This is exactly the kind of situation that makes us non-poly people “judge” poly people. Poly people always try to act like their way is superior— and are always pushing other people to be/try poly— but for most of us, this kind of drama is a complete dealbreaker to such a lifestyle. It sounds exhausting. I can’t imagine dealing with this and also raising children, being a corporate executive and maintaining platonic friendships and family relationships. Why not just bang other people and be “monogamish” instead of trying to be one big (embarrassing, drama-filled) family? Basically he is asking how to stop 3Y GF from being jealous of NGF. I thought you poly people had all that figured out!?! Guess not! Lol


Cunning Minx read the letter wrong. The Holiday dinner was before the NRG was on the scene, so that insecurity wasn’t in the picture.

I’m curious what happened at the family visit that created this mess. Did LW pay exorbitantly more attention to 15YRG than 3YRG due to his family’s possibly typical monogamous view of the world, causing feelings of anxiety with 3YRG that she might be the expendable one? It would be nice if he started there with his perception of those events because they are probably weighing on 3YRG as NRG came into the picture. Imagine feeling insecure in your secondary status and then having a tertiary enter the picture as soon as you start expressing feelings other than adoration and elation toward the man.

I honestly can’t assess the situation without the LW being more honest about the situation. He says he also acted poorly. What was that action? Who was the main instigator of the drama?

If LW wants to keep 3YRG, LW needs to cut it off with NRG and work on his relationship with 3YRG. If he doesn’t care about 3YRG, just keep separating them and 3YRG will soon know the score and either dump his ass or find a man who will treat her better.


FWIW, my three questions were: 1. Do any of your girlfriends have other boyfriends? 2. How many girlfriends are too many girlfriends? 3. Maybe this is one for BiDanFan?

The point I would raise is the degree to which POLY does not fully accepts he is central to the problems and drama, and the ruptured relationship between GF15 and GF3: "While I will admit to my share of mistakes leading up to the trip, their behavior towards each other and the impact it had on me and my family members, was and is extremely problematic." POLY leaves a big hole in his narrative where he fits, acknowledging some mistakes, but punting responsibility back to his girlfriends. But clearly he is the ringmaster of this three ring circus. To the limited extent we know what is going on, we see POLY trying to exercise control to do what is best for himself, and not giving much thought to any of his girlfriends. Given that window into his behavior, we have to wonder what other poor decisions he has made with respect to this complex network of relationships.


Adding a 3rd girlfriend after the first 2 are having drama sounds like a bad choice, unless drama is your goal. I wonder if this is the kind of guy who thrives when different girls he's seeing are fighting over him.


"New relationship energy" is just lust, isn't it? Why not just call it that?


Looks like there is no optimal solution.


Dan has a lot more patience than I would with many of these letters. I guess that's why he gets paid the big bucks. But at least he knows when to dump a steaming pile of shit like this in someone else's lap.




@1 @DanFan2085 Not all poly partners bang each other (most do but some don't, and some of those who do also want the freedom to love multiple partners, not just bang them). Not all poly partners interact as a "family" as you describe it (some date in parallel and never even meet anyone other than the person they are directly dating). Some monogamous and poly and monogamish relationships are drama filled and challenging to manage, some are not. I've personally experienced more than one threesome with casual partners in which somebody melted down due to jealousy. People are people regardless of relationship type. All of those types of relationships have elements that can create drama and management issues specific to their relationship structures and also specific to the personalities of those involved. You'll note most of Dan's letters are not from poly people yet there's no shortage of drama and management issues.


Ok, what is a "v type dynamic"?


@10 It means the two women are not romantically and/or sexually involved with each other.


@11 Exactly. The contrasting type of poly relationship would be a "triad." (Person 1 has a relationship with Person 2, P2 has a relationship with Person 3, and P3 has a relationship with P1.)

@5 New Relationship Energy (NRE) is more than lust, as far as I understand... It's a poly term, although I think it's useful for us non-poly folks too. Have you ever made a new friend and was just so excited to hang out with them as much as possible? Talking about them to everyone else? That's NRE. It can get annoying for others, and should be managed in a sensitive way (by the person experiencing NRE & by those around them).

I'll end with a little Wiki quote, but feel free to google to learn more...
"New relationship energy refers to a state of mind experienced at the beginning of sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual feelings and excitement."


Okay, LW, listen well, this is what you need to do.

You need to find a 4th girlfriend. And she needs to be addicted to cocaine. Maybe also a bit cleptomaniac.

Then you bring her to your 15YG and say that your new girlfriend (lets call her CG) is demanding that you get her pregnant. Then you bring CG to 3YG and make then hang out until CG steals something. After that you bring CG to NG and well, I don't know, just ask them something about their views on immigration and wait until they hate eachother.

After that all you got to do is wait until the three of them unite against their new common enemy and BANG, you got a nice drama free polyamourous quadruple 4ever. 100% fool proof.

Shit, if that doesn't work then I don't know, maybe you can just focus on one relationship before adding others into this gigantic clusterfuck. I think I read somewhere that in polyamorous circles its called "not being a goddamn idiot".


1 I had the opposite reaction - I thought "I'd love to be in a relationship with this person".

Of course, by "this person" I meant Cunning Minx, not the asshole who wrote the letter. Successful polyamory seems to requite a degree of maturity and reasonableness, and communication skills, that I would love to spend time with, and learn from.


As I read this, I kept thinking that the 3-year-gf (3gf) is feeling a lot of the same insecurities that any middle child might feel: her role is being shifted. The first girlfriend will always be the First Girlfriend; the newest girl friend (she of the NRE) is the shiny new toy--or the baby in a family analogy. 3gf has been the baby until now. With a longevity only a fifth (is that right? Like Dan and Barbie, I'm notoriously bad at math) as long as the original girlfriend (Fgf), she has been the more shiny, newer toy of the existing girlfriends. Now she's lost her place without having the status of the Fgf. She also is naturally more insecure than the Fgf, that "queen of compersion."

I have no idea what happened during that family visit, and clearly the lw played a part in it, but whatever it was, the two girlfriends went into the visit as good friends, and now they aren't speaking. It's likely that the lw has been irritated with both the women. And now, there's a new girlfriend, and to top it off, the lw is more excited about her than he's ever been about anyone the 3gf has ever seen.

Maybe he should make some more time for the girlfriend of three years. Reassure her of his affection for and commitment to her. Acknowledge the newness of the situation. And then he should examine his own actions and behavior. Does he make the effort to make each of these women feel special and appreciated? Is he a king of compersion, himself?


He's responded to the crisis that resulted from the family visit not by healing his current relationships and owning his own part in it, but by pursuing a third relationship and keeping it all to himself so he can enjoy all that sweet NRE.

I don't know how it happened- we can't always help how we fell in love- but it's totally understandable that the middle girlfriend would feel insecure and also feel that he is neglecting her.

Let aside the new girlfriend for a minute, I cannot imagine the drama and hassle and heartbreak that accompanies the two older girlfriend's falling out. Losing a best friend is hard- they need to heal. Being in the middle of that just as a friend is hard enough, as a partner to each of them it must be a nightmare. Not to mention the inconvenience of the logistical hassle of all of this- how can he juggle both relationships if they are never speaking to one another? And presumably they were previously often all together (kitchen table he says).

I suggest he takes a long hard look at all that NRE and see how much really is just escapism.

Regardless, yes he needs to focus on healing the three-way problem, but here he is diverting time/energy/care into the fourth- seems insane to me that anyone would have the time/energy for that, but I'll let the judgement aside. Yes he also needs to respond to the stated needs of the middle girlfriend and stop closing her out. If their arrangement is that all the lovers are in communication with one another, then he can't go off and be selfish especially at a time like this.

I suspect someone will jump ship honestly.

Like Dan, I wonder how many partners these women all have. And how often could you manage to see each of them?


omg, who has the time and energy for this.
Bad timing LW, getting with this new gf when all has gone to shit with the other two. Your skills at poly need polishing. Sort out this mess with 1&2 before making a complete mud pie bringing No3 into it. However hot you are for her.


