I’m polyamorous — should I be out at work?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’ve been going back and forth with a pretty weird problem, and someone suggested your blog as a good place to go for advice (I’m so happy I discovered it, by the way!). Here’s what’s going on….

I am a woman in my late 20s and I have been in a polyamorous relationship with a married couple for the past eight months. Things are going well, and I’m planning on moving in with them this summer when my lease is up. I never saw my life going in this direction but I’m really happy!

The problem is I’m not sure how “out” I should be about this at work. I work in a medium-sized (20 people or so) office in a major U.S. city. The office is generally on the liberal side, but it’s still very much a traditional white collar environment in many ways. I honestly have no idea how my coworkers would react to this. I’m generally a pretty private person, and I don’t want to overshare or make people uncomfortable. I also like my job and don’t want this to affect my employment or professional future.

I haven’t said anything so far to anyone, but now that this relationship has become serious I’m not sure where to go from here. One part of me says to just keep it totally on the DL. On the other hand, my relationship affects huge parts of my life — where I live, what I spend my time doing, etc., and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with lying or being evasive for the foreseeable future. I’d also like to have a photo of us on my desk!

Right now I’m thinking that what I might do is refer to them as my “good friends” to anyone who asks, and let people read between the lines. I don’t know though… does that seem like a reasonable plan?

For the record, my partners are NO help on this… they’re both in the art world and have never worked an office job in their lives. Most of our friends are in nontraditional careers too — I’m the weird one who puts on a suit every day!

Readers, what’s your advice? I’d especially love to hear from poly people.

{ 662 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Whoa, we needed some ground rules for this one. So:

    Please be respectful in this conversations of choices that differ from your own, and don’t make assumptions about other people’s relationships. As much as possible, let’s center the voices of people with experience in polyamorous or other types of relationships outside one-man/one-woman. If polyamory sounds exotic to you, please hang back and mainly listen.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, please keep in mind that polyamory is about a relationship status. It’s no more the equivalent of “sharing information about your sex life” than mentioning you have a husband or wife.

      Of course, the reason the OP’s question is so difficult is that many people don’t understand the above. But let’s keep that basic principle in mind in our discussion here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And ugh, huge apologies for some of the crap in this thread. I should have asked people with firsthand experience to weigh in and others to hang back. I’ve cleaned up some of it but can’t clean up all of it without removing some really good, thoughtful replies to it. Going forward I’ll handle these types of threads differently.

        1. SignalLost*

          No. I removed your comments because that thread had devolved into hostile personal squabbling (over a typo!), which is something I always remove when I see it here. I’m sorry this thread was a crappy experience for you; I absolutely managed it wrong. But you can’t be hostile to people here like happened yesterday. – Alison

        2. Blue Anne*

          Thank you. I’m honestly shocked. The AAM community tends to do things like point out assumptions of monogamy when a letter writer talks about cheating… I guess I expected better. I did not expect talking about my life to be equated to talking about diarrhea. It just makes me really sad.

        3. greenthumb*

          Alison, just wanted to say I respect all you do to promote kindness on an ongoing basis. Thank you.

  2. Project Problem Solver*

    I am both poly and queer. I’m open about being queer – hard not to be, as my wife works for the same (very large) company – but not about being poly. I refer to my other partners as friends and let it go.

    However, in helping to make your personal decision: will you feel miserable or as if you’re not being true to yourself or them if you conceal the nature of your relationship? That’ll eat you up inside if true, and you need to be out about it if not doing so is going to cause you a lot of pain.

    The other thing is that you need to consider is how you feel about it politically. Do you want to essentially do poly activism? Because you may be the only poly person people you work with know they know. You’ll be a representative of Polyamoury ™ whether you want to be or not. That’s not at all a bad thing! – I am probably the Bisexual Person at work – but you need to know that will happen going in.

    1. SometimesALurker*

      Am I sleep-commenting under another name? Well-said, and that’s exactly how I feel. (Also polyam and queer, out about being queer. I’m starting to feel the pressure of being closeted, though.)

    2. Jadelyn*

      I could have written this literally word for word, wow. From the emotional impact of being closeted in any dimension of your identity, to the joys of being the Ambassador of Polyamory/Bisexuality/etc. by virtue of being the main or only person under those identities that your coworkers have ever met.

      Alison, is it possible to pin this or something? This is a great, nuanced take on it and I’d hate to see it get buried downthread under some of the drama happening up top.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, I just moved it to the top; you’re right that having drama be the first thing in the thread can be really discouraging. Thanks for suggesting it!

      2. APAQ*

        Also poly and queer and out at work about queer but not poly. I am out to one or two coworkers who I got to know, trusted as friends, etc, before telling them. I also work with kids, and while my relationship status has nothing to do with my safety around children, I’m nervous that not all parents would think so.

        I think the OP’s situation is different than many polyam folks’ because you’re not just going on a date once or twice a week—you’re cohabitating! You could refer to one or both of your partners as your roommates, but I think that if you can handle answering or shutting down some weird questions, and you’re pretty sure you won’t get fired for it, you should come out. You will actively be making the world better and safer for all of us.

        Something I have found helpful when coming out to non-work folks is to say “I know this isn’t conventional, so I’m happy to answer questions if you have them.” People know hard it is to be honest and vulnerable, and they generally respect you for it.

    3. Yamikuronue*

      Echoing the “I could have written the same” — there’s a lot of us bisexual polyam people who are openly bi and closetedly poly I guess :) I felt like I needed to be out about *something* so I came out about being bi by just casually mentioning that I went to Pride over the weekend one weekend.

    4. HerGirlFriday*

      Same. And I love this response. Though I’m in what appears to be in a cis-het marriage, we’re actually both on the Queer spectrum. My spouse has chosen to be fully out – with his family, friends, and coworkers. I’ve chosen a different path for the very reasons you’ve described here. I work in liberal politics and government, but even here, not everyone has the most open of minds. I’m here to work. I’m not here to be THE representative for this community. I’ve seen how one of my Non-Binary colleagues has had to do a lot of work to educate other colleagues just to have their pronouns used consistently. I’m in awe of the effort, but it would detract too much from what I need to get done here.
      So whatever the OP chooses to do, she’s got a lot of great advice here.

    5. AMT*

      Yep. I have been the “oh God, where do we find trans resources? Let’s ask AMT” person in multiple settings. I don’t mind it because I have a wealth of knowledge about these things, but if I were a more private person or if being asked these things bothered me, I probably would have made a different decision about being out in those settings.

    6. Normally a Lurker*

      This is also my life.

      Currently, all of the people I am dating are men (which is weird for me, but there we are), and refer to them all as “my boyfriends who know about each other”. I know the assumption at work is that eventually I’ll settle down with one and drop the others. Which isn’t quite right, but I’m not willing to correct it.

      And actually, regardless of the fact I have literally never hidden the fact I’m bi and am quite active in our LGBTQIA group at work – it’s only in the last month or so that everyone at work realized it, which has been an interesting realization for a lot of them.

    7. Blue Anne*

      This is pretty much my take. I’m also poly and queer.

      I’ve been in the work world for about 8 years and my current workplace is the only one where I’ve been completely open about everything. It’s a very small manufacturing company, under 15 people. I’m not sure if the guys on the production floor know, just because it hasn’t come up in conversation with them (but they probably do, because this is a gossipy workplace).

      Everyone has been great about it. My boss said “Wait. Like, a reverse Mormon? Cool” and that was the end of it. The two women I work with the most in the office had a couple questions but generally thought it was great and kind of impressive, ha. I’ve also become The Queer Person at work (my partner is also a pretty noted trans activist locally so that’s out three too) and a few co-workers have come to me privately with questions about queer stuff. I’m okay with that.

      But, that’s what I expected at this workplace and I took a calculated risk in outing myself. I know that I’m highly employable and could easily get another job elsewhere if it went badly. Which is great, because at this point, I’m not going back in the closet at the workplace. In past jobs with more conservative environments I’ve gone the “friend” route when referring to partners. It’s a fine solution but it just didn’t feel good at all fro me. I don’t want to call a partner who I’m deeply in love with and building a life with “my best friend”, personally. It felt bad every time I did it.

      Find a balance that’s good for you, OP! I hope everything works out well!

      1. Project Problem Solver*

        Wow, I’m super glad this resonated with folks! I will add that I have quite a lot of capital at work in the position I’m in, so I can afford to spend it on queer activism and I do. That’s not going to be the case for everyone, and polyamory is even less understood in some ways. That’s going to matter, too, unfortunately.

    8. Another poly queer*

      I’m poly and queer as well, though my only relationship right now is a long distance relationship. I’ve been out at work once and that was in the SF Bay area in an academic community, so I felt relatively safe(er). I even invited both boyfriends to my graduation. It’s hard not to be out, but was also hard to be The Poly Person. In a much more conservative state, I’m now struggling with being closeted and feeling like I’ll never be able to have a relationship because I’ll never meet my people.

      My advice would center around whether work is safe. If work is not safe, don’t come out. If work is safe, but it might be hard, then you have to figure out for yourself whether the explanations and standing for a whole group of people will be harder than being closeted. I picked a pseudonym for my name today because I don’t want any chance of anyone putting together the clues I’ve given to where I live and work in my usual identity.

    9. NorthernQueer*

      I’m openly bi (and an active part of the LGBT+ staff network) at work, and more quietly poly, which has worked fairly well for me. I’ve spoken with my manager about being poly (I put it in terms of “I have two partners, everything is above board”), and brought it up in one-on-one interactions with colleagues who seem to have a level head on their shoulders, but I don’t talk about it much to avoid potential bother.

      I get by most of the time by saying ‘partner’ to refer to either of my loved ones interchangeably (useful when they’re of different genders!) and stuff doesn’t usually come up that would be flagged as contradictory – in that situation I’d explain and move on if queried.

      One of the major reasons I’m out to management is because it interacts with personal support and caring needs; I am a part-time carer for one partner, and my other partner recently lost a sibling and needed support through that – for which I was able to take a day of bereavement leave. I’ve seen a partner get burned in the past when their ‘unofficial’ partner (unknown to work) had a serious personal crisis – if work had known about their relationship I suspect they’d have been able to openly request the support they needed, but they had to be a lot vaguer about things and it made a difficult situation an awful lot harder.

  3. Justme, The OG*

    Why not refer to them as your roommates? Since you will be and that leaves the relationship and any sticking points with others out of it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is probably the easiest solution. It is true and allows you to remain private about the exact nature of your relationship.

      1. Privately Poly*

        My polyamory is private at work, and in the rest of my life, is shared selectively with the people who can handle it.

        I’m not sure it’s the right balance, but my spouse and I are very private and work in conservative industries. (Less so for the long-term partner.) At work, the potential downsides seem really high unless you get into tech or the arts – but even then you never know who’s secretly fundamentalist or such. I’ve seen too many religious freak-outs over far smaller things (close up) and just don’t think they’ve earned that truth.

        The one person at work who knew was so creepy about it when interacting with me that coworkers commented. Thankfully since gone. Maybe that made me overly gun-shy. I appreciate hearing all the other views here.

    2. blackcat*

      “roommates” has a charged history in the queer community because this solution often doesn’t work.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I know plenty of couples, married or not, who live with another person. What the exact nature of their relationship is happens to be none of my business.

      2. Dragoning*

        Agreed. I am not poly, but typically the suggestion to refer to a romantic partner as a “roommate” is used to forcibly closet someone who doesn’t want to be. “Oh, it’s okay, Auntie Susan, Jessica is Erin’s roommate” when they’re engaged.

        And that’s not the case here, necessarily, but the suggestion still makes me cringe.

        1. stefanielaine*

          I think the difference is that it will be OP using it voluntarily as opposed to a romantic relationship being minimized by someone else’s usage of the term.

          1. KindaPolyMouse*

            Kind of? Being closeted is rarely a choice we’d make without the external disapproval or bigotry weighing in.

            1. hbc*

              Yeah, but if she wants to stay in the closet, then “roommates” comes closest to allowing her to be honest without outing herself.

              1. KindaPolyMouse*

                I’m not saying it’s not a valid choice for OP to make. If calling her partners “roommates” feels like the safe and right choice for OP, that’s totally 100% fine. I’m just pointing out that it’s not a choice made in isolation, and it’s likely not a choice they’d make if they weren’t worried about judgement/bigotry and consequences based on those things.

                1. Better all the tome*

                  I rent out two bedrooms in my house to long-term renters, one male and one female, and I refer to my renters as “housemates.” The term roommates seems kind of college, with visions of revolving doors, and can make people wonder about the relationship status. “Housemates” seems pretty benign.

            2. SignalLost*

              I never have, without direct fear of consequences. That I chose to not identify as poly or bi to people was, at best, a coerced choice.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Yeah, as a queer poly person, the suggestion definitely made me flinch. (Bonus points for some of the most memorable instances of the “your roommate” issue being in reference to a same-sex poly partner…) OP might not have that reaction, though, in which case it might work for her.

        3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          As a lesbian, I also am cringing at the roommate suggestion. I hate that this is still something you have to hide, but I could also see being uncomfortable being out at work. I would say this is a know-your-office type situation. If you have any closer friends at work (ideally not the gossipy type) you could come out to them first, and see how that goes.
          You don’t want to put yourself in any danger or risk of being professionally disadvantaged, and you certainly don’t owe it to anyone to be out if you don’t want to. But I do think there is a lot to be said for normalizing these kinds of relationships (and removing the overly sexual stigma I think they have) and if people don’t know that they even know poly people, it’s hard to do that.

      3. SheIsNotMyRoommate*

        As a fellow queer person, suggesting the OP use the term “roommate” is hugely problematic and plays into the history of anyone who is not strictly heteronormative being forced to stay in the closet.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          OP wants to stay low key though. It’s not like we’re forcing her to stay in the closet. She doesn’t want to have to answer a lot of awkward questions, which is completely understandable.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Right. She’s basically saying, “I’m thinking I want to stay closeted at work — or, at least, closeted to those who are closed-minded (since she doesn’t mind more open-minded people “reading between the lines,” she suggests). Is ‘good friends’ a reasonable phrase for furthering that goal?”

            Suggesting “roommates” as an alternative to “good friends” is not saying, “Hey, person who wants to be out, you should closet yourself.” It’s saying, “Well, if you want to stay closeted, you could say X instead of Y.”

          2. RainbowsAndKitties*

            OP never directly said that they want to stay low key, just that they are generally a private person and that they aren’t sure how the office will act. I think we should follow the lead on what people who are poly and from LGBTQ community have said so far about how the “roommate” suggestion isn’t the best. They are the experts.

            1. Venus*

              > LGBTQ community have said so far about how the “roommate” suggestion isn’t the best. They are the experts

              No large community is homogenous. The people on this page aren’t the experts, nor can they speak for an entire group of people.

              1. RainbowsAndKitties*

                I wrote an entire rebuttal about how you misunderstood/cut off my sentence to give it other meaning. And to defend myself for trying to call out someone I believed to be cishet and steamrolling over poly and LGBTQ opinions. But I will just leave these few sentences here instead.

          3. Anne Noise*

            I think it’s a valid suggestion that resonates negatively with a large part of the queer community, but could be advantageous in OP’s particular situation.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yeah, I don’t think there’s an option here that works to be totally out while being totally private while not having any sort of baggage for anyone hearing it.

            2. blackcat*

              Yes, it was my intention to flag it as not without baggage, baggage that monogamous hetero folk may not be aware of.

      4. caseyj*

        I’ve been married for over a decade. We have a lovely house that has allowed us to have several friends stay with us as they needed to get back on their feet after various divorces, life changes, etc. As a hetero woman I can’t speak to the LGBQT issue with the term roommates (but would love to learn more), but that is what my husband and I have typically used. And to be clear there was never a romantic relationship between us and the friends who we helped support that lived with us. Our current roommate has become beloved by my parents and my dad calls him “my other child” so I have started referring to him as my brother. As I have started to notice that as a woman nearing 40 saying my husband and I have a roommate in a conservative culture tends to warrant explanation. So in this instance, I just say “we are helping out my brother” when the subject arises.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Similarly, my husband and I have a housemate who’s a close enough friend to both of us that I usually refer to him as my brother, but for a couple years, housemate’s mom was positive we had some sort of “weird three-way thing” going on. (Now that housemate has a girlfriend, she instead alternates between “Red is Housemate’s second mom” and “Red is Mom’s extra kid,” which is a little weird, but she means well.)

          1. caseyj*

            Funny. With my “brother” I often feel as though I have a second child – they often play video games together and my brother will come to our sons karate tournaments and belt promotions. Since I’m hetero I had never thought about any of the negative experiences others may have in non-hetero relationships until reading this thread. I’be appreciated learning and want to support those who have had negative interactions/not been able to feel safe being who they are.

        2. Dragoning*

          See, that’s the thing–you can use roommate without baggage or issue because you’re not classifying a romantic relationship as something “more palatable”

          1. caseyj*

            Exactly. I didn’t realize the privilege of that until reading this whole thing. Completely just blew over me. I’m sorry others deal with such disdain from others over semantics

      5. Sovereign HR*

        As my Mom always said for the first six years of my relationship:

        “Sovereign HR, how’s your FRIEND? I mean your ROOMMATE?”

    3. CountryLass*

      That could work in the short-term, however there will come a time when people will start asking about relationships etc. I assume at some point a child will be born into the relationship and either OP will be the mother, or a shared parent. So at some point it will be brought to peoples attention that she is in an unusual relationship. Don’t forget the letter from the chap who didn’t tell people he was gay and the problems that caused. Might it be worth speaking to HR and cluing them in, but saying that they do not want it made public, however felt that she needed to make someone in the office confidentially aware so that there could be no feelings that she had lied during her time there. And also so that the company can start feeling it’s way into making sure that poly/bi/trans/gay/whatever employees will feel able to be themselves in future.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Wait… what? Why would you assume that a child will be born into the relationship? Also, keeping a relationship discreet isn’t lying, and I don’t think anyone is advocating that the LW tell an outright lie.

        1. SignalLost*

          Seriously. My partner and I have been together seven years, he and his wife for twelve, her and her boyfriend for five – nine of us have kids. It’s not like the fifth anniversary is “baby”.

          1. BradC*

            Nine of you have kids?? Or none of you have kids??

            I’m assuming “none”, from context, otherwise that kind of cuts against your point :)

            1. SignalLost*

              Removed. It was a lighthearted joke about a typo. I’m removing a highly emotional and heated thread about it. Please stay on-topic, y’all, and if you find yourself getting heated, please go do something else rather than continuing to comment. – Alison

              1. MissBliss*

                (Also because now that I’ve submitted the comment I can see another way it could be read, I do not mean in any way to imply that people = things. But people didn’t work in the context of the joke and I Wanted To Be Funny.)

              2. SignalLost*

                This is awesome. I’m literally being attacked because I don’t name my identity correctly, I’m seeing people who share that identity being hideous, I’m seeing people with no sense of the danger that being out as anything at work can present, and I made a typo so let’s just party on with the jokes. Even visible anger doesn’t stop it!

              3. Jadelyn*

                Wow, SignalLost, if this is so intensely upsetting to you, maybe you could step away for a bit? MissBliss and BradC’s comments read to me as just a bit of light teasing that’s…really very typical for the vibe in this crowd, so I’m not sure where the disconnect is. Even your “visible anger” read, to me, as continuing the joke. It sounds like much more an issue of miscommunication than you being “attacked”…

              4. MissBliss*

                SignalLost, I apologize. I didn’t read your comment as being visibly angry and hadn’t seen any of the other comment threads you were on (and I also didn’t do the other things you mention). I didn’t mean to add rain to your day– and for what it’s worth, I don’t think anybody else did, either. I try to presume good intentions with comments here unless they’re obviously not. I hope your day gets better.

              5. happymeal*

                Alison, I personally disagree that it was “light hearted” and I have no dog in this fight.

                1. ChimericalOne*

                  I likewise have no dog in the fight and I agree with Alison. Regardless, it’s her blog.

        2. CountryLass*

          That’s why I said I assume. Because to me children are a thing that happens to most couples. I do have two sets of married friends without children, but the vast majority do. So I assume, based on the balance of probability that there would be a child. Obviously if they choose to be child-free, that is up to them, and I would ask them to have a cocktail and a lie in for those of us who don’t get one any more. Their choice and I’m fine with it. Not my life, not my choice/issue.

          I just feel that having someone in authority on side would make things easier in the future if she chooses to be open about it.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I… think you should check that assumption and reverse it. As in, assume there will not be children unless some appear. As a coupled woman without children, I really dislike it when people simply assume I will have children, like they’re just waiting to pounce instead of, you know, minding their own business and treating me like a whole person instead of a person-who-will-one-day-be-a-mother. Also, I’ll have my cocktails for myself, thanks.

            But that’s besides the point. I think this approach is awfully strange. HR is not a therapist nor the protector of all information. What would HR even do with that info?

            1. londonedit*

              I would like to endorse everything AvonLady Barksdale said. My relationship is not just hanging around waiting for children to arrive – it is full and complete without them, as am I personally. I am not a mother-in-waiting just because I happen to be a woman. And yes, I’ll have my own cocktails for myself!

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                *high five from another childless mostly by choice woman, who gets incredibly irritated by the assumption a woman’s life is not complete without the little buggers*

                There’s so, so many problems with assuming that kids will magically appear at some point. Just make the assumption that people will make choices that make sense for them, and treat them as whole people regardless of whether or not they have kids – and if they do have kids, not that their entire identity relies on their kids. Allow people to just…. be people, and try not to make assumptions about their lives that devalues them and doesn’t have much to do with you.

                1. Vemasi*

                  *high five from another childless woman, tenant in the house of her married, childless friends*

                2. Allornone*

                  My ex recently got divorced and was trying to get back together with me (the fact that I’ve been in a loving, committed relationship for the last five years apparently doesn’t matter to him. jerk). In our brief conversation, he claimed that wanted to have babies with me. I told him that it’s even better that we’re not together since I have no intention of having babies. Then, the jerk actually started baby-shaming me, telling me that of course, I wanted babies, I’d be missing out on so much! Even after me outlining the several, very reasonable reasons why it’s really best for me to not have kids (which I know, I shouldn’t have had to do, but I was mad), he wouldn’t relent. The conversation ended rather quickly after that. Again, jerk.

                  So yeah, *high five from another childless mostly by choice woman, who gets incredibly irritated by the assumption a woman’s life is not complete without the little buggers*

              2. Dnae*

                I have wanted children my whole life and am now a mother to a wonderful toddler. But I waited a full five years after marrying to start trying and once I became pregnant, I had a well-meaning woman tell me how happy she was because she “knew that I’d been trying a long time.” I was taken aback by the assumption that because I didn’t choose to have children immediately, I must have been unsuccessfully trying the whole time. (in truth, I got pregnant within 3 months of going off birth control)

                I can’t imagine dealing with that your whole life and I appreciate the efforts here being made to combat the underlying idea that a woman is only complete if she has children.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            “children are a thing that happens to most couples.”

            Yeah. “Couples.” Not 20-something women dating couples. Frankly, being a unicorn for a couple usually ends before or because the woman decides she wants kids. I mean, it might not for her, but that’s a real far-off bridge that doesn’t need to be crossed at this point.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Whoa, hold the f*ck up. That is NOT OKAY to say. You *literally* just referred to the OP as “a unicorn for a couple”!!! That is unspeakably rude! Respect their relationship, or shut the actual f*ck up and stay out of this conversation.

              You know, I came to the comments thread as a poly person who’s navigated this to try to offer some advice from someone who’s been there, but I’m starting to think maybe I need to step away for my own mental health, given how viciously rude some people are already being and I’m barely a handful of comments in.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                I wasn’t aware that ‘unicorn’ was now a slur, but ok, learn something new every day, I guess.

                1. Grace*

                  Given how ‘unicorn’ is generally used, I can definitely see where the offence comes in, even as someone who is bi but not poly. It refers to the couples who go on a hunt for a ‘unicorn’, aka a bi woman who is happy to have isolated hookups with a couple in which she is more or less a means to enabling a fetish or fantasy.

                  By calling OP her partners’ ‘unicorn’, you’re basically saying that’s what their relationship consists of (threesomes in which the OP is fulfilling her partners’ fetishes/fantasies) rather than a committed and mutually-satisfying equal relationship between three people.

                2. Admin of Sys*

                  Unicorn has always been an insult around here, at least for the 20+ years I’ve been in the poly community. Mind you, it’s usually an insult to the couple looking for one, but when applied to the 3rd partner, it gets a ton of ‘too naive to know that they’re a unicorn’ attached to it.

                3. KindaPolyMouse*

                  In case you or other folks want the background/history here – the reason this is a loaded term:

                  There’s a very common trope in non-monogamous circles of couples (usually m/f) “looking for a third”. They usually have a very specific idea of how that third (usually a bisexual woman only) should fit into their existing relationship – the third must love both of them equally, must only have sex with both of them at the same time, must not date other people, cannot challenge the primacy of the original couple, etc etc etc. Finding a person who would fit all of those requirements is extremely hard, hence the original couple is said to be “unicorn hunting” – in other words, searching for something that is extremely rare or doesn’t actually exist. Even when this sort of arrangement does work out, though, the power differentials can make it highly unethical, occasionally abusive, and yeah, these sorts of arrangements do not tend to last. Occasionally bi women will either tongue-in-cheek or seriously call themselves unicorns, and sometimes they’ll opt into arrangements like those, but then it often tends to be more casual stuff – threesomes, fwbs, etc.

                  None of this describes a polyamorous triad, where three people happen to be in a relationship together (or three people all have relationships with each other), or other polyamorous relationship arrangements like Vs (where two people have relationships with the same person but do not have their own romantic relationship with each other). So yeah, making the assumption that the OP is a “unicorn” WOULD actually be pretty insulting and rub a lot of people the wrong way, because it’s implying that the arrangement is either casual (when OP clearly said it is not) or probably unequal/unethical.

                  ***the more you know***

                4. animaniactoo*

                  It’s a slur when you reduce someone’s relationship status to that. This is someone in a fully participatory relationship with her partners and planning to move in with them. She is not “the unicorn” because she is the newest addition to the relationship. Not even because they share a legal status that she CANNOT share with them at this time. While I am not, myself, poly, my sister is bi and a sometimes unicorn. That means she’s willing to casually date and have sex with a male-female couple, NOT that she is a fully engaged partner in that relationship.

                  Also from the assumption standpoint, the LW states that she is involved with a married couple. Nowhere does she mention the gender of her partners.

                5. Dontlikeunfairrules*

                  It’s not slur. It’s used to indicate something special.

                  Not sure why such offense was taken.

                6. Jadelyn*

                  Way to put words in my mouth, does the word “slur” appear anywhere in what I said? Pretty sure it doesn’t.

                  Specific wording aside, do you really not see how calling someone a “unicorn for a couple” is dismissive and deeply disrespectful? Or are you just doubling down for some reason?

                7. A Silver Spork*

                  I’m shocked that you know the term unicorn but not the extremely negative connotation, literally every time I’ve heard/seen it used in polyamorous places it was clearly pejorative.

                  My own experiences being unicorn hunted, as a bi person who used to identify as a woman, were frankly some of the most dehumanizing crap I’ve ever lived through. A friend of mine and her boyfriend approached me asking for threesomes – not in a “threesomes are awesome because more people get orgasms way” (which I would have still turned down but not felt gross about) but in a “we want you to be a prop we can use to spice up our sex life because we’re bored of what we’re doing now, are you dtf?” I turned them down, repeatedly (I should NOT have to say no to sex more than once) and they treated me like a sex toy that wasn’t vibrating like they wanted it to. “If we get her drunk maybe she’ll sleep with us? If we have sex in front of her maybe she’ll join in? If we grab at her chest and butt? Maybe we can convince her to sleep with a guy of our choosing then she’ll turn into a horny s**t?” It was horrible and I was relieved when I could get away from these people forever.

                  I’m honestly flabbergasted that anyone would think it’s okay to compare probably the worst treatment I’ve ever received from a non-relative to a consensual relationship between three people who presumably care for each other very much.

                8. Blue Anne*

                  Yeah, personally, I don’t think it’s insulting to call someone a unicorn. I’ve been the unicorn and had a great time. It’s just a thing.

                  “Unicorn hunter”, now, that’s pretty insulting, and usually deserved.

                9. queer monogamish*

                  “Unicorn” also fetishizes the bisexual woman it typically refers to, reducing her to basically a sex toy to enhance the relationship and/or bedroom activities of the couple. People tend not to like being objectified like that.

                10. Courageous cat*

                  Yeah, I’m sorry, but this is a really hard thing to know when literally every couple looking for someone on Tinder uses the unicorn emoji. It’s not like it appears to be universally terrible or it wouldn’t be so common?

                11. Working Hypothesis*

                  Courageous cat, it’s an insult precisely because the couples you describe are mostly looking for someone to treat badly in ways they aren’t even conscious they’re doing. Of course it’s common, because — like most forms of exploiting another human being for one’s own benefit — it feels so GOOD to those doing the exploiting!! But it’s still exploitation, and it’s still very bad behavior.

                  To refer to somebody who is in a triad as a unicorn implies that their partners are exploiting them and that they’re too naive to realize that (or too spineless to object). That is offensive. It may or may not be true in any given case, but it’s like telling somebody whose relationship details you know only slightly that their partner abuses them… even if it’s true it’s unlikely to be taken well by someone who isn’t ready to see it yet, and if it’s not true, then it is grossly slandering somebody’s loved one(s), and they have every right to be outraged on their partners’ behalf.

              2. $!$!*

                I am a married woman in the poly community in the south. I’ve never heard of unicorn (or blue fish) being a slur so I learned something new today as well

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Fine, she’ll be popping out babies by Christmas. Happy now?

              P.S. Kinda rude to imply that a childfree relationship is “devalued,” if you feel like being the modern Emily Post here.

            3. Sophie before she was cool*

              You’re making a lot of unfounded assumptions. The OP never mentions the gender(s) of her partners, and saying “Oh, they’ll break up eventually because someone will have/want kids” is quite unfair and heteronormative.

              1. Dragoning*

                Further, she says she’s in her late twenties, and that they’re married. No mention of her partners’ ages are mentioned, either.

                She is more than old enough to decide to enter this kind of relationship and her partners may well be her own age! The way the comment was worded is as if she’s a naive kid they’re taking advantage of!

            4. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Hey, you need to be respectful here! Also, let’s please try not to make assumptions about other people’s relationships and reproductive decisions.

          3. Frank Doyle*

            Here’s the thing about generalizations: when you make them about a group of people, they’re usually okay! But when you use statistics to make assumptions about an individual, it’s offensive and usually people are not happy about it.

          4. Wing Leader*

            I’m a child-free married woman, Country Lass. And I’m a whole, complete person on my own. Shocking, I know.

          5. Jadelyn*

            Blithely accepting the cultural pressure to have children by just ~~assuming~~ that children are a thing that happens to most couples contributes to and supports some rather misogynistic cultural views about women’s place in society and relationships. I’d strongly encourage you to rethink that stance.

          6. ShortT*

            “I… think you should check that assumption and reverse it.” It’s not your place to assume what other people do with their lives, including divulging informs that they are currently choosing to not share.

            I’d also be wary of making the comment about having a cocktail. Just because someone is childless doesn’t mean that s/he can drink. For example, I really enjoy Guinness and Jack Daniels. Unfortunately, because of medication that I have to take, drinking would be a bad idea.

          7. Rainy*

            to me children are a thing that happens to most couples

            See, the thing is, we know how it happens now, so we can stop it happening.

        3. byebiscus*

          don’t you know? she’s a woman so obviously she will have children in her life as it is her purpose! /s

      2. Important Moi*

        – “The other parent and I are (not) in a relationship.”
        – “My living situation will remain the same.”

        Maybe I need coffee. I really don’t see what else would need to be said to HR or anyone else.

      3. Not Me*

        I’m in HR and I can think of zero reasons why I need to know about my employees personal lives in this way. If someone came to me and said “I just wanted it on record that I’m in a polyamorous relationship” I would find it very odd and have nothing to do with the information.

        Regarding them “lying” during their time with the company, if someone came to me and said “Jane is apparently in a polyamorous relationship and never told us!!” I’d say “I’m happy Jane is happy, now go back to work and do your job”

        1. Jadelyn*

          Same. The only time I’d ever need to know that is if one of my employees was being bullied or harassed about their nontraditional relationship. For them to preemptively tell me about it would be…neat, in that I’m always happy to find another “unicorn” (*pointed stare at one of the comments above*) in the wild who shares that similarity with me, but also totally unnecessary from an HR point of view.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          The only time I could see it coming up would be if Partner A was trying to add both Partner B and Partner C to their company insurance.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Ooh, good point! I’m now really curious if that’s a possibility. Perhaps if it can be established that both partners are dependents? Or one is? I have no immediate need for this information, mind you.

            1. Natalie*

              It seems really unlikely to come up, I’d say – for one, a lot of companies have dropped domestic partner benefits since the legalization of same sex marriage. But even in companies or localities where this is still an active option, domestic partnerships/civil unions are generally already restricted to two people.

              Tax dependency is entirely separate from benefits dependency, and one can be a tax dependent but not eligible as a health insurance dependent, and vice versa. A domestic partner has to meet the same qualifying relative requirements as any other unrelated individual.

              1. Privately Poly*

                Ha my conservative company just now instituted domestic partner benefits, well after gay marriage has gone from legal to routine. Thanks? WTF?

                1. Cabsy*

                  It’s a useful benefit to offer because there’s still financial situations where it isn’t beneficial to be married, especially when someone is disabled with how low the income and resource limits are for social security disability. I’m glad it is still being added mostly for those reasons!

