Comparing polyamory to nigiri: Coming-out as polyamorous

July 3 | Guest post by Angela
How can sushi help you come out as polyamorous? By: andreas hagermanCC BY 2.0
My husband and I have been actively polyamorous since late 2010. We came out to family and friends over the past two years. My boyfriend has been out to everyone he knows since we started dating in 2011.

To those unfamiliar, a bit of clarification: being polyamorous often involves a decision of when, or if, to come out. Like in any other coming-out situation, not everyone who is poly opts to come out, and some choose not to come out to everyone. For the time being, out of deference for my parents and their journey through cognitive dissonance, I'm not out to my extended family. Some people don't come out to coworkers for fear of discrimination. Some people choose to not come out at all.

In my years of coming out as poly, I was surprised to find that making "I am poly and have two partners" come out of my mouth wasn't the hardest part. (In actuality, it is almost exclusively relieving.)

And it's not watching the person's brain explode in reaction to my perceived fairy-floaty woo-woo liberal (in so many ways) relationship status. No, it gets tough when they respond.

Almost invariably, any monogamous person I come out to will spout a variation of, "Oh! I could never do that!"

Clearly this response indicates empathy. As Eddie Izzard put it, my disclosure surged through their brain, which spit out a terse "No information on this." So they went with what they could. I wholly appreciate this response, knowing that those who are actually rude or inconsiderate could say much, much worse.

Still, I was left with the question of how do I respond to such a statement?

A sheepish "Yeah…" didn't feel right — I'm afraid it might sound condescending or wishy-washy. Need something with more conviction. How about an elevator speech about how some consider monogamy a purely social construct? Nope, then I'm no longer relatable, and risk coming off as superior. And with my poor friend in a state of shellshock, the last thing I want to do is challenge them with, "Oh yeah? WHY?"

I knew what I wanted to convey: I wanted to maintain my dignity while putting them at ease. To show them that it's absolutely fine that they feel that way, and I'm fine the way I am too. Out of these desires came my trademark throw-away line, a lightly delivered:

"Oh, don't worry — I'm not asking you to!"

And that handles it for me. They know I'm not hitting on them, or recruiting (as a friend puts it, "poly-nating"). I have provided them a Scott-free exit from the subject if they want it. If that's the case, the look on their face tends to give it away, so I'll tack on "I just wanted to let you know!" and steer the conversation elsewhere. I let them know I'm around if they ever have questions, and that's that.

That response has been sufficient for a good long time. But recently my husband surprised me. In what is relatively against-type for him, he wanted a reply that facilitated a conversation and provoked a bit deeper thought.

He wanted to convey the monogamy-as-a-societal-norm idea in a way that facilitated conversation. Unfortunately this disqualified launching a copy of Sex at Dawn at their faces. So we put our heads together and worked it through.

For a while, everything we developed was too alienating or dangerously close to liberal shaming. (Thanks for that article, Ariel!) Out of frustration, my husband exclaimed, "They haven't even thought about it! I mean, I never liked the idea of sushi, and now I eat it all the time!"

And there it was. It fit perfectly with his general approach — light, humorous, non-threatening.

"Oh, I could never do that!"
"Yeah, I used to feel the same way about eating sushi. But I love it now!"

Comparing polyamory to nigiri — automatically, it's not that big of a deal! Provides a nice lead-in to deeper conversation, if the other person is interested. Either way, he feels good about that reply. We've developed two ways to honor the other person's feelings as well as our own.

We love you, monogamous friends! And don't worry if you couldn't be polyamorous — we're not asking you to.

  1. I love the "I'm not asking you to" line. Such a great way to break the awkwardness. However, I'm not sure I'd respond well to the sushi one. There are a certain subset of poly people I've met (Note: DEFINITELY NOT ALL OF THEM) who tend to insist that everyone is poly/naturally non-monogamous and you're just closed-minded or naive if you're not yet, which is really frustrating. We should be working on accepting all relationship structures equally, right? Not saying the sushi comparison would come off this way for everyone, but just something to keep in mind.

    Though this is coming from someone who has considered polyamory before, so it might work better on someone who really doesn't know about it!

    37 agree
    • Just speaking for myself, I feel the same about the sushi line. I'm not quite sure what I'd go for instead, but something about how everyone's different, or how people get the most from relationships in different ways works for me in other contexts. It sounds really passive, but actually it's very difficult for the other person to argue with, because what are they going to say? "No, we're all the same"?

      I find this kind of conversation coming up a lot whenever I talk with people about preferences for specific sexual activities. Anyone suggesting that someone else who doesn't like doing a particular thing (or having a particular kind of relationship) just hasn't got used to it yet or hasn't done it right yet and they'll love it once they do kind of gets my back up, but it's very easily done when you're the one who loves the amazing thing and wants people to know that you're happy with it and secure about it. There's a line between that and suggesting that they would like it too that is so easy to cross. To me "Yeah, I used to feel the same way about eating sushi. But I love it now!" crosses it, but other people's MMV.

      I love the detail of this article though; how to deal with questions and comments that aren't malicious but are awkward and/or difficult to respond to is a great thing to write about. Social skills are always a work in progress!

      23 agree
      • I just say "Well, it's not for everyone!". Or, you can even say "I love it, but it's not for everyone". That way you're saying briefly that you are the way you are because you choose it and you're also validating other people's choices.

        6 agree
        • That's a good way to do it! For our preferences, it doesn't lay out enough of a boundary about not looking for suggestions or opinions about our relationships, but I'm glad it works for you!

          0 agree
      • Thanks for the comment Jan! Author-Angela here.

        I can totally see where you, who have given thought to polyamory, would find these responses condescending. You pointed out what I'm thankful has been increasingly pointed out in the comments – I didn't sufficiently specify that this response is intended for people *who have never considered polyamory before.* (And, frequently, who have never heard of polyamory *at all*.)

        Neither of these options is ever a response to people who are aware of/have a reasoned response to polyamory. Sounds like I should write another post, "How to talk to groovy people whose sexual/relationship preferences are different from yours," or something like that.

        You are so right, there are people who see polyamory, and whatever their other preferences/identities are, as THE way. For our part, we're big fans of letting everyone find their own truth.

