Our latest edition of Ask Abi reveals the compromises one must sometimes make when living 'in' vs 'out' polyamorous relationships. What are some of the reasons people choose to remain secret about their lifestyles?



Should I ask my partner to come out about being in a polyamorous relationship?

Dear Abi,

I’m a lifestyle-poly pansexual woman, and one of my anchor partners is a straight man in a long-established marriage. We’ve been together for about three years now, and we’re really into each other. We have a lot of fun, and we’re sexually very compatible. I get on with his wife, and I feel like our relationship priorities are calibrated about right, all that.

The only problem I have is that he and his wife don’t want to come out about being in a polyamorous relationship. Amongst our mutual friends it’s fine, but when I’m around their other friends, their colleagues or their families (all of whom I see quite often at their social events, etc.) my boyfriend and I have to pretend that we’re 'Just Friends'.

Am I unreasonable to hate this? I’ve risked quite a lot to be out about everything in all areas of my life, and I hate the feeling that one of the most important people in that life is ashamed of me and of what we have together.

Many thanks,
Someone who is NOT a ‘dirty little secret’!




Abi replies:

Dear Secret,

Believe me, I get where you’re coming from. I’ve been in this situation so often over the years that I’ve lost count of how many times it’s come up.

Like you, I’ve never much liked it. When people ask me what I do at parties, I tell them that I write about kink and polyamory for a living, and I’m so out that even my grandmother has read some of my articles. Being out - totally, radically, if-you-don’t-like-it-you-can-just-fuck-off out in all aspects of my life is massively important to me, and something I have done consciously. 

I don’t know you, Secret and I don’t know your story. I know my own, though. I’m a cisgendered middle-class white person living in a relatively liberal Western country who has a broadly left-wing family, a ridiculously permissive career and a social circle made up mostly of people a bit like me. Being so thoroughly out feels like a big brave step to me because it's a big brave step for anyone.

In reality, I'm actually in the group of people for whom it is the least scary and radical. About the only person, it could be any easier for is someone who ticked all the same boxes but was a gay man rather than a bisexual woman.

The Perfect Vagina (5).jpg 

Even if the stuff of privilege isn’t relevant - even if your partner is, in addition to being straight and male, also white and cisgendered and well-off and all the rest of it. Even if those privileges comprehensively outweigh your own. There are plenty of good reasons for someone to choose to keep the nature of your polyamorous relationships private.

1. People who work with children are still likely to find a nasty backlash from some sectors if they’re discovered to be non-monogamous.

2. People from relatively conservative families might not want to get into the details of their love lives with them.

3. Some people are just “private”. 

At the end of the day, all you can do is to tell your partner and his wife how this decision makes you feel. They might explain their reasoning to you in a way you hadn’t thought of before. You might find that changes your feelings on the matter. They might be surprised to hear that you’re upset by it, and decide to come out about their relationship status now they know how much it would mean to you.

What if neither of those things happen?

Well, then you’ve got to decide whether or not this is a dealbreaker for you. If it is, that’s sad and painful but ultimately simple. If you need to be in a relationship with someone who is entirely out, you can choose to live by that and end your relationship with this man.

If it’s not a dealbreaker, you’re going to have to find a way to live with it. One that doesn’t involve breaking their trust by putting them in danger of being outed or being passive-aggressive toward them about their choices. Personally, I’ve always taken this option. I can respect my partner’s decisions without making the same decisions myself, after all.

It’s okay to feel your feelings, and you don’t have to enjoy it. If you make this choice, though, you do have to take a deep breath and move on. I know it sometimes feels like they’re ashamed of you, or of the way you’ve chosen to live your life. Chances are, though, it doesn’t feel like that in their mind.


Do you have a similar story or other questions? Leave a comment below or send Abi an email [email protected]


Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellery. Find her at her website or on Twitter @see_abi_write.



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