Advice – How should you flirt as a non-monogamous person?

So this situation is happening all the time to me: I’m at a party with my GF, and I meet a girl I’m interested in, and she’s being friendly but ignoring my flirting attempts. If she’s just not into me or not interested in intimacy with someone taken that’s fine but how do I find out? I can’t just be like “oh by the way I’m in an open relationship so this is fine,” when she doesn’t even acknowledge my flirting attempts and it’s far too early to be this upfront.

There are situations where someone will reciprocate without addressing the elephant in the room, or just say “what is going on?” and I get the chance to explain, or situations where I can elegantly drop a hint or bring it up in a conversation and out myself. But very often my nonverbal cues get ignored or I just don’t know how to do the next step without making it awkward.

Often times we will add each other on Facebook or she will become part of a circle of friends, making it even more awkward, because then it’s the whole “how do I approach a friend” deal but in hard mode. This creates a different situation and I’d like advice on both.

My GF can be an amazing wingwoman and girls ease up considerably with her encouragement (or just start making out with her instead) but she doesn’t actually want to be involved in my awkward hookup attempts.

I know this isn’t the most efficient method and I could try apps or swinger parties or go clubbing alone or go to a sex worker instead. My question isn’t where I can find hookups, it’s how to bring up your open relationship with friends and strangers you’re interested in or make sure your nonverbal rejection isn’t just because of a misunderstanding.

/u/CrispyCyanide, /r/nonmonogamy.
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

Dear Crispy Cyanide,

It is very important to remember that even as different variations of ethical non-monogamy gains traction in the modern dating atmosphere, monogamy is still the presumed relationship orientation for most folks. As you have experienced, that makes cold approaching folks with non-mono romantic/sexual intention nearly impossible.

About nine months ago, I gave someone else a basic roadmap to forging a connection with someone new. In that post, I outlined three functional step-by-step process to engage with someone new out in the wild. But I didn’t go too into detail about what different methods there are to gauge initial interest, especially if you are regularly encountering new potential interests.

First is to gauge their general interest / knowledge in non-monogamy. You can do this in a couple different ways. You can mention the prevalence of non-monogamy by referring to a show or a movie you watched lately that had non-monogamy in it. The purpose of this specific first step is three-fold. First is that it gives you an easy “out” in case they are definitely not interested in non-monogamy full stop. If they shut down the conversation at the briefest mention of non-monogamy, then this particular connection was never meant to be sexual or romantic in nature. Second is that because this discussion starts off at a distance, (if you’re not already out as non-monogamous) it gives you a reasonable way to still remain in the non-mono closet. This step also has the advantage of naturally introducing the topic of non-monogamy into the conversational space, which flows nicely into our second step where you can talk more about what your non-mono experience has been like.

Photo by Tove Liu on

A more in-depth and risky first step is by casually asserting that you are in a non-monogamous relationship yourself. Personally, I am already out to my family and friends as polyamorous, but I sometimes just mention “one of my partners” or “my partner’s other partner(s)” in conversations with my acquaintances or potential interests to see if they’d catch on. This option is much more preferable if you’re out. But since your situation only applies to new friends or strangers, this also opens you up to the risk of the word getting out that you are in a non-monogamous relationship with your partner (which is already an inherent risk in pursuing friends) or a negative reaction to your relationship orientation (which too is already an inherent risk in practicing ethical non-monogamy).

This alternative first step also helps you get past the initial awkwardness. While you aren’t directly declaring your interest, you are still indicating your availability. If the initial feedback is negative, then you can either disengage or elaborate on what your own experiences have been like.

The third and last option is to be direct and upfront about your relationship orientation and interest. Just lay it on straight that you are in a non-monogamous relationship with your girlfriend, and that you are interested in them. This option works best if you already know this person is single or available. If you are finding that your non-verbal cues are whiffing, this is a great way to get an immediate feedback – whether it is positive or negative. So you won’t have to play a guessing game. It has the same risks as the second option with the added risk of outright rejection.

The last thing I’ll mention is that having a reputation as a shameless flirt who hits on everyone is not always a good reputation to have. Be mindful of others’ social expectations, acknowledge that not everyone is cool with being hit on, and move on upon rejection.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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