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"You can learn a lot about someone by telling them a surprising truth about yourself, and watching what their facial muscles do as a result."

“You’re Doing What?” On coming out as polyamorous

When my partner and I decided to open up our relationship, we did it slowly and gradually, not rushing into things. We checked in often and talked a whole lot about how we were feeling. When we got comfortable enough about what it was that we were doing and what we wanted to call it, we started telling our close friends. For me, this was something I wanted to do in person. It’s kind of difficult to explain our exact deal in a text or a Facebook message, and I wanted to gauge people’s genuine reactions—you can learn a lot about someone by telling them a surprising truth about yourself, and watching what their facial muscles do as a result.

So, why ‘come out’? I decided to tell my close friends for a number of reasons: firstly, relationships are something that I discuss with these people already, it’s just that before I’d only had one romantic relationship to talk to them about. It was just practical to let them know I now had more than one. I didn’t want to treat this change in my life as a total secret, something bad that I had to hide from other people. Not sharing this part of my life with my friends would’ve made me feel that way. It can also be super fun to talk about. The steamy surprise make out outside of a bar or that fantastic dance party I went to? I want to share these things with the people I care about, and who care about me. Also, if I run into a friend and I’m blatantly into someone that I’m with, I want them to have peace of mind that I’m not cheating or being creepy and weird. I’m generally creepy and weird… but like, in a cute way. And not when it comes to my relationships.

I tend to stick with telling people in person mainly because of the time and effort it can take to explain polyamory to those who may not know about it. There’s usually a lot of questions that go along with my revelation, and seeing how people respond helps me tailor the way in which I tell them. Each person I’ve told has taken it differently. Some people have been overwhelmed by the idea, and it becomes a fairly large discussion. Others take it quickly in stride, and that’s that. I’ve gotten used to telling people, but initially I was quite fearful of how people would react. I worried that they would not understand, that they might judge. I think this stems from my general fear of the unknown and shows how much of an adjustment something like this can be. Luckily, I’ve been proven wrong and my fear surrounding telling people diminishes with each positive conversation.

Some questions that I came up against were, “Does this mean you’re breaking up?” No. Promise. “Are you just bored?” Nope. “So, is this a permanent thing? Is there an expiration date on it?” It’s permanent for as long as we want it to be. We like it and are doing it because we want to. “Does this mean you’re dating everyone in the entire world?” Nooo. I’m still selective about the people I spend my time with and who I let under my dresses. Being open to the idea of dating in general doesn’t mean I’ll date (or do) whoever’s around. “Don’t you get jealous?” Sometimes I feel jealousy. Or at least I think I do. Usually if I dig into that feeling a little deeper I find it’s a bit more multifaceted than jealousy: maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s a fear of being left out, maybe it’s something else. After doing this for a while, I feel like I’m a bit more in touch with how I actually feel, and what those emotions actually are. I don’t jump to the jealousy conclusion nearly as much these days, but it’s not like jealously disappears entirely. It’s still there sometimes.

So how’s it going with the people I’ve told? It has a novelty factor for some people; others just like to know the general details about what’s going on in my life. They ask the requisite, “So who are you dating?” and leave it at that. That’s fine; we probably don’t talk about their dating life all that much, so why focus on mine just because it’s a bit different? Some have acted like they’re cool with it, but really aren’t. That stings, and thankfully I haven’t run into it all that much. I try to remind myself that this hesitance on the part of others could be caused by a number of factors, and mostly indicates a lack of understanding, or a fear that this will end my primary relationship. Some people thought it was like the slow-motion version of a break-up, which it absolutely is not.

Then there are my favourite reactions, delivered by some of my closest friends. They’re excited for me, and that excitement comes from a genuine place. They want to know about the people I’m dating, what they’re like, how we met, etc, etc. They ask about my primary relationship, and how we’re both doing, too. Because they care. They’re thoughtful when they ask about my relationships, and want to know how I’m feeling about all of it. It’s been really amazing, and kind of surprising, as a lot of them have never encountered polyamory before. Armed with just my quick explanation of what it is, they’ve remained the supportive, amazing friends they have always been. They ask me about it, but it’s not the single central topic of our conversation. I feel lucky when I get a reaction like that. I’ve even had some people want to hop on the open/poly train themselves, they just hadn’t known anyone that had done it before. I’m not out to convert anyone, but that’s a pretty awesome response too.

Polyamorous/open folk, how did your friends take it when you told them? I’m curious to hear any outlandish or perfectly ordinary stories you have to share. Have you told your friends, or is it something you keep to yourself? Let me know.

Last time on the Poly Diaries: What Poly Means to Me

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