Yep, Having to Discover That You’re Deep in an Open Relationship Sums up the Current Dating Landscape

Photo: Getty Images/Anchiy
When my devastated super-monogamous friend told me that her Bumble hookup had been hiding his open relationship from her, I all but texted “Mazel Tov!” while Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” played in my head. At least in the Big Apple, it seems that only the Bronx Zoo swans and like five human singles are monogamous, so this bait-and-switch experience is basically a sad Bat Mitzvah of sorts.

In recent years, along with the rise of app culture, dating has been all about diversifying your options. Part of that means normalizing open relationships and/or polyamory, which isn't necessarily bad news since ethical non-monogamy can be healthy. In fact, one study by the University of Guelph showed that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships “experience the same levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships."

But take note of the word “consensual,” which here means everyone was involved with other partners, and more importantly, everyone was aware of said other partners. And if non-monogamy isn't your thing (which is totally acceptable), finding out your new fling has other flings or even a full-blown serious relationship other than you is off-putting. Suffice it to say that this specific omission is a weird catfish aspect of dating that’s breeding all sorts of chaos in the appverse and elsewhere. And it really begs the question: Can someone monogamous date someone polyamorous without it being, like, searingly painful for everyone involved?

“Just like someone who’s separated and claims they’re already divorced, you’ll find some in polyamorous relationships not admitting it from the onset, so they can get matched with more people.” —Julie Spira, online-dating expert and matchmaker.

“Part of having a successful relationship is being on the same page with your relationship type and goals,” says Julie Spira, online-dating expert and matchmaker. “These days on apps, it’s not unusual for someone to state they’re in a polyamorous relationship and seek the same. But just like someone who’s separated and claims they’re already divorced, you’ll find some in polyamorous relationships not admitting it from the onset, so they can get matched with more people.”

And I loudly say to that—not to polyamory, but to deceptive behavior—HELL NO, DO NOT DO THAT. Sure it's common to dabble in a little bit of deception when we start dating someone, right? (I’ve lied about having heard of so many bands that I actually haven't.) But to hide from someone that you have another S.O. until the morning after, over breakfast sammies and cold brew, is shady. Even if it’s "totally cool” with your main partner(s) and thus "technically" not cheating, it’s disrespectful to not check if it’s totally cool with the other person in question.

So now what? Should people in an open/poly relationships identify that in their bio, and, on the defensive flip side, should monogamous folks do the same? Spira suggests being upfront and transparent about your preferences (just like in any relationship) and to move cautiously from there. Whether or not a one-partner-preferred person can find long-term happiness with someone who likes to stay more open depends on the specific case—but it's likely going to be a challenge.

“More often than not, the person who is happy in a monogamous relationship will get attached to the poly person they’re dating, so setting boundaries and rules on how to make it work from the onset is important,” Spira says. “One of three things will happen: The poly partner might decide they’d like to be monogamous with one person, the monogamous person will learn to accept polyamory or even try to be polyamorous, or more likely, one person will fade away because their needs and rules aren’t being met.”

Really it just boils down to being an honest, good person and trying to date mindfully regardless of how you identify. "It’s possible to date someone when you’re poly and they’re monogamous, as long as you state that you’d like the arrangement to remain this way," Spira says. "Once someone decides to change the rules, it’s time to renegotiate your relationship or move on."

Remember, this isn’t about music taste; it’s about concealing a lifestyle choice that impacts more than one person, effectively robbing someone of the agency to make an informed decision. And whether this specific situation is common or not (and here's to hoping it doesn't spread beyond the tri-state area), it’s always a bummer when a relationship stops cold because someone told a half-truth. So, no matter your preference, be upfront, honest, and true to yourself and your desires. And if you absolutely have to tell a lie, make it about something as insignificant as bands you listen to.

If polyamorous and monogamous people can date happily, can carnivores and vegans make it work? Whatever your preferences, here's how to define your relationship like a grown-up.

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