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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m currently over 2 years into a poly relationship with a wonderful person. Our policy is that we’re both free to have casual sex, and we’ll treat dating people on a case by case basis. The majority of our relationship has been long distance, but I very recently moved to live a few blocks away from them.

Partner has a friend who was also known them for as long as I have. Over the course of our relationship, they’ve grown very close. Every time I heard about Friend from Partner for the first year or so, they kept assuring me they were “just friends” and that they’d never be interested in anything more with him, even though I didn’t ask for that assurance.

Then, Partner asked me if they could do nonsexual kink things with Friend, which I was okay with. This came with more assurances that they’d never be interested in doing sexual or romantic things with him, again without me asking for them.

Early this year, Partner asked to start dating Friend. I said I wasn’t comfortable with it right then. Partner asked again a month or so later because Friend’s partner decided to open up their relationship. I said I needed to wait until I lived near Partner and see if I felt more comfortable in our relationship.

Over the summer, Friend visited Partner and they had sex, even though I told Partner I was uncomfortable with that. They apologized for being inconsiderate of my feelings, saying that it just happened. A day before I moved, Friend’s new partner referred to Partner as their “metamour” in a place where I saw and Partner brushed it off as a misunderstanding. After that, I told them I wasn’t sure I’d ever be comfortable with them dating Friend while still dating me.

It’s now been two months since I moved and while my relationship with Partner is stronger than before, I’m still not comfortable with them dating Friend. They’ve given some hints that they want to talk about this sometime soon, but they haven’t brought it up yet.

Other than this issue, I am really in love with Partner, although I still don’t feel like I’m getting enough affection (school and health issues make fixing this hard).
I don’t know how to get over Partner giving specific boundaries for their relationship with Friend and then changing them suddenly.
Thinking about this situation makes me have anxiety attacks and cry. I’m working on finding a new therapist, but it’s hard having just moved and needing to find a bunch of new doctors.

Am I being ridiculous about this whole thing? What do I do when Partner brings up the subject again?

– Too Anxious, Too Needy

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Hurricane Joaquin…everybody ok so far? Be okay.

Greetings,

My wife (Carole) and I (Clark) have four children and share our home with a childless couple (John & Priscilla) who I met in college. We’ve done so for roughly two years now with surprisingly little friction.

Recently John talked to me about how he’s come to the realization over the past year that he is polyamorous. The rest of us are not.

John also confessed that he’s had a crush on someone outside the house for a few years and that there are other infidelities over the course of his marriage.

I am having a difficult time discerning if this is actual polyamory (which I am not terribly familiar with) or just rationalization of bad behavior and a desire to have shackles taken off so he can date other women without guilt.

John discussed the possibility of romances (plural his) going forward and not liking the idea of primary/secondary relationship – so in theory these other women would have the same status in his life as Priscilla.

Putting myself in Priscilla’s shoes – this would be hard to swallow. I fear that our happy home is about to be torn and I am hoping for some help with resources / tools I can use to help them both while maintaining healthy boundaries.

(I am not concerned about having random lady friends over with children about – before moving in we all signed a contract that included the right of any one of us to veto someone coming over if for any reason it made us uncomfortable. John will have to get any lady friends approved by his house-mates before they can come over or will have to leave.)

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I’ve been married to my husband for five years, and in a relationship with him for fifteen years.  About four years ago, we became poly with a friend. At the time, she was our roommate and had just separated from her fiancé. He was deeply immature, and she has an abusive family background. She had also been through a sexual assault. While we were helping her get through the assault, we became quite close, and discovered that we were both attracted to her. When we found that the attraction was mutual, we formed a closed poly triad with her.

In the last year, she has twice demanded to have absolute relationship equality to my marriage with my husband, despite our 15 years of history together. She has also stated that she wishes to have children with my husband – a condition I cannot accept under any circumstances. Because of this, and some other issues, she and I are no longer partners. However, my husband has depression and PTSD, and he cannot make a decision about what he wants from this situation (his preferred situation, that we go back to being a triad or at least a V, cannot happen because of her demands). 

She still lives with us, and she continues to state her intention to convince my husband to have children with her. For me, the ideal situation would be for them to break up and for her to move out. My husband’s depression is so severe right now, however, that he cannot decide what he wants (and has said so). The ongoing situation is putting a strain on our marriage and destroying the peace of our home life. However, if she left, he would have a PTSD meltdown because his PTSD was caused by behavior of hers before we even became a triad. She knows this, and has used it several times in the past several years to get her way when she wants something, usually something I am not comfortable with.

