can I talk about my boyfriend’s other girlfriend at work?

I met up with the wonderful Jennifer Peepas of Captain Awkward while she was in town and it was lovely!

We decided to collaborate on answering a few questions together and crosspost them to both sites, and this is the first of two posts from that joint effort.

1. Can I talk about my boyfriend’s other girlfriend at work?

“Adam” is dating both me and “Jane,” and we all live together. We aren’t really into any sort of “polyamory scene” sort of thing; this is simply an arrangement that happened because it’s what works for us and our happy little family.

Moving in with them coincided with a new job, and I really don’t know how to talk about it at work, or if it’s even appropriate. I’m so used to talking freely about Thanksgiving plans; but it feels overly personal to say that we’re flying out to spend Thanksgiving with Jane’s family (because that would lead to: Jane? Who is Jane?).

Jane has some work-appropriate, performance-related hobbies, so weekend plans often involve going to shows that are in that sphere; it feels oddly dismissive of Jane and her place in my life to say, “oh, I’m watching my friend’s performance,” but at the same time, overly TMI to say, “oh, this weekend I’m watching my boyfriend’s other girlfriend’s performance.”

Thus far I’ve just… kind of avoided the details, but have mentioned “Jane” or my “friend” or “housemate” a bit. I’m comfortable and confident with my household arrangement in other spheres of my life, but work is a place where I like to abide by the rules, and I really don’t know what the rules are here! It feels so weird to have this person who is so integrated into my life, and then not really know how or if to talk about her.

I know my workplace is at least a little bit open (I’ve got a trans coworker, and that’s No Big Deal), but it isn’t particularly progressive. Very much a Normal Office.

P.S. I think a coworker thinks Jane is my daughter. If this ever comes up, should I correct them?

Jennifer (Captain Awkward): To me, there are three things in tension here:

  1. The more non-traditional romantic and family structures become boring and routine, probably the more safety and comfort people in non-traditional relationships will have. You’re harming nobody, secrecy increases stigma, so why not share it without making a big deal the way anybody would talk about a spouse or partner at work?
  2. Unfortunately, depending on where you live and work, there is stigma and legal discrimination against people in any relationship that isn’t one man and one woman that can have real professional and legal consequences, and privacy isn’t a thing anybody can get back once it’s out there.
  3. Who specifically is in your workplace, what is the culture there, and how many questions about non-traditional relationships do you want to answer from your coworkers if you bring this up? Do you want to take on an educator/ambassador role, do you want to risk releasing the kraken known as That One Guy Who Is Just Very, Very Curious About Your Exact Sleeping Arrangements? And do you want to do this at work?

Really there’s no one right thing to do and no wrong one either. Asking Jane and your boyfriend how they’d like to be referred to and specifically how much of their private business they are comfortable with your coworkers knowing is probably a good idea before you make any detailed corrections, as in, you’re worried about being “dismissive of Jane” but Jane doesn’t have to work where you work nor does she necessarily want to be a topic of discussion there.

When in doubt, “Oh, she’s not my daughter, Jane’s my close friend and also our housemate, we think of her as family” works just fine.“Partner,” “Part of the family,” “My boyfriend’s other partner,” etc. might work if you want to disclose more in a way that people familiar with polyamory will pick up.

The good news is that this most likely be fascinating for a week or so and then probably nobody will care because they aren’t that interested, and That One Person can always be told it’s none of their beeswax.

Alison (Ask a Manager): I’m so glad Jennifer answered this first because I’m really conflicted on this kind of question. On one hand, I am all for reducing stigma about personal choices that harm no one — especially when it can be done by people who are in a relative position of safety. And I’m acutely aware of how “you must hide this core thing about who you are when you’re at work” often plays out in ways that are harmful and oppressive, especially when your coworkers don’t have to hide parallel things from their own lives. On the other hand, the reality is that there is still a stigma against polyamorous relationships, and it very well may affect your career if this becomes a gossipy thing that gets mentioned ahead of your work when your name comes up.

So I think you’ve to figure out (a) how your specific office is likely to respond to this, and maybe your broader field or network, since at some point you’ll change jobs and people talk, and (b) how much you care, which is a combination of how uncomfortable/unhappy you’ll be if you hide the nature of the relationship and how concerned you are about potentially dealing with weirdness or bias from people in your professional realm.

I’ll also note that whenever this comes up, some people like to argue that coming out as polyamorous is TMI — that it’s “sharing things about your sex life that they don’t want to hear.” So I want to state for the record that this is no more that than sharing the existence of any other partner is. It’s about sharing who you love and who you are in an important relationship with. The culture as a whole hasn’t totally figured that out yet — which is why this is still a question — but it’s worth flagging in any discussion here.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I like my job but my company is postponing a promised promotion and cutting everyone’s pay. Should I stay or go?

I’m an entry-level employee at a small company of about 40 people in a major city with high cost of living. Despite my previous three years of experience in the industry, I was hired at the lowest level in the company and told I would be eligible for a promotion within a year if my performance went well. Fast forward a year and a half and my performance has been stellar and I was on the track for a promotion. However, the company is undergoing dramatic financial issues and last week management cut everyone’s salary by 10% to preserve our financial stability. A lot of the entry-level employees were baffled and asked that we be exempt from the cut since we make the least and have the least amount of decision-making power that led to this situation. To accommodate us, management cut entry-level pay by 5% and everyone else received the 10% cut. They’re planning to maintain the cut throughout all of 2020. In addition to the salary cut, they’ve frozen all new hires and promotions for this year.

I feel defeated because my promotion (and accompanying raise) will not happen in 2020. I also feel angry because management is planning on creating more products to boost our sales and revenue, which means everyone will be working harder for less pay in the hope that our sales improve next year. Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company and make sacrifices for the whole.

All my friends and family say I should run, quit, and find a new job ASAP. I feel hesitant because I did really like my job before this happened and felt like I had a career trajectory at this company. I’m also struggling to determine if I owe it to the company to stay, put in the work, and weather the storm of 2020 for $3,000 less a year than what I was making. I think my manager is sensing my hesitation because he offered me a title-only promotion without an increase in pay. It feels like a consolation prize and the more reality sets in, the more I’m concerned about my financial and professional future if I stay. Am I selling myself short if I stay? Am I a traitor if I leave?

Jennifer: Imagine for a moment that you are an investor considering putting money into your company. Does a firm “undergoing dramatic financial issues” that forced even its most junior staff take a pay cut, froze all hiring and promotions for a year, and then still thought it could develop and launch new product lines sound like the safest bet? The company is gambling that that this move will pay off and maybe it will, but a smart investor wouldn’t put 100% of their money and hopes into this place and probably neither should you. What’s the harm in looking around to see what’s out there and applying to interesting opportunities? You’re not obligated to take any offers that aren’t a better fit than you have now, but if things “dramatically” deteriorate you’ll be glad you have options.

If you decide to accept the title boost (it’s good for your resume whether you stay or go), ask for something in return and put it in writing. Could be a retention bonus (“I’ll stay in this role for one year in return for $X now and $Y at the end of that year”), could be a retroactive raise in 2021 (“On Jan 1, 2021 the company agrees to raise my salary to $X and pay me retroactively for the months I worked as [title]”), could be more paid vacation, could be more flexibility to work from home, could be offloading your most hated tasks to someone else and taking on more of what you want to do with your time. Negotiate something in consideration for taking on more work and I’ll repeat it again – get it in writing. It doesn’t have to be a contentious thing, you can tell your boss how much you appreciate him for going to bat for you to have the new role and just add in that it would be foolish not to ask for something in writing about compensation given how much the industry and company finances fluctuate. If he gets mad at you, calls you “disloyal” or “entitled,” or tries to manipulate your emotions to get you to forgo money, it is a sign that you should quietly accept the promotion and start sending out your resume IMMEDIATELY.

Finally, I want you to excise the word “traitor” from your vocabulary when you think about this problem. The company broke a promise to promote you and also cut your pay because they’ve decided that it saves them money. If they need to lay you off to make their numbers they will, so consider that when this employer talks about “giving back” and “loyalty” they mean a thing you owe them so you’ll work more for less. How can looking out for your own money – i.e. the whole reason you work there – possibly be “a betrayal”? If you stole their proprietary information and sold it to competitors, that would be betrayal. If you find a new job with more money and a better title, you’re making a business decision the same as them.

Alison: Yes! Excellent, excellent.

And also, re-think your ideas of what you “owe” an employer. This isn’t a marriage, where you’ve taken vows. Here’s what you owe your employer: good, focused work while you’re there; clear communication when there are problems if your employer has a track record of handling that sort of input well, and a reasonable amount of notice when you decide to leave (for most people, that’s two weeks). You do not owe them a commitment to stay for longer than would be in your own interests. I promise you, they will act in their own interests — and that’s as it should be! That’s not, like, a sneering commentary on them; it’s just a recognition that this is a business relationship. Each side should treat the other with respect and integrity, but you don’t sacrifice your own interests for theirs, just as they wouldn’t for you. That’s the nature of it! You get to walk away when you want to walk away and when it makes sense for you to walk away. (And it sounds like it’s time to start thinking about doing that.)

Tune in later this week for Part 2 of this conversation and the answers to three more questions.

{ 524 comments… read them below }

      1. GoryDetails*

        So did I! (And letter #2 is one that I wish had been around for me a couple of jobs back; I had a tendency to do the “love the company” thing past the point of logic, and got blindsided by layoffs when – in retrospect – all the signs of a company scrambling to avoid disaster were really obvious… If I’d been able to think past “must do my best to help out Beloved Company” I’d have been in much better shape.)

        1. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

          GoryDetails did you walk for miles carrying heavy equipment instead of taking public transport, give up your health insurance so your company wouldn’t have to pay their share, and refuse to eat pizza the company already bought? If not how can you say you did your best to save Beloved Company? Ha ha ha just kidding! (And if you don’t know what I’m referencing look up “my coworkers won’t help cut expenses” lol

          1. GoryDetails*

            {snerk!} No, it never got THAT bad. (But thanks for reminding me of that letter – was that ever bizarre!)

        2. Artemesia*

          Me too. Got totally blindsided. Note to others: if they come around putting little numbered stickers on all the equipment (just taking inventory) this is NOT a good sign or business as usual. The organization had been going for a couple hundred years in one form or another; no idea it could crash and burn taking careers with it.

          1. SarahKay*

            Ummm…it depends on the little numbered stickers – it’s not always a bad sign.
            I have to check our Fixed Assets (i.e. all the expensive equipment) on an annual basis, to make sure they’re still there. When I started, most of them weren’t labelled with the asset number which made the first year of checking them very hard indeed. After a few hours of this frustration I started the checks again, labelling everything (with bright yellow stickers!) with the numbers per my asset register as I went.
            This did generate a number of concerned questions about why it was happening, which I did my best to be reassuring about. It probably helped that I could show them the list of assets and their numbers, and that I really was just adding labels to the equipment that matched the list. That was ten years ago; the count in the following nine years was much, much easier.
            I am not in any way saying there aren’t companies that would act as Artemesia’s employers did, just that it’s not always a huge red flag.

            1. Mongrel*

              Yeah – tracking if there’s asset stickers going around can have an innocent explanation.
              I normally look for cheaping out on the ‘small’ stuff; the cheaper printer paper that jams more often, service contracts being brought in-house as they expire, ordering the office supply companies own brand, moving to no-name generic coffee\tea, less comfortable loo roll etc…

            2. TardyTardis*

              I hear you, I was a part time assistant to our Fixed Assets Queen and I got sucked into helping her with running the depreciation schedules. But first we had to find everything…

              And one manager in one of our plants did that, and wrote off a boatload of assets that had apparently Not Been There for over a decade, but were still carried on the books.

              And when one branch was sold we all cried knowing all their assets would end up bought by a competitor for pennies on the dollar (*see* as illustrated on Doonesbury).

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            Many, many years ago I managed a convenience store that was part of a large chain. My store was closed by the chain. This was supposed to be a dark secret, because it was assumed that any employees who knew would steal as much as they could before the final closure. The idea was that the special store closing crew would swoop in one morning, to the surprise and shock of the people inside. But they sucked at keeping the secret, even apart from I knew how to read a profit and loss statement. The day the credit card machine went dead was the final clue. The official closure was a day or two after that. So when my district manager showed up to break the news to me, he was astonished when I expressed no surprise. This put him into a minor panic until the inventory crew was done, when he was even more astonished that it didn’t come up short. He offered me an assistant position in another store, with a promise of promotion back to manager when a space opened up. I declined. I was done by then with both the company in particular and the industry in general. I also was offended by the assumption that of course I am a thief. Buddy, if I was going down that road I knew how to steal about $50,000 in cash in a way they would know it was me, but couldn’t prove in court.

        3. Uldi*

          Sadly, companies deliberately feed into that kind of loyalty. That’s why they’ll use phrases like “we’re your work family” and “company loyalty” and “giving back to the company” (that one in particular ticks me off, I already am, by leasing you my time, effort and expertise for your own profit). It’s manipulative, and they’re fully aware of that fact.

    1. Lilo*

      Jennifer’s advice here is so, so good too. Especially for LW2. Alison is great but this brought a nice change up.

    2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      I was excited yesterday when I got the email saying there would be a reply, and delighted this morning when I saw I’d gotten TWO replies! Even though it perhaps indicates my question was tricksy enough to require two minds :p

      1. lilsheba*

        I love that you are comfortable in this non traditional relationship setup, that it’s going well with no jealousies or issues. I am in a relationship with a man and a woman and it’s a true triad or thruple or whatever you want to call it. I talk about my partners freely at work, I feel that no one should have to hide their family setup, I don’t worry about whether my personal life is “appropriate” or not. So I hope it goes well if you do just refer to them as partners or however you choose to do it.

        1. TriadAnon*

          Just to say that as someone who has been in a triad (everyone is together) and would like to have kids it is definitely encouraging to hear that it can be a relationship you can talk about at work!

          1. Ash*

            I was in a really conservative field, so I didn’t come out at my own workplace, but my partners (of 15 and 11 years for me, and 25+ years with each other) are out at their respective jobs.

            We do have kids (mine from a previous marriage, theirs is 12), and we haven’t run into difficulties with school/etc., where I’m listed as a family member.

            This may vary based on country/state/district/job field, but I’m happy to say that it’s all gone very well for us!

        2. Simonthegreywarden*

          I’m the hinge in a polycule – I have a husband of a decade and a (female) partner of 20 years. The three of us raise a son together. It is true that at first people ask how I ‘share’ (I don’t; my partners aren’t partners, though they are friends and do love each other) but beyond that, when I reveal that I have three parents running after one toddler I can see the gears in their heads turning as they think “…why don’t I get one of those…”

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            My parents are not perfect, but ‘life is not what the rules say it should be’ was the best advice they gave me. Be you, do what works best for you, and good luck to you!

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        I’m really glad someone asked this kind of a question. I am in a triad with a man and a woman, and the man and I will marry in a year or so. I am the homemaker, he works in IT, and she is in school and will work when she’s done. We’re all in our forties.

        I do believe in being out in a reasonable fashion because that’s how the rest of the world realizes, no, it’s not lurid or exciting 99 percent of the time. But you do have to be safe.

      3. Yep s'me*

        I / we made the choice not to talk at work about the specifics of how and why the three adults and associated children were a household. It was easy to become matter of fact about us being a social unit – cost of housing, help with children, good friends were part of why it seemed to make sense to others – and it didn’t feel like being dismissive, or like being dismissed when my partner did it. We all talked about it. (Conversations with thoughtful kids about what to tell and what to keep private are fascinating – because kids should be empowered to make those choices too.) This was not a workplace with any other LGBTQ presence and I thought hard before putting the safe-space sticker on my office. I did end up disclosing to a few specific trusted co-workers with only one negative result.

        It made sense at that time (20 years ago) and in that particular workplace. I don’t know if I’d make the same choices now. It really sucked when handing in the change of address notice was treated like “oh, it must be so nice for you to live in your own place!” rather than like a divorce.

  1. Threeve*

    For #2–do managers not understand that the only value of a title-only promotion is when you’re looking for other work? Employees may appreciate it, but it’s not a good tool for retention.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It works as a temporary retention tool, since if you’re putting it on your resume, you’ll want to have some history with that new role before it really comes into effect. If the company is treating its cash-flow problems as temporary, it makes perfect sense to keep the OP there a little longer.

      However, it definitely has an expiration date as a retention tool.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yes, if you are trying to keep things afloat through a rough patch, and keep somebody who you think is mission critical, but can’t pay them more this can work for the short term. But it’s just that, short term and then either thing improve or like Diahann it will be parlayed into another job somewhere else.

      2. Artemesia*

        Yes, but that person is a fool not to be looking. I got a big promotion just before my organization crashed and burned.

        1. MuchNope*

          Same. I was Director of R & D for a few brief weeks before the sale of the company fell through and they laid off 75% of the workforce. My former peer was kept on be cause she was ‘less ambitious’ even though the paper promotion wasn’t even my idea.
          Live and learn.

      3. Alternative Person*

        Yes. A company I worked for a few years back gave me a responsibilities expansion in the midst of difficult times. Gave me access to skills/knowledge that usually cost £££ to get and went to people a level or two up the ladder. After things got better, they didn’t want to give me the title or pay rise to reflect what I was now doing and I ended up moving on.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      This. When that happened to me back when I worked in the legal field (I went from a client services rep to a paralegal – no pay increase included), I quietly updated my resume and was in a new job seven months later, lol. My new title got me a much better paying job in a much more stable (and sane) environment – the law firm I worked for acted like they were completely blindsided when I put in my notice even though I warned them that this was going to happen ahead of time.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Gotta ask: What does a “client services rep” in a law firm do? I am familiar (second-hand, I am pleased to report) with firms that deal with large volumes of low-impact car crash cases. These typically have a high ratio of support staff to actual attorneys, but the support staff in question in the firms I am familiar with are themselves paralegals. In the extreme examples, the paralegals might handle the entire case from intake to settlement, with the file handed to an outside firm if litigation proves necessary. I am wondering if the “client services rep” is someone who answers the phones as a barrier between the paralegals and the clients.

        1. CatLadyLawyerEsq*

          As someone who works in a high volume, low support staff legal environment at the moment, you don’t know what I would KILLLLLL for someone to JUST answer the phones and return brief update calls. (“Yes, looks like the motion was filed on Tuesday, and I see that the lawyer emailed you a copy to your gmail. Did you check your email?” etc.).

    3. andy*

      For me it kind of is. Or rather lack of things that signal I progressed is reason to leave. If staying suggest stagnation or is in fact stagnation then I *have* to leave. If staying means I can get better position for next job, then it is worth it.

      I am programmer, so that it does not have to be title. It can be bigger tasks on the same project.

    4. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

      I think managers know very well what they are doing: get more work and more responsibility out of someone without having to pay them more. And a lot of workers go along with it—-they are flattered and sometimes it means having a little more autonomy and authority, while starting a job search and getting a new job can be intimidating and exhausting. So the go along with it, sometimes for a long time until burnout/being monetarily unappreciated becomes more painful than finding a new job.

    5. Chili*

      THIS! I think a lot of managers do this because it’s truly the only thing they’re allowed to do when a company is going through financial issues and they understand that it won’t actually keep people for long, but there does always seem to be a contingent of managers who somehow believe most of their employees aren’t working for money? I’m not doing extra work just because you slap “senior” on my title! I need senior money!

    6. Mama Bear*

      Very much agree with the advice to leverage the title to the OP’s advantage. If the company can only give you a title, then you take that title and move on if the situation is no longer to your benefit. I remember watching a sinking ship of an office. We went from 30 to 5. My coworker asked “Should I be looking for a job?” I looked around the empty office and said, “You should have already have been looking for a job!” If there’s no clear upswing, make your own, even if it means at a different company.

    7. Oh So Anon*

      Sometimes the other potential value is giving you a credibility boost when working with external partners – this may be more of a factor in some fields than others.

    8. LunaLena*

      This post made me think of a scene from Futurama –
      Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth: I hereby promote you to executive delivery boy.
      Philip J. Fry: Executive?
      Hermes Conrad: [whispers to Leela] It’s a meaningless title, but it helps insecure people feel better about themselves.
      Philip J. Fry: I feel better about myself!

    9. T2*

      First rule of business. If anyone offers to cut my salary they are automatically telling me that my services are not valued. I would not agree to such a request and if I did, would be taking interviews immediately.

      Cutting positions is understandable. Cutting salaries are deathblows to companies.

  2. Lilo*

    Re LW1: I think it also depends on context and frequency. If you raise it once I’d probably go “Oh, okay, cool”. If you did it constantly, like “what did you do this weekend?” And “I went to Jane’s performance. Jane is my boyfriend’s girlfriend” that would be a bit too much.

    This could be true about anything. Say your boyfriend was a professional baseball player. If you mentioned it when normal, oh okay cool. If it was an every day out of context thing, “This weekend I went to a party with my boyfriend. He’s a professional baseball player” it would get weird.

    Know your audience, know the context.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t agree. This is a “once the cat is out of the bag” thing. If someone at the LW’s not progressive office is offended by it or titillated by it or wants to gossip about it or wants to save her from this bad relationship, then they are going to do after the word gets out the first time. They are not going to just forget.

      I’m not saying the LW should not come out as being in a polyamorous relationship, but the idea if you don’t mention it people who would be problematic about it will forget about it isn’t realistic.

      1. Lilo*

        Hence the “know your audience” thing. If your boss or the office gossip seems like someone who might freak out and make a big deal out of it, it’s fine to keep quiet about it.

        1. Flyleaf*

          This is important. If you don’t know your audience, it might get out from under you. Some co-workers might not be comfortable about levels of detail that are being shared, and it could get messy. I had a colleague, a manager, who hired a new employee. The new employee apparently shared information about their romantic life (not polyamory, but unusual for the office), and another worker thought it was TMI and took offense. It continued for a while, and eventually the offended worker made a complaint to HR about the new employee “sexualizing the office.” There were lots of meetings with HR and my friend the manager, lawyers, and hurt feelings. In the end there were no findings of wrongdoing or punishment, but the new employee kept more to herself and after six months she left the company for another job.

      2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

        So I actually submitted this question a few months ago. Since then I’ve come out to three coworkers, because it has been relevant to conversations and they’ve given vibes of being chill. Think my strategy is going to be just continue to let people get to know and like me as a person, so that when/if they learn of my relationship dynamics, it’s not my defining feature; just another aspect of my life.

        1. Same Boat*

          Hi – I am in a similar position: we’ve been living together for 10+ years and have three children we’re raising together. And it very much depends on culture. I’m out at my work, and at my previous (teaching) job. But in both cases I waited until I knew the place to explain. The first person I told was my manager in both cases, because I needed his/her support if anything got weird later. And I was also in the privileged position of being able to make the call that “if my boss is weird about this once they have gotten to know me, then this isn’t a place I want to work”. Totally understand that is not everyone’s position.

          Once I was sure they had my back, then I told people only when it came up naturally in conversation. I’m sure once telling certain folks it spread wider than that, but that’s fine. Generally, people have been chill – the most awkwardness has generally been people trying too hard to show how cool with it they are. I have gotten a couple of rude or weird questions, but I was ok playing the educator role – that was part of my calculus in coming out…. It’s been 5 years now, and at this point it’s old news and doesn’t come up (except my job changed their parental leave laws to accommodate a three-parent household without my asking – which was amazing and definitely earned them my loyalty going forward)

          But it really depends on the place you work – there are definitely old jobs I’ve had where I would have never shared I was gay, let alone in a triad (horrid word – there is no easy term for our family, and it makes explaining things so much more work than necessary).

