Polyamory seems to be having a boom time with lots of people realising there are other relationship structures than ‘fall in love and stay monogamous forever’. I took the brave step to ethical non monogamy just over a year ago, here are a few things I wish someone had told me.
I’m gendering this post because I believe much of this advice is woman-centric.
You’ll be drowning in dick, but most suitors are not worth your while
The first thing I noticed was how many matches and messages I had compared to those of my husband. He’s a great catch — intelligent, caring, good looking, funny — but he maybe had one match to every fifty of mine. That didn’t mean I was hot and he wasn’t, just there are a lot of men out there who are desperate for female attention.
What became clear as the weeks went on was his matches were usually lovely people whereas mine were mostly crud. In the long run, I know which I’d prefer.
Avoid the polyam f*ckbois, you’ve only just arrived but I can tell you they’ve been around awhile getting smelly.
I’m in a few polyamory dating groups on facebook. When a new woman posts the same five faces leap on it with empty compliments and a thirst akin to a rabid dog. Those guys have been around forever. There’s either something wrong with them or they’re going through women like locusts at a teddy bear’s picnic. They *might* be perfect for you but hang around a bit getting their measure before you go anywhere near them. Just in case. In most groups you can click on a name and see the other comments they’ve made. You’ll see what I mean.
The same is true on dating apps. There are polyamorous guys who are constantly looking for new women because they’ve always exhausted the supply. Those little maggots are not worth your nibbles. Keep an eye out for well-practised lines and use your instinct.
Men who start flaky usually stay flaky
I’m not going to lie, being polyamorous and juggling time and partners is hard work. Sometimes it feels like I’m consistently squinting at the calendar wanting to cry. I don’t blame anyone for screwing up and missing phone call times or having to rearrange dates, but they don’t get a second chance with me.
This sounds enormously harsh for sure but if they don’t have a good enough excuse, I’ve learnt it really is easier on you if you walk away. Men who start off flaky continue being so. It’s not worth the anxious hours wondering if they’re going to be a no show or waiting for them to give you a calendar date you can see them on.
There’s often a reason they’re behaving in this way. Sometimes they’re selfish and don’t see your time as being as important as their own. Sometimes they prioritise their long-term partners and first dates over newer relationships. Occasionally they’re not being totally honest about just how polyamorous they really are. Often there’s issues with their partner they aren’t communicating to you.
Don’t wait until you’re emotionally attached to wave bye-bye.
Men will always come back. You’re better off telling them to stay gone.
My catchphrase when consoling friends who are being ghosted is “he’ll be back”, and you know what, in my experience he always is. It might be three weeks later; it might be months later. I had a guy try again after an entire year. I kid you not.
The question is why they disappeared in the first place. A few weeks is a long time in polyamorous dating. If he shelved you to concentrate on someone else you probably don’t want to be waiting around for him. Besides, this is polyamory, you can date two people at once. Any man who can’t is likely to drop you as soon as his next NRE hits (more about that later).
Even if there’s a good reason for disappearing, the fact he didn’t bother explaining at the time shows he lacks the respect and emotional intelligence for a polyamorous partnership.
Women are harder to date because they’re having the same issues as you
As a woman looking for a woman to date, the general agreement is it’s harder. There are lots of reasons given, often that no one makes the first move, or they don’t want to come across as creepy. If they also date men, their inboxes are as packed with men as yours is so they may not be wading through to find your message. The reality is someone needs to message first, and it should be more than “hi” so go ahead, be brave.
As a rule, though, women don’t really like feeling like your experiment. Treat them with respect. It’s ok if you’re discovering your bi side or whatever, but those are human beings you’re dating not disposable sex toys. Treat them as such.
Monogamous men who “don’t mind” you being polyamorous are often a bad idea.
I’ve dated some amazing men who were originally monogamous. I am now in fact. In general, when a man says, “he doesn’t mind” and doesn’t ask you a lot of questions about how it works he hasn’t thought it through. Or he thinks he’ll worry about it after he’s had sex with you because at least if it didn’t work out, he still had sex.
He might be happy to screw you but is he happy to form an emotional connection to you? Is he happy to introduce you to his mum?
More importantly, is he happy to identify as polyamorous to other women he’s dating? If he’s still trawling those dating apps without telling women he’s in a relationship the likelihood is he’ll ditch you as soon as he feels he’s getting serious with a woman who asks for monogamy.
