I told a good friend I've been considering trying polyamory, and they were nasty about it

Ok, so recently I’ve been considering trying polyamory, and told someone who I thought was a good friend but apparently because I’m interested in dating both a guy and a girl, (because I don’t want to ignore/erase anything about my bisexuality) I’m a slut. Don’t know whether to continue this friendship or end things. Help!

First, I have to point out that there are plenty of monogamous bisexuals, and they are not ignoring or erasing anything about their bisexuality by being with one partner. For some people, polyamory is part of their bisexuality or vice versa; and it sounds like that’s your experience - but be careful not to imply that monogamy “cancels out” bisexuality or that bisexuality necessitates non-monogamy. You want to be free to date people of multiple genders, and that’s a completely reasonable reason to be polyamorous, but it’s not an inherent property of bisexuality.

To answer your actual question: only you can decide whether this is a friendship you want to try and preserve. It’s a frustrating fact of life that people we’re close sometimes do and say things that hurt us. Sometimes the healthiest thing for us is to take space from that relationship to honor our own safety. Sometimes the healthiest thing is to try and take a communicative, restorative position and attempt to heal and resolve the issue.

If you want to end the friendship, that’s totally your right; you’re not obligated to stay close to someone who calls you names or shames your identity and choices. If you want to try and talk things out with this friend, let them know that you don’t appreciate being called a slut, and that you’re not asking them to be polyamorous yourself, but to be understanding and accepting of you. You can explain that you shared these thoughts with them because you hoped they would be safe and helpful, and then let them know what they can do, specifically, to be safe and helpful in the future.

You can also make space for their questions, confusion, or discomfort - just saying something ignorant doesn’t make someone an irredeemable bigot, so do your best not to be shaming or accusatory. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to be intentionally cruel, and are willing to try and understand if given another opportunity and a gentle nudge in the right direction. Be open and willing to explain how you feel and the truth of your bisexuality and non-monogamy, and be patient, since no one is going to get everything right all the time.

I'm dating polyamorously, but my parents are threatening to torch our relationship if I visit my partner

I'm in a long-distance relationship with a polyamorous married man. I've known him for years and he's my best friend, and we've been dating for almost six months now, and we're both incredible happy with each other and his wife is happy for us. When I told my parents about it, I knew they wouldn't understand, but I wasn't prepared for how much they would personally offended by it. They tell me it's wrong, that I'm setting myself up to be hurt, and that I should listen to them if I respect them. Despite being a good daughter who's never gotten into trouble and is doing well in college, my father says he would be ashamed of me for my relationship- and that hurts incredibly deeply to hear from him. No matter how I try to explain how polyamory works to them, they always say that it's not right "for me" because I'm "their daughter." My problem is that I'm 20 years old and still living with my parents while I'm in college, and I desperately want to visit my boyfriend who lives 3 hours away (using my own money)-- but my parents tell me that if I visit him knowing how much they disapprove, that I will be severely damaging our relationship and that there will be consequences. What do you think I should do?

I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation - that’s so painful and isolating.

I am perhaps on the extreme side of things when it comes to this type of conflict, so I will try to be both honest about my own position while empathizing with yours. I firmly believe that we as individuals have the right, and in fact the obligation to ourselves, to reject any nonsense from our families that threatens our well-being. You should live your full and honest truth, do what is happy and healthy for you, and if other people are upset about it, they are free to be upset about it. Sharing DNA with someone doesn’t mean that you need to care what they think more than you’d care about anyone else; nor that you’re beholden to whatever assumptions and expectations they have.

Your boyfriend is someone you chose to be in your life, someone who meets you where you are, and makes you feel happy and understood. Your parents are people who you did not choose, and who are being manipulative and hurtful. Based on that, I’d say prioritize your relationship with your boyfriend. If I were you, I’d go see my partner, and let the chips fall where they may. I would also start taking steps to make it financially feasible to move out from under the roof of people who are going to be so ignorant and hurtful.

If you don’t feel ready to take steps that would cause such friction with your parents (even though the conflict is their choice; not yours), talk to your boyfriend about this. See how he feels about waiting until you feel more emotionally able to stand up to your parents and do what you want. Let him know what he can do to support you during this painful individuation. Consider seeing a therapist to talk about how you might start the process of grieving the relationship you wish you could have with your family, but might not be able to if you are going to be a healthy, fulfilled, independent adult. Build relationships at college with people you can lean on. Best of luck - this is a difficult period to go through.

