Metamour makes all the rules

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

My partner J and I have been dating almost a year, though due to our schedules/long distance we only hang out 1–2 weekends on average a month. We call and text often. We tell each other we love each other. J has a long-term (several years) nesting partner, B. They live together, share finances, are fluid bonded, etc. Although they’ve been poly[am] this whole time, they haven’t really had other super involved/long-term partners. I am now in the picture and J has expressed interest in deepening and growing our relationship. When I stay at their house, I sleep in J’s room with him, B and I have coffee in the morning together, and so on…

Meanwhile, B has been working through a lot of heavy past trauma. She and I hang out and connect, although we don’t have a deep friendship. She has expressed her happiness that J and I are together, although she’s also expressed some minor things that lead me to question if she’s felt a little possessive at times.

Enter The Incident. One night, after we all went to a show together, we all came back to their place. J and I went into his room for privacy. We’re a little tipsy and we get in the mood and then he asked me to have sex without a condom. We have been honest about our sexual history and testing with each other, and he’s always been super committed to maintaining agreements and boundaries (yes, while inebriated). So I trusted that he had discussed this with B. I know it’s not my responsibility, but I do wish I had asked for clarification about their agreements right then. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, B was elsewhere and was working through some presumably unrelated emotional stuff. B had a really rough night. J stayed with me. I didn’t try to navigate this situation because I don’t know how they work together when stuff comes up (example: I get PMDD and cry a lot, no big deal, I can be alone).

Well, as you may guess, turns out they had NOT discussed J and I having unprotected sex, and they had a previous agreement around using protection with other partners. B is devastated at the broken trust. B also feels like J was not there for her that night. J obviously fucked up bad by proposing unprotected sex to me. Everyone is upset. B and I talked extensively about it. J began an accountability process.

Fast forward 4 months: B has felt intense anxiety and anger whenever J and I hang out. B still does not trust J. B no longer wants to hear about me or our relationships and feels triggered whenever I come up in conversation. B and J’s long-term relationship is on the rocks. B has requested that J and I have a no-contact period (6 weeks) so they can focus on repairing their relationship. Well… I’m not interested in waiting around with no contact. One of my basic needs in partnership is availability, and we were already long distance. And what happens if B is not feeling safe after 6 weeks?

Basically, if we are going to have no-contact, I am ending the relationship. I understand they want to fix things… but after telling me they are committed to polyamory and that they don’t have a primary partnership, it surprises and angers me that I need to end my relationship with J over this. I want to be compassionate to their dilemma, but I have my own needs as well. J is really upset at this proposal too, but reluctantly willing to do what she asks in order to try to repair their relationship.

Have you ever experienced a meta’s request to put your relationship on hold? Is there ever a “hold period” you would considerable acceptable, and for what reasons? Have you ever navigated this kind of complicated poly[am] + trauma + relationship instability? Is this related to hierarchy or just difficult relationship stuff? What would you do?

All due respect, you are way too involved in this situation.

When I say this, I don’t mean that people need to hypercompartmentalise or not care at all how their partner behaves in other relationships. Or that you can’t be friends with or sympathise with your metamour. But I also think boundaries are really important because either your shared partner can not step up and manage their own situation or you can step in out of habit and think that this is your situation to manage.

You’re right in that it wasn’t out of place for you to assume, when asking to have unprotected sex with you, that J had spoken to B about it. There’s nothing wrong with you making that assumption in the moment, especially inebriated. In the future, though, I wouldn’t assume this and I’d ask just to check to avoid this type of situation.

There’s so much about this situation you know that you don’t need to know, which is really not your business and isn’t your problem to solve. I’m guessing if you talk to B, she might have personally revealed her struggles but if she’s never explicitly spoken to you about her mental health struggles or trauma, this may be also a huge violation of her privacy. I’d be personally livid if one of my partners decided to tell another partner they had all about a mental breakdown I had or even tell them I’m struggling with mental health. It’s not to say I’m ashamed but my mental health is my business and I don’t care for people not involved in it to know the details.

Regardless of the details you know, at the end of the day, J fucked up. J didn’t speak to B about this when they are fluid bonded, causing a major rift in their relationship. It sounds like J and B have not worked out how to manage the anxiety within the relationship in a way that makes B feel secure so she is grasping at straws, trying to establish this weird ‘no-contact’ rule to basically force J to behave how he should within the relationship. This rule is delaying the inevitable and is effectively pointless. If J cannot give B the attention she needs or work it out with her while their relationship is open, going no-contact will not work because, as soon as contact is resumed the problem will continue. Going no-contact assumes the problem is with you when the problem is with J. And you can’t make rules to force people to behave or think in ways that you want them to.

But none of this is really your concern ultimately. J needs to address the problems in his relationship with B and manage that himself. He needs to not make you party to this so much that you feel it’s somehow your responsibility to fix this. It isn’t your responsibility, it’s J’s. And you being involved in this won’t fix J’s relationship with B. He needs to fix that himself and make a decision about what he’s going to do with B and he needs to stand in his own decisions and not use you as backup.

My advice is to step out of being the consult in this situation. If J needs someone to talk to about this, he needs to either find a friend who isn’t involved romantically with him or he needs to find a therapist. State very clearly that you’re not going to accept a ‘no-contact’ scenario and then let him make his decisions and fix his own relationship.

As difficult as it might be for you, you need to step away from it and set some clear boundaries with J about what he can discuss with you about his relationship with B — and set those boundaries too with B as well. At present you’re not a triad and I don’t see that you’re planning to be so, there’s no reason you need to be involved.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Comments from the therapist

It is incredibly hard to restore trust in a partner after that kind of breach though! I feel for both the OP and for B. I do think it’s okay for J to reduce interaction with the OP for a brief time, like maybe a once a week phone call, so he can focus his energy on repairing with the person he hurt. I don’t like that it’s coming across as a “rule” put in place by B though. I wonder if OP has considered how skilled J is at relationships though, given the mistake he made?

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Energy for everyone but you

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

What I’m struggling with is that my partner has very little energy and is anti-social with PTSD attached. Because of this, I am the primary caretaker of our daughter and I also tend my partners daily needs. I become insecure when my partner manages to muster the energy to drive and see her potential partner, but consistently doesn’t have the energy to drive to pick up or drop off our kid at school. Because of my doing for all of us, she has no responsibilities. I wake with our kid, get her ready and take her to school, pick her up, get groceries, cook, bathe child, read child to sleep, etc. These things I have no problem doing. I have a problem when my partner decides she wants to attempt being more generally able by chasing after romance elsewhere. I feel very insecure in my relationship and I want to. Please help.

This is such an incredibly difficult situation to be in and I want to first convey my sympathies. It can be so difficult to feel like your partner cares more about finding a new love than providing you the support that you need.

The most important aspect here isn’t necessarily your partner’s behaviour now because sometimes I do think, especially people who struggle with mental health problems, are always fully aware of how their actions impact others. I’m not sure what conversations you’ve had with her already and how fruitful they have been, but it’s possible she’s not fully aware of just how much you’re juggling. And sometimes, the amount of energy one has for tasks that have what seems like a reward that might solve a problem is more than the amount of energy one has for other things.

However, I find it very difficult personally to extend more leeway when there is a child involved especially because that child does not get to choose their parents. You can dump someone if they refuse to meet your needs but your daughter cannot just get a new mother. Consider what her actions would say about her if she weren’t living with you. She’d essentially be a deadbeat parent. It’s not acceptable for someone to shift all of the parental responsibility onto one parent and if they’re going to do that, they can at least give you the freedom of moving out, separating themselves from your and your child’s life and let you have the freedom of not taking care of them as well as your own child.

I’m not suggesting this is the option to go on because for perfectly understandable reasons, you’re only going to want separation to be a last resort, but it is something that you may need at least think about and mentally plan for if she’s unwilling to pick up slack. There are some people both in monogamy and polyamory who don’t like to do the dirty work of breaking up but will instead make a relationship so unbearable that they leave their partner no other choice so that they don’t have to take responsibility for their own decisions and… given her lack of ability to take responsibility, this may be what will happen.

But in the meantime, you can set some very clear boundaries about things. You need to sit down and explain that this situation is untenable for you and not fair to your daughter. If she has energy to go and see new loves, she has energy to be a parent. If she is going to be a parent, she needs to step up and take care of her daughter. You can be sympathetic to the fact that she may be struggling with mental health problems and start by giving her some small duties to start up (such as reading your child to sleep) and working up until the distribution of labour is more equal. And, if she wants to have a night off, then that can only be scheduled when *you* have a scheduled night off and she is able to take over while you go out and hang out with your friends as much as you’d like.

Regardless of her energies for being a parent, you need to take a good, hard look at how you tend to her daily needs and really consider if what you’re doing isn’t going to drive you to resentment. I struggle with this a lot. In relationships, it’s sort of my natural state to give and sometimes I give to people as a way of establishing interest and intimacy with them and they don’t see it as that so quite often I find myself having given a lot to a person and getting taken advantage of because either the person intended that or they didn’t have the boundaries in place to say ‘no’ to me being giving. My experience is that many people don’t know how to say ‘no’ to someone who is giving more than they are comfortable with so you will have to learn how to be aware when resentment is growing for you.

I don’t think everything in relationships always has to be 50/50, especially since life happens and sometimes we need more support at times than our partners do. And you may enjoy supporting your partner in some ways. But be aware when it starts to make things difficult as it can when someone seems to have more energy for romance than they do for giving you the support you need too. Be willing to withdraw that support and secure your own mask and your daughter’s mask so that you can make sure you’re taken care if she continues to refuse to have the energy to devote to your family.

In summation, I think you need to consider what will happen if she refuses to give you any additional support but for the time being, be explicitly clear about what the consequences of her continued neglect of the family will do and what you want her to pitch in. Start with a few tasks and ramp up until there is more of a distribution of duties. You will be anxious and scared because she has to build up the trust with you that she will step up and do the things you need her to do to raise your daughter, but give her the chance to show that to you. And lastly, really consider the role you play in supporting her and whether or not that is actually benefiting you as a whole or will inevitably lead to resentment.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 23: Abusive Metamours

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

What happens when you feel pressured to associate with an abusive metamour?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. We’re also introducing discussion topics this week.

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Discussion Topic: What slightly unhealthy things feel attractive in a partner? How might this relate to your relationships with your parents?


Episode 23 – Abusive Metamours

Your partner is trapped in what you think is a psychologically abusive relationship. Can you get them to leave? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What slightly unhealthy things feel attractive in a partner?

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at

Podcast transcript


I’m in a poly[am] relationship, my current girlfriend started to have feelings for someone else and we decided it was allowed for us to have a polyamorous relationship for a short term of time. I’ve met this girl and her personality is my complete opposite so I didn’t like her. Rough exterior and her actions of making fun of the relationship in Im by telling me I’m not enough. And every time she doesn’t get her way she goes suicidal.

So my girlfriend has been pressuring me more and more so she could spend more time with her and extend the period of which we’re doing this. She still chooses to have me in the picture, it seems like psychological abuse and I feel stuck in between a relationship with my girlfriend and babysitting an unstable woman. My girlfriend hasn’t told anyone about her, but everyone in the girls life knows about the situation. And as much as everything feels like my girlfriend is pushing me away I have to put on a smile for family events or friendly gatherings.

How do I end this relationship?

I love my girlfriend and I know she loves me to, I just don’t want to keep dealing with the insecurities and harm this other girl brings and the guilt trip she gives my girlfriend.


So, there a few things in here at that are very big red flags that I want to point out, which I kind of feel like you already know are red flags. It’s fine if you don’t like the person that your partner wants to date. That’s fine. For some people, that’s not ideal but this kind of goes beyond that. Like it’s not just that you don’t get along, it’s that she makes fun of you or she makes fun of the relationship you have with your girlfriend and tells you you’re not enough and then you say if she doesn’t get her way, which I don’t necessarily know what that means, but she becomes suicidal at certain points.

You know, if you had said that she becomes suicidal at certain points, it would be one thing. Because quite a lot of people do deal with suicidal ideations and it is a difficult thing for some people to be able to know how to respond to. But the fact that you… Not only does she make fun of your relationship, makes fun of you, tells you that you’re not enough really really bothers me in this situation. Like you say it seems like psychological abuse and it is very much looking like psychological abuse in this situation. Unfortunately, when it comes to someone in an abusive relationship, forcing your girlfriend to leave this other person or trying to force her will not work because essentially you become just like the person who is abusing her. You’re trying to force her to do things. You’re trying to guilt trip her into doing things and that will never work. And it’s really difficult for a lot of people who are either in relationships with or who are friends and family of someone who is in an abusive situation.

You also should not be expected to sit back and take this or deal with this. Like… you by sitting back and not doing anything about also won’t necessarily help the situation. Because it just allows this person to continue to manipulate your partner. I would suggest, and I do recommend this book quite often to a lot of different people, there’s a book called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft. Although the title is gendered, Lundy Bancroft does realise that anyone can be abusive but just that the title is kind of more about his experience working specifically with abusive men. But I do think that that book could be incredibly valuable to you. Both in recognising abusive patterns and also in helping you cope with the situation and understand what is helpful when you’re in the situation and what isn’t. If you can get your girlfriend to read it, even better but I don’t necessarily think that her other partner will react to that book very well.

What you can do in this situation other than saying, “You know what? I can’t deal with this. I’m gone.” is you can set very very firm boundaries, and this is something that anyone can do even when they just don’t get along or don’t like their metamour. This is actually something that monogamous people can do if you know their partners best friend, they can’t stand them. I mean, it is very worrying to me— I will kind of highlight before I go into this — that your girlfriend, you know… It’s one thing to have partners who don’t get along. It’s another for one partner to say that the other partner isn’t enough. That’s a personal attack and your girlfriend really shouldn’t put up with that. Like compartmentalisation is one thing and I get that. You know different people, different relationships. But when one person… even I don’t know…

To me as a person, I’ve always been mystified by people who can compartmentalize things as such where they can be best friends with someone who has been nasty and disgusting to other people that they claim to be friends with. I don’t get that. That’s not how I am. That’s not how I operate. Generally speaking, if I consider someone a friend, anyone who attacks them or hurts them is not going to be my friend and I don’t understand—  friend, let alone partner— so I don’t really understand people who can do that. I’ll give a little bit of credit to your girlfriend because if she is in a psychologically abusive relationship, even if she does feel like that the girl  shouldn’t attack you, she may just not have any… she may be too scared to say anything because as you said is if you know… if she is prone to using suicidal threats as a means of control then that may be what will happen and she might not want that to happen.

But what you can do in the situation, is you can set some very very firm boundaries. You don’t really say what the living situation here is. Like if your girlfriend lives with you, how close is other girlfriend lives. But you can say, “You know what…”— if you share a place together, you can say, “You know, I don’t really want this person in my house.” You can ask your… you know because you don’t need to know about— you don’t need to babysit this person, as you said and you can say “I don’t want to hear anything about her. I don’t want to… you know, you can come to me if you are scared or if you are feeling upset but I don’t want to be the person who can give you advice because I can’t”. And it’s ok to set that boundary.

