I’m poly — can I ask to bring both my partners to work events?

A reader writes:

I know you’ve answered a couple of questions from managers of polyamorous employees who want to bring more than one partner to events, but as a relatively junior employee … what would be the best way to go about asking if it’s okay to bring two people?

My institution (higher ed) throws large-scale events occasionally that don’t require exact head counts, and I’m not worried about that, but for something like: my manager recently hosted an event for just his academic group and their significant others at his house. It ended up being on a day during which one partner was working, so it was a moot point this time, but if that sort of situation occurs again (either here or at future jobs), do you have any suggestions about the most diplomatic way to see if it’s okay to bring a plus-two without coming across as taking advantage of his generosity? Am I overthinking this?

I am not explicitly out as poly at work (mostly because I don’t socialize much with my colleagues and I’ve only been here for 10 months) but I’m willing to be — it’s a liberal institution in a liberal city, although I think my manager is fairly old-fashioned.

I have been with one partner for 11 years and the other for six, so they’re both serious relationships that I would like to acknowledge socially. I would be much less interested in drawing attention to myself if it wasn’t two people I foresee having around for the rest of my career.

I don’t think you’re overthinking — it’s genuinely tricky.

First and foremost, I’d want to know more about your willingness to be out at work, particularly to your manager. Especially with a manager you describe as old-fashioned, there’s a real risk of professional consequences. At a liberal institution, that might not mean open discrimination — but it could mean, for example, that your manager is suddenly less comfortable with you, is less inclined to recommend you for high-profile projects or promotions, and/or doesn’t mentor you or champion your work in the same way.

Or not! It might not lead to any of those things. But make sure you’re considering what you know about your boss and how willing you are to take those risks.

It sucks that that’s the case! Your personal choices shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. But here we are.

Assuming you’re willing to accept that risk, though, what are the logistics of asking to bring two people instead of one? Well … I sat on this question for a while because I couldn’t settle on an answer that felt right and finally realized I needed to bring in someone with more expertise in poly issues than I have.

So I talked with Dr. Liz Powell, psychologist, speaker, and author of Building Open Relationships (they/them).

But first, full disclosure, my initial thinking about this question was overly focused on, “Is it a burden on the host if multiple people want to bring multiple partners and suddenly the gathering is bigger then initially envisioned … and therefore can you alternate which partner you bring for smaller events?” Dr. Powell’s response to that convinced me that’s not the right way to look at it.

Here’s what they said:

I agree with you that my primary concern is the reaction of the more conservative manager. Being polyamorous isn’t a protected category, so it’s really easy for people to make your life miserable if they want to. Before coming out and asking to bring both of your partners, I would consider:
1) What are the potential consequences (positive and negative) of coming out to your manager?
2) What’s the worst-case scenario? (Losing your job, having your work curtailed or micromanaged, what else?)
3) What are your relationships like with the people at the same level as and above your manager?
4) If your manager decides to be a jerk, would the people who can overrule them be likely to have your back?
5) How much risk are you willing to assume? What are you unwilling to risk or unable to deal with losing?

As for the slippery slope part, I strongly disagree with you there. If someone was throwing an event that included an invite for their colleagues’ children, they wouldn’t cap how many kids someone can bring. Mononormativity / amatonormativity tells us that each of us gets to have one significant person and that person is/will be our romantic/sexual partner. However, that’s just not true! If someone in the department had five kids and someone had none, we wouldn’t say that the person with five kids should be forced to choose which two or three of their children they’ll bring to an event. The letter writer has been in each of these partnerships for years and saying that they should accept only ever having one recognized partner is unkind to everyone involved. How should the letter writer choose which one is their public partner and which one isn’t? How would that be kind or caring to the partner who’s now essentially a secret?

In terms of the etiquette around this in the polyam community, having one socially recognized partner and one who doesn’t get to be socially recognized is generally frowned upon these days. While it’s still sometimes necessary, there’s been a lot of writing and discussion about the ways in which an unrecognized partner is harmed by being hidden and denied. It’s similar in some ways to a closeted queer person denying that their partner is anything more than a friend — yes, you may need to do that to keep yourself safe, but you’re hurting the person who doesn’t get a choice in whether their relationship is ever seen by others.

The harm to the (potentially) secret partner is core to why my overall recommendation to this letter writer would be to think over the questions in my first paragraph alone and then sit down with both partners and collectively come up with options that all three of them could be happy with. Maybe the letter writer alternates which partner they bring to events and then if anyone asks they can choose how to talk about it. Maybe one partner doesn’t actually want to go to work events, but just wants to be sure that the lw acknowledges that they exist (by putting up pictures with them, talking about them with colleagues, etc.). Perhaps what feels best to all of them would be for neither partner to go to events if the letter-writer can’t risk coming out as polyam. Would it make sense to talk to someone at the school about whether they have any policies in place to protect against discrimination related to relationship structure? Maybe the three of them will come up with all kinds of ideas that I can’t even imagine! By making this a problem that all three of them get a say in addressing, the letter-writer can be sure that no one feels like they’re being treated as disposable or like a less “real” partner and the lw can get help thinking about possibilities.

On the positive side, this kind of conversation with the manager, if it went well, could help them re-evaluate their guest policy on the whole. What if someone is single but wants to bring their bestie or a close relative? Is the cap about cost or space or is it just going by the standard mononormative script? What’s the goal of these events and who would they want to feel welcome there? For instance, are partners invited because they’re assumed to be central to the employee’s life, because otherwise people go to fewer events, or because the manager wants to invite their partner, or because that’s how it’s always been? Clarifying these kinds of goals for the manager can make it easier to determine who to say “yes” to including along with the employees and prevent slippery slope issues from happening (though I don’t realistically think everyone bringing two people is likely). If the issue is cost, maybe the employee and their partner chip in a bit? If it’s space, is one extra person really a problem? Or would that make the alternating partners at events solution a better one?

I hope that helps, letter-writer.

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Sometimes I Wonder*

    That is excellent advice! I especially like the respect shown to the partners of the LW in this process. I’ve never been out at work about my partners, but it was a decision we made, not a choice I made on my own.

    1. Enby's mom*

      I have to admit I’d also evaluate the general staff. Bias on the part of co-workers in your department can be a huge problem–but bias in other departments will be harder to see and counter. Unsupportive support staff for example. I’m thinking of a long-ago temp job where an admin deprioritized tasks for an openly bisexual staff member. She stayed JUST within plausible deniability, but even as a temp I noticed inconsistency. She had other performance issues so no one was too upset at her abrupt departure–but what if she’d been the wunderkind?

