Posts Tagged ‘dating advice’


I had a look through my top search terms and below some very specific ones, i.e. people looking for me specifically, this question was closest to the top. I thought I’d try it out in Google and my page, in fact, is in the top ten when I type this phrase in.

So I’ll try to answer this question as best as I can.

First of all, there are authors out there who know a hell of a lot more about this stuff than I do. Their wisdom is humbling. Start off by doing some research.

Here’s a basic reading list of books:

Blogs to check out:

As for my advice, based on my own experiences, there are some key points to ask yourself if you’re wondering whether to explore polyamory.

What are your views about sex?

Do you believe that sex is fun, natural and an important part of life? Do you feel that it is a need, something that you have a right to have fulfilled? Is it something you can do without and still feel fulfilled? Do you have any guilt or shame associated with sex, alternative sex practices, homosexuality or paraphilias? Are you currently with a partner who for whatever reason, leaves you feeling sexually unfulfilled? Is polyamory appealing to you because you want to have sex with more than one person, or because you feel constrained within a monogamous relationship? Is your partner’s pleasure important to you? How would you feel if your partner had better sexual chemistry with someone other than you?

The reason these are important questions is because sex is a big part of this. If you are able to honestly assess your sexuality, and openly talk about sex, polyamory will be a lot easier for you. If you have any discomfort about sex, either your own sex life or that of any of your partners, that’s something to work on.

All that said, it’s possible you are not a very sexual person. Maybe you are asexual or demisexual. This does not mean you have to miss out on multiple loves. I have met several people with low sex drives who still live a poly lifestyle. The best part of that is, they do not have to have ‘perfect’ sexual chemistry with each of their partners. They are happy for their partner to find sexual chemistry with someone else, and are happy to have the pressure off them to be more sexual than they want to be.

Are you an honest person?

Do you share everything with your partners? How do you feel about ‘little white lies’ or lying to protect someone’s feelings? Are you able to talk about things which are uncomfortable, awkward or unpleasant? Do you like to keep certain things to yourself, or preserving some privacy?

Honesty is very, very important in polyamory. I cannot stress this enough. If you feel that people have a right to their secrets, or that someone doesn’t have a right to know about something that doesn’t directly affect them, then maybe polyamory is not right for you. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for privacy in polyamory, it’s just that it is something each couple (or triad or whatever configuration) needs to negotiate for themselves. If you prefer a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell arrangement, your partner needs to be comfortable with that. If you don’t want to know details, then if your partner is a sharer, you’re going to have conflict. You just can’t base a decision about whether to share information on how you feel in the moment, whether because of fear of judgement or because witholding that information gives you power. You also cannot make assumptions about what someone ‘needs to know’ or ‘has a right to know’ for them. These kinds of things are best sorted out before there is anything to know. For me, it’s better to err on the side of over-sharing than under-sharing. Nothing feels worse to me than feeling like I’m not getting the whole story. Some people don’t need to know everything, so long as they feel loved and trust that their partner is practicing safe sex. In all cases, lying, either by falsehood or omission takes away a person’s consent, even if that lie is with the best of intentions.

Are you a good communicator?

Do you choose your words carefully? Do you speak your mind without a filter? Can you clearly express your thoughts and ideas, or do you often find yourself struggling to find the right words and often say the wrong thing? When you’re unclear on somebody’s meaning, do you ask them to clarify or do you assume you know what they mean and act accordingly? Are you good at reading someone’s actions when their words don’t add up, and do you ask questions to make sure you don’t misinterpret them?

Communication is hard. If we could hook up our brains to cables, and transmit our thoughts in binary, polyamory would be a walk in the park. Sometimes, even then there would be miscommunications. Sometimes, it’s easy to take what people say at face value. Personally, I’m a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person, and I sometimes miss important information because I listen to what people say rather than reading their actions. I’m getting better at doing the latter, and I’ve been able to avoid some conflict because of this. Communication is essential in creating trust and establishing consent.

How good is your emotional intelligence?

Do you usually know how you feel? Are you able to articulate your feelings or do you tend to react before you think about them? Do you respect the feelings of others, or do you think someone’s feelings are their own problem? Do you allow yourself to have feelings, or do you suppress them to avoid conflict?

