How to Talk about Your Polyamory Lifestyle

Opening up about being poly can feel a bit risky. How will my family react? Will I lose friends over this, or my job? These are all legitimate concerns.

We live in a monocentric society, and people can be quick to judge. Only you can decide if you’re in an ideal position to out yourself, and even then, you need to check in with your partners, because maybe they’re not!

Once you’ve done all that thinking and checking in, before you decide to bring it up to the people in your life, you still need to figure out the best way to approach things.

Here are a few suggestions based on what’s worked for me. I hope that you might find them helpful.

How to Talk about Your Poly Lifestyle

Reveal As Much or As Little As You Want

When you tell people you’re poly, they might start asking you all sorts of personal questions. They’ll probably want to talk about sex because, let’s face it, sex is great. It’s also what a lot of people assume to be the focus of most non-monogamous relationships.

You can share if you want to, but keep in mind that you don’t owe anyone the details of your private life. You can choose to let loose about everything, or nothing at all. If you do share, just be sure to respect your partners’ privacy.

Let the Literature Back You Up

Many books and articles about polyamory are being written these days. If you’re not sure how to explain things in a clear way, don’t hesitate to pass some along. (More Than Two, and The Ethical Slut are two of my favorites.) Your friends and family might choose to read them, or they might not. The important thing is that you tried.

I used to send out articles expecting to start a conversation, but I quickly learned that people don’t want to talk about your love life if they can get the answers from a book.

Don’t Try to Gain Approval

Are you talking about being poly because you want to convince your family that you’re not the “degenerate hippie” that Aunt Janet says you are? I can relate. I’m sure that many of us have an “Aunt Janet” character in our lives who just doesn’t get it. Maybe the generational divide keeps Aunt Janet from accepting things, or maybe she’s a judgemental bitch who loves nothing more than to watch people squirm. Either way, don’t waste your time trying to win her over.

Don’t Feel the Need to Represent all Poly People

When you’re a minority, poly or otherwise, there’s this majority-based assumption that everything you say and do represents your group as a whole. Aunt Janet probably encountered some swinging hippies back in the day. This experience might have shaped her narrow view of polyamory, but now it’s Janet’s responsibility to broaden her perspective enough to see that non-monogamous relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

Don’t assume the role of “poly ambassador.” It will only re-enforce the prevailing view that all poly people are the same. Instead, speak your truth and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t have all the answers.

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