Open relationships, online dating, and is this nuts
January 2, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Last year I ended a 15-year marriage (my only serious relationship ever) and am trying to slowly ease my way back into dating. The marriage was falling to pieces for awhile, and my ex and I are fine friends and co-parents, but probably never should have married. There's no drama and my head is on straight, pretty much. I am a female, early 40s, with children. A couple of weeks ago I put up a profile on OKC, and soon after, what I had previously imagined as The Doomsday Scenario happened. I was contacted by a dad I know through the neighborhood and my kids. It gets more complicated....

....he's married and in an open relationship. It's very up front in his profile in several places, and knowing what I know about him and his wife (they're acquaintances, not close friends, but I know them to be pretty free thinkers) I have no reason to doubt that it is an actual negotiated open relationship and not just someone trying to cheat.

He confessed to having been attracted to me for awhile, but was very cautious and respectful about the potential for this to freak me out. (As it did.) He's suggested chatting a bit, getting to know each other better, and seeing if anything progresses. I find him interesting and attractive, and we've always had plenty to talk about when we've run into each other (and the OKC matching thingy is over 90%, FWIW).

I am new to online dating, virtually new to dating at all (my ex was my one and only partner....ever) but after several years of zero sexual anything with anyone, and a lot of "down time" to figure out myself I feel ready to start something. But is this it? I have no experience with open relationships, but think (in general terms) that as long as everyone is honest, respectful, and kind, a lot of "non-standard" relationships can work. I know I don't want a serious relationship right now, and one-night hookups just aren't my thing - but maybe this is a workable middle ground? He's kind and experienced and isn't looking for a serious relationship. And I certainly need some education on the whole dating and sex thing. Cautiously corresponding for a bit and meeting up to see what happens seems like not a bad idea. But I am second-guessing myself all over the place.

What am not considering?

-How much "due diligence" do I need to do on the details of their open relationship? I would hate to cause any pain to his wife. Can I take what he says about the relationship at face value?

-How incredibly awkward will this be, out in the real world? I will see them out and about -- I can certainly keep secrets and act casual and cordial. Is that how this goes?

-Is this just a terrible idea for a recently divorced person to contemplate? Maybe this would be jumping right off into the deep end when I need to be in the baby pool for awhile?

I know there will be people who have a lot of ethical objections to open relationships in general, and especially when the people involved are parents. I'm not really interested in an absolutist moral stance about it (I'm working that out on my own and am still unsure) but more nuanced advice would be awesome. Personal experience, books to read, etc., are all great. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (52 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's okay to experiment with this type of relationship if you're not 100% sure, as long as you're willing to do a lot of talking and communication about your reservations, how you're feeling, and how it's going. Only you can tell whether you're comfortable. If you realize you're not, you need to say so, explicitly, directly, and immediately. Poly people get that not everyone is a poly person, and, yeah, it'll sting, but it's better to trust your instincts and communicate it right away, rather than dragging it out hoping that your feelings will change and trying to be the Cool Girl about it.

FWIW, The fact that you describe this as a "Doomsday Scenario" really strongly implies that you're not cool with it, and maybe you're considering jumping in anyway to get some affection and nookie. I'd recommend taking it really slow, if you do this. Or, instead, telling him that you're flattered, but you think this isn't the right thing for you right now. (Like I said, poly people will not be surprised by this reaction.)

If you're interested, I recommend asking to sit down with his wife and talk about it, all three of you. Personally, I would never participate in a poly relationship where there was any hesitance on the part of any party to do that.
posted by Compared to what? at 6:31 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]

Totally okay to ask if you and his wife can chat. And totally okay if you want to have this as a FWB kind of deal, and also okay if you decide it's not for you. Just as in the non-poly world, some poly people are jerks, and some aren't. If you feel like this guy is in non-jerk territory, there's no downside to talking with him and his wife about this and just plain thinking about it.
posted by rtha at 6:42 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]

Let's take the poly thing out. Are you comfortable dating someone you already know, that knows your kids/former spouse, that you will be seeing around for a while? If it were just him, would that be ok or would you want to date outside your social circle first? Obviously there is potential for things not to work out/be awkward. I don't know how old your kids are or how limited your social world is, so those are probably factors to consider.

