I have been practicing polyamory for about three years and at one point was in a somewhat-unhealthy V with myself (a woman) and two straight men. I was very invested in both of them, but I found that all the work and research of figuring out how exactly poly works and how to handle conflicts in a healthy way was pretty much left to me, with the other two preferring to just pretend everything is fine. Now I'm in another V with one of the prior partners and a partner who is completely new to polyamory. He and my other partner have a good dynamic, but now the new partner wants to see other people. My concern though is that since he knows basically nothing about polyamory beyond the fact that he has been dating me for about a month, for him seeing other people might just mean casual sex or a don't-ask-don't-tell sort of situation, which is not something I'm comfortable with. However, I'm still really burned out from the last V and I don't have the capacity right now to educate another complete newbie on how he should ethically navigate his own version of polyamory. Should I have just avoided this relationship (which came out of a friendship) if I feel this way still? Is there any way to compromise on this? Should I just abandon what I have been told and have learned through my experience and let whatever happens happens?
I have to first gently say that I understand your nervousness here as a recovering control freak myself. You’re made nervous knowledge that he may be out there, without you, doing things and having conversations where you’re not there to guide and correct, and that’s a glass house that I definitely live in, so I’ll try not to throw stones.
But while a feeling may be understandable, that doesn’t mean that it is guiding you toward reasonable choices. It’s condescending and misguided to try and prevent this person from dating other people because you don’t trust him to be good at it yet. You’re either willing to be in a polyamorous relationship with this guy, or you’re not. There are no training wheels he must earn permission to take off, that’s now how relationships between adults work.
You use the word “might” to describe what you think he might be intending, but don’t work up worries based on something you’re just assuming. Talk to him about your concerns and your desires - let him know what you are and aren’t okay with. Don’t just “tell” him what healthy polyamory is, “show” him by modeling these safe, open conversations. Make sure he knows your definition and expectations of polyamory, and ask if he is on the same page. But this is a way for you to clarify your needs and discuss the direction your relationship is heading - NOT an exam to make sure he’s properly certified to go out and practice polyamory on his own.
It’s so tempting to think that, as long as you’re 50% of any relationship or conversation, you can keep things under control. And it’s then easy to believe that, without your presence or input, things will go off the rails. But you’re going to have to let go of that, and figure out whether you trust yourself to manage future metamour-issues, and whether you trust him to be growthful and honest with you as he learns.
If you really aren’t up to the task of dating someone who’s new to polyamory, you can gracefully exit this relationship. Or, you can see where things go - he might take to this like a duck to water, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Or, maybe you let him know your concerns and he explains that he actually does want lots of casual/DADT hookups, and you two determine mutually that your relationship styles aren’t a good match. Or, perhaps you try this with him, and realize that he is creating drama or tension on a level you’re not comfortable with, and then you act on that information to leave the relationship. You have lots of options here! But asking him not to date other people until you’re convinced that he’s ‘leveled up’ enough to do so in a healthy way isn’t one of them.