My Son Just Came Out as Poly


A thirty year old man does not need to "come out" with such TMI and burden his poor parents with it. How selfish of him.
@1, depends on how close he and his wife get to their third. If you've got another girlfriend/boyfriend that you're bringing around for ages, you should be honest about it if you can. Most thirds don't want to be treated like chopped liver shoved to the side of family life (I respectfully assume).
I don't understand why a 30 yo needs to tell his Mommy about his sex life/open marriage. Makes me suspicious that there was a motive. Mom, take Dan's advice. Besides being right, I think it gets you out the info loop.
They do not have children and do not plan to ever have children.

In which case, it seems to me that monogamy loses much (if not of all) of its appeal. A couple has to find something to do with all that extra free time on their hands.
Lots going on here. Mom sounds a tad judgmental after touting her nonjudgmental status.
That was a lovely response Dan. It can be hard for parents, or anyone really, to have their expectations and assumptions of those close to them rocked.
@4: Yeah, along those lines, I don't think that the issue is Oh dear, my child is judging me. She's been a parent for over thirty years already and her hide's probably pretty tough by now.

I think the unstated concern is Where are my grandchildren, dammit!... which probably provoked the TMI dump in the first place.
Right. The son should remain closeted and pretend to be something he's not: monogomous, to spare his mother's fee fees. *eyeroll*

I'm assuming he didn't tell her details of the various sex acts that he practices. He merely told her his marriage was not monogamous, that they have both had several other partners of both genders, and that they are happy. That doesn't sound like over-sharing to me, not TMI. It sounds like he loves and trusts his parents enough to be open with them about this, which I admire.

Good for the son for being open and honest. He'll be much happier not having to stress over pretending to be monogamous. Good for mom for trying to be understanding, and wanting to learn how to navigate new territory. Sounds like a very healthy relationship to me. And great advice from Dan. Can't add a thing.
My opening guess (not a heavily invested one) is that LW is rather clever, and is trying to rig the investigation to conclude that Son has been brainwashed into this arrangement and perhaps into bisexuality as well (if I bought into the letter as entirely accurate, I could easily see DIL as one of those bisupremacists who think it's just so unevolved to love only one gendre). I'll expand the opening guess to cover DIL's genuinely thinking not very highly of monogamous couples of forty years' standing and Son's buying into this new religion he's being taught and parroting the dogma without completely understanding it himself. If I had to guess whether I find LW, Son or DIL the most sympathetic, my original guess would probably be Husband. But I do give the younger couple credit for being Unchilded (which I suppose does seem more PC than Child-Free) by Choice.
@1 & @3 Do you think that telling your parents that you're gay, or moving in with your significant other, or pregnant is TMI about your sex life?

Certain information is significant to your life in general and not just your sex life (e.g. gay, cohabitation, pregnancy). If a son comes out to mom as gay and mom's mind flashes to her son gargling balls, that's not so much the son burdening mom as mom having issues.

OPEN marriages are generally only relevant if some clucking busybody is alleging adultery and one wants to set the record straight. But a poly marriage can often be relevant to life in general. As @2 pointed out, often the third is a significant member of the family. I know a poly triad that isn't out to the parents, and the parents see the third as some leech that's sponging off them that they should kick off the couch already.
@4 I am monogamous and childless with my wife, and we are childless. We are just happy with each other. We don't find the need for an other, we just have fun with the two of us. I honestly can't imagine sleeping with someone other than someone than my SO, because what we have is so precious, and no problems have creeped up on us in these five years. It floats our boats and we are happy.
@4 Boning, gaming and other assorted hobbies.
@11 Same boat, 5 years and I met my match
@4 I don't need no offspring to feel like my marriage holds any kind of value.
A big one , Dan. Really tugs at the heart strings.. Being a parent myself, I know the pain the little shits can bring.
My suggestion to ma and pa, is just put out several
extra plates come Thanksgiving.
I think the son did come across in the letter as judgmental of his parents' type of relationship. But like Dan said, this doesn't have to be so. And moreover, you could even kinda praise your parents when coming out this way. Say to them something like: Growing up you and dad showed me how great a mutually satisfying, honest relationship can be. And that's what I want for me and my wife.
It didn't sound like TMI to me. It's fine to talk about your identity. In light of the AM hack don't you think it might head off concerned neighbors (the pitchfork and torch crowd) from "helping" the parents with revelations of perceived infidelity? (I saw your daughter-in-law stepping out!)
@16 - I tend to agree, but here's what's missing: how judgmental and tsk-tsk 40-year-monogamous mom & dad have been for the past about non-traditional people. We can't no, and it's never necessary (and generally unhelpful) to be snarky/judgy in response to such people, but it's also sometimes an appropriate push back. It's very easy to imagine a moderately homophobic (or just cluelessly insensitive) parent needing the jolt of "hey, I'm one of "those people" you keep talking trash about" in order to get them to STFU and start introspecting...and it sounds like LW is introspecting (so good for her).
I think it's reasonable to believe this came out somewhat unexpectedly in the course of a conversation... they've been poly for 3 years, it's not like the son burst in the door and announced, "Mom & Dad, we're POLY!" So it's not TMI if the mom asks for the information, i.e., "What's the deal with that man/woman/men/women you guys keep bringing to Thanksgiving?"