        2 agree
    • I feel the opposite- the sushi one wouldn't bother me, especially since it would probably cause a laugh with most folks. But the "Oh don't worry- I'm not asking you to!" would be off putting- I would feel like it was a snarky comeback to my hypothetically saying I could never be polyamorous (this is totally hypothetical as I wouldn't say that- I totally could/would try it). It would definitely make me feel embarrassed about my "I could never do that" response. Whereas I would probably just crack up about the sushi line!

      2 agree
      • If a friend came out to me as poly, my response would never be "Oh, I could never do that." The fact of the matter is I have no desire to ever do that, but telling someone "Oh, I could never do that!" seems judgy and a little boring. In the past when friends have told me that they are poly or in an open marriage, my response has pretty much been, "Oh, OK. Cool." because I'm of the opinion that whatever grown people do in the context of their own adult relationships, as long as they are happy, is perfectly fine and mostly not my business. Them choosing to tell me about it is not necessarily them asking my opinion about it or whether or not I would do it.

        I would be put off by either stock response. "I'm not asking you to", even lightheartedly, would annoy me, and the sushi thing, with the implication that if only my plebeian mind were open enough to try the delicious new thing I'd love it…well, it would rub me the wrong way. If someone were close enough to me to be talking to me about their sex life, I'd hope that we'd know one another well enough to have some kind of meaningful dialog instead of a stock response. I get the gist of the article, though, and appreciate that the OP is in a sensitive spot. Obviously nobody should have to feel they need to hide things about themselves, or arm themselves against the judgement of others about their lifestyle. I can see how the sushi response might provoke someone else to think about things they might never have considered before.

        17 agree
        • You know, when someone comes out to you as a member of a sexual minority (whether that be a letter or two of LGBTQA, poly or whatever) it isn't usually because we want to talk about our sex lives and doesn't automatically mean we would be comfortable having such a conversation with you. Majority people don't have to come out all the time to be themselves and make sure they're not exposing themselves and their family to a hostile environment. They also don't get accused of talking about their sex life/"flaunting"/told by others they don't care what they do in the bedroom when they talk about their partners/relationships/family structure. The implication is that if someone doesn't know another person well enough, they shouldn't be out around them.

          12 agree
        • Thanks, I really enjoyed your response! And the mindfulness around not being judgy is more appreciated than you know. The "Oh, ok, cool," comments are definitely the exception, rather than the rule, and they're a welcome reprieve.

          As I'm mentioning to everyone, you pointed out what I'm thankful has been increasingly mentioned in the comments – I didn't sufficiently specify that this response is intended for people *who have never considered polyamory before.* (And, frequently, who have never heard of polyamory *at all*.) So, for several reasons you've mentioned, this is not a response you would receive from either of us.

          Also, you mentioned someone talking about their sex life to you. To me, my polyamory is not about my sexual life so much as my relationship life. (Fun fact: one reason opening our relationship was great is that my sex drive was decimated by my illness. With my partners able to pursue sexual gratification elsewhere with my consent, a lot of pressure was taken off of me!)

          Anyway, in a way it's like discussing any significant other – the point, to me, is not that I have sex with these people, but that I love them. Thanks again!

          2 agree
    • I remember after a friend of mine came out to me as poly, my husband and I had a whole discussion about it and our thoughts on it. We both agreed that, emotionally, it wouldn't work for us. I think the problem with the sushi comparison is that it kind of makes it sound like they need to TRY polyamory before they can really decide if it's right for them… which I don't think is what you're meaning to say.

      Personally, I think I'd respond better to something like, "Well, every relationship is different! And I don't mind answering questions if you ever have any." Then let them ask questions or change the subject. I know I had a *ton* of questions when my friend "came out," and we had a really interesting discussion about it.

      29 agree
      • Hey guys, thanks for the feedback!

        Apparently I wasn't clear enough in the article – these responses are NOT directed at offbeat populations, ESPECIALLY people who have seriously considered polyamory or know poly people.

        They are meant for people who have never heard of polyamory before, who don't often deal with offbeat people in their lives, and who therefore have knee-jerk/panic responses to anything not monogamous-normative and then immediately brain-flee from the idea.

        Also, I think it's important to remember whenever anyone comes out as anything, including poly, they're not asking for an opinion. So from my perspective, unless there's a deep conversation in progress, "I could never do that," is always an unwelcome response to coming out.

        9 agree
        • I don't think you should assume anyone isn't 'offbeat' or that they've never heard of or considered polyamoury. Most people I know casually (even some closer friends/family) probably wouldn't consider me offbeat, but I have thought a lot about polyamoury lately, as it's come up in my family. And I agree, personally, "I couldn't do that!" (although I really hope that wouldn't be my first response to someone coming out, but sometimes my mouth reacts faster than my brain!)

          To me, part of being offbeat is not making those kinds of assumptions about people, just like you're asking them not to make assumptions about your relationship dynamic.

          I don't know if I'd react well to the sushi line, but, I don't think think deeply enough about it to be particularly offended. I agree, it's a bit condescending. I'd probably just smile about it and move on. I do like Cali's line, "Every relationship is different." :)

          And I really appreciate this article to see the challenge from your perspective, and how much thought you've put into finding a way to deal with reactions civilly!

          7 agree
          • Hey Sara, thanks for the perspective!

            I understand where your reaction. I didn't intend to use "offbeat people" as a prescriptive term – I meant that, in not specifying for whom these responses are intended, this post was not well-prepared for an audience of people who, at the least, will *read* Offbeat Home & Life!

            Cali's line is good! As I mentioned earlier, for our preferences, it doesn't lay out enough of a boundary about not looking for suggestions or opinions about our relationships, but I'm glad it works for some people!

            Thanks again!

            0 agree
        • "They are meant for people who have never heard of polyamory before"

          Fortunately, there are fewer and fewer of those – unfortunately much of what they have heard is hearsay and sensationalism.

          You know, I get the *exact* same response on homeschooling.
          "Oh, I could never do that!"
          I've yet to encounter anyone who hadn't heard of homeschooling, yet they say it anyways.

          Have you considered that the statement is really a question?
          I've gone back and asked friends and family members about what they thought when I first said "I'm poly".

