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I am bi, and in a polyamorous marriage. I met this new girl at work, and I’m totally into her… so I asked her to lunch after several days of flirting over lunch in the staff lounge. I know very little about her — e.g., how she’d react to my poly status. (To clear up any preconceived notions, I want a relationship for myself, not to bring another person into my primary relationship.) At what point do I disclose my status? I don’t want her to totally disregard me from the start, and I also don’t want her to feel misled. How do I approach this?
The only way to approach this situation — the only way to approach many situations involving other human beings and feelings and sex and dating etc. — is with radical transparency and direct disclosure. Tell her at lunch, if not before.
I, like you and like many others, have been there. Sitting literally or metaphorically across from a girl I’m into and hoping she’ll like me or want to kiss me or at least not leave half way through the first round of drinks. It can be scary to have to disclose something that might make someone back away from the table, but it’s way worse to not disclose and to have her find out on her own, or to not disclose and then have to tell her after you’re waking up in bed together after a few months of dating when she asks who’s calling and you tell her, your spouse, or to not disclose and have her find out from someone at work.
You are poly and married and want to date. There are way worse things to have to tell someone. Tell her. You can even title-drop in a casual-not-casual way. Saying, “my spouse, with whom I have a poly relationship…” feels too obvious, and it is! You want obvious here.
It’s okay that she doesn’t know already. I don’t feel the need to disclose the fact that I’m poly to every single person in my life before they learn anything else about me, because some conversations are too exhausting to have with my grandmother or local baristas or distant co-workers. And in these situations, unless conversations about relationships naturally come up, it’s not absolutely necessary to disclose, either. People don’t need to know everything there is to know about each other.
But going after someone who doesn’t know you’re poly or who isn’t at least open to non-monogamous arrangements is like sleeping with straight girls: just a really, really bad idea.
You’re robbing both her of the opportunity to make an informed decision and yourself of the chance for that informed decision to work in your favor. Say you don’t tell her right away. When you do, if she’s not on board with non-monogamy she could be hurt because you approached her under what she might see as false pretences. If she is, she could hear alarm bells because you didn’t tell her right away. Either way, you lose.
If you do tell her right away, you of course run the risk that she might not be open to a poly situation, but there’s also a chance that she will be. If she isn’t, isn’t it better to find out now when it won’t be a big deal than later when it could be? If she is, then you know, and how great is that? The fact that she’s part of your workplace only makes immediate honesty more necessary.
You might also be tempted to just tell her you’re in an open relationship or to otherwise skirt around the nature of that relationship, how it’s structured, and what it means. Do not do that.
I have only been married for about a month, so other experiences probably vary, but I’ve already noticed that there seems to be a difference between being in a poly marriage versus being in a poly long-term relationship, and that difference revolves around how others see your relationship. Most people, even poly people, attach their own levels of significance to the institution of marriage, and so it’s essential to spell out what your relationship means to you and how it works because other people are not going to understand it on their own. For instance: I am very newly wed and also currently interested in playing in a variety of ways with kinky toppy masculine-of-centre ladies/humans of a very kinky variety, primarily but not necessarily exclusively without my kinky toppy masculine-of-centre wife present. I am open to dating/relationships, but would mostly like to start with a sexy friendship vibe, which has been the case throughout my life regardless of relationship status. My wife has different interests. We practice safer sex with people who are not each other. Our relationship and my personal interests are the two things I am currently interested in making large decisions around, but with the exception of the safer sex thing and the use of one word during play, we do not have restrictions on the way we can engage with others. Other poly marriages might be structured differently. Your poly marriage is probably structured differently. It’s important to explain what that structure is, and then everyone can make the call that feels best for them.
No one can know what your deal is until you tell them, and this girl doesn’t even know to ask. It is your responsibility to tell her before you get involved in any way. She could dismiss you. But she could not. You won’t know until you do.
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