          1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

            Aww, what a great story :)

            “(except my job changed their parental leave laws to accommodate a three-parent household without my asking – which was amazing and definitely earned them my loyalty going forward)”

            WOW! I’ve never heard of such a thing.

            Seconding you on the frustrations of language.

          2. Simonthegreywarden*

            Just as an aside, we use polycule to refer to our three-parent family, and in regards to our son I often call us the Triumverate (as in, “this is not a democracy, this is an absolute matriarchal monarchy disguised as a triumverate” when struggling to stuff the toddler into his shoes to take him to daycare.)

        2. Drago Cucina*

          Glad to hear that you are able to be yourself with accepting co-workers.

          Having managed someone who was in a polyamorous relationship I needed x amount of info, but not all information. If her “Jane” was ill she was allowed to use sick leave just as with a spouse. Not all situations are the same. I didn’t need to know all aspects of their lives. Some coworkers who knew didn’t like it, but as long as it didn’t impact work too bad and they had to keep their opinions to themselves.

          1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

            Can you talk more about being a manager of a person in a poly relationship? My manager doesn’t know yet, and I’m not sure how to manage it if/when it becomes relevant.

            Possibly relevant: the rest of my team is at a different location, I am semi-remote at a satellite office.

            1. Drago Cucina*

              To be honest my biggest concern was that they had clear expectations and boundaries. We all know how personal issues can impact work. While that sounds a bit heartless, I expected that any problems would immediately be presumed by co-workers to be because of her relationships. (That sounds clunky, please forgive any poor phrasing.)

              I was able to have open conversations with her about if/how she wanted to include both members in our work events, benefits, etc. I wanted to be in her comfort zone. I don’t know how your manager will react, but you may be pleasantly surprised. I hope that helps.

              Candidly, this was not near as awkward as having an employee date my (in his 30s) son.

        3. Em*

          I outed myself as being poly at work to a few people and it spread. It was too hard not to because most people know I got married last year but then I also have a girlfriend who works in our incredibly niche field so we’re seen together at conferences etc. It’s hard and I do fear it impacts me. So far it’s okay though. I really appreciated Allison’s response that this isn’t TMI. It just does come up sometimes making small talk about weekend plans etc.

    2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      Oh, absolutely! We are all very much into not being “in people’s faces.” Just living our lives together.

      If Jane and I end up wearing the same color shirt, I actually end up changing mine before we go out anywhere, because otherwise it feels too much like a, “look at us matching! It’s because there’s two of us! See? Look!!” Like, we’re not going to stop holding hands in public, because that’s for us, but things that feel like a display are meh.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Many people share houses & apartments without there being romance, whether it be rental, ownership, or some combination.
      Because I like to take the road less drama’ed, I’d be calling Jane my housemate unless/until things get more complicated down the line.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Housemate would be what I’d use.

        My household is five adults, I’m married to one, two others have been friends since the 80s, and the fifth is the sort-of girlfriend of one of my friends. I’ll refer to them all as “housemates” in bulk, because I don’t need to get into the weeds of how who relates to who. When you’ve been friends, sometimes with benefits, with people for thirty or more years, what you call each other doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s not “Late for Dinner”.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yep. We can divvy the chores fairly well, although we all have one sort of disability or another.

              1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

                The two of them are currently recovering from a particularly bad bout of the flu (I’ve got a badass immune system), having a third person around to care for them has definitely been useful!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think what’s landing as odd for me is that it’s not OP’s girlfriend–it’s her boyfriend’s girlfriend. And unless I am very close to you, or the girlfriend is, say, Chrissie Tiegan testing new recipes, then the doings of your boyfriend’s girlfriend, son’s girlfriend, or neighbor’s girlfriend are not very interesting to me.

      For the examples OP gives, I think “friend” covers it perfectly. “I’m going to a friend’s recital/Thanksgiving dinner/cake testing party.” It answers a) what you are doing this weekend b) how you got roped into it. Whether you and the violinist ever slept with the same guy isn’t something I care about, and if you share that information I do have a weird pause of “… should I comment on this? Why is she telling me this?” Whereas if I’ve known you better than as congenial work colleagues, I may eventually suss out who lives and sleeps and socializes in what combinations–but I care about the third for issuing invites, the first for dropping off the forgotten jacket, and the second not at all.

      1. Ash*

        It can feel really stifling/dishonest to keep having to refer to a partner or metamour (partner’s partner) as a “friend,” though — when you live together and consider each other to be family members, your lives are pretty entwined (regardless of who is sleeping with whom.)

        If you don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, “housemate” is a compromise.

        It would be nice to just be able to say “Oh, I went to Jane’s dance performance,” without having to directly lie about Jane’s status in your life.

        1. Em*

          Yup this! It’s important to me when my husband’s girlfriend is visiting but instead I just say we have company.

      2. JM60*

        “Whether you and the violinist ever slept with the same guy isn’t something I care about”

        I think you’re way over sexualizing this. I find it funny that when talking about one-man, one-woman relationships, people speakof them as relationships. However, when it comes to other relationships, people complain that it’s talking about sex.

        If the OP said, “She’s my boyfriend’s other girlfriend”, she’s wouldn’t be doing it to inform you about her boyfriend’s sex life (even if you can reasonably extrapolate some conclusion about it). She’s informing you of her relationship with her, and that she’s family.

        1. Ash*

          Yep, exactly this. Why is “Adam is my boyfriend” not considered to be a sexual remark, but “Jane is Adam’s other girlfriend” is somehow excessively sexual?

      3. TreenaKravm*

        It’s because Jane isn’t just her boyfriend’s girlfriend. She’s a member of OP’s family and they live together, and are presumably very close. I have two metamours and I live with neither of them. One of them is getting closer than “just a friend” for me, but at work I will still call her a friend. The other metamour I barely know. If I were to do something with her, I would have no problem referring to her as a friend because she’s not even my friend. The point is Jane is much much more than a friend or housemate, but there’s no generic term for family member, so her proper title is needed at some point. If OP has to reduce her role in her life to less than that, it’s hiding a basic part of her life/family for no other reason except for others’ discomfort.

    5. DrRat*

      The “know your audience” thing is critical. I work in Southern California, a notoriously liberal and live-and-let live area. I disclosed something in passing at a former job that I thought would be no big deal. And one person in the small office completely freaked. She turned out to be a hard core, religious right wing nut who instantly judged me, judged my husband, and started spreading gossip around the office in an attempt to undermine me. (It didn’t work very well, but she tried.) And what was this horrific, shocking thing that I divulged? That my mother-in-law was Wiccan. *sigh*

      After that, I decided to disclose only the most generic information possible in work situations. Because you never know when and where the wing nuts are. So honestly, I would just refer to her as a roommate. But that’s me.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      I admit I’d probably call Jane my friend (well, isn’t she?) or roommate, since she is those as well.

      Disclaimer: I used to be in a polyamorous relationship and got tired of hearing all the anxious freaked out “ewww” sorts of comments out of everyone.

  3. Miss May*

    I really loathe the idea of “owing” the company you work for anything. I have friends that stay put in poor jobs because they want to be “loyal,” but if that company had to lay them off, they would do it in a heartbeat! LW1, take the advice from Jennifer and Allison to heart, seriously.

      1. old curmudgeon*

        LW2, I was in your situation a decade ago. I was in my dream job working for a company I loved with a promised promotion on the horizon – and the income statement was bleeding red ink all over the place, the statement of cash flows was downright embarrassing, and balance sheet kept shrinking with every passing month. How did I know these details? I was the Assistant Controller, and the dangled promo was to the (vacant) position of Controller.

        The company did layoffs, across-the-board pay cuts, restructuring, shut down one merchandise category, cut benefits, did more layoffs, more pay cuts, closed an entire market, cut more benefits, sold one unit – and meanwhile my work hours were increasing from routinely 50 hours a week into the 80-to-90 hour workweeks, because I had to pick up the tasks of all the laid-off accountants.

        When the CFO (who had been there over three decades) quit to take another job, I realized that fate had given me enough of a warning, and I updated my resume and started an intensive job hunt. It took a while – I was in my 50s at the time, which ain’t a great age to be job-hunting – but I landed in a far safer, if less exciting, spot where I plan to remain for the rest of my career.

        The whole time this saga was happening (which was over the course of about three years), the CEO kept insisting that he had the “Perfect” idea to turn the company around, return the sales numbers to their former glory, and bring floods of eager customers back to the door. Guess what? His Perfect ideas were retreads of the same thing he’d been doing for decades, and – NEWS FLASH – retail had changed just a tiny bit during that time. One of the biggest tells was when I looked at one of the early lists of layoffs. There were something like eight marketing managers in the company at that point. The one he laid off? The only one with digital and social media marketing experience.

        Despite all the similarities in what you describe with what I went through, I am not outright saying “RUN AWAY.” But I very much AM saying to look really closely at what the company’s movers and shakers are actually doing to turn the ship around. If they don’t have the nimbleness and flexibility to shift strategies to meet new markets, then you’d better run while the running’s good.

        I left my former employer 8 1/2 years ago. Just about exactly six years ago, the company finally imploded, and the last 1,000 or so employees (down from a high of nearly 2,000 just a few years earlier) were all laid off. Some had been with the company for their entire careers, and were cut loose in their 50s and 60s to brave a job market that they couldn’t even imagine. One former executive is delivering mail for a living. Another is a truck driver.

        If you are under 40 and have education in the field in which you work, you might survive an employer’s implosion without too much personal cost. If you are over 40, and/or if you don’t have a degree in your field, then go look up Alison’s resume advice and get yours out there circulating. Yesterday if not sooner.

        Good luck. I fear you’ll need it.

    1. Heidi*

      I think that there is a place for loyalty in terms of things like not trash-talking your company in public or selling company secrets. However, this whole bit about everyone needing to sacrifice in order to keep the company afloat is inappropriate. If you don’t pay your employees, you’re not running a business – you’re cheating people out of their time and labor. I’d start looking for a new job and I would not feel bad about it.

      Loving the advice column Justice League we have starting here! The answers are so thorough and empathetic from both columnists. Looking forward to the next installment.

      1. tape deck*

        Honestly, even those examples aren’t so much about loyalty to the company as they are about maintaining your own professionalism and reputation.

      2. Nessun*

        Agreed. I feel a level of loyalty to my employer because I’ve been there a while (over 15 years), but I have my eyes open. I’ll freely say that they’ve been good to me, but if someone I know applies for a job, it’s good luck YMMV, because my group isn’t like every other group in the firm. There’s a difference between being bound by your own ethics/loyalty/professionalism to do your best at work, and being blind to the business arrangement that keeps you working for a paycheque.

        1. Heidi*

          This is such an important point – loyalty is supposed to be earned by leaders through good stewardship and fair treatment of the people they lead. It isn’t owed to them just because they hired you and paid you to do a job.

    2. Lilo*

      The idea that staff needs to “give back” is so toxic too. This is an employment relationship. They do work, you give them money. If the money isn’t what is promised (the pay cut, the bait and switch in raises) the employer isn’t living up to their end of the bargain. LW isn’t a CEO or high management where maybe you could make an argument for sacrifices, she’s entry level.

      1. Well Then*

        Yes, this is so wrong! Employees “give back” by doing a good job and behaving with integrity. You don’t owe charity to a company. I hope LW doesn’t get guilted into this – she seems like a very compassionate, well-intentioned person, and this company is trying to take advantage of her good will.

        (And good for the entry-level employees for pushing back on the 10% cut – that takes guts!)

        1. TootsNYC*

          I would consider that I needed to “give back” to my parents–who provided room and board, and love, and kindness, and encouragement, and particularly good parenting etc.–to me. Because they gave me things without any return from me.

          I would consider that I needed to “give back” to my friends–who helped me move, listened to me sob, etc.–because they gave me things without any return from me.

          I would consider that I needed to “give back” to a community or charity or cause that had helped me (I was treated at nonprofit hospitals and might give back to them; ditto my alma mater), if I felt they have given me things beyond any return I might have given to them (or if I feel that I want them to keep existing, but that’s not “giving BACK,” that’s just “giving”).

          1. AJ*

            Re. your 1st paragraph… Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? Feed you, house you? It’s the minimum any parent should do and do without the expectation of the child then ‘owing’ them something in return. Unless you entered into a contract with your parents at birth, you do not ‘need’ to give back. Bizarre to think you owe them because they made the choice to have a child.

            1. Ice and Indigo*

              Yes, parents should do that, but it’s hardly bizarre to think that if the package included love and kindness, that can be reciprocated. Abusive or neglectful parents aren’t owed, but TootsNYC was using an I-statement, and they’re surely allowed to appreciate their own parents!

      2. Parenthetically*

        EVERY TIME a letter like this comes up, I think of that scene with Don and Peggy from Mad Men — Peggy incensed that she isn’t appreciated, Don shouting, “That’s what the MONEY is for!” Whenever a company tries to play the “loyalty” or “faaaaaamily” card, I want Don Draper to pop up and say, “No, jackasses, that’s what the money is for!” Pay your employees! If you can’t, let them go with no hard feelings; don’t try to buttress your failure to abide by the most basic part of the Employment Social Contract with a bunch of emotions. I cannot pay my mortgage with your guilt-trip.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, the exchange rate between money and appreciation has a pretty hefty conversion fee both ways. If I feel tremendously appreciated and valued, I’ll tolerate a slight pay cut compared to an average workplace, but only if it’s a very slight one. If I feel tremendously overpaid, I’ll tolerate feeling slightly unappreciated as long as it’s not too grating. However, in both cases the amount of increase in one thing I’d need to tolerate a slight decrease in the other from what I see as reasonable is pretty large.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Agreed! I know it’s not a contract or legally something OP has any rights about, but Company promised X money for Y work.

        Now they are arbitrarily breaking their word. Screw them.

    3. Massmatt*

      That idea makes me cringe as well.

      LW 2, you should start looking. Your company is sending strong signals that they are having serious financial problems, and this while the overall economy has been booming.

      I doubt many companies are successful in turning themselves around by cutting their entry level workers’ pay.

      Rest assured at least some of your colleagues (probably those with the most desirable skills) are already looking.

      1. Ophelia*

        Yep. Particularly since the progressive (and probably more cost-effective) option here would be to do things like cut discretionary bonuses and things for senior staff – that’s where, in most companies, you’re going to get more bang for your buck if you’re in a belt-tightening mode. Cutting the salaries of entry level staff smacks of flailing to me.

      2. Alononus*

        They should start looking! You never have to feel guilty for looking to leave your employer, it’s a business relationship one, not a personal.

        I am a little confused by OP saying they are the the very lowest level in the company though? So 60,000 is the lowest amount anyone makes in that company? I mean, there are industries and roles where that can be an entry level salary, I guess, but it seems quite high to me. Might be off base though.

        1. Nom de Plume*

          Our entry-level scientists at my consulting firm make about $50k. Entry-level engineers make more than that. Just a data point so the OP doesn’t get the impression they are grossly overpaid. :)

          1. Alononus*

            I know that’s normal for entry level engineers and such, but I’m still confused by OP saying they were at the lowest level in the whole company? Maybe they meant in their type or role or department? I’ve never been somewhere where they don’t at least have an admin who makes less than that, but I guess it’s quite a small company?

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        Strong signals, too, that they don’t take their employees’s rights very seriously; that ‘give back’, like getting your labor was them doing you a favor, strongly smacks of that, as does needing it pointed out that lower-paid people take a harder financial hit at the same percentage. I don’t think they’d have any compunction about pulling the rug, so start looking. ‘My company wasn’t in the financial position to give me the promotion I earndf so I’m looking to step up to a new position’ is an excellent reason to give employers.

    4. Fikly*

      You owe your company your work as long as they fulfill their end of the bargain (ie, pay and benefits). As soon as they break that bargain, you no longer owe them anything.

    5. Faith*

      This. If there’s one thing I try emphasize to students who work for me, it’s that you have to do what’s right for you. The place that you work for, even if it appreciates you, is always going to do what’s right for it, and they should do the same for themselves. Like, I would love to keep some of them for longer, but if they have a better opportunity going forward, then I’m *happy* for them, and they should absolutely feel no guilt about it.

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      What you owe your company is your agreed-upon time and your best work, in exchange for pay and benefits. I also think you owe it to them to be a neutral-to-positive presence while you’re there (at a minimum, not publicly trashing your boss, colleagues, and/or products while at work).

      That’s it. What you DON’T owe them is your entire life while an employee, or the promise that you’ll stay there forever. Do you think that once you accept a job, you can never look for a new one? Most of us are not in our last job. Everyone will leave eventually. Moreover, they’re allowed to do so.

  4. Advice Column Stan*

    Two of my favorite advice-givers! The only way this could get better is if Daniel Lavery and Nicole Cliffe dropped by.

    1. Atlantian*

      I want to be Nicole Cliffe when I grow up. My life is decidedly worse since she quit Twitter (not that she didn’t have very valid reasons).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve seen her quit and come back a few times. I want her to be safe and happy always but boy do I miss her threads.

  5. Recreational Moderation*

    #1: Is it not acceptable to simply say “my housemate, Jane”? That’s what she is, right?(Genuinely asking; changes in word meanings sometimes slip past me.)

    1. merp*

      I’m not the letter writer but I have been in a somewhat similar relationship in the past and I always felt really weird and nonsensically, kind of sad when writing off these people as “friends” just because I didn’t really know how much to share. Logically I knew it didn’t matter – calling it a friendship out loud at work didn’t actually diminish the relationship and my coworkers certainly didn’t care, but they were both very important to me and it was uncomfortable for me not to acknowledge that.

    2. Amykins*

      Depends on how authentic that feels to LW#1. Housemate may feel inaccurate – people can have very distant relationships with their roommates. It’s hopefully a cordial relationship but not necessarily a familial one. It sounds like Jane is genuinely a part of the family in this case.

      FWIW, the technical poly term is metamour – LW#1’s metamour is Jane, Jane’s metamour is LW#1 – but people can also have relatively distant relationships with their metamours, too! It all depends on the relationships involved.

      1. SunnySideUp*

        Is it really inaccurate though? “It feels so weird to have this person who is so integrated into my life…” seems as if they are a very cordial trio.

        1. Fikly*

          I believe the issue is that housemate implies too distant of a relationship. The relationship between Jane and LW is more than cordial.

          1. ArtK*

            But is that useful information for someone outside of the relationship. I realize that it can *feel* dismissive, but the depth of the relationship is not really anyone else’s business.

            1. JM60*

              “but the depth of the relationship is not really anyone else’s business.”

              Would you say the same thing about any other family member? I think it’s very unfair for people to be able to say ‘boyfriend’, ‘father’, etc., instead of ‘friend’, but some people think the OP should have to resort to calling her family member a friend.

            2. TreenaKravm*

              When you say the depth of relationship is not anyone else’s business, that doesn’t make sense. No one knows the depth of any relationship. If someone mentions their sister neutrally, you have no idea how close they actually are. But you know by the title, “sister” that this is a significant person in their life, even if they’re not close right now. Most sisters essentially behave as friends, but would you ever tell someone that it doesn’t matter to coworkers whether or not it’s their sister or their friend, so why not just call her a friend? No, that would be ridiculous.

              It’s not about whether or not the information is useful to the coworker, it’s about why the OP feels the need to hide an otherwise boring part of her life to accommodate other people’s discomfort and lack of awareness.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Then they’re friends. So she could call her “my friend Jane.” Why does the fact that they share a boyfriend even need to be mentioned, unless it’s actually relevant?

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              LW#1 mentioned in a response that they might hold hands. So it sounds like even if they’re not involved-involved, they’re more than friends too.

              1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

                Oh, sorry, the hand-holding was about the three of us holding hands, with the boyfriend in the middle.

                (A notable exception was, when she and I went out to see Fiddler on the Roof, I ended up crying during the scene where the father rejects his daughter for marrying a Russian gentile. For reasons that can probably be deduced; though the reason I got outed to my parents is… complicated. She held my hand during that. I’m pretty sure our theater-neighbors went home and told their family about the Nice Lesbian Couple who were dealing with judgment from family haha)

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            Housemate is not necessarily distant. It can mean anything from “casual renter” to “long term, friend, confidant and roommate”. It appears that Jane is LW#1’s bestie.

            It’s hard in our culture to describe a group of people who have chosen to be family with each other, sharing a domicile, without boinking each and every one of the others. Who boinks who, if at all, is unimportant. How close the friendships are sets the tone for the household.

        2. Amykins*

          I meant it may feel inaccurate because ‘housemate’ could imply a more distant (though cordial) relationship, where it sounds like LW#1 is describing a very close relationship, where ‘close friend and housemate’ or ‘member of the family’ feels more accurate than just ‘housemate’.

        3. JM60*

          You’re omitting the second half of that sentence, which changes the meaning:

          “It feels so weird to have this person who is so integrated into my life, and then not really know how or if to talk about her.”

          I don’t think she’s saying that it’s weird to have her integrated in her life. She’s saying it’s weird to not know how to talk about her, given how she is to her.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, most “housemate” relationships would not encompass things like “I’m traveling out of state to spend the holidays with my housemate’s family” — in a context like that, just referring to her as a housemate or roommate might create some awkwardness or weirdness of its own. I think Captain Awkward’s line about “my close friend and also housemate, we think of each other as family” is a good one if you don’t want to fully disclose, because it provides the context “we are closer than a typical roommate situation.”

        1. TootsNYC*

          “So who is Jane, again?”
          “She’s our housemate, but we’re really close. [Kind of like a second girlfriend.]/[pretty much family]”

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I disagree. “Housemate” relationships can and do encompass things like “I’m traveling out of state to spend the holidays with my housemate’s family”.

          The other term I sometimes like is “housemate and family of choice”. Covers the gist, without getting into the romantic details.

      1. Anonys*

        It doesn’t describe her accurately. It does describes her correctly (not the same meaning), because Jane is a person she shares her house with, but it doesn’t capture the essence of what the relationship is in the most accurate way. Anyone you live with is technically your housemate. If I live with my brother, I can correctly call him my housemate, but if I want to be accurate/precise about what we are to each other, I would say: “My brother who I live with”

        The reality is, that the word “housemate” usually refers to living with someone else out of convenience or as platonic friends (also usually for convenience, company, cheaper rent) and will be interpreted that way. That’s fine, and it’s more than acceptable for OP to refer to her that way and let people make that assumption. It’s not her responsibility to increase poly visibility in the face of stigma. But by referring to Jane as a friend or housemate, noone at work knows OP is in a polyamorous relationship, a fact that is a big part of OP’s life and family structure.

        That’s the real issue here. It’s clear from the letter that to OP, “friend” or “housemate” is not an accurate description of her relationship to Jane, because Jane’s romantic relationship to the bf is an important part of the dynamic. Really, OP seems to want to be “out” as poly in the workplace. Once she has explained once or twice that Jane is her bf’s other partner, she can just refer to her as Jane. My sense is that OP would like to be out as poly at work, so the real question she is asking is whether or not it’s advisable given potential stigma and implications for her career, and that’s the question AAM and Captain Awkward have tried to answer here.

          1. Same Boat*

            Yes – having to call my girlfriend’s husband “my roommate” is something I’ve had to do in a few spaces where it was not safe, and it felt horrible and like I was discounting him and our years of history and complex relationship. He is not my housemate, he is something much closer that we don’t have an easy word for, hence requiring an explanation. But he is a core part of my life – someone I have built my life around. He is one of the closest relationships I have in the world, not someone I found on Craigslist to sublet a spare room.

