Tag Archives: Coming Out Polyam

Explaining Polyamory: Negative Reactions

Mostly grammar and typo fixes here, but I also updated info on how things turned out for me when I got some of these reactions and removed some of emphasis on being polite to people who are being assholes. While I still believe that being polite to people you love who are reacting badly can sometimes keep bad from from becoming “burnt to the ground and sown with salt,” it’s ultimately up to you and we certainly don’t owe politeness to people who are treating us badly. 8/23/17

It would be great if we could be sure of getting acceptance and support from friends and family. The reality is, pure ’nilla monogamous relationships often don’t get the support of family and friends, so it isn’t surprising that non-traditional relationship styles can cause less-than-stellar-reactions from the people we care about.

Thankfully, people who love us are more likely to go for a neutral reaction, and at least try and understand. But negative reactions are way more common than any of us likes. I hope you never need to deal with any of these, but here are a few of the bad reactions you might run into – and a few suggestions that may help you get through it.

I don’t know what to think about this, please don’t tell anyone else, I’m afraid of how X will react (runs and tells the whole family about your horrid choice and how awful it is)

Dishonest, manipulative, and mean, this is worse than someone who rejects. This is someone who rejects, lies to you about it, and then sabotages your chance to discuss your life with who you want, when you want, plus spreading gossip behind your back.

On the surface, this looks like one of the neutral reactions. They may really just need time to deal with their own reaction before dealing with other people’s reactions. You just can’t know if this is an honest, neutral reaction or a dishonest, bad reaction until the gossip gets back to you, possibly months later.

Ultimately, the people who care will ask you about it directly about gossip they hear or will listen to your side with an open mind when you approach them yourself. The people who believe the gossip without at least listening to your perspective are people who probably wouldn’t have accepted your lifestyle anyway. Which sucks beyond belief. IMO, the best you can do in this situation is treat it like an honest request for time, possibly make it clear that you want to be the one to tell others in your own time, but you will wait while this person has time to think for a few weeks (or however long).

I don’t want to hear this.

As negative reactions go, this one… isn’t the worst. This person is utterly refusing to listen and rejecting your relationships. But they aren’t being dishonest about it, aren’t rejecting you, aren’t going into a moral rant. They are basically saying ’I recognize this is your decision, but I don’t like it and I don’t want to know about it.’ It’s their right to feel this way. Let it go, and don’t bring it up again. Don’t try and introduce your OSOs, and just let it be. If you don’t want to go to family or holiday parties where all your partners aren’t welcome, decline any invitations, and explain why when you are asked. How much of a relationship you maintain with them is up to you. In the past, I’ve tried to include people like this in my life as much as possible. We usually end up drifting apart over time.

Long lecture about immorality/shameful behavior/sin/disappointed in you/etc etc

This person is either a parent or someone who thinks they have a right to act like your parent. You can listen to the end or cut them off, which ever suits you best, and tell them that you are sorry they feel this way, but you will live your life the way you choose. It is up to them if they wish to be a part of your life in spite of their beliefs, and you hope they will eventually understand and accept.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything else you can do in this circumstance unless you are ready to just cut them off and never talk with them again. These people aren’t going to listen to anything you have to say, feel they have some authority over you and are likely to continue to pull this crap. Personally, I’ll politely listen through the first lecture, explain that it is my life and they have no say in it, and that I want to continue our relationship but will not allow them to dictate my life. After that, if I see them at a family gathering or whatever and they start another lecture, I will walk away without saying anything.

Angry/yelling/denouncing/etc etc – Angry reactions can take a lot of forms, but all basically tell you the same thing. For whatever reason, this person is hurt by and rejecting your choice and is turning that hurt into anger. Their anger will usually be directed at you or possibly the person they believe ’lured you into it’. Get up and leave. As much as it may hurt, do not stay to be abused this way. Tell them you love them, you are sorry that your choice has hurt them, and when they calm down, you can try talking again. Then leave.

Once they calm down, they may take any other imaginable reaction, including coming to you and saying ’I’m sorry, I love you and support you, and I’m going to try and understand.’ A different one of the negative reactions is more likely than a positive reaction, but positive reactions after calming down and thinking can happen. You’ll just need to deal with whatever other reaction they have as it comes.

