National Coming Out Day got me thinking: My husband and I have been poly for 11 years now. We aren't part of a poly community, don't consider ourselves swingers, and don't tend to go actively looking for secondary partners (though we support our friends who are and do). We are a straight couple who wants to be together, hopefully for the rest of our lives, and neither of us believe that a lifetime of monogamy will help us achieve that. We have a set of agreements we are both comfortable with and these agreements continue to evolve as we have gained more experience with secondary partners.
Though we are quite happy with our arrangement, we struggle with knowing how "out" to be about it with family and friends. How much to tell them? We don't want to keep secrets, but we also don't want to over-share. Do I want to hear every detail about my sister's sex life? I do not.
Even though my man and I have never hidden the fact that we're poly, it's generally not among the first things we tell people either (unless the person is a prospective partner). When it comes up in conversation, we are honest, which often makes people uncomfortable. My guess is that people either project how they would feel if their S.O. were to propose opening their relationship, or they think we are looking for other partners because our relationship is on the rocks.
As a matter of fact, this is often how the subject comes up. Someone will talk about a couple they know who has tried opening their relationship and is now no longer a couple. Someone else will say, "I had a boyfriend who wanted to do that. That was the beginning of the end." These comments are inevitably followed by the pronouncement that "open relationships never work." When I say, "Really? But we've been together for 11 years," mouths drop. It's like they're looking at a Sasquatch or something. Something fabled to exist but never seen. Then the questions start and though I'm happy to answer them, my answers tend to leave at least one person in the group uncomfortable and sometimes angry. It's like I'm attacking monogamy (which I'm not) or condoning cheating (which I'm not) or suggesting polyamory is for everyone (which it isn't).
I am curious to know your thoughts on this. In your opinion, how "out" should us poly people be?
Poly Works For Us
My response after the jump...
A straight couple is presumed to be monogamous until they state otherwise. Even so, PWFU, I don't think you're under any obligation to run around in "NOT MONOGAMOUS" t-shirts, or open every conversation with, "Hello, we sometimes fuck other people." Coming out about your poly relationship when poly/non-monogamous people are being maligned in your presence sounds about right. At that moment you need to speak up—to speak up for yourselves and others in non-monogamous relationships
Too many folks in committed, loving, long-term, and successful and successfully non-monogamous relationships are reluctant to identify themselves as non-monogamous. It's just easier for a couple to allow themselves to be perceived as monogamous; it's tempting to avoid the judgements and defensiveness of the insecure and monogamous. (I'm not saying that all monogamous people are insecure—far from it.) This leads to a distorted picture of non-monogamy. We hear about the failure of relationships that were non-monogamous but we rarely hear about the successes. Sometimes we hear about the infidelity-related failure of a relationship that was monogamous and have to listen as non-monogamy gets the blame—the kind of structured, thoughtful, consensual non-monogamy that, had it been tried, might have saved the relationship.
And if there's still one angry and uncomfortable person in the room after you've patiently answered every question, well, fuck 'em. And remember: for the non-monogamous best revenge is staying together.