Like… one time a person I was dating was really good friends with someone who was a total jerk to me and that was fine but you know, when my partner would bring them up in conversation I would be like, “I don’t really want to hear about this person”. And maybe that seems extreme to some people but if the opposite of that is you end up holding in all this resentment and it sours a relationship anyway because you haven’t set that boundary and you haven’t said, “I don’t want to hear about this person. Please don’t talk to me about them because I don’t like them and it’s only going to create resentment if you sort of force me to have to deal with this person.” You know it seems quite cold and it seems quite harsh but sometimes I do think that people have to reach a kind of point where they they can reckon what the abusive relationship is doing and sometimes that can lead to that.

Now it’s really important that you do this in a loving way and that’s why I recommend that book because it really shows you like how to enforce these kind of boundaries and how important this for you not to be like “Don’t talk about her! I don’t want to hear anything about her! I hate her!” So you don’t become just another abusive person that’s sort of pushing and pulling her in this tug of war. But you are setting very clear boundaries and you can say how you feel about this. “I don’t feel like this relationship is healthy. I don’t feel like this is ok. I don’t feel like she’s good for you. It’s unacceptable that she uses suicidal threats to manipulate you and I don’t want to hear anything about her”.

And those are things that are ok for you to say. You can set those firm boundaries. But you also need to make it very clear that you are there to support her if she is really scared or if she needs it. The good thing is… I mean hopefully she doesn’t live with his girlfriend. If she does live with this girlfriend and it doesn’t seem like that would be the case in this situation. Like it seems like it’s more likely that you would live with your partner and then this girlfriend would be not living with you. If she’s living with you that creates more complicated situations about leases and then you may have to kind of think about a lawyer or finding a way to figure out what your legal recourse is here.

Maybe if not a lawyer than something like a renter’s alliance. But you don’t have to keep just putting on a smile. You can clearly set your boundaries. And it might be like, in setting your boundaries, that your girlfriend reacts badly to that. She might be really really upset by that but you need to really remember what the alternative is here. The alternative is you as you said, putting a smile on your face, the resentment growing and growing within you, you feeling angry and angrier and then you just leaving. You don’t want to have to deal with these… the harm that this person has bringing in both of your lives and you don’t have to deal with it. She can… It’s not necessarily that you’re asking for a don’t ask don’t tell situation where you don’t know that she’s with someone else. You know that she is with someone else but you don’t need to hear about it.

You don’t. You don’t need to like… I have partners who date people— I have no idea what goes on. I don’t know what goes on. I don’t know about their partners. I don’t need to know about any of that and that’s not necessarily because I’ve sent those boundaries but just because you can totally have a polyamorous relationship where you don’t really know very much about your metamours. Like that is a thing and it’s not don’t ask don’t tell. It’s more like I didn’t ask so no one’s telling. So you can not ask and also set that boundary of “I don’t want to know”  if you know… if you don’t want to be responsible for it then that’s kind of the best way you can go about it. I recommend as well like encouraging your girlfriend, if it’s an option, to get therapy. Because I do think a therapist is going to be someone who can really make her look at the situation and also advise her— you could even kind of suggest, based on the fact that this person is making suicidal threats, that your girlfriend go to a therapist for advice on how to deal with that, on how to best support the girlfriend.

And it might be that through talking with the therapist, the therapist has the… not has the ability because they are separate from the situation, but also the training and the understanding and the knowledge to be able to say “Maybe you shouldn’t be in this relationship. Maybe it is psychological abuse and maybe it’s not good for you”. That’s kind of what therapy should do for people in general is help them come to terms with things like that. But you cannot do that. You cannot be that therapist for her unfortunately. And I don’t think you should just cut your losses at this point because it’s also really really important— the one thing that abusers do, and you’ll figure this out as well through the book I recommended, is try to isolate their victims. So there’s a reason why and this is why it’s a red flag. The reason why she’s kind of picking at you and saying you’re not enough is that she wants you to get sick of it and leave so that she can have this person to herself.

And then she isolates, isolates, isolates and that kind of is how she’s going to win. I bet.. It wouldn’t surprise me a single bit if she went to meet your girlfriend’s family and started picking at that relationship too. And that might be another thing that you can reach out to. You know, family events or friendly gatherings, your mutual friends and your family banning together and just kind of making sure she doesn’t basically feel like she has no one because that’s the worst situation. Like it’s so difficult for people in abusive relationships to leave their abuser quite often because they are isolated. They have no other options and if you give her options and her family gives her options on then that will help her.

And I do also think as well like if you make sure her family… give the book to her family. Make sure her family understand the situation that she’s in. Then if at some point you feel like, “You know what? I really can’t continue. I’ve tried to put these boundaries”. Because you need to also decide what you’re going to do when those boundaries are crossed. You know, you can’t say “I have this boundary” and then someone keeps pushing and pushing. If there’s no consequences to someone violating your boundary that you’ve set, they you know they’re going to keep doing it.

So you might have to really think about, “Ok if I say I don’t want to hear anything about this person and then I keep getting pulled in, pulled in, pulled in to the drama, then at some point, I’m going to have to go.” And that’s ok. It’s ok. I’m not saying like stay in this forever but what I am saying is that if you have to enforce that boundary and leave, you can still say you know “I’m doing this because I don’t want to be a part of this. I think it’s unhealthy but I’m always here for you if you need me. If you need to get away, I’m always here for you”. If your girlfriend’s living with you and the only other option is for her to move in with the girlfriend. Then you’re gonna… I would get help from her family.

Like hopefully her family isn’t abusive or terrible but her family need to know that she’s in this situation, that she is you know teetering on the precipice of being in a very abusive situation and you can’t be expected to stay around and pull her out of it especially if you’re also getting the flack from this person. So her family can be that person to step in if you decided “You know what, I can’t deal with this anymore I need to tap out. I need to go away for a while. I need to think”. Her family may be the people who can come in or your mutual friends, people who really care about her. Do not let this person chip away at her relationships because you know if other people are around to ground your girlfriend and say “Hey this isn’t ok,” eventually she’s going to realise it’s not her responsibility to save someone from suicide.

I know that’s a really harsh thing to say and I know that’s s difficult thing for a lot of people to deal with but unfortunately there are people who are suicidal and need help and that’s totally valid. And I think even when someone is threatening suicide as a cry for help that’s not necessarily good reason to ignore their cry for help. They do need help. However there are people who are abusive and who use suicidal threats as a way to manipulate people and that is not acceptable and not ok and I do think that if you… if that is happening to you or happening to anyone who’s listening to this then you setting your boundary of not responding to that threat— I think people feel really bad about it because they think, “Oh what if I am responsible for that person committing suicide?” And you’re not responsible for that. Your girlfriend isn’t responsible for that and eventually she’s going to be able to learn this. But it’s going to take a little bit of time.

So to sum up everything, I think your girlfriend in a very very difficult situation. I think your gut instinct is right. Whether or not you like her is kind of the irrelevant and I wouldn’t really bring that into any discussions. It’s the fact that knew she is making fun of your relationship and telling you you’re not enough. Those are unacceptable things and you shouldn’t have to deal with those. But I do think it’s really important for you to realise how difficult of a situation that your girlfriend is in because if this partner is already using suicidal threats to manipulate her behaviour, than it is psychological abuse.

And you know it’s kind of hard for me to say at this point whether that’s the case or whether this is a person who does genuinely need help and maybe isn’t aware of their actions— either way it’s.. her behaviour isn’t acceptable and so you kind of have to recognise a complicated situation that you’re in and a complicated situation that your girlfriend is in and be there to support your girlfriend. However you are allowed to establish very firm boundaries about this. You don’t have to be held personally responsible for this person. For managing their mental health. You don’t have to be personally responsible. You don’t have to put up with insults. You can put those boundaries up. You can say, “I don’t want to have this person in my house. I don’t want to be around them. I don’t want to hear about them.”

You can put those firm boundaries up. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to sound harsh. Your girlfriend may not like it very much but you are allowed to put those boundaries up. And lastly you need to really think about what you’re going to do if and when those boundaries are crossed. You know it might be that as soon as you put these boundaries up and you outright, blunt to her face say “I don’t think this relationship is healthy, you know. She’s making fun of me and our relationship saying I’m not enough and she’s using suicidal threats to manipulate you and I think it’s an abusive situation” and maybe if and when you say that your girlfriend goes, “Oh crap I don’t even realise that.” Who knows?

But you need to kind of think about the worse situation and decide what you’re going to do if you do have those boundaries crossed and she doesn’t respect that you don’t want to hear about this person and you keep getting pulled and pulled and pulled back into this drama.

And also like… Again reach out to her family and mutual friends that you have and do your best to kind of… I’m not saying have an Intervention because, you know, unless you get advice from a psychologist that that’s a good idea I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a good idea. But it’s always good for those people because people really don’t understand it. And they get… you know they have someone in their life who’s in an abusive situation and what they do is that the demand that they leave that abusive person. The person doesn’t do it and then they go, “Fine. If you won’t leave, I’ll leave,”. And that’s what the abuser is hoping for, that everyone gets sick of it and leaves and abandons this this person so that they have them all to themselves.

So it’s really really important that, even if you decide that you can’t deal with being in a relationship anymore with her and you want to take a step back and you want to say, “I’m done with this however if you ever need help in an emergency call me.” Or if there is a situation where are you have to get separate houses or you have to move out or something like that… that’s a situation that potentially makes this way more complicated because then the girlfriend can move in and she’s kind of sinking the claws in even more if she is abusive and it’s not helpful. But that’s why you need the family and mutual friends because they should be able to step in and say “hey, come home and stay with me and we’ll talk about this” and they should be able to provide that support rather than her just leaning even more heavily on this person who is… doesn’t sound very good for her.

So yeah. That is what I think that is the best for you to do in the situation. I’m really really sorry that you’re having a deal with this. One last thing that I want to mention is that, you mention that your girlfriend started to have feelings for someone else and you decided that it was ok for you guys have a polyamorous relationship for a short period of time. In the future, I think some people choose polyamory as an option so they don’t have to break up and I think that sometimes that works but it really only works of both people understand what they get out of it and I am not really sure if you get anything out of this relationship being polyamorous.

It just seems like your girlfriend had feelings for someone else and you agreed to it because the only other option was losing your girlfriend and that’s really really unfortunate but I do think that after this storm has blown over you really need to think about if polyamory is actually even for you. Aside from this person that your partner is dating been a terrible human being or sounds like at latest, is polyamory something you actually want to do or is it just something you’re doing for her? Because you say “for a short period of time” but that’s just not the way feelings work. And especially if what you’re pursuing is polyamory which is about multiple romantic relationships which isn’t something that would maybe be a short period of time like sexual exploration or things like that, so you can’t really like… you can’t put a stopper on the human heart, to be a bit sappy. But you really can’t.

You can’t sort of say “Ok I’ll let you have this relationship for a bit but after 5 months that’s it.” You might think that and she may have agreed to that but it’s just really… that’s not a realistic thing for any relationship. You can’t kind of stop people from having feelings for people and it’s also kind of really harsh for… I mean if you can imagine… I think you can put yourself in into the shoes of someone who has feelings for someone and then someone comes along and says “Well that’s it.” It’s not only… I mean, the terrible actions of the person aside, it’s not really fair on either of them to just be like “Well that’s it. You’re done now. The time is up”.

She may have agreed to that but it’s not very realistic and I wouldn’t have agreed to that in the beginning. I would have probably suggested that if she really wanted to date this other person that she go about it and I mean it’s kind of lucky in a way that she didn’t because you’re at least there and it doesn’t sound like this relationship is good. And it might be that after this has blown over as well, she might want to figure out what it is about this person like… that’s why I’m hoping her family isn’t abusive. I’m hoping this isn’t a pattern of her identifying behaviours that maybe she grew up around and seeing them in other people and gravitating toward them because it’s something she finds familiar. Hopefully that’s not the case.

But yeah I think you know… the deeper question about whether or not polyamory is for you or is serving you or something you’re actually interested in is something that you probably need to explore. But first you know set some boundaries around this and read the book “Why Does He Do That”. It’s a really really good book. I feel like I should have an affiliate link at this point but it’s a really really great book and it opened my eyes to so many things and also made me feel less helpless in a lot of these situations and I think that’s what you might need. And if you as well have the facilities to get a therapist to support you, please do so because that will also help. So yeah definitely put some boundaries up around this and there are ways you can support her through this but ultimately she has to make the decision to stop seeing this other person unfortunately you cannot do that for her as crappy as that is. I hope this helps and good luck!

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Unethical hierarchies in polyamory

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

I have been currently investing my time in a polygamous relationship. My partner and I have been talking since February and I would say officially together since March as we are now fluid bonded and consider ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. I am however his secondary partner and therefore our relationship is very much influenced by his want to protect his primary. The struggle that I am having is that it is very apparent at this point that we both love each other and are heavily committed to being together, but I am scared and have lost a little bit of trust in our situation.

His primary partner has been struggling with our relationship and I don’t think non-monogamy is really working out for her. I am very familiar with his primary, she’s a terrific person, we’ve met many times. My partner and I are long distance and don’t see each other regularly and don’t get the most time together when we do see each other. But we still very much love and enjoy the time we do get until recently, when tension and stress caused him to end our relationship.

So now I’m very worried and can’t help but feel like I am overthinking because I feel like even though I know we have a deep connection his other partners needs totally trump mine. We have talked since then and the situation very clearly broke both of our hearts and we have discussed us being together again. So i am wondering if this is a common thing that I have to be mindful of in non monogamy, is it common that as a secondary partner you fall behind what’s best for the primary partner?

I think I’m just worried because I know he wants to be with me and his primary, but I just don’t know how to trust that as a secondary partner my feelings matter and I’m going a little crazy trying to understand what the place of a secondary partner is and how to trust that we love each other enough to continue to make our relationship work, because it’s been pretty perfect up until now.

I’m sorry you’re going through this right now. It sounds challenging. There are a few things going on that I want to address:

  • Motivations to be polyamorous
  • Good and bad hierarchies
  • Priorities and choices

Motivations to be polyamorous

You said you’re investing in a ‘polygamous’ relationship but also say ‘non-monogamy’, so I’m going to assume that you mean polyamorous. Generally speaking, while people are free to do what they like with their lives, I can’t find myself morally agreeing with a relationship structure where one person was allowed to have multiple partners but all of their partners could not date anyone else, which is what polygamy is vs. polyamory. If folks want to agree to that sort of thing, then that’s up to them, but generally I would say that dynamic leads itself to unfairness and that’s worth considering.

Throughout your letter, you don’t really identify whether or not polyamory is something that you are pursuing because you’re interested in it independent of this person or if it’s something that you’re doing for this person. Sometimes it can be a bit of both. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with choosing to try polyamory because you’ve met someone who is polyamorous, but I do think that you have to be somewhat, if not interested in polyamory for your own reasons, very aware of what it means to agree to that vs. to monogamy.

You seem aware that being a ‘secondary’ in a relationship might mean that you have less time than others do — but I would say that regardless of hierarchies involved (which I will address later), you have to be okay with the idea that your partner will not devote a majority of their time to you. I think even people in monogamous relationships can make this sort of agreement if their partner has, for example, a demanding and time consuming career or hobby. Even being monogamous isn’t a guarantee that you will get all of your partner’s undivided energy or attention.

