How to Ask People Out

Do you have any advice for a guy in a non-monogamous relationship who doesn’t know how to ask people out? I mean, I know how to—I’m in a relationship—but I have no experience in poly things. My ladyfriend has the advantage of other guys tending to be open to anything that leads to sex. That isn’t true on my side. Thanks!

Asking people out in a poly situation isn’t really substantially different from asking people out in a monogamous situation, so honestly, you’re already covered. What it sounds like you’re asking is how to avoid being told no.

You can’t. Sorry about that.

However, to cut down on the “no” ratio:

Leave off “cold calls” as they call them in the sales business. A 4% yes rate on a cold call is good, so that’s a lot of being shot down. Get to know people instead. Unless you want that as your strategy. You probably could contact 200 people on OKCupid and you’d likely get several dates. As a small business owner, I rely on that 4% cold call ratio to buy groceries for my kid, so I don’t know that it’s necessarily awful to get a date.

Hang out with poly people. I mean, seriously, most of the world at least tries to present as monogamous. You want to hang out with people who might be open to dating someone with a partner.

Be straightforward. You know from your monogamous dating experience and from your online reading that women really do, no kidding, like people with the guts to ask. We know it’s a risk. Many of us have asked people out, too, and been told no. Being willing and confident enough to take that risk does earn some attractiveness points to a lot of people.

30 thoughts on “How to Ask People Out

  1. E

    I’m a relatively inexperienced guy in a small but progressive town, and I’ve had very good luck with OKC.

    Basically I answered the poly-relevant questions (“Would you consider an open relationship?” “What would you do if someone in an open relationship asked you out?” – there’s a couple more, too), and then made affirmative answers on their parts mandatory. Don’t make much of anything else mandatory.

    This way, everyone who is a high match % with you will have expressed some interest in/recognition of polyamory.

    I’ve been ignored several times, turned down politely a couple of times, gone on dates with 3 people, and rejected dates from several more. And this is from a guy with no face picture on the site.

    From what I can tell you don’t really want to be converting someone to poly anyway – you’re much better off fishing in the pool of people who already know what it’s all about. They’re really not that hard to find if you put yourself out there even a tiny bit.

    1. Goddess of Java Post author

      I agree that you’re likely to have better luck dating people that are already polyamorous. I also find match percentages on OKC quite good. I am glad that you have had good luck.

    2. Stuart

      OkC newbie question… how do you choose which questions to answer? So far I seem to only have the option to answer one question (sex or true love; neither answer really works for me so I’m not sure what to do with that one). How do I go find the poly-relevant questions to pro-actively answer those ones the way you did?

      1. Goddess of Java Post author

        Go to your OKC profile. There will be a series of tabs below your picture. One of them says Questions. The more you answer (and many of them seem weird) the better your match.

        1. Stuart

          I found the Questions tab, but like I said, it’s only offering me the one question; I can’t find how to choose *which* questions I want to answer. Does it just randomly assign me questions which I can either answer or skip, and I keep doing that until the random process gives me the open relationship questions?

          1. Auros

            Actually, I think they have an algorithm that’s supposed to hand you whatever questions it currently thinks will do the most to improve its ability to disriminate among potential matches for you.

            But in terms of the user experience, it might as well be random. :-)

          2. plymouths

            You can go to the pages of friends and see their publicly answered questions and choose to answer those questions. So find a poly friend who has done a similar thing and when you click on their questions it should let you answer them.

  2. Sarah

    I disagree. Asking people out IS substantially different when you’re not single. If it’s someone you know well enough so they know you’re partnered, it means you’re outing yourself (which in some circumstances can mean introducing a lot of awkwardness into your relationship). If it’s someone you don’t know well you need to think about exactly when and how you are going to disclose your relationship status. (I opt for immediately but I can see why that’s not everyone’s choice.) If it’s someone who’s partnered but you think might be open, asking them could be considered insulting.

    So yeah, if you’re asking someone who knows you’re poly whom you know is available, it’s basically the same. But most of us do not lead lifestyles in which everyone knows. My husband and I are not “closeted” but it’s not something that comes up within large portions of our social circle (professional contacts, the kids’ soccer team, etc.). This dramatically changes what asking someone out entails.

    I’ll second the OKCupid recommendation. I date people I’ve met casually in real life too, but OKC lets you put the whole story out there really easily.

  3. Wade L

    Might I suggest part of the problem for us non-monogamous types is that there’s an extra raft of assumptions we have to work against.

    I’m a pretty shy guy. I’d never be like “Hey, you, I like your face, do you want to go on a date?” Instead I’ll be all friendly and such, flirt, and then be like “I’m going to do this thing on Thursday, sounds pretty cool…want to come?”

    This can lead to the dreaded “is this a date or not” thing, but honestly it works okay and things sort themselves out. If both folks want it to be a date, it’ll probably be one.

