Thursday, March 5, 2015

Will My Mom and My Boyfriends Still Love Me If I Tell Them I'm Poly?

Dear Viny,

How do I tell my mom I'm Poly? I want to tell her so she doesn't think I'm cheating. I also want to tell my boyfriends. I'm scared they won't love me anymore.



Dear H.,

Telling people the truth can be incredibly difficult, especially when we are afraid that someone is going to find the truth upsetting. I don't know anything about your mom or your boyfriends, so I don't know how they might respond if you tell them you are polyamorous. It's entirely possible that they will react badly. In fact, I can just about guarantee that your boyfriends are going to be unhappy with you. And do you know why? Because, my sweet peach parfait, being poly doesn't mean you aren't cheating.

Let me explain what I mean. When you say, “I'm poly,” I assume it's because your experience with your boyfriends has shown you that you are capable of being in love with more than one person at a time. However, being poly in orientation is not the same thing as being in a poly relationship. There are plenty of people in the world who are poly in orientation but monogamous in practice. (And I bet that the reverse is also true.) So, we need to distinguish between BEING poly and DOING poly. As far as I can tell, you may be poly, but you aren't doing poly (yet). Doing poly means that you have multiple sexual/romantic partners at the same time, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. If your boyfriends do not know about each other, and they have not consented to being in a polyamorous relationship, they're going to view your behavior as “cheating,” and rightly so.

Unfortunately, you are in a bit of a pickle, and there is no way you can ensure that getting out of it will be all relish and no dill. You're going to have to be brave.

Here's what I suggest. If you and your mom have a good relationship, and you think she is likely to be supportive, then by all means talk to her first. Explain to her that you are involved with more than one guy, and that you feel you are polyamorous in orientation. You might even ask for her advice about how to handle the task of talking to your boyfriends. Who knows – this could turn out to be a great way for you and your mother to get closer. On the other hand, if you are pretty sure that telling your mom you're poly is only going to add to the drama, then focus on fixing the situation with your boyfriends first.

In my opinion, you have two basic choices for how to deal with your boyfriends: 1) pick one boyfriend and end things with the other(s), so that you are no longer cheating; or 2) tell them the truth, and allow each to decide whether or not he wants to continue being your boyfriend, given who you are and what you think you want out of your relationships. I recommend that you go with option 2. It's more honest. And in my experience, relationships have the best chance of succeeding when the people in them are truthful with each other. Do be aware, though, that the best time to tell the truth is before you get into a romantic entanglement, not after. Your boyfriends may decide it's “too little, too late” if you tell them the truth now. There are all kinds of reasons why they might not want to be with you after you 'fess up: for example, because they're hurt by the fact that you didn't tell them sooner, or they're worried they won't be able to trust you in the future, or they simply don't fancy the idea of being in a poly relationship.

I still think you should tell your boyfriends the truth. Even though they might stop loving you. If a relationship can't survive the truth, you are ultimately better off without it.

Good luck, dear H. No matter what happens, please remember this: being poly does not make you less lovable. Whoever you are, however you define yourself, and whatever faults you may have, when you choose to show up in your relationships as the real you, you are always worthy of love.

Tamarinds and Tamarisks,