Hi Yana,

I’ve been dating a new guy for about four months. He’s honest and makes time for me. He’s also really exciting, and after going through a lot of painful previous relationships, I actually feel safe with him. Our sex life is amazing, and he encourages me to try things I’ve never tried before! And I’m having orgasms! With a partner! For the first time!

There’s only one problem: I’m not sure his girlfriend likes me very much. She introduced him to polyamory, but it sounds like she did it in a weird way. For a while he didn’t know the specifics of who else she was dating and she didn’t introduce the concept of being non-monogamous upfront. He’s new to poly. I’ve done a lot of reading myself about poly, too, and it’s been my main relationship style for the last couple years.

I’m trying to not be judgmental, but when I hear about their relationship, it sets of a lot of alarms in my head. I think the best thing would probably be to spend time with her face-to-face so we don’t keep hearing about each other through him, but I don’t want to be pushy. I don’t think my alarms are sounding because I’m jealous (and I do feel jealous sometimes) but I do worry that the red flags I feel might be my jealous-brain tricking me into making her my enemy.

The other problem is that they’re kinky and their specific kink is that she’s dominant and he’s submissive, and she likes to control his orgasms. They’re getting more intense about it  we’re talking hardware and cages and stuff. I want him to have the best sex life he wants to have, but one of the things she’s adamant about is that she has the only key to a chastity cage.

I’m already feeling nervous about the nature of my relationship with her, and I really hate the idea of my boyfriend’s junk being locked up when I want to be intimate with him, and his girlfriend  who I barely know  having the key. What do I do?

Locked Out of Love

Dear Locked Out,

It’s time to meet this girlfriend. I understand the hesitance around being “too pushy”, but it also sounds like you might actually be the person in this triangle who has the most polyamory experience. This isn’t to put you on a pedestal, but it is to say don’t shrink away from a situation where your lead might be beneficial to the three of you.

Sticking your boyfriend in the middle of an increasingly complicated relationship between you and his other girlfriend is a pattern that will get old and problematic quickly, especially if their personal kink practices are going to be influencing your sex life with him.

Oftentimes in non-monogamous relationships when a person feels as though they are the “new” or “outside” relationship in addition to an established couple, they put themselves in the backseat in terms of their desires and needs. But, your relationship with your boyfriend is just as valid and you deserve to at least make your needs known, whether or not either of them are willing able to meet them.

Jealousy is a tricky animal and like you say, it can be hard to recognize when it’s acting as an accurate red flag or playing tricks on you. Treat jealousy like a relationship check engine light: when it shows up, assess the situation and rule out any major issues. Are you consensually in agreement with your relationship dynamics, rules, and structure? If yes, jealousy may be coming from a piece of you that feels unworthy, insecure, or lacking. If no, jealousy might be indicative that an agreement may need to be readdressed, reassessed, or thrown out.

Finally, if their kinks are going to be negatively impacting your sex life with your boyfriend, it’s really important that you’re included in that conversation. If either of them are like “Too bad, cockcages for life!!” with zero regard for your thoughts or feelings, then you might want to reassess if this is the relationship for you. Don’t let the first-time partnered orgasms obscure things too much  there will be others.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.