            2. JessaB*

              I could also see it as part of an emergency notification form “If I am hurt call Susan but if you can’t reach Susan, call Joe,” sort of thing, you might want to put whoever is in the relationship on such a form.

              Also if there are already children, there might be a reason to give the names of all the persons in the household as persons permitted to act on behalf of the child or pick them up or whatever.

              1. L.S. Cooper*

                Although if LW is living with Susan and Joe, I can see where it’d be reasonable to have them on the form. I’m unimaginably dense sometimes (despite being queer with poly leanings myself) and if I saw that go by, I’d probably go “okey dokey” and not question it.

              2. Anax*

                Life insurance beneficiary forms also generally ask about the nature of the relationship, and company-provided life insurance is fairly common – that’s how mine is set up.

                1. Hey Nonnie*

                  Completely a tangent, but I’ve always wondered WHY the life insurance company wants to know that. Why should they care whether I want my beneficiary to be my sister, spouse, or my best friend from third grade? They don’t need to manage my relationships, just (potentially) cut a check. The check would be the same amount no matter who it’s made out to.

                2. Katie*

                  @HeyNonnie – if you had a kid with the same name as your parent and/or sibling, might the nature of the relationship help the insurer ensure they had the right beneficiary?

            3. Blue Anne*

              I explored it in my workplace, which provides good health insurance benefits for spouses, and there wasn’t a way to do it even though one of my partners really was a dependent at the time. (Waiting for work visa to go through.)

          2. Not Me*

            Right, but CountryLass was suggesting it be disclosed to HR all on it’s own, simply so HR is aware of the relationship, in the event anyone complained Jane was lying. That argument has zero merit on it’s own and I think is fairly narrow-minded.

        3. caseyj*

          My typical thought is “As long as everyone is of age and consenting, I don’t care”

        4. K*

          The HR suggestion was brought up in reference to another post about a man who had allowed his colleagues to believe he was getting married to a woman when in fact he was getting married to a man — IIRC the general commentariat was very understanding and supportive, but conceded from a professional perspective that there was the potential for blowback as to his “trustworthiness,” since (fairly or not) his colleagues and boss might feel lied to. Not saying I agree or disagree with the suggestion here (I’m not in any of the referenced communities so I’m here more to learn than to add an opinion), but I think it’s helpful to apply that context to the commenter who suggested it here. In that sense it seems the suggestion is more to have OP’s trustworthiness “recorded” with HR in case her honesty was ever called into question related to this.

          1. Not Me*

            Even in that situation it wouldn’t make a difference if HR knew but didn’t tell anyone else. Co-workers who thought they were being misled would still feel misled, and telling them “but I told HR!” would only make it look like it was on purpose.

        5. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          @Hey Nonny, I think it’s because in some insurance cases, spouse must give permission to not be the primary beneficairy. (I see this far more on pension/401K.)

        6. Working Hypothesis*

          That isn’t really the issue.

          Very few people, when they talk about being open at work (whether about polyamory, gay or lesbian identity, or anything else) are talking about going up to their boss and saying, “I just wanted it on record that I’m…” What we mean by it is the freedom to talk casually about what we and our partners did over the weekend like everyone else does. To worry openly to our colleagues when one of our partners is hospitalized with something scary, like everyone else does. To bring our partners to the Christmas party, like everyone else does.

          All of these actions will, eventually, lead to someone else in the company eventually saying, “….wait a second. You’ve got a partner named SAM? I thought your partner’s name was TERRY?!?” and then we have to either lie or explain. That means that sensible polyamorous people figure out from the very beginning whether we would prefer to lie, explain, or keep our mouths shut while everyone else is making casual conversation about their families… because those are our only options.

          The option that people in monogamous, heteronormative relationships have of speaking casually and having it taken equally casually, without comment or question, because they’re doing what everyone else expects, *should* be open to us. But it isn’t yet.

          1. Dawn -- Love Outside The Box Relationship Coaching*

            Yup. I had a partner who got accused of sexual harassment because he talked about what he did over the weekend, just like everyone else in the office. It happened to be that he was polyamorous. Someone overhearing the conversation decided that he was inappropriate for answering a normal question. He was instructed to remain quiet about his “personal life”, while his presumably monogamous (and mostly female) co-workers were free to discuss their weekends as much as desired.

            We (people in polyamorous, open, or otherwise consensually non-monogamous relationships) do not have protections against workplace or housing discrimination yet. Some of us have been working toward that goal, but it’s very slow going, even in notoriously liberal towns such as Berkeley, CA. If a person is out about being polyamorous to the wrong person at the wrong time or in the wrong context, it could lose them their job, an apartment rental, or even custody of their child. Deciding to be careful about how one speaks about one’s partner/s is entirely rational, IMNSHO.

            Given that the OP is sharing a house with zir partners, I’d go with “housemate” if I were in zir shoes. (And I have been.) If the OP is feeling secure about the culture of the workplace, then I’d personally say “partner” or “partners”, or just refer to them by name and let people ask if they got nosy.

            But none of that changes the fact that we all ought to be able to just talk about our family and relationships without people making assumptions or judgments. Sadly, that is not yet a possibility. I am hopeful, though, that given the pace of change around “same sex marriage” in the past 30 years or so, that things may be a lot better 30 years from now. Hope springs eternal.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think it will be most helpful if we don’t make assumptions about OP’s sexual and reproductive decisions. OP hasn’t said anything about children or even the long-long term of this relationship, and making assumptions about those things unfortunately will result in unhelpful advice for OP. This is a situation where extrapolating from assumptions about the “majority” could unfortunately lead us into problematic and unhelpful speculation, as well as further marginalizing OP and other poly folks.

        With respect to HR, I can literally think of zero business or professional reasons for OP to out themselves or their relationship to HR or why anyone would feel “lied to” by any omission about OP’s relationship and sex life.

        (I hope the bluntness of my comment doesn’t read unkindly—I realize you’re trying to provide thoughtful advice to OP. I just think the assumptions underlying the advice are off.)

      5. LifeCoachJo*

        So one, you know that you’re wrong about “Because to me children are a thing that happens to most couples”

        That said, been there done this. For 10 years I lived with a married couple, who I was romantically involved with, and they had a child. (She was 9 when we got together, 19 when our relationship ended) If I wanted to be closeted and not talk about being poly, I would simply not say anything about it. If I wanted to talk about the daughter or either of my partners I would simply use their names. “David and i went to the movies with Catherine” or “Jenny and I took Catherine to the zoo.”

        I never felt it was important to stand on a table and shout “I am dating a couple and they have a child”. I’m sure people heard the names and made assumptions about what was going on, but since it wasn’t central to our work it was never discussed.

        Do you disclose all of your personal and sexual relationships to HR so that they don’t feel lied to? Or is that something you solely see Poly/Bi/Trans people doing?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yup. I see no need for OP to disclose to anyone. It’s simply not their business. We all have stuff we don’t tell everyone else, not even because it’s a secret, but because it’s our private, personal, *not work related* business.

          Of course to be completely honest, I am a huge fan of other people stying way over there —> and not trying to find out about me. I’m not secretive (no Mom, really I’m not) I just have really solid personal boundaries and you have to be someone super special (more special than my mom…it’s a word!) to get past them.

          Allll of that said OP if you want to tell people, go for it I guess. If you don’t want to, don’t. You don’t owe your coworkers, or the company (or anyone else) private information. Want to put a picture on your desk? Do so. If anyone asks say whatever version of “they are my partners/friends/family/roommates…etc.” you like best/feel most comfortable with.

        2. JunieB*

          This is the same method my spouse and I use (my spouse is bi-gender with distinct male and female personas). I might say, “I went to a movie with Bob” or “Betty and I had dinner at that new Italian place.” Luckily for me, none of my coworkers ever ask many questions beyond, “How was the movie/food?” It’s possible they’re fully accepting, too horrified to bring it up, or haven’t noticed anything unusual. I like to think they simply don’t care enough to question; we’ve all got bigger fish to fry.

      1. AngryAngryAlice*

        Great, now I’m going to waste the next 30 minutes watching my favorite vine compilations lol

    4. queer monogamish*

      I’m especially fond of the phrase “chosen family.” After a long enough period of time has passed — such that co-workers know who you’re talking about — you can likely eventually drop the “chosen” part and just refer to them as “my family.” Beyond that, who’s sleeping with whom isn’t anyone’s business at work, but it’s not disguising the closeness of the relationship. “I’m dating but not exclusive” might also be a useful phrase, should anyone ask; or honestly, you CAN say “I prefer not to talk about my dating life at work” if you want. (Or make it more pointed by saying “I prefer not to discuss my sex life at work.” That should get folks to politely back off pretty quick.)

      If LW would like to consider being more out than that, she might look to the office’s attitudes toward LGBTQ / non-binary and/or non-conforming folk as a sort of barometer. Is their support more lip service than actual? Is there that one co-worker who always gets weird when your queer / enby co-worker is in the room? Office attitudes toward queer folk and poly folk probably won’t be one-to-one; but it could give you at least a ballpark idea of how liberal is liberal. If you have no enby co-workers, you could find a way to comment on a news story to try to get a read on the room, so to speak.

      1. caseyj*

        I like this. Particularly after reading through all of these comments and in light of my friendships and living arrangements over the years. My closest friend is more of a sister than my blood sister is.

      2. Zeez*

        If LW decides she wants to limit what she discloses at work, I really like the phrasing of “chosen family” or “family” or something along those lines… It does a lot to underscore the weight of the relationship, without delving into details.

      3. Princesa Zelda*

        And if there’s nothing currently in the news, there’s always the episode of Parks & Rec where April introduces her boyfriend and his boyfriend! :D (I think it’s the same one where Leslie marries the gay penguins but I’m not sure.)

      4. NorthernQueer*

        YES to ‘family/chosen family’ as a term – it’s what I use for the house I share with my partner and my metamour, and it’s the term I would also use more widely to include my partners and their metamours who don’t live together (in more of a cousins and aunties kind of way). :-)

      5. Working Hypothesis*

        I lean heavily on “chosen family” also, or simply “family” depending on whom I’m talking to and how nosy I think they’re likely to be. In my case — currently, at least; I’ve lived in polyamorous relationships for most of my life, but that’s not the way it’s playing out right this minute — my chosen family really *doesn’t* have anything to do with my romantic life… I live with my husband, my kids, and another couple with whom we’re close, with neither romantic nor blood relationship involved. Rather than trying to explain that they’re chosen family, I usually just describe them as my brother and sister-in-law, which is how I think of them… nobody’s ever asked further, even when I’ve been dealing with things like hospital staff.

        When I was in a polyamorous marriage, we had young children, and that meant we pretty much *had* to be open, because we didn’t want to try and make the kids keep secrets at a very young age, and they considered all five of us their parents. It was a pretty radical change from earlier, casual relationships which neither the kids nor anyone we weren’t close to knew about, but it worked fine. We were very matter-of-fact about it, and the kids gave us a way to talk about the matter without directly discussing our own personal relationships with each other: “Yes, all five of us live together and parent together,” was as close as we got, and while anyone paying attention knew what that meant, they didn’t have to dwell on the details, which made it easier for them to follow our cues to treat it as simply the relevant factual information in signing our kids up for nursery school, for example.

    5. Veryanon*

      Agreed. There’s really no reason to go into details about your private life that might make your co-workers uncomfortable.

      1. anon today*

        If someone is uncomfortable because their coworker is poly, the issue is with the person who’s uncomfortable.

        I don’t know why you’re insinuating that even mentioning she’s poly will make coworkers uncomfortable.

        1. Log Lady*

          It’s a little disingenuous to act as if polyamory is widely known about and accepted. I’m not saying it’s right, but for many people in many different places it is a completely foreign and sometimes even taboo topic.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            For some people, yes, it isn’t something they know much about and/or they are hostile to the idea or confused or uncomfortable about it. But the larger point is – their discomfort is not actually important. It is not the responsibility of the person in a polyam relationship to manage the feelings of coworkers.

            What’s important in this scenario is the the LW is comfortable with the amount of disclosure at work – do they want to be closeted because they are intensely private, or because they are worried about discrimination or hostility? That’s valid, and referring to their partners as friends should work fine. Would they prefer to be straightforward and out? Then they can say partner (or gf/bf), or something like that. But whether any particular coworker has Big Feelings about polyam relationships doesn’t matter and isn’t something a person has to tiptoe around.

            1. MayLou*

              I’m not poly but I am married to another woman and when I started my new job three weeks ago, I placed a framed wedding photo of my wife and I on my desk. Then o proceeded to talk about her in exactly the same way my colleagues have talked about their partners (all relationships I’ve heard about to date have been, or at least appeared, cis-het). I was consciously daring anyone to say something or act weirdly, whilst behaving as though I had no idea anyone might be even remotely bothered by my relationship. It’s worked as I hoped – no awkward conversations, nobody asking about my husband etc.

              That being said, I’m legally married in a country that fairly robustly protects gay rights (trans rights are sadly a different matter). Before we were married I felt less certain of the success of y strategy. Before equal marriage passed, I often hedged my pronouns. So while I do feel like being open and confident has pre-empted potential weirdness, I also know how frightening that can be if you aren’t certain that society has got your back. Even if you strongly believe that other people’s discomfort is their issue, as I do. It’s a tough one.

        2. Need a better name, CPA*

          Removed. This isn’t about sharing about your sex life, anyone than saying you’re a man married to a woman is sharing about your sex life, as has been explained over and over here. – Alison

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Thanks, Alison. It’s really depressed me just how many of the commentariat here regard talking about going to the movies with your partners Sam and Terry as being inappropriately explicit about your sex life.

            The correct analogy to “I saw the new Avengers movie this weekend with my partners” is “I saw the new Avengers movie this weekend with my husband,” and it has no sexual connotations either way.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Except that it’s pretty damn uncomfortable to be someone feeling like I have to hide the people who are most important to me, just in case our existence makes someone else uncomfortable. So whose discomfort matters more, here?

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        But in this case it seems that OP wants to be out about her relationship to a certain extent, but is worried about being judged or negatively impacted in their career.

        OP isn’t saying that she is going to run around the office yelling “last night I slept with Joe, tonight I’m going to sleep with James and tomorrow we will all sleep together.” OP said they are a private person but it seems she would like to be able to answer questions like “What did you do this weekend?” honestly with “my two partners/b/gf’s and I went hiking or to the movies.” If people are made uncomfortable by the sharing of the second sentence that is their problem not OP’s, same way if a coworker said they were uncomfortable just by knowing that someone else was in a same-sex relationship.

        I get some people are very private about their personal lives and that is their right and OP is one of them but she still wants to be able to share some aspects of her personal life/relationship. Most people I have worked with tend to share some details of their personal lives such as partner/wife/husband/person and I went to the movies this weekend or we checked out this cool restaurant that you might like.

        OP I think my recommendation for you would be to try the “subtle” relationship name drop. You can say “my partners John, and Jane,) and I went hiking this weekend” to a normal what did you do this weekend question or say my girlfriend Jane and my boyfriend John went hiking this weekend (this might risk coworkers thinking Jane is your platonic friend who is a girl.) I think this method allows people who might be uncomfortable to be on notice without having to announce to them “I am in a poly relationship” and that coworker can choose to retreat from asking about partners, but would allow people who have no problem with poly relationships to ask the same follow up questions they would ask mono-relationship person, did “Jane and John like the movie/how often do the three of you go to the movies?”

        I tend to be more open about my personal life, but I usually don’t ask coworkers personal questions about their relationships unless they have already shared some info and its pretty clear they are okay sharing or have asked me personal questions.

      4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Yes, but this is the same argument that was made about LGBTQ people for years. If I want to mention my weekend plans to go to a museum with my wife, that’s shouldn’t be the kind of detail that makes my coworkers uncomfortable about my private life. Likewise, OP shouldn’t have to hide the nature of her relationship with her partners just because it’s not as common. This isn’t about her sex life, it’s about a big part of her general life. I think the issue is that most people unfamiliar with the poly community just see it as some kind of hypersexualized/fetishized relationship. Which of course was the same thing that was thought about the queer community for years and years (perverse, hypersexual, etc). If people in the poly community want to have polyamory normalized (and I’m sure that’s up for debate–not weighing in there, I’m just a lesbian), one great strategy is to just act like is as normal as any 2-person hetero relationship.

        1. AMT*

          Right. If the bare fact that someone is queer/poly/trans/whatever make someone imagine genitalia waving in the breeze, that’s on them.

        2. Indigo a la mode*

          I agree. It’s a darn shame to normalize for the bigoted. That said, she’s currently uncomfortable risking that discomfort at work. Maybe for one slightly farther-away step, referring to them as “my family”? Only if she’s comfortable calling them her family, of course. But that would both normalize their unit for people who are understanding, and give people who might be uncomfortable (unfairly or not) an “out” to see the relationship as something they understand better.

      5. Blue Anne*

        Yes, there is a reason. I go into it because when my colleagues ask what I did over the weekend, I don’t want to say “I went to a movie with my best friend” (or, god forbid, “my roommate”) when what I really mean is “I went to a movie with my girlfriend”. It makes me die a little inside to lie about people I love as if I’m embarrassed by them.

        In that conversation, someone is always going to be uncomfortable, so I’ll err towards not erasing my partners.

        1. caseyj*

          Please accept my apology on the roommate suggestion. I didn’t realize it was such a loaded term. Now that I do, I will ensure I’m better with not using it.

    6. AKchic*

      This is the best way to go about it.

      I’ve done poly relationships in the past, and really, people are judgmental as all get out about anything not “normal”. There are a lot of prudes in the office world. Just say you’re living with friends. Close friends, even. Don’t discuss anything further. Keep your private life private.

      If someone happens to realize, or discovers because they are art aficionados and know one or more of the artsy side of your throuple, that is on them, but they would be the ones to “out” you and cause problems, not you. You wouldn’t be the one bringing up your personal life at the office and can still maintain an air of polite innocence if questioned or if a rumor mill starts (depending on how this hypothetical coworker goes about it).

    7. Yamikuronue*

      As a queer polyam person, this is what I’ve done. At my last job, I referred to my husband and my “roommate”, but that felt disingenuous; instead at my new job he’s my “best friend”, and I openly admit that we live together, claiming it’s a Millennial thing — “the new Millennial nuclear family: two wage earners and a homemaker”. I’m just not confident enough coming out at work.

      1. Anax*

        God, isn’t it, though? I’m in a notoriously pricy area, and it’s so much easier to make the budget work with three incomes! I’ve definitely been making the ‘you have to be poly to afford a down payment’ joke a lot.

        1. Blue Anne*

          It totally is. We’re doing something similar. With 3+ adults, we can achieve the 1950s American Dream! …wait…

    8. JSPA*

      The same reason other people don’t refer to their spouse as their roommate.

      Though if the relationship is polyfidelitous as well as polyamorous, I’d use the polyfi terminology. Just because of how fidelity vs amorousness land, on their own. Or announce that you’re part of a Triad. Basically, why use terminology with echoes of other related terminology that makes people’s minds veer towards the bedroom? Poly is worth fighting for. Amory–as a work term — will always be a little awkward. Even “mono-amorous” sounds a bit TMI, y’know?

    9. Glitsy Gus*

      I’m in an open relationship and this is basically my route and it works well for me.

      If I’m close enough to someone at work that would share personal information I don’t hide the nature of my relationship, but for the majority of the rank and file I have a roommate and we’re really close. Since the context is almost always, “how was your weekend?” “It was good! My roommate and I went on a great bike ride! How was yours?” It fits the bill without having to go too deep down a rabbit hole. Plus if I am out with someone else and I run into a work person who has met “Roomie” I don’t have that awkward, “oh, so you’re on a date? Oh, ok…” when really, it isn’t any of their business. (I do on occasion run into coworkers out and about, so this isn’t totally theoretical)

  4. blackcat*

    I work with a married couple who are poly and kinda sorta out. She told those of us who frequent the same coffee shops/restaurants/etc they do (basically those of us who live in the same part of the city) in part so that we wouldn’t freak out of we saw her or her husband on an obvious date we wouldn’t be concerned. Nobody thought it was that big of a deal. No particular advice for how to broach it, but just a story of it clearly being a concern for the couple and being treated as no big deal by others.
    I’m in academia, in a liberal, large city.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, you don’t want to known around the office as the homewrecking floozy screwing her best friend’s husband just because a coworker saw you smooch one of your partners and doesn’t know the whole story. I mean, it’s not technically work-related, but a lot of people will side-eye you for it. Maybe just sorta quietly mention it if it comes up organically. “Hey, plans this weekend?” “Yeah, it’s date night for Bob, Sally, and I.”

      On the other hand, people might side-eye you for being in a poly relationship, so… whatchagonnado?

    2. Just Another Techie*

      I am married and poly and only kinda-sorta out, and this is what I did too. Mentioned it to the coworkers whose social lives intersected mine in some way, so I could stop looking over my shoulder on every date. Otherwise I have used white lies like “my roommate” or “old friend from college” or in one case, when I had to go out of town on short notice to take care of a partner who had a medical emergency, a “family member”. I know the history of using “roommate” instead of “partner” and don’tw ant to rehash the conversation above, but it was the best choice for me and my level of closetedness :-/

      1. PNWPolyamAnon*

        For the record, for those who have been in the ‘closet’ (raises hand), I think it’s 100% fine to do what you need to do to survive. Sometimes the risk is just too great. I find it deeply uncomfortable to have people who have not lived these experiences to prescribe the “roommate” phrasing from the outside, but when you’re living that reality, you are not implicitly betraying all your fellow polyams and/or queers by doing what you need to do to stay safe.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I like how you phrase this.

          My relationships are myself and husband, and myself and QPP, queer-platonic partner, so I realize we aren’t the traditional family but we aren’t the poly family either (husband and qpp would not even be friends if not for me). Because qpp and I have never been in a defined romantic relationship (but before I met husband were an asexual and aromantic pairing) I recognize my perspective on this isn’t the same as others, but calling her my roommate was never right (we slept together but didn’t engage in sexual touch, just touch, both prior to and currently in my marriage) but adopted sister or family member weren’t right either and friend was not close enough. We have gone with ‘roommate’, ‘flatmate’ ‘wife’s nonbio sister,’ ‘renter’ and ‘housemate’ for my husband to describe who qpp is since, to him, that’s the relationship.

          I wish we didn’t have to think about how other people define our relationships but there you have it.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          I agree with this entirely, while also wanting to validate that it is totally okay to be out and let the chips fall where they may, also! This is one which has to be decided case by case, by the individuals who have most at stake. If the LW wants to stay in the closet, THAT IS OKAY, and the roommate/housemate thing is probably the most effective way to do it. If she wants to come out partially, or in indirect ways, there is language on this thread for how to do that effectively; and if she wants to come out altogether, then mentioning her respective partners casually in the same contexts everyone else does (such as talking about weekend plans) and then breezily saying, “Yes, there are two of them. We’re all together and very happy. What are you doing for the weekend?” works surprisingly well.

          I’m all in favor of offering techniques for EVERY possible option, and letting the LW choose the one which gets her where she wants to go. This is her life, not ours. She gets to decide how much she wants her colleagues to know about it.

    3. GreenThumb*

      I had a coworker who was poly and had 2 long term partners. She came “out” to us by bringing both of them to a work BBQ thing (spouses & partners were invited) and introducing them as her boyfriends. Some folks were confused (I guess they hadn’t encountered polyamory before) but everyone took it in stride in the moment. For a week or so after there was some gossip about it, raised eyebrows and such, but it faded away and after that I don’t remember it ever being mentioned. This was at an ad agency, pretty liberal, skewed young (20-40).

      I don’t know if this is helpful at all but just throwing out my experience on the other side of things.

    4. CTT*

      I’ve had this happen with a coworker as well; I had mentioned that I was online dating and she took me aside to let me know that I might see her husband on dating sites and not to freak out because they were poly, which was good to know and we could talk about relationship stuff without her having to keep up a facade. But our relationship was also such that I was comfortable telling her about my online dating, which I definitely was not telling everyone I worked with. Like a lot of personal stuff at work, O think there’s something to be said about being open with the people you’re close to and less so with those you’re not.

    5. Best of Everything*

      Forgive the late reply. This is what one of my coworkers did about her poly relationship. We’re in a smaller city in a public agency. The others were a married couple and some jumped to the wrong conclusion that she was having an affair with her best friend’s husband. Granted, kissing the man in the work parking lot may have invited speculation. Once she was clear it helped everyone relax.

    6. Queer Inside*

      Yeah, I wasn’t out at work – not even intentionally, I talk about “my partner” and “my boyfriend” and I even showed my coworkers holiday pictures with my (long-distance) boyfriend on my phone but somehow they never noticed they weren’t the same person! – but then a coworker approached me because he’d seen my partner on the subway with another woman and jumped to a rather different conclusion. So I had to have the whole “yes we have an open relationship, this is fine” conversation…

  5. Grayson*

    So I am poly going on 16 years now, and I am fully out at work. (I work for the Department of Justice, and previously I worked for the Department of Defense as a contractor and a soldier.) I talk about my partners freely and openly, and after a while the novelty wears off for your coworkers. You can head inappropriate questions off at the pass, and it just becomes another type of relationship to them.

    I have not had my relationships affect my standing or my perception of my work after coming out. They are not tied to me as lead weight, they are merely a part of me. Much like my coworker Stephanie is a lizard gecko owner, or my other coworker Juliana is in a non-traditional nuclear family. My work stands apart from my relationships.

    1. CountryLass*

      Without meaning to sound offensive, may I ask if you are male or female? Simply as it seems more generally acceptable for a male to have a wife and a partner, than it does for a woman to have tow partners who are married to each other. Historically, I think she would be seen as their ‘joint bit on the side’. Which is wrong, I assume. Never having (knowingly) met anyone in a poly relationship, I would assume that A is dating B and C, B is married to C and dating A and c is married to B and dating A?

      Again, no offence intended to anyone.

      1. Grayson*

        I am a non-binary transgender human. (Assigned female at birth, identify as genderfluid and I present masculine 75% of the time. Almost always when I’m at work.)

        For me, my live-in partner is Drake. My girlfriend is Emilia and my boyfriend is Zac.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Wow, this is really cool, Grayson. I’ve not heard too many stories of people being so open about such things and having a good experience. I wish there were more stories like this.

        2. she was a fast machine*

          Unfortunately I suspect that due to your masculine presenting, you’re seeing a slightly more tolerant side of things, especially in the more masculine-leaning DOJ and DOD. Ideally I’d like OP to be able to do the same thing as you, but the optics are unfortunately more difficult for her.

          I’ve been pretty involved in the poly community, and while I’m not poly all the time or currently, the perception towards women and female-presenting individuals (and even more androgynous or genderqueer presenting people) is sadly more judgmental than men or male-presenting individuals, at least in my experience. Especially in OP’s situation; people in the know might dismiss her as a simple unicorn, and others will see it even worse.

          1. JB*

            My experience with female polyamorous friends is that they get hit on a lot by jerks who they are out to.

            Aside from the judgmental types, there are plenty of people who think “woman open to any kind of nontraditional romantic/sexual arrangement = slut I have a chance with.”

            Not to advise the OP or anyone else one way or another, but this is definitely a thing.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              This has been my experience too. It’s also been my experience that men in monogamous marriages think I’d be willing to help them cheat on their spouses because I’m poly and mostly female presenting.

            2. Reg commenter, anony for this*

              oh yeah – the ‘if she’s sleeping around then I need to get in on that’ reaction. arrrrgh.

              This is why I have never been out as polyamorous at work, and why I’m anonying this response, just in case.

              I’m a cis, mostly het woman who’s been polyam off and on for 20+ years, along with a decade in the local kink scene. Currently monogamous but my partner and I are moving my ex-boyfriend/ex-polyam partner into our basement suite this week. Ex and I are probably not going to rekindle the romantic relationship, but if it ethically / emotionally worked out, it could happen, he’s a great person. I am not mentioning this at work (conventional office) at all other than ‘having some work done on the basement’, and if seen out with him by coworkers, he’s my room mate. Period. The only other thing I might mention is that it’s nice that my current partner will have someone to watch scary movies with, because I do not watch them.

              I am not interested in dealing with the prurience / obnoxiousness that has always come along with ‘yes, I’m in relationships with X *and* Y.’ 20% of people have minimal reaction, 50% clutch pearls, 30% hit on me. It would probably change now that I’m older, but I’d just expect the 30% to join the 50%. Polyamory has not joined the mainstream.

              Other people certainly have other takes on this. One of my friends works for a small startup where his multiple partners are known, and one long-term partner has come to office parties. His wife works for a conventional office, and her coworkers only know about her husband, not her other partner or occasional flings.

              If you want to know how people might react, “Sister Wives” is still on the air, and you could talk about it respectfully by referring to the scheduling challenges they have to face or how brave it is to put a complex relationship on air, warts and all.

            3. OnceUponAPolyAnon*

              This is the reason I would love to see the term PolyFidelity more. Long ago, I was in a community which practiced PolyFidelity, meaning we had family units and we practiced fidelity within our family. No sex outside of the family. There was a long vetting for new members & people needed to be committed to the family unit before joining. The community no longer exists & I am now in a monogamous relationship (as are many of our previous members) Others are active in the Polyamory community. I remain friends with many of my former family members. I am touched by the fact that this is a discussion!! Progress & Love abound!

              1. Wantonseedstitch*

                Polyfidelity is great for those who practice it, but I am always leery of trying to present it as (and I realize you didn’t use these words) the “good polyamory.” As though having a closed group is more moral. Someone who’s polyamorous but not polyfidelitous should not have to put up with being treated as promiscuous or “up for grabs.”

                1. OnceUponAPolyAnon*

                  I was in no way inferring that either one is better or judging anything at all. No one in any type of relationship should be seen as up for grabs! Believe me, PolyFidelity has its own set of problems. What I was trying to say (and seemed to have not done so very well) is that I rarely see the term PolyFidelity used and Polyamory can encompass families that are open to casual intimate relationships or not, whereas PolyFidelity is defined as no casual intimacy.

          2. Grayson*

            @she was a fast machine Oh, it definitely gets female presenting humans more shit for being poly because it’s the “madonna/whore” complex that society insists on leveraging against those humans. Interestingly enough, my team only have one cis-man on it, so it’s actually a team full of women (a first for me.)

            1. Jadelyn*

              Very much, yes. “He’s a player, she’s a slut” in action, basically, and if she’s a “slut” then she should be up for anything, with anyone, right?

              I’ve unfortunately dealt with enough of those jerks in my time. Not pleasant.

            2. she was a fast machine*

              Yeah, it’s annoyingly, as old as time. You’re definitely quite lucky where you are and I wish you plenty of happiness!

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I wanted to ask the same question, with the understanding that I am asking with respect. This is a safe place to ask and answer questions. I, too, feel that the “rules” or collateral effects would be different for a woman. And different still for a woman not married to the male partner. (and different again for three female partners)

      3. Rainy*

        I’m monogamous now, but I spent the first couple of decades of my relationship-having life as a polyamorous woman, a few years of that in relationships with established couples, and it was occasionally a little awkward (I was my boyfriend and girlfriend’s plus two to a couple of weddings, and when the couple’s family were introduced it was sometimes interesting, but this was the American Midwest in the 90s, whaddygonnado) but in general not a huge deal.

        I’ve been closeted at work and out at work and every point in the spectrum in between, and frankly, as long as your coworkers are reasonably professional and not assholes, it’s fine. At a certain point, everyone is just living their life and if someone has an issue they can keep their fucking mouths shut.

        The truth is that it’s the year of my patience 2019 and people need to get with the program of letting other people live their lives. For the record, I bet you know some polyamorous people and they just haven’t told you. It’s more common than you think.

        1. ShysterB*

          Adding nothing of substance, just want to say I am officially stealing “Year of My Patience,” it is the phrase I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.

      4. Anax*

        My experience has been that people do often assume there’s some kind of “preferred” couple – that someone is the “bit on the side”, that it’s some kind of weird affair, that two partners are going to pair off and leave partner C high and dry. I’m in a M/F/(FtM) triad – I’m the transgender partner, and that’s relevant, because people tend to project a gender onto me when they’re making assumptions.

        Someone on GF’s side keeps asking if GF is “a lesbian now”, or if BF “is gay now”. That’s been the general experience, honestly – because I’m visibly trans, people tend to assume that my partners are not bisexual and are leaving their other partner for me. It’s fairly unpleasant!

        No experiences like this at work, but some folks have been pretty gross outside work. For the most part, everyone under age 40 has been cool in my area, and anyone over age 40 is a crapshoot – there’s very much a generational component.

      5. Working Hypothesis*

        I am female, and have been openly polyamorous for twelve years, including at work. I have had similarly chill responses. It’s not always a problem. It certainly *can* be a problem, depending on where you live and what industry and specific company you work for… but I think the people who see trouble assume that it’s everywhere, and it really isn’t.

    2. MicrobioChic*

      I am a polyamorous woman and I’m out to my office mates, albeit not my boss. I’m in academia though, so people are a little more mellow.

      It’s been fine, people had some questions at first but it’s just settled into the new normal.

      My boyfriends girlfriend and my girlfriend both live with us currently, and I do generally refer to them as housemates and/or friends to the folks I’m not out to. Maybe not the most ideal solution, and the OP should definitely not be pressured to do so, but it works for me.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think the generally accepted definition of a traditional nuclear family is Mom, Dad, and kids, so presumably a nontraditional nuclear family is anything outside of that.

