My boyfriend and girlfriend are married. A few months ago I spontaneously called my mom while he was on video call with me and outright told her that “This is my boyfriend. Oh, and by the way, he’s married and she’s my girlfriend.” And my mom was okay. As long as I’m happy, shes happy. And then we called my dad with my mom on the line and told him, and he was also glad as long as I was happy. My parents are very openhearted. They understand that even if they wouldn’t do something or if they don’t understand something, that in the end, it’s my choice, my life and if I’m being safe and happy, that’s all that matters. To say I’m blessed with my parents in this way is an understatement./u/perplexed_panda, /r/polyamory.
So soon after, my boyfriend called his parents and we told them. His mom wasn’t completely surprised because she had met me once before in a video call, but she didn’t know me past that. But although the two of them weren’t “expecting” their son to end up having two women in his life in this way, and they might not have agreed with it or understood it, at the end, they accepted that it was his choice, and we were all consenting adults. They weren’t like let’s celebrate this woman, but they would be welcoming during holidays and whatnot. As long as he is happy and can support the responsibilities.
Now, my girlfriend has been avoiding telling her mom because her mom is very traditional, often closed minded. However, she loves her mom more than anything in the entire universe. Her mom is her rock. I don’t know how to express this more. Anyway, she knew it would break her mom if she told her, 1, that she’s bisexual, and 2, that there is a second woman in the relationship, that shes poly. She has been hiding the Bi thing for years. And just recently was it that the 3 of us had become serious to the point of talking about children in the future and whatnot. So the other day when my boyfriend and I were spending time together, we got a call that she finally told her mom. And, it was the outcome she feared so much. Her mom was not okay with it. She was confused and angry and just didn’t look at her daughter with an open heart. And of course this shattered my girlfriend because she loves her mom more than anything. But why she’s so torn is because she also loves her husband equally. But her mom now hates him. Said a lot of terrible terrible things about him. Telling her that she deserves so much better. Telling her that he obviously doesn’t love her if he can love another woman at the same time. Saying that he manipulated her into the triad, and some other just insanely crazy things.
She’s torn. Because she loves and respects her mom and her views, but she’s also worked her ass off to be with her husband. And I promise you, he loves her just as much.
So now we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Because if I leave them, he’ll be shattered.
If he leaves me, he’ll still be shattered, and her mom will still hate him and she cares about her mom.
If girlfriend leaves him, or if he leaves her, she loses everything because her mom can’t honestly support her. And he still loses a part of his heart, but he will still have me.
If girlfriend stays, she loses her mom, who she loves more than anything.
Just, none of us know what to do.
Dear Perplexed Panda,
I am a huge fan of Dan Savage. I have been listening to his podcast Savage Lovecast for over a decade. So when his Savage Love Live came into town last year, I convinced both of my partners to attend with me.
If you haven’t been to Savage Love Live, you get a blank paper when you walk in. You can fill it out with a random question, and Dan (and Dan’s team) will pick out what he’ll answer on stage in front of the live audience. Most of the questions he answered on stage were very basic, like “How can I spice things up in the bedroom?” and “Why are chastity belts becoming more common?”
Then he picked my question.
“How can I explain polyamory to my very Christian, very Korean mother?”
I was so shocked. I leaned in,
grabbed crushed both of my partners’ hands in each of my hands, and listened intently. After the audience laughter (and audible “oofs”) died down, Dan answered my question with a different question.
“What is the burden of not knowing?”
It really is a deceptively short and simple question at sight, but gets to the heart of many relationship questions. What is the price of admission we are willing to pay in order to be with our loved ones? How much does it cost to live in denial or non-recognition of an integral part of who you are?
Dan went on to explain how strained his relationship with his parents became when his conservative, Irish Catholic parents rejected his gay identity. His mother eventually came around to be his most ardent supporter until she passed away in 2008.
I eventually went on to come out as polyamorous to my very Christian, very Korean mother because I thought the cost of living in the closet for the sake of my mother was too high a price of admission to be in my mother’s life. I also considered that my mother had a right to not know. But it went against every fiber of my ethics to continue lying, both by intention and by omission, even if it was for my mother’s benefit.
There is always an inherent risk in opening up to and sharing our vulnerabilities with the ones we love. And that is in rejection or misunderstanding of that vulnerability. Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like your girlfriend already acknowledged that there was a very real, implicit risk of rejection when she opened up to her mother about her relationship with you. But decided that opening up to her mother even at the risk of rejection was worth it for the sake of the legitimacy of her relationship with you.
But let’s step away from what your polycule is experiencing at the moment and try to gain a better understanding of your girlfriend’s mother’s perspective. In coming out to her mother, your girlfriend revealed that she is bisexual and polyamorous at the same time. In addition, she revealed that she has a girlfriend that her husband is also dating at the same time. That is a lot of “walls” that were shattered in one singular conversation. Even if her mother wasn’t traditional and more closed minded, it would have been a lot for her to acquiesce with. She had to contend with an image of her daughter that she had in her own head that was very, very different from who she actually is today. In a way, it was a self-perpetuated betrayal, manifesting in her mother’s rejection of reality. And because she didn’t want to believe that she had grown so distanced from the idea of the daughter that she thought she was really close to, she instead redirected all of her pain onto her son-in-law (your boyfriend). Admittedly so, it was not fair for her mother to besmirch her partner in front of her in that way. But recognize that even as irrational and hurtful as it was, it likely wasn’t really intended to be that way.
This isn’t to say that your girlfriend made an errant calculation or a mistake. You and your partners are talking about eventually caring for a brand new life. That is a level of life commitment that often trumps existing family connections, including the ones you already have with your parents and siblings. She made the right choice.
If we hold that her mother will maintain her view that polyamory is wrong, there is very little that her partners – both married and unmarried – can do. And the best you two can do for your partner in distress is to support, to cherish, and to remind each other that you are all here for each other. Ultimately, your girlfriend’s relationship with her mother is for her to manage, even if that anger is unfairly directed toward your boyfriend and her husband.
And let’s talk about that management for a bit. Your girlfriend isn’t here to receive this advice, but she first needs to acknowledge and understand that the previous relationship that she had with her mother is no more. That past relationship is already lost. It doesn’t mean that it is beyond repair, but it will need to compose of new parts that were lost in part due to this traumatic exchange, but also due to the histories they didn’t share with each other.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice of picking her mother over her relationship orientation. Instead, she needs to focus on how to survive in this new reality. One where she might have to compromise by living in a subdued universe where you both exist. One where she might have to set some strong boundaries against her mother so that she does not openly disrespect your girlfriend’s multiple partners. One where she might have to step away to heal and recover.
To go back to my story, my mother did not take the news well, the news to her that her son had multiple partners. And that rejection completely shook me. I took some time to heal. And when it wasn’t so painful anymore, I reached back out to my mother to let her know that I’ll still be here as her son whenever she is ready to reconnect.
I am really sorry to hear that you and your polycule is going through such a traumatic experience together. It is a big loss, to lose the support from the loved ones. It is traumatic, and I hope that you can use the support that you found through your parents, his parents, and any other poly support networks all three of you developed to heal and recover.
It is important for you three to remember – now more than ever – that an explicit action is not necessary. Healing from pain of rejection is action enough.
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.
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