My partner's friends are telling her that being polyamorous with me sets her up for hurt and abandonment

I’m married to a man and poly with a woman as well. We just started dating and she said she told her best friends about me and my lifestyle and they freaked! They told her she is going to get hurt and that she should find someone else. I don’t know what to do without having support from the closest people in her life and I don’t want to be seen as a flight risk just because they don’t understand commitment and polyamory. I have no idea how to meet these people eventually without feeling hurt.

This is not actually an actionable problem for you right now. Some people you don’t know, but who know someone you’re close to, are being ignorant. There’s nothing you can do, or should try to do, about that.

Be there for your partner - she’s dealing with the pain of being judged and rejected by her friends. If she asks, help provide her with resources about coming out as polyamorous, or ways she can explain to her friends that what she’s doing is healthy and consensual. But if she doesn’t ask, leave the topic alone. Don’t try to argue with her friends through her.

She may be believing these people, and worrying about the security of your relationship with her. Do what you can to reassure her, through words and actions, that you are safe and committed. Answer her questions when they come up. Don’t get defensive or act like it’s her obligation to either change her friends’ minds, or shut out their opinions completely. Be open, reassuring, and loving.

There is a chance that if these people are adamant enough or close enough to her to be convincing, she could get freaked out and wants to take some distance or leave the relationship, that will be frustrating and painful for you, but even though she’s acting on wrong information that other people are telling her, it’s her choice to make.

Don’t worry so much yet about meeting these friends of hers who you know don’t approve of your place in her life. It doesn’t sound like she’s pushing for that, or like you’re all about to go on a cruise together. If you’re at a social gathering with them, be charming and sweet while keeping enough polite distance to protect your own feelings.

I'm part of a triad, but people only ever invite 2/3 of us to their weddings

This summer our girlfriend moved in with us. We were last minute invited to the wedding of a girl my husband and I have known for 20 years, and when I enquired about a third seat I was told no. My husband still attended while I refused to. But I eventually just put it down to the fact that she didn't have a lot of time to prepare, we were last minute additions as it was, even "she doesn't get it." I'm not usually bothered by people not understanding because almost everyone I know DOES. So my cousin got engaged and I reached out to him once we learned the wedding is across the country, eight months from now. I explained the situation and was floored when I got the response that they "weren't giving +1's", because she is not inherently less important than my husband. I held back a dozen sarcastic, petty responses - I won't clog up the ask with those - and I think I'll pin our refusal on financial reasons, but I still wish I had better coping skills for this, I guess.

I’m confused - if your cousin isn’t giving +1s, does that mean your husband isn’t invited either? Or that your husband and you were explicitly invited, and neither of you gets a +1, and the assumption is that even single people were asked not to bring anyone not explicitly invited?

The thing about weddings is that they tend to make people go bonkerspants. You don’t know if your cousin’s wife has an Aunt Margarine who will lose her mind if she sees a hint of anything Untraditional, and that they’re worn down and currently unable to pick that fight with her. You don’t know if their budget is super strained to the point that they really just can’t afford any guests besides the people they specifically invited.

I personally wouldn’t pick this fight, or take this too personally. People’s choices around their weddings are usually about them, and the whirlwind of family drama and expectations and nonsense that they’re caught up in, and very rarely a statement on anyone else’s lives. Polyamory is not very well understood by the general populace, and people who are emotionally and financially stretched thin don’t have the ability to parse through the deeply held identities and feelings behind every guest’s extra request.

Your cousin is very likely not intending to say that your girlfriend is “less important” than your husband - he’s trying to set personal and financial boundaries around his own wedding, and in such an emotionally charged situation, it’s easiest to hold to common, if arbitrary, standards around +1s and invitations. I understand that it’s really hurtful to get that message, but not all “messages received” are “messages sent,” so try to give your cousin the benefit of the doubt. It’s okay to decline the invitation, but it’s also okay to talk to your girlfriend about whether she’d be OK having a weekend to herself while you and your husband go catch up with family.