        1. MayLou*

          I assumed a bit more nuance – something that on the surface looks like a traditional nuclear family (two adults, a couple of kids) but the relationships and genders are not traditional. For instance, my friend and her girlfriend who are parenting my friend’s nieces. Two adults, two kids, but the biological relationships are not traditional parent ones, and a same-gender couple.

    3. VioletShades*

      I’m polyamorous and have been for my entire adult life. I guess I’m selectively out — e.g., when I visited with a couple I’m involved with, I told most people I was “visiting my friends” (not NOT true), and shared with the people I’m close to/the younger people that I was visiting with partners. I think it’s fine to be selectively out if you want to be able to share with certain folks but not have to be the Polyamory Spokesperson of the office. I generally don’t even have to ask people to be discreet, although I’ve kind of adopted a “this isn’t a secret but i’m not going out of my way to share it” attitude. The good news, I’ve found, is that most people care a lot less about my love life than I initially assumed.

      1. VioletShades*

        Oh, and I forgot to add — congratulations, OP, on moving in with your partners! I wish you all years of happiness <3

    4. Blue Anne*

      It’s really encouraging to hear this from someone in government jobs. Thank you.

  6. reader*

    Hi Alison — maybe consider changing “poly” to “polyamorous”? From Captain Awkward’s site rules:
    Why do you ask people to spell out polyamory & polyamorous in questions and comments?
    Some Polynesian readers asked me to, as “Poly” is a pre-existing prefix/tag for that community. It’s not a slur to use the shorthand to mean polyamory (or polymath or polycarbons for that matter), and whether or not you want to keep using the shorthand in conversation or inside communities and forums dedicated to polyamory (where there is no chance of confusion) is up to you, but on the site I’d like to keep it simple and spell it out. It seems like an easy request to honor.

    1. SignalLost*

      Then it’s a bit weird that I’m actually poly, you’re not, and you’re telling me this is the preferred shorthand for my identity, isn’t it? I have never heard this, and I am active in my city’s poly community.

      1. Dragoning*

        I…am sorry if I offended you. I’m not talking about the preferred shorthand for the polyamorous community. I’m talking about what a marginalized people of color have asked of you because they used a term to refer to themselves first.

        1. SignalLost*

          Actually, as far as I know, two white people have asked me to alter how I identify, in order to white-knight for a group they don’t belong to (in either sense). Unless you and reader would like to start dropping your Polynesian credentials here?

          1. Just Employed Here*

            You can see the skin color of commenters here? Pretty awesome vision you’ve got…

          2. Little Pig*

            Boy, it’s really damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

            Use your privilege to advocate for a marginalized group? White-knighting. Decide not to advocate for a marginalized group because that would be white-knighting? Complicit in bigotry. Is there a way to be an ally anymore?

            Or maybe the problem is that they were advocating for a marginalized group that isn’t YOUR marginalized group, and you don’t want to be inconvenienced by that?

      2. sub rosa for this*

        As a person who is both polyamorous and married into a Polynesian family…

        …we use poly to mean polyamorous, and our family uses several descriptive terms, which do not include the word “Poly.”

        I recognize that not everyone’s experience is the same, and there may be some people of Polynesian descent who do use the term, but it is not true within the fairly sizeable and active spheres in which I have participated. Obviously, I’d be happy to change my thinking on this if I ever do encounter someone from within either community who uses the recommended terms.

      3. V*

        This polyamorous person prefers the use of polya or polyam or just spelling it out, so you don’t speak for all of us. Not that I’m prepared to have a fist fight about it, but I’d really prefer to leave poly to Polynesian people.

        1. SignalLost*

          Literally not, since mine was a reply to a comment replying to them! Well spotted!

          And yet, reader is white-knighting for a group they have not claimed membership of. I object to that, regardless of where my comment nests.

          1. Wing Leader*

            Why are you assuming that reader isn’t polyamorous? We don’t know what she/he/they identifies as.

            1. SignalLost*

              I am assuming, from the fact they tested on someone else’s words rather than using their own that they are neither Polynesian nor polyamorous.

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, there were some people on Tumblr who decided that ‘Poly’ would make a cool shorthand name for ‘Polynesian’ only to find out that everything tagged ‘poly’ on the website was for something else entirely. So, unlike the My Little Pony fandom who apparently embraced the pre-existing meaning of ‘pony play’ by turning into the kinkiest gatdang fandom out there, these guys decided to tell polyamorous people not to call themselves ‘poly’ and some white people on the internet loved it, because who doesn’t like an edgy social justice cause that you can actually do something about without leaving your keyboard?

        So basically it’s not really a thing in meatspace real life, but it is a big deal on some sections on the internet due to how algorithms work and whatever. [shrug]

      1. Tetra*

        So who determines which group ‘owns’ one suffix? Is it whichever group ‘had’ it first, or whichever one is marginalised most? How do you even determine that? This seems silly. If C&B can have meanings in therapy and sex, poly can have meanings in race and relationships.

        If we really have to pick one ‘side’ (which I don’t think is necessary or helpful whatsoever) I’d argue the word has more use for relationships. ‘Poly’ can be a general umbrella term for various types of polyamorous and open relationships, which can be genuinely useful in conversation.

        Words can have different meanings depending on the context they’re used in.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          People are free to use “poly” in their responses here; I’m not setting a rule on it for the site or the discussion. But for the headline, “polyamorous” is perfectly correct and likely clearer to some.

          I removed a long thread of squabbling over this, which is derailing and off-topic. Please move on, all.

        2. Tetra*

          It’s late and I’m tired. I know what is, and what is not, a suffix. (I also replied to the wrong comment, so I’d like to clarify that I know this is not my blog and whatever rules you want to set or follow is obviously entirely up to you).

        3. LJay*

          And professional circles too! CBT computer-based training.

          Having become familiar with the sex-related term first the other two acronyms always give me a bit of a pause when I see them until I adjust to the correct one based on context.

          1. Gwen Soul*

            When I was pregnant I started to frequent parenting reddits and kept seeing FtM, I thought there were a ton of female to male parents, took me a week or so for First Time Mom to hit

            1. Civilian Linetti*

              Me too! I was kind of excited about it thinking ‘wow, what a great welcoming community for all pregnant people!’ and then it dawned on me.

              1. Anax*

                God, I know, right? It’s especially confusing when folks use “First Time Mom” outside the parenting reddits – it’s really hard to know which FTM they mean!

              2. Tinker*

                I have lurked some on a community that’s tied to a pregnancy forum, and I ended up finding out about this by way of reading something to the effect of “my friend is pregnant and a FTM” followed by a whole lot of intensely feminine language like “her blossoming into motherhood” and such.

                I was like “oh wow, you are an incredibly awful jerk, this poor guy and at such a time too… oh hmm wait a minute…”

        4. Princesa Zelda*

          At least in my experience, away from like Twitter it’s not so much about who “owns” a prefix as making sure there’s a reasonable expectation that everyone knows what you’re talking about. A conversation about Polynesian relationships is very different from one about polyamory, or at least I assume. :) Once it’s established at the top what the actual subject is then shorthand is useful.

  7. Lady Phoenix*

    I am on the opinion of “only answer if people ask”.

    I know when I discuss possible “oddities” about me (Asperger syndrome, possible depression), I am immediately on the defensive because people will judge people who are different, and I don’t want that.

    If you feel that talking about yourself is gonna cause a potential debate that you’re not up for, I would avoid it. It is not their business to judge who you are.

    Does anyone else get that too? Feeling too scared to share things about themselves in fear of having to immediately justify it?

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I completely understand feeling that way, but personally I’ve reached a point in my life that I just don’t really care what others think about me. I am who I am, and if some people don’t like me because of it, that’s on them.

      I think it’s this situation, it depends on how comfortable the OP is with acquaintances knowing her personal business. It sounds like she wants to tell people, because she wants to be able to discuss her relationship at work like most people do. People will judge her because it’s non-traditional, and something they may not know much about, but if OP is comfortable enough not to care, I say go forth and tell. And eventually the “novelty” of the situation will go away, and it just won’t be a big deal anymore.

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      More the opposite, that I share something and immediately regret it. :P

      I told a cute story about my son talk-talk-talking at me before falling asleep, and a coworker was like “Just tell him to read a book!” >:-( So not the point, coworker!!!

      (BTW, my son’s an Aspie, too, Lady Phoenix! :) And so am I!)

      1. L.S. Cooper*

        Oof, I could’ve written that first line! Did you know that hyperactivity in girls often manifests as chattiness, because of how they’re raised? And that ADHD has that lovely lack of impulse control?
        The number of times I’ve come out about any number of things and then immediately felt like a clown….

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Hahaha, I am that chatty girl!! And my son is definitely the lack of impulse control. He’s getting better! And… maybe so am I?? Hard to tell sometimes.

      2. Lady Phoenix*

        Oh god, too many foot in mouth moments.

        That is what got me to start clamming up.

  8. Zip Silver*

    I have an employee who is poly, and was very open (and detailed) it when she started. I had a conversation with her that nobody cares if she’s in a pile relationship, but hearing the nitty gritty details of her sex life was making everybody else uncomfortable.

    So, I’d say, be open if you want, but censor out explicit info.

    1. Grayson*

      Ew. No one needs the details. The most my coworkers get out of me is “Oh it was date night last night with [partner name].”

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      That crosses into the “he’s not my boyfriend, he’s my master” area of bringing people into your life.

    3. Batty ArtMonster*

      I agree with you. I have a co-worker who’s exactly like that as well – very detailed and open about her “experiences” in the relationships and it is definitely that aspect that makes people uncomfortable, not the relationships themselves. There are plenty of people at my large company who are in non-traditional relationships but the only one who stands out and has a bit of a reputation for being unprofessional is her because of the recounting of details no one needs to hear about.

    4. SometimesALurker*

      Yeah, but that’s no different than a monogamous person being graphic about their sex life. One of the common stereotypes about polyam people is that we’re all like this, but we’re not.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Yeah, there is a woman here (straight, married to a man, traditional marriage) that tends to overshare on everything, and she has even brought up her sex life with her husband. Ick. It’s definitely not a polyam thing, it’s a “people who don’t understand boundaries regardless of their gender or sexual orientation” thing.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          Seconded. My mother used to work with a conservative Christian who was engaged, planning to lose her virginity on her wedding night, and felt the need to daily inform the entire office how many days left until she would lose her virginity. My mother and her other coworkers thought it was gross and inappropriate. It’s not okay to share details of your sex life regardless of the kind of sex you have.

      2. Blue Anne*


        I’ve had coworkers basically ask for the sexy details. I wouldn’t share them if there were any, but there aren’t. We have pizza nights and pay our bills and remind each other to feed the cat. We’re not throwing sex parties or having kinky porno threesomes every night. The assumption is annoying.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          This!! I remember once when I was living with four partners, three of whom were down with the flu, as were both toddlers. My one remaining healthy wife and I were folding laundry, and getting ready to go to bed (separately, exhausted and seeking SLEEP) after that, and we had a good laugh when she said, “The Religious Right would probably be absolutely stunned by the amount of sex I am NOT having these days!” because it seems like everyone who is anti-polyamory thinks we’re all about the sex all the time. We’re families like any other families. Sometimes we have sex. Most of the time, we do everything else that families do. It really is that simple, folks.

    5. anon today*

      I see your coded language there and I’m heavily side eyeing for it. This always happens whenever there’s LGBTQA+ related letters.

      1. Zip Silver*

        What does that even mean?

        I went to a state school in the Southwest, not a private school on the Coasts, so I’m a bit out of touch on policing other people’s speech.

        1. Zip Silver*

          I suppose, and delete this if it’s too much Allison, but I did choose my words rather than explicitly saying that my employee was talking about anal, threesomes, banging first dates, and bondage, and I told her to cut it out at work. Sorry for using coded language, anon today.

          1. Log Lady*

            Agreed, you did nothing wrong and shouldn’t feel the need to defend sharing an experience you had.

          2. JSPA*

            “Pile” was probably the bit that reads either derogatory or flippant…and perhaps only flippant if you’re not in a more – than – one relationship. I know I winced a little.

            1. Eukomos*

              That looks like an autocorrect error. Is it a word people intentionally use to describe romantic relationships?

        2. Sophie before she was cool*

          They’re saying that people often accuse LGBTQ folks of “flaunting their sexuality”/”shoving their sexuality in my face” as a coded way of saying “eww, get away from me” without appearing to be openly hostile or homophobic.

          While there are people of all sexualities who are a little too open with the details of their sex lives, it can be raw for LGBTQ and poly people, many of whom are exhausted by people thinking any mention of their sexuality is TMI.

          I don’t think understanding this is a marker of someone who went to “a private school on the coasts” (I didn’t!), but rather of understanding other humans’ experiences.

          1. anon today*

            Yes, this. Whenever there’s a letter about LGBTQA+ people here, someone always has to bring up their experiences of “I don’t care if they’re queer, but they shared the details of their life and it made me uncomfortable!”

            Censoring out explicit info is obvious to most people and clearly OP knows not to do it, so the original comment just seemed like a pile on of “ewww gross poly people always overshare” assumptions. Assuming the OP is going to share explicit info, which several people have done in the comments section already, is just pushing the “LGBTQA+ people are sexual deviants and want everyone to know it!” mindset. That mindset is so often used to push bigoted assumptions and stereotypes without coming off as homophobic to the majority of people.

          2. Wing Leader*

            This is why the “LGBTQ+ people overshare!” mindset is blown way out of proportion. Oftentimes, it’s no more than:

            Person 1: I’m gay.

            Person 2: Ewww, TMI! I don’t need to know that!

            /eye roll/

        3. anon today*

          It means that OP wrote a letter about disclosing their relationship even though they like to keep things private and you immediately assumed that because they’re poly and LGBTQA+. they’re going to share explicit info with their coworkers. It pushes a negative and harmful stereotype that LGBTQA+ people have been fighting against for decades.

          Also, your snide remark about private schools on the Coast was unnecessary. Regions and schooling have nothing to do with it and bringing that up was bizarre.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I especially note that several people followed up pointing out experiences in which monogamous, heterosexual people overshared sexual experiences. That happens *at least* proportionately as much (meaning in hard numbers, dramatically more often, since there are more of them) than LGBTQA+ people doing so… and yet it’s only assumed about those of us with “unusual” romantic lives.

            Funny, that.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Right. Not only are there people in all groups who are oversharers, but also for some reason it’s the monogamous heterosexual people who think it’s okay to ask for details about how I have sex. Is it always with all my partners? Is it ever with all my partners? My partner is trans, ? Do my male partners have sex with each other? Don’t I want my male partners to have sex with each other? And of course, when can I have sex with the asker, since I’m so liberated and they’re totally fine with that? (I’ve gotten some of these at work. Not propositioned, thankfully.)

              But the assumption is that we’re the gross oversharers, because I dunno, I said I got my boyfriend to watch Mulan for the first time and he liked it, and the person knows I have a girlfriend.


              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Yup. And, of course, sometimes the assumption is that we’re the gross oversharers *because* somebody is overheard asking obnoxious questions and the person hearing it immediately jumps to the conclusion that we invited their interest in the subject.


        4. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “I went to a state school in the Southwest, not a private school on the Coasts”

          *eyeroll* See, clearly you do know how to throw shade using not-at-all-subtle code, so anon today wasn’t off-base that this was a possibility from you.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The sad fact is that there is a large swath of people who believes that simply mentioning being LGBTQ is being “too explicit” about your sex life. Making realistic and honest comments about how this information could potentially be received by coworkers is not coded language.

        It’s also possible that the person Zip Silver was referring to was actually oversharing details.

      3. Log Lady*

        I really, really dislike the implication that polyamory is included in the LGBT umbrella (I am an LGBT person, just to clarify). Many LGBT people certainly are polyamorous, but it is not inherently LGBT. Also, I don’t believe that Zip Silver was saying that all polyamorous people are over-sharers or overly-sexual, just that the LW should only give as much information as you would about a traditional relationship whether it’s hetero or otherwise.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          There’s a reason for the + at the end of LGBTQA+. When it’s used that way, it includes polyamory and anything else that is going to be treated with similar squick by the normative-relationship police. When it’s just used in LGBT form, I agree with you that polyamory isn’t a part of that, but that’s not the acronym in use above.

      1. Kitty*

        This all seems really touchy and intense and something for me to deal with after I’ve drunk my coffee.

  9. Lena Clare*

    If it comes up in the conversation then I personally would be fine with it, but there are going to be lots who aren’t fine with it and who misunderstand. And I will never not be surprised at the lengths some people go to to wilfully misunderstand you. There are still people who think that poly means cheating.

    Be prepared for lots of questions and also possibly some people being different with you after it. I reckon most people will be ok, and some people will judge. Are you ok with that?

  10. Janine DeLuca*

    One of my professors in undergrad was poly and out about it, quietly- in the sense that when I met one of her partners and asked who he was, she said, “Oh, that’s one of my partners.”

  11. Cartographical*

    As a poly-person in a less liberal area, that’s what we did to start, but we didn’t hide anything so much as we were just opaque about it.

    “Jim lives with us.” “We consider him part of the family.” “Jim shares parenting duties.” “Jim helped finance a larger house.” The people who got it didn’t need to be told, the people whose minds didn’t go there at all just assumed we were making it work. For his part, Jim used similar scripts: close friends/like family/not dating right now but I’m happy with my friendships/their kid is like my kid/the arrangement works for us/it just makes sense/more economical/etc.

    If you treat it as totally normal and reasonable that you all share a LIFE (regardless of whether or not you all share a bed), those that would be cool with it will nod knowingly and those who wouldn’t will usually go along because they don’t want to seem foolish even if they can’t quite figure it out.

    1. Ginny*

      This is about how I approach it too. I let it be known that I bought a house with three other people. No one has asked about the exact relationships – if they did I’d explain, but as it is I’m comfortable in a space of “not Out but not hiding anything.”

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      If you don’t mind me asking, how do you deal with rumors or questions about one of you “cheating” because someone saw one of you out with Jim? No PDA?

      1. Cartographical*

        I think this is a cultural thing that unfortunately depends. We’re less liberal than San Francisco but way more liberal than other places. In general, none of us were prone to PDA but hugging, putting an arm around someone, even holding hands (especially for cis-hetero or femme/female-presenting pairs) can be seen as platonic intimacy. In a friend’s small home town even a joking hug or rough housing, regardless of gender, starts the rumour mill!

        We never got concerns about infidelity (because people often saw us all together) and more sheepish “who’s married to whom?” from people inclined to be nosy. One of the sellers at market I used to chat with a lot, an older farmer, once referred to my “friends or husbands or whatever they are — just don’t let my wife get the idea of having a spare”. Conversely, my partner of 30 years and his (male) best friend get mistaken for a couple all the time (they are not) because they bicker all the way through the market or store.

        A lot of the attitude here is “live and let live” but no one wants details even from “traditional “couples. My partner’s boss has shared a home with someone of the same gender for twenty-five years, the other person comes to office parties and they host parties together in their home — to this day, no one knows what the exact relationship is, just that they’re a package deal.

        I think questions about fidelity come up more if you’re not all seen together, to be honest. If you go places together first around here, and people see you as a unit, they figure the rest is none of their business.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          So, make lots of public outings all together? That sounds like it could work.

    3. ArtsNerd*

      Another good way of truthfully-but-opaquely phrasing it is ‘they’re my chosen family.’

      I am not polyamorous (I don’t want to spend the energy locating one partner, let alone several, but I would move in with my (platonic) chosen family in a heartbeat if the right circumstances presented themselves, and they would happily welcome it.

      1. Cartographical*

        Exactly. A commitment is a commitment, no matter what you’re doing with your genitals. I have a “platonic lifemate” whom I sometimes support financially and I’m amending my will to include her if something happens to me before my partner passes. She’s an essential part of my world and it would make my decade if she came to live with us. We’re not related by genetics or marriage but we are each other’s family.

    4. Beth*

      “Opacity” is a WONDERFUL approach. Save the transparency for people you know well enough to trust with more detail.

      For others, it’s amazing how, as long as you answer a question with a solid reply — even though the reply carries only partial information — the other person will accept the answer as such, and won’t poke at it to find out if there are juicy details hiding somewhere. Casual acquaintances aren’t usually interested in details.

      1. Cartographical*

        Yes, this. You can be honest without being explicit. Most people recognize that a partial answer is also a boundary, no matter what they imagine is on the other side of it.

  12. Pete*

    There’s no reason to lie about what the relationship is or speak in code, but also there’s not reason to run around to everyone’s desk and tell them about your relationship – just like any monogamous relationship. Refer to them as they are: your “boyfriend and girlfriend” or boyfriends/girlfriends” when they come up. If questions come up, answer them as if it’s no big deal – because it isn’t a big deal. Everyone’s relationship is different, either from the outside or the inside. Yours is just more visibly different from the outside, but it’s no less traditional than a cis straight couple with their own eccentricities. If you give people an opening to say weird things, they will, but if you’re clear, direct, and relaxed about it, you’ll find most responses will follow in kind.

    1. SignalLost*

      It absolutely is a big deal if your boss is a bigot. Pretending it’s not is bamanas.

      1. Secretary*

        But that’s reaching for what’s not in the letter. The OP said it’s a pretty liberal environment.

        1. Locket*

          “Generally on the liberal side” is decidedly NOT the same as being totally cool with polyamory. I wish it weren’t the case, but OP is going to have a much better read on whether or not it will be accepted than us.

          1. Beth*

            Yes, exactly! I work in an office that is on the liberal side, but one of my very liberal bosses is having difficulty with the fact that one of our clients is polyamorous. My boss is not acting badly or projecting judgementalism, but I know that she finds the idea very hard to grasp.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Why on earth does it matter to her? It’s a client. Presumably, they have other things to talk about.

        2. queer monogamish*

          But also that she’s not sure how it would be received; so I think some amount of caution is prudent.

        3. Burned Out Supervisor*

          You’d be surprised what liberal people can be bigoted about, especially if it vears away from the “socially acceptable” presentation of being a gay person in America. I have liberal friends who are confounded by trans issues or non-binary terms and get pretty butt hurt when they’re called out on it. Heck, even I sometimes make inappropriate assumptions (in my head) or accidentally mis-gender someone, and I’ve been a big ol’ lib since the womb.

    2. Locket*

      Your last bit, “if you’re clear, direct, and relaxed about it, you’ll find most responses will follow in kind” is mostly true, but the bit at the beginning about there being no reason to lie/it’s not a big deal won’t be the case for everyone. OP mentions the environment being liberal, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be someone in a position to undermine her that isn’t cool with polyamory.

      Personally, I’ve had to keep my opinions and identity to myself when people above me have been bigoted because I’m not in a position where outing myself is more important than my job security. OP is the only one here who can know for sure whether or not it’s safe to be out. If her job security is important, she needs to be able to read the *actual* atmosphere of the company and not just assume that liberal = okay with polyamory. I don’t mean to fearmonger, but I’ve had to deal with the internal struggle of closet versus paycheck and while it is debatable whether or not I made the right decision, I’m not about to risk the financial security of my family over it.

      I think someone else’s suggestion above to mention various news items on the subject and “read the room” is probably a good place to start. It’s sort of how I gauged my workplace, though it wasn’t me bringing up the news items, interestingly enough.

    3. Melody Pond*

      I’m really surprised at the negative responses to Pete’s comment. I’ve been in polyamorous relationships (though it’s been a while), and Pete’s advice is more or less exactly how I would approach it, and have approached it in office jobs.

      I would, and have “come out” about multiple partners in exactly the same casual way that most people would refer to their single partner at work. Yes, there is a risk that some people might be bigoted about it, but I do agree that you can have some level of impact on others’ reactions by conducting yourself cheerfully and as if this is a perfectly normal thing that happens, and of course everyone will be politely respectful and react no differently than they would to any other coworker’s mention of family members. Of course this won’t always be the case, but conducting yourself based on that expectation and assumption is, in my view, the most effective way to bring about that change – especially assuming this is happening in a reasonably liberal setting, which it sounds like is the case.

      To me, this is the exact same principle behind some of Alison’s most common advice – in various potential work conflict situations, Alison often emphasizes going in with tone and phrasing that shows you expect something is a simple misunderstanding at work, rather than someone else’s malevolent attempt at sabotaging you. Generally speaking, in situations like this, I think people will rise to meet reasonable expectations of their behavior.

    4. Carrie*

      One of my close friends was fired about six months ago, from his job at a classically latte-drinking-liberals university. It was for “sexual harassment,” that harassment consisting of “mentioning his girlfriend when people know he’s married”–and to be clear, I mean mentions like “Oh, date night with Becky,” not anything non-work-appropriate.

      Telling the OP that it’s completely safe to be out about polyamory is…naïve at best. Most responses is not *all* responses.

      1. caseyj*

        That is insane. As a manager, if someone complained to me about something like that, I would just tell them to mind their own business.

        1. Carrie*

          He ended up with a pretty nice severance package out of the deal, but it took lawyering up and a lot of time during which he freaked out about what he could have possibly said to hurt someone. It was something of a contretemps.

      2. Rhoda*

        That makes absolutely no sense.
        Suppose he were cheating, that’s hardly a fireable offence, even when you dissaprove.

      3. SisterSpooky*

        That is the biggest pile of bullshit I’ve ever heard! I’m so sorry that happened to your friend.

    5. quirkypants*

      I feel like this answer takes a lot for granted and is naive. I’m at the point in my career and life where I can apply this advice but I’m senior enough and I also work in fairly liberal industry and liberal city. Even in my situation, I know that if I was polyamorous and outted myself I COULD be treated differently, but I’m in a position where I can roll with that (find a new job, advocate for myself, support myself if I was unemployed for a limited amount of time, etc) but I have a lot of security, privilege, and even relative power (even though I’m a queer woman).

      The answer above is naive and assumes a lot we don’t know about the OP.

    6. Dontlikeunfairrules*

      I live in West Hollywood, CA, which is one of the more liberal and open places around. Even here a poly relationship might be considered unusual to some. I can’t even imagine how this would be taken in other places, regardless of how open minded folks appear.

      1. Privately Poly*

        Not even Will Smith – who is incredibly charming and rich – is quite open about being poly.

  13. Llellayena*

    I’d suggest talking about them no differently than you would an “only” partner, though maybe by name rather than “boyfriend/girlfriend.” But I’m not going to discount being a little more discreet if you don’t want to deal with judging. There’s a great storyline on this topic on SWAT right now. The character just introduced her partners to the rest of the team together and there’s some related pushback. The build up of the relationship and the “out-ness” of it is also fairly well done, if Hollywood-quick. Not sure if it would help, but it might give you a range of reactions to expect.

    1. Jennifer M*

      Except they are clearly laying the ground work for her to get together with Street because main credit characters have to date each other and the only way to create drama is inter-office dating. And CBS skews old.

      1. Jennifer M*

        My point being, they are going to sell out the polyamory story line in favor of two coworkers dating.

        1. Llellayena*

          I don’t dispute that, though I’d love to see them just get back to the close friendship. But the arc of the polyamory relationship and the reactions of the people around her is reasonably well done.

  14. ANON*

    I think your decision should be at least partly informed by logistics around your work events that have a social component and how much socializing you do/intend to do with people at work who you’re not particularly close to. Are there work events where you are expected/invited to bring spouses or significant others? Would you like to bring one or both of your partners? How about hanging out with coworkers, especially in larger groups where you don’t know everyone well? If you’re in a very social workplace these issues will definitely come up, whereas if they aren’t a factor for you you have more room to make a decision based more on your personal feelings. Not that you can’t in this case, but it’s likely to be more problematic/awkward for you, and if you decide not to be out about your relationship you’ll need to figure out what you’re going to say to the inevitable questions and comments as to why you’re not bringing someone to the holiday party and how is a great person like you still unattached etc etc

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      This is the most balanced comment I have seen yet in this thread. Thanks, ANON.

  15. MuseumChick*

    I wish I could tell you to go forward and be as out any other other monogamous person would be at work. But people can be really weird about stuff like this. You also should be have to give these people a inaccurate title like “friends” but as mentioned about referring to them as your roommates could be the safest/easiest option.

    Another option would be to do a “soft” outing. If you have a couple of people you are friendly with start with them and work your way up to more people. Eventually, after enough people know (in an office of 20 it would take much) word will get around. And if anyone is weird about you can always fall back “You are correct about my relationship status, however I really dislike discussing super personal things at work. I’m sure you understand!” in an upbeat tone.

    1. MuseumChick*

      That should read: “You should not have to give these people inaccurate titles…”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is where I fall as well. Especially considering the current political climate. OP needs to do whatever makes her feel most comfortable and safe.

    3. Nerd Boss*

      I am poly and queer and I agree with with the soft outing idea. I am pretty openly out as a queer person at work but not so much the poly part. Telling just a couple coworkers who I knew would be cool about it worked well for me – just a casual mention about going on a date, not a big declaration or anything. I imagine more people now know but no one has asked me anything about it really. Most of my office mates have met my husband so they often don’t assume I might be dating additional people though

  16. Guy Incognito*

    My partners and I are poly, and I can’t be out due to what two of the three of us do for a living. We’re vague – no one at work needs to know 100% what you’re up to. “I’m visiting a friend” “we’re hanging out” etc. Quite frankly, no one at work needs to know any of your business. The old Futurama joke: “You didn’t know I had a wife, and my wife didn’t know I had a job, I keep my lives separate.”

    Now there are a few people who DO know, but those are closer friendships who might ask why I have close pictures with one person and close with another. It’s always good to be able to tell some people to help get rid of the stigma around poly relationships, since the main time you hear about them is when they go wrong.

    But only you can gauge that. Be honest, but you don’t owe anyone any type of explanation of your life.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      When you say someone asked you why you have close pictures with more than one person, did they mean pictures where you were physically close to another person? That seems like a weird question, most if not all of the pictures I take I happen to by physically close with the person in the picture be they a partner, sibling, parent, friend, other relative. Or do you mean they asked who are these two/three/four people you have individual photos of on your desk?

      1. Calling Brits*

        I don’t have pictures in the office, but in the photos of me & my “secondary” boyfriend together its 100% clear we have a relationship. We’re not posed in a way I wouldn’t do with friends, but the looks on our faces are an absolute give away

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          That makes sense, now that I think about it, I do have some pictures of me and my partner in more intimate poses that are clear they are a significant otter. My first read through it seemed that the coworker was implying that if you weren’t in a relationship with someone you should maintain at least 12 inches of separation in photos.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Haha don’t have a significant bear or otter just a significant other, nothing against bears and otters, but I do have a significant cat.

              1. Jadelyn*

                All cats are significant. At least that’s what they very firmly and vocally believe…

  17. Person from the Resume*

    I think your current plan is best. I think it unfortunate, but I’m not sure a traditional white collar office will be accepting enough not to at least make things awkward.

    So much depends on the people in your office and what you are willing to deal with. Will there be anti-poly preachy people? Will there be people asking intrusive “just curious” questions?

    Roommate and close friends allow you to talk about your life and interactions with your paramours without lying. You only have to leave it the romantic stuff and depth of feelings which you might not normally share anyway.

  18. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I’m curious how the LW currently refers to their partners prior to move-in? Or is this going to be even more of an abrupt bit of news for colleagues, e.g. going from not hearing anything at all about LW’s relationships to “By the by, I’m moving in with someone(s)!” [To me that would be the more surprising thing, in a “I didn’t even know you were seeing someone but now you are combining households!” aspect, but I’m very much in the “being polyamorous wouldn’t raise my eyebrows” camp if someone told met his about themselves.]

  19. Turanga Leela*

    If someone asks you if you’re married, it’s fine to say “I live with a couple.” You can have a photo of your partners if you like, but people will mostly just assume you’re friends.

    I think you’re right to tread lightly on this with everyone but your closest friends at work. You don’t need to have a coming-out party. But you also don’t need to lie. You can talk about where you went over the weekend and what you did; you can even mention “Tony” and “Maria” by name. Some people will think it’s a little weird, just like they might think it was weird if you had a much older partner, or you were having an arranged marriage, or anything else outside their experience. That’s ok. They’ll get used to it.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      I bow down before your username!!! I just saw Turangalila performed a few days ago, and it was amazing!!

  20. Kitty Cathleen*

    Poly person here. For context, I work in a fairly conservative industry (insurance) in a fairly conservative place (a state that’s blue because of a big city, but is pretty red where I am). Personally, I’d describe myself as “casually out”. I basically don’t explain anything. Right now I’m only seeing one person, but when dating two people in the past, I’d usually just describe my partners as “good friends”. I was explicitly out to a few people, but I really found that being out or not doesn’t have a ton of bearing on my day-to-day office life. Does it sometimes feel inauthentic? Sure. But I’m also generally being inauthentic when I tell a client who called to bitch about something that’s not my fault that I was “grateful for the opportunity to provide service to them”, you know?

    When it comes to events and stuff, I’d usually bring one of my two partners and again, just…not offer a ton of explanation. “This is Charlotte, she works at (place). Weren’t you in that industry before you came here, Devon?” I found starting a conversation about something other than what my relationship to my partner is usually avoided any questions.

    So basically your strategy of “refer to them as my “good friends” to anyone who asks, and let people read between the lines”. It works pretty well for me.

    1. Eeyore's missing tail*

      Does it sometimes feel inauthentic? Sure. But I’m also generally being inauthentic when I tell a client who called to bitch about something that’s not my fault that I was “grateful for the opportunity to provide service to them”, you know?
      Beautifully written!

    2. Troutwaxer*

      “I’m moving in with my good friends Cameron and Leslie.”
      “My friends and I went to the movies.”
      “Last weekend I hung out at home with my friends.”
      “I helped my good friends clean the garage.”
      You’re right, that works really well.

