Being a poly person in our monocentric world, it’s easy to get sucked into the obligations of dating rituals that are meant for two. In monogamous relationships, it’s expected that you would introduce your partner to everyone you know and love. In the poly realm, things are a bit more complicated.
So how do you balance your desire to be up front about your relationships with the reality of how your introductions might be received?
Some poly folks are happy being secondary. They don’t want to hang out with your friends, and they definitely don’t want to meet your family. Before introducing your new partner to everyone, have a conversation about expectations.
If the two of you agree that your relationship might benefit from integrating into each other’s social circles, then think about what that means to you. Don’t feel pressured to introduce someone or meet a bunch of people just because you think it’s the right thing to do.
Decide if Labels are Important
Some poly people like to label their relationships. If your new partner insists on being called your girlfriend, be sure to honor that when introducing her. This can be challenging if, for example, you’re married to someone else and you run into a casual acquaintance you’ve known for years while out on a date. How do you say, “This is my girlfriend” without it sounding like you and your wife have gotten a divorce?
The fact is, you can’t control how someone is going to interpret your love life. So what if they get the wrong impression? If they really care, they’ll ask you or your wife to clarify. If labels aren’t important to your new partner, simply introduce her by name. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Choose Your Inner Circle
If you do decide that introductions are the way to go, think about who you want to tell. Just family? Family and close friends? Everyone in the entire universe? One thing to consider is whether or not coming out of the poly closet might negatively affect your career. I hate that we even need to worry about this, but sometimes it’s best to keep your circle tight.
When I’m out with my partner and we run into someone he’s connected to professionally, I know that I will be introduced by name only, if at all. I’m okay with that, but be sure to explain the situation to your new partner ahead of time so she doesn’t feel awkward in the moment.
When telling people about your poly lifestyle, try to avoid over explaining or apologizing. Don’t follow things up with, “I know it’s unconventional and weird, but it works for me.” You don’t need to seek anyone’s approval. Qualifying your news like that might make your partner feel like maybe you’re ashamed of being poly, and I’m sure that’s not what you intend.
Just state your truth in matter of fact terms, then deal with questions as they arise. Chances are there won’t be a ton of them, as people don’t really want to talk about it as much as you might think.
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