Q:I’m polyamorous, which means (for me) that I am in multiple long-term relationships. I have two partners, both of whom I have been dating for several years, and both of whom I love dearly, though differently. I live with one of them, and we are planning to get engaged (very soon). I have been telling some close friends and family about the upcoming engagement, and I have been really frustrated to get a lot of responses along the lines of, “Oh, that’s great! But how’s that going to work with [other partner]?”
(In short, the partner who I am not getting engaged to is divorced and does not want to ever get married again, and this generally won’t affect him or my relationship with him at all. He’s offered to help with planning and prep since he’s done it before, which I’m extremely grateful for.)
I just want people to be excited and let me gush about the way we’re going to get engaged and what the rings are like, and not only am I not getting that, but instead I feel like I am being asked to justify why this engagement isn’t at odds with polyamory (or what other people believe about polyamory) and to share a bunch of personal details of both of my relationships to prove that this is okay with everyone. It feels unfair and intrusive, and it’s making me resent my friends for reacting this way.
I have complained about this to the partner I am getting engaged to, and he’s not getting any of those types of questions! He says he “can’t imagine” people asking him things like that. This feels like an unfair gender dynamic, and that’s making me even more frustrated.
How do I politely respond to people asking these types of nosy questions and redirect them to being excited about this milestone with me instead?
Firstly—you are getting engaged! Congratulations! It’s an exciting and momentous time and joyous celebration is warranted. Also, welcome to the wedding rollercoaster, where the thrilling peaks can too easily give way to stomach-lurching drops—even for monogamous couples. Trust me when I say that the APW inbox is inundated with people wanting to know why their friends and family are not more excited about their engagement, or why after getting engaged, people suddenly get all nosey about their relationship. And no matter what kind of relationship you have, that’s one of the fun twists of engagement. Knowingly or not, you just invited everyone into your business and your private joy, and their reactions are rarely what you expect or imagine. So while doing this as a polyamorous human can be even more complicated, know that variations of these problems are far too widely shared.
Firstly, as you share your news with friends and acquaintances, it’s perfectly fine to lead with, “Hey, I know you might have questions for me, but right now I want to share some exciting news and have a chance to gush. Can we save any questions for a later date?” You have (admittedly totally valid) expectations of how your loved ones “should” respond to your awesome life-changing news. Those expectations aren’t being met, and that’s frustrating and disappointing. Hopefully when you lead with your wants and needs, your loved ones can hear that and more fully meet those expectations and celebrate with you.
It sounds like your circle of friends is not that familiar with polyamory, and it can be exhausting to be the one always educating others. Acknowledge that. You don’t ever have to answer anyone’s questions or justify your relationships and their okay-ness to others… However, these are people who (I’m assuming) love you and do support you, and who better to help them understand polyamory, or even just you and your loves, than… you? Polyamory takes on so many different shapes that there really isn’t a clear or standard “example” to point to. Polyamorous relationships are woefully under-represented in culture and media, which means that most people are not exposed to this a valid, healthy, and beautiful option for experience love, connection, and partnership. You are a trailblazer, and people are going to have questions.
Assuming these friends genuinely care about you and are asking because they want to understand, rather than undermine your relationships, you could suggest some articles or books about polyamory, ask them to educate themselves, and then have a discussion, once they have a better baseline understanding of non-monogamy, polyamory, and the many different ways these “alternative” relationship structures can look. It’s perfectly alright to tell your friends that you aren’t up to being their sole informant, but if they’d like to know more they can do their own research and circle back with any burning (yet thoughtful) questions.
It also might benefit you to find some additional social support from those who do get it and won’t ask so many questions. In-person polyamory meet-ups, online discussion and support groups, or even just another polyamorous couple you jive with—find a few new people who will get excited with you without questioning the validity or workability of your relationships. This can help you get your needs for being seen and celebrated met, and might dispel some of the frustration you have with your current network of friends.