Sexplain It: I'm Okay With My Partner Having a Boyfriend—but He's an Asshole

"He pressures her into spending time with him, and he throws huge tantrums every time we are together."

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I'm Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I'm very, very open about it). Over the years, I've had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I've learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I'm here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn't just "communicate with your partner," because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.

To submit a question for a future column, fill out this form.

Dear Sexplain It,

I am a 22 y/o bisexual woman who recently started to date a bisexual nonbinary person (she/her), who is also polyamorous and currently in a relationship with a guy. She has always been clear that she's not monogamous, but I am the first person she dated after getting into a relationship with him.

I have no problems with her having a boyfriend; I immediately expressed the desire to meet him, hoping to start a friendship or maybe even something more. I also respect his boundaries by not texting her when they're together and giving them lots of alone time.

He, on the other side, keeps making things very difficult. She cannot even mention me without making him mad. He pressures her into spending time with him, and he throws huge tantrums every time we are together. He also started to direct his hostility towards me, calling me a bitch behind my back and straight-up refusing to even meet me.

I try not to take it personally. I understand that his problem is not with me but rather that someone is "in the way" of their relationship. I can tell he feels very threatened by his partner dating someone else. However, his behavior is starting to take a toll on me.

I really don't know how to approach this situation, and I would appreciate your advice!

—The Other Woman

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Dear The Other Woman,

While your metamour (i.e., your partner's partner) has no right to call you a bitch, he does have the right not to meet with you, and you need to stop demanding it. It sounds like he's looking for "parallel polyamory," where people don’t talk to or even meet their metamours. This contrasts “kitchen table polyamory,” where a polycule (i.e., everyone that's connected through romantic/sexual relationships) happily hangs out together.

I know you likely have the urge to talk to your metamour about the issues you mention in your letter, but that's not the right way to go about this. You're not in a relationship with the guy. You do need to talk to your partner, because I’m concerned she's not standing up for you or herself in the face of your metamour's cruel behavior.

I showed your question to polyamory educator Leanne Yau, who said, “All you can do is express to your partner how you feel about the situation: for example, how hurt you are that you’re being called a bitch, or worried for your partner that they are being forced to spend time together."

See if you can find out how your partner responds when your metamour calls you a nasty name. "Is she standing up for you, telling her [other] partner that this is not acceptable behavior?” Yau asks. “Or is she agreeing with him to appease him and letting his jealousy get out of control?"

If it's somewhere in line with the latter option, "then that doesn’t spell good things for you in the long run,” Yau says.

I'd say something like this to your partner: “Hey, I know your other partner doesn't want to meet me, and I’ve come to terms with that, but I don’t like how he’s controlling and manipulating our relationship. I don’t appreciate how he says mean things behind my back. How have you been responding to him?”

You may feel like you’re putting your partner on the spot, but my God! If one of my partners called the other one a bitch simply because they felt jealous or insecure, I would go off on them. And I would expect my partners to do the same if the situation were reversed.

I've noticed there’s this desire—especially among people new to polyamory—to be the “chill” partner: to seemingly not have any needs or desires, and to be okay with whatever their partner or metamour says, because they don’t want to come off as too needy. (Hell, this happens in all forms of dating, monogamous and non-monogamous.) While yes, you should be respectful of pre-existing relationship dynamics, you are still allowed to advocate for yourself.

You’re also still allowed to break up with someone because they’re not meeting your needs. I’d remember that if you come to find out your partner hasn’t been standing up for you and your relationship.

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