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.

Posted in Uncategorized

{ 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 rece