America’s longest-running sex-advice column!

Best Interests

by Joe Newton

I’m a woman in a new polyamorous relationship with a man who has a five-year-old daughter. He and his ex-partner split up a year ago and until two weeks ago, his ex wasn’t allowing him to see his child. However, once she learned of my existence, she suddenly changed her mind. I believe she’s letting him see his child now because she thinks this will drive a wedge between us. In reality, we’re both over the moon that he’s reconnecting with his daughter. Now here’s where I am going to ask for advice. My new boyfriend has recently begun exploring polyamory, and his ex doesn’t know I’m not the only woman he’s seeing. He’s not yet publicly out with the new woman, as it’s a recent thing, whereas we’ve been together more than six months. However, all three of us are getting along very...

Want to read the rest? Subscribe now to get every question, every week, the complete Savage Love archives, special events, and much more!

...hs. However, all three of us are getting along very well, and people in our social dance scene have started noticing. This dance scene is where his ex learned about me. Do you think that it’s safe for us to be open about his other relationship? Or do you think his ex will get angry and jealous that he’s enjoying life to the fullest and cut off contract with his daughter again? Regarding A Vengeful Ex “For seventeen years, I’ve represented clients in child custody cases throughout New York State where being polyamorous — or kinky or a sex worker or frequenting sex workers or other issues of personal sexuality — is being used against a client,” said Diana Adams, Executive Director of Chosen Family Law Center. “And whether it’s safe to be openly polyamorous when you share custody with an ex who could potentially take you to court and bring it up in a child custody case sadly depends on your zip code.” This is going to seem crazy, RAVE, because it is crazy: Before making the obvious move here — before your boyfriend lawyers up to secure his parental rights and responsibilities (he is making child support payments, right?) — you’re gonna need to look the local results of the last four national elections. “The best indicator of success is how conservative the area is, which is an indicator of how open-minded or conservative the judge, social workers, and other appointed professionals will be in evaluating by the subjective standard of ‘the best interests of the child,’” said Adams. “We don’t yet have much protection from discrimination based on polyamory or other relationship statuses — which is precisely why I’m engaged in advocacy for relationship and family structure non-discrimination laws.” The kind of non-discrimination statutes advocated by Adams — which have already been made law in two east coast cities and are currently moving through city councils in two west coast cities — would bar conservative judges and social workers from discriminating against people practicing polyamory. But if you aren’t lucky enough to live in one of the two cities where these laws are already in force (both in Massachusetts), the passage of these laws and the debate about them could benefit your boyfriend and his daughter in the long run. “These nondiscrimination laws don’t just make it unlawful to discriminate in those jurisdictions,” said Adams, “they influence public thought and make discrimination elsewhere less acceptable as well.” As for the short run — as for whether it’s safe for your boyfriend to be open about his polyamorous “lifestyle” (awful term, I realize, but sometimes it can’t be avoided) — the answer doesn’t just depend on your zip code, RAVE, but on the reaction his ex is likely to have. And seeing as she has a history of weaponizing access to their child (which is not in the child’s best interests), I don’t think his ex can be trusted to react benevolently, whatever her feelings about polyamorous relationships might be. Which is why your boyfriend should — if he safely can — lawyer up and take his ex to court. P.S. I used “lawyer up” in the colloquial sense. Adams, after reading my response, wanted to urge your boyfriend to get the right kind of lawyer and not to rush into court. “Most reasonable people in divorce or child custody in the US today use mediators or collaborative law — negotiating lawyers — to make an agreement out of court rather than start litigation right away as starting litigation risks ratcheting up hostility and can actually be somewhat risky to a poly person in that could be used against them,” Adams wrote in a followup email. ” Withholding a 4- or 5-year-old child from their other parent signals that the mom is not putting the child first and potentially has poor mental health, which is the prototype of someone who gets into vindictive custody litigation. I would advise RAVE’s boyfriend to find a queer friendly family lawyer who is poly-aware to try to represent him out of court to get a solid custody/visitation and child support agreement, and once agreed upon ask a judge to sign off on it to make it binding.” Diana Adams — @DianaAdamsEsq on Twitter and Instagram — is the executive director of the Chosen Family Law Center, a non-profit advocating for a more inclusive definition of family. To support their work, donate here. I was told you help women who feel shamed about their orgasms. I’ve been in my relationship for five years and always had a difficulty orgasming. About a year ago, I had an affair during a manic episode. I hardly remember any of it, but it haunts me every day. It doesn’t help that my boyfriend constantly brings up the affair when we have sex. He knows two solid ways to make me orgasm, but he focuses instead on two ways I have a hard time orgasming and gets very angry when I don’t. When I tell him that it’s not him, it’s just my body, he brings up the affair and angrily says I was able to orgasm these ways with a stranger. I now feel anxious to have the big O as fast as humanly possible and try to guide him to do what feels best and even show him how do it. But it always ends in an argument about how I orgasmed doing these things with someone else and he gets angry about it. Now I feel like my vagina is broken. He says it’s because I’ve had too much sex and accuses me of preferring