I’m 15 years old and in a polyamorous triad. I recently came out to my mom about it, and I think she’s… really disappointed. She even told me, “I don’t to hear anything about it.” I don’t know what to do anymore. This is tearing me up inside. Do you have any advice on what I should do? I don’t want my mom to ignore this about me, but I don’t want to disappoint her! I’m at the point where I’m wondering if I should break up with my partners

You don’t want your mom to be disappointed with you, or ignore a part of your identity that’s important to you, but I think that falls in the category of “unpleasant things to cope with” rather than “circumstances within your power to change.” Sometimes, “I don’t want this” is a signal that you need to change something. Other times, “I don’t want this” is a signal that you need to figure out how to deal with it. All this to say: your mom’s feelings are something you need the serenity to accept, not something you need the courage to change. And like they say, there is wisdom in knowing the difference. (I wrote about this here.)

If you’re worried about your own safety while you live with your parents, that’s a different issue. But if she’s just using emotional manipulation to make you feel ashamed for who you are and how you live a healthy, fulfilling life with healthy relationships, try to let go of that. She can throw as many tantrums as she wants. It’s your choice to live your own life and be your own person. It’s her choice whether to accept that. You do not exist to please your mother. You are your own person. Don’t break up with your partners just because you living your truth is bumming your mom out.

Same goes for any teenager whose parents are sulking, guilt-tripping, or otherwise engaging in ‘emotional terrorism’ to get you to: stop being gay, grow your hair out, pursue a law degree, tolerate boundary-violations, etc. Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s good to recognize when your actions hurt someone and commit to stopping your hurtful behavior! If someone is upset with you because you violated a boundary or did something hurtful, by all means, apologize and stop doing that thing. But being who you are does not fall under that category. Your relationship doesn’t hurt other people. In this case, her “disappointment” is her problem, not your fault.

I know how painful it can be to feel like you’re responsible for your parent’s emotional wellbeing. I know how strong the sense of obligation is. I know how easily it is to conflate “mom is upset” with “I did something wrong.” But you have not done anything wrong. You’re getting to an age where you’re going to end up making plenty of choices that your parents might not want you to make. It will be emotionally messy, because they will make it emotionally messy. But stand strong. Say “Mom, this is who I am and what makes me happy. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t like it, but this is my choice to make.“ Focus on grieving the fact that you didn’t get a mom who can accept and embrace all of who you are, rather than fighting to change something about her or yourself.