Make it clear — you aren’t his date until he finds “the one”, you expect to be a part of his life whoever comes along. Unless you’re ok with that dynamic, in which case go ahead. I’m not. Many polyamorous women have felt more hurt than they thought they would under these circumstances. Approach with caution.
Dating as a couple isn’t the easy option, whatever the media tells you
When you see polyamory portrayed in the media it’s usually a one man, two women triad. These are great fun for sure but as a cis couple searching for a girlfriend you’re going to run into some issues.
I refer you back to the ‘woman aren’t sex toys’ comment. If you expect that girlfriend to adhere to strict rules the two of you have set and only see you when you’re together, that’s not a great deal for her.
You might think it’s easier to be involved in the relationship your partner has with another, but you’ll be seeing all of it, every look, every orgasm, every snuggle. You can’t expect someone to work hard to like you both the same, especially when you’re already established as a couple and they’re coming into the relationship as an outsider.
More often than not, single woman dating couple doesn’t work.
It’s ok to state your needs and protect your boundaries
You’re going to hear a lot of people telling you not to ‘control’ your partner by asking them to slow it down or telling them who they can and can’t date.
Whilst it’s mostly true you need to be independent now and allow each other freedom, it’s ok to voice concerns and also to react to your partner’s concerns.
It’s obvious when people haven’t because instead of a few niggles at the getting to know you stage of your partner dating, you end up with passive aggression and a huge blow up way further into the relationship. Don’t be that person. Talk, talk, and when your voices are hoarse talk some more. More importantly, listen.
You have needs and it’s ok to state them. It’s ok if others question your boundaries, so long as everyone who needs to knows about them well in advance. If they’re unusual such as “no kissing” you might find your dating pool is considerably reduced and you want to change them later. But don’t rely on other people’s opinions to form your expectations.
You’ll hear a lot about NRE (New Relationship Energy), don’t let it take you over
New Relationship Energy is that excitement you feel when you start having feelings and sexual companionship with someone new. It’s amazing, it’s buzzy, and gives you the grins.
But don’t let it take away your sense of judgement.
Lust and infatuation are selfish emotions, they take your time away from all areas of your life. They don’t listen to reason and can be destructive.
Love is sharing. It warms you from the inside and makes your love and motivation for the rest of your life more intense.
Love says, “come warm yourself by my belly fire”, lust says “follow me and I’ll be your only sun”
Don’t let your new relationship destroy your existing ones. It should invigorate them.
Take advice with a pinch of salt
Polyamory community spaces are great for getting advice but remember a lot of people are thinking about their own situation when they advise you.
It’s easy to become incredibly hurt, sometimes even traumatised by the emotions which come to the surface when you open your relationship.
Listening to someone else who has internalised that trauma as “just the way it is” will not help you ensure you do the very best for your own partner.
Trust your instincts, trust your own life experience and knowledge, and just because someone talks as though they are an expert doesn’t mean they are one.
Misogyny doesn’t go away because your community is ‘woke’
Unicorn hunting (where a couple wants to find a girlfriend to ‘share’), the polyam f*ckbois, women treating other women as sexual experiments… those are just the things we’ve already covered.
There’s a whole heap of internalised patriarchy in polyamory. If it feels like you’re being used or seen as just a sex object you probably are. Call it out. Walk away. Don’t be afraid to tell someone they’re misogyny is showing.
Get yourself some good polyamorous buddies.
Polyamorous relationships aren’t always like monogamous ones. If you’re only getting support from monogamous friends, you might not be getting the right advice.
Your relationship might have been perfect when you started within polyamory but all those little things you ignored will now be highlighted like beacons. That’s ok. It’s normal. If your relationship survives it will be ten times stronger than it was when you started.
But you’ll need good friends. And good friends who understand you.
The obvious people are your metas (your partner’s partners). Let them in, you don’t have to all share a house but it’s great if you get on and you can ask their advice on your other relationships.
People you tried to date but it didn’t work out are also great options. Get yourself a polyam support network, you’ll really appreciate it.
I would never go back to monogamy. It’s worth the extra effort. Some days I wonder what in the world I got myself into, but the freedom and growth I’ve witnessed in myself in this past year makes all the messages from unwelcome fuckbois clogging up my WhatsApp worthwhile.