Coming Out: A Complicated Issue
It's always hard to tell someone about your non-monogamous relationship. People have very strong opinions on the issue, and you always run the risk of someone you never expected telling you it's wrong. The process is even harder when you're trying to tell someone you're actually attracted to about your relationship dynamic. Usually, it's someone you know is interested in you romantically, but you don't want to scare them away. Or maybe you're afraid they'll stereotype you before you get a chance to explain. Either way, here are a couple of tried and true methods for telling someone you're just getting to know that you're in a relationship - but still interested in them.
The Do's and Don'ts
Do: Tell your current partner or partners about your interest, if that is what is agreed upon. When first meeting a new romantic interest, it can be easy to get caught up in the flurry of hormones, but you should always keep your partner's feelings in mind. Make sure to follow any previous arrangement you may have created.
Don't: Call your current partner while still in front of the romantic interest. Usually, "Hey babe, I just made this bangin' hot chick," isn't going to win you any points.
Do: Tell the person you're interested in early on. Try to drop it in casual conversation: "My husband and my girlfriend and I all saw that movie together, we really loved it." The earlier in the night you tell them about it, the longer you'll have to talk about it.
Don't: Tell them the morning after. In their bed. As they make waffles. Aside from just being rude, it's a lot like lying, and it is most certainly NOT responsible non-monogamy. In order for it not to be cheating or taking advantage of someone's feelings, all parties have to be fully informed of the situation. Anyway, you should probably be helping with breakfast.
Do: Explain it in language that they can understand. To someone who has never heard of it, 'polyamory' is a daunting word. 'Responsible non-monogamy' isn't really much better. "It's like an open relationship..." is a pretty good way to start. I know most poly couples balk at the term open relationship, since it's so umbrella and it has so many negative connotations, but so long as you explain your personal relationship, hopefully there won't be any misunderstandings.
Don't: Laugh at them if they don't know what 'polyamory' is, or give them a one word explanation.
Do: Answer any questions they might have! This is probably new to them, and even if it isn't, they might ask you questions about your relationship or partners. Questions are a good thing; at least they're not judging you.
Don't: Roll your eyes at questions you've probably heard a thousand times. No, it's not cheating; no, it's not polygamy; no, I don't sleep with animals. Just grin and bear it.
Do: Give them some space. A lot of the time after disclosing the nature your relationship, someone might need time to think about it. Even if they don't seem too surprised or put-off, you still want to move slowly. This kind of relationship gets complicated very quickly, and you want to make sure everyone's needs are met.
Don't: Be a missionary. By that I mean, don't force them to your side, or force them to make a decision one way or the other. It may take time, and maybe you hate waiting, but it will do more harm than good to try to force anything.
Things to Keep In Mind
Polyamory is quickly growing and gaining more ground as an alternative to monogamy, and for many people that is a great thing. But always keep in mind that there are people who are opposed to that kind of lifestyle, or who may just be misinformed. Spread the information! Knowledge is power, and if more people knew the facts about non-monogamous relationships, there would likely be more understanding.
If you're trying to talk to your romantic interest (or current partner) about non-monogamy, then give them some literature. The Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and Polyamory are great books on the subject; there are countless webpages and forums and even a podcast devoted to it. Always remember to keep an open mind and an open heart!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
GypsyDiver (author) from North Carolina on August 20, 2012:
Hmm. It does seem pretty obvious (which isn't always a bad thing! "Hey, I like you. I have a boyfriend, but we're polyamorous. Can I get to know you?" is fairly straightforward, but there's nothing wrong with that.) But if you want a little more chase, I tend to just bring it up in conversation soon after that. If your partner's name pops up and you're worried about losing a fish, just bring it up in conversation another way. "Well, I'm not monogamous, so I don't have that problem," or, "I really wanted to go to that event, but I'm not sure they would have given me more than a plus one for my other partners!" Bring it up in an organic way. There's certainly a knack to learn, but it's a skill worth having.
unsure on May 29, 2012:
What if you currently have one partner so you cannot use the "My husband and girlfriend..." option? If you mention your bf how are you ever to tell them that you're still open to them? If you go like "Yeah, I have a bf but I'm also poly" isn't that a little too obvious that you're interested in them?
babyjedi from philippines on June 21, 2011:
i agree with gypsy open communication is healthy for a relationship to grow but keep in mind guys loyal and true to your partner is the most important... No secrets!!!
GypsyDiver (author) from North Carolina on June 21, 2011:
Oh, definitely. And that's advice that anyone can use: honesty and communication are important in ANY relationship.
Hattie from Europe on June 21, 2011:
I think you should be honest right from the start. It's not really fair to lead someone on with out all the details, and the one friend I have that lives this lifestyle, adds that it takes a very special person for this to work. It is asking a lot from all parties involved, and his advice is to be honest from the very start, never lie about it!