When do I pop the statement "I'm in an open relatioinship?"
July 9, 2013 5:42 PM   Subscribe

When do I let someone I'm out with casually (not yet romantically) know that I'm currently in a very committed yet also an open relationship? (Both of us were previously married, have been together 5 years, and realize that monogamy and commitment are not necessarily mutually exclusive for us). I've been out with women who, I think, were interested in me and in whom I might have been interested. I worry if I say something too soon, I might be being presumptuous, but if I don't say anything until much later, they might feel lead on. So I've just ended up saying nothing and things stayed casual and "friendly." The one time I told one woman I was in an open relationship - and this after only a second lunch out - she literally fled the restaurant! Since, I've become a little gun shy.
posted by StraycatA2 to Human Relations (48 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

I'd bring it up if it comes up naturally, and definitely as you're arranging a real date-date. If I were already out with someone when I learned that he was in a poly relationship, I would consider it a dealbreaker. A lot of women aren't going to be into dating someone who already has a primary relationship; this just means that they're not the right woman for you, but it's not like easing into that fact is going to make them be OK with it.
posted by KathrynT at 5:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [25 favorites]

If you have romantic intentions, you need to say so on the first date. If a woman's going to run out the door, it's better that she run sooner rather than later.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:58 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you are meeting these women via online dating sites, you should put the fact you're in an open relationship in your profile. Get it out of the way up front.

In the gay world, apps/sites like Scruff, GRINDR, Growler, ManHunt etc all make that an option in your profile. I'll assume there's similar things on straight dating sites?
posted by matty at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

there are going to be women who won't like this no matter when you tell them. some women are ok with open relationships and some are not. it doesn't really make a difference when you tell them. If you and I went on a date, I would want to know on the first couple of dates, and I wouldn't think you were presumptuous.
posted by kerning at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Right away. If you're doing online dating, do it in your profile. If you're meeting women at bars, when you first meet them, before you take them on the first date. You need to tell them right away, before they start thinking of you as a guy they might want to date. It's information that people need to have before they start thinking about dating you, not when they're on a first or second date with you.

The reason that woman left the restaurant is probably because you went on a date and set up a second date and failed to give her some really important information about your relationship status. She assumed you were single, not in an open relationship, when you want on a date. That is what most people assume when they go on a date.
posted by sockermom at 6:00 PM on July 9, 2013 [30 favorites]

Agree with the above replies, but I might take it a step further: if you have romantic intentions, you need to inform the woman before the date.

If someone sprung that important info on me on Date One, I'd be folding up my napkin and pulling out a 20 to pay my half, and jogging on out of there licketysplit.
posted by nacho fries at 6:00 PM on July 9, 2013 [43 favorites]

Very much agreed that it needs to be right up front. Not everyone is interested in dating someone who's in a committed relationship, even if it is open. It's not something someone is likely to change their mind on upon finding out you're a charming individual with good personal hygiene, and why waste everyone's time?
posted by restless_nomad at 6:12 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think you should tell them at the same time you would tell them if you were in a non-open relationship because to women who aren't interested in dating someone in an open relationship its no different really than if you were otherwise unavailable.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:14 PM on July 9, 2013 [15 favorites]

Mention it as soon as possible. It's an important part of your life, why not get it out there?

Women who are okay with it won't be fazed and will find it interesting; women who aren't okay with it will have fair warning and can skedaddle at that point.
posted by Unified Theory at 6:15 PM on July 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Something important to keep in mind, if an open relationship is new for you (I'm not sure if you've been open for 5 years, or just in a relationship for 5 years): a woman may go on one or two dates with you, knowing you're in an open relationship, think she's okay with it, then change her mind. This will happen at least once so prepare yourself for it.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:16 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

Agreed that it's a good idea to put it in your profile. I would be so pissed if I started to fall for someone, started thinking they might be someone I could get serious with, and then found out they were already in a relationship and already had a primary partner. And hadn't told me.
posted by bunderful at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you're not telling a woman right off the bat, you're trying to manipulate her. That's not right. No woman should be tricked into an open relationship by investing before the truth comes out, just for your benefit.
posted by discopolo at 6:28 PM on July 9, 2013 [20 favorites]

I think you're wrapping yourself into circles with terms like "casually (not yet romantically)" because it makes it seem like there's a grey area there that probably isn't really there.