    3. blink14*

      Agree on this. Unless I’m misreading the original letter, I think actually the advice misinterprets the situation a bit. I’m not sure how the polyamory degrees work, but to me it sounds like there is no romantic relationship between the OP and Jane. Rather both are in a relationship with the boyfriend, and are then technically housemates?

      I would go with calling Jane your housemate or a close friend that lives with you, because that’s the truth. You don’t need to explain the relationship further. People may figure it out eventually, or speculate, but I would leave this a little bit vague.

      FWIW, I had a recent coworker who was in some sort of polyamorous relationship and it was really, really confusing sometimes listening to them talk about it. Their explanation was too vague, and I couldn’t work out what the situation was. They lived together, owned property together, but I had to infer a lot of things during conversation, and actually a bit of a clearer explanation would’ve been helpful. In this case, I do believe they were all three in a relationship together, which is somewhat different to your situation.

      1. Mints*

        I agree, I think it matters if Jane and OP are also girlfriends. Calling your girlfriend a housemate feels pretty dismissive. But calling your boyfriend’s best friend “a friend” is fine because you’re just defining the relationship to yourself; you don’t need to detail every other relationship.

        My friend who’s poly (a throuple), when she’s talking to people who she doesn’t mind being out to but doesn’t want to explain, she’ll just say “my boyfriend” and “my girlfriend” when referring to one of them, and continue talking without focus on it

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I feel that you shouldn’t have to pretend to your workplace you’re not dating somebody. But I also don’t really care who your boyfriend is dating, so I think there’s some merit to “housemate” in that situation. If That One Guy goes for the “hee hee, boyfriend lives with another attractive gal [TOG in my head likes “gal”], aren’t you afraid something might happen?” you can either go for a smooth “We’re not jealous people” or blow him up with the truth.

          1. Artemesia*

            I just feel lots of information about personal life is TMI in the workplace, but I tend to go overboard the opposite way and once shocked co-workers that I had kids at the time I had a baby and a school age son. Because of a merger and re-assignment, the current peers had not been in my part of the organization when I had the baby. Back in the day when I was dating, that was not information I would ever discuss in the workplace.

        2. JM60*

          I think the OP makes it clear that they consider the other girlfriend to be family, and someone shouldn’t have to refer to a family member as a ‘friend’.

      2. Joelle*

        Did you consider asking for more information? As a polyamorous person in a triad (all 3 of us are in a relationship together), I know that I am cautious of providing more information to people than they want to know, but don’t mind (I actually enjoy!) answering questions about my relationship structure, as long as they are asked with genuine curiosity instead of titillating gossip. A script for that would be “Hey, you mention Joe and Bess a lot, and I’m a bit confused as to your setup. If you’re comfortable, I’d like to know more, but understand if that’s a bit too personal for you.” The thing I wouldn’t ask about, since this is a work context, is sex and sleeping arrangements.

    4. Dahlia*

      If you were living with your brother and his wife, would you call his wife your housemate, or would you feel like that was leaving out some important to you information?

      1. BigGlasses*

        Thanks! I tried to write something like this above but I gave up, yours is much more succinct :)

        If I described someone as my ‘housemate’ and someone later found out that person was my parent, or sibling, or spouse, I expect they would be surprised and wonder if there’s something wrong that I didn’t describe them that way initially. Even if ‘housemate’ is also 100% correct.

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s different, though, because it’s about using a less intimate term for a relationship *you* have that has a widely known more specific name. I also think if the information is “important to you” is not the standard.

          If polyamory were widely accepted and people widely knew the term “metamour,” that would be a fine thing to use. But it isn’t and they don’t, so this matter-of-fact thing has a high risk of turning into a conversation of disproportionate size at best. I don’t mean that the OP absolutely has to hide this fact, but I think the fact that “housemate” understates things doesn’t necessarily mean she needs to propel herself into a conversation about what a metamour is.

          1. BigGlasses*

            I certainly think OP doesn’t *have* to say any more than that, and if she chooses to say ‘housemate’ that’s fine, even though it understates things. But it seems based on her letter the understating feels incorrect by omission, to her, and I think (whether or not that means she chooses to be open about the situation at work) some of the people saying, essentially, “say housemate because it’s correct” are discounting that.

          2. JM60*

            But the OP does have a relationship with her boyfriend’s girlfriend. To me, it seems obvious that she considers her to be family, so she shouldn’t have to hide that with terms like ‘friend’ or ‘roommate’.

            1. JM60*

              For comparison, it’s acceptable to say, “My mother’s other son” or “My mother’s brother”, etc. Those are all relationships, even though it’s a relationship through someone else you have a relationship with. “Boyfriend’s other girlfriend” is equivalent to them, except there isn’t a single word (that I know of) for it.

              1. Tina*

                ‘metamour’ has been introduced several times on these comments as the single succinct word for ‘partner’s other partner’.

          3. TreenaKravm*

            But metamour isn’t a widely known term because polyamorous people are forced to run around calling them their “friends,” it’s not some accidental thing or cultural phenomenon. It’s happening because of stigma and discrimination. I’m sure the first gay people that started referring to their partners as such got a lot of confusion too, but that’s what has to happen to normalize terms!

            For the record, I’m not saying any individual has to be part of this process, just that some amount of people do for the process to move forward. And I do encourage anyone with a moderate amount of privilege to seriously consider the benefits to the rest of the community if they take a hit on something relatively minor like a promotion (while poor polyamorous people can be fired from their minimum wage jobs and end up homeless quite easily were they the ones to step up).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think that just reflects that “brother” “sister in law” “aunt” and so on are clear family relationships, while “person I am dating” or “person my brother is dating, but I’m not” are vaguer, since dating can reflect many degrees.

        Like, you can live with your brother because you’re really close (two of my cousins bought a house together, and rent a room to a third sibling), or because he had a room and you get along okay but aren’t close–the connection just meant it was the first place either of you looked to resolve the spare room/ rent money issue. But unless you are speaking to a close friend, all of that is extraneous information about your relationship with your brother that they don’t need to know to understand that you watched football at home this weekend.

    5. Czhorat*

      I’d never refer to my wife as my housemate, though it is *technically* accurate.

      Having to use euphemisms like this is a way of erasing a real relationship. I’m sorry if the OP feels that they have to do so.

      We in society need to do a better job of making non-traditional relationships welcome and respected.

      1. Annony*

        In this case though it doesn’t sound like it does erase the real relationship. The OP and Jane are not dating. It sounds to me like they are good friends who live together and date the same man. I’m not sure how to bring that up organically in normal work conversation. “Friend” accurately covers a very wide range and I would find it odd to have a coworker feel the need to explain exactly how good a friend they are with this particular person. If I hung out with them outside of work, then it would be less weird. I think it would be different if they were dating because then “friend” is erasing the romantic aspect of their relationship, but that didn’t seem to be the case here.

        1. Czhorat*

          Is that all she is?

          That the OP wrote a letter here asking makes it feel as if this is something other than “friend” to her.

          1. Washi*

            Totally agree! I can see why the OP feels weird about just friend or roommate.

            The only other non-explicit thing I can come up with is referring to her as “our best friend.” Used in certain contexts, that miiiight ping the radar of someone familiar with polyamorous relationships without alerting anyone else? At least, I know for me it might make me wonder (to myself) if there is more to it.

            1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

              “Our best friend” also feels weird. The two of them have been together for about 8 years; he and I have been together for much less (there wasn’t a strict “now I am your girlfriend” moment, so it’s hard to measure). If anything, I’m the one who is “our best friend”!

        2. Fikly*

          There are many types of relationships between friendship and dating. This is somewhere in between. Just because you don’t understand where it is, doesn’t make LW’s desire to have it understood less valid.

        3. Anonys*

          It erases the fact that the three of them are a family, even if there is no direct romantic relationship between Jane and OP. I love my housemates, we cook and hang out together, but they aren’t family, we don’t combine finances, etc.

          1. fposte*

            I have trouble with “erase” here, though. There are all kinds of connections and degrees thereof that aren’t legible in workplace exchanges, and that’s not the same thing as erasure.

            1. Mimi*

              No, I think “erase” is right. It’s representing that someone LW considers family as a friend or housemate (I’m not saying “just” a friend, but people often read that into such statements). LW cares about Jane as family, and feels implicitly dishonest or uncomfortable not acknowledging Jane as such. That sounds like erasure to me.

              1. fposte*

                Hmm, I’ll need to think more on this; I feel like there’s some erasure happening to the significance of “friend” in these comments, tbh, like the person posting that holding hands means something more than friendship.

                Some of this may be that the PLPs, as the OP as termed them and I’m sticking with, have generationally diminished, gone underground, or been lumped into romantic relationships. But I feel like there’s some reinvention of the wheel here at the cost of a lot of historic wheels.

              2. SometimesALurker*

                I agree that it’s erasure, especially since so many well-meaning people here have said they “don’t care” about the role that Jane plays in OP’s life (in the hypothetical situation in which the commenters are OP’s coworkers). You may not care in the sense that you aren’t curious about it, but if you have to insist that you don’t care, it sounds like you don’t want to hear about it. As a queer person, I flinch when people say “I don’t care who you’re married to” — we weren’t asking whether you were deeply invested, we just want to say the words “husband” or “wife” or “spouse.” This is similar.

                1. TreenaKravm*

                  This. It’s like saying “I just don’t want to see them kiss!” when talking about gay people in public.

                  I don’t particularly care about most people’s children. But my boss has 3 and when she mentions them I listen and comment, engaging in a socially appropriate way for a few minutes. Could you imagine if I reassured her that it’s totally okay to have kids, it’s just that I don’t care whether or not she has them and I don’t need the details?

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I’m of the opinion that in a situation when you’re just sharing quick anecdotes with coworkers who don’t know you that well “friend” is a vague word that covers a lot of territory. I think “friend” is sometimes used to describe someone that you are actually not particularly close with but it’s faster to say then “this person I met a couple of times because we hang out in the same sort of groups” and the people you are talking to don’t need that level of detail for the context. And conversely it is sometimes used to describe very, very close relationships that again would be better described with a lot more words, but for brevity’s sake “friend” will do for now. So it seems like “friend” is a perfectly appropriate word to use here. To me the main reason it is better than “my boyfriend’s other girlfriend” is because it is about her relationship to *you* as you are the one telling the story, rather than about her relationship with your boyfriend.

          But I know some people are a lot more strict with their use of the word friend. For example apparently Penn and Teller do not call each other friends which seems odd to me but if that’s not how they see their relationship then that’s obviously up to them to decide.

        5. Lu*

          I think that people who aren’t polyamorous probably shouldn’t get to decide what does and doesn’t erase the seriousness or depth of a relationship with a metamour or someone else in their polycule! There are plenty of people in this comments section saying this *is* erasure and feels dismissive, and I’m not sure why so many folks are trying to tell them they’re wrong.

          1. TreenaKravm*

            This. Seriously! I think about this waaay more than monogamous people do. I know what’s happening, even if it’s not obvious to the average monogamous person.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Someone can be referred to as a “friend” when she’s “my brother’s girlfriend.” That’s a dynamic where it may not be unusual for all 3 to live together, and can reflect anything from a tight-knit long-term family group to people subletting a room to one’s sibling for a year. People at work asking about your weekend usually don’t care about the exact nuances of closeness you feel to your brother’s girlfriend.

        1. Annony*

          I think that’s where I’m getting confused. To me, “friend” implies a closer relationship than “my boyfriend’s girlfriend” because the second implies that the connection is solely though the boyfriend which doesn’t seem to be the case.

          1. Anonys*

            It’s true that not all metamours are close with each other. But OP would mention this in her specific context, so in conjunction with the fact that they all live together, visit parents for thanksgiving together, etc, which would make the closeness between OP and Jane clear anyway. Jane’s relationship to the boyfriend is also an important part of the dynamic, one that OP would like to share and should have every right to. Stigma is getting in the way of that, which sucks

          2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

            Our connection is solely through the boyfriend. We like each other, but if he got hit by a bus tomorrow, after we finished grieving with each other’s support, we’d go our separate ways (though we’d still be there for each other in the “if ever you are in need of family, I’m there,” we wouldn’t be living together, and we wouldn’t go find someone new to date together) It’s like my brother-in-law. He’s a good guy, I consider him family, I’m there if ever he needs me. But at the end of the day, his only connection to me is through my sister.

            1. Joelle*

              I’ve had friends refer to their metamores as their sister-in-law or brother-in-law before, but that’s mostly in transactional conversations, and not conversations with people they have ongoing relationships with eg: coworkers. But using the in-law analogy is GREAT when trying to explain the dynamic to people, and it also covers the range of relationships there. It also conveys the “family” sense.

              If I were in your situation, I’d probably refer to her as a family member and if anyone pressed, and I weren’t comfortable going into details, I’d like deflect with a “oh, we’re not actually related, our dynamic just feels very much like we are.” Many people are familiar with the concept of “aunts” and “uncles” that don’t actually have a blood or marital connection – this is no different.

              (I am also a polyamorous person, who has a mix of polaymorous and monogamous friends, and a whole range of experiences and situations to draw on).

    6. Zephy*

      I think roommate or housemate would be a perfectly adequate descriptor for the relationship – unless I misread, OP and Jane are not romantically involved with one another directly, they just share Adam. So, Jane isn’t OP’s girlfriend; she just lives with her. Jane’s romantic attachments aren’t OP’s coworkers’ business, and grown people having roommates is hardly unusual anymore. Nobody should bat an eye at “we went to see my roommate Jane’s show last weekend.”

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Or even “We went to see our roommate Jane’s show last weekend” or “uur good friend Jane’s show last weekend.”

        Jane is the OP’s friend. What she is or isn’t to Adam isn’t the business of anybody at the OP’s office.

        1. Anonys*

          It’s not their business, it’s not that they DESERVE to know, but it’s quite clear from the letter, that if she knew there was no stigma or backlash, OP would prefer to be out as poly at work.

          1. TreenaKravm*

            This idea that people don’t ‘deserve’ or ‘need’ to know is rooted deeply in discomfort with the idea. It’s taken my Mom 2 years to stop suggesting that our extended family doesn’t ‘need’ to know private information about my life, and I suspect my sister had something to do with that nudging.

            I know they don’t ‘need’ to know. They don’t have a right to access information about my life. I wouldn’t want them knowing the play-by-play of every date, one-night stand, casual partner I ever had. but a significant life partner? Um yea I want them to know that. I just can’t imagine someone saying to a monogamous person, “Oh just call him a friend at work, no one needs to know he’s your boyfriend.”

        2. Anonys*

          Also, it’s normal to talk about your boyfriends other relationships at work. Like “my boyfriend’s parents are coming to visit”, “I’m going to my boyfriend’s friend’s birthday party” “We are taking my boyfriend’s niece to the movies”.

          So if you are saying “We are going to my boyfriend’s girlfriend’s art show” is not OK, that clearly has something to do with the poly thing.

          Also in general, we place a high emphasis of romantic relationships. I consider my best friend’s partner a personal friend, but usually refer to him as “best friend’s bf” because that’s how I know him and that’s still the primary connection between us to me. Could be wrong, but I guess the “my boyfriend’s partner” connection to Jane is the more significant one to OP than the “friend” one between her and Jane.

        1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

          lol yeah, pretty much. If we believed in marriage and it was legal, that’s pretty much what it would be.

        2. SometimesALurker*

          Sister-wife implies power dynamics that a lot of polyamorous people don’t share or agree with, so while that may be the case for OP, I want to caution that it’s not generalizable.

    7. Laney Boggs*

      The LW says in the letter that calling Jane a friend “feels oddly dismissive of Jane and her place in my life” and I assume calling her a housemate causes the same feelings, or she’d continue doing so and not write in

      1. snoopythedog*

        What about ‘close friend’ or ‘dear friend’? It adds a level to the friendship. I don’t really think we have a commonly used word in our current society to describe LW and Jane’s relationship.

        Technically’ my boyfriend’s girlfriend’ or ‘my boyfriend’s partner’, or ‘[name’s] other partner’, or ‘[name’s] other girlfriend’ would all work. If you want to open that can of worms at work (which depends on your context). But all of those terms place LW’s relationship to Jane directly in relation to their mutual boyfriend (and his feelings and connections) rather than their direct relationship….and I’m inclined to think their relationship with each other goes beyond just their involvement with their mutual bf. You can have a boyfriend with another partner but that may not inherently describe the nature of your relationship…you could tolerate them, barely know them, see them around, or be very close. The relationship descriptor through another person doesn’t inherently describe your *own* feelings and closeness towards this person.

    8. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      In my previous relationship, I was actually living with a romantic partner, and a platonic friend. I had no problem describing her as my housemate, but I think because of that experience, describing Jane as just my housemate feels weird.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        So…what’s wrong with “friend”? Or “good friend”? Or “close friend”? Or “close friend and housemate”? That’s what she is to you, right? So how is that dismissive?

        1. Fikly*

          I believe the exact issue is that Jane is not just a “close friend and housemate.” She’s more than that.

          1. fposte*

            Is she, though? That seems like an undermining of the important relationship friends and housemates are to many, many people.

            1. Green great dragon*

              I don’t think it has to be undermining, it’s just different.

              I think if my boyfriend had brought a child to our relationship and I referred to that child as ‘my intermittent housemate’ that would seem pretty unkind, though technically it is true.

              1. fposte*

                But that’s because you’d be evading existing terms. As I said below, I know platonic unmarried duos and throuples that have been legal and practical families for years. They’re not being euphemistic or evasive to say “housemate” or “friend.”

                1. KayDeeAye*

                  Yeah, I mean…

                  Look, lots of people have specific relationships with specific people, relationships that are REALLY important but don’t have specific terms associated with them. I mean, “best friend” or “oldest friend” (or, in one case I know of, “sister”) is fine, but doesn’t really explain the importance of someone who is your closest friend who you also own a house with and who is basically your self-made family.

                  But does it have to? There are married couples who try to do this (“My husband, who is also the father of my children and my best friend”), and it’s kind of…oh, I don’t want to upset anybody, but in a work situation it’s kind gooshy-smooshy and unnecessary. I don’t need to know the ins and outs of somebody else’s marriage, at least not at work, and I don’t need to know the ins and outs of people’s friendships, either.

            2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

              Like I said, I’ve lived with a romantic partner and a close platonic friend. I’ve also lived with just a very close platonic friend. I have gone to Thanksgiving with friends’s families (back in college, for travel reasons).

              And this is different. Jane is family. We’re all a unit. If one of us has a problem in life, all of us have a problem.

              1. fposte*

                What’s interesting to me in this discussion is we seem to be addressing the challenge to identify non-template chosen family. I know quite a few people do all those things you list there + shared real estate ownership in life partnerships with friends/housemates, which is why I bristled a little at some upthread dismissal of those terms. But it seems like it would be useful to have a term in English that means “person whose life is legally and socially combined with mine” separate from any issue of who’s having sex with whom.

                1. Mimi*

                  I am a person who does such things with my friend/housemate, and I struggle with calling her “my housemate” because people assume things about our relationship and how important she is to me. My boss assumes that my relationship with her is less important/stable than, say, a coworker’s relationship with his wife, and while the relationships are certainly different, there’s not “just” in our friendship, which people insist on putting there, even when I don’t represent it that way.

                  So yes, I really want better terms for chosen family.

                2. Paulina*

                  Why not just “partner”? She’s not romantically involved with Jane, but who-sleeps-with-whom is out-of-scope for the workplace anyway. Since the three of them consider themselves a family, then the LW has two partners in that family: Adam and Jane. For most conversations there wouldn’t be any need to get into the “boyfriend Adam” “Adam’s other girlfriend Jane” details.

                3. Joelle*

                  Paulina – partner DOES have a romantic connotation to it in polyamorous, queer, and adjascent communities. If LW were to refer to Jane as her partner, I would assume they are in a romantic relationship, which they are not.

                  Also, romantic relationships and sexual relationships, while often intertwined, are not the same thing. I’m a polyamorous person who happens to be dating a person who is asexual – it’s still a “real” relationship, and it’s no less valid or important to me than the romantic relationships I have that also have a sexual component.

        2. Anonys*

          I think by focusing on how the OP does or doesn’t refer to Jane, we are kind of missing the point. OP would like to not hide the fact that she is in a polyamorous relationship at work. She would like people to know about the important aspect of her life, but is worried about workplace appropriateness and colleagues reactions.

          1. fposte*

            I’m more worried about hiding actual people than about hiding important aspects of somebody’s life, though; after all, the Sally and her master post was also about not hiding an important aspect of her life.

            1. Anonys*

              This is so so so different from the “master” situation though. That referred to intricate and sexual aspect of the relationship and was ridiculous to expect. No one expected that woman to hide the simple fact that she is in a romantic and sexual relationship with that person.

              As Alison said in her response, telling people that you are poly is not TMI and is not inappropriately sexual for the workplace, while the master post was mosre akin to involving coworkers in an aspect of their fetish.

              1. fposte*

                I still think it’s moved the needle pretty significantly, though, from not wanting to hide who you love to having a key aspect of your identity be known; let’s look instead at the letter writer who wanted a tasteful collar at work. It also reminds me of discussions about bi/pan/queer identity of people in heterosexual marriages or relationships and whether the identity itself is important/appropriate to claim. I do think this is a shifting area in general, but I currently lean toward workplaces absolutely knowing that these people are your important people, but I think it’s a lot less useful to know people’s strong identifications, be they religious, romantic, or sexual.

                But now you’ve made me curious–OP, if there were a term for a PLP, would you find that giving you what you want with identifying Jane’s importance, or would you still want a way for your polyam-ness to be identified?

                1. fposte*

                  I guess another thing I’m thinking here is the difference between “okay at work” and “if it’s not known at work I’m hiding/closeted.”

                2. Alononus*

                  I absolutely think it’s appropriate for people to claim their bi/pan/queer identity, even if they are (currently) in straight relationships. Whether or not they choose to at work is their own choice. If it’s not that important an aspect of their everyday life, they might choose not to. But being poly is central to OPs life, her family dynamic, her living situation.

                  I also don’t think it can be compared to the collar thing. As a society, we have decided that there is a big different between announcing your sexual identity in terms of bi, asexual, hetero, straight, pan, the Kinsey scale, etc. and kink. A kink might be a big part of your identity but its waaaaay more explicit than stating your sexual identity in terms of who you are into (which often corresponds to who you are into romantically as well, and who you choose as a life partner(s)). Both kinky and vanilla sex shouldn’t be discussed at work, because it can make people uncomfortable and can lead to an overly sexualised workplace.

                  If you are in a non-monogamous relationship in which both partners sometimes have one-off encounters with people outside of the relationship, or you both swing, or have threesome, etc, that might not necessarily be important or appropriate to discuss at work (just as single people shouldn’t discuss their hookups), because it’s about internal (sexual) workings of the relationship. Being poly is about relationship structures themselves.

                3. Anonys*

                  I think I’ve said here before, I just don’t even get what’s weird or inappropriate about stating that the relationship between the boyfriend and the other girlfriend.
                  Talking about “my boyfriend’s parents” or even “my boyfriend’s ex” would be very acceptable, so I guess part of what I feel is getting erased here is not just the OP’s, but the boyfriend’s relationship. Why is “my boyfriend’s (other) girlfriend” not a totally normal thing to say? These are actually existing relationships, not “just” identities (not that identities aren’t incredibly important, but hiding actual relationships is, in general, I think, even harder)

                4. fposte*

                  @Alon–I was definitely thinking about outness in the workplaces on the bi/pan/queer identity question, not on personal time; it’s absolutely something people get to own for themselves.

