A personal coming out story: Friends vs. family

Telling people about my polyamory came in two very different flavors: coming out to friends and coming out to family. Though we are out to many of our close friends, the vast majority of our families think we’re all just good friends. If you’re polyamorous, you may or may not want to tell people. There can be consequences, but it can also feel very liberating. Here’s how my experience went with both of these groups:

Telling the friends

I left a copy of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships on my coffee table and one of my best lady friends started reading it while over for a party. I let her take it home to read. Little did she know, I was prepping her. #sneaky. When it became obvious that seeing other people was going to be a lasting thing for us, it was time to tell our friends. We didn’t want to lie to them about this big part of our lives.

I had a few different methods. With some friends, I nervously blurted it out while we were all hanging out at my house. Another I told in a car (if your friend is prone to full-body reactions to surprising news, I wouldn’t suggest this). With another, we showed up to her big house party with a date in tow. Though all our friends are liberal, open-minded, and sex-positive, non monogamy isn’t a common thing. I knew it would surprise them. My tactic here was just to be as open and honest as possible. Everyone asked lots of questions and wanted to make sure we were being safe. Afterward there was lots of hugging and words of encouragement. My friends are fantastic. Our choices have spurred them to have their own conversations about love and relationships. My friend (a mom) even related a thought that crossed her mind once: Having a child is a bit like being polyamorous. You’re letting this messy, beautiful thing into your life and it forever changes you. An interesting concept!

More than a year later, it’s a normal part of life in our friend group. The quad attends large group events quite often and we’ve all adopted each other’s friends as our own. They’ve all been nothing but wonderful.

We know we’re really lucky. It’s not the same for other people. We’ve heard stories of people whose friends just don’t understand or perhaps find it threatening. Who find out and pull back. That’s part of the reason we started this blog. To help us all feel a bit less alone. To find community.

Telling the family: A whole different bag of cats

Yeah, bag of cats.

My younger sister is the only one whom after I told replied: “oh yeah, I figured.” My face after she said that:

Is it that obvious?!

I guess she knows me better than I thought. It didn’t seem to phase her in the slightest. Other siblings of the quad have also been told and, after asking many questions, they were supportive, too.

I recently wrote a letter to my mother telling her, among other things, I’m bisexual and have a girlfriend (I left out the full quad dynamic). She told my grandmother. I sent the letter because months before, my mother had said some hurtful things about gay people, and I wanted to let her know that it had hurt me, not just because I am a human and have empathy, but because I’m a B in the larger LGBTQ community. After reading the letter, they both thought I was cheating on C. My grandma was the first to talk to me, and I was terrified as she started the conversation. She thought C would be hurt. I assured her that he was doing just fine, but I didn’t elaborate. When she pressed for more, I finally told her that C was dating J, too. My tactic here was to just answer questions as they came, not to volunteer any extra information beyond what she asked.

Grandma didn’t understand fully, but I didn’t feel judged (she was more bewildered). She told me she loved me and was proud of me. Overall the conversation was a good one. So I was the first to tell a parent. Achievement unlocked! We’re not sure we’ll ever tell any other parents. It just doesn’t seem necessary at this point.

Whether poly people choose to tell family or friends is a personal choice that can have lasting effects. We try to tell as many friends (that we trust) as possible, because we’re trying to help normalize the lifestyle.

— K

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