If that bothers you, then the poly thing is irrelevant. You can decide to turn him down for those reasons.

But let's say if it were just him, you'd be ok with dating. So what does the poly thing change about that situation? How would it affect the prospects of a serious relationship for you (if that's what you want)? Would it affect custody issues...would your ex use it against you? (sadly, this could happen).

And most importantly, would you feel uncomfortable in an open relationship...not just with his spouse, but with other women (unless you all decided on different rules)? You may not be able to know the answers to those questions without getting together with both of them and discussing it. Unless you've already decided to say no, you're going to have to meet with both of them regardless. As someone new to open relationships, it's absolutely necessary for you to understand whatever rules/boundaries they have set up before you get involved.

Good luck, whatever you decide, and congratulations on the new stage of your life.
posted by emjaybee at 6:51 AM on January 2 [11 favorites]

Do not do this because it IS the deep end of the pool + the resulting awkward once whatever is going on wanes is so so so not worth it. That price is too high.

The real reason not to do this is you likely will have to keep at least some secrets, and that will really eat at you (I've been there with this, it super duper sucks.)

Lastly, I dunno. This guy and his wife have an alternative (to you, in your personal life experience) lifestyle. You did not advertise on OKC as being poly, or open to poly, and yet here this guy is giving you a sales pitch.

I'm singularly unimpressed with his choice to contact you with this. He benefits a lot and will be in the drivers seat in A LOT of ways.

I see this as a thrill for him, and as almost certain headache and drama for you.

Tell him No Thank You. Find a dating scenario that is less dramaz.
posted by jbenben at 7:00 AM on January 2 [68 favorites]

How much "due diligence" do I need to do on the details of their open relationship? I would hate to cause any pain to his wife. Can I take what he says about the relationship at face value?

If this is a couple in your community, that you're likely to run into casually, I would absolutely not take the risk of doing anything romantic or sexual without talking to his wife first and making sure she's 100% on board. No way, no how, take the quotes off due diligence.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:00 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]

To what extent do you know this couple "through your kids"? Do they have kids who interact with your kids? If so, do not pass go, this is over before it begins. Absolutely do not do it.

Even if not, I do not see this being a good idea for you. Even if you aren't the one in the open relationship, you need to have a bit of a poly mindset to come through these things unscathed, and I don't read that in your question. What if you really fall for this guy and want to be exclusive? Or, what if he really falls for you and wants to leave his wife? There are many other men out there and you're an inexperienced dater. There is no good reason to do this.
posted by telegraph at 7:10 AM on January 2 [20 favorites]

Oh my god, no. Don't go there. Don't.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:16 AM on January 2 [12 favorites]

This sounds like such an un-fun, complicated, fraught-with-potential-drama way to ease yourself back to dating. Find somebody else.
posted by something something at 7:24 AM on January 2 [24 favorites]

And I certainly need some education on the whole dating and sex thing.

The balance of power here, though, feels pretty skewed against you.

Any kind of relationship under these kinds of conditions automatically becomes 'serious' in the sense that you're having to put a lot of serious thought into boundaries and behaviour and expectations at the initial chatty stage, and that mental and emotional overhead isn't going to decrease further down the line.
posted by holgate at 7:40 AM on January 2 [16 favorites]

The poly part coooould be ok, with some luck and a lot of communication, but the part where these are folks you know through your kids seems like a potential huge gross drama bomb. Probably better to find something less fraught and keep your dating life separate from your kids' sphere until you're in a serious relationship.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:58 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

You're horrified by the idea of doing this, which is a strong indication that you should not do it.

