An openly polyamorous person tells others outside of their poly circle about their lifestyle. Some individuals choose to be completely open, while others choose to tell only a select few, and still others choose to remain private about polyamory.
For many, keeping the lifestyle a secret is because of an “it’s none of their business” point of view. But for others, keeping quiet about poly is because of prejudiced, conservative, or misled ideas of what polyamory is, as was the concern for my husband and me at the start of our transition from monogamy to polyamory.
If you are considering telling others about your non-monogamous lifestyle, it might help to break down your concerns first and then decide who you feel safe telling, if anyone. After all, as my husband and I learned, once you are open, you can’t go back.
In the beginning, my husband and I revealed our polyamorous lifestyle only to trusted, open-minded friends. We chose to do so because we wanted to be able to take our partners on double dates and invite them to events.
Also, our style of polyamory is more kitchen table, in that we want our partners to be intimately involved in our lives and vice versa, so being open with our lifestyle is much easier than keeping it a secret. If your style of polyamory is more parallel, in that you don’t know your metamours (your partner’s partners), then being openly polyamorous may not be necessary or even a desire.
One of the benefits of only telling a trusted few about your poly lifestyle is that you can have those moments where you don’t have to hide, while still having the protections in place where they are needed, which worked well for my husband and I in the beginning of our poly journey. We lived in a very conservative area with very conservative family and family friends. So it felt safer to remain mostly secret in our lifestyle. And then it was no longer a secret, but not by our choice. A family member guessed what was going on and “outed” us to the rest of our family members.
Even after we were completely open to family and friends, we still kept our polyamory hidden from people in our careers. I was in a career field that was highly conservative (teaching), so I was terrified of word spreading to my co-workers or students and losing my job. My husband had a job with an innovative tech organization, but he still only felt safe telling a few trusted co-workers since his company worked with some more conservative clients.
In a smaller town, the news of our perverted ways (their words, not mine) spread through our family, extended relatives, and even family friends. A few more open-minded family and friends, although religious, didn’t mind our poly ways. But my husband and I had to endure multiple talks from various family members regarding the dangers to our marriage and condemnation of our eternal souls. We lost friends. We were no longer invited to extended family functions. After all, our immoral ways would probably rub off on them and soil their souls as well. According to many of our family and friends, we had fallen into a sex-crazed trap of the devil and needed to be saved from our evil ways.
Even so, after the shock wore off, an interesting development occurred. Not only were we able to start inviting our partners and their children to our kids’ birthday parties, but also eventually some of our family invited our partners to their events as well.
For those interested in coming out, consider how open-minded your family and friends are as well as their views on family ties. Fortunately for us, our family believed very much in acceptance with family even if they didn’t agree with our lifestyle; most of the time, in fact, we did more of the stepping back from our parents and siblings than they did with us, simply because we grew tired of the concerns that everyone seemed to have a need to bring up constantly.
For my husband and I, we had the added condemnation from the fact that we were no longer religious. If your religious views remain the same, then coming out might cause less concern and outrage. However, know that no matter how open-minded someone is, polyamory might come as a bit of a shock if they have never been exposed to it before.
One of the most frightening events that happened with being openly polyamorous was when family members threatened to call DHS on us. I doubt that DHS would have found anything amiss in our household because, despite what our family thought, we didn’t have sex parties in our home - at least not when our children were home - nor did we talk about our sexual escapades in front of our children.
At the time that we lived in a conservative location, our children were young enough that us having partners stay overnight were simply sleepovers to them. In their minds, it was the same as them having sleepovers with their friends. When we had a triad relationship and our partner moved in with us, our children never questioned it. In fact, to this day they call our now ex-partner’s daughter their cousin. For our children, us being polyamorous was very natural.
Another consideration with teenager or adult children is that they might need to be led gently to polyamory. Consider talking with them about different types of relationships and the benefits and drawbacks of each so that you can gauge their level of open-mindedness. We eventually explained polyamory to our kids when they were old enough to notice the difference between our marriage and other marriages and ask questions. Because we had slowly introduced them to the idea of different lifestyles already by pointing out other forms of relationships than cis marriage, they accepted our polyamory easily.
Before deciding how open you want to be, or if you want to be open at all, consider your career and the views of your co-workers. Consider your religion, or lack thereof, and the religion of those around you. Consider how conservative your city is overall, as this will also influence how accepting others will be of polyamory (must keep up those appearances!)
Will you be able to handle the judgements passed by those who might see polyamory as perverted? Is it possible that even though friends and family will be concerned in the beginning, they might eventually accept your lifestyle? Are you okay with the idea that you might lose family and friends? You can make predictions, but you never really know how someone will react until you are in the moment.
Even though our family and some friends did become more accepting of our lifestyle, we still had a lot of fear regarding being fully open, especially when it came to my career and how our children might be treated at school. My husband and I are the type of people who don’t like to hide anything about ourselves. We wanted the freedom to be fully ourselves and live our polyamory openly without fear. So, when my husband received a job opportunity in a large city halfway across the country from our hometown, our freedom of lifestyle was definitely an influence in our decision to make the move.
Sadly, polyamory is not a lifestyle that everyone will accept, and, as such, there are real risks involved for those who live in a conservative community. So, take into account all of the angles, gather advice from other poly people, and take the leap - or don’t. Hopefully unlike for us, the choice is up to you.