Some people take this into consideration in terms of how they want to practice polyamory. They may decide to set up a structure where they are ‘solo polyamorous’ and have no ‘primary’ partners or live-in partners. Others might live with some or all. But I think what helps you whenever polyamory gets rough, and it does, is understanding your motivation for doing it. And if your motivation is purely because you want to keep one person in your life, I don’t see that leading to a stable foundation in the future

So take a moment and examine your motivations for trying polyamory. What do you hope to get out of it? What does your ideal look like? What do you think you need from each partner at minimum? What do your ideal relationships look like? This can sometimes help you check your current situation and see if relationships are meeting your needs or fitting in with where you want to be.

Good and bad hierarchies

A lot of people would take your letter as tacit proof that hierarchies don’t work — but this is because people assume that having a ‘primary’ partner means that, as you said, the relationship with them should be protected at all costs and the ‘secondary’ relationships are up for grabs. I don’t see this as inherent part of a hierarchy, nor do I see this behaviour only happening in hierarchies. I’ve seen people ‘sacrifice’ one relationship to ‘save’ another in supposed ‘relationship anarchy’ situations. I’ve seen people do this in monogamy. I’ve seen people do this among friendships. I’ve seen people do this in families. It’s a behaviour that isn’t inherent in a hierarchy.

For me, having a ‘primary’ partner does not mean that this is the relationship I save above all else any more than having a married spouse means I don’t care about my friendships. For me, the ‘primary’ is more about communicating expectations and time management. I’m disabled and don’t have a lot of spoons. And even for people who are disabled — love is infinite but time is not. Very few of us have the luxury of living with all of our partners or living within a close distance. And some of us have children who, in my opinion, should be the relationship that we are willing to save among any other relationship.

Personally, I distinguish between my romantic partners and friends because I do have a closer, more intimate and different bond with my romantic partners than my friends and that is a useful distinction for me that comes with helpful boundaries. That doesn’t mean that I value my friends less in my life. And even if I were monogamous, my monogamous partner wouldn’t immediately be valued more than my friends. Life is just not as simple as that.

Sometimes people are afraid when they open their relationships. They are afraid of messing up something they know ‘works’. And rather than finding stability within their own bond and establishing a means of communication that accepts that life is ultimately out of their control, they react by establishing boundaries that restrict. Boundaries can be a great thing. They can help us navigate through difficult decisions. But at times they can also prevent us from sharing ourselves with others.

We put boundaries in place sometimes when we’re afraid to protect ourselves. And this idea that all other relationships are not as important as one other and adhering to that despite how life changes is not a good behaviour, even if it sounds to your partner like the safest way of protecting himself and his partner. Ultimately, all it will do is drive people away from them. And it will not prevent what they are trying to prevent which is them breaking up.

Imagine if we did something similar to this when we had friends. We say we have ‘best’ friends, but does that mean that it’s a simple as prioritising that friend over other people? No. That’s just not what we mean by ‘best friend’. We create labels to distinguish relationships from one another to communicate intimacy, closeness and emotional responsibility — not as a means of dictating how people ought to ‘choose’ ignorant of the idea that being forced to ‘choose’ is kind of the problem. People who have a problem or think hierarchy is always problematic are targeting a symptom, not the disease. Which brings me to the next subject.

Priorities and choices

You no more should expect as a ‘secondary’ to be at the whims of a ‘primary’s’ needs than you should expect to be subject to the whims of one friend choosing another friend over you. What if your aunt told you that your needs would come ‘secondary’ to the needs of her own children? You might expect that your aunt is going to pay attention to her own children, but someone who sets something out so clearly as that or behaves in that way has some deeper problems that you cannot address.

There are a lot of reasons why people defer to their ‘primary’. Usually it’s out of fear. But what’s particularly cowardly is when people blame what is their choice on their ‘primary’ rather than taking responsibility for their own choices. If I were to inform my place of employment that I need time off to help support a partner or a friend, I would ask because it is my choice. I wouldn’t approach my employer saying “Well my partner says I need to be off work so…”. If I had to cancel a meetup with my cousin because a friend needed me, I would tell my cousin that we needed to re-arrange our meeting because there was something that needed my attention. I would not blame it on my friend.

We all make choices every day about how to manage our time. It’s rarely as simple as ‘choosing’ or ‘valuing’ one relationship over another because it depends on our time, our capabilities, and what someone else needs from us. But we have to own that. Your metamour may indeed be struggling with non-monogamy, but the solution to that is for your partner and your metamour to work that out on their own. And yes, maybe there might be times when dates with you could need to be rearranged, but he needs to take ownership of that as his decision, instead of blaming it on his relationship structure.

Another mistake people often make in polyamory is trying to etch-a-sketch their way out of fear or negative feelings. Because people expect that polyamory will be so great and fix some of the problems in their relationship, when they are actually confronted with fear of losing their partner, they do not know how, other than trying to un-do what they did, to fix it. Cancelling your dates will not magically make your metamour better at handling non-monogamy. In fact, if I were advising him or his partner, I would say that they are delaying the inevitable — but this is not your problem to manage!

What is your problem is that your partner is making it your problem — and this can happen in *any* type of relationship structure. I think ultimately if you want to try again with him, it’s up to you but he should really be able to say what is different about this time than the last. You can care for each other as much as you’d like, but if he continues to allow one relationship to dictate another, he is going to struggle regardless and so will you. Hierarchy isn’t the problem. The behaviour is.

In the future, be wary of people who communicate clearly that you are never going to be a priority in your life. If this is a behaviour you wouldn’t tolerate from a friend or family member, why tolerate it from a romantic partner? You cannot do anything to make a relationship ‘work’ with someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for their decisions and communicate clearly to you what times they are available and commit to those times barring emergencies. And you deserve someone who does that.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 21: Walking on Eggshells

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

A metamour’s temper has this individual walking on eggshells. Is it because they aren’t doing enough?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. We’re also introducing discussion topics this week.

Discussion Topic – What negative character flaws do you fear other people see in you?

Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 21 – Walking on Eggshells

A metamour’s temper has this individual walking on eggshells. Is it because they aren’t doing enough? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Discussion Topic – What negative character flaws do you fear other people see in you?


Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at

Podcast transcript


Recently I’ve been venturing into the world of polyamory. My partner, let’s call him Darren, has been with his partner for a little less than a year. Their relationship seemed very stable and everyone met and we had discussions about communication and boundaries and were working on strengthening our relationship as a couple. Darren and his partner had hopes of having a kitchen table poly[am] relationship and so we were all very open with each other.

Darren and I were out in the community as a couple. We would all go out on very public dates, or I would go on dates with them separately (most dates were with Darren of course). We had also opened our relationship up to the possibility of us all seeing each other romantically but each of his girlfriends preserving our individual relationships with him as well.

My relationship with Darren has been about 4 months long and to say our feelings have been heavily involved is an understatement. I definitely love him, we exchange I love yous fairly regularly, and I care deeply about his partner because he loves her as well. However, jealousy has been an issue that has started to plague our relationship.

Recently Darren’s partner has been struggling with how fast our relationship has progressed, which makes perfect sense, but led us to a standstill with some confusion on how to proceed without hurting her feelings. But, unfortunately it’s been hard on me, I’m not sure if I am overthinking.

Darren and I spend one day a week together and the other 6 days he lives with her. They get to go on fun trips together and take time of from work together to do exciting things. But the idea of him taking time off to do things in our relationship is clearly a stressful thought for him. On social media they are out and I feel like the same level of sensitivity for my feelings isn’t really applied, if he even felt comfortable to post about me (which I feel like he isn’t, and for other reasons than even just her feelings).

I feel words would be chosen selectively to protect her feelings. And I surely don’t feel comfortable posting anything about him for fear of hurting her feelings. But, I really feel he fears rocking the boat with his primary partner and that is understandable, I am very fearful of that as well. I don’t think they have veto power but I also would hate to find out, so I avoid triggering her. But I also feel as though my feelings are rarely taken into consideration.

I’ve been as open with Darren as I could be with my feelings. But I am also not sure if I have any right to feel this hurt. I know he loves me and wants to spend time with me. I just feel like my feelings get hurt a lot trying to protect her feelings, the partner who already has a lot of privilege and opportunities to be out and enjoy a relationship without any rules or boundaries placed upon it. If that makes sense?

I’ve been wondering if I should be pushing a relationship with someone who doesn’t put concern into my feelings as much as his other partner? The hardest part is Darren does try to address my issues but I feel like the bottom line is I feel like the fact that I have emotions and that my feelings can and have been hurt is not something that is thought about as much as it would be for his primary.

Am I overthinking this situation? I feel like I am complaining about something that I should just be appreciative for because he does give me his undivided affection and time and love when he is with me. But that’s not often, which is okay. I deeply appreciate any and every day I spend with him. It’s just most of the time I’m trying to make sure that I am not flying off an emotional roller coaster when something happens that hurts my feelings, and just constantly reminding myself that it’s okay because he loves me and cares about me.

Telling myself that this is what happens when you are involved in a relationship where someone has a partner who is their primary concern? But am I wrong in justifying this behavior, or is it silly that I keep allowing myself to feel like I only matter part of the time.


So, first I’m going to say, I’m really really sorry you’re going through this because it does really seem crappy to have to police all of your behaviours and just feel so watched. It sounds like a really intense situation.

The first big thing that I want to say– and I think that your story is a big reason why people think that hierarchy is bad. And it’s not necessarily inherently bad in and of itself, it’s the way that people behave in hierarchy such as this situation with Darren that is the problem. The first thing is that your metamour or Darren’s primary partner is really not your responsibility. And this sounds really really cold and I get that because you are an empathetic person and you obviously don’t want to hurt her feelings but it really shouldn’t be. And I know that if Darren wants this kitchen table polyam thing… It’s just that you need to be able to step back and not take emotional responsibility for something that you shouldn’t be responsible for.

You can’t be the one to manage Darren’s relationship. Darren needs to step up and manage whatever is going on with his primary partner and not blame them. Which is what he’s doing. He’s kind of telling you about her feelings— unless you can see her reacting— you really should know because it’s not your concern. And if he only has you to talk to about it, then he needs to find a therapist. He really shouldn’t be involving you in this because it’s not something that you can control and it’s also not really fair on his primary partner for you to know so much about this situation.

A lot of people have flare ups with jealousy. A lot of people have problems dealing with anxiety that non-monogamy can cause and sometimes it’s made worse by everybody knowing that. I think, in situations where I’ve reacted really poorly and have not really done the best I could do and didn’t manage my anxiety very well, the last thing I would want is for the person— my partner to go and tell someone else that I’m not feeling well. That wouldn’t help the situation. How does that help me? I get that you care and I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing.

You don’t have to be involved in it. You can care, but you being involved in… you can control any of that you know. Involving you in that is not really fair so it’s not really your responsibility. It really isn’t your responsibility how… and this person should dictate your relationship.

I have a hierarchical structure and that is because… that is less about the deciding who dictates my relationships because nobody dictates my relationships. I dictate my relationships. I make decisions and I step up and I say that I’ve made those decisions and I have a hierarchy purely to communicate to people the time and energies that I have, because I don’t have infinite time and energy. I can love as many people as you know whatever but I don’t have infinite time and infinite energy and that’s really what the hierarchy is about for me and that works and that’s fine. And I actually find that is easier for me because it communicates to me clearly what’s going on in this situation.

What’s happening here is not a fault of the hierarchy. What’s happening here is that Darren is, for whatever reason, there’s some stuff going on in his relationship with his primary. She’s struggling and that’s fine. I’m not saying that she’s a terrible person for struggling. She may very well have a lot of feelings and that isn’t really something that you can fix. It’s not necessarily even something that Darren can completely fix. But he should not be involving you in that because you double-y can’t fix it. You’re not in a relationship with her and maybe one day you could be in a relationship with her but even if you were, it’s not really fair.

I mean imagine if you had two friends and they didn’t get along or, you know, you had a best friend and your best friend came to you and said, “Oh you know I’d really love to hang out with you but my other friend just really doesn’t like you”. Why would your friend tell you something like that? What can you do? That just puts you in a very awkward position because it’s like you can’t manage this other person and whether or not they like you. And putting that responsibility on your shoulders isn’t really fair and that’s what’s causing you all this hurt.

It’s like you feel like you have to police your behaviours to make her feel better and nobody’s caring about you. And that’s not her fault. That’s Darren’s fault. Darren is not managing the situation. Now if he needs to cancel a date or he can’t go somewhere because she’s having a bad time and he wants to focus on her for a certain period of time, he can do that, but he needs to be able to communicate that in a way where he is owning that, not blaming it on the hierarchy or blaming it on his partner.

He needs to be able to clearly say to you, “I can’t do this right now because I have to manage this situation”. He doesn’t have to give you the details. But he can make it clear that that’s the decision that he’s making and own it. And he isn’t doing that precisely because of what you are getting at eventually in your letter when you say that “I have been wondering if I should be pursuing a relationship with someone who doesn’t put concern into my feelings as much as other partner”. He knows damn well that he’s doing this. I mean maybe he doesn’t consciously know but he knows that he’s choosing one person over the other and instead of being upfront about that and allowing you to say, “Ok well I don’t know if I want to be part of this,” he’s spreading the emotional responsibility on to you which makes you feel like you have to do something to fix the situation and you can’t.

You cannot fix the situation. You’re not her therapist. You’re not her partner at present and even if you were her partner, it wouldn’t be fair for you to feel responsibility for fixing the relationship between the two of them. That’s just not something that you are responsible for and it’s really really unfair for Darren to put you in that position, whether he intends to do that or whether he doesn’t intend to do that. So someone failing to meet your needs isn’t a problem of hierarchy but I do think— And I will say here that you are really selling yourself short in this situation. Like you have the right to have feelings and you have a very, very low bar as to what you expect from this person.

Like you say “I should just be appreciative because he does give me his undivided attention and time in love when he is with me”. That’s what he damn well should do. That’s what a partner should do. You don’t want a partner who doesn’t give you their undivided attention and time and love. You only see him one day a week and you admit that’s not often enough for you but you came off—  “That’s OK because I just I appreciate every day I spend with him”. What is… like… Is he Jesus? Why is… He doesn’t have… He is just… And I know you love him I’m not trying to diss him or anything but like you get one day a week with this guy and you’re just grateful for that?

Listen to the situation that you’re in. You get one day a week with him. You can’t post about it on social media. You have to tip toe egg shell across everything because it’s somehow your responsibility to manage this other person’s emotions and you know… you’re grateful for scraps. This is scraps that you’re getting. Some people are fine with one day a week. There are some people who are like, “You know what? I hate people. I don’t want you in my house. I don’t wanna be around you that much. If I’m around anyone for that much I’m done. One day a week is good”. That’s good for some people. It doesn’t sound like it’s good enough for you.

It sounds like you are being influenced by love and influenced by how strongly you feel that you’re just taking what little you’re given. I don’t know what your background is. I know in the past for me personally because I’ve been a really horrible life situations and because I’ve dealt with so many shitty relationships in my life that one of my first relationships I thought it was great because he didn’t hit me or call me names. And that’s just sad. Sometimes when you’re given very little, you learn how to deal with it and you try and convince yourself that that is some gift.