                  I think maybe I just need to spend some more reading time in polyam spaces, because it feels like a different question to me if it were the hinge asking, and maybe it shouldn’t be.

                5. Amykins*

                  At a work happy hour, I casually mentioned a date I went on in the past and used she/her pronouns (I am also woman), and it’s also known that I used to be married to a man. Reasonable people can take that information and come to the conclusion that I’m probably queer (and in fact, the coworker I was speaking with then asked in a very weird/offputting way if I was bisexual). When I was poly, I had considered doing something similar at work – like if the topic comes up, I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m in serious relationships with multiple people or that they also are in serious relationships with people I know and care about, but also not making a point to make it an announcement, either.

                  And that’s the thing – yes, there may be a difference between “not hiding who you are” and “actively coming out”, but even the state of not hiding who you are is coming out, and people will react to that based on the society we live in (as my coworker did when I passively outed myself as queer). And when you are part of a marginalized group, holding back information to prevent yourself from passively coming out, specifically information that you wouldn’t hesitate to share about your life at work otherwise, like who you’re in a serious relationship with (whether that relationship is romantic/sexual or not) – that can be a really oppressive feeling.

                6. Alononus*

                  I don’t think it’s different if the hinge asked, because whether or not a relationship is being erased doesn’t just depend on whether the person IN the actual relationship can be open about it, thought that’s of course the most important part. If I don’t refer to my gay friend’s partner as his partner/bf (because I fear my audience is homophobic), that relationship is being erased (of course, if the partner is also my friend I can call them that, too). Not just the person in the romantic relationship should be able to be open about it, we should also be able to be open about the relationships our children, friends, parents, siblings, etc have.

                7. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

                  “But now you’ve made me curious–OP, if there were a term for a PLP, would you find that giving you what you want with identifying Jane’s importance, or would you still want a way for your polyam-ness to be identified?”

                  Hmm. I think a crux of the issue is that her relationship to me is defined by my relationship with my boyfriend. If he were to be hit by a bus tomorrow, after we finished supporting each other through the grieving process, we would eventually go our own ways. We wouldn’t seek out a new man to date together (although maybe that would happen, we do have similar tastes after all! But doubtful.)

                  So if PLP and metamour were two terms that somehow came into common parlance, I’d still feel more comfortable with meta. I’ve always been a person that prefers accuracy, and her PLPness is only a side effect of her metamourness, so it’s the less accurate term.

                  Plus, it feels like PLP could eventually lead to a conversation like, “so are you two college friends? Or have you known each other longer?” which could only end in revealing, “oh, we know each other through my boyfriend.” Which, typing it out, I suppose could just end there and be sufficiently vague. But it would still feel like I was “hiding”

              2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

                You’ll notice that even in the comments, I haven’t said anything about intimate/sexual aspects of my household. It’s immaterial, at work, and here.

                That famous AAM post was a bit of a “negative rights/positive rights” issue. My right to “not be killed by you” is a negative right, because it doesn’t require you to do anything; it just requires you to not do something. If I have the right to, say, clean water, that is a positive right, because it requires other people to do something (build a filtration plant, etc).

                In that post, the letter writer was wanting people to do something; she was trying to assert a positive right, a right she in fact did not have. I am not doing any such thing. I am not wanting any action. Just inaction.

                1. Anonys*

                  Ooooh, I wasn’t aware of negative and positive rights before, it’s such a useful conceptual distinction, thank you!

                2. fposte*

                  Thanks, that’s an interesting distinction that’s new to me, and I like it, even if I don’t think it entirely gets us out of the hole of what-makes-sense-in-the-workplace. I generally agree that the sexual aspects are immaterial, but I think they’re related to the linguistic difficulties for reasons we get at a little elsewhere.

                  Ultimately, I think the more familiar and visible different family structures are, the better we’ll all be at dealing with them, and I’m glad you’ve had a good experience in your workplace with that both for you and for the people who will be helped by your clearing a path.

              3. Close Bracket*

                “This is so so so different from the ‘master’ situation though.”

                That’s a point of debate, though.

                “That referred to intricate and sexual aspect of the relationship and was ridiculous to expect.”

                No more than “husband” does. BDSM relationships are not always sexual, which is how professional dommes/doms are able to operate legally.

                1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

                  I’d say that recognizing a husband/wife as a husband/wife is a positive right (see my post above); just one that is commonly accepted as polite to provide. If an employee didn’t believe that the government had any right to decide who is married, and only marriages performed at the Great Shrine of Zog were valid, and only wanted to refer to coworkers’ spouses as “your partner”… well, it’s a bit weird, but… ok.

                  It is a bit weird, if you go down the non-sexual rabbit hole. If Becky has a great haircut, and she tells me about her hairdresser, I wouldn’t feel weird telling Charlotte, “Stacy’s haircut is great, we should checkout her hairdresser!” But if Dave looks really relaxed on Monday, and he says it’s because he had a great session with his Master… well, for one, I’m not going to recommend others looking to de-stress ring Dave’s master… but if I wanted to refer to Dave’s master as “his de-stress coach,” then it’s perfectly fine for me to do it. Dave, imo, doesn’t have any right to demand that I properly venerate His Master with a less euphemistic title.

                2. Anonys*

                  I know it’s not always sexual, but it is a specific/kink fetish, and by just referring to him as her partner, their intimate relationship is acknowledged. By not referring to Jane’s relationship with the boyfriend at all, their entire relationship is being erased. You are just saying: these two people are in a relationship”, which is pretty broad, without giving details about the dynamic between them.
                  The husband comparison is totally invalid, someone being your husband or not is just a legal fact.

                  This is what Alison said:
                  “That’s why refusing to refer to Peter as Sally’s “master” isn’t at all equivalent to refusing to acknowledge gay couples or calling someone who identifies as a man by a woman’s name. You’re not refusing to recognize the relationship’s validity; in fact, by referring to Peter as your coworker’s partner, you’re inherently recognizing the relationship’s validity. No one is being erased. But Sally is asking for more than that: She’s asking you to get involved in and play along with a specific dynamic of their relationship. It’s entirely reasonable to decline to do that. Whatever she and Peter agree to do together is all well and good, but you and your coworkers don’t need to participate in it.”

                  Alison also said in her response that it would be inappropriate if she asked her colleagues to call her partner her “lover”. The slavery implication of the term master also obviously makes many people uncomfortable (it’s obviously fine for people who enjoy the dynamic). How would it make a black person, one who isn’t into that kind of BDSM, feel to refer to anyone as a master? As someone else on that post said in the comments, those kind of BDSM relationships, whether sexual or not, are ALL about consent (often with written agreements). One simply cannot involve other people in the dynamic, even tangentially, without their explicit consent.

            2. Alexandra Lynch*

              And as someone both poly and kinky….

              I’m happy to tell people that I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend, who are good platonic friends with each other, and we all live together. In most circumstances, I leave out the power dynamic that I’m the dominant and they’re both submissive, and that they like to have me run their lives for them. Because that’s just irrelevant nine times out of ten, and people view it as weird and salacious.

        3. Person from the Resume*

          Even without the two women being in a romantic relationship, the group have formed a family unit of 3. All 3 went to Thanksgiving together with Jane’s family.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      LW1’s relationship seems a little closer than ‘housemate’, though – I’ve never been to any of my roommates’ / housemates’ out of town family holiday celebrations, and only to a few in-town ones.

      LW1, though: I always lean towards describing my relationship with the person, not the full web of connections. I talked about ‘my friend Amy’, not ‘my roommate’s girlfriend Amy’, way back when my roommate started dating my friend. I figure that if the people are close enough for the metamour relationship to matter, then they’re close enough for your boyfriend and metamour to talk about it themselves.

    10. Goodgrief*

      I was wondering the same. Flatmate, roommate, housemate. Nobody really cares. Why would you over explain?

    11. Bagpuss*

      You can also simply refer to her as ‘Jane’ without explicitly spelling out any relationship. And then let context do its work. So you don’t need to use a term you feel isn’t representative of what she is to you.
      So if the three of you went out together you might just say “I went out with Jane and Adam last night” or “We went out for a meal” – most of the time, your coworkers don’t actually need to know about the relationship details.
      If you are comfortable sharing a bit more, you can – which might not be stating in as many words “My partner also has a second partner” it might be, when talking about what you did at the weekend saying “I had a quiet weekend and caught up with some reading, Jane and Adam were away for the weekend” or “Jane and Adam were visiting Jane’s family, I had a lot of fun teaching the dog to shake hands” or “it was great, the three of us had a spa weekend – lots of lovely pampering”

      1. fposte*

        Though for a short explanation that doesn’t involve the word “metamour” I really like “My partner has a second partner.” It doesn’t clarify the relationship between the OP and Jane, but honestly I’m not sure that’s a reasonable goal for a workplace anyway–there are all kinds of shades of life importance that workplaces lump together, and I think that’s okay.

    12. James*

      Even if there is no romantic relationship between these two women, by virtue of dating the same man they will have a more personal relationship than is normal between two housemates. When I hear “housemate” I think “random person that shares the space, rent, and utility bills”. They may be friends, they may never seen each other (I knew housemates that had opposite work schedules and didn’t see each other for months). In contrast, even if there’s no romantic interest between these women they will necessarily spend a lot of time together, share expenses beyond rent and utilities, etc.

      I’ve seen a few relationships like this, and folks are a LOT closer than “housemate” status, even when there’s no romantic interest between a given pair.

      Imagine if your best friend moved in with you. You’ve known them since grade school, grew up together, and now you’re both renting a house together. Someone asks what you’re going to do that weekend. Do you say “I’m going to a concert with my housemate” or “I’m going to a concert with my friend”? How would your friend feel to be labeled ‘housemate”? I’m guessing they wouldn’t be thrilled. Same thing applies here.

    13. Joielle*

      Or if “housemate” seems too distant, then “friend,” or “close friend” or something? I’m on the same page as you – it doesn’t sound like the OP is romantically involved with Jane, just with Jane’s boyfriend, so that makes the relationship between the OP and Jane a friendship. A really close friendship, it sounds like! But like… I’m in a mostly monogamous marriage and have friends of varying degrees of closeness, from “acquaintance through a hobby” to “practically a sister.” Personally, when I mention any of those people in passing at work, I just say “friend” because I’m not close enough to my coworkers that I need to give a thorough accounting of the relative intimacy of my relationships. Perhaps the OP is much closer to her coworkers than I am to mine! But if I’m the coworker, “I went to a friend’s performance” is plenty of information. I don’t really need to know whether it’s your very best friend, or a friend of a friend, or a partner’s partner, or whatever.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        A housemate who is a close friend can be referred to as housemate or friend, or maybe “friend and housemate”. Thing is, both terms have various intensities of meaning. English doesn’t really have good terms for “closer than casual adults sharing a domicile without being married or sexually involved”.

    14. sadbutnotbad*

      I’ve learned the term “meta-partner” for your partner’s partners, which seems to honor the fact that they’re more than a friend but not quite your own partner (and I have partners I share with my partner and others we see separately….we’re a *very* open relationship). But most people probably wouldn’t know what that means. I just like that there is, in fact, a term for that relationship.

    15. Nom de Plume*

      On one hand, this makes the most sense to me, but on the other hand, saying “roommate” to describe one’s same-sex romantic partner was used in the not-too-distant past to hide gay/lesbian relationships from a disapproving society, so I hesitate to suggest others go down this road too.

    16. No Name*

      My first thought was that “my boyfriend’s other girlfriend” describes the housemate/friend’s relationship to the boyfriend, not LW1. It wouldn’t feel like LW1 had answered the question, “who is Jane?” because that question is really asking, “what is your relationship with Jane?”

      So…who is this woman to *you*? You say she is so much more than a friend or housemate, so surely she is more than you’re boyfriend’s other girlfriend too. Perhaps a friend/housemate who is basically family? Coming up with a word or phrase that feels sufficiently intimate and relates your relationship to her rather than your shared relationship to someone else might be a better way of framing things to people. It will also likely avoid the situation of oversharing personal details.

      1. SecretGay*

        Yes, this. What people want to know is who this woman is to you, not to your boyfriend. Focus on describing that. So she’s your metamour – many people have metamours and don’t go to their family’s holiday dinners, or go to their improv shows, or live with them, or even really see them more than once in a blue moon. You are doing all those things with Jane, and presumably not simply as one very long favor to Adam. So, what is your relationship with Jane? Figure out a way to articulate that.

        1. Anonys*

          I think Jane being the boyfriend’s partner will always be an integral part of that explanation though. New words will surely continue to be found as poly and other types of non-traditional relationships become more visible, but there are also complex relationships between people that cannot necessarily be accurately captured by a single word.

          Why can’t “who this person is to me” be “my boyfriend’s girlfriend who we live with and who is part of my nuclear family” or something like that? Why shouldn’t people at work know that her boyfriend has another girlfriend? Is it super relevant to them – no – but it might be relevant to OP that people know about her being poly and that she is able to speak openly about her relationship structure. Is it super interesting to people at work if my boyfriend has cousin? No, they don’t really care, but I’m still gonna say: “We are going to my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding this weekend”.

          OP has made several further comments here highlighting that she DOES primarily see her relationship to Jane as “my boyfriend’s girlfriend” and I think if there wasn’t any stigma against poly relationships, it would be no issue to casually mention it at work.

          1. No Name*

            I tend to agree with all of this! At the same time, non-trad relationships can require a level of explanation the LW sounds like she doesn’t want to go into. My thought was, simplify things by thinking high level about what the relationship to LW is – in the same way someone might refer to their long term partner’s kid as their stepchild, even though that’s not technically correct or the whole story.

        2. TreenaKravm*

          If you’re BFFs with your sister-in-law and do a bunch of stuff with them, you’d still probably call them your sister-in-law. Other people have sister-in-laws that they see at holidays or even never sometimes. Still called in-laws, no matter what it looks like.

          Jane is her metamour. That kind of relationship varies a lot, but ultimately it boils down to: we know each other because we’re involved with the same person. We don’t need specific words to describe the nuance of her specific relationship to Jane, we need the right to call her what she is (a metamour) and not face backlash. All these backhanded workarounds don’t serve that purpose.

          1. No Name*

            I agreed. Metamour works so long as it feels good to LW and she doesn’t mind the occasional instance of having to define it for people. Ultimately, the term she uses should be up to LW and how she views her relationship with this woman. This was pretty much my point from the start.

          2. No Name*

            Actually, your comment about backhanded workarounds implies that I’m trying to brush LW’s relationship under the rug. So maybe a little more explanation of my perspective is in order…

            LW sounds stumped on how to keep personal stuff away from work (as many people prefer to do), while still having a quick descriptor that doesn’t feel like brushing her metamour under the rug.

            My long-time partner’s kids dislike calling me “my parent’s partner.” The term defined my relationship to their parent before it defined their relationship to me. We (my partner, my partner’s ex, the kids, and I) decided the kids could refer to me as stepparent, because it easily describes our relationships even though it isn’t perfect.

            From LW’s original question, I got the feeling she was running into a similar issue. All descriptions felt either like too much information (I’ve run into that before) or like a brush-off to a person who’s important to her (I’ve run into that too). What helped me and my stepkids was taking a minute to define our relationship and move on.

            Regarding your point about in-laws, even the term sister-in-law describes my brother’s wife as *my* sister, which sounds much more intimate than *my brother’s* wife. It’s an important difference, and I suspect the term metamour (new to many of us from the sound of things) accomplishes this, which is great!

            That said, from how new it is to the commentariate, who are generally pretty educated and aware folk, LW may not relate personally to the term. That’s okay too! She may not want to deal with explanations or confusion if she uses it. That’s okay too! And she may love the term and be excited to have a word that finally fits her relationships. And that’s okay too!

            1. TreenaKravm*

              I was actually responding to SecretGay’s comment, specifically “What people want to know is who this woman is to you, not to your boyfriend” and “So, what is your relationship with Jane? Figure out a way to articulate that.” Reading yours, I realize now they’re very similar, so I understand the confusion.

              I was pushing back against the idea that because people want to know who Jane is to OP, that it’s a good idea to hide the actual dynamics of their relationship because it involves another person (bf). Because, as she has clearly stated multiple times, they are metamours who are in the same family, but this is not a lifelong commitment they have to one another: just like SILs. I love my SILs, but I doubt we would ever speak again if I were to split from my husband. You don’t need to have some elevated relationship status beyond that to justify it.

              My point was that people may not actively want to know exactly how you’ve met everyone in your life, but titles allow us that shortcut without long explanations. No one needs to know you went shopping with your SIL instead of a friend, but you sure can say it without anyone batting an eye, and OP deserves that reaction too. She shouldn’t have to do a detailed analysis of the exact depth of her relationship with a meta in order to convey what she wants to convey without actually conveying it, if that makes sense.

              The majority of the advice I’m seeing is “Don’t actually tell anyone, but here’s a way to make you feel better about it,” when the advice should be more like, “Evaluate your situation, and when the time comes, here’s how you do it.” The former is fine for someone with little privilege or whose secteur is particularly bigoted, and they’re not willing to gamble by coming out. The latter is for people like the OP, who really want to share but aren’t sure about specifics.

  6. Lilo*

    LW2: cutting employee pay really should be the last thing a company does. Either they don’t have their priorities straight or they are in serious trouble. Either way, get out of there. If they want you to work more for less pay? Nope. If they’re making fundamental structure changes, maybe, but doing so on the backs of workers is not sustainable and suggests very poor management.

    The chances of them weathering the storm and it all getting better are pretty low. Get that resume out asap.

    1. Artemesia*

      And you are competing for a new job with everyone else on this sinking ship so going out early aggressively is your best chance.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        THIS. A family member of mine fell for the “stay till the bitter end and you’ll get a bonus” when his employer was bought by a competitor and many jobs were going to be cut over the next several months. Yes, he stayed, and he got the bonus. But now he’s been out of work for a year, and all of the jobs he was qualified for were snapped up by people who didn’t stay.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Yes, this company is circling the drain. Update your resume and start looking now. You can take your time as long as you can survive on what they are currently paying. Don’t expect them to get better and then give all the employees who stayed a huge raise (they already know you will work more for less).

      1. hohoho*

        “they already know you will work more for less”

        THIS RIGHT HERE. Right now your employer is like an abusive romantic partner who is grooming you for future abuse. Testing to see what they can get away with, and it gets a little bit worse and a little bit worse, all the time.

    3. SQL Coder Cat*

      I’ve seen one other possibility: cutting employee salaries is ‘easier’ for the executive teams than tackling the real problems. At my job just prior to this one, they pulled a 5% salary cut on everyone making above a certain level ($35k if I’m remembering right). I started at my (much better) current job 2 months later. 6 months later I heard from an old coworker that all the top people got exempted from the pay cuts and they’d started slashing benefits. Some companies try to squeeze every last dime out of their employees for the immediate ‘bump’ rather than dealing with the actual issues.

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        Ironic update: I just got texted by an old coworker, and the company announced today it is closing for good at the end of April. It’s almost exactly two years after I left.

    4. Aposiopetic*

      Agreed. I’m also concerned that eighteen months ago they were hiring and promising raises and promotions to new hires and now they’re cutting employee pay 10%–that’s not a very long time to go from high on the hog to last resort belt tightening in most industries, and without more context, I’d call that a big red flag in terms of both their priorities and the likelihood of future solvency.

  7. RC Rascal*

    LW#2: What your company is proposing would be OK if we were in a serious recession. It would be OK if major banks were failing, if the government was bailing out short term liquidity, if credit was nearly impossible to get. Several friends of mine went through this in 2009; it was normal then to ask employees to take a pay cut for the team, so the firm could keep operating, so they all might keep their jobs.

    Please note: the environment I described about is NOT our current environment. Unemployment is very low. Liquidity and credit are very good. No banks are failing.

    Your company is terribly managed and they want you to pay the consequences. That they want to launch a bunch of new products into the market sounds like a Hail Mary to me. I have been part of the management team on a failing enterprise; what you are describing sounds like some of the pages from that play book.

    Job search, job search, job search.

    1. SunnySideUp*

      Agreed. They have no loyalty to you and your colleagues; you would be foolish to stay in this situation out of a sense of “owing” them something.

      THEY owe YOU.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I was going to make this point as well. You’re absolutely right. Companies have a loyalty to the bottom line and to their investors; you shouldn’t accept something less that what you deserve out of a perceived loyalty that won’t be returned.

        I suggest trying to negotiate a better deal as Jennifer suggests, but start your job search now because a company that cuts the salaries of their lowest earners is a company that’s not doing well. This is, I feel, a last-grab effort to keep the company afloat and it’s the lowest people on the rung who’ll be the first out the door when it comes to cutting further costs.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I don’t think the overall economic conditions make it not okay for the LW’s employer to ask this of them — it just means that the LW and their colleagues have a lot more freedom to look elsewhere. A struggling business is a struggling business, and they’ve got options aside from stay and suck it up.

      1. Lilo*

        They can ask, but their language is sketchy here (“give back”). An employer who does this and seems to think people won’t bail (or would be bad for bailing) is delusional at best.

      2. Antilles*

        Sure, it’s fair for the employer to ask even if the economy is growing; a struggling business really is a struggling business regardless of how the rest of the world is going…BUT it raises the obvious question:
        If your company is unable to turn a profit *now*, amidst the longest period of growth in decades, how the bleep are they going to survive when (not if) the next recession happens?
        Hard to imagine that a company which loses money in a great economy is going to magically find a way to be profitable when there’s a slower economy.

      3. Massmatt*

        The fact that their business is struggling when the economy is doing very well is a sign that something is wrong with the company strategy and management. If they have to do this now, what are they going to do when the economy declines?

        Compare this business with its peers. All kinds of great businesses struggled in 2008-9. Lousy businesses struggle during a boom.

        And really cutting employee pay is a very extreme measure. Lots of businesses had hiring freezes, froze 401k match, or cancelled company travel in the Great Recession, not as many cut pay.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if this company had only a couple months or less of expenses liquid.

    3. TiffIf*

      Additionally, I have heard a number of stories of people who did “take one for the team” during 2008-2009 only to find that the company wasn’t willing to give back once the economy was better. This was recently highlighted in the GM autoworkers strike

      1. ThatGirl*

        On a much smaller scale, my husband and his coworkers all took a paycut several years ago when the university he works for was in serious financial trouble – partially due to Illinois not having a budget for two years – and guess what, they never even got their original pay restored, much less any raises.

      2. hohoho*

        YUP. Your employer clearly doesn’t care about you, and will cut you loose and leave you unemployed without a second thought. “Loyalty” is just a manipulative concept that they’ll use to squeeze as much value out of you before they discard you. Look out for yourself because your employer certainly won’t be looking out for you.

    4. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

      Agreed. In 2009 the company I worked for made all employees take 2 weeks of unpaid leave (not all at once – 1 week at a time). No one really complained because we all knew how dire the situation was. I appreciated that they handled it with leave to get the cost savings and didn’t cut our base pay, and by 2010 things were looking somewhat better.