  21. Anonymously anon*

    OP, I think your plan to refer to them as good friends is a solid plan. If that’s how you’re comfortable referring to them, and your partners don’t feel slighted by it, I think it works. People will either make the connection eventually, or they won’t. On the off-chance that the relationship goes south (not trying to be a Debbie Downer here, just pragmatic) then you won’t have to deal with any anti-poly comments that may have otherwise been made.

  22. Jennifer Juniper*

    Don’t tell the office you’re poly! That’s way, way, way too much TMI. Trust me, your coworkers will thank you for it.

      1. SignalLost*

        People think about all the icky, icky things you do when you have more than one partner and that makes them uncomfortable. This has come up before on this site. Apparently, being out as poly means you’re oversharing about your sex life!

        1. Grayson*

          *squints* People are weird, and often times more hung up on their own puritanical rubbish than they should be. Just let me date the humans I want, and I’ll share cute photos of us at concerts, or dance parties, or hiking. Keep your overreacting snout of of my bed linens and I’ll be good.

          P.S. @SignalLost I definitely caught on to your sarcasm, and am just playing along.

      2. Positive Reframer*

        Pardon the analogy but it could be seen as “TMI” in the same sense that makes us use generalisms for many health complaints. I wouldn’t say I had explosive diarrhea I would say my stomach feels off or I’m having tummy trouble or whatever.

        If you know that your hearer’s mind is likely to go to an explicit place or to conger up mental images then its…impolite?

        1. TechWorker*

          Er, what? This is a really bizarre comparison. If your mind goes to an explicit place at the mention of polyamory that’s on you…

          When someone says ‘I have a husband’ do you go ‘OMG TMI they might have s e x’? Cos that’s about the equivalent level we’re talking here…

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, no. Please realize that you are saying here “mentioning the people you love is equivalent to mentioning something as gross/inappropriate as explosive diarrhea.”

          I am sure you didn’t mean to do that, but I think you’ve got to examine the thoughts underlying this comment!

          1. Positive Reframer*

            Saying you are polyamorous is WAY different then saying you and your partners went to the movies. That’s precisely the point being made. In one you are emphasizing, as you said, the love relationship in the other your sexual preferences.

            Original comment in thread “Don’t tell you’re office you’re poly. That’s TMI.” > “What’s TMI about it?”> Choosing to use poly chooses to emphasis 1. how you are different 2. your sexual identity (if it was independent of sexual expression it wouldn’t be relevant in the least, its nothing special to love “amore” many “poly”). So we go back to my imperfect illustration of choosing what words you use to describe something that can reasonably be assumed to bring to mind certain mental pictures in unwelcome contexts.

            1. Heina*

              “your sexual identity (if it was independent of sexual expression it wouldn’t be relevant in the least, its nothing special to love “amore” many “poly”)”

              A lot of asexual and/or celibate people are also polyamorous, for the record.

              Why is saying that you have more than one partner more inherently sexually suggestive than saying you have one?

            2. Myrin*

              Saying you are polyamorous is WAY different then saying you and your partners went to the movies.

              That’s… literally the same thing. It seems like you are attributing some kind of verbal magic to the word “polyamourous” which immediately conjures up a sexual image in the listener’s mind, whereas simply mentioning your multiple partners somehow doesn’t? In which case, I’d honestly say that you seem to be a bit of an outlier in that.

            3. JunieB*

              Would you be bothered by a coworker telling you that they are pregnant? After all, that information strongly implies they are sexually active, therefore giving you unnecessary information about their sex life.

              When the only sexual information in the conversation is the information you extrapolated, the person sharing has done nothing wrong.

          2. Privately Poly*

            Thank you Alison.

            How depressing. What an awful analogy, that we’re like explosive sh1t for just dating multiple people. Here’s the closet.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Someone’s tendency to conflate a comment like “my boyfriend and our girlfriend went to the movies” with “EXPLICIT THREESOME PORN MENTAL IMAGES” is, to put it mildly, not my damn problem. This is exactly the same thing as saying “If you might be talking to a homophobe who thinks gay relationships are only about sex, talking about having a same-sex spouse is impolite because their mind is likely to go to an explicit place.”

          1. Positive Reframer*

            Actually, how other’s perceive your language IS your problem, if you are having a conversation with them. That’s how interpersonal communication works. But I digress.

            You are actually arguing a different point than what I was referring to. Poly and diarrhea would be analogues in the admittedly poor example whereas “my boyfriend and our girlfriend” would be “tummy trouble.”

            1. Signe*

              I’m very confused. Saying “I’m polyamorous” is exactly the same as mentioning your multiple partners – that’s what polyamorous IS, it’s having multiple partners. So how is saying “my boyfriend and our girlfriend” the equivalent of “tummy troubles” and “I’m poly” isn’t?

            2. Blue Anne*

              You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what “polyamorous” means. Are you thinking of swingers?

        4. JSPA*

          Polyamory isn’t a fancy term for threesome, dog-pile, etc. Now, maybe you have encountered the term in….prurient materials… where it is used that way. But just as a maid who is french has nothing to do with a p0rn “French Maid”–ditto poolboy, ditto the p0rn “Lesbo,” the “hot polyamory” section isn’t a reasonable depiction (much less a definition) of polyamory.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Could you elaborate on this? I wouldn’t care at all if my co-worker was dating more than one person. I just don’t see how it would be TMI.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Please explain how saying that she’s poly is any different from you bring perfectly happy with the world knowing you’re in a monogamous relationship.

      If it’s not TMI to proclaim you’re monogamous; it should not be TMI for the LW to say she’s not.

      1. nonegiven*

        How often do people come out and say, “we’re monogamous?” They say, “this is my spouse.”

    3. De-Archivist*

      Yeaaah, so the reason that people don’t come out at work is so their coworkers don’t make them uncomfortable or harass them, not so the poly/queer/trans/etc. person doesn’t make their coworkers uncomfortable. We are not responsible for protecting people’s feelings against our mere existence.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Thank you! I’m assuming most people would do just that if they find out their coworkers are polyamorous.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I meant harass them by propositioning them, asking intrusive questions about their sex life, offering to pray for their salvation, gossip about them (“Gee, her husband is a lucky man to have two women!”) and the like.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            And if they are concerned enough about these things to want to avoid them at the cost of being able to speak about their life in the same casual way everyone else does at work (“my partners and I went to see the new Avengers movie this weekend,”) or ask for FMLA leave when one of their partners is critically ill, or bring their family to the office party, that’s totally fine and their business. But if they would rather be open about it, that’s *also* totally fine and their business, and shouting, “NOOOOOO, don’t do that!! That’s TMI!” does not help anyone with anything. It only demonstrates to them that *you* are one of the people to avoid because you think their relationship is Icky.

    4. Kitty Cathleen*

      Telling you coworkers about your sex life is TMI. In any place I’ve worked, telling coworkers about your relationship *status* isn’t TMI.

      1. npoworker*

        Polyamorous is a relationship status, in a sense, and is definitely more than just someone’s “sex life”

        1. Kitty Cathleen*

          Basically I was trying to say that talking about being poly isn’t inherently the same as talking about your sex life – talking about a relationship isn’t the same as discussing your sex life, no matter how many people you may be in a relationship with.

    5. Murphy*

      I disagree. We’re just talking about basic relationship status so OP doesn’t have to dance around the issue and can just say “My partners and I are going to the llama grooming festival this weekend!”

    6. KindaPolyMouse*

      I think you must not understand what polyamory actually is if you are saying it is TMI.

      If I’m married or in a serious long term relationship, I’m not going to hide it from my office. My boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse would come up in casual conversation (e.g. “My boyfriend and I are taking a trip to Hawaii next summer!”), be invited to work parties that included spouses, etc.

      If someone has more than one serious relationship, it’s exactly the same. It’s not TMI to say “My boyfriend and girlfriend and I are taking a trip to Hawaii next summer!” It’s not somehow more personal, or inherently sexual, or any of the other things that would make the information TMI.

      Any advice to the OP regarding coming out at work should be about the potential consequences for the OP based on potential discrimination etc.

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d disagree it’s TMI. (Cis-het in monogamous relationship here though, so I’m no expert on subject.)

      TMI is discussing what you do together in intimate moments or insisting coworkers use specific names for your partners.

      Normal conversation is talking about them the same way that I’d talk about my other half.

      With huge caveat that it depends on person’s comfort level and how safe they feel at work with coworkers having that information – but the relevant part is the feelings of *THE PERSON* sharing the information, not the rest of the staff, when it is by no means TMI to know someone is in a differently shaped relationship to you.

    8. iglwif*

      In what way is it TMI? LW isn’t talking about regaling coworkers with details of her sex life, here.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, I don’t want to hear that from any coworkers, no matter the relationship status.

    9. CheeryO*

      So I know this is not a good response, but it kind of also demonstrates why you might want to keep it somewhat on the DL at work, at least if you’re not comfortable with a little bit of prying and/or judgment. Some people are going to immediately jump to the implications for your sex life, whether that’s fair or not.

    10. SometimesALurker*

      Okay, Jennifer Juniper, as long as you never tell your workplaces about your relationships, either.

    11. StressedButOkay*

      Hard disagree here. A person mentioning that they’re going out for drinks with their partners is no more sexual or TMI than a person mentioning that they’re going out for drinks with their one partner. OP isn’t talking about putting their bedroom antics on blast – they’re talking about the kinds of social chatter that gets taken for granted by people who are straight/aren’t in a polyamorous relationship.

      This is probably one of the (many) reasons people hesitate to come out. Saying “I’m grabbing drinks with my partners” isn’t sexual in and of itself – your mind immediately turned it into something “TMI”. And, I’m sorry, but that’s not TMI if I can say the same exact thing about my boyfriend and myself and no one thinks anything of it.

    12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is exactly the same as “don’t tell the office you’re gay, they’ll get mental images and oh my goodness it’s so uncomfortable!”

      Nobody should speak about their sex life at work but relationship status is just standard information.

      You know some people are in relationships and never have sex right? Yeah that’s a thing. Assume that’s the case if you really can’t get over the idea.

    13. Czhorat*

      This is why it’s an issue.

      I’m a cisgender male in a monogamous marriage to a woman. I get to keep a photo of my family on my desk, chat with co-workers about the things we did with out kids over the weekend. It isn’t “TMI” for them to know the very broad structure of my family life. Of who I am outside the office.

      This is a form of privilege we can easily take for granted. I wish OP could comfortably act like wise.

    14. Jennifer Juniper*

      I was polyamorous in a previous marriage. I never was inclined to share that with my nosy and intrusive coworkers, so that’s why I said it would be TMI. I’m assuming most people, at least in the US, would freak out hard if they found out a coworker was polyamorous – especially if it was with a man and a woman. People have fantasies about that all the time, especially one man and two women, and that would almost certainly damage the OP’s professional reputation. Double if the OP is a woman.

      1. Lore*

        So you’re saying no one has fantasies about one man and one woman having sex and that’s why it’s acceptable to talk about your monogamous spouse? That makes no sense.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          You’re right. Unfortunately, most Americans (I’m assuming the OP is in the US) either don’t know what polyamory is (which can generate an entirely different set of nosy questions) or think of it in prurient terms. That’s why I never shared my poly status at previous jobs.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        That was YOUR choice. It’s not something you get to decide on behalf of everybody else.

  23. Lizzy May*

    When I worked at a bank (so fairly traditional) I had a coworker who was polyam. She was open about her life. I knew she had two partners and when one of them was pregnant I knew the general progress and saw the baby pictures after the fact. There was one jerk who made some comments early on, but my polyam coworker was so matter of fact about her life and everyone else shut down their rudeness that it was dropped instantly.

    1. Shoes On My Cat*

      It’s good to work with a group of people who use peer pressure for good! Nice!

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        My favorite way of accomplishing this is the quiet phrase, “We don’t do that here.” It is really useful for shutting assholes down, without making a scene.

  24. Flower*

    Someone in my department is poly and lives with their partner and his spouse (and the kids of partner and spouse). In any conversation about outside-work life, it comes up. events to go to for the kids. I asked her what she was doing for Christmas the answer was Christmas Eve with partner’s spouse’s grandmother and Christmas day with partner’s parents. It’s up to you if you want to be out, and I hope that if you decide to be out everyone will be accepting. But it really does come up in the littlest ways.

    1. Flower*

      Oops I was editing this to anonymize a little further by eliminating gender markers and accidentally submitted. Luckily I think it’s pretty anonymous to begin with.

  25. Ann*

    You know, if each member of the relationship was unmarried, I would say you should be open but expect some judgment (because being poly is not commonly understood or accepted in our society). But I think the fact that they’re a married couple makes it a big trickier, and I could see a lot more judgment and hostility coming from that aspect. Most people do not understand/accept polyamory, and a lot of people may associate it with infidelity or homewrecking, especially when it includes a married couple.

    1. sub rosa for this*

      Eh, I don’t think it should make that much of a difference whether the couple is married or not – especially in a work context; unless one of your co-workers also knows Frank and knows he is married to Jill, there shouldn’t be any difference in how it is perceived.

      1. Batgirl*

        It shouldn’t, but it will matter to some people. Especially as a woman, she’ll either get patronising concern about being used by a married couple or accused of helping a married man pressure his wife. However, I don’t see why OP would even need to talk about her partners’ relationship with each other though. It’s being able to talk about them as they relate to her which will matter the most.

    2. Turtlewings*

      In general, I agree. In this particular arrangement — a single person dating both the married people — I think that’s going to be less of a big deal than, say, one of the spouses trying to explain that they’re married but also seeing someone else. Some people would *really* be unable to separate that from “cheating on spouse.”

      1. Ann*

        I guess I would have a hard time not seeing it as a young single woman being used by a married couple. It doesnt seem like a balanced dynamic when they have the benefits of marriage and she doesn’t. It would probably influence how I see my coworker, even if I try hard to be respectful of polyamorous relationships.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Then, forgive my bluntness, but you need to try harder to be respectful of polyamorous relationships. If you’re not in the relationship, you’re not privy to the dynamics of it, and I would strongly not appreciate a coworker thinking less of me (or pitying me, or being concerned for me, or whatever) because of assumptions that *they* are making about my relationship based on absolutely zero real information.

          1. Ann*

            No, I really dont. I come from a culture where this kind of relationship setup is less uncommon than you’ve probably been exposed to. And the majority of the time it does involve either married men taking advantage of young single women, or pressuring their wives into accepting these kinds of arrangements.

            It seems pretty clear what the dynamics of the relationship are. One married couple and one single person who is not receiving the benefits of the marriage. I would try my best to understand my coworker’s perspective, but we dont live in a perfect vacuum where things like power dynamics and abuse don’t influence these types of setups, and I’m not going to pretend that won’t influence my perception of the situation.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              You assume that the ‘young single person’ *wants* ‘the benefits of marriage.’ If that’s commonly true in your culture, then I can see why it would be a problem, but in your shoes I would at least try to consider that this is not always the case in other cultures.

  26. Brienne the Blue*

    How often does it ACTUALLY come up that people need to know the particulars of who lives in your house, who’s in the framed photo on your desk, who’s sleeping in your bed, and why? Y’all work with some nosy people. Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you the marital/dating status of all of my immediate coworkers. We occasionally make small talk about our weekend plans or prestige television but generally speaking, I haven’t worked anyplace that encouraged deep dives into personal lives since my early 20s. I’ve occasionally volunteered that my kid said something funny and it feels like oversharing.

    That said, I think how you frame this absolutely depends on where you live and the culture of your office. If you’re in an urban area with a vibrant LGBTQ community, I think “I just moved in with my partners” plays differently from how it plays if you live in the bible belt. But either way, I would just wait until it comes up organically, answer questions honestly where you’re comfortable, and trust that when you talk to your coworkers they’d rather know how that PowerPoint is coming or what you thought of the last set of mock-ups.

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      I work in a really friendly and social department. We all cheerfully talk about weekend plans and our lives and goings on. A couple people on our team are a little more reserved, and we don’t push them to share more, but I know a lot about my coworkers. It’s still a really professional and respectful place, but there’s a lot of life-detail-sharing. LW could work in a place like mine.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Yes same here I work in a small office and we are pretty friendly. I know most of the relationship statuses of my coworkers have met most of the partners. I have one coworker who is more reserved about their dating life, and we don’t press them but even they will occasional share that they were on a date doing this or that. This same coworker will share info about her family mother/father/siblings. I know some basic info about coworkers spouses, what they do, some hobbies etc… Again being a more private person is everyone right, but my sense is OP wants to be able to share that they went to the movies last night with her two partners.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      A lot of places expect you to bring a partner to events (Christmas parties, etc.) or are in small enough areas that they’ll see you out and around (assuming you ever go out on dates) and lots of offices do just plain talk more about their lives.

    3. Jadelyn*

      I mean, I think that’s pretty dependent on the office culture. I’m in a department of 7 people. Of those, all but one of us are seriously partnered (married or long-term partnership). I’m one of the partnered ones. Of my 5 married coworkers, I know 4 of the 5 spouses’ names, have met 3 of them, have socialized with them and their kids a few times, etc. That’s just the culture here – people tend to share a fair bit. (The fact that I’m poly did come up once, early on, and there was a brief burst of curiosity simply because I was the first openly poly person most of them had met, but the interest quickly died down and nobody remarks on it anymore.)

    4. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

      I do not work in an over sharing department at all, I would say we have fairly strong boundaries. Yet I still know:
      my cubemate’s girlfriend has a full size bed (a pet takes up a significant amount of room, NOT TMI discussion)
      My boss’s kids are of dating age
      My coworker lives in a house with 5 roommates

      A former coworker also remembered my pet’s names, my spouse’s and parents’ occupations, and the city where my sibling lives. When I list it out it does seem like a lot of inappropriate discussions but this is just what happens when you have talk about your life with the people around you.

    5. Sorin*

      I haven’t gone asking or anything, but I know the relationship status of most of my coworkers.

      “I’m leaving early for my kid’s school function” isn’t uncommon to hear. And there’s the occasional work holiday party that welcomes family.

      1. Sorin*

        I should have said “team members” not coworkers, god knows I don’t even know the names of most of my coworkers.

  27. MsClaw*

    I think saying you live with your ‘good friends, Bob and Sue’ or whatever sounds fine. Once you’ve worked there a while you can gauge how much you do or don’t want to say. People will certainly notice if you’re talking a lot about things all three of you did together on the weekend or that vacation you all took together last winter and some will read between the lines even if you’re not explicit. And it’s certainly the case that you might have a very pearl-clutchy colleague who will think your arrangement is scandalous.

    But honestly, my guess is most of your coworkers…. won’t care. I mean that not in the sense of not being bothered by polyamory, but just that generally people really over estimate how much casual acquaintances care about the specific details of their personal business.

  28. Mockingdragon*

    I’m in a weird one where my boyfriend and his wife have an open marriage, but I’m only dating him and don’t identify as polyamorous. And it’s STILL heckin awkward. I’ve generally landed on talking about my boyfriend and my housemates, and maybe some people sometimes notice the cats belong to both sets. But I guess I prefer that awkwardness to the one where I try to never say “boyfriend”? It’s so personal a trade-off. Do you feel like you’re hiding your girlfriend if you never mention her as such? Does it come up frequently, or just every so often?

    I did try to explain the situation in past jobs, and that variety of awkward ended up not being worth it, for me. I don’t want to talk about my relationship a lot, just casually mention “I got my boyfriend tickets to see this concert” rather than “I got my bo-best friend”. When I did try to explain that he was married but she knows about me and everything’s fine and no one is cheating, it immediately got more personal than I was comfortable with. So….*shrug?*

    1. Mimi Me*

      My 14 year old came out as Bi last year. During a celebratory restaurant dinner for some family event, my sister started grilling my daughter in a way that was very uncomfortable. (How did you know? What makes you think this? Do you have a gf or bf now? Etc, etc). Subject changes didn’t work and I had to step in and shut it down in a pretty aggressive way.
      That’s how I see most workplaces handling the news. There will be one or two people who understand and respect that the LW’s poly, but there will be a few who will be aggressively curious and want details of “how it works”.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          Hence my recommendations to not come out upthread – at least until poly goes more mainstream. I was poly in a previous marriage, to put this in some content.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I understand your concerns, but I think you jumped WAY too quickly from “There may be a few people who ask annoying questions” or the like to “It will be terrible! Awful!! Horrible!!! Don’t do it!! Please believe me, your co-workers will thank you!”

            Annoying questions happen. Some people mind them more than others. If the LW really wants to avoid them as much as *you* would want to avoid them, then she can certainly choose to use the nonspecific language already offered… either referring to them as ‘housemates’ or ‘chosen family’ or whatever. But she’s the one who gets to decide whether and how much it might bother her to get this kind of questioning, not you. A lot of people just don’t give a damn, and are perfectly content to stare down assholes and ask, with freezing dignity, why they feel the need to know.

            1. Privately Poly*

              A big benefit for me of AAM was learning scripts to graciously and professionally set boundaries at work.

    2. RebeccaNoraBunch*

      I was reading through this thread specifically because I’m in a somewhat similar space – my boyfriend is poly but I am not. He has a couple other partners but refers to me only as his girlfriend; he’s the only person I am dating and I am the only monogamous person he is dating. We’re in a very new relationship and I have never been in this situation before. This weekend we agreed to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend to the “rest of the world” because it takes too long to explain and it’s really no one’s business anyway.

      @Mockingdragon, I’d be really interested to talk to you more about how you handle this dynamic (but don’t want to derail the thread!). I really like my boyfriend a lot and want to be able to be with him long-term, but it’s definitely new territory for me.

      1. Mockingdragon*

        I’m also Mockingdragon on gmail if you want to reach out, but I’m probably not very helpful! This is my first and only serious relationship so I have little to compare to, and it’s a very small circle (he has the two of us, and she has an on/off guy). On the other hand, it’s been like 12 years for him and me and it’s still working =3

    3. Mockingdragon*

      On thinking longer I wanted to add – the downside to talking about my boyfriend without mentioning that he’s poly-and-married comes in people who are trying to make innocuous conversation and just don’t know. I’ll answer honestly that we’ve been together over 10 years, and sometimes people will ask about marriage. I’ll say it’s not on the table and try to play it off, but like…please don’t ask me WHY, which some people have done. I’m currently living with them on a long-term temporary arrangement, with the idea that when I get my career back off the ground I can move into my own place again. I’ve mentioned that occasionally and some people have been very confused as to why I’d want to move OUT from my boyfriend’s house. These are the reasons it’s tempting to just pretend I don’t have a boyfriend at all.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        “We’ve decided that’s not something we’re interested in,” tends to shut down that kind of question about marriage, especially when it’s followed up (for idiots who don’t recognize a boundary when one is shoved in their face) with, “It’s just not our thing.” Vagueness is your friend, if you’re trying to avoid passing out details. Me, I’m content telling the world the facts if they’re asking; but that’s me… and I’m pushing fifty and have run out of fucks to give.

    4. RS*

      This hits home for me! I’m also dating a guy who is in an open marriage – I’m a mono in a poly-Fidelitous relationship. He and I have been together for about 3 years, and she dates around sometimes. He’s totally committed to me being his partner as equally as his wife is, and it works well for us. I work in a very liberal office, but I wouldn’t say I’m “out” about my relationship. I tell people that I am comfortable with, that I think will take it well and not freak out. So far so good – if anyone is judging me, at least they are doing it silently! XD I never told my previous boss, but I did tell my new one. I just take it on a person-by-person basis.
      It was hard in the beginning of our relationship with so much uncertainty but I’m at ease now. No one wants kids, no one is freaking out about the future, it’s going well!

  29. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I could be wrong, but my understanding is that polyamory is not in a protected class. You could get fired just for that. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    1. De-Archivist*

      True, but being LGBT+ isn’t a federally protected class either and isn’t in most states (including mine).

    2. KindaPolyMouse*

      This is definitely correct. It is not protected in any way and you can absolutely get fired for being polyamorous.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s not protected and in some states, it’s something that will get you fired [looking at you, Utah].

      As a reality-tv junkie and general terrible person [kidding of course], I have watched just about all of Sister Wives so yeah, that’s a thing but it’s really a Utah/LDS thing given their history.

    4. Holly*

      Yes. It depends how state protections are worded, but even in states that protect sexual orientation, polyamory has not been considered a sexual orientation but rather a relational form.

    5. Jadelyn*

      Some states protect “family status”, not sure if that could be interpreted – or ever has been – as including nontraditional family structures.

    6. Working Hypothesis*

      It is not in a protected class federally, or in most states. In a few states, ‘family status’ is a protected class, but that is rare.

      It is also rare that someone will get fired for it, especially if they don’t work for an explicitly religious institution. It is possible, but very uncommon, just as it is possible (and equally legal) to get fired just for being gay, but very uncommon. Most businesses don’t give a damn about your personal life; if you’re good enough at your job that they’d want you if you were monogamous, then you’re good enough at your job for them to want you, period.

  30. Anal-yst*

    FWIW: I’m in a red state, and a more conservative colleague has a daughter in a polyamorous relationship. She was both up front about it and tolerant though noticeably disparaging. I’m an earthy crunchy type so her reaction (and the fact that I know her, not her daughter) was much more noteworthy than this random Fun Fact.

    I don’t believe “should” is as much a factor as, If you want people at your office to know, let them know. Just go forth with the knowledge that to some people, it will be novel or they’ll react like my colleague.

    1. That Redshirt.*

      One of my coworkers is polyamourous. Where I work, this is genuinely an accepted (and not particularly interesting) aspect of their life. The coworker just talked about their spouses in normal conversation. Though my workplace is the organization equivalent of Giant Sparkly Rainbow with Unicorns type place. So, the OP knowing their culture is a big factor to consider in how they approach this.

  31. Mimi Me*

    I wouldn’t tell the office I was poly, but I would put photographs up. Honestly, unless the photo you’re planning on displaying shows you in some sort of torrid embrace (unlikely) then a framed photo of yourself with two other people isn’t going to raise any questions. If asked about who they are “Oh those are the people I live with – Jane and John.”

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I don’t know how you define torrid embrace, but I am not big on pictures in the office but the one picture I have of my spouse they are embracing me in a slightly more intimate way than a friend or family member would. The picture was from an engagement photo shoot. The reason I even have the picture is because it was a leftover wedding decoration, prior to this I did not have any pictures. So if OP is inclined they should be able to have intimate pictures of both partners.

      1. Mimi Me*

        Honestly there’s a photo, taken at my wedding, of several of my female cousin-in-laws engaged in an embrace that involved tongues (not kissing), groping hands, and a very visible ass grab. That was the image that had gone through my head when I wrote “torrid embrace”. It’s a photo that would generate a lot of questions were it displayed.

  32. animaniactoo*

    I think this is a thought exercise for you. Because people here can give you their experiences all day long, but they can only give you some frame of reference. At the end of the day, this is about you and how you believe you will feel when faced with various comments and circumstances.

    So… towards that, I would try and figure out all the positive and negative responses – verbal and non-verbal that you think you might encounter, and figure out how you would choose to deal with those. What’s in keeping with who you are and feel comfortable enforcing? What’s in keeping with being who you are and having it be okay to be that (meaning, whatever that is – polyamorous, private, extroverted, artistic, really into Looney Tunes cartoons, etc.), and needing to set those boundaries for yourself?

    Really think through the idea of whether or not you can participate in conversations about what you did this weekend being “I went out to dinner with my partners, we tried out that new Ethiopian restaurant.” or “My partner’s sister is getting married and I’m going to her shower.” or some such. Can you say that information if you’re only referring to them as your “good friends”? How would you say it? Would you feel comfortable NOT being able to share it?

    Taking stock of other people’s experiences here and exploring all of that for yourself will probably get you the best risk assessment that you can create for making this choice for yourself. Asking your friends – particularly those who are in more traditional careers – to help you sort through it and game play scenarios would be really useful towards that. They’re likely to think of things that you haven’t, and have enough knowledge of you to say “Is that what you’d really want to say in that situation? Do you think you can pull off doing that? I’m not sure you could keep a lid on your instinct to [x]. Maybe something else would work better here. How does [Y] sound to you?”

    Good luck, and I fervently hope for the day when this isn’t even a question that has to be considered. Congrats on finding partners who make you happy.

    1. Risha*

      ^ Totally agreed. This is excellent advice, and is really useful for all sorts of potentially delicate personal situations, not just polyam relationships.

  33. DKMA*

    I’m struggling with this one because this shouldn’t matter at all in a work context, but I know there is a possibility people will get weird and that will become your problem. So my advice:

    1) Don’t advertise, there is no need to proactively tell anyone anything. It’s literally not their business.
    2) Don’t lie, that feels like a recipe for problems down the road and and again it’s not people’s business so they have no right to specific enough information that would require you to lie.
    3) Be vague. I like the recommendation of just using first names. If explicitly asked or pushed by (rude) people, I’d something like “oh I live with Jim and Pam” or “I have such a great relationship with the two of them” or “we own the house together”. If you need to use a title, I’d go with partner(s). Accurate, still enough room for ambiguity that you can gloss into the next conversation.
    4) Don’t tolerate harassment. People will figure it out, you have nothing to explain, almost all of them will follow your lead. If people don’t and get pushy have simple scripts like “I prefer not to talk about my personal life at work” and “you’re being very pushy on this, can we get back to work topic X”.

    1. Batgirl*

      I really like these ideas as it genuinely is no one’s business. My concern with 3, is that if OP said ‘Jim and I saw a film last night’ she’ll get asked ‘Oh is that your boyfriend?’ (she might get asked if Pam is her girlfriend too but the world is still very heteronormative). I think she needs to have an answer ready for that one and other direct questions.
      If she wants to continue with the vague option she could just rinse and repeat ‘Oh I live with both Jim and Pam and I’m lucky to live with people I consider family’.

  34. DarkWing*

    Depends on the office. You said it’s liberal leaning, in a big town, but it’s still very white collar. I might shy away from it myself.

    I’ve been out with my polyamory at some places, and not out with it others. I find that if there are fellow employees that are LGTBQ and are out and open, that makes accepting polyamory a little easier due to the fact that cishet lifestyles are not the only thing going in the office culture.

  35. AnonForThis*

    I’m recently single (by choice), but was in a mff polyam relationship for five years. I referred to them as “my boyfriend” and “my girlfriend.” If people assumed I meant “girl friend,” that’s on them. This kept me from outright lies – I am a terrible liar and have no poker face – while allowing me to discuss my personal life in the same way ish as everyone else.

    1. HerGirlFriday*

      I’ve done this before in liberal networking situations. It’s worked pretty well. My spouse and I currently have no live-in partners, but one of my boyfriends lives with us off and on. My spouse (cis male) is completely open at work, but I’m in a higher profile position than he is and have chosen more discretion.

    2. Yamikuronue*

      I think that trick only really works with female-female relationships; when a femme presenting person says “boyfriend” she almost never means “boy friend” in the same way “girlfriend” can be a friend that’s a girl or a lover that’s a girl.

  36. PM*

    The tricky part is whether you are comfortable presenting as a single person when you’re in a relationship. If people don’t really talk about personal stuff, it won’t be too hard. But if people talk about things like dating, it could be trickier.

  37. Polyamorous Reader*

    I’m polyamorous and fairly active in some polyamorous online communities. This “issue” is based on (literally) a couple of stray blog posts by one person. People have looked into it, and that really is all there is. There isn’t some mass movement of Polynesian people who are upset about this, and it’s still standard in the polyamorous community to use “poly” as a shorthand.

    Also, you know, homonyms are a common thing in the English language, people don’t get to own words.

      1. Polyamorous Reader*

        To be clear, I’m referring to the poly/polyam discussion above, not OP’s question!

    1. sub rosa for this*

      Yes, that’s my understanding too – that it’s some form of white-knighting that’s drowning out authentic conversations.

      I’m totally cool with a Polynesian person asking me to call them Poly or Islander or whatever they prefer. I’d be fine with a polyamorous person asking me to call them pol-am or polya or whatever they prefer. I’m a little dubious when the only people I hear it from are just repeating something they read online somewhere.

      Not to derail the OP’s question, though, which I think is super important – so apologies if I’ve overposted about this.

    2. Close Bracket*

      And then there’s the woodworking community …

      No, seriously, I was talking to someone about donating my left over wood finishing products to their theater group, and I kept referring to polyurathane as “poly,” which is a thing people do. He stopped me at some point and asked what I meant by poly. lol.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I used to be on a forum that censored out “poly” because it would trigger dating ads, some of which were pretty crass. But it was a blunt tool and also censored crafters talking about polyfill!

  38. Traveling Nerd*

    Hi! I’m a polyamorous (and bi) woman (an Engineering Manager) in a large city.

    I know that being in the computing industry, I am in a place of privilege – if I am unhappy at my company, there are a lot of other companies to go to. I try to use this privilege to be out in the workplace. If you have fewer opportunities or aren’t financially stable, this can be more risky!

    In the fight for LGBT acceptance, I think that one of the most powerful forces in changing people’s minds was showing them that being LGBT can be just as banal as being straight — we still have to do laundry, our partners leave dishes in the sink, and we pay the bills like any straight couple. I try to do the same with polyamory. I might also mention Google Calendar (because that’s the only way I can keep my romantic life organized!), but I try to keep it relatively boring. For example, when people are talking about their weekend, I might throw in a “me and my girlfriends went to see the symphony.”

    The biggest “hiccup” to this is the office holiday party — sometimes there will be only space for one person, when I have two long term dedicated partners. In this case, I just drop the person organizing it a note, saying something like “Hi! I couldn’t put both my partner’s names in the form because there was only space for one — please also add Jane Smith as my guest.” The key thing is to act like it’s not a big deal, and you’re not even asking for permission, just a matter of fact thing.