I have to live with her and she is passive-aggressive and combative. There are times that, no matter what I say, she has to contradict it.  I promised my husband I would try to support his relationship with her, but she tells me that the things I do in that direction are suspicious and remind her of an abusive parent. She and I had a long discussion the other day and during that conversation she told me that she refuses to be second to anyone. I have talked with several poly people about her demands. No one thinks they are reasonable, but because my husband does not know what he wants, I am living with the situation. My main goal is for him not to be hurt, however unlikely or even impossible that may be at this point.  Her goal is to be equal to me in his life, apparently even if he gets hurt in the process. I have not demanded that he throw her out for two reasons:  1) I don’t want to hurt him and 2) I don’t want him to trigger when she leaves, again because it would hurt him. 

I want my husband to be happy, but this situation is killing me.  I want us all to be happy, but I don’t see how the V she and he want (even though he still doesn’t know if he wants to have children with her at all and she is openly working toward that) is even possible.

A friend of mine who knows about the situation said that it reminds them of King Solomon with the two women fighting over the baby – that one woman is putting her needs over the baby’s and the other is putting the baby’s needs over hers. My goal is for him not to get harmed. Her goal seems to be to get her way.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.  My main fear is that if I demand that she leave that he will trigger horribly when she does and that he will resent me and leave me.  He has told me that absolutely won’t happen, but I cannot keep myself from being so frightened of the prospect. And, of course, the idea of him triggering (and getting hurt) is not pleasant either.  I’m also afraid that if I demand that she go that I will be selfish in doing that.  A friend of mine asked me what I would do if I had a secondary partner that demanded to be a primary partner and the comparison stunned me.

If you have any suggestions for how to handle this situation, I need to hear them.

At The End Of My Rope

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A grumpy cat "there are two things I don't like: Change and the way things are."Hey Captain:

This has been a problem for a while but strangely it only occurred to me to write you about it after your recent post on polyamorous parents inviting their girlfriend to their kid’s wedding.  I had a lot of feels over that post because I’ve been having a similar concern. Namely, I hate my parents’ new wife. But I feel like the ship on which to mention it has long since sailed.

For the majority of my life I was happy living with the idea that my parents were monogamous and happy about it.  But then a couple years ago they approached me with the idea that now that I was grown up they were going to start dating around. I was confused and upset (Are you getting a divorce? But wait, aren’t we Catholic?  Why now? Am I supposed to do something about it?) but they were able to explain things for me.  I can’t say I’m the most thrilled panda on the planet because on some level I think I just don’t “get” it. I’ve never had the desire to date more than one person -anything else seems stressful and difficult- but I support anything that makes them happy. So I took a few weeks to think about things and decided that their lives were their own and it was not my place to judge.

When they got a new girlfriend I even tried really hard to be nice to her – we did the whole family dinners thing. The girlfriend – “Carol” – was nice enough and I feel like I might have genuinely liked her had we met under different circumstances.  We had a lot of “weather talk” conversations and were genuinely polite/pleasant to each other, but that was it. She and I never did anything alone, and her being Mommy and Daddy’s Close Friend seemed to work out for all of us.

But then they got married. Not legally of course, but there was a service and she moved into my parents house. Marriage changed everything. It seems like I can’t see my real parents alone any time, and whenever I want to see them Carol is always around. What’s worse, it seems like they expect my relationship with Carol to upgrade like theirs did. Carol wants that too – recently she’s been pushing for more “girl time” and keeps trying to talk about more personal things as though we’re good pals. The more she pushes the more I realize I actually loathe her. For a while I denied it and tried extra hard to be friends because that’s what noble, progressive, open-minded people would be. (at least, in my mind) But I never wanted to be friends, I was mostly being nice because she was important to my parents. But because I started out being more friendly than I felt I feel like I’m now locked into this permanent state of being cool with Carol. My parents are upset that I’m still keeping her at arm’s length (since we’re all one big happy family now!) and I know that if it came to her or me they’d choose me. Still though, I don’t want to force them to choose but I don’t want to be all buddy-buddy with her either. They feel like I’m rejecting her and their lifestyle, and I guess in a way I am? I’m just not ready for their lifestyle to become mine.  How can I tell my parents that I’ll never love Carol as much as them, and that while I value their relationship with her the less of a relationship *I* have with her the better? And is that even a cool thing to want?