When you have deliberately made plans to meet up with someone you don't really know in a one-on-one situation, you have a pretty good idea of why you're doing that. There are non-date reasons to be doing that (for example, professional networking) but if that's the case you're going to know you're not meeting up for a date. If you're meeting someone for a date -- even a get to know you coffee date -- then they really deserve to know that they are dealing with an open relationship situation, rather than with someone who is actually single.

There are those 'we've been in the same friend tribe forever and we kind of got to like each other' relationships that start in weird, not really date-like ways, but presumably people in those situations will know you have a significant other, and thus you will have to tell them about your open relationship in order to progress to date like things or they will think you're a cheater. And you can't use 'I'm in a relationship' as cover to do date-like things with people without letting them know you're romantically interested, either.

Many, many, many women are going to run the other way when you tell them these things. I can understand why that makes you gun shy, but it is also precisely the reason why you have to make this information clear early. You know that many women will not want to date you if they find out that you are not actually single -- to deliberately keep that information from them would be creepy and rude and gross, and the end result will still be that they will run the other way once they find out, but faster and with a great deal more distaste for you personally.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:29 PM on July 9, 2013 [20 favorites]

A tip on how to not do it presumptuously: mention something about your partner's other partner. "The other day, Bob (the new guy my partner is dating) told me about an interesting article." "My partner went to a neat new restaurant with a guy she's dating, and they both enjoyed the soup there." If they raise an eyebrow, you can give a quick explanation about how you're committed but open.
posted by Pwoink at 6:33 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

I agree with everyone who says you need to be up front about this and tell people before going on any dates, but I wanted to comment and say that if someone casually mentioned it to me the way Pwoink suggested by mentioning the person your partner is dating or something like that instead of just laying it out there, that would probably annoy me far more than if you waited until a first date to tell me but at least were upfront about it.

Just be straightforward and upfront. You're gun shy because a lot of people aren't going to want to date you since you're not single, but them's the breaks.
posted by fromageball at 6:48 PM on July 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

When would you tell a guy that you're straight? If you are in any scenario with these women that you would avoid being in if they were someone you would not think of dating, you should be telling them already.
posted by jacalata at 6:52 PM on July 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a similar question in a different type of scenario that got some thoughtful responses. My response here is the same as it was there: pretty early on. Most people presume that people who are dating are single in some fashion (like maaaaybe separated working on a divorce, but even then you'd say something right up front). This is the norm, like it or lump it. Some will not mind that you are partnered. Some will. If you're online dating I'd put it in your profile. That way you can just have friendly encounters with people but not feel that either you are being deceitful or presumptuous but it minimizes the likelihood of the "run out of the restaurant" response.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your main motivation in 'being out' with someone is because you're interested in dating them, then you need to let them know what's up, right up front, even though it may be a deal-breaker for them. If you're out with someone just as friends, then your relationship status comes out whenever it comes out, just as a normal part of conversation. (And I am a straight guy who has lots of friends who are women, and when I want to hang out as just friends, this has never really been difficult to convey, regardless of whether I happen to be in a relationship at the time or not; honest tone and demeanor convey a lot of information.)

I guess, now and then, there is some grey area. Maybe you have known someone as a casual acquaintance for a while, and for whatever reason, dating was not ever in the picture (like, one or both of you were involved with someone else). And then if someone's relationship circumstances change, there may be a period of time where things fall into a grey area. But if you are honest with yourself, you will know when your interest has shifted into not-just-friends territory, and that's when you say something. Which is exactly the same way you would handle it if you were just plain old single.
posted by fikri at 7:11 PM on July 9, 2013

You don't need to tell your platonic friends that you are in a relationship (but why not tell them?).