You know there’s a previous episode if you go back into the one about gold medals, I talk about giving someone a gold medal for something they should be doing. You know you’re giving him a lot of credit for what he should damn well be doing anyway. So stop selling yourself short. You don’t deserve to be in a relationship with someone were you have to tip toe across everything and that’s not a consequence of a being with someone who has a primary partner. That’s not what a primary partner is. I mean, that’s what the way some people behave and I can see why some people don’t like hierarchy if this is how the majority of people with the hierarchy act like.

This isn’t about… You know a hierarchy doesn’t have to be about “this person gets to overrule everything”. If someone’s going to behave that way, they can at least cop to it and he’s not copping to it. So not only does he have a hierarchy were clearly his primary’s emotions and needs are valued more by him than yours but he’s not even going to be upfront about that. And he’s not even willing to clearly communicate that to you so you’re a left in this weird limbo where you feel you’re responsible for managing this other person’s emotions.

Where you have to tip toe on eggshells around everything and make sure you don’t offend anybody because even though she doesn’t supposedly have veto power, she may as well have. But if he’s always going to make you a part of that and if he’s always clearly going choose her over… And I’m not saying he’s like evil because you know he may very well be unsure of what to do if his partners like, “I really don’t want you to go out.” But that is a situation that needs to be worked on by them.

I’ve been in that situation. I’ve been in… I did not want my partner to go out sometimes and I felt really really jealous and really really upset but I’ll tell you one thing. It doesn’t go away by you ca— if you give it an inch, it’ll take a mile. But that’s a separate thing. I could totally give you your metamour advice on this podcast about how to manage jealousy, but it’s not about her. And it’s not fair that everything that’s about you gets to be about her too. And he needs to manage that and the fact that he’s not managed that is bad regardless of how much love… That’s great that he loves and cares for you but he has to behave like that.

You can’t just… Someone caring about you and loving you is not enough in and of itself to sustain a relationship. People can love each other very very much and feel intensely for someone and still be very bad at relationships. I had people who treated me like shit who told me they loved me all the damn time. It doesn’t matter. He needs to behave in a way that shows his love rather than just saying it and just giving you undivided attention is what he should damn well be doing. Okay? So…

What you need to do from now on is… number one. You need to stop concerning yourself with your metamour’s feelings and I know that sounds cold and it sounds a bit cruel but the thing of it is, is that you can not fix it. Okay? There is no point in you being so concerned about her feelings when you can’t fix it and it’s not your responsibility to fix. It’s not fair. And it’s not fair of him and you also need to stop allowing him to make it  your concern. If you need to say to him like, “Listen, I get that you’re having issues but I really don’t want to know the details of what’s going on in this relationship because I then feel responsible for policing my words and I don’t want to feel that. I want to be free, just as she does, to say whatever I’d like socially, publicly and to behave the way that I like. And if she has hurt feelings based on that then I really feel like that something that you need to manage.”

You need to put up some boundaries and make it very clear. Do not allow him to make it your concern. If he needs to find someone to talk to about this relationship, he needs to get a therapist. You’re not his therapist. You’re not their couples therapist and you need to not allow yourself to be made into that.

Now you said yourself he’s clearly prioritising his partner’s feelings over your feelings and you need to decide what you’re going to do if that continues. So you can identify that with him now. You can say like, “Look you know, we have one— I have one day a week”. Figure out what it is that you want. Do you want to go out on these outings that they go out on? Identify things that he does with her that you also want to do with him. Now obviously there’s twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week. You know, he has to divide his time and he has to manage his time and he may not have the time or the energy to give to other people.

If he doesn’t have the time and energy to give to other people, he needs to be clear about that with any other partner he has so that they can make the decision without having to learn it the hard way. But he needs to manage his time. So you need to just be really clear about what it is that you want and you need to stop accepting scraps. Are you fine with once a week? You said it’s not often but it’s okay. Is it okay? Is it really okay? Figure out what’s your ideal in this situation would be. Be willing to compromise. Like you can’t go, “Well I want to spend 6 nights a week with you”. Obviously that’s not really going to work but just figure out what it is that you want. Come up with some compromise. Agree to something better.

Put up those boundaries of you know… it’s great that he wants kitchen table polyam but he cannot have it if he’s going to make one relationship other people’s business like… even in… I mean, maybe there’s other ways of doing it. Kitchen table polyam is not personally for me. It’s not something I’m interested in. It’s just… I think an unrealistic expectation to be quite honest to put on anybody. The idea– I mean it’s great. It’s a great situation if you and all your metamours get along. That is an awesome situation. If you can all live together and be one big happy family, that’s fantastic. But the likelihood of it being a real possibility is just…  I feel personally, is very very very unlikely so clearly in this case because of… if he is going to have this person be his primary partner, and she’s struggling this badly right now and he’s managing you this way, it’s not going to be possible for him anyway.

So he needs… You need to come to him and go, “This is what I want”. Compromise. Figure out something. That’s your agreement. You also need to think about what’s going to happen when that all falls apart? If he ditches a date with you, what’s going… what are the consequences? How much are you going to be willing to put up with? And what are you going to do it if he doesn’t honour his agreement with you. And you need to really think about that because you know you’re already putting a lot into the situation. So, do you want to continue investing, as you said yourself, should you be pursuing a relationship with someone who doesn’t put concern into your feelings as much as other partner?

It’s a little less than a year or he’s been with his partner for a little less than a year. Relationships go through different periods of stability but like, you’ve been with Darren for 4 months and this is how it’s been so far. I mean everyone has some establishing of trust to do when they first start into a relationship and it might be that the relationship between him and his primary partner is being tested because this is changing and opening a relationship— if they didn’t begin from open. I don’t know it doesn’t sound like they did? It’s always going to be difficult for people and that’s fine but that’s not your responsibility to manage and you really can’t manage it.

It’s not fair for you to be put that situation, but you need to decide, how long is too long? How long are you going to invest in seeing if he changes his behaviour? Because you really don’t need to sit around and be grateful for scraps and be grateful for someone paying attention to you when that’s what they should damn well do and who clearly isn’t stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for his decisions. If he’s going to choose to bow to the whims of his primary partner and allow his premier partner to dictate his other relationships, then he should at least cop to that.

And if he’s not willing to cop to that and if he takes that responsibility and says, “Oh well you how she’s having a hard time and I just…” No no no no no. She’s having a hard time. Okay. But he is making a choice and he needs to own that. If he’s not willing to own that then honestly you need to really think about if that’s something that you want to stick around and deal with because… I have to say that if someone isn’t willing to own their choices and be really clear about… And to be fair, it might be that he doesn’t know this. Sometimes you don’t know these things. You don’t know how little you can manage a situation until it’s unmanageable but he at least needs to own it.

And until he’s willing to own it, I really really think that there are going to be bigger problems than this down the line. Like if you now, without any children involved or you living together, if you now are walking on eggshells and you’re only spending one day with him a week, yeesh. That’s… that doesn’t give me a lotta hope personally.

So yeah, to sum up. Don’t allow this to become your responsibility. Set some clear boundaries. Try your best. I know it’s like… you’re an empathetic person and I feel for you in the situation. Try your best to not make this your responsibility anymore. Make it really clear to him. Figure out what you want. Do you want to go on the fun trips? Do you want to… What more do you want? And try and make that really clear. Negotiate that with him.

Come to a decision together and then figure out what the consequence will be. And you can communicate that to him or you can not communicate that to him. But figure out what the consequences will be for if you… if he goes back on your agreement. Yeah, that’s basically my advice in this situation. Again I’m really really sorry that you’re going through this because it sounds really really crappy. Walking on eggshells in any situation, in any relationship is no way to live. It’s a horrible way to live and I wouldn’t wish on anybody. So I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 18: Monster of a Metamour

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

You don’t get along with your metamour and what’s more — you think they might be unhealthy for your partner. What do you do?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below or on Libsyn. You can also find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Episode 18 – Monster of a Metamour

You don’t get along with your metamour and what’s more — you think they might be unhealthy for your partner. What do you do?  That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at

Podcast transcript


My partner and I have been together for almost six years. We married three years ago.

My wife asked to changed the parameters of our marriage five months ago so she could more seriously see someone. This guy was a person I’d already vocalized having issues and red flags for but my wife said that her partner choice is not mine to make.

It’s been five months now and I find myself not wanting to go out to community events for fear this dude will be there, blocking him on social media and considering blocking her so I don’t have to see their interactions online, and still deeply uncomfortable with her partner choice.

He is unhealthy. She is often hungover after spending time with him which infringes on our time together, and he still gives me and others in our immediate circle red flags. He is unhealthy in his drinking, drug use, depressed, doesn’t exercise and eats a poor diet.

She’s right, her partner choice isn’t up to me, but I can’t stand this guy and am saddened that her relationship is making me want to retreat from my community.

She has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her, but this guy is the bottom shelf at best.


So there a few things here. First and foremost, she is right. Her partner choice isn’t really up to you and I think that that’s an important thing for you to remember and it really does suck. Because there are situations like this where are you really don’t get along or like who your partner dates and it’s kind of a thing that you have to navigate.

One thing that I really, really want to stress and this is really important for you and other people who are in more dire situations. Because I do think the situation is… because you don’t go into specifically what type of red flags this person flags up. And I’m going to talk about the ways that you describe him being unhealthy. It’s obviously not great that your partner is often hungover but at the end of the day it is her life.

But I do think that if people are really worried about their partner dating someone who is showing some specific signs of abuse such as their partner trying to control who they interact with, things like that. Even friends of people who are you know basically in a relationship that seems abusive, it can be really really hard to know what the right thing is to do. Because I think most people’s first Instincts is to confront their friend and say “You need to stop dating this person. This person is terrible. This person is bad.” But actually that approach can often backfire so I would you know… even as much as you may have very good reasons for feeling like this guy is not good for your partner, any attempts you make to try to change that situation either by saying “Dump him or I’ll leave” or you know… even polite things, even to the extent of reminding her constantly— all of those to a person who is going through a situation where their partner’s slowly kind of entrapping them and putting them in an abusive situation…

Because people aren’t just of a sudden abusive. Like it slowly and slowly escalates and for someone who’s in that situation, if their friends or their family or other partners start to be even more controlling or controlling to them, they’re going to retreat from that. So I think it’s really important for you to remember throughout all this that you trying to control the situation for her is just never going to work. You can’t force her to see this person the way you see them. Even if… and I understand that it’s not just you who feels this. You say that, you know, that he gives you and other people within your community red flags. You’re never going to be able to force her to see it your way.

And in fact, if this guy is specifically abusive, one of the first things that abusers try to do is isolate their victim. So they’ll often, you know, sometimes outright tell their victim that “You can’t be friends with this person. I’m really jealous of this person.” Yada yada. Sometimes people help the abuser do that by deciding to further isolate that person. So it’s really really important to remember that if this person is a *red flag* red flag in terms of being really abusive, you don’t want to put her in a situation where she’s going to be further isolated and doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you can set your own boundaries. You’re totally allowed to decide what is healthy and isn’t healthy for you. You’re totally allowed to feel the way you feel about, you know, seeing their interactions online and you’re allowed to make your own boundaries. Like you’re allowed to say that she can do whatever she wants with this person but for her to show up hungover on your time together is unacceptable. But the thing about these boundaries you have  is that you have to be willing to enforce them as well. So if you’re going to say to her, “Regardless of how I feel about this situation and regardless of how I feel about this person, I don’t want you to be hung over when we have our time together. It’s not acceptable to me for that to happen”.

You can say that but what’s going to happen if and when she does show up hungover? What is… What you need to think about in your mind is what are going to be the repercussions of that? And that can be really tricky because it’s really hard to feel like you’re… it’s really hard to not feel like you’re punishing someone but at the same time like you need to be able to say, “You know what? I’m not going to have this time.” And so you need to think about you know the worst case scenario here.

What if you know… You don’t want to punish her but you do need to decide are you going to spend less time with her? Are you going to change the times you spend with her? I don’t know if you live together. I assume maybe, if you’ve been married for 3 years, you might live together. Maybe you might consider not living together anymore. It can be really really difficult to face these kind of situations but she’s not really giving you any alternative. Like she’s allowed to date whoever she wants to date. That is very true, but it’s not fair on you for her to show up hungover and infringe on your time together.

When it comes to your community, like I understand how you feel in terms of not wanting to go to community events. I think that’s where you need to focus less on you know your personal feelings and talk to the people who are also feeling red flags. Because the thing of it is… The thing I’m worried about and the thing that I often find that people… the struggle people have with this kind of situation where there is somebody in the community that is throwing up red flags, quite often community organisers and people who are in charge don’t know how to deal with that.

It can be very very difficult to know what the right solution is. Especially when you know if they were to say bar this guy from all community events and that meant she never went to any more community events. And then let’s say you decided, because she showed up hungover again and again on your time together, you moved out. So now she’s completely isolated with this guy and she can’t go to any more community events because he’s not there. You know, it becomes really difficult.

I think sometimes communities feel like they have to choose between letting everything happen and just letting everything go and not getting involved or completely banning someone and I really feel like there is a third option that involves potentially holding accountability. Holding, you know… thinking about all of these people who feel like this person is throwing up red flags… Can you not get together as a community and think about how to confront him? How to tell him? What about his behaviour is throwing red flags for you and you know bring him into the conversation rather than kicking him out. That’s something that you need the help of a community to do, but I do think that if you’re feeling uncomfortable at community events, that’s not necessarily her fault.

And I don’t want you to feel like you’re pitted in between him and her and I don’t want her to feel pitted in the middle, but I do think that if you seek the advice and the opinions of other people in the community and unless… you know, banning together to kick him out because you’re just kicking him out to go to another community where he might still be crossing people’s boundaries or, you know, showing up their red flags. You know, actually create a situation where there is a solution to this. You might think about holding him to account as a community, if you feel like that’s something that the community can do. It’s a very difficult and tricky thing to do and I think not all organisers and events people are going to be prepared for that kind of thing.

There’s quite a lot of people, especially if they running an event on their own time and they’re volunteering, just frankly don’t have the spoons for it or don’t have the patience for it. And you might consider, you know, all of those people that you’re together with who are feeling uncomfortable, maybe you guys have your own time. You know, organise your own things with them. You know, nobody owns community events. Nobody owns community. You can get together with whomever and whenever you want.

I mean it’s hard for me to say. I don’t know if you’re like in a really really small town and there are like only one of two bars or maybe one bar to go to or something like that, but you can create… you can make an attempt to create your own community spaces with those people who also feel like you do. And it’s an unfortunate thing to have to kind of like splinter in a way but I do think that if that’s something that’s going to make you feel more comfortable than do it.

If you really feel like as well like blocking her so you don’t see those interactions, it’s perfectly fine for you to say, “Right, you can date who you want. I really really don’t like this person. I’ve blocked them already.” I’d do a little bit more research to see because I’ve been in situations like that where my partner is just friends, not even dating, but just friends with someone that I just really don’t like because they’re really terrible to me and I didn’t want to see them so I blocked them. And I haven’t been able to see their interactions online.

