How does a polyamorous couple non-awkwardly "friendzone" someone?
February 8, 2012 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Polyamory-filter! How does a couple non-awkwardly "friendzone" someone?

My boyfriend and I have recently opened up our long-term, committed relationship, and are just beginning to see other people. While we have been going on dates separately, as we are both interested in women, we have also been considering dating as a couple (e.g. having a triad arrangement), assuming things ever move in that direction naturally.

And now, they have. We've both been chatting with the same woman via an online-dating site. She knew we were a couple, and was looking forward to getting to know both of us. From the get-go, I knew I was not very physically attracted to her, but we had such an incredible amount in common that I figured a date would do no harm, as we could at least be friends. My boyfriend was physically attracted to her (and they also seemed to get along fairly well), so I assumed what would most likely happen is that he would end up dating her, while she and I would just be friends.

Anyway, we have both recently met her in person (on separate dates). My own date with her confirmed my suspicion that I wouldn't be physically attracted to her, but we did hit it off, personality-wise. However, surprisingly, my boyfriend also felt little chemistry (physical or otherwise) between them, and has decided he would rather not pursue a relationship with her. Before the end of their date, they made tentative plans for the three of us to hang out, but that was before he had gotten an accurate impression of her.

Now, we're both in a very awkward pre-second date situation. We don't know how to make it clear (with no hard feelings) that he's really not interested, and that I am interested, but only as a friend. I know how this would work if it were only one of us having to break the news, and it would be no big deal-- but as a couple, I am totally lost. Do we go on the planned second date with her (which she has asked us about since), with all three of us, and try to explain the situation then? Does he gently let her know beforehand that he's not interested, and then I make plans with her, just the two of us? But then I still have to tell her I'm only interested in a friendship, and that seems like a lot of rejection in a short period of time. And then it might be weird if I eventually want to hang out with both of them together, if it turns out she was into him, and is disappointed that he wasn't into her.

I'm stumped. What is the most graceful way to handle this?
posted by aldebaran to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: If I were you, I'd probably contact her now and let her know that you both aren't feeling a romantic chemistry, but that you're always looking for new friends. One of you can speak on behalf of both of you, I think. No need to "break up" twice. Then, if she's interested in being friends, it'll just naturally shake out that you and she hang out more because of your common interests, while your boyfriend sort of fades into the background of the friendship. I would do this now and let it be up to her whether she still wants to hang out again for a non-date.
posted by decathecting at 4:09 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

The inherent and accepted risk of dating, regardless of the number of people involved, is that things can go south for any number of reasons. The vetting period after a first date is a perfectly acceptable time to cut your losses and tell her honestly that it's not going to work. You don't owe her any complicated explanations as to why; just call her. "Hey, [Miss Friendzone]. Boyfriend and I have been talking about things, and we just don't feel this is going to work on a relationship level. We felt it was best to tell you sooner rather than later." Since you claim to have the better rapport, I'd say you should make the call on behalf of both of you as a couple.

If she still wants to be friends, that's cool, but you should be on your mark that she's not simply drawing things out in the hopes that it might go in another direction. And I certainly wouldn't agree to meet up again under the rubric of a "date," especially given your boyfriend's apathy.
posted by mykescipark at 4:11 PM on February 8, 2012

I think you should not make being friends a goal here. In reality, there aren't berg many times where you can reject someone romantically yet keep them around gracefully.
posted by spaltavian at 4:43 PM on February 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

I would tell her that I really enjoyed hanging out with her and we have a lot in common that would make for a great friendship, but that neither of you really see any romantic potential with her at the moment. Let her know that you'll understand if she's not comfortable pursuing platonic friendship, but that you (at least) genuinely wish to be friends with her if she is open to that.

Its entirely possible that she walked away feeling the lack of chemistry or romantic potential and wont' be too surprised or upset, as long as you're up front about it.
posted by myShanon at 5:16 PM on February 8, 2012

Admittedly I am not part of the polyamory scene, and probably never will be, but I am somewhat pro at rejecting people. Trust me, there’s no nice way to say “I’m not attracted to you.” It only works as a last resort in extreme cases with very persistent, pushy people who are convinced that you’ll come around if they show you their sparkling personality, and should never be pulled out otherwise. This means that much of rejection has to be canned or sugared up B.S. and everyone knows this as a tacit thing. I’m thinking euphemisms like “feel no chemistry” would probably be preferable, and in that case, don’t expect a high percent chance of friendship. But…and this may not appeal to you, but it’s the very first thing I thought of when I read your question…as a poly couple, you have an easy built-in excuse. “You’re not ready to go there.” “You aren’t agreeing on boundaries.” Whatever. This would immediately make sense to anyone who’s ever even thought about being a third, as it happens a lot- more often than not, really. It avoids the awkward “not attracted” and has a pretty fair chance of salvaging friendship. Caveat: It’s a white lie, and you won’t be able to get another “third” very soon with her knowing about it, but by then she may have moved on as well.
posted by stockpuppet at 5:21 PM on February 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Strong disagreement with sockpuppet. It's crucially important, in these early days of figuring out polyamory, to stick to honesty with all parties at all times, because that's going to be your only possible foundation for success as you go forward. Do not start out with lying to potential partners. Stay far away from that slippery slope. Only honesty!
posted by kalapierson at 7:07 PM on February 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Tell her your BF can't make it, has another commitment, but you're hoping the two of you can go and have some fun together. I would imagine if your friendship ripens, she will connect the dots sooner or later.
posted by diode at 9:26 PM on February 8, 2012

I actually think that the least weird way would be to go ahead and have that all-three-of-you date. Go have a nice evening but keep it light and not-flirty and demonstrate what being in the friend-zone with you two is like. (And, uh, stay away from compromising positions or too much booze.)

Hell, who knows, maybe the three of you have a dynamic that's more intriguing than either you or he with her alone (a long shot, but not utterly impossible.) But moving along to the likely scenario, you've got solidarity, you can back each other up and warmly say "hey, sexual chemistry is a weird thing and we feel like it's just happening. But friends with other poly folks is awesome, and we're both up for that separately or together, if that's cool. If you'd kinda rather back off because you're really looking for a relationship, we'll both respect that too, no harm no foul.
posted by desuetude at 10:37 PM on February 8, 2012

Best answer: Play it completely honest and legit. Say you didn't feel the chemistry you wanted, would be happy to stay in touch as friends but understand if she moves on to other interests. Say such things as soon as you know them to be true. Don't get into the habit of omitting, delaying or distorting facts. What you're trying to do is quite enough of a tangle without an ounce of additional mud thrown in.
posted by ead at 11:15 PM on February 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, guys! Your input really helped. We decided to go the honest route. I was the one to contact her, and I made use of the "didn't feel the romantic chemistry" euphemism, which I think (hope) came out fairly gentle-- and I made it clear we were still interested in being friends. Not sure if the friend thing will work out, but at least it's done, and I said what needed to be said.
posted by aldebaran at 10:35 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Am I dying or what?   |   My iphone 4 doesn't appear to be backing up to the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.