5 Things You Should Disclose Upfront in Polyamorous Dating [Polyamory Conversation Cards #11]

Dating is hard. Who amongst us hasn’t spent hours swiping and swiping on dating apps or felt like we’ve wasted evenings of our lives at speed dating parties full of people we have nothing in common with? Polyamorous dating is even harder. Polyamorous people have a small dating pool to begin with, and it becomes smaller still when you factor in all the various ways that even two (or more) polyam people can be incompatible.

When I’m trying to date, I prefer to filter out unsuitable matches quickly. After all, no matter how hot someone is, if we’re wildly incompatible there’s no point in trying to take things further. Part of this process is knowing what you need to disclose (and ask) early on in dating a new person.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“What do new partners need to know upfront about what’s (im)possible given your existing relationships?”

Here are five things I think you really need to disclose upfront in polyamorous dating.

1. That you’re polyamorous (and what relationships you’re currently in, if any)

No shit, right?

Well, a surprising number of polyamorous people seem to be completely cool with the idea of not disclosing that they’re polyamorous until they are one, three, or even more dates into a connection with a new person. This is absolutely, utterly, unequivocally not cool.

I believe that, as a general rule, polyamorous people should only date other polyamorous people. While there are occasional (very occasional) examples of mono/poly relationships that work, these are few and far between and most people who attempt this type of dynamic end up completely miserable. However, if you’re going to insist on trying to date monogamous people, at the very least you need to disclose your polyamorous status upfront. It’s not okay to bait-and-switch someone.

Put it in your dating profile. When you connect with someone, make sure they’ve actually read and understood that you’re polyamorous. And be ready to talk about what polyamory means to you, how you practice it, and any relationships you’re currently in

2. What style of polyamory you practice

People do polyamory in lots of different ways, and not all of them are compatible. If you practice relationship anarchy, hierarchical polyamorous people won’t be a good fit for you. If you’re in a closely knit kitchen table polycule and hate not being able to have all your partners in one room, someone who prefers a strictly parallel style is unlikely to be a good match.

There’s nuance here, of course, and you should be ready to talk with a potential match about the particulars of your situation. But you should at least have a one-line elevator speech that sums up your polyamorous style and philosophy.

For example, I might say “I have a nesting partner and practice non-hierarchical polyamory. I prefer kitchen-table or garden-party polyamory but I’m also open to parallel if that’s what people need.”

3. Any rules or restrictions that will apply to your relationship

I’ve written recently about why I don’t think restrictive rules are a good idea in polyamory. But lots of people still have them and, if this is you, you really need to disclose them as quickly as possible.

If your new partner won’t be allowed to (for example) engage in certain sex acts, express or receive expressions of love with you, spend the night with you, or ever spend holidays and special occasions with you, they deserve to know these things upfront.

Someone can’t meaningfully consent to a relationship if it comes with a host of limits and restrictions they weren’t aware of.

4. Veto arrangements (including screening, tacit, or indirect vetos)

A veto arrangement is where one partner – usually a spouse, nesting partner, or “primary” – has the power to unilaterally demand their partner end an outside relationship. I’ve written about the problems with veto multiple times and I now believe it is an inherently abusive thing. However, again, some couples still insist on it. If this is you, you must disclose it upfront to potential partners.

This includes other forms of veto power beyond the explicit, by the way.

Does your partner have a “screening veto” (i.e. can they veto a relationship when it’s in its fledgling stages but not once it’s established?) People you’re dating deserve to know that they have to pass an external party’s test before they can be in a relationship with you.

What would you do if a particular partner suddenly issued you with a “leave them or I’m leaving you” ultimatum? If the answer is anything other than “break up with the person who issued the ultimatum” then… that person has tacit veto power. Your other partners and potential partners should know this. They should know that, even if you don’t call it veto power, they are ultimately disposable in service of your relationship with someone else.

5. What type of relationship you’re looking for

Are you looking for a nesting partner? Someone to marry and/or have children with? A serious but non-nesting/non-escalator relationship? A one night stand, casual fuck-buddy, or friend with benefits?

One of the great things about polyamory is that we can feel out relationships as they evolve and allow them to be what they are. However, most of us also have at least some idea of what we’re looking for and what we’re absolutely not looking for.

Unfortunately, a lot of people lie about or obfuscate what they’re looking for on early dates. They pretend to be open to a serious relationship because they think it’ll make them look bad if they say they just want casual sex. Conversely, they might think it makes them look uncool and not “chill” to admit they want something serious, so they downplay it. This kind of thing just makes it harder to connect with people who want the same thing as you.

If you’re truly open to any kind of structure and just want to explore connections and see how things go? You can say that. But don’t say it if it’s not true. You’ll just waste your own time and theirs.

What do you always tell potential dates upfront in your polyamorous dating life? What do you wish dates would tell you?

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