    Congratulations on your move!!

    1. Traveling Nerd*

      Oh, another thing — the more I’ve been out professionally, the more I discover that a surprising number of my coworkers are also in non-monogamous relationships, but most of them are a little scared to be out. You might find out that a surprising number of your coworkers are also in non-traditional relationships!

      1. she was a fast machine*

        definitely this! there’s a lot more “closeted” non-monogamous people out there than you’d think!

      2. Jadelyn*

        That too! I discovered my new coworker and officemate has some casual polyamory going on with his marriage because I mentioned some exes in passing and he realized I meant I’d dated those people at the same time. It turned into a great little bonding session.

    2. Kitty Cathleen*

      Google Calendar is one of the most important tools for making poly relationships successful, in my experience ;)

      1. Not Gary, Gareth*

        Co-sign! My partner has a joke that goes something like “I’m polyamorous – if you don’t know what that means, ‘poly’ is the Greek word for ‘many’ and ‘amorous’ I assume means ‘scheduling.'”

    3. Working Hypothesis*

      This has been exactly my experience. Casual, direct, and treat it as *of course* it is No Big Deal; and most people will follow your lead and regard it as No Big Deal. At worst, you may get a few questions… which you answer as No Big Deal either, and they get dropped after a short time.

      There are workplaces where you won’t get away with this. If I worked, for example, for a Catholic hospital, I would keep my mouth firmly shut about my partners. But most places, you can do a lot if you set the tone blithely and calmly, and make it clear what you expect of your colleagues. They’re likely to be more confused than anything else, which means that if you show them by your behavior how you expect them to react, they’ll be more than happy to follow your lead.

  39. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This is about your comfort level in the end.

    I had a former report mention in passing that she’s poly but not currently in any kind of relationship, etc. It was a natural conversation that it came up in and it didn’t change my opinion on her by any means, even as someone who is monogamous [this is by nature, I am not interested in anyone else, which others have told me is extremely odd and unsettling/unnatural to them, which lol-okay-thanks-for-your-feels-tho you know?] You always risk judgement by telling people anything about your personal life. Seriously even telling them you are happy being single and happily a “spinster”, you get the nonsense that many of us are all too aware of.

    This is about you. Your comfort. Your desire to share or keep it private. You do you and if someone has an issue, they probably already had one brewing underneath and they are just latching onto whatever nonsense they can find at that point, in my experience.

  40. NW Mossy*

    I can see why this is tricky – it’s tough to figure out a professional persona that feels authentic to who you are without crashing headlong into other people’s biases about what romantic relationships should look like.

    One thing I’d consider carefully before deciding what to do is your relationship with your boss, and especially how you see your boss handle issues of personal boundaries and autonomy. Does your boss cross boundaries with people in poking about in their personal lives, or does she keep things more at the “how was your weekend?” level? If she sees employees getting overly nosy-Parker about other people, does she intervene to cut off that behavior? Do you see evidence of her behaving in a tolerant way? Does she have a track record of supporting employees who have characteristics that might lead to them being marginalized or othered?

    If you trust your boss to continue to treat you as a competent professional worthy of respect after learning about your relationship status, that’s a strong positive sign that this is an environment where it’s safe for you to be out. If not, you may want to test the waters more slowly by only being out to a trusted colleague or speaking more obliquely about your partners at first.

  41. mark132*

    I don’t see why not, as long as you aren’t “oversharing” intimate details. (And of course this applies to every relationship discussion at work.)

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      And yet, somehow, nobody seems to feel the need to warn people against it when they are discussing strictly monogamous, heteronormative relationships. I wonder why?

        1. AnonForThisOne*

          It’s not said to all people in the same ways.

          If a monogamous person mentions their partner in casual and appropriate terms, they aren’t immediately cautioned not to share intimate details; there’s no assumption that they’ll be inappropriate simply as a function of their relationship structure. They might be warned off *after* being explicit, depending on the environment, but it’s just not something that anyone considers necessary in a precautionary sense.

          And maybe that’s because monogamous folks never have to wonder aloud if it’s ok to casually and appropriately mention their relationships in the first place! But as soon as a nonmonogamous person asks that question, or implies the structure of their relationships in the most casual and appropriate terms, the admonishment to keep it workplace appropriate is *immediate,* even when, as OP does here, the nonmonogamous person clearly signals and keep sense of appropriateness!

          If OP had been wondering if it would be ok to bring her very new boyfriend to a formal company social event or had written to ask how to tell her coworkers about her recent heterosexual** elopement, we wouldn’t have a comments section riddled with people reminding her to keep things unsexy. We don’t, when those questions come in. Because there’s no presumption that monogamous people inherently lack that sort of basic respect and self-control.

          (**I specify hetero here because this same unmerited presumption of inappropriateness is routinely made about LGBTQ+ folks, too.)

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Thank you, AnonForThisOne. You just said everything I would’ve said if I had seen this response first, and saved me having to.

            The bigotry isn’t in requiring that people (including those with nontraditional romantic configurations) maintain an appropriate level of discretion in what exactly they say about their families. The bigotry lies in unconsciously assuming that those with nontraditional romantic configurations will need to be told to do this, while not seeing any need to so warn those in traditional romantic configurations unless the individual in question shows evidence of not understanding the boundaries.

  42. new alias for this too*

    I was in a living situation like this for many years. We chose not to be explicit about the nature of the relationships to our co-workers in general, just privately to a few specific ones. It was still natural to talk about what I did at weekends or who I’d bring to the party, and after a while it didn’t feel as if it was a high-stakes secret either, because the parts I was talking about were true and ordinary. (“Took the kids to soccer, went to see my mum, planned our household’s summer vacation …”)

    Having a private breakup kind of sucked – gave the office receptionist my change of address and she said “Oh, that’s so NICE that you finally have your own place after all those years of living in someone else’s house with someone else’s family, you must be so excited.”

    In more recent years, I’ve been discovering over and over that not only are people in their 20s unphased by my r’ship history and already equipped with vocabulary for it, people my age often already know other polyamorous people. It’s not such a big deal any more.

    So nowadays it may be possible to be more matter-of-fact about relationship configuration in workplace contexts, without making co-workers feel as if you are talking inappropriately about your sex life. One clue I’d be looking for is how they treat the LGBTQ+ co-workers – do they ask about partner and kids in the same ways they ask everyone else?

    Also, talk to your partners about how risky it feels to each of you to be out/recognized in different situations, and how important it feels to each of you. Be sensitive to the fact that you may not all be at the same place about this – you don’t have to treat all your workplaces the same and you don’t have to treat all your relatives the same.

    1. new alias for this too*

      Oh yeah, another thing. By choosing not to be out about this particular relationship, I also ended up inadvertently sticking with a choice not to be out as other than straight. In contexts of mentoring young adults and modelling progressive behaviour, I probably would not have been hurt by being more out about my orientation and I probably would have made a difference for other people by being more out about that and doing some minor advocacy. But I had sort of backed into a situation of being seen as not-sexual (I don’t specifically mean asexual-as-orientation) and it felt as if coming out as bisexual would make people put some pieces together which we didn’t want them to assemble. So every time I wanted to call people at work on some uninformed or heterocentric comment, I had to wait for the internal editor to decide whether I could say it without outing myself/us, and then to figure out how to say it effectively without being out.

      One outcome of my breakup was signing up for the next Positive Space training at work so at least I was out-as-allied.

    2. Manders*

      This is a great perspective! I know no one likes to think about their relationships ending, but I do think it’s worth considering how you’ll feel if you go through a breakup. If your coworkers don’t know you’re poly, will their comments about your changing living situation hurt? If your coworkers do know you’re poly, are you worried that announcing a breakup will invite comment on polyamory not being sustainable? This is very much a “know yourself” and “know your office” situation.

      This isn’t relevant to LW’s situation, but on the subject of breakups, the only poly person I know who truly screwed up the polyamory at work discussion was someone who went through a very rapid cycle of new relationships and breakups and shared ALL the feelings and messy details with her coworkers. The polyamory wasn’t the problem, the way she behaved at work was the problem.

  43. Emily S.*

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to do anything that would potentially jeopardize my career prospects there or at any other position. Since a lot of people have certain prejudices (some of which might be deep-seated or even subconscious), the safest course of action would be not to tell anyone, even “work friends.”

    I understand this might feel wrong or like some kind of lie of omission, but it’s very important just to not have anyone thinking ill of you (even if you don’t have much/any respect for them). You just never know who might chatter about it to anyone higher-up, who might secretly (or not-secretly) be prejudiced against people like you. It stinks, it’s absolutely not fair, but that’s the reality, IMHO.

    As for the photo, I would go with “close friends” language. No need to make up any lies there, I would avoid a photo with any romantic affection going on at all, to be safe.

    All that said, I am fairly risk-averse, and this is just my humble opinion. The decision is yours to make, but do try your best to see it from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. You just can’t ever know what views people may have, even if they seem outwardly tolerant and kind.

  44. Dust Bunny*

    I know very, very, little about my coworkers’ personal lives. There’s nothing wrong with being poly (or gay, or monogamous, or anything else) but you’re also under no obligation to share more than you wish. How often does this kind of thing come up?

    I have a boyfriend and . . . maybe some of my coworkers know that. But he’s a lot older than I am. Older enough to raise eyebrows. So while I’m not ashamed of it–consenting adults and all–I don’t elaborate. Mostly because personal lives are not relevant at work, no matter where they fall on the conventional-to-unconventional continuum, but partly because it could lead to questions that I should not need to answer in this setting. So basically I’m lazy and I don’t feel like putting energy into defending something that should not need defending.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’m the same. I think it comes down to what you’re comfortable with. I’m in a relationship but it’s slightly unconventional (we’ve been together years but don’t even live in the same area, let alone in the same house) and there are definitely people who have found it very hard to understand on the occasions I’ve mentioned it in any detail. So with work and new acquaintances, I keep it very top level – I give a few details so as not to clam up altogether, but if anyone actually thought about it they’d realise I actually give away very little. Works for me.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        FWIW, a pair of my close friends have been together for more than forty years, and legally married for more than a decade of it, and have never lived together except for three months at the beginning. They figured out quickly that they loved each other but their living styles were totally different, and clashed horribly. So they had the sense to move out, took apartments down the block from each other, and then when one of them got a job offer in a different city, had apartments in different cities. They visit a lot. It works out great for them.

        There are a LOT of ways to be family.

  45. Detective Amy Santiago*

    BTW, OP, if you haven’t already, I would highly suggest you check out the podcast Han & Matt Know It All. They are a poly queer couple who answer a lot of these kind of questions :) There’s also an extremely active and kind FB group where you can get additional support.

  46. theletter*

    I have a very dear friend who just too curious for her own good. As I’ve gotten to know her I’m starting to see that her prying questions are actually a little bit more about control than making conversation. Which is tough, but I love her so I’ve finally learned kindly shut her down. I mean it usually takes two attempts and then a gentle newsflash from her husband but the rest of the friendship is worth it, I swear.

    This is the balance you have to find. There’s people who are going to be curious, perhaps because they are reflecting on their own needs, there’s people who like to make conversation, there’s people who genuinely care about you and will want to know that they should invite Bob AND Karen to the friends and family BBQ, and there’s people who will dig into deep, dark, really-not-should-be-discussed-at-all details just because you leave an opening for them to ask.

    Figure where your coworkers fit in this matrix, and figure out what your comfort level is in letting people into your personal life. Maybe even the closest of coworkers only get a smile and handshake at the Friends and Family BBQ, or maybe you don’t mind sharing with even the nosiest. Just remember that it’s your choice, and your own preferences for privacy and boundaries that you get to set.

    My mom taught me something recently: often when people ask you a question, it’s because they really wish someone would ask them the same question back. So if you get questions about who you live with that you don’t want to answer, turn the question back to the asker. You’ll find that most polite society love to talk about themselves, are not terribly interested in the intricacies of others, and just want to make sure everyone is getting to leave their best lives.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Just curious lol but what do you mean your friend is too curious for her own good and it is about control, because I am defiantly a question asker. With people I don’t know, asking questions is my form or creating conversation, I am not good at talking about myself, and have found people usually like to talk about themselves. But with friends and family I usually ask questions because I genuinely want to know more about topic A that they brought up now even though before that point I’ve never thought about topic A. Luckily my friends and family know that is how I am and have no problem telling me to shut up, but I would hate for some people to think I am trying to be controlling.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        You’re probably not asking *leading* questions, Cmdr. People probably think you’re just conversing. :)

  47. Akcipitrokulo*

    I’m wondering about the word “should” …

    (As mentioned above, I’m not poly and very happy to be corrected if I get anything wrong.)

    There is an implication of duty, or having to do something, or its being the right thing to do when you say you “should” (or should not) do something. I don’t think that’s appropriate here. It’s something for you to choose how comfortable you are based on how you feel and what your assessment of your workplace is.

    But you owe them neither the knowledge nor ignorance of your life.

  48. KindaPolyMouse*

    The decision to come out at work is a really tricky, personal one. There are big pros and big cons. So I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer here.

    Do I wish we lived in a world where coming out as polyamorous was a relatively risk-free one? 100%. And more polyamorous people coming out will help normalize it and make it safer for people to come out later, eventually.

    But there is definitely some degree of risk, too. Even among relatively liberal people, you never know who might have an irrational bias because of their very personal perceptions of what fidelity and loyalty look like, or loaded experiences with cheating (even though cheating and polyamory are incredibly different). You never know if that might lead to open discrimination/firing (which is sadly totally legal) or quiet discrimination (being passed over for good projects/promotions etc).

    And yet, staying closeted also has risk – personal risk. It can weigh on you over longer periods of time, having to keep something secret that is integral to your life in the way that this is. It could eventually damage your relationships, if they feel like they’re your “dirty little secret”.

    The thing that I chose to do a while back was be “passively” out – I wouldn’t volunteer information but I also wouldn’t lie or go TOO far out of my way to hide it – and selectively directly out to a few coworkers I trusted. This worked fine for me in my small, relatively liberal office, but everyone’s mileage may vary, and I wouldn’t judge anyone for making the decision to stay entirely closeted, nor for making the decision to be more actively open. In my ideal world it’d be something I talked about with exactly the same tone as other people talking about their monogamous spouses/partners.

    (All of that said – this advice is based on the information given by the OP that these are significant relationships. Sometimes polyamory can also look like a more “open/casual/swinging” thing, and when that’s the case I think describing people as friends is fine, since most people aren’t going to see talking about casual hookups or FWBs as particularly professional regardless of whether someone identifies as mono or poly.)

    1. KindaPolyMouse*

      I do want to add the additional complication (which doesn’t apply to THIS specific OP but could apply to other polyamorous folks reading the thread) that coming out as polyamorous *and* publicly identifying your partners is something that can ALSO impact your partners professionally and in other parts of their lives (like child custody issues), so you’d definitely always want to check in with them as well if you’re planning on putting up photographs on your desk or something.

  49. Jessica Fletcher*

    I think you should be out if it feels safe and comfortable to do so. I also think that coming out at work doesn’t have to be a big to do, especially in a white collar office. For reference, I’m a bi woman in a corporate office. I’ve never been out in any work environment because of things coworkers and even managers have said that have made me feel it’s safer to stay in the closet.

    What do I mean by not a big to do. I think you should do whatever feels most normal with your other interactions at work. You said you’re pretty private at work. If you’re not chatting a lot about your personal life, it might feel weird even to you to suddenly announce your relationship status. Do others in your office usually announce moving in with partners if not prompted? Lots of offices aren’t big on personal life discussion, so I think you should read your office culture on that.

    Note, I don’t mean you should be closeted. If you’re all talking about weekend plans, and you’re moving, that’s a perfectly casual way to be out without, idk, formally coming out. Or if someone talks about a movie, you could mention that you and your partners saw it, too. Stuff like that, which might be more in line with how people in your office talk about their personal lives.

    Be you, but stay within the expectations of your office culture. Not because you should be ashamed. Because it’s what you do in an office job.

  50. SaffyTaffy*

    Per my actively poly friend (I think of myself as, like, ~passively~ poly, so I’m staying out of this) “Just say ‘roommate’ until one day you wake up and want to say something else.”

  51. aside*

    About the photo on your desk, I think that is no big deal. People have pictures on their desk of lots of different people. If you decide not to out yourself but still want a picture, I don’t think anyone is going to assume poly relationships when they see a picture with you and two other people.

  52. PolyFor20*

    You need to decide how willing you are to bear the consequences of being out. There will be some. Some you will pick up on, and some will whiz right over your oblivious head until they bite you in the ass. I know, because I had that oblivious head once.

    The commentariat is right that most people will be pretty chill about it though.

    But … it’s only been eight! months! I wouldn’t say anything.

    Eight months barely qualifies as serious in my book, let alone serious enough to start fretting about how you present at work.

    Poly and out for 20+ years here.

  53. ChimericalOne*

    Oops. Guess this is what happens when you hit “post” after a comment’s been removed! Sorry, Alison — feel free to delete!

  54. PB*

    Be open but respectful. It’s a part of your life and who you are, and people who say its a ‘TMI’ situation don’t realize they’re the ones making it weird, not you.

    I know Alison tends to err on the side of ‘don’t rock the boat’ and for the most part she’s right, but this is one where gently rocking the boat is actually better for everyone. That said: consider seriously if you want to be that person, of if you’d rather just go stealth for survival. But as we all know, stealthing requires a degree of sacrificing your personal dignity, so it’s up to you to consider which would affects you more.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting, I never would have said I err on the side of “don’t rock the boat.” I like to rock the boat, I believe strongly in rocking the boat, and I think there is often a moral and principled imperative to rock the boat. But I also think it’s important to understand the trade-offs you may be making by doing that, so that you can decide for yourself if you’re willing to take that on or not.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I agree with this comment in that AAM is a “rock the boat” person. In my field we try to help people to know what their rights are and how to exercise them, but when we do we also advise them that there are some very real risks that can come with exercising those rights. When we do this we are not trying to push anyone against using their rights, we just want them to make an informed decisions and know all the possible consequences. But I think sometimes giving people the hard truth/reality can seem like trying to discourage people or advising them to “not rock the boat.”

          1. AMT*

            Yep. Rocking the boat is something that you can only do safely if you have a certain amount of privilege—a higher position in the company, a progressive workplace, a supportive boss, or any number of other protective factors. I know the ethos now is to be out and proud, and I applaud people who can do that even in tough situations, but I don’t knock anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable being 100% open.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The way I tend to put this mentality, since I am the same way is that it’s a “calculated risk”, you have to look before you leap.

        Rock the boat but rock it so that you’re not tossing yourself overboard haphazardly!

      2. Privately Poly*

        I see AAM as teaching us how to speak up and maintain boundaries, in a way that is as gracious and warm as possible. So more of putting the paddles into the water to steady it when people are trying to dance in a canoe.

  55. JP*

    Polyam person here! We’re a V– meaning I have a relationship with my partners, but they are not romantically involved with each other.

    I refer to them as my “partner” and my “husband” non-interchangeably. They both use he/him pronouns, so only people in the broader polyamorous community pick up on the fact that I’m talking about two different people. I also say things like “we are a three-parent household”. I usually shy away from dropping the word “polyamorous”.

    Depending on the relationship you have with your partners, I would be leery of using “roommate” or “friend”, because those are very different relationships, and you’ll be restricting the stories you can tell. If something happens to them (illness, work travel, an exciting life milestone) it will be harder to explain your emotional reaction.

    That said, being closeted and safe is also a valid choice– it is just harder than flying under the radar. You are the best judge of what will get you the best results.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. Yamikuronue*

      I too have leaned on “aww, he put a note in my lunch” and leaving it ambiguous who drew hearts all over a postit and wrote that I’m wonderful (hint: my husband isn’t mushy, my other nesting partner is)

    2. Colin*

      Yeah, I do a similar thing. Different setup – I’m a straight man with two partners who are also romantically involved with each other – but I tend to refer to one as “my wife” and the other as “my partner” in the same way. (In principle I have no problem referring to my wife as my partner too, but the words never seem to come out like that.) I’m not sure anyone notices who doesn’t already know.

      I’m out at work in the sense that it’s public information, on my Twitter bio and such, I was probably a bit cringily gushy to a few friends at work around the time we were growing the relationship, and I’ll talk about it if it comes up; but on the whole I try not to spontaneously bore people about being polyamorous and it usually doesn’t come up. The obstacle to being out publicly was really that we wanted to be out to family first, but that was a while back now.

      That said: I work at home as a software developer, most of my company is super-liberal and really not bothered about how my relationships are set up, and I’m a well-paid straight white cis man with a ton of seniority in my company, so I basically have privilege bingo and there’s not much risk to me in being out. For me I’m mostly just out at work because taking the decision up-front meant it wasn’t something I might have to decide on the spot, and because it helps to normalise polyamory. It sounds like OP’s situation isn’t quite that, so I only really feel qualified to offer anecdote rather than advice.

      Whatever you decide to do, if you aren’t just going to be completely open, I’d definitely recommend having a few scripts ready for unexpected situations that might come up so that you don’t have to ad-lib: meeting a coworker in the street when you’re out with a partner, needing to take urgent time off to help out a partner, slip of the tongue when describing somebody, that kind of thing. And if you know your boss well enough to be sure of their reaction, then that will make life a lot easier even if you don’t directly tell them about your relationship structure.

      Hope it goes well!

  56. Clawfoot*

    I’m sort-of-polyamorous, living with my partner and his wife (we are in a “V”); his wife has another partner, and he has other partners, too. I had another partner but found I didn’t really have the bandwitdth for two to the degree that I wanted (in order to feel close to someone, I need a lot of contact/time with them, and that wasn’t sustainable for two partners). So I guess I’m a polyamorous-friendly monogamist? I’m monogamist myself, but don’t require that my partner be, too.

    Anyway. The long story short of it is that my partner has been married (polyamourously) for 22 years, I’ve been with him for sixteen of those years, and we’re TINKs (Triple Income, No Kids). We all have office jobs, and we are “out” in various ways to various degrees.

    My partner is entirely and openly out; he has pictures of all his partners on his desk, and he speaks openly of them. The only concession he makes to mononormativity is that he only brings his actual legal wife to company parties, and (of course) only makes any benefits claims for his actual legal wife.

    His wife is entirely closeted at work.

    I am selectively open. I take it on a case-by-case basis. I have told a few select co-worker/friends at the office, but I don’t widely talk about it. I talk about my partner, and they know I live in a three-adult household, but that’s all that’s come up so far in almost a year of employment here.

    When talking about it, I do encounter more acceptance and curiosity than anything else, and the curiosity is more… bright? Friendly? not voyeuristic or malicious, anyway.

    So, I guess my point is that we all do it differently, for different reasons, and to whatever extent works for us individually. You can really only do the same for yourself, and unfortunately you’re not going to know what works for you and what doesn’t until you try a few things out. It’s a risk.

    1. Close Bracket*

      “So I guess I’m a polyamorous-friendly monogamist? I’m monogamist myself”

      I’m not going to tell you what to call yourself or what to call your partners. Polyam-friendly monogamist is just fine. In common parlance, a person who is one leg of a V relationship would be referred to as just polyamorous bc even if they are not sexually/romantically involved with the other side of the V, they are still in a relationship with that person. Someone in your situation, where you live in the same household and share income, would most likely be referred to as plain old polyam.

      Again, not telling you what to call yourself, and now you have an additional piece of information on what people call each other.

      1. Heina*

        There are other who would refer to their relationship as mono-poly — as in a mono person with a polyamourous person. Not everyone thinks that by being with someone who has other relationships, that makes you automatically polyamorous.

      2. Clawfoot*

        I tend to hesitate to use the label polyamorous for myself as an individual, as that has led to people believe/assume that I’m open to having multiple relationships myself.

        Interestingly, I do say “we are polyamorous” when talking about the household our our polyam web or even just me & my partner, so I include myself in that overall label. Just not an individual one.

  57. LadyByTheLake*

    My three best friends are in a poly relationship. One works in white collar office environments. He’s always simply been matter of fact about it. ” Oh, Frank, is my partner — Joe is my other partner.” He’s never had an issue.

  58. LSP*

    I wish I had some really useful advice here, because it’s awful to be stuck in a place where you want to be private because that’s just who you are, but you don’t want to feel like you are covering up who you are.

    I can only offer this: I have a friend from work who is gay. I have worked with her for the past 7 years across 2 employers, it was only after we had known each other for 5 years that she felt comfortable enough to explicitly mention her wife by name to me, which was how she let me know her partner is a woman (and I am LOUDLY progressive, and make no qualms about my support for the LGBTQ community). I’m not sure she is out at work to anyone else. She talks about her kids a lot, but never mentions a partner.

    While I am fairly confident the rest of the staff at my company would not give a flying fig about my friend’s sexuality, let alone discriminate against her, she is a private person by nature, as is her right. I completely understand and respect her choice to not be out at work at large, just as I would support her if she does choose to be out at work.

    This is all to say that whatever you do, you should be true to who you are, even if that means remaining private about your personal life, or being out to a few trusted people at work, or being out to everyone and being ready to to handle awkwardness they may have. Polyamory is not something a lot of people understand, but the same was true for homosexuality for a very long time, and I think you can draw some lessons from that struggle towards acceptance.

    Good luck, and I hope you’ll update us on whatever you decide!

  59. Andrew*

    Ha! I love how Allison punts this one to the readers. I would have done the same thing!

  60. The Other Katie*

    As a sometimes-poly person who has been out at work in the past, I have to say that things sometimes got a little weird with my co-workers. “Weird” ranged from a bit of mild teasing to total avoidance to uncomfortable jokes to insistent avowals that they weren’t interested in that sort of thing. (Like… okay, dude? I wasn’t planning to ask you?) At the time, I grinned and bore it, determined to stand on principle. Now, being a bit older and less willing to put up with such nonsense, I would probably choose not to be actively out, especially in an environment where I wasn’t sure if it would be accepted. I’d still have the photo on my desk, mind, but if anyone asked I’d say they were my roommates.

    1. Polly*

      Sorry people treated you this way, and thanks for sharing. I’m not the OP but in a similar situation, and it’s valuable to hear some of the potential negatives of being out.

  61. Cassandra*

    I am polyamorous as well, though my living situation and relationship structure are different from that of the original poster. Here is what I would do in her place: Seek out someone in the company who I trust and who has worked there for a long time, ask if you can talk to her in confidence, explain your situation and ask whether she thinks other employees would be accepting or judgmental. Then act accordingly. Personally, I have not seen any reason to discuss my relationship status with anyone at work, but I am pretty close-mouthed about personal stuff in general at work, and I don’t keep any personal stuff like photos on my desk at work. Even if the original poster ends up not revealing her relationship status to others at work, I think a photo of herself with her partners should be just fine to keep on her desk.

  62. Clever Name*

    I will give you my honest, unfiltered, gut reaction to the title of this without even reading the post, and it was “Please no”. Again, my initial reaction is that I just don’t want to know that much about folks’ I work with love lives. That said, I’m sure my attitude is exactly what most people’s attitudes towards gay/lesbian people being out at work was as recently as 20 years ago. So maybe I’m a square and just need to be educated. I guess it’s up to you in terms of how much explaining you feel up to while at work and how hip your office culture is if you decide to be out.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Is that also your reaction when somebody mentions their girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/other monogamous partner?

      1. MayLou*

        Heaven knows what people with this view do when someone announces they’re pregnant. TMI alert! Someone has (probably) had unprotected PiV sex! Copulation has led to conception! Alert the lascivious tabloids!

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I’m having a hard time understanding how someone saying I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend will need much explaining. It seems as simple as 1+2=3. Yes your attitude is very similar to how people used/still do feel about LGBTQI+ community. If your first reaction/thought when someone mentions their relationship is to think about them in a sexual manner that is your personal issue/hangup that you have to get over it is not the OP’s to deal with.
      I agree it would be TMI if a new male monogamous coworker came and told me I’m married to my wife and we have sex 4 times a week, but the TMI would come from the we have sex 4 times a week not the I’m married part.

      1. AMT*

        It weirds me out how complicated people make these things. Like, it’s so easy to explain in a square-friendly way: you have one partner, she has two (or three, or whatever). Same with gay people: you have girl, he has boy. Trans: you have, uh…okay, it doesn’t matter what either of you have, just use the right pronouns and name and trust that they know what they’re doing.

        None of this has to be about sex or genitals. None of it has to be TMI. C’mon, let people live their lives!

        1. AMT*

          To be clear, this is an expansion of your comment and a response to Clever Name, not an argument with anything you said!

    3. Heina*

      For all you know, this person is asexual and doesn’t have sex with their two partners at all. I really hope you don’t picture everyone who mentions their spouse to you having sex with that spouse.

    4. Sara(h)*

      I’m responding because, while I strongly agree with all who say, “This is just relationship status, it’s not TMI, etc.,” I also appreciate your courage and your honesty in speaking your truth. And I believe your voice adds a perspective to the conversation that could be helpful to someone trying to decide whether they should be out at work. Your are stating your truth while also saying, “Hey, maybe my truth needs to evolve, and I’m open to that possibility and to learning more about this.”
      I wish that the others who replied to to you would take the opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue about this instead of going into defense mode. Surely you are not the only person who feels this way, and you are already acknowledging that”maybe [you’re] square and just need to be educated,” so I think the prior responses are not helpful.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I’m not really sure that I see people ‘going into defense mode,’ let alone doing so without ‘taking the opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue about this’. They’ve been saying they don’t see anything terribly confusing about it. Maybe they could have also gone a step further and directly asked, “What do *you* see that confuses you, or appears to be oversharing in a way that a monogamous person mentioning their boyfriend/girlfriend is not?” but I don’t see why they should have to.

        I get that Clever Name is being both honest about their feelings and open to the possibility that they may have more to learn. Like you, I applaud these things. Unlike you, I don’t think this obligates anybody else in particular to volunteer as their instructor on the things they have yet to learn. It would be nice if someone feels they have the time and energy to do so, sure; but nobody has the duty to teach Polyamory 101 to anxious and undertrained monogamous people, any more than women inherently have the duty to teach Feminism 101 to anxious and undertrained men.

  63. TH*

    I can’t speak to your circumstances, and I never force my opinions on others. But this is how I do things.

    I am personally keep work and personal life completely separate wherever possible. HR needs to know who my dependents are, but Sally in accounting doesn’t. I am there to work, and get things done, not participate in a social club. I also extremely rarely talk about work at home. The two things are separate. My SO is aware of generally what I am going through, but for the most part they have no interest in petty office politics, so I don’t bore them with unimportant details.

    I never ever force or express my opinions on what others do in their private lives. The only time I even think about my coworker’s private life is when that life directly impacts my work. Besides that, I am live and let live.

    This seems to be not popular, but my job is not my life. My life is my family, and my private interests and what I choose to do with my free time. I sell my time to my job, to pay for everything else. Simply put, if I wasn’t being paid for my work, I would not do it at all. And if work ever gets in the way of my families happiness, then I will move on. I am comfortable in that. I have to keep things in perspective.

  64. Lilo*

    I am going to be irritating and say it depends.

    If I made all the rules, everyone would go “cool, nice to meet you” and move on. But the truth is that polyamory is not as socially accepted, so you may have to tread carefully.

    First, it depends in how well you know your coworkers. If you think they’d be cool, probably fine to be out with them.

    Second, it depends on how important being out to you is. If you’d feel hampered at work bot being able to talk about your home life, it may be worth more of a risk. But if you don’t care, then maybe you don’t take a risk.

    Finally, how comfortable are you if, say, someone gossips about it? Imo, This is the most likely negative consequence if your workplace is otherwise liberal. Would that make you uncomfortable or could you brush it off?

    Ultimately, it is just how you read your workplace.

  65. Aggretsuko*

    I wouldn’t be out about it unless you lived in San Francisco or somewhere else super hippie.

    (Disclaimer: was in poly relationship and had enough people weirded out by that and I live in a semi-hippy place.)

  66. BTDT*

    It’s work, don’t talk about it. I’m straight, my sex life is never a topic for a work discussion. It’s no one’s business but yours.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Straightness has nothing to do with it. Neither, for that matter, does their sex life. Mentioning a partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse does imply a sexual relationship for most people, but that’s not what we focus on when someone mentions that person.

    2. Rabbit*

      It’s not about ‘sex life’ any more than a woman mentioning her girlfriend/wife or a man their husband/boyfriend is about sex…it’s just that people who fall outside of the culturally assumed default can get automatically labelled with these sorts of stereotypes when discussing perfectly innocent or average activities.

      Unfortunately OP may well have to deal with people like you so will have to use their best judgement

    3. LifeCoachJo*

      So you never mention spending time with other family members that might indicate a familial or personal relationship? Nor have pictures of family members on your desk?

      That’s what this is really referring to. Not sex.

    4. Jessie the First (or second)*

      By “sex life is never a topic for a work discussion,” what do you mean?

      Do you mean you have never ever mentioned a girlfriend or boyfriend, or a spouse? If there is a company holiday party, you have never brought a significant other to the event? No one has ever asked you what you did over the weekend, and you never responded with “I had a date” or “went to the movies with my spouse?” Never told anyone you are going on a vacation with a partner?

      I don’t talk about my sex life at work either – no one form work has ever heard me mention actual sexual activities. But I certainly have mentioned that “spouse and I went to a really nice restaurant over the weekend, you should try it!”

      Really thinking that by “sex life” you actually meant “any indication whatsoever that you are in a relationship because your relationship status varies from what I think of as normal.”