      I hate to bring it up but…. it’s a story I’ve told my own teen as they make decisions about who is safe to talk with.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I have a friend who’s in a poly relationship, and she said her first priority is to protect that relationship. This is as it should be: that’s her family unit and should be more important than a job. Sadly, she doesn’t feel she can go public with her partners because of the real threat of backlash. Her employer is quite conservative, and some teammates seen as ‘other’ were treated like you described, only with more contempt. The ‘general staff’ made it plain how they felt, and management piled on.

    2. OhGee*

      I’m not yet at the point where I feel I need to address this (been with one partner less than a year, live with the other & we’ve been together 7+) but I leave partners out of work events entirely. Like LW, I’m not super social with my immediate work colleagues, and I’d prefer simply to be open with my small number of work friends, all of whom I think would have a neutral to positive reaction. I happen to work at a pretty progressive institution, but in a pretty conservative department, in a region that is a real mix politically and socially. YMMV, but that’d be my choice. Really appreciate the thoughtful response though!

  2. Kel*

    Amazing advice; thank you for finding an expert Alison! What a tough thing to navigate; I can’t help but think of other ways this might affect things too. Bereavement leave, parental leave.

  3. Lee*

    I’m single so when a poly coworker asked me if they could use my +1 slot to invite one of their partners I agreed. So problem solved in this particular case.

    1. Why won't boomers retired*

      Really not problem solved. Others may feel cheated. Employer needs a policy. I think ONE plus one is best.

      1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

        Why would anyone who is either single or mono feel cheated? I’ve never been to an event with my spouse and thought it was unfair that I couldn’t bring a random other guest.

        If you are going to go down that road that “others may feel cheated” why allow S.O.’s at all? After all singles might feel cheated.

        1. frustratedTrainee*

          additional partners are not “random other guests”. It’s like the example given with children – you aren’t really supposed to prioritize one over the other (although much like with children, it still certainly happens and having a longer relationship with one likely just means more exposure to them/time for the relationship to grow”. Why make the comparison?

          1. Brooklyn*

            I think their point was that as a monogamous person, it would never occur to me to look at a poly throuple and think to myself that I should therefore be entitled to bring a second guest who, presumably, would not be a romantic partner. The point is specifically what you’re saying, that additional partners are not “random other guests” and therefore a single or mono person would not feel cheated.

            The only reason why someone would feel cheated is if they’re counting guests, rather than counting relationships. But that’s unreasonable, as shown by the children example. I would feel cheated if I was told to bring a romantic partner, but someone else brought their kids. If the rule is “life partners and children” then that’s the rule – I have no more reason to feel cheated by someone bringing two partners than I would someone bringing 5 kids, but I would feel a little bitter if someone brought their spouse, kids, and parents for instance.

            The exception being that generally, in my experience, single people are generally allowed to bring a friend in place of a spouse. Here’s my hypocrisy – I’d think it okay to bring one close friend, but not two; the reason being that generally you bring a friend to avoid feeling alone at an event that is overwhelmingly couples, rather than because it’s great fun for the friends.

            I’ll say, I have worked in an office with poly coworkers. In a big, liberal city, in a big, liberal workplace. No one batted an eye at the long term poly relationships, but there was a lot of gossiping about the one coworker that seemed to be inviting like first/second/third dates to company functions. If they haven’t met your mom, I don’t want to meet them.

          2. Herculepoirot6'3.5"*

            I’ve watched the show with the guy with four wives (I think there were four). Would this change anyone’s mind if the poly group was five people instead of three. I saw on reddit (not a very reliable source, I know), that there are or have been polyamorous groups of 20 or more. Does that matter?

            In my mind, it probably just depends on the event. A barbeque with 30 people does really change if 2 or 3 more people are added. But a catered sit-down dinner does and it might be more of an imposition.

            Obviously for the poly family themselves, they need to decide what they want and present that as well.

            1. Ally McBeal*

              I have a friend group of 20+ people where most of them are polyamorous. I have never in my life heard of a group of 20+ people who are *incestuously* polyamorous, i.e. all 20+ of them are somehow involved with each other. (I could make a facetious remark here about theater kids, but I won’t.) The dynamics of that would be nearly impossible – how do you prioritize and make time for each partner when you have 20 partners? I’d be fascinated to read an essay or memoir by someone who’s successfully navigated that.

              My friend group has a few couples who independently and jointly date a few other people in the group as well as people outside the group, plus singletons who date inside & outside the group. When communication is frequent and open, it works really well. But we’ve also had to kick people out of the group for unethical crap, like someone not disclosing their relationship status to someone they’ve newly started being intimate with.

              Also, the four-wives thing isn’t polyamory, it’s polygamy. The women in that relationship didn’t had/don’t have the agency to seek partners outside of their one shared husband, so it’s not polyamory.

              1. Alex*

                “Also, the four-wives thing isn’t polyamory, it’s polygamy. The women in that relationship didn’t had/don’t have the agency to seek partners outside of their one shared husband, so it’s not polyamory.”

                This seems like defining away an uncomfortable component of the community.

                For the LW’s situation, I think sticking to 1 partner per event is the best/ easiest scenario. Especially as the LW has a strong separation between personal & business life.

                1. Yikes Stripes*

                  What’s easiest isn’t always what’s best, especially not in long term relationships.

                2. Anax*

                  That is the thing, yeah. Religious polygamists generally DON’T think of themselves as part of a broader polyamorous community, and vice versa, we don’t usually claim them. They pursue multiple relationships for different reasons, follow different ethical principles and social expectations in those relationships, and don’t engage with the community as a whole.

                  (Also there are ethical issues in a lot of those groups, usually revolving around Christian fundamentalist gender roles and age differences, which we have a lot of problems with.)

                  Marjorie Taylor Greene’s boyfriend may have worn drag on TV once. That does not make him part of the queer/GNC community – it means he’s engaged in some superficially similar behavior, without engaging in the *community* part at all.

                  The religious polygamists are also… really rare. Self-identified polyamorous people are around 5% of the US population – somewhere around 16 million people.

                  By most estimates, there’s well under 50,000 total Mormon fundamentalists practicing polygamy – probably much less – and probably a few other religious groups like Muslim Americans.

                  Being generous, that’s like defining the state of New York entirely by the city of New Rochelle: it exists, but it’s a tiny corner of a state with much more important and prominent places.

              2. Anax*

                Same here; probably 1/3 to 1/2 of my friends are poly, and I’ve been in a polyfidelitous triad for six years.

                Triads are fairly common, as are people who casually date two or three people. More than that… boy, just managing the calendar sounds like a headache. Very few people above the age of 22 have that kind of energy.

                (And yeah, I think it depends a lot on the event. In some cases, it probably would be an unreasonable financial or logistical burden – say, a boss rewarding their employees with tickets to a football game or Broadway show. Extra tickets might not even be available by the time the employee knew to ask! But in other cases, like a casual potluck, it’s unlikely to matter at all – even if it’s five people.)