And regarding mom's reaction, if she & dad have been married 40 years (since about 1975), that implies they are around 60-ish, which means they were coming of age smack dab in the middle of the sexual revolution, in the '60s. So they chose monogamy in a time when only the most out-there people were practicing these new, crazy relationship styles, like poly, group sex, orgies, etc., etc. It's not unreasonable to think the mom is just kinda sad to feel her kid is practicing this lifestyle that she may have seen before, causing her friends' marriages to go up in flames, or that she decided a long time ago she was not comfortable with.

I feel like she's showing pretty good restraint and open-mindedness, while admitting that she's a human and a little bummed about this. She's asking Dan for help in understanding it, after all.

And yes, the prospect of no grandchildren could be another depressing thing to her.
If she misses having little children around, there are lots of them who could use a kind grandparent-type in their lives for sure.
I get the mom's sadness. It's how I would be if, say, my son came out to me as gay, for example. Not because I think there's anything wrong with it, or because it diminishes him in my eyes, or anything like that. It would be because something I had assumed we had in common - attraction to women, and everything that goes along with that - had suddenly vanished. There would be a big hole suddenly where there had been - or so I thought - a huge body of shared feelings and experience.

That's why the mom is sad. Her prioritizing monogamy in her marriage constituted a worldview and set of feelings that she finds she no longer shares with her son, and that's a legitimate cause for mourning. But the good news is that the mourning is temporary; she can rebuild her relationship with her son, and find that nothing has been lost that can't be replaced.
@4: Travel, I imagine. There are tons of new and fulfilling experiences to be had that aren't genital-focused.
Well, other-genitals-focused.
@10 The reasoning behind your third paragraph is correct and one rationale my wife and I have been more forthcoming with select neighbors and friends re: our less common marital arrangement. We'd rather be up-front where/when we can, because it would be more awkward and uncomfortable for them to see/come across something that would be interpreted as evidence of an affair, and then grapple with whether they 'saw' what they saw, and whether to tell the other spouse, or to bottle it up and wrongly put one of us in the CPOS category.
@14: I don't need no offspring to feel like my marriage holds any kind of value.

As a parent who's currently starring in his own personal remake of the movie Thirteen, and who has experienced more than a few moments of profound regret at having children, rest assured that you are preaching to the choir.

@undead: Travel, I imagine.

That in combination with endurance sports are how my childless friends seem to occupy themselves. And I'm pretty sure one of those friends wants to bang me, so my motives for encouraging polyamory among childless couples may not be exactly pure.

I'd personally find polyamory a lot more enticing if I had the kind of time available that it takes to find potential partners and convince them to have to sex with me.
@19 or she regrets missing out on experiencing it.
Coming of age in the late 60s was a blast. She wouldn't have had married friends then, it was music and ideas as well as sex. So maybe, a tinge of regret is mingled with her response to her son.
@26 - Yeah, I always wonder about that. It seems to me like 'polyamory', like open marriages, might be pretty one-sided affairs, at least at first. The wife or girlfriend hangs out her shingle on a few websites, and... boom! She's got several partners before you can say 'shag me please.' The husband, meanwhile, would have to really put some time in before he found someone he really wanted to poly his amor for, and vice versa.
@27 excellent point.
If one of my adult sons came to me with a story like this, first off I'd be fascinated.
And sort of pleased. My son was comfortable in his bi experiences.
How do you do it, would be my question. How do you fight those evil feelings of jealousy.
It is sort of a back handed compliment to the LW's skill as a Mother,
because her son is greatly gifted in sharing.
@26 - Try Ashley Madison, it's great! :D Haha, sorry, couldn't resist...