Good call Mr M @3. Yeah, he’s the culprit here. The women get in a tussle and he deals with it by getting a new gf. This doesn’t sound like ethical poly to me, no matter how much of a kitchen table kind of guy the LW thinks he is. The women haven’t got the right scripts for his scenarios. Hope both 1&2 give him the flick and no 3 soon gets the warning.


That’s Mr M @2, also a good answer SA @3.


Thanks to Mizz Liz for saying "partners" instead of "boyfriends", although Mr Savage's word choice did seem possibly deliberate instead of careless. I like Ms Cute's framing, even (or perhaps especially) if it did make me wish the guest consulted had been Eve Plumb.


"Have you ever made a new friend and was just so excited to hang out with them as much as possible?"
Not unless it was a female friend that I wanted to have sex with. But I always called that lust. Never felt that with any platonic friends. Maybe I'm the strange one though.

"New relationship energy refers to a state of mind experienced at the beginning of sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual feelings and excitement."
That still sounds like lust.

Lust definition from a google search:
"usually intense or unbridled sexual desire: an intense longing: Enthusiasm, eagerness"

But if they want to use three words instead of one I guess that's their prerogative?


Lava@17~ “... omg, who has the time and energy for this...”
Indeed. Kudos to the poly people who can keep all the plates spinning while juggling raccoons and flaming knives. Keeping one woman at a time happy is more than enough work for this kid.


I agree with a lot of what has been said about needing more details at the family visit, but I also think that the guest expert's comment about communication is key. I just would push this in a different direction: there needs to be some talk about why that trip melted down. And GF3Y needs to know that his delay with meeting NREGF is all about avoiding the repeat drama. And I think he'd also want to do some communication time with GF3Y and GF15Y since he says they were friends up until this trip.


@21/Urgutha Forka: I see. I don't think that's strange... I think a lot of people feel NRE only for people they want to have sex with (whether that's because of socialization and/or just naturally, I can't say). But it's definitely not the only experience... I think many people do have strong platonic feelings (yes even for same sex friends). Myself included.

I guess the main difference with New Relationship Energy is that it's not just about sex. It's about romance too. It also is more specific than "lust"... Lust could be used in a variety of situations. NRE is more clear ...imo :) (But of course one needs to know the definition first lol).


Do what the upset lady wants you to do or she'll get more upset, and justifiably. This is a test of if you can prioritize her needs at all, and you are failing.
Remembering a doc on sister wives where the middle wife said she always wanted to be a middle wife bc least drama - sucks to be the first (bc you were the only, maybe forever, then... not), sucks to be the third/last (always vying with potential new one happening and loss of status/specialness from that, what gf2 is going through now). Middle is the place to be re stable status, maybe bc least important.
Anyway, do what the lady wants if you want to keep her. It won't hurt gf3. Maybe gf2 just wants a new gf friend.


People have NRE with pets, friends, groups, long lost relatives, it's not just those w fuck potential. Go camping w a bunch of strangers for a night and it can happen short term, super weird but normal human phenomenon.


Pretty sure you can have NRE with hobbies too.


I agree with Cunning Minx. Put yourself in the position of 3YG. She's been taken along to visit POLY's family, which was IMO a pretty terrible idea to start with, unless your family is an award-winning bastion of poly acceptance. Most are not. I don't know if family dynamics played a role in the blow-up, but it's probably a good lesson to take on board that you should only take one partner at a time to visit your family or to important events like a wedding, etc.

So, she's new to poly, her transition was eased by meeting 15YG at two months and becoming good friends, then she falls out spectacularly with 15YG, which puts her in a place of feeling insecure again. And then you meet a new shiny, who you probably can't shut up about. Even more insecurity! Not only is her position untenable because 15YG might decide to pressure you to dump her, but now you have someone new in the picture who might just supplant both partners, or at the very least, the one who had previously offered the advantage of Newness. Now she's threatened on two sides, and since she hasn't met this new person, she's picturing a combination of Angelina Jolie and Mother Theresa. The unknown is always scarier than the known. So FFS, show her that her needs are important -- that SHE'S important -- and introduce her to New Shiny. After all, when she herself was at this point, she'd met your primary. If you cared about her, you'd have made this introduction by now. That's her logic.

And if you're afraid that now is not the time to risk more drama by introducing your partners, why on earth was three months ago -- immediately post blowout -- the right time to risk more drama by taking on a new partner? Hmm. Her fears should get as much consideration as your dick here. The sooner you take this step 3YG needs to feel reassured about this new relationship, the likelier it is that you will AVOID, rather than create, drama between your newer partners. Person up and schedule a dinner.


To me, this sounds more like "guy playing the field." I always imagined "poly" meant that the players involved shared more of a relationship together. I hope for the gals' sakes that they're playing the field just as hard.
In any event, it sounds exhausting. Where do people find the energy for this? I'm guessing they don't have much else to do, because otherwise, where do you find the time?


DanFan @1: Relationships are hard. Even monogamous one -- witness all the letters to Dan from people who are trying and failing at monogamy. But we don't conclude that monogamy is the problem. Monogamish people have relationship problems too. So, if you got the idea that polyamory is about not having any problems in your relationships, you got the wrong memo. People choose polyamory as opposed to monogamy or monogamishamy because when we find someone attractive, we find the whole person attractive; we want to spend time with them, get to know them, do fun things with them, not just bang them. And we don't want to limit ourselves to doing all that with just one person. Is it hard? As this letter shows, yes, it can be! I've been poly for eight years and there have been bumps in the road, but only one relationship-threatening drama. Sure, poly isn't for everyone. But just because it involves human emotions, some of which are negative, doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile for some of us to navigate those bumps in the road, because when it does work well (which is most of the time -- this guy's been happy with these two for 15 and three years, right? Pretty good going even by mono standards), it's brilliant.

Sublime @3: :-D How did I do?

Urgutha @5, because it isn't. It's that giddy, butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling, which is only partly sexual, and mostly excitement about getting to spend time with this person who seems amazing in every way.

NoCute @15, applause. Seriously, when are you getting your own advice column?

EmmaLiz @16, you too!

Ms No @25: Bingo, she is testing him to see whether she's still important, and he's failing the test. Man, I hope POLY reads these comments, so much gold here. I was afraid to read them at first, anticipating they'd all be like #1. Thank you all, honestly, for not just saying "see, poly can never work!"


Marty @29, the people involved do share a relationship together. POLY introduced 3YG when she was a two-month new shiny, and 3YG and 15YG are close enough friends that they both went to visit his family. What could you possibly mean by "shared more of a relationship" than that? (I assume you're implying you expect them to have sex, but what if they are both straight?)

Poly is a time-consuming hobby, that much is true. I do struggle to find the time for my three partners but hey. At least we all look forward to spending time together -- absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?


I agree with everyone else that says LW is dodging his current relationship drama by hooking up with someone new. Also that there's probably some spite to it: "you're expendable and I can replace you in an instant if you annoy me, so maybe re-think your current behavior."

Regardless, LW is definitely prioritizing his comfort over any of his partners. They all want to meet, and he thinks that might be too much drama for him, so no, none of them get to - also he's assuming that he knows more than them. Personally this seems like your standard Harem guy - and I hope GFs 2 and 3 figure it out and bounce - while maybe staying friends with GF 1.


I don’t sense people here judge poly relationships, Fan. Except for @1, and one can only wonder who is hiding behind that moniker.
Hope you don’t conduct your relationships like this man is doing Fan.


I’m poly, and this letter made me giggle. The LW violated the main rule of successful poly: Keep things as simple as possible. He had a major blowup between his two partners (I refuse to label them with years) and with his family involved, and his response was to start a new relationship and wax poetic over how wonderful she is? It’s as if he is auditioning for a bad reality tv show.

Sorry, dude, now is the time to clarify and focus. Your two partners are entitled to your attention as you work through the post family visit wreckage. Tell the hot new gf that you’ve got relationship work to do at home and you’ll catch up with her in a month. Either she’ll understand or she won’t.

If you don’t do this, you are sending everyone involved a clear message that you run away when the going gets tough. Actions have consequences.


