My previous post discussed all different variations of ethical non-monogamy. So I wanted to do a deeper dive into different variations within polyamory. I’ll start by comparing what it is like to date separately and dating together, from the general perspective of an existing partnership opening up for the first time. I will talk more about nonpartnered polyamory (for example, solo poly) and what long-term polyamory might look like in a future post.
Different styles of polyamory essentially boils down to two essential questions.
- Are you dating separately/alone or together with other partner(s)?
- Are there any explicit (prescriptive) hierarchies carrying over from existing relationship(s)?
I will be tackling the first question on this post.
This is actually quite a contentious topic to discuss in some online polyamory communities. There are definite benefits each to dating separately and dating together.
A lot of folks opening up their relationships for the first time heavily lean towards dating together. Major part of that motivation is driven by insecurity (i.e. I don’t want to miss out on my partner doing amazing things). It is also marginally easier to imagine and envision “adding a third” to their existing relationship. Dating together also opens it up to more obvious group dynamics. In addition, triads/throuples has also had quite a bit of media exposure in Shameless (Showtime) and You Me Her (Audience).
Dating together also has a lot of downsides. For one, dating together is incredibly complicated. Here is an example. Let’s say that there is a triad consisting of three people, A, B, and C. A triad has seven total connections to maintain. A to B, B to A, A to C, C to A, B to C, C to B, and A & B & C all together. In comparison, a traditional dyad between A and B only has two connections: A to B and B to A. Dating together also is really difficult because a “third” is rarely ever an equal leg of the relationship being built. I will go into a bit more about couple privileges and hierarchies in the next section of this post. The biggest downsides of dating together is in how few people are actually interested in dating a couple, especially one that has already been well-established. Considering at least two people would need to be bisexual for a het-triad (or three gay folks for a gay-triad) to function also further limits the scope.
Dating alone/separately also has its pros and cons. One of the many upsides of dating alone is you just have more options available. Since you don’t have to exclusively look for bi/pan partners, there are more people who are available to date. In addition to the freedom, hinge relationships are a lot easier to navigate. If B is the hinge partner from that previous example of A, B, and C, then there are four connections to maintain (A to B, B to A, B to C, and C to B). But the biggest advantage to dating separately is in the relative autonomy. As a hinge partner, you are mostly in control of your own relationships.
There are some obvious downsides to dating separately as well. One of the major downsides (in comparison to dating together) is that you’ll just have less time. Because there isn’t an overlap between different partners, people who date separately will find that they’ll have to segment and partition their time and make the best use of smaller time frames into higher quality time with each of those partners. Another major downside of of dating separately is that there is a bit more pressure on the hinge partner to expertly navigate different boundaries and agreements among different partnerships. That can be really difficult to manage for folks exploring non-monogamy for the first time. Managing metamour conflicts and relationships can be challenging as well, especially since there isn’t really a pre-determined script to follow for how to form a connection with your partner’s other partner.