Dating While Non-Monogamous
(And living in a foreign country)
And not just in a foreign country; some of these tips can be good for people who are looking to date while non-monogamous in an area where there isn't a pre-existing or flourishing community of people who are ethically non-monogamous. It's a challenge, for sure, but it's not impossible (at least, that's what I want to believe). Here are a few of the things I've learned along my journey, which is just starting out. I'll try to update with a later post as things progress!
You're probably going to be a teacher in a new relationship.
This isn't always going to be true; it really depends on where you are, the culture you're living in, and the person you're into.
For me, in Israel, there is actually quite a large community of progressively-minded young folks, there's a thriving LGBT community and kinksters aren't all that difficult to come across if you know where to look. I can't speak to what you might experience in other countries, but personally, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to find someone whose open-minded and willing to learn. Non-monogamy of the kind that I want to explore (not hookups, but maybe a secondary partner) isn't common here; most people I know who experiment with some form of non-monogamy often do it in the context of partner-swaps or other forms of swinging. Because of how variable non-monogamy is for many practitioners, I think teaching a new partner about how you and your other relationships function, and what you want/need from them, is part of any non-monogamous adventure. However, it can be more complicated in a culture where most people you meet won't have met someone who was in an ethical, consensual non-monogamous relationship. Most people I've spoken with are unfamiliar with the concept, and require a generous amount of emotional labor in order to help them comprehend where you're at, why, and what it means to you and your relationship with them. Each connection will likely be unique.
Be prepared to have a hard time.
Be prepared for people who really like you--and who you really like--to not be ready to try this kind of relationship with you. I've had more misses than I've had hits.
I've had more "I really want to make out with you, but I can't get past the jealousy of your partner. I don't want to start a relationship with someone who has a primary relationship with someone else, it will set me up for disappointment," than I've had the ability to successfully move beyond flirting. Respect their discomfort and try not to push them. They might not feel comfortable remaining friends with you; they might also remain friends and come back months later to say they've thought about it and want to give things a try. They might also say that their feelings are too conflicting for them to be able to spend time with you, and give them the space to process that and come back into your life, or not, on their own terms. On that note:
Be Ready to stretch your communication skills.
All non-monogamous relationships rest on a foundation of good communication, with your partner and with potential partners and interests.
Be up-front with people about what you feel, what is going on in your life that is relevant to them/your relationship--you don't have to spell everything out to them and they may not want to know everything, but you should discuss what you want and need to know and set the groundwork for transparency and communication. Be prepared for hard conversations and complex feelings as you navigate something new together. Be prepared to mess up, take responsibility for your mistakes and be empathetic with the mistakes of those you care about, and be prepared to learn from those mistakes. Feelings and relationships are complicated things, and you will always be in uncharted territory. Use things you've learned in the past from other people, but never assume any situation will play out the same way.
Remember that Jealousy is Normal
Jealousy is something we all feel regardless of monogamy or non.
Knowing your jealousy is the important part; figuring out what triggers it, and what helps calm it, are integral parts to functioning within non-monogamy. Some level of jealousy will always be present for many, if not most, people. Jealousy, however, is not a sign that you can't be in a healthy non-monogamous relationship, and jealousy also isn't something we should put on a pedestal. Jealousy shouldn't drive our actions; it should drive conversations with ourselves and with our partners so we can determine how to work around it without being responsible for it. Jealousy isn't your child, your job, or your relationship. Jealousy also isn't your partner's responsibility. They should be willing to have a conversation with you about how you're feeling, they should try to help you minimize it, but it is not their responsibility to obey the whims of your jealousy, which can be an erratic and irrational beast. Try to foster communication with yourself and your partner around these feelings, and try to work with yourself through those feelings either with the help of guides you can find for people exploring non-monogamy, many of which exist online, or talking with a poly-friendly and knowledgeable therapist if you're able to access one.
Remember to have fun.
While non-monogamy, especially in a different culture, can feel like a lot of work, it's also about having a good time, and it can be hard not to lose sight of that.
Remember that the reasons you're likely pursuing this are pleasurable ones. If you're consistently having a really hard time, or stressing out, about your dates or your relationships, take some time to orient yourself. Are you being too hard on yourself and your partner(s)? Remember that, depending on how you do things, some or all of your partners won't live with you or share finances or other responsibilities with you, which moves a lot of common relationship stressors off the table. I know I sometimes find that my brain has manufactured new stressors to take their place, which is completely unnecessary. Sometimes realizing that is all I need to try and relieve that stress and anxiety, but other times it takes more than that. One of the benefits of having multiple partners is being in a position where you don't put all of the weight of your needs on one person--you can spread things out as suited. One partner might be ideal for living with, and having a partnership with. Another might be better for occasional dates. You get to decide, mix and match, and figure out who is best for which part of your life.
Thanks again to my sponsor. To find women seeking sex, click here.