    But I’ve got so much extra explaining to do now that I’m in a polyamorous relationship. I have a girlfriend. She’s okay with me going out with you. My having a girlfriend doesn’t automatically make us going out /not/ a date.

    My biggest fear is I’ll make a connection with someone, they might get interested quickly, and by the time I’m all like “So, I have a girlfriend and…” they’re pissed off and angry and feel like they’ve been played.

    Obviously, I let folks know what type of relationship I’m in pretty quick. But it feels like it can be hard to work it into conversation naturally /quickly enough/ without it feeling forced. Or presumptuous. For mono people, asking someone out can be pretty quick and straightforward even with a stranger. For poly people – with any given potential, you’ve potentially got all kinds of explaining to do right up front, and that makes things seem pretty loaded.

    That’s the kind of poly-specific “how to ask people out” problem I’d love solutions to, myself. :)

    (And, like the original asker, I do find it is easier for my girlfriend than I simply because guys are far more proactive about going after her. It is a lot easier to explain things, I think, when you are receiving an advance instead of trying to make one).

  4. Robin Pierce

    I skimmed the answers and I didn’t see this one I offer up here: have the person you are in relationship go broach the person. I mean, you and your established sweetie go to a bar together. You see someone you would like to go out on a date with. Send your established sweetie to say to them, “Hi, Jack and I are in an open relationship, and he would like to go on a date with you, maybe coffee at Tableau next Saturday afternoon? That’s him over there….(and your sweetie turns and points you out, you give a little wave and a winning smile) and then hopefully either your established sweetie gets their phone number or waves you over to a conversation or maybe gets told ‘no, thanks’. But a lot of ‘no’ is not wanting to be an accomplice in someone who is cheating. With your sweetie doing the intro, they KNOW its all upfront.

    1. Sarah

      I’m glad this works for you, but I can’t imagine doing this or being responsive to it. It would sort of feel like being set up by someone’s mom or something. If fear-of-abetting-cheaters is a prospect’s main stated objection, then they can chat with other-partner then to solve that problem.

      1. Stuart

        Indeed. It also presupposes that your partner is interested in “looking” for the same thing as you, or at least in the same places – or that they’re willing to give up their own evening for the purpose of being your “wingman”.

        When you’re in a relationship, yes, you can mutually choose to delegate to each other some of your responsibilities to make life work more smoothly. But I don’t think the responsibility of initiating contact with people you want to date is one that really works to delegate, any more than you can delegate someone to go to the gym to get you more exercise.

  5. Auros

    Just to provide some bona fides on the idea that I think I’ve had some success at finding poly dates:

    I haven’t been in a monog relationship since ’98. I had two fairly serious monog relationships prior to that (neither of which was terribly functional), and two long-term, moved-in-together type relationships since then — roughly ’01 to ’03, ended due to incompatibilities totally unrelated to poly; and then mid-’04 to present, we’ve been married a little over a year. We have our issues to work through — who doesn’t, even if they’re both happily monog? — but I’m nuts about her (she’s the only woman I’ve ever been with for whom I’ve _considered_ giving up the option of other independent physical/romantic involvements), and I expect I’ll still be needing and feeding her when she’s 64, to paraphrase Sir Paul. :-)

    I’ve had maybe a dozen less-serious relationships, over the years, and at least another dozen short flings / one-night-stands / whatever, including encounters where somebody came to bed with both me and a longer-term partner.

    What works for me may not work for anyone else, but I feel like I’ve figured out what works for me pretty well, and I’ve been happy with my lot, in my romantic life, for a long time.

    I’ve always had the policy that I want to know my partner’s partners, at least socially, and I’ve always reserved the right to say that I _don’t_ feel comfortable with them, though it hasn’t happened often. (I know couples who have much looser policies, allowing for either of them to hook up with somebody with more spontaneity and only talk about it later, which I guess works if you’re both really into variety and freedom. I’m more introverted, though — inclined towards building up a small number of deep connections.) If my partner is interested in somebody, I’d like to chat with hir at a party, or even better in a one-on-one or small-group situation over dinner or tea/coffee (a double date works well if they also have a primary), _before_ my partner even broaches the subject of getting physically or romantically involved with hir. I want to feel comfortable with hir, and to _know that s/he knows_ who I am and that I’m definitely not going to disappear any time soon. You don’t have to say, when arranging that kind of meeting, that it’s a prelude to being asked on a more-than-friends date. You can maintain plausible deniability if things don’t seem to be flowing right to allow for the romantic thing. You were just doing dinner and a movie with friends, or carpooling to a club with one person planning to be designated driver, or (if you like to cook, as I do) having a fancy dinner party at one of your homes. On the fun side, the dinner party option allows for the possibility, if things _do_ flow really well, of suggesting that the four of you… adjourn to the drawing room, as it were. :-)

    In any case, I totally agree with the suggestion above that the very best way to find a new partner who’s OK with being poly is to just, in general, find poly people to hang out with AS FRIENDS first. Get online and find a local poly organization that runs munches or parties.

