Mischa and Leon-
First of all, THANK YOU for creating a place where people in all phases of discovering their preferred love and lifestyles – particularly one free from the LACK of anonymity attached to requesting to join the forum group on Facebook.
There are so many different ways of meeting people in the city- many of which haven’t been conducive to having an idea of where the person stands before the first date. I feel very torn between wanting to be direct, excited and unapologetic about it, and generally have brought it up on a first date. In some situations though, I feel like it has alarmed someone and throws a few great dates a bit off course.
So, my question: For those who are new discoverers of polyamory and not yet in any relationships – when is it common/most beneficial time to discuss the lifestyle with people you are dating?
You guys rock. I look forward to the continued reading.
-Tentative on Telling
Dear Tentative, Thanks for the great letter! We’ve talked for a while about how to provide support for people who are uncomfortable being out enough to attend live events, so we’re happy people are reading. We’re always looking for ways to expand beyond what we’re currently doing and asking our members what they’d like to see from our organization. As to your question, this is one scenario I actually don’t have a lot of experience with for two reasons. One is that I don’t date very often (insert sad violins here). And two, anyone who spends more than 15 minutes with me is going to figure out that I’m poly because of what I do with the majority of my free time. So just about the only time I “come out” to anyone is at work, and I’m certainly not going to date people in the office.
I know there are poly people who feel that you should come out as poly on the first date, but I don’t agree. Personally I think it’s arrogant and presumptive to say on the first date that you’re poly, because it’s like, “hey, I know we just met but I’m letting you know now that you’re going to have to share me in the bedroom because that’s where this is going.”
I think there are two rules of thumb about coming out. The first is – do it when it feels right. If there’s an opportunity to talk about your lovestyle, don’t lie or evade the question. It’s better to be honest upfront than to be later accused of hiding it when you had the chance to come out. And the second rule is when there’s any talk about actually having a relationship, then you’ve obviously got to come out. But until then, just enjoy the moment and let people get to know you as a person before you take a chance on shattering their blissful dreams of monogamy with you.
Leon, you date a lot more than me – what’s your coming out story?
Great, I’ve got that Diana Ross song in my head now: “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii’m coming out, I want the world to know, got to let it show…” Thanks for nothing, Michelle.
To me, the key is to walk the fine line between being honest/upfront about things, and respecting the “getting to know you” process that can easily be upset by potentially big things (or big SOUNDING things) coming up too early in the conversation. Even if someone is potentially compatible with you (especially once they get to know and like you and are willing to take a leap of faith or two), there’s a big difference between dropping a bomb on someone right away, and working it into the conversation and feeling them out about it. (I’ll disagree with Michelle just a little bit here: if someone has blissful dreams of monogamy with you, I think those SHOULD be shattered pretty quickly. It’s like meeting a blind man at a KKK rally and not telling him you’re African-American until after you’ve been dating a while. Hooray for politically incorrect jokes!)
What I do when I meet someone new: We flirt, talk, etc. until it’s clear we are mutually attracted, and at some point I ask, “so, are you dating anyone?” When they return the question, as they invariably do, I say, “I’m actually seeing a couple of girls right now, but no one monogamously.” If they then ask for more information, I give it, in an open and matter-of-fact way; I have nothing to hide and I make it clear that I’m neither ashamed of my polyamory nor am I trying to sugarcoat it. Surprisingly enough, I find that many, many more people are impressed by it and my honesty about it, and even intrigued by it, than they are turned off by it.
I do try to have the full poly conversation before it gets ‘too far’ – but there’s obviously a lot of subjectivity in what constitutes ‘too far’. A good rule of thumb for me is that the more vanilla or conservative someone appears, the sooner I want to disclose that I am polyamorous. If someone wants to have sex on the first date, I feel much more comfortable NOT disclosing everything beyond the intro conversation I’ve described above, for two main reasons: 1) if they’re comfortable enough with casual physicality, they probably won’t be too put off if at all about my being polyamorous; and 2) they may not even be looking for anything beyond the casual physical experience, and if so, there’s no point in going into detail about my preferred medium- and long-term relationship structure. Conversely, if they seem to see me as potential boyfriend material, I definitely want to have a discussion about what poly means to each of us, before anyone gets involved enough to feel hurt.
In short, disclose whatever information feels natural as the conversation or relationship progresses, but when in doubt, err on the side of informing/not hurting the other person.