You should absolutely tell people your relationship status prior to a date, so people who prefer monogamy can choose not to date you if it's a dealbreaker.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:13 PM on July 9, 2013

As a single woman, I understand completely when my friends talk about their significant others, especially if it's a committed but non-monogamous relationship. It's not presumptuous to tell a friend you're in a relationship, it's letting them in on part of your life. Sooner is better than later.
posted by RainyJay at 7:19 PM on July 9, 2013

casually (not yet romantically)
What does this mean? Do you mean, someone you are hanging out with one-on-one and may have an interest in, but aren't explicitly on a date with? I think in that case, how you disclose that information depends on how you met the woman and the context of the outing. If I was out in a group of friends with you, unless the topic came up, I would not expect you to tell me your relationship status until you asked me on a date (and in the asking, you should disclose).
posted by sm1tten at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2013

Upfront. As a woman, I'd be extremely annoyed at the waste of my time if you didn't disclose that before I cleared time off my schedule to meet you.
posted by Unangenehm at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

Before the first date. I would not be happy to have wasted my evening on a guy that wasn't actually single. First dates suck enough as it is.

And really you're wasting your time too by not disclosing ASAP.
posted by whoaali at 8:05 PM on July 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

If there's no presumption of exclusivity now or in the future, you don't have to say anything ever. That's a situation where you're having a one night stand or hookup that has zero chance of being serious and you're clear about not looking for a relationship from that person.

If you ask them on anything resembling a date or if a reasonable person would consider you as a future prospect for romance, you need to tell them.

In summary, if you want to snuggle up on the couch with a movie or invite her to Chez Fancy Pants for dinner you gotta say something. If you're booty calling each other, you don't. If it's somewhere in the middle you have to use your judgment and say something if/when she might be plausibly getting her hopes up for an exclusive relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:10 PM on July 9, 2013

If you're meeting these women online, clearly there's something is missing in your profile.

In terms of dating the old fashioned way, I'd think you should mention you're in an open relationship when you ask someone on a date. I've had women do this with me and it always just made sense. I once had a woman ask me on a date* and she did so by saying something like "So, I'd really like to ask you out, but my divorce isn't final yet. Is that OK? Would you be interested?" If I were you, I'd use the same approach in your situation.

It does seem kind of like false advertising to ask someone on a date and only later mention that you're already in a relationship, albeit an open one.

Mention it before the first date, not after.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:55 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Before the first date. If it hasn't naturally come up before you ask her out, then make sure you tell her at that time.

(The gal in your story fled the restaurant because she was emphatically not interested in your setup and was offended that you'd wasted her time. You should be "gun shy" of creating such situations in the future, not shy of giving full disclosure. Full disclosure BEFORE you're on a date with someone will avoid another embarrassing scene.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Consider that women simply do not believe a man is in an open relationship. Most women are going to think you're full of shit and cheating on your partner. Telling them up front is the best way around this pitfall. If you don't do that and instead get really friendly with a woman or hit on her and she says "you have a girlfriend?" and you say "yes but don't worry she's cool with me sleeping around" they are going to run away from you in restaurants.

Also consider that open relationships are pretty rare. I've NEVER met an attractive man in a genuine open relationship, I have met many attractive men who tried to tell me they were. You need to do some outreach and education here. There are plenty of women who would like to have a regular FWB thing but not too many women like feeling they've been played.
posted by fshgrl at 9:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

i disagree with the advice that you have to tell them before the first date. i think there are some people who would reject you outright if you told them first, but, if they got to know you, they might reconsider their opinion about it.

i think you should tell them relatively soon, say, no longer than after the second date. the first date can always be a little awkward. on the second date you know that the liked you from the first time, so with more confidence, you can get to know them better. then, you can let them know after the date. they haven't invested too much time, but they've spent enough time with you so that you're actually a person to them, and not just some dating webpage on the internet.

however, i think there's been a derail pretty early on, b/c this sentence

I've been out with women who, I think, were interested in me and in whom I might have been interested.

suggests to me that these women are friend and acquaintances of yours. you go out, maybe with a group of friends, and then you get this vibe from them. i think you broach the subject by asking questions to see if they've ever heard of it, and you can see what their reaction is. for example you could ask "do you ever read or listen to dan savage? the other day on his podcast ..." i'm sure there are other indirect questions you could ask.

