“So, do you guys have sex with other people?” my dad asked me out of the blue.  Being separated by 3,000 miles, he doesn’t have the day-to-day exposure to our family, and  the information my grandmother had garnered from this very blog had given him a whole carnival of ideas about out lifestyle.  He had met the rest of our family, so after a cursory explanation and the assumption that he would ask if he wanted anything more he seemed at ease and thoroughly convinced that our partners are normal, consenting, sane people instead of sex crazed circus freaks.

Hubby and I realize how extremely lucky we are to have family who love us and try to understand and accept the choices we make.  We had a similar experience with his mother, who was mostly concerned for my patience level and our physical safety.  Once she realized I was not just tolerant but an open participant she did what Mom does, smiled and filed it under “those kids..are they trying to kill me?”.   For the most part, the poly people in our lives have similar stories, and amazing parents.  Even our girlfriend, Karissa, who was extremely concerned about her parents’ reactions, not only to her new poly arrangement but to her bisexuality, was not met with the backlash she had envisioned in her head.  They have tried to be supportive and welcomed us into their lives as a part of their daughter’s.

My boyfriend, Matt, however, while not met with as negative a reaction as he had expected from his family, has not had the accepting experience the rest of us have.  Viewed as unconventional and strange, while glad he’s happy in the wake of a troubled year, I am not a welcomed guest as a part of his life.  We expected this and have adjusted to make time together despite the stress and added hassle this creates.  In some ways it’s made us stronger, and whether or not because of the stretches of separation, we have come to cherish every and any moment we get to spend together.

This is one of the biggest outside problems we face as poly households, especially in the event of long-term, committed relationships and children.  Parents and families can do enough to cause tension and even breakups in monogamous relationships.  In plural situations the probability grows.  Will a mother who doesn’t agree with her daughter’s lifestyle refuse to acknowledge her own grandchildren?  Would I be willing to not have my family at holidays and important functions because they are not welcome, or would I simply not go?  Adversely, could I handle watching Hubby spend those days away from his mother if she refused to come to our house if my other partners were there, or would I send them away?

These are extreme cases, but they exist, and they are the choices we make when we make the decision to be non-monogamous.  We risk gossip and misunderstanding, disownership and even interventions.  Most of the time we risk never being taken seriously no matter how real or lasting these relationships are.  Moms will ask when we’re going to end this nonsense and settle down.  Dads will ask when we’ll find men who really love us and know how to treat a woman instead of all this running around.  We’ll ask why we even bothered to get married if we weren’t going to take it seriously.  Surely, as with our sexual and religious phases, this too must end.

To some parents there’s a religious aversion; to some it’s more societal.  What will their friends say?  Aunt Gertrude always did say my kids would turn out funny! To some families it’s just not normal, and many people have a problem accepting change or the idea that anyone can be happy any way but theirs.

As the poly community grows and is more openly happy and healthy we will hear more and more “coming out” stories.  Some will be heartwarming, others heartbreaking, but we must remember the importance of living life for ourselves and those who love and accept us, not to shelter those who never try.  These chosen families are full of people who deserve to know and be loved by who we really are.

I count my blessings every day that Hubby and I can be open with our families about how and who we love and that Matt has been willing to stick it out, love me, and see where our life together goes despite opposition and awkwardness.  That, maybe more than anything, proves that we all have made the right decision.  We all love each other, and love makes a family no matter what it looks like.

Aloha.

Go now…be open and honest!

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