My husband and I started dating "Jenny" nine years ago, and she's been a central part of our lives since then. Two years ago, she moved in with us, although to all but a few of our closest friends, she's a roommate. She doesn't have any family of her own nearby, so she's been coming to our family holidays as a "friend" since we met. Everyone loves her, and we have been thinking about coming out to them.
I don't have the foggiest idea how they'll react. Most of them are religious, but not the arch-conservative type. I'd like to be able to be able to be truthful with my family, but I'm also the type who tends to avoid drama and blow-ups like the plague.
Any advice on how I could ease into this before the next family get-together? Or should we leave a good thing just the way it is?
— Nervous Polyamorous Girl
First, I’d like to congratulate you for making a polyamorous relationship last as long as you have. I’ve had friends who experimented with multiple partners, but I only know of one couple (or should I say triple?) that’s managed to make it work for longer than a few months.
As for your quandary, I’d say if Jenny has been coming to your family gatherings for nine years, she’s probably considered a part of the family by now. And that means your family members will likely be more accepting of her position in your life than if she was a new addition. Not to mention that Jenny’s long-term place in your life must mean you three are pretty serious.
I’d advise coming out slowly, and certainly to do so before the next big family gathering. A Christmas dinner or family reunion is no place for that kind of drama. You could start by telling a few of your more open-minded family members (whom you think can keep a secret). Ask them to help you gauge how other family members might react. For the more conservative members of the family, you may want to break the news in the company of those who are in on your secret. It’s always good to have supporters in these situations.
Polyamory is even less understood than gay relationships, so prepare for a little backlash. In fact, some people may even write you off. But if they love you (and your husband and Jenny), they’ll come around in time.
If after testing the waters with open-minded members of the family, you decide that some family members just won’t get it, it’s okay to keep a secret. Just come out to as many people as you feel you safely can.
Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at firstname.lastname@example.org.