Episode 51: Conversion Therapy

What happens when you’re done with polyamory and want to seek therapy to convert you to a monogamous person?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?

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

Episode 51 – Conversion Therapy

When you don’t want to be polyamorous anymore and you’re considering therapy to convert yourself back. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on our website. Discussion Topic – What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from previous relationships?


This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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

Podcast transcript


I don’t want to be like this anymore. I just want to be a monogamous person.  My partner can’t deal with it and I can’t lose my entire family.  Is there conversion therapy for people like me? I really really hate being like this.


So first thing that I have to say is, I’m sorry, I’m sorry that you are going through such a difficult period. It’s hard, because your letter so short, to really understand what it is that’s happening, but I can understand that you are going through a lot of things right now. And, yeah, I just… just plain basic empathy just… I’m really sorry that you’re having to deal with this. And that you feel like everything is about to fall apart.

To answer your question in a really short answer… no. Conversion therapy doesn’t work for the things that it’s supposedly supposed to work for. So, as far as I know —  and I don’t know the history of conversion therapy so I could be wrong —  but conversion therapy started as a way to supposedly make people be less gay. And that doesn’t work. It never has worked. It’s traumatising and there’s a reason why it’s banned and a lot of places because it is… You cannot force somebody to do something that is against their nature.

And I’m not going to argue about nature and nurture… because I think that it’s so much more complicated than we give it credit for. But I do know that like on a basic level, the thing that I always compare sexuality to, and you could equally extend to how we choose your relationships, is taste. So I really really like salmon. It’s my favourite food. I really really hate capers, I’m not gonna like capers more if someone shoves them down my throat. If someone forces me to eat nothing but capers, that’s not gonna make me like capers any more.

In fact, it might make me hate capers more. It might make capers truly traumatising for me. So, unfortunately, there is no thing— if you really really want non monogamy, if you really really want polyamory— whatever it is that you’re hoping to find… you really can’t force yourself to want something else. Equally if your partner isn’t wanting polyamory, you can’t force them to want it. You just can’t. Unfortunately that’s just not how things work.

What I would say to you is that, I did write something… I wrote something recently called “13 Mistakes That People Make When They Try Polyamory” and I do think— I was going to record the entire article as a podcast episode I still may do that one day on a break. But I would say that that might be something that you might look at, because I do think that— I don’t know anything about your situation. I don’t know if you’ve tried it. I don’t know if your partner’s tried it or if you’ve just suggested it and your partner’s been like “Hell no”.

I don’t think that there are always cases where, you know, even if somebody is like “EH!” when they first react to polyamory that it’s necessarily a bad thing. And it’s always worth continuing to have discussions about things. But I do think that you do need to do a little soul searching. It sounds like you’re not the kind of person that can just go to being monogamous unfortunately. But I would try look up “13 Mistakes People Make When Trying Polyamory”. It basically goes through some of the things that— some of the mistakes that people make.

Because I do think sometimes if you try polyamory and you try it with some of these things in place, it  can be just like shoving capers down your throat, it can be a really traumatizing experience and it can be something that puts you off polyamory and it can be something that makes you not want to touch it again. So it could be that whatever you’re doing, might be things that are you know mistakes in a way, things that make things harder. A couple of the mistakes to give you kind of rough examples:

The first thing that I noticed a lot of people do is making rules to try and stop their emotions. When you, when you kind of decide on a non-monogamous relationship, you are deciding on an essentially different relationship structure. And I don’t think that people always get that. I think that people just think it’s like an upgrade to monogamy and they don’t realise that it is a different way of doing things. And so a lot of times when people first start or decide to open a relationship, they’ll make rules that try to reassure their partner like “I won’t love anybody else but you”.

And that’s a very common monogamous reassurance so people feel reassured by that. That kind of thing freaks me out, personally, but it is something that tends to reassure people so that’s tends to be a promise that people make when they open their relationship. There are a lot of problems with that promise. I go into it my article and that is one thing that, you know, doesn’t work and anytime you create a rule, you need to also imagine what your plan will be if that rule is broken. You need to think about what the rule is designed to prevent because so many people make rules that are just designed to stop emotions or prevent negative emotions from happening and you just can’t avoid that.

The second thing is about anchors. So, like I say, and I’ve said in the podcast, my columns, I say it all the time, agreeing to non monogamy means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time with you. And there are monogamous relationships that are like that. There are plenty of monogamous people who have situations with— that are like that. But the thing is is that if you are choosing polyamory then I think that you really need an anchor that is something you can hold on to when things are getting really hard.

And the anchor is usually what polyamory brings to your life. So what are the benefits — outside of keeping a relationship — that polyamory brings to your life? The thing is, if your partner doesn’t have that anchor, if they are holding on to the monogamous relationship you had the no amount of reading is going to change— is going to make them see that it’s different, and want that difference if they don’t want that difference. In the same way, you can’t force yourself to want monogamy if that’s not what you want.

That is another thing. I think that people also don’t expect they’ll be afraid, which is a huge thing and they— you can’t reassure your partner out of anxiety if your partner has anxiety so that’s another thing. There is an assumption that all polyamorous people are inherently compatible when there’s all sorts of different ways of doing polyamory. So even if you want to do polyamory or, you know, even if your partner didn’t want to do polyamory you may want to do polyamory in a fundamentally different way, which doesn’t help so that that is also a thing.

The other thing is, assuming that unhappiness is a failure, which may be contributory to maybe some of your partner’s feelings about things, if they assume that they would suddenly be happy about everything and polyamory and, you know— they have that expectation of non-monogamy when that expectation doesn’t exist for monogamy. So that’s something e to think about. Trying to form a triad. If the first thing that you tried to do was open your relationship only a smidge to include one other person that’s a very common first time mistake and there’s a lot of reasons why that doesn’t work.

Another thing that people do is they give their partner permission, so they will put themselves in a position where before they do anything they have to get their partner’s permission for it. And even though that sounds like a good idea because they’re trying to check in and reassure their partner, there’s a lot of reasons why that’s a double edged sword. Doesn’t always work very well.

Another thing people do is forcing themselves to mingle with metamours and get along with metamours, which you don’t have to do. And it can create more problems and it helps. I think the other thing people do— another first time mistake is trying to like emotionally weather everything and they basically ask their partner to tell them everything about their other relationships because they kind of think that they can sort of…

It’s almost like herd immunity. It’s like… they think that they can become more strong by hearing all of these details that are excruciating like to somehow be able to conquer non-monogamy by knowing all the intimate details about their partners goings on and sometimes that doesn’t help. You don’t need to put yourself through the emotional ringer to be a polyamorous person.

The other thing people do is they make it into a competition. Usually one person and a couple, if they open, one person will always get more dates than the other. That’s quite normal. And that creates a struggle, you know and it creates a lot of tension and sometimes it’s hard to reconcile. The other thing that people do is, when it doesn’t work thinking that closing it will fix that. Or vetoing another person, another partner will fix everything, when that isn’t going to fix everything. Basically if you have to close a relationship, a polyamorous relationship in order to fix it, then there’s some deeper problems going on there that need to be addressed.

And then, yeah, I think, ignoring inherent power imbalances… if you brought a “third” into your relationship and it didn’t work out… there’s sometimes people who bring “thirds” into the relationship ignore the power imbalance that the couple in the relationship has over the third person, and you just— it’s not to say you can’t ever have a triad, or anything or that you can’t both be the same person. But it is— you have to acknowledge the power imbalance there.

And then the last kind of mistake people make is punishing themselves for feeling things. So I think, like I was saying before like it… A lot of the times when I’m giving advice to people it’s mostly that they should let themselves feel their feelings. Because a lot of beginner polyamory resources overhype jealousy and make it seem like jealousy is a character flaw that they have to rid themselves off and not a legitimate emotion to have, in a lot of situations. So, that is a thing— like you have to allow yourself to feel your feelings.

There’s also some other things I talk about when it comes to polyamory and starting like— starting from cheating is the thing that happens a lot. When they sort of feel like their partner is pushing polyamory because there’s a window of opportunity like maybe they’ve always been interested in this person and then now this person has broken up with your boyfriend and they’re like, “Oooh!”. That can be a thing that can put a lot of pressure on things.

Dating exes or coworkers is another thing that people often do. But the last thing that I always say and what I think that you should do: Find a polyamory friendly therapist and talk through this. Find a polyamory friendly couples therapist and talk through this, because I just think that… I just think that like, if you’re so desperate and you just want all this to be over with I totally get that in terms of just wanting to change and be monogamous, but you really can’t force yourself to be monogamous, you just can’t.

Unfortunately it’s just not how things work. It is understandable for you to fear losing your family and fear losing this relationship, but there is a such thing as a sunk cost fallacy, which is the idea that you, you know, the more you kind of dig this hole, you think “Well I have to keep digging because I’ve dug so far”, and you keep putting effort into a situation that isn’t actually helping you because only for the reason that you’ve already put so much into it.