It's also looking like a bad idea because you'd be entering a relationship with someone who is going to be making the rules which you get to follow. He can say "oh we only do what you're comfortable with" as much as he likes, but he's the one experienced in poly and you're not. So if you don't like something (e.g. the idea of being in a poly relationship in the first place!) he can tell you you're not in the right mindset, or whatever, and you'll always be in a one-down position. You just don't have the home advantage here.

Besides, you didn't advertise yourself as poly, did you? It all sounds more trouble than it's worth at best, and a hideous mindfuck at worst. NOPE NOPE NOPE.
posted by tel3path at 8:01 AM on January 2 [9 favorites]

I think this sounds like an exciting prospect, and could be a great way to move back into dating and relationships. Of course it could go badly, but that is a risk in any relationship. I think you have nothing to lose by chatting online and getting to know each other. Even if it never goes anywhere, you might at least make a new friend.

As far as his wife goes, I think that conversation will come up farther down the line. Every couple has different rules, ranging from "I must meet and approve him/her" to "have fun, but I don't want to hear about it." Once you have that talk, you have to decide if you are comfortable with their arrangement.

I say go for it, could lead to good things. Just take it slow, and stop things if you decide it isn't for you.
posted by catatethebird at 8:03 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]

He's suggested chatting a bit, getting to know each other better, and seeing if anything progresses

Of course he did. This is right out of the Poly Guy Poaching Non-Poly Gal playbook. Forgive me for being cynical, but I've seen this played out too many times. Recently divorced woman, newly returned to the dating scene, gets sucked in by guys like this who troll OKC for women in your exact, naive, vulnerable position.

Sure, give it a whirl, and learn from it, I suppose; but if you've not had any experience with poly situations, AND you are new to grown-up dating, I'd suggest you may be getting into something way over your head.

Anytime someone uses some variation of "It's complicated" to describe a potential romantic situation, my hink-o-meter starts red-lining. Relationships are complicated enough as-is without opting into something mach-level complex like this sitch.

Plenty of men out there aren't in "complicated" situations. Focus on them instead?
posted by nacho fries at 8:06 AM on January 2 [17 favorites]

There is a very small percentage of a chance that this would be fully drama free, and a very large chance that this will add some level of discomfort to your life, right at your doorstep, if it's does't work. The risk calculus on this alone seems to indicate that it is not a good idea.

Although not identical, this is similar to the reason why employees are encouraged to not date at some work locations. The potential for drama where you spend much of your waking hours has a predictable track records such that companies end up making policies.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:08 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]

I found that OKC was overwhelmingly populated by men in poly relationships. Good for them if it works but it is NOT for me. So here you are, newly divorced with only one relationship under your belt. Do you want your first time at bat to be filled with THIS much drama? (You know one another, have children that potentially know one another). Also, for those of us who think of polyamory as an alternative lifestyle, there can be a HUGE learning curve in the do's and don'ts of it all. Personally, I do not want to have to call a man's wife to say, "Hey, Ok if I date him?" No. Sign up for and re-hedge your bets.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 8:14 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]

I've done a lot of open relationships and this is key:

DO NOT expect your feelings to be formed by the relationship structure. You could easily fall in love with this guy, even though it's not "allowed". Nightmare. Find someone who isn't married.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]

Background: we are not poly but have a number of friends who are successful, long term poly relationships:

- Every poly primary couple I know has "approval" of partners. So I find it highly likely that he'll actually want you to meet and talk with his wife.

- This is almost always an emotional minefield for a non-poly-background person stepping in. You will be in what is termed a "secondary" relationship with this man. Does that sound ok with you? If what you really want is a FWB sex-only relationship, that might be fine, but do you think that you have enough emotional relationship experience to be sexually involved with someone (and also probably friends) without developing the "I want to be your only partner" emotional mindset?

