To Tell Or Not To Tell?
Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers – An Open Book, One Sub’s Mission, Polyamorous Parenting, Post Modern Sleaze, Rarely Wears Lipstick and Amanda Jones – will write about their views on one of them.
This month: “Explaining non-monogamy” My take: “Should we have to?”
Strictly speaking what you do with your private life should be, well, the clue’s in the name really! Whether you feel comfortable talking about sex and/or relationships is largely a function of your upbringing, your current environment, and the specific set of tacit rules you’ve agreed to follow with that group.
When it comes to non-standard relationship formats, this can become additionally tricky. Where you might happily mention in passing the mundane details of a monogamous relationship, mentioning similar with multiple partners or metamours, whilst possibly desirable, can sometimes seem more trouble than it’s worth.
There are a range of relationships which might not have easily expressible forms (let alone socially acceptable ones). It can feel difficult to casually mention a connection (“my boyfriend’s other girlfriend”, “my FWB”…) without feeling as if you should then launch into a long explanation of how it’s all okay and everyone knows, or that this is a long-term agreement – just a casual one. So, all too often, we don’t mention them at all.
Now, broadly speaking, I think it’s fair to divide up those interactions that are based on sex, and those that are based on love. Of course this isn’t to say that many wont have aspects of both, but most are clearly rooted in one or the other. And personally, I see no reason to tell you, my colleagues, or my family about my sex life; however exciting, interesting or unusual it may be! It can be tempting to drop salacious hints and almost brag about our uniqueness but frankly, if it wouldn’t be appropriate for a mono relationshipped person to mention a new sex position they’d tried that weekend, it’s also not appropriate for a poly person to mention a new sex partner they’d tried that weekend! It’s not complex here: sex is not family dinner conversation.
Love, though, is an entirely other matter. It is far more appropriate for me to mention my partner to my colleagues and my family, bordering on inappropriate if I don’t. It is a matter of public record what your relationship state is. I had to tell my mobile phone provider if I was single or not, my letting agent too… this stuff really is common knowledge.
Which is where this blog may get contentious…
Ethical non-monogamy is about open, honest relationships and I don’t believe that is restricted to one partner knowing about another. If you have two equal partners and you publicly acknowledge one and refer to the other as “your friend” or they go unmentioned, you’re still not being honest.
Sure there’s a difference between lying, lying by omission, and simply omitting. If you don’t want to talk about your relationships, don’t! Blanket omission is fine! Speaking about your girl/boyfriend as your ‘friend’, for any length of time or to anyone important, is a lie by omission and I feel is okay only in very certain circumstances. (Mainly only when, after informed discussion, it’s been mutually agreed as the least harmful course of action) If you’re telling outright lies, well, clearly I’d strongly counter the ethics of that.
Essentially you get to make a fundamental choice with regards to what you share about your life. You should never feel obliged to disclose the details of your sex / love life to anyone. However, if you’re going to speak about your relationship(s) you’re on dangerous moral ground if you start looking at that pair/group of people and revealing some and hiding others.
Mid-post disclaimer now, because clearly this is a far bigger topic than I, or a small group of bloggers, can ever tackle. I am not saying it’s simple or even that I am right. But I want to raise the question. As an ethical non-monogamist, is it still ethical and open to publically acknowledge one relationship but not another of equal value?
As a non-primary I can only imagine that being put in a position where you’d like to acknowledge your partner but their situation with their family, say, means you have to remain a secret; keep pictures off of facebook, be careful what you say in public etc, would feel an awful lot like the deceit of regular cheating.
Talk about your life, or don’t, that’s your choice. But If you love someone and share your life with them lying about how much they mean to you, asking them to let that lie pervade and requiring other partners to be accessories to that is, in my likely-to-be-flamed opinion, not actually that open or ethical at all.