If you have kids, I can tell you from personal experience,

kids are better off with two separated parents who are happy than with two people who are together and miserable. Unfortunately, that is the case. Having separated parents isn’t the end of the world. It is kind of difficult to deal with sometimes and it is a change but it’s not the end of the world and you shouldn’t stay together “for the kids”. Speaking as someone whose parents tried to do that, please don’t do that, because you are setting the example as a parent for your child of what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.

They do catch on to certain behaviours even without them consciously thinking it. They will kind of see what you’re doing and then go, “Hm, is that what I should be doing in a relationship?”. And you don’t want to give them the wrong message about what they should be looking for in a romantic relationship so being separated is sometimes much better for that and also like you won’t— you never lose your family in terms of your relationship with your children, unless your partner is threatening to, you know take away your custody in which case you should talk to a lawyer.

But you won’t lose that. You will always have that, and you shouldn’t also stay with your partner just for the sake of keeping the family together. Your relationship with yourself is pretty damn important. Staying true to yourself is pretty damn important. You only have one frickin life and you can’t spend it doing shit that you’re just going to regret and feel miserable about later on. A better parent and a better person in general, is someone who isn’t filled with regret and frustration and anger because of the choices that they’ve made. So I hope this helps and good luck.

Torn in a triad

My primary significant other(Girl A) and I have been together for nearly six years now. Two years ago we decided to open up a little bit, and that developed into a triad (Boy A), and he even ended up moving in with us.

Roughly one year ago an old friend from my teen years admitted she has had interests in me for..well, it’s been almost fifteen years since we first met, so quite a long time, so she became part of the group..now at four(Girl B).

So then this happened: Girl B told me that she didn’t really feel anything when kissing either me or Girl A, but did when kissing Boy A, and genuinely feels terrible about it. I, of course, am heartbroken.. I’m crazy about her. But I’m more concerned with Girl A, since she is also crazy about her, and can also be very possessive and jealous.

I’m at a point where I don’t know what the heck to do. Girl B has been a wonderful addition to our group..or so we thought. Girl A would never allow Boy A and Girl B to date separate from us, and I fear that she’d force a choice between her and Girl B. I’m honestly scared. I love all of my mates dearly..even if one of them doesn’t exactly return the sentiment…and I want to know how I can help this, without destroying myself in the process.

This is the inherent problem that comes with forming a relationship that makes it seem like all of the people involved have to have the same level of attraction to one another.

We would never expect this with a friend group. If we hung out with three or four people, we wouldn’t be holding a microscope over how much more we felt friendship with one person over the other. But because this involves romance and there is a paranoia around everyone being included, it becomes almost like a competition between everyone else.

Fundamentally, I don’t have a problem with triads, quads or any other different formation of relationships where people all date each other. But, seeing it as a triad or a quad instead of individual relationships among three, four or more people creates this inherent problem where everyone has to have a relationship with each other or it all falls apart — and it doesn’t have to be that way.

(For the sake of this discussion, I’m using Woman instead of Girl and Man instead of Boy since you’re all adults. :P)

The issue with this as well is that you just added people into this dynamic without addressing an inherent power balance of you and your primary. If this were truly an equal quad, your primary, Woman A, would not get to decide who dates who. And it’s likely because this quad was “started” by you and Woman A, she feels she has the power to dictate whom dates who. With all due respect, she doesn’t.

You’re going to have to decide if having someone who dictates who you can or can’t date is something you want to put up with. It’s understandable for your significant other to want everyone to date each other and feel scared if basically she loses a relationship and might be afraid of being replaced — but she can’t address these fears by controlling people and actually her attempt to control the relationships to protect herself from harm is only further damaging things.

I’m not sure what Man A thinks about this, but it’s very possible that he would also not appreciate being told by your partner who he can date, especially if you never explicitly said this triad was a closed one. If she demands that no one date Woman B, she is going to alienate herself from all of you, even if you begrudgingly go with it. It’s worth considering working with a polyamory friendly therapist who may be able to help her address her fears and concerns.

You can only encourage your significant other to seek help for her fears, but you can’t fix them for her if she’s unwilling to work on them. So eventually you may have to decide whether or not you want to tolerate being told who is or isn’t allowed in your life and understand that your other partner may also decide that he’s not willing to be told by your partner who he can date and may go with the person who isn’t forcing him to do something, which is Woman B.

Lastly, unless there is some big aspect of the quad you have left out that might have contributed towards your significant other’s feelings on this, understand that there’s not really much you can do if your partner has decided to do this and won’t listen to anything you have to say about it.

Unfortunately, when people force other people to dump someone or not see someone, the situation doesn’t usually end well. There are always other ways to deal with that feeling of wanting to veto something and that’s either by addressing those fears or any inadequacies or realising there’s incompatibility that can’t be changed.

Either way, I hope it works out for you and good luck.

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Episode 49: Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. What do you do?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What is one behaviour that you never tolerate?

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

Episode 49 – Wanting Monogamy

A partner comes to you asking if you’d consider monogamy and then changes their mind later on, but you’re still stuck on wanting it. 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 our website.


This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. Use our affiliate link for 10% off your first month.

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

Podcast transcript


When I met my current primary partner, they weren’t available for an emotional relationship as they had a primary partner (and that was a boundary of the relationship). A month or two into us starting to date, the relationship with their primary partner ended. And as that relationship ended ours became more connected and intense.

From the start we had irresistible chemistry, they would text me daily (almost excessively), the sex was amazing, and the energy was there. Once their other relationship came to an end, there was no longer a boundary to stop us from spending more time together, becoming more emotionally attached, and ultimately becoming primary partners.

During this time, there were red flags. I was concerned that they were not doing the work to let go of their ex, release the anger, and trauma they had from the end of the relationship. We started to spend almost every night together. I didn’t understand how they could have the (literal) time to process the end of a huge relationship while spending all their time with me, working, and keeping 2-3 other relationships going (while love can be infinite time is finite). I was not shy about bringing my concerns up to them, they continued to reassure me, and I trusted them.

We had big conversations about how our relationship was changing, what the future could bring and how excited we were. My partner brought up monogamy as a possible desire of theirs, and at first, I was concerned about this (was this a trauma response due their most recent brake up/ was this something I wanted). My past few relationships had been poly[am] or open, and while this relationship was so exciting and intense it was also very new. After thinking about it I expressed interest in exploring monogamy with them but asked that we come back to this further down the line.

Months passed and my partner brought up monogamy a few more times (more casually) and I took these as confirmation that their mind was still on monogamy. I started to watch and analyse my relationships with monogamy in mind and concluded that this is something I’d want to try with my primary partner. This is when things got complicated.

I wanted to let my partner know how I was feeling about monogamy and brought this up to them (this was about 6-9 months after our initial conversation about it). I let them know how I was feeling and asked for them to do the same. What I heard from them was a huge surprise and I’m struggling to adjust to it. They basically let me know that they could never identify as monogamous and weren’t interested in practicing it either. While they did have some conflict about it, and we’ve talked plenty about it I still feel a bit shocked.

I now understand that when they mentioned monogamy, they were not thinking about what they wanted or what kind of relationship they wanted with me. They were thinking about their ex. While I’m available to help my partners hash out what they want, work with them so all of us can get past relationship trauma, I feel as though my partner (maybe not deliberately) gave me a false representation of what this relationship was, could be, and is.

This is what I was concerned about in the beginning and I trusted their response and now I feel as though I shouldn’t have. I feel as though they came to me with a desire (that had to do with me and our relationship) and then changed their mind without telling me about it while I carried on with only the information I knew.

Now I feel lost. I feel like trust has been broken with my partner and I’m not sure how to get it back.

I now have this desire to explore consensual monogamy and my partner doesn’t want that. This brings on a whole other onslaught of questions for myself; will I want consensual monogamy with other people? Could I even find someone that is interested in monogamy (almost every queer I know isn’t)? Why do I feel shame about wanting consensual monogamy? Why am I now feeling extra sensitive to my primary’s other partner? Would this relationship have become so serious if they never brought it up or told me when they were no longer interested? Would I still be wanting this if they never brought it up?

I know [your column] is all about non-monogamy and as I’m in a non-monogamous relationship I think this can belong here. But I’m hoping you could also help be shed some light on the desire to be monogamous, and not in a that’s just what society expects kind of way. But consensual monogamous, in the “I’ve thought about this and want this” kind of way?


So, the first thing here is that like your sense of kind of like feeling that your trust has been violated is really understandable. I mean, you don’t say that your partner came to just with the general subject of monogamy and wanting to discuss it. You literally say— and maybe you didn’t mean it so literal or maybe you didn’t realise what you typed — but you literally say that your partner came to you with a want or desire to become monogamous and mentioned it enough that you actually literally said to them, “I’ll think about it. Maybe in a few months”. Like they came to you with the thought that this was their desire. Like it wasn’t just

a random discussion topic, it was something they put forth as something they wanted.

And now they’re saying they don’t want it at all and that is incredibly confusing. And, like, I don’t know if they’ve really addressed that with you. Have they really talked about that with you? Because I’ve at least found with myself like when the subject kind of starts with monogamy or the thought of monogamy comes up, I will start to see it as a competition in a way, and that is really— it triggers all sorts of horrible anxieties within me.

