Lovehacker: When Should I Tell Dates That I’m Poly?

Lovehacker: When Should I Tell Dates That I’m Poly?
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Dear Lovehacker, What is the etiquette in disclosing casual relationships and polyamory to a prospective partner? My friends tell me to be upfront from the very start, but discussing it on a first date is so awkward! Is there a ‘right’ time to broach the subject? Thanks, J.

Hey J,

Although I’m not poly myself, I can understand why this would be tough. If you’ve only just met or started seeing someone, it may can be difficult to drop that into conversation.

For one, that can be really confronting for some people. As you well know, it isn’t as simple as saying that you’re poly. There are different types of polyamorous people, relationships and terminology. It could be an instant deal breaker, even if under different circumstances things could work out between you. [related title=”More Lovehacker” tag=”lovehacker” items=”5″]

I can see how that wouldn’t feel fair.

With that in mind, it could be tempting to hold off saying anything in the hope that getting to know you better might prevent instant rejection.

But is doing that to them and yourself okay? Should you wait until you’re both emotionally invested to share something so significant with them? It could be taken as emotional manipulation, even if you don’t mean it to be or you simply want to be given a chance.

Then of course there is the sexual aspect. In the modern dating world it probably isn’t necessary to disclose other casual romantic or sexual relationships while you’re both still seeing where things are going.

However, the general assumption is that these other relationships will end if you decide to become serious. If you’re poly, getting serious with one person doesn’t necessarily mean the end of other relationships.

Waiting too long to tell someone that you’re sleeping with other people, particularly if they think you’re exclusive, is a dangerous game to play. Not only do you run the risk of hurting them emotionally, you’re denying them the chance to make informed sexual decisions. You both need to be comfortable.

I think that honesty is the best policy here. Do you really want to start a relationship under false pretences? Do you want to be with someone who isn’t 100% okay with polyamory but is staying simply because of their feelings for you? That wouldn’t be good for either of you.

It doesn’t have to be one of the first things you blurt out, but you really should aim to let them know early on.

Although it may take more time, the right people for you (whether that be long term or otherwise) will understand and be open minded, and you’ll be happier in the knowledge that you did the best thing for yourself and them from the beginning.

Lovehacker is a weekly relationship and sex column where our resident Agony Aunt answers your questions. Need help? Drop a comment below or email [email protected].


  • “polyamory” Oh c’mon, you’re just playing the field with consent. It’s called an open relationship and there would be very few people that would be open to that, surely?

    • Some remarkably “mature” comments here. Let’s think about it this way. I know a *lot* of people who would like to be with more than one person, even if they focus on one primary relationship. Sooo…if that’s something *you* might want, it stands to reason your partner might want it. So rather than playing a stupid zero sum game, where you sacrifice your chance to be with anyone else to be with your partner, or make them promise not to be with anyone else to be with you, how about just admitting it and being adults.

      I mean, in the end, what reason do we have to try and lock our partners down. Are we afraid if they get with someone else they will abandon us? That’s kinda insecure. Is the purpose of relationships to prop up our insecurities. Or should we again, be adults and deal with the fact that if our partner will ditch us for someone else, making a bunch of rules about it really isn’t going to do anything but delay the inevitable.

      Polyamorists (and yeah, there are a lot of us) focus on being the best partner they can so people will want to be with them, instead of “getting someone to commit” so they can go back to playing video games and still count on having someone to have sex with.

      • The smug, condescending attitude isn’t helping your cause. Desiring an exclusive, monogamous relationship isn’t an indicator of insecurity or some cynical strategy to “get someone to commit”. You shouldn’t try to legitimise polyamory by criticizing monogamy.

        The person asking whether they should be upfront or not already knows the answer, they just want someone to tell them it is OK to be deceptive for a while. People are free to have whatever relationships or sexual lives they want but if you are living an unconventional or non-traditional lifestyle (poly is, deal with it) you have to tell people before you involve them in it. If you cannot be adult enough to do that then you aren’t adult enough to juggle such a lifestyle.

        That seems like the “mature” thing to do, doesn’t it?

      • Absolute twaddle, “MOST” people choose to commit to a monogamous relationship, they don’t actively seek side partners. If you think there are a lot of Polyamorists, that’s probably because you are an active member of a “group” of Polyamorists. Also, calling people who choose monogamy insecure, shows so much hubris on your part it is galling.

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