wrongness likely stems from a sense of guilt that you preemptively feel toward Mary as you might not be able to support the end of this relationship as well as you could have. It could also stem from feeling as if you’d be participating in Mary’s own ostracization from this particular polycule. By owning your own reasons on ending your relationship with Mary as one that is separate from Jane’s own rationale, you should be able to rationalize and better envelop your guilt in a sense of righteousness.

Photo by Lum3n on

If you decide that you want to continue seeing Mary post-breakup, then the most important step will be to immediately establish proper intrapersonal and interpersonal boundaries that is both fair and respectful of each of your relationships while mindful and conscious to your emotional bandwidth.

This sounds a bit rigid and structured, but setting aside days of the week where they can openly approach you about their respective breakup stress can be a good way for you to diffuse the situation in a productive and proactive way. If setting aside days is not possible, then just setting a timer of an hour where they can just rant and cry and scream (if they need to) is not a bad idea either. Their own headspace is for them to own. And while you can be there to support them through this pain, you cannot manage their pain for them; that is their own responsibility.

At some point, you’ll have to communicate with Jane your own rationale on why you are choosing to stay with Mary, and have a separate talk with Mary to reassure her that you are still staying with her despite what is happening.

Figuring out some longer-term expectation for what comes next should probably be figured out as well. Since you are all living together at the moment, figuring out if one or both of your partners need to move out to a separate place should be discussed. It’ll probably be a bit of an awkward discussion, since we don’t really have a social prototype to tell us what to do when your partner breaks up with your other partner. If living together is the only financially feasible option, then you will all have to figure out what would be the best way to manage and handle this transition while being fair and respectful of each other.

Good luck!

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

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

Advice – I want my husband to date my wife.

I am a hinge in a V, but I would rather the three of us form a triad.

My husband and I have been together for 17 years. My wife and I started out as best friends, but realized we were something more than that about five years ago.

About 2 years ago, my wife and her husband divorced (for reasons other than our setup), and we took a step back so that she could heal. We are just now getting back to where we were before her divorce.

I don’t want to push anything, but my husband and my wife get along marvelously. They share a lot of traits, from political beliefs to sense of humor, etc. I would love for them to be more than friends. I think they would be a great match.

My husband has brought up the fact that he wouldn’t mind dating her, but I told him to hold back while she was dealing with her divorce. Now that she seems to be on the other end of that tunnel, how should I broach the idea of them dating?

We have a pretty good dynamic the way we are now, but honestly, I think we would be closer and happier if we were in a triad.

/u/Gw3nhwyfar, /r/polyamory.
Photo by Adrianna Calvo on

Dear Gw3nhwyfar,

The laws of attraction is rarely just. Relationships are complicated because it requires three major things: match in availability, mutual attraction, and basic chemistry. For example, let’s say that you and a potential interest were mutually attracted to each other and had basic chemistry, but your potential interest was in a monogamous relationship with another. Even if you were single and/or polyamorous, this just would not work. If you and your potential interest were both available and had mutual interest in each other but lacked basic chemistry, it would quickly fall apart as there would be no “spark.” Absent all three, a relationship will quickly unravel.

It is even more challenging to ensure a spark to a new relationship if it involves two of the people you are romantically connected with. Here is why this is such a challenging feat. First, it requires that both your husband and your wife are open to dating others who are in serious relationship with another – you. Even if they have other partners, your husband and/or wife might be currently polysaturated and therefore not looking to build any new connection. And even if they’re both familiar with each other, a romantic connection will be a new one. Second, it requires that both your husband and your wife are each interested in each other. Based on what you have shared, I get the sense that at least your husband has thought once or twice about connecting with your wife. But we have no idea whether or not your wife is interested in your husband in a romantic or a sexual way. Third, it requires that both your husband and wife feel basic chemistry with each other toward each other. I don’t just mean interpersonal chemistry as if they’d be dating each other as folks who are just discovering each other for the first time, but initially as each other’s metamours. Then there is the added potential difficulty of logistics and balance between each of their intertwined relationships.

I wrote in a column a while back that triads are about three times as difficult as a traditional hinge-type poly relationship. Triads are a completely different type of a relationship than functioning as a hinge relationship. It might be more important to get down to why you feel like you want a triad relationship, rather than your husband and your wife being a good match for each other. I get the sense that you have a deep sense of appreciation and affection for each of your partners. And through that appreciation, you might also see compersion through your partners dating each other. What is it about triad relationship that appeals to you in general? And why with these two very specific people?

Photo by Ryan Baker on

If you really are insistent on pursuing a triad relationship, then you need to start lowering your expectations. Relationships cannot be forced. And if a relationship is on a roll, its natural rhythm can rarely ever be stopped. Love and care is often beyond reason and stands often times against reason and logic. And instead of coming from a place of “I would really like for them to have a romantic relationship with each other”, perhaps start from “I would really like for them to get closer”.

Once you have properly set your expectation, allow for them to forge and foster their own connection at their own pace. This isn’t the place for you to assert yourself by declaring your desire for them to connect as lovers. Even if the romantic potential is there (as you stated), it is completely and wholly beyond your sense of agency as the hinge partner of the two relationships. Instead, allow them space and time to build and establish a wider foundation for them to build a different house atop their current existing one. Give them space to better flesh out the type of connection they each want to have with each other.

I’ll leave you off with this thought. I’ve had a handful of deep and enriching connections with my metamours that never intensified to a sexual or a romantic relationship. Adding sex or attaching romantic aspirations to those connections might have soured the incredible connection that we had as metamours. There are a lot of different shades and depth of connection that is just as invigorating as an intense lustful connection and just as relaxing as a long-term connection with whom you’ve developed an immense amount of trust with. Keep that in mind.

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!