And, you know, I don’t like the idea that there’s like this one space for this, you know, there’s one spot and you have to basically compete with others to get to that spot and it’s… Yeah, it’s just it doesn’t bring up very good feelings for me. So I can imagine that it makes a lot of sense that you would all of a sudden now start to have problems with, you know, and start to have feelings about their other partners because basically they brought up this idea that they may want monogamy or they may want to try monogamy, and they’ve chosen you for that.

And then now all of a sudden they’re saying that they’re not but then you always have this fear in the back of your head. You’re like well, maybe it’s because I’ve done something wrong and now they don’t want to try it with me but they’re talking to other people and saying the same thing they said to me, which is that they want to try monogamy, and maybe they’re just not going to choose me. So, yeah, of course, you’re gonna feel anxious and scared and all of these feelings. Like that makes 100% total sense. So, yeah, of course you’re going to feel that.

I think that what you need to have are more conversations with your partner about how you discuss things because you kind of hit it right on the nose where you’re like I’m okay to like help people hash out stuff but you need to be told that that’s what the conversation is. And it may not be that they did it intentionally but to present this as like this is what I want when that is not the case is just is lying. It’s dishonesty.

And your partner really needs to figure out why they did that and why it is that they didn’t communicate, if they did feel that way why didn’t they communicate? That’s a really big change. You know, I mean it’s sort of in a way to kind of comparison that I always make is that like people wanting kids. Like wanting kids is a very big life changing… If you suddenly decide that you want kids it’s kind of really important and you’ve always agreed with your partner that you’re not going to have kids — if you suddenly decide that you want them. That’s kind of something you should discuss with your partner and not just wait one day to spring it on them.

Or equally if you decided you don’t want them. That’s also something that you need to discuss and you can’t just avoid that, because you don’t want to have that conversation so you need to, like, maybe work with a couple polyamory friendly therapist

to work through like— pick apart kind of why that happened and how you can prevent something like that from happening in the future. Maybe some boundaries around conversations?

I think if your partner had said and acknowledged like “Hey yeah I said that back then, but I don’t really feel that way and I changed”. You know if they had given you a little bit more explanation maybe you wouldn’t feel so anxious about it? I just feel like there’s more conversations to have. I think that all of these conversations about you wanting monogamy like… I mean I can’t tell you that if this conversation never came up that you would feel differently. Like no one’s ever going to be able to tell you that, and then it doesn’t really matter anyways because it’s happened you know. It’s happened. It’s there.

You can’t magically make it unhappen so you shouldn’t sit and sort of ponder on “well what if this was never introduced?”. It has been so it is what it is. When it comes to you yourself wondering about monogamy I think that, you know… I always say in my columns and my podcasts like no one can tell someone else if polyamory or monogamy are more right for them. Like that’s something that you kind of have to glean for yourself, but I do think there are some basic things to— like thought exercises to go through in deciding whether or not polyamory is even or non-monogamy is even an option for you to consider.

The first thing that I usually say to people is, you know, agreeing to a non-monogamous or polyamorous situation means agreeing to a situation where your partner doesn’t spend 100% of their time focused on you. And there are some monogamous situations where that does happen, where someone has a time intensive career. Then they may— or a partner who has like a really intensive hobby. Just anything like that where there aren’t going to be situations where monogamous people agree to a relationship with somebody who can’t devote their time 100% to them. And there are another plenty of people who can’t do that sort of thing.

Like there are people who can’t do long distance. There are people who maybe could not date a lawyer or doctor anyone with like a really intense long hours style career. And that’s legit. So I think that’s the first thing to think about like… are you actually fine with a partner who doesn’t spend their time with you? I think that you sound like you are, because you have had other open and  polyam relationships but it’s kind of up to you to really think about.

Because the other thing that I’ve said and I actually I think I just said this in the discussion question but I can’t remember. My memories terrible, but polyamory is about, and I say this a lot — polyamory should be about finding multiple fulfilling relationships, not about finding a bunch of halfway fulfilling relationships that kind of makes you okay. I think that’s easier said than done because like, when we’re with somebody we don’t want to just break it off. You don’t want to just throw away a partnership that you’ve just put together so it makes a lot of sense to not want to throw that away.

But if a, I don’t think— like we say “Relationship broke, add people” doesn’t work. Opening up your relationship to solve problems in your first relationship, adding another person to that equation isn’t necessarily going to fix anything so that is something for you to think about. Is this relationship fulfilling? That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do polyamory. It just means that relationship isn’t fulfilling. So anyway, yeah. The first thing is about time. I think the second thing is about, is there a benefit to polyamory that you see, just for yourself?

So when I kind of talk to people and usually like nine times out of 10, people don’t arrive at polyamory when they’re not with somebody. Usually they’re with somebody. Usually someone suggested it. Most of the time I’m answering questions for people who aren’t the ones that suggested it. And all of a sudden they have to like decide if this what they want to do. And so that’s pretty normal. Generally speaking in those situations I always kind of tell people to think about if they can see a benefit to non-monogamy that is purely selfish, because so many people I think try non-monogamy because they don’t want to break up with their partner and the problem with that is that basically they’re trying to save a relationship that doesn’t really exist anymore.

They’re trying to save the monogamous relationship they had with their partner, when they don’t have that anymore. Like that, that ship has sailed. So they can’t really save that because they have to realise that their partner isn’t gonna spend the same amount of time with them, isn’t going to remain focused on them all sorts of things. So like, can you find what I call an anchor, which is something where you see a benefit to it that is completely your benefit and isn’t just keeping this relationship? And I think that it sounds to me quite honestly that you have been kind of pushed into really considering monogamy because this relationship has been so intense and has been really great and you don’t want to lose that.

And so you’ve been faced with this real threat that you may have to, you know, consider the benefits of monogamy in order to save this relationship so naturally you’re considering the benefits of it. Almost in the opposite way that people— you’re kind of like doing the opposite and the way that people will consider and try polyamory so that they can keep their partner. And there isn’t really a benefit in it for them but that’s their benefit. I think that in a way that you’re doing a little bit with monogamy.

Like you’re sort of seeing the benefit of monogamy as it applies to this relationship. And I think that maybe you should just think a little bit more about that, like, what are the only selfish benefits that, not keeping any relationship— You know, if you were single what would you choose? I think that will help you get to a realisation of what it is that you want to choose. But essentially it’s something that you know it’s honestly something that you have to tell yourself. I won’t be able to tell you that. I won’t be able to tell you what works best for you. I think that there are totally people who can do both monogamy and polyamory. I certainly felt like I could do both for a long time.

I feel less and less like I could do both, as time has gone on, but for a short time I didn’t feel like — you know there are some people who feel like polyamory is their orientation in terms of how they want to do relationships or is unchangeable. I don’t personally feel like it’s always unchangeable for everyone. I think that for some people they can do both. So you could be one of those people who do both. And you just have to decide what it is that you want to do. I would really really really really hesitate to do any kind of relationship with someone who presents to you like a want that they have and then changes their mind about it.

Like I just feel like that’s really— or even, like, the thing is is that, no matter which way you cut the situation that’s bad. Like, whether they— whether it was never something that they wanted and they just told you they did — not great, or if it was something that they wanted, and then they changed their mind and are now going “I never wanted that” — that’s also not great. So you kind of, no matter which way you cut that, it’s kind of not great. So you kind of just have to think about, okay, you know, is that— that really needs to be worked through.

Because I just think that there needs to be— there’s more to that story, and you need to find out what more there is to that story and why they decided to— if they didn’t lie intentionally like what’s going on there? Because that is definitely a red flag for any kind of relationship, monogamous or polyamorous. Somebody who communicates in that way… it’s not great. So, yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.


Slutshaming and polyamory

I identify as non monogamous, all my partners know that about me, and I feel very sure about this lifestyle for me.

I’m currently closely dating a man who also claims that he is non monogamous, the last month we have been living with each other and I haven’t actively been pursuing other partners or dates out of my own volition. But in a few weeks im going to Europe with one of my best friends, she and I are bother hyper sexual and can sometimes encourage each other to get rowdy sexually (with other people, not each other) so in preparation for this trip I wanted to check in with my partner and re talk about boundaries and clarity.

It turned into a disaster, he got very insecure and started questioning why I have the desire to sleep with randos, why I’m even non monogamous, and giving me shit about past experiences of random frivolous sex I’ve had…( I consensually had sex with an Uber driver, and in confidence I told my partner, who later threw it back at me with such lines as “I don’t get why you wanna just fuck every taxi driver you see…”) I don’t know if that’s necessary information, it just got elevated and unnecessary.

Anyhow, I feel confused by this, he also has had other partners and I support him in that, though currently none of them are pursuing him because I’m in the picture, not my choice , theirs. And he knew that random hookups were of interest to me before we started dating.

I feel like his aggressive behavior is unnecessary, and it’s putting a strain on our relationship. This is where I stand, I do not want monogamy, I want autonomy to participate in safe random hook ups if I so desire, and I don’t know how to explain to him why that is a desire of mine.

How do I add clarity for him? How do I Help him with his insecurities so I can keep on as a non monogamous autonomous person? And am I valid in being upset that he’s upset?