Here's my advice, dude.

Whatever you did that was wrong, apologise sincerely to each of them individually. And don't play the blame game during your apology. Don't start by pointing out what they did wrong. Just take ownership your part. Also, learn from your mistakes and don't do it again.

Whatever happened between your other girlfriends, don't try to manage the relationship between them. If you stay out of it, the relationship may repair in time.

As for the relationship between your new girlfriend and your existing girlfriends, don't try to manage that either. Let them meet when there is mutual interest. Keep in mind both parties should be interested for the meeting to occur.


ThatOtherGuy @34 and StoneSoup @35, good comments both. The only thing I would amend, StoneSoup, is that if the new shiny is not interested in meeting the existing girlfriends, that is a red flag. POLY should be prioritising his multiple-year relationships over a new shiny -- and the new shiny should respect the existing partners. He should suggest a meeting, which is reasonable poly behaviour at the three-month mark. If New Shiny is not interested, this does not bode well for her fitting into this polycule long term. (Sure, not all poly relationships operate this way, with metamours meeting each other. If neither of them cares about meeting, it's not a requirement. But since 3YG does want to meet, New Shiny should show she's a team player and agree.)


@1 DanFan2085
"I thought you poly people had all that figured out!?! Guess not! Lol"

Wrong. News flash: poly people still have feelings.

"Why not just bang other people"

Obviously because they want more than that.

"people “judge” poly people"


@14 agony


Poly people's problems read like heroin addict stories. ~'I used to have all these problems in my life, but I got rid of them, and now I just have heroin/poly problems.' Good luck L-dub!!


Here everyone was saying how non-judgmental the comments are excluding @1, and along comes @30.

I was going to pile on @1, but BiDanFan covered about everything I was going to say. I’ll just add that it was amusing to see a comment accusing a broad group of people of being judgmental devolve into a sweeping judgment about that same group in just a few sentences.

It’s impossible to give meaningful input on what the LW should do without knowing what the hell went down on this trip-he’s so vague about it. Suspiciously so, as if he’s trying to minimize his own role in the drama.


BDF @36 agreed Re: meeting and the long term prospects here. I had a metamour who was deeply distraught by my arrival and was new to poly. Also a second-longest partner among two existing relationships with a partner who very much preferred that everyone be able to hang out together. The mutual partner and I did as much as we could to ease the process - the partner offering constant reassurance about their relationship, me agreeing to a “get to know you” get together that ended up getting used as a free therapy session. Ultimately, metamour preferred not to have any contact with me, tried to put restrictions on our shared partner and that developing relationship, and refused to attend any event that I I was also attending, including large ones. How do you think that turned out?


@31 I just get the feeling this is more of a triangle shape, at least between the first two GFs, with the third GF still an outlier. It's true that the first two agreed to travel to see the guy's family though. But I wonder how much they like each other. (And no, I'm not expecting all members of the relationship to have sex with each other). To me, it just seems like the guy is collecting a harem.


Marty @41 What led you to the “harem” conclusion? Is it the mere fact that this guy has three girlfriends, or is it something specific about the LW? Because if it’s the former, you might want to think about how implicit bias might be at work. If it’s the latter, I’m genuinely curious to hear more about what’s giving you that sense.


Here's another idea... What if the LW is putting off introducing them because he doesn't want to scare away the new girlfriend?

I know if I were in a relationship with a new person and things were going great, then he introduced me to his larger life and it included two other long term lovers who were formerly best friends who were currently not talking to each other and one of them felt insecure about my relationship with him and all three of them are part of a bigger family drama, then I'd turn around and run for the hills.

So maybe it's not about the middle girlfriend but rather about just wanting to put off the inevitable "entering real life" next step of his relationship with the new girlfriend. Sort of how people can fall in love on vacation or during a period in life when there is no responsibility, but once you start adding real life to the picture the whole romance fades.


Correction that in 39 I was referring to @38, not 30



Since we know nothing about the girlfriends, I stopped short of drawing the same conclusion regarding a "harem". They might have their own lovers and their own lives apart from the LW. We honestly don't know. But the LW presents the whole thing exclusively from his own point of view- how these women feel about him, how he feels about them, how they feel about each other, and how he is juggling his needs in regards to them against their needs in regards to him and also about their insecurities with each other. What is missing in all of this? Their feelings/needs in their own separate lives and whether or not that includes other partners. For that reason, the LW presents himself as the center of a relationship with three women exclusively with him. (I'm not saying they are exclusive, but the fact that he doesn't mention any other partners makes it come across that way). And this dynamic does sound similar to the sorts of polygamy that we associate with harems, sister wives, plural marriages- in which everything revolves around the one dude in the center.

Again, I'm not saying it actually is that we- we have no idea and therefore we can't draw any conclusions about this. But I'm pretty sure that's what would lead someone to say "harem" and likewise why Dan would ask about "other boyfriends". It is a glaring omission, don't you think?

But it's equally as reasonable that the LW simply did not mention any other lovers because he doesn't think it is relevant to his own experience and problems.


It's his language as well as the omission of anything about these women's lives outside of him. This is the part that bothered me:

"The latter two make up the crux of my problem."

The problem doesn't "concern the latter two", they make up the problem. The problem is those two. OK, let it go- just poor word choice.

"My GF of three years is having some major insecurities right now." followed by descriptions about how she is new to poly relationships and this is the first time she's had to deal with him in a new relationship. Again, implication that the problem is her- she doesn't know how to handle this new situation. She's having insecurities (not, she's asking for support after a traumatic experience and instead finding him distracted and neglectful).

The whole vague description of the family trip in which LW says he did things that were not good as well but does not go into it so we continue to have no idea whether or not there is more at the crux of the middle girlfriend's insecurities.

This entire part:

"I need to add that I have a V type dynamic with those two, but prior to that trip they were very good friends. But it all went to hell. As a result of the trip, those two have ended their friendship and are no longer speaking. While I will admit to my share of mistakes leading up to the trip, their behavior towards each other and the impact it had on me and my family members, was and is extremely problematic. While I love and care for them a great deal, it has created a bit of discomfort for me."

First off, it's traumatic to lose a close friend. This middle girlfriend has lost one of her close friends AND experienced something "extremely problematic" AND is now dealing with her boyfriend bringing in a new woman with whom he has all this sweet NRE and who he is connecting with more than anyone in recent memory (does that include her?). And though he admits that he was a part of all these problems, he concludes with the discomfort it causes HIM.

At this point is where I'd assume the LW would mention other lovers if they exist. Does the middle girlfriend have other support? Or has she lost her good friend AND is no longer receiving as much attention from her lover?

Then moving on to the new girlfriend:
"The GF of three years wants to meet the new GF and I am resisting—for now." Again, the wording here makes it sound like it's entirely his decision. No word on what the new girlfriend wants- another glaring omission. No suggestion that he and the middle girlfriend make decisions together, just that she wants this, he says no.

The entire paragraph following that is exclusively about how the prospect of introducing them and the fall out with the family trip affects him, his feelings, what he wants, what he fears, what he can see himself doing, how it affects his comforts. Nothing at all about the others. It also includes this gem: "I have explained this to the new GF and she is understanding, but the other GF is pushing back on this, telling me I need to do this to make her more comfortable." The new girlfriend "understands" his "explanation". Again no sense that they make decisions together, but that he explains things and she understands them. The middle girlfriend does not. She tells him what to do (this is how he frames disagreement?) and says he should do things to make her more comfortable (this is how he frames her expression of her own needs?).

This is one part that seemed a red flag to me though:

"Or is my cautious nature acceptable in the short term? "

He's literally describing wanting to keep sweet NRE energy all to himself and neglect to attend to the insecurities and trauma of a long term partner as "cautious nature". My guess is that people with a cautious nature would not have brought a third girlfriend into a situation nor would they have had such a blown up family visit with the other two. But regardless, it's not a cautious nature that makes him want to keep her to himself.