    5. Carrie*

      “Sex life” and “relationship status” aren’t the same thing, though. Should people who are in heterosexual, monogamous marriages also refrain from mentioning their relationships? Obviously no one at work needs to hear the nitty-gritty of who did what to whom, no matter the number or gender(s) of the parties involved, but that’s not the same as saying, “These are my partners, Gomez and Morticia.”

    6. scooby snack*

      but going to the movies or buying a couch with someone aren’t about a “sex life,” just regular life. do you also think no one should mention their weddings or vacations or reference a monogamous spouse in any way?

    7. Heina*

      It is hella disappointing that so many people in this subthread are oversexualizing polyamory.

      I mean, when my cis-het coworkers announce their pregnancies, I could presumably guess that they very likely had unprotected sex, but no one calls a pregnancy announcement a “he jizzed in her without a condom” announcement. And yet, for all you know, this person is asexual and doesn’t even have sex with their partners.

  67. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I’m polyamorous and in a liberal office that still might be a bit titchy about unconventional relationships. My situation is a bit less complicated because my boyfriend/primary partner is monogamous, so for all intents and purposes we look like a monogamous couple in most situations. However, I am actively trying to date more people, so there are still aspects of my life that need some veiling. So:

    * To coworkers who I know are cool, I’m very open about it, with the mutual understanding that I don’t want it spread around. I talk about my dating troubles, use terms like “my ex-metamour,” and am upfront about most things.

    * To coworkers I am unsure of or know are unsupportive, I use “my friends” rather than “my partners.” I used to live with my ex-girlfriend, but lots of people move in with close friends they’re not dating, and I use that to my advantage.

    * Hot tip: lots of people, especially older people, use “girlfriends” to mean “platonic female friend,” as in “I went out to brunch with my girlfriends.” You can capitalize on this double meaning if you slip up and call your girlfriend… your girlfriend.)

    I find that lots of people tend to assume monogamy unless specifically told otherwise (and sometimes even after being told otherwise). I think a lot of worry with polyamory is that it’s somehow noticeable, like people will see you and point and go, “There she is, the filthy polyamorist!” But in reality polyamory, though more commonplace in alternative circles, is still not the norm, so most people’s brains just won’t go there at all. So unless you say “these people are my partners,” stuff like a picture of you three together (assuming it’s not obvious, like a three way kiss) or you moving in with them won’t raise any eyebrows.

    1. LJay*

      This. Like, I’m young and liberal and kinky. I know various people in various types of relationships from poly to open to married-but-my-husband-is-vanilla-so-I-have-a-master-too-but-that’s-not-sexual.

      But our minds are so trained to assume monogamy as a default that unless someone explicitly says that they are poly I don’t tend to consider it.

      Pictures of multiple people I would assume were friends, siblings, etc. Someone moving in with other people I would just assume that they wanted to save money or help a friend out or didn’t like living alone or similar.

      I’m trying to think of what would tip me off that someone was poly, and other than them explicitly referring to their boyfriend and girlfriend in the same sentence, or their partners, or explicitly saying it I’m not sure I would get it. Even alternating girlfriend and partner I’m not sure I would get unless the partner was a different gender than the girlfriend.

      And I don’t think I’m particularly dense. I’m pretty sensitive to when people are avoiding using specific pronouns etc.

      It just, doesn’t occur to me.

  68. V*

    I’m very late 20s, queer but female presenting. I’m not poly but open I guess, kind of a romantic anarchist if I had to put an exactly accurate label on it (ironically, because romantic anarchy is about relationships not having labels). Northeast liberal city in fairly conservative field (healthcare). Glad someone asked this question because I’ve wondered about it myself. I have my main, male partner and very occasional other things that are anywhere from extremely casual to fairly serious. Nothing that’s stuck for too long.

    The way I go about it is basically what men have been doing for decades, not to generalize but I think we are familiar with this model. Main partner (wife) is the public facing, shaking hands and coming to the company picnic role, and side partners (mistresses) are not acknowledged or discussed. If I have to discuss them I do so in a professional or friend capacity. (This is not to say my partners don’t know about each other such as in the wife v. mistress scenario – they do, and they’re onboard with it). I think people just lean on saying how’s *partner* doing for conversational back and forth, and it gives people enough of a picture of my life that I feel like I’m still sharing.

    I don’t feel disingenuous with this approach, I don’t think that this is such a big of a part of who I am that I feel the need to share it. My undercut, radical anarchy, being openly anti-marriage and childfree is more than enough for people to swallow and get an idea of who I am. But I have toyed with the idea of just dropping that I have multiple partners. I think people know that I’m different enough already that’d they’d probably be like yeah, sounds right, lol.

    1. V*

      I guess one thing I’ll add though is that I’m not even out as queer at work because I don’t want to have to answer everyone’s questions about what queer is and what my pronouns are, etc. Just being vegan I probably get 5 questions (i.e. “is fish vegan?”) or other contact (i.e. “I ate a veggie burger yesterday!”) a week about that.

      I think people who don’t understand (which is most everyone) will think that asking questions and bringing it up constantly is the way to show that they care and are Cool With It. So a question for you would be if you want to be the ambassador for polyamory and thusly likely all nontraditional relationships or gender identities in your office? i.e. every question/update, sometimes completely inane or even offensive like “Hey I wanted to tell you I saw a polyamorous couple on the news!” or “But who does the dishes?” It can be super tiring to be like the peer educator of everyone for non-“normal” human behavior.

  69. Boo!*

    I don’t think our personal – sexual relationships are of anyone else’s business – whether they are liberal or not. Work is work and home is home. However, having said that … we have a lesbian woman working in our office and that was very important to her that she felt she could talk about her weekend activities with her partner instead of pretending it was her friend. Lucky for her she landed in a work place that couldn’t care less about the nature of her relationship and she said this is the happiest she’s ever been in a job. So, even though I think it’s no one’s business but hers, it has made a HUGE difference in her life.

    As much as she would like our advice it really can’t be given by people who don’t work there. No matter what one of us says that sounds like the perfect answer the proof is in the pudding so to speak. When they know, then she will know if it was the right thing to disclose and it could go either way — and go either way with the individuals. We are talking 20 people so half might not care and the other half might be totally against it.

    At the end of the day OP, your life, your choice, your happiness is all that matters. Those 20 people aren’t living your life so don’t put too much stock into how they feel. Go to work and do your job and be the beautiful you that you are.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I’m curious, are you saying that your lesbian coworker should have used the work “friend” when discussing what they did with their partner over the weekend? Do you think straight couples should also use the work “friend” when what they did with their partner over the weekend? After all, it’s nobody at works business right? And we don’t want our “personal sexual relationships” to invade our work!

      1. Princesa Zelda*

        My reading of the comment was that she was glad her coworker could refer to her partner as “partner” instead of “friend” in her current job, because she felt like she couldn’t be true about it before, and that it’s made a big difference in coworker’s life.

    2. Working Hypothesis*

      You’re treating this LW’s relationship status as a matter of “sexual relationships,” and yet you understand about your lesbian coworker that being open about her relationship status is wholly about being able to talk about their family in nonsexual ways. That’s… interesting.

      For the record, polyamorous people, just like LGBTQ people or straight/monogamous people or any other people, like being able to talk about their families because they are *their families*. Sex has nothing to do with it. Some of them have sex, others don’t, just like anyone else; but that is not the heart of what makes them family, nor is it any of what they’re interested in talking about at work.

  70. Jazzybella*

    You should be able to be open and refer to them as your partners but the reality is that there is a big possibility that this info will negatively impact how other think of you and that could impact you professionally.
    I’m an atheist and I go out my way to hide that info at work. I’ve been asked what church I go to and been involved in conversations where people assumed I was a Christian. I always sidestep and/or give vague replies. I’m also very private and have been burned in the past when I’ve shared personal info at work so my preference is to minimize the amount of private info I share with coworkers.

  71. Original Poster*

    Hi everyone! I’m the poly(amorous) OP- just had a chance to catch up on all these posts. Thanks for posting, Alison, and thanks for all the insight everyone- this is great! To answer a few points:

    – I have basically been vague about my time with my partners so far (e.g. What did you do this weekend? Oh, I went to the movies!). I wouldn’t be planning on making a big announcement either way, but I want to be proactive so I’m not dancing around it later.

    – I’m not particularly afraid about being fired or discriminated against because of this, but I would dread awkward questions/advice- I have a few motherly older colleagues that I’m sure would have some thoughts! Also, I do worry about the stereotype that polyamory is primarily a sex thing (which some commenters seem to believe!). Even if the novelty of it died down in my office I am younger and new-ish in my field, and I could definitely see myself getting the reputation of “the kinky girl” in my professional community.

    So bottom line is…I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I’m still leaning on the discrete, but not secretive approach, but I’m also thinking of how cool it would be to just own (quietly) who I am, and how lucky I am to have the life that I do. It’s also encouraging to hear how many people have been able to be out in their professional lives. The good thing is there’s no deadline, and this whole discussion has made me less stressed about that whole thing- thanks again!

    1. league.*

      OP, thank you for asking this question, and for weathering the storm in the comments here. It’s astonishing to me that in 2019, some (not most!) people are treating poly like being gay was treated decades ago – thinking it’s all about sex, etc.

      I commented below and I agree with you about how nice it might be to be out at work, and I too am pleased by how many AAM commenters are out!

      Thank you for bringing this up and I wish you luck going forward however you choose.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Good luck to you, OP! I really like Project Problem Solver’s comment, if you get back to the comments. I hope you find a path that leads to comfort and safety.

    3. KindaPolyMouse*

      As someone who has totally gotten the awkward/questions and advice many times (though not really from coworkers thank goodness) – my best advice is to just cheerfully say that it’s really no different from other relationships, just more people! And if someone keeps pushing – asking about sex stuff, asking about jealousy, all that common poly 101 stuff, say something vague/non committal and then redirect the conversation back to work?

      Like: “Oh man, how do you do that? Do you get jealous when they have sex without you?”
      “Oh, it’s actually not really an issue. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask, what are your thoughts on those teapot reports?”

    4. PolyInVT*

      Hi OP

      I posted this below too but for myself I lean on discrete but not the secretive approach. I’m intentional with my language that alludes to I have “a partner” but it’s not the only one that I have. I have found people hear what they want to hear. Or if I am going on vacation to my partners I basically say “I am going to go see my partners” or “I went to see my partners”.

      The stereotype around sex is… really bemusing to me in general. It’s the argument used most to me about why I should be quiet about it and why it’s inappropriate to talk about even though I don’t actually have a sexual relationship with my partner or his wife. We have an intimate relationship but we don’t have a sexual relationship. “The kinky girl” is just another stereotype.

      You are lucky to have a loving relationship in your life and good luck with moving in with each other. I’m wooting for you.

    5. animaniactoo*

      FWIW – there will always be awkward questions/advice no matter what your relationship status is – if you’ve been dating the same person for 5 years and haven’t gotten married yet, you’ll hear about that. If you’re dating someone new and they want you to come for their family’s [whatever], you’ll hear about that.

      I think the key to dealing with it is being secure and confident in what you’re doing for yourself, and then answering any of that matter-of-factly. Also pre-prepping the answers you’d want to give in response to it, particularly since it (probably) is further out of “norm” for your co-workers. Yeah, there’s still a whole “peer education” aspect that you’ll deal with, but I do think that the more matter-of-fact and “moving right along” you are about it, the faster it fades (at least until they hire someone new…).

      Good luck! It sounds like you’ll find a way through that works for you. And remember that whatever your answer is today, doesn’t have to be your answer for always, or even tomorrow. It can just be today.

    6. Grace*

      I think the fact that you’re moving in with your partners and will be spending so much of your time with them might help put paid to some of the ideas people have regarding poly=sex. It’s not too far off how queer relationships have become more normalised just by people living together and just very clearly being ‘normal’ people.

      If you do choose to be out about everything, talking about the hike you went on that weekend, or grocery shopping, or laundry, or X dragged you both out to try that new restaurant because he’s really into Thai food – oh look, just regular people with fairly regular relationship dynamics and hobbies and anecdotes.

    7. Story Nurse*

      Hi OP! You’re totally right that there’s no deadline, and it’s great to take your time and think about it.

      My experiences being out at various workplaces range from coworkers gasping and saying “Oh, I could never do that!” (no one asked you to, Sylvia) to both of my live-in partners getting invitations to the office holiday party. You really just have to know your coworkers and how they’re likely to react. There’s still a lot of misinformation and misapprehensions out there, so be prepared to do a little educating.

      My partners are both closeted at work and that can be a little logistically tricky: “I’m working from home and forgot my meds at the office. Can you pick them up?” “No, can J do it?” “No, my coworkers have no idea who J is.” “…right, right.” But neither of them is generally inclined to talk about their personal lives anyway, whereas I’m a bit of an oversharer. And that’s honestly what I’d suggest using as your “should I?” metric: are you naturally the sort of person who wants to say “Thank God for Fred, Mabel and I were both sick all weekend and he made us some amazing chicken soup” or are you more likely to say “Eh, rough weekend but all better now. What’s happening with those TPS reports?”?

      Similarly, are you likely to friend your colleagues on social media where you might post photos/stories about your partners, bring your partners to “family day” events, etc., or do you naturally maintain a high wall between personal and work? In my current field there’s a lot of personal/professional porosity and a lot of gossip—it’s the sort of field that feels like a small town sometimes, with everyone up in everyone else’s business—and I honestly could not have kept anything about my personal life private for very long, so I opted for controlling the messaging rather than trying to keep a secret.

      I find the word “family” goes a long, long way. We have a kid, which enhances our family-ness appearance, but it works even if you don’t/don’t plan to. If you say “We’re a family” or “We’re a non-traditional family”, that doesn’t seem to trigger the prurient questions that “I have two partners” or “I have two spouses” or “we’re a triad” does. And it lets you use very common language: “We had a family movie night.” “I’m really excited about planning our family vacation to Hawai’i.” Sometimes I say “partners” and lean on the ‘s’ a little because I want to make a point, but there are times when I just want to have my family treated like anyone else’s family, and that’s when I’m glad to have that language.

      If you do come out and anyone tries to make it about who sleeps where/with whom, you absolutely get to gasp, look shocked and appalled, and say, “That is a totally inappropriate question in the workplace.” Ain’t nobody’s business if you do.

      1. Student*

        Yes, “family” works well and may deflect people who are weird about polyamory. For example, “I went to the movies with my family.”

        I would avoid referring to your partners as a couple or a married couple in order to prevent ruffling feathers among people with a bee in their bonnet about “the sanctity of marriage.” It’s obviously none of their business how your partners’ marriage works, but that sadly won’t stop some people. And it will prevent the office lech from assuming you’re cool with cheating and therefore he should hit on you.

    8. SbuxAddict*

      I think you’re handling this right. Until YOU know what you want to happen, I would stay with simple terms and discrete but not secretive. You probably have a good sense of who you can tell and who will be crazy about it.

      I’ll be honest. I knew nothing about polyamory until college when I met a friend who I am extremely close to now. I didn’t get it when I met her because it was new to me. I was from a small town in the south US where people were still discrete about their LGBT+ relationships. I asked some questions, listened to the answers, and just learned. Twenty years later, she’s one of my best friends as are her partners. Interestingly, being her friend and watching how she handles her relationships has taught me more about communication with my partner than anything else. I credit her with why I left an unhealthy relationship and I’m in one with good boundaries now.

      I’m not telling you this to put you in the closet. Please don’t go in there. I’m just saying the people who don’t know anything about it may have questions. You may want to factor that in to your decision about how much to come out. I don’t know if I’d want to have to answer those type of questions at work. Before you open that can of worms, I’d work on a script of responses to questions clueless people may have that shuts the invasive questions down but doesn’t ruin the work relationship you may need to maintain. People can be inappropriate and that’s NOT ON YOU at all. Maybe I’m extrapolating from my own anxiety but I have a medical condition that people ask inappropriate questions about and my therapist helped me develop scripted responses that I can call on in the moment when someone asks me something like, “Well, how does THAT work?” It might be helpful to have these ready when someone asks, “Do you all sleep in the same bed?” which is none of their business but you can’t always tell them to “Badword Off with that nonsense.”

      I have to say, I hate this. I wish you could be comfortably out and people knew it was about relationships and not just sex. My own relationship isn’t about just sex so why should anyone think yours is? It’s insane and stupid. I hope you can be out and safe at work. You should never have to feel like you’re in a closet or hiding.

      1. Privately Poly*

        That’s really nice. Thanks for being so kind and respectful and open-hearted.

        I’ve also noticed that long-term successful poly folks do tend to be really good at communications and self-knowledge. I have seen plenty of people burn out in flames, so suspect that’s a weed-out process. Poly is hard! But lots of good kind healthy traits to learn from, if one can get past the imagined mental reel of !Orgies!

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Motherly coworkers, you say?

      They’re not always as meddlesome and curious as you may read them right now when it comes to this. I only say this because all my “motherly” figures in my various jobs are all of my mother’s generation [read hippies/women’s lib] and they are all about this kind of thing. They don’t get into it and I only know it because we became that close over time. So they may be just the same ladies who I’ve known over the years who blend in in society because in their youth, they had to or they were in danger in many ways.

      Just some food for thought!

      The good news is that you don’t have to make a decision or do something super brazen of course. I “came out” to my mom lowkey AF, just bringing up LGBTQ issues/rights and she gave me the “why do you care so much about something that doesn’t concern you?” “It does concern me, these are important things.” and her eyes just went “oh I see, cool cool.” I came out to my brother much the same way only less covert because I knew that he didn’t care and figured as much, since I was constantly traveling to visit my long-distance long-term “best friend” every 3-6 months for many years.

      So yes, stay discrete and within your comfort zone, it’s important that you’re comfortable and don’t put unnecessary stress on yourself.

    10. Working Hypothesis*

      Hi, OP!

      I am with the many, many polyamorous people on this thread who wants to reiterate that this is ENTIRELY about you and what you want. There is no ‘should’ involved here. You neither have the duty to come out for the sake of polyamorous people everywhere, nor the duty to keep quiet in order to avoid rocking the boat. You do what works for you and your partners… period.

      That said, I am also one of the many polyamorous people who have had good experiences coming out at work, via the method of showing people very carefully through my own behavior that it is No Big Deal, and that I want them to react as if it is No Big Deal. That is usually, in my observation, enough to cue them about the correct path to take, and they’re often relieved enough to have someone tell them how to react that they’re very willing to do it your way. So, *if* you decide that you want to be open with anyone from work, I recommend mentioning your partners very casually in a context which allows them something else besides the number of partners you have to talk about (e.g. “My partners and I are going to see the new Avengers movie this weekend; have you seen it yet?”) and treating any followup questions as if they were slightly baffling to you, because surely the answers must be obvious. The more calmly and matter-of-factly you treat it, the more calmly and matter-of-factly *they* will treat it.

      This assumes that you do not have a serious, hard-core bigot on your hands, or someone who has been deeply traumatized by a personal experience with polyamory (or something which was described to them as polyamory) and generalized from it. Either of those will be much more difficult to dissuade from pushing the subject. But most people just won’t care enough to press when you’re clearly not making a big thing out of it.

  72. ShwaMan*

    I don’t have any helpful experience, but personally it wouldn’t trouble me in the least to find out a co-worker was in such a relationship. (Like any other colleague, I don’t need any graphic details.) But I can see why you would be unsure how everyone might react.

    How about putting the picture up, and if anyone asks, something like “Oh, that’s Jack and Jill. I live with them. They’re like family.”

  73. HaveNotSettledOnANameYet*

    Ok, wow, this has been a firestorm. OP, if you’re reading all these comments, hang in there.

    My experience: I’ve worked in the arts and in non-arts, and my experience is that in the arts my poly life was discussed 100 times more than in the non-arts. In the non-arts world I’ve mentioned my partner and my spouse, by name and by relationship, and most folks are either completely confused and think they misunderstood my spouse’s name, or make up a little story in their head and move on. Sure, they probably have questions or assumptions, but it’s not impacted my employment at all and frankly most people just aren’t interested enough in other people to actually care. The picture on my desk of our entire large poly family is just referred to as my family, and on we go. I think one or two busy bodies have asked a question like ‘oh, is that your sister’ and I’ve said, ‘nope, that’s my girlfriend. do you have any siblings?’ and that’s it. Honestly, the only people that care are more upset about how I’m gay with bright colored tattoos than about who I’m sleeping with- and I could not care less what those people think as long as it doesn’t impact my work.

    In the arts world I swear they cared more and wanted to show me how cool they were with everything, so it came up a lot more with people being like ‘hey, that’s your partner and their other partner, right?” to show how down they were with my life (sigh). Again I just changed the subject by bringing up a more ‘shiny’ topic like an artist or exhibition, and life went on.

    Not all areas, organizations, or coworkers will be the same… that’s just my experience.

  74. Wantonseedstitch*

    Hi! Polyamorous person here. I am not in the same kind of situation as you, in that I am a woman married to a man and we live together, while none of our other partners (we date separately–he generally prefers women, I am straight) have lived with us. Your situation is a little more complex.

    I’m making the assumption that your partners are an MF couple and that you’re bisexual or pansexual, is that right? If that’s the case, are you already out about your sexuality at work? If not, how would you feel coming out about that, if an opportunity comes up for it to be relevant? It might be a good way to test the waters about how you’d feel about folks at work knowing that you’re polyamorous–and unlike polyamory, it’s more likely that you’ll find support for all kinds of reasons (including, often, and at least for now, legal ones).

    If you tend to be a private person and don’t like to share stuff about your personal life, you might consider just taking things on a case-by-case basis and seeing what comes up when, and how you respond to it. For example, if Progressive Pat who’s super friendly and seems trustworthy is telling you about their new squeeze and then says, “so what about you? Are you seeing anyone?” you might decide to say, “Yeah, I actually live with this amazing couple and we’ve been involved as a triad for a while now. That’s something I generally keep private, though, so can you keep that info between us?” Whereas if Critical Chris who seems really judgmental is talking about weddings and says “so, are you planning on getting married?” you might want to say something more like, “I’m happy with my situation right now–not starting a registry anytime soon!” This is kind of how I deal with my identity as a Pagan at work, for example.

    I think in general my advice is:
    1) Safety first. If at any time you are concerned that your personal safety, your partners’ safety, or the safety of your job might be jeopardized by outing yourself, DON’T DO IT.
    2) Happiness second. If it seems safe and you feel like being out will increase your happiness, it is NOT WRONG to out yourself. If it will increase the happiness of your partners, same. But if you are only thinking about doing it because you worry that you are “guilty” of hiding it, you don’t HAVE to do it.
    3) It doesn’t have to be everyone. In my office, I am generally a very open person, but I only share some things with some people–and that isn’t just private information, either. Sometimes it’s just my reactions to things at work. It is perfectly OK to compartmentalize. BUT if it’s important to you to be able to control information, choose carefully the people to whom you reveal things. Don’t say anything to someone who you’ve known to gossip, even if you really like them. And when you do tell someone, be sure to let them know, “I’d like to keep that just between us. It’s not something everyone would react well to, and I don’t want to cause drama in my collegial relationships.”

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Good to know there is a little corner of polyness in Vermont! My family is planning to move there and try to start a cohousing community in a few years. :)

  75. league.*

    I’m so happy to see this! I’m poly and in a fairly liberal field in a major city, but one that’s in a red state, and I have so far not been comfortable coming out at work. That said, I am also married and he’s my only current relationship (I tend to casually date on the side) so that makes it easier. If I were to have another serious relationship added to the mix, I’m not sure how I would handle it, but I’d be nervous.

    I have thought – a LOT – about how I’d handle it if I were on a date and saw someone I work with. If it had been obvious it was a date (like if my date and I were snuggling, kissing, etc.) I would want to tell the work person that I’m poly because I wouldn’t want to be branded as a cheater. Same deal if someone saw my husband with his girlfriend – I would not want colleagues to think my husband were cheating on me either. So far, though, this hasn’t come up. And this is one reason I’m glad to have moved recently to this big city, as the possibility was much greater in the suburb I came from.

    I’m fascinated by all the comments. The discussions about unicorns, polyam vs. Polynesian, etc. are all things I have seen debated in poly communities for years, but seeing them here on AAM is colliding two of my worlds in a very pleasing and interesting way. Thank you!

  76. Still haven't chosen a name for this site*

    I’m polyamorous and I generally discuss my relationships as they are relevant. I live with my partner and his wife and their kids. We own a house together, celebrate holidays together, we sometimes travel together, etc.– these are topics that come up in work conversation! People generally talk about their families at work. Likewise, in workplaces where it’s normal to have some work-appropriate chatter about dating and for people who want to do that (I don’t really like to talk about dating at work, but that’s a personal preference), I imagine it’d be frustrating/painful to have to skip or heavily censor those conversations.
    When I worked in a slightly more conservative environment and was feeling a bit more paranoid, I spent the 90 day probationary period talking about my “housemates” (“oh yeah, doing the millennial mortgage sharing thing”). It was acutely painful to have to obfuscate my relationship to my family. As I started talking about who my housemates actually were, people seemed able to deal with it. I’ve concluded I’m unwilling to work in a job where I have to totally hide who I am or who my family is, if I have a choice. I work in higher ed in a large, fairly liberal city; right now I’ve got choices.
    I come out casually as people get to know me and as it’s relevant “Do you have kids?” “oh yeah, I live with my partner and his wife and their kids. It’s unconventional but it works for us.” Reactions are usually mildly confused to supportive. It was most comfortable at a school with a large GLBTQ population; even if people weren’t super familiar with polyamory they were open to a variety of family and relationship configurations.

  77. Shoes On My Cat*

    In a traditional style business, I’d suggest your verbiage of: my friends AND put up their photo. However, keep any ‘read between the lines’/ meaningful looks/eyebrows to yourself. Most people will not think on it any further as it doesn’t affect them. Some will understand and the kind ones will be your people. Jerks will out themselves. Mainly, just don’t make it a THING that defines you. It’s in your personal life and only those co-workers (the kind ones) you invite to share elements of your outside of work person should be involved when the discussions turn to personal time. And take your time sussing out kind work friends vs jerks! Some jerks are good at faking it….
    For context: We have a small business that is pretty liberal -the owners are gay and are matter-of-fact upfront about it to prospective staff AND clients. We had one big client who slowly came out to us as poly-amorous. Ok, whatevs. It’s all consenting adults so I DONT CARE. It didn’t have anything to do with our business, the other clients, etc. And yet, EVERY time she came, she would bring it up. It got to become A Thing that we talked about-not in judgement of the lifestyle but in annoyance that she kept involving it in our business. AND she got pissy and offended when some of our nearly-liberal lifestyle clients gossiped about her, with information she shared indiscriminately with EVERYONE. Having that tension between clients and her running to us with ‘so and so other client gossiped about me/said x about me’ was emotionally exhausting–and frustrating to have all this client upheaval for something that had nothing to do with our business. She finally moved and if she even is discussed, her polyam identity & the drama she caused is usually what people mention rather than her willingness to work hard, how much she grew in her abilities, her talent, her good sense in a pinch. It’s really a shame, because she pigeonholed herself-and did it with something that had nothing to do with the business. So please, please take that case study into account as you decide how to be at work–and enjoy your peeps and being lucky enough to have love in your life! Love is a beautiful thing, in ALL of it’s forms.

    1. Privately Poly*

      I can see that it would be Super Old fast if she derailed every conversation into polyamory.

      But I kind of wonder about your characterization of her as pissy and ridiculous to be offended that someone gossipped about her. Being gossipped about stinks. Being open and upfront is not an invitation for gossip. She didn’t lose her right to complain when someone acted shitty, by acknowledging her relationship status.

  78. JustAThought*

    It’s sad that we have to do this, but at this time polyamory is still misunderstood a great deal. Having been in a short term poly-relationship and having many friends that are, I suggest that you keep any relationship questions/answers to “roommates” or “housemates.” By saying this, you are not lying and no one should think to ask any further about this. There is also no reason why you cannot have a simple picture of the three of you on your desk. You are friends and two of you happen to be married. The idea of friends renting or buying a house is becoming more common these days, because it’s too expensive to rent or buy on one’s own.

  79. britbacca*

    As a polyamorous cis queer woman who’s been in white-collar environments for 10+ years, I almost always defer to “Partner” and gender-neutral they/them pronouns when talking about my personal life in the office.
    Pros to this for me: (1) I can join in on water-cooler chat without a million micro-calculations about ‘who-knows-what’ and ‘am-I-ready-to-have-That-Conversation-today’ thoughts (2) regardless of the identity of the person i’m dating, “partner” offers up gender-neutral solidarity to other closeted folks who may be listening for those cues.

    I’m a reasonably private person, but don’t hide my relationship status; if someone asks for clarification, I will usually offer it, but you’d be surprised how rarely it happens. Most people will assume “partner” means one heterosexual man, and I let them think that, and carry on with my professional business.

  80. InfoSec SemiPro*

    So. I feel very, very lucky that I can be out and its a non issue in my current workplace. It can work! Like most matters of ‘being out’ its mostly a stress I don’t have to bear and can just have normal conversations about my life like everyone else. It turns out, I don’t do security work with my relationships, I do it with other parts of my being, so life goes on unperturbed.

    That said, this is the only office I’ve been comfortable being really proactively out at. At a previous office, I’d show up with different people to office events and just not talk about it. I think some people thought I just cycled through significant others really quickly, and that was scandalous enough they didn’t bring it up. The middle ground of not addressing it directly until someone else does is available, if you’d like it to be. I think it works best when you’re utterly willing and prepared to let the awkwardness live with whoever comes to you with it. “Hey… I uh… saw you with Jane the other day, but aren’t you dating Alex?” “Yep! We had fun at that show. So, the teapot report…” Let them think what they want, don’t hide, don’t get coy, but don’t dwell. Put a picture on your desk – people may not even ask about it.

    If people do put together that you’re attached to multiple partners, figure out if you are willing to do the Polyamory 101 thing or whether you just want to project that its with full consent of all parties, and beyond desk pictures and weekend plans, its not really a topic of conversation.

    Several decades of being polyamorous has mostly eroded my concern over other people getting wound up about it. If they want to get wound up about something that is both fine and none of their business, that’s their world and not my concern. If you come to work every day in the suit and do the job, basically being your own professional, moderately private self, whatever comes of it should be fine. People will cue off of you – be boring about it. Especially if you’re a calm, private person in general, the idea that you have a non standard relationship model might leak out over time, but not cause waves as everyone experiences how it doesn’t change your work.

    Judge if you want to full on hide it. If you don’t, I think there’s a fine arena of not hiding, but not being super explosively loud about it that has worked well for me in the past.

  81. Admin of Sys*

    I’ve never been in the exact scenario – I was out as polyam at an office but it was because my partner was dating someone else, not because I was. That said, I had a lot of folks informing me I was in an unhealthy relationship because of that. (he was just cheating on me, he was actually gay not bi and I was a beard, eventually I’d want a monogamous relationship, etc) They thought they were trying to be helpful, but expect some of that bs and decide if that’s worth it to you.
    That said, assuming you’re a triad and not a V, dating a couple generally seems to come across ‘better’ to folks who are more conservative in their views of nonmonogamy. There’s much less an assumption of cheating that way, which seems to be the basis for a lot of the conflict folks create around polyamory.
    In the end, as a lot of other folks have said, i’ll come down to whether you think the awkwardness is worth the openness. Would you feel worse about the conversation that will happen if you refer to them as your partners, or will you feel worse about calling them your ‘good friends’ or ‘roommates’?

  82. Clementine Danger*

    In my experience, people will follow your lead if you lead with confidence; if it’s not a big deal to you, it won’t be a big deal to them.

    So it doesn’t have to be a question of a big “coming out” moment. Just a change in approach. What if you just… didn’t care what they thought? What if your relationship status was just, like, normal and unremarkable? For example, in situations where a partner might come up, just have it come up naturally and conversationally, using your own terminology. Your coworker went to an art show? “Oh yes, my boyfriends wanted to go there too, how was it?” Question about the photo on the desk? “Oh, that’s my partners, Ally and Greg. So did that meeting get pushed back or are we still on for 2pm?” Plans for the weekend? “Greg is visiting his parents so me and Ally thought we’d go to the beach.”

    Or whatever level of detail is appropriate for your specific office. The point being, if you were dating just one person, what level of detail would you be comfortable with? Apply that same standard to your current relationship dynamic. If your office culture is really private and work-focused, don’t mention it either. If people are generally chatty about their personal lives and you would be too if you were in a traditional monogamous relationship, apply those same standards.

    Really, just act like your relationship status is the most natural and common thing in the world (because, you know, it is) and almost everyone will follow your lead in that. If people express confusion or shock, just blow past it. “Wait, so you’re dating… what, both? How does that-” “Yup. So will Travis be off-site today? Because I need his signature before Friday.” You’re not the office polyamory educator. If people have questions, they have access to the same Google we all do. As far as you’re concerned, your relationship situation is the most common and straightforward thing in the world. If someone does want to make a big deal out of it, they start on the back foot, because you’re honestly, genuinely confused as to why they’re not getting something so simple or what their objection could possibly be. Basically, act like you live in a world where polyamory is completely common and unremarkable. They can have all the private thoughts they want about it.

    Again, do tailor this to your office culture. If it’s a very strict and hyper-professional place where nobody ever mentions their private lives, don’t start dropping your partners into conversations. But if your office has the common social break room chat about kids’ ballet recitals and spouse’s jobs and whatnot, and you’d usually be inclined to join in with those, do it.