My daughter is in a polyamorous relationship, and I'm being a huge jerk about it

Please help - I don't know who to ask! My daughter (27) just told me she's seeing a married man (the same age), and he's "poly", and she's met his wife, who knows all about it and is okay with it! Clearly this man doesn't respect either of them, and I'm upset that she's settling for being someone's bit on the side - I want her to be someone's special person, their everything. I'm so ashamed of her and embarrassed that she thinks this is okay. I don't understand where I've gone so wrong in parenting her, that she's ended up with no moral compass and not understanding the meaning of marriage. But I love her and don't want to lose contact with her.

I've got no-one to talk to - I don't know anyone who lives like this, and I'm worried my friends would judge me and think I've failed as a mother. Obviously we'll never be able to invite this man to family events, and I hate having to lie to my parents, friends etc. I've looked online, but parents in my position just get shouted down, by people who say 'if your kid's happy, what's the problem?', and accuse them of being terrible people for not understanding this "lifestyle". But you look nice so I'm hoping you can give me some advice without just shouting at me!

I'm baffled as to how you think I'll be able to be "nice" and not "just shout" at you when you speak to me like this. You are being rude, judgmental, and cruel. You use very strong language - that you've "gone wrong" in parenting her, that you're "so ashamed of her," that she has "no moral compass." Do you understand that the person you're saying this to is polyamorous? Do you not care how you sound?

If anyone's parents should be ashamed and embarrassed about their child's upbringing and moral compass, it's yours. How do you think it's okay to say such nasty, hurtful things to someone - to me? To come tell me that my life is shameful, immoral, and a failure - and then ask me to do you a favor and to be nice to you? You went into other polyamorous communities and said this stuff, and you're surprised that people reacted negatively!? If you don't want to be shouted at, don't antagonize people.

It's amazing to me that you think this is about what is "moral" or "okay" when you're the one in this situation violating basic human decency. No one is shouting at you for simply being uncomfortable or confused. What we're responding to is you coming into our spaces and communities just to be hateful. Learn how to say "that's different" or "I don't understand" without saying "that's bad, wrong, shameful, and I shouldn't be expected to respond in any way besides vitriolic judgment."

Your daughter is not hurting anyone. She is in a healthy, happy, consensual relationship. You should be honored that she trusted you enough to share this part of her life with you. Instead, you are punishing her honesty and pretty much guaranteeing that your relationship with your daughter will become strained. If your daughter wrote to me and described this situation, I would advise her to take a huge step back from her relationship with you until you can be less hurtful.

You can disagree with something without being so extreme as to say that it's immoral and shameful. It doesn't sound like you've put any effort into trying to expand your understanding of love and marriage, you're just horrified that your daughter doesn't share yours. I have no idea what kind of "advice" you want from me, since the advice I'd give you - take a deep breath, realize she's not hurting anyone, try to understand - you've flat-out said you consider "shouting" and will refuse to consider.

What do you want from me? A pat on the back for being so "morally upstanding" that you're going to reject your daughter for simply doing something you wouldn't do yourself? Do you want me to tell you it's okay to be hateful and nasty to your daughter and the people she loves? Do you want me to grovel and plead and try to convince you that polyamorous people are not actually immoral subhumans, and do rhetorical acrobatics to prove to you that we're okay? I don't engage in arguments about my own humanity. And you shouldn't demand them.

You need to think long and hard about whether you feel so strongly about this that you're willing to torch your relationship with your daughter to the ground. Because you're the one doing the torching - she hasn't done anything to you, except invite you to understand and share her life. You can choose to respond with judgment, hate, hurt, selfishness, and ignorance. That's your choice. And the consequences of your choice are on you, not her.

If you're willing to try and see things from her perspective, check out the resources on my FAQ page and read about the reality of polyamory (and how it differs from your warped conception of what it means). It's okay to have questions, to admit that this is new for you, difficult to understand, etc. But dial it back on the hate - or be prepared for the people you're being hateful to to reject you and everything you're saying. (What else would you expect us to do?)

I don't know how to try and date people in my social circles if my non-monogamy is a semi-open secret

I've been dating the same person for 2 years and we've been poly the entire time. Our community and peers think we're slutty because we flirt with others. We're not necessarily out about not being mono but how do you even bring that up to people who aren't open minded anyways? I've been trying to date this other person recently but I can't tell how to bring up polyamory. They know I'm in a committed relationship and that my partner knows I'm openly flirting. I'm at a loss for what to do.