    5. Gumby*

      Yup. I took a temporary pay cut during the dot com bust. The entire sector was having problems, the company was transparent about the situation, they *started* by cutting lower-salaried people by a smaller percentage than higher earners (did not wait until there were complaints), AND there was no “this is for all of [year].” We were back to our old salaries within 9 months (think it was 6 but not 100% on this so 9 is a safe upper limit). No one was guilted into staying. There was no “time to give back to the company” it was “we believe in what we’re doing, we have a plan on how to weather this storm, if you can stick it out with us we’ll get back to normal ASAP.”

    6. Curmudgeon in California*

      True. The company is probably circling the drain, and wants the employees to shoulder a chunk of the burden. Salaries often make up the majority of expenses, so they want to cut where they think they can get the best leverage. However, they are probably thinking in terms of the old fashioned “retire after 40 years with a watch” type loyalty, and that went away in the 80s.

  8. Jennifer*

    Love this collaboration.

    About #2 I completely agree. Companies will act in their own best interests and you have to do the same. I see people writing here sometimes asking about how long they should wait before getting pregnant after starting a new job. How many employers ask about everyone’s family planning or any other major life decisions before they announce layoffs? Whether you decide to stay or go just handle everything professionally. Continue meeting your goals while you job search and give plenty of notice if you leave.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      It’s so true that companies will generally act in their own best interests. That often means making tough decisions about employees. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about their employees, but it DOES mean that they sometimes will, ahem, allow a few employees to find work elsewhere, and, ahem, “right-size” their staff, if it means a better position for the company. These people are employees, not friends or family, and it’s not wrong to treat them as people who are elements of your business. Running your business well sometimes means understanding that the people involved either won’t stay forever (so they may leave), or can’t stay forever (so you may have to let them go). You don’t owe them a job forever, but you also can’t keep them from leaving.

      (On the flip side, my father was a small business owner for many years, and I observed that he too often made business decisions from a place of friendship. For example, he allowed a good friend who had been evicted from his space to rent an room in his small office suite, but — !shocker! — the friend then was always light-years behind on the agreed-upon rent, if and when he paid at all. When times got tough, Dad was the one taking a financial hit, while the friend just kind of shrugged, because, well, he wasn’t on the lease. Dad: “Well, you know, I couldn’t let my buddy get tossed on the street.” Dad then would be annoyed and surprised when other friends of his would make friendship decisions from a place of business. Those friends? Exponentially better businesspeople. I love my dad, but … he’s not allowed to give me business advice.)

  9. Cordoba*

    There are whole industries devoted to enabling employers to figure out how to save money by outsourcing, laying off, or automating away as much of their workforce as possible.

    The expectation that any employee would stick around in a job out of “loyalty” is harmful and ridiculous.

    Pay cuts and promotion/hiring freezes might be mandated by fiscal realities, but employees are free to respond to those same circumstances by looking for new and better jobs.

  10. Bopper*

    I work for a company that once cut everyone’s pay 10% temporarily for a year…and they really did restore it after that.
    Take the promotion (and negotiate what you can) and start looking…you don’t have to take a job but you can see if there are other options for you out there.

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      Was coming to comment similar – there is no harm in OP#2 sending out resumes and interviewing. As Alison has stated many times previously, job searching while you’re currently employed is usually the best time to do it. You don’t HAVE to take any job you’re offered since you have a job currently, so you can be more choosey about any new opportunity.

      OP#2 – DO NOT just quit without something else lined up (wasn’t clear from your letter if that’s what people are advising, but don’t do it!)! Keep your current job – but also keep your options open.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agree, Insert. There are problems with the current employer, so use this time to start seeing what else is out there. If the company recovers and pay is restored, and the raise comes thru awesome. But if not, then by starting your job search now you may be ahead of the curve in getting out before things completely go down the drain.

  11. Czhorat*

    On #1, this is a great answer from both.

    I love the good Captain’s take that 1) such nontraditional relationships should be normalized, yet 2) the OP should not feel obligated to do that work herself it it would otherwise hurt her social standing.

    To those of us who are, like me, in traditional monogamous marriages, we need to be open minded. No eye-rolls. No “clever” jokes about poly- and otherwise nontraditional relationships. Just treat it as a normal thing.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      I don’t mind jokes, as long as they are the sort of light-style ones that a normal couple might encounter. There’s been a couple of situations where the three of us have been introduced in some setting, and Adam has gotten a, “two girlfriends? [oh poor you/luck you]” response, and it’s just lighthearted and amusing.

      Amusingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been in a “representative” role. This will perhaps be identifying, but in my midwest-or-south-or-maybe-a-conservative-foreign-country-who-knows-I’m-an-anonymous-enigma, after I deconverted, I liked demonstrating that “atheists: they’re just like us!” I had multiple people say I was the first atheist they met, and they were surprised by how nice I was.

      Later, it was the same with being a sorority girl; we can be normal women who are into studying and sisterhood and the negative stereotypes aren’t reality. So many people, after knowing me for a while, have been surprised when the fact that I was in a sorority ends up being relevant to a conversation.

      And now my two hobbies are niches that rarely overlap. I’m into cycling, especially for transportational, car-replacement purposes, and guns. There are so few people at this intersection! I like showing cyclists that rifle and pistol marksmanship are, in fact, normal and fun and important, and I like introducing gun people to the idea that, hey, maybe you don’t need two thousand pounds of truck to pop over to the grocery store for an onion? I don’t really bring things up aggressively or apropos of nothing; but when they are relevant I don’t hide. And in both, I again very much don’t fit any of the “stereotypes” of the culture, and I get some level of satisfaction of being an ambassador and a normalizer.

      So. Long story short. Being a “representative” isn’t work that I mind! But I enjoy this job, and don’t want to hurt my prospects. And I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. If I met someone in a social situation who was weirded out by my family arrangement, it’s fine, the world is big, we never have to hang out again. But at the office, this isn’t the case.

      1. Blueberry*

        I don’t have advice that hasn’t already been given, I just wanted to say that you sound awesome. *nontraditional relationship fistbump*

      2. kayakwriter*

        Re the nudge, nudge, wink, wink that a lot of guys give any male who’s in a guy-girl-girl poly relationship: A dear male friend who’s been in several long-term relationships of this type dryly responds, “Any guy goes into a relationship with two women will find his tongue is getting a real workout. But not for the reasons he was expecting.” (For the hard of thinking: he’s referring to the fact that poly relationships require a lot of communication. So. Much. Communication.)

          1. Alexandra Lynch*

            Oh, yes. ALL the communication. And just like a long-term monogamous one, there is no putting it on the back burner and ignoring it while you do other things; if you do that, one day someone leaves.

      3. Sled dog mana*

        ::waves hand in air like Hermione:: Nice to meet another shooting/cycling enthusiast! (I always hesitate to call myself a gun enthusiast because I don’t really have a passion for the actual object but I for taking them to the range and putting holes in paper).
        As far as relationships, you’d be totally shocked to know how many times I get asked what my husband does. He’s a stay at home dad. People cannot seem to get it through their heads that he likes it, has much more patience than I do and no he’s not planning to go back to work now that our kid is in school. I just don’t get why people think it’s any of their business, if you were my coworker I’d probably file anything you said about Jane under the heading of Person OP is close to.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      Haha, yes, we learned that a few months after I moved in. It’s not really a part of standard english, though, so if someone asked, “who is Jane?” and I said “my meta” or “my metamour” then it would just require additional explanation. But it’s such a clever word, maybe someday it will enter the common lexicon!

      I actually prefer Adam to do introductions, even though I’m the extrovert, because it’s so much easier for him to say, “I’m Adam, and this is Jane and X, my girlfriends” than it is to say, “I’m X, and this is my boyfriend Adam, and his other girlfriend Jane”

      1. fposte*

        Now I’m getting echoes of Newhart: “I’m Larry, this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.”

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m glad I’m not the only one! I had to show my kids a supercut of that the other day because my husband and I tend to use it a bit.

          I actually think that the introduction of “Adam’s other girlfriend, Jane” is more distancing than “our close friend and housemate, Jane” – the first sounds to me like it’s a separate relationship in which OP#1 is not involved; the second sounds more like OP#1 also has a relationship with Jane.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, it’s making me think (with a little annoyance at the world, tbh) about the way ostensible sexual connection ends up the defining factor in many situations even when that’s not how the bonds have worked.

            1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

              It’s less about the “sexual” connection, and more about the results of a sexual connection, ie, offspring. Modern birth control makes this less of a factor, but we’ve had centuries and centuries of viewing relationships in terms of lineage, because that’s where allegiances, in general, truly lie. “Blood is thicker than water” and all that.

                1. Jessen*

                  I think all of us (and I know I’m not the only one here) who had terrible families would be highly in favor of us.

                  I hate the aspect of society that I can only have someone who’s not abusive recognized as “family” if I have sex with them.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              For me, it’s less about that and more the framing of a relationship in terms of relation to someone else, if that makes sense? Kind of “my mother-in-law” versus “my partner’s mother” – the connotation of the first is that I have a relationship with her, whereas the second sounds like I can barely stand the woman and only know with her because she’s related to my partner. (No doubt we’re lacking the right language for it in our society at present, but I don’t often hear people talk about people to whom they’re close in terms of how that person is related to a third party.)

              But I am a big fan of defining family by those who support you, no matter the technical/familial relationships. As Jessen mentions, I have biological family that I’d be perfectly happy to never see again and people of no blood/marital relation that I’d go to the ends of the earth for. (And, to tie the two, I used to sometimes refer to my truly awful father as “your ex-husband” when speaking to my mother about him. She was not amused, particularly when confused people asked if I had a different father – you know, because THAT’S worse than having kids with someone who emotionally abuses them – and once she had her fill of that, we ended up agreeing to an absurd and probably inappropriate nickname that I’ll not share.)

  12. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    So much this. They sound like they’re pulling the whole “Hail Mary” playbook to keep things afloat. They may survive – and may not, start looking now because it’s easier to job search while you have a job.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Another thing to keep in mind–if LW#2’s company really does fail, then there will be no severance. And possibly not much notice. WARN doesn’t apply to an employer of this size.

  13. Wraps*

    Give your particular polyamorous set-up, the first thing those with little exposure (most people) will reach for is polygamy (one man will more than one woman who aren’t in direct kinship with the other women). As much as it sucks, I’d keep your family’s arrangement under wraps :-/

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      I mean, that is our relationship, though? We’re a closed system; Jane and I don’t have lads on the side. You’re saying it’s bad for people to think that, because of negative associations with that style of relationship?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I think where Wraps is going is that you don’t want people’s first assumption of you to be, like, that you’re Fundamentalist LDS type sister-wives who are completely submissive to the dude in the house. Which is true! Nobody wants that – but I don’t know that I’d agree with the “So you should obviously keep it a secret to avoid that” part.

        (Yes, big distinction between FLDS and “regular” Mormons, acknowledged.)

    2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      But why is this a problem? Of course they’re going to think of polygamy, as that’s what this relationship is (sans marriage), but among consenting adults, I don’t know why this would be any more scandalous than any other type of poly relationship?

      1. Wraps*

        Because it *does* have a lot of stigma attached to it. Polygamy is frowned upon because it’s a patriarchal structure that assumes women’s submission. Now, I know this isn’t the letter writer’s situation, and I’m not trying to shame anyone into secrecy. I doubt most (if anybody’s) minds will go to religion, but one dude with exclusive relationships with multiple women under one roof (who themselves have no other relationships)? It has a tone that won’t benefit the LW. All that being said, unless you want to be someone’s Introduction to Not-Mainstream Romance 101, keep it vague. This doesn’t have to be your hill to die on.

        1. Joelle*

          Except the LW has repeatedly stated that she’s not comfortable being in the closet about this – if she were, she wouldn’t have written in asking how to navigate this! As someone who has to be “out” on a few different axis (I’m queer, nonbinary, and polyamorous), trust me, we always know we have the option to be in the closet.

          1. TreenaKravm*

            “We always know we have the option to be in the closet.”

            This. Suggesting OP not disclose the full relationship with Jane isn’t a revolutionary idea that no one hasn’t thought of. The point of the question is to figure out how to NOT do that.

            And, sorry OP for breaking your cover, but your “lads” gave you away. Since she’s living in the UK or Commonwealth country, it’s unlikely they’ll be compared to FLDS. That’s a very American thing.

  14. Observer*

    #2 – Take the promotion and start looking THIS minute. Don’t quit, because you want a paycheck coming in and it’s easier to get a job when you are employed. But start looking aggressively.

    There are a ton of red flags here. Beyond the obvious ones (clearly they are in a major financial issue and it’s not just cash flow), the idea that you need to “give back” to the company that is already getting your labor, is a real problem. Unless this is a company that specializes in hiring people who have barriers to employment, or something similar, you have no reason or moral / ethical obligation to “give back” anything but the best job you can do. Their expectation that you owe them anything more is a really big issue.

    Find another job.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Even if it DOES specialize in hiring people with barriers to employment, there’s a limit to what they should expect. One of my former employers hired a lot of recent college grads, formerly homeless people, and career changers. They paid illegally low wages and often would go for weeks without paying at all. It was exploitation, not “giving back.”

      1. Observer*

        Of course. But the company doesn’t seem to be doing anything illegal here.

        In any case, my point was not to allow a company that hires new grads to exploit their workers, but that ONLY if the company behaves in a way that gives an unusual level of opportunity to people who are typically short on opportunities, and they do so in a way that doesn’t especially benefit them, can they even begin to talk about “giving back”.

  15. Not Quite Poly*

    I’m dealing with a similar poly setup to LW1 except that I’m the one with two SOs. My solution has been refering to both people as my partner, and not really differentiating, so that my coworkers think they’re one person. It’s not ideal, but I can’t really talk about my life outside of work anyway (lots of borderline legal activism and transgender events), so it hasn’t become a problem in the 2 years I’ve been here.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      How do you handle who gets to be your +1 to holiday parties?

      Ours was easy enough to figure out; Adam was my +1, and Jane was his +1, and neither of us were Jane’s +1 because she works remotely and didn’t have a holiday party. So I got a work holiday party with him, and so did she, everything works out.

      1. Not Quite Poly*

        The partner that I live with gets to come with me if she wants, but she doesn’t often want to. My enbyfriend (translation: non-binary boy/girlfriend) doesn’t want to go to my work things- they’ve got a busy enough life already. So mostly I go to work stuff alone.

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        For us, since we also have a V type relationship, it will probably be that I go with him and I go with her. She won’t go with him because she won’t go to a party unless it’s one of those optional but mandatory things companies like to do, and then she wants me there as her emotional support. She doesn’t like groups of people in general. At least in those situations the same outfit will do for both. (grin)

    2. Valprehension*

      I have always enjoyed this approach. You can wind up having the most interesting, well-rounded “partner” that has ever existed in other people’s heads (how *do* they find the time for all those varied careers and endeavours?) XD

      1. Not Quite Poly*

        It’s the kind where you’re not doing anything wrong, but the cops show up and arrest you for jaywalking, or clogging the sidewalk, or whatever charge they come up with that day, because you didn’t get a permit for your protest.

        It’s not bad, but I work for an insurance company. And I don’t want to go anywhere near the topic of politics with my coworkers.

    3. Loki*

      I have this, but one of my partners is long-distance and the other is not. So I tend to spend my (quite generous) PTO towards taking long weekends to visit the LDR partner, and it’s getting increasingly getting difficult to talk about how I spent the long weekend without getting into a “I visited my girlfriend who lives on the other side of the country” – “Wait, I thought your girlfriend lives in this city”-scenario.

      Any advice appreciated.

      (Oh, and I love that polyamory is getting coverage here, I considered writing to Alison about this as well.)

  16. not always right*

    OP#2. Polish up your resume and try to find a new job. You don’t have to take the first one that comes along, but please don’t delay. I was in your shoes back in 2008. I wasn’t exempt and my salary was mid range and I had a second job, so I just picked up more hours on job 2 and kept on trucking. I stayed put because I was 53, the economy was bad so I thought bird in the hand, etc.

    We were told that we would get our 10% back in 5 years. HAH! Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I saw the handwriting on the wall and I cut back a lot on my expenses and started putting any extra cash I had towards paying off debt. When I was finally laid off in 2018, I had a paid for house and car but still quite a bit of credit card debt. I was 63 when I was laid off. That means I went TEN FREAKING YEARS without a raise, and to add insult to injury, My paycheck got smaller each year because my health insurance went up year after year. When I left, I was paying $800 per month for single coverage. For reference, when I started there, I paid $198 for family coverage

    Thankfully, at the age of 63, I found a new job within a month. It didn’t pay as well; however, it cut my commute in half and the insurance is 25% of what I was paying, so I actually broke even. 18 months later, I applied for an internal position and I got the job. It came with a 12% pay raise. I could kick myself for not trying to find a new job way sooner.

    Please try and learn from my mistake and look for another job ASAP. You won’t regret it.

  17. MI Dawn*

    I’m in a poly relationship also. Since most of my coworkers are VERY conservative, I refer to my partner and his other relationships as my friends (we don’t share a living space). And they ARE my friends, as well as my family of choice. So I talk about doing things with them – X (boyfriend) came over and we had dinner, or X and Y (other girlfriend) are coming up for a party. Normal talk about your life. I don’t dwell on the bedroom activities.

    In your case, you could call them your friends, your housemates, your partners, whatever. Your coworkers don’t need to know who is sleeping with whom, just like they don’t need to know what ANY relationship (heterosexual or homosexual or whatever) is doing in the bedroom.

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’m in a polyamorous triad and we all live together, and I’ve settled on something like this, too!

      At work, I tend to be vague with names and just refer to my “partner,” which could be either of them (for example, I visited Eve’s family this summer and Adam’s family over the holiday, referred to both trips as “visiting my partner’s family” and nobody has noticed that I’ve said my in-laws live in both Ohio and South Carolina). The important thing to remember is that most coworkers don’t remember too much about your life outside of work. Unless you have truly, outstandingly nosy colleagues, when you talk about your weekend, people won’t remember much more than “Jack is dating someone” and “Jack has friends.”

      1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

        If I heard that, I’d just assume your parents were divorced, and you had maternal family in one state, and paternal family in another :)

        1. Jack Be Nimble*

          Exactly — there are so many quote-unquote “normal” ways to have a big, spread-out extended family that I feel really comfortable talking about my situation without getting into specifics!

    2. Anonforthis*

      I’m a long-term poly relationship, it’s a V where I’m the one with 2 partners. I’m not out at work because I’m a manager and a bit worried about the dynamics if someone in my team did mind. If I changed companies and moved into a non-management position I think I would come out, probably in the kind of gradual no-big-deal way OP has.

      I find “we” is a very helpful word at work. “We went to the Star Wars movie”, “we cleaned up the garden” – and no-one realizes that the other one of the “we” changes.

  18. agnes*

    LW #1. You can have so much fun with this and honor your friend too. Here are some ways that people in my workplace have described this type of relationship (yes we have many unconventional relationships in our organization–it’s a college town!)

    “close friend”
    “extended family”
    “one of my love people– you know, one of those people you love and the English language has no descriptor for…”
    “part of my chosen family. ”
    “partner once removed”
    “part of my love triangle”
    “it’s too complicated to explain, just know (s)he’s important to me”
    “do you really want to know?” (said with a smile and laugh)

        1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

          We’ve considered it! Also feels a bit weird because we both have biological sisters, and I’m involved with my sorority alumni group so I’ll be going out and doing activities with my “sisters.” Main issue with that term is that it’s a bit of a mouthful.

    1. Daniela*

      I love the “partner once removed”. I bet it would make the coworker pause briefly, to figure that out, the first time it was mentioned.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Be careful if you phrase it that way to someone who understands the genealogical definition of “once removed,” which involves a generation shift. My first cousin once removed is either in my dad’s generation, or my child’s generation, but is not in my generation on a family tree. Heh.

    2. Cashew*

      Greetings fellow college-towner ! I, too, have colleagues whose relationships are not monogamous. Our workplace is generally also welcoming, but it comes in all shades.

      An approach that one colleague took is to start with being more open about their relationship with people identified as allies, using a matter-of-fact tone (“what did you do over the weekend?” “Oh, Charlotte, Darcy and I went to the movies.”) When “Lizzie” mentioned her family and relationship paradigm to our more conservatively-minded colleagues (same tone, same approach), they would then go to the rest of us and say “Did you know Darcy has TWO GIRLFRIENDS?” We’d respond that yes, we do know, and by the way did you have a chance to see my email? It forced the normalization- it’s not gossip, it’s a just fact of someone’s life. So even if those colleagues still felt uncomfortable with it on a personal level, they recognized that most people truly didn’t care and it wasn’t something to focus on.

      1. TreenaKravm*

        This is the approach I’ve used and recommend. It helps you practice coming out when the stakes are lower (someone you can reasonably assume will respond okay/well)

    3. ArtsNerd*

      I came in to suggest “chosen family” too. It’s common enough in a variety of contexts these days as to be ambiguous without minimizing her role in your life.

      My chosen fam is a monogamous straight couple with kids — not romantic in any way, but serious enough that one of us moving to another city is a ‘family decision.’ I’ve had to warn the husband to be more careful how he talks about me in public because our humor around it could inadvertently make us sound poly, and I don’t want to imply that poly relationships are funny.

    4. Allypopx*

      I know you said you aren’t really “in the poly community” OP but there’s lots of useful terms for people who are! OSO = other significant other, or other’s significant other depending on your preferred vernacular, and is a handy shorthand for these relationships.

    5. agnes*

      I call my husband’s ex wife part of my love triangle. I really like her a lot. He does too (not as much as I do though). They just could not be married for many reasons. We are all platonic, but she’s important to us both- she has been another mother to my biological kids and I have to theirs. I am sure people scratch their heads on that one, but hey, it works for us.

  19. Another Millenial*

    #1; I would suggest being careful about how you frame the dynamics of your relationship. There could be a lot of people who don’t really understand polyamory and might interpret your relationship as you simply being complicit in your boyfriend cheating on you. Which isn’t really any of their business anyway, but also kind of is if you bring it up. And if this leads to co-workers assuming this = “bad/questionable judgement,” it may affect upward mobility. While I abhor ignorance, I also abhor the idea that another’s misinformed assumption might hold my career back.

    1. MI Dawn*

      That’s exactly why I’m not out at work. And, to be honest, our polycule has other people not mentioned in my comment above. But I don’t want to out people who prefer to be hidden (they are not hidden among us, but to the public they are).

    2. TreenaKravm*

      That seems overly cautious. They live together, it’d be pretty hard to be cheating while all living under the same roof. Throwing in a line about how everyone knows, it’s above board is so automatic for most non-monogamous folks, that it would be a seriously messed up co-worker to dig their heels into insisting that cheating is a possibility.

  20. Jedi Squirrel*

    As soon as I started reading #1, the theme song to Three’s Company started playing in my head.

    I really do wish people could just live and let live. Family is family, regardless of where you find it or how you make it.

  21. BradC*

    LW2: I’m not sure how likely you are to get a commitment in writing from your manager for a specific bonus and/or raise after the slump; presumably the whole *purpose* of the pay downgrade is to see if the company can make it through the current troubles, which they don’t yet know.

    For what it’s worth, I went through a similar short-term pay downgrade due to a combination of business factors; I actually felt lucky to survive the layoffs. (But I also wasn’t a near entry-level worker.) In our case it did eventually get “back to normal”, but clearly I can’t promise that’ll happen to you.

    1. Emmie*

      I agree that OP is unlikely to get that commitment in writing. The company cannot commit to a specific amount, or even an increase because of its financial struggles.

