Savage advice: coming out to parents
Advice columnist Dan Savage offers recommendations to a triad who are wondering how to come out to three very different sets of parents:
Need to Know
November 4, 2010
I have a bit of a situation. I'm a 23-year-old het male, and I am married. My wife and I have a girlfriend now, making our arrangement a polyamorous triad. We all love each other, and we are getting to the point that we are thinking about how we are going to tell our parents about our relationship.
My parents have already been told. My mother was bemused and amazed, my father gave me a high five.... [But] my wife's family is super Southern Baptist, while our girlfriend's mother is a big ol' bag of crazy: She was a physically abusive nut job who beat her children with a Bible attached to a rope.
Should we even bother disclosing to either of their sets of Bible-beating parents?... If we shouldn't disclose, then how do we deal with things like family holidays? Is not disclosing a sign that either my wife or girlfriend is ashamed of the life we lead?
Not Telling The Whole Truth
You don't mention how long you've been in this poly triad, NTTWT, but seeing as you're only 23 and were already married before you met the girlfriend, you can't have been in this poly triad for very long....
I'm gonna advise against disclosing the true nature of your relationship(s) for the time being, NTTWT. Not because you have anything to be ashamed of — you most certainly do not — but because relationships with parents are best run on a need-to-know basis.
And it doesn't sound like your wife's parents need to know — not yet. This triad is new, and like most romantic relationships, it may not stand the test of time. For the moment, introduce your girlfriend as a friend; if your MIL is curious about why you're all living together, say something vague about the economy. If it turns out that your triad is one for the ages, NTTWT, then you can come out to your MIL and weather the judgmental shitstorm.
As for the girlfriend's mother, NTTWT, it doesn't sound like that woman has a right to know anything about her daughter's life.
All that said, NTTWT, I do think loving, committed nonmonogamous couples should be open with their families, if only to prove to people that loving, committed nonmonogamous couples exist. I'm not encouraging you to be closeted, just strategic. Your wife's family is more likely to be accepting if they perceive your marriage as not just loving, but lasting. Give it a few years, NTTWT, and then, whether the current girlfriend is still in the picture or not, your wife can let her mother know — as matter-of-factly as possible — that you're poly.
Read the whole article (Nov. 4, 2010). The link goes to its appearance in Seattle's The Stranger, the weekly paper that Savage edits. Note the cute graphic of three little piggies building a house, or maybe it's a blast wall against exploding parents.
Also on the subject of coming out: Bitsy is building Openly Poly, a website of resources and stories. Contribute yours.