You can't have it both ways - if you're not out to people about being non-monogamous, and you flirt with or pursue other people in front of them, they will assume that something untoward or inappropriate is going on. One could argue that visibly flirting/pursuing others is essentially outing yourself.

If people are not open minded and accepting enough to understand non-monogamy, it's probably not wise to try and flirt with or pursue them. If you're just pursuing other people in front of them, like giving a cute bartender your number while out drinking with them, then they are probably going to be uncomfortable about witnessing what they think is immoral/cheating behavior.

It sounds like you really want to be able to live openly in your community of peers - so it might be best to come out to them. You could do it more formally, sitting down with them and telling them, or you could work with your partner to bring it up more casually, conversationally, just make it known. Secrets and ambiguity make people uncomfortable; if you two talk and joke openly about how you're ok with your partner seeing other people, that usually works better for everyone else.

When it comes to the specific person you're trying to date, you need to be really clear with them! Just knowing that your partner knows you're openly flirting isn't enough. If you want to really make a go of trying to date them, you need to let them know exactly what's going on, how you feel, how your partner feels, what they would (and wouldn't) be getting involved with by dating you. If you don't feel like you can have that conversation, then you should probably let go of pursuing this person. 

I’m starting to think poly isn’t for me… wanted your advice on it. I’ve been with my SO for about 2 years now. They’re amazing and my world. Their SO is really nice too. But since we’ve come out to our families… his SO family hates me and thinks I’m going to ruin their lives. My SO’s family likes me but I overheard them talking about how I’m temporary because their child is just going through things… it just hurts to be like labeled as not real by so many. I’m not a bad person…

It’s up to you to decide whether this is a dealbreaker for you. For some people, dating someone also means dating their family, and being hurt, insulted, or alienated by their partner’s family would make the relationship untenable. Other people find that external influences like other people’s opinions and behaviors are much less of a factor when determining whether a relationship is going to work. Both perspectives are totally fine; they just differ across people.

My first suggestion would be to talk to your partners whose family members are saying these hurtful things. Maybe what you need is for them to stand up to their family: “You may not approve of my relationship with Xaniel, but you need to keep that to yourself. Speaking unkindly or disrespectfully about my partner is not okay and I will not tolerate it.”

Maybe the answer is to spend less time around these family members and stay in social and relational spaces that are safe for you. That is totally okay too! You have the right to set boundaries that are healthy for you: “I know you wanted to do Thanksgiving with your family, but last time I visited, I ended up in a lot of pain and doubt after how they talked to me and about me, so I’m going to be elsewhere this year.” 

I don’t think this is necessarily a sign that polyamory isn’t for you - perhaps this relationship isn’t for you, if the emotional minefield surrounding it is something you can’t or don’t want to navigate. Perhaps simply the current arrangement, where you’re around for these family members to say nasty things, is what’s not working. In general, if something is making you happy and working for you, and other people are being mean about it, the solution is not to stop doing the thing - it’s to either stand up to, or ignore and avoid, the people being unkind.

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. 

I’m married, and I have a friend w/benefits (husband knows, consents and approves). And I’m getting a bit of a crush on this guy. Husband is okay with that. But like… How do poly relationships work in the long term around family? Family dinners? Meeting parents?

Same way any other relationship works! There is no law of physics that dictates that the Thanksgiving turkey will cook unevenly if someone brings two partners to dinner. It could be as simple as “Mom, Dad, I’m bringing my husband and my boyfriend - they are both deeply important part of my lives, and I think you’ll really like my boyfriend!” and then Dad gets to talk double the ears off about his fishing trip, and Mom has to dig out another chair from the garage. 

Your family could, of course, decide to freak out and make it into a huge drama. But that’s their problem. You could decide between your partners that for the sake of family peace, you’ll just take your husband; or go alone; and celebrate with your chosen family at another time. You could decide to set the boundary with your parents that they love and accept you and the people you love, and if they can’t be polite and welcoming, your family will find somewhere else to be.

But there’s no rule that it has to be complicated, or unusual, or difficult. Be upbeat but firm about your boundaries, communicate that this is about love and partnership and shared lives; not some “weird sex thing that you’re shoving in their faces,” and live your best, healthiest lives. You know your parents best; perhaps they’d respond best if you introduced them to your boyfriend one-on-one; or maybe it would be better to have your husband there so they can see that everything is above board. Maybe they have a whole “under my roof” sense of propriety, so the first family dinner should take place at your house.

