To Date, You Must First Pass The Three Rings Of Poly Hell

So you’re polyamorous, and on the prowl for a new partner! You may think love awaits you, especially online – but before you pass through into true poly bliss, you must first pass:


The email drops into your dating profile in-box. The profile picture is attractive, the person can put together a coherent thought, and they say more than “hi” or “sup?”

Hell, that’s better than 90% of your potential connections right off the bat!

So you chat a bit. You wanna find out how this person does poly! Are they relationship anarchists? Are they looking for a triad? Are they furry asexuals hunting for hot cuddles in a chicken suit? It’s unknown, and all terribly exciting!

Then they utter the words that annihilate your hopes:

“We’re poly, but my partner doesn’t know yet.”

That, my friend, is not poly, but your bog-standard cheating. At best, you’ll be the thin end of the wedge as they trot you out after a few awkward dates to go, “Sweetie, I was too chickenshit to have this discussion with you before I had someone on the line to fuck, but… here’s someone who’s agreed to bump uglies with me.” Worst case, you’ll have a bunch of bad sex at your house while they panic every time their cell phone buzzes.

Not good! So you move onto Ring #2….

You’ve progressed – their partner actually knows they’re hunting for new affection, so it could in theory actually be called polyamory! And you decide to get together for a date, and arrive at their house, only to find the walls festooned with icicles.

This place is emotionally cold, man. Positively stygian.

Sometimes that coldness manifests as a couple who talk at each other like they’re firing off clips in each other’s direction – these terse bullets of anger where it’s clear that everything their partner does irritates them like sandpaper. There’s gratuitous eye-rolls, loud excuses made for their partner’s behavior, occasional quick trips to the bathroom so you can’t watch ’em tear up.

Or sometimes it manifests as a frat party – hey, they’re so thrilled that someone else is here to take this asshole away they’re practically pushing you out the door! New lovers are incoming, people who’ll bring joy that this old partner never could, and could you get the fuck out now so I can have the bed? A bed which does not contain old-has-been over here?

Experienced poly people flinch, because they realize what’s happening here: you have a couple who’s imploding, and decided, “Fuck it, we might as well try poly before we break up.”

And sure, maybe you like this person – but they’re like a rocket fired off an earthquaking Krypton, trying to escape the nuclear blast that will consume them all. Which means that dating them means a) leaping face-first into the conflagration of a messy breakup or b) discovering that the reason this breakup wasn’t messy is that they really don’t do emotional entanglements.

Maybe it’s all worth it if this person is the love of your life, but, I mean, it’s date #2, how would you know? So you fire your own escape pod and land in…

Hey, it’s another couple! Funny how couples privilege so often plays a part in this, but let’s not think about this now.

The good news is, they seem nice! The partner you want to date is happy, and they seem to be stable as a unit. This is workable.

And then the lists come.

“Thursday nights are the only night we allow outward dates,” they say firmly. “And there’s no sleepovers.”

“…okay,” you mutter.

“And no kissing in public. Or kissing, period. We do the kissing around here.”

“How’s that work?”

“And you have to clear all the movies and TV shows we might see together, because I’ve promised them everything…”

The list rolls on and on, a bureaucratic parody of love as interpreted through Congressional regulations, and you realize: this couple is happy.

It’s just that they are determined to retain that happiness at all costs.

And they are doing so by treating you as an option that can be quickly jettisoned. You will be walled off by regulations so as to not pose any threat to this central relationship, your joy segmented into tiny, manageable boxes, and should your mutual affection with your new lover cross some nebulously-defined boundary then you will discover just how quickly your newfound metamour will ice you out.

And so you leave, and… congratulations! You have escaped the three rings of poly hell-dates! Except…

Wait. There’s more rings? Rings experienced polyamorous daters may know of, and report in on?

Well, no worries. I’m sure they’re all surmountable. After all, we all know that polyamorous dating is like an onion. Or a parfait. I’m sure there’s dessert in here somewhere.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *