Just the Tip offers smart and compassionate sex and relationship advice from queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.
Recently, some of my polyamorous friends have been talking about this other advice column from askmen.com. (I know! They were cheating on me!) My pals were lamenting the column’s poor advice on how to pursue a polyamorous relationship. The post was old, so I’m guessing the questioner no longer needs this advice. But everyone else out there in a similar boat deserves better, so I’m responding to both Poly Confusion’s question and Dating Nerd’s response. Here goes!
Hi Dating Nerd,
I’ve been on two dates with a cool girl that I met on an online dating site. After the second date, she let me in on a secret: She’s not actually single, but married and “poly,” a term I had never heard before. Apparently, she and her husband have a rule where they can each hook up with whoever they want (well, there are more rules, but that’s not the main point here.) Basically, she’d be free to see me, go on dates, get drinks, make out, have sex and so forth, but she wouldn’t sleep over at my place, I couldn’t sleep over at her place, and so forth. As she described it to me, I was like, “Is there a catch? That sounds kind of awesome.” But maybe I’m jumping into this too fast. Dating a poly woman is something I’ve never done before, and for all I know it’s actually hell or at least more complicated than dating monogamously. Do you have any experience here? How does one “play” this type of situation?
– Poly Confusion
Hey PC! First of all, I’d like to address some of the advice you got from Dating Nerd. Let’s start at the top.
From Dating Nerd:
“A lot of the sources of typical dude relationship trouble just don’t exist in polyamory. For example. You’re never going to get in trouble for staring at eye-catching cleavage. In fact, it’s encouraged. Your lack of commitment is never going to be questioned, ever. It seems pretty sweet, right?”
Sure, if I’m exposing cleavage, it’s totally for my date to appreciate. But, if they don’t stare intently into my eyes while I’m talking about the ethics of intersectional feminism or whatever other topics turn my brain on, it would be a very short date. Because I want to be treated as a WHOLE HUMAN BEING — ya know, more than just tits.
That’s not even my main problem with what he wrote there — it’s how grossly over-generalized it is. He makes it sound like all individuals who use the term polyamorous are the same thrill-seeking, shallow-relationship type of person. Why exactly is it that non-monogamy by default means no commitment?
What you described about your specific date, PC, does sound like she’s not looking for heavy commitment. I just want to point out that it’s not necessarily the norm of what you’d find if you met and dated other polyamorous peeps. Many of us are all for overnights and having our partners meet each other, and building happy poly communities. I’m not sure there is a norm, and I think that’s the beauty of it. Everybody does relationships differently, and you just have to find the person (or people) who do relationships in a way that works for you. From the sound of it — this low-commitment appeals to you.
I want to mention that I have qualms with how she handled the situation. It’s dishonest that she wasn’t upfront that she was in an open relationship and worse yet that she waited till the second date to tell you. Regardless of whether we’re talking monogamy or non-monogamy, ALL relationships should be built on honesty. But, it happens, and the situation could still be positive for everyone. At least she’s being honest now!
So, is there a catch to this low-commitment wonderland, you ask? Yes. People always change and hardly ever in ways you’ll expect. What happens if her marriage falls apart, for instance? What if you do decide you want more?
To prepare for inevitable change, Dating Nerd suggested you should try not to fall in love. But it sounds like he offered that advice because he fell in love with a polyamorous woman who didn’t want what he wanted. He fell for a woman he claims didn’t need him when they weren’t together.
He took that one relationship to be the mold and swore off all other polyamorous possibilities.
For comparison: There are several relationships I’ve been in for years, none of whom are currently an anchor* partner, and I effing need all of them. They all offer unique advice and sources of comfort, and we are each other’s first line of defense when shit hits the fan.
(Side note: I use the term anchor instead of primary to not connote a hierarchy of people. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect and courtesy, even if we have more at stake in various relationships.)
But you’re not me, and “effing needing multiple people” might not be what you’re looking for. So should you guard your heart from falling for a married woman?
Look. Yes, of course I think you should guard your heart. I think we all should be careful when we’re opening ourselves up to others. But, unlike Dating Nerd, I think you should also listen to your heart and not lock it away. We all need to balance protecting ourselves and letting life have its way with us, because it’s in difficult situations that we grow and experience life-altering amazing change, and have the potential to become better human beings.
So how should you “play” the situation? Have fun, be open-minded, be honest about what you want as it changes. And only date those who respect and care about what you want, just as much as their own needs.