@28 - I've often thought about the different between most (straight) women's experience on dating sites and most (straight) men's experience. I always think of it like this:

For a woman, it's like being on the floor of the NYSE, with hundreds of brokers looking at you and shouting, waving frantically to get your attention. If you make the mistake of making eye contact with one, he latches on & gets even louder and more desperate.

For a man, it's more like sitting in a small rowboat on a quiet pond, with about 20 fishing lines in the water. And none of them moving. If by some miracle one does move, you clench up, moving as slowly as possible to pick it up, panicked you're going to scare it away...

Then it disappears.
@28 for most poly couples it's not like that, because most poly wives want to find new relationships (not casual sex, which they could find easily but rarely enjoy), and poly husbands are able to offer other poly women relationships which are intimate and exciting (and don't involve discussing household chores).

It does take time, but realistically it takes no more time than having an affair, and plenty of married people find time for that.
I think the difference between gay and poly is that homosexuality is about who you love while polyamory is about how you love. So coming out as gay is necessary; the person in question will be dating people of the same sex. Coming out as poly, I'm not so sure unless the couple plans on bringing a third to Thanksgiving dinner. I suppose, in light of the whole Ashley Madison thing, one could say to concerned parties, "No, I'm not cheating, we have an open relationship."
Um, sooo.... I think the letter writer is my MIL. Who might not know that not only are we big fans of Dan Savage's, but that he was the one who introduced us to non-monogamy in the first place. If I'm right, I can clear up a few things:

1. Husband wanted to "come out" because he's very close to his parents and as polyamory becomes a bigger part of our lives, he didn't feel right hiding such a big part of who he is. I assure you it's not a grandchild issue, they have known about that choice for a long time and have always been extremely accepting of it.

2. Both I and my husband have the utmost respect for my inlaws' marriage - it is truly a thing of beauty and I don't think I've ever known another couple who has been so happy for so long. I wasn't there for the conversation but I truly hope my husband didn't phrase it in a way that suggested otherwise (if he did, it was unintentional.) They are a pair who are very well suited to monogamy and do it proud.

3. I am very sad that they are feeling sad about this decision, and was very hesitant to sign off on telling them because I thought that they might be...but they truly are some of the most non-judgmental, loving and accepting people that I know, so please don't be too quick to jump to unsavory conclusions. I'm sure it's very difficult even for the most open-minded people to come to terms with their kids choosing a very different (and seemingly strange) path.

If I'm wrong and this is a huge coincidence and not my inlaws, then....I take it back, troll forth!
JohnnyRythm @31
Absolutely brilliant. I think you've won the thread.
My husband and I have been poly since we first started dating. He is open with his family in that they are aware but since they live so far away it doesn't really matter. I am not open with my family because i know my mother would flip her shit and I already have to listen to her judgmental crap enough as it is. We moved far away from her too. The coming out aspect is because poly isn't about just sleeping around. Real loving relationships and families can be formed. If we have an additional person in our life that we consider family we don't want to hide them. Last year my husband took our son to visit his family. He took his girlfriend with him. She is one of my dearest friends. My son knows she is our friend but is still young enough to know really be aware of relationships. He was less than a year old at that time. I joined them after a few days as I was away on business and the 4 of us had a lovely vacation. We have talked about having her eventually move in as part of our family unit. To do so would require we be "out" completely. So I don't think the son was trying to give TMI.
I have been contemplating "coming out" as poly for a while..... My parents know of ( and adore) my husband of 15 years, but know nothing of my boyfriend of a year and a half.... It really isn't about my sex life as some commenters would allude to, it is about my life. There is so much of me they have zero knowledge about. I would have to be mentally prepared for ANY reaction they might have, which I am not ready for.....
I really wish I could be my authentic self with them ( and my in-laws).
I won't be bringing my boyfriend to thanksgiving dinner because he refuses to be referred to as my (our) "friend".... And I don't blame him one bit.

