Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coming Out as Polyamorous to Potential Partners

Anna Pulley, RedEye's sex columnist at, answered a question about coming out as poly to potential dates...
I'm wondering when is the best time, and how, to tell a prospective dating person that you are in a polyamorous relationship. Obviously before any physicality, but in a more granular sense, when? Call, text, first date?--Poly Wanna Answer
Unless someone has met in forum or context that implies their relationship orientation, nobody should make assumptions either way. It should not be assumed that someone is monogamous or looking for monogamy, nor should it be assumed someone is polyamorous or looking for polyamory.

The answer...
There’s a delicate balance when you’re first dating someone of what to disclose and what not to. You want to be honest and upfront, but you also want to respect the “getting to know you” process, which can be upset by Big Conversations too early.
I see nothing wrong with bringing up on a first date why you are dating. In fact, I think it is a good idea. The discussion doesn't have to be serious or drawn out. Here's an example...

"I'm dating to eventually find a spouse. I'm not dating just to have dinner. Why are you dating?"


"I am mostly dating for fun. I'm not looking for anything too serious right now. Why are you dating?"

From there, someone can explain that they are polyamorous and that they don't expect that they'll ever be in an exclusive relationship with only one person on a permanent basis. Or, someone can explain that they are monogamous and before they enter into a sexual relationship with someone, they need to have a mutual commitment to a monogamous relationship. Or... whatever it is that someone needs. If someone doesn't know what it is they need yet, they can say so. There is nothing wrong with explaining on a first date why you are dating. Obviously, if you're looking for a spouse, you're not going to determine someone is the right person for you in the first date, or even for a while.

Our culture has largely presented monogamy, or at least promises of monogamy, as the only acceptable relationship and as such, has become something people assume they have with someone, or they assume that if someone is on a date with them, they are not having sex with someone else. This shouldn't be. Nobody should assume monogamy is in place or will be the relationship model unless it has been explicitly discussed and mutually agreed. Ideally, nobody should have to "come out" as polyamorous to a date, but because of how things have been, it is the way things will likely be for a while.
“So, are you dating anyone?” is a common question, and a perfect opportunity to let your prospective date know that you are dating other people, and not monogamously. If they want to know more, or have specific questions about it, then tell them. Don’t lie or evade the question if it comes up, since that will only serve to bite you in the ass later (and not in the way you are hoping).
As is so often said by polyamorous people and relationship advisers, communication is extremely important.

Polyamorous people do have meetups and networking mechanisms, and if someone meets that way, or through a online dating service that allows someone to mention they are poly, then this shouldn't be an issue, of course. But people meet so many other ways. If you've bumped into someone at the gym or in a coffee shop, how are they supposed to know you're polyamorous? They probably won't figure it out just from that.

Poly people also have to be careful in that we have to let a date or potential date who hasn't previously identified as poly time to consider what it is, and what it isn't, and even time to experience it. I'm not one of those people who thinks everyone is, deep down, polyamorous in the sense we are talking about. Some people need monogamy, and it doesn't help anyone if they try to force themselves to be polyamorous. There are people who discover their polyamorous side because they date someone who is poly... many people, actually. But isn't for everyone. The other side of this is monogamists should not make the mistake of thinking someone is only poly because they need to be tamed and they are going to be the person who does it. That doesn't work on poly people, and it doesn't work on cheaters. and in both cases the monogamist is setting themselves up for a world of hurt if they try.

If communication puts a damper on a date, so be it. Better the date end early because of the truth than for there to be subsequent dates based on mistaken assumptions.

All of this is about coming out to a date or potential date and is very different than coming out in general, such as to family, coworkers, employers, etc.
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