How do I introduce someone new to Polyamory?

LouisaQuestions, Relationship Fluidity & BeyondLeave a Comment

You asked...

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.

I answered...

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'.

Proceed with caution. Don't force an agenda.

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). It is used by a few rotten eggs for this purpose and they have tainted the whole barrow.

[Note. Since writing this, Franklin Veaux, the de facto leader of the U.S. polyamorous community has been called out for harmful behaviours towards at least ten of his former partnersIn my capacity as the journalist helping on this, I would suggest reading up on the case--especially as his co-author and ex-partner Eve Rickert, is one of the women. This may help you evaluate where your behaviours may border on harmful when taking into account the experience differential between you, a seasoned poly veteran and someone who has never heard of it.]

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 quad might have worked in that scenario. In general - the portrayal of how relationships work.

Are they bookish? You have over 40 books at your disposal (including mine). 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 better.

Good Luck.