You seem to be very versed on the polyamorous lifestyle and I have a question that is in regards to the current situation that I find myself in.
I moved to Alaska a few years ago with my partner and we were very happy having our relationship and being part of the local community. Shortly we decided that we might want to open our relationship up, sexually. As we talked more about everything, we realized that we were both open to exploring relationships with others and decided that polyamory would be an option for us.
As we started to explore polyamory, we found one person that fulfilled some of the needs that we were both lacking. It seemed like a great relationship that would give everyone what they were asking for.
Now we are in a situation that I never expected. I am going to break up with my boyfriend that I moved to Alaska with, but I also want to continue dating the person that we started dating together.
How do we break up with each other but continue to date our mutual partner when we are not together?
— Poly Problems
Thank you for writing in Poly. We imagine that this is likely a very difficult time for you and our sympathies and hearts are with you at this time.
The thing about Polyamory is that it requires a larger amount of commitment and communication that typical monogamous relationships. Every partner involved needs to have the basic skills in order to make it work. The good thing about this is that it means you already have the basic skill set to make this new situation work. You will need to come up with new boundaries and limits that will become part of these new relationship dynamics.
For a time, it may be easier for you to ask the partner that you are currently dating to respect some limits that you have about conversations regarding your ex. This is understandable while you are figuring out your feelings. This won’t work forever, but it is completely valid to ask for in the beginning.
We will warn you however that this won’t always be a successful tactic. Even though you are only having a romantic relationship with one of these people, you need to recognize that there is still a relationship between you and your ex. There will come a point where the two of you are going to have to come to a place of peace about where your new relationship is, and what it looks like. If you and your ex plan to continue to date this third person, your ex is what is called a ‘metamour.’ This is the partner of your partner. While it is not the same as the relationship you once had, it is an interpersonal relationship that you need to accept.
What has worked for us in the past is not looking at the end of a partnership as a breakup. You are simply redefining the boundaries and protocols of a new relationship. This could be simple civility but we hope that you will be able to find some sort of friendship in the future. Especially in a town as small as Anchorage, being able to find some sort of new enjoyment will be beneficial to all parties involved, especially when sex and romance are part of it. We sincerely hope that you find the best possible resolve that makes everyone happy.
I recently got out of a long-term relationship. I am having a lot of fun dating several people, and I don’t think I have any interest in trying to have a monogamous relationship any time soon. I have been finding that if I mention that fact to people on the first date they seem to run away, but if I wait too long to tell someone that I am seeing, they get hurt when they do find out.
Is there an appropriate length of time to wait to tell someone that I am not looking to settle down, and I am only interested in having fun right now?
— Single but mingling
We would like to congratulate you on knowing what you are looking for, and more importantly, what you are not interested at this time. We support you getting to know lots of people, and celebrate your freedom!
We actually really like what you are doing. There is a lot about our parent’s generation that they did not get correct, but there is something about the “boomer” crowd that was somehow lost along the way and it is something that we get nostalgic for.
Decades ago, dating was just that — going out on dates. You were able to do it with as many people as you saw fit, and later on down the line when you found someone that you wanted to invest more time and emotions into, you made things exclusive with them. What ever happened to this relaxed ideal concerning partners and potential partners? It seems like these days if you have one successful date with someone it’s immediately an expectation that the two of you are automatically in a relationship, and for us, that seems like we are skipping a few steps.
We think that you don’t really need to tell anyone on the first date. Consider that first time spent together like an interview. When the time rolls around for you to spend more time together, you could reveal that you aren’t looking for anything serious at this time. Maybe on date three or four you could let them know that you have been dating many people, and that you are keeping your options open, but you should also make sure that they know you are still interested in spending time with them.
There is one exception to this however. If you are having sex with any of these partners it is probably best to let them know, so that they can make informed decisions considering their own sex life. It’s only fair.