Thursday, January 27, 2011


I told my family about being poly. I didn't mention being kinky and I didn't get into gritty details--lots of "the three of us go out together, like a family!" not so much group sex and "well, it's not just us three exactly"--but I let them know that Sprite exists, at least.

My dad was fine with it, mostly because he and I long struck a "we're both adults and there's no judgement here, but it would be best if we didn't share details" pact. He went "huh, okay" and moved on.

My mom went through all five stages of grief, each of which might have been upsetting to me at an earlier age, but were just amusing at this point:

Denial. "Well, lots of people date around casually."
Anger. "You're better than this! I don't want you to diminish yourself!"
Bargaining. "Okay, which one of you is really his girlfriend?"
Depression. "If you do this you're never going to have a real relationship and never have a family and I'm just so worried about your future now."
And finally, a halfhearted acceptance. "Well, I guess I can't stop you, can I?"

The funny part now, though, is that every time I bring up my relationships--again, not in an outrageous way, just a "oh, Sprite hates this cold weather" way--my mom just freezes. It's like I used a racial slur and she's trying to not make a scene but she can't quite stifle her outrage. Just mentioning Rowdy or Sprite's existence brings any lively conversation to an instant "Oh. Fine. Whatever."

I suppose in her hilariously rude way she is being decent. She still talks to me (yay?) and I haven't been written out of any wills or crossed off any Bar Mitzvah guest lists. She doesn't even try to argue about it that much.

On the whole I'm relieved, just because I don't have to tell weird little lies of omission to my family all the time. Having a dirty secret can be sort of fun sometimes, but ultimately it's wonderful to feel like you have nothing to hide.

Well, not as much, anyway.


  1. My Dad told me I was morally reprehensible, but that was probably more about my husband than my two wives.

    My Mom got mad at me for omitting it for so many years (this makes me a liar) but when I asked her if it was cool with her if I talked to her father about it, she said "No." We've not talked much since.

    Going to try again, time and stability mean a lot, and I've got a good anchor in my poly family. Dad I only saw one more time after that, before he died.

    Family of Origin can be so hard sometimes.

  2. My philosophy is that there's no point spending time with people you can't fully be yourself around (unless you're getting paid).

    My mom knows that my bf is a by extension I'm sure my dad knows, too. It was important to me to get it out in the open, not because my bf wants to be a girl around my parents but because we want to be able to talk normally without fear of slipping up and revealing the Big Secret.

    Good for you for coming out, Holly. I think you made the right choice.

  3. That's about almost exactly how it went down with my parents when I came out as poly to them (about 10 years ago, ish).

    Don't sweat it; the mention of your partner's partner will eventually be commonplace, and be replaced with choruses for grandkids, just like everybody else.

  4. That's exactly how my mom reacts. At xmas, she actually said, "So, what's new in your life? That I can stand to hear about." lolz. I don't give a crap, but my wife takes it hard.

    My dad is fully on board. In fact, he told me that he often had been in love with more than one woman but never did anything and never knew there was a word for it! Maybe poly is genetic? ;-)

  5. Congratulations on being able to come out and it not turning into something too horrible.

  6. That was probably as well as it could go, really, so props to the PervocraParents for being not astoundingly angry about it.

  7. Congrats!

    When I told my mom, she was pretty relaxed, but then insisted that it meant that neither of my relationships could be serious then, and that It's OK to "date around" when you're young. I think her views have been slowly changing since then, but there's still some awkwardness.

  8. I've never had to "come out" to my parents about any specific big thing in my life, but they are such delusional hyperjudgmental manipulative intrusive assholes, that I have to gird myself before any engagement with them, locking my true thoughts and feelings up and putting on a superficial facade that keeps them the fucke away from my real self. Given how much I longe not to have to do this, I think I have at least some sense for the relief you must feel. I am happy for you!

  9. Hey, this is great to hear.
    I have a lot of trouble with poly and bdsm regarding my family and friends. I did not come out for most of them and that is painful.
    Good that you came out.

    You are a role model for me.
    Greetings from Europe

  10. Yay Holly! That's awesome. Sorry you got so much pushback from your mom. Coming out to my parents was annoying, because they're the kind of people that like to forget anything you've told them that doesn't fit with with their world view. I basically have to do it once a year.

  11. I just came out to my mom, because I knew she'd be pretty good about it. She was, though she was really really taken aback and had some slightly offensive questions (which she realized were assy pretty fast). In the end it was "Well, as long as you're happy and healthy, that's all I've ever wanted for you."

    My dad will probably be the freak out, but I'm not as close to my dad, so I don't feel much need to push it yet.

    It would be far easier if polyamory was more in the collective consciousness. Most people only ever hear about religious polygamy. I bet it would have been easier for my mom if I came out as a lesbian. Gay, she knows and understands the concept. Poly not so much.

  12. Glad to hear it went fairly well for you.

    The previous times I came out were anticlimaxes (in the positive sense). It seems to be a never-ending voyage, though. First I came out bi to close friends, then got to run through each member of my immediate family seperately.

    In the future, depending on how my relationships evolve, I get to look forward to: Coming out bi AGAIN to new step family (who are way more religious than my parents, yay); Explaining the difference between "bi-" and "pan-;" Coming out poly; coming out atheist to my otherwise-nice-but-very-fundy relations.

    Anyone have a form letter I can borrow?

  13. Congratulations.

    From everything you've said about your mom her reaction was almost what I'd expect -- it's not about you, it's about her (as always). Your dad may not want details per se, but if gilbert is right -- and I suspect he/she is -- then given time your dad will ask about both of them and so on. Hell, my mom introduces Kellie's daughter as her granddaughter now. Time and familiarity help engender a comfort level.