- I know several successful poly families with kids (including ones where multiple partners live in the home with the kids). In every case, navigating the kids is a huge minefield, even for folks who have been doing this a long time. So, in one way he's trusting you a lot just by contacting you on OKC because if they're poly with kids, they probably don't advertise the fact lest the kids end up being teased or some teacher somewhere thinks they're in an "unsafe" living situation. While you may find that your families become socially closer for a while, you will be sneaking around behind the backs of your kid(s), and if the relationship goes south, but your kid(s) want to remain friends with their kid(s), that can be a nightmare.

- How would your ex -- as a co-parent -- react to this? This is not just dating. This is a relationship that people have some pretty strong opinions about. Would he try to change your custody agreement if he found out you were in this relationship?

On the balance, were you sitting at my kitchen table, I'd advice against. But only you know what is right for you.
posted by anastasiav at 8:22 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]

nubianinthedesert has it. This will not be your only offer. And it's been a couple of years since I've been online, but I was overrun by polys -- in my experience (late 30s now), polys seemed to cast a wide net and contact EVERYONE. If you want a poly man, there are 30 others who don't live next door and know your kids.

My best advice to you is to diversify. Tell yourself you'll go on 25 dates this year with different men. Coffee, dinner, bowling, dancing, book lectures, what have you. And not just people you meet online.

It's been a long time since you've had to evaluate potential partners, so take your time and just use this as a way to branch out.
posted by mochapickle at 8:25 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]

Yes, this is nuts. Follow the instinct that screamed danger and caused you to ask the internet this message.
posted by zdravo at 8:26 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]

If what you really want is a FWB sex-only relationship, that might be fine, but do you think that you have enough emotional relationship experience to be sexually involved with someone (and also probably friends) without developing the "I want to be your only partner" emotional mindset?

This is a really good question, and it's one you should ask yourself not just about this particular potential relationship, but future/other dating relationships. Some of us are pretty good at casual, and some of us are just not. Even if, back before your LTR, you had a sense of where on the continuum you were, it's been 15 years and you're a different person, and so this may have changed about you, too. Proceed thoughtfully with whatever relationships you engage in; there's no rush, and remember that you always get to change your mind.
posted by rtha at 8:31 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

You can do better.
posted by windykites at 8:34 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]

I think this is a complete waste of your time and emotions.
posted by htid at 8:54 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]

I know it's hugely ego-boosting to find out someone has had a crush on you for a while and wants to date you especially after the marriage you had, but the extenuating circumstances here scream red flag. Keep at it and you will find someone who feels the same way about you who doesn't have all the baggage and connections to your kids.
posted by cecic at 9:07 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Wow, there are a lot of drama-llamas bleating about this question. I say: talk to him, talk to them both together, talk to her one on one, and try it out if the chemistry is good.

You said you don't want a serious relationship and you don't want to hook up. So far so good. You are a grown up and realize that relationships involve vulnerability and risk and will not always lead to Happily Ever After--not even monogamous ones, not even marriage, sadly enough.

In that case, you could do far, FAR worse than having a warm, friendly, and sometimes lusty relationship of unknown duration with a couple of friends down the street, who totally get what it's like to be parents, who are integrated into your social world so you can get a sense of what they're like as people from the rest of the people around you. You know him/them, you like them, he seems genuine--clearly the numbers on OKC and your general impression of him piques your interest enough that you're asking this question rather than just trashing him/them through the grapevine. Remember that this guy also took a risk reaching out to you this way.

What are your other dating options via OKC? Probably some random stranger, who you would also be inviting by extension into your kids' lives, with its own set of relationship-outcome variables and far less social capital that you can call on to evaluate: is he a cheating jerk, is he dying to get married, is he a jealous creep, is he a pedophile?

As if ostensibly-monogamous relationships don't also come with a zillion different pitfalls, nightmares, dramas, heartbreaks, too. This has its own unique terrain but if there is some intereste there it's at least worth taking a shot. You can't win if you don't play, monogamous or polyamorous! This might not be the situation for you but I say, what have you got to lose for going out for coffee a few times?