Do what you gotta do, live your life, and don’t worry too much! Being a poly person in a relationship is basically like being a person in a relationship. No secret behind-the-scenes shenanigans that you have to learn how to navigate. 

So I’m pretty sure I’m polyamorous but my mom is completely against polyamory (it came up because my friend and his boyfriend are moving in with their boyfriend).

Your mom’s opinions and reality do not have to be your opinions and reality. It is okay to do or be something that other people don’t approve of.

If there is an issue of safety - if you still live with your mom and feel that she would act in a way that threatens your well-being, security, or relationships - then it is okay to stay closeted and wait it out.

But it’s not your job to convince your mom that polyamory is healthy and acceptable. Changing her mind is not a prerequisite to you living a healthy, happy life and having fulfilling polyamorous relationships. 

I have family members who disapprove of my polyamory. I have people in my life who disapprove of my career choices, my diet, my hairstyle, whatever. There are a frighteningly large number of people in my country who disapprove of my beliefs and my personal right to exist. That means I need to take steps to protect myself, emotionally, physically, financially, etc. but it doesn’t mean I cannot or should not be my real, best self.

Some other posts about this:

My best friend just came out to me as polyamorous. I know nothing about what this mean, I love him and want to be able to understand what he is and what he’s going though. Do you have any advice on this or maybe a reference I could use? Thank you!

This is perhaps one of the sweetest questions I’ve gotten on this blog! You can check out my general polyamory resources page for starters.

The best thing to do is to ask your best friend what kind of support he needs from you. He may be feeling pretty good about things and just wanted to share this new self-discovery with you. Or, he may be feeling isolated, afraid people will judge him, or fearful about finding future partners. Let him know that whatever he’s going through, you’re there with him!

As with all comings-out, it is never okay to out him to anyone without his permission, so check in with him about how he wants you to treat this information. He may still be working out how to come out to other friends, family, coworkers, etc. - or he may love having a friend to help explain things and provide a cheerful model of acceptance and normalcy. 

Some people like to talk things out, and enjoy things like answering questions and having intimate conversations. Other people get exhausted by people asking for explanations. Again, it’s best to check in with him about whether he wants to delve into this with you, or whether he’d prefer you to educate yourself. Curiosity is natural, but you can always preface a question with “let me know if this isn’t something you want to talk about” or something similar.

As he continues this journey, there will be new ways to support him - whether it’s helping wingman him, being open and welcoming to all his new partners, accompanying him to an STI screening, being a listening ear when he’s confused or frustrated - pretty much regular ol’ friendship, which it sounds like you have a solid foundation of.

And, of course, all people whose relationships, sexualities, and identities are anything but “mainstream” will need plenty of political and economic support in the coming years. Whether you choose to donate, rally, organize, or volunteer, supporting issues like access to healthcare (especially sexual and reproductive care like Planned Parenthood provides), continued progress in marriage and gender equality (including hospital visitation, health insurance, and adoption), and other areas of social justice are great ways to show support and solidarity with everyone you care about, especially anyone who is a “minority.”

Other resources:

FAQ: I want to try polyamory, but my partner doesn’t. What should I do?

II would say that the most common question I get on this blog, by far, is a variation of this: “I’ve been dating my partner monogamously for a while now. I care about them very much, but I’ve realized that I want to try out an open or polyamorous relationship. My partner does not want to. I don’t want to leave or hurt my partner, but I also don’t want to stay monogamous. What should I do?”

In some cases, the monogamous partner’s reluctance stems from a specific issue that can be addressed. In those cases, I try to give advice about how to address that specific issue with gentleness, honesty, and growth in mind.

In some cases, the person writing to me hasn’t ever broached the topic with their partner, but just assumes their partner wouldn’t be okay with it. In those cases, I advise them to communicate their desires and hopes with their partner, then take action based on the partner’s response rather than an assumption.

In some cases, it is the appearance of a new potential partner that has spurred someone’s interest in polyamory. My advice there is to be very careful about keeping desires separate: “I want to date this specific person” and “I want to have the opportunity to date polyamorously” are very different things. Conflating them and assuming that pursuing one goal means pursuing the other as well can cause serious conflict. Identify what your specific desire is, and work from there.

