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. 

Been with my fiance for 6 years. My best friend moved in with us and slowly we both realized we were seriously in love with her. She realized she loved us and a polyamorous relationship was born. There was a lot of talking beforehand, figuring out what we’re comfortable with and whatnot and it’s working really well. I am incredibly in love with her and my fiance… here’s the problem… I still want to be able to marry my fiance. But my girlfriend has a ton of health issues and it has kind of been decided whoever gets better insurance (from a full-time job) will marry her. The hard thing for me is my family has been waiting for us to get married for so long and I want that marriage but I want her to have good health insurance. If polygamy was legal there would be no problems but since it’s not… there is… for me anyway. I still want that marriage to him for my family for me, I’ve been planning it for years… maybe I’m being selfish?

This story just breaks my heart. It’s unfortunate that not only has plural marriage not become a human rights issue just like gay marriage, but the fight for gay marriage is actually pushing our cause backwards. I am so sorry to hear that the three of you can’t legally be married the way that works best for you emotionally and financially. You are not being selfish - it’s reasonable to want the wedding you’ve been planning for so long! Don’t beat yourself up over this. The enemy is external - it’s bigotry and legal snarls - not internal. You three have found something beautiful and fulfilling, so hold onto it no matter what the system says.

My advice would be to bring in some professionals on this. Talk to a lawyer who specializes in LGBTQ rights or other “non-traditional” marital and financial arrangements. Find out what your options are and get some paperwork and precedent on your side. Talk to a lawyer or another professional who is an expert in the healthcare field about what your girlfriend’s options may be regarding health insurance. You might not know what all the possibilities are, or you might not have the know-how to make them happen. Who knows - your girlfriend could find a way to get healthcare coverage without needing to be married to either of you. Maybe the three of you could all contribute to a pooled fund to help pay for her coverage. Maybe she is eligible for a plan you haven’t heard of. There’s a lot changing in terms of health insurance over the next few years, and I think it would be best if you three found someone to help you navigate the bureaucratic maze to find your best option. Build yourself a small army of doctors, lawyers, and other people who can help you three stay safe, healthy and sane. Know your rights and your options and document your decisions well. Know what could get you in legal trouble and how to avoid it, and who to call if you need help. It could get a little pricey speaking to all these lawyers and insurance professionals, but consider it an investment in your future together as a safe, healthy triad.

Once you’ve done that, you might find that you have a better array of decisions to make. You could hold a non-legally-binding ceremony for you and your fiance, or with all three of you (you’ll want to know the legal ramifications of this beforehand, though - talk to a lawyer in your state.) You could marry your fiance after finding another way to take care of your girlfriend’s health insurance. You could all move to another country where the marriage and healthcare laws are less frustrating (that’s a little drastic, though.) But no matter what you do, don’t sacrifice your happiness for the sake of money or legalized bigotry. Thousands of couples have come before you - gay couples who jumped through tons of legal hoops in order to adopt, divorced parents who shared custody before that was normalized, partners of people with health issues who must learn to navigate the healthcare system - and there are professionals out there who can help you carve out a place to be happy as well.

I don’t know what state you’re in, so I can’t give any specific resources, but you could start with these directories and organizations:

  • Poly Friendly Professionals this is the number one directory of lawyers, doctors and other professionals who are poly friendly. 
  • Alternatives to Marriage (linked to their healthcare page) This is more of an advocacy organization trying to help solve your problem once and for all, but they can probably connect you with lawyers and other advocates who know their way around the legal and healthcare systems.
  • PolyFamilies suggests that a poly family open a business together to deal with the health insurance issue