The bigger issue underlying all of this is that you have a partner who has absolutely no problem with shaming and guilting you for your choices. The intent of this is to make you feel ashamed and it is, fundamentally, emotional abuse.

We all have different ways of expressing our sexuality. I’m not the type of person who does random hookups, generally speaking. That in and of itself isn’t a judgement towards anyone who does. It’s just not something I’m interested in. When I had a nesting partner who did do random hookups, it was a difficult thing for me to work out and I can’t say I had the best reaction to it.

This wasn’t because I felt like they were being irresponsible or because I had any feelings about it but more because sex represented something different to me, it was hard for me to put myself in the mindset of someone who wanted to do hookups. I still don’t know if I can put myself into that mindset. And sometimes I still get scared I’m not “enough” when new hookups happen. But I cope with these feelings by talking it out with my partner and, even though I have said things that have made them feel judged about their choices, I have apologised for that and have never meant to make them feel like there’s something wrong with them for wanting to have hookups.

And I’ve certainly not taken one hookup and threw back at my partner not only that they hookup with *everyone*, but also encouraged further shame. I’ve never questioned why they are non-monogamous to begin with either. I have definitely expressed genuine confusion by their choice and it did take me awhile to understand that I didn’t *need* to understand this for us to work things out, but to go as far as what your partner has done throws up some serious red flags.

He’s allowed to feel insecure and scared, but he’s not allowed to encourage you to feel shameful for your own choices in the way you describe, especially aggressively. You’re never going to make him understand your want for random hookups if he doesn’t get it but he also doesn’t have to inherently understand it to be respectful of you. I don’t know why my partner likes pineapple on pizza but I certainly don’t go on about how disgusting it is in a way that’s supposed to stop them from doing it or make them feel bad about it.

Personally, I would find it hard to stay in a relationship with someone who did this kind of gaslighting (extrapolating that because you had sex with ne Uber driver that you have sex with every single one) and emotionally abusive behaviour towards me. Still, I can empathise with the fact that it’s possible he’s lashing out because he’s insecure and doesn’t know how to handle it. We’re all capable of acting in an abusive way when under duress, especially if we have experienced that from caregivers.

But, if this is going to work, then some things need to happen. First, he needs to acknowledge these instances where he has encouraged you to feel shame, apologise for them and commit to stopping that. Second, he needs to commit to, if it’s accessible, seeing a therapist to work out how to better regulate his emotions so that he doesn’t lash out at people when he is feeling insecure. Third, you need to explain, unequivocally that, regardless of the current state of partners, your relationship is and always has been non-monogamous and you can and will be having random hookups if you want. If he does not like that or does not want that to happen, he needs to break up with you instead of trying to shame you out of having them.

And last, while I am more than willing to understand that people say things they don’t mean in times of stress and trauma, you need to exercise your ability to walk away or immediately stop any conversation with him that leads back to these ways of basically abusing you over things you have done in the past. Do not entertain that type of discussion ever again. He’s absolutely allowed to be scared and insecure — that’s pretty much a given. But he needs to be able to discuss it without shaming you about your choices.

Finally, you’re valid in what you’re feeling. You like random hookups and that’s legit. Even if someone else doesn’t understand it, there is no good reason why, so long as you are doing it for fun and not as a form of self-harm, anyone needs to question your reasoning for doing it. Your partner could have valid concerns about why you’re interested in random hookups and maybe there is or could be some larger issue (or not) — but that’s for you to handle and explore on your own and it’s certainly not going to be solved through shame and abuse.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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When your partner isn’t satisfied

CW: This week’s column discusses mentions of weight loss.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly five years now and over the last year I’ve put on some weight, I’ve always been a little chunky but now it’s become a real issue for him. He says he no longer finds me attractive and describes our intimacy as ‘vanilla’.

He’s now brought to light that he’s curious about sleeping with other people but doesn’t want to leave me, he’s added that he has always been interested in this lifestyle change but because I’ve always been a jealous girlfriend he’s never shared that.

I can not pull myself away from this anxiety of the entire situation.

If he’s willing to sleep with other woman what’s stopping him from starting a new relationship with another woman?

Now knowing I’m vanilla, I feel far more inadequate. He’s asked if we could do things together with other people but I don’t think I would be able to control my jealousy.

How do I separate sex and our relationship?

How do I contain my jealousy and appreciate that he doesn’t want to have a relationship with anyone else(yet)?

I’m really struggling not to take this all to heart.

Any advice or experience would be hugely appreciated, thank you.

There is a huge difference in my mind between wanting to open your relationship because you as an individual do not feel satisfied with monogamy (regardless of who you would be partnered with) and wanting to open your relationship because you do not feel satisfied with the individual partner you are with.

In the case of the latter, I feel like, while I understand why people want to keep their partner around, especially if they are in love, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to not only tell your partner that you want to open up because they are, essentially, inadequate for you, but also it’s going to be that much harder for them to overcome a very valid feeling of jealousy and inadequacy because they’ve basically had that confirmed by their partner. That’s painful.

There are some situations where I see this kind of thing working if one partner is otherwise incapable of meeting their partners needs due to circumstances out of their control that could be acknowledged easily by them but… I have extreme doubts about this situation.

First and foremost, bodies change throughout time. While your boyfriend may have body preferences, generally speaking, people’s bodies will not always remain the same through a long term relationship and it is incredibly likely that most people will gain weight over their lifetime.

There’s so much here I could write about the incredibly problematic aspects of specifically a man telling his girlfriend that she’s basically too fat and he doesn’t find her attractive anymore that I just don’t have time to dive into it. I can’t honestly tell if your husband has a preference or if he’s fatphobic but… generally speaking given the society we live in conditions us to believe fatness is ugly and shameful… I find it hard to believe that he’s living in a vacuum outside of the culture he lives in.

And, to put it bluntly, it’s horrible as hell to ask your girlfriend for permission to have sex with others because you don’t find her attractive anymore — for any reason. Even if he’s losing his attraction to you, there are so many ways he could have had a better conversation — and, by the way, none of those conversations, for the record, include demanding you lose weight.

The second issue here is that it’s valid for him to want to have kinkier experiences but if he hasn’t even tried to do them with you, it’s hardly fair. It’s okay if you are more vanilla but we all are capable of at least giving a few things a try for our partner so long as they are inherently triggering to any issues that we’ve dealt with in our lives. So why not at least give that a chance before selecting to open the relationship?

There are deeper issues here that I’m worried for you about considering your boyfriend’s behavior. Someone who decides that a relationship is worth keeping around for their own benefit but not worth devoting any work to is not someone who is going to give you a good experience in monogamy OR polyamory.

If you had written me to say that your partner said he found his attractiveness waning and was honest about that but you had tried to do things that spice things up, including the kinkier things he wants, then I would have said that maybe it might be worth opening your relationship because he’s demonstrated a willingness to both respect you and valuing your partnership enough to make it work between the two of you.

But he’s not. To put it bluntly, he’s being incredibly hurtful and lazy to boot here. If he was always interested in polyamory or opening up, he could have said so from the beginning. Or maybe he could have kept making you feel inadequate out of the picture and just asked to have different experiences. I’m not encouraging people to lie about everything they feel, but also need to be understanding about the ways that our truths can impact others. There’s a guideline I’ve heard about whether or not to mention something to somebody about their physical appearance and it goes: if they can fix it in five minutes or less, let them know. If they can’t, keep your mouth shut.

There’s a way to handle situations like this that would be more respectful of your feelings. The fact that he seems to value his wants and needs over yours doesn’t spell good things for any type of relationship with this man. If he can’t value and appreciate you as an individual and put work into doing some things with you or improving your relationship, why on earth should you be a the third wheel in his threesomes?

Honestly, I think you need to reconsider this entire relationship. If he had been more considerate from the start of this exchange, I would tell you that feeling jealousy is inevitable and you have to learn to cope with things and part of that is reassurance from your partner. But something tells me that it’s not going to matter how well you can cope with the situation if you have a partner who clearly lacks a basic amount of consideration for your feelings.

I know you’ve been with him for five years, but it’s not worth your sanity and your self-esteem to basically sacrifice all of your feelings and needs just for the sake of letting him have some extra sexual experiences — especially if you personally don’t get anything out of this. All of your questions are about how you can change yourself for him when he is demonstrating so little willingness to change for you. Think about that.

I hope this helps and good luck.

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An ex wants to make it right

I was at this relationship that ended badly last night.

I only had a few flings after deciding that monogamy wasn’t for me, but I studied a lot, and still do. So I met this guy through some friends in common, he was a non monogamist too, and a month after chatting online we started dating.

At first it was very nice, a few problems but everything seems overall ok, and I was pumped by the fact that he was everything my prior dates weren’t: Completely honest, eager to talk about his feelings, and apparently very emotionally responsible.

The “the talks” began. He simply couldn’t stop talking about his prior mono relationship, and how traumatizing it were. He alternated between being pissed with the relationship, talking about clinically and showering himself in self pity for not being able to make things alright. And by “making things alright” he meant, or at least he said he meant, that he just wanted to be friends with her again, despite the abuse, manipulation and that constant fighting he accused her of performing.

