Ready or Not! I'm Comin Out!: A Polyamorous Coming Out Story
"Many will tell you that to live as a polyamorist in a monogamous relationship is stifling and uncomfortable-no matter how much they love their partner. It is not a “doing” it is a “being”."
Originally published on 01.25.2017
Over the course of the last year or so, I have really worked on trying to involve myself more with the ever-growing polyamory community. I have reached out to others with support and safe-space for those in the polyamory community, those who are marinating on the idea, and those who are just respectfully curious and want to know more. I have joined a couple of poly “support groups”.
During this particular walk on my path, Freyja has given me gentle hints about where I need to go with my life and career. However, when I finally decided to completely focus on spirituality, families, and alternative relationships in life and career (I recently began my Life Coach Certification journey with specialties in these areas), Freyja, my Beloved Goddess, decided there are more lessons I need to learn, not from observation but submersion. Because I wasn’t moving as quickly as I perhaps should have and because I can be a LITTLE stubborn, Freyja promptly scooped me up and dumped my happy, confident, probably a little arrogant, comfortable ass into a shit pile to work my way through.
Tyler and I went to Denver in December to visit his mom for her 60th birthday (shit, was that seriously only last month?!). This was a GIANORMOUS step for not only Tyler and I, but for John and I, and John and Tyler. I mean, John did pay for Tyler and I to go on a cruise later next month, but this was different. This was going with Tyler to his home to meet all his family and see his roots. I have met his mom and sisters, but that isn’t the same as being taken back to your SO’s home.
Tyler and I made the decision to hold off on coming out to his family until his mom and youngest sister could really see how much we care about and feel for each other. The trip was fantastic, it was the arrival back h ome that marked the arrival of the shit storm…
John and I had decided to invite Tyler and Jewels to our house for Christmas Dinner with my family. We had already come out to my father and siblings and were well received. My mother, however, would be more of a challenge. My mother is likely a narcissist disguised as a pastoral psychotherapist. The last time I tried to engage her in a discussion that went deeper than small talk, we got into an argument because while I agreed with her point, my reasoning was different. Out of what seemed nowhere, I was hearing that I could not possibly be as enlightened or have as high of an emotional intelligence as she and I despised Christians. Growl. After my husband and my stepdad put us back into our respective corners, I resolved never to get into a serious discussion with her again.
A conversation during which you come out of closet about your lifestyle does not qualify as a non-serious discussion. However, with Christmas coming, and Freyr and I quite sick of being in the poly-closet to certain folks, it was a necessary. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned.
We thought we would have some good alone time with my mom and stepdad on a visit to see my 100-year-old, paternal grandmother the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We also felt that them being trapped in a car with us might work to our advantage because no one could get up and walk away. Sadly, my grandmother came down with a cold that weekend and could not receive visitors. John and I extended a dinner invitation to my mother and stepdad for that Sunday. Tyler was with us for the weekend and we even bounced around the idea of having Tyler with us so they could observe Tyler and John’s relationship. The night before we were supposed to have dinner, my brother shattered his shoulder. Dinner plans were cancelled.
The next weekend, I left for Denver and my kids stayed with my mom. John and I were vague about my trip and just left it alone. I think my mother was suspicious of my trip and had been for a while. *In fact, we thought my sister had kinda spilled the beans a year or so ago after she told my mom that she was non-monogamous and was having relationships outside of her marriage. My sister isn’t poly so much as her marriage is miserable and her husband cannot/will not fulfill all of her needs and so she seeks them outside of their relationship. He knows about them, but it is a “don’t ask; don’t tell” agreement. *
My mother then started questioning my sister about my trip and with whom I travelled all the way to Denver. My sister, thinking we had spoken with my mom already, told her. Cue shit for storm.
I received a frantic phone call from my sister while Tyler and I were on the little tram that runs between terminals at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. She told me what happened and she told me that our highly-evolved mother was losing her shit.
I called John and told him to talk with my sister. My dad then calls me wanting to know what had happened because his ex-wife, my mother called him and yelled at him about the situation. Meanwhile, my mom is sending me spiteful texts saying John and I had “better not dare” fire my sister for spilling the beans (First of all, it was a mistake on my sister’s part. Secondly, business is separate from personal). All of this was happening while Tyler and I sat at Baggage Claim waiting for our luggage. “Sarah Neal, your baggage is here.”
I made several attempts to encourage my mother and stepdad to have a sit-down conversation with us so we could discuss our relationship and clear up confusions and assumptions. They refused. My mother spent a great deal of time discussing my life with her husband, her therapist, her priest, her best friends (one of them my godmother), and who the hell knows who else. Everyone but the people who could answer all her questions and the people who lived the life she was determined to condemn because it didn’t fit in with her values or beliefs. My brother talked with her. My sister talked with her. She threw out nasty accusations like the reason one of my children is on a mood stabilizer is because of my marriage (Remember that she is a psychotherapist. She played a big role in getting my daughter’s doctor to hear me with concerns of autism and bi-polar disorder). There were many nasty things said on her part-but never directly to me because she wouldn’t talk to me.
A few days later, she started a conversation with me since my godsister (a child psychiatrist) told my godmother that it was fine as long as the children weren’t kept in the dark. What my mother did not know, because she refused to talk with us, is that our children have known for months. What my mother did not know is that I have been doing my due diligence and researching ethical polyamory and am a part of a couple of support groups. She did not know this because she refused to talk with us about it.
The subject of Christmas was nasty. My father, for the last 3 years, was preparing a beautiful, several-course meal at our house. He reluctantly allowed my mother and stepdad to participate because he knew it puts his children in a horrible position to have to choose between their daddy and their manipulative, and sometimes quite vindictive mother. Also, my stepdad has worked some wonders on my mom and calmed her down over the years (yes, this is a more mellow woman than the woman pre-stepdad). Immediately, I was told by my mother, who previously refused to speak to me, that I had to choose between my extended family and her and her husband. She said she would not come to our house for Christmas if Tyler and Jewels were going to be there. Okay. Suit yourself. John and I are not one for ultimatums and if you give us one, we will likely choose the one against the giver of such ultimatum. After I denied her and my stepfather access to my daughters on Christmas Eve due to events planned with John’s family, they reluctantly decided to come to Christmas-under the explicit request that there was to be absolutely NO discussion of our relationships.
Christmas Dinner was interesting, but tolerable at first. There was a lot of alcohol flowing. My dad was a little surly and stressed over dinner preparations, but things seemed to be okay. My mother brought books to give Tyler and Jewels as gifts. She was talking to all of us. I put my mother into conversations with Jewels and Tyler so she could get to see what awesome people they are. Even my eldest daughter, Phoenix, leaned in and whispered to me, “Nice job, Mom. You forced her to be nice to them.” That girl of mine is no slouch and was keenly aware of majority of shit we battled the two weeks before Christmas. My stepfather remained a little removed.
Alcohol continued to flow. I was affectionate with both John and Tyler. I never kissed Tyler in front of my parents, but I was affectionate. John was much the same way with Jewels and I. We wanted to show that we are a united front and stand by our partners and that our partners are a very important part of our lives. The four of us were having a ball. We were laughing and cracking each other up. There was one point when Tyler had John on the floor laughing so hard. After my mother decided she had enough liquid courage and that everyone was also liquored up enough for her to go for the jugular with her psycho-babble and manipulations, she made a comment that she had never seen so much PDA with us. *Whatever. John and I have always been affectionate with each other. * I interrupted her and reminded her that she had been adamant about not discussing it. She decided she wanted to talk-but I know my mother. It was her way of trying to judge and belittle us. She has been doing this my whole life. I know the signs. She wanted to speak her mind but not allow room for anyone else to speak theirs.
Tyler finally couldn’t take anymore and he cut into the conversation. He gave a beautiful speech about how much our relationship and family has brought into his life despite it being so out-of-the-societal norm. Jewels then started asking my mom questions in a way to get to the root of my mom’s feelings. I almost felt like we were MAYBE starting to get somewhere. What I had not noticed is that my stepfather had disappeared upstairs.
After we finally got my mom talking, my stepfather comes down the stairs, tearing over to the table and whisper-shouted, “Phoenix can hear everything and she is scared! You need to end this discussion now!”
Of course, this Mama went upstairs to check on her child and found her on the sofa playing a video game. I called her over and pulled her into the hall. My mother, of course, followed suite. I asked Pheonix if she was upset or scared. She told me my stepfather went upstairs, asked her if she could hear anything (we weren’t being loud) and if she was scared. Being the
incredibly sarcastic 13-year-old we all know her to be, she replied, “Yea. I’m real scared.” She told us that what did bother her was everyone making such a big deal out of it all. In that moment, what respect my stepfather had earned with me over the years completely disintegrated. How dare he use my daughter’s mental state as an excuse to get out of a conversation he was uncomfortable with!
