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.
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.
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.
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