And then the situation escalated quickly when I got my job back in his town all of a sudden and didn’t have a place to live. At first I would stay there some other day, so I didn’t break myself financially with transport fees, but his family and the other people in the house really seem to like me and I ended up staying full time at his house.

“The talks” became more and more frequent, and I was feeling a bit drained. I wasn’t supposed to be his therapist, he kept saying that he could never be in a monogamous relationship anymore, that he didn’t want a relationship. So after some time I snapped. I told him “Look,as much as I respect this ‘no relationship at all, let’s just be together and whatever’ thing, that’s not what I’m looking for.

I need compromise, I need affection, I need to have my feelings at least at some degree reciprocated. I want to fell wanted and desired, and you are no giving me that, so it’s best if we break up this thing we’re having”. I moved my stuff to other room in the house and that didn’t held up not even 6 hours. He came to my door, not knowing what to say, wanting to talk, wanting to be “ok” with me. But I already had feelings for him, and we ended up just where we started.

And that was the first time I tried to “get away”, after that came over a dozen. It was completely crazy boomerang! I knew in my heart that was so wrong, especially after hearing for days about his prior relationship going the same way, but I couldn’t help it, not living in the same house. I told that I heard that he wasn’t ok with committed relationships, that it was ok if that was not for him, bit for me it was.

And he would say he wanted to try with me. I started telling him that if he was decided to stick with me, he would have to do some effort to change a few of his trauma behavior, going completely mad and pissed at anything that resembled romance (even holding hands had some mischievous meaning behind it), giving me attention, not treating me like I wasn’t there when he was with me, validate me, for God’s sake. I didn’t ask to be talked to everyday, or to cuddle all the time, or that he made public displays of affection.

And things would be good for a day or two and then everything turn back to point A.

I was becoming very overwhelmed by my job, apartment hunt, and then the moving process that went horrendously. I was having two other relationships, that was way superficial, and ended up terminating then for lack of time and emotional energy.

While I sorted my things out, he grew more and more distant, but still, everytime I mentioned we should split, he would state that he didn’t want that.

Everything was an excuse for my “neediness”. I was overwhelmed by work, or the problems at my new apartment were stressing me out, and he hoped that he could help. And I would say “I don’t need help sorting this things out, that I can do on my own! I just, please, need some comfort, some affection, some security!”

And he say that he would try, and still I never felt appreciated or loved. He said that he had a different way of expressing his feelings.

He would start talking about emotional responsibility, or insisted we go to non monogamy reading groups, I think in an attempt to make me less “committed”, or less demanding of affection.

He would try to say things in the most non compromising way when I asked where we were standing in the relationship, like “I care about you.”, “I have been loving you lately”. Never complete affirmatives, always on stealth mode.

And after I moved out, I really thought that he would be more relaxed, but NO! He got even more weird and distant, and we would spent more than two weeks without seeing each other, and he would tell sweet thing over text, that he missed me, and when we finally had the chance to be together, he wouldn’t even kiss me right, just a peck. The sex left me feeling like a doll. I became miserable, started to fight with him daily, and we alternated between long periods of fights and short periods of trying to mend things, until yesterday, after a week of silence between us, he basically told me he was not boyfriend material. While going to a birthday party at a club, with me sobbing furiously on the phone. He was unfazed.

I know that everything is pretty much resolved and that I simply should let him go and never come back, but I really do miss him, the person that was with me the first months…

I’m trying to move on and keep the no contact policy, but he is known for reaching out, like nothing never happened, and when that happens, what should I do?

And most of all, this whole thing left me hating non monogamy as I previously hated monogamy, so I’m sad about relationships in general, ’cause I don’t know how to be that uncommitted and loose about the people I like.

Thanks for reading…

Stop talking to him. No, seriously.

And in the future, in your relationships, if someone is more than willing to verbally trash an ex in front of you very, very quickly, be wary. I wonder if the real problem in his previous relationship was actually his ex, monogamy, or… really just him. Especially given he is so insistent on everything being “right” with her — in other words, he wants her to cosign his behaviour and she probably and rightly refuses to do so.

While it’s hard for me to say if I’d classify this man as abusive, it’s important to understand that abusive people have good and nice sides to them which is inevitably what keeps their victims coming back. Of course he’s nice at first. Of course he has periods of giving you roughly what you want. And then he pushes and pulls you back and forth. This isn’t non-monogamy. This is someone who either isn’t aware they treat people his way or knows fully and enjoys the power of jerking you around.

Regardless, he doesn’t give you what you want either because he doesn’t do emotions the way you want him to, or because he knows that he can play a better game by only giving you a little bit of what you want and then gaslighting you into thinking that you’re needy or that the problem is you.

You aren’t a problem. Nothing about your wants here is out of the ordinary, not conducive to non-monogamy, or even silly to expect or want. He intentionally pretends like nothing has happened because he hopes you will do the same. Don’t. Unfortunately, that means you become another story he can tell to another woman about how sad he is that he didn’t make things right with her. That’s not really your problem.

Get rid of this guy. He isn’t good for you, he’s tainting your life and experiences and he’s not worth this amount of drama and negativity. Even without his hot and cold behaviour, treating you like a doll during sex, or being completely unconcerned with you crying around him… he is not worth it.

Dump his ass.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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If you have a non-monogamous relationships question to ask, please email it to nonmonogamyhelp@gmail.com. Your question will be posted anonymously.

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Episode 39: Multiple Escalators

Is it possible to find a “primary” relationship and build it with an already existing close secondary relationship?

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: If someone likes me a lot, I start to feel…

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

Episode 39 – Multiple Escalators

Is it possible to build a new primary relationship on top of an existing, serious secondary relationship? 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 – If someone likes me, I feel…


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

Podcast transcript


I’m married to my husband of 9 years, and we’ve been polyamorous for half that time. Up until recently, I also had a very serious boyfriend. When I first met him, my boyfriend was solo poly, but we loved each other very deeply, so I became the partner he prioritized most. However, because I already have a primary partner, there were certain needs I couldn’t meet for my boyfriend. So a year into our relationship, he decided he wanted his own primary partner and started building a primary partnership with someone else. Which I wanted for him and wholeheartedly supported. And their relationship grew very rapidly.

However, what followed was several months of the worst poly[am] drama I’ve ever experienced. My metamour could see how much my boyfriend loved me, and it made her feel very anxious. As long as our relationship didn’t grow, she was ok with things. But when my boyfriend wanted to introduce me to his family or travel with me, she’d feel threatened and get angry with him. She had a more hierarchical view of polyamory, and she felt certain things should only be reserved for primary partners. She would repeatedly ask him how he could have more than one escalator relationship. My boyfriend would stick up for us and wouldn’t allow her to limit us. Instead, he tried to help her work through her fears and insecurities. But it all caused a ton of conflict between him and his primary partner.

Throughout all of this, I did my best to be supportive of their relationship. I was patient while my boyfriend worked with his primary partner on her fears, and at times, I compromised what I wanted to help my metamour feel comfortable. I didn’t want to be the reason their relationship failed, but I also didn’t want to completely sacrifice my own needs and desires. I didn’t try to limit how my metamour’s relationship with my boyfriend could grow, and I wanted my relationship with him to also be able to grow.

Eventually, their fighting got so bad that my boyfriend broke up with her. But then he turned around and told me that he needed our relationship to be smaller. He said that everybody he knew started with a primary partner first and then added other partners. He said he was doing it in reverse. He said he wouldn’t be able to meet a potential primary partner if he continued being so deeply involved with me. He said our non-primary relationship had become too important, and he had struggled with how to prioritize between me and his former primary partner. So our relationship also ended.

This whole situation has left me wondering if it’s even possible to build a primary partnership over top of an existing, serious secondary relationship. Is this type of configuration inherently doomed to fail? Is it possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new if you’re already in a loving, committed, non-primary relationship with someone else? And as the secondary partner in this situation, how much should I set aside my own needs so they don’t threaten my partner’s growing primary relationship?


So I think that the biggest piece of information in this situation is what your boyfriend said when he said he struggled with how to prioritize between you and his former primary partner. And that’s the key, really. It isn’t so much that it’s impossible for someone to have a secondary but very important relationship with someone and then build a quote unquote, primary relationship that is supposed to mean more or whatever they wanted to find it as. It’s that your partner had difficulty doing that.

And I think that it’s sad because I think that had your boyfriend had a more supportive person that he was dating, it probably wouldn’t have been so hard. I think that it’s understandable for his metamour to be scared, especially if she’s new to polyamory and doesn’t really know. But, you know, they have to come to an agreement of what primary means. And I think that’s the thing here there.

And I’ve spoken about this before. Hierarchies don’t have to be inherently shitty. And I think that a lot of people rail against hierarchies because of situations like this where they’re so prescriptive, or people use them as a reason to control other people rather than them being kind of guidelines for how someone might go about things. I wouldn’t be threatened by my partner meeting a metamorphose parents.