                1. cabbagepants*

                  One of my distant friends had seven girlfriends at once and honestly I’m amazed at how he handled the logistics.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            Their point was that if you accommodate a poly person with more than one partner, a monogamous person would not likely feel “cheated” due to only bringing one guest. The “random other guests” was referring to hypothetical extra people the monogamous person might bring, not to the poly partners.

          4. JayBird*

            This idea of bringing kids or partners to work events should stop. Mandatory fun is never enjoyable, for your partner, your kids or your co-workers, and work is not your family. Confusing he two doesn’t help you at work or at home. I don’t need to know that you don’t agree with your parenting philosophy, that your spouse is an ass, or make mindless chitchat with my partner’s coworkers, who are not my friends (or his!) . Do the work thing for an hour w/ your co-workers, then go home to your real life.

            Only in the US are we so confused that what we do needs to bleed over into who we are.

            1. Grith*

              I….don’t think that’s a universally held belief. If OP has written in and wants to know how best to get their partners in to work socialising, we should take them on their word that this is something that everyone involved wants. And your personal dislike of that choice is getting in the way of actually providing a useful comment!

          1. Carrots*

            Exactly…which is why other coworkers won’t feel “cheated” if someone gets a +2 and they don’t.

          2. Bookmark*

            NobodyHasTimeForThis is not saying that the poly person’s additional +1 is a random other guest, they’re saying that as a person with one partner, the additional person THEY could have invited WOULD be a random additional person rather than someone meaningful on par with their spouse, and therefore why would they feel cheated out of an opportunity they didn’t want? They are disagreeing with the suggestion that a blanket plus one is a fair policy, just like you are.

        2. Miss Fisher*

          I don’t think it is in all cases, but certainly, single people can feel cheated. For instance, we had a function at the local aquarium where you could bring a significant other and children. But if you were single, you were not allowed to bring a friend etc. I am not sure how it would specifically apply in this instance unless other single people think they are bringing in a friend etc.

          1. Hush42*

            As someone who has managed to make it 30 years without ever being in a relationship (#Foreveralone), I can tell you that this can definitely be true. This happens a lot at weddings (which I fully understand but still means that I end up by myself, especially if I am only close with the Bride or Groom). In a corporate setting I would find it extra frustrating to not be allowed to bring a non-romantic plus one to an event. I enjoy attending events but I am much more comfortable if I can have a “safe” person with me to ensure I have someone to talk to.

            That being said, my company only has 1 event each year where plus ones are really a thing and it is absolutely acceptable to bring a non-romantic plus one. The event is at a Casino near our corporate headquarters and the company pays for hotel rooms for anyone who wants one, including people who are local. The only caveat, which I imagine would apply in LWs case as well, is that the company will only pay for 1 hotel room per employee. If we had someone with two partners they would be allowed to bring both but they would still only get 1 room (which may or may not work well depending on the dynamics of the particular polyamorous relationship).

          2. Lydia*

            But that’s still a problem with a stupid policy that only lets you bring a significant other instead of a +1 of your choosing. It has nothing to do with someone willingly giving up their +1 so someone can bring an additional person who is a significant other.

          3. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I was lucky enough to work for a company who didn’t care who you brought as long as they were signed up enough ahead of to not mess up the dinner count. My husband had to be out of town, I brought my son (grown, but hey free dinner) and people were ok with it. If a single person wanted to bring somebody, they just signed them up ahead of time. The only question I heard was ‘beef, fish, vegetarian’.

        3. Nina*

          I’ve literally never been to a work event where they specified who your plus-one could be. At the workplace Christmas party in 2022:
          – one guy brought his daughter
          – one guy was going to bring his wife but she got sick so he brought his dog
          – one guy wanted to bring both husband and kid and used my plus-one to do so (I didn’t bring anyone because I didn’t know anyone who actually wanted to go)
          – one person brought their roommate who was definitely their roommate
          – one person brought their roommate who based on the PDAs occurring was probably actually their partner and everyone was like ‘sure Brick, whatever you say, roommate, gotcha’.
          – one guy brought his girlfriend and his other girlfriend, who had not previously known about each other.

          (yes, almost all guys, it’s an engineering firm) Literally none of these scenarios was a problem for anyone.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Why is one plus-one best? It doesn’t seem like you’re factoring in DEI at all.

        1. Qwerty*

          I think they mean have a generic +1 slot per person, rather than labeling it. So a person can bring a romantic partner, roommate, friend, family member, stranger, etc. Our HR person who is poly and very out at work came up with this rule for us.

          Define why guests are being invited (for example – so the employee has someone to socialize with) and then take the romantic assumption out of it. I’ve had plenty of coworkers bring a friend instead of their romantic partner.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          Exactly, I am single and would prefer to be able to invite someone if I chose. Sometimes I think people forget that there are people on the aromantic asexual spectrum that are typically or never in romantic relationships and it can really suck to never be able to bring someone of significance to events.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Of course, then there’s the fiddling with the drink tickets, but that’s an entirely different conversation.

        3. Alex*

          Could you clarify in what way you think DEI issues are impacted by limiting to one plus one?

          1. nnn*

            It seems obvious to me. One group of people is being told their way of partnering won’t be recognized or included / isn’t seen as legitimate.

      3. Eliot Waugh*

        I’m so confused. As long as single folks are allowed to bring a friend, who should feel cheated and why?

      4. Rainy*

        Can you lay out exactly why you think that only one +1 is best? Why would someone with only one partner “feel cheated” if someone with two brings them both?

        1. ferrina*

          This is confusing me too.
          Logistically, it seems like the policy could play out in one of two ways:

          1) Each person gets a +1 slot to use however they choose. This is done to ensure that everyone has someone that they enjoy talking to at the event. In this case, this is done for the comfort of the original invitee (i.e., the employee). The company may set universal limits (for example, no under-21 if it will be open bar and none of the employees are under 21), but if someone decides they’ll enjoy it most with a friend of a friend (or by including a poly co-worker’s partner), cool.

          2) It’s about getting to know the direct invitee (employee) by meeting the people they are closest to. This is why a company might have a family picnic day. In this case there isn’t usually a strict limit. Families aren’t told “pick your two favorite children to bring”. In the same manner, a poly person isn’t told “pick one partner”. Logistically, OP has a three-person family, which really is not even a blip in the head count.

          That’s pure logistics without taking into account social stigma and/or discrimination (which is the bigger issue- good luck OP!)

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Although at one picnic, an employee brought her entire 12-member family, and I understood that the manager had a little talk with her after.

            1. Juli*

              Yeah, similar things occurred at my employer before I started. There are no longer family picnics.

