Polyamory is still a quiet community. We know that it will be a very very long time before we are recognized in mainstream media (if ever), and have our rights represented (poly marriages: probably not going to happen). So explaining your different lifestyle can be pretty hard, especially when you don’t know where to start. I am always of the philosophy that you shouldn’t hide who you are, but obviously I would use discretion with who you tell about your personal life. If you have child custody issues, a political background or a high stakes job sometimes being quiet is better. For me, I have ceased to give a fuck. My position in society is not precarious or depending on my lack of nude photos or scandalous stories, so I just spread the love (or stories of my love in this case).
Ways to Say It
I practiced telling people I was polyamorous a lot while I was in Europe the last few months. Why? Because it didn’t really matter if it went over poorly, in a few weeks I was going to be separated from those people by thousands of miles and multiple time zones (not to mention a non-negligible amount of water). I have a few different ways of going about coming out about your relationship choices.
The ‘Why Yes I have 2+’ Method
One easy way to bring up your dating style is when the ‘Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?’ question comes up in conversation naturally. When someone asks this question, just respond honestly that yes in fact you do have a boyfriend. In fact, you have two! I’ve found that this opens people up to asking more questions about how you live your life. Yes, sometimes those questions are a little judgmental like, ‘how does that work’ or ‘that’s weird’. I just proceed to be calm and open about my relationship status and explain exactly how it works. I’ve found that if you don’t get defensive your conversation partner is also less likely to be defensive.
The Non-Monogamous Mention
I use this when I think that there is potential for a romantic or sexual connection with the person I’m speaking with. If I find a space in the conversation where it is appropriate, I slip in that I’m non-monogamous. For example: The person teases about ‘I bet you have an awesome boyfriend’ and I will laugh and reply ‘oh yeah but I’m non-monogamous’. I like to do this because it allows me to define what non-monogamous is to me specifically.
The Casual Name Drop Method
If you are still getting comfortable with letting people know you are poly, one thing that I’ve found is helpful is to just start talking about your partners by name or title. One day when I’m chatting with a friend I will mention my girlfriend, and the next day my boyfriend. Sometimes people will pick up about this and ask about it, which I find makes them feel like they are asking and not being told about something they are uncomfortable with.
Implications and More
Obviously these are only a few of the many many ways you can come out. I have found in all of my travels and adventures that nearly everyone is curious and non-judgmental about my lifestyle. The most common response is ‘I could never do that’ instead of something harsh. However, I have had a small handful of friends respond negatively. When this happens I try to remind myself that it isn’t my responsibility to change their mind, and sometimes it is better to let it go. I find that there are many battles in this world, some that are very worth fighting (speaking up for sexism, homophobia and racism) and others that might be worth fighting in the future but I don’t want to spend the energy on now. As much as I want my lifestyle to be accepted, acknowledged and represented in media I also know that education and awareness comes first. Being open and explaining how my lifestyle works is one of the first steps, and being strong and not taking a negative response personally is important.