Cheers Sexy People!
I am writing this blog post as a follow up to an earlier one, to continue my story on “coming out” to our family and friends about being polyamorous. The last post, I spoke about what lead up to the decision to “come out” including the reasons that we finally decided to take that brave step. This post will talk more about the nuts and bolts of HOW we went about it, and some of the reactions that we received.
Our small circle of lovers and poly-friendly friends already knew of course. But I can count on my fingers how many people this was at the time. My boyfriend, my sister and I were involved in putting on a Rocky Horror Picture Show-themed event together. My husband brought a married friend of ours as both a date and to help cheer us on. Given her being there without her husband, several other swing/poly friends in attendance and our desire to potentially start the process of “coming out”, my husband asked if he could tell my sister. Secretly relieved that he was doing it instead of me, I said “sure”! My sister, who’s super-cool, open-minded and one of my best friends, was not that surprised, and totally accepting. (A good thing too since she walked in on him kissing his date just an hour later!)
My sister knowing felt like a relief. Months later, we decided to continue “coming out” to more. We were quite nervous. We set up a dinner date with a sweet monogamous couple that we are close to, who seem to be open-minded. Frankly, they were our “guinea pigs” for getting the wording down. We practiced how we were going to approach this. We wanted to make sure we focused on the “more than one love” part of being polyamorous (and less on the negatively-received concept of “swinging” and casual sex). To simplify understanding, we mentioned that we have an open marriage, but then explained what the word “polyamorous” means. We explained that we each had a love interest that we have deep feelings for, and this really feels right to us personally. And then added that we wanted our close friends to know more about us, as an effort to let them into our lives more. We received a warm response, including things such as: “we kind of already figured that”, and “we love you guys no matter what, this doesn’t change anything,” and “thanks for telling us.” It was great. Success!
Next was beginning the journey of telling my old time friends near and far. Almost all of my old time friends are parents and monogamous… not that there’s anything wrong with that! It’s just that there is this big percentage of the population that is following the same path of traditional families with traditional values, whereas we are part of a minority of people that are following a very different, sometimes challenging path that we pioneer seemingly on our own. It can be quite a scary prospect to divulge these personal, intimate and very NON-traditional sides of ourselves to our loved ones. We don’t know how they will react, or if they will understand and accept us.
We chose to tell the next couple while we were on vacation with them, after the kids went to bed. Again, MAJOR butterflies and nervousness. Our “speech” was met with some silence… Uh oh. We started to babble at that point, adding that we were both former cheating serial monogamists, and it all seems so clear to us now that this is who we were all along. They asked some questions about “how long has this occurred?” and “what does this mean moving forward?” It all felt rather awkward. In the end, it was fine. They accepted us… well, by morning at least. I think they had to get used to not only the idea that we were polyamorous, but also accept why we hadn’t told them earlier. We explained that previously, we weren’t ready to talk about it, until WE were really ready to talk about it – after we made sure this was right for our marriage, and right for our lives.
Several months later, my husband confided in his mother (I let him do that one on his own). She was accepting, not all that surprised and has seen a lot in her life, so she understands. She and my husband did decide to not tell any other members of the family who would NOT understand or be supportive however. This one was surprisingly easy. Yay!
Later, an evening was coming up where my boyfriend was going to be attending an event with all of my old time friends from back home. I thought… this is it – I need to step up to the plate. The best metaphor I can come up with for how this all feels is… jumping off the high dive. Every summer as a kid, I would think… I’m going to jump off that high dive by summer’s end. All summer, I would work up the courage, and by the end of summer, I would DO IT and high five myself! Then when NEXT summer rolled around, the nervous anxiety would start all over again, only slightly diminished by already achieving it last summer. That’s what it feels like to me.
So I told some of my closest girlfriends and then gave them permission to tell their husbands (who are also my close friends, but there are only so many hours in the day to have these Big Important Conversations). I received a lot of the same positive, accepting responses. There was only one friend whose negative reaction blind-sided me, and it happened to be the one I was least worried about – I think I was a little lax on my wording as a result. Big mistake. Also, in hindsight, it should have been face to face instead of over the phone. It turned out that she was angry. But she wasn’t angry that I was polyamorous. She was angry that she missed the “old me”, and didn’t get to see enough of me in recent years. See, I’ve had several deaths in the family, and also found out that I cannot have my own biological children, thus I’ve had ALOT of grief to sift through. Is being polyamorous partly a band-aid for that? …If you call getting more and more love in your life a band-aid, well, then yes. I am trying to heal myself in whatever way I possibly can. We had an awkward and difficult conversation, where I had to try to understand her anger, while I explained that we all grieve in our own ways. And I’m simply not the same person I was several years ago, partly because of what I’ve been through, but also partly because of all of the personal growth that I have thankfully done.
So in summary, what we learned from our experience that can hopefully be of benefit to others:
- Don’t tell others until you are ready to, and have reflected on why you want to tell them. Will it help your relationship with them? Will it help you be more authentic?
- Give some serious thought as to what you plan to say, and practice having the conversation. Also, practice responding to their potential questions.
- Choose in what order you would like to tell people, preferably starting with someone you think you will get a positive reaction from to help ease yourself into this process.
- Be thoughtful about the where, when and how of it as well, including being gentle and caring with both your words and the process, doing it face to face if possible with plenty of time for questions to be asked, and indeed INVITE the questions.
- Don’t go overboard. Act like this is a natural part of your life, and then move on. Also, you don’t have to tell the whole world. Be choosy. And be timely.