            2. pizzarat*

              Wait, what is the alternative? If your family is 12 people, are you supposed to pick favorite kids? I don’t understand what your manager asked her to do.

              Unless we’re talking like, aunts, uncles, and cousins here, it seems strange to invite families but then tell one employee her family was too large.

              1. cabbagepants*

                I think they unless you’ve had a lot of multiple births, by the time you have 10 kids some of them are probably old enough that they don’t want to go to your company picnic!

      5. Rosie*

        Your user handle is so ironic considering your comment belongs in 1950.

        The guest is the plus one of the single person.

      6. Oryx*

        If someone isn’t using their “ONE plus one” because they are single or their partner isn’t available to come that day, etc., what is the harm in allowing someone else’s other partner to be able to come instead?

      7. Beth*

        Why would anyone feel cheated in this scenario? The party host wasn’t asked to add extra costs for an additional guest; OP and their coworker worked out a private arrangement between them, which apparently satisfied both of them; no one else’s ability to invite a guest was impacted.

      8. Mike S*

        Ages ago (almost 30 years), a married couple worked in the same office as me. One year, they both brought a +1 to the Christmas party. Management was not pleased, and later invitations clarified who was eligible.

    2. Quill*

      As the local ace I’m often the designated extra ticket holder, but I’m also often the “I do NOT want to go to this event alone” plus one so it all works out.

  4. WantonSeedStitch*

    Dr. Powell gives really good advice, especially regarding communication with both partners about what forms of acknowledgement are meaningful and important to them. That should definitely be the place to start.

  5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    The other thing is, you can’t un-disclose.

    If the LW comes out as polyamorous, their coworkers might gossip about it to people at other company’s. That isn’t just “do you want your closed-minded coworker to tank your chances at a job somewhere else. Someone neutral or sympathetic might say something like “I ran into Jane and her partners at a free concert” to someone less accepting. Or their manager might leave.

    I don’t like having to make that sort of calculation–it’s easier in some ways to decide “my friends get this, and if a new person doesn’t, oh well” when it’s just about an invitation to go see a movie, rather than anything work-related. But it should be part of the discussion, I think.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Yes, this occurred to me. If you are all comfortable with being out, then it’s easier to chose a path, but if one or more of you has reason to believe being outed would cause issues, attending an intimate event with people who are strangers to you (the partners of other attendees) reduces your control over who knows about the relationship. If you’re all in academia, or if you live in a relatively small area, there’s a risk of gossip reaching your partners’ bosses.

      1. Anax*

        Yeah, I’ve seen that become a problem in academia. Graduate school or tenure are *so* based on informal social networking, and it can have real consequences to be out. The triad I knew ended up breaking up over it – being the ‘secret partner’ is really tough, even when you agree that the reasons are valid.

    2. Cara*

      Yeah, a manager at my first job was in an open relationship – she mentioned that her husband saw other people but she didn’t. People were interested! They didn’t think less of her or anything, but it was definitely way more of a discussion topic than I would want my relationship being. This is at a modern, young company in a non-conservative area. I think you’ve got to balance how happy you are that even in the best case scenario, you’ll likely be a ‘fun source of conversation’ for a good while. That’s different for everyone and something you’d all need to agree on (though mostly the person who’s actually working there).

      1. Anax*

        Eh, it could be – or it could be a non-event. I’ve been openly poly at multiple workplaces, and no one cared; it never came up past “yep, two partners, we’ve been together for [x] long”, “oh, cool”.

        I think that’s probably the best-case scenario, and while there’s no guarantee it’ll be a total anticlimax, it’s a definite possibility.

        (Although I will say – being as boring and matter-of-fact about it as possible definitely helps!)

        1. Cara*

          Hmm, that’s how people were with her to her face. It was a big discussion topic behind her back (again, not nastily, but not something I would want for myself). It just feels to me like if you’re the first that they know about / in the company, you’re going to be talked about and it’s deciding whether you’re ok with that.

        2. pizzarat*

          This is my take, too.

          Any time I come out to new people, as polyam or trans or whatever, I state things in a matter of fact tone: “oh, yes, I was out recovering from a hysterectomy.” As if of course dudes with beards sometimes get their uterus removed.

          Mind you, some of why I do this is to quietly enjoy puzzling cis folks, but mostly I just act as if it is a matter of course that everyone is comfortable with trans people. It is harder for people to push back when you’ve already given them credit for being decent. Very few people will “correct” your assessment of their kindness by showing themselves to be an asshole.

          That said, it is a risky thing to be out. It gets a little less risky as times goes on and more people live out loud, but it isn’t yours responsibility to be a role model. LW has to protect their family’s needs first.

    3. Rainy*

      I’m no longer non-mog but was for a very long time, and it’s true that you can’t unring that bell. I’ve been out in workplaces and not out in workplaces and the environment matters a lot. Something I found is that a toxic work environment is always going to be a bad place to be out, because your “scandalous news” is always going to be lurking there ready to be gossiped about by backbiters and Mean Girls. But, also, that’s true about anything that backbiters/Mean Girls would deem “scandalous”, like having a chronic illness or being ND or even your religion, if it’s not mainstream.

  6. Mf*

    This is why I think it’s better for work events to specify how many plus ones you can bring vs. whether your partner is invited. If everyone is told how many guests they can bring, it’s much easier for everyone.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think this is where the flip side tends to cause problems — people hear they get a plus one and bring a friend, when what the company meant was “bring your significant other.” Some companies definitely don’t mean bring literally anyone as a guest, and so err on the side of “bring your spouse” which of course brings us full circle to the LW’s question.

      1. bamcheeks*

        But I think this is worth thinking about! This isn’t work, but we had “plus one” at our civil partnership, and we did literally mean, bring a spouse, bring a lover, bring a friend, bring some random you want an excuse to share a hotel bed with, bring your mum, whatever. The point for us wasn’t to acknowledge certain relationships as More Valid, And Deserving Of Being Memorialised In Photos, but to make sure nobody was sat feeling isolated and not having anyone to talk to. We just wanted everyone to be having fun.

        So I do think it’s worth LW spending some time thinking about what the vibe of these events is, and why partners/spouses/plus ones/families are invited. Ideally the person doing the inviting would think about this in advance, and if LW does decide to come out, they could hopefully support that. But it’s also worth LW and their partners thinking about it even absent that.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          It’s absolutely worth thinking about! I was just highlighting that explicitly stating the number of guests someone can bring also isn’t explicit enough when there are multiple vectors for confusion. Way too often, it means one thing to the person with the guest and another to the person who said “bring a guest!” I’ve read enough advice column letters about wedding invite etiquette to know that this is a really common misunderstanding, so I can see that same misunderstanding playing out in a workplace context too if you specify a number alone.