You know, I guess, well, I don’t have parents for my partner to

me. So maybe I’m less threatened by that, because I don’t have the equivalent. But, you know, the whole point of, of the relationship escalator— I felt that the point of that article was to point out that we make assumptions about how relationships should quote, unquote, grow. Not that these are the way that relationships grow. And that’s the only way that relationships grow.

You know, I think that it’s, it’s sad that your metamour was so focused on these little things and thought that they should only be for her, and I don’t know what your boyfriend did to negotiate that with her. I think that It sounds like he didn’t feel like he could negotiate that with her. And he is assuming that there’s a right way to do this and there isn’t. It’s really sad. Like he doesn’t have to break off a great relationship that he has in order to find another one and he is— I’m really… I’m really even caught off guard by his assumption that he needs a primary partner

If he’s solo polyamorous— you know, solo polyamorous people, generally speaking, you know, don’t feel the need to have a primary partner. If they have needs that, you know, if they have things that they want partners to do with them that their current partners can do, they can just find another partner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a quote unquote, primary partner. I don’t know how familiar your boyfriend is with solo polyamory or just polyamory in general, but there’s no configuration that you have to proceed in. And, you know, if if someone is threatened by the relationships that this person already has that’s a problem that needs to be dealt with by him.

And I think that, you— I think that if you’re a quote unquote secondary and someone makes that clear to you, I think that it’s, you know, just like you made clear to him that you had a primary relationship. So there there were things that you wouldn’t be able to do with him. And I think that’s fine. But and I think that as a— you know, you have to kind of accept that if you’re going to accept being in the quote unquote, secondary role. However, that doesn’t mean that you know, just because someone is a quote unquote, secondary doesn’t mean that their opinion doesn’t matter, or that they shouldn’t necessarily have to shelve what they think is an important in a relationship.

Just because, you know, their metamour whoever has the primary quote unquote role has decided that such and such as more important, you know. How people define what is important, or how relationships grow is really up to them. And that’s something that you have to— It seemed like you had a good idea without with your boyfriend, but it seems like the metamour had a different idea of that and it’s seems like rather than realizing that a lot of the clashes in the situation where because the metamour had very specific ideas that he didn’t agree with— you know, he can have a primary relationship, it doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to meet his parents, or that you’re not allowed to travel with him.

That’s, that’s not what— a thing he has to agree to. So it sounds like rather than realising that this is this particular individual’s way of doing it, he’s decided that that is the way that everyone does it, and that he needs to break up with you in order to find the primary person. And that’s just– I mean, it… It sounds like you didn’t say that that’s what he did specifically. You said your relationship ended. You didn’t say who ended it or why but I’m assuming that that was a big reason why your relationship ended. It is possible to build a primary partnership over an existing serious secondary relationship that the— you know, it’s like sort of saying is up possible to have a boyfriend if you have a best


It’s possible to have multiple strong, serious relationships in your life. It doesn’t even have to be romantic partnerships. You know, now there are only 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week, it’s not always possible for you to spend the same time. You know, it might be that when he does find someone he considers a primary. And they agree with what that means. It may be that he spends less time with you, but I don’t think that means that your relationship is smaller. Like, I really don’t like the idea that spending less time together or, you know, I mean, maybe if he doesn’t want to— if you’re not bothered, like if I had a partner who was like, Oh, you’re a secondary, so you can’t meet my parents. I wouldn’t care I’d be thrilled actually. To not have to… Meeting the parents is a scary thing for me. So I wouldn’t mind that sacrifice, but I know it’s just something that you have to talk out and agree on.

What does it mean? Because you can easily say primary and secondary in all these kind of catch all terms, but people have different ideas as to what primary means. You know, for monogamous people or primary someone that’s the only person that they sleep with, you know, but they still have friendships, they still have other relationships in their life that mean a lot to them and maybe very serious to them. And, you know, it’s kind of bothersome if someone feels threatened by their partner having a serious relationship with someone else.

Yeah, that’s, it just sounds like they disagreed on what primary means. Unfortunately, he took that to mean that that was how all those experiences where maybe he had some other experiences with people like that, and he just, you know, felt like he had to disallow you from doing certain things. But I don’t think that you should sacrifice you know, even if you are quote unquote, secondary, that doesn’t mean that you— you know, what is your idea of a relationship? What do you need in a relationship?

And regardless of whether you’re secondary or not That shouldn’t have to mean that you are discarded or that your needs aren’t important. So you just have to figure out what what that is and what’s important to you. And I think it sounds like you do have a good idea about that, because you communicated very clearly to your boyfriend that you know, you have this primary partner, that means that there are certain needs that you can’t meet. And I think that maybe, you know, he didn’t have a very good idea of that.

Maybe he has a better idea of that now. And it’s really unfortunate, but yeah, it is, it is possible to build a secure primary partnership with someone new even if you’re already in a committed loving relationship with someone else. And I just think that you should never set aside your own needs, you know. There there are things that you— like set aside— you can compromise on preferences. You can compromise on some things, but you need to figure out what what is the bare minimum that you need? And what are the things that you can compromise on, you know/

Maybe meeting the parents is something you can compromise on because you’re like— if you’re like me, and you’re like, that’s a stressful thing. And to me meeting, you know, because I don’t have any parents for my partners to meet, it doesn’t mean that not meeting my parents means I don’t care about them. But it obviously has, you know, for some people that has a lot of meaning. So maybe for you, it doesn’t matter that much, because you’ve already met, I’m assuming you’ve already met your husband’s parents, maybe you already have that in your life, and you could, you know, you don’t need it for the second part.

So just figure out things that you actually really need, and things that are just, you know, things that you can do without and

I think it is quite difficult for him. You know, I— it is quite hard if he’d never had that kind of setup before to try and negotiate that. And I think ultimately, you know, he didn’t know how to prioritise and that ended up causing him a lot of stress. And so he doesn’t reasonably want to face that dilemma again, you know, it might— even if it sounds kind of crappy that he’s he’s been really affected by this unfortunate situation.

You know, I am sad that he had that experience because I do think if he had a better experience, he would have been able to prioritise things a lot better. But I think if he if he genuinely feels like it’s gonna be hard for him, you know, he might come back to you when he has a primary partnership and feels a little bit more solid in  what it is that he wants and what it is that he can give you. But yeah, it is possible.

And I don’t think that you— you– unless you are going out of your way to stop your partner from meeting or talking to other people— and even if you were doing that, it is ultimately your partner that needs to come back to you and say “Nah”. You asserting your own needs doesn’t threaten your partner’s growing primary relationship. You didn’t threaten that relationship. You weren’t responsible for that relationship. That’s your— that’s your partner’s relationship, that he is responsible for managing and dealing with on his own. Like, maybe with your help and encouragement. But ultimately, it’s his responsibility to manage you didn’t threaten that relationship.

That was a situation that had a lot to do with clashing ideas of what primary means. So please don’t feel like in the future that you somehow having needs and existing is a threat to somebody else because it shouldn’t be. It really shouldn’t be if he’s able to manage that situation, and maybe he’s not able to manage it. And that’s why he unfortunately ended it with you. Yeah.

To sum up, yes, it is completely possible. This is a really sad, unfortunate situation. Please don’t blame yourself for it. It sounds like he just couldn’t prioritise, just couldn’t manage. And, you know, it’s really unfortunate for him, it’s really unfortunate for you, but it’s not something that you caused by having needs in the future, try to figure out what it is you need from a secondary and what it is that you can do without and negotiate that, you know, from the beginning of your relationship and don’t kick yourself too hard for any of this because it’s really it’s not your fault.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

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Episode 37: Don’t Want to Share

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: List 5 things that are important to you in this life. How much time do you give each of them?

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

Episode 37 – Don’t Want to Share

When you and your partner are dating the same person and you’re tired of sharing. That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon. Please visit @NonMonogamyHelp and view our post here: https://twitter.com/NonMonogamyHelp/status/1267089826492428288


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

Podcast transcript


Long story short I don’t want to practice poly[am] anymore. And it’s upsetting to my primary (and really only) partner. But i think he understands. But the main issue is the other person we’ve been talking to. I don’t want to hurt her.

What I’m really confused on though is how I don’t want to be poly anymore. I feel like when were with this girl.. I’m pretending, like its just a show.

Or maybe the real reason is I’m being selfish and don’t want to “share” my boyfriend so to speak.

I know this is vague and very short but I would very much appreciate any advice or thoughts you have.


Okay, the first thing that I’m noticing here is that you seem to be dating as a couple, or I’m not really sure what’s going on here, because it’s a person that you’ve been talking to. And some people, you know… if a person genuinely wants to find and date a couple, fine, I don’t think that that is the vast majority of people out there. And I think that a lot of people who are opening up their relationship and it doesn’t tell me— you don’t tell me if you’ve just opened your relationship or how long you’ve been, quote unquote, practicing polyamory, but I do think a lot of people who open up their relationships think that it’s safer to operate as a couple and so they operate as a couple.

And I don’t think that works for a lot of reasons, because it’s quite difficult and not necessarily predictable to have one person fall in love with one other person. And I think it’s even twice as difficult to have an expectation that two people will be able to fall in love with one person in the exact same way at the exact same rate. And it’s not always fun to like be part of this situation where you go on a date and there’s two people there just… some people really like that and that’s absolutely fine. If that’s what folks want to do.

