DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year. We met a woman recently and he finds her really attractive. She and I are friendly, but not friends. My boyfriend asked me the other day how I would feel about being in a “throuple” with her. We know she is pansexual (like me), but I guess I’m not feeling as into the idea of being polyamorous as he is. He keeps bugging me about it and wants to ask her if she would be interested. I don’t know how to feel about it. Yes, I think that she is attractive, but I am honestly not sure I want to share my boyfriend with her. What do you think I should do? I don’t want to lose him, either. — COUPLE OR THROUPLE
DEAR COUPLE OR THROUPLE: You are under no obligation to bring a third person into your bed no matter how you identify. It sounds to me as though you are uncomfortable telling him no. Consent is of the utmost importance when it comes to relationships, and just because you are dating does not mean that there aren’t boundaries. If you are not OK with bringing her into the mix, speak up. If you aren’t OK with speaking up, I want you to ask yourself why. If your partner is being manipulative around your sex life, that is unacceptable. You never have to do anything that you don’t want to do. I would question why losing him is more important than losing yourself in this situation. Being in relationships can be beautiful and help us grow, but they can also be spaces that inflict harm and degrade our sense of self. You also have no idea how this woman might react to being in a “throuple” and if you aren’t feeling it, why drag her into this? Deal with your partner first. If you do decide to move forward with her or anyone else, make sure you communicate clearly about what you are comfortable with. Remember: “No” is a complete sentence. If he continues to bother you about this, recognize that there are plenty of people who would respect your boundaries and not try and force you into a situation where you aren’t comfortable. Let him go.
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DEAR NATALIE: Things are getting more serious between me and my girlfriend. I went through a really terrible divorce a few years back and my children live with me full-time. I never thought I would find love again but she is amazing to me and my children. My kids are both in middle school and she also has kids from a previous marriage that are with us on and off. I want everyone to build towards a family unit, but it is proving to be a challenge. Any thoughts on how to make this work long-term? Eventually I want to marry again, but probably not until our kids are much older and moving on with their own lives. — BRADY BUNCH GOALS
DEAR BRADY BUNCH GOALS: Congratulations on allowing yourself space and time to work through your last relationship so that you could be in a place where you could fall in love again. Vulnerability is strength. It takes time to build that after such a life-changing ordeal like divorce. And with every change comes its own unique set of challenges. But it sounds to me as though you have the right attitude about this. If this is the woman you know you want to be with, why rush down the aisle? Your children have been through a lot and finding a sense of stability and a “new normal” takes time. Having created a healthy and secure environment for them is something to be proud of, so I can understand why you don’t want to rock that boat. So don’t. Why not just let things be as they are for now? Talk to your girlfriend, share your intentions and long-term goals. She may also feel uneasy about uprooting her kids at the moment, too. Perhaps instead of moving in together, you try to restructure your week so that there are clear days when you are together and clear days when you are just with your children so that they feel centered in all of this. Family outings as a group, movie nights, cooking on the weekends together… all of these activities can help strengthen bonds without overstepping boundaries. Eventually, one of your children may start to ask if you are going to marry. Maybe they would welcome that. I would keep the lines of communication open with them, as well, because at the end of the day their voices matter in all of this. Parenting while divorced takes a lot of sacrifice, open and honest communication, and the willingness to grow together. You are asking the right questions. Just give it time, continue a dialogue with your kids, and continue to show up for them. The rest will work itself out.