          I'm very out as poly, but 14 years ago it wasn't anywhere near as well known.
          Interestingly enough, a theme emerged in my experience of looking back on my journey and talking to my friends and family members.

          They wondered why I was telling them – what were my expectations of them in giving them this (seemingly) unsolicited bit of information?

          So – when I came out as poly – the reaction of "Oh, I could never do that" was "Why are you telling me, what am I expected to ~do~ with this information?"

          That was really interesting for me to learn.
          I don't need to 'come out' so much anymore, given that I'm fairly out already. But when a new person reacts with "Oh, I could never do that!" – now I respond based in why I felt I needed to tell *that* person at *that* time.

          We're social creatures – my experience was not so much that it was a knee-jerk response to the idea – it's a knee jerk response to being in a situation for which they don't know the social expectations – and don't even know how to ask what those might be.

          Was it because I wanted to bring an extra person to the potluck? To a family dinner? To share my excitement about a great date last nite with someone who'd also dating someone great?
          Just responding with *why* I told the person "Hey, I'm poly" has helped a great deal in avoiding discomfort on both sides.

          I'd be interested, given how much more visible poly is today, to know what you learn if you go back and revisit those coming out conversations somewhen down the road.

          4 agree
          • That's an interesting perspective, Kit.

            I generally only come out, and therefore receive the "I could never do that!" response, when I mention something having to do with my partners to an acquaintance. Generally I make the disclosure specifically in response to befuddled looks, as I don't need come out to people who have obviously comprehend the situation. I usually assume that they understand I'm purely offering the information as clarification, but I see your point that not everyone may understand that.

            I was lucky – none of my close friends responded with "I could never do that." Being that only casual acquaintances give that response, I personally don't feel the need to follow up with any of them. Thanks for the perspective though – I'll keep it in mind!

            1 agrees
      • If your goal is to open the door to deeper conversation, I think some variation of "I'm happy to answer questions if you have any" is a good approach (If that is true!). It is inviting but non-threatening. It gives people the option to says "Ok" and then never mention the subject again, if they aren't comfortable with or to ask questions about how that works or what it's like, if they are curious or to ask questions about how you would like them to treat/refer to/interact with you and your partners if they are wanting to be respectful and inclusive but are unsure what that means to you.

        8 agree
        • I totally agree! (I mean, I keep writing these posts for a reason!)

          I actually did mention that at the end of one of the paragraphs in the post – "I let them know I'm around if they ever have questions, and that's that."

          I didn't specify this in the post, but we both always offer further conversation, no matter which response we use. Thanks for your input!

          0 agree
    • I would also find the sushi thing, with it's implication of "Try it! You might like it!" hackle-raising.

      But I like "Don't worry, I'm not asking you to." It's a reminder that your relationship status is about you, not about them and an assurance that you aren't trying to change anyone or tell them they are wrong or threaten their nice, safe, cozy monogamous relationship that they like the way it is, thank you very much. You're just giving them information about you. It shows that you respect their choices and expect the same in return.

      It would work well for matters of religion, dietary restrictions, sexual orientation and child-rearing style and other subjects people tend to get worked up about as well.

      11 agree
      • Thanks Sarkat! I know many people who use "I'm not asking you to," in myriad situations – I love the pithiness of it!

        As I'm mentioning to everyone, you pointed out what I'm thankful has been increasingly mentioned in the comments – I didn't sufficiently specify that this response is intended for people *who have never considered polyamory before.* (And, frequently, who have never heard of polyamory *at all*.) These are purely for well-meant but unintentionally awkward and judgy responses, which I would never expect from the Offbeat Home & Life audience.

        Thanks again!

        0 agree
    • Thanks for the comment Jaya! Author-Angela here.

      You pointed out what I'm thankful has been increasingly pointed out in the comments – I didn't sufficiently specify that this response is intended for people *who have never considered polyamory before.* (And, frequently, who have never heard of polyamory *at all*.)

      You are so right, there are people who see polyamory as THE way. For our part, we're big fans of letting everyone find their own truth – live and let live, amirite?

      0 agree
    • Yeah, but not everyone likes sushi, either. Often people wouldn't even consider it, won't even try it because "OMG It's raw fish!" But when they discover that no, it's a way of preparing rice, then it's not so scary. And even then, some people just aren't interested. Much like being polyamorous, where people misunderstand what it means, but when they learn more about it, it's something they're interested in trying. But sometimes they learn more about it and decide no, that's not for them.

      I really like the sushi line, that's an awesome way to phrase it. Thanks for the post, Angela!

      0 agree
  2. I was once asked by a couple of people I was having a drink with if I was polyamorous- I think the fact that I hadn't really batted an eyelid at them telling me they were made them curious. I ended up apologising for being monogamous. "No, sorry, actually I'm not". ??? What an odd response from me.

    Not that that has much to do with anything, I just thought I'd share! :D

    6 agree
    • Hey Zoe, I'm glad you shared – these kinds of things happen *all* the time! I do hope they were gracious and told you that you didn't have to apologize, because, truly, truly you don't!

      I'm thankful we're all having these conversations – I feel that at least some of the "Uh….what do I say?" reaction comes from the fact that polyamory is very infrequently discussed and really quite rare. So by having these discussions, hopefully we can all support each other in feeling a bit more prepared for these kinds of occurrences, and so we can mindfully shape reactions that are true to ourselves.

      If you, or anyone, is ever wondering how to approach/respond to a poly person, do feel free to sling a question my way! Thanks again!

      0 agree
  3. "I'm not asking you to" is such a great response to so many things! We (my husband and I) used it when we informed our very Christian families that we didn't plan to raise our children, or participate ourselves, in any organized religion. Their responses have not been positive, so we try to keep it lighthearted by saying something like, "We're not asking you to change your beliefs, so please don't try to change ours."

    8 agree
    • That is precisely how I came out to my parents. Went something like "I'm not asking for your permission or your approval, I just wanted to let you know."

      My parents being my parents (I come by being a persistent pain-in-the-ass honestly, I tell you what!), they didn't leave it at that, but I found it helpful to be able to remind them of that ground rule whenever they crossed my boundary.

      And I'm right there with you – I LOVE that response too! :) Thanks for sharing!

