Saturday, December 29, 2012
Polyamory 101: Should I Introduce Myself as Poly?
I've started writing a number of Poly101 articles for the blog; you may have already read my 101 on Compersion, Jealousy, and Polyamory. In this article, I'll be trying to describe a complex emotion often expressed in Polyamory circles.
(Queue dramatic silence).
Okay, allow me elaborate.
This topic will come up in many 101-style discussions: if you're out shopping - shopping for a new FWB, partner, etc. - should you introduce yourself as poly upfront? It's an odd-ball question. Still, it's asked because of the fear of being automatically filtered.
Identifying as polyamorous limits your dating pool. There's a ton of monogamous types out there that don't dig poly-peeps and don't want to engage in that kind of lifestyle. Hey, I'm not a hater: that's okay. So, anyway, they won't date you. They'll exclude that word (poly, polyamorous, etc) from their search criteria on dating websites to influence the results. They might even say in their profile, "I don't date polyamorous people." And thus mentioning that you're poly ahead of time may potentially limit your chances with others.
Therefore if you're following the logic here, the person asking this question is asking about rules. Is it okay to intentionally deceive someone so they can get to know you better? Should you conceal the fact that you're polyamorous until a little later, you know, because once you surprise them with the big news, they'll warm right up after you reveal that you've two other partners and, oh yeah, a wife. Right.
Now, to me, the answer to this question is found within the definition of polyamory: open and honest relationships. If you're not being open and honest from the get-go - even if doing so may significantly reduce your options - you're saving everyone time, grief, heartache, and misery.
Not introducing yourself as poly ahead of time is a form of deception. Your understanding of relationships is quite different from the standard monogamous model, and that could be extraordinarily painful to learn for somebody who might have been taking a shine to you. So why not save everyone's time and emotional well-being?
Here's my advice:
1. Always Be Clear. In your conversations and online dating profiles, identify yourself as polyamorous. You've multiple ongoing romantic relationships. The flip side to this is that you'll appear in online dating profile searches for people who are looking for poly relationships, too, so the filtration can work both ways.
2. Explain What It Means. When you get a chance - maybe over your first or second coffee date - explain what polyamory means to you and how to you practice it. Talk about it. Big ol' Hint: not everyone sees Polyamory in the same way. Clarify each other's understanding.
3. Seek Confirmation. And I think this is true for both men and women. If possible, can you meet their other partners and confirm that they are, in fact, polyamorous? I know it sounds weird, but some people (ahem: men in particular) could say, "Oh yeah, sure: the wife and I? We're so open. We're way open. We're uber-poly. We're open as a barn door. And she's totally cool with it." And he smiles like a used car salesman (because he IS a used car salesman). You might not believe him. You shouldn't trust this. Seek confirmation from the community (poly folk travel in very tight communities), or, directly from their other partners through meeting them directly or maybe having some discussion in electronic messaging. Trust, but verify.
Myself, I've come out as poly and it's plastered all over my online dating profiles. When I'm dating new people, I have conversations in email/voice about my polyamorous status and my existing commitments, and that my wife knows what I'm doing. And although it's not everyone's cup of tea, it's my inclination to physically meet with their husband/boyfriends to shake their hand and let them know who I am. I want to become less of an unknown to them and more like somebody they can trust, or, at least put a face to a name. Hey, they way I see it, we're all on the same team.
So think about your intentions. Think about what it means to be Polyamorous (honest and open romantic relationships). Be clear with people; explain what Poly means to you; and trust but verify: seek confirmation about status with others.