What the heck is up with all the comments about triads? That is not the relationship structure of most of the poly people I know.
@Ericap: because most poly wives want to find new relationships

Sure, but you're mostly just sitting there at your desk skimming resumes and conducting the occasional interview. And if you find a great applicant, he has to wine and dine you.

Anyway, far be it from me to deny the hardships women face in finding love. Nature has played a rather mean joke by endowing het men and women with a deep need for each other, but (in too many cases) rather different agendas when it comes meeting those needs.

realistically it takes no more time than having an affair

This seems like it ought to be true, but is it?

I think there are way more women up for an affair than there are women into poly, so right there you're working with a larger pool.

With affairs, there's usually a mutual understanding that both party's time is limited, so you have a higher ratio of time spent fucking over time spent hanging out.

Finally, I think for a lot of women, affairs are primarily about the sex, which makes them less selective when choosing a partner.
Sean@38, I think your scenario doesn't take into account a woman's talent for getting the best out of a situation.
If I had gone the way of affairs, I would have picked the man very carefully. If I was to step outside the marriage so blantently, it would have to count for something.
An erotic exchange is much more than just sex.
@38 stick to what you know. We've been open for 5 1/2 years. In that time I had a bunch of one night stands (learning that I don't like casual sex and don't come from it), one fuck buddy for a few months, and now a real relationship which has lasted six months so far. Mr. P. had a hard time finding NSA sex, but has had I think four real relationships.

And, FYI, my outside partners and I share costs. I'm not evaluating their ability to support a family (as in traditional dating) so why should they pay more?

"With affairs... you have a higher ratio of time spent fucking over time spent hanging out."

lol, speak for yourself.
Decades ago (40+) my sociology professor predicted that the divorce rate would climb to 50+%. It was 25% at the time. He had incredible foresight suggesting that the monogamous heterosexual model was not working for many if not most. And indeed, we find today that around 50% of partners have been adulterous in their lifetime. Now we see divorce rates in some states close to 80%. The professor suggested an interesting marriage we would sign a negotiated marriage contract that would include a 10 year renewable clause.
In this article I commend the son for being honest. That is what we need a lot more of in our relationships for relationships to do well and survive. The fact that the mother is upset because her son is not living up to her heterosexual model of marriage shows she is caught too much into a model that is losing relevance more and more based on marriages across this country. Her son could very well be a harbinger of things to come that is far more loving, honest, and healthy than the existing model today.
Mr Thrust - But is that because you have a solid historical foundation for your assumption, as LW certainly seemed to have here? I can understand the mind set; it reminds me of the Cracker episode White Ghost, set in the Hong Kong business community just before the handover with an antagonist whose father had been an electrician in Rumford. I can hear Robbie Coltrane now pontificating that what makes a parent of that sort proud is for the son not to better himself and succeed in business in a foreign country but to join the firm, take the wages, and move two streets away. The father complains that he doesn't know what he did wrong because he can't get rid of the boy, but inside he's singing.
I'm just wondering why you spoke of the parents' relationship as if it were in the past.
@EricaP: stick to what you know.

Not a very encouraging reply to someone who's just trying to start a conversation.

We had a third for several months and we didn't come out to our families or our kids. It was hard not to include her in family get-togethers. She was killed in a car accident. One of the hardest things I did was to grieve without grieving. The people I love and work with had no understanding. How could they? I had to carry-on as if I had lost a friend I'd known for 6 months, not a spouse.
@LavaGirl: An erotic exchange is much more than just sex.

Fair enough - "sex" was an overly reductive term for the point I was making.

If I was to step outside the marriage so blatantly, it would have to count for something.

Something more than eroticism?

Mystery can be a highly erotic quality in a man, and maintaining that sense of mystery requires keeping the relationship at a relatively superficial level, which is almost inevitable when both parties are on the sneak. (Maybe that's also true of secondary poly relationships, but I dare not speculate about things I don't know.) That's what I meant by being less selective - you're looking for a guy who revs up your engines and provides a sufficiently blank canvas for you to project your fantasies, not someone who revs up your engines and is also your soul mate (although some affairs do come to that). Maybe that's just being differently selective, not less so.
Just someone who doesn't talk much, Sean. All those problems in life.. Wouldn't want to hear about them.
Mystery, can be a highly erotic quality in a woman, as well. It just needs to be cultivated.. Less time at the kitchen sink / washing machine/ kids homework.. More time on the dance floor, late night bars.
Selective environments. Bookshops, even. Like a man who reads.