      0 agree
  4. I think it's really unfortunate that so many people can't differentiate between "what works best for me" and "a universal standard." I do believe in honesty and informed, enthusiastic consent as universal sexual ethics. I also believe people can follow those ethics in arrangements that don't appeal to me personally. I have given a lot of serious thought to whether polyamory is something I could do, and while my personal answer is "Definitely not," my ideal relationship setup doesn't have to be everyone else's.

    14 agree
  5. My husband and I are in an open relationship and only open to a few friends. They all said versions of the "I could never do that!" when we told them and I also didn't want to come across like I thought everyone should be this way or apologize for our relationship structure.

    My response to them has always been something to the effect of "Well, it's not for everyone but it's great for us." That either closes the subject easily or allows them to ask questions if they have them.

    12 agree
    • "Oh, I could never do that" is by far the most common response I have gotten and this is generally what I do, the "it's not for everyone" response. It seems to work pretty well and is open enough to allow for questions while assuring them that they are welcome to continue to not be poly if they want.

      2 agree
      • It's great that the two of you use that response! It's a good one.

        0 agree
  6. I would hope my response to someone openly identifying a polyamorous would be something like "Oh." and then changing the subject. After all, the sex lives of other people are none of my business. You can avoid a lot social awkwardness by maintaining this principle.

    That said, I can't be certain that my response would be this neutral if I was taken completely by surprise.

    8 agree
    • Polyamory isn't just about "sex lives" (the word "love" is right there in the word!) And I say this as a very, very, borderline-aromantic monogamous person. Imagine if you said, "Hey, I'm meeting my spouse here later" and I responded with, "Your sex life is none of my business, and you could avoid a lot of social awkwardness by maintaining this principle." That would be a non-sequitor at best.

      25 agree
    • Yeah, if you're going to hang out with me you are going to hear me talk about my boyfriend, and my husband, and my girlfriend-in-law, and my kid, and their kids. If you don't know that I'm poly, and aren't savvy enough to catch that I'm talking about different people when I say boyfriend and husband, and my boyfriends kids vs my husband as a father you are going to get VERY confused. So sometimes it helps to say "I'm poly and this is my relationship." Truth is, you're probably going to ask indirectly when you go "Wait, your husband is a programmer? I thought he was an ER nurse?"

      3 agree
      • I can see the Feringi's point though. I mean, if I'm friends with someone and hanging out with them even casually, enough to hear them reference their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband dynamic, that's one thing. It's no thing to me…if we're people who know one another. But if you're a virtual stranger…I don't want to know about your intimate life. Some people don't get boundaries, and overshare. Especially co-workers, I've found. As long as it's not me, I don't care who anybody is fucking, but I don't necessarily want to hear about it, either. I don't talk about my relationship at work really, and I don't share personal details of really any kind with someone I don't know well, and I appreciate the same courtesy from others. Maybe I have issues relating to privacy (in fact, I'm sure I do) but that is how I feel. And needing a stock reply to someone who does not know you well enough to at least somewhat understand your lifestyle and be accepting of it makes me almost feel like there might be some overshare going on.

        3 agree
        • It's not about who someone is fucking. It is about relationships, family structures and identities. It's funny how this over-sharing thing never applies equally to majority people (straight, cis, monogamous people), so that the false equivalence renders minorities invisible and enforces oppression. If a straight dude mentions he can't come into work because his wife is having surgery, would you tell him to quit over-sharing about about who he fucks? Because a similar share from a sexual minority might give you "too much info", leading to questions about sexual orientation and/ore about how they have more than one partner.

          18 agree
      • Anie, I always find those conversations amusing in retrospect! I explicitly come out to people who are having a particularly hard time putting it together.

        But it's always so nice when I'm referencing my partners, and the other person just goes "Oh! Cool." They should get a societal-deviance-awareness merit badge or something.

        0 agree
    • Thanks for the intention John – we appreciate when people even intend to have a neutral reaction.

      As I mentioned previously, to me, my polyamory is not about my sex life so much as my relationship life. It's like discussing any significant other – the point, to me, is not that I have sex with these people, but that I love them. Thanks again!

      0 agree
  7. I feel bummed that people see "I could never do that," as a judgement statement. For one, I think you're totally right on about the Gaffigan-ness of it, but also, it's a remark exclusive to the person making it. I get that it's kind of a weird answer to an un-asked question (which is why the "I'm not asking you to" line works so well), but it's also very open-ended. I mean, "I could never do that" could also be interpreted as impressed — as in: "I could never do that," she said to the accomplished juggler. I'm not saying this is always the meaning, just that a statement like that, not about the other person, is widely open to interpretation.

    Maybe I'm taking this wrong? It's totally possible. It just struck me oddly… For reference, I'm a person who thinks polyamory is A-OK, but not for me.

    Otherwise, loved this article, especially the tone! Informative. More articles about polyamory is good.

    11 agree
    • Just to explain from my perspective, imagine that you hear "I could never do that" over and over and over. If I had only heard it once or twice from a person or two, it would be different. But when just about everyone you talk to says that or some variation thereof, it becomes hard not to start getting weirded out by it and feeling slightly defensive. Often I feel a bit defensive walking into that conversation anyway because there have been many people who have cut off contact or done things that were mean in response, so coming into it with a defensive mindset, while not fair to that one person, is common. I fully admit that part of the issue for me with the "I could never do that" response is my OWN issue, but sometimes it's hard to separate that.

      5 agree
      • I'm with Lindsay, "I couldn't do that" and "I wouldn't do that" are very different statements. I can understand it can be frustrating to hear it a lot, but keep in mind that everyone who is saying it to you probably doesn't know that you hear it a lot, they just say what comes to their mind, probably trying to find a way to relate without offending (possibly not very effectively).

        2 agree
        • Thanks Sara!

          You're absolutely right – the people who say "I couldn't do that" don't know that it's the majority of what we hear. That's part of the benefit of this post – spreading the awareness!

          And I believe I touched on the trying-to-relate phenomenon in the post. I do appreciate that it probably comes from that place, and we always take it into account in our responses.

          Thanks again!

          0 agree
      • Thanks for your response! I agree with both myself and you now… It just goes to show how important empathy is pretty much all the time when dealing with other people.