    Trying to initiate things with people who are not poly, and then explaining it to them, is going to lead to a lot of angst. (Singles bars? Seriously? SO not a good idea.) As Wade L suggests above, I’ve _always_ had the most success in dating — whether I was solo or already had one or more sombodies in my life — by making friends first, then figuring out whether the friendship can grow into something more, than in trying to ask somebody out cold. Even when I’ve flirted on OKCupid, I’ve always simply taken the approach of, “This is an interesting person. We have shared interests, they might be fun to hang out with and talk to. And if later we can rub squishy bits, that would be an awesome, but totally optional, bonus.” I’ve never listed myself as looking for anything on OKC, not even friends, and I’ve had a link to my { first-gf, then-fiancee, now-spouse }’s profile for over eight years… I still get maybe one contact every month or so, including a few that I liked enough that they resulted in meetings / “is this a date?” situations. Two of those eventually led to something more (_after_ having been introduced to the primary, obv).

    Your milage may vary, especially if you actually put effort into sending out contacts. But definitely spend enough time answering the questions to get to the poly-related ones, and make them Mandatory (or at least Very Important, even if you’re still theoretically open to meeting somebody for whom you’d give up on attempting to be poly).

    1. Auros

      I apparently can’t edit, so, for clarification, there’s a bit where I was saying something about OKC — it’s supposed to say that I have a link to my spouse’s profile _in my own profile_. Hopefully that was obvious from context already?

    2. Auros

      I’m really chatty today, apparently.

      The other thing I want to add to this is, as harsh as it may sound, if you live in a place where you really can’t find other poly folks to hang out with? Suck it up and MOVE.

      Gay people did it, for decades — moved from rural and suburban locales into urban centers, especially SF and NYC. You’re more likely to find a fulfilling relationship (or more than one!) if you go where there are more people who want the same things out of a relationship that you do. Date your own species! Don’t expect to “convert” a mundane. It ain’t gonna happen.

      There are big poly communities in many cities now. From my own experience, SF seems to be the biggest, probably followed by Boston and then NYC. But there are folks in DC, Denver, Austin, Seattle, Portland, LA. If you really find yourself unhappy with monogamy, and think you’d be happier in a poly community, you’re facing _exactly_ the same problem as folks who knew they wanted a same-sex relationship. And the same solution is called for.

      1. LT R

        Thanks a lot for your comments here. I’m new to poly, currently single, and it has been extremely helpful identifying some problems.

        On the issue of moving: I face a similar challenge, living in a medium-sized (300k people) town with no active poly community. Of course you don’t necessarily need a poly community. There are plenty of people you would call poly, but who don’t even know what “polyamorous” means.
        The question is then how small is “too small” and whether poly can realistically work in even smaller towns.

        1. plymouths

          Well I think the key bit there was “if you .. really can’t find other poly folks”. Nobody is going to tell you you have to move if you’re happy with your social situation! But some people just do better in, er, target rich environments :)

          1. Auros

            What she said.

            Also, the New England boonies are kind of special, in terms of social attitudes — and VERY different from rural areas in the Midwest or South. There’s a hybrid of liberal tolerance (so your neighbors aren’t likely to ostracize or persecute you), with libertarian “live free or die!” type ideals, which some people extend to the idea of wanting their partner up to leave them free to pursue any desire that doesn’t inflict direct harm on the partner. (I can think of a couple friends of my Boston friends who live across into rural New Hampshire who answer to this description.)

            And it’s not like you have to move to a really giant city to find folks, even in areas where the rural folks tend to be of the judgemental Xian variety. I’m told there’s a quite healthy poly and kinky community in Tucson, AZ, and in Albuquerque, NM.

  6. w-and-k

    You can also skip questions on OKC, or answer them for fun and then mark their relevance as low/not important.

    Don’t just answer the poly ones. Answer the sex-oriented questions and explain your answers. The high match numbers will attract like-minded suitors; the explanations will convince them to contact you.

  7. Robert

    So how would I ask someone out that knows that I’m in a relationship? Me and my girlfriend made the decision to be poly a few weeks ago and I have my eyes on someone, but she knows that I’m in a relationship. I don’t know her very well and I feel like I should just ask her to lunch or something, but I’m afraid she’d think I’m trying to cheat.

    1. Goddess of Java Post author

      “Hi. I’m interested in you and would like to go out. My girlfriend and I are polyamorous, so she knows I’m interested in asking you out and she’s cool with it. If you want to ask her, cool. Are you interested?”


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