        2. ferrina*

          It’s helpful for the company to clarify expectations.

          As a single person, I wouldn’t expect a company plus-one to mean “bring a friend”. The companies I’ve worked at tended to use that as “bring your spouse/partner”. It tends to be a company networking event where your spouse/partner is a way for you to expand your social reach. You could maaaaybe bring a close friend or sibling that you talk about at work (if it’s something where your coworker says “I feel like I know you already!”), but a friend no one’s heard just to so you can enjoy it more (and provides no networking advantage)? That would raise eyebrows.

          It’s all contextual and subcontextual, so the more explicit the invite is, the better.

          1. MF*

            My last employer did holiday events where every employee was invited with a plus one. It was explicitly stated that your plus one had to be a minimum of 12 years old. Basically, you could bring a spouse/partner, friend, date, parent, or child as long as they were at least 12. It was great because it felt very inclusive. You didn’t have to be married/partnered or in a traditional relationship in order to bring a guest.

            This is essentially how I think all companies should handle events where employees can bring plus ones.

        3. Roland*

          > The point for us wasn’t to acknowledge certain relationships as More Valid, And Deserving Of Being Memorialised In Photos, but to make sure nobody was sat feeling isolated and not having anyone to talk to. We just wanted everyone to be having fun.

          As a perpetually single person, this was very cool of you to do. It really bums me out when so many events are organized around the assumption that everyone has a Romantic Date Partner lined up to go and if they don’t, oh well, they are less deserving of companionship. Focusing on the *why* of it is something I wish more people did.

      2. Blue Chicken of Happiness*

        I’m curious about why companies would want to limit the ‘plus one’ to romantic partners. My current most ‘significant’ other is my best friend – my (long-distance) partner has a degenerative disease that means she can’t travel. My best friend’s partner is someone who detests these kinds of social work events. Why would it be a problem if I brought my best friend rather than my ill partner or she brought me instead of her partner? I’m very curious as to why a company would care what relationship the plus-one has with the employee.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It stems from historic social tradition that married partners must be seen as a social unit and thus it is rude to invite only one of them when issuing invitations. Obviously times have changed and that etiquette didn’t always translate well to work anyway, but that’s what it’s rooted in.

          1. Angstrom*

            When women in high-level positions were rare, married partners were also unpaid labor. An older male relative who worked for the US State Department told me that a wife’s “performance” at embassy social functions was part of one’s annual evaluation.

              1. Tommy Girl*

                If it makes you feel any better, this was actually an opportunity for women (within the strictures of societal expectations) to have a real impact on the world. It was a way they could perform work outside their strictly domestic sphere. Being a good hostess, for example, is actually a lot of work and hard to do well.

                1. Quill*

                  Personally, for this sort of social setup (as for most other things that plagued the late 1800’s / early 1900’s) I blame the victorians with their seperate spheres of public and home life being so strictly divided by gender.

                  (And I blame the fact that this has always been a rich people thing for the fact that so many tried to emulate it for so long…)

            1. Katydid*

              Can confirm: the original Miss Manners commented (unfavorably!) on this practice more than once.

            2. allathian*

              In diplomatic circles, I suspect that this is still true at least to some degree, and even in countries with a large number of women ambassadors.

              The spouses of monarchs and elected officials like presidents and prime ministers have traditionally held official (in the case of monarchs) or at least semiofficial roles, regardless of gender. I’m in Finland, and we’ve had one First Gentleman, the husband of President Tarja Halonen (2000-2012, two six-year terms), and it’s very possible that our next president will be Pekka Haavisto, our former minister of defense who was instrumental in negotiating our Nato membership. He’s a married gay man, and it’ll be interesting to see what the role of his husband will be if he’s elected.

          2. Phony Genius*

            I also think that there was (and maybe still is in some places) an element of “trust” in that they could discuss certain business-related things at the party in front of spouses, but not other random guests. Restricting attendance to spouses only allowed those discussions to occur.

            1. RNL*

              If you consider married couples economic units (which historically they fundamentally were), there is an economic nexus between an employer and their employee’s spouse which does not exist with third parties. As society and marriage has changed, this has changed and doesn’t really work anymore and likely will less and less.

              But spouses still have special social status that housemates, friends, etc do not have – there is a whole area of legislative and common law governing the spousal relationship!

      3. This_is_Todays_Name*

        I disagree a little bit. If I see “Plus One” I think “cool I can take a plus one.” Our invitations to our work Holiday Party specified “Spouse/Partner” so I knew that I shouldn’t invite a friend, but that the intent was to have my husband there. Plus One means “and a guest” so unless it specifies the name of the person or the the status “Significant Other” “Spouse” “Partner” … I believe it can be taken at face value.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          That’s how I would interpret those two options as well, but my point in the above comment was that not everyone has that shared understanding of “guest”. It’s pretty common for people to write “and guest” on an invitation when they mean “and any romantic partner you might have, whose name I don’t know.”

        2. B*

          I think it can technically be taken at face value, in that it should not anger anyone, but you should be prepared for colleagues to consider it a bit odd.

        3. Betty*

          If I received an invitation to a work event that specified I should bring my spouse/partner/ significant other, I would assume the invitation was unintentionally specific, and I would bring my housemate. We are like family, and I’m not dating anyone right now. It wouldn’t occur to me that if I don’t have a partner, I can’t bring anyone. Also, I’m certain that I, and others on the DE&I committee, would get the invitation language adjusted pretty quick.

        4. MF*

          What I mean is: I think businesses should say “Everyone gets a plus one” and they actually mean that. In other words, allow people to choose who their guest is! It’s more fair for single/divorced/widowed people or those in non-traditional relationships.

      4. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        My workplace events were usually plus-ones, and some people would bring a parent, some would bring an adult (or even teen) child, and some would bring a sibling or friend. This was 15 – 20 years ago and was not a problem then, why would it be a.problem now?

    2. A (Former) Library Person*

      I understand your thinking here, but I think the issue at play in this letter is that (at least in the US, where I’m writing from) the default is plus-one because of the assumption that people only have one romantic partner. Companies *are* specifying how many guests, but that number is tied to the assumption above; I think it would take a very large cultural shift for plus-[n>1] to become the default (it’s possible!). A default of “significant other(s)/spouse(s)/partner(s)” might be the most equitable solution here.

      1. MF*

        What I saying is: I think businesses should say “Everyone gets a plus one” and they actually mean that. In other words, allow people to choose who their guest is! It’s more fair for single/divorced/widowed people or those in non-traditional relationships.

        If someone wants to bring a friend or a date who isn’t a committed significant other, I think they should be allowed to do that. It’s not inclusive to limit (either implicitly or explicitly) plus ones to partners/spouses.

