Poly Rules: Contacting A Third

In this series, I’ll discuss rules that poly couples (in dyads, triads, and quads) choose in order to manage their relationships respectfully.


When I say contact, I refer to any established connection between two people. In poly relationships this has two levels: if A and B are together, and B starts seeing C, then A and C might also want to get to know one another, whether or not they become romantically involved. This means the couple AB will probably determine some agreements regarding not only when and how often B and C see one another, but also whether A and C will, depending on what is comfortable for all three individuals in this scenario.

Seasoned poly people often have little problem with this. A and C already have B in common and so treat one another kindly, maybe even with sexual interest, and often there’s a spark between them too. Sometimes couples date a third and a threesome dynamic ensues, with combinations of AB, AC, BC, and ABC resulting. Usually, though, with couples who are newer to poly life, opening up their relationship means each person dates new people of their own choosing while trying to maintain the primary connection. Here’s where the rules come in handy.

In my very first poly relationship, I was the first to go on a date with someone else. My partner, “A”, asked some questions about “C” to try and understand who he was and where he was coming from. C didn’t want to be tied down, but he’d also had no experience with non-monogamy. After dating C for about a month, A told me he wanted to meet him – alone. I was a bit taken aback, and nervous for them to meet without me there as a buffer, but I trusted A so I handed over the reigns. A called C and they had coffee for an hour. Later A told me he felt much better; he thought C was a cool guy and he’d had a chance to let him know that our relationship was important to him. I’ll never know what else was discussed. C told me that A was really nice, and that although he’d thought the meeting felt strange at first, he realized it was important to A (but not to C) that they should meet. Both A and C identify as straight, so there would be no question about romantic involvement between them. After this, they never had contact again.

This example, though true, is not the process I would suggest if your A and C want to meet. As the only woman in the scenario, I felt a bit patronized that A didn’t want me there when he met C – as though he was “looking out” for me. I heartily suggest a casual meeting with all three people involved – maybe  lunch, or drinks on a patio. Chances are, if A and C recognize that you like them both, they might benefit from knowing one another too! Great friendships can be born this way.

Once one of you begins to date another, it’s important to decide on how to split your time. In the above example, I would stay with C one night a week, and A and I filled in the blanks. C wanted something very casual, so this worked out for everyone involved. How often you spend time with your new lover might change depending on the lover – people all have different needs, and some are busier than others. While the rules are meant to make both the A and B partners happy, don’t forget that C has to be consulted too, so the rules you set with A prior to meeting C may require flexibility.

In the end, everyone must feel that they are being heard and accommodated. The rules are only a set of agreements to help organize poly life; they, like you, might change and grow as you become more experienced at understanding yourself and your boundaries.

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