As a mother, I’m starting to try to teach my son to identify and express his emotions in a healthy way. I’d rather he say, “I’m angry” than throw things or hit another child. Tantrums are expressions of emotions: frustration, anger, fear, loss, rejection and even embarrassment. In adulthood, we do some of the same things, or we punish people around us for making us feel negative things. Maybe we don’t throw Lego blocks around the room, but we might yell and kick the furniture. We might threaten violence, or use our emotions as a weapon.

In polyamory, we often talk about ‘owning your emotions’ as a key to avoiding jealousy. Jealousy itself is a sign of other, deeper emotions and insecurities. When you own your emotions, you don’t hold them back, saying, “don’t worry about me, I’m just feeling ____.” Or worse, keeping them to yourself because it’s not how you’re “supposed to” feel or you have “no right” to feel that way. This can be very hard to overcome. The ability to identify, communicate and negotiate your emotions is extremely important, and if it’s something you don’t do naturally, you’ve got to be willing to work on it, to try to improve and to forgive others when they mess things up. Owning your emotions means you are able to say “I am feeling some anxiety whenever you’re out with ____, and I’m afraid I’m going to be replaced. This is my own issue and I’m trying to get over it, but it would help me if you call and check in if you’re staying overnight, just until I start feeling more secure.” Statement of feelings, admission that this is not the other person’s fault, and a suggestion of a solution.

By contrast, “I don’t like you staying out with ____. You shouldn’t stay out overnight without checking in.” Doesn’t identify any feelings, and instead of a request, it’s prescriptive and suggests the other person should already have known this would be a problem. Another bad thing would be: “That was really rude that you didn’t check in last night. That made me feel really anxious and I couldn’t sleep.” Here we have an expression of emotions, but also punishment for unspoken expectations, judgement and blaming the other person for those emotions. And possibly the absolute worst. “I’m glad you had fun last night. Don’t worry about me, I was just at home crying in my empty bed while you were out planning your new life with ____.” Gee, passive aggressive much?

Do you know where your boundaries are?

How many second, third or X number of chances do you tend to give? Is there any behaviour that is a hard limit for you? The truth is, in poly relationships people are going to make mistakes. You are going to make mistakes too. Can you forgive these mistakes in others and in yourself? Without a dictated social script, you are going to have to define your boundaries for yourself. I’ve written about rules and boundaries before, and it’s still a very important topic.

I have found my hard limit is dishonesty. Also, breaking a safe sex agreement is difficult for me to get over. Actions that repeatedly show a disregard for or insensitivity to my limits and feelings, another. Even within these, I can be flexible and forgiving. I just need to be assured that the person is willing to work on things, and if it is clear to me they are not, if I get a lot of apologies and not a lot of change, then it’s time to part ways. An important lesson I’ve learned about apologies is that if you are not willing to have someone turn down your apology, it was never a real apology.

Do you know any other polyamorous people?

There are poly enclaves in every city I’ve lived in, with varying levels of cohesion. Sometimes there is just a pocket of a few interconnected folks, sometimes it’s an assumed part of another sub-culture (I’ve found this in the kink community – rather than an assumption of monogamy, there is an assumption of non-monogamy). There are many online communities and groups around. The poly community on Reddit is very active and there are many private and public Facebook groups. But not everyone is comfortable being part of the ‘polyamorous community’. There can be pressure to define yourself by this one facet of your life. There is also usually drama, and often there can be factions and splits.

Whether or not I have been a part of a ‘poly community,’ I’ve always found it helpful to have at least one poly friend who is neither a lover or a metamour. Someone who I can talk to about poly relationship issues who is not directly or indirectly involved. Being a lonely poly island is difficult and it helps to have someone you trust who may have been through similar trials.


Well, I hope that helps. Keep in mind, this list is based on my own experience and preferences. There are a lot of experts out there who might say different things, and it’s important to find the advice that applies to you.

What about you, reader? What advice would you give someone who is just starting out? What sites, groups, books would you recommend?

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Lego Family

In the past, when I’ve dated someone who is new to polyamory, there has been a period of helping them come to terms with the experience. Polyamory is still an exciting new thing, and often it is misunderstood, or even scary to new people. However, it is not entirely alien. When you think about it, dating a poly person is a lot like dating a single parent. Not everybody is up for the responsibility of dating a single parent, and similarly there are challenges when dating a poly person. If you were dating a single parent, you wouldn’t expect the same things as when dating a child-free person; a single parent’s responsibilities don’t disappear as soon as you enter the picture. The same is true of a poly person.

