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 family thinks my relationship is abusive because it's polyamorous.

I became polyamorous because my partner was and wanted to open up our relationship. I'll admit I struggled with it at first but did so consensually and after a while I realized I loved it and never want to go back to being monogamous. Well, my family found out and now they are all convinced that I'm being abused and manipulated by my partner who introduced me to the idea. I've expressed myself as clearly as I possibly can that I agreed to it and love the lifestyle but they still treat my partner suspiciously/accusingly and it's making life really hard. I don't want to lose my family and I appreciate they care but it really messes with my head and makes me question my own sanity which isn't fair or helpful, they talk like they need to rescue me from a cult or something. Establishing distance seems to only make their concern worse and more stalker-y. What would you suggest?

This is a tough one to answer, because I don't have any perspective on your relationship. So I'll try to answer in two parts:

If you're confident that your relationship is not abusive, then your family is just being judgmental and ignorant, and it's okay for you to take distance. I have personally had this experience - once, an ob-gyn I was seeing insisted on pressing domestic violence pamphlets into my hand when she found out I had multiple partners. She was very concerned and kept telling me that "men will twist your head to get you to think that this is okay," which is funny because I was the initiator of polyamory with my male partner ten years ago. There are people whose partners sleep around on them and employ abusive tactics to get them to accept it, but you and I are not those people!

It's okay to tell your family "it's rude, alienating, and cruel of you to continue to act and talk like my partner is abusing me. My relationship is one of consent and love, and if you can't accept that, then for my own health I need to take some distance." And then do that. Surround yourself with people who understand you and lift you up. Sure, taking distance makes your family more concerned, but it sounds like they're committed to their warped worldview and they're just going to up the emotional pressure if you try to get out from under it. Making you "question your sanity" is a nasty tactic and anyone who makes you feel like that is awful. Let them be concerned and wrong over there. Far away from you.

If, however - and this seems very unlikely based on the language in your letter, but - if you have any thoughts in the back of your mind that they might be right, if there's a chance that those conflicted thoughts that bubble up when they put the pressure on could be meaningful - check in with friends, other people in the polyamorous community, read up on healthy polyamory. Sometimes families are just bigoted and manipulative. But sometimes, if a ton of people are flagging your partner as abusive, it's worth thinking about a bit more deeply. Sometimes we are too deep in things to really see the whole story. I know I've been in abusive relationships where all my friends were telling me that he was no good, that I should leave him, etc. but I had a hard time hearing them. They could see from the outside what I was in too deep to see.

Polyamory isn't abusive, but polyamorous people can be abusive. If that sounds at all possible, just check in with yourself about it. You might realize that no, your family is just getting you all twisted up with their own nonsense. In that case, loop back to part one. Take some distance and work to build a healthy, affirming polyamorous community around yourself.