How do I talk about incompatibility with an experienced partner? | I'm Poly and So Can You

I had one poly relationship that didn't work out. It was the pairing, not the philosophy, that didn't work out. My partner was the one who introduced me to polyamory. How do you bring up this topic with a new partner? How do I bring this up without making the other person feel like they aren't enough? Do you know of any apps for polyamory?

I believe you’re expressing your self-consciousness over not having much polyamory “experience”, but my apologies if I’m misinterpreting your question. Assuming I’m not, this is certainly not something to be too concerned about. You can’t fake or rush “experience”; you can only live and learn until you’ve acquired it, and be transparent with partners and potential partners along the way.

Seasoned poly folks are often wary of people who are relatively new to alternative relationships in the same way that a queer person may be wary of dating someone who’s newly “out”. There’s a very valid reason for this: We (generally) don’t enjoy being someone’s “experiment”, especially as we age and begin prioritizing the stability and sustainability of our relationships. Some poly folks will take a chance and go out on a first date with a noob, and some will only date people with ___ years of non-monogamy behind them. That being said, I’m currently in a relationship with someone who had never done poly before dating me, and we’re coming up on our four year anniversary, so success stories totally exist!

There are a few things you can do to make yourself extra attractive to a seasoned poly pro. First, be up front about your lack of experience. Don’t falsify more experience than you have, but don’t set yourself up for failure by acting ashamed or apologetic about it, either. You have nothing to be self-conscious about; you’re on a journey, not taking a test. There’s a specific time period in every new flirtation when the two parties organically exchange information about past relationships, and at that point you can share that your previous partner was the source of your first poly experience. The fact that you parted over compatibility reasons that were unrelated to open relationship “philosophy” - as opposed to breaking up because the poly itself wasn’t working for you - is much less of a red flag for potential new poly partners.

Second, do your research. Consume work by Tristan Taormino, Dossie Easton & Janet W. Hardy, Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert, Marcia Baczinski, Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha, Reid Mihalko, and other “sexperts” in the field. Search on Facebook and/or Fetlife for polyamory community pages and events. Make friends who are polyamorous and cultivate sounding-board-style relationships with them. Commit to acquiring knowledge, being ethical, making mistakes, and doing no harm. Commit to the adventure and the personal evolution. Before you know it, you’ll be in your groove.

Oh, and also, no, I’m not aware of any specific “apps for polyamory”, but do let me know if you find any!

Andre Shakti