  7. AnonyMoose*

    My poly partner just started a new job and I hadn’t even considered this question, as he works in a very liberal company and area…. but *my* job is very conservative, so I never mentioned anything.
    Fortunately, +1s have been cut from my company events for cost reasons, so the point is moot.

    1. allathian*

      I’m very monogamous so the multiple guests thing isn’t an issue for me, but I work for the government in Finland. Thankfully our taxpayers don’t seem to have issues with government employees getting perks like free coffee and annual holiday parties at the employer’s expense, but our rules are very strict on one point: employee perks should benefit the employee, not their family. It would be absolutely unthinkable for my employer to invite spouses or other plus ones to events. It just isn’t done.

  8. frustratedTrainee*

    As a poly person myself, one thing to consider that hasn’t come up yet:

    The view a lot of people still have of us is that you are a danger and hyper-sexual. Coming out at work could mean that you will be assumed to be flirting when you aren’t (did you just need help from an IT person, or were you flirting because you’re poly and poly people must have no morals because if they did they’d be monogamous!!), will coworkers suddenly get *extremely* uncomfortable with you around their own partners, assuming you will try to collect them, because poly people must do that if they have more than one partner you must have no morals again at all (again, you’d be monogamous if you did, to a lot of people!)

    I have found, in work situations where I’m comfortable being poly which in almost 20 years of being in the workforce has only happened one time, alternating was the best way to go as far as my safety, but the only thing really fair to the partners is bringing all or none. This, like many things about poly though, is very informed by your particular set up with your partners. Good luck, there’s still a very, very long way to go before poly people are at all represented or accounted for in laws, in customs, in workplaces, etc.

    1. anon for this*

      The judgment can be really awful, too. Just ask any openly poly person who’s been dragged through the divorce or, worse, custody courts.

      Not that I’m advocating against being open and being yourself, but, honestly…

      *sighs and changes my handle to Anon*

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Prerequisite to being yourself is BEING. Means staying alive and safe is the first concern. Open and out is great–but if “Yeah, no, I’m not doing this. And no one at my job has any right to know my personal life anyway” is what makes you actually feel more secure in living your life, do that.

      2. ErikSamAndMe*

        Strongly recommend Caroline R. Giuliani’s recent piece in Vanity Fair on this very issue. Easy to find with a simple Google; I don’t want my comment being caught in the spam filter.

        1. DistractableMe*

          The only thing I found with that search was a VF piece about her being a self-professed Unicorn (single dating a couple). I didn’t read the whole article, as it wasn’t relevant to this discussion so I’m not sure it’s what you were referring to.

          Note that in Polyam in general, couples seeking Unicorns are considered a Very Bad Thing. Do a search on “Unicorn Hunting Bad” if you want more info, but in short, the Unicorn is very rarely treated with respect as a full human being and full member of the relationship.

          1. Lyra Belacqua*

            I assume @ErikSamAndMe is talking about her more recent piece on family law as it relates to poly communities. Try adding “Chosen Family Law Center” to your query.

            Also FWIW as a queer poly person I’ve seen a lot of people recently and happily identifying as unicorns, and seeking out couples on the apps. It squicks me out personally partly for the reasons you mention above and perhaps partly for some degree of unexamined biphobia, but I’m learning that it’s a role that some people enjoy, under the right circumstances.

            1. H.Regalis*

              If I had $5 for every post I’ve seen that was like, “We’re a couple looking to bring a new female into our relationship” I could buy a new car XD Those people are awful.

      3. Penny Parker*

        The judgement is indeed bad from those who do not — and do not want to — understand. Back when I was divorced I did lose custody to the state, and the reason was two-fold: I was Wiccan, and I was poly. My attorney told me we could fight the Wiccan charge, and indeed we did with a successful 1st Amendment civil rights lawsuit which was eventually settled out of court. I was scheduled to have my parental rights terminated, and it was *only* those two issues which were the problem (my ex lost all rights to our children and quickly moved out of state with our other partner). As for the poly? My attorney had only one thing to say about that: “Bigamy is illegal and we are going to ignore that charge; we will only be fighting the religious issue.”

        Do you really want to deal with this with co-workers who might feel the same?

    2. Pippa K*

      Interesting, and I could see this happening at my workplace. The other possible take, depending on context, is that the polygamous relationship is not what I think of as the progressive kind that has become more visible in recent years, but an older model where specifically polygyny is part of a very patriarchal religious community. There is such a community near me, and someone showing up at a work picnic, say, with his three wives and 19 children would definitely take people aback. And many of those who’d be uncomfortable in that scenario (I think maybe me, honestly, because that specific religious ideology troubles me) would *not* have the same uncomfortable reaction to a thruple showing up in an ultra-progressive setting. So I guess some of the social reaction, at least in some contexts, might be more about sociopolitical values than sexuality-and-relationship norms, if that makes sense. (Not that those two things are unrelated, of course. I’m just thinking through why the two different kinds of “poly” might be received differently.)

      I’m glad OP wrote in; the letter and discussion are prompting me to learn and reflect a bit.

      1. SW*

        That seems like a religiously exclusionary policy though. Like it’s inserting a business into deciding whether the relationships are legitimate or not.
        From a purely practical POV, I’d welcome the multiple wives because social ostracism can make it harder for people to leave abusive relationships and it makes them more likely to defend the abuser. Plus a lot of cults rely on isolating members from non-believers. Meeting the wives can go a long way towards giving them people to go to should they want to leave the relationship.
        Seriously, the best thing to do for anyone who is being abused is to keep in contact.

    3. A (Former) Library Person*

      YES. Poly means “multiple partners” not “wants to partner with everybody”. However, you are right in that it is unfortunately something that LW may need to consider when contemplating how out they are comfortable being at work. The gender(s) of LW and their partners may also play into these types of assumptions as well.

    4. H.Regalis*

      I have people in my personal life I’m not out to because of this. All of a sudden people are *certain* you’re hitting on them when all you said was something like, “Please pass the salt.”

      There are no legal protections for being polyam and that sucks. You’ll get shit from overly-idealistic people for not being out in every situation; but being out to the wrong person could make you lose your job, your home, custody of your kids, etc. There can be very bad, long-lasting consequences from which you have zero legal protection.

      I want to be out. I hate having to lie either directly or by omission.

      1. lilsheba*

        I really one of these days people could just be poly, or queer, or trans, or whatever and just have it be accepted. I will never understand why these situations are treated so differently! Well I do understand it’s based on religious beliefs encroaching on everything else but it really sucks.

    5. Poly Anna*

      Yes, basically this. Often when I come out as poly, the other person will feel the need to vehemently state they are happy in their relationship/not looking.