... when you roll out the open relationship thing, you should also offer to let her speak to or meet your partner. that should help with any fears that you're just cheating on your partner.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:54 PM on July 9, 2013

I've NEVER met an attractive man in a genuine open relationship, I have met many attractive men who tried to tell me they were.

I have--my ex that was my first example of "when someone tells they are in an open relationship." Mostly the thing you need to keep aware of when someone announces this is, "May I speak to your SO about it?" If s/he gives any kind of shifty-ass hedgy answer that means you aren't talking to them, as opposed to, "Sure, here's her number," that's when you watch out.

You never know--the open relationship/polyamory thing was totally new to me when he told me, and I assumed I would be totally hurt and offended by it--but in practice, no, it was just fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:23 PM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I feel it would be really wishful thinking on your part to expect most people to change their preferences for an unattached partner (if that is what they prefer) just because they thought they were getting to know you. For one thing, I would feel pretty damned betrayed and disrespected by someone who didn't reveal the existence of a partner to me until after we'd gone out once or twice - so anything else I thought I knew about them at that point would instantly become suspect in a way it probably wouldn't have if they'd told me at the get-go.

Assuming these situations you're describing are dates - even casual ones - then this isn't like revealing that you've got a birthmark on your back shaped like Dick Cheney, or owning up to all that DragonLance fanfiction you've been writing. If you don't already know the other person is into open relationships, holding the existence of your primary relationship back until they have already invested time and emotional energy in dating you will probably keep on backfiring like it apparently did with the woman who cut your encounter short. As others above have advised, put this information in your profile if you're going the online route, and otherwise, be honest with these women by informing them when you first ask them on a date (or when they ask you on one).
posted by DingoMutt at 10:27 PM on July 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

I have several friends who are in open relationships. One aspect of this being successful is that they are good at communicating, honest, and do not hide things from their partners, current, potential or otherwise.

If a potential partner did not inform them of the existence of a partner to them for multiple dates, it is a significant red flag for those who WOULD be interested. It shows a lack of the communication and honesty that's needed for a real open relationship - and is a red flag for the cheating/one-sided/coerced into allowing it - type relationships.

TLDR: tell people before anything like a date occurs. Yes, people will say no. This is a good thing.
posted by Ashlyth at 12:33 AM on July 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

I think it's vanishingly unlikely that a person who is not already into open relationships will change his/her mind after getting to know you a bit. No matter how awesome you are.

Bedsides, it's dishonest. Default shared cultural assumption = people looking for someone to date are single.

Tell them before the first date.
posted by Salamander at 1:10 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Definately before the first date. Look, you don't want to be hurt by them running off in the middle of a date, right? Well, THEY don't want to be hurt either. When you spring this info on them after they've already begun to consider a relationship with you (and they must have done so, or they wouldn't BE dating you), you're hurting them.

Besides, while some people are fine with open relationships, others aren't, and it's a form of lying not to be upfront about something this big. So not being truthful from the very beginning is just wasting both your time AND their time. And quite possibly by not being honest from the start, you might be losing potential dates who WOULD be fine with an open relationship, but not someone who hides major information.
posted by easily confused at 2:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think something like that works best if they happen to already know that about you. Divulging to a woman that you are in an open but committed relationship makes it pretty clear that you are scoping her out. It comes across as kind of predatory. You either need to be socially open about your situation so everyone knows or you need to look for additional romantic partners through a site or club where you can state your status up front.

By "divulging," I mean if it isn't common knowledge, the act of sharing that info pretty strongly signals that you are hoping for this to be romantic. Women who want something more conventional will flee in the face of that. It isn't much different from announcing that you are a serial philanderer and you are hoping to use her next. Or at least that's how it will read.