No one said polyamory was easy. Heck, no one said life was easy. My goal: to connect sincerely with as many people as possible. To LOVE them as well as I possibly can. To leave a positive imprint on this world for as much time as I have. But also, we have to take care of ourselves first, before we can be there for our loved ones. One step at at time, and one foot in front of the other.
How about you? What have been your experiences, either with “coming out” or getting to the decision to do so? Or even just getting the nerve up to have a potentially difficult conversation of any kind?
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)
Great post! I like how you explained your story in a way that allows others to benefit from your experience. I’ve written out my “difficult conversations” on my blog. One thing I like about polyamory (speaking from almost no experience) is that, if done right, one must be committed to having such difficult conversations. You get lots of practice at communication and confronting emotional issues. I like people who can do that!
Well, thank you! I like people who can do that too (especially if I’m in a relationship with them. 🙂 ) Yes, I definitely think one must be able to handle difficult conversations, both in every day life (asking for that raise!), but definitely in relationships of all kinds, and CERTAINLY with polyamorous relationships. Yes, indeed, we do get ALOT of practice. And practice in this case doesn’t necessarily mean perfect, but you do increase your skills as well as your bravery. Yay for that!
I really like your posts about polyamory. I am currently engaged and I have a boyfriend. I have been having a difficult time with the situation because we are all close with our families and we have to keep it a secret. I have told my sister about my boyfriend and she was very accepting. My boyfriends parents have met me and they think I am single. I don’t want to lie to anyone anymore about whats going on. My boyfriend lives with his parents which makes it even more difficult. I know I want to wait to do anything until after the wedding, but I don’t know how to talk about it or if I even should. His parents are going to want to meet my family soon, once they see how serious we are, and my whole family just thinks hes a friend except my sister so I don’t know what to do.. any advice would be greatly appreciated
Thank you so much for commenting, and for sharing your story. I really empathize with your situation. I am happy to reply here to your question but also feel free to write me personally via the contact form and we can discuss offline if you wish. 🙂
I will answer based on my own experience and those of my close poly friends and lovers. Being engaged is a very exciting time and there are lots of eyes on you. I applaud you for telling your sister and I am glad that that went well. It truly is a balancing act deciding when to tell people, with ‘your own privacy’ and ‘openness to our loved ones’ at opposite ends of the spectrum. Secret keeping can be exhilarating and feel special, but we have found that over time, it takes its toll on you and your loved ones. At the end of day, I would imagine that most of us do not want to be someone else’s “dirty little secret”.
My gut reaction is that if you wait until after your wedding to tell your BF’s parents, they MAY have feelings of betrayal, confusion and distrust. Also, having your BF’s parents who think you are his GF meet YOUR parents who think he is just a friend sounds to me like a small recipe for disaster partly given the timing of your engagement/wedding… at the very least, it sounds like a potentially awkward and emotionally scary situation with a minefield of potential problems. I am certainly not trying to persuade you to do anything. This is your decision and a very personal one at that.
For a period of time (well over a year), my close friends thought my BF was just a friend. But I have been married for a number of years already, and also both of my parents are deceased (and my BF hardly ever sees his parents). So there were fewer family members to tell. His brother and my sister both know and are very accepting. (my husband only told his mother and won’t tell other members because we don’t see them often and they don’t need to know and might not react well).
What does your sister think? How about your BF? Your fiancé? I would recommend talking it over thoroughly with them and try to come up with the best game plan that you can that helps protect feelings, limits confusion and that everyone can get behind and support moving forward. Be gentle with yourself but your loved ones too. Take their feelings into account as much as you are able. I wish you the best of luck, my friend! I’m sure in the end, everything will work out fine. And congrats on your upcoming wedding!
Great post, really enjoyed it. It’s a great example about how to think things through and express them carefully, especially where important personal relationships are at stake.
A few more points to consider:
1) When deciding how out you want to be or can be, you should include your other partners (besides your “official” socially recognized partner) in that discussion, and take their feelings and needs into account. Often, non-primary partners are asked or expected to be complicit in concealing their own relationships — which can really suck and feel disrespectful, especially if those relationships have become very important in your life. Or they may have their own needs or preference to remain closeted.
2) Consider clearly why you are in the closet: what you want to keep (i.e., social status, peace in your family of origin, child custody or a job, etc.) and what you fear (losing relationships with friends or family, facing social stigma and unwanted questions, ostracism, etc.) When you consider these goals clearly, often there are multiple ways to achieve them that don’t involve staying closeted.
3) Consider clearly what you will gain by being out. Not just no longer having to self-edit, lie, conceal people and relationships you value, live in fear of discovery, etc… But also, consider that by being out you’re making the world a friendlier place for all poly people. That is, you’re making it less likely that people like you will have to hide who they are in the future, because you’re becoming part of the new normal.
4) You don’t really control the information. Whenever anyone knows something about you (whether you’ve told them, or they see something, or hear a rumor, etc.) you are no longer in control of the information about yourself and your relationships. If you do choose to stay closeted in any contexts, think through a contingency plan for how to deal with being outed in a time and manner not of your choosing. That requires as careful consideration as you put into how to out yourselves.
More on this: http://solopoly.net/2013/06/03/the-poly-closet-its-not-not-just-about-you/
Thank you for commenting and for the information (and the compliment of course). Ironically, I had already started a draft blog post with this VERY LINK from your blog, HAHA so great minds think alike. If it is OK with you, that future blog post will not only have that link in it, but also quote you from this comment so that it goes directly into my reader’s inboxes vs. being buried in the comments on this older post. Thanks for helping contribute to my blog and the poly community at large. 🙂 We all appreciate it.
Cool, glad it was useful.
Here’s my blog post where I share your thoughts as well as your blog itself. Enjoy! And thanks for contributing! You rock!