Advice – How can we address couple’s privilege in a quad?

I am in a square-shaped polycule where my nesting partner is dating my boyfriend’s wife. It had very complicated beginnings due my nesting partner breaking my trust early on but we eventually settled into this dynamic.

For a while now, it feels like our lives revolve around the other couple. At first I thought it was more of an adjustment period but I’ve been with my boyfriend 8 months and nesting partner with meta now 4 months.

There’s kids and jobs in both households and we live about an hour from each other. I completely understand having to work around schedules but lately feel like it’s always their call and I have little to no say, almost like a “third”. My nesting partner also doesn’t get treated well in regards to time, but he doesn’t like to speak out and just accepts as things are which is frustrating because I feel like I am on my own here.

How do I discuss in a non-confrontational way that they are using their couple’s privilege in a harmful way that feels unhealthy for all of us and that my pain is not just an over-reaction but I’m actually being hurt by the way things are and honestly they are hurting each other when they bump heads on how to divvy up time, attention, and resources especially without involvement of us as their partners in the conversation.

Mary, Reddit.

Dear Mary,

Couple’s privilege is usually defined as the strength of the originating dyad improperly overpowering any new existing partnerships from occupying the appropriate relational space. A common example of couple’s privilege is relationship priority, or explicit hierarchy. There is actually a pretty good example of an implicit couple’s privilege inherent in your post as well. When you say that you don’t feel that your nesting partner gets treated well, you are able to say so with conviction because you have added clairvoyance into his thought process that the other couple isn’t immediately privy to. So I’m not sure if there is a problem with a couple’s privilege in your situation, even if there exists a natural privilege in your own relationship with your nesting partner.

In fact, I think that when you say that you feel like “a third”, you are actually trying to say that you feel like you lack a sense of agency in the decision making process within your polycule. And that lack of agency is really the core issue at hand.

In a recent column, I wrote that “[y]ou never just date people on a blank slate; you also date their circumstances.” And Mary, I think that philosophy is something we all need to be considerate of in our relationships. As you noted, there are existing life commitments that need to be accounted for, such as careers and children. Not only that, you two live an hour away from the couple you are dating together. However, even if those aspects were not in the picture, we have existing agreements and expectations to uphold and honor with our existing partners. And those can conflict with emerging new agreements and expectations, creating inevitable friction between the echoes of two dyads.

This isn’t to say that your pain is invalid.

It can feel incredibly disempowering to feel out of your element in your romantic relationships. In specific, if you feel that you have to constantly check in with and clear schedules through them, of course it is going to feel unhealthy and painful.

It is further perpetuated in the echoing conflicts in your own relationship with your nesting partner. Even if he can also recognize that this aspect of the relationship is challenging, he doesn’t feel as bad about the imbalance and relative lack of agency in his two relationships. And from your perspective, that unfortunately exacerbates the underlying frustration you feel. This in turn makes you feel alone and isolated in a love of four.

When you say that your partner does not get treated well in terms of time, it is possible that he himself doesn’t necessarily feel that way in his relationship with your metamour. It is very difficult to truly assess someone else’s lived experiences without being in their bodies. And externally projecting your internalized pain upon your partner’s relationship is a possibility you need to be aware of.

So when you ask how you can engage in a non-confrontational but meaningful dialogue, you aren’t just asking how you can talk to the other couple; you are also asking how you might engage in a non-confrontational but meaningful dialogue with your nesting partner as well.

And I think that might be the best place to start this discussion: with your nesting partner.

Sympathetically connecting with your nesting partner on the subjective reality of your feelings accomplishes two specific goals.

The first goal is that it helps ground you into your feelings. While your pain is valid, many of the feelings we feel are often irrational. And like dusting a house with open windows, we sometimes just need open channels to get our bad feelings pass through us.

The second goal is that getting on the same page with your nesting partner will help you rebuild that troubled trust from prior violations. It can be very difficult to mindfully rebuild upon a shaky foundation. And intentionally re-establishing a more fundamental foundation will help you feel more aligned for not just this quad relationship, but for all other relationships you might forge together in the future.

This discussion might look a bit like a deeper fleshing out of the pain that you each feel in this quad relationship dynamic where you take turns candidly speaking your respective experiences, then relate to each other about each other’s pains.