        2 agree
      • Just want to commiserate on the "I could never do that" fatigue. I've heard it when I've told friends how my partner and I are non-monogamous (though not polyamorous). But it also comes up for all sorts of other things! When I mention I like to run marathons? "I could never do that!" How I was a vegetarian for four years? "Oh, I could never do that!" It gets exhausting to respond to that over and over about even the lighter subjects, so it must be even more so when it's wrapped up in intimate and personal issues like identity and whom you love. I get that people like to relate themselves to you, but sometimes a coming-out like that isn't the place.

        1 agrees
        • I'm with you – coming out (as anything) isn't the time for the "I could never do that" response. Good luck with the fatigue, you're not alone!

          0 agree
      • Thanks for the perspective, Lindsay!

        As Bikil says, it happens ALL THE TIME, and is therefore very fatiguing. I'd like to add that I have received that response when the person was trying to convey they were impressed. They generally just say they're impressed if they are. (Which, again, hardly ever happens, at least at first.)

        Bikil, I hear you on the fatigue! Good luck – I've found mindfulness practice to be very useful in recharging my empathy. If you want to chat about it further, hit me up! We're all in the same boat.

        0 agree
  8. Yeah, I second (third? fourth?) the folks who suggest being wary of the sushi line.

    I guess it rubs me particularly the wrong way because while I intellectually support the idea of being poly, and at one point thought I might pursue it, I was pushed way too hard into allowing an open relationship by a partner who was, frankly, abusive. I can TOTALLY see a dumb response like "wow, I could never do that!" popping out of my mouth if someone unexpectedly outed themselves to me as poly, and yeah, I know it would be dumb and inconsiderate and unenlightened, but it would also come from that real and painful experience that I had, and I dunno . . . that memory is not at all like sushi for me.

    So I get that the response isn't aimed at offbeat people like me . . . but how do you know that just by looking at someone?

    I REALLY like the suggestion of "Well, it's not for everyone but it's great for us! We're open to discussing it if you have questions." And I really liked the article overall, and I think you sound awesome, and I'd love to read more things about being poly. Just because it didn't work out so hot for me doesn't mean I don't want to learn. :-)

    11 agree
    • Thanks for sharing, Rosemary! I'm so sorry about your being coerced towards an open relationship – it's a far too common tale. I highly value the poly community's emphasis on mutual consent for precisely this reason. I hope you've found healing since then, and that you're finding some ease in pursuing whatever feels good to you!

      As I mentioned previously, I didn't intend to use "offbeat people" as a prescriptive term – I meant that, in not specifying for whom these responses are intended, this post was not well-prepared for an audience of people who, at the least, will *read* Offbeat Home & Life! I certainly don't presume to know whether people are offbeat or not just from looking at them :)

      And thanks for the kudos! *blushes* I have gotten overwhelming encouraging reactions to my posts so far, so I'll definitely be continuing! If there's anything you'd like to hear about, let me know!

      0 agree
  9. Most of my relationships have been polyamorous, and I think that people may be looking too deeply into this sushi thing- or not deeply enough. To me it says, if you asked me, a person raised in a culture that does not traditionally (eat raw fish)/(have multiple consenting relationships), if I wanted to (do that thing) I would have thought "wow, that's not for me". But then I realized that it's not so crazy a concept. Just foreign to my current understanding.

    One of the hardest part of being poly- or really, any surprising "counter culture" thing is being some automatic ambassador for that thing. I appreciate the sweet "let me educate you/answer any questions you may have" concept. I do. But I don't think that's for everyone, because not everyone is set up to be a brand ambassador. ;)

    14 agree
    • I really agree with you. Part of the problem in this discussion is that there are people you might need to tell you are polyamorous–the babysitter or dog walker for example–with whom you don't actually want to have a long educational conversation. Witty and not-mean might be the best you can come up with. There's a huge difference in saying, "Hey, I'm vegetarian." and "Hey I really want to explain all the reasons I became vegetarian. Also here are all the veggie recipes you should try." There are times when you just don't want chicken on your salad…or you want your acquaintance to quit calling your boyfriend by your husband's name. I'm not poly, but it seems like this might come up more often than not.

      4 agree
      • As someone who's vegetarian and poly, I love this analogy. I think it can be great to talk about being poly or veggie just for the sake of visibility and celebrating identity or community :) . For me, though, when I tell people either of these things it's basically always because relevant and useful info, like in the context of planning a meal together or telling a story involving my partner's partner. In the veggie context, I hear "why are you vegetarian?" a lot – I don't really mind the question, but it's practically impossible to come up with an answer that doesn't risk the other person feeling like I'm challenging their ethics. I don't feel like my food ethics choices are better than my friends', and I'm blessed with a lot of friends who get that and are secure in whatever choices they're making, but the "superior/annoying vegetarian" stereotype is incredibly pervasive. In the poly context, I often find that the whole conversation gets sidetracked when I come out. Sometimes the questions do get way more personal than people would think to ask about monogamous, straight relationships (we're also a queer family, so there's some overlap of issues there) – but for the most part I'm fine talking with people about it and am fine with answering questions. I just wish I got to also finish whatever story I was actually trying to tell a bit more often.

        0 agree
    • Helia, pretty sure you just explained the sushi thing better than I did :) Thanks!

      I'm also super aware of being an auto-ambassador. I think of myself as an ambassador, but the thing is, I don't think ambassadors have to be sweet. Nothing I say is ever really described as "sweet", so I feel no need to establish that dynamic in my outreach. That's the reason I prefer these responses – they go with my personality, which I don't think makes me any less of an ambassador :)

      0 agree
  10. It's great to read more articles about polyamory. At one point, it was a topic of much discussion between my partner and I. We were both interested in opening up our relationship to other partners but (and this may sound stupid), we didn't know how. How do you invite other people into your relationship or join someone else's relationship? Maybe we didn't try hard enough or didn't tell enough people, but as time passed, it seems we both let the idea of changing or opening up our partnership go. I admire your courage in coming out yourselves as this still can be (at least in my neck of the woods) a very dangerous thing.

    3 agree
    • Yeah, we're at this point too. We're totally open to other relationships, but…how? We're married, so monogamy is assumed. We have decided that being open about it where appropriate is the best idea…if someone is into one of us, at least they'll know it's not off the table. But as to actually forming a new relationship? Stumped. Maybe someone else can write a post about that!