sex with strangers and then starts berating himself for being too small. It doesn’t matter if is penetrative, oral or by hand, he always says the same things. I’ve had many successful orgasms with him from penetrative and oral sex. I don’t understand why I can’t from his hand or when he’s behind me and those are the only ways he cares about. Can you help me? It’s been a consistent problem. We’ve had this fight at least three times a week for the last eleven months. Feeling Increasingly Broken Somehow You don’t have any trouble getting off  — you’re fully orgasmic (even during PIV alone!) — but for reasons I’ll get into/speculate about in a moment, FIBS, your boyfriend has decided to ignore not only what he knows works for/on you, but also ignore the feedback you’ve attempted to give him during sex. Instead, he’s choosing to do what doesn’t work or doesn’t work as easily — a conscious choice on his part — and then when the predictable happens (what doesn’t work doesn’t work), your boyfriend throws mean-spirited tantrums about the affair you had during a mental health crisis before pivoting to woe-is-me bullshit about the size of his dick. (An affair you told him entirely too much about! He may have found out and/or needed to know about the affair, but he didn’t need to know exactly how you got off with your affair partner.) So, it seems pretty clear — at least to me — that your boyfriend isn’t having sex with you to reconnect after the affair or for the sake of having sex; he’s having sex with you to control and punish you. He doesn’t want to get you off — he’s intentionally setting you up for failure — because he wants to throw this affair in your face again and again. Given how long he’s been having these cruel and vindictive tantrums — three times a week for eleven months — it seems clear no intention of forgiving you. To borrow a phrase: the cruelty is the point. Someone who can’t stop demanding apologies won’t be satisfied by the millionth one. Yes, you had an affair and, yes, that was wrong. But there were extenuating circumstances — you were in a manic state — and if he can’t forgive you and get past it, FIBS, he has no place in your life, your bed, your vagina, or your mouth. P.S. You aren’t broken — not yet. But the longer you stay in this hell of a relationship, the likelier you are to start having the problem you’re worried about, i.e., difficulty climaxing. You’re in good working order right now — you can come, and in a variety of positions, doing a variety of things. Don’t let your angry future ex-boyfriend take that away from you. DTMFA: dump the motherfucker already. P.P.S. Some people insist on being told everything in the wake of an affair. Every detail, however small. But dumping everything on the person you cheated on — or extracting everything from the person who cheated on you — is the relationship equivalent of salting the earth. Everything withers and dies, nothing new grows. I have a very good friend of nearly fifty years. She has four kids, six grandkids, and ten great grandkids. She told me yesterday that the partner of one of her granddaughters just came out as transgender. But she told me in a gossipy and joking way that shocked me. I told her that this must be a difficult time for everyone and changed the subject. I want to support this young woman, her partner, and kids, and of course my friend. Any ideas? Appalled With Friend’s Unkind Laughter Was your old friend gossiping or was she confiding in you? Was she making cruel jokes or was she using humor — perhaps ineptly, perhaps insensitively — to defuse whatever tension she might’ve been feeling in the moment and/or whatever tension she incorrectly assumed you might’ve been feeling? When I came out to my mom — decades ago — she said the right thing first: she still loved me. Then she told me she didn’t want to meet anyone I was dating… which hurt to hear… and then she told me a joke about two men attacking a woman in a famously cruisy Chicago park. The punchline: “One held her down, the other did her hair.” So, two minutes after I had done what seemed impossible five minutes earlier — saying “I’m gay” in front of my mother— she told me a joke that was 50% gay joke and 50% rape joke. If I was a different sort of person, gay or otherwise, I might’ve been hurt or angered. But my mom was struggling and the joke — again, 50% gay and 50% rape — was an effort on her part, however clumsy, to connect with humor. And a few year after that night, I got to sit at the dining room table and listen to my mom tell my first serious boyfriend that same joke as we laughed together about the night I came out to her. She retold the joke not to insult him, but to make him feel like he was part of our family, to bring him in. Look, AWFUL, your old friend may be transphobic. But I think your old friend, like my late mother, deserves the benefit of the doubt here: she was nervous and reached for a dumb joke. When you see her next, ask whether her granddaughter’s partner wanted her family to spread the word about her coming out as trans, which some queer people ask their families to do. If her newly out relative wanted family to run and tell, you can send a note to your friend’s granddaughter and her partner expressing your support. If you’re not supposed to know yet, you can — and should — keep your mouth shut for the time being while continuing to assume the best of your friend. P.S. My mother confided in someone without asking me if it was okay — an old friend of hers, a priest — and his kindness helped my mom get to a place where she could sit across a table from the guy who was sodomizing her third son, share family stories, and laugh about herself. If you scold your old friend and/or assume the worst of her, you won’t be able to be the friend she needs you to be right now, AWFUL, the kind of friend — like my mom’s priest friend — who could make a difference for her granddaughter’s newly out partner. Got problems? Email your question to Dan here! Or record your question for the Lovecast here! Follow Dan on Instagram and Threads @DanSavage. Follow Dan on BlueSky @DanSavage. HUMP! Part One is playing in cities across North America and Europe! Go to HUMP! Film Fest to check out the new films and get your HUMP! 2024 tickets now!  

Comments on Best Interests