    2. Marthooh*

      I think that’s why CA advised making other suggestions as well, like flexible hours, more vacation time, more of the work you like to do and less of the work you don’t like, etc. But do your best to get it in writing

  22. Risha*

    My company sends out little bios from each new hire, with photos. One woman hired last month, I was interested to note in a “glad to see times are changing” sort of way, mentioned both a ‘partner’ (judging from the accompanying photo, likely a woman) and a boyfriend. I’m not particularly plugged into the gossip networks, but I haven’t heard any negative talk about it, which is a nice thing to learn about your workplace.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      Thanks for sharing your experience of being an observer of an office with a situation like mine!

  23. Daisy-dog*

    LW2 – If you do like this job, I’m going to venture a guess that you’re someone who generally fits in easily and doesn’t usually have trouble in different situations. Maybe I’m wrong. I would say that you won’t have much trouble finding another job that you will also enjoy. This company sounds Toxic.

  24. 867-5309*

    I disagree with Jennifer’s opening couple of sentences to OP2… In fact, cutting the “people cost” and investing more in product is exactly what most companies do when under dramatic financial issues.

    Agree completely that OP needs to see what’s out there but the company’s reasoning is not off the mark for the norm. Now, a separate argument can be made if companies that do this are “penny-wise and pound foolish” for sacrificing its people cost but they can’t risk customer abandonment or to slow new customer acquisition.

    1. Lilo*

      Usually people cost means cutting positions, not salaries, though. Layoffs would be better in my book. That’s more sustainable and doesn’t expect more performance for less pay.

      1. 867-5309*

        I’ve seen a number of companies do salary reductions in lieu of laying people off – the thought being people want to keep their jobs and this way the talent is still available in the hopes things pick up again quickly. I’ve mostly seen it in small to medium-sized organizations.

  25. hello*

    I like the, “Oh, she’s not my daughter, Jane’s my close friend and also our housemate, we think of her as family.” line!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a trio of friends – I’m not sure whether they’re a triangle or a V polycule or how “out” any of them are at work, but both of the women have children fathered by the fella in the house – and at one point, that’s how one of them deflected on Facebook. Nosy Parker asked “Oh, now that Jane is expecting, will she be moving out on her own?” and Sally’s reply was along the lines of “No, she’s chosen family and will be staying right where she belongs with us!”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          It was! The adults are also now outnumbered by the kids, and they pretty regularly mutter about how “Thank god there’s three of us.” :)

          1. Atlantian*

            It makes everything easier! We are not poly, but we do have a roommate that predated our romantic relationship (she moved in with my SO when he was going trough his divorce with his ex to help with bills. They were both in college at the time) and she just makes life easier. As our son ages and we are beginning the early stages of leaving him home alone while we go out to the store, or to an appointment or something, knowing that the roommate who works 3rd shift is right there asleep if he really needs something, gives me incredible peace of mind. Also, it’s easier to ensure that 1 of 3 people will be home when the bus comes, or can go pick him up midday if something happens, than it would be for 1 of 2.

  26. TootsNYC*

    If anyone is going to get slapped with the “traitor” label, it will be the company.

    The one that made a promise and didn’t keep it.

    From one who betrays another’s trust or is false to an obligation or duty

    So there you are.

    Now, a company can truly intend to have honored their promise and and your trust in them, and then been in a position where it simply was not possible.
    But if anybody gets that label, it’s them.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      THANK YOU.

      OP2, it sounds like someone has really messed with your head to make you feel that leaving your employer after a pay cut/promotion without raise means you’re a “traitor.” I’m sorry.

  27. Ashloo*

    My husband was laid off last week after ironically hearing the whole “loyalty to the company” spiel a few weeks ago. Take the promotion and start job searching under the new title. Loyalty is never in both directions. While the layoff would have still been a blow, we would feel less like the owner was human dog sh*t had the word loyalty never been uttered.

    1. TootsNYC*

      my company has a new CEO, and he’s really big on gushing to us all over email about how great the company is, and telling us about all the new business initiatives across the company.
      I don’t give a shit.

      The guy before him was big on “we value our employees,” and “we hire the best in the business.”
      I was really offended.

      This is the first year in all the 8 years I’ve worked here that the company didn’t have a sizable wave of layoffs. After 7 years of seeing great colleagues laid off, and 7 years of anxiety starting every October, I’m just done.
      Look, I’ve the queen of layoffs. I’ve been laid off 9 times before I got the job I have now. I get it–of course if you can’t justify paying a worker (me, others), from a business standpoint, you ARE going to lay us off. I’m not the worker who gets mad and feels personally wronged.

      But just don’t ask me to get invested anymore. I’m here because I need the money; I do my job really well because I’m proud of what I do. I’ll invest all my creativity and energy into doing what’s best for the company in my own little sphere–I’ll cut costs, look for process improvements, bring up revenue opportunities, etc. Because those are part of doing my job well. and building my skills.

      But don’t ask me to care about the broader company. Just don’t.
      You’ll lay me off in a heartbeat the moment you decide that someone at 3/4 or 2/3 or my salary will do a good enough job for you.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        In my experience, companies that earn loyalty don’t have to have hype-men telling you these things, you know it from what you encounter at work and see around you. If you have to tell me how great the organization is and that you’re hiring good people, you probably aren’t/don’t.

      2. RC Rascal*

        High five Toots! I’m on my fifth layoff in a 20 year career. I’ve had the misfortune to go into 2 industries immediately prior to retrenchment. Most recently my company sold my division. I’m the queen of wrong place wrong time.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. My first layoff, which was handled badly, was in 1982. I’ve had layoffs and “firings to avoid the WARN act” off and on since.

        Half the time they picked members of disadvantaged groups to go on the layoff list.

        My attitude is now “I was looking for a job when I found this one. You pay me, you don’t own me.”

        I do my best because of my integrity, not an employer’s “loyalty”

  28. ExcelJedi*

    LW1: There is a middle ground. I’m not out as polyamorous at work, but I talk about both my partners pretty equally. “Poe, Finn and I went to the movies this weekend”…..”Finn and I are doing a long weekend down the shore together”….”I had dinner with Poe last night, and can I just say how much I love this sushi place?”

    Everyone knows I’m married to Poe. I’m 90% sure a handful of my colleagues recognize that Finn is also my partner, but most of them just think he’s a very good friend. I’m hoping that eventually, when they put 2 and 2 together, no one will think polyamory is exclusively sexual (at least not for me specifically).

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I do the same thing with my partners — I’m pretty vague, but I refer to spending time with them equally. Funny story, I ran into a coworker at a coffee shop and actually introduced both of my partners as such. Coworker completely missed the subtext, and recently asked if I’m planning to have a Catholic wedding, or something a little more non-traditional. I told her that we were leaning non-traditional, but still undecided ;)

    2. Vicky Austin*

      “I’m hoping that eventually, when they put 2 and 2 together, no one will think polyamory is exclusively sexual (at least not for me specifically).”

      Or that you’re cheating on your husband

      1. ExcelJedi*

        I mean….so what if they do? About half the time I’m talking about all 3 of us together and half my social media pics with them are us as a group, so that would be a weird stretch anyway.

  29. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: In certain ways, this is a standard “coming out” question that LGBT people have been dealing with in the workplace for ages. There are pros and cons both ways, and it comes down to your environment, your values, what you’re comfortable with, etc.

    Pay attention to Captain’s comment about being an “ambassador”. Even if you face no direct blowback or discrimination at your job, you might end up being known as the “poly person”. Are you okay with that? To be clear, there is no “correct” answer. If you are okay with that, great! If not, that’s something to consider. I personally know poly people, and people in open relationships, and I wouldn’t bat an eye at a colleague referencing multiple partners in a conversation – but you know your environment, you can probably surmise if your colleagues would be weird about it, if you’d run into trouble, or if you’d just spend your tenure at that job as a “walking banner”.

  30. Leela*

    #2 I’d start looking immediately! Job searching can take a lot longer than you think, especially if you’re in a high cost of living city where competition is probably pretty high especially for someone at 1-3 years experience.

    I’m not impressed by your employer and you shouldn’t be either. I understand that when times are lean companies have to make sacrifices but it’s not the employees’ responsibility to be what gets sacrificed, sitting around and hoping that their job is safe. At this point I wouldn’t be wondering about the promotion, I’d be wondering if you’ll even have what you have now in later 2020. Are they going to hit mass layoffs (if so you might be among the first to go as junior, low-paid staff), cut wages further, or even fold entirely?

    I definitely agree to get the promotion title on your resume so you at least get something out of this, but I’d still start job searching. I’m willing to bet you can still get some time with this title while searching and I think worst case scenario is that you leave earlier than you’d like with this title, but hopefully for a role that gives you at least what you had before the paycut. You definitely want to find yourself choosing to go or stay when you don’t have heavy pressure to accept whatever comes your way (like if they suddenly lay you off or your savings bleeds out because of the wage cut). Good luck to you!

  31. Allypopx*

    #1 When I was in your situation I just cleared the language I was going to use with my SOs and OSOs ahead of time with the clear explanation “I love you all, I just don’t want to have to navigate this in a professional setting where pearl clutching normies may make it A Thing.” Everyone understood and had their own version of what they said. Decide what you’re most comfortable with given what you know about your workplace and stick with it. You’re not disrespecting or dismissing anyone, I promise – it just is what it is.

    #2 “Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company and make sacrifices for the whole”

    RED FLAG. No. nonononononono. ‘Give back’ implies they’ve been doing some humanitarian service for you and not simply exchanging salary for your labor. You’ve already given plenty by just doing your job. This is manipulative framing on their part and I would be running not walking in the other direction. It seems like you have a connection to this place and may not want to do that – I get that – but at least explore what other options are out there.

    1. Joelle*

      Allypopx makes a great point – LW, make sure your boyfriend and his girlfriend are onboard with whatever language you chose to use/however you decide to frame this. It sounds like y’all have probably discussed some of this on some level already, but checking in and confirming assumptions never hurts (but as it sounds like y’all have a functional relationship, you probably already do that semi-regularly anyways).

  32. kayakwriter*

    LW2 A question for you: would you play any kind of casino game where the maximum upside was that you got back the amount that you’d wagered? Where all other outcomes involved you losing some or all of your bet? Where there was no possibility of you ever winning more than you’d staked? Put like that, of course you wouldn’t. And that’s what your employer is asking you to do: wager your 5% pay cut on the gamble that the company will turn things around and you’ll eventually get it back. But not offering you any payoff (salary increase or equity in the company) for taking that risk. It is, as they say, a sucker bet. There’s a very human tendency to fall for the sunk cost fallacy when we’ve invested time and/or money in a situation; it’s natural to invest more in the hope of a return or a least minimizing your losses. But in most of those situations, the really rational thing to do is to cut your losses and get out ASAP. To me, your situation sounds like one of those.

  33. The Bimmer Guy*

    I love your collaborations. You and Jennifer P along with Danny M Lavery (and his wife Grace, when she guest-stars) at Dear Prudence are The Dream Team (and yes, I read the transcript they did that one time; it was fabulous).

  34. WellRed*

    OP 2, I feel like you are missing the bigger picture. Cutting salaries is pretty drastic, about as drastic as it gets for a cost-cutting measure. My company did it once, for about six months, but we also got “furlough” days, 2 per month, during that period. They certainly didn’t increase the workload and decrease the pay.
    Your raise and promotion are the least of your problems. Your company is in bad financial shape AND it’s not treating its employees well.

  35. Just Another Techie*

    Question 1 has become recently relevant to me! In past jobs, I just was closeted about my other partners and metamours, mostly to avoid That One Guy Who Is Just Very Curious, Etc, but also to avoid gossip and perception that I’m not focused on work (since I am a woman in a male dominated field). But I’ve recently started a job that requires a security clearance, and one of the requirements of having a clearance is not being closeted about stuff that the feds think might be used as blackmail leverage over you. It’s been . . . super awkward. But at least in my case it’s gotten easier each time I’ve mentioned it and I’ve yet to observe any ill effects? But I’m also fairly well established in my career with a technical skill set my employer desperately needs and doesn’t have enough of. It also helps that I live in a blue state in an even blue-er town where there’s a lot of acceptance of other non-normative sexual and gender identities. Despite working in a notoriously conservative industry most of my immediate coworkers are pretty socially progressive.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      I’m also a woman in a male-dominated-field!

      There’s the authoritarian right, and the libertarian right. I find that most conservatives I encounter (in the tech world, and the gun world) are of the libertarian right. They gun ones generally want their “gay neighbors to be able to defend their opium fields with rocket propelled grenade launchers,” and the tech ones generally don’t care about other people’s relationships. This is partially a result of where I live these days too.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Yeah, I didn’t want to go too far into describing other people’s politics, but I am very much surrounded by the libertarian right as you described it.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Having a security clearance doesn’t mean you have to tell your work colleagues about your personal life. I don’t know who told you that. You only have to tell your security office and whoever interviews you from the government about your personal life.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        No, but it does mean you can’t have secrets that you can be blackmailed over. For another example, a colleague of mine needed to disclose to her extremely conservative religious parents that she was cohabiting with her boyfriend before her clearance was granted. The more stigma attached to your personal lifestyle choices, the more risk that you would do something illicit in order to keep that information secret.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Was your colleague instructed to do that by the security office? (were you instructed to reveal your relationship to your coworkers by the security office?)

          Regarding the blackmail point, that’s the foundation of revealing things to the security office, so that secrets aren’t secrets anymore. There are lots of things the security office asks you about, that you might have to report to them on an ongoing basis, that you don’t have to share with other people. There are all sorts of things that we like to keep private that don’t even show up on a questionnaire that we can be blackmailed over, and the key is to go to the security office with the threat. I don’t have to report one night stands to anyone, including the security office, but if I were to be blackmailed over one, I would report the blackmail and the events leading up to it to my security office. Nobody else would need to know (unless the security office told me to reveal it, and then I would only be obligated to reveal it to the people I was told to).

          1. Just Another Techie*

            Yes, and yes. I’m very new to this world, having pivoted here from a commercial space where the only things we had to worry about were export controls. I just do what the security office tells me and trust them to understand the requirements.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        I should also add, it’s not that I proactively talk about my personal life all the time, or even very much. More just taking opportunities when they come up in lunchroom conversation or whatnot to train myself out of years of habits of secrecy and euphemisms.

    3. Queer Earthling*

      My metamour has been more open about the relationship (poly V, our spouse is the hinge) for similar reasons. He isn’t super specific, but he’s also not private about it, and on social media he spells it out with full knowledge that the higher-ups may see it. Most of his colleagues seem to think he has a harem (since my spouse looks female) and have asked what his secret is, but otherwise don’t care.

  36. Koala dreams*

    #1 Your comment about being called “friend” being dismissive got me thinking. Unfortunately, society values romantic and family relationships much higher than platonic friendships, and so it will somehow sound less to be seeing a friend compared to a girlfriend, a sister or a cousin. And maybe you are sad that there are no widely recognized family term for boyfriend’s girlfriend, like there are for sister-in-law? However, there is nothing that says that a romantic connection is inherently less worth compared to a friends-based one. If you do choose to continue calling her your friend, you can decide for yourself that instead of of robbing her of the glory of being someone’s girlfriend, you are choosing to emphazise and put value on the genuine friendship that also exists between the two of you. Similar to how many people say that their spouse is also their best friend. To be called a friend can be dismissive, but it can also be a great honor.

    1. Scarlet2*

      I enthusiastically agree with your general point re. society’s view of friendship as “lesser” than romantic and family relationships.
      However, I don’t think that’s the whole story here. As I understand it, it’s both because “friend” doesn’t really convey who she is to LW and also because LW feels like they would be hiding a part of their identity at work.

  37. SecretGay*

    LW1: I would either describe Jane as a friend or a girlfriend, depending upon what’s accurate. It’s not really clear from your letter if you and Jane are also dating, or if you’re both dating just Adam and thankfully get along wonderfully as well. But either way, you want to describe what *your* relationship to Jane is, not what her relationship to Adam is. If she’s your girlfriend, call her that. If she’s your bestie and bosom buddy and roommate, say that. But figure out how to articulate what your relationship is with her outside of Adam.

  38. hohoho*

    #2 “Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company and make sacrifices for the whole.”


    Get off this sinking ship NOW, FFS.

  39. Pretzelgirl*

    I have been at a company that was failing. It was small and I had access to the financials. I could see the money dwindling everyday. I also saw the horrible attempts at fixing and internally screaming, every time they tried another one. It was never fixed, they eventually got to a point where they couldn’t pay us. We had to move spaces and (we) the workers had to move everything. GET OUT. GET OUT. Apply to places today. I hate to say it, but companies rarely recover from this. Kudos to them if they do. Again, LEAVE.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, this. I kind of feel like pushing to get a future raise or move tasks you don’t like off your plate (when they already said you’ll be getting more work) is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. OP needs to be looking for a new job…this crappy company isn’t worth it. And even if you get something in writing, I’m dubious they’d have the money or integrity to honor it. You’ll just get a new excuse down the road.

  40. Employment Lawyer*

    No, you should not discuss your poly status at work.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less about whether anyone is poly or anything else, but with all due respect to Captain Awkward, I feel like their advice is a bit utopian for the office.
    some people like to argue that coming out as polyamorous is TMI — that it’s “sharing things about your sex life that they don’t want to hear.” So I want to state for the record that this is no more that than sharing the existence of any other partner is.
    This is… not really true?

    Poly life is an extreme-minority behavior. The relevant issue for poly life isn’t that “it involves partners” but, rather, that “it involves behavior which id radically outside the social norm.”

    Generally, if you practice an extreme-minority behavior then it is going to get some social condemnation or, at the least, judgment. You can debate whether or not that SHOULD happen (philosophical theories of social coherence versus individual freedoms, etc.) but I think it’s safe to say that it WILL happen. So while any extreme-minority behavior** can theoretically be classified as “just like ___” (you can find a parallel in anything) this is often more of a dream than a reality when it comes to social responses.

    And it obviously happens the most for those issues which are related to social interactions (like poly status, say) and not purely individual (like, say, tattoos.) People may worry that if you don’t adhere to the vastly-more-common “one person at a time” social contract, you may not adhere to OTHER common social contracts. This isn’t actually true–but the belief may hurt you in the long run.

    There’s nothing wrong with poly behavior per se, but you should not openly discuss ANY social behavior at work, if it puts you far outside the average behavior of society. Save those disclosures for your private life. Or–if you’re lucky–perhaps you will end up in an extremely non-standard workplace in which nobody actually gives a hoot (programmers, for example, are often in this category). But generally, no.

    **I can start listing a lot of examples, but then everyone will get sidetracked into “why those examples are not each 100% perfectly accurate equivalents”, which isn’t the point I’m trying to make.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      Funny thing is, I’m pretty white-bread. My clothes are professional and boring (the other day I wore rust-colored pants, a mustard-colored J Crew tshirt, and a grey blazer and it was a WILD outfit for me), my hair is brown and boring, I’ve got no tats, when I wear makeup it’s boring.

      I do have a little dinosaur statue on my desk, which is adorable and Acceptably Quirky.

      I do have some other obvious “extreme minority” behavior: I’m the only one in the office to bike commutes, so I’m not totally like everyone else.

      I appreciate your thoughtful response, and your note of caution :)

    2. Allypopx*

      For what it’s worth, where I live polyamory isn’t extreme minority behavior. It’s very common, especially in groups between the age of say 20 and 45.

      So there’s some “know your culture” here.

      1. fposte*

        You got me interested–it looks like recent studies have 4-5% of USAn people involved in polyamory, open relationships, or swinging; another suggests 20% have at some point had some kind of ethical non-monogamy. (There’s also some interesting discussion about whether research has overfocused on particular demographics and therefore misleadingly suggested a prevalence where it doesn’t exist.)

        1. Allypopx*

          Interesting! Like most minority demographics you’ll find a concentration of poly people in liberal urban areas which is mainly my experience, though I first encountered polyamory in rural Maine so your mileage as always will vary.

          I think it’s a hard thing to study, because a lot of people don’t necessarily have language for it. A lot of hookup culture stuff could look like consciously practiced polyamory under the right framing but I’m not sure people think of it that way. Ethical non-mongamy is probably the most broad and accurate umbrella but it might be too technical or specific sounding for some people. I’d be interested in diving into the research methods, survey models, etc.

    3. Nanani*

      “Theres’s nothing ~~wrong~~ it just should stay hidden from normal people forever” is a form of bigotry.
      Do some reading and soul searching if you don’t understand why.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        For Pete’s sake. No, it is not bigotry.

        Poly status isn’t a “right” any more than being a swinger is a “right.” Nor is it a recognized immutable trait. It’s a perfectly valid, none-of-my -business, could-care-less, choice. I don’t care if someone is poly, unless they’re dating me. People should do what they do.

        But work is–and should be–is a more restricted environment than ordinary life. And so if you care about fitting in (and not everyone cares!) then you need to play in the environment you are in.

        If someone says they’re poly, I generally don’t remember it for more than 15 minutes. But if someone asks me for advice about whether they should talk about their choices at work, and whether it will affect them fitting in then it calls for an open and non-utopian response: the consequences are what they are.** If your stance requires folks to lie about reality in order to be sufficiently woke, you should reconsider your stance.

        And as it’s a choice… so what? I mean, really: You have something you wish you could discuss? You have something that you don’t talk about at work? You make choices which are non-standard? You wish people could know the “real” you?

        Politely speaking, so what? That probably describes 99% of people you’re working with, from the polyamorists, the religious fundamentalists, the conspiracy theorists, the “concealed carry, rules or not” folks, the vegans, the Trump supporters, the communists, the anti-vaxers, the BDSM folks, and so on. In fact, I can virtually guarantee that there are people at any sizeable office who have secret thoughts/opinions which would radically oppose the views of their coworkers, and I’m not even counting their views on Presidential candidates. Some of those views would (if people knew them) quite possibly make one or both sides feel “unsafe,” unwelcome, or oppressed.

        In workplace terms, you’re better off not knowing those private things about them; so are they, with respect to yours; and so is the “the company”, from an entity standpoint.

        Work operates on a formal suspension of hostilities, in which everyone (appropriately!) limits disclosure of their non-standard stuff, so that otherwise-hostile-to-each-other people can function well as a team. That’s why you don’t talk politics at work.

        And that’s why, to the degree you have an extreme-minority behavior, whatever it is, your life results will be better if you keep it out of work. And as for your political/moral opponents: to the degree that THEIR behavior is an extreme minority behavior, I would (and do) also tell THEM that their life results will be better if they decline to share those things at work.

        They can ignore that advice. So can you! People can just not care. Or they can maintain that they are an exception to the rule (which is, ironically, very common; if there’s one hard rule of employment law, it’s the rule that “everyone thinks they’re an exception to the rule.”) Everyone can do what they want, and the consequences will be what they will be.

        But if they ASK IN ADVANCE for me to predict the consequences, I’m not willing to lie about them.

        **Personally, I find the gay comparison a bit off, since it’s an immutable and protected class. Poly isn’t. But more to the point, being gay is not factually (and is not classified as) “extreme minority behavior”, and has not been for a long time.

        1. Blueberry*

          Except that people have made the exact same argument you have above, about being closeted about being LGBTQ at work. Or about not mentioning one’s interracial relationship at work.

          And is it the laws that grant legitimacy to people’s lives, or people’s lives that need to be protected by laws? How is your argument that “polyamory isn’t an immutable and protected class” different from Orson Scott Card’s argument that if a gay man wants to be married he should marry a woman? “If you want to be accepted just change who you are,” isn’t a fair argument.

