Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.
Time to fess up. For the longest time I didn’t really give the concept of ‘coming out’ all that much thought as I didn’t think I had anything to come out about. I considered myself straight, monogamous (and I’ll throw in white, male, middle-class as well). I was the ‘norm’, my world view was very narrow.
A close friend came out to me during this time and I remember thinking, so what? He’s my mate, as long as he’s happy, what’s all the fuss about? Of course my reaction wasn’t what mattered at all and today, as part of a minority that isn’t understood, I am starting to better understand why coming out is so important.
For me coming out about my poly lifestyle is about my own freedom, about living honestly and not living a lie, maintaining my own integrity. It is not about seeking approval, just as it’s not about raising awareness. The latter is a by-product, for sure, but that’s not the end goal.
For me it wasn’t a big surprise that coming out garnered no negative reactions with my friends and family. I’m not a big fan of drama and tend to be careful about who I let into my life, so my nearest and dearest are level headed, open minded, supportive and understanding, which is pretty much as I expected.
But that’s not to say telling them was a walk in the park, it was a lot more nerve-wracking than I had imagined.
My biggest concern was my parents, not that I thought they wouldn’t understand, but that they would think it wasn’t right for me and that I wouldn’t be happy. Coming off the back of a long marriage, despite the divorce being amicable, I knew they’d wonder if I was diving into something new without proper consideration (to be fair, I’ve a tendency to make quick decisions and they haven’t always worked out).
That said, they were as supportive and understanding as I hoped they’d be. They’d already met Kirsty, could see she makes me happy, and were aware that we were both open to see other people (I think I used the term open relationship the first time I told them) but it was a couple of months into realising my relationship with Clare was becoming more than just ‘dates’ that I realised I needed to make sure my parents realised the difference between an open relationship and polyamory.
I’m still not sure they fully understand it but they are happy that I’m happy, and were very welcoming when they first met Clare last year. My sister was the same and although she is a little bemused by it, and has stated a few times she definitely couldn’t do it herself, like my parents she just wants me to be happy.
Like I said I’m very lucky; my friends and family have listened when I asked them and life has continued pretty much as normal. Only the occasional ‘should I invite both your partners?’ type enquiry reminds me that whilst I’m comfortable within our poly setup, it’s still a bit of a minefield for others.
Outside of my friends and family the reaction has been mixed. It’s not something I’ve announced at work, but a few people are aware that I have two partners. There have been a few odd comments but those most stem from misunderstanding the way our setup works*. I’ve found myself talking about poly in general terms a couple of times, but it’s not been something that many have asked about.
What’s important to me is that I don’t ever shy away from being honest about my situation. The most frequent conversational gambit that brings this to the fore is the Monday morning “How was your weekend?” question. The more I’m asked, the more comfortable I feel replying honestly.
“It was great, I spent Friday night with Clare, had some lunch and did some shopping with her on Saturday, then met up with Kirsty for dinner and a movie on Saturday night. Then me, Mark, Clare and Kirsty got together for Sunday lunch… anyway, how was your weekend?”* This is understandable as there is no ‘right’ way to do be poly. Some people have clear primary/secondary style relationships, rules around who can do what and so on. Our poly doesn’t have that structure, and is based on trust, communication and love.