Also he calls the longer term partner a "queen of compersion" which, good for her if she is, she is enjoying the right sort of relationship and more power to her. But still, the LW definitely means this in a positive way against the middle girlfriend who has some insecurities around it, which you'd have to be dense not to interpret as him preferring women who actually love seeing him with other women- which again makes it sound like he is centered by all these people. Again, no mention of whether or not these other women likewise have lovers or if he likewise feels joy at their other relationships. If a woman (like the middle girlfriend) does not natural feel compersion, what is in it for her? Hopefully quite a bit and he's just omitted to say. And the longer term girlfriend just "waits for him" to make introductions when he's ready- this is again mentioned as a positive feature, signaling that what he has a problem with is the one woman of the three who wants some input (not the one that waits for him to decide, not the one that understands when he explains).

On the other hand, it's easy to nitpick a letter like this- he could be excluding info for brevity. He could be venting. He could just regularly pick words poorly. But surely you can see why it could come across as a dude who centers himself in a harem.

Also I'm sure most of this went through Dan's head, hence his questions and then decision to throw it to someone who deals with poly issues more regularly.


EmmaLiz @45 and @46. You seem to have the impression that I’m defending this guy. I’m not. I already said I find his vagueness about what happened on this family trip highly suspicious, as if he’s concealing or glossing over his own role in creating drama and conflict.

I just often see terms like “harem” trotted out when discussing a man dating multiple women, which always makes me wonder if the person using that term would have the same attitude if the situation involved one woman and multiple men.

It sounds like the very legitimate issue people are having here is with the LW’s behavior. But when we use language like “harem,” it brings in a whole lot of gendered BS and stereotypes. If what is really meant is selfish, self-centered, inconsiderate, etc. - look how many words we have for just that.


The letter read as "Am I an asshole for wanting to enjoy this new relationship for a while without having to deal with the other relationships, which I've somehow ambiguously fucked up and not yet resolved?" My answer is, "Yes, you are."


@ Beedeetee

Im neither defending nor attacking him and I have no opinion on what you think of him. I was responding to this question which I put at the top of my post:

"What led you to the “harem” conclusion? Is it the mere fact that this guy has three girlfriends, or is it something specific about the LW? Because if it’s the former, you might want to think about how implicit bias might be at work. If it’s the latter, I’m genuinely curious to hear more about what’s giving you that sense."

I'm not the person who said "harem" but I thought the same thing, and it is not because he has three girlfriends but because of all the things I named which you said you were genuinely curious to hear more about.


"But when we use language like “harem,” it brings in a whole lot of gendered BS and stereotypes."

Exactly. The ways in which all four people in the LW's letter are described as behaving brings in a whole lot of gendered BS and stereotypes that one would associate with a "harem" (or other forms of more traditional polygamy, sister wives, plural marriage, etc). You asked about this and I described how/why it comes across that way.

This isn't to say it actually is that way- we don't know. But that is how it comes across. There could be other reasons why it comes across that way.


EmmaLiz @50 - This particular comment reads to me like you're actually projecting a lot of stereotypes and ideas on to the situation. What have these women done that makes you think they are a harem? We can't really know, because the LW has given us almost nothing to go on. Again, you can rightfully criticize his behavior, (and the behavior of his partners, although I honestly don't know that any of us has sufficient information to do that), without diminishing these women as merely being a harem. I'm not convinced that the use of the word is necessary here. It just seems lazy at best, misogynist at worst. I suspect I'll now get piled on, but so be it.


@51 I think I explained it in detail. I'm not projecting, I'm literally answering the question you asked.

I don't know how these women have actually behaved, - I'm responding to his description/perception of their behavior and his preferences for different behavior. How he responds absolutely sounds like stereotypical patriarch in a polygamous situation in which he makes decisions and the women's lives revolve around him, he knows what's best, he is more experienced, his feelings are primary, he prefers the women who wait for him to decide things or who understand the things he explains against the one that makes demands based on her own comfort, none of the other women have lovers, etc- I literally wrote an entire post, no need to say it all again. These descriptions may not be accurate- he's perhaps omitted things for whatever reason. But it's natural that someone would read it this way- they are his words.

I'm answering why the word "harem"- yes with all its gendered stereotypes and assumptions- might pop into someone's mind reading this letter, as it did into mine and at least two other posters' - and I'd guess into Dan's as well though that's a guess based on his questions and throwing it to the expert.

I'm not diminishing the women for being in a harem. I'm pointing out how his words describe them this way.

Finally, you can think what you want and I have no desire to pile on you for thinking that. I'm explaining why it might seem appropriate, which is what you asked about. If you want to switch the topic to whether or not it's appropriate or lazy or misogynistic to point out when bad behavior comes across in a particularly gendered or stereotypical way, then that's a conversation I'm honestly not interested in having. My own opinion is that it's impractical and unhelpful to pretend we live in an egalitarian world in which gender roles are already abolished- and since gender is a thing still and people behave in gendered ways and patriarchy is a thing and people behave in gendered ways under patriarchy that it's foolish to not describe behavior in such terms when we see it. Your opinion, best I can tell (sorry if I summarize incorrectly) is that it's lazy or misogynistic to include gendered stereotypes in your criticism and we should criticize the behavior itself as bad in a non-gendered way. We disagree there, that's all.


Don’t see why you’d get piled on Beedeetee @51. It is a gendered word, harem, and makes me think of caves and veils, long scarves.
This man is being selfish, and if he’s serious about maintaining his poly life, this needs to be confronted. If the two women while away visiting his family behaved in a confronting way, then he needs to get with the two women and get to the bottom of wtf went on. He’s in that mess too, and why did these women, friends until then, explode over each other. Going out and finding a new gf, why did he do that so soon after it went to shit with his first two partners.
He’s got two partners and one new gf, and he’s not tending his partners. Maybe partner one doesn’t want to meet gf, I’m sure she’s got a few words to say about the family trip. LW needs to brave it and ask to have a discussion with his partners, his solid companions, and clear up the mess. Instead he steps round it and goes and finds a new gf.
Obviously if people join others in poly relationships, they know upfront they might find other partners as their partners might also. Is partner two being a little too clingy? How much of jealousy is dealt with in poly dynamics, by the person feeling jealous? Maybe partner two is not cut out for poly.
The LW still owes her some care, it is a three yr old relationship after all and he is neglecting tending it so his partner feels secure.
He says he loves them both, but, the trip has put some sort of black cloud over the three of them. He needs to deal with this. He needs to own his displeasure, and how he’s dealt with it.. by finding Ms Perfect.. as an adult. Talk it thru, round his kitchen table, with his partners. The women who have been with him over time.
If he can’t show his courage to walk thru the sludge that visit brought up, then maybe he’s really only a Poly-Lite. As long as the women ‘ fit in’ all is good. Real life has hit, so he needs to deal.


Beedeetee @44 re @39: Whew! I was wondering what I'd said this time. :) Of course there are going to be a certain number of flippant comments on ANY letter -- I've certainly contributed a few myself -- but thank goodness most of the commenters don't share a view I've seen a lot elsewhere, that of course one's relationships are doomed if one tries to be poly. That leads to the defensiveness which poly people have to adopt, which in turn leads people like @1 to misinterpret that as us claiming our relationship style is superior, perfect, etc. Of course it isn't because it involves people, just like monogamous relationships. The only difference is it involves MORE people, so of course there is more potential for drama.

Marty @41: "I just get the feeling this is more of a triangle shape, at least between the first two GFs, with the third GF still an outlier." Well, of course -- the newest one has only been in the picture for three months and hasn't even met the other two yet! What I think you're missing is the duration of these relationships. All but the newest are pretty long term. Someone "playing the field" swaps out partners far more often than POLY has done, there's the difference. (And no, he doesn't mention any other partners of theirs, but I suspect that's not because they don't exist, but because they're not relevant.)

EmmaLiz @43: That's possible, but it's not a very good excuse. You could also say, what if someone is putting off telling a new partner they have herpes because they don't want to scare the person off? Surely POLY has told New Shiny about the other partners and she is on board with that. I still say 3YG's needs take precedence here, particularly when he's been inconsiderate enough to get involved with New Shiny during a challenging period in their relationship to begin with.