I just think that it’s probably better for people to try and date individually first, precisely because of what it seems like you’re experiencing here. You know, you don’t want to hurt this girl, or this woman that you’re seeing or that both of you are seeing but you’re clearly pretending. Like you aren’t interested in her and you know, you feel under pressure to, for whatever reason, perform your attraction to her, maybe because your boyfriend was right there.

Like if your boyfriend just wants to date this person, then let your boyfriend date that person. And you need to have a foundation of trust in between the two of you, so that you trust him to not violate your boundaries or to stick around with you. I don’t think it’s necessarily selfish to be in this kind of situation, and not really want to have another person there. I don’t think that that’s necessarily selfish. You don’t really talk about whether or not you have a problem with your boyfriend dating other people when you’re not there.

But I think that if it’s something that you want to do in terms of you want to date other people then you kind of have to sit with the discomfort and learn how to process it. And it will get better over time as soon as you establish that trust with your boyfriend. And know that you can you know, through example, that if he goes off and you know goes on a date with somebody else, he’s still gonna go on dates with you as well.

So I think that’s the first thing is that you all… you need to date as individuals. And don’t be in a relationship, or be on a date that you don’t want to be on. Break up with anyone or break up any relationship that is fake. That you’re not really actually wanting to be and because it’s also not fair for the other person, like, you know, you don’t want to hurt this person that you’re considering dating but you, by pretending that you are attracted to her, are going to end up hurting her.

So it’s better just to be honest about it. And you and your partner don’t have to be attracted to the same person. You don’t have to date the same person. And it’s very, very unrealistic if that’s your ideal situation. I mean, it would be great. If you and your boyfriend like the same person. If you know you could form some type of triad that worked for you all. That would be a really great situation, but that’s not realistic. That’s not likely to happen because if you think about, you know, a single person.

If you were single, like would you want to date two people at the exact same time? Who expected you to love them the exact same way? And especially if like what ends up happening when couples do this is that inevitably they come across problems in the relationship and their first reaction to that problem is just to chuck the third person that they brought in which really isn’t cool for them. So I just think that you need to date individually

In terms of whether or not you want to be polyamorous I think that what might help is you thinking hard about what the reasons you have for being polyamorous are do you have good reasons? Are you just being polyamorous because your boyfriend wanted to date other people? And you decided to go along with it? What do you as an individual get out of it other than staying with your boyfriend? Think about those reasons.

Because I do think sometimes when you are in situations Where you have a lot of emotions, where things seem really tough? It can feel like “Well, why the hell am I doing this anyway?” It can, it can get really frustrating. So what brings you back is just realizing, oh, I do actually have a reason for why I want to do this. And this is the reason. And sometimes that can help out a huge amount with, you know, figuring out what it is that you want and why it is that you want it.

I would also think about what it means to quote unquote, share your boyfriend. What does that mean? And why do you not want to do that? What do you think is going to happen as a result of that? Are you— do you have fears that you’re kind of indulging? And what what does it mean to share? And what are the specific things that you are quote unquote, sharing?

Those are things to really consider. And also like you’re welcome to like, not practice polyamory in air quotes. As much as you want. You don’t have to always be dating someone else in order to be polyamorous. Sometimes, there isn’t anyone around to date. Polyamory communities can be really small and maybe you’ve dated around a lot, and you just kind of ugh. Dating is also really exhausting. Not everyone wants to date all the time. It can be really, really tiresome. And not everyone you know is thrilled to do it. So just because you aren’t dating someone else right away doesn’t mean that you aren’t polyamorous.

So, you know, if you want to put a pause on dating, that doesn’t mean you’re not polyamorous. It just means that you are not interested in dating for a while. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And maybe you can put a pause on dating for a little bit. But I think that the first thing that kind of needs to be worked out in this because it’s not really clear from your letters, whether or not it’s advisable for you and your partner to date the same person at the same time.

You know, it seems like— you’re talking about how when we are with this girl, I’m pretending like it’s just a show. Well, you don’t both have to be with her at the same time. You don’t both have to date or at the same time. You can be interested in the same person at the same time. Like that’s totally fine. And I’m sure plenty of people have had that situation where they’re interested in the same person at the same time. That’s very different from dating the same person as a couple. Like dating individually and it just so happens that you’re together is fine. And that can be a totally non-predatory thing.

But if you are dating as a couple and expecting things as a couple, that is where the problems really arise. And I do think you really need to look at that before you can really iron out any of the other problems here. But yeah, overall, to kind of sum up, I think that yeah, again, you need to date individually. I think you need to think hard about why it is that you want to be polyamorous or did want to be polyamorous at some point. What are the benefits that you get out of it? And really bring yourself back to that when you start getting in these kind of not so great, happy moments.

I think that you need to think about what it means to quote unquote share your boyfriend, and what it is about that that scares you. And when what it is about that, that you have fears around and maybe kind of work out, You know, is there a way that your boyfriend can reassure you about his commitment to you in a way that will make sharing him feeling less scary? And then last but not least, like just because you’re not actively dating doesn’t mean you’re not quote unquote, practicing polyamory.

You can not be dating anyone. And that just might be how you feel at the moment because dating isn’t that fun for a lot of people. So if you don’t want to date for a while, or if you want to just put a pause on that, that’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to,

you know, date all the time just to be polyamorous.

And that really goes back to the first question because if you and your partner are insisting on dating at the same time and insisting on dating the same people, that’s this is exactly the reason why people advise people not to do that. Because inevitably it ends up feeling forced for one person if they don’t feel fully into it. And that’s just not a fun situation to be in.

So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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Gaslighting and polyamory

My wife and I started a open marriage about 5 years ago. Prior to that we were active in the lifestyle so seeing each other with other people was no longer an issue for either one of us. My wife was the one that suggested the open relationship and I was ok with it, but concerned with who she was interested in. The man was a salesman that visited our place of work, and was a friend for both of us.

It was tough in the beginning, but we found that it made us closer and more open about everything that we did. About a year ago [I] started to notice a change in my wife’s behavior. She wasn’t as sexually active, and I felt a bit neglected. In the beginning we told each other we would always put each other first and that if either one of us wanted the other to stop we would.

I had simply told her that I don’t feel like the priority anymore. She dismissed my concerns and just said i was annoying her. A few months prior to me mentioning all this I had a stroke, and she uses this as an excuse and tells me that I’m different because I had a stroke. I maintain that although that is possible, there’s nothing I can do about how I feel. Deep down I do not believe the stroke had anything to do with it. I think it was just noticing that she was falling in love with this man.

We’ve argued over this man for the last year, and I have tried to let her see him, she insisted that she was in love with the situation, and not “In Love” with him. My mind was telling me she was lying, but my heart wanted to believe her. She insisted that I am the man that she wants to be with but flat out refused to stop seeing him. This caused many arguments in the last few months.

A couple of weeks ago I did something that I shouldn’t have done, and looked at her text messages between my wife and her man while she was gone. I was shocked to find several text talking about how they both loved each other very much. She said how sad she would be not to be able to see him immediately when she returned.

They talked about sexual desires that I had never knew she was interested in. In fact the same sexual fantasies that she told me were disgusting. (we’ve had an amazing sex life). The other very troublesome issues were how she complained to him about me, and would reply to her bashing me. Then I found out that he has been trying to get her to leave me and go to him. He is in the process of a divorce. I feel horrible that I betrayed her trust and looked at the text, but I also feel this hatred and betrayal towards her for lying and being with this man who is obviously not understanding his role in this open relationship.

I don’t know how I could trust her again with an regular marriage let alone a open one, and she is still insistent that she continue the relationship with her man that she deeply loves and I know he tries to take her from me. I’ve made it clear that I can not be the man she wants if she continues with this man after everything I found out.

I’m so confused and don’t know if I should continue to listen to my heart or listen to logic and just end the marriage of 17 years.

First off I want to say that I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this, especially after being married for such a long time. This sounds like a very difficult thing to cope with. There are a few things I want to discuss.

  • Stealing partners
  • Rules about love
  • Respect and dismissal
  • Violations of privacy

Stealing partners

This is commonly known as cowgirling or cowboying — someone who dates someone who is non-monogamous with the full intention of “stealing” them from their partner and, more likely than not, pulling them into a monogamous relationship. I’m sure this does happen. People can do this intentionally or not — or sometimes it’s just difficult when you’re in a relationship that isn’t working out so well to lean into another one.

But what’s important here is to identify the responsibility where it lies. Your wife isn’t being “stolen”. She’s choosing to deprioritise you. She’s choosing to engage with someone who is encouraging her to leave you. Personally, I would have zero tolerance for an individual who tried to convince me to leave any of my partners, regardless. It’s a horrible sign and the fact that she’s choosing to engage in this discussion means she is more than willing to do this. That’s the problem. She’s not being stolen.

She’s leaving of her own accord so be sure, as hard as it might be with someone who seems to be actively willing to take your partner, to put the blame where it actually lies. In a lot of ways though, I spotted problems from the beginning with regards to how you opened your relationship.

