Polyamory’s warts

toad kiss

It was about a week and a half ago that Girlfriend told me about her sister’s graduation ceremony. She was interested in attending it, but it was a twelve-hour drive away, and with her husband unable to take time off work for it, she didn’t feel confident making the trip alone with her small children.

I did what any self-respecting boyfriend would do. I offered to accompany her on the trip. When Mr. Wonderful agreed with the plan, I was really excited. I figured it would be nice to have a little getaway with her, and that helping out with the children and the driving would be a small price to pay to be able to visit Girlfriend’s hometown with her. What I didn’t count on, though, was that I would experience firsthand the reaction that most people have to those involved in a polyamorous relationship. Nor could I have predicted the effects those reactions would have on the relationship itself.

Polyamory is not all roses. I know that. My desire to live a polyamorous lifestyle is probably the single biggest contributor to the breakup of my marriage. It’s not something that everyone can accept. It’s not something that everyone can live with. Fine, I thought. Live and let live. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t choose it as a lifestyle for yourself. But I keep finding myself surprised at people’s unwillingness to accept another person’s choices for his or her own life.

When Girlfriend told her mother that she was coming into town for the weekend, her mother was looking forward to seeing her daughter and grandchildren. But soon after finalizing the plans for when she would take the grandchildren, she asked if Girlfriend would also be spending time at the house. Girlfriend said that she’d be happy to stay with them as well, but knowing her mother’s stance regarding having me as a boyfriend, she said that if I wasn’t welcome in her home, she would simply drop the children off. Shortly thereafter, her mother apparently thought better of the idea, and told Girlfriend through a text message that she would be unable to have the grandchildren at her house at all. She refused to answer telephone calls or respond to texts for the next day and a half or so. And when she finally did respond to a text, she simply repeated the statement that she would not be having the children at her house.

Girlfriend told her siblings who lived either in town or only a few hours away that she would be coming into town. One of her siblings agreed to meet with us. One couldn’t be bothered to make the drive. Another told her that she wasn’t interested in meeting Girlfriend’s “flavor of the week” and thought it was a convenient excuse that Girlfriend had come up with to use “polyamory” as a way of tricking her husband into allowing her to have sex with some other guy she had the hots for. “It’s nothing more than sex, and you’re just unwilling to control yourself.”

Mr. Wonderful’s parents were irate at the idea that their son would allow his wife to be accompanied by another man, but they didn’t reject the opportunity to see the grandchildren. As we were pulling into town, I was informed that Mr. Wonderful’s father had made some vaguely threatening comments about me, but that it wasn’t anything to really be worried about. We drove straight to their house and Girlfriend helped the children into the house while I sat in the van. Her father-in-law was not at home for the dropoff. The exchange went well, and the children were set to spend a little over a day and a half with their grandparents.

The pick up was a little more dramatic. I again stayed in the van while Girlfriend went inside. In the chaos of the goodbyes and gathering up of belongings, I guess one of the children came out to the van without giving proper hugs, so Grandma came trailing out of the house in pursuit. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me. She turned around and went back inside. Girlfriend came out to the van and dropped luggage beside the van and asked the children to come back and give hugs to their grandparents. I was loading the suitcases into the back of the van when Grandpa came out and shouted at me: “You better get off of my property.” Since that pretty well meshed with my intentions anyway, I didn’t say anything. I just finished loading the van and waited for the children and Girlfriend.

While that was perhaps a little uncomfortable and unwelcoming–but certainly survivable–for me, I guess the real drama happened immediately afterward, when Grandma and Grandpa got on the phone with the other members of the family to discuss the shocking events. I figure I must have seared their eyeballs or something. I don’t have all the details of what was said to whom, but I know that Mr. Wonderful talked that morning with his parents and with his brother, and the conversation wasn’t exactly the most friendly he’d ever had with his family members. He in turn called Girlfriend and expressed dismay at her actions, told her that he thought she was being careless, and wondered how we could be so insensitive. Why did we have to try to force our polyamory on everyone?