My mother and I came back downstairs and she asked if we would cool it on the affection and conversation because he was uncomfortable. I refused. They left early.
The weight left the room and we carried on with the remaining part of our celebrations.
Months before, my mom purchased passes and made accommodation reservations for us to take the girls to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios and Universal Adventure Island. Prior to Christmas, she had been threatening in discussions with my sister about not allowing me to go, blah, blah, blah. I also knew that I was fully prepared to insist I go or buy my mother out of the tickets and take my sister with me. I was not okay with the idea of her being alone with my children. I cannot express to you how much this broke my heart.
My mother has been the one grandmother who has shown my girls unconditional love and affection. She has given them all the love and affection any grandmother/Nana worth her salt should. It broke my heart to think I didn’t trust her enough to not try psycho-analyze, manipulate, or concern my children about my marriage.
The trip happened. My mother and I worked hard not to be in the same room alone or to try not to discuss much more than necessary for the logistics or opinions of our trip. The first night, back at the condo, I was curled up on the sofa reading “More Than Two”. She asked what I was reading. My response, “You don’t want to know or talk about it.” She started to question, then realized what I meant and replied, “Oh.” She promptly went upstairs to bed.
My husband extended the offer to my stepdad to play golf on the Monday we were gone because there was a special going on for MLK Day. My stepdad gave a lame excuse about having other plans. I say lame because when I asked my mom what her husband was doing that day, she said she was unaware of anything, and then immediately back-pedaled when I told her of Freyr’s invitation.
We have not spoken since we returned from our trip. My guess is we won’t until they decide they want to have the girls for a weekend.
I have spent my whole life feeling like my mom would rather have one of my friends as her child. Throughout my childhood, college years, and adulthood, my mother has compared me to my peers. I was never smart enough, educated enough, talented enough, or beautiful
enough to match up to the talents and skills of my friends or her friends’ children. She will tell you that it is because she never learned how to express love. I bought that right up until I had children who she fawned over. I would tell you that none of that matters to me because at least she is a fantastic grandmother and she shows my most precious beloveds the love she never showed me or my siblings. However, this was a game- changer and a deal-breaker.
It sucks to know that even with all of my accomplishments, my mother will never love and accept me for what and who I am unless she thinks it will benefit how she is perceived by others. It will never be just because she is my mother and is proud of this kickass woman she gave birth to. I will never be enough for her. However, mark my word, once she sees that polyamory is actually a true movement towards social/relationship equality, we will become her poster children and she will tell everyone she knows that her daughter and her son-in-law have been polyamorous for x-amount of years and have been incredibly successful with it. Unfortunately, until such a day arrives, she will avoid the topic with us and remain cold. She will secretly whisper my business to others (and it will be incorrect information because of her assumptions). She will tearfully fret to her therapist about how awful my husband is and how her poor grandchildren must be suffering. She will not accept me and love me as a polyamorous individual.
My siblings and I both tried to explain that it was only last year that gays were given the right to marry. If I had come out to her as gay or bisexual, would she have treated me this way? Her response is that people cannot choose to be gay, but can choose to be polyamorous…
*I have been doing an incredible amount of soul searching this year. I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people who are polyamorous. I have read blogs, articles, and books by, listened to pod casts of, and had deep conversations with people in the poly community. What I have found is that many polyamorous individuals recognize themselves as poly just as a someone who is gay, bi, pan sexual recognizes themselves as such. Many will tell you that to live as a polyamorist in a monogamous relationship is stifling and uncomfortable-no matter how much they love their partner. It is not a “doing” it is a “being”.
Jewels asked John one night recently if he ever thought we would go back to being monogamous. He posed the same question to me a couple of days later. I responded that IF we ever did it would have to be when BOTH of us were single. Yet, I added that even if we were both single, I don’t think I could feel completely comfortable in a purely monogamous relationship. Monogamy now feels like a pair of too-small, tight, high-heeled shoes I would have to wear 24 hours a day just to fit in with society. I no longer feel comfortable defining myself as monogamous. When I look back on past relationships, I realized that while I was faithful to each of my boyfriends and to my ex-husband, I felt claustrophobic. I realized that while I would have never dreamt of non-monogamy, I felt closed in. Even as a young teenager I fretted over the idea of being stuck with one person for the rest of my life.
Yes, a poly person can “choose” to live a monogamous lifestyle, just as a non-heterosexual person can “choose” to live as a heterosexual individual. It doesn’t make that polyamorous person monogamous any more than it makes a non-heterosexual a heterosexual. *
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