How to Come Out As Polyamorous

Polyamory is having more than one romantic relationship at once with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved (for example, having two boyfriends who each know you have another boyfriend and are happy with this arrangement.) It is not cheating because it is not breaking a promise to have only have one romantic partner at once, but rather it is openly stating that you want more than one and finding romantic partners who agree to that.

This brings up the question of how to come out as polyamorous if you are (as I am.) The most important thing is to make sure you will be safe when you come out. While waiting until your situation is perfect for coming out is unreasonable, it is also unreasonable to come out when you are dependent on a polyphobic (anti-polyamory) person for something important (for example, if you are financially dependent on and/or living with parents or a boss who you know or reasonably suspect to be opposed to polyamory.) If you’re in a supportive career and living situation, and emotionally ready to come out, that is the time to come out. (Remember, even if you come out to someone other than your parents or boss, they are likely to find out.)

You should pick as low-stress and not busy a time as possible to come out. Of course, no time is perfectly free of stress or things to do, but try not to come out during a time when the people you are coming out to can reasonably be suspected to be stressed or busy (the holidays for most people, near Tax Day for an accountant, etc.)

Think about how you want to come out. Coming out in person is usually best so that you can have a conversation in case you need to correct any misconceptions, although if you are too shy to do so or prefer writing to talking you can come out in a letter, note, or email and then talk about it afterwards (“What did you think of my note?” etc.) to be sure they understand and accept you.

As for what to say when you come out, the easiest way to make polyamory understandable to most monogamous people is to compare it to having more than one friend at once. It doesn’t make sense to say, “It’s exactly the same, if you’re okay having more than one friend at once you should be okay having more than one romantic partner at once” but you could say, “Just like most people can have more than one friend at once without feeling torn between them or the friends feeling jealous, that’s how it is with me having more than one romantic partner at once.” If your romantic partners have more than one partner themselves and you are explaining that to the person you are coming out to, you can use the analogy to say, “Just like most people are okay with their friend having other friends, I’m okay with my romantic partners having other partners. It doesn’t make me feel jealous or sad.”

You should also reassure the person you are coming out to that polyamory is different than cheating because everyone involved agrees to the romantic relationship(s) involving more than two people and there are no broken promises of faithfulness to one person.

One thing you should remember when you come out is not to claim to be superior, or accept monogamous people claiming monogamy is superior. Some people are only happy in polyamorous relationships, and some people are only happy in polyamorous relationships. Either way, they should find someone compatible with them, and not tell people who feel differently that they are inferior. People should not “evangelize” for monogamy or polyamory, only for the acceptance of them both by society.

Decide whether you are okay with the person you are coming out to telling others that you are polyamorous. There is no right or wrong answer to this (and the answer may be, only tell specific others) but you have to make sure the person you are coming out to knows how you feel about how public you want to be about being polyamorous.

If the person you are coming out to refuses to accept you being polyamorous, remember that that is their problem and not because you have done anything wrong. They may come around later, or they may not. It is okay to feel sad about this, but you should not blame yourself or your partner(s), or feel bad about being polyamorous. There is nothing wrong with being polyamorous, and there is no perfect way to come out that is guaranteed to make the person you are coming out to accept you. Remember, even if it always doesn’t lead to acceptance, coming out is a brave action you should be proud of yourself for.

If the person you are coming out to accepts you being polyamorous but is worried that society in general will not, reassure them that you would be unhappier in a monogamous relationship than in a polyamorous relationship even though the polyamorous one is less accepted by society, and encourage them to help make polyamorous relationships more accepted by society as an ally by working for polyamory rights organizations (for example, Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition if you’re in the United States, Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association for those in Canada, Polyamory Action Lobby in Australia, and/or Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness for those who are Unitarian Universalists.) You can also seek help from these groups if you have difficulties due to people treating you unfairly because you are polyamorous, and/or if you want to meet people you know will be accepting of your polyamory.

Good luck!

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