EmmaLiz @46: Yes, I see your point. The letter reads as if it is from someone who considers himself Good At Poly, having sustained a 15-year relationship with few jealousy issues, and is now comparing himself to 3YG, a poly newbie who of course needs to be treated with kid gloves here. If 15YG is his first poly relationship, he can be forgiven for thinking that poly means no jealousy! If this is the first bump in his road he's very lucky he got this far, but perhaps they all need to (re) read The Ethical Slut and More Than Two because he seems to have forgotten some important lessons along the way. (Speaking from experience.)

Beedeetee, I agree that even if the three women have no other partners, "harem" is a sexist term that has no place in this discussion. I got no sense that POLY expects his partners to be faithful to him alone, if that's the impression that brought the term to mind.


"Harem" is not a sexist word.

Harem is a word with a real meaning for a real arrangement in which many people on the planet currently live. It refers to a male patriarch living with several women in an arrangement which enforces gender roles including the man making the decisions, the women having a hierarchical relationship with one another depending upon who has been with the man the longest, and the women being less experienced than the man.

The LW's relationship is not literally a harem as they are not Muslim and they do not share a household. And we do not know if the women have other lovers too- but the man does not mention them.

But saying that the LW "seems like a guy in a harem" or that it "seems like he's collecting a harem" is not sexist. It's a comparison between how he describes his situation with something else that exists in the world.


i hope the all the girlfriends have much better partners outside this idiot.
Bidanfan, nocutename and emma liz could have a savage love recap podcast that I'd totally listen to.


The LW equates all three women, and calls them ‘partners.’ The new gf has been on the scene for three months, how can he frame her as his partner already? This guy is not respectful of time frames, of energy and connections given.
Does anyone else thinks he’s tossing up the idea of ditching the fighting two, and going just with new gf.


Lava @57 yeah but isn't that part of the benefit of poly? Everyone's got other ones so no one is alone if you go. Easier off ramp.


"Does anyone else thinks he’s tossing up the idea of ditching the fighting two, and going just with new gf."

Nah, it seems like he definitely wants to keep the longer term partner and the poly dynamic but replace the middle one with the new one. He's definitely got several comparisons in there in which the longer term partner is favorable to the middle one (she's the queen of compersion that waits for him to introduce new dynamics to the relationship on his own terms, she's not described as making any demands, and my guess- though this is a guess- is that she's had a longer relationship with the out of town family.) Sounds like what he'd like is to have his established security of his long term relationship with the less demanding (in terms of jealousy and time) first girlfriend and then some exciting new relationships on the side.

And this impression again, to be fair, is another reason why I think he seems like a dude in a harem- the hierarchy of the women involved, the long term security combined with going in and out of new relationships to get a steady dose of NRE and novelty.

Or if it trigger less cultural chauvinism, change out "harem" for "courtly romance"- you have your steady queen and then you rotate through a series of intense relationships with secondary ladies in waiting with much drama involved.


BDF @54 Thank you.

I’m starting to wonder how many of the people weighing in on this dynamic besides you and I are poly themselves.


I’m not poly Beedeetee, nor am I a cis man, a trans man or a trans woman. And poly people aren’t into monogamy. Yet, comments are made about all sorts of human experiences in these threads, one doesn’t have to have had those experiences.
Once you engage another’s heart, there is a responsibility to take care of it, whether poly or monogamous.
EL, I think the harem word is out. Yes, it’s the complex drama which would cause me headaches. Like Donny said, one at a time is more than enough, for some.
LW, you don’t have to suck up anything. You do have to be fair and courteous to your two partners. The gf has been in your poly world for three months, as a lover. She is not a partner yet and given the simmering volcanoes in your world, I’d suggest you don’t get too caught up with her. If she’s got any sense, she might exit by month four.


@61 @LavaGirl Some poly people use the term partner to apply to all intentionally ongoing connections. Additionally, some poly people intentionally choose not to engage in relationship hierachies and that may well be the case here as he does not use hierarchical terminology such as "primary partner." I have no comment on the actual situation because he provided so little detail, but for all we know he may be respecting their shared preferences when describing them all equally as "partners."


As I've said before, my own extended family and mother's parents included plural marriage households, as do tens of millions of people on the subcontinent today, many of them in harems, and millions more around the world. So long as "harem" describes a real arrangement in which millions of people live, I'll continue to defend people's right to note the similarities between them and other arrangements. Personally I find it culturally chauvinistic that Westerners think it's sexist to compare their poly arrangements to others around the world. You did not invent polyamory, it is not less prone to the enforcement of patriarchy as any other arrangement, it's a centuries old practice and you are not the first people ever to deal with tensions between women who've been in such a relationship for years and the new women who enter them, and it's perfectly fair to make comparisons to ways that certain poly relationships can perpetuate traditional gender roles and patriarchy just as we would with a monogamous marriage that did the same. Especially considering that the info the LW omits and includes paint a picture worthy of the comparison. It's bigoted, in my opinion, to tell people that we can't compare Western arrangements to similar ones in other cultures and also to claim that the accurate words used to describe those arrangements are sexist.


Ok, thanks Futurecatlady. It still seems a corruption of the word to describe a lover of three months as a partner, no matter what he hopes her future role might be. Don’t people give a relationship time to get past nre before making the claim to partnership.


Salute your perseverance EL.


EL, we don’t know what the situation is re the women having other partners. A harem is about multiple wives, to one man, isn’t it?
Personally, it’s not a word that fits easily for me with how western women expect to have agency in choosing, speaking up to and staying with male partners. I agree being poly doesn’t protect from patriarchal assumptions, as we both have pointed out this man seems to have.
How would this letter look, if we reversed the genders. The language for a start would be way different.
Good luck to him, his partners, and sorting out the issues.


@64 @LavaGirl The word lover somehow lost popularity over the years, it seems. The word partner is used for sex partners, business partners, marital partners, bridge partners, and for whatever reason often for polyamorous partners. Different people use different terms but that one is pretty common. I recently heard an old podcast where Dan said he and his husband were "technically poly" (though I have no idea if that's still the case) and their preferred term for an ongoing intimate additional person was "special guest star." Preferences vary.


Thanks again futurecatlady. Lover is such a delicious word. Partner sounds serious. How can anyone be serious after three months.. yes yes. Different uses.


Thanks to you too, no @ 58, for responding.


Yes Lava you are right except the man doesn't have to be married to the women in his harem, but yes the women have a relationship with one man, a patriarch, who makes the decisions. The relationship between the women likewise has its own dynamics & hierarchies, based on both longevity of their relationship with the man and the status of the individuals involved. The LW is neither Muslim nor keeping women separated at home of course, but the other features of the LW's relationships do "seem to be" similar. Which is what the other two posters said- that it seems more like this man wants a harem, not what we'd consider a more modern "poly" relationship.

And as I've tried to point out, it's also the dynamics between the women that seem common place to anyone familiar with traditional plural marriage. The longest term woman is the most secure, and even though we don't know for sure, I'd gamble that the blow up over the family trip had a lot to do with her position in relation to the extended family vs the middle girlfriend's. The dynamic between the middle girlfriend and the newer partner also, that the one who was once new is now being replaced by a newer one herself, her insecurity and falling out compared to the more secure not jealous longer term partner, etc. Old as the hills.

If we were talking about a monogamous relationship and someone said "It seems this man wants a Beaver Cleaver housewife" no one would call that person sexist for noticing, but since poly requires different cultural reference points, cultural chauvinism comes into, and suddenly it's sexist to make comparisons.

I'm not the one that said it seemed like a harem anyway as my reference point would be plural marriage not harems in the first place. It was two other people who said that. I simply answered the question as to why it could seem that way and got told the comparison is sexist.

Future Cat Lady I love the word "lover" and I think it should make a come back. I like "special guest star" too, but that seems more like a word we'd use for a third in bed, not more generally right? Like if Dan and Terry have a lover with whom they are in a relationship, is that person still a special guest star? Or is special guest star just something they'd say for a fellow in three way?