If you decide it's not the way you want to go, be kind and adult about saying so, and grateful that these folks opened themselves and their vulnerable inner lives to you in this way. Worse come to worse you could end up with a better set of friends.
posted by Lola Xaviera Boom-Boom McPuppet at 9:24 AM on January 2 [9 favorites]

He wants sex. Do you want sex?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]

The best thing about online dating is that you can say no, and there are virtually no consequences. It's not like being asked out in person, where you have to reject someone verbally to their face.

I'm not so much telling you not to do this as gauging from your question that it seems like you don't know that this answer is on the table.

If you want to date, don't want to be with someone who is married (regardless of "arrangement"), don't want to date someone in your social circle, don't want do date someone whose spouse you know, etc. etc. etc. it is perfectly OK to not do this. You are 100% allowed to say that it's not what you're looking for right now, or simply ignore the message and pretend it never happened.

There are plenty of other people out there who are not married and not someone it would be highly awkward for you to fool around with. Just know that. This is not your only option for a romantic life.

If you say yes to this situation, you need to be looking for reasons you want to do this, not reasons you shouldn't say no.

Also, you do realize that "we should hang out and get to know each other better", in the context of an arrangement for casual sex, does not actually mean he wants to have long talks and get to know you as a person, right? It just means "see if we have chemistry and the sex is good". Almost every time I've been propositioned to be the third in a threesome with a couple, the expression "get to know each other better" has been used in the initial message. It's just a softer way to say "we should fuck", because no sane person is going to get into a cheating/poly/casual/group-sex arrangement if you simply state that you'd like to get together and fuck sometime.
posted by Sara C. at 9:42 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]

You can't win if you don't play

And you can't win if you enter a game with a set of rules that you don't even know, and in a game that takes place on a playing field wildly tilted in the other side's favor. As others have stated upthread, the power imbalance is too great. And as nice as it is to think people are kind, honest, and honorable, you really don't know until the panties drop what kind of guy this one is; and more so, what his vetting process is for the other women he is courting on OKC (OP, you do understand that you'll probably be jockeying for position with other women?).

Even if this guy, and his wife, are stellar human beings, the OP has little to no control over the other women the guy may introduce into the equation. Thar be drama-dragons.
posted by nacho fries at 9:43 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]

I think what we have here is a case of "not a bad situation, but uniquely bad timing".

I hear you that you're pretty much processed the dissolution of your marriage, but this is a big, big step still, and you can't know what kind of "whoa, this just underscores that that relationship is over" emotions are going to come up. And those emotions can make you do funky things.

In a sense, some kind of no-strings-attached casual fun and frolic is what you need now - but what's giving me pause is the fact that you know this guy. As a neighbor. Through your kids. So there is just that much more potential for news to spread and things to get mega-weird if you suddenly burst out crying in the middle of having sex with this guy in the living room and he's gotta stop and comfort you and suddenly one of the kids comes in and sees Dad and Mrs. Smith in the living room and they're both naked and daddy, what the hell is going on?

...I'm not saying that you will have a flashback of missing your husband - I'm just saying that you can't know for certain that you won't, because you are just now getting back into dating after a fifteen-year relationship with the same man. (The first time I had sex after my last breakup, I thought I could handle it because it'd been six months - but suddenly in the middle of things I realized I was doing, er, certain specific things in the exact manner my ex preferred me to do them, and I burst out crying. You can't know what can hit you that first time.) And until you are more certain that you won't, getting involved on any level with someone you actually know and your kids know is probably not the best idea.

