We’ve covered some of thebases previously in The Poly Diaries—coming out, finding people to date via the Interwebs, etc. etc. Something else worth considering are the various ways that people DO the whole poly thing. Everyone’s a unique flower, and their dating situ will reflect that. These are a few of the different tactics I’ve seen in my 2 or-so years of being open. My personal dating style has grown and changed as I’ve become more comfortable with polyamory in my life. At first, I eased into just dating one person outside of my primary relationship. Then, I threw open the proverbial dating floodgates. For a while, I dated ALL the people. And now I’ve calmed down a bit. Got my shit together ever-so-slightly, and have sort of got a good thing going on. I’m more aware of what I want to get out my relationships.
There’s a good chance that when dating multiple people, you’ll encounter someone who hasn’t been open before. That can be fun! It can also require a lot of patience. Someone may not be allowed or comfortable with something that has become commonplace in your world. Patience is so key here—if you like the person, and want to pursue something more serious with them, you’ve gotta give them time.
At the same time, you’ve got to be open and clear about what it is that you want in the relationship. I’m not saying that on the first date, go full “I WANT TO CO-HABITATE WITH YOU AND YOUR PARTNER IN THE FUTURE,” because I’ve heard that does not go well. But sharing what you want and feel with that person as the relationship progresses is important. Communication is key in any relationship, but with so many moving parts (as poly relationships often have), talking it out is crucial. If you don’t make it clear what it is that you’re looking for, how is this other person supposed to know (unless they’re an oracle) (note: is there a dating site for oracles and where is it)?
I find a lot of people equate polyamory or being open with a casual relationship. Non-primary relationships are often seen as disposable. Now, IF it’s established from the get-go that this is a casual relationship and everyone involved is A-OK with that, that can work. In fact, it works for me. Sometimes, you just have sexual chemistry with someone and want to act on it. Get on it, both literally and figuratively. A relationship that is entirely sex-based can be a very good thing to have. It’s that nasty assumption, that misunderstanding that because you’re dating more than one person those relationships don’t matter as much as a monogamous one, that can end badly.
I was dating a guy last summer, and we were doing good work. We tried out all of these neat bars together, had the same interests and had decent chemistry. August rolled around, and I got a text saying that he was now dating someone and that it was monogamous. And that was that. To be honest, I wasn’t all that put-out by it ending (and I promise that I’m not just saying that to feel better about it), but what irked me was that it felt like ours was a relationship that was time-sensitive and one entirely made of convenience. It stung. It’s important to remember that no matter what your relationship is with someone—casual, sexual, romantic, moving hard towards seriousness—it’s still a relationship you need to respect and work on.
There are also people who are trying out polyamory, taking it for a test drive. How else can you know that it’s something you want, really, unless you do it for a bit? The problem I’ve run into in this situation is that people are sometimes secretive about this lack of commitment to poly. It can be super shitty when you’ve invested time and feelings in a relationship that just goes kaput out of nowhere. That’s not just applicable to poly people; that can happen to anyone. But I’ve definitely been blindsided before by people bowing out of the non-monogamous world or finding someone they want to go full-mono with. It’s can feel awful when a person you’ve been investing in and having feelings for chooses someone, something else. Poly can be risky, as a result. People often don’t know what they want. But I guess that’s true of putting yourself out there in general. Feelings is hard, y’all.
The thing to remember is that polyamorous relationships don’t follow a specific outline or model past the general idea that a person can care a lot about more than one person. Couple A may have sex with other people, but not drop an L-bomb outside of their primary relationship. Couple B may fall in love all over the place, but not have sex with other people. Couple C might do something entirely different. Figuring out what YOU want, being able to verbalize that to yourself and the people you date, is worth spending some time on. Your friends and partners will look out for your best interests (if they know what’s good for ’em), but you have to do that too, more than anyone else.