    6. Poly OP*

      That’s a good point about the hypersexuality assumptions – I don’t tend to disclose until/unless I’ve been at work for a while, and when people already know me. I’ve also only been at small organizations before where I *could* get to know everyone, which isn’t possible at my current institution. Thanks for the feedback!

  9. Lilo*

    I think what I’m bouncing around on here is that you have to read the room.

    If this is a particularly fancy event, bringing more than one person is going to be seen as using more resources than typically allocated or gives a pretense for people to complain. If more casual fine but, depending on the nature of your relationships, I’d caution against bringing more than one or two extra people. Again, it’ll be seen as more an allocation issue (or used as a pretense).

    It sort of comes down to also what kind of event this is as to whether you should push. A pure social event where the goal is to meet people’s partners? Much more likely to be fine.

    But as someone who’s been invited along to my spouse’s work dinners where my spouse is definitely doing a work task during dinner (and you exist to interact with the other +1s much more commonin more old school industries), I would stick with one person there. So if you’re really working at this event, consider the impact and role of an extra person.

    So it really really depends in the event. My best advice is to suss out what kind of event it is when making this calculation. Much more okay for more casual/social events, maybe hold off on dinners that are more expensive or where you need to be chatting up people outside your company.

  10. Heather*

    This was very good advice; I like the analogy to people bringing children. I hadn’t thought it through before, but of course if I host a party and invite people to bring their children, I don’t then think, “Well but what if a bunch of them are Mormon and they each bring six kids??”

    I would be willing to bet that in many poly groupings, this works itself out, because how enticing are these work gatherings, anyway?? My husband’s work hosts a lovely picnic at the beach, but if there were any other adults in our partnership, I’d be flipping a coin to determine which of us HAD to go with him!

    1. bamcheeks*

      I host a party and invite people to bring their children, I don’t then think, “Well but what if a bunch of them are Mormon and they each bring six kids??”

      OK but I DIDN’T think about this for one of my daughter’s birthday parties, and ended up with twice as many children as were allowed on the bouncy castle and whom we had plates for, so I would recommend thinking about it a little bit. :)

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        OMG this exactly. We just had my daughter’s birthday last month, and invited her 11 closest friends, so a total of 12 kids. Assuming 1 parent/kid, that’s 24 people. We had a couple family members there, so 30 people. Not bad.

        Of the 11 kids (all of whom attended), 6 of them brought siblings. One was just a baby (nbd), but the rest were all active, mobile, hungry kids. My party of 30 almost doubled.

        So yeah. Not crazy about using kids as the benchmark for this.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          On the work side of things:

          I have gone to a few team dinners where partners/spouses were invited, and we had to RSVP. Employees without partners (or whose partners didn’t want to go) RSVP’d for one spot, employees whose partners went RSVP’d for two spots. I assume a work-organized event where kids are allowed would work similarly. “Partners/spouses and children welcome. Please RSVP by [date] with the number of people from your family who are attending.” A company wouldn’t invited employees plus partners (if they have a partner) plus one kid per couple (because everyone should just have one kid, if you have more than one just bring your favorite, we’re on a budget here!).

          Using “children are invited and please RSVP so we have an accurate headcount” as a benchmark, I think inviting multiple partners can work too. Ask everyone to RSVP yes or no and include the number of partners they are bringing (0, 1, 2, etc.). That way important relationships are acknowledged and
          the organizers know how many people are attending.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I don’t have kids, so I’m totally gobsmacked — is that NORMAL, to bring siblings to a kid party they weren’t invited to without so much as a by-your-leave to the host? It’s not something I remember from when I was wee, at least.

          1. EngGirl*

            It’s apparently a thing now. I also am not a parent and I was shocked when my parent friends told me about it. I remember it happening occasionally when I was a kid, but it was very much not the norm or sometimes someone would come to a birthday party with a sibling of the birthday boy/girl had a sibling that was friends with them. My sister came to a couple of parties with me as entertainment for my friend’s sister. I think parents also tend to stay more now. When I was a kid once you hit kindergarten birthday parties were a “drop your kids off” situation. Now not so much.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, when I was a kid, the siblings that showed up were from families that had already cleared it with my parents, to keep *My* sibling out of my hair for the duration. This being the late 90’s early 00’s…

            2. sparkle emoji*

              I’m also shocked. My mom insisted on small birthday parties (I don’t think I ever got to have more than 3 friends) and if someone had pulled this she would have called the parent and told them to collect the sibling, and then never invited anyone from that family to house ever again.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            It’s a divisive thing in parenting, and there’s a lot behind it (isn’t there always?). But the general shakedown is:

            Some people think of their kids as a unit, and so if one is invited of course they are *all* invited. No asking required, because OF COURSE it’s rude not to invite all the kiddos. Never mind you planned for Sally and her dad – Johnny, Sam, and Charlie are all coming, too!

            Then you have people who think the invitee (and a parental plus one, for littles) is all you need to specify, because OF COURSE it’s rude to bring people not specifically invited.

            None of this delves into ask v guess culture, where the debate is “is it rude to ask to bring more kids?”, followed by “is it rude to say no”.

          3. atalanta0jess*

            In my social circle (with a in-going second grader and a toddler) if the parents have to stay, then I’d expect that siblings might be there too. Most people tend to communicate who is coming, but not everyone. If I didn’t want sibs to show up, I’d definitely specify that in my invite.

          4. bamcheeks*

            Can hold my hands up and say that in my case it 100% my fault. There’s a 4 year gap between my two, so when people said, “is it OK if Sibling comes, I looked at my younger one who was only just crawling and said, “Sure, no problem!” I forgot that most people have a two-year gap so a 5yo’s younger siblings are more likely to be fully-mobile three-year-olds.

          5. Too Many Tabs Open*

            I’ve always assumed that if the invitation doesn’t say “siblings welcome”, only the one child is invited. Though the reply forms at Evite and such can make this ambiguous — why else would I have the option of indicating that more than one child will be at the party?

          1. bamcheeks*

            With little kids, you’re asking a LOT if you’re saying, “please bring over your 4yo, and stay with them because they aren’t old enough to stay without you, and also arrange for someone else to be looking after your 2yo.” And at that age, most parties are “here’s an opportunity to run around shrieking, have a balloon, eat sugar and play some simple games“, and it’s pretty easy to accommodate a flexible number of kids. When you get to the 7-10 age groups and you can drop your kids off and it’s more likely to be a pay-per-child activity it‘s different.