Shut down/ice

This person will not go into a rage, lecture, or really say anything at all. They just shut you or your choice out. In the ’better’ form of this, they will still welcome you in their life but will turn icy and shut out any attempt at discussing your lifestyle. They are, then, basically trying to pretend that you never told them anything. It is up to you whether you let them pretend, or choose not to be a part of your life.

The more extreme version of this is when they choose to shut you out. They may or may not say anything immediately, but after this conversation, they will not speak with you again, not return your phone calls, and ignore you at family gatherings where you bump into each other.

There is a third form this can take, which is also very hurtful and can be confusing until you figure out what is going on. The person is friendly and polite, gives a neutral reaction to your explanation, and you part on good terms. They will invite you to holiday and other events the rest of the family is invited to because it is expected. They will be socially polite and say how much they’ve missed you since they last saw you. But if you try to call them, they will not answer, if you invite them somewhere, they will decline, basically they will put on a mask of good feeling at any event they feel they must, for politeness sake, include you in, but otherwise shut you out. If this is someone you were never very close to, this probably won’t make any difference in your interactions – if you only saw them on holidays and weddings and funerals, you may not even notice any difference. If you were very close to them, getting together regularly, talking on the phone, whatever, this can be extremely hurtful.

Unfortunately, I have not found any productive or useful responses to these reactions. The best you can do is cut them out of their life if it gets too hurtful to deal with.

Disown you

This is the reaction many polyam folk and people in other alternative lifestyles live in terror of. Thankfully, it actually is fairly rare. Most people who love us will at least try to either bring us to our senses or understand why we have made the choice to be polyamorous. This person tries to do neither. They will simply tell you that you are no longer their relative/friend, and they never want to see you again.

All you can do is walk away and grieve. In time, they may change their mind, especially if other family members still welcome you in their lives. But right now, that is little comfort.

“Beat the devil out of ’im”/Abusive ’intervention’

Okay, I had a serious debate with myself about including this one, but it IS a possible reaction to someone learning about polyamory, and unlike the other possible reactions, it is DANGEROUS. Reality is that it is (thank god) rare. But it does happen. And even something that only happens one time in a million is one time too many if you are that one. If you think anyone you know could react like this, make sure they have no power or authority over you. Get out of their house if you live with them, get a job or other income if you depend on them financially, get help from friends or other family, get the hell out. Do NOT talk with these people about polyamory. If you absolutely must tell them for some reason, send a letter when you are someplace where they cannot influence you. If you cannot get out and away from these people, make sure that some one you trusts knows about your fears and will be prepared to help if things go wrong and they find out about your lifestyle from another source. Thankfully, most of us will never need to deal with this kind of horror, but if you know someone who is like this, protect yourself.

Wrapping Up

I wish none of you would ever need to deal with any negative reactions. Unfortunately, chances are that if you choose to live openly as a polyamorous person, you will run into at least one, and likely several negative reactions from people you care about. I wish there was more advice or help that I could offer. Keep your head up, and hold onto the positive reactions you get. Good luck.

This post is part of the

Explaining Polyamory Blog Series.

 

(Originally posted June 2012)

Explaining Polyamory: Preparation

Minor edits for grammar and readability. Not much has changed here. 7/13/2017

Sorry for the late update. Last week I introduced the Culture Gap, which has a huge influence on how people react to polyamory. This week I’m going to get into some of the how-tos for explaining polyamory. And if anyone has any suggestions or thoughts that I miss, please leave them in the comments.

How to Explain Polyamory

Almost every person in an alternative relationship faces the question eventually – do I tell X about my lifestyle, and if I do, how? Telling someone you love about a non-mainstream lifestyle is scary, because like it or not, people are judgemental, and telling the truth doesn’t always bring acceptance – sometimes it destroys a relationship.

But polyamory is built on openness and honesty, and damn it how can we say we are living openly and honestly when we are hiding from the people who are most important to us? So we bite the bullet, sit down . . . and have really awkward conversations.

There is no way to make these conversations easy, but there are ways to make them a little less awkward and maybe a little less scary.

The first ’rule’ of explaining polyamory is one of the hardest: don’t have expectations. It’s as predictable as Murphy’s law – every time I or someone I know has gone into a discussion explaining polyamory expecting it to go well, it’s been difficult and painful and horrendous. Everytime I or someone I know has expected a difficult or painful discussion, it went well. Our expectation may have influenced the outcome – that by going in overconfident for an easy discussion we created problems or going in prepared for a difficult discussion we made it easier that it would otherwise have been.