Take a rain check on this, and get a few more guys under your belt. Then, if you still definitely want to pursue this, then proceed with extreme caution.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:45 AM on January 2 [9 favorites]

[Don't turn this into an argument, just answer the question and don't call other users names.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:54 AM on January 2

I read "Doomsday Scenario" as "being contacted by a known quantity in the neighborhood" not the poly element, and OP, I think it's great that you're willing to have an open mind about this possibility. But if you were previously apprehensive about dating someone who could be considered even loosely "in your circle", this is probably not a good relationship to pursue at this time.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:58 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

Would you be interested in a poly relationship that doesn't include this particular man? Do you want a relationship, or to date people, or a FWB setup? I think you should consider what you would want to try first if this offer wasn't on the table, and then see how that compares to this offer.
posted by plonkee at 9:59 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

The great thing about poly relationships is that all involved parties should be heard, and their needs addressed. If you want to try this out, you can say "I want to know your wife is okay with this" and talk to her. You can directly ask about how much due diligence she needs, he needs, how much you need, etc. You can ask how they want to handle seeing each other out and about, and decide how you want to handle it. You control your boundaries and you can ask any questions you need to. See if they dance around questions or willingly and openly discuss answers. If they dance, you might want to avoid getting involved.

The hard part, (and the part that might make it difficult as a recently divorced person) is that hardcore honesty and communication is what makes this type of relationship work and you have to do it. If that doesn't happen, feelings get hurt.

If you want to read about it, you can go for The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton for a general approach, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino for the relationship approach, and Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha for a science-y approach. These are the books that can help lay the foundation for why people are into open relationships.
posted by teslacoilswoah at 9:59 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]

I get where people are coming from above w/r/t talking to his wife, but that may not be possible. The models for open relationships run the gamut from "Hey honey, I'm home, just gonna shag this dude while you make dinner, k?" to "I don't care what you do on your own time, I just don't want to know about it."

In the latter case, which is not uncommon in my experience, it would be both inappropriate and troubling for you to talk to the wife in question. So a refusal on that score isn't an automatic 'dude is cheating' thing, though it would be worth evaluating everything else just in case.

Getting (sexually) involved with someone who is (romantically) involved with someone else can be a serious minefield unless you're the kind of person who's really good at separating great sex from emotions. Given that you have had no(? little?) sexual experience other than your ex husband, I'd venture to say that getting involved in this way may not be a good idea for you. You've never had to find out if you have the skill to separate sex from emotion with other partners, and this specific sort of situation could be disastrous if you find out you're one of the people who can't.

If you're looking for education on the sex and dating thing, it's probably best to go with someone who is unencumbered. It's not really dating if you know for a fact there is a hard limit on how involved someone can get, in my opinion. YMMV on that score. So I'd probably suggest that you say the equivalent of "thanks but no thanks, I don't think that's a good idea because xyz," and do your dating learning with guys who aren't already committed to someone else. I understand there's a safety element; he won't leave his wife so this can't get serious, but I don't think this would be an optimal situation for learning what dating/sex are like these days.

There's lots of nice single guys on OKC (and at your local community centre, or friends of friends) who aren't looking for anything particularly serious. They'd be a better choice, I think.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on January 2

I think the first person you date after the demise of a 15 year marriage should definitely not be a married man who lives in your neighborhood whom you know through each other's kids. That scenario has train wreck written all over it.
posted by emd3737 at 10:28 AM on January 2 [21 favorites]

This is a terrible idea, fraught with potential drama. Also realize you're asking this question on what is, in my experience, one of the biggest poly communities on a mainstream Internet site.
posted by cnc at 10:59 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

My parents were swingers. As a child who lived through the whole "my parents are banging the neighbors and parents of my friends" thing, I would vote that you don't do this in your own back yard.

I can almost guarantee you are not as discreet and sneaky as you think you are, and even if you are you can't be sure that he is. Kids pick up on little things, or other people pick up on them and ask/tell your kids about it, and just ick.

Kids aren't necessarily going to understand and be ok with poly if they do find something out, and the most likely thing that will happen is that they/others will think you are having an illicit affair rather than participating in an "arrangement."

