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Advice – Half in, half out of poly closet.

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/u/sadiemess writes on /r/polyamory…

“My husband [39M] and I [36F] had our 7 year wedding anniversary on Sunday and my gf [31F] of two years is upset about a post my mother-in-law tagged us in (with a pic from our wedding). It’s brought up feelings for her about being closeted, and our relationship not feeling as legitimate… and while I understand where she is coming from, I can’t control what other people post, and the fact of the matter is, I do have a husband. Fundamentally, I think that that fact is her real issue with things. She’s monogamous and we have had many ups and downs with her feelings over not being able to have what she ultimately wants (to marry and live with me full time). We are out to my family, and they have totally accepted her (we literally have family game nights once a week and I think they bought her as many Christmas presents as they did me). However, we’re not totally out at work (we all work together) even though it’s sort of like an open secret, and we are not out to my husband’s parents (they are very religious and we know it’s not going to go over well), or to her family (they know we are together and that she is gay/bi, but not that I am also married). Personally, I wouldn’t mind being out completely about everything, but I can’t force my husband to come out to his parents, and not being out makes social media stuff (among other things) tricky. She and I went away together for our anniversary a few months ago, but I didn’t post about it. And I didn’t post anything about mine and his anniversary either, to be fair. I’ve shared a lot less on social media since all of this started because I don’t want to out anybody who doesn’t want to be out, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m trying to encourage my husband to come out, so we can control the narrative. We are both openly affectionate with our other partners in public (and we have a chatty six year old that we are open and honest around) and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before something gets back to them. Blerg. Not really sure what I am looking for here, but thought I’d post it anyway. Thanks for listening!”

Dear Sadie Mess,

I agree with you that it is not up to you to dictate what your mother-in-law posts about you and your husband’s relationship. I also agree with your girlfriend’s perspective about this descriptive hierarchy in your marriage and her relationship with you not as widely acknowledged. She is obviously feeling a lot of jealousy about the social media space and the marital privileges you and your husband get to enjoy that your girlfriend will be explicitly excluded from. Both you and your girlfriend have valid points to make in this discussion about how “out” everyone is.

I think it is important to first establish where her headspace is. We need to unpack and understand her source of insecurity. It appears that the scale is heavily unfavored for your girlfriend of two years in the level of enmeshment and “outness” she would like to have in her own life, especially since she is coming into dating you – a person who is legally married to another. She could definitely feel slighted in not being able to use that social media aspect to have her relationship with you be openly celebrated in front of everyone, especially following the anniversary trip you two took few months ago. So there’s a lot of emotional labor on her balance to process here.

It sounds like based on the circumstances you’ve outlined, you’ve honestly done your best to be as out as you can be without facing any legal or professional recourse. But one thing you can utilize is in a more strict privacy setting in social media so that you can continue to acknowledge and celebrate your relationship with your girlfriend in public space. There isn’t a functionality like this on Instagram, but on Facebook, you can selectively filter who can and can’t see your posts. So next time you go on a vacation, maybe you can exclude the people you aren’t out to (your coworkers, your husband’s side of family) and celebrate your relationship with your girlfriend in the company of people who do accept your relationship with your girlfriend.

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I do think the bigger issue is the underlying set of hierarchies that she has not fully realized. You mentioned in follow up comments about how you stay three to four nights at her place, the specifics of commitment ceremonies, and selective determination on why she’s not out to her own family. I am really curious to dig deeper on her perspective and rationale on why she isn’t fully out to her family and communicates discomfort at how her metamour isn’t fully out to his family. Her perspective on the living situation – and your ideal living situation with everyone together – appear to be a bit contradictory as well.

It might be really beneficial to sit down and have a deep discussion on what kind of enmeshment she is exactly looking to have with you. Does she want to be fully acknowledged as your partner all across the entire polycule? Is she willing to come out to her family so that at least you’ll have your and her family to be open about in regards to your polyamorous arrangement? How does she plan to respect the already-enmeshed life you live with your husband of seven years and your six year old child while carving out a space of her own? What is she willing to do on her own to make sure this jealousy that she feels about social media space isn’t directed to hurt you?

More and more I think about what is going on between you and your girlfriend, more and more I am realizing that a lot of this is on your girlfriend to resolve. It is her own insecurity about social media (since you don’t post about your husband much either). It is her own insecurity about outness (since you’re already out to your family while she is not). It is her own headspace about descriptive hierarchies (since she’s wishy-washy about having a commitment ceremony with you). I really hope she can see that you’ve been trying your best, doing your best, to make sure that you are creating and maintaining space for her to occupy in your life.

It might be a good start to recognize some of these things and set an actionable plan to close the gap between the relationship you two currently have and the relationship you two want to have in the future.

Good luck.

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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