Lava you are right about partner and really I've never thought of it that way. I wonder how many great words we are losing by referring to everyone as partners. What about 'beloved' for your significant other and 'lover' for the guest stars? It seems too quaint and romantic, not raunchy enough. But then maybe we've gone full circle when the quaint words can be thrilling just because they are less used? Language is funny like that. I still find it hilarious when I read old novels and everyone is "making love" and "ejaculating" all the time. Sometime in the future, people are going to look back on all our "partners" and see it as really funny, transactional maybe.


Thanks, Miko @56! High praise indeed to be included with those two.

Lava @57, "partner" is a general term used in poly circles to describe a person someone is involved with, regardless of the extent or duration of that involvement. It is used to indicate that while someone may be newer or less frequently seen, they are no less deserving of respect and consideration than longer-term, more "serious" partners.
(Personally, I would use "someone I'm dating" while a new partner was still in that 90-day trial period, but if I was talking about how many people I am currently involved with I would say I have three partners, not two partners and someone I'm dating. Make sense?)

No, I don't think he is thinking of ditching the longer-term partners for the new shiny. That is not the poly mentality; the poly mentality is to keep all the partners! I suspect 3YG may share your suspicion, however.

Beedeetee @60: ThatOtherGuy identifies himself as poly, and I believe NoCuteName is ethically non-monogamous. That said, a lot of the non-poly people here have made really insightful comments, so I salute them!

FutureCat @67, I understand "special guest star" to mean a partner they have threesomes with. The equivalent of a unicorn. I might use different terms for more casual partners of mine, but when talking about them collectively they are "my partners." I do see Lava's viewpoint -- when I was monogamous, someone was "my boyfriend" until we moved in together, after which he was "my partner." Different contexts, different uses of the word. Kind of like "breeders." ;)
(Emma @71, said ex-monogamous partner never liked the word "partner" because it sounded businesslike to him, and persisted in calling me his girlfriend, which made me feel minimised!)

Emma, thanks for explaining why you used the word harem, it does sound like someone with your cultural background is entitled to claim that word. Again it seems insulting to use in the context of Western polyamory, but perhaps that was your point -- he's not treating these women as equals, more like his property.


Yeah, gonna agree with EmmaLiz: The way LW talks about the relationship, he positions himself as "head of the household," with the authority to punish wife 1 and 2 for bringing disquiet into his home. Whether or not the other women have other partners, that's some harem bullshit.

Also, as someone from the PNW but often in polygamous countries for work, I do have to say that it's always hilarious to watch the liberal western polys throw a fit when the Old School Culture polygamists accurately clock whatever drama's going on in the poly relationship.

Poly Person: "talking about their relationship trouble."
Guy: "Yeah, that's your classic wife/concubine conflict..."
Poly Person: [splutters] "No, see, what we do is Enlightened and Totally Different."
Guy: "Well, funny, cause my dad had 3 wives and 2 more 'temporary wives' and this looks like the exact same drama."
Poly person: "but we're diiiiifereeeeeent!!!"

People are people, western polys didn't re-invent the wheel, and believe it or not.


@70 @Emma Liz

@70 BiDanFan

"Special Guest Star" also sounds that way to me and may be used that way by others, but when I heard Dan discuss this, it was in the context of him and his partner preferring closer lasting intimate connections. Which is also I think why he surmised they were "technically" poly. Again, this was a few years ago and may no longer apply.


Whoops, I meant @72 @BiDanFan

Maybe "lasting" is the wrong word since that can sound longer than I think he meant. It sounded to me like he meant like a year or two or three but not like a lifetime.


FutureCat @74, I'd be interested to see those references, because I can't recall the use of "special guest star" in that context, only in a threesome context.


@76 @BiDanFan I'll look for it now. It was on a podcast specific to polyamory.


@76 @BiDanFan See episode 500 of the podcast "Polyamory Weekly" (Dan Savage on polyamory). The relevant portion is at 30:30-32:40.

Since the guest advice giver for this column is from a different podcast called "Multiamory," I'll add that I really like that podcast too and especially loved episode 164 about the option to choose not to engage in traditional forms of relationship escalation. When I see all this talk about harems, the flip side for me in that poly can allow for deep intimacy with a degree of autonomy that it very difficult to maintain in more traditional relationship structures. (I am not suggesting it's a superior relationship type, just that it can be great for some people who highly value both autonomy and intimacy.)

As for the appropriateness of calling a relatively new person a partner, LW talks about most of his external interactions of the last three years being one night stands and limited encounters. I would guess he is using the common term "partner" to differentiate this as an intentional ongoing relationship, even though it's new. Further, I think it's very possible the generic "partner" is used intentionally rather than primary/secondary/tertiary/etc. terminology that denotes a hierarchical structure. Hard to say for sure because he's so short on details.


@76 @BiDanFan Correcting myself here. The term Dan used was "very special guest star" not "special guest star" and he equated it to the meaning of "boyfriend." Coincidentally, this led to the host commenting that listeners often write in on the topic of what to call their "sweeties" and suggested "very special guest star" is yet another option.


So...uh.... Anyone else ever be reading your daily Dan Savage and realize it's your boyfriend that wrote in? XD

Hi y'all. I'm The New Shiny. And I've read all the comments and thank you all for the insights. There's a lot of good stuff here. There's also a hilarious amount of, "Well, we really need more information before we can judge... But I'mma judge the hell out of this anyway."

@45 and @54 really nailed it. He's fucked it up, but it's never been out of a place of malice, but a very human place of trying to do right by everyone and failing to do right by anyone.

Rather than leave him, I decided to take the radical step of... Talking to him. Last night I (in nicer words) told him he was being selfish and self centered and if he actually cares about 3YG, it's time to knock this shit off and introduce us. He agreed. (And he said I was really good at calling him on his shit, and said please keep doing that.)

Why didn't I do that before? I think if I had called him on his shit a month ago it would have had about a 50/50 chance of being received well. I wasn't ready to be that assertive about something that's more about their relationship than mine. I was still in Boundaries First mode. I felt that I needed to trust them to tend to their relationship, and not come barging in as some sort of new Relationship Messiah swinging my metaphorical dick around telling them what they were doing wrong. They have their own journey to take and lessons to learn here. Now I feel safe approaching it through a, "this is what I see the impact of your actions is on YOU" lens. Our relationship is now solid enough that I have the right to comment on things that he's doing and/or are affecting him.

I still very carefully said nothing and made no opinions about what 3YG has done or is doing. I still feel that's not my place, unless there's actual physical danger involved, or something with her threatens my relationship with him.

I have, however, continually and from the start been encouraging him to talk to her, be compassionate, understand where her insecurities are coming from. Because I totally get it. I would honestly feel exactly the same way in her position. And he has been; his letter is actually terribly written in terms of neglecting to mention the work and emotional labor he's put in to try and support all three of us and mend the wounds from the family trip. There's been a lot of that, and I appreciate it. He's really much better at poly than this venting makes it appear.

Just to clear up a few details: yes, all three of us have (multiple) other partners, none of whom are relevant to this tale. No, he's not trying to have a harem. No, none of us are meek, passive women subjugating ourselves to the patriarchy. XD We're all strong, independent, amazing women who love a man who's been having some very human failings, but is willing to face his role in all of this and work things out. And that's all I ask. I don't expect my partners to be perfect. I expect them to work on it when they aren't. (And to call me on it when I'm not.) The story of the family trip isn't mine to tell, but suffice it to say that it doesn't raise red flags for me. There was a caution or two waving, so I've been paying attention to those, but it seems at this point at least that they're not going to be an issue for our relationship. Only time will tell the lasting effects on theirs.

So... Leave him? Nah. Have better communication with him? Absolutely. And that, I think, is the first rule of any relationship, monogamous or polyamorous.


@80 @The New Shiny - Glad to hear things are moving in a positive direction for you all!


FutureCat @78-@79, thanks. I don't listen to the podcast. Perhaps I should!

New Shiny @80, thank you for writing in! I hope your meeting with 3YG goes well. And I hope the polyamory mockers are still reading. Best of luck to you all.


The New Shiny, you win the internet advice sweepstakes. Best of luck!


@80 The New Shiny
Thanks a million for writing in, I loved every word. You're great, rock on!


