The three of us have all been in a relationship for about two years. We’re out on Facebook — not that we’re lewd about it, but we certainly don’t hide the fact that we are all together. We all say “I love you.” We all compliment one another as pretty. Yet it still happens that people in our lives, usually casual friends, suddenly discover that we are in a throuple. I think it may be that we as humans refuse to an extent to see what doesn’t fit our schema for The Way Things Are.
And then, usually because we want to be honest and let some person in — to trust them as friends instead of just acquaintances — one of us will say: “We all love each other.”
And The Way Things Are goes out the window for those people.
In their shock, however, the majority of people we’ve told have said hurtful things, effectively shutting down what might’ve been a constructive conversation. Some of the rudeness stemmed from ignorance, and some of it was actually well-meaning.
That said, I hold strongly that these reactions are mostly made in panic, shock, or confusion. I would like to go over them. I hope that people who have been here can find some solace in this, and that — if any of you are ever on the receiving end of a coming-out — this entry prepares you to hear as openly as you can.
Reaction 1: “If I didn’t know you, I’d judge you for it.”
While judgment is the speaker’s Constitutional right, it’s really the first clause of the sentence that’s a problem. “If I didn’t know you…” is offered out like a gift — special treatment because to the speaker we are human beings instead of a statistic. All of the statistics are people, too, though. Every polyamorist is a human being. But the speaker is holding out this gift of friendship, as if to say “I forgive you because we’re friends,” and all we can think is: I don’t need to be forgiven.
All of this is not to say that we cannot understand someone disagreeing with our choices. By all means, if the speaker felt strongly enough about our relationship to lose respect for us, he or she is welcome to say so and terminate the burgeoning friendship. We know it’s a junction — that’s why we wait to bring it up, instead of mentioning it to everybody and their brother — and if that’s where we part ways, that’s okay. What’s not okay is telling us that you’ll go easy on us, against your leanings, as a sort of favor. We don’t want that sort of acceptance. No one would. The speaker is not being the better person. The better person would just say something like, “I can’t accept those choices,” and move on.
Reaction 2: “Who’s the home-wrecker? Are you the home-wrecker?“
None of us were home-wreckers, actually. Sure, there are probably throuples or other polyamorous situations that may have arisen out of such situations, but ours most definitely didn’t. Every step in this direction was a choice we made: not home-wrecking, but home-making.
Reaction 3: “That wouldn’t be my choice.”
Maybe it’s not clear how rude this is to say. What if I confided to the same person that I didn’t want to have any kids? Sure, s/he could say, “That wouldn’t be my choice,” but what would be the point? It’s not that person’s decision. They can have as many children as they want; my choices have no bearing on their choices. Further, if I tell some other person that I don’t want any children, I think they would understand that I was simply confiding a fact — not looking to be shamed for it.
We’re not trying to intimidate anybody or make a statement. We’re just being ourselves and, when someone takes our honesty as an opportunity to police our lives, we regret trusting that person enough to speak up at all. That’s a lonely place to be.
Reaction 4: [relentless flirting, propositioning, or otherwise disrespecting/ignoring our significant others]
Just because we are in a relationship with more than one person doesn’t mean that we are sex-fiends, or that we have no regard for commitment, or that we have no standards. In our case, we are a closed throuple. It is still possible for us to cheat, and it would be just as devastating to us all. In fact, it might be more devastating. Now there are two people to hurt with infidelity instead of one.
Now maybe it’s clearer: we’re not flippant about love or sex. In fact, we have PLENTY to lose if we’re not careful. Maybe people think that it’s impossible for us as significant others to feel jealous, because we are polyamorous, but that’s not true. We can and do get jealous, and hurt, like anybody else–just not about the relations within our triangle. It’s not funny when others treat us like we’re fair game because our commitment is not like theirs. It should be enough that we are committed, and others should do their best to respect it.
Those are the basics. None of this is meant to raise anybody’s hackles about their freedom to opinion, just to give a perspective that many people understandably don’t have. Maybe it will help someone to walk in our shoes before they talk about the path we’ve taken.