If you want to keep the open status of your relationship a private matter (in other words, not wear that info casually on your sleeve) and you also don't want to join a club or site, that will drastically reduce the odds of another relationship developing at all. It can be done, but the detail of disclosure then becomes a tricky hot button issue, as you seem to be finding.
posted by Michele in California at 4:49 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

i think we all agree that disclosure needs to happen early. here are a few reasons why i think it's ok to wait until, say, the second date:

1. you have not promised exclusivity by this time. unless you establish that you are exclusively dating, people should assume their dates are not exclusively dating them. for the purpose of who the other person is dating, it's not bad that they are in a committed relationship. given that they are also dating other people, why should the fact that one of those relationships is "committed" or not?

2. there is no meaningful promise of future exclusivity by date two, or that your date is even open to being exclusively with with you in the future. it seems like most people here think that dating means "interviewing for husband/wife" but it's not always like that. by two dates it's too early to believe that the other person wants to be in a committed relationship with you with any likelihood, or that you would want to be with them.

3. it's unreasonable to have to disclose every thing about you that someone might want to reject you for. maybe in a perfect world this would be nice, but that's just not how dating works, even on many dating website where it might happen, though of course many people do disclose things that others could automatically reject them for. do you have to disclose that you have kids? what if they're grown? what if they don't live with you? do you have to disclose before the first date if you have an STI like HPV or HIV? what if you have "weird" family members? how about if you are a virgin or not? asexual? even had a same-sex relationship or sex? ever paid for sex? ... i could go on.

4. waiting a little, but not too long, shows emotional maturity. rolling something out in a delicate way, not over-sharing too soon, shows emotional maturity.

5. there is still stigma against open relationships and polyamory.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:29 AM on July 10, 2013

5. there is still stigma against open relationships and polyamory.
I disagree with your entire post, but especially this one.

There's still stigma against transgender people - how long should they date before letting someone know their situation? Hint: 0 dates. Life isn't the Crying Game; people deserve honesty in relationships.

If the stigma is going to be a dealbreaker, what possible non-selfish reason could one have to forestall the inevitable?
posted by IAmBroom at 5:37 AM on July 10, 2013 [11 favorites]

well, if you can "pass", the other person in physically attracted to you, i could see waiting. hint: 1 date.

is it selfish if they enjoyed your previous dates, then you disclosed something they find a dealbreaker, and then they don't want to date you?

do you also disagree with this part of my post "i think we all agree that disclosure needs to happen early."? i also believe people deserve honesty; but 100% pure honesty before the first date is impossible.

If the stigma is going to be a dealbreaker,

there could be many deal breakers. if, if, if ... is there a book somewhere that lists all of them that must be disclosed before the first date?

another point that hasn't been made yet: "open" relationship is still pretty vague. for example does that mean: do you only see your committed partner and your secondaries separately? do you all hang out socially, but not have sex with each other? hang out socially and have sex with each other? you could be going down a rabbit hole there. so, i suppose if you must disclose that you have an "open" relationship you should also disclose exactly what you mean by this.

remember people, this is advice, not binding commands.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:56 AM on July 10, 2013

Cupcake, its not the stigma that is a dealbreaker in this situation. Saying its the stigma implies other people (the potential third here) is prejudiced. It is not prejudice to not want to be involved with someone in an open relationship!! If the woman is looking for a serious relatiionship, she may well find it a serious betryal and act of manipulation that he does not diclose this before their first date. Why? Because by her standars he is not available for the kind of relationship she may be looking to have! Telling her in advance will weed out those looking for exclusive relationships.
posted by zia at 6:05 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

If the woman is looking for a serious relatiionship

if the woman is looking for a serious relationship, and only a serious relationship, she should disclose this before the first date. and many do. of course, you should date someone who has already said that something you have/are is a dealbreaker.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:09 AM on July 10, 2013

Mod note: This thread needs not to become a discussion.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:14 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd generally say that the best time for any potentially awkward disclosure is between the first and second date. My reason for this is that so many first dates end up being misfires anyway that it makes sense to find out whether or not this is even a conversation worth having. This is the same reason why I disagree with most other posters here that not disclosing before the first date constitutes some kind of massive betrayal - yes, you may be wasting her time, but most first dates end up being wastes of time anyway.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:29 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what your community size is like, but another facet that you may want to consider is what kind of word-of-mouth comes out of your interactions with these women. When she relates the story of your second lunch, for instance, I'm guessing the person you mentioned above doesn't paint herself as "fleeing" from someone with a different lifestyle so much as walking the heck out on some deceptive so-and-so.

