If I want to be polyamorous, when do I tell a prospective partner?

“I am interested in being polyamorous and dating more than one person at once. When is the right time to tell a new partner that you are intending on having relationships with more than one person? I feel like it will put a lot of people off.”

When I first started writing about sex 30 years ago, the only people who had ‘open relationships’ were swingers.  A study published this month revealed that one in nine Americans has been in a polyamorous relationship, so having romantic and/or sexual relationships with more than one person at once.

One in nine!!!! The study (published in Frontiers of Psychology) also found one in six of the people studied wanted to be polyamorous in the future.

Nearly one fifth of Brits are reputed to be polyamorous.

So lots of people are thinking about it as an option and lots are doing it.

Why the sudden interest?

Well, you can probably blame dating and hook-up apps like Tinder, Grinder and Bumble – they’ve changed the way we conduct our relationships. Sex is so easily accessible, younger generations place less importance on it.

And every generation knows monogamy isn’t a perfect relationship model: you only need to look at the divorce rate and number of people having affairs to know people struggle with it. It’s unlikely to become the new norm but polyamory is almost certainly headed towards being an accepted alternative rather than stigmatised, as it has been in the past.

Quite a good friend of mine tried it for a while – and she was the person I least expected to. She’s shy, quite inexperienced and yet when she left a relationship of 15 years, that’s what she decided to do. She said she felt like she’d missed out on a heap of sexual adventures and didn’t want to tie herself down. So she didn’t.

She actively sought out other people who were also polygamous through dating sites etc so she didn’t ever have the problem of when to tell. From the research I did with the poly community, this seems to be the easier solution to your problem. She specified on her profile that she wanted a polyamorous relationship so people knew before they contacted her.

You are dead right. It will put A LOT of people off dating you – simply because while it might be more common, it defies the basic model of monogamy that we only need one person to make us happy. People who believe in ‘The One’ take it even further and believe not only that you shouldn’t have more than one person at a time but there is only one person in the whole world who can make you happy. (Ridiculous and dangerous concept but don’t even get me started on that!)


It depends on who you’re dating. If they are obviously conservative and perhaps religious, they will assume monogamy without you ever discussing it. So you need to make your intentions clear very early on.

Age also plays a part. If you’re 20 and haven’t discussed being exclusive, you probably don’t assume you are. Plenty of people in their 20s casually date different people at the same time without ever calling themselves ‘polyamorous’.

Why label yourself? It’s a word that still scares some people. Instead of announcing you’re polyamorous on a first date, just keep things light and don’t be drawn into what you want from a relationship long-term. Say, ‘I’m just enjoying getting to know you at the moment’. Make no promises of anything, either. If you find yourself seeing them two or three times after that, that’s when you need to raise the topic of seeing other people. That’s long enough for someone to get to know you but it’s not so long that they’re going to feel like you’ve duped them into something that wasn’t what they were hoping for.

It’s that time? Say that you really like them but would like to keep the relationship casual and see other people because you don’t want to commit to one person at this moment. Say ‘at the moment’ because you might change your mind. Just as monogamous people can become polyamorous, polyamorous people can become monogamous.

It’s a lot easier for you if you only look for partners within the poly community. But real life doesn’t always work out that way. One huge don’t – which I hope is obvious – don’t take the dating through to sex until they know you don’t want to be exclusive. Of course, if you’re after a one-night stand and it’s very clear that’s all it will ever be, that’s a completely different scenario and you don’t need to mention anything at all.

While we’re on the topic, here’s some tips to get you started.


First up, you need to be a certain type of person to cope with it.

If you’re jealous or insecure – don’t even think about going there. Obviously.

Don’t be forced into being polyamorous if you don’t want to. Hopefully that’s obvious as well. If your partner wants to open up your relationship but you don’t, don’t. If they no longer want to be monogamous and you do, rethink the relationship.

Is this about love or sex? Some people are happy with their partner having sex with others but not getting romantically involved. Be specific about what’s allowed, what isn’t.

Set some rules. Who is or isn’t allowed as potential other partners? Some people draw the line at anyone in their social group. Are you going to tell friends and family about your lifestyle choice?

Be honest about what you’re doing. Don’t hide any encounters or relationships from your partner. You need immense trust and great communication to make it work.

Feelings change. Some couples start out monogamous, get bored and open up the relationship. Others go in the other direction. Your partner isn’t ‘going back on their word’ if they change their mind.

Photo by Deon Black on Unsplash[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]