“My long term partner (m21) and I (f19) have been together for a solid 4 years, and have decided to try polyamory. It’s had some bumps and hitches, but for the most part both of us have been pretty happy! I’ve been with my second partner (m19) for about a month officially, and all three of us get along wonderfully. On to the issue at hand.
I’d like to tell my family that my partner and I are poly, but I don’t know how they’ll react, and don’t really know how they’ll respond. Honestly, I’m kind of terrified because it could go either way, so I can’t say for sure that they’ll react one way or the other. I’d like to be able to talk about my other partner with them, and not have to hide him. I’ve mentioned him before around them, but only as a friend and I don’t want to have to cover it up, if that makes sense.
…Any advice is wanted and needed. Thank you!”
– /u/hooked_on_memes from /r/polyamory
My advice for this question is contingent on three questions before we get to the how.
- Are you financially dependent on your parents?
- Are they generally open-minded about you and relationships in general (i.e. LGBTQ friendly)?
- What is the need-to-know basis with your family?
Let’s consider the first question: financial dependence.
It’s important to consider and prepare for the potential worst case scenario here. What would happen if your family rejects your poly identity and decides to shun you from your family?
If you are currently living with your folks and depend on them for tuition, you should consider waiting until at least you are more independent from them. The consequences of revealing your new relationship with your partner does not outweigh the benefits of coming clean.
Then the second question: general open-mindedness.
Are they generally open-minded with your relationships? You mentioned that you’ve been seeing your current partner for four years, which means this is likely the first serious adult relationship you have had. How were they when you first introduced your partner to your family?
I know poly isn’t necessarily associated with the LGBTQ movement at large, but there is a major overlap between that aspect of relationships and polyamory. Do you know if they are accepting of non-cis non-het folks? That’d be a great way to gauge how they will react to your new relationship.
Third question is a bit more difficult: need-to-know basis.
Are you planning on inviting both of your partners to your family events? How badly do you feel that you need to disclose your relationship status to your family? You said that your M19 partner has been referred to as your friend in front of your family. Your family is currently living with the assumption that you have a monogamous relationship with your M21 partner. How important is it for you to shatter that expectation and either have your family accept you for who you are at this exact moment or to live in a plausibly deniable universe where you continue to be monogamous with your M21 partner? Do you often reveal your new relationships to your folks after a month of dating?
Considering how long you’ve been dating your M19 partner, my advice to you is to hold off for a couple more months until things stabilize a bit more before talking to your folks about your polyamorous relationship with M19. First couple months of any relationships is a bit turbulent with NRE and all the different moving pieces anyway. So it might be better for you to wait out until the dust settles and you know that both of your partners are here to stick around. Even if your second partner isn’t forever-and-ever, think of it as if you’re coming out for all of your future relationships as well.
Should you decide to come out, I suggest you do so with your long-term partner by your side to help them understand that he too is okay with and has consented to your current relationship structure. He should be able to collaborate and provide support for you should things take turn for the worse.