Advice from Amy: So Your Son Is Polyamorous
It is what it is?
“Dear Amy, our son has told us he’s in a polyamorous relationship! Help!” See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of Ask Amy.
Our son and daughter-in-law, married for about six years, recently dropped a bomb on my husband and me.
They told us they are involved in polyamorous relationships where each has another partner, lover, or person they each spend a lot of time with outside of the marriage.
They tell us that this lifestyle is becoming more common.
They are in their mid-30s, and don’t have children.
We are having a hard time understanding this choice and accepting what this will mean for our relationship going forward, and for our larger family.
We are the only family members they have shared this information with so far, and we are sworn to secrecy.
They may have eased their consciences by telling us, but now we are left with troubling and unsettling information and no place to go with it.
We assured them that we will never stop loving them, but this is awkward for us.
What can we do to ease our troubled minds?
– Bewildered Parents
Dear Bewildered: Let’s start by talking about divorce. Not that long ago, divorce meant a total severing of a relationship. But then Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin highlighted the concept of “conscious uncoupling,” where a couple ceases to be married, but continues to love one another, even as they move onto other relationships.
You may define marriage as monogamy until divorce or death, but as people explore their freedom to redefine the boundaries of what it means to be married, they may choose “ethical non-monogamy,” which is where they remain lovingly married, but are free to engage in other romantic relationships in a way that they believe is open and honest. They don’t define this as infidelity. It is about consensual relationships.
In my opinion, the important question is how these polyamorous relationships will affect children growing up in families with three or four adults who all identify as parents and partners. If all the adults are stable, loving, and committed to the children, then I imagine the kids will be fine.
Take a breath, do some reading about polyamory, and understand that you define marriage one way, while they define it differently.
Unless you and they are religious, this doesn’t make it “wrong.” It just makes it “what is.”
This is their life and their choice, and if they want to remove the taboo surrounding polyamory, you should discourage them from defining this as a deep, dark family secret.
They (not you) can explain themselves to other family members when the time comes, and yes – it’s bound to be awkward … until it isn’t.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from polyamorous bombs to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson