You Need Help: I Want To Ask My Couple Friends Out but Don’t Know if They’re Poly

Q:

I have a crush on a lesbian couple I know, and I want to test the waters to see if they might be interested in dating, but I don’t want to make it weird if they’re monogamous. I’m not sure how to go about asking about any of it without seeming extremely obvious, which makes me kinda anxious. As far as I can tell, they don’t seem to be on the apps, but I don’t know that not actively seeking a third is the same thing as not being interested when the three of us get along so well. Is there a way to feel this out without just saying “hey, I have a crush on you two together”?

A:

Have you ever met a poly person or couple that didn’t talk openly and often about polyamory and/or nonmonogamy?

All jokes aside, I do think because we live in a society that makes default assumptions of monogamy, there are obvious motives for why people in open or poly relationships make it known to others. I’m generalizing of course, and there’s technically a possibility your friends are open to a third even though they’ve never said they are. But if you’re hesitant to ask because you’re unsure of their relationship situation, then it sounds like you really haven’t gotten any indication they’re nonmonogamous. And you gotta work with the information you’ve got. It sounds like you’re close to the couple, close enough to feel a spark that makes you want to date them. My guess is a poly arrangement, if it were on the table, would have come up!

I don’t think it would be unreasonable or uncomfortable to ask directly if they’re monogamous and what their ideal relationship structure is. This doesn’t have to be asked in a way that centers your crush on them. So instead of making it “hey, I have a crush on you two together,” try something like “are you two in a monogamous relationship?” It’s not rude to ask a couple you’re close with if they’re monogamous. However, they might find it rude if you ask to be their third if they are indeed monogamous. So step one would be to figure that out first. If they are monogamous, then the process sort of stops there. You have to decide though if your crush on them makes it hard to be around them and then adjust your own boundaries accordingly.

If it turns out they’re nonmonogamous and specifically interested in dating someone else together (because that’s also a very specific type of nonmonogamy), step two would be to tell them about your interest in dating them as a couple. But you should approach this the same way you’d approach telling a solo friend you have a crush on them, knowing that if the feelings are not reciprocated it could impact the friendship. Is it worth that risk? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t!

But you really have to ask the monogamy question first. There’s no real getting around that part.


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 870 articles for us.

3 Comments

  1. Hmm, I don’t know whether you have to ask directly whether they’re nonmonogamous – you can just ask them what they think about nonmonogamy and see what they say. Or ask about their ideal relationship structure, as Kayla suggested.

    I have a good friend who had a crush on me (I think?); he knows I’m nonmonogamous and that I currently only have one partner. He asked me whether I could generally imagine dating more people. I’m pretty sure that he was trying to figure out whether I’d want to date him, but he just asked it hypothetically so that there was a way out of the conversation. I’m not attracted to him, and I appreciate that he chose that way of asking!

  2. Obviously everyone has their own comfort level being open about monogamous/polyamorous status, but I would argue that it is fairly entry level information to have. Are you truly in a position to make an informed choice about dating them if there are important things like this that you don’t know?

  3. I have been in basically this situation before–I brought up my feelings about various relationship structures and then asked them how they felt about them. Found out they were mostly monogamous but could kiss other people and had once almost had a threesome with someone. I did end up telling them I would be interested in something with them if they were open to it (in a separate later conversation)–they considered it and ultimately said no but it ended up strengthening our friendship and the way that they handled the situation (honestly and with care) was really healing for me! So my general approach now is that it doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you are committed to communicating and sitting with some potential awkwardness!

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