Throughout the rest of the day the children kept asking if they would have a chance to go over to their other grandmother’s house. Girlfriend told them that their grandmother had said she couldn’t take them, but promised to ask again. The response: “I’ll pass.” The intent, though, was not to avoid seeing the grandchildren, but simply to punish Girlfriend. Girlfriend’s mother had come over the day before to Mr. Wonderful’s parents’ house and spent some time there with the children. But she wanted to be sure to send a very clear message to Girlfriend.

Later that evening, Girlfriend received a text from her mother that appeared to have been intended for Mr. Wonderful’s parents. It told how she had removed all the photos of Girlfriend and Mr. Wonderful from her house, keeping only pictures of the children, because looking at them brought her such pain. The message also stated the fear that this weekend would be the last time she figured she’d ever get to see her grandchildren again. It conveniently left out the fact that she had repeatedly refused offers to see the grandchildren and have them at her house.

Girlfriend responded to the text and her mother told her that although she was embarrassed that the text had been misdirected, she was glad that Girlfriend had seen it, and that she would love to tell her more, if she would meet her face to face. Girlfriend told her that if it was going to be along the same lines of what she had already read in the text, she would pass.

So help me understand. Why do people need to express their opinions through rudeness toward those who are different? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It has always happened. It happens everywhere. If you’ve got the wrong hairstyle or the wrong brand of jeans. If you’ve got the wrong skin color or the wrong sexual orientation. If you’ve got the wrong accent or speak the wrong language. If you listen to the wrong kind of music or root for the wrong team. There will always be people who dismiss your worth as a person for much smaller things than the choice I have made to reject society’s standards for pairing off. But what is it about being different that offends people so much? Why do they have to show their rejection of your choices by excluding you from their presence?

And why can they not understand the effects of secondary rejection? They think they are only rejecting me. They are not rejecting Girlfriend. She is still welcome to come to their houses and interact with them. Just so long as she doesn’t bring me with her. But can they really not see that she feels the rejection as much or more than I do? I’m just a stranger. I don’t care if I create and maintain a relationship with them or not. But Girlfriend has built a relationship with them, and by rejecting me, they are rejecting her choices as well.

She is trying to say: “This person is important to me. Because you are important to me, I want you to meet this person, and I want this person to meet you.” And instead of saying, “I appreciate you as a person and I am interested in meeting people who are important to you,” they say, “I only appreciate you for the things that you bring into my life that meet my expectations and desires. I do not care for your needs or desires.” Do they not see the message they are sending?

Do they think they are staunchly supporting God’s will by making sacrifices that may be difficult for them but that allow them to take a stand for righteousness? Do they think that if she is treated poorly enough she will come to her senses and realize that God’s true path is the only means to salvation? Do they think that if they are cruel to her for long enough that she will come running back to them in repentance?

What compels people to behave in so rude a manner?

Polyamory. That’s what.

You can choose your lifestyle. But you can’t choose how people will react to it.

4 thoughts on “Polyamory’s warts”

  1. Interesting read, and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had such negative experiences. I guess this is a lot to do with the heterosexual nuclear family being held up as the gold standard. Thus by definition, all other relationships indicate a defect in those involved. It’s an incredibly judgemental mindset to have, and promotes a narrow-mindedness when it comes to love and relationships. ‘Live and let live’ is, sadly, probably too tall an order for people who believe that falling short has eternal consequences. As such, it is sad to think that this is a problem that is not going away, but I hope it gets easier nonetheless!

  2. I have to be absolutely honest, I cringed when I realized what this was about. Polyamory is certainly never something I would choose for myself. But I think you’re right. If all those directly involved are happy with the situation, then other people should really mind their own business. I like to think I would be more accepting of others in that situation.

    1. As a member of the church, I never saw a problem with the attitude toward homosexuals of “I don’t care what you do, just keep it in the bedroom and stop trying to flaunt it in the public sphere.” I am learning first-hand now how hurtful that can be.

      “I love you, and accept your decision to be gay, but just don’t bring your boyfriend around.” Or “just don’t hold hands or kiss in front of me,” or something similar. It feels reasonable to the person trying to follow god’s will, but it’s very hurtful to someone who feels they are doing no wrong.

That’s my truth. What’s yours?