So there may be other filters that you can use and things, but you are allowed if you want to say to partner like, “Look, I don’t like this person. I support you. I care about you. But I don’t like this person. Maybe we won’t be friends on social media”. You’re friends of real life. You don’t have to be friends on Facebook as well. If that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel better than do it. You know, it shouldn’t be… She might get hackled about it but explain it. You know, your concern here should be less necessarily with how irritated you are by it and more about, you know, you have genuine concern for her.

And that’s another thing that I think that’s worth you looking at as well is what you think is healthy. Because there’s a lot of things that you cite like… drinking, drug use, depression, exercise, poor diet… There are a lot of different things all meddled up within that one thing. People can drink responsibly. People can use drugs responsibly. People do have depression and that doesn’t make them undateable. A lot of people struggle with depression. It’s not their fault.

Not exercising, you know… for some people exercise can be dangerous for them. It’s not really up to you to define whether or not someone doesn’t or doesn’t exercise and weather or not that is healthy for them. That’s a discussion that they need to have with their health care provider, if that’s something that they need to address. And poor diet again like… I don’t… You’re not a nutritionist and it’s not you who gets to decide what is a bad diet and isn’t a bad diet for someone.

You may have an opinion about what is healthy and not healthy to eat and you’re welcome to that opinion but you don’t really get to decide for other people, you know, what they should and shouldn’t eat. And equally, you don’t get to decide that for your partner either. You know, if you are eating together and you’re sharing a meal together and you don’t want to have things which you would consider poor eating or not good eating, whatever you want to consider that as, that’s one thing. But when they’re eating their own food on their own, that’s their responsibility and their life and I think that you should really do a little bit of self-exploration about what healthy means.

Because what concerns me is that… you know red flag is a very broad term. And you know, if you said that this person was attempting to control who she was friends with, if you said that this person she was dating was spreading lies about you or trying to basically manipulate her against you— those are red flags to me. I think that you know… drug use and drinking may not be something you approve of or like, which I can understand. I’m not necessarily a huge drinker myself and quite often end up very frustrated when only you know social gatherings focus around drink. But at the end of the day, it’s their life and their decisions.

Those aren’t red flags in and of themselves. Somebody drinking, someone using drugs, someone being depressed, not exercising and eating what you would consider a poor diet are not red flags and are not necessarily “unhealthy things”. They’re unhealthy for you and that’s valid but that’s not really what you get to decide. So I think that you need to rethink your framework here.

And I do kind of wonder because what really you know confuses me about this situation that you’re in is that you know… you’re really heavily judging this person for not being healthy and yet at the same time you say that your partner has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her. And what does that say about you, though? And that… I am really surprised that you don’t, you know… It doesn’t seem like this is something that you’ve reflected on.

She enjoys dating people beneath her. I mean, that’s a very strange thing for anyone to say and I don’t know as that I would…. it depends on how she said it. If she’s specifically said “I enjoy dating people beneath me,” I don’t know. I think that would, regardless of who that person dated, would kind of be a little bit strange for me to hear because basically what they’re telling me is that they think that I am the beneath them. So you know… I’m worried about this situation in terms of… you’re so busy looking at this other guy and thinking he’s the bottom of the shelf, you’re kind of on the shelf with him, if that’s the case. You may think you’re better than him in terms of how healthy you are or you may think you’re not as bad as him but if she enjoys his dating people beneath her then you are beneath her too.

And is that something that you really want to be? You know, putting aside like… Because I totally think it’s understandable for you to be upset if someone shows up to a date that you’ve planned or time that you planned together hungover and doesn’t have the energy for you. I totally get that and that is totally fine to object to. But you have to kind of…. one of the things about polyamory and one of the unfortunate experiences people can have one when they open up their relationship or see their partner dating other people is that they can realise their partners tastes and who else their partner dates and what their partner does when they date.

And maybe you know…. maybe this is part of the irritation of this. Especially if your partner has said that she enjoys dating people beneath her. Are you really irritated by this guy completely or are you more irritated that she’s dating him and you and what does that say about you? So I think that’s something that’s really worth exploring because putting aside all this like… yeah, it’s not up to you who she dates. Yeah, you’re allowed to put down your boundaries. Yeah, you know, you’re totally understandable with objecting to someone showing up hungover. And you do need to re-examine what you think health means and why that applies to other people and why it’s necessarily your business but at the same time I also think that this is a red flag that you’re kind of ignoring — that she enjoys dating people beneath her.

And again like… you said that she has said this. It’s not just your own personal commentary and that’s the thing that I think you really should think about. Sometimes when we see our partner dating other people and we see how they behave in other relationships and we see you know… who they pick, sometimes that changes how we feel about our partners because you know… when you first meet someone, if they’re not currently in a relationship with anyone else or you know you both can start in a single position and then you start dating, you know, you can kind of have those rose tinted glasses. And you can think that they chose you because you’re the best, you’re healthy, you’re… whatever that means, but actually maybe the reasons that you think they chose you are not the reason that they chose you. And it’s hard for me to say what her reasons are for choosing you, but I do think that this is worth you really thinking about.

So yeah, to kind of some up the thoughts here: I think that she is right that it’s not up to you who she dates. It isn’t unfortunately, as uncomfortable as you are. And also I really want to impress upon you that even if it were, even if you could make a rule and say “Break up with this person,” that isn’t going to solve the underlying issue. That isn’t going to fix everything. Controlling the situation won’t fix it.

It’s not really up to you who she dates, however you are allowed to have your own boundaries and that does mean if you want to remove her as a friend and not see their interactions you can. If you want to set the boundary that you know you’re not going to tolerate her being hungover when it’s your time to spend together and she needs to manage her time adequately so that she can make sure she’s not hungover and has the energy for you that you want, that’s a fine thing to say.

But, with all these boundaries that you are allowed to have, you need to really think about what you’re going to do if they’re crossed. What are the repercussions of that? And really think about how you’re gonna enforce them, because it’s not really you know good enough for you to say, “Right, no more coming to our dates hungover,” if she does and nothing happens, then it doesn’t really matter. Does it? You need to think about what you’re going to do if this continues and where that leaves you.

I think that you should really examine what health means because I understand some of your objections to this person but the others may just be personality differences in how you like to live your life and that’s fine. If you are super into going to the gym and that person isn’t, that’s fine. You’re allowed to have that but it’s not really up to you to decide what is unhealthy and whether or not he’s unhealthy is kind of irrelevant to you. What he is is kind of irrelevant and it’s more that you need to think about what those red flags are and if they are red flags or if it’s kind of like you, you know, just not liking him very much. You can be a kind of person that you might consider a messy person but not be abusive. People can have depression and that’s not something they can control. They can not exercise if they don’t want to and I can eat whatever they want and that’s not necessarily a red flag in and of itself. So think about what that means.

Lastly like… I think this this last comment about… she enjoys dating people beneath her. I think you should really think about that. And I think it’s worth you finding a polyamory friendly therapist like. You can find a couples therapist to kind of talk these things out and maybe that’s a consequence. Maybe if you make it really clear, you know, you don’t have to hear anything about this person. You don’t even have to know anything about them. People kind of do all this like compersion and “oh wouldn’t it l be great?”. It would you know… it would be great if we all get along with our metamours, if we all loved our metamours and they were great people yada yada. That would be great but that doesn’t always happen. It’s not really realistic to expect that and it is ok if you want absolutely no information about this person because they annoy the piss out of you.

Regardless of what health or unhealthy or whatever you know… it could just be that you know you don’t like the person. She could dump this guy and time can pass and then she could date somebody else who just like maybe you know does all the things you would consider healthy but is just super annoying and you just don’t get along with him and that’s fine still. You’re allowed to say, “Right, you date that person. That’s fine for you, but this is my area. These are my boundaries. This is my space and I don’t want to have to deal with any of this stuff in my space.” When it comes to your individual personal space within your house and your social space where you have people as friends or not friends on Facebook, you can decide that.

When it comes to your wider community like I said you need to circle around. Gather together with those people who also feel the same way. See if there is an accountability process to be had, if there’s something for that person to be accountable for. If there is a genuine red flag, then maybe that’s something you pursue or just kinda hang out with the other people. I mean it does suck like that you know you… if you feel like he’s going to the same community events and you don’t like him but this kind of thing happens in general.

I am in that situation now. There  area lot of people who have either been shitty to me or who I just don’t like who are at a lot of polyamory themed events where I am and I don’t go to them because I’m like… ugh that person is going and I don’t want to go. Unfortunately the polyamory communities even in big cities tend to be quite small. Small worlds and this kind of thing unfortunately happens. I don’t think there’s enough still a huge amount of things you can do. If there’s a serious cause for concern in terms of like abusive red flags and this person needs to be brought up on those kinds of things, I would look up kind of accountability processes.

There’s one right now going on if you look up the “Polyamory Me Too Movement” there is a big accountability process going on with quite a well-known writer of different on polyamory resources and that’s might be a model you might consider, if that person is to that level of a red flag situation. If they’re just kind of a jerk and they aren’t what you would consider healthy, that’s not a red flag situation. That’s just a difference in personality and how they like to hold themselves vs what you think they should do.

And then lastly like… I really really think you should think about you know the worst case scenario unfortunately. Like if this situation progresses, you know, where are you? You can’t fix everything. If this person is a red flag in terms of abusive, you can’t really fix everything. You can’t rescue her from that situation. There’s a really great book called “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft which I think every human being in the world should read because it’s kind of like about abusive mindsets and how they impact people and how to help people in those situations who are kind of caught up in or in abusive relationships.

But the long and the short of it is that there isn’t any magic solution that you can do to pull someone out that situation. If they want to date someone who is causing them to be hung over there really isn’t anything you can do about that yourself. But you can control your own environments and your own actions and it’s worth you thinking about unfortunately what you know the worst thing that could happen? Nothing changes? Where does that leave you? And I think that’s certainly worth you having a think about.

So yeah there’s lot of different things I addressed. I feel like I want to sum up things again by think I’ve summed up everything as much as I can. I really hope this helps and good luck.

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What to do with a controlling metamour

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

I’ve been in a non monogamous relationship with my girlfriend (A) for almost a year now and I have been having some major issues with her other partner (T). It’s a long story but I really need some advice on this before I make a decision on this.

A and I have known each other for almost a decade but we finally became an official couple about a year ago. Within the months we’ve been together, her other partner, T, whom she’s been with for almost 4 years now has made my relationship a mental and emotional roller coaster. At the beginning A explained to me their guidelines and how poly[am] relationships work. Being open minded and wanting to be with A, I accepted the guidelines and we became a couple.

A wanted both of her partners to get along as she hoped that we could all live together if I lasted for about a year into the relationship. I tried to be friendly with T but I always got this negative and awkward vibe from him. I honestly had no interest in him but I respected him from a distance. After a while I finally told A that I feel like she’s forcing us to bond and its causing me emotional distress. She was upset that she couldn’t get what she wanted but she accepted that it would be best to keep us separated.

Neither T or I want anything to do with each other and I was content with this. Everything was okay until we all went on a camping trip together along with some of their friends. Things took a turn for the worst and A and I were on the point of breaking up. After we took some time apart, we talked about what happened that night and how we felt and came to a deeper understanding of one another. We decided not to break up but to use that night as a lesson that would make our relationship stronger. But for T that wasn’t good enough. He refused to let A continue being with me and said that we can only be friends. T was on the brink of leaving A if she continued to be with me.

Despite us being on good terms, A was afraid to tell T because she feared not only would he leave her but kick her out of the apartment. I still live with my family (whom they don’t know of my relationship with A nor my homosexuality) so her living with me was sadly out of the question. I told A to choose him so that she can have a place to stay. So for a long emotionally damaged month we were just friends… I begged her to talk some sense into him that he can’t control a relationship that isn’t even his. But after she did, he gave her rules that both her and I HAD to follow or else our relationship was over.

One major rule being that I was not allowed to set foot in their apartment. So A and I went from seeing each other 1 to 3 times a week to once a month or two months. And on top of that we have to come out of pocket in order to spend time with each other for more than a day. Its breaking me emotionally because my needs are not being met with the distance. Mentally because I stress out over how I can possibly progress in my relationship with this many obstacles. And financially because I can’t keep spending money just to see my own girlfriend when I need to be saving to get where I wanna be in life.

But talking to T myself is pointless because he told me himself that I should be grateful that he allowed us to still be together. But also that he never liked me (even before we officially met) and that nothing I can say or do will change his mind. And A recently brought to my attention that T has been talking badly about me to all of her friends to the point where they don’t like me despite them never meeting me/knowing me at all. Her friends mean a lot to her and she wants to bring me around them but because of what T has done she feels she can’t.

She is aware that our relationship is strained and that its not going to progress because T refuses to let go of what happened while we were camping (even though what happened wasn’t technically my fault but that’s an even longer story all together) but is also conflicted because she doesn’t want to lose him. She said she’ll talk to him on a “good day” but who knows when that will be. T suffers from really bad anxiety because of how he was raised, which I understood seeing as I lived a very similar life myself (I also have anxiety and depression) But we deal with our demons very differently.

He relies on marijuana to keep his emotions under control, bottles up emotions, repeatedly vents without seeking a solution to the problem. While I prefer to analyze my emotions, find the reason behind it, recognize the triggers and find a solution to the problem as well as accept my issues. I understand where he comes from but we butt heads too much to find a solution to this problem.

And A fears talking to him again about me because she thinks he might leave her this time. In all honesty, I may end up walking away from all of this… I love this woman with every fiber of my being but in the corner is this bad omen she calls a boyfriend. I don’t know how much more I can take. And it being that A and I are almost a year together, things will become more serious between us. I don’t want to get this far into our relationship just to give up on it all. I don’t want to give up on her.

I do apologize for the length of this, but I needed to explain as much as possible so that I can get the most accurate advice. What should I do? How should I go about handling this?

First, I want to say how sorry I am that you’re in such a difficult situation without a lot of options. There a few issues here that I want to address:

  • Isolation and abuse
  • Rules, boundaries and vetoes
  • Dealing with mental health struggles in polyamory

Isolation and abuse

There is a lot to unpack here and some of it I think could be potentially excused by people who are new to polyamory especially if, as you say, they’ve grown up with a difficult background and struggle with anxiety and expressing their emotions.

However, there is a huge problem here that no amount of mental health struggles or lifetime of difficult experiences can really excuse and that’s what is, to me, a clear attempt by T to isolate his partner. I wish you had gone into detail about what had happened at this camping trip which might make the boundary of him not wanting you in the house more understandable, but it’s when you said that T is attempting to spread rumours about you to your partner’s friends so they don’t want to meet you and that T says that you should be ‘grateful’ that he ‘allowed’ you to be with his partner… all of this is very worrying.

I’m not an expert on abusers. I know that one of the first things abusers do is attempt to isolate their victims by driving wedges between the person their abusing and the people they could reach out to for help. And this quite often happens so slowly and subtly that the person being abused may not realise it. His manipulation of the situation and the language of ownership he uses over your shared partner is especially worrying. It makes me think that he is doing this purposefully and, as soon as you’re out of the picture, he will focus on another friend A has. And another. And another. And perhaps their family. Until no one is left but him.

