This is a question that has come up at almost every polyamory discussion group I’ve ever participated in or facilitated. In those discussions, we’ve never been able to come to a firm decision that is universally shared. The two main views on disclosing that you’re poly seem to be to tell them right away, as soon as there is any sort of mutually acknowledged attraction, or to wait until you both know each other better.
I, personally, am a solidly in the first camp. I also tell people my STI status and that I’m kinky on the first date. Why? There are three key reasons why I choose to tell people right away.
- I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone with whom I couldn’t be honest. I’d rather be honest on a first date when there’s not much to lose. It’s easier to deal with rejection if it happens on Day 1 instead of on Day 30. The more time we both invest, the stronger our attraction becomes, the deeper our connection...the more there is to lose. When I do finally tell the other person, how is that going to make them feel that I didn’t disclose right away? Even if it isn’t a deal breaker for them, the fact that I decided to hide a part of who I am could come across as dishonest.
- I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who didn’t honestly like me for me. Poly, kinky, queer, and HSV-positive are all important parts of who I am. I’ve seen people question their relationships because they find out that their partner likes a different football team (I grew up in a part of the country where people take their sports VERY seriously). If they can’t take me as I am and like me the way I am, then it’s a no-go for me. I have no intention of pretending to be monogamous any more than I have an intention of pretending to be straight or vanilla.
- Lastly, I recognize time as a valuable commodity and a limiting factor for both myself and the other person. I don’t want to invest in two, three, four dates with "OMG, what are they going to say when I tell them?!?!" looming over it all. Honestly, I tell people before the first date all the important stuff. I don’t want to waste my time or theirs by holding back things that I know could be hard limits for them.
Those are my reasons, and they’ve worked for me for the past five years. My opinion certainly isn’t the only one, and it isn’t the only opinion that works. The other major opinion of wait and see seems to work better for people who are poly-singles (people who are polyamorous, but who are currently not in relationships with anyone). The people I know who prefer to wait cite the following reasons:
Those are just the two main points of view about when to disclose that you’re poly and the main reasons behind each. Just like everything else we do, the variations on how to do it are as numerous as the people doing it! Find what works for you while maintaining the "ethical" aspect of ethical non-monogamy.
- Once the person they’re dating gets to know them as a person, the idea of polyamory won’t be so "weird." Polyamory isn’t a part of the social norm (yet), and it isn’t as widely represented in books, TV shows, movies, and other media. Often, when it is represented it is shown as something strange, dysfunctional, and/or abusive. The folks who choose to wait before disclosing are hoping to bring a face of normalcy to the concept of polyamory.
- They can have the safer sex conversations without mentioning other partners.
- If it doesn’t work out, then they’ll still have had a fun relationship and there will have been no need to have mentioned poly anyway. This idea is like the serial monogamy version of polyamory.