So, as a service to the next person interested in dating this Poly Momma (hint: I’m available!), I’ve assembled a list of advice, adapted from these lists of advice for dating single parents.  (Warning: Although I’ve tried to make this advice general, I have a primary relationship and a young child, and my list may be biased toward that experience.)

1. Ask yourself: Am I willing to be in a relationship with someone who has other relationships? (Duh.)  Am I willing to enter into a relationship with these other people (metamours)? This is important because you cannot separate the poly person from their other partners. If you are dating a poly person, their other partners will be part of the picture at some point. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends, nor do you have to date them (unless that’s specifically what has been arranged), but it’s best if you can, at the very least, sit down to dinner with them (or better yet, play Scrabble with them!). If they insist you stay completely separate from their other partner, that is a huge red flag, as it really limits the relationship you can have with your partner. Make sure you know what their boundaries are, and really ask yourself whether those boundaries are fair for you.

2. Check your neediness quotient. Often, the attention, time and resources that a poly person devotes to their other partners can make one feel jealous or resentful. Are you self-assured and independent enough to accept that their other partners will need time and attention too?  In other relationships, you may have been able to gauge a person’s feelings for you by how much time and energy they put into your relationship. When you’re dating a poly person, this isn’t necessarily the case. Poly people may not have the time to see you as often as they’d like, and it’s not always as simple as synchronising Google calendars (ha! simple). Instead of taking the limits on time as a slight, learn to look for other expressions of their feelings for you. That said, if your sense of specialness is dependent on being the centre of somebody’s world, then maybe you should look elsewhere for affection.

3. Stay clear of any drama with their other partners. If there’s tension with their other partners, let your partner handle it. If it makes you uncomfortable, let your partner know that you’re not going to take sides. Polyamory can be really difficult because so often, there is little support from outsiders, and it can be very easy to lean on the support of other partners. Of course you can support them and encourage them, but don’t contact their partner on their behalf or gang up on the other partner.  Setting yourself up as an adversary only leads to future problems. If things get really bad, try to encourage your partner to seek help from a neutral party.

4. Be supportive and trustworthy. What can you do to be supportive when called upon? Be the kind of partner who can listen to the things they’re going through without trying to “solve” things. If something can be done, think about what you might want if the situation were reversed. Has your new relationship taken any resources away from their existing one(s)? Is there anything you could do to help things along? Showing your partner that you care about their other relationships is a great way to build trust. 

Sometimes, you may need to give them the space to sort things out on their own. If things are not going well in one relationship, it’s best to let the parties involved deal with it, even if it means slowing things down or even stepping away for a bit. That said, if you’re having trouble in your relationship with your partner, sometimes it’s ok to ask your metamours for advice, often, they may be able to offer perspective on the situation that you might not have considered.

Also, if a partner completely shuts down your relationship in order to ‘focus on their primary’, that’s officially a really shitty thing to do and you have every right to be upset about it. And at any time, if you feel your good nature is being taken for granted or taken advantage of, it’s ok to express your feelings about this, and if your feelings are dismissed or ignored, it is reasonable to walk away. You deserve to be treated with respect. More Than Two has a great article going into greater depth on the topic of the ‘Primary/Secondary’ dynamic, including the Secondary’s Bill of Rights. 

5. Appreciate feelings of reservation. Speaking from my own experience, it’s possible the poly person you are interested in may have been hurt before. Their current partner(s) may eve be leery of letting someone new into their lives. They may worry that there won’t be enough resources to go around or have other insecurities. Don’t take it personally. Simply understand these feelings may exist and that it is not about you.

6. Listen to your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right for you, say something. If talking about it doesn’t make it go away, it could be that you are just not suited to an open relationship. This is nothing to be ashamed of! If you can’t find a way for your needs to be met, then there is no shame in saying it is not for you. Sure, it may be that you miss out on your new poly sweetie, but think of how many other monogamous fish there are in that sea! On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you your relationship is wrong if it feels right to you. You may enjoy the feeling of being in an open/poly style relationship and the last thing you need are people raining on your parade.

7. Have fun! Once you have managed to thread your way through some of these obstacles that are inherent when dating a poly person, relax and enjoy the experience. Multiple loves can be as rewarding and fulfilling as monogamous relationships, and for some of us, even more so!

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