      1 agrees
      • I am part of a poly with a primary relationship. The primary couple is a man and woman who are currently engaged. I am the "fun little extra" to their relationship, and that is my term not theirs. They don't have a term for me since their "extra" is usually a pet (BDSM) but since I am not that, currently at a loss for a term. but in response to opening it up, i can tell you how I came into it(as being part of a poly relationship was something i never considered before).
        I met the gentleman 1st at a bar and we talked/flirted a bit, we saw each other at the same bar again and talked some more and he asked for my number. Then it came up the woman i was sitting next to was his fiance and he then explained that they were open. (I will add that this may not be ideal. If he had be up front about it for the get go, I probably wouldnt have talked to him again, but realizing you are flirting with someones fiance, while sitting next to them, odd to say the least) I do think that meeting people separately and then meeting the other partner might go easier, rather than 2 pursuing 1.

        1 agrees
      • Hey, thanks so much for sharing! Interesting that you both are in similar boats.

        I might submit a full-blown post about this, but here are a few suggestions that worked very well for me when we opened our relationship:

        1. BOOKS! Dear lordy, read books. "Opening Up" is good for opening existing relationships (I've personally never read it.) "Ethical Slut" has essential lessons on consent and jealousy, "Sex at Dawn" has a (pseud0-)scientific evolutionary perspective on monogamy and non-monogamy. Hitting the books is great for general, functional tips.

        1. If you are feeling an attraction to someone in particular outside your established relationship, consider telling them. I did this with my first additional partner, and though the relationship didn't work out, it was great to give it a shot!

        2. OkCupid is a free dating website that is very poly-friendly. Online dating after while in an established relationship sometimes feels as weird as it sounds, but OkCupid is the dating site of choice for poly people. The Questions section is very important when using OkCupid for poly dating – there are lots of "Are you okay with dating someone who is married?"-type queries that will help you sort through potential matches. If you make an account, poke around other poly profiles to see how others have done it.

        3. Meetup.com my have poly groups that are open to people who are poly-questioning, depending on where you live. Unsurprisingly, there are loads of them in the Bay Area, but there was also a less-active group in Philadelphia. At Meetups, many poly people are happy to chat with you, even if you don't identify as poly yet and aren't sure if you ever will!

        4. When you're up for it, keep an eye out for poly speed dating events. Again, this depends on your location, but you never know till you look! I know there is at least 1 of these events in the Bay Area.

        I hope these help! If you have questions about any of this, or anything else, feel free to ask! Happy trails :)

        0 agree
  11. Add me to the list of people who prefer "I'm not asking you to" to the sushi line. The former is a "different strokes" kind of a comment, and the latter sounds like we'd all love polyamory if only we'd try it. I am the kind of person who has said, "Oh, okay," or something to that effect when I've been told somebody was polyamorous, and I get that these lines aren't for offbeat types… but wouldn't somebody who didn't know any poly people for whom your coming out is a completely foreign concept be even *more* likely than people who were use to the idea to take the part about "but I love it now" to suggest that they, too, are wrong about this thing and should try it? If you didn't like sushi, and you said "Yeah, I feel the same way about sushi," now that would be more along the lines of saying it's just a matter of taste, and tastes differ.

    7 agree
    • Thanks for sharing Kristen – I understand that you don't agree with our approach, but we're happy with it. So that's that!

      0 agree
  12. I told a few coworkers, and the phrase "I could never do that!" came up a couple times. I just answered "I totally get that! It's not for everyone. But it works for us." The thing is, when you catch someone off guard like that, at first they probably think they COULDN'T. It's only after they think about it for a while, or discuss it with their significant other, that they might start to mull it over. But I don't really think it's my responsibility to point out the whole "monogamy as a social construct" thing, or provoke deeper thought in the person I'm sharing with. If they don't want to consider it, that's on them, not me. I'm just sharing what works for us.

    4 agree
    • I might very well be a person who responds that "I couldn't do that". Not because I've never mulled it over or considered it, but because I have. And I reached the conclusion that… I could never do that.
      Another thing I could never do is eat raw fish. I'm sure it's delicious, and people seem to really enjoy it, but I can barely manage cooked fish. (Read into that whatever way you will. lol)

      3 agree
      • Thanks for sharing Barbara! I appreciate that you've considered it and it's not for you.

        I'm sure you can appreciate that coming out is a very personal and vulnerable experience, and one that just. keeps. happening. (Meet a potential new friend? Need to come out again. Wonder how THEY'LL take it…)

        We vastly prefer supportive or neutral responses to "I could never do that," as that statement, with no explanation, makes us even more uncomfortable than we already were in our vulnerable state.

        At some point I might be interested in hearing why you decided against being in an open relationship, but that moment is NEVER when I'm coming out.

        I am glad you found your own truth, though! Thanks again!

        0 agree
        • I would imagine that tone could make a difference between "I could never do that, how weird" and "I could never do that, how cool". I'm as likely to respond "I could never do that" to somebody who told me that they had just finished a post-grad degree while working full-time and raising four kids, and I wouldn't think that would be read as judgmental.
          (The basic truth is that I just can't multitask. ;))
          I responded when and where I did, in this thread, because I read the post I replied to as suggesting that only people who had never considered polyamoury would think that they 'couldn't do it'. I guess the 'monogamy is a social construct' argument rubs me the wrong way too – all relationships, with the possible exception of mother/infant, are social constructs to some degree.
          Then again, I'm currently single-not-looking and my 'primary relationship' is with my dog. (Daughter is half-grown and lives with her dad, at this point she comes and goes.) Mainstream Society thinks I'm A Bit Odd as well. I'm okay with that.

          0 agree
    • I'm glad that approach works for you Evee!

      0 agree
  13. its just as interesting trying to explain that there can be a non-monogamous person among a monogamous marriage.

    ex. i'm married to my lovely Husband. He is monogamous with me but I have the freedom to date women if the need arises. He ( at this time) has no need to date outside of our marriage but we are open to discussing such need if it arises. Also at this time He is not fully on board with me dating other men. Which is currently fine for me I do not have a need for another male companion. We are also involved in a BDSM relationship but I am not saying they MUST GO HAND in HAND but the lifestyles share close ties.