Love The New Shiny wrote in. It's funny how it seems to have ended the long, long, long winded responses of some that seemed so confident in their dismissal of LW. I wonder if this will serve as a lesson-learned for the future?


@84 L Hand
"Love The New Shiny"

I love The New Shiny too! And...

" wrote in...wonder if this will serve as a lesson-learned for the future?"

...I love your optimism L Hand. Sometimes optimism turns out to be well-placed. But I believe the past is the best predictor of the future, so I would be very (pleasantly) surprised.


@55 and @70. Woah. Harem is not specifically Muslim. The practice is rampant in the Bible and predates Islam.


If those posts refer to me (hard to tell when people hide behind vague passive aggression), then I don't see what lesson I'm supposed to learn - that the women have partners too? Something I repeatedly said we don't know and that I hoped they did? Yet again, the question was what about the LW specifically could make commenters (not me btw) say it seems like he was describing a harem. I answered in detail what about his words made it seem that way. He chose those words which yes made him seem like a selfish patriarch centering himself in a relationship with three women from whom he prefers traditional gendered behavior -and btw I don't really see anything in Shiny's descriptions that contradicts that impression of his behavior. It's just that he responded when it was pointed out to him by two of his lovers. And for answering that question, I was told it's offensive, sexist and lazy to even compare Western poly w/ traditional poly arrangements.

As to the new girlfriend herself, I'd love to hear an update after the meeting, but even more, I'd like to know if she knew her boyfriend had written in or if she was surprised by recognizing herself in the letter. Have the other women seen it? Maybe the communication in print will open doors for further discussion. Of course we make judgements about letters based on the words they use and the info they give us. These comment sections would be boring otherwise.

Also I'm glad to hear she put her foot down and communicated her desires and the man agreed to go forward with the stated wishes of both his partners. I'm glad to hear that she likewise gets to have lovers (good for her and especially as I said in the first post, good for the middle gf who needs outside support right now).

But back to those similarities in light of BDF's comment and also Shiny's description of their communications and the response that this makes them somehow different, I realize something that might be at the core of why some of you might find it disturbing to compare Western poly folks to their traditional counterparts- do you guys think that women in traditional patriarchal poly arrangements do not communicate? Again, it's the kinship networks and larger community that matters since the man has final say- it's why there's so much weirdness around defense of mothers and the role aunties and other elders, etc, but certainly there are negotiations and similarities in dynamics. Here's an example- A couple years ago, I had a friend whose mom (second wife) and the elder first wife had to intervene b/c the husband (my friend's father) was embarrassing the family with his attentions on a new lover- in their opinion his lack of discretion was harmful to the family and his expenses were overly lavish- wanted to buy her a flat, they put their feet down- his attention on the new woman felt like neglect, and they were concerned that in his older years he might knock her up and wanted to make sure he was being careful since raising a new family would affect their own retirement and existing children's tuition. They didn't use words like "NRE" and they communicated mostly through the adult children and elders, not directly since saving face was important, but the negotiations and conversations and concerns and dynamics are universal. The best part , in my opinion, is the teasing you'll hear from elder aunties - they say things to make young people's eagerness for sex blush (this is standard teasing at weddings), and they'll more pointedly throw these jests towards the man with a new lover- the idea that he's making a boy of himself over his lust. If this isn't an expression of selfishness due to NRE then I don't know what is. The fact that the tools to bring the unit to the table are different doesn't mean the underlying dynamics are. BTW one of the consequences of the new woman was to bring the two elders together, who up to that time had been mostly mutually tolerant of but tense with one another and even spent plenty of time apart in different countries (the father bounced back and forth) though they always raised each other's kids. People like gossip and scheming together, it's why these letters are fun, it's why people make hobbies over their relationships and sex lives. And heartbreak and love and jealousy are universal as well. So Shiny's description of upcoming negotiations is extremely familiar. Differences include being able to take lovers for herself and being able to walk away more easily, both things that apply to Western women more generally in all arrangements and have nothing to do with polyamory specifically so pointing them out is not a reason to not make comparisons- we do the same with monogamous marriage and no one says it's sexist. Which is what got my gander in the first place.

As for actual statements that might be wrong, I'll freely admit them- I'd bet a couple pints that the family drama - at the core- was about the status of the two girlfriends. And I'd bet a full keg that either the middle girl or the new shiny will not be in this relationship in a year. Which btw is no reason not to enjoy it now, learn from it, etc. The longevity of things has little to do with their value.

Curious, personally I enjoy engaging with you but I like it best when you blow your top, you should do it more and toss the vague mannered thing. I think we could've be good friends in real life.

Larry, I don't really care what people did thousands of years ago. Hindus used to segregate their women too, if you tour old HIndu trad houses they have entire sections set aside for women, etc. But the fact is that these days, almost all polygamist family units that describe themselves as harems (the minority of plural marriages and polygamist arrangements btw) are Muslim. I don't know of any culture that currently has non-Muslims living in polygamist households that would describe themselves as "harems" though the world is vast and diverse w/too many cultures to count so maybe there are some?


@87 EmmaLiz
"Curious, personally I enjoy engaging with you but I like it best when you blow your top, you should do it more and toss the vague mannered thing. I think we could've be good friends in real life."

Oh my. I gotta assume that many here hate it when I blow my top. That's one reason I do my often-failing best not to. Also for many reasons I need to be as concise as I can.

I think we coulda been good friends too, and you couldn't have said that at a nicer time. For most of the last day my right eye hurt so much I could barely see which triggered a whole buncha issues like a migraine, extreme light sensitivity, blah blah and it was so hot and dry that my apartment felt claustrophobic and the whole thing gave me a anxiety (or panic?) attack for the first time in 20 years. So I just bugged out as gracefully as I could of the discussions I was in, and came back now for a little distraction and connection. And then you go and be so nice to me, thanks, I feel like I should Venmo you or something!

Honestly I wasn't referring to you @85; I've been so messed up I really couldn't follow this thread much.
@85 I was just referring to poly-averse DanFan2085@1 and somebody else I don't have the strength left now to find.

There are a number of people here I think I'd have really liked to know IRL. And some not so much. Some of the former I read always and couldn't live without; some I need to skim a bit particularly when it's long; for the last day I could barely do either.

@56 Miko
"Bidanfan, nocutename and emma liz could have a savage love recap podcast that I'd totally listen to."

I'll absolutely Patreon the shit out of that! It would be at least as great as the great Lovecast!


New Shiny: Your impulse to not try and be the Relationship Messiah is a good one - I'd suggest you take it farther and also not be a main person he talks or vents to about his problems with 3yr. Demanding to be introduced was reasonable because it puts you in a very awkward situation if you're a point of contention between him and his other gf. But the rest of his drama with her shouldn't be something he vents to you about - it again puts you in the weird position of either looking like you're trying to edge her out if you agree with him that she's acting unreasonably, or looking like you're ganging up with her against him even though you don't know her well if you tell him she's right. Trouble either way, and I'd steer clear.

Also, fyi, you hit multiple bingo points on the "woman defending a bad relationship cliche" sheet.

"There's also a hilarious amount of, "Well, we really need more information before we can judge... But I'mma judge the hell out of this anyway." = "You don't know him like I do!"

"He's fucked it up, but it's never been out of a place of malice" = "he doesn't mean it."

"Rather than leave him, I decided to take the radical step of... Talking to him." = sarcastic hyperbolic 'gosh, yes why doesn't EVERYBODY leave EVERYONE.'

"He's really much better at poly than this venting makes it appear." = "I didn't mean it when I complained, I was just being dramatic (cliche when it is deeply inapplicable, like when people are judging him for his own words and not your venting)"

"No, none of us are meek, passive women subjugating ourselves to the patriarchy. XD We're all strong, independent, amazing women" = "I'm a Strong Woman (tm) so I can't be in a bad relationship."

Now, talking in cliches doesn't make you a cliche, but you might want to polish up some of that for when you defend him to your other friends and partners.


L Hand @84: Dude, it had been like 2 hours since she posted, and also this was no longer the most recent post. People do have some other things to do with their lives, you know.