    But then, this is coming from someone who’s been pressured since childhood to hide certain fundamental and immutable parts of myself, and so the thought of presenting a more socially acceptable version of myself gives me hives. I have some pretty deep wounds and trauma related to the many, many years I tried to be “normal” and all the little lies and obfuscations and filing off the rough corners… it adds up. One little white lie begets another and before you know it you’re spending a not-insignificant chunk of your limited time on this earth putting on a painful performance and playing a character for people you’ve become afraid of. It’s no way to live. But I do know there are some people who can compartmentalize like champions and never have this performance eat away at them long-term. If you have that type of mindset and you can comfortably see yourself pulling conversational sleights of hand and maintaining a web of gentle social falsehoods, there’s no reason not to. I personally couldn’t do it, but again, I’m a tired queer with a lot of scars on the soul.

    You sound like you’re new to the experience of feeling pressured into hiding something that other people get to be open about (your relationship status in this case), and do let me know if I’m wrong about that, but most queer people do eventually experience a form of “performance fatigue” where they feel more and more alienated from themselves as the obfuscations stack up and new situations keep coming up. I just want you to be aware that once you commit to a falsehood, it can be so very hard to untangle yourself from it. I’m not saying it can’t or shouldn’t be done, everyone’s situation is different and you know your life best. But if you don’t have any experience with this process of filing off the “unacceptable” edges of your soul, I feel a responsibility to tell you that… well, that shit hurts. And it can annihilate you over time. It’s no fun to look at your partners and gradually feel “I love you and your radiant soul” be replaced with “you are my dirty secret and the source of all my misery”. It can happen, and it sucks, and I don’t want that for you.

    BUT. All this soul-deep drama aside, from a work perspective, I’d say roll casual. No big deal. Confused as to why it would be. Don’t start none, won’t be none. You do you, I’ll do me. Coexist.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Thank you! This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say, but you said it better.

  83. PolyInVT*

    I’m non-monogamous / poly.

    Before someone asks (not sure why it matters!) I’m a cisgendered but pretty androgynous. My primary partner is with the male in the relationship and I have a friendly relationship with his wife.

    It’s taken a while for me to get comfortable with being out at work. It’s been a slow process and I think with any relationship I tend to not mention partners (even in passing) on what I did during vacation, or the weekend, till I have a good sense that the relationship is going to “stick” which it sounds like, OP, you are at that point that you are pretty sure this relationship is going to “stick”.

    My partners live across the country right now in New Mexico. They live in a less liberal area than I do in Vermont and have their own preferences with being out or not. I don’t send an email out when I start a new job stating I’m poly or make a production of it coming out. However, the language I use is really important to me. I made my shift in language at church (which is liberal progressive) when I realized that I kept mentioning a lot of “friends” and I think someone said it above that really is nostalgia of the pre-Ellen DeGeneres coming out. So I changed my wording to “I saw a partner” or “one of my partners” rather than “my partner”. People hear what they want to hear. I don’t dive into how everything works out for me and the married couple I am with, I don’t really need to unless someone has a specific question, and if it’s really just a question that is TMI then I really am polite and go “Thanks for your interest in my relationships but some things stay private between me and mine.”

    I have gone out on dates locally while still being in a relationship with my partners. If I mention I have a date to someone, in small chat etc, and they ask if I’m still with so and so I just make it clear that I am. If they keep probing I just let them know everyone is aware of what is going on and that we are all cool with it. I try to normalize the conversation as it really should be a normal conversation.

    My partners are not out to the my partner’s coworkers. I have gone to a holiday party that they’ve hosted and have met my partner’s coworkers. I went with “a good friend”. I have told my partners that I am out to my colleagues and some people in the church I attend since I am also a minister in training which throws another wrench into this whole thing. I did also let them know if it was something that honestly would make them uncomfortable that I would not be out at work. I asked for their consent because this does effect them as well.

  84. Jules the 3rd*

    One thing I think that’s different over the last decade is that the number of co-living arrangements are way way way up, as people struggle with super-high rents and student debt. I am absolutely sure you could talk about ‘living with Jim and Pam’ and fly under the radar.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Now, whether you *want* to do that, or be more obvious, becomes something you have to figure out.

  85. spockface*

    I’m in a somewhat similar situation — I’m a bi nonbinary person living with my spouse (also NB, we’ve been together a decade) and her boyfriend of several years. I told a PG-rated story where I incidentally mentioned “my spouse’s boyfriend” in my previous job a couple of years ago, and my supervisor told me, in front of everyone who was working that day, that the story wasn’t appropriate.

    I’m old enough that I remember being advised to never let on that my same-sex partner was, well, my partner, and not just my friend or roommate, and my relationship being forcibly assigned the “roommate” label by everyone from the post office to my mother, so it felt pretty awful.

    Unfortunately, polyamory is not an explicitly protected class. In extremely open-minded regions, you might maybe possibly be able to argue that it falls under “marital status” (assuming your state doesn’t have explicit laws against adultery, and no one involved is subject to the UCMJ), but I don’t think this has been tested in court yet.

    I personally approach it, in my current job, by referring to my spouse’s BF as my housemate. One of my coworkers did press for more detail a few months after I started, so I said he was my spouse’s other partner, figuring that if anyone objected, I’d be able to say that she asked for specifics and I shouldn’t be required to lie if asked. I’ve been here about a years and a half now and nobody has said anything about my response or even repeated her request for more detail, so I figure I’m probably pretty safe this way.

    I should also note that I’m extra cautious about this because it’s one of several things about my life that may give my coworkers pause — I also use they/them pronouns, and my spouse is in sex work — so I try to be selective about what I say about my personal life, because being 100% actively open about everything feels like just too many potential fronts I might need to defend myself on.

    1. SW*

      I hear you, spockface. Being out as nonbinary at work is hard as it is and I don’t have the spoons to deal with being out as polyamorous at work as well.

      1. spockface*

        Right? I’m still trying to muster the courage to ask my coworkers to use my correct pronouns — this is my first job where people consistently refer to me as anything other than my AGAB, and it was such a nice change when I first started that I didn’t want to muddy the waters and risk getting misgendered in the way that feels worse to me.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I can totally understand that, for both of you. One of my teenaged kids is nonbinary, and in my observation, that has been MUCH more difficult for them to get other people to handle well than my own polyamory and bisexuality has been. I can absolutely see why someone who was already having to go through all that crap wouldn’t have the spoons left to deal with one ounce more.

          For me, personally, being out about being poly has been massively easier than trying to be in the closet about it would have been; but that’s chiefly because, at the time we had to decide what to do about all this, my kids were one and three, and we knew that anything we were open about at home would be all over the neighborhood very shortly, since you can’t ask toddlers to keep secrets. So we went with radical openness, and it was great, and we never looked back. But it really helped that that was the ONLY thing I had to get my colleagues and acquaintances to handle correctly about me, and I might well have had a much different approach if I 1) were also trying to get them to use my correct name and pronouns, and 2) didn’t have small children at the time the whole thing came up.

      2. Allornone*

        As a cis straight female, I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is. When I still worked at a bookstore, one of my coworkers casually mentioned being genderfluid (at work, they always presented as masculine, so it wasn’t obvious). Being that bookstore workers tend to be young and fairly liberal, no one really batted an eyelash except asking which pronoun they wanted to be referred. No one, however, EXCEPT one of the managers, who proceeded to pepper them with endless questions that were Not Appropriate. I even chimed in to let her know that, but she wouldn’t stop. She wasn’t trying to be discriminatory; being sheltered, she really was just curious, and my coworker responded with a level of patience only a saint would have, but dang. It was bad. If the coworker had reported her, she could have been fired. We had two other genderfluid coworkers working there at the time (both only presented as female at work), who made sure to keep that under her radar. People suck. Even when they don’t mean to be, they suck.

  86. Ihmmy*

    (caveat: have not read the comments beyond a quick glossing over)
    Polyamorous person here! Generally perceived as female. I’m quite out at my work place – it’s academia (though I’m staff, not a prof), to the point of having brought multiple partners to work functions before. I’m in Canada, and unionized, so that plus some value statements made me pretty comfortable being out. I don’t shove it in peoples faces much (other than, well, the work function was fairly obvious though some may have thought I brought a batch of friends with me) but I do regularly refer to people I’m dating as “one of my partners” or “my partner”. A few folk have questioned me about jealousy or time management but most haven’t been too weirded out by it.

    Oh and re photos: I have a photo cube on my office so I can have up to six pictures at once in it – smallish photos mind you. I haven’t switched up the pictures in a bit so I still have some exes in it (thankfully am friends with them lol) but it’s a nice way to have a few different photos available.

  87. PolyLurker*

    ~ Am a bi cis woman, functionally poly (prefer “non-monogamous” but meh, not that fussed on labels) who presents pretty conservative/high-femme. OP: not sure if this helps but here’s how I’ve dealt with similar situations ~

    In my late 20s I moved in with an established male/female couple. I started a new office job around that time and like the OP wondered what I would say about my relationship status. The decision was ultimately made for me by the friend who had recommended me for the job: she outed me to a bunch of people before I even started to boost her own “cool” cred. It was the gossip du jour for a bit but because I wasn’t talking about my bedroom activities (or trying to claim hotel-defiling romps on expenses!) I think people pretty much forgot about it. I ended up working there for around two years and was known for my work, not my relationship status.

    I then had a few temp jobs (several months each) where I just referred to each partner by their first name, implied we all lived together and let people make their own inferences. Anyone who directly asked I gave a straight answer but that rarely happened.

    Around the time I started my current, stuffy government job, my girlfriend moved interstate for work which meant I looked like I was in a straight monogamous relationship. I will refer to “my girlfriend” or “[male partner’s] girlfriend” and people often choose to understand that as “friend who is a girl” as opposed to “romantic partner”. Funnily enough, my bi-ness or poly-ness tends to come up more when I refer to an EX-girlfriend as that is harder to misconstrue! I’ve had a few confused looks and I’ve been completely upfront with anyone who has asked directly for clarification, and again it doesn’t seem to have been a problem.

    I’m now at a point where basically I’m open about my relationship status but, I don’t out myself as “poly” the same way people don’t out themselves as “straight” – I just talk about my partner (s) as they come up and let people figure it out or ask for clarification from there.

    On the one hand I’ve been really lucky, but on the other I’d like to acknowledge my cis, white privilege which combined with my rockstar status work-wise seems to confer on me a fair bit of protection.

  88. Lifecoachjo*

    I’m in the liberal Pacific NW and have always been fairly comfortable at work referring to my partners as named individuals in my life. Meaning talking about time with “David and Catherine” Never really disclosing “David and his wife Catherine and we’re totally doing it” Because no one needs to know.

    The only time I was even concerned was when I went to work in an office David used to work at , and i knew he had been open about being married with his now former coworkers. We tread carefully to ensure folks wouldn’t think David was cheating. It never really came up though as office parties weren’t part of the culture, and if anyone noticed it weird that his picture was on my desk/he picked me up after work occasionally it was never mentioned to me.

  89. River*

    I would avoid conversations that may possibly bring your “roommates” or the couple you’re going to live with into the picture. I would keep this on the DL if this was me. I would just call them friends like, “oh some friends and I went out to dinner last night…etc.etc.” At my work I am used to people not asking about details because they are conscientious and overall respectful so they don’t ask about the people I associate with. It sounds like your peers may be on the nosier side if you’re this concerned. These are tricky waters. Best of luck!!

  90. Wulfwen*


    People have given you a lot to think about regarding coming out at work. I would like to add: have you asked your partners how they feel about this? If they are mostly out, would they have issues if you decided to call them “friends” or “roommates?”

    Best of luck whatever you decide!

  91. Lily Rowan*

    Ironically, I feel like this will be much easier to elide once they’ve all lived together for a little bit, because it makes sense to spend a lot of time with the people you live with, regardless of relationship status. “What did you do this weekend?” “Oh, Jamie and Chris and I cleaned out the garage.” It seems like just this transition moment will be tricky — why are you moving in with them? I think an answer you’re comfortable with to that one question will get you pretty far.

  92. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    When I was in my poly relationship, I just went with living with friends/housemates. My job at the time was very conservative and security clearances were needed so discretion was important. Now, not so much but as others noted, I don’t want to be the poster person.

    1. Student*

      Weirdly, in the US govt securtiy clearance space, it’s now better to be open about this sort of thing. The only concern with polyamory would be that you could be blackmailed into something if you were threatened with having your secret revealed to your social circle or your rich Aunt Glenda. If it’s common knowledge, no problem.

      Source: I conducted US government background investigations for four years.

      1. PNWPolyamAnon*

        That’s deeply fascinating, though very sensible. I’m very curious if you have any idea whether that’s remained true under different administrations? I know I’d be a heck of a lot more cautious about revealing my queer/polyam life to my clients’ government clients than I would have been a few years ago; if one of these projects ends up requiring security clearance at some point I’ll probably disclose, but I will… not be very comfortable doing so.

  93. agnes*

    You don’t need to explain anything. Put up the pictures if you want. You can call them “your family” “your friends” or whatever. And if you want to share that the three of you went camping, or took a trip, or bought a house, do that.

    The poly amorous person in our office did just that. Over time we have talked and she finally shared her family situation with me. I really appreciated talking to her about it and quite frankly I am pretty impressed with the transparency and honesty it takes to have a successful poly amorous relationship. If we all were as intentional and considerate with our partners as my colleague and her partners are, we’d probably all have better relationships.

  94. Lily*

    I’m semi-out at work: basically I keep it low, occasionally mention my girlfriend or my boyfriend (who don’t date each other). If a generally pleasant person asks, they’ll get an honest answer. Mostly they don’t ask.

  95. OfOtherWorlds*

    Speaking as someone who’s queer, I feel very uncomfortable when polyamorus people appropriate language from the queer community, like “closeted” and “out”. Sexual orientation and gender identity is part of who we are, we can’t choose it or change it. Being in a polyamorus relationship is somthing that you chose to do, and you won’t necessarily be polyamorus your whole life.

    1. milksnake*

      Polyamorus people are just as much part of the LGBTQ+ community as other people in non-traditional relationships. Being in any relationship is a choice, homosexual, monogamous, or otherwise. Choosing who you love is not a choice.

    2. Rabbit*

      While I appreciate that this is probably meant as a more general comment, from OP’s perspective it looks like explaining their relationship will out them as bi (or pan, or however they would prefer to identify) so I feel like it does cover this case in particular

    3. SW*

      Having experienced being closeted about my sexuality, my gender, *and* my non-monogamy, I really and truly can say that it isn’t *that* different, it’s an accurate term for the experience, and that I am 100% against your attempt here at gatekeeping. Polyamory isn’t just a phase for many of us any more than you being queer might be described as just a phase.

      1. spockface*

        This. The experiences of being closeted about my queerness and my nonmonogamy have not really been super meaningfully different for me, either.

        I do feel there are plenty of edge cases where cis, straight polyamorous people (the ones who are very concerned that you have no doubts about their straightness, and who pretty clearly have never personally experienced any kind of queerphobia or transphobia) want to call themselves “queer” by virtue of being polyamorous, and I’m not really cool with that, but even in those cases, language like “closeted” and “open” still makes sense to me.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think poly gets lumped in under the LGBTQ umbrella simply by nature of the fact that if there are 3 (or more) people in a relationship, at least one of those relationships is going to be same-sex/queer unless it’s a V relationship where the point is dating two opposite gender people.

    5. league.*

      Many of us feel that being poly is as much a part of us as being (in my case) bi. It doesn’t just describe the particular relationships I’m in any more than dating a man means I’m not bi any more. There are lots of people who are solo poly, for example, or poly people who are only dating one person at the moment.

    6. cmdrspacebabe*

      I don’t believe that polyamorous people or people in non-traditional relationships are automatically part of the “queer community” – if we had a heterosexual cis man dating 2 different heterosexual cis women who are not dating each other, for example, I wouldn’t consider that to be included under the ‘queer’ umbrella, despite the non-traditional structure. My cisgender, heterosexual male partner is polyamorous, but he’s never referred to himself as ‘queer’ and I doubt he’d ever think to.

      However I do think there is some connection between the two, if only an ideological one. Queer relationships are often not considered ‘valid’ when they don’t mirror traditional heterosexual relationships, and the same is often true of non-monogamous relationships; polyamorous communities are often full of queer people; and from my own experience, many come to polyamory in part through queerness – recognizing that the ‘traditional’ relationships that get pushed on us are not the be-all, end-all and there are other ways to live that might suit us better. Once you ditch one set of arbitrary expectations, the rest of them might also come under examination. I’m also not sure I agree that polyamory is something you ‘choose’. I no longer practice monogamy because it didn’t fit me. It felt restrictive, false, and full of expectations that I didn’t understand – in much the same way as “being straight” did. Polyamory also comes just as naturally to me as my queerness does, and while I don’t consider it a sexual orientation by any means, I don’t think it’s as simple as a ‘choice’. I chose to practice a polyamorous lifestyle, but I didn’t choose to be so ill-suited for monogamy that I felt I needed polyamory in order to have fulfilling relationships. And when I don’t feel comfortable disclosing it to people, it’s for similar reasons – fear that they’ll judge me for the way that I conduct my relationships and who I conduct them with.

      Long story short, I’m also not a huge fan of polyamory-as-queer, but the specific language of ‘out’ doesn’t really strike me as inappropriate (and at times I’ve also used it in reference to my disabilities). It’s a personal detail about an intimate part of your life and identity, which could result in cruelty or discrimination if the wrong people find out.

    7. Blue Anne*

      I am queer and polyamorous. They’re not the same, but I didn’t choose either of them. I don’t choose to be in a polyamorous relationship any more or less than I choose to be in relationships with women.

    8. Close Bracket*

      Sexual orientation and gender identity is part of who we are, we can’t choose it or change it.

      Many people feel this way about being polyam. They choose to be in a relationship or not, just as monogamous people choose to be in a relationship or not. Dating zero or one person doesn’t make them any less polyam, in their eyes.

      1. PNWPolyamAnon*

        Agreed. I realized I was queer and that I was polyam at pretty much the same time (in my mid teens – I am now in my mid thirties, and can attest after years of experience that neither of these things was a ‘phase’; and even when I wasn’t dating _anyone_ in my mid-twenties I was still both pansexual and polyam person). I also came out to my conservative parents (at age 30) about both aspects of myself at the same time, and was just as nervous about sharing that I was polyam as sharing I was queer (and I knew for a fact at the time that my father had literally signed an anti-gay marriage petition)

        I definitely get bristling at the prospect of straight people who may have ‘passing privilege’ (as I do, being married to a man; though I’m also in an LTR with a trans NB person) trying to claim the ‘coming out’ experience. But as someone standing in both sets of shoes I really think the experience has some useful parallels. Both of these things can deeply shape your life, and some people may not ‘figure out’ whether they are queer or polyam until later in life (and they may change who they are attracted to and in what configuration!) None of that makes the experience of ‘identifying’ as polyam less deeply resonant for those of us who do.

    9. Working Hypothesis*

      I am both queer and polyamorous. While I, personally, feel that I chose my polyamorous life (and there have been times when I chose to be monogamous instead), I am aware that I’m not the majority in this. The large majority of polyamorous people I know — many of whom are also gay, lesbian or bi — feel strongly that their polyamorous identity is every bit as much an inherent orientation as their queerness is; and every bit as impossible for them to change by an act of will.

      The bottom line, in my observation, is that there are many spectra of orientation, and not everyone has a place along every spectrum. Most people have an identity along the straight-bi-gay spectrum, but not everyone; I know someone who feels that they don’t really have any orientation of that type at all. Whom they date is whom they date; the gender identity of that person is completely irrelevant to them.

      Many people have a fixed identity along the monogamous-polyamorous spectrum. Not everyone… I’m one of the people who doesn’t seem to. Sometimes I’ve been monogamous, and other times I’ve been polyamorous, depending on the situation and whom I found myself interested in dating at the time. But most people I know have a firmly innate identity along this axis as well, and they can’t *make* themself be monogamous if they’re poly, or vice versa. They’ll simply be miserable, exactly the way someone would who was gay but insisted on dating only members of the opposite sex would be.

      If you don’t personally have an inherent identity along the monogamous-polyamorous spectrum, it can look to you as if there aren’t any. For that matter, if you *do* have an inherent identity along that spectrum, but your identity is firmly monogamous, it can look as if there aren’t any inherent orientations of this kind, because your own is so normalized by the society around you that it doesn’t feel like an orientation; it just feels like ‘the way people do things’. None of that makes other people’s experiences of having innate orientations any less real than your own, just because their orientations are along a different spectrum from yours.

  96. StrictlyA*

    I’m a poly, cis hetero man in his early 40s. I’ve worked in both conservative (law enforcement) and liberal (arts) jobs, and I’d suggest being casual, not offering up much, and flying under the radar
    Before I had other relationships, my coworkers only knew of my wife in a vague “she probably exists” sort of way, and the same thing since. My personal life is nobody’s business. I have photos of all my loves on my desk, and not a single person has made even a mention of any of them. My personal life is my own.

    Now, it gets trickier if you’re dating. Online dating is, by nature, somewhat out. I’ve had coworkers find me and ask about it, and I haven’t lied, but I also haven’t gone into great detail about my life.

    Read the room. Decide, together, what is best for your family.

  97. restingbutchface*

    I have a feeling my comment is going to get lost but as I am actually in a non-monogamous relationship, I’ll give it a go. I’m not poly and I know that’s different but maybe it’ll be helpful to OP.

    Very long story short, I accidentally outed myself as non-monogamous at work (my stupid big mouth) and it was a disaster. I was already The Gay One and that just made it one million percent worse. I actually had to leave due to the constant sexual harassment. Because hey, if I wasn’t monogamous, I was fair game right? It wish I’d never said anything, regardless of the fact my relationship shouldn’t be particularly interesting or shocking to anyone else. Realistically, it’s not the standard.

    OP, it’s fine to not reveal any aspect of your life if you don’t want to. You’re not a bad poly person if you don’t fly the flag 24/7. Your coworkers aren’t entitlied to see every aspect of your life. I’d recommend thinking about what you’d want to get out of coming out and if it’s realistic. In my honest opinion the best case scenario would be a lot of questions and if you’re a private person, that might bother you.
    Good luck, whatever you choose.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m sorry you had that experience and appreciate you sharing it with OP.

      The other piece of advice I wanted to give was that you can’t unring a bell, so if you tell people and it’s not well received, there is no going back, so it seems wise to tread carefully.

      1. restingbutchface*

        Yes! That’s such a good metaphor and very accurate for how I felt afterwards.

    2. Anax*

      I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. I definitely didn’t identify as “bisexual” for a long time because of similar sexual harassment. That’s a really fair point; being The Office Queer is often exhausting at best.

    3. Polly*

      Thanks for sharing about this. It’s heartening reading a lot of people’s positive experiences on this thread, but as someone considering this issue as well, it means a lot to hear about the negative ones to be able to better weigh the risks. I’m really sorry you went through that and hope that you’re in a better place now.

  98. Outofthebox*

    I think it depends on a lot on your coworkers and workplace environment.

    When I started at my new job, someone who worked there knew one of my partners for a previous company. I danced around it for a couple weeks, and then eventually was honest with my new coworker and it turned out they knew my partner was polyamorous and so it really wasn’t a big deal. But I definitely am careful with who I talk to about it and what I say.

    On the other side, I once went with a partner to a holiday party and another one of their partners! I know they got some comments about it later (mostly like how does that work type stuff) but people were pretty chill about it.

    I find using the word partner and being kind of vague let’s me acknowledge that I’m in sort some of relationship without fully giving anything away.

    I’ve sort of tested the water with people by just bringing up polyamory in some way or another casually and see how they respond. That really lets me assess whether it will cause problems or not by talking about it.

  99. Signe*

    I’ve been in a closed triad for 14 years. I’m out to anyone I work with closely, because I don’t want to avoid talking about one of my spouses to “pass”, but I’m not out to anyone I only occasionally work with, because I don’t want to have to spend lots of time explaining and answering the inevitable questions. I’m in a moderately liberal profession in a moderately liberal area of the country. I’ve never had an issue. It’s very much a case of “know you’re office”, though.
    Oddly enough, I’m far less out about being Pagan.

  100. Argh!*

    This is a bell that can’t be un-rung. If you’re nervous about it, you could wait. This is still new compared to your older coworkers’ 20-year marriages, that may have been preceded by year-long engagements. From what you’ve said,this sounds rather experimental for you and the experiment may not work out as you hope it will. You can call your partners “roommates” for awhile and see how things go. Keeping the details of your love life secret for a little while longer won’t kill you, and if things don’t work out you won’t have to worry that people are judging you. Where I work, there are some very conservative, ultra religious people who may have a problem with something like that. They’d be too nice to be openly hostile (being perceived as “nice” is part of the brand of Christianity that’s prevalent here), but you can experience subtle discrimination for being different here for almost any kind of difference. Those of us who are out of the local norm try to keep it on the down-low, but we are not completely secretive. And most of the time, nobody’s personal life comes up in work conversations anyway. Even if people talk about a spouse or partner it’s about as personal as talking about an acquaintance, as in “My wife is a professional baker, so I don’t get very excited about donuts at work.” i.e., the same could be said of a neighbor, friend, cousin, parent, or anyone in your personal life. If you want to have more personal discussions, you could be making people uncomfortable no matter what the arrangements at home.

  101. Crafty*

    I’ve never come out at work, I just talk about my life in a matter of fact way. People I’m casually dating are usually “friends” and people I’m longer term dating are “partners” and I’ve never been questioned.

    My caveat is definitely the “read your office” that was noted above. I’m late 40s, white, and work in IT in one of those liberal coastal cities we hear so much about. I am pretty safe here. When I lived in North Carolina I talked a lot less about my personal life at work.

  102. Adminx2*

    Poly here (over 20 years), white collar generic work. Work is the one place I’m not fully out at. If someone ever were to ask me directly, I’d be honest, but I do take advantage of my privilege to “pass.” I have lgbta supportive stuff around my desk so people know I certainly support all relationships. I am completely out to family, friends, socially, everywhere else.

    But the relevance and risk evaluation to me just isn’t worth it. It is not a safe world yet, no matter how much companies want to bring in inclusion directives.

  103. Regina Phalange*


    I’ve been in a relationship with a married poly man (and I am good friends with his wife, we’re just not intimate), and I am *not* out at work. I’m in a large city and in management (i.e. everyone in the office is my staff). While I am comfortably “out” with friends and a lot of family, work still feels like a no go.

    And now I will scroll and read ALLLLL the comments. <3

  104. milksnake*

    I’m poly and bi, and work in the professional office world.
    While I’m 100% comfortable being out as bisexual I would never ever come out at poly in my professional settings. It’s just not safe yet…

  105. Me*

    Personally, I would be open about it as it comes up. We see a lot of questions in here about “I saw her with someone else’s husband!” so I think it’s better to head those off at the pass. That doesn’t mean you bring it up in every conversation, much like anything else to do with your personal relationships, but don’t hide it either.

  106. SW*

    I’m a nonbinary (masc-leaning) queer who is also polyamorous working in the library of a major US university. This is the first job where I’m out at work about being nonbinary and queer. But I am not openly out as polyamorous (although I am to a few work friends, and the co-worker who I saw on okcupid). I fully admit that part of the reason is because of the laws in my state, I could be legally fired for being polyamorous versus being queer/trans.
    It kind of sucks because I do have to censor myself, but I don’t see my girlfriend that often so it’s not like I have a gaping hole of not telling people about someone(s) I’m investing a lot of time with. That said, having broken up with my primary ex a few months ago, I’m trying to figure out if I can transition my girlfriend from friend to girlfriend, and whether I want to go into backstory about our relationship, as it long predated the breakup with my primary.
    Being closeted about being polyamorous isn’t quite as bad for me as the feelings that I had when I was closeted about my gender and my sexuality. Like at my past job it felt like I was literally wearing a mask at work when I pretended to be a cis woman. I knew that I *needed* to come out because it was eating at me from the inside. I don’t feel that as much now being out about being queer and nonbinary but not polyamorous. I admit that it was significantly harder to keep in the closet when I was part of a triad, and it was so, so hard to break up with one of them (and face the emotional fallout from the other partner) while keeping mum about it at work.
    OP: Some of the math at play is: how out are the two people you’re going to live with? Like I feel a lot less comfortable being out about being polyamorous because of closeted partners. The thing about coming out as polyamorous is that it means that you out the other person(s) you are with as well. If you’re going to be just the roommate for your partners when they talk about you at work, that could be a major reason not to be out. Or if you all are relatively young, healthy, and without kids, it’s easier. But it’s a lot harder to explain why you have to take off time to take care of Jane if Jane has always just been your roommate. Sadly you would be unable to get FMLA because you aren’t legally married to either of your partners.
    FWIW OP, I think the fact that you wrote in to get advice about whether to be out means that deep down you really need and want to be out and that it would be hard on you not to be.

  107. Former Retail Manager*

    No time to read all of the other comments, so hopefully I’m not repeating, but you say you’re a private person. Since that is the case, I wouldn’t be open about your relationship status at work unless you are prepared for people to ask questions, tactfully I hope, but if you are going to put it out there I think you should expect some curiosity on the part of your co-workers. If that interest would make you uncomfortable, then I wouldn’t. Taking that out of the equation, I also don’t know that it’s a great idea to reveal anything too noteworthy early in your career/employment with this employer. I think you’d much rather be known for your great work at X,Y, Z rather than the polyamorous lady. While it may not be right that people label others that way, I think it’s just human nature. OMG….did you hear that Bob is related to Jason Mamoa/Sally works part-time as a dominatrix/Bill was on an episode of Hoarders. I think revealing certain things about your personal life (like this stuff) for better or worse can overshadow your professional accomplishments and make it harder for people to just see you as Head of XYZ. Again, it’s not right, but people will be people.

    As for your partners, I’d just refer to them as friends or roomies. It’s not that unusual for couples to a have a single roommate.

  108. queen b*

    Hi OP – first off, congrats on a happy relationship. I do like the friend situation that you’ve mentioned, and I think even referring to them as your “partners” is just fine too. People date multiple people, and I wish that being in a relationship with multiple people wasn’t seen as such a different situation.

    Perhaps starting with a trust coworker (or a group of them) would be a good start too. If they ask what you are doing on the weekend, just say “I’m having a movie night with my partners at home” and if they question it – cool! If not, also cool!

    Best of luck, I know you will do what is best for you!

  109. Allya*

    My experience is in a demographically weird office that’s half radical queer anti-capitalists and half church going Christians, so I’ve no idea if any of this will be helpful to you but this is how I navigate it:

    My wife and I both work together and are open but low key about our relationship (for professionalism reasons). Currently we’re both also dating the same lady, but not as a triad and it’s still pretty new. Sometimes one of us will meet her for coffee or lunch on our breaks, near the office, and it’s crossed my mind that someone from work could see us and ask awkward questions. I tend to let the “gal pals” assumption that two women are inevitably friends regardless of the evidence to the contrary work in my favour there. Unless we were, like, making out on the cakes display at the coffee shop I doubt it would even occur to anyone who’d have a problem with it that we might be dating. At work I’m out to friends I can trust about being poly, while with others I’d just refer to my girlfriend as a friend if I wanted to talk about hanging out with her on the weekend or whatever. Since everyone is pretty chill about me having a wife, I don’t feel like I’m closeting myself to do that; if the circumstances were different it might bother me more. It helps that plenty of my work friends are poly too so I trust them to a) actually understand and be supportive rather than uncomfortable and b) be discreet about it when necessary. If you want to go the route of telling some people you trust the full truth but not everyone, and if they don’t have any first hand experience with this kind of thing, it might help to give them an overview of how they can be supportive (like, “I’m glad I can talk to you and [other person I’ve told] about this like the normal thing it is, but I’m not ready to tell everyone yet so if you could follow my lead on that, I’d really appreciate it”).

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      For the record, I know several radical queer anti-capitalists who are ALSO churchgoing Christians. :)

  110. bananarama*

    I work with someone who is out as poly. I work in sexual health, so it is a pretty open and liberal environment. However, I am ashamed to think of how I responded when my colleagues was discussing her relationship in more detail and brought up terms that defined her poly relationship. Instead of asking more questions and trying to understand the term ‘fluid bonded’, the group she was speaking with (including myself) giggled and made jokes about all the people we have fluid bonded with. Although they were a good sport about it, in hindsight, I can see how I missed an opportunity to learn and understand something that I am not well-versed in and on top of that perhaps made my colleague feel that we didn’t take their relationship seriously. So although I don’t think it has held them back professionally at all (they are very high in my organization), you will still have to deal with the ignorance of colleagues that will inevitably come with the territory. Of course, this probably depends on how much about your relationship you reveal. No one I knew had any issue with them being poly, but if someone did, my work isn’t an environment where that person would speak up regarding their bias.

  111. somebody blonde*

    I think it depends a lot on how comfortable you are with being a hot gossip topic for a month or so. If your answer is ‘completely uncomfortable’, you should say you’re moving in with your best friends to help them with rent and call them your housemates from here on out. That’s the closet, but if you really don’t want to be a topic at work, you’ll have to do it that way because poly relationships are extremely exciting to gossips. If you’re fine with being a topic for a while until it dies down, you should just bring it up organically. “I’m moving in with my partners” for example, and then answer appropriate questions and say “wow, that’s an awkward question” to those that aren’t. Be as boring as possible about it and give your coworkers very little to latch on to. They will gossip for a while, but it will die down if you keep being utterly bland about it.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I don’t think you need to go nearly that far toward outright lying in order to fly under the radar. People at work don’t care about your reasons. “I’m moving,” is mostly all they need to know, followed by “My friend X,” or “My housemate Y,” when mentioning something you did with them. If someone actually asks, you can say you share a house with your friends X and Y, but to proactively mention ‘to help them with the rent?!?’ That seems like an unnaturally large amount of information to people who don’t care, and would frankly look like lying to me if I heard it, because it’s more detail than people who are telling the truth usually bother to give.

