Coming out to my friends and family about being non-monogamous has posed a very singular problem for me. Not a big one, granted, but an odd difficulty. I am not the kind of person who talks about herself easily; or rather, I can talk about myself for hours if given a good excuse, but I am unlikely to offer up information about myself unless I’m quite specifically asked for it. And this is, generally, true for the rest of my family as well. We don’t celebrate our triumphs with great gusto, or mourn our losses together; we’re a rather independent bunch of people, who share what we are asked to share and not much more. We like the quiet passing of time, so long as we have plenty to be getting on with in the way of work and projects. And it’s not that we’re secretive, or hiding things about ourselves, it’s just that some things are never likely to come up in conversation. For this reason, it has taken almost seven months for me to tell my Dad that I am non-monogamous; and even then, he just happened to be there; I didn’t actively tell him.
Coming out to my Mum and my eldest brother happened slightly more naturally, and a lot faster. Because we live together, it didn’t take long for my Mother to piece together that if I was spending a weekend with one person, and then dating another during the week, and the following weekend I was out with someone else, I was clearly not following the straight and narrow like my brother. Furthermore, living together, the nature of my relationships with various people is usually conveyed quite naturally, simply through the language I use, and the way I talk about things. Lucky for me, my Mother is liberal, almost to a fault, and I think she likes the fact that I’m non-monogamous purely because it means I have made an informed decision; since we live in a society where monogamy is the default, being ethically non-monogamous takes a certain amount of decisiveness; and she will always support things that require thought and judgement. Pair that with her own failings with monogamy, and her general sense that no one should have sole claim over another person’s body, and it was not hard for her to see, understand, and accept my decision.
As for my Father… well, I haven’t lived with my Father for seventeen years. When I was younger I was there every weekend, but then there wasn’t much to say in the way of relationships and big life truths; and by the time I was falling in love I had already established my independence, and was – as mentioned above – unlikely to offer up information about myself without being prompted. And to this day, he is more likely to ask me if I liked a certain film, or album; if I’ve been watching this TV show, or heard about that game, than he is to ask about my boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I like it this way. I like that we are separate individuals, and that we have our common ground, but it does mean that until this weekend I’m not sure he even had confirmation of my sexual orientation. I suppose he assumed I was straight, and perhaps I have had a few boyfriends he’s known about, but for the most part, he is not parlay to the facts of my love-life.
It was my aunt, sitting on the sofa on Sunday morning, sipping coffee next to my Dad, who asked me about my love-life. I believe her words were “Do you have a man in your life?” I smiled, and answered “Several,” and she thought I was joking and talking about my Dad and my brothers, etc. I quickly corrected her and announced that I’m non-monogamous, so I have several romantic partners, at which point she began to delve. She asked about jealousy and about time; about primary partners and secondary partners; she asked me if I was in love. At some point I was talking about some of the different terms used in non-monogamy and my Dad leaned over to his sister, nudging her with a wicked grin, and said “You know, sluts.” and then smiled at me lovingly. Being, as he is, a sarcastic person who uses humour to deflect tension, I understood that this was his way of acknowledging my decision, of not passing judgement, and of being happy that I’m happy. And whilst some might have found his words a little cutting, to me they were the perfect response; exactly what I needed from him; a sense of understanding without criticism, and not at all touchy-feely.
Perhaps it’s a shame that he is unlikely to ever really ask me about it; he might learn something, or at the very least understand me a little better, in the future, when I am less happy, or more in need of him. But overall, I can’t complain about the way it went, and I’m certainly lucky to be part of such an accepting, forward-thinking family. Plus, I might not have opened up to my Dad, but I think it might have been somewhat eye-opening for my aunt.
So that leaves my brother; strangely, despite being a free-thinking, drug-taking, rock’n’roll teenager, my brother is exceptionally conservative when it comes to relationships. He has had two long term girlfriends – the second of which he is moving in with next month! – and I think he dreams of marriage, of children, of monogamy, of sending his kids to college. And good for him; with our split, liberal family, what he wants isn’t really the default either; so I’m glad he’s making his decisions. And though I know he loves me really, it is fun to make him blush over my scandalous, free-loving ways.