    0 agree
    • Thanks for sharing Autumn!

      Indeed – I know and adore many BDSM/non-monogamous folks! And I agree, the different permutations of non-monogamy all present unique difficulties in explaining to the uninitiated. I hope you're feeling good about your approach!

      0 agree
  14. My response to "I could never do that" is usually "::shrug:: It's not for everyone."

    Which you could combine with the sushi line. "Yeah, I used to feel that way about sushi, but now I love it. Still, it's not for everyone."

    4 agree
    • Interesting idea, Anie! I'm usually not around when my husband comes out to people, but I'm sure he works that in somehow when he does use the sushi line. Thanks!

      0 agree
  15. Yeah, color me another one who would be left cold by the sushi line. To me it has a very obvious implication of "You can't say you don't like it until you try it." Because what do you tell every little kid who looks at the weird thing they've never seen on their plate before – like sushi – and says "I don't like it" the instant they see it? "How do you know that if you haven't tried it." Which is shortly followed by "Try it, you'll like it."

    I'm posting this because I think I'm kind of the "target audience" for the line. Won't try it. Won't think about trying it. Do not want. Happy that you have an arrangement that works for you, but I am so not interested in considering polyamory and me. I would respond much better to "I'm not asking you to" – which to me sounds like the perfect light-hearted joke to make in the situation – than I would to the sushi analogy.

    And the light-hearted joke is important because it lets me know that it's okay to change the subject. I don't want to talk about polyamory – yours or mine. I don't want to be evangelized to about it and I don't want to make you feel like you're in a position to defend yourself. So how 'bout them Steelers, eh?

    12 agree
    • First of all, effin' a, Steelers! Here we go! (This can't be the first that professional football has been mentioned in the Offbeat Empire, right??)

      As I just mentioned to someone else, I'm sure you can appreciate that coming out is a very personal and vulnerable experience, and one that just. keeps. happening. (Meet a potential new friend? Need to come out again. Wonder how THEY'LL take it…)

      We vastly prefer supportive or neutral responses to "I could never do that," as that statement, with no explanation, makes us even more uncomfortable than we already were in our vulnerable state.

      At some point I might be interested in hearing why you decided against being in an open relationship, but that moment is NEVER when I'm coming out.

      I am glad you found your own truth, though! Thanks again!

      0 agree
  16. I am not concerned at all about how you explain your relationship(s). You have the right to be with whomever you want and explain it however it works for you.

    I am happy for you that you are in a working poly relationship, I think it is awesome. I can't even find one man to date! Take care.

    3 agree
    • I agree — I feel like the OP has the awareness to suss out what kind of response would be appropriate in different situations. She's admitted this is just an attempt at having a back-pocket response when she can't comfortably find something else to say… specifically to people who are not already familiar with poly relationships. To say one or the other would rub someone the wrong way is obvious. No matter what you say, it is going to rub SOMEONE the wrong way if you use it as a blanket statement in every situation to everyone. I don't think we need to condemn one or the other — they both have value in certain situations!!

      I think it's awesome that the OP is in a place where she feels comfortable being out and willing to have conversations about her personal life to increase awareness. That is a courageous step and I am very happy to see more people willing to talk honestly about poly relationships. It's not something that would work for me in my current situation, but it is something I've seriously considered (as a bisexual, many people assume that I would be poly as well… but it's just not an automatic "if, then" kind of thing!).

      3 agree
    • Thanks for the support, Gaylin! I'm very fortunate and very happy.

      Sending good vibes towards your happiness and fulfillment as well!

      0 agree
  17. I'm actually offended by the sushi line. Honestly, I'd be offended if someone pulled that out on me.

    A relationship, with agreements and communication and having needs addressed and met is far too complex to be likened to developing my palate. A particular way of having relationships is not a "try it, you'll like it!" scenario which is how this comes off to me.

    I should say that I live in a large urban area in which poly relationships are, while not what I'd call commonplace, definitely ubiquitous. I think that the difficulties in replying to a coming out of this kind of relationship are multiple:

    1. We've talked a lot about what *isn't* a desirable response but very little about what is. I'm wondering what responses the OP finds to be more positive?

    2. There is a certain amount of awkwardness that can come out of, well, coming out to social connections because, even without discussing who is fucking whom, there is an element of entry into the more intimate space of knowledge about that relationship. I don't know that there's a good time for this or if it's more helpful to simply educate people not to assume heteronormative partnership of any relationship.

    3. Because there are so many poly relationships in this area, you may come upon recipients of this information who have encountered poly configurations wherein the conversion to poly is more an attempt to rectify problems in the relationship(s) than a natural state of being. I've taken to calling this Poly As BandAid. This is problematic for friends and poly relationships alike as it calls into question the legitimacy of other poly relationships and makes education and how to respond even more complicated.

    Lastly, if I never hear the same sad "poly is the only natural relationship state" condescending pontification again, it will be too soon. I'm happy to do me and I'm happy for you to do you–no need for lectures or feeling some certain kind of way about what other folks are doing with their relationships.

    5 agree
    • I'm not the OP, but I can speak a little bit to your question in point number 1. While not polyamorous, my partner and I are sexually non-monogamous, and I've come out to a few close friends and to roommates who sort of found out anyway. It very much depends on how close we are and the reasons I'm telling the person, and their own comfort level with the idea, but here are some examples of great responses from a close friend:

      "Thanks for letting me know."
      "I'm glad you feel comfortable enough to tell me."
      "Oh, glad that works for you."
      "Interesting. Mind if I ask you some questions?"

      Those are all preferable to a knee-jerk "I could never do that!" though that usually is the first reaction. With close friends, though, it's easy to move past that by either changing the subject or having a dialogue about it.

      With roommates, who mostly just need to know for logistical reasons, hearing "I could never do that!" feels like judgment. "Alright, cool," would be preferable, just to know they've absorbed the information and won't weird out when I go out on a date with someone who isn't my partner or vice-versa.

      Of course everyone's different, and it would be crazy for me to expect everyone to react this way, but that's my ideal world!

      1 agrees
    • Thanks for your perspective, Sara!