  112. cmdrspacebabe*

    I’ve been polyamorous for the last 5 or 6 years, and have generally been ‘out’ to varying degrees at work. It’s not something I bother to announce, but I don’t go out of my way to hide it, and I’m comfortable using language like ‘my partners’. I’ve never run into issues with it, from either colleagues or managers; people have questions, but generally they’re respectful and know better than to pry about sex or ‘dirty details’. However I have generally worked in very liberal offices that make a strong point of providing a comfortable working environment – negativity about that kind of thing is very much not standard in my industry sector.

    My advice would just to be as casual about it as you’d like others to be. As long as you’re dealing with reasonable people (never a guarantee), it’s not weird unless you make it weird. Toss it in like a cheery throwaway – “Oh, I have 2 partners, actually – we’re polyamorous!” or “I don’t do the monogamy thing, actually – I’m in a triad relationship!” and give it the same ‘not a big deal’ vibe you’d use for anything similar (“Oh, he’s my fiance, not my boyfriend!” “Oh, I’m a Ms, not a Mrs – my partner and I aren’t married.”)

    1. cmdrspacebabe*

      Forgot to add some context – I’m actually in the same kind of relationship structure (moved in with a pre-existing couple)! I hope yours goes as well as mine – it’s a great way to live :)
      As for working environment, it’s probably worth mentioning that I’m very visibly queer and involved in a lot of related initiatives at work, so it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’ that doesn’t tend to surprise colleagues who are acquainted with me, and not something I’ve ever been worried about talking about openly. However I actually do enjoy those kinds of conversations – I like explaining how my relationships work, how I came to the lifestyle, and why it appeals to me. If you’re a more private person this might not be your thing, so if you’d still like to be out it might help to have some basic explanatory scripts memorized or links to send to people so you won’t feel like you’re being put on the spot or blurt out more than you mean to.

      1. Anax*

        Same, actually; my BF and GF are high-school sweethearts, and I’ve been dating them for a couple years now. It’s an _awesome_ way to live, though we really need a bigger couch! It’s funny how many household objects and spaces are implicitly designed for two people, and become trickier with three.

        (OP, if you don’t have a king-size bed, you are so going to want one. A double was doable for us for about a week, if it’s not muggy. Then someone starts falling out of bed.)

        I’m in a famously liberal and queer-friendly area, but haven’t run into any trouble being completely out in my previous (moderately liberal) city either. Likewise, my experience has been that it’s easier to just mention my significant others casually – ‘oh, my GF is allergic to fish so I can’t cook it at home’ – than to make a big announcement. Most folks who don’t know me well will just assume I’m in a monogamous relationship with whichever significant other I mention – and those I work with closely haven’t made it a problem at all.

        I’m also very visibly queer, and also very visibly transgender, and that does help to smooth the landing; it’s not much of a surprise after the awkward gender discussion.

        1. Adminx2*

          Or like me you don’t like group sleeping and everyone has their own room so fulls and queens are fine. Works much better with different schedules, sick days and just to make sure everyone has space to bring over their own partners without anyone feeling awkward or squished.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            When I lived in a five-person marriage, we each had our own room with a bed big enough for at least two. The master bedroom had the king-sized bed, and the person who lived in it understood that meant that when all of us were hanging out together cuddling and watching movies, we’d use their room. Which of us actually spent the night where varied wildly from one day to the next, but it helped a great deal to know that you *could* always go off to your own room for a little alone time, and shut the door. Especially when we had small children and several of us were introverts, alone time could be as precious as family time, and we often had reason to be grateful for those separate rooms!

  113. anon responder*

    I work in government for a very liberal state. I also consider myself pretty liberal. I had a coworker come out as polyamorous as lunch. It came up in conversation- we were talking about weekend plans. He seemed really nervous, but it was nothing more than a blip in the conversation for me. I think I said something along the lines of how it must be fun to have a full table at dinner and we moved on. I am a woman if it makes a difference.

    1. anon responder*

      Also want to add that I did not discuss this information with any other coworkers. Not my business to be spreading.

    2. cmdrspacebabe*

      Haha, I’m also in government (Canadian federal)! That pretty much sounds like how it would go at my office, too.

  114. Alexandra Lynch*

    I’m a poly/pansexual cis female, living with a genderqueer-but male partner and a trans female partner in a V relationship, with myself at the hinge of the V. They work/do school, I stay home.

    I say “my boyfriend” and “our/my roommate” most of the time at Girlfriend’s request. She plans when she gets a job to be more or less closeted at work because it’s not any of their business. But if, when I give her a ring and formalize things as far as I can, she wants to say “my girlfriend” at work, well, that’s her right and up to her. Whether she wants to modify “My girlfriend and my roommate” to “My girlfriend and her husband” in due time is up to her (There have been some conversations lately of the “when we get married…” variety). My boyfriend works for the state and has been rather matter-of-factly out about his polyamorous dating life, and it’s worked fine for him. But he’s in IT, and he says they’re a little less worried about who you are there. He speaks of his girlfriend and roommate. This is accurate for him, because he and Girlfriend are close friends but not sexually intimate.

    You do kind of want to have a script in your head for what people will say when you are open about it, but usually if you’re willing to do the “life is mostly boring for us, too, there’s just three people watching Jeopardy and unwinding after work, instead of two” sort of spiel, people accept that and life moves on to the next thing.

  115. Civilian Linetti*

    I’m not polyam, I’m a bi woman and married to a man, so as far as casual onlookers are concerned I’m straight.

    I’ve never come out at work, but I have flirted with the idea occasionally. What always stops me is remembering the hassle I got at high school and uni after coming out to people and experiencing awful sexual harassment. I got fed up of being a ‘teachable moment’ or ‘college experiment’, and when I met and got serious with my boyfriend, now husband, I got the oh so joyful experience of hearing all about how my ‘little phase’ had finished and I’d chosen a side /sarcasm.

    I would be wary of being out in your workplace in case you start getting harassed by men whose ‘wives just don’t understand them’ thinking that if you’re sleeping with one married man, you’ll indiscriminately sleep with any dude that asks. I’d also be cautious about being The Representative of Polyamory in the workplace and having to be a model office queer for the consumption of other people.

    I’m sorry if this sounds jaded but it comes from a place of ‘been there, never want to go there again’.

  116. Ana*

    I’m a polyam bisexual woman in the deep South… Think one of those states that has passed laws or is working to pass laws attempting to overturn Roe v Wade. So, my outlook is probably different. I’m out with those closest to me, but at work or publicly generally not. At work, I doubt I’ll ever be out for fear of losing my job. The fear is real as there are people that won’t hire liberals or non-Christians or belong to the wrong denomination (you can never prove it as it’s so ingrained but it happens although illegal) so sexuality/gender identity/relationships are a bigger issue.

    So, my advice is you know your coworkers, employer, and city/state. Share what you feel safe and comfortable sharing that won’t put your safety or job at risk. Watch the terms other people use regarding their relationships and the pictures or lack of pictures. Go easy at first and maybe start by referring to your partners by their names. Mention you’re moving. Just step by step test the waters. If you’re every uncomfortable don’t go any farther. If you have close friends at work or in a similar field, ask them for input and suggestions.

    I think you know but just to make sure I want reiterate being open about your relationship status is not the same as sharing sexual details and in an ideal world people would stop insinuating that being open about one’s relationship is sharing nasty dirty sex details. If this is the case, heteronormatives need to stop putting family pictures up and talking about their children, spouse or boy/girlfriend.

  117. I never remember my name*

    Hey! I’m a queer poly lady who’s worked jobs where I’ve been both out and not out. I have the privilege of having a long-term male partner (I use the term “primary,” although I know not everyone does), though, which means that I can discuss my relationship without having to out myself.
    I am out at my current job because I found my employer through the community. At my last job, I never would have come out to my boss — I don’t think I even told anyone above my level that I was bi. I tend to go the route of starting by bringing up non-monogamy when we’re talking about other people, if possible (talking about attractive celebrities is my favorite in for this — “I know he just got married, but maybe he’s polyamorous!”), and play it by ear on a person-by-person basis from there. But I also don’t mind being a poly educator/activist at my job, so your mileage may vary!

  118. Luna*

    “I’m polyamorous — should I be out at work?”
    Why? Does your job have something to do with your relationship status/romantic and/or sexual orientation? Will being out change what your job tasks are or how you can do them?
    That’s my criteria for majority of personal life aspects. Unless it’s actually important to your job to know this about yourself, there’s really no need to share this, actually. I have no reason to mention my relationship status, or lack there of, at work, since it has nothing to do with the job.
    But maybe I’m looking at this too rationally?

    1. Heina*

      You’re looking at it differently than most people. Most people talk casually about their families and/or monogamous partners (married or otherwise) at work. To ask the LW to refrain from doing so is to ask them to not do what most people do. That you personally don’t do that doesn’t mean that they should have to.

    2. kc89*

      Are you in a relationship and you’ve never mentioned it at work? if so I think your comment stands

      but I think a lot of people in this post are acting like they never talk about their relationship when probably their boss does know they are married to someone named Chris for a made up example.

      1. Luna*

        I was in a relationship for a long time, and didn’t mention it at work. It just wasn’t important to work or whatever topic might be discussed at the time. I’m no longer in a relationship, and the same thing stands. I don’t know the relationship status of my coworkers or supervisors, either.

    3. Anax*

      Honestly, I think you’re… kind of being a jerk by saying you’re the “super rational” one here.

      This is a very loaded topic in the queer community.

      People form friendships and work relationships largely by talking about their lives – which means that being forced to stay “in the closet” can have a very real effect on professional networking and the general pleasantness of a work environment. If you constantly deflect or lie, people may see you as ‘cold’ or ‘distant’ despite your best efforts, and they may make their own assumptions. It also hurts and alienates people to feel like a big part of their life is a “dirty little secret”.

      (It’s a different thing to be asexual, of course, or otherwise openly single – but deception and deflection can take a real emotional toll on people, and frankly, a lot of folks aren’t that good at gracefully changing the subject.)

      You would have a point if it weren’t normative to talk about family and relationships in the office – but it is. Millions of folks have their family photos or children’s drawings on their desk. Asking about a partner or children is one of the most common kinds of workplace small talk. In that context, suggesting OP should keep quiet really strongly implies that only “weird” relationships should be private – and that’s… well, discriminatory and really not cool.

      1. Luna*

        Maybe ‘rational’ was the wrong word to use. Let’s say compartimentalizing… if that’s a word. There’s just not much small talk going on at my job, and I really am not one for small talk, either way. My relationship status is not important to the job, just as much as my being asexual is also not important to the job.
        In fact, even if the question here was, “I am a heteronormative, monogamous woman – should I be out this way at work?” would still leave me asking why it’s important to mention. Has nothing really to do with your job; it’s part of your personal life.

        1. Adminx2*

          Yes, it’s a word! The issues with norms is that it’s not a thing if you mention them, it’s the presumed standard. I don’t think it’s actually surprising to you that most people talk casually at work about vacations with families, births, or weddings and it would become a difficult landscape to have multiple partners.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          If people at your office never mention that they and their husband are going on vacation to X place in a few weeks, or that they and their partner went to see a movie on the weekend, or that their partner is having minor surgery so they’re taking a day off to drive him to and from, then it’s the only office I’ve ever heard of where these things are truly not discussed. What usually happens is that heterosexual, monogamous people with presumed normative relationships casually and blithely mention their families, and that anyone else who does is looked upon as if they’ve revealed something Icky.

  119. Herder of Teenaged Cats*

    I’m going to preface this by saying I’m not polyamorous, I’m asexual. But this post reminded me of a funny story I had with a student, which I’ll share.

    I used to teach in a pretty liberal institution, where a lot of us faculty were encouraged to take “sexuality awareness and sensitivity” trainings. When we finished the courses, we could hang a plaque outside our office indicating to students that we were “safe” to talk to when they needed someone to listen to them as they explored their sexualities. It’s a pretty neat program, I think–the campus climate was very welcoming to students and faculty of all orientations, and recognized that this was a time when many students’ identities were in flux.

    One day, I had a student come in to my office to talk about their relationship problems with their current boyfriend and girlfriend. The student was a “polygamist” (their words, not mine!) and were still (obviously!) very new to this particular community. The student was from out-of-state, and didn’t quite realize the very freighted connotation to the word “polygamist,” because our very liberal university town bordered some towns that were run by actual polygamist cults that regularly make national news for child-marriage scandals. Clearly, that student hadn’t yet seen a bus full of people who look straight out of a “Little House on the Prairie” on one of their regular visits into the college town to visit medical specialists.

    Fortunately for this student, we were able to have a wonderful conversation about how maybe the word “polyamorous” would be better to use to describe their orientation, and the student was able to really vent about their frustrations with their current relationship. I was also able to pass them along to a student polyamory support group who would be better able to help them with their questions (and labels).

    I miss that job, because it was the only one that had a non-discrimination clause in my contract and where I could be openly ace. Now I’m in a much more conservative place where everyone wants to know why I’m not married with kids yet. I don’t really bring up my orientation now, unless I’m asked about it directly. I just deflect and say I am in a relationship with my cat (crazy cat lady starter kit of one!), or that I just like being single right now. As an ace, my advice and experiences are of course going to be different than those who identify as polyamorous, but the general LGBT+ advice of knowing your workplace and local culture applies, I think.

  120. PNWPolyamAnon*

    I’m a queer polyamorous cis woman who actively worked in sacred intimacy communities for several years. Though my longest term partner is a transperson, I’ve also often been in long term relationships with cis men and in fact just married one (my other partner officiated and it was amazing). This means in addition to my other forms of privilege, I have often had passing privilege–which on one hand makes it easier to avoid negative attention, but also leads to a lot of erasure, both of my actual identity (I have been aware of my queerness and practicing polyam for pretty much my entire adult life) and of my other partners. Which can really suck. I’ve also got over 14 years of professional experience under my belt at this point so this question has come up multiple times for me.

    I’m fortunate to live in a large west coast city with a fairly high degree of tolerance (and large communities of both queer and polyamorous people), and to work in the tech industry, which is often (if not always) more open-minded on these matters. However, I’ve always kept a VERY tightly controlled online presence; LinkedIn is the only social network with my name on it–which doesn’t stop all possibility of gossip but helps me control who can readily discover what about me.

    On the flip side, I’ve tried to use my relative privilege (I’m also white) to help normalize queerness and polyamory in my workplaces. I was out to several of my managers at the Fortune 500 company where I started my career, though not to all of them; this never impacted my career in a way I could discern, though I definitely worried about it. In a subsequent workplace, I was one of two openly polyamorous people, and it turned out that a lot of folks had unvoiced, snarky feelings about polyamory based on what they perceived as the other polyam person’s “drama”. My practice of polyam happened to look a lot more boring from the outside than hers did, which is a whole other complicated thing about the line between oversharing (which she sometimes did) and society’s tendency to judge women for these things (which is real and gross and was in effect too). My presence and lowkey out-ness in that workplace actually ended up calming some of the gossip and meanness about the other woman, which I felt good about.

    My tactic has always been fairly calm, matter of fact phrasing; I refer to my partners as ‘partners’, which people only pick up on some of the time, and when a workplace has reason to know one of my partners more than the other (for example, I live with them or are married to them) I have used the phrase ‘my other partner’ to make it clear I’m not just talking about the person they would assume I’m talking about by using the word partner.

    Today I run a small agency and deal with various clients; I work remotely 100% of the time so often this stuff doesn’t come up. But I still try drop those turns of phrase once in a while, though it can be a little nerve wracking (not all my clients are from the same place I am). But I feel like I’ve got some safety nets if things ever did have repercussions, and by taking these risks I hope to make things easier for others who follow.

    Obviously your choice is your own, LW; I was much more cautious early in my career, for sure. I urge you to make sure you’ve thought about what you might do if things went poorly or there were repercussions, if nothing else so that you have a chance to make peace, plans, or both with those possibilities. But also, again, erasure is a real thing and it can really wear away at the spirit over time. For me, being out–even just a little at times, even just incrementally–has helped me feel more whole.

  121. Jo*

    Hi OP! I haven’t read every single comment above so apologies if this is just echoing what others have said, but I thought I’d jump in and offer what I could.

    I was in a poly relationship for several years in my early twenties – they were a straight married couple and the male person was also my partner. I’m asexual, for the record. Although I wasn’t working in a professional capacity at the time, we were both in the same university area and had a big mutual network. I used to be very nervous about people ‘finding out’ about us and the potential judgement with that, but as I eventually started talking to more people about it, I was actually really pleasantly surprised at how OK people were. Occasionally there’d be a few ‘and she’s completely fine with it?’ questions, but given that she was and we all got along fine, no one ever asked any more questions after that.

    When I started professional work I had similar feelings about being out at work (I’m asexual and queer), but one of the things that really helped boost my confidence was raising it with my manager that I worked closely with when we were grabbing a coffee one day. She was super supportive without making it a big deal, so after that I started being more open with other colleagues as well, because I knew that one person would have my back if anyone did get weird about it. If I were to be in another poly relationship I would probably approach that the same way – mention it to a few trusted people, and then (provided they’re not weird or judgy) just start being more open and referring to people as partners or boyfriends/girlfriends as you would in any other conversation.

    Good luck with everything and try to stay positive! I know some parts of the comments got a bit scary but there are so many open minded people out there too. :)

  122. prk*

    I (cis het white passing male) chose to be open about it, but not broadcast it.

    In general social conversation I would talk about something I did on the weekend with my wife, or something I was planning to do with my girlfriend, etc.

    Some people chose to ask me about it and I’d then let them know I was polyam, and talk more about it if they were interested, but it was fine for other colleagues to ignore or be oblivious to it.

  123. Poly Person*

    I am polyamorous and this is something that I struggle with too.

    Basically I take it all on a case-by-case basis. I tell close friends or people I think will handle it well. I don’t tell them in hushed tones or swear them to secrecy or anything. I just don’t bring it up at a staff meeting.

    It’s usually pretty chill — if I start to mention a partner who isn’t my spouse, I just say, “Did I mention that we are polyamorous? So yeah, my boyfriend and I….”

    The one exception to this was at a previous job when I made the mistake of talking in front of a group of people (over lunch) about my polyamorous “friend” (actually my boyfriend) and his wife’s boyfriend. It was a huge mistake. Without the social pressure to not diss me personally, my colleagues felt totally fine dissing my “friend’s” lifestyle — which made it effectively impossible to ever come out to anyone at that job.

    So yeah, my biggest advice is to not try to “test the waters” by talking about other poly people. Because if they react badly (not realizing it is personal), you will burn your hopes of being able to be out later on.

  124. All Outrage, All The Time*

    Poly here. I don’t bring it up at work. I’m a woman and I don’t want people I work with, especially men, speculating about the sex side of it among themselves. I’m extremely private and cautious about what I share about myself at work and in public forums where I can be identified. I don’t feel the need to be a poly activist or represent other poly people.

  125. ChewnicornKiller*

    This is an interesting one for me, as I have a unique setup with my husband.

    Happily married but we have what I believe is best described as an “ethically non-monogamous” marriage.

    Any involved parties know about it, (we both have regular friends) but we don’t talk about it at work or indeed generally. Just because in a previous guise it imploded and we lost good friends as a result.

    Any kind of non-standard romantic life is tricky sadly. I commend OP for wanting to live their truth, but I advise caution.

  126. Anon Anon Anon*

    I think it depends on how open and close you want to be with your co-workers. The way I look at is that openness = bonding, which can help with job security and make work a better experience. But it also comes with risks. My preference is not to take those risks. I just do my job and don’t get too close to co-workers. I don’t talk about my relationships. I just don’t want them to be involved in that stuff. It’s lower stress for me. I like boundaries. I like to keep different parts of my life separate. I like privacy. But everyone’s different and it’s partly about doing what you’re comfortable with.

    I’m non-monogamous sometimes. I don’t like to talk about it unless I’m with friends who understand. I don’t feel pressure to be closeted. I’m just a private kind of person.

  127. Anonforthis*

    If you live in the wrong part of the country, and the wrong person finds out you are poly, and you have children… then you can lose them to child protective services. I have been poly since 1980 and I speak from experience. There have been many parents who lost custody of their children due to being openly polyamorous (as well as those who have lost custody due to being Wiccan). It happens. Make no mistake; it happens. As my attorney said to me, “Bigamy is still illegal.” This has been overlooked in what I had time to read of the discussion but I think it is an important point for any poly parent to consider.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Bigamy in a legal sense only applies when one tries to file for legal marriage with more than one person at a time. It has zero to do with one’s relationship structure when one does not involve the law in > 1 case.

      1. Anonforthis*

        In a “legal sense” bigamy may only apply to marriage, but it is a very easy parallel for Children’s Protective Services to take when their only obligation is to act in the “best interests of the child” which are interpreted by the social worker’s own personal standards. And, yes, if the interpretation the social worker makes to one’s polyamorous living situation is prejudicial then one may fight it in court… IF one has the financial and emotional resources to do so. When one has children it is wise to consider what the child custody courts have done in the past, and continue to do, when making decisions as to how open one wants to be with their lives.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Certainly. I don’t dispute that it’s wise to be very cautious in dealing with child custody issues; even if trouble very rarely happens, the risk of losing one’s kids is just too catastrophic to take even a small chance. And how small the chance actually would be depends on exactly where you are, who’s working in child protective services there these days, what other courts have done in that state, and whether or not anybody else happens to have a bone to pick with you, for which they could plausibly see CPS as a weapon. CPS almost never gets involved on their own; but if you happen to have an ex, or relatives of same, who *already* thinks you’re a bad person to be raising their young relatives, for example, then you’ve got a lot more to worry about than the average polyamorous person with kids does. And the average polyamorous person *without* kids, and who doesn’t plan to have any, has it much safer, of course.

          I was objecting to the concept that polyamorous people are all bigamists, which is a slander we get pretty frequently and sometimes need to remind people not to use, even by implication. I was not objecting to the warning that those of us raising children in nontraditional relationships need to be very careful about how we’re perceived, especially when they live in conservative areas.

  128. Princesa Zelda*

    I’m a queer (biromantic, asexual, fem-presenting) person with two jobs. I grew up in an area near the FLDS polygamist community, and currently live in a “purple” city. I am not personally poly, but at one workplace it would get a shrug and at the other it would get about a week of drama, then be forgotten about. I’m openly/quietly queer in both places — it helps that there are queer supervisors in both, and at drama-job, multiple bi folk. If I were to go to drama-job talking about multiple partners, or I even hinted at it in Hometown, there would be Talk, and Questions, and Are You Okays. It’s definately a know-your-office and know what you’re willing to put up with.

    I wish you many years of happiness!!!

  129. Beth*

    I don’t personally ID as polyamorous, but I have a lot of polyam friends, and I also feel like I can relate to this dilemma a little as a lesbian. Coming out (as really any non-monogamous, non-heterosexual, etc. identity) comes with both risks and benefits.

    On the one hand, it means not hiding–coming out gives you the freedom to talk about what you’re doing that weekend, to have a photo of your family on your desk, to tell your coworkers when you’re getting married or having a kid or approaching another major milestone, to be open and ask for support when you’re having a family crisis, etc. That’s huge. It’s really hard to feel like yourself, much less actually connect with your coworkers, when you’re struggling to hide such fundamental parts of your life. Opening up can be a huge relief.

    On the other hand…some people will react badly. Some won’t get it. Some will think we’re being dramatic or attention-seeking. Some will even hate us for being open about who we are–and some of those people will act on that hate. And there aren’t necessarily strong legal protections in place to counter that (there aren’t enough to make me feel secure as a gay person, and I’m pretty sure there are less for polyamory). It’s hard to tell how much of a danger this is for you personally, since it depends on the attitudes and beliefs of the individuals around you, so you do have to consider this on a somewhat individual basis–but I think it’s worth sounding out your coworkers first, if you can. If coming out will put your safety or livelihood at risk, that’s a factor that’s worth taking into account. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it–you should do what makes the most sense for you, and there are a lot of factors! Just that it’s better to make a decision with as much awareness and information as possible.

  130. Ruth (UK)*

    I am a gay woman who is not necessarily either poly or not (I’m not in a relationship so it’s not currently relevant to me to consider particularly. I feel like I wouldn’t be against, say, being in an open relationship, but I also wouldn’t necessarily be the one suggesting it…). Among my personal friends, some are poly and there is a couple in an open relationship, so it’s something that… I guess feels a bit more normalised to me. I also work in a very inclusive and LGBT+ inclusive workplace.

    I think for you, it might be useful to think about how people in your workplace habe responded in the past to things/people/relationships that are less ‘traditional’. Ie. How have they responded if someone has come out as gay or trans? If not someone at your workplace then perhaps if a celebrity who has come out has come up being discussed. Kink related things are unlikely to come up at work but… If anything similar to that has come up before again it might be interesting to reflect on whether they feel anything about it is ‘wrong’ or if it just matters that everyone consents.

    If you wanted to test the water maybe you could try bringing up poly couples as a subject without suggesting it’s about yourself (maybe you saw it on a TV show or documentary, or heard about it from a friend or have a poly friend) and see what their reaction is like.

    That might give up a better idea if this is a place where you want to be out or if you might decide it’s better to be more low key about it.

    Ps. You shouldn’t have to keep it quiet. Ideally you’d be able to be out about something like this without people hassling you or judging you. The only thing that matters in your relationship here is that everyone is an informed and consenting adult. But not everyone will see it that way and with that in mind you may want to make a decision about how much you want people to know.

  131. cncx*

    Normally i don’t comment on stuff that doesn’t directly affect me (i would normally prefer to amplify polyamourous people), however one of the first top level comments from Project Problem Solver mentioned something i have also experienced in a different way- I am a member of a religious group with a bad name- i found that being open about my religious beliefs at work also meant i was the Official Spokesperson For My Religion which came with its own set of problems (up to and including harassment).

    For all the talk of activism and doing the work, i decided being visibly religious at work wasn’t worth everything that had been thrown at me (i had a coworker who refused to speak to me, HR/mgmt got involved, etc). There can be hypothetical discussion about what the right thing to do is for the community but that also has to be weighed with what OP feels comfortable with personally, the financial/professional need to have a certain job, and i found i couldn’t have it both ways- i could either go to work and get my paycheck in relative peace, or deal with all the assorted bs of other people’s prejudices, ignorance and bigotry.

    whether one should politically be out or not is a separate conversation from what OP would be comfortable with and i agree that in an ideal world people could be open and just be how they are. For me, it didn’t work that way.

  132. 4eyedraven*

    I’m polyamorous and work in a conservativeish industry in a liberal city and I’m not “out” per se but I also like don’t hide it. My closer coworkers either know or could figure it out since i’ve mentioned my long term girlfriend and also going on dates and honestly people were less shocked/confused/freaked out than I thought they’d be.

  133. Another Friendly Poly Queer Person*

    Speaking up as another poly queer person here. This is my first time commenting, too!

    What works for me is being totally honest about who I am. Granted, I work in an industry that’s pretty open-minded, but I enjoy the freedom that comes from talking about my partner(s) openly when the topic comes up.

    There are absolutely people who can’t be open about these things due to where they work or live. I’d like to think that me being so forthright about my life is slowly nudging our world into a place where more people feel comfortable talking about their spouses/partners without needing to pretend that anyone is their roommate.

    It’s one thing to be prejudiced against a nameless/faceless group. It’s quite another to hear the term polyamorous or queer and immediately think of your kind coworker, friend, relative, etc.

  134. Dawn*

    I’m poly, and I’m out to close friends in the office. Otherwise, my partners are my very good friends or my “date friends” because my coworkers know I see my primary partner weekly, but they *don’t* know he stays here, or I stay at his house overnight.

    But my situation is different, because you will be moving in with them. In all seriousness, since you are living together, you could call the relationship your “family by choice” and introduce them as your partners whom you live with. Few people will take that as a poly relationship. There are enough untraditional households, and with high costs of living, moving in with good friends isn’t unheard of.

    Whom you sleep with is your own affair.

    P.S. And when I read all the comments, I’ll probably find someone smarter and more on the ball already said this.

  135. Polyam Teacher*

    I’m a middle school teacher and I keep discussions about my partners out of my classroom. I don’t have a photo of any of them. I feel like I have to be in the closet because of my job and I hate it. Unfortunately, I need to eat, I like to teach, and no where in the US would a teacher be allowed to be frank about such relationships with their middle school (possibly even high school) students. And don’t tell me “it would be cool in California!”
    I’m in California.

  136. Digital Dragon*

    I’m also a late 20’s female polyam (based in the UK), currently in relationships with two different men and a metamour, one of whom I live with, and wasn’t out initially at work. How I chose to approach it was to call one of them my ‘partner’ and one my ‘boyfriend’, working off the basis that those terms can and often are used interchangeably, and also felt okay to me since I wasn’t lying to anyone, just taking advantage of the linguistic anomalies.

    Whilst this worked, it did lead into me coming out at work as at one point my coworker and I were talking about social things and she said “You know, it really does sound like you’re talking about two different people sometimes”, to which I responded, “That’s because they are”, but by that point I’d been working there long enough and knew the people/culture well enough to know that people were to be cool with it, and I just used the natural flow of that conversation to come out.

    There was a period of fielding questions, since I was the first person to be open in the office about a non-monogamous relationship, but I was comfortable answering them, just making sure to hammer home the perspective “This is how it is for me, not all polyam people will be like this”.

    And I think (as many others have said here) that’s what it comes down to – you have to know yourself, what you’re comfortable with, and what your culture is like. Maybe, like me, you’ll be happy to call them all ‘partners’ and talk about them interchangeably, but whatever you choose, make sure you’re happy and comfortable with it.

    And congrats on moving in with them! It’s lovely when life is surprising in a good way!

  137. Candace*

    Possibly related question, and please delete if it’s too far afield – I just thought of it because we’re discussing openness re/unconventional relationships at work. Do anyone’s workplace benefits accommodate more than 1 partner? To my knowledge, I’ve only heard of it once; the person purchased “family” insurance, and submitted a bunch of legal documents. No, you can’t be married to multiple people, but there’d been other legal documents establishing some kind of relationship, and I was told that the particular workplace accepted it. But I’ve never seen this personally, and am wondering if I will. I run several academic libraries, and I could see someday having someone want to be able to purchase coverage for unconventional family members. I’d like to be able to help but I’m honestly not sure what options are out there. Anyone?

  138. Flash Bristow*

    [Bi, mono person here (who has had two partners at a time in the past, as the point of a V.)]

    Three thoughts:

    In your shoes, OP, I’d say nothing initially but if it comes up (as in “you look great in this desk photo, who’s that with you?”) I’d simply say ” that’s my partner”.

    I’d apply that to either of them. And if someone says “er, hang on, I thought x was your partner, not y” you can just say “yep, I have two partners” and change the subject. Well, that’s what I’d do.

    Secondly – what do your two partners think? How out are they comfortable with you (all) being? Have you asked them how they’d like to be described if a colleague encounters you together at a bar? I’d rely a bit on what makes them comfortable as well as yourself.

    Finally, this article about a friend of mine and her two partners might be interesting – to anyone who is curious how this situation can potentially work out. It’s just one example (and a bit extreme) but everyone’s chill with it. It’s clear some commenters here don’t quite “get” a triad, so here’s an example:

    Good luck with everything, OP – I hope you find a solution that is comfortable.

  139. Lola Houston*

    Context matters a lot here. Even in a large major city, it can be pretty small socially and that might be difficult to navigate. But for me (and my central theme when I did workshop at Woodhull in 2017) is that you simply do not know about the deeper attitudes of your co-workers, and especially those above you. It is quite possible that your position would be endangered or worse, there’d be silent kickback that would take you a long time to unpack. The question might be: is it worth it?

  140. Amanda*

    Poly for 4 years, I haven’t told anyone at work. I do have pictures of both my husband and my partner in my office and so far only one person has asked who my partner was, to which I replied it was my best friend. You can just say you are roommates if you don’t feel like explaining.

  141. Christine*

    I have been polyamorous for four-five years. My workplace is mostly aware of my relationship status. I might be in a unique place, where my office is very liberal, based in NYC. This is also the first workplace where I have developed quite a few friendships. My “coming out” happened slowly. It first came out because of my some personal issue I was having and I wound up venting to my closest friend at work when we got lunch one day. Not the best circumstances to “come out” but there was not an easy way to explain what was happening without the context and he was a good friend and we have been there for each other through other things.

    He was totally cool about it and kept it on the down low out because that is what I wanted at the time. Slowly over the past few years though, I told more people and a few had basically had guessed before I even told them. At this point, all my direct coworkers know. I talk freely about my two different partners when I talk about how my weekend went or my upcoming plans. It’s not something I shout from the rooftops or tell someone up front, but its also not a secret at this point.

    Hilariously, everyone in my life knows at this point, but my parents. I figured that’s a bridge I will cross when I need to (IE- relationships get serious enough to want to bring them to holidays or like OP’s situation- if living situations change.) They are not the most liberal people.

    My suggestion- is if you feel you have someone close at work who is also very liberal but also can keep things on the DL if needed, open up to them, and see what they also think the temperature of your office is about something like this. And like another poster mentioned, realize that you are going to be representative of the poly community by being that out. Not that you need to talk about it every day, or introduce yourself as poly to new people, but that as people know they will judge what polyamory is like based on how you act.

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