    Again, congratulations.

  14. Congrats! Funny how family can be, sometimes... I expected my parents to react worse than yours (they're WASPy. Like, stereotypically so, right down to my mother's pearls and cardigan sets), but I wanted to let them know before they went to a gathering that would include both my boyfriends, as well as one boyfriend's wife.

    My mom's reaction (and I quote): "Oh, that's ok, dear, your father and I have an open relationship. Do you sleep with them together?"


    Not exactly the response I was anticipating, and NOT something I was prepared to discuss in QUITE that level of detail, even if the support was nice!

  15. Ros:

    You just made me crack a huge grin. Turnabout's fair play, I guess? :)

  16. YAY! I like existance :)
    kisses (no homo)

  17. I came out poly to my parents at least a decade ago, because I was annoyed about lying to them.

    They did not approve. We had some arguments about it, because how could I do that, and he's married and has a kid I am a terrible person and their marriage could not possibly be strong because he's fucking me on the side.

    Then they decided it was a phase. Then they decided I'd stopped doing that and were shocked whenever they heard about it. *sigh*

    About five years ago we had it Out and my dad settled into "I don't approve but you don't need my approval, your life is your choice" in a generally friendly way. Mom? Nope.

    So every year since then, Mom and I have the Poly Argument. She assumes that when I meet The One, I will get over it. I'm with a new partner who is awesome and I love him and it's getting serious, and he has another girlfriend. It came up again, we had it out again, and now?

    It's Something We Don't Talk About. Because she loves me but absolutely cannot understand or accept, and in her mind the only solution is to Never Talk About It.

    I hate that. I should step back in the closet because she can't deal? I have avoided mentioning my married partner, who has been my partner since 1999, because I didn't want an argument. Fortunately, he is comfortable being hidden on the rare occasions my parents are in town... but I am uncomfortable with it. I don't like it.

    If I get married, there will be a fight, because I will be damned if I leave him out of that ceremony. Mom will damn well suck it up.

    For a while, I thought my coming-out story was a success story. I guess it's better than it could be. But after a decade, it's pretty clear Mom's never going to accept, and it adds painful distance to an otherwise close relationship. I just came home from a visit to them, and that distance has grown and is painfully apparent.

    She's never going to change, no matter how I want her to. I have to accept that. I am pissed as hell that I'm the one who's got to do the emotional heavy lifting here.

  18. Congrats!

    I came out to my parents last year and it went very well (my mother even asked if it was a man or a woman, and I haven't come out as a nonheterosexual yet - but I guess she kind of has a clue :) ), now I'm just waiting for a good time to let them meet my new boyfriend. But, when I read you post I started wondering if my parents would have reacted the same way if I had told them i "shared" a partner with someone else. I think it may be easier for them to see me as a strong emancipated woman who does this of her own free will when I have two partners, but if I had told them that my boyfriend has another girlfriend, maybe it's easier to see me as a weak victim then? If you understand what I mean. Do you think that your mother thinks that way?
    I'm not very used to write about relationship stuff (especially not nonmonogamous relationship stuff) in english, so I hope you understand what I'm trying to say..

  19. I'd been in a "don't ask don't tell" state with my parents for years - it was ok with my parents to have my partners around and my partners' partners, as long as we didn't actually spell it out.

    When I did come out to my parents (which I did because my husband and his partner were going to have a child, and I was not going to pretend to the 'rents that *that* wasn't happening) my dad stopped talking to me. It's been about 5 years and I haven't had a conversation with him since, aside from extremely awkward small talk the few times we've been around each other. This is pretty much the reaction I expected, and the reason I was reluctant to come out to them.

    My mom freaked out at first, still talks to me (sometimes I cynically wonder if that's because she doesn't want to lose touch with her grandson) but reacts EXACTLY like your mom. It's almost hilarious. She doesn't actually know what's going on, doesn't wish to know. She is, as they say, the Queen of Denial. Sadly, it makes real connection pretty much impossible.

    I wish my parents were as sweet as gilbert's (he really got lucky there), but yeah, as Miette said, I'm the one who's got to do the emotional heavy lifting.

  20. I didn't even ever try hiding things from my parents at all. When I met A, and A told me that poly existed, I expressed wonder at this concept. Parents dismissed it as 'Free Love' silliness. When I got into a relationship with A, parents dismissed it further, doubting that I would be able to handle A's other relationships in the long term. When I told them (giddy with NRE) that I was now in a relationship with K, who was also involved with A, they started to go quiet, and the feeling started to get cold. When it came out that I was dating S, it turned bitchy. For a while they regarded my relationship with A to now be invalid. They completely forgot about K. Now they mostly just mock A to my face (Oh, your 'polywoly' boyfriend), leave K invisible, and make S more and more uncomfortable with very weird behavoiur. Making ME uncomfortable and alienated with their very weird behaviour. I sort of wonder whether I'd almost rather they outright rejected it, instead of trying to pretend that they supported me in this juvenile phase I was obviously going through before settling down with a nice man.

  21. Holy moly. I knew I was lucky in some ways, but I'd never really thought it through about what it could be like, coming out to your parents. I don't have to come out. My parents agreed to have an open relationship after their kids were born before they got married. I was raised in a community where being poly was more normal than not. Actually, I think I "came out" as straight, mono, and vanilla at one point to my best friend! Not that that's entirely true at this point, but at this point I'm worrying about labels as little as necessary.

    I'm gonna have to thank my folks the next time I talk to them.