Got way off topic there, Sean. And way off topic for the letter.
LW. Our children are not us. At some point, we got to hand them the keys to their own lives and wish them well, and let them go. And trust they will make choices that brings no harm to others or themselves.

@45: Sue3, Please accept my condolences. I, too, am grieving someone I'm not supposed to be grieving in that way. I'm sorry for your and your spouse's loss.
@LavaGirl: Our children are not us

No, but you invest so much into them.

I'm handling her push for autonomy just fine, and I haven't yet lost my status as cool dad, in part because I'm comfortable giving her space and letting her approach me when she feels like it, which she often does. (The mom-daughter dynamic is a whole different story).

It's just so acutely painful when they are hurt, or worse, when they act in ways that hurt themselves. Those have been the hardest moments for me.

And the drama among her female peers (and some of their overly enmeshed mothers) has been quite literally insane.
@seandr: No period of my life has ever been bleaker than when my younger daughter was 13. I think that being the parent of teenagers is hard; being the parent of teenage daughters is often harder, and being the parent of a particular kind of teenage girl is in-fucking-credibly difficult. But it passes. They grow up. And to borrow a phrase that people here in Savageland are familiar with, it gets better.
Just make sure to keep lots of MDMA or weed or alcohol around for yourself while you get through it. And your sense of humor.
Good luck.
seandr, if you want a conversation, try speaking from your own experiences, or asking others about theirs, rather than telling me (@38) about how women experience non-monogamy.

Getting assaulted isn't much like sitting at a desk reviewing resumes.
@45: I'm so, so sorry for your loss. What a horrible experience to get through without social support. My heart goes out to you and your remaining spouse.
I don't stop being a parent Sean, even with my children being adults. I wish.
And your girl is young, of course you have to be in there, when she needs it. I don't feel I'd ever stop saying my piece, if I thought they were heading for trouble and pain.
And yes, one does invest so much into them. All forgotten, by them. They sure remember the bad times.
I have developed a lot philosophically, rearing kids. Finding the reasons my gut says No, and convincing them.
@nocutename, @LavaGirl: Thanks for the commiseration, I hope it does get better.

@EricaP: Sorry to hear that you were assaulted, and that my conversational style isn't working for you.
seandr, it was five years ago, and I'm fine now, but I just didn't understand why you felt so sure you knew how women experienced non-monogamy. Seemed like a lot of projecting going on. If you'd like to actually talk about gender and non-monogamy, let me know.
Sean, the relationship between mother and daughter can be dicey. My relationship has been bad with my mother, all my life. The intimacy is very limited, on my side.
When I had my daughter after three sons, I wanted a different relationship with her. Patience required during teenage yrs, as well as the rest. A girl throws her mother off hard, so one needs to be good at quick foot work.
Maybe you need to run interference with your wife. Gentle interference. Remind her that this girl will grow to be a woman, and potentially a lovely friend and daughter, she's just got to weather this time with immense love, vigilance and patience.
My sympathies to nocute and sue3 on your losses.

May I recommend a movie I saw years ago and have always remembered:

"About Mrs. Leslie".

I'm glad to see upon searching that a DVD is now available--I'm off to order it and watch again!…
I admit I haven't read all 59 comments so far, but just in case this hasn't been said enough: telling your parents that your friend is "with benefits" or about string of first dates that don't go anywhere may be TMI; telling your parents about a relationship (or openness to having particular types of relationships) is not. I told my parents (classmates, church friends, etc) I was polyamorous when I found myself with two boyfriends and no real interest in pretending that one of them didn't exist. Telling people earlier that I was polyamorous while it was still theoretical might not have been a bad idea. It's an identity, not sexual minutae.
Dan - I wish you would not recommend Jenny Block's book. First, it's just not very well written and redundant - her huffpost article on the same topic will do, frankly. Second, I read it based on your recommendation. And well, all she does is spend time justifying WHY she's doing it and blaming "society" for making her believe that this wasn't possible. She's totally in the dark about how monogamy actually biologically favored the success of offspring (still does, in many ways) and is now divorced from her husband and identifies as a lesbian. So her book was more of a "I'm not comfortable coming out as gay, and want to stay with my husband for our daughter cuz we're bffs so maybe he'll let me sleep with other people to drag it out."