I can’t say for sure if this is what will happen, but I do have to say that this is a red flag that is worth paying attention to. And it is for this reason that I’m advising you on how to approach your partner about this, which leads me to the next section.

Rules, boundaries and vetoes

Had there been no signs of isolating A and T was just a reactionary jerk, I would have advised you to put more effort in making sure A actually puts their foot down and sets their boundaries with T and less effort into worrying what T does. But the problem is that, if A is slowly being sucked into what will eventually become a seriously abusive relationship, you demanding that A get rid of T for what he’s done will just make you like T in a way, another person putting demands on her.

It is fundamentally ridiculous that T has any say in A’s relationships. I don’t even personally feel that such a setup can be described as ‘non-monogamy’. Non-monogamy requires the consent of all parties to work. When one person decides for someone else who they can date and see in such a way where they claim they are ‘letting’ their partner date other people, that’s not non-monogamy. That’s just abuse and control.

You both don’t get along, and that is fine. It would also be fine for T, as unfair as it may seem, to not want you in their shared house — that is T’s house just as much as it is A’s and, depending on what happened at this camping trip, I can see it being reasonable for them to want that. However, the language T uses around this makes at seem as if they own their partner, which isn’t really acceptable. And if T wanted to say to A that he disliked you so much that he would dump A if they continued to be with you, that’s not necessarily controlling or a problem — T does not have to smile and nod about everything a partner he has does and he is allowed to not want to date A if he dislikes you that much.

But he isn’t allowed to treat A as his property. I would normally say that you need to expect A to stand her ground more. Unfortunately situations like this do arise and sometimes, if someone forces someone to essentially pick between two people, they have to pick. I would have also advised you to consider that, when A decided you are ‘just friends’, to accept that she had made this choice and consider moving on. But the fact that T is speaking in this way and being manipulative makes me think that it’s not that easy for A to leave T, and it won’t be. On average, it can take someone up to seven times to leave an abusive partner. And she may also be dealing with her own mental health struggles as well, which brings me to the next point.

Mental health struggles and polyamory

I write a lot about how struggling with mental illness impacts non-monogamy because growing up in certain environments can make it difficult to do some of the things that polyamory 101 advice suggests you can do easily. People can take it for granted when they grew up in a loving, supportive environment how much that impacts their ability to communicate and negotiate their wants and needs.

But I want to make it clear that acknowledging that mental health plays a role in how we communicate or the struggles we face in no way means that individuals are not responsible for their actions. T may very well struggle with a lot — a great many people who hurt other people do have their own challenges. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. But that doesn’t excuse his behaviour here.

The bottom line is that he is a controlling partner and that’s not acceptable, regardless of his mental health problems. If he’s going to take responsibility for that, then he has to be willing to take some steps to change his behaviours, but something tells me that he is not going to do that. All of the things he’s done in terms of the demands he’s made on A, the controlling of her relationship, the manipulation of others against you, as well as the comment about you being grateful he’s ‘allowed’ you to be with her are really, really telling and no amount of mental health struggles someone has excuses that.

So what do you do with an abusive metamour?

Right now, you’re in a very difficult situation, but I think that it would be wise for you from an emotional standpoint to separate yourself from it, as painful as it can be, while still holding some space for A to reach out to you if she needs help. Sometimes an abuser will make other people’s lives so difficult around the person they want to abuse that they leave, and that’s the goal. And from that you may want to stay around and make sure that A is okay, but fundamentally you also have your own mental health and well being to think about.

The action of leaving this relationship, whether it is or will become abusive or not, has to rely with A. You cannot force her to leave him. You cannot force her to recognise that T is not a good person for her to be with.

And the more you try to force her to see or do either of those things, the more you will become like T in terms of trying to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. She has to take that first step. You cannot take it for her.

What you can do, is make absolutely clear she knows that she can call on you if she wants to escape from that situation and that you will do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Even if she may feel angry at you for leaving this situation or feel sad, if you make that clear, you will give her what she needs if and when she decides to take that first step.

If you’ve never read “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, I definitely recommend you read it ASAP. It will give you some insight into the mind of people who behave like T and it will also give you some good insight into how to help people in A’s situation. Everything I’ve learned from what I’ve read on abusive relationships, regardless of how ‘serious’ they are, is that you cannot force someone into leaving a partner who is trying to control them like this.

You may be very tempted to stay and I can understand that, but I really do think that it will only do you more damage in the long run. The best thing you can do is separate yourself from T and this situation, provide an escape route for A when she wants to escape this situation, and go your separate way. It will be much easier for you to provide support and help when A does decide to leave T if you are in a good place. Choosing to be witness to more of T’s manipulations and behaviours will not do anything but bring you down and won’t make it any more likely that A will leave. In fact, I think staying around would likely make A not understand how serious T’s behaviour is and might just create an environment of complacency.

I know this isn’t the most desirable outcome for you and I know this might be very difficult to hear, but I think that this is the best way forward for yourself and, eventually, for A. There isn’t anything you can do to repair their relationship, force T to get help for his issues, or help A realise what’s going on and really, some of that stuff isn’t and shouldn’t be your responsibility. It’s going to be difficult for you to do, but I do earnestly think it will be better in the long run.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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Episode 9: Winning Gold Medals

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

Are you giving your partner a gold medal for doing something they should be doing anyway? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Episode 9 – Winning Gold Medals

Are you giving your partner a gold medal for doing something they should be doing anyway? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at

Podcast transcript


Me and my boyfriend are together for over two years and living together for almost one, both of us had previous experiences with non monogamy so it was a non brainer and since the beginning we have an arrangement of being each others primary partner and having secondary sexual partners.

But maybe because it is my first long term relationship it is also the first time I experience jealousy, we mostly deal well with it with lots of communication and all, but I fear I may be taking some of the fun for him and it makes me feel really bad because he works hard to give me the most amount of fun.

One of my biggest issues is that he doesn’t really like having one night stands or casual sex, he prefers friends with benefits because he needs to enjoy talking with a person in order to want sex. I actually have no problem with a friend with benefit he has since before we started dating, my problem is when he is flirting with someone new.

We actually had an argument over the last person he was interested in because he wanted to bail on a date he had with me to have a date with her, we solved it but in the end he stopped pursuing her, because of the argument but also because he was already losing interest for other reasons. Well it was almost a year ago and after that both of us only had sex with someone else when we had a threesome.

For context neither of us really had tons of sex before it, I had with 5 people and he had with 2 and the fact we live together now also plays a part in making it harder for either of us to have sex outside the relationship. But I can’t stop feeling guilty about how I reacted when he was looking for someone and feeling that I am the reason he doesn’t look for other people anymore, My boyfriend tells me he is fine, because I have a higher sex drive he is very much satisfied with me and does not feel like looking for other people at the moment and says it is okay if I do, I actually feel ungrateful because he knows and respect me so much that he will go out of his way to help me feel comfortable with my sexuality and with the fact that I am a highly sexual person, he introduced me to a non monogamous community and loosed up one of his rules in the relationship.

He does all of this and I could not even give him some support in his pursuit, in the end I feel a bit sexually frustrated because I miss having sex with other people but at the same time I feel too guilty to have sex with other people, I really don’t know how to deal with those feelings.


So there’s a couple of things going on in this one. First off ,it’s not uncommon and it is absolutely on 100% fine that you and your boyfriend are different in terms of how you like to do relationships or even hookups. That’s absolutely fine. I am in a similar situation but reverse. I’m the kind of person where I don’t really do casual hookups or things like that. I kind of prefer to have relationships with people and that’s… It’s even weird to say that to me because I feel like saying that means that the relationships that my domestic partner has with the people that he considers more casual aren’t as deep when they may be. But I kind of like to have that you know… we’re in a “relationship” and there is… what it means to me is there’s like more emotional support, you know?

There’s a bit more commitment in what it looks like. My partner isn’t really like that. And it’s not to say that my partner doesn’t want to have relationships but it’s just that he likes casual things and that has a benefit for him. And that’s ok like… I think in the situation when you have kind of different motivations, it’s sometimes hard to understand one another and that may be why it’s hard for you to understand or feel like you can really believe when your boyfriend’s like “I’m not really interested in looking for anyone right now. It’s it’s not something I’m that concerned about.”

I think I still have the same kind of situation with my domestic partner where he’s sort of like, “Oh you should just go out me people”. Like…occasionally I get the urge to do that but sometimes it’s just like, do you know what? I just don’t really feel up to it. It can be quite hard. I’m not saying it can’t be hard to want casual things. I don’t know how hard it is because it’s not kind of where I’m coming from. But I kind of feel like from my perspective like… because I’m very romantic in how I pursue things it can get quite sad. And you know if you put a lot… if you want kind of the emotional investment and you kind of need that in order to have sex with someone… if you kind of emotionally invest in someone and then they pull away or it doesn’t work out it can be quite like emotionally difficult.

So I’ve definitely been in that situation. So I think firstly, a way to kind of dial down your guilt is to realise that your boyfriend has different motivations and that’s ok. And you don’t have to have the same motivations. And also you aren’t an imbalance. You know you might be interested in having more casual sex. That doesn’t mean that you… I kind of feel like you’re always almost weighing this up as a you know a tick box exercise, the way you kind of say say like I’ve had sex with five people, he’s had sex with two. Like it’s not a competition and you always don’t have to come out equal in terms of how many people you’ve slept with. If I had to come out as equal to all the partners that I had…  it just would never work. Just because I don’t tend to have casual things and that’s cool. That’s fine. So that’s like a first thing that will help.

A second thing that kind of jumped out at me is obviously the issue that you’re having is you mention two things: one, when your when your partner flirts with new people, that’s when you kind of have experience the jealousy. And then the other thing you mentioned was that your partner wanted to bail on a date with you, to have a date with another person. The first thing is the that jealousy and that fear over new people is totally… it makes total sense. I know a lot of people tend to feel like your emotions aren’t logical or that logic and emotion are two separate things but actually it’s quite logical in many situations to be emotional. Because you know, we’re not Vulcans. We’re human beings. A new person coming along… it’s something new and that’s scary and that’s an unknown and that is going to trigger a lot of fear. And that is totally understandable. So it’s actually, even though you kinda see this as jealousy… is a jealousy?

Are you really… I mean, we can split hairs about this all day because I have had discussions were I’ve split hairs about this all day… to me jealousy is wanting something that someone else has. That is to me what jealousy is. I feel like being afraid of losing a partner isn’t jealousy and I feel like such so much of the beginner non-monogamy advice is so much like… jealousy jealousy jealousy and when people in polyamorous relationships get asked questions by journalists and shit, the first thing that they ask is “Aren’t you jealous?”. Jealousy is like the big scary boogie monster that we’re trying to run away from and I sometimes think that any bad emotion, any sadness, any fear just gets automatically tarred with this jealousy brush even when it’s not actually jealousy.

I don’t think you being afraid of new people with jealousy. I just think you’re afraid of new things and I think you’re just starting together in this relationship. You don’t have your foundations set with each other, so you’re already going to be anxious about that. This relationship is new even though you’ve been together for a couple of years. It’s still new in some ways and I think you’ll find in my experience at least over time those fears get less and less. Because you’re kind of… once you’re with somebody for a bit of time and you have seen that they’re there for you and you’ve weathered problems and you still come out of it at the other, you stop feeling so afraid. But it’s perfectly logical to be afraid.

But another big thing here is, it’s not going to help your fear if you actually have situations where you are being replaced by someone. A big thing that I tried to… an exercise I try to encourage people to do is… would this bother you if it were a friend? That’s kind of a thing where I think it’s a good way to figure out: is it the person or the behaviour that’s actually bothering you? Because I kind of feel like if your partner bailed on you on a date you planned together for going out with a friend, you’d still be upset. So is it really about this person? I mean obviously like it being another romantic interest adds a little bit kind of a twist to the knife, but it doesn’t necessarily… it is not necessarily a nice thing for someone to do. And I think that’s a discussion that you need to have with your partner.

What are the priorities? Where… and maybe you guys need to think about you know… you choose polyamory for different motivations and sometimes it’s gonna be really really hard to understand each other’s motivations but you can get together and say, “ok what does it mean for us to be (if you call yourself) primary partners? What does that mean in real physical terms?” Does that mean that you can’t rearrange dates? Does it mean that you know… It’s kind of up to you what that means but you have to decide that and you have to understand your priorities and share your priorities and then situations like this won’t happen.

But when you have situations like this happen, then you are going to be even more logically afraid that someone is going to come along and replace you. Because you’ve grown up… I mean correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t know if you grew up in a different society than mine. But I would say most people in the same societies that I’ve grown up in, if monogamy is kind of the default, the idea is that you know being replaced is a thing that can happen. And that you know it’s a competition. And monogamy and and dating is all about being the best to attract the best partner. Even though that’s not actually the way people choose partners. But that whole thing is still going to be running in your head. So you’re still going to be afraid. And then when your fears can I come true… when you’re literally being replaced it’s going to reinforce them and it will take a while for you to dial it back.

Now this… the second thing I want to say is… or the third thing rather… Your partner, putting aside this whole bit in consideration for you… when you are replacing… I don’t know what the circumstances around wanting to replace you, or you know wanting to cancel your date for another person was. Maybe this was the only night this other person could do it. I don’t know. That was a bit inconsiderate but everything else to your partner is doing… like you’re kind of giving him this shiny gold medal for what this person *should* be doing.

You’re acting like he is going above and beyond. He’s not, with all due respect to him. I’m not trying to say he is not being a good partner. He is being a good partner and it’s what he should be. He should be emotionally supporting you. He should be not holding a grudge over you for you having a bad reaction. He should be supportive and helpful. He should be trying to work with you even though you have differences in how your sexuality works. He should be being supportive and you’re kind of acting like he’s been… “Oh my God he’s *so* helpful and I’m just as terrible human who has feelings and needs!”.

No no no no no no no no. He is doing what he should be doing, so stop acting like… first of all, stop acting like emotional support is like… a give and take where everything has to equal out. Sometimes one person needs more emotional support than the other. As long as that imbalance doesn’t continue throughout the entire relationship or for a very very long time and it isn’t a permanent fixture then sometimes a little bit imbalance just happens because… Like for example, say you know next week someone passed away in your family and you’re really really upset. You would need more emotional support at that time and it’s not like… He would be a terrible human being if he was like, “Ok I gave you all this emotional support for when your family passed away. I’m going to need to collect on a debt”. That’s not how this works.

It’s not a debt. It’s not… you know, you weren’t a bad person for having feelings or for making… even if you have no reason to dislike this person. Even if it was an outburst and you shouldn’t have reacted that way and yada yada yada… you allowed to be human and make mistakes. And that’s kind of part of living life and he has to… if he wants to have a relationship with someone that… you know if anyone wants to have a relationship with someone that isn’t you know… I mean, I guess you can have a relationship that doesn’t have any form of emotional support whatsoever. That’s fine if that’s how you want to do things. Doesn’t sound like that’s how you’re doing things.