Emma @87: Yeah, funny thing - a lot of the polygamous people actually deal with their relationships far better than the Enlightened Western (tm) polys. Because regardless of the uneven power dynamics they have been doing this for a millennia and have figured a few things out.


NewShiny@80 - Great to hear from you! I wish you the best. I’m sure many of us would love to hear an update after the meeting if you feel comfortable sharing. I hope it goes well.

BiDanFan @72 I didn’t mean to imply that people can’t have really helpful insights on relationship models that they don’t practice, i.e, monogamous people can and do have great insight on poly relationships. That said, advice/insight/input from someone with lived experience is generally going to carry more weight for me. For example, I’m not married. I know lots of unmarried people can have really helpful insights about marriage, but I’m probably going to give more weight to the insights and opinions of people who actually are married. That doesn’t mean I think us unmarrieds can’t meaningfully contribute to the conversation. Does that make sense?

Lastly, EmmaLiz’s preconceived notions about the relationship dynamic here is apparently a hill they are willing to die on, which is entirely their prerogative.


@Traffic Spiral: your first paragraph is spot on, and no, I'm not the primary person he talks to about this. That would be a friend of his he's not romantically involved with. As it should be.

The rest? Wow. I think I need to borrow a bigger screen to catch all that projection.

Yeah, you don't know him like I do. Because you literally don't know him. XD

Of course he meant it. Commenters (who also don't know him) ascribed a motivation that simply wasn't present. That was information, not defense.

Sarcastic? Yes. It's my first language. Hyperbole? Not really. Several commenters decided that I should leave him. That wasn't hyperbolic. That's in the comments.

"I didn't mean it when I complained, I was just being dramatic"? I honestly don't even know what you're taking about here. I haven't complained at all, about anything, to him or here. Dramatically or otherwise. I'm cool. I mean, I'm confused as to how you interpret a post that said he fucked up and included the words selfish and self centered as me defending him. But that's about the extent of my drama today, except for the rush hour traffic.

Of course strong women can be in bad relationships. Been there, done that. That wasn't what was in question. What people questioned was whether I and his other two girlfriends were meek victim harem girls without any say in our relationships. Not sure how to answer that in the negative any other way.

You seem really intent on seeing me as a victim here, which I find puzzling and infantilizing in about equal measure. But thanks, I guess? If you'd like to play white knight, perhaps you could get my boss to pay me, instead? My paycheck bounced and the asshole hasn't made good on it. That's a guy that's taking advantage of me and my good nature...sic him.

@Beeteedee: sure thing! I'm kinda nervous about it, I won't lie. We've been friends on Facebook for a while and while we haven't interacted a lot, I think we have a lot in common, which of course wouldn't be surprising. So I'm hopeful we'll like each other. I'll let you know!


Jumping in late per usual. First, EmmaLiz was going on the information included in the letter, and based on that admittedly limited data set, she made perfectly reasonable points.

Second, I have a question that Dan left out. Was the relationship with 15year gf poly before 3year gf entered the picture? Everyone commenting seems to assume that’s the case. How would that change the views of the commentariat if we learned that he was monogamous for 12 years before demanding poly? I think something similar happened to EricaP, so I picture her as 15year gf in this scenario. (My apologies to EricaP for invoking her name is she is offended)

My other observation is that I’d much rather hear from 15year gf first. She knows this man best. Then I’d like to hear from 3year gf. She’s the one everyone seems most concerned about.

Hearing from Shiny New, who has only known this man for 3 months, and only has his version of the relationship dynamics to go on, and who is in the throes of NRE, seems to me to be the least reliable narrator of the female contingent of this arrangement. I have to take her opinions on the matter with a heap of salt. It doesn’t help matters that she is also unwilling to explain exactly what happened at the Big Family Blowup. Of course she only has his version, but since she’s anonymous here, her demure “it’s not my place to say” rings false. Especially in light of the heavy lifting she’s doing to defend this man otherwise.


JibeHo @93 When we have limited information, we tend to fill in the blanks. That’s how the human brain works. And what goes in those blanks is very much informed by implicit bias, which all of us have. So what constitutes a “reasonable” conclusion here is very subjective.

Don’t you think it is a little presumptuous for you to decide 1) who of three people, none of which you know, is more credible, and 2) that NewShiny should disclose the details of a dispute that occurred between two other people during a trip involving her partner’s family?


@93 @JibeHo The information we have now is that all four of these people have multiple partners. The three women are LW's partners and each of these women has additional partners aside from LW. 15 Year GF has also been described as feeling a great deal of compersion for partners, an added bonus for her as a poly person, so not sure why you're concerned about whether she and LW have always been poly or if they were once mono and LW "demanded" poly, an odd choice of words since it could just as easily have been her idea or a joint idea, and they both have free will and seem to enjoy having multiple partners. Plus there is nothing here to suggest she is in the role of a "primary" partner since LW doesn't use that language, nor does New Shiny. They may never have been primary partners for all we know, mono or poly.

@87 @Emma Liz - I thought the comment about New Shiny "getting to" have other lovers was equally strange. It's true that some guys (poly, mono and otherwise) have double standards, but I think New Shiny's comments make it evident she's not under some dude's thumb, accepting a double standard. She has multiple partners, and she's been seeing LW a short while, so fair to assume this is standard for her and not something LW is "letting her" do but rather something she is choosing to do and was likely doing prior to meeting LW, considering multiple partners are already present in her life. (@ New Shiny, sorry if I'm overstepping. The gender assumptions get to me.)


Beedeetee@94 And don't you think that someone who has knowm a man for 3 years, or 15 years, and who also knows the other woman (excepting New Shiny of course) in the arrangement, would be a more reliable narrator than either New Shiny, who knows only the man, and only for 3 months, or the man, who is, by his own admission, in the thrall of NRE with New Shiny?

That makes no sense. We don't know how reliable 15 year or 3 year are because we haven't heard from them.

And you knew exactly as much about this situation as EmmaLiz did. She was answering a specific question, which you seem to be conveniently ignoring. She didn't introduce the harem concept to the discussion. She merely explained, logically and concisely, why the LW gave her that impression. A perfectly reasonable interpretation with which I, and I assume a good percentage of the silent readership, wholeheartedly concurred.

Give it a rest.

Regarding your comment that New Shiny shouldn't disclose "the details of a dispute that occurred between two other people during a trip involving her partner’s family" - you seem to ignore the fact that she (New Shiny) has seemingly no compunction speaking for both 15 and 3 year girlfriends regarding their autonomy, outside relationships, and personality traits. If she is going to be discrete with regards to things that might cast her bestest new boyfriend in a negative light, than she should resist opining about people she's never even met.


A few questions for New Shiny - Can you clue us in on the ages of everyone involved? Is this your first poly relationship? Do you know when bf and 15 year became poly and how? Genuinely curious...


JibeHo @96. Take a look back at the letter. New Shiny wasn’t even on the family trip. In fact, she wasn’t even dating the LW yet. If you’re going to jump in and rudely tell people to “give it a rest,” at least get your facts straight. Getting basic background information long makes you look like a pretty unreliable narrator.

And honestly, the comments responding to my question largely demonstrated that it WAS a set of preconceived notions that largely informed the way the people making those comments read the letter. We all have preconceived notions, they inform our worldview, and we should all be able to handle having that called out without getting defensive.

Lastly, I think you mean “discreet.”


Beedeetee @98 I'll see your "discreet" and raise with "Getting basic background information long". If you're going to mock someone for a spelling error, try not to do it in a post in which you commit an even worse one.

I know what the timeline is - but she clearly has heard Mr. Perfect Poly's version of what went down at the Big Family Blowout, so it doesn't really matter that she and MPP started their relationship in its immediate aftermath instead of before it. It is clearly important to her relationship's dynamics, and therefore she should explain it.

And clearly, and honestly, you didn't give EmmaLIz's comments a fair reading, having come to the issue with your own preconceived notions.

Lastly, perhaps you shouldn't ask a question on this comment board if you aren't actually interested in an answer that doesn't comport with your own narrow worldview.

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