Regardless, expectations make the whole thing harder on you. Expectations reinforce and strengthen the rollercoaster of emotions – hope and fear and love and need and anger and . . . yeah. Just don’t go there. Try and keep an open mind and not expect any specific outcome or reaction.

Next, go in prepared. Is there information do you want your loved one to have? What questions can you answer? Overall, what you need to tell your loved one is that ’This lifestyle makes me happy. I am aware of potential problems and am prepared to deal with them.’ Which means before you have this discussion, you’d better make sure you have thought through the problems.

Obviously, if you’ve been in polyamorous relationships for ten years, you’ve probably already dealt with all the problems, but remember your loved one is coming in flat footed. Stuff that is old hat to you will be a big deal to them. So maybe take some time to think about how you can address the common problems and concerns—even if you know they aren’t real problems.

Don’t be afraid to back yourself up with some research. If you know your loved one listens to facts, dig up some of the studies done on polyamory. Psychologists have been investigating non-monogamy for long enough to say that it is indeed a healthy and viable lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the hardest problems to prepare for are religious and moral objections. Beliefs just don’t respond to facts. Hell even when a person’s moral objections contradict the teachings of their own religion they aren’t likely to listen. All you can do is be prepared to emphasize that your beliefs are not those of the person you are talking to and you have a right to your own faith and morality.

(Originally posted May 2012)

This post is part of the Explaining Polyamory blog series

Polyamory and Children Guest Blog: Marmoset, Metamour and Ice Cream

Sadly, The Poly Man Whore stopped updating his blog a couple years ago, but you can still check out his old posts. Reposted: June 15, 2017

A few months ago, The Poly Man Whore put up a blog post about the night he and his daughter (the Marmoset) met his wife’s boyfriend (Mister Alvin). He’s been good enough to let me share some of his post, for an inside look on  how one poly family handles the first meet between kids and metamours.

My daughter, The Maromset, just met my wife’s boyfriend, Alvin. She shared the story at circle time at school. She saw Miss Jeanette all the time, but it was the first time that she met Mister Alvin. Even to a five year old, that is a Big Deal. The grown-up version of the double date was just as entertaining, so now is the time for me to share during circle time.

Mrs. Manwhore went over to Mister Alvin’s house, and then the two of them drove to Allyoucaneat-iban Sushi. Miss Jeanette came over to my house, so we met them there. Marmoset and her now-adult brother stayed home, with the promise of going to Tastee-Tastee Yogurt after dinner.

I’ve chatted with Alvin before when my wife and he would Facetime or Skype or talk on the speakerphone and I knew he was a decent enough guy, clearly caring deeply for Mrs. Manwhore, good sense of humor… Still, I got the feeling he was very willing to not like me at all. He is very new to the whole poly thing and I am sure he was concerned with how I would react to meeting the “man who is having sex with my wife.”

We walked into Allyoucaneat-iban and finally, he and I met. He had a good handshake and a nice smile. The Mrs. was very obviously nerve-wracked. The two of them sat across from Jeanette and me. The stress seemed to melt away pretty quickly, to me, anyway. My wife later told me that she was sweaty and stomach-clenchy all night long, but I thought it went really well…

After dinner, Jeanette and I went home to collect the Marmoset and had to Tastee-Tastee Yogurt. She was squeaking with excitement on our way over there, and when we got out of the car she went straight up to him and said, “Hi, Mister Alvin! I’m Marmoset!” She put her hand out, gave him a real handshake, and then went skipping off to the door of the yogurt store. I could not possibly be prouder of her.

Meanwhile, I took my wife aside and we had a little pep talk check-in moment. She was still very nervous. Hug, kiss, high-five, off we go! Inside for yogurt. Naturally, Marmoset’s concoction was of a singular magnitude, containing bits of stardust and faerie wings and cookie dough. We did some more talking, but mostly let the Marmoset steal the show. She and Mister Alvin played hide and seek in the yogurt store. Mister Alvin brought her a book from her favorite series and we read it. She did some dancing, she did some singing, she looked at the baby at the table behind us… Again, a really nice time.

The Poly Man Whore balances his family and several partners and is openly out as polyamorous in all areas of his life. He is not finding it at all difficult to date as a poly man and has a unique perspective that contributes to his poly success and offers up his distinct blend of bullshit free wisdom and advice to poly folk everywhere. He specializes in helping despairing and dateless poly men learn to stop their whining and start having relationships.