So stop giving him super uber amounts of credit for just doing what he should do. I know you feel like all this guilt but like think about where this guilt is coming from. Because he is doing what he should do and you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about that. You don’t owe him anything. You don’t owe him recompense for you know… it is not how this works. If you stop thinking about it as a competition then you know it makes you go “oh ok well he’s doing what he should have been doing, so why do I have to feel guilty about the fact that he is not going out having loads of sex with other people?”.

First of all, that’s not what he wants to do anyway and second of all like… it’s ok to feel like a little guilty. Like I’m not trying to urge you to stop all emotions in that way either. But if you… I think maybe you came from a situation in your life where you’re not used to people doing the basics of what they should do in in terms of emotional support and I’ve been there so I get that. I’ve been in that situation of like “Hey this person doesn’t hit me. They’re great at relationships.” But that’s not where you want to be, because this is what should happen.

Except for the whole ditching you for another person thing. That’s not what should happen. But the whole… being supportive of you should happen. That’s a good thing, so stop making it seem like he’s slaving every day over a hot stove while you’re out cavorting with the local bar… I don’t know. I’m trying to come up with a stereotype and it’s failing. But my point is he’s doing what he should be doing so don’t feel guilty about that. And the last thing is that you’re going to feel guilty and sometimes when it comes to bad feelings or feeling bad.. I shouldn’t say “bad feelings”. It’s not “bad feelings”. It’s feeling bad. You just have to go through it and it will get better. In my experience, whether it’s sadness, anxiety, all of that like… the only way to deal with it is to deal with it. So you’re going to feel guilty. Accept that you’re gonna feel guilty and try and your best to cope with it.

Because the thing about anxiety is that if you give anxiety an inch, it will take a whole damn mile and everything else to be honest. It will take more than a mile. If you try to avoid the things that make you anxious, you will just…  the amount of things that you can be around will shrink and shrink and shrink. And the amount of things that you have to avoid will grow and grow and grow. So… you’re going to feel guilty so just… try going out. Try meeting someone. Try having a casual thing and experience it. Feel the guilt. You’ll feel guilty but you’ll come out of it at the other end and I think when you realise that it doesn’t destroy everything and that you’re ok and that your partner isn’t resentful and it’s ok, it will get better. But I think if you avoid it… you keep avoiding it’s just going to keep… that guilt’s just gonna stay right where it is. So yeah unfortunately, you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and go through it.

To summarise like… it’s totally ok for you and your partner (or partners) to have different motivations, different reasons why you do polyamory or different ways of doing it. It’s ok that you’re into more casual things. You just have to kind of re-remember when you’re thinking about your partner that he doesn’t want the same things as you. So the fact that he is only had sex with this many amount of people when you’ve had sex with more is ok. If he doesn’t want that then he doesn’t want that. So try to remember that. Both of you are valid in what you want. It’s just you want different things and it’s really hard sometimes. I have a hard time thinking that…and I think any time you do have that kind of… it’s not incompatibility but it’s a difference in how you’re reasoning behind things. I think just bears keeping it in mind and remembering.

Second thing is that whole like being replaced… you know that bailing on a date with you to have one with someone else… again I don’t know what the circumstances were around it. Maybe that… he was having a date with someone and that was like the only night they could make it but you need to have a discussion about priorities and about what happened. If you need a polyamory friendly therapist, find one. But I think you need to address that and figure out why that happened and talk about your feelings about  it in order to figure out how to stop it from happening again. Either by you working out circumstances were it ok to cancel or re-arrange dates or figuring out like… ok Tuesdays is our date night. No other plans on that night. So work that out.

Third, stop giving people gold medals for shit they should be doing. That I think will help your guilt a lot to be honest. Because I think so much of your guilt comes from the fact that he’s done so much for you and you’ve had this bad reaction like… your reaction is understandable and what he’s doing is what he should be doing so… stop giving people gold medals for things that they should be doing anyway.

And the last but not least, like when it comes to some of this guilt, you’re just gonna have to bite the bullet and go through it. I think once you kind of realise that what’s happening should be happening and he is… other than bailing on you.. he’s being really supportive and that’s what he should be doing, maybe some of that guilt will kind of dial it back a bit. But I do think that you might just… sometimes brains are trying to help and they’re not helping and you kind of have to go through it come out at the other end and say “hey I felt pretty freaking terrible but I survived and nothing terrible happened and I’m ok”. Sometimes you just have to do that with some of these feelings and then your brain will realise, “oh ok I don’t need to sound the alarm for this”.

I really hope this helps and good luck!

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Episode 6: Polyam in the Middle

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

What happens when your kitchen table polyamory attempt goes awry and you’re left with two loves who can’t see eye to eye. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Listen below or on Libsyn.

Episode 6: Polyam in the Middle

When an attempt at kitchen table polyamory goes awry and two of your loves can’t see eye to eye. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

You should also be able to find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, and other providers. Or, conversely, use our RSS feed.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at

Podcast transcript


I have been married to my anchor partner for many years but we only opened up as Poly about a year ago. I entered into a loving relationship with my second partner a little less than half a year ago. she is also new to poly but has had a fair bit more experience than us.

in any event early in the relationship mistakes were made and conflict arose.. a few times. as the dust settled my it ended up that my second partner told my anchor she did not want to be friends with her and just wanted a civil and friendly courteous relationship.  which from her perspective was a fair boundary. my anchor and I prefer breakfast table poly and has a different interpretation of what that means.

So in the breakdown of their friendship my anchor got quite hurt feelings and feels that she cant trust her any more. this is fair because some things were said and implications made that were kinda mean and hurtful to her. I don’t believe any of it was meant to be hurtful but there was a lack of sympathy and gentleness.

My secondary partner wants little to nothing to do with my anchor partner because she finds her emotionally needy, dramatic and feels that no matter how hard she tries to assure her that she is not a threat she will always be perceived as such. so she set a boundary with my anchor and said I no longer have the energy to be friends with you so I am going to take that off the table.

So here I am stuck, deeply in love with each woman, fully able to see each others perspective but unable to help repair the damage. They are completely unable to have grace for each other and seemingly incapable of seeing each others perspective. from my position they are both right and both made mistakes and so did I. My anchor is now hurt because we both want kitchen table poly and now I am in love with a woman who does not want to be friends with her, and my other partner does not want to put energy into something that feels like a lost cause and an unending source of drama.

I feel it would be devastating to end a relationship with someone who treats me so well and loves me so beautifully, she brings me profound happiness when we are together. She loves and respects me and I bring a lot to her life as well. From my perspective in our relationship she has done nothing to deserve me breaking her heart.

On the other hand my staying with her is causing my wife to feel un-cared for, misunderstood  and it is a constant stress-or in our relationship. the three of us have a lot of combined friends so social gatherings are now super strained if the two of them are invited to the same space or event.

So, how can I make this situation better, I don’t care if they aren’t buddies. I don’t see it as an issue as long as they are nice to each other and treat each other with kindness and grace.


So there a few things going on here. First of all, what the heck happened? You know, you’re kinda tiptoeing around the issue. You’re not saying what was said and I think that is a big deal to me because, we both have stories from each side. One side saying, “Oh these people are…  this person is too dramatic” and the other person is saying, “Oh, this person really hurt me and I can’t trust them anymore”. Which is quite a big thing you know. It’s one thing for like things to get out of hand. One can call each other a dick head or whatever and the other to be upset about it. But it’s quite another thing for someone to not trust them anymore.

So it’s hard for me to really know who is… not necessarily “in the right” but who is necessarily… Specifically whether or not your wife has… it’s understandable for her to feel betrayed by you  continuing to have this relationship with this other person/. Because from my perspective, your relationships are your relationships and it’s not really anyone’s business. However the big thing that you’ve said… and you’ve said “breakfast table polyamory” and “kitchen table polyamory”… And I actually looked this up because I had no idea what this was.

And for those people who don’t know, so “kitchen table polyamory”…  let me actually see if I can pull up an official definition from what I got from when I looked it up… kitchen table polyamory was basically the idea that like you.. hold on, let me… kitchen table polyamory… and I’m going to say polyamory because I don’t say “polly”… the idea that even if you don’t have a direct romantic relationship with your partner’s partner they’re still important to them and thus like family to you.

This is one of those moments that I have where my complete difference to so many people in this community really stands out because the term “like family” and the idea of it being like my kitchen table where I grew up is not a good thing to me. I wouldn’t want my relationships to be anything like the relationships I have with my family or what happened around my kitchen table growing up. But I get the gist. I get the idea that you’re still close. You have a close friendship and it’s a nice idea but I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to get along in that way.

And this is the thing that… you know people say when you’re get involved in the polyamory community usually people say “There is no right way to do it, there’s no one right way”. But stuff like this makes it seem like, while there may not be a right way but there is an ideal that people are aiming for. And I get the idea like it’d be great if everybody got along and there wasn’t any fighting and there wasn’t any drama and people just loved each other. Wouldn’t that be great? And if ifs and buts were coconuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

I think it’s slightly idealistic, and maybe that’s because of who I am. Because I mean…  I know that you’re not dating me but I know from just who I am that I can be an extremely disagreeable person. I don’t get along with people very easily. I don’t really like socializing and I have put myself in this position in the past, forcing myself to be friends with someone just because they were dating my partner and it made me freaking miserable and I hated it. And I actually I became more bitter and I said like one of the cattiest and horriblest things I’ve ever said to a person is something that I said to a met amour because she was basically forcing me to be friends with her and I didn’t want to do that. And I hated it and I resented it.

So it’s never a good… it’s a nice ideal to shoot for but to make it so much that you are not allowed to have a relationship with somebody else unless your anchor partner is best friends with them… is just it’s not really fair and it’s not really realistic. And like you said you’re now put in this position where it seems like you’re in the middle and you know when one person is has a fair boundary and now it seems like your wife is kind of saying you kinda have to split up with this girl or she feels I’m uncared for and misunderstood… And you know, it’s hard for me to say because you know on the surface just looking at the situation it does seem unfair.

It’s not as if… I don’t know what what your secondary partner said. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know went down. Maybe your secondary partner completely insulted her and because I’ve also been in situations like that. I’ve also been in situations where my partner is friends with someone who insulted me on a massive level to the point where I don’t talk them anymore and I’ve blocked them and I don’t want to be around them. And I don’t even want to hear my partner talking about them because I don’t like them. And it took me awhile to get to a point where I didn’t feel like my partner, you know, being friends with them was some type of a betrayal.

Because it does sometimes feel like that. If you’re with someone and they witness you being hurt, you would hope that… if you witness someone hurting your wife, you know, coming up to your wife and saying, “You suck. Fuck you.” You would kinda, “Hey!”. It’s not necessarily your business but, you know, it’s your partner. To a certain extent, it’s not necessarily that you have to make a rule that no one’s allowed to ever be mean to your partner or that you’ll never be friends with anyone who doesn’t like your partner because people don’t like each other sometimes.

But it’s that… you know, I can see a situation where this secondary has said something that’s really hurt her and you haven’t stood up for her in any way, if it was personal, and her feeling a bit betrayed by that. Like I can also see that side. Because even… they don’t have to get along and your right, it’s not an issue that they aren’t best friends and they should be treating each other with kind of “grace”. Well, I don’t know “grace” sounds a bit meh… But at least being, you know, civil and friendly and not insulting one another. I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to expect but at the same time… I really want to know what was said.

Because there are people in my life who have insulted me or hurt me to the point where I don’t want to be friendly with them. I don’t even want to be courteous with them. I don’t ever want to see or talk to them and that’s my boundary. And it does… if my friend were to date them or if my partner were to date them it would hurt a little bit. So yeah, on the whole I see what’s going on here.

First thing is… you and your partner really need to talk about this “kitchen table polyamory” thing. This is what you both want but is it… you need to discuss that. What does that mean? Is it something that you both want to the point where you’re going to destroy any relationship if not everyone’s best friends because it just doesn’t seem fair or realistic to either of you. So you need to talk about that. Independent of this relationship with this other person you need to think about what that means, because it’s also, if you think about it, it’s also really fucking daunting for someone. Think about you going out to date a new person. Imagine if, not only you have the stressors and you have the kind of whole emotional situation of meeting someone new and starting a relationship with them and you know.. How do we feel about it other and how deep is this going to go? And what’s going to come of this?

And then on top of that you also have to be best friends with their their partner? It’s not really fair and it’s a really awkward ass situation to be in as a “secondary”. It’s kind of a shitty situation to put a secondary in cause maybe they’ve got their own business and their own things and they’ve got plenty of best friends and they don’t want another best friend. That’s perfectly fine so I think you guys need to discuss this because I get the idea and it sounds nice but just because it sounds nice doesn’t mean it’s realistic or that it’s a fair thing to ask of someone coming into relationship or even a good expectation to put on yourself.

Because it’s very possible that in the process of wanting this “kitchen table polyamory” thing you’re putting someone under pressure to be best friends with your wife and that’s actually causing these conflicts, to be honest with you. Like me being forced to be friends with someone will cause me to have a conflict with them more than it would if I just was going to be courteous with them in and you know just like every other other person that I meet. So you might want to think about that one.

Second thing I think that… I think it is hard for me to say whether or not the feelings of betrayal are unnecessarily founded or not. I think that both sides can have boundaries because right now  the only person that has put forth their boundary, and a fair boundary, is your on your girlfriend or your secondary. She’s put forth a boundary that’s perfectly fair. She doesn’t have to be friends with your wife. She is fine. She’s established that she doesn’t feel it will work. She doesn’t want to pursue it. She’s willing to be courteous and isn’t trying to start anything on. But that’s her boundary and that’s fine.

But you know what? Your wife can also have some boundaries too and maybe your wife’s boundaries are… I don’t really want to hear about this person so… if she’s so hurt by the situation that she’s doesn’t feel that she’s able to be civil and friendly and courteous. Then maybe what she needs to do is say, “You know what, I don’t want to really see this person. You go see them. Visit her house or go out. You go see her separately of this. I don’t really want to talk about it very much. If we’re in the same space or events, we will… maybe we’ll pretend like each other doesn’t exist”. And maybe that seems stupid but you know… if that’s going to make your wife feel better because she doesn’t feel capable of pretending to be friendly with someone who’s really hurt her, then I think that’s also fair.

Like I said, I’m in situations now where my partner is friends with someone who I fucking hate to be honest with you because they were intensely rude to me and I’ve blocked them on Facebook and I don’t see them. If I saw them I’m not gonna like… punch them in the face but I certainly won’t talk to them. I certainly won’t acknowledge them and I certainly won’t be friendly or courteous to them and if they came up to me and said something I’d probably say something like “You know I don’t like you. Why you talking to me? Go away.” And I’m… I’m ok to do that because I feel hurt by this person and I don’t want to speak to them. And until they are going to apologise to me for what they said I don’t want anything to do with them. And that’s fine and my partner can be friends with that person.

You know, there was a period of time where it was hard for me and I felt a little betrayed because I wanted my partner… I feel that way towards my partner. You know, if people insult my partner, I have a really hard time wanting to stay friends with them. If people hurt my partner… maybe it’s none of my business technically but it is my business because it’s my partner. I’m just… that’s how I am. I’m that way about my friends. You know, when people… it’s kind of almost bad because people attack me or insult me or insult my character and I’m willing to forgive them but the second they come for people that I care about… you know, that’s it. I am really… people hurting my partner or hurting my friends is not something I take very lightly.