So beyond all the reasons already mentioned for being up-front, if there's any chance that the people you're interested in might talk with one another, it's worth your while to make sure the ones who turn you down have things to say like "Yeah, StrayCatA2's a real cool guy but I'm looking for someone who is single," rather than "He hid the fact that he's in a relationship from me for a month [or two weeks, or however long it takes to get to second lunch]."
posted by DingoMutt at 7:24 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Mod note: This is a response from an anonymous answerer.
So I met an attractive guy at a week-long event to which I was a relative newcomer and I ended up fooling around with him. A good time was had by all.

The next day, I was talking to one of the other attendees who vaguely knew Attractive Guy and telling her about how great he was and how much fun we'd had. Other Attendee responded with "Huh. That's weird. I thought Attractive Guy was in a relationship with Event Organizer Girl."

I asked around and a couple of people confirmed it, so I spent a good chunk of the event feeling shitty and humiliated.

Turns out that Attractive Guy had explicitly got Event Organizer Girl's permission to fool around with me, but hadn't bothered to disclose that he was in an open relationship.

Anyway, this is why you can't wait until the second date to disclose. You need to let the person you are dating know upfront so that if she mentions the date to somebody and they say "Hey, isn't StraycatA2 in a relationship?" she can respond with "Yeah, but it's an open one" instead of looking like an idiot and worrying that she's accidentally hurt somebody.

I'd have been fine with fooling around if I'd known about the open relationship. I was not fine with the feeling shitty and humiliated.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:47 AM on July 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

I take your setup to mean that you are hanging out with a woman in a friendly kind of way but there seems to be the possibility that it could go farther. Blurting out "I'm in an open relationship!" seems both awkward and presumptuous (what if you're misreading the signs?).

Everyone so far has covered the dating case — tell her before you set up a date — but I think there's a general case here that hasn't been touched: how do you drop the fact that you're in an open relationship into a conversation?

It's not super simple because casually mentioning your partner doesn't indicate you're on the market and casually mentioning dates you've been on, say, doesn't indicate you have a partner.

I suggest asking a person early on if they are seeing anyone. They will likely reciprocate and you can explain.

I'm a het dude who regularly gets read as gay so I find I'm often slipping references to past girlfriends into conversations with women I've recently met. It felt awkward at first but I've gotten pretty good at it and it relatively elegantly clears up any questions. I recommend you get into a similar habit. Both your friendships and romantic entanglements will benefit from the clarity.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:56 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

As for what wemayfreeze said, I mostly find men online in part as a way around that type issue. I am not looking for an open relationship per se, so my hot button issues that I fret about divulging are mostly other things, but my experience has been that there is much more serious discussion online that touches on Stuff than in most IRL relationships/social settings.

One of my hot button issues is my genetic disorder. I am very open about it online but I have, at times, wrestled a lot with whether and when to disclose that info with people IRL when there just never seemed to be a good way to divulge it with a NBD attitude and NBD consequences. But it isn't hard to mention it in online discussions, on personal websites I run, etc. without it becoming some emotionally exhausting derail, flip out, "OMG you poor thing you are dying!" moment that turns into some long icky explanation that, no, I am not fucking dying though my condition does require substantial accommodation. Whew!

Thus men who know me online have good odds of learning that about me in a relatively low key fashion before they decide to hit on me. Which means if it is a dealbreaker for them, they have the chance to decide to just not hit on me instead of going out with me and then discovering it and then having to hurt my feelings and make me feel like a pariah by rejecting me for it. But it also means the manner in which they learn it reduces the odds that it will be an automatic dealbreaker because they will know that, yes, I have a serious medical condition that significantly impacts my life but they will also learn that I am pretty healthy overall and it isn't the kind of scenario that the label "cystic fibrosis" might otherwise cause them to envision. Plus they will know other stuff about me. My diagnosis will be just one detail among many, not necessarily some defining detail that looms unnecessarily large in their eyes.

