• Laura Boyle

Questions to Ask When Dating While Polyamorous

Updated: May 11

These are important questions to think about if you haven’t, and to include your answers and get your potential partners’ answers in conversations either before dating or early on. I don’t mean that you should show up with a checklist to the first date -- doing so may guarantee you no second date -- but you should think about which of these feel important to you and what your answers are.


I think the question about “Does your partner know you’re poly?” is a really unfortunate one to include in this list, but necessary in a world where online daters misuse the word polyamory to try to justify cheating. It may not stop someone from doing so, but it may shame them into admitting what they’re doing or disappearing on you then and saving you from an ugly surprise later.


One of the questions in the Sexual Safety and Risk Assessment section of this list is there mostly because one of the oft-recommended ways to meet other polyamorous people is through other alternative-relationship communities, like local kink communities. This can cause a pretty big mismatch in expectations, and while most kinks don’t substantially impact risk (pun intended), the few that do are a substantial concern.


How do you poly?


  • How would you say your poly is set up? Solopoly? Hierarchical? Poly relationship anarchy? Is every relationship the same across the board, or are you in different structures with different partners?


  • Are you open to one on one poly relationships or only to multiple unit couplings such as triads and quads?


  • Do(es) your partner(s) know you're poly? Do they know you are interested in pursuing something with me?


  • How do your partners feel about each other? Do any of them have feelings about you starting to see me in particular?


  • If your polycule is more kitchen table, is that a requirement or just a preference for group interactions of your partners? What kinds of interactions do you mean?


  • How open / out are you in your polyamory? If you are not open about it, what level of discretion or secrecy would you need in public?


  • How do interactions with your or your partners’ children fit into your relationships (if at all)?


What kind of relationship do you want?


  • What kind of available bandwidth do you have? What are you looking for in a partner?


  • What kind of time and attention and emotional connection are you hoping for?


  • When, and how often is it preferable to communicate on a daily / weekly basis?


  • Are you emotionally available? Are you willing to fall in love / become emotionally invested?




How do you act in relationships?


  • How do you handle NRE?


  • What are your love languages?


  • Have you heard of apology languages? Do you know yours?


  • How do you disagree? How do you deal with your anger in general? With your partners in particular?


  • If you’re hurt rather than angry, how do you handle that? How do you handle when you hurt a partner?


  • How do you behave during and after a breakup?



Sexual Safety and Risk Assessment


  • Do you test for STIs regularly? How often?


  • What is your definition of a complete battery of STI tests?


  • What is your status for those STIs that you regularly test for?


  • Do you know your partners’ statuses? Their partners?


  • Are there STIs that would be a dealbreaker for sexual contact with me if they’re in my network, even if I don’t test positive for them myself?


  • What methods do you usually use for managing risks of pregnancy and STIs in your relationship?


  • Do you engage in sexual acts that are outside the norm that you need me to be willing to at least try, or perhaps share interest in, for us to have a sexual relationship? (eg, BDSM play of some variety; group sex situations) Do you engage in a form of them with other partners that involves higher risk, like kink edge play that involves blood or needles?


  • Are you open to discussing risk factors of various STIs before making a final decision about kinds of contact we have or are your stated preferences personal boundaries?

This list is not in any way exhaustive; always ask and consider your own personal concerns. But if you're curious and looking to make sure you've covered some basics, I hope this is helpful for that.




If you're going to be in Rhode Island for Tethered Together 2020, I'll be teaching two classes on polyamory, and I'd love to see you for either one. Polyamory and Power Exchange runs at 3:45 pm on Friday in the Barrington Room, and Beyond the Kitchen Table: Parallel Polyamory runs at 9:30 am on Sunday in the Greenwich Room.

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