      1. I'm the original poster and I am totally on board with everything fanofpants listed. I hope you can understand that I had a certain scope to the post, and suggestions for alternate responses to coming out just wasn't within the purview I intended. I'm glad you asked though!

      2. As I mentioned previously, to me, my polyamory is not about my intimacy so much as my relationship life. It's like discussing any significant other – the point, to me, is not that I am intimate with these people, but that I love them.

      3. I have been witness to quite a few Poly As BandAid situations, and it's certainly usually a less-than-spectacular idea. I say that to avoid being prescriptive of all PABA situations, as I would hope that those people inundated with PABA situations will not use that experience as indicative of all poly relationships.

      And I'm with you on the last one. I think it *is* a natural relationship state, but certainly not the *only* one. There is literally no one qualified to make that sweeping a determination.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      0 agree
  18. Am I the only one who would respond to this coming out with, "Omg, really? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they cute? Are they good in bed? Zomg, tell me all the dirty details!"

    8 agree
  19. Setting the specifics of your post aside for a moment – thank you for writing honestly about polyamory at all! I say this because it bums me out that this subject isn't easier to talk about in a more public arena, and that it requires 'coming out' at all. My long term boyfriend and I have been working through the logistics about opening up our relationship and what that means for us, after he brought this suggestion/part of his identity to the table.

    I've willingly read and thought a lot about poly as a way of loving and supporting of my partner. Reading "Opening Up" by Tristan Taormino and "Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage" by Jenny Block together bonded us, and facilitated some really awesome conversations about our needs and wants. While I'm left embracing the concept of an open relationship intellectually, I'm also sometimes emotionally stretched/conflicted. It's a tough thing to untangle these ideas from my own needs/wants/identity, and locate the overlap. I know I can't be the only one who's experienced this dilemma, but it's so rarely talked about… which, again, bums me out.

    I think the taboo that surrounds polyamory reinforces the notion that it's somehow a shameful thing, which I'm clearly sensitive to. And that taboo makes it difficult for your average Joe (or JoAnne) to know how to talk openly and comfortably about it (see also: "I could never do that!") let alone integrate it into their relationship if they're at all considering it! That's not to say open relationships are for everyone – like sushi, there are plenty of people who will never like it, and who never want to try it, and that's ok. But I also know there are people like me – for whom polyamory may not feel inherent or natural, but who are capable of integrating it into their own relationships in a healthy and fulfilling way with a loving and respectful partner, with enough introspection, forethought, and disregard for the stigma.

    That was all a very (!) long winded way of saying: thank you for your relaxed and relatable contribution to the conversation about poly. I hope it continues to becomes an easier conversation for more to comfortably participate in.

    6 agree
    • Michelle, thank you. Thank you thank you.

      There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 responses to this post, and I psyched myself up to mindfully and openly respond to every. last. one. (It took quite a bit of revving. I'm new at this – hoping my refractory period decreases with experience… The Offbeat readers encourage me – this was an easier task than I anticipated.)

      Yours was the last one I have left, at the moment. And, dammit, bless you. You remind me why I do this.

      I'm working with a few people on ramping up polyamory awareness efforts, so hopefully the invisibility will be a lessening challenge.

      Best of luck with opening up. I loved "Ethical Slut" for the practicality of how to deal with jealousy and consent. If you want any support, have any questions, or have any specific requests or ideas for posts, please don't hesitate to let me know. Get it!

      1 agrees
  20. A very interesting piece… a lot of people around the world are polyamorous, especially the 'less developed' communities. I find it interesting that less developed tribes are distinctly polyamorous women but these communities are changing their ways & becoming 'modern'. Thanks to the wisdom of the developed world.

    0 agree
  21. Dear God, thank you for this post/website/whole-damn-webring-idea-thing! I am polyamorous, with a wonderful husband of nearly 13 years, and a wonderful boyfriend of nearly three. With a few very notable exceptions among our friends and family, we are NOT out, even to our most immediate of immediates. For those that do know, it was a generally easy experience full of interesting discussions and support. But then, those that know are the most "off-beat" kindred spirits of our "tribe." We are now considering coming out to a larger audience. My current lover ( I hate the term boyfriend- so high school) looks to be THE one (or THE two?) as I have discovered I am a "bicycle built for two and no more." We are considering a wedding in the future and a baby (I have three with my "first" husband.) However, before picking out a possible guest list, or discussing the logistics of adoption in a "couple-centric" world, it seems relevant to answer the question of "how to come out as poly!" Your article and comments brought me one step closer to answering that question myself. Snarky, witty, thoughtful, or vague, the responses all delighted me for one reason – the courage you all show in living the life you are called to live. Say a little prayer/mantra/thought/ wish that I can develop that assurance and courage myself. And until that day, blessings and peace to you, all!

    0 agree
    • So glad to hear from you! Congrats on finding your people :) I LOVE the bicycle analogy, as I'm sure would the very bici-minded poly people in the Bay Area.

      Weddings and babies are oh so exciting! Make sure you check out the post on Offbeat Bride today: http://offbeatbride.com/2013/07/a-polyamorous-wedding

      You have all of our wishes for strength and courage in your decisions regarding coming out! I may write another post on what we did to ease coming out to our family and friends…boundaries are always important! Check out the above comments, if you haven't already – I do believe we touched on that.

      We're exploring adoption issues ourselves – even in the Bay Area the best we've gotten so far is, "Well, we won't deny your homestudy *immediately*…" Third-parent adoption (usually reserved for situations in which the original parenting structure is no longer intact, such as divorce) seems to be the best option we've come up with so far, and it's already legal!

      Truly, I do hope you find it as relieving to come out as I do. Sharing excitement is a beautiful thing. Know that we're here with any support you want or need! Godspeed!

      0 agree
  22. As a long time traditional poly family (non-religious, adult responsible, non-monogamous), we found that most people respond with 1. Your Mormons – Hardly, while we do identify as Christians, we don't believe that poly is required to gain heaven, although poly is our version of heaven on earth. 2. Your like those FLDS people – No, none of the wives have ever been and will be subservient. Everyone in our family is a loved and valued member. 3. What's that? 4. Your Going To Hell – We giggle at this, extremely religious but ignorant of what's in their holy book people often say this.

    0 agree

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