In all cases, it is an unfortunate fact that sometimes, relationships just don’t work out because you discover that you want different things. It is okay to leave a relationship to pursue something else. It is also okay to stay in a relationship that isn’t perfect - sacrifice and compromise are often required of us when we love someone. Whatever choice you make, it’s important to make it with clear eyes and a commitment to making it work. You can always change your mind, of course; but don’t live with one foot in and one foot out. Don’t lie to yourself and pretend your partner may “come around in time.” Whatever you’re doing at the time, do that with your whole self.

It is never okay to pressure or badger someone into doing something they don’t want to do. If your partner doesn’t want to try polyamory or an open relationship, they can say no. And no means no. It is not your fault for failing to explain it to them correctly; it is not a matter of finding the right argument to convince them. Looking for the secret magic trick to changing your partner’s mind is not the way to go about it. It is okay to ask them why they don’t want to try polyamory and to discuss together whether any of those reasons can be overcome, but that should be a mutual process, not you trying to push them into a place they don’t want to be.

Previous posts on this topic:

Hey my family thinks I am morally wrong for being polyamorous how do I defend my actions to them

So, so many of the questions I get to this blog - probably the majority of them - come down to this: Someone in my life is thinking and/or behaving in a way that isn’t working for me. How do I change someone else’s thoughts/feelings/behavior?

And the sad answer is: you can’t. You can do all the right things, and say all the right things, but in the end you can only control yourself. Plenty of people out there wish they could get their family to stop judging their choices, but some people will never come around. You need to live your truth and be the best version of yourself, and try to surround yourself with people who can see and honor that.

That doesn’t mean you should entirely cut off anyone who doesn’t approve, but their reality doesn’t have to be your reality. Your morals don’t need anyone else’s validation for you to live them. It’s far, far easier said than done, especially when the censure is coming from your family, but try not to take it personally.

As for how you can explain polyamory to people who think it’s morally wrong: explain that everyone involved gives full consent, and no one is being cheated on. Be sure not to imply that you think monogamy is wrong or inferior or unenlightened, just that this is a different way of being in a relationship that works for you. Try to answer their questions with grace and patience, even if they’re asked obnoxiously. But remember that you are not required to defend your right to live your life the way that works for you - even if they never get it, you still have every right to your polyamory.

Some other resources:

Defenses of polyamory:

Positive portrayals of polyamory in mainstream media you could point them to:

Is it advisable to come out to your friends on Facebook/social media that you’re in a polyamorous relationship or is it best to just keep that knowledge to a small select group?

This is totally up to you. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this, so I’ll try to organize them here. A few things to consider:

Your personal safety: If you worry that being so out would jeopardize your career or personal safety, don’t. If you work with children, have a career with a political or religious aspect, or otherwise think this would put you at risk, it might not be worth it.

Your partners’ feelings: Your partners are part of your life, and they deserve to feel that way. If someone feels hurt or left out because you are ‘hiding’ them, consider whether staying closeted is sustainable.

Where you are in your life: If you’re young and your relationships are casual, coming out has different consequences than if you’re older and more committed. If you’re raising kids together, wanting to bring all partners home for Christmas, etc. then it’s harder to hide, but the consequences from disapproving people can be bigger.

How you experience your polyamory: If this is an identity, part of who you are, then I think coming out can be more freeing. If you experience it as a choice or a sexual behavior, you might be more comfortable only telling a few people. I’m all for people being openly out as gay, but if you’re kinky, that might not need to be everyone’s business. If you feel frustrated at not being able to live out loud as your polyamorous self, I think that’s a good argument in favor of coming out. If you kinda don’t care who knows, there’s no reason to feel obligated to announce it.

Best of luck making your decision! <3

What is the best way to come out as poly to your family. My one girl friend is married and I want to be open about it, but I don’t want anyone to judge her as well. It’s getting to a point where it needs to happen sooner or later. Plus I’m starting to see another girl on top of her and trying to make it so no one questions what is happening.

The thing is, you can’t stop people from judging. There’s no perfect way to “come out” that means everyone will instantly accept and understand. If people are judgmental, it doesn’t mean you came out in the wrong way. It’s not up to you to manage other people’s opinions and responses.

