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June 20, 2010 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Can you tell us about living openly as non-monogamous and polyamorous?

My wife and I have a stable, non-monogamous relationship.

In order to decrease weirdness in talking to friends, I'd like to be out. I'm tired of dancing around topics, and of having to lie to people about what's going on in my life. Especially, I don't want people to stumble across our profile pages on dating sites and decide they've caught me in a secret. I guess I'd also like it if I could hit on people in front of my friends without them thinking I'm disrespecting my wife.

But, while I'm out as queer, I don't know anybody who's out as poly. Are you? How do people react to it? Any tips?

(This is a sock puppet. Feel free to memail it.)
posted by Humbaba to Human Relations (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Most friends don't want to hear too much information about their friends sex lives. I have told some friends/co-workers but tend to leave it as a subtle comment that we "have an agreement". If people are interested they can pursue it further (and some have asked very pointed questions, others, after seeing I was comfortable, would joke about it). But I don't (or try hard not to) involve our friends in our normal relationship up and downs. I haven't had a problem with judgmental people because I know their opinions before I broach the subject.
posted by saucysault at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guess I'd also like it if I could hit on people in front of my friends without them thinking I'm disrespecting my wife.

I can't advise you about the rest, but I'm not sure coming out as poly/non-monogamous will solve the problem of your friends feeling uncomfortable if you hit on other people in front of them. That doesn't mean that's because of your choice, obviously--some (maybe even many) people might still feel uncomfortable despite knowing that your wife is fine with it. To be honest I might at first, if a friend of mine did this. They've known you as part of a monogamous couple (because it's at least supposed to be the more common scenario) so they might have a hard time shaking off the expectations that go with that. Most people would accept it eventually, I would think, as they start to realize they are being silly and close-minded.

Plus, the people being hit on might not like the idea of dating someone who is already married. If those people are friends of your friends, your friends might not want to feel linked to the situation in this way--i.e. You invited me to the party where I got hit on by your friend, the married person!

Not in any way condoning these feelings/behaviors, and honestly maybe those kind of friends aren't true friends at all, but it could happen.
posted by sallybrown at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2010

I am out at work, and with family, as queer and non-monogamous. Feel free to email me with specific questions!

People in MN are generally polite. I've had a lot more problems with atheism and vegetarianism making people uncomfy than non-monog stuff. I tend to be the belligerent, wanting to screw with peoples' heads sort of person :)

Depending on the clue level of folks in your circle, if they know queer, they'll probably know about poly. If they don't, then back up the education train to "I have some things I'd like to share about my personal life, if you'd like to hear them." If they consent, then: "my wife and I are non-monogamous and date others. I wanted to tell you this, in case you though I was a caddish husband.... [etc.]".

Best of luck!
posted by gregglind at 8:19 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Emphasize the -amory part. People tend to think of non-monogamous relationships as allll about the sex, not about relationships.

(Being able to hit on people without them looking askance is a whole 'nother ballpark that you'll have to negotiate on a case-by-case basis as to appropriateness.)

My friends who are out as poly who are in stable relationships are pretty out, and they're still quite selective about how much they broadcast. They're not in the closet, but they have a healthy amount of respect for the tackiness of oversharing.

As you have undoubtedly seen in numerous MeFi thread trainwrecks, here is a (not entirely unfounded very sorry to say) stereotype that the Out! Open! We're So Polyamormous! people do not tend to be the ones who are, um, the most optimal and level-headed ambassadors for the functionality of multi-partner relationships.
posted by desuetude at 10:28 PM on June 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have been oversharing every detail of my sex life with all my friends and hell, Ask Metafilter for years. I'm just one of those people. If I make out with a cute keebler boy on the street corner while his fixed gear bumps into my leg or I get the girl you have a crush on to take her clothes off for me, I want to brag about it. To everyone. It's kind of a problem.

I don't know if this is the healthy solution, but I've cultivated a sort of sleazy oversexed persona. I'm very loud and vocal about everything from the obscure celebrities I have crushes on to the best lube for anal sex, on Twitter, at the dinner table, at work. I flirt shamelessly with married women, I make jokes about people's moms, I'm honest about some of the less classy and refined episodes of my sex life.

So, I am pretty sure people just expect it from me. They don't seem to be terribly surprised that I might be open to dating multiple people, and they sure as hell know I'm in an open relationship.

