I have to hide this huge most loving part of me from most of the world, because seeing it as it is would make most of the world uncomfortable.
I have to hide it from my relatives. They have a hard time processing the fact that I have tattoos, they’d most likely have a heart attack if they found out I have multiple romantic relationships at the same time.
I have to be very cautious at work when sharing how my weekend was or when a boyfriend visits me for lunch. I only have pictures of my kids on my desk, because I don’t think my workplace is inclusive enough (yet?) to handle more than one man’s face displayed in my cube.
I have to remind my close friends that my other friends have no idea of my relationship status. Because if they did, I don’t think they’d understand or would be able to keep that information to themselves.
I have to be careful with what I say around my kids. They would actually be totally fine finding out anything about me, but if their friends and teachers at school found out, it could have negative implications on their life.
I have to have a digital alter ego to be able to share this part of me with you, because the world the way it is today is not very kind to people who live their lives differently from the norm.
Over the last few years I’ve started to understand the tip of the iceberg of what minority groups have to deal with, because I’ve become part of one. Most of us are somehow different from what’s broadly accepted by society. Most of us are hiding parts of ourselves that we believe people around us won’t understand or accept.
My whole life (minus the last few years) I had nothing to hide. I blended in so well with my surroundings. I had the most “normal” life you could imagine, if you count rare experiments with drugs (that are now legal anyways) during college days as “normal”. I was always in a normal, a.k.a. monogamous, relationship, then got married and started a normal family. Life was smooth and easy. And boring. And sad. And fake. I was lying to myself about how normal I actually was. I thought I could keep living that fake normal life… until I couldn’t anymore.
When I admitted to myself and, eventually, to my husband that I needed more than the normal life we had, everything changed. Thankfully, he was accepting and supportive of my needs and it worked out well for both of us. Unfortunately, the rest of the society is not as understanding. Unfortunately, we have to hide important parts of ourselves and important people that play huge roles in our lives.
“Like the masked members of the Renaissance masquerade, we hide our identities as lovers behind the anonymity of friendship, when necessary, returning to polite society as friends when we’re not enjoying our lives as lovers.” — Joe Duncan
We invite our partners to big birthday celebrations and have to control ourselves and act normal. No stolen kisses in the kitchen, no hugs longer than what’s acceptable, no dedications and giving thanks to the loves of our lives for being there for us. Our other partners are like superheroes who support us from the shadows and save us during challenging times but can’t let the world discover their identity for the sake of everyone involved.
We have to choose which of our partners we invite to work functions, because when those events do allow external guests, they invite the “plus ones” at best. Not “plus twos”, and definitely not “plus threes”.
I worry sometimes about getting sick. What if I end up in the hospital and only my legal partner and family is allowed to visit me? How am I going to get better without the love and support of my other partners? They mean a lot to me…
When someone I care about does something amazing I want to shout about it at the top of my lungs, but I can’t really do that in a completely open way. I have to say “my friend did this awesome thing…”
When I go out on a date not with my husband I glance around often to make sure there are no random friends of my parents’ or my kids’ teachers anywhere in sight. I worry about someone seeing me hugging or kissing someone other than my husband and telling someone else about it who would use that information in some damaging way. This feels unfair to my partners, it makes it difficult for me to relax and to be fully present during dates, but those fears are real, and I keep glancing and I keep worrying, and I keep feeling horrible about it.
I hope that when my kids grow up a little, I will be able to teach them how to protect themselves no matter how different they are from the socially accepted norm. I hope that I will be able to protect myself. Actually, I hope that I won’t need to.
Thankfully, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
More and more employers are starting to pay attention to diversity and inclusion. They’ve started introducing resources for people who consider themselves to be a minority. At one of my previous companies we had an internal poly group where people could anonymously (or not) post questions and get answers from like-minded individuals. Another company had diversity and inclusion focused counseling services provided on site. Another company introduced a class focused on debunking myths about polyamory…
I am now starting to relax around my family and share less comfortable aspects of my life. Maybe one day I will introduce all of my partners to them without fear of my mother passing out from shock.
Media and TV has actually started coming up with more poly friendly content lately, which is comforting to see.
As described in Rolling Stone magazine, about 5% of people living in the US are polyamorous and 20% have admitted to trying some form of non-monogamy at one point or another. That’s 18.6 million people estimated to be poly. So, how can we, as a society, work on helping everyone feel a bit more accepted for who we choose to love?