          FWIW, I think the comparison between being gay and being poly is pretty apt, considering the arguments that have been levied against both (“it’s none of my business what you do in private but don’t FLAUNT it in PUBLIC”, “these people are DANGEROUS TO CHILDREN”, and so on). Being both queer and poly I’ve definitely seen some of the same patterns of bigotry, such as this argument for staying closeted because being uncommon=being an ‘extreme minority’ = being a freak who needs to be hidden from decent folk, levied against both groups.

        2. Maya Elena*

          I think my post got quarantined in moderation, so I wanted to say:
          Thank you for your post. It’s a great post. It makes complete sense, is completely reasonable, is something that 99% of people ten years ago would have agreed with. It puts into words a thought I have often that I had and struggle to articulate.
          Perhaps one day they will name a law school after you and carve (a selection) of these words upon the administration building. :D

          1. Blueberry*

            Wanting to go back to a time when “99% of people would have agreed with X” tends to be a political stance that leads to pretty horrifying results. There are many, many attitudes which we think 99% of people would have agreed with at X or Y time in the past which are really best left in the past, and time only flows one way.

            And in the specific example polyamory definitely existed ten years ago, and was not as universally despised as you might hope.

        3. Malty*

          Employment lawyer, the fact that you’re conflating being poly with being a swinger is a true indicator that you’re not getting it my dude.

          All the best to you OP. Dunno if it helps but I work in retail with a whole range of people spanning conservative-liberal people and one of my branch assistant managers is poly and it’s a total non-deal x

        4. TreenaKravm*

          “Personally, I find the gay comparison a bit off, since it’s an immutable and protected class. Poly isn’t.”

          I’m truly baffled. Do you really think being gay was never considered an “extreme minority behavior?” How old are you? Do you not recall gay men working with children accused of impropriety?

          Like, how on earth do you think sexual orientation became a protected class? People came out at work/got outed, got fired, there was protesting, more people came out as it became more normal, and then finally the social norms shifted enough to grant a protected class status. Using your logic, nothing should ever change?

          1. Scarlet2*

            Yeah, I’m really amazed about the “immutable and protected class” comment. Do they really think gay people have always been a protected class???
            Not only was homosexuality considered an “extreme minority behaviour” for a very long time (and I’d argue that it still is judging by the number of people who have the exact same reaction of “I don’t care what you do but I DON’T WANT TO KNOW IT” about gay people to this day), it was even considered an “illness” until fairly recently.

        5. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

          “Personally, I find the gay comparison a bit off, since it’s an immutable and protected class. Poly isn’t.”

          I won’t go into details, but I tried so hard not to fall in love with my boyfriend. Asked him so many times to push me away, because I couldn’t do it myself. We missed out on years of potential happiness together, because I forced myself to deny how much I wanted him. We both regret that so much.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s all waaaay too close to what people used to (and sometimes still do) tell gay people about being open at work. Who you’re in a relationship with can’t be “private social behavior” when it’s gay or poly relationships and “normal expected sharing” when it’s about monogamous straight ones.

      1. Allypopx*

        Thank you, Alison. I was hesitant to go down that road because I’ve seen this conversation circle way too many times back around to things like the “my coworker wants us to call her boyfriend Master” conversation and I just…don’t have the energy for that.

        But if we are asking people to full stop deny their relationship with another person exists because it’s “not-normal”, that sucks and we should stop doing it.

      2. Oh So Anon*

        Except that monogamous straight relationships sometimes fall into the category of “private social behaviour”, especially when they’re not as well-established as a marriage or involve cohabitation.

          1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

            Not a common issue in America, but in certain segments of more conservative cultures (in India, middle east, etc) it could be a thing to not be open about. I’m reminded of the movie “Bend it Like Beeckham”

            1. Oh So Anon*

              Yeah, like to be perfectly honest, it’s something that I suspect only really comes up in my setting because we have some folks from more conservative cultures who fairly openly hold those values, so being discreet about certain things is really for their comfort.

              Again, not saying that everyone who comes from a conservative culture of origin is going to be uncomfortable about this kind of thing, but some are, and when it’s obvious you really just want to do what you can to make your work relationships go smoothly.

      3. Queer Earthling*

        As someone who is queer AND polyam, thank you. Employment Lawyer, I know you meant well, but the whole comment was painful. Being closeted hurts, regardless of the closet you’re being stuffed into. Yes, sometimes it’s safer there and that’s valid, but that isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision.

        1. Joelle*

          Exactly this. I’m queer and polyamourous too (also, non-binary)

          Whether something is legal to discriminate against or not is not what defines bigotry. Racist people were bigots before 1965. Homophobig people in Virginia were bigots before last week. Being anti-polyamory is still being bigoted, even though relationship structure is not a protected class – it’s not my fault that our country won’t allow all 3 of the people in my primary relationship to be married to eachother.

      4. Captain Awkward*

        Strongly second this.

        In the OP, I mentioned that being open about relationships that aren’t 1 man, 1 woman at work can put people in danger of discrimination, and that’s unfortunately a real worry and reason to be circumspect, but the problem is the discrimination, not nontraditional relationships.

        Making everybody call your boyfriend your master at the holiday party crosses a line. (Never forget!) What the 1st question-asker is contemplating doesn’t come close.

      5. Ash*

        Thank you, Allison.

        Yes, it can be extremely painful and invalidating to have to deny the very existence of a partner or family member, at work or otherwise.

        I have been part of a poly family for FIFTEEN YEARS. We have two kids between us (mine from a previous relationship.)

        Having to hide the existence of MY FAMILY is acutely painful — thankfully, we are now in a position where this is less of an issue, but when I was working in a conservative field, I had to do some fancy footwork to do things like *ask for leave when my partner was about to undergo a C-section and associated recovery,* without being able to call it parental leave or FMLA, or even explain the situation.

        The LW isn’t sharing “extremely edgy or sexual or TMI” information, she’d just like to be able to refer to her family member without self-censoring.

        1. Blueberry*

          This, so much this. It’s kind of terrifying how many people in this thread would love to cram you back into the closet, but I for one am cheering you and your family on!

          1. Ash*

            Aw, thank you! <3

            I think that some of the commenters may not have experience with just how uncomfortable, awkward, and dishonest being closeted can make you feel, not to mention the emotional labor and burden of maintaining a web of lies about the people you spend your daily life with!

            This is much more like "I can't mention that my spouse/partner is the same gender" than "I want to talk about my sex life."

    5. Oh So Anon*

      Also, considering group norms is important here. Like, for example, it’s completely normal for adults in their early 30s who live in fairly liberal big cities like mine to date and to be in committed relationships that don’t (yet?) involve sharing a home. That said, most of my colleagues have been married and with their current spouses since their very early 20s. They’re not necessarily particularly conservative people, but I suspect that some of them would find it weird for a legitimate adult to be in a non-marital relationship, so I would hesitate to mention I’m dating anyone unless there’s an engagement ring to show off. That might sound extreme, but again, it’s about recognizing what might be an extreme-minority behaviour among a specific group.

    6. Arctic*

      So where does this end? Obviously in many parts of the country us queer folks have to hide by your definition. What about single parents in parts of the country where married couples are considered the norm? Should they hide the very existence of their kid or pretend they have a husband or wife? Should they pretend their SO died because being a widow/widower is considered more mainstream?

      I personally think if OP #1 is so conflicted about it so as to write in they shouldn’t out themselves. Because it is clearly not something they are 100% comfortable with, yet. But that is because of their own comfort level. Not because they have some obligation to hide anything outside the mainstream from co-workers.

    7. Maya Elena*

      I commented lower down, but I like this comment, thank you for saying it, and I think you’re right.

    8. Linguist*

      It’s extreme-minority behaviour because the majority doesn’t have the guts to be honest with themselves about how they feel. About themselves and about others.

  41. Goldenrod*

    Someone in the comments said “dream team” – SO TRUE! Alison and Jennifer, you have both helped me so much!
    This is slightly off-topic but also seems like a relevant place to say that, Jennifer, I’ve used your family advice in workplace situations. Specifically, your advice about “Alice” from “Marrying into a family with awful boundary issues.” Alice is SO MUCH LIKE my boss that I saved your advice from that letter so that I could refer back to it OFTEN. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read about how to deal with abusive people who have (some kind of) power over you.

    Thank you!! (to you BOTH!) :)

  42. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Re OP#2: During the turbulent 80s, I worked for a small HR consulting company that was having financial problems. The owner called me and another employee into a meeting: we were the last two hires and our hours were going to be cut in half indefinitely to help him meet payroll. My teammate would put in 20 hours max, but I would finish all my work even if it meant donating my time. Our clients depended on our work product, and they wouldn’t be clients for long if they didn’t get the expected results…so the work had to be done, right? I liked my team and hated to think I was letting them down. Everyone’s job depended on this ‘new normal.’ And I liked the owner, he had given me a chance to learn about staffing. I’d gotten compliments for my work from our clients and team alike. I felt…gratitude? Loyalty? Obligation? Whatever it was, I continued to work close to 40 hours a week regardless of my pay.

    Turns out it was a test. The owner had to let one person go, and he wanted to see who was more loyal to the company. The other employee was fired, and I was back to full time. I felt manipulated and embarrassed; I’d bought into the idea of ‘the company NEEDS you to be a good worker.’ I felt guilty about my coworker losing her job, even though she didn’t blame me. What really got under my skin? The owner was proud of himself for letting us ‘choose’ who would get let go. He didn’t have to make any hard decisions, we did it for him.

    Since then, I have never felt like it was my responsibility to ‘save’ a company from its financial decisions. I have a good work ethic, and will do my job as best I can. As a salaried employee, the hours I put into my work can vary anyway. For short term crises, I will do what I can to meet my deliverables.

    But cutting pay and putting career advancement on hold? Nope. No one should open their veins for a business that they do not own.

    1. Observer*

      What a jerk. Loyalty tests, secret test and expecting employees to “donate” their time are each gross. In combination?

      As for “letting you choose” that’s about as Orwellian as I can think of.

    2. Decima Dewey*

      I suspect OP#2 wants credit for not having layoffs. But cutting staff pay 10% *and* adding new products at the same time? Sounds like actual layoffs would be kinder. Particularly if the layoffs took place at the level where those who contributed to the financial difficulties were the ones affected.

  43. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    The company is cutting your pay by 10% but the bosses would lose their minds if you said “okay I’ll cut my hours by 10% and just work 36 instead of 40”

    I was in management with Giant Retailer for 10 years, and while they sucked in many ways, at least they never, ever cut anyone’s rate of pay unless it was a demotion. And while they would cut hourly hours and restrict overtime sometimes, especially in January when they were trying to make end-of-year numbers, at least those employees weren’t expected to work the same amount of hours for less money! And they also protected all hourly supervisors pay by guaranteeing them 40 hours.

  44. Sighhhh*

    #1, Everyone has given you great advice so far! I’d also like to reiterate that there’s a middle ground–I work in a pretty open, lax corporate atmosphere, and I have two “out” poly coworkers, but they both handled it differently:

    Coworker #1: Didn’t hide the information, but didn’t necessarily volunteer it, either. He got to know us as a team first, but would occasionally mention “going to the movies with Jane, his partner,” or “had a game night with Jane and Ben, his partners.” Eventually over drinks we all talked about it, but it’s more of a gradual sharing amongst close collaborators, rather than announcing to the whole office sort of thing. When asked outright, he won’t deny it, which is great. There’s no weirdness and everyone loves him.

    Coworker #2: Polyamory is very much An Identity for him, and a constant topic. If you are in his desk vicinity talking about a show or a restaurant, he will immediately pipe in, “My girlfriend Anna and my other girlfriend Jenna both went there together with me, it’s great because they don’t stigmatize us for kissing in the booths because we’re polyamorous.” It’s always brought up forcibly in every conversation like he cannot BUT mention it–he even put that he’s polyamorous in the headline section of both his public LinkedIn and Facebook profiles! Again–this is totally cool! But, it’s just generally a lot of non sequitor in the office environment and we dread having to talk to him because he will always find some way to work in being poly, or if not that, his partner’s latest pagan seasonal ceremony/celebration.

    So, I dunno. Take from this what you will, you’ve already gotten some great advice from other folks. It comes down to your office environment and how much you feel comfortable sharing with others in relation to how much they share about their lives.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      Hah! I’m absolutely more like Coworker 1. If I’m going to be That Annoying Coworker about something, it’s going to be bicycles.

    2. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      And thanks for having some real-world experience of being on the “receiving end” of this sort of information, and sharing it!

      1. Close Bracket*

        I was just having a conversation with a poly friend about a poly couple we are both friends with who are obnoxiously open about it, and my friend called them “vegans of the poly world,” which, yes, is a little dismissive of vegans, but boy did it get the point across about how annoying this couple is, lol. Don’t be that couple.

        1. Blueberry*

          “Evangelical poly” is how I and some friends have described that kind of behavior. Because, really, that’s the problem, the evangelical and in-your-face aspects, not the chosen topic people have centered the behavior around.

          1. Sighhhh*

            Yes, I think “Evangelical” is the perfect term to describe it! He will constantly find ways to insert the merits of his lifestyle if you happen to fumble and mention “married life” or something in his general vicinity. Like last month, I mentioned that I had time to watch a goofy movie while m husband picked up a night shift, and Coworker immediately volunteered, “See, as a poly, we never have this problem, if I want to watch a movie she hates, she will go on a date and I can hang out on the couch!” To which I basically responded, “Cool, I’ll let my husband know that tip, thanks!”

            To quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” Whether it’s polyamory, politics, or the deeper intricacies of rural carrot farming, have some sense and tact on what you blab on about in the workplace.

          2. Joelle*

            Oh my. I hate the evangelical poly people. It makes it SO MUCH HARDER for the rest of us! And I’m someone who speaks on panels at semi-public events about polyamory and relationships… but those people opt-in to hearing about the gory details!

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            Ew. Now I’m picturing a bunch of middle-aged church ladies in flower print dresses in an orgy with a bunch of fat guys with blow-dry hair.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          hahahah, I know that kind of couple too, but my circle calls them the “Crossfitters of the poly world”.

          1. Alexandra Lynch*

            Congratulations, I inhaled my water.
            That’s quite true.

            I will talk about the advantages if people ask. (2 incomes AND a stay at home person to handle everything and cook slow food? WIN! I don’t have to sit through his horror movies, and she doesn’t have to go to the symphony with me? WIN!) but it’s not stuff that everyone needs to know all the time.

    3. Anonymouse*

      Going briefly anonymous for this, but my husband and I are kiiiinda swingers/monogamish in that we go to swing parties occasionally and had a couple we sorta “dated” for a couple years, but we’re not what some people call “lifestylers” – it’s an occasional, fun thing for us, and we recently decided on “hobbyists” as a good descriptor. We don’t want to evangelize. It’s not a strong part of my identity. I would find going regularly (every week, every few weeks) exhausting.

      OTOH, I do see it as a separate thing from being polyamorous. That’s more about who you choose to share your life with. We’ve had discussions about whether I should look for a girlfriend, and if I ever went down that path, and had someone who was truly part of my life, it would feel very different to me.

      1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

        Yes, exactly. If my boyfriend hooked up with or went on a casual date with a third woman (how would he find the time?!), I wouldn’t consider that work appropriate. It’s too intimate, and not really related to me and our family. Plus I can’t imagine how it would even be relevant to a conversation.

        Coworker: “How was your weekend?”
        Me: “Fun! Jane and I went to see Popular Chick Flick, since Adam was occupied with a chick from tinder”

        1. Anonymouse*

          Yeah, “I’m spending Christmas with my girlfriend’s family” is work-appropriate; “my husband and I went to a sex party and watched an orgy” is not.

          1. Joelle*

            YESSSSSS. And the fact that some people can’t seem to understand the difference is super frustrating.

            For years, when I’d talk to my mother about my married boyfriend and his wife, and the things we’d go out and do together, she’d respond “I don’t want to hear about your sex life” but like, I wasn’t telling her about my sex life? I was talking about dinner and movies and the people and things that were important to me. It took me having a failed monogamous marriage for her to finally come around and be willing to hear me talk about my (my healthier) polyamorous relationship(s)!

            1. Blueberry*

              I’ve noticed that some people, especially those of more conservative/rule-following mindset, often think of non-standard relationships (same-sex, queer, poly, not married, etc) in terms of sex and only sex. I’ve noticed that attitude in places as different as “putting a same-sex relationship into a children’s book is Inappropriately Sexual” and “you shouldn’t talk about living in sin at work, no one needs to hear about your sex life… so, Third Coworker, how’s your husband doing?” It’s weird and annoying (and often dangerous — look at all the people who argue that same-sex couples are “inappropriately sexual” to adopt children) and I’m glad that your mom at least got over it with regards to you.

              1. Oh So Anon*

                +1. That’s kind of what I was getting at with some of my earlier comments. People can talk about spending time with their live-in spouse in the context of just doing normal household stuff or childrearing; spending time with a non-cohabitating partner of any gender, to some people with this kind of mindset, always sounds like a date and has a sexual connotation attached.

              2. Jennifer Juniper*

                I think anyone who uses the phrase “living in sin” can be safely ignored as hopelessly out of touch. If that person is your boss, however, you may want to dust off your resume.

              3. Close Bracket*

                “often think of non-standard relationships (same-sex, queer, poly, not married, etc) in terms of sex and only sex.”

                Yes. That’s why I don’t buy that the situation where the woman wanted her coworkers to refer to her partner as her master was so so so different. BDSM relationships are not inherently sexual relationships. In fact, knowing someone is in a straight marriage probably tells you more about their sex life than knowing that someone is in a dom/sub relationship bc you can be 99% sure that married people have sex with each other but you can’t be as sure that people in dom/sub relationships are.

                1. Oh So Anon*

                  They’re not inherently sexual, but people who are, well, a little bit sheltered will probably struggle to internalize that.

    4. Ash*

      I’m poly, and the “Evangelicals” kind of squick me, too — I’m low-key about it, and certainly wouldn’t constantly bring it up to coworkers in that way. (I’d also think it was inappropriate for a straight monogamous coworker to be telling me about making out in a restaurant!)

      I admit, I’m wincing a little bit at your comment about Pagan holidays, though — nobody thinks twice about people talking about Christmas or Easter plans, but Yule or Beltane are TMI?

      (There are certainly ways for an oversharing coworker to go into too much detail about ANYTHING, but just mentioning a non-Abrahamic holiday shouldn’t be a big deal!)

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with my boyfriend saying at work, “Oh, we’re going out camping this weekend, since it’s Beltane. I’ve heard High Falls State Park is really beautiful and I’m looking forward to seeing it myself. ” or “Nah, we’ve got Mabon this weekend, maybe next time?”

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, being pagan is somehow seen as more outre than being poly. A Catholic coworker can go on and on about Lent, Palm Sunday, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Easter, etc., but people tweak out if I talk about Ostara or Beltane.

  45. I coulda been a lawyer*

    You do you, OP, but I don’t think that calling Jane a friend is belittling the relationship. Of course Good Friend or Close Friend are stronger, but friend is pretty strong too. I have hundreds of acquaintances but only a few friends. And only one “bestie”.

  46. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    The thing that I’ve accepted (as someone who is queer and poly) is that sometimes, no matter how unfair it is, some people get referred to as “friends” when they really, really aren’t, and there’s no reason for them to be other than prejudice. That’s a problem with society, and unfortunately, not all of us have the social capital or privilege to be able to push back on it. So I have some exes that are “former friends” now and were “friends” or “best friends” while we were dating, and metamours that were “Datemate’s friend” or “we share Datemate as a mutual friend.”

    I’d only describe Jane as a metamour if you are dead certain that no one in the office would treat you differently because of it and if you knew you wouldn’t be bogged down by questions about it every ten minutes.

    1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Actually, on second thought: are JANE and ADAM okay with their relationship being known outside your close circle? Because if not, there’s your answer!

      1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

        Yes, of course this is a thing we’ve discussed as a family! The general consensus is, “no hiding, but there’s no need to rub people’s noses in it.”

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Side note: The comments on this post have taught me the term ‘metamour’ and I think that’s such a graceful description of the relationship.

  47. FormerFirstTimer*

    LW 2: When I read “Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company and make sacrifices for the whole.” I got pretty pissed off. The staff gives back by showing up and doing their job every day. If that is the overall management style at your company, you may want to consider leaving just based on that alone. I feel it indicates an extreme lack of respect towards the employees. Especially when coupled with pay cuts. I don’t care if a company is in its death throes, poor management on the higher-ups part should not constitute cutting employee pay.

  48. Green great dragon*

    I don’t think it has to be undermining, it’s just different.

    I think if my boyfriend had brought a child to our relationship and I referred to that child as ‘my intermittent housemate’ that would seem pretty unkind, though technically it is true, and I have no *direct* relationship with my boyfriend’s child.

  49. Leaving for Paris*

    LW1 I am in a similar situation. I refer to my partners other partner as my “good friend” at work i am “out” to a few friends from work who i have worked with for a long time and then i just refer to her by name. I work with a lot of diffrent people who come from alot of diffrent backgrounds so i find it eaiser to keep this part of my life personal.

  50. Interviewer*

    OP#2 – I worked in a company that same size. Ahead of a looming downturn, they moved to a smaller building, they gave up projects that didn’t turn a profit and laid off workers on those project, they made some big changes in benefits, and cut non-essential travel/expenses. When the worst of it hit, the owners went without pay, but no one ever had their pay cut. Some people left due to all the uncertainty (including me). It was definitely down to bare bones at the end, and today (after many changes) it’s 3 owners and a handful of staff.

    Only you can decide if your presence and loyalty will make a difference to their bottom line, and if the reward will be worth the instability and uncertainty.

    But when a company is not doing well, you don’t punish the workers by cutting pay. The owners should go without pay – that’s the risk of owning a business! In my opinion, you need to find a new job. I’d take them up on the title-only promotion and use that on my resume while looking for a new job.

  51. Please Stay TB12*

    I’m only commenting to say that I really really really want more of these collaboration posts with AAM and Captain Awkward! I would love if these could be an ongoing/weekly thing :)

  52. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    #2 Start looking now. Don’t worry about being a “traitor” since layoffs are probably coming next and they won’t be concerned about what you have given of your life to the company. I worked for a boss in an industry that’s easy for bosses to use “do it for the clients” as a way to guilt trip free work in a giving profession. He was always concerned about our clients getting the services they needed/wanted regardless of whether the person providing them got paid and whether they might leave a bad review somewhere despite being deadbeats. We were very underpaid and it was a somewhat dangerous, 24/7 job. I got guilt tripped for earning a bonus that I worked my rear off for.
    I quit. I was told I was stabbing him in the back for leaving. My co-workers called me a traitor. My new job is half as many hours and I make 20% more.
    Looking back that company was under severe financial stress and the owner was making expensive and bad decisions for appearance’s sake while verbally flogging us for not working EVEN MORE. I’m so happy I got out when I did.

  53. Close Bracket*

    OP #2:
    I had a similar situation, with higher pay cuts but time off to compensate. All standard business hours employees had their pay cut by 20%, and our work week was also cut by 20% (manufacturing was still 24/7, and I don’t know whether they got a pay cut). Now, in practice, many salaried employees still had to support Fridays and weekends when there was a crisis (I personally did not get a single Friday off), but that’s life all the time when you are a salaried engineer in a manufacturing environment. Hourly people got their Fridays off. This came after a few rounds a layoffs, so each of us already had more work and now less time to do it. During this time period, the company continued trying to grow the business during this time, meaning marketing people and the business side were still going after new clients. This would have been around 2002-2004, so a similar economy in some ways, where we were recovering form the dot com bust, but our company was not recovering as well as everybody else was.

