Thankfully I haven’t had to “come out” about a heck of a lot in my life. I’ve been pretty lucky that way. All of us had, in fact, been pretty lucky that way. So when we talked about sharing our lives with the world as polyamorous it was easy to decide that yes, we would come out.
We had some lose requirements. We kept our changing relationships private until we felt confident in them and knew that come what may, we consider this a serious relationship and we all have every intention of continuing it. We waited to have conversations with anyone outside of ourselves until we were all on the same page and realistically, having trouble keeping it secret any longer.
See when you take 4 people who have never really had to hide something that makes them happy and ask them to do so, it turns out they aren’t that good at it. Well, we weren’t at least.
People were used to seeing the 4 of us together – we’ve been close friends for a long time so us being seen together wasn’t a surprise. However I had always been “Maggie’s friend” and Ben had always come along as my husband so when I started showing up places with just Tom, and Ben kept arriving with just Maggie… people started to pick up on the shift and wonder what we were doing.
Some who noticed Ben and Maggie without seeing anything different about Tom and I, or vice versa, thought that two of us were having an affair. I forgot to turn off my location services so my mom wondered if we were swinging after watching my location dot drift over to Blackstock for a night.
Only one person said anything and when we confirmed his suspicions he stopped talking to us. I guess that’s when we came out in person, and shortly thereafter we shared a photo of the 4 of us on Facebook with a note explaining that we identified as polyamorous and we were all happily a part of this.
My mom and I had a conversation about how this isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. People have called it polyamory, or an open relationship, or whatever term worked for them but they’ve done it for a long time. What’s changed, and made polyamory and non-monogamy visible is that this generation doesn’t do secrets.
Going back to our parents, our grandparents and their parents, there were strict codes about information that could or should be shared and information that stayed within the walls of the house. People kept insane family members in the attic and didn’t talk about them, marriages suffered and nobody saw, if you were breaking the bounds of social normalcy and appearances that was your business and you lived your life, but you did it discreetly.
In the age of social media, we value openness and a sense that we don’t have secrets. Of course, we still do but we’ve given each other permission to share and be honest about things that were previously hushed up. We can say that we have a family member struggling with mental illness and we’re doing our best to help them – they aren’t locked in the attic and we aren’t seen as less trustworthy because of this illness in our family. If our marriage isn’t working we can seek help – from friends, from professionals – and we can leave if we need to. A split home isn’t the greatest possible shame in modern day society. In fact, we tend to value and praise the decision to split a home over the decision to live unhappily.
While everyone still has the right to keep some things private there’s greater choice about what you can share. As a society, we’re not all on the same page about what is a secret territory and what is palatable to the public. It’s now a personal decision instead of a communal one.
In our personal case keeping our polyamorous lives a secret would create severe imbalances in the relationships. I’d be able to share all my happy and funny moments with Ben – obviously everyone already knew I was married to him, so on the surface, nothing would change. The same would go for Maggie and Tom – they could have continued to share their married lives. However Tom and I, Maggie and I, and Ben and Maggie would never have those same freedoms.
Before we came out Tom and I went to Canada’s Wonderland together. We had an awesome day and took adorable selfies that we couldn’t share. Maggie checked in at a beer festival on Facebook and felt sad and strange leaving the check in just saying she was there – not revealing who she was with. Particularly odd for any of her friends and family who know that Tom doesn’t drink.
We absolutely value the time that we spent building our relationship in private. It gave us a chance to orient ourselves and ensure that the bond between the 4 of us was strong and stable before it was exposed to the opinions of others. It gave us a chance to reflect in peace. However moving foreword with the lifestyle we needed the ability to be open and comfortable sharing what our lives are really like.
So that’s a bit more about us and our decision to be open with our relationship. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! =)