So it’s hard for me sometimes to accept that… ok my partner understands that this person hurt me but doesn’t feel like it’s any of their business and doesn’t… you know, has this friendship with this person that they value and maybe doesn’t have a lot of friendships. And feels like they want to hold onto this friendship. I don’t… I know that nothing can be gained by forcing my partner to stop being friends with that person and I think that’s what your wife also needs to realise is that… her feelings of being misunderstood and uncared for and that someone’s not sticking up for her after she’s been hurt are perfectly valid.

She’s allowed to feel that way but she also needs to look at the situation say honestly would forcing you to break up with that person work? Would it work? Would you not be extremely resentful? Would you not be hurt? And she needs to kinda look at it from that aspect and you might want to talk about this with a polyamory friendly therapist together and work through these issues. Because it took a bit of talking between me and my— and this isn’t even someone might that my partner is dating. I think if it was someone… if they were dating this person it would probably be a little more difficult but I would still want to work through. We’d still sit down and we talk about it and I’d say “This person really hurt me”.

But when my partner explained to me, “Yeah, I do understand that they hurt you and I don’t think that was right. I don’t have a lot of friends. This is the value I get from that friendship and I don’t want to end it because I get a value from it”. And then I was able to understand and go ok.. Is forcing my partner to… control who they’re friends with or control who they date… is that going to inevitably work in my best interest? Maybe I’m coming at it from a completely selfish standpoint. But is it going to work? It’s not going to work. My ultimate goal isn’t to control who my partner dates or is friends with. My ultimate goal is to be happy and for them to be happy and for us to have a good relationship.

And I know that if I force them to not… you know, if I force them to break up a friendship that means something to them, that’s going to cause resentment. So you know, t’s a balance. If it gets to a point where your wife just literally feels like the fact that you aren’t angry that this person said these things to her… it might be something that for her is not workable. And that’s her boundary and that might be be a conclusion that she comes to. But I think that you need to think about explaining… “This is a relationship I value. I get a lot out of it. She has these boundaries. What are your boundaries? I can not talk about her. I can make an effort to try and go to things with you and go to things with her and not try to force you to be in the same environment”. Find out what boundaries would make her feel better.

But she needs to understand that forcing you to break up a relationship isn’t… she could do it and I think it would work. Like if she said “It’s me or this person,” I think you probably would pick her. But would that fix the situation? I don’t think so. Maybe she’d be happier because she’d never have to see this person again but you’d be miserable and maybe that is a hard limit for you. Maybe being forced to get rid of this relationship would damage your intimacy together so much that it’s not repairable.

So I think you guys need to talk this through with it with a polyamory friendly therapist. If I had a bit more information about exactly what was said, I think I’d be able to give a little bit more of an idea of whether or not… but either way like, if your wife feels these things, her feelings are valid. And you have to, whether or not they are “logical” or whatever, it’s important to recognise them and it’s important to work with them rather than against them.

But you need to kind of work out what boundaries can you put in place for her.. Or what, sorry, what boundaries she can put in place that will make her feel better. I don’t think from the other side… I don’t know what this secondary said, but I don’t think it’s… it’s certainly not an unfair boundary to say “I don’t want to be friends with you”. Because equally I think if you put your secondary partner in a position where she’s forced to pretend to be friends with your wife she’s just going to get resentful and then she’s probably eventually going to get sick of it and leave.

So yeah I I think you need to have a talk with your wife and decide about this “kitchen table polyamory” thing if that’s a realistic thing you want to aim. And also think about ways to make her feel that you do care for her and she feels misunderstood so… you know, try to understand her. Try to understand the situation. Try to make her feel like you understand her feelings and do that with a therapist that can help a little bit, if you can find someone. But yeah, that’s basically what I think would help out the situation and I hope that it helps. I’m really sorry that you’re going through this. It sounds really difficult and I hope that I hope that this helps and good luck.

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Too good to be triad

This content is 2 years old which means my opinions or advice on this issue may have changed. Please, read this page keeping its age in your mind and feel free to re-ask a similar question.

I’ve been in a relationship for almost nine years, well, not exactly in 2017 we broke up. After the birth of our child life became hell, we had tons and tons of arguments, but the worst part for me at least was that she did not want any more sex with me. She suffered every time we had it, she started to hate man and liking women more (she always had crushes for other women, we had a couple of one night stand threesomes in the past). We always had more hetero normal friends and couples than any gay/lesbian friends, except for a small group of friends of hers that were lesbans, however after our child was born, she started to hang out only and ONLY with gay people. The relationship became alcohol abusive and violent until one night i found her in bed with another women and we ended b

My self esteem was on the ground, i felt so attractive and so gross for the fact that i turned my ex-wife into a lesbian! I even had some suicidal thoughts, but of course, when you’re a father you have to keep your shit together, i was able to recover my self esteem, and started dating again, and after some months when we fought about tuition and some separation issues we started to hang out again super nicely, she worked at home with another girl (which i suspected was her partner from day one). They seemed happy, and we had a really cordial relationship when i came only for visit one or two days in the month.

I had a lot of sex, at first due to insecurity problems i had to pay, but after a while i was again full of confidence and tinder girls and club girls and old girlfriends started to appear in my sex life that was before that destroyed.

I went to do a masters degree in germany for most part of this year, there i met an old girlfriend, there was always a sexual tension between, we knew each other from college, we started dating, and wow, what a relationship, more sex that i ever had, and not only the amount of it but also the quality of the orgasms, of the excitement, of the desire.

Eventually my ex-wife realised i was in a relationship and she started asking if i was happy, if i had forget about her etc etc. I said i was and that i really cared about her and our child, that i really used to love her very much, we cried over the phone, she said she wanted to pick me at the airport with our kid and ask me if we can try it again. I said to her it is too late.

Soon after she came out with her new girlfriend (which was of course the nice girl she works with). We started a life outside the capital city with my new girlfriend, but sometimes we have to go to the capital to do stuff you cant do in town. At first i stayed at some friends house, and only went (without telling her) to my ex wife’s house to play with my kid and say hello. Until one night i stayed there with them and had a couple of drinks, they both said that they have a crush on me, that they think i’m the best man on earth but that they are both into girls rather than men. I said i feel flattered but i cannot be with someone i cannot have sex with. Her new partner (the coworker) said to me, “i could have sex with you every day, you are handsome and smart and i think you are very attractive”. We laughed and i left, but of course with the whole idea in my head.

Later we started to have kinky video chats, they would answer my video phone calls without any clothes off, they would have sex on camera for me to watch, it was impossible for me to hold up any more.

In my next visit we ended up having sex, we were all pretty nervous so it wasn’t great (and i will tell you later why not), but it still was very romantic, with a lot of love and care, we cuddled and slept like babies, i never felt so loved in my life. We talked, my ex wife said i should break up with my GF, the co-worker said i shouldn’t cause it wouldn’t be fair cause right now (for working reasons) we cannot be together as a family (the three of us). So we ended up concluding we would keep the secret.

Two days ago we had another series of encounters, and this time it was mind blowing, awesome, the most pleasant, the most amazing, the most… i have no words to describe sex i ever had in my life. It was kinky but still with lots of love and respect, it was quite heavy to see in one moment, one on top on each other, rubbing their bodies, moaning of pleasure while i only watched but even if it was a little akward i swear i did not feel jealous in any moment, cause i felt i was being treated with lots of respect.

Now we have a plan, i have to finish a lot of stuff away from the city, i have to build a life here, that will take a couple of years, the thing is that nobody lives in this little town and i don’t want to be alone, that is why i don’t break up with my GF, cause i need her, but she would never understand this polyamorous thing. The idea is keep the triad until we can all move to the countryside and live the life we want without anyone messing around.

But i’m afraid

i’m afraid of hurting my new GF, she has been nothing but nice and complacent with me.

I’m afraid of being alone here

I’m afraid of going to a crazy party with my triad and that they end up having sex with other people without an invitation for me at the party (this is like feeling jealous, i don’t like jealousy i think this is the key for non monogamists)

What will my friends and family say? They already have a problem with my ex wife being a lesbian because a kid should have a straight couple as parents (yes both friends and family are huge conservatives, i’m not).

But most important, i’m afraid my ex wife will stop loving me at one point, cause t this point i’m starting to develop strong feelings for her again, and for our new partner too. Everything has been amazing till now, but everything is like that at the honeymoons. I really want to be with them, it is like a dream, but i’m afraid in the end it will be like that… a dream

Everything is new for me, i had thought for a triad for a long time but i didn’t even know the term triad. So a little advice would be very helpful, thanks a lot.

There’s a lot going on in this situation, but I’m going to try and address it all in these points:

  • Honesty and consent
  • Better self-awareness
  • Red flags and red marquees
  • Polyamory priorities and children

Honesty and consent

First and foremost, you need to be honest with your current partner who you’ve been cheating on. I understand that you don’t want to hurt her, but you’ve very likely already have. And there’s absolutely no point regardless in keeping this from her, regardless of what path you choose down the line.

One of the reasons I don’t say ‘ethical non-monogamy’ is for the same reason I don’t say ‘breath assisted swimming’. By definition, non-monogamy, as with monogamy, should be ethical and if it’s not, it’s cheating (and if you’re not breathing and swimming, it’s drowning). What you’re doing right now is unethical by monogamous or non-monogamous standards and it’s not fair or right to continue to lie to your current girlfriend. She’s consenting to a relationship with you on the basis that you’re exclusive and she has the right to informed consent and the choice of not being in a polyamorous relationship if that’s not what she wants.

Even if your girlfriend was amicable to the idea of polyamory, the fact that you’ve cheated on her and continued to lie to her might mean that, regardless of relationship styles, she will not want to pursue that with you. And even if she tries to pursue this with you, she’s going to be in an extremely difficult position to try and cope with newly becoming polyamorous on top of having metamours who encouraged her partner to be dishonest to her — and two of them on top of that. Especially if everything works out and you all end up living together in the countryside, that’s an incredible amount of pressure to put on a person all so that you can have your cake and eat it too — and it’s really not fair to her.

Tell her the truth. She deserves to know.

Better self-awareness

I’m not sure if you realise how obvious it was from the start that your ex was behaving inappropriately towards you, but from the start when she was asking you to try again once you were in a relationship, the red flags began flying to me. Throughout this entire interaction between your ex and her new partner, you had several opportunities to stop this in its tracks. You had several points where you could have put up clear boundaries that stopped this from happening. And you didn’t.

You said at one point ‘it was impossible’ for you to hold up, but I think part of you willingly walked into this situation and knew very well where it would end up, but you don’t seem to have the self-awareness to realise when something is clearly going too far outside of the remit of what’s acceptable and not acceptable. And regardless of what relationship style you choose in the future, this is going to continue to cause you problems. I’d honestly suggest you find a therapist who can help you better identify these situation when they happen because I don’t really feel like you’re as beholden to other people swaying you as you’d like to think.

Red flags and red marquees

Putting aside the ethical issues with cheating, I think you need to take a good honest look at your ex’s behaviour throughout this entire situation and ask yourself if this is the behaviour of someone you want to trust your life with. In the first instance, you broke up because she cheated on you and you say the relationship ‘became alcohol abusive’. I’m not sure if that means she or you became abusive, or both, but clearly there is a history between you both of dishonesty and damage.

You suspect that her current partner has been someone she cheated on you with the entire time and the second she learns you’re in a new relationship, she starts trying to get back together with you again. Despite knowing full well you are in a monogamous relationship, both she and her new partner take advantage of the fact that you are over at their property just to see your own child, and do their very best to convince you to cheat on your current partner.

And after successfully getting you to cheat on your partner, your ex tells you that you should break up with your current girlfriend — this is the biggest red flag of them all. If your ex wants polyamory, there is absolutely no reason to convince you to not only keep this a secret from your partner but also to break up with her. Which makes me wonder what the motivation is to separate you from your current partner.

You say that your plan is to move away from the city, perhaps away from some of the people you regularly rely on, and be in the country with these two people, which sounds to me like isolation, not a good thing. Is this actually polyamory she’s trying for? Or does she just want to, for some strange reason, collect you and keep you along with this other person who’s perfectly happy to engage in toxic behaviours along with her.

Is this really something you want to be a part of for the rest of your life? Is someone who has a history of demonstrating that they have no problem cheating on you with other people or helping you cheat on your partners someone you can trust? Is this someone who is setting a good moral example for your own child?

I get the fear of being alone, but sometimes being alone is part of life. It’s almost better for a person to experience being alone and learn how to be comfortable and happy within themselves than fall into toxic and abusive relationships or even just relationships that don’t make them happy because they think it’s better than being alone. Because the truth is, no horrible relationship is better than being alone if that’s what you need to be. Especially if it means going down a road that, in all honesty, does not look good for you.

Polyamory priorities and children

Throughout this whole process in deciding what to do with your life, it’s hard to see where you’re prioritising your child in all of this. I know this is a relationships advice column/podcast and you’re obviously going to be primarily focused on your romantic relationships but I’m slightly worried in all of this that your main priority seems to be sexual connections and excitement in what you decide to do with your life. I could be wrong about this, but that’s why I’m highlighting this.

Likewise, I’m unsure that your ex is prioritising your child in these exchanges either. You were together for nine years. I’m not sure when the child was born, but they could be anywhere from eight to nine years old and dealing with a lot of change in their life. Forgive me if I sound critical of either of your capabilities as parents because that’s not what I’m intending, but I’m really wondering what conversations have been had with your child about how things are changing. I’m wondering who is watching the child when you’re all three together and if the child is really being prioritised in all of this.

People are welcome to manage their relationships however they’d like, but I personally feel very strongly, based off my own experiences of dealing with people coming in and out of my life as a child, that when a person has a child, unless they decide to sever all of their parental ties, they need to prioritise their child above all of their other needs and ensuring that the child has a good life which includes a collection of stable adults to rely on. I don’t agree with your conservative family in that children need a ‘straight couple’. I don’t even think children need two parents. But having one dedicated parent that’s putting them first is much better than three parents who are not considering them as a huge priority.

I think it’s worth thinking about your child in all of this. If you’ve had previous issues with abuse or alcohol problems with your ex and your child, is your child safe in this environment? How would they cope with a move out to the countryside? What about their feelings if you try it with your ex again and her new partner and then you decide it doesn’t work? Have you considered how they might explain the situation to friends visiting their house or how you might explain the situation to them? It just doesn’t seem like the child is a big priority here and they really should be.

In summary

I think the first thing you need to do is be honest with your current girlfriend about your infidelity because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of your choices. Then I think you need to take a good hard look at your ex and her current partner’s actions and really think about whether or not this is someone you can trust with your heart again. Someone who cheats on you and helps you cheat isn’t exactly going to be completely trustworthy in the future. And then I really think you need to think about your child in all of this and how this impacts them, because they seem to have been left a bit by the wayside.

Definitely look towards seeing a therapist in the future to help you gain more self-awareness in identifying some of these patterns before they seem inescapable in the future.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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