5 tips for dating a guy in an open relationship

Is it just me or are more gay guys than ever on Grindr / Scruff / Tinder / OkCupid / the Dating-Slash-Sex app of your choice in open relationships than ever before?

Last week, I walked you through how you can figure out if being in an open relationship is right for you, and that’s all well and good if you are the one driving that process…

But, what if you’re out there living your best single life, not even thinking about open or polyamorous relationships, and then, BAM!, you meet someone and you really hit it off and you find out that he’s already in a relationship.

What do you do then?

From getting involved myself with guys that are already in a relationship, to being the first polyamorous person that a guy has met / dated / fucked, to watching my boyfriends date other people… I am deep in the trenches with you on this one.

When Peter and I opened up our relationship eight years ago, we were literally the only people that we knew in an open relationship. Now, on Scruff, you can choose between open relationship or a polyamorous relationship as your relationship status.

What that means, though, is that you might be more likely than ever to chat up someone, hook up with someone, go on a date with someone who’s already in a relationship. So, what do you do if you start dating Mr. Right and he’s already in a relationship?

Here are five tips that can help you navigate that process with a bit more ease.

Get clear on what you want.

Are you looking for a casual, but ongoing, hookup, are you looking for a friends with benefits type situation, are you looking to date with sleepovers and an increasing level of commitment, do you wanna move in together, are you looking for kids, do you wanna get legally married?

You might not know everything up front, and what you want might change over time, but the more clarity that you can get on what it is that you want, the better able you will be to ask from him what is available.

If you need help figuring that out, I recommend things like therapy, journaling, talking to understanding and open-minded friends, and reading books that offer up a different perspective on relationships than what you have grown up hearing your whole life. The Ethical Slut, Sex at Dawn, Opening Up are great places to start.

Ask what he wants.

He might not know, either, and, of course, what he wants might change over time, as well. And, what he wants hypothetically might be different than what he wants with you. But, this is going to be an important starting point. What do y’all want?

Ask about how he structures his other relationship or relationships.

Does he have a primary partner, what does that mean to them? If he doesn’t have someone that he calls a primary partner, what is their level of commitment? Is there someone who has a veto power over his other relationships if they feel uncomfortable? (Psst, that last one is a big red flag for me!)

Ask what’s available in really practical terms.

Love might be abundant, but time and attention and bedrooms are not. Is there a limit to how much time he can spend with you? Is there a limit to how much time he wants to spend with you? Really press on this, because he might wanna spend three nights a week with his current boyfriend, and three nights a week with you, and three nights alone, but there are only seven days in a week, and not nine.

And, is there space? Emotional space, time in the week, space in an apartment, or a closet, or a parent’s basement for what it is that you’re looking for out of this relationship?

Commit to a process of checking in.

This isn’t gonna be a one-time thing. What you want after the first date, and the fifth date, and the 500th date are very likely to be different. Circumstances change and desires shift, and sometimes your needs, or his needs, or his other partner’s needs, or your other boyfriend’s needs, or the new guy he just started dating’s needs sneak up on you. You can bump into barriers that you didn’t know existed. So, keep the conversation going.

Sometimes it might seem like open or polyamorous relationships take more work, or involve more risk, and is it really worth it?

But, over the past years of being in an open relationship myself and in working with people in open and polyamorous relationships and in monogamous relationships to talk through all of their relationship woes, it seems to me that monogamous relationships take just as much work as polyamorous ones.

It’s really easy to get the message that when it comes to relationships you’re just supposed to know, or it’s just supposed to work, or, if you really love someone, you’ll figure it out.

LGBTQ couples might be more likely than straight, cisgender couples to talk about the assumptions that go into their relationships, but we’re not immune from going into relationships with assumptions.

No matter what your relationship structure is, whether it’s open or polyamorous or monogamous, you’re going to benefit from getting clear on what it is that you want, need, and how you plan on moving forward in your relationship together.

Even in monogamous relationships, these assumptions are always there and it’s gonna be more helpful to you if you get clear on them and deal with them sooner rather than later.

Hopefully, when you’re dating non-monogamously, there’s an invitation for you to build a relationship that is exactly what is right for you because you deserve to be happy and fulfilled.

Okay, have you dated someone who was open or polyamorous? What did you learn, and do you have any other tips to share with us? Let us know in the comments over on YouTube so that we can all learn together and figure this out.