And that brings us back to the core conflict at hand: lack of agency.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to ground your experiences in each other’s lived realities, the next goal is to communicate so with the couple you two are dating together. In the same way you sat down with your nesting partner to have a frank and honest discussions about each of your pains, sit down with your partner and metamour and have a frank and honest discussions about the challenges you four each faced throughout this relationship.

It might be very beneficial for you to phrase your experiences in “I” statements (such as “When the dates are scheduled around your availability, I feel that I lack agency in our relationship.”) to help each of your partners understand how you feel about your relationship. This will give each of your partners an opportunity to step in and acknowledge to your pains. And only once you’ve all acknowledged that this is a pain point that needs to be address can you proactively move forward to an action plan that might help you feel more empowered in your relationship.

In reality, that action plan might look a bit more like your partner and metamour being more intentional in planning around meet ups that is both mindful to your schedule as well as theirs. Nevertheless, it’ll have to be a group effort to make sure that you all can deconstruct this specific privilege in your quad together.

Good luck!

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

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Advice – I fell in love with a play partner.

Photo by Ngô Trọng An on

/u/throwaway97651aba on /r/nonmonogamy and on/r/polyamory writes…

“Just little background first….wife and I have been poly for a few years now. Started off dating together, then separately as well. Our communication is great. We share everything with each other and are comfortable discussing any difficult topics as we work through things together.

Fairly recently we started dating another couple. We’ll call them Jack & Jill. They were mostly into just finding play friends before the 4 of us met. Things clicked almost immediately between all 4 of us and we’ve all kind of decided it’s more relationship than not which is totally new for them and something we’re still not super experienced with ourselves. My wife plays with both Jack and Jill, we all play together and sometimes separately, and even Jack and I have begun to play a little.

Obviously different people are going to connect in varying degrees. However the connection between Jill and I is particularly strong. Even in dating others, my wife and I have made some amazing friends and connections but this one feels different. Jill and I are both very unsure what this means in the context of our own relationships. We both love our spouses more than anything which makes this situation all the more confusing. More than anything, we don’t want anyone getting hurt or upset. We only get to see each other when the 4 of us hang out and it’s almost impossible to keep our hands off each other. I can tell that on occasion, this makes my wife feel somewhat left out. She is aware of how Jill and I feel about each other.

I guess to put it simply, all 4 of us love each other, but Jill and I are definitely In Love with each other. How do we navigate these new feelings? I can’t stand the thought of this hurting my wife in any way, but I also can’t imagine not having Jill in my life as a romantic partner at this point. Any advice or experience would be immensely helpful. Thanks in advance!”

Dear throwaway97651aba,

I am really happy to hear that you found this fundamentally strong connection with Jill! The relationship dynamic overall you have with your wife, Jack, and Jill is so phenomenal.

One of the reasons why dyad relationships are difficult is because two very different people come together – each with their own respective life experiences – to form a one relationship. Polyamorous relationships are by degrees more difficult to maintain due to how many more people it requires to be on board with the overall model.

Both you and your wife have had a lot of polyamorous dating experience, in dating together and separately. But this specific situation of intense feelings toward a quad partner is probably something new. It sounds like you’ve done your basic level of communication with your wife to include her on the recent development of your new feelings toward Jill. Her sense of feeling left out might be her emotional labor to handle. I read it in two different ways. One way could be that your wife is feeling FOMO in your newfound connection towards Jill. Or she could be feeling left out in not developing the same romantic connection towards Jill or Jack. You might also benefit from playing the hypothetical games with your wife to map out what this relationship could look like with everyone involved. Talk about how she plans to keep her jealousy toward your previously-just-mutual-play-partner in check. Whatever the case is, keep up the good work and stay connected with your wife by continuing to communicate where your headspace is at.

Photo by Olga Islamkina on

More importantly, Jack and Jill also need to be on the same page about this new development as well. Considering that Jack and Jill were originally introduced as play friends, they might need to reconfigure some expectations to allow for both dating separately and developing intense feelings for other people at the same time. You did say relationship aspect is totally new for them, so they are probably going to have some intense growing pains to experience. Giving them space to process this by themselves and together might be a good idea. Being present in your respective relationships will help a lot, but that is something more for Jack and Jill to figure out.

If all things go well, you should take Jill out on a one-on-one date outside of this group dynamic to see how it feels and if that electric chemistry extends to space outside of your comfort zones as well.

Again. I am really happy for you that you found more capacity love in this wild, crazy world. Keep doing you and don’t forget to appreciate the blueness of your sky at this moment.

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!