    The salary cuts ended after some time period, and everybody returned to their usual hours. The company continued to exist. I don’t know how raises and promotions went forward bc I got laid off in 2004.

    The point of all this is that your company’s strategy is not raising the red flags for me that it is for everyone else here. That doesn’t mean you personally should stay if what you want is a raise and a promotion. Do go ahead and start looking bc believe me, if it comes to layoffs, they won’t show any loyalty to you. Also, it might take more than just 2020 for the company to recover. I would keep pressing for a promotion, even if it doesn’t come with a raise, so you can get the job title and the increased responsibility and bigger projects to support a bigger raise when business gets better. At the same time, look for a new job.

  54. Unpopular Opinion*

    OP 1 – unless your workplace is VERY progressive and you know that others in your workplace are in polyamory arrangements and talk about it openly in the workplace, just call Jane your friend or roommate. Your coworkers will judge if your workplace doesn’t already talk about these things. I’ve judged coworkers for much less. The sister wife stigma is a real train of thought for this arrangement and I personally wouldn’t want to hear my coworker talking about that in any detail.

    And before I come off like a bigot, I 100% do not care if my coworkers are in same-sex relationships and talk about that, I don’t even think about that in any way and I’ve met many coworkers’ same-sex partners and spent time with them outside of work. I also wouldn’t really care if the whole relationship was everyone being open, though I don’t think I’d need to know the details of that (can’t imagine why I would ever need to know that unless I was friends with the coworker though). But I don’t want to hear about this the same way I didn’t want to hear about my 55 year old coworker talk about his 25 year old wife who he brought over from a developing country and their two year old child. Which was an actual thing that I did have to hear about, every day, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, COMPLETELY UNPROMPTED, by said coworker. I of course smiled along and said nothing but you best believe I was judging and while I of course don’t think this is as egregious of a situation as that, others in your workplace might.

    1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

      “the same way I didn’t want to hear about my 55 year old coworker talk about his 25 year old wife who he brought over from a developing country and their two year old child. Which was an actual thing that I did have to hear about, every day, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, COMPLETELY UNPROMPTED, by said coworker”

      Would you be ok with conversations like this:
      You: How was your weekend?
      Him: Tiring! Little Timmy started walked recently, and now he has learned the “perilously unstable run.” My wife and I prevented at least 5 concussions this weekend! Thank goodness she’s got better knees than me!


      You: How was your weekend?
      Him: Long! We started on the paperwork for my wife’s parents to immigrate over; in her culture, it’s really common for parents to basically be full-time baby sitters, and she and I wouldn’t mind the help! But man, after lawyers fees, I could probably afford half a year of daycare! How is your little champ doing? Has his Big Little League Game happened yet?

      Is your issue that your coworker has a young, imported wife, and you know about it, or is the issue that he won’t stop talking about his young, imported wife in a way that you view is explicit/egregious?

      1. Antilles*

        Not the same person as Unpopular Opinion, but to me, it doesn’t matter about the topic if you’re really mentioning it “every day, MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, COMPLETELY UNPROMPTED”. That’s way over the line, even if it’s a genuinely interesting topic.
        Besides, as a general rule, when someone asks about your weekend at work, most of the time, it’s asked in an expectation of like a 30-second summary ‘it was good, just watched some movies with the family, how was yours’…not a detailed breakdown of your wife’s paperwork requirements and the immigration process. And it’s definitely not normal for someone to unprompted bring up something like that; I came into your office to discuss client development and TPS reports, not Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

        1. Unpopular Opinion*

          FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend –

          “Is your issue that your coworker has a young, imported wife, and you know about it, or is the issue that he won’t stop talking about his young, imported wife in a way that you view is explicit/egregious?”

          Hey! So it was a bit of both types of conversations, but admittedly, more of the first one. I admit I am judgmental – I work in an industry (international development) where living and working in the Global South is part of the job, and the optics of a 50 something white man marrying a 20 something African woman gross me out, on his end. She is of course an adult who can make her own decisions and he didn’t actually do anything wrong, but yeah, knowing that a man my parent’s age has a wife younger than me, and we work in an industry in which this could easily (and does) look like something out of 90 Day Fiance just doesn’t sit well.

          As for the conversations, he often brings this up as a reason as to why he cannot do types of calls (late night ones which again are par for the course), but is happy to take every travel opportunity, always peaces out of work super early (and we have unpredictable deadlines, so this isn’t cool), and talks to his young wife on the phone, multiple times a day, in the cubicle next to me, essentially coaching her on how to deal with basically every aspect of her day with their child, I assume because she is young and out of her element and far from her family and friends.

          I also just don’t like the guy and knowing that it’s pretty likely he took advantage of a young girl in poverty makes me sick. This is conjecture, of course. There’s also just the visceral grossness of a man my parents’ age having a toddler, it would gross me out just as much if one of my parents announced they were expecting a child.

          Don’t worry – I kept these thoughts 100% to myself and didn’t even share with other coworkers who also disliked him. He was a lazy, condescending piece of shit to every young woman and rubbed many other people the wrong way as well.

          So, FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend – if I as a coworker liked you as a person, or even just did not actively dislike you, this information probably wouldn’t change my view too much of you. But if I didn’t – yeah, I’d be judgy. I’m a grownup so I’d keep it to myself, but I’d find it very odd that you felt the need to share something like that with me without me asking.

          If you have a close, congenial workplace, it’s really your call. You know your crowd better than me. But in most workplaces, I’ve found the less I share about myself, the better, until I am friends with my coworkers enough to see them outside of work.

        2. Unpopular Opinion*

          I talked more about this below, but my coworker had both types of conversations and used his young wife and child as excuses to dip out of work and have long, private phone convos in the cubicle next to me. I probably would have rolled my eyes and stopped caring if he just mentioned it once and was good at his job, but that didn’t happen. My pregnant female coworkers talked less about their husband/child/child to be than this man and also still showed up to work more even with doctor’s appointments.

          He would mostly mention the wife/kid on the way out the door or in the morning, or if I even remotely tried to be cordial and ask about his weekend. What really sealed my dislike was the long phone convos.

          The optics are also just gross for an old white man to have a very young wife from a third world country. As much as I love 90 day fiance I prefer it just being a TV show. I really can’t think of many situations in which that relationship happened organically with no one being taken advantage of. I kept my thoughts to myself but it’s gross. Their life but yeah, I’m gonna privately judge that.

          1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

            Interesting! Sounds like he’s a not-great-employee regardless, but the way you describe the situation, I simply see two people deeply in love. On the phone with her every day, helping her navigate this not-yet-familiar-to-her world? Adorable. Can’t wait to get home to her every night? Aww. Puts family above work obligations? Annoying as his coworker, but lovely as his family member.

            And why is he the one who is taking advantage? Would you feel the same way, if they were both Americans, and of different socio-economic classes? And could she not be some Wicked Succubus who tricked a man into loving her, and bringing her into a world of better healthcare, and financial support?

            Honestly, they sound like a happy, healthy, in-love couple, who are working together to overcome cultural differences. Judging a relationship, in the way you do, purely on whether someone is being “taken advantage of” squicks me out; it totally ignores the human element, and reduces people down to, and judges them by, their composite parts.

            1. Unpopular Opinion*

              Ok. In no way do I think she’s some wicked succubus and honestly I wouldn’t care if she did just come here to have a better life, my issue is not with her. And yes I would feel the same way if they were both Americans. There are just not many situations in which a man in his 50s has shared experiences and things in common with someone in their 20s. The person in their 20s might think that, but someone older and wiser can and does know better. I know there are exceptions, for example, teen parents who’ve grown up very fast, and other random exceptions, but it’s not the norm. I know I don’t like my coworker, but I would feel this way if anyone in my life had an age gap relationship like this even if I were close to them.

              I know I’m judging them. I don’t care. I’m not going to share these thoughts with anyone who knows them. I know there are situations in which maybe a man 30 years older than a woman has good intentions but I don’t think it’s common. I feel the same way when the sexes are reversed and when its two people of the same sex as well. There is a power dynamic at play. I have seen a few instances in which both people in the couple are normal and the age gap makes sense, but usually it’s the older person living out their youthful fantasy.

              I judge. People judge.

              1. Scarlet2*

                Yeah, people judge. And sometimes they can understand that they’re being narrow-minded and they actually don’t know anything about the people they spend so much time judging. Sometimes they can even understand they were wrong for judging.

                And sometimes they can be judged for being judgemental and bigoted.

    2. Blueberry*

      Why is it so important to judge people for everything and anything they do? Can’t some things just be neutral?

      1. Unpopular Opinion*

        Some things are. Polyamory won’t be for most people. OP will know if that’s the case for her workplace, but discretion never hurt anyone.

        1. Blueberry*

          Many people feel that many aspects of others’ lives are judgeworthy and not neutral, but maybe that much judgmentalism isn’t necessary or even healthy. We’ve been (slowly) learning this as a society about same-sex relationships and interracial ones; why not about other relationship paradigms that involve only consenting adults?

          1. Unpopular Opinion*

            I mean, I don’t think people should be sharing the kinds of thoughts I have with their coworkers. And this is not like same-sex or interracial relationships, what a false comparison.

            1. FirstQuestionSecondGirlfriend*

              How is it a false comparison to an interacial relationship? The same issues of “not having things in common” come into play there, especially when it’s a cross-cultural interracial relationship.

              I guess I don’t see where the harm is in this situation. Would her life be better and happier in Africa? Is she happy here and now? If so, what else is there to judge? Sounds like she’s being loved and supported, emotionally I mean, not just financially. You say something about age gaps being ok if people have experiences that make them grow up fast; is it not possible for a 20+ year old woman in a less developed country could have enough hardship in her life, that she matures beyond even the average 40 year old man?

              I know it possibly sounds like I’m attacking you, but it sounds to me like their relationship is taking up a good amount of space in your mind, what an unwelcome tennent! Would that you could be free of it!

              1. Unpopular Opinion*

                I promise, it’s not taking up too much space in my mind as I don’t even work there anymore – your situation just reminded me of that one. You’re all adults who can make your own decisions and not hurting anyone, just like my former coworker. But I did/do judge when I think of the situation.

            2. Blueberry*

              I made that comparison deliberately, as someone who has been in interracial relationships, same-sex relationships, and poly relationships. I’ve personally received the “how you organize your personal life is absolutely abnormal and worthy of judgement as to your moral fitness” response to all of them, and I think it’s equivalently inapplicable. To say nothing of having witnessed this response applied to other people’s relationships, however organized, whenever they fall outside an arbitrarily defined “norm”.

              Whether or not you share these thoughts with your coworkers it’s going to affect how you judge them when your boss asks you for your advice on whether Monogamous Mary or Poly Pete should be given a prestigious project, or which one should be recommended for a job teaching kids. Which is part of why I’m challenging whether this kind of judgement is as common or as sensible as you say it is.

  55. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2… prepare to leave. If you can, I’d consider leaving now. It’s bad enough cutting wages – but a HUGE red flag is that they think it’s appropriate for an employee to “give back”.

    Employees don’t “give back”. Employees do not owe employers. The fact they think this is a warning about their attitude that screams run!

  56. Adhara (UK)*

    OP2, at the bare mininum, it can’t hurt to dip toes into the job market, even just to compare.

    My last job did exactly that, and you know what my company learned? That we were willing to work for less money, and more thumbscrews from management. Every year they’d bring out some expensive Hail Mary try, and watch it burn the money.

    At my current job, I’m now making industry standard wage at half the effort. Which is more than my old place were ever willing to pay.

  57. Asperger Hare*

    I often try out others’ reactions by mentioning friends (real or imaginary) of mine who have poly relationships, kind of testing the water. I can end up musing how it must be nice, easier to look after kids with [x] amount of people in the house, nicer to do different activities, we’re all different, etc.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ah, the classic trial balloon question. I’ve used a similar strategy coming out as bi to an older relative.

  58. Alda*

    Oh wow, I’m amazed by how validating it is to see a question about polyamory (and with such good answers). I’m again reminded how important it is with representation, even if I tend to not think about it on my own behalf.

    I started a new job a year ago, going from a pretty queer workplace where I could be out as a matter of course to a small print shop, and realised that for the first time in my life I was in the closet. (I was monogamous and straight up until four years ago, or at least living like it).

    I really really hadn’t realised how much it would hurt to answer the question “so do you have a guy then” with a yes and then being caught in a lie of omission. I think some people might not realise how much it can hurt even when it’s a small thing and it’s technically not even a lie. It’s like… It’s like if someone guesses my gender wrong, it’s not a big deal, because I don’t have any strong feelings connected to it, but if someone misgenders one of my trans friends, that can hurt so much more because it plays into a narrative of “this thing about you is Forbidden by parts of society”. Pretending my partner F was my only partner, even if I never said “my only” (but why would I, when society fills that in automatically?) hurt so much more than just “this is slightly incorrect but it doesn’t matter at work”.

    I lasted about two weeks, and cracked on valentines day because it was all commercials about relationships all the time on the radio.

    I had thought a lot about how to come out at work eventually. Firstly, I wanted to establish myself as a good worker first, before I became that weird poly girl. Secondly, I had read a lot of advice about “carefully raise the subject and see what people say”. I decided against that. There’s a lot of casual sexism and racism and everything-ism around, and the likeliness of my new coworkers going on and on about how weird this poly thing is… Well, it would be awkward if I let them talk on about it for a whole before coming out with “oh BTW I’m one of Them”. So I just came straight out with it.

    It’s surprisingly hard to make people even hear it. Their brains filter it in some ways. It took me a while before they realised that yes, I was in fact saying I had more than one romantic partner.

    I was really lucky and apart from a whole lot of “okay but how does this work” questions (I didn’t answer the sex ones), they accepted it pretty much straight away. Within a couple of days my boss asked questions like “so do they all live in [our town]? Oh that’s good, then you don’t have to travel too much” and so on.

    I don’t really know what I want to say with this, other than “this is how it can go” and also that I really understand the heightened need to not erase a relationship that a big part of society wants to erase already.

    1. EngineerMom*

      Kudos to you! I’m glad it wasn’t a Huge Thing in the long run.

      I’m glad you can live your life authentically – that’s the thing my straight, cis, monogamous self wants for everyone: you should be able to talk about your relationships and your truth without shame or fear. I can casually mention my husband or my kids without side-eye or someone asking “but how does that *work*”. Everyone should be able to celebrate and discuss the humans they love without weird looks or awkward questions.

  59. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – a title only promotion (with a pay cut) translates to more work for LESS pay. Any company wouldn’t hesitate to let you go if it helped their bottom line (which is probably why they’re decreasing everyone’s pay as opposed to eliminating some employees), so you are the only one that is going to look out for YOU. I would ask for something as suggested, AND update my resume for a new job hunt ASAP.

  60. EngineerMom*

    Letter #1:
    I found out about polyamory in general through a homeschooling group. Another mom and I had become friends and were chatting together on the playground. She had mentioned her son’s “birth mom” in another context, so I knew she wasn’t the birth mother of the little boy my kids enjoyed playing with, and at some point I just asked how she and her husband met. She told me she was their girlfriend at first, but the birth mom had succumbed to mental illness and died, and now their three-adult family unit was her and her husband (they legally married after his first wife died). She was kind enough to answer some simple questions and direct me to some websites if I was curious to know more, and although it was definitely an item of curiosity at first, she handled my questions with grace and wit, it became not even a Thing any more. Looking back, I’m glad she opened up, though I’m sure it was a little scary for her to do so, considering what she knew of my own background (raised and married Catholic, regular church attendee, etc.)

    I think if this is something you and your partners are comfortable discussing with others, it might help to have some go-to resources to direct the curious towards, so you don’t become their sole source of information.

  61. St. Lucia*

    If only workplaces were as cool as they are should be! Unfortunately, I would not risk it. I’m white, hetero, and cis-gender, but I’ve been judged negatively at work by my co-workers for being a mother, for being divorced, for dating, for having my kids in daycare, for dying my hair, for wearing glasses, for having a large vocabulary, and for wearing any clothing to work that doesn’t make me look like I’m a genderless 70 year old running for public office on the Republican ticket. Basically some people at your workplace will hate on you for any or even no reason – I wouldn’t give them any ammunition.

  62. zaracat*

    #2 This one definitely sounds like a sinking ship and the fact that you’re both junior and a more recent employee does not bode well for your future.

    One question to ask yourself in the situation of a company (or for that matter anyone with whom you’re in a relationship) wanting to you to “give back” is what the other party has done to build the goodwill they are now attempting to draw on. How were employees treated when times were good? Was the company’s good fortune shared (eg bonuses)? Do they have a culture of being flexible and accommodating with employees in general? And most importantly, does the company have a history of going above and beyond for its employees when *they* are in difficult circumstances?

  63. ThePants999*

    Love the collaboration, but Alison, it’s such a cop-out to let Jennifer go first and then you just respond – surely you should answer independently, without seeing each others’ answers until they’re live ;-)

  64. OldLadyAtHeart*

    LW#1: it has been so interesting to see this question and conversation!
    I’m in a relationship with a polyam guy, he’s married and lives with his wife, and we all go on vacations together and get along fine, for the most part. When it first started up as a legit, serious relationship, I said nothing at work, as I wanted to listen and see what office culture was like regarding things like this. Thankfully, I work in a very liberal, open-minded office, lots of people are gay or lesbian, some are trans and some are non-binary. When I felt comfortable, I started telling my work friends more details, and gradually mentioned that he was married, and we were in a poly relationship. If the person I told seemed supportive or invested in my happiness in a kind way, I’d tell them more about weekend plans (my bf and his wife and I went wine tasting, fun!) and such. If they seemed like they were maybe uncomfortable with it, I never mentioned it again. Many people still don’t know, and I’m fine with that. My office isn’t a gossipy place, so this doesn’t seem like a situation where I’d be negatively affected by this in an employment sense. I feel more comfortable and at ease knowing that the people who truly care about me and work closely with me know – it doesn’t feel like hiding a huge part of my life. Best of luck, OP! And a huge thank-you to other polyams who commented – I often feel alone in my situation and it’s nice to have a reminder that I’m not. <3

  65. No Name #1*

    Based off of her comments, it seems as though LW1 is not so much asking whether or not she should disclose the aspect of her relationship involving Jane but more how she can go about doing so that will minimize potentially negative or judgmental responses and consequences. Unfortunately you can’t control whether or not people judge you internally, but I think you can minimize some of the negative impacts. Based on what LW1 has said about the culture of her workplace, it seems like disclosing this type of relationship would not be completely out of left field.

    LW1, I’d maybe start by telling people you are closer too/know to be less judgmental if the topic comes up. I would not bring Jane up in situations where it is not necessary to the conversation, not because you should completely hide her but because unfortunately people might be more inclined to comment on it if it is frequently spoken about. To be clear, I think people would have similar reactions to any colleague who goes out of their way to discuss their personal lives as opposed to keeping it in small talk category.

    I think if you are casual about it and just say “my boyfriend and his girlfriend Jane went to a concert over the weekend, how about you?” That actually also contributes to the normalization of it because when you act like something is not a huge deal and speak about it casually, it kind of puts it on the other person if they want to go out of their way to grill you about it or take it at face value. Essentially, there isn’t a need for a grand announcement or making sure every single person in the office knows, just keep it casual and hopefully others will follow suit.

    If someone goes into sexual territory with their questions, shut it down to the extent you are comfortable and then document it somewhere. Because if someone brings in sex when you haven’t (like I’m picturing a creepy coworker asking you about threesomes) that is a form of harassment.

  66. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: I would not come out as poly at work, especially because you’re a woman in a relationship with a man and another woman, AKA every straight guy’s fantasy. It’s almost a guarantee that at least one creepy guy will start asking questions or hinting that they want to sleep with you. Along with this may be at least one person who calls you a slut, probably not in so many words, but implying that’s how they see you, so they can have plausible deniability.

    OP2: RUN! Your org’s culture uses gaslighting as standard operating procedure. What a bunch of glass bowls.

  67. Zoe*

    “ The more non-traditional romantic and family structures become boring and routine”…
    Surely we can be open to and accepting of non-traditional without insulting ‘traditional’ family structures? Boring? Routine? I have never met any family who is either.

    1. Scarlet2*

      No-one is “insulting” any family structure. The point is that non-traditional structures would be normalized if people were talking freely about them instead of hiding. They should become “routine and boring” so that no-one raises an eyebrow when someone mentions their partners or metamours, just like no-one raises an eyebrow when people say they’re married with children.

  68. Workfromhome*

    #2 Start looking for a new job yesterday! The ship is sinking.

    If all they offer is a title change then sure take it as it can only help your job search.

    A pay cut is a clear sign you need to go and go now. A pay freeze no raise is one thing. There is no clearer sign that things could fall apart at any time than a pay cut. I know I did not realize it in my last job when they denied even COLA raises for years and years how big an impact that has on your finances. The compounding of raises year over year can leave you 10s of thousdands of $ behind after a few years.
    Heck in the OP case its not just a promotion (more work) with no raise its a promotion (more work) with a PAY CUT. Just think about the impact on your hourly wage.
    Say you work 40 hours a week no (2080 a year) and make 30K that’s 14.42 an hour
    Now if you take a promotion and work 50 hours a WEEK (2600) and gues what now that you have a non entry level title your salary gets cut 10% to 27 K you now make only 10.38 an hour. You just tyook a $4 an hour cut for the privilege of more responsibility and working more hours.

    get out get out now!

  69. Joelle*

    There are a bunch of comments on this post that are saying or implying not only that LW1 shouldn’t come/be out at work, but no one in a non-monogamous relationship setup should. I’m going to reiterate something I said nested down in an above thread – As someone who has to be “out” on a few different axis (I’m queer, nonbinary, and polyamorous), trust me, we always know we have the option to be in the closet.

    Deciding to be out or not is an individual choice. Those of us who are out do not blame our queer siblings for choosing (or feeling required) to stay in the closet. Risk factors are personal, and are based on a wide array of factors that can and do change based on context – I know plenty of people who are out in like 90% of their life, but there is 10% that doesn’t make sense to (and no, that 10% is not always work – I have a friend who is out at work, but not to their parents). Those of us who chose to be out in more risky contexts do so with the hope that in a couple of generations, maybe it won’t have to occur to people that hiding who they are is an option that they should consider availing themselves of.

    It’s also frustrating to read comments from people who do not have to contend with those factors state that someone should or should not do a thing. Suggestions of “here are things you should consider when making that choice” are useful and supportive. Statements of “I would not, for these reasons” are also useful and supportive. Saying that someone else should definitively not, (and also explaining why you’re not a bigot for thinking that way) is less supportive, and a little disappointing to read.

  70. cheeky*

    I have a coworker who is polyamorous and speaks often to me about her two partners. It’s a very awkward thing to talk about at work, and I would rather have not been privy to this information.

  71. JZ*

    I’ve been in this exact situation, only in my case I didn’t get a raise with my promotion because it was the .com crash (AKA the downturn after 9/11). In my case I had TWO promotions in a three year period without a raise. And then when the economy picked up enough that I was expecting decent raises again to make up for the loss, management said they couldn’t possibly give me the % raise that would bring my salary up to what it should be after years of salary freezes. By that point I was earning 20% below market value for someone with my skills and experience.

    In your case, the economy is booming. Take your skills somewhere else where you will be paid what you’re worth.

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