My recommendation is to be cheerful, honest, and clear with your family. Don’t act like you’re unburdening a great secret. Explain that this is what’s healthy and fulfilling for you, and answer their questions as graciously as you can. Just like any other “coming out,” it’ll be nerve-wracking, but once you decide you’ve got to do it, you just have to jump. 

If people act like jerks, do your best to ignore it. I have some family members who feel the need to share their negative thoughts about my polyamory. Typically I just smile blankly, say “mmhmm” and then change the subject. If they do things like refuse to allow you to bring both girlfriends to Christmas dinner, that’s their problem. Build a network of love and support and let people have their dumb opinions in their own little corners. 

I found out that I am polyamorus since last year. I recently opened up to my current partner and he’s ok with it. My question is though; How do you communicate to other potential partners that you’re interested in them, yet you’re Poly?

That is a tough one. Sometimes it just works out, like when you know them socially beforehand, so they know you’re poly and understand how it all works. Meeting people through poly groups or dating sites that let you be clear about your arrangement also helps skirt this issue.

But when you meet someone who doesn’t have that context, it can be tough. But I’ve found the best way is to just be open - take a deep breath and say something like “hey, I’m into you! I am polyamorous and have other partners, if that’s okay with you.”

Don’t treat it like this big dark shameful secret, but be honest and clear. They may have questions, so be patient and gentle. Some people keep a few extra copies of The Ethical Slut or More Than Two to lend out. Be gracious if they decide they can’t or won’t pursue things because you’re poly. And good luck!

Hi, sorry if you’ve already answered this, but how do you come out to a prospective partner as poly? I met somebody while I was really drunk, and then we went on a date. I was so caught up in being nervous that I entirely forgot to mention that I have a casual partner. We have our second date soon, and I could use any help you have on how to approach the topic!

Ach, this is a tough one. It can be awkward, and I’ll be honest with you - sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes you tell someone you’re poly and they back out because they just aren’t into that sort of thing. It’s a sad truth about being a minority when it comes to [sexual/romantic] [behavior/orientation].

But here are the tips I’ve compiled over a whole lot of awkward coming outs (comings out? come outs? help):

One: Stay positive! Don’t convey, with your tone and/or body language, that you’re unburdening some dark secret. Try and be upbeat and casual - you’re sharing something quirky and interesting about what it is to date you, not asking if they’re okay with this weird scary thing.

Two: Make it about them! People like when things are about them. Say it’s because you really like them, and want to keep things going - but you also really respect them and believe that consent is super important, so you want to make sure they’re fully informed and on board before things get any more serious.

Three: Be gracious and honest! Answer all their questions, even if they seem dumb or borderline offensive or you’ve answered them a million times. I’m generally of the opinion that minorities aren’t obligated to “educate” anyone if they’re not feeling it - but this is a different situation.

Four: Respect consent! Don’t argue, give counter-points, or otherwise act like you’re trying to talk them into something. Any sign of discomfort or hesitation on their part deserves your attention and sensitivity - remember, it’s never okay to try and coerce someone into a sexual or romantic situation they aren’t enthusiastic about!

Five: Be good to yourself. If it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up. Pat yourself on the back for being a good polyamorist and a responsible human - for being open and honest, respecting consent, and not getting someone else into a situation they wouldn’t be okay with if they knew all the details (lying by omission). 

Corollary to five: protect yourself. Being someone’s “training wheels poly” can be exhausting. If someone gives you the “well I’m not sure about all this, but I’ll try it for you” routine, you need to decide whether you’re willing to take that emotional risk. Some people like it, others are wary. Know your own boundaries and stick to them, no matter how hot they are!

Polyamorous Visibility in the Social Sphere


Most of my more-than-bullet-point posts seem to spontaneously generate in the shower, and today that led me to some wet-haired poly ponderings about presentation and the social sphere.

Namely, that I don’t consent to being presented as monogamous.

Hypothetical Example: A friend introduces me to her parents, and during the getting-to-know-you conversation, said friend introduces me as married, and leaves it at that. In this conversation, I’m specifically partnered to my live-in partner, the one the state legally recognizes, and there is no mention of my other two relationships. The conversation about my relationship status begins and ends with my socially-sanctioned relationship.