This post is part of the <a href=”http://polyamoryonpurpose.com/popular-blog-series/#ChildrenRaisedinPolyamorousRelationships”> Raising Children in Polyamorous Families</a> blog series.

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(Originally posted May 2012)

Polyamory and Children: Should I tell my kids about polyamory?

Several additional years of experience has only strengthened my original opinion–so no major changes here. I haven’t gotten around to updating it yet, but for those interested here is a post on how to tell your kids about polyamory. Revised 3/19/17. Sorry for the late post.

Probably one of the hardest choices polyam parents face is whether or not to tell their children about their relationships and lifestyle.

When it comes to older children, I firmly believe they should know age-appropriate information about their parents’ relationship choices. They are exploring relationships for themselves and figuring out how they want to live their lives. Your kids (and if they know you, your partners’ kids) will see you as an example of how to live. Not being honest about your experiences and relationships is like sending them out in a rowboat with only one oar. They may decide to take a different path from you, but they deserve your help, support, and advice. And kids are smart – they will know if you are hiding something, and they are not going to be honest with you if you are not honest with them.

Following up on ’kids are damn smart,’ if you are in a relationship with your kid’s other parent, you do not want your kid to think you are cheating. (And they likely will if they discover you are hiding other relationships.) I can’t begin to list all the reasons that would be a BAD THING, but let’s just mention them feeling forced to choice between keeping “your secret” (and lying to their other parent) or telling their other parent (and possibly destroying your relationship and their home). That is a 100% fucked up place to put your kids.

That said, and with the best of intentions, the world doesn’t always work the way we want, and there may be situations where telling your children of any age is a bad idea. For instance, it is generally recommended that polyam folk in a custody agreement with a monogamous co-parent stay in the closet. Being polyamorous can get your custody taken away. Laws on this one vary (and let’s take a minute out here to root for the overturning of Canada’s anti-polygamy laws, judge’s decision coming up the end of this month [note: judge’s decision on that case was a mixed victory but definitely a step forward]), but in general if you think of the situation gay and lesbian parents were in 20-30 years ago, you have the right idea. (More on polyamory and custody)

With younger kids, it gets a bit more complicated. Basically, if you are out to the world there is no real reason to hide from little kids, as long as you keep it at their level. ’Mommy has a boyfriend/Daddy has a different boyfriend.’ However, if you aren’t out about your relationships, at least to close friends and family, telling a young child is a recipe to be outed – ’Granma guess what! Daddy and I had special time last night while Mommy went out with her boyfriend!’ More than one polyam family has been outed that way.

It definitely is not fair to ask little children to keep your relationships a secret. The hypocrisy of teaching them to have open and honest relationships, and lie about them with not be lost on them, and will seriously confuse their world view. Nevermind the fact that asking kids to keep grownup’s secrets just isn’t fair and is placing way too much on the kid’s shoulders. If you don’t want your little kids talking about your relationships, don’t tell them.

That said, this can be a place to teach kids about privacy. Little kids are always taught there are some things we don’t talk about. We don’t announce to the world at large that Aunt Salma had a miscarriage—that’s up to Aunt Salma to share if she wants to.You can treat your polyam relationships the same way. “Our relationships are private and it is up to us who we tell about them.” This approach MAY allow you to thread the path of being in the closet, being out to your kids, and not modeling being ashamed or secretive about your relationships.

Of course, you kids may still out you by accident, so that’s still a problem.

Now, the oddball here is children born into a polyam relationship. A child born into a quad or triad that is living together, or born when a pregnancy occurs in a relationship that is not cohabiting will know about it. When the family is living together, this is pretty obvious. When the parents don’t live together and are involved with other people you get ‘Mommy and Daddy are my parents but Daddy is married to Auntie and he and Mommy go out together sometimes.’ In this situation definitely be honest, don’t try and hide anything, and answer questions in an age appropriate way.

Children view whatever they experience as normal, and adults who were raised in polyam families have mentioned feeling sorry for other kids who only had two parents. So the younger a child is when they learn about your relationships, the easier, and more normal it will be for them. Older children, who already have a clear idea of societal norms and how things ’should’ be, may have more difficulty adjusting – especially if the see outside relationships as a betrayal of your marriage.

This post is part of a series on raising children in polyamorous families.

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