So if you do not want everyone IRL to know your relationship is open and you do not want to join a club or site specifically to pick up women, then being open about this aspect of your life online and socializing that way/with those folks is a potential avenue to divulge without coming across in a creepy, predatory fashion and without having to wear it on your sleeve in all social settings (like at work, where it may be best to keep that info private). However, if you try that internet route, it has to be handled carefully and considerately so it doesn't turn into an inappropriate use of a forum. I knew a guy who was trolling a forum for additional relationships in a fashion I felt was super icky (in part because he was a moderator, I hooked up with him and I got burned later by him in that forum, which I no longer participate in for other reasons but good riddance dickwad). Please don't become That Guy, especially not on my "advice." Ugh.
posted by Michele in California at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2013

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Reminder: the question is "When do I let someone I'm out with casually (not yet romantically) know that I'm currently in a very committed yet also an open relationship?"
posted by taz (staff) at 1:28 AM on July 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think that what is germane is not only the open relationship part, but to let her know what you are available for.

I think the default for starting to date someone is that this person is potentially available for a long term or permanent serious monogamous relationship, if all goes well. If you were single but polyamorously oriented, it would still be fair to let a new potential dating partner know that you're availability is restricted. I would say it is similar for someone who knows that they would casually date but not seriously commit to someone of a different faith, for example, or that they are about to take off for the other coast in a couple of months.

Being in an open relationship is very important information but perhaps even more crucial is to let her know what you are potentially open to offering. Are you open to an equally serious additional primary partner? Looking for secondary partners? Casual dating? This is extremely pertinent information, and perhaps can be spun in a more positive way.

I agree that the earlier you do this the better, and the better you look to people who might be open to what you have to offer if you can give them a positive and clear and early picture of what that may be.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:18 PM on July 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worry if I say something too soon, I might be being presumptuous

This gives me the impression you are in the closet about being in an open relationship, and that it's something you only bring up if you are sure someone is interested in you.

If it's possible for you to be, well, open about being in an open relationship when talking with people socially, you'll get a lot more practice telling people about it, it won't be anything more presumptuous to tell than saying you've been in a relationship for five years in the first place, and may get you more dates. You might know people who would be interested in dating you if they only were aware you are in an open relationship.

Some people do have very good reasons for staying closeted, but understand that keeping anything one is closeted about a secret is going to make it harder to meet people. You should also consider that by waiting to tell someone, you may be telling fewer people, but you might be telling them in a way that would make it more likely they would tell others. Someone who feels deceived may warn her friends, and I think rightly so if you are waiting until the second time you've gone out with someone.

I've been out with women who, I think, were interested in me and in whom I might have been interested.

Out on a date? Many people only go on dates with people they are interested in, and they generally assume that the person they are out with is interested back or would not have agreed to a date. If it's just you and her out together, there's going to be a least a thought that the two of you are currently on a date unless it's really clear that it's a business lunch or something.

If these women don't know that you are in a committed relationship, it's likely that they see going out with you as a date, and will likely feel you are hiding something if they find out you've been in a committed relationship for 5 years.

If someone does know that you are in a committed relationship, but not that it's an open one, they are either going to figure it isn't a date or you are looking to cheat.

The only way out of this is to make sure the person knows before it gets to that point, or as soon as possible after you find yourself out with them.

I have a hard time imagining how you would have any substantial getting-to-know you discussions without disclosing that you've been in a relationship for 5 years, at least if your partner is someone you spend a lot of time with, even more so if you live together. At the point where you start to watch what you are saying so as not to mention your partner (like referring to them as your roommate or friend, or not mentioning them when you talk about the weekly goat-staring event you both attend), you've already passed the point at which you should have mentioned this.

It smacks of disrespect for the person you are dating to hide all this and bring it up later, and gives a very bad impression.
posted by yohko at 8:08 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

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