I’m not at all okay with this. I anticipate it and even understand it, but I am not okay with it. 

“But that puts your friend in such an awkward position!”

Yes, it does. Much like me being queer would have put said hypothetical friend in an awkward position ten, fifteen years ago. (Granted, there are circles where this would be the case even today, but those scenarios are rare in my social circle. Most of us are really fucking queer, and it’s obvious.) Discomfort doesn’t mean it’s okay to present a queer person as heterosexual when they don’t consent to it, even by implication. 

I rail against heterosexism, and I rail against the erasure of my partners.

This is one reason why, for me, polyamory has at once significantly expanded my intimate connections, and contracted them down to a tiny handful of folks who are comfortable with being “seen” with me, so to speak. People who are comfortable with actually being friends with me—all of me, and not just the palatable, socially-acceptable, easy-to-understand me.

I am not just the me who is married to my legal spouse. I’m also the me who’s in love with two my girlfriends. I’m not okay with those versions of me being socially partitioned, compartmentalized.

I find it cruel to erase my partners as a means of social lubricant. They’re not erasable, to me. I don’t want to be erasable either; I’d be hurt to find out I’d been erased by my partners, or their friends, or anyone else. My partners are human beings, not dirty secrets, and while I have nothing but understanding for anyone else who might choose to be closeted—and even understanding for people who have the impulse to erase me or my partners—I’m not okay with it happening to me or to my partners, unless we consent to it.

And speaking for myself? I don’t. I don’t consent to being erased, and I don’t consent to participating in the erasure of my partners. 

When a friend asks about my live-in partner but not my other two partners, it hurts me. (This is rare, these days. Fortunately.) When I’m spending time with a friend’s friends and my friend mentions my live-in partner but not my other two partners, this hurts me. When a friend’s family erases my two other partners by referring only to my socially-accepted live-in partner, this hurts me.

Again, it’s not as if I don’t understand the mechanisms at work here. 

But, like stepping on someone’s foot, understanding that it’s accidental or incidental or the result of confused flailing doesn’t make it any less painful to experience.

These are human beings we’re erasing. Not ideas, not political statements. People whom I love, who love me. So no, I am not okay with it, even if I understand why it happens. I am not and never will be. To accept me is to accept my partners—all of them. I would not feel good about someone erasing my career, which is such an integral part of who I am. Similarly, to reject and erase any of my partners is to reject and erase me, full stop.

Replace “polyamorous” with “queer,” and few people bristle at the idea of accepting some level of social responsibility for a friend’s visibility. It’s a matter of loving the friend for who they are, yes? I can’t think of a single friend of mine who would deliberately lead their family members, coworkers, other friends, or acquaintances, to believe I’m heterosexual because the alternative is too difficult.

If it’s going to be too difficult, too uncomfortable, then I just shouldn’t be invited along. I’d much rather not be there than be erased, or prescriptively endure the erasure of my partners.

Generally, I’m not visible to make a political statement, though the overlap is inevitable. My visibility is about love. About appreciating my partners for who they are. About insisting that anyone who wants to be part of my life in any meaningful way is going to have to accept my partners as equally real and valid—all of them.

If that means alienating people who are otherwise attempting to conceal their discomfort with who I am, that’s okay with me.  If being part of a social event means I’m going to have to play monogamous for the evening, I’m not interested. My partners mean more than that to me. My live-in partner is not the only partner who matters, and to suggest otherwise feels hurtful and cruel. They all matter. They are all real, integral parts of my life who deserve just as much social recognition as my easily-socially-recognized partner. They’re not friends with benefits; they’re partners. People I love and could conceivably grow old with, even if not in the way most people conceptualize it.

Insisting that folks acknowledge my partners as human beings who deserve to be visible (if these folks want me around)? Worth it. Completely. 

See also: “I don’t need to talk about what I do in the bedroom…”

(Standard disclaimer applies: While this is how I practice, conceptualize, and live polyamory, that doesn’t mean any of what I’ve said applies to any other person who practices polyamory. What’s right for me may be a nightmare for someone else. These are simply my feelings as applied to my own social sphere. Given my strong feelings about visibility, I generally do not date folks who choose—for themselves—to remain entirely in the closet, as a matter of compatibility. That would significantly change the dynamic of how I relate to my partners in the social realm.)