I cohost a podcast about dating, and that podcast has a secret Facebook group for listeners. It’s a place they can share dating qualms, ask for advice, and generally boost my ego (jokes!). It’s also one of the few comment sections on the internet that I can tolerate, and that’s entirely due to our sweet listeners. Recently, the topic of whether dating app bios for open relationships should be honest about their relationship status or not. I quickly realized that I did not know all that much about open relationships, and I decided to listen with my eyeballs and not type with my fingers.
Essentially, a listener shared that after Googling after a recent first date (because 2018), she found out that he seemingly had a girlfriend on his social media. We’re talking profile pictures here. She liked him, planned out to hang out with him again, and wondered if she should say something about him potentially cheating on his girlfriend. While most of us chimed in with a "YES, find out now!" one of our listeners in a poly relationship reminded us that this guy could very well be poly or in an open relationship, and that we should consider that as well.
While I was relatively vanilla in my initial thinking about the situation ("HE’S A DOG!"), I still felt pretty strongly that being in an open relationship is something that should be disclosed before heading out on a date. I understand that the world is changing and that open-mindedness is queen, but there if I’m going to spend my night with you, I’d like to know if you’re single or not.
I spoke to relationship coach specializing in open relationships Effy Blue, and licensed psychotherapist and dating coach, Shaina Singh, LCSW about the right way to introduce an open relationship when using dating apps actively with people who may or may not be in open relationships as well.
Be As Transparent As Possible In Your Dating Profile
While it might feel limiting, or you might worry that people will wonder if you’re just looking for sex if you include your open relationship in your bio, being honest is the best policy. Wouldn’t you appreciate if someone was transparent with you?
"When someone is setting up a dating profile, they should be honest and ethical about their disclosure of the type of relationship they are in," says Singh. "It needs to be front and center where people can clearly see this. It should never be hidden, unclear or vague." She adds that this will help you attract the type of people who will truly celebrate your relationship status, and OKCupid even has an option for your matches to link to your partner’s profile.
If you’re really uncomfortable putting it in your bio, for fear someone from work or another arena of your life might happen to see it, mention it as soon as possible upon beginning a conversation. "If you don’t feel comfortable, be sure to mention it early in the messaging process," says Blue. "Most definitely before you show up for your first date. There are many people who are [only] looking for monogamy, so why waste your or their time?"
Be Clear About What You Mean By "Open Relationship"
While the words are often interchanged, being in an open relationship and being polyamorous can mean two different things. "Open relationships are relationships that are not defined by sexual fidelity where the couple mutually agrees to have sexual relationships beyond the dyad [pair]," explains Blue. "Some people use ‘open relationship’ and ‘polyamory’ synonymously. Open relationships being only about sex outside the relationship and polyamory being multiple romantic and loving relationships pursued simultaneously." She adds that it is important to have a conversation to understand what a person means by "open relationship," as there are multiple definitions.
Be honest with a potential partner about exactly what you and your current partner’s arrangement is. "[The] idea behind having an open relationship is that you can’t expect to have all your needs met by one person, or there is a part of your gender or sexuality that you want to celebrate and can do so by being in a relationship with someone else other than your primary partner," explains Singh. "Some partners have rules around their open relationship that they can have sex with other people, however, no emotional connection or relationship is allowed."
While you don’t necessarily need to slap this information on your Tinder bio, it would be nice to mention it early and definitely before going on a date. "Not everyone you meet online or in person is going to be as psyched about non-monogamy as you are," Blue adds. "This is okay! A good way to handle these initial conversations is to invite potential dating partners to have a conversation about what your open relationship means to you. The key is to invite rather than impose."
If you’re new to open relationships, or if you’ve matched with someone whose bio mentions an open relationship, and you’re not sure if you’re ready to be in one, take a look at Effy Blue’s 7 Tips for Dating In Open Relationship. It’s a free download that will help you navigate the language around opening a relationship up on dating apps.
Oh, and as for the secret Facebook group commenter? Turns out the guy had just broken up with his girlfriend a month prior, still lived with her, and had yet to change his Facebook picture. Trust that people in agreed-upon open relationships will let you know upfront, if they don’t, they’re not for you anyway.
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