Signed,

Not Down for Family Christmas Carols

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Dear Captain Awkward

I’m currently in a happy poly relationship where me and this other individual are dating the same person (X) whom we both have a primary relationship with (the girl and I have a secondary relationship). X recently proposed to us but, for a very good reason, will officially marry Y (the other girl) and will marry both of us in a private joining of hands ceremony. While I love both of them very much marriage terrifies me and I can’t really articulate why. It’s more like a general feeling of no I don’t want to do that. The problem is I don’t feel like I can say anything to X because I don’t want to scare him away from marriage- it’s complicated but basically X didn’t want to get married again ever but outside circumstances have forced the issue and while I’m thrilled to hear he’ll marry Y I wasn’t thrilled to hear that it came with the added secondary wedding.

Thus how do I bring up the fact I don’t want a marriage ceremony even after saying yes because I was drinking and it was a shock and I didn’t want to ruin the moment? Also how do I bring up the fact that I’m holding out for someone I could see myself being married to as opposed to my current two partners whom I can see being with for the rest of our lives and being very good friends with but I frankly can’t guarantee that we will always be romanticly and/or sexually tied? Finally how do I get out of the secondary marragie without jeopardizing the first marrrage which is rather important that it happens? 

Uncertain about marriage

Dear Uncertain:

You actually seem very certain about marriage, in that you do not want it. Therefore, under no circumstances should you marry (even in a not-legally-binding fashion) anyone. Here is your script:

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I recently broke up with my partner. It was actually the best breakup I’ve ever had, if such a thing can exist: mutual, honest, open, and with what we hope will be a genuine friendship remaining. I’m still sad and I miss him terribly, but I know that it will be okay. For now though, I am often sad and lonely, and so I’ve been leaning on my friends a lot. Which has become weird since a few of my friends have begun expressing interest in sleeping with me.

Many of them identify as polyamorous, and some seem to have no friend zone. I don’t have a problem with casual sex, but what I need from my friends is friendship and company and hugs, and what I’m getting is flirtation that makes me feel both guilty for saying no and angry that they can’t see that this is not the time. I’m scared to accept those hugs and company for fear of sending the wrong message, and I’m even more scared that I’ll relent in a moment of vulnerability and loneliness and do something I really can’t handle. I have blatantly told them that I only want friendship right now, but I still feel paranoid, like I am being set up for the polyamorous edition of this XKCD comic.

So I guess I have two questions: first, how do I keep boundaries so that I don’t seek validation from people I like, but don’t find supermegafoxyawesomehot? And second, how do I stop getting angry at friends who are attracted to me, or questioning their motivations for friendship?

Thank you,

Fresh Meat

Dear Fresh Meat,

Congratulations and condolences on your good breakup. I’m sorry that it has done strange things to your mojo and that your friends are choosing this way to “comfort” you.

There is one phrase that can throw cold water on the intentions of people from the planet of no friend zone.

Thanks, I don’t like you that way.”

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Captain Picard in shorts reading a book.

Captain Picard is on vacation and can't help you, so for now, you get us.

Today, the awesome regular commenter known as “k”has been promoted to Ensign Perception in the Army of Awkward. She will help this letter writer explore the universe of people he would like to sleep with.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a problem when it comes to being attracted to people. I suppose colloquially this problem would be called “low standards,” but I don’t like to think about it that way, because I don’t feel like it entails any disrespect on my part toward the people I’m attracted to. The many, many people.

The best way I can describe my feelings about intimacy is this: I basically have no friend zone. If I have a lot in common with a person and I’m reasonably certain that they won’t turn my skin into a lampshade, I find myself wanting to be intimate with them. I try to be discerning about who I actually try to initiate anything with – if I feel like they have no interest in me whatsoever, I don’t bother. But still, this results in a lot of rejection for me. The rejection itself isn’t so much the issue. I respect their right to not be attracted to me and all that. But more than being hurtful – although it is, as I imagine rejection is for anyone, always at least a little hurtful – these rejections just confuse me. Not because I think I’m awesome, but because my barriers to desiring intimacy with another person seem to be just way, way lower than they are for everybody around me. I’m just not certain what’s stopping them unless they find me physically repulsive (and in most cases, I’m pretty sure people don’t).

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