There's also the chance that if others in your neighborhood find out you are sleeping with this dude, they will be shitty to your kids about it. I know times are somewhat different than when I was a kid in the 70's but my mother was basically considered the neighborhood whore and believe me, other parents and kids were not shy about letting me know what they thought.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:19 AM on January 2 [16 favorites]

This sounds like an emotional minefield, and one that you would be taking your children through along with you as you say "please none of us step on a mine, please none of us step on a mine..."
For what? To be some creepy neighbors second (fourth? fourteenth?) fiddle/thrill-F?
You deserve more--your bruised heart deserves a comfortable home, not a taxi-dance.
posted by blueberry at 11:22 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Can't see where all the doom and gloom is coming from, especially because you don't want something serious or random romping.

What's lost in edging your toes into the waters -- with your clothes on -- and seeing how you feel as things develop.

To no small extent it'll be as awkward as you make it in your mind.
posted by ambient2 at 11:26 AM on January 2

Good grief, NO. There are many many other fish in the sea. If you had been in several other relationships or dating situations prior, and knew you were absolutely OK with this,maaaaybe, but still not the greatest idea. DTMFA, and find yourself an uncomplicated, no drama, plain-vanilla guy to get your feet wet with.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:43 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Although I'm not predisposed to NSA sex I've done it, and the only times it has worked out I knew in my gut it would work out. All the other times I found a way to rationalize it but I knew deep down that I should walk away.

You're not looking for a relationship but your gut is telling you no. I think that's all you need to know. The rest is your lizard brain trying to rationalize getting laid.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:48 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]

The great thing about poly relationships is that all involved parties should be heard, and their needs addressed.

The flipside to this is that the OP's personal circumstances probably require a greater degree of subjective control and on-the-fly wiggle room in any new relationship, as opposed to extended negotiations conducted around the kitchen table. It's a different model of control, but it's an equally valid one.

There's also a non-zero risk that as part of the "education" process, the OP tangles up secondary with submissive status, when they're part of two different power dynamics.
posted by holgate at 11:50 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]

I think that if this guy had the personal boundaries in place to make this a positive-to-neutral experience for you, he would have had reservations about contacting you at all. I'm not saying this to be mean, but your situation--recently divorced, knows you through kids, lives in the neighborhood--makes you a wildcard who could very well be a drama bomb. He's not showing good judgement, and I'm not sure you're in a place to be the person setting the hard boundaries here, either. I wouldn't do it.
posted by almostmanda at 11:50 AM on January 2 [19 favorites]

get the wife's ok.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:20 PM on January 2

Seconding @Serene Empress Dork's wise opinion that you having sex with a married man in an open marriage is a fine thing to do somewhere else, somewhere far, far away and safe, but it is not OK to do it right there in your own kids' neighborhood, because There Are No Secrets, and it will leave you all vulnerable.

"if others in your neighborhood find out you are sleeping with this dude, they will be shitty to your kids about it." Yes, your neighbors absolutely will throw you under the bus. You will be slut-shamed, wives will worry that you'll be trying to sleep with their husbands next, and your kids will get bullied. Not worth it, not even for the most eligible bachelor in the universe (which BTW, this father is not).

Nthing find someone who doesn't live in your neighborhood.
posted by hush at 1:47 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]

You're assuming that you're going to need to keep secrets, and if a relationship is conducted in any kind of secrecy, it tends towards the social equivalent of having an affair. What do you tell your other friends? That you're still not dating, or that you have a Mystery Date? If you have a sitter for your kids when you're out, what instructions do you leave about where you're going? That's even before considering your ex here. Gossip follows the scent of mystery.

The social burden of starting to date again is considerable enough without adding all that.
posted by holgate at 3:19 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Okay, as a poly person myself, I'm going to go ahead and voice a minority opinion that this could work.

We don't know enough about him and his relationship with his wife to know whether it will be a drama-filled mire for you or not. A lot of poly people I know are good communicators and generally low-drama people to date.

