So you’re polyamorous, but you want to date people with other relationship models than yourself, say, someone monogamous. (gasp!) It might seem impossible. But I hope I can convince you that you shouldn’t write off most of the population just because they are more comfortable getting jiggy with one other person.
It can be hard to be honest about your desire for non-monogamy with people who might have (okay probably have) judgements about your lifestyle. Say you’re used to meeting people who already align with your sex-positive beliefs and worldviews. Maybe you use Feeld (formerly 3nder), or are a regular visitor of Fetlife. Or maybe you’ve found your partners the old-fashioned way, well, as old-fashioned as polyamory can be, anyway.
But now you want to branch out to apps like Tinder or OkCupid, or ask out the cute barista.
How can you be upfront about your relationship models while being open to theirs? Well, I won’t claim to have all the answers, but here are a few things that have and haven’t worked for me.
A few personal disclosures:
- I identify as ethically non-monogamous (ENM) and not polyamorous. The distinction for me is the desire for physical intimacy with many people, but emotional intimacy with one.
- I am currently dating a wonderful man whom I met on Tinder. He has only had monogamous relationships in the past.
- We are navigating this together.
So without further ado, here they are: the do’s and don’ts of fishing in the monogamous pond when you’re a fabulous non-monogamous mermaid.
Do: Be honest
This may seem like a no-brainer for any and all dating advice, but it is especially important when you have a relationship structure that may not match the person you’re into. It is important to understand your own priorities and preferences and communicate them to your partner.
Don’t: Try to trick anyone
If you’re going to click with someone, regardless of the types of relationships they’ve had in the past, you don’t need to trick them in any way. Don’t wait until the third date to tell someone about your partner or partners, particularly if you live with any of them. That’s a part of that ethical part of ethical non-monogamy.
No matter what your expectations and desires are, let the person you’re getting to know get to know all of you, which includes your need for non-monogamy.
Do: Drop clues
I’ll lead with an example here.
Once upon a time, my Tinder profile included both “ENM” and “GGG.” These stand for ethically non-monogamous and good, giving, game. And I am ENM and GGG. (If you’re new to the term, GGG was coined by Dan Savage and means good in bed, giving of equal time and pleasure, and game for anything — within reason.)
The problem with having both of these on my profile was that dudes who were unfamiliar with the terms either asked what they meant or googled; both of which often led the conversation almost instantly to sex. Not that a bit of chat about sex and sexual interests/expectations can’t be an icebreaker, but with your average guy on Tinder, it really just led to me being immediately placed into the “easy lay” column. Which brings me to the next don’t.
Don’t: Play all of your cards up front
I decided to only include one of these acronyms in my future profiles — usually GGG — and bury it below some other snarky stuff about disliking chocolate chip cookies. (Before you stop reading simply for my distaste for perfectly delectable baked-goods, it was a great conversation starter, which is key to effective online dating game.)
By burying this reference to my sex-positive, non-monogamous tendencies, the letters served as a clue to those who already were familiar with the terms, while the really curious could ask or google, and a lot of the time, it just didn’t come up.
A pitfall when it comes to dating outside of the already kinky community is that your interests can often be fetishized by the less sex-positive among us, particularly if you’re using dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Dropping the latest sex party you attended into the conversation too early can result in some hilarious responses (and dudes angling for an invite), but can also lead to you becoming “the sex party girl.”
Try to remember how you felt when you were introduced to the ideas of non-monogamy, polyamory, or kink, and put your empathy pants on and understand that their response might be similar or totally different.
Disclosure: my intention is not to imply that all polyamorous people are kinky, or that sex-positivity is only for the non-monogamous. These observations and insights are based on my personal experiences and research. Part of my point is that relationships come in all shapes, sizes, and expectations.
Do: Educate without being condescending
Don’t: Assume that your relationship style is “better” than anyone else’s
When explaining ethical non-monogamy or polyamory to someone previously unfamiliar, please, for the love of all things good in this world, do not present your chosen lifestyle as somehow superior to all those mere mortals who still want to only fuck one person.
I get it, you read Sex at Dawn, and The Ethical Slut is your Bible, but here’s the thing: it is still your choice. You are not more evolved than anyone else simply because you’ve decided to be open to being intimate with multiple people.
This can be harder than it may seem at first glance. Releasing jealousy, compersion, and many other aspects of polyamory can take a great deal of introspection and emotional maturity to master. You might be far more emotionally mature than the person to whom you’re explaining your relationship style. However, don’t take that as a given.
Be generous with your potential partner. Be kind to your fuckbuddy. And be honest with yourself.
Bonus do: Be open to compromise.
I got lucky, I found a man who had a different idea of what a relationship looked like, we talked about it, and he was open to exploring new models, because he’s really into me. And I’m really into him. Which is why I’m both very upfront with my expectations for both of us, while doing my best to remain open to his feelings, prior experiences, and curiosities. (Side note: We’re pretty monogamous right now, because I just can’t get enough of him, but he knows my needs may change in the future, and he knows I’m writing this article.)
Before I found this incredible, open human with whom I can share my whole soul, I met a lot of cool people with whom I didn’t really click. I had sex with a bunch of monogamous guys, and sometimes there came a point where I needed to say, “Hey, this isn’t what I’m looking for, I’m gonna take a step back so you can find someone that is looking for the same things.”
This is my call to all of us to work harder to know ourselves, and to be open with those we care about (and even those we are just fucking) about what we want and need, while remaining receptive to their desires and feelings.