That beingi said, I do sometimes struggle with the idea that everyone thinks I'm a slut. Now, a slut is a wonderful thing to be, and when I'm shooting the shit with other poly friends and we're making casual jokes about all the hijinks we've gotten into, it seems like the biggest nondeal. Who wouldn't want to be having a bunch of rad sex? But sometimes I think people take all the hypersexual comments I make at face value and think I'm the town bicycle (everyone gets a ride). Which is not true.

I especially struggle with it when I start seeing somebody and they've heard a million crazy stories (uh, from me) and then I'm not sure if they know it's mostly just bluster, that I'm not with a million other people, and that I actually like them, that it actually means something to me. I want to say PSYCH, I'M NOT A SLUT, I'M A GIRL WITH EMOTIONS WHO REALLY LIKES YOU! and I do worry people have the wrong idea about me if I'm really into them.

So, yeah, I'm not recommending the "tell everyone every single detail about your sex life because it's part of your persona and you're a compulsive oversharer" method to everyone, but that's been my experience with it.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:02 AM on June 21, 2010 [5 favorites]

My husband and I are queer and non-monogamous. Actually, he is non-monogamous and I am asexual. Legally married 10 years but "together" (whatever that means) for about 18 years. Generally, most people who know us, know the whole story (nutshell: best friends, his lover died in '99, we all lived together, he and I decided to become family). But for new people, it's always a little awkward at first.

I generally give a low-down like the one above and when people ask where my husband is, and he's playing, I usually just say that he's on a date. Straightforward, no giggling. It's not weird to us. We've been doing this for almost two decades so I just tell the truth. People can think whatever they want about me but I try to normalize it in all situations.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:07 AM on June 21, 2010

You can memail me. General advice doesn't help. Feel it out, tell a few people at once and get them "on your side" so to speak so that when other people find out about it there is some social pressure to be cool about it.

It also helps if you or your wife has another significant other who is nice and normal to kinda illustrate that you know what you're doing and everyone is fine with it for real.

There will be a few people who are obviously weirded out by it or whatever, try to get them alone and offer to answer any questions they might have, talk to them more about it, whatever. Usually the people who are the most awkward or obviously uncomfortable just have lots of questions or misconceptions that are making them uncomfortable and once you address those, you're good.

Hitting on people in front of your friends may always be kinda weird for them. But it depends what you mean by "hitting on". Talking in a friendly way, maybe exchanging numbers low-key, sure, why not. Anything other than that is going to be an issue. You also have to make sure your friends know that they don't have to keep your wife a secret just because you're talking to another person, and vice versa. They need to be able to mention your fling in front of your wife. People hate not knowing what they can and can't say. If you do don't-ask-don't-tell, well, it has to involve your friends, too.

The hardest thing for me is dealing with people who think that I am being mean to my husband somehow. That hurts. I don't know what to do about that besides be 100% secure.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2010

tell a few people at once

By this I mean "tell a few people first", but not together in a group--one-on-one, preferably with your wife there as well. Once they're cool with it, they can verify to other people that yeah, it's cool, his/her wife totally knows, no big deal. That provides a bit of a hedge against speculation and gossip.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2010

As IFDSSN9 mentioned, the major reaction I had to coming out as poly/non-monogamous to a few friends was "she/you are not being good to one another". Like it was just assumed that non-monogamy was just a front to save face while being cheated on. (Closely followed up by "what if she leaves you?").

I think these are just perceptions people have that you'll need to respectfully respond to. If, like myself, you have personal experience that you can draw from to illustrate the differences between infidelity and non-monogamy, that tends to help.

In general, I think polyamory is just like any other sexual detail about yourself. Some friends will want to know, some won't mind knowing, some will prefer you keep it to yourself. Just be honest and respectful and good luck!
posted by whycurious at 12:46 PM on June 21, 2010

If you're my friend and you're involved in actual relationships with a bunch of people, I want to hear about it in the same way I would talk to you about my husband. I do not want to hear about your sex life, much like I do not want to tell you about mine. Avoid TMI.

As for hitting on people in front of friends, I guess it would depend on the friends and the situation. I personally would find it a little weird if one of my friends (poly, single, whatever) started macking on someone in front of all of us just because I think that's kind of tacky.
posted by crankylex at 3:22 PM on June 21, 2010

Where do you live? How flexible are your friends? If you're in the Bay Area, it's probably a lot easier than if you live somewhere conservative. If you live somewhere very conservative and your friends are inflexible, I... wouldn't recommend honesty, really. And even if your friends aren't 100% uptight, they will probably be uncomfortable with it, think you are cheating, etc. It's not a fun situation to be honest with people who aren't up to handling that honesty.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:01 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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