A few things to think about.

a) Jealousy happens, even for non-monogamous people. What happens if you get jealous? What happens if she gets jealous? Is it okay to talk about these things? Is he conscientious enough to care about your feelings even though you are not the primary partner?

b) Discretion. It's going to be much easier for you if the neighbors don't know.

c) You say you don't want a serious relationship, but think as specifically as you can about what you want from someone you are casually dating. Seeing each other once every few weeks? Once a week?

d) Logistics. Does he come over to your place since you are otherwise single? Do you go out and then make out in the back seat like teenagers?

If you decide to move forward, take it very slow and see how you feel at each stage. Be honest with your feelings and see how he responds to that honesty. In my experience, worthwhile people are willing to talk you through your insecurities and put you at ease.
posted by mai at 3:22 PM on January 2

I am going to support the minority opinion, at least conditionally.

This couple are known to the OP, who didn't know from them, or through the gossips, that they were in an open relationship. Score one for going ahead, they are (apparently) discreet, and can handle the downs without it going public.

Exploration costs nothing. So talk about it, both the relationship issues and the practicalities - HOW have they made it work? Score two for going ahead, you are risking nothing in talking. At the same time, open your ears to anything the gossips are saying, and see if you are missing any stories floating around.

They are risking as much, more perhaps, as you. There is an implication that they know enough about you to believe you (as a person, not just a situation) may be open, and 'suitable' to participate in their open relationship. Put this up front - why me? - and look for what they say beyond 'well, you are now available'. If the answer goes beyond the crudities (however phrased), you have something to work with and consider, and then score three for going on (considering).

This COULD be an interesting, enjoyable interlude, for six weeks, six months, who knows? Yes there are complications, risks, but hey, that is the dating life.

As a father of (now grown up) children, if I was confronted with this possibility I would have been less concerned about my children finding out about my sex life, than I would have been about my ex's reaction. In all this, this might be the deal breaker for you, and rather than the prospect of getting laid, this might be the issue that bears the most thinking about.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:55 PM on January 2

No, no, no. Just no. Don't do it. Seriously bad idea.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:27 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to give you the "parents" talk.

I'm going to tell you seems that both his and your kids seem to know each other and you live in the same neighborhood....what if say his wife DOESN'T agree after you've had some kind of sexual experience with this man? What if she harasses you?
What if he turns out to be a nut job?

What if for some reason someone finds out who is mutual friends with both of you?

Then what if your kids would find out? What if you become the neighborhood gossip (you will be on the blacklist of every married woman in your neighborhood or at your children's school). Keep that life separate...go out on the weekends when you don't have your kids....but don't end up with this man, it's too close for comfort (for your children).

I would find someone else, this man may be taking advantage of you.
posted by irish01 at 4:51 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]

From the OP:
I am so grateful for all the thoughtful and compassionate answers here. Clearly, I needed a reality check, and thanks, MeFi, for delivering it. I'm kind of embarrassed that I needed The Internet to offer some advice here, but it's been 20 years or so since I had to negotiate relationships and boundaries....and I was 22 or so then, and, well, knew nothing. So, thank you for the education. I think I needed to get to the point that "there's nothing wrong with open relationships, per se, but this one, for me here and now, is a bad choice." And that's fine -- it's a big world out there.

So thank you all. Totally worth my anonymous Ask. Merry New Year, y'all.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:16 PM on January 2 [17 favorites]

Good for you...but having been where you were at once, it is nice to be flattered...just do not believe it any more than you believe commercials on tv.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:39 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]

OP, you have no reason whatsover to feel embarrassed! This stuff isn't easy for anyone, and especially in a really unique situation like yours, it's not like there's an Emily Post entry for it (well maybe there is, I haven't read her in a while!).

Your question will undoubtedly help someone else in future. It was absolutely worth asking.

Good luck in your new life. We are pulling for you!
posted by emjaybee at 12:38 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]

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