Rules about love

You stated how you always promised to put one another first and allow each other to veto your relationships and almost seemed to promise that you wouldn’t fall in love with other people. Had I given you advice from this point, I would have said that you needed to be more realistic about your rules. You cannot control whether or not you fall in love with anyone and you should never make any rules that create the expectation that someone can control these types of emotions.

I’m also concerned by the demand that either of you drop someone if you’re uncomfortable. Opening up your relationship can sometimes cause some discomfort. And if your wife is dating someone who you both know, this might increase the discomfort, but this doesn’t mean that you should be allowed to cancel relationships you’re not involved with. It’s not fair to either of you or the people you’re dating for you to have control over each other’s relationships.

What concerns me about the rule of “putting each other first” is that this isn’t clear and this is the problem you’re running into now. You need specific physical targets of time spent because right now you may not feel like you’re a priority but for all intents and purposes, your wife thinks she’s doing everything just fine and that’s enough for her. This rule doesn’t properly work because it’s defined by perception rather than specifics. And also, at the end of the day, you can’t use a rule to make your partner care for you which brings me to the next issue here.

Respect and dismissal

Regardless of how we may personally feel regarding what we’re doing in a relationship, we always have to be willing to hear our partner out. Even if your wife doesn’t think she’s neglecting you, she should care when you say that you feel neglected. And clearly she doesn’t actually care about whether or not you’re upset or bothered.

I find it really worrying that she’s blaming everything on your stroke, especially when it’s something so far out of your control. Sometimes things happen with partners and they may change over time, but if you’re so different after the stroke that she’s struggling to be attracted to you, then she should have the guts to actually say that to you instead of what feels like gaslighting you into believing that your behaviour was wildly different before your stroke than afterwards.

She shouldn’t dismiss your concerns, she should respond to them and be willing to address them. She obviously can’t help or change if she feels less interested in sex, but she also doesn’t have to dismiss your feelings.

And that brings me to the last point.

Violations of privacy

Snooping is always a double edged sword. Either you find the thing your gut tells you is there and your relationship is forever changed or you violate someone’s privacy and find out you’re wrong and the relationship is forever changed because you broke that trust. It’s good that you identified that you shouldn’t have done what you did, but on the other hand, what you found was especially worrying.

I don’t fault your wife for feeling like she has to tap dance over whether or not she loves you, feeling sad that she can’t see her other partner immediately when she wants, and I don’t necessarily see it as a problem that she complained about you. If you think about the people you confide in, I’m pretty sure at one point or another you’ve complained about your wife. We all do complain about our relationships from time to time. What worries me specifically is she telling you one thing about fantasies and telling someone else something different.

Likewise, I’m going to assume that she did not respond with any defense when this other guy was insulting you or encouraging her to leave you, which is another concern. It’s one thing to complain about a partner and another to insult them. This guy may not understand his role in an open relationship, but that’s only because your wife is permitting this.

In summary

Ultimately, I don’t think that, even if she left this guy, it would change the deep foundational problems with this relationship. I don’t think it is pure coincidence that she suggested having an open relationship and immediately wanted to date someone she already knew. While I don’t want to speculate, it’s possible she had already been cheating with him at the time, as that does happen. It makes me wonder if she really just wanted to date this guy but didn’t have the courage to break up.

For me, in this situation, I would have a hard time wanting to stay with someone who has shown a pattern of not just lying to me about simple things like sexual fantasies but also tries to blame all of my concerns on medical conditions and doesn’t take me seriously when I say that I am hurt or feeling neglected. I don’t know if those are things that can be solved through therapy. No one can make her want to be with you if she doesn’t want to. Someone can help her find the courage to be more forthright with what she wants so she doesn’t lie so much, but at the end of the day, that’s not something you can change for her.

I would advise having a session with a polyamory friendly therapist and talking this out and seeing what their advice is. It can be rough to throw in the towel after so long, but personally I think that you deserve not to waste your time on someone who is clearly not prioritising you and insults you behind your back — or allows other people to. You deserve a lot better than that and you don’t need to cling to her for that. Again, I want to say how sorry I am that you’re going through this because it sounds incredibly rough but it’s much better to realise a busted situation when you can and get out of it than stay and continue to be let down.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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Changing your mind in polyamory

This content is 3 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’m a woman and I had only ever been in monogamous relationships. About a year ago I met a man through Tinder who made it very clear he’s non-monogamous from the start. In fact, on our first date, he asked me how I feel about it and explained his reasons for choosing it and what he’s found through it. I felt we had a connection so I continued seeing him, thinking that I was open to the idea of non-monogamy as I wanted to change my approach to dating, and that it would be something I’d “try”.

Obviously, I ended up falling in love, and we’ve been together and non-monogamous since. Now that it’s been some time later, and our relationship has developed and we’re much closer, I realise that I am no longer “trying” non-monogamy but am actually practicing it, which has led me to be very anxious about our relationship. I feel like I’m not sure if I want to be non-monogamous or not anymore, but also I don’t want to ask for a monogamous relationship.

He’s older than me, has had more experience dating in general and is much more experienced with non-monogamy. He’s been dating other people a lot more since we’ve been together. While I’ve been on some dates here and there, I haven’t built any real connections with anyone, so I’ve only been dating him really. I have a lot of very intimate friendships, which is where I think a lot of my energy goes, and I think we both have different ways of spending our energy on people around us. Part of why I’ve fallen in love with him is because of the way he loves, and I’m afraid that by wanting a monogamous relationship, I’m going to be taking that part of him away and that our relationship will just not have those positives anymore.

We’ve spoken about these feelings before, especially since this is my first experience with non-monogamy, and I’ve expressed the anxieties I have about it. He was very understanding and kind in our conversations and I know he’s open to talking about it more. But still, I’m worried that the conclusion for me will be that it turns out I want a monogamous relationship, which I feel I can’t ask for because it would be asking him to give something up. I don’t know if being monogamous will resolve my anxieties and I don’t know if remaining in a non-monogamous relationship will be me just doing something for my partner’s sake. What do you think?

The anxieties that I see you speaking about don’t have much to do with who your partner dates, feelings about not getting enough time with your partner, or really anything to do with his other relationships. Your anxieties really only seem to be about whether you will or won’t potentially ask for this monogamous relationship.

I’ve been non-monogamous for seven years, and I’ve very rarely been able to find other close connections outside of my domestic partners or people I live with. I’ve tried, believe me. Gone out on lots and lots of dates. But nothing has really ever clicked. But I am the type of person where it takes me awhile to find someone I like. But if I end up being old and my domestic partner is the only person I’ve seriously dated… am I monogamous? No, no not really.

You don’t seem to have a lack of interest in pursuing other people, you just haven’t found anyone that you fancy as much as your current partner and that’s pretty normal. You’re not bothered by him dating other people and in fact appreciate and admire how he loves other people. It doesn’t seem like his dating currently takes away anything from your current relationship. You don’t express any loneliness or problems coping while he’s off on other dates… so the real problem here is a little bit of your own making.

There are some people who are monogamous with their partner while their partner is polyamorous and that is a setup you could consider but I would say that what you have is pretty polyamorous. Intimate friendships are a very valid type of relationship. Our society teaches us to value romantic relationships over others and place different types of relationships on a hierarchy. Perhaps what you like about polyamory is it gives you the freedom to have these intimate friendships without this being a “threat” to your current relationship.

Outside of your worries about whether or not you may want monogamy in the future… what’s the actual problem in your relationship? It seems to be working fine. You’re dating and trying to find another romantic partner but you have lovely friendships and plenty of company along with a partner who seems to be happy with both you and his other relationships so… where’s the problem?

Is there a reason you cannot force yourself being in this situation for the rest of your life? At what point do you imagine asking for this monogamous relationship — and why? Other than forcing him to dump some people and maybe spending more time with you, what would change?

It sounds like most of your anxiety is stemming from the fear that you aren’t -really- non-monogamous because you haven’t yet found another romantic partner and you’re very worried that not finding a connection is some sort of sign that you’re not inherently non-monogamous. But I really don’t think that is the case. I think that you need to be patient, give it time and most of all, try to remember the good things that are happening in your life right now. You’ve got a lot of good connections, and that’s okay. You don’t need to have five different partners to be non-monogamous. All you have to do is decide that you want to practice non-monogamy and… that’s pretty much it!

There are so many things about your life that could change. In 10 years, you may decide to abandon your current career and return to university or maybe you’re sick of living where you’re living and you want to move to another country. You never know where things will take you. But right now, are you sick with worry about whether or not you’re going to like your career in 10 years time? Are you anxious about whether or not you’re going to leave the country ever? No, because you’re focused on the present when it comes to those things because the future is so unpredictable for you, that trying to predict and control it now is wasted energy.

Likewise, who can say if you’ll ever find someone you connect with as much as the partner you have now? But so long as you are currently happy and satisfied with the amount of time that’s spent on you and you have lots of support, then I’d say go with it and see where it takes you — and try not to worry about something you can’t control.

I hope this helps and good luck!

Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.

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