So you want to date a polyamorous person, but are new to non-monogamy?
Polyamory, (sometimes also called ethical non monogamy) is growing. With many people actively choosing to form romantic partnerships with more than one person at a time or being part of open relationships, there are many more profiles on dating apps declaring non monogamous intentions.
But as someone who may not have considered non-monogamy before, what do you need to know before you start dating someone who chooses this relationship style?
There are many types of relationship and connection under the ethical non-monogamy umbrella
From open relationships which tend towards a more traditional swinger style (sex but no commitment) to polyamory (where an individual may have multiple equal romantic partners) there’s no one way.
The best thing to do is discuss exactly what relationship style your potential date is currently in and what they’re hoping for from you.
The question you’re probably asking yourself is “how would I feel about being intimate with someone who has another partner?”
This is just a fragment of what you need to think about before dating someone consensually non monogamous. It’s often the first consideration but it shouldn’t be the only question you ask yourself.
Sexual jealousy won’t be the only new thing to you, and in reality…
Jealousy is still an issue in non-monogamous relationships
And that’s ok.
No one likes feeling jealous or insecure, but these are normal, valid emotions. You don’t have to keep your jealousy to yourself or pretend it’s not there. It doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing poly wrong’ or aren’t cut out for non-monogamy.
We all feel jealous sometimes. It might spring from insecurity within the relationship, but it’s often just a natural part of seeing someone new arrive in your partner’s life. New people sometimes make us worry we won’t see our partner so much.
Again, that’s a completely normal reaction, and a genuine concern.
Talk about it.
Polyamory is many rather than infinite loves
Once upon a time I thought being polyamorous meant I never had to break up with anyone ever. That’s not the case. We may have an abundance of love, but usually we don’t have as much time or emotional load as we’d like to have.
Relationships do come and go, and they also ebb and flow to find the right level as new people come along. That’s why when a new partner comes on the scene it can feel scary to existing partners.
But know that your partners are choosing to be with you. Your relationship is about the two of you and not others. Trust the strength of your connection.
As the relationship gets more serious, are you happy to explain to friends and family?
You may be totally okay with your partner having another partner, or even being married. But are you happy to communicate that to others? Similarly, when you meet another partner, how will you communicate this to your loved ones?
Are you prepared to explain to your mum why your new boyfriend wears a wedding ring? Can you explain non monogamy to your friends when they saw your girlfriend on a date with someone else? Your flatmates might have been accepting of your series of hook ups, but how will they feel about two or more partners sitting around the breakfast table with them on different days?
Consensual non-monogamy is a valid life choice. But it’s not the default relationship model.
If you’re used to romantic partners being a big part of the rest of your life, are you ready to do the required explaining?
Prepare for assumptions and judgements.
Consensual non-monogamy is a valid relationship choice, but that doesn’t mean everyone automatically understands.
You might have to explain to people. A lot.
Explaining your partner’s non monogamy is often easier than explaining your own. You might need to justify how you aren’t disrespecting people or cheating. Or why it’s not all about sex and just because you’re poly that doesn’t mean you want to be intimate with everyone who has a crush on you.
You don’t have to be polyamorous to date someone who is
Just because you’re dating a polyamorous person doesn’t mean you also need to see other people. There’s a desire sometimes for things to be ‘equal’ but if you personally feel monogamous you don’t need to change who you are. You can be happy for your partner to date others without doing so yourself.
In a long term relationship you may find sometimes your partner has additional relationships and you don’t or vice versa. Your relationship status doesn’t always have to match.
What are your needs?
Polyamorous people spend a long time considering their needs and making sure relationships meet them. But that doesn’t mean your needs aren’t important too. Your partner won’t want you to swallow your own desires and expectations. What do you want from them?
Don’t be afraid to speak up. If they can’t meet it, also don’t be afraid to walk away.
If you’re looking for additional relationships, how will you explain to potential partners?
Many people find it’s best for them to state they’re polyamorous at the top of their profile. This avoids confusion but also makes it easier for other consensually non monogamous people to spot them.
This isn’t always an easy thing to do if you’re used to being monogamous (or non-monogamous but not open about your intentions!)
Dating someone and telling them later down the line you have another partner can leave them feeling confused and cheated.
As polyamorous people, we’ve seen the fall out from this kind of thing before so we might expect to see ‘polyamorous’ on your dating profile. If you’re too reluctant to do this we might also read your actions as…
You’re considering a polyamorous partner ‘for now’ but if you meet someone who wants monogamy you’ll be happy to change
This can be very unsettling and hurtful to a polyamorous person. That’s not to say we don’t date ‘for now’ or have short term relationships, but we’re often better than monogamous people at communicating where we’re at.
If you’re declaring love and making long term plans, we imagine you’re committed to us. Don’t do this if you’re really looking for someone else who suits your needs and will leave us when you find them.
Do you like to stay friends with your ex partners?
I’m with you. If I’ve made a connection to someone I want them in my lives when the sex stops. Often with polyamorous people the sex doesn’t stop as such but drops to ‘occasional’. That can be a beautiful thing, but it isn’t essential.
However, finding a new monogamous partner whilst still being friends with a polyamorous ex can be tricky. In general polyamorous people are more respectful of consent and relationship boundaries, but the monogamous world doesn’t always believe this.
If you’re going back to monogamy, how will your new partner feel about a sex positive polyamorous ex being still very much in your life?
What do you really want in the long run?
If you want to be polyamorous to date someone who is polyamorous you’re doing it for the wrong reasons
However great that person is, the relationship is likely to be harder than you imagined. Changing from monogamy to polyamory can be difficult at the best of times, but if your heart really isn’t in it, those adaptations to mind and lifestyle will seem all the more difficult.
That’s not to say polyamory isn’t for you. It still might be.
And that’s awesome. Both for you and the polyamorous person you’ve fallen for.
But take a step back to think about all the extra things you’ll need to consider. Don’t let your desire for this exciting new person cloud your rational thought.
Do your research on the polyamorous lifestyle and be prepared for some bumps along the way.
If it’s your path all the extra work is totally worth it. But spend some time really thinking it through.
If you’re all about the ‘for now’ and you really want monogamy down the line, tell them. It might not be a deal breaker, but be honest, both with them and yourself.