Help! How do I introduce someone new to Polyamory?

Louisa Leontiades Advice Column, Epic Relationships

Dear Louloria, 

I’ve met someone who hasn’t heard of poly before. What’s a good way to introduce them? What red flags are there that they’re not accepting it really, but just going along? Thanks

– Mr. NotWantingToForceRoundPegs

Dear Mr. NWTFRP,

Assuming your ‘someone’ has heard – however vaguely – of open relationships before, I’m going to give you some unconventional advice. Consider – unless it’s too late! – not using the word polyamory straight off. Polyamory has had a lot of media – both negative and positive (thankfully). And in my experience, whilst the mechanisms of polyamory may not be scary, the concept of an activism stance around it can be a lot scarier. That requires someone who is willing to make themselves immensely vulnerable from the outset which is not prerequisite for those initial dates.

I suspect many people who label themselves straight away (be it as a Muslim, Bisexual or Accountant) cannot possibly know how that person perceives the label because each of us has unique experiences which contribute to our interpretation (as an polyamorous accountant, I have definitely had to deal with some misconceptions, although fuck them if they don’t love MS Excel…). Polyamory doesn’t necessarily have to be displayed as part of your identity, it can be just ‘something you do’, as in – this is how I see love/relationships/the world. Your ‘someone’ would be ideally curious about how belief systems are formed and understanding that there is no ‘one truth path’.

I’m also going to put this out there… you’re a ‘Mister’. It’s going to be harder for you to come across as a decent bloke who believes that love is abundant (as opposed to a guy who just wants to pork a load of people and then drop them like hot potatoes). For that reason, explaining how you see the world is going to take time before those misconceptions can be counteracted. Patience. Remember that our instinct when we meet something unknown, in general, is to be scared of it. Their world will change on being in a relationship with you and you should be mindful of that. I’m also hoping that you have a decent set of filters on your social circle so that those who are not attracted to your openness have already left the room…

Someone who is interested in getting to know you, is probably interested in how your mind works (if they’re not, then that’s a major red flag). How they learn stuff is another matter – perhaps they’re visual? Watch Vicki Cristina Barcelona together and discuss the pitfalls and the lessons, and how you/they see things. Don’t force an agenda. Watch Closer and discuss how you think a poly quad might have worked in that scenario. In general – the portrayal of how relationships work.

Are they bookish? You have over 40 resources at your disposal (see Polyamory in the News for a more or less up to date list).  Do they like articles or blogs? Communicate – non violent communication can help you a lot.

The biggest red flag you have to watch for is how their survival mechanism operates. Do they have a fight tendency or a flight tendency? When the emotional turmoil hits – and it will – are they willing to confront it head on and talk about it, or will they simply shut down and leave? Do they see possibilities or only problems? If you both have an open mind and are willing to communicate, sifting through the layers of what we think we know to be true, and perhaps being wrong about everything (yes, you too), then your chances are good.

Good Luck,

Louloria