        3. Jessica*

          Wow, this seems startlingly rude to me. Is this sibling-bringing normal?
          Maybe it’s that I only recall going to birthday parties as a child once I was old enough to be dropped off and picked up. Is it expected if kids are much younger that a parent will stay to wrangle each child? Do siblings get brought in that context only, while nobody would ever send a sibling to a party if the parent wasn’t staying?
          Or has it become normal for parents to stay at all parties?
          I can’t figure out whether the difference between this and my experience is change over time, different norms in different social circles, or the age of the kids, but I’d be fascinated to hear anything else current parents can tell me about it.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Only when parents are expected to stay, in my experience. As I said above, in my experience it’s when the older kids are pre-schoolers and can’t just be dropped off, and the younger ones are typically 0-3– if you’re inviting a 4, 5 or 6-year-old who needs a parent to stay with them, if siblings can’t stay then the whole thing is kind of nightmare. Most parties at that age are cake, 10-15 minutes of basic games, lots of running around, and are usually outside, in a soft-play or in some kind of community function room / hired hall, so a few extra toddlers doesn’t make much difference. At 7 or 8, parties are more likely to be a smaller and more select group of friends doing an activity which is pay-per-ticket and they’re old enough to be left alone. I’ve not known anyone bring a sibling at that point.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, when our son was small enough to want to have birthday parties, we basically invited all the boys in his kindergarten/elementary class (in my social circle birthday parties tend to be divided by gender unless the kid has friends or siblings of other genders or agender ones, but no kids in my social circle were out as enby or trans when this was an issue). We happily welcomed siblings when the kids were young enough for parents to stay, too.

              My son was a fairly timid kid, and while most kids were happy to be dropped off when they were 5, my son wanted a parent with him until he was 7. This was never a problem because I asked the hosting parents to count me in as another kid wrangler/game host/mother’s helper.

              When the kids got a bit older, we did pay-per-ticket events, usually co-hosting with the parents of my son’s friend who had his birthday during the same week to share costs. The other kid had a younger sibling who also invited one friend to have some company at the party. For his 10th birthday in 2019 my son only wanted to invite his best friend, and since then we have neither organized nor attended any kiddie birthday parties, first because of pandemic restrictions and now because he just didn’t want to invite even one friend for his 14th.

          2. Jen*

            The reply to the previous comment covered these points pretty well. When kids are little, it is expected that the parent will stay, which can make it difficult to find someone to care for the siblings that aren’t invited.
            For most of the parties that my kids have been invited to, both kids have been explicitly invited (because they both play with the birthday kid or because the birthday kid has a sibling the same age as mine). I wouldn’t expect to bring both my kids to a party for a classmate that we’ve never met outside of school. But I think there will be some awkwardness when the kids get a little older and it’s less clear whether siblings are still invited.

      2. Pinta Bean*

        Heck yes, this was one of the most surprising things about parenting to me.

        I’d like to note that there are a A LOT of cultural and geographic factors at play, as to whether it strikes people as expected or rude. With the caveat that of course there are some rude people out there operating in the world, most of this issue is related to incorrect assumptions about what is “expected” and “normal” and very few people think they are being rude; they think they are doing what is typical based on their own past experiences, which vary tremendously.

        It does resolve itself a bit as kids get older and the types of parties change, especially if the party involves some kind of activity. You will start to see more explicit language on birthday invitations that says that The Teapot Arcade Party Room is limited to X number of children, and that unfortunately this means the host is unable to include siblings.

        If you are just entering the birthday party stage, I found it helped to follow up on RSVPs to confirm the total # of people, approach party favors in a more flexible way that wasn’t a “one goodie bag per guest” model, and always have some extras on hand of non-perishables like napkins.

    2. Poly OP*

      lol yeah, at my previous (small, startup) workplace I was out as poly, and one partner looked at the holiday party invitation and was like “[other partner] can go to this one, I’m not dressing up fancy.” This particular event that prompted me to write in was more about actually getting to meet the other people in my group because I work in a different building/role, and both partners were curious about the mystery people I work with …

  11. Critical Rolls*

    There’s a lot of variation by workplace culture, but this is a really good reason to stay out of the middle ground between “employees only” and “open to all.” I understand the thinking — “we want people to be able to bring their dear ones, but we don’t have the budget/facility/whatever so maybe make it plus one?” But it puts so many people in awkward or difficult positions of varying degrees. Poly, single, estranged, on and on. Either keep it to staff or rent a picnic shelter and do your shopping at Costco.

  12. This_is_Todays_Name*

    This is tough. My first instinct was “sure why not? It *shouldn’t* be a big thing” but then I got to thinking and for some people it WILL be a “big thing”. My policy is not to talk about sex at work. Period. In my head all of my coworkers are asexual automatons. I don’t want to know who does what and I don’t think it’s their business what I do. I also don’t talk religion or politics because I’ve seen THOSE go horribly awry and devolve into yelling matches. I have a lesbian daughter, married to a trans man. Nobody at work knows, nobody NEEDS to. BUT, if you out yourself as poly, now everyone KNOWS at least 1 thing about your sex life. You have to accept that for some people that will be titillating and they’re going to question you. For some, it will be an ABOMINABLE SIN and they’ll shun or try to “save” you, etc… It’s all in the level of comfort you feel in sharing something that normally is not shared in a professional workplace. Just my $ .02, which in the current market is worth much less.

    1. bamcheeks*

      UT, if you out yourself as poly, now everyone KNOWS at least 1 thing about your sex life

      This is also true if your straight colleague mentioned his wife and kids, of course.

      1. MEH Squared*

        And the same argument people used against queer people being out. “I don’t want to know about your sex life!” As if it’s just about sex (the act of having it) and not the whole person.

        The hypersexual argument further up was also used against bisexuals in specific (me) for why we were a particular danger. Just because we can hypothetically be attracted to people of different genders does not mean we’re attracted to every person of any particular gender.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          ^^ This. That’s the whole “well I’m ok with gay people but why do they have to shove it down people’s throats!!ZOMG” mentality, as though existing and having relationships = somehow flaunting one’s ‘lifestyle’.

          1. anon for this*

            1000%. When Steve from Accounting says “my wife and kids are going skiing this weekend,” you are now fully aware that he has probably had sex with a woman multiple times, but somehow that’s not “shoving it down people’s throats.”

            Never understood how that works, but it’s absolutely how it works.

      2. This_is_Todays_Name*

        True… but, when people talk husband and kids, they feel they know about your family; saying you are Poly (rightly or wrongly) is going to feel like they’re talking about their sex life. So, I get your logic, but because MOST people think heteronormatively, Poly is going to SEEM more sexually charged to them. I don’t personally care who puts how many Tab As into whatever Slot Bs, but some people do….

        1. asturdysoul*

          If you’re a polyamorous person in long-term committed relationships (as the LW is), wouldn’t your partners constitute your family? Just like if you’re married but don’t have any children, your spouse is a family member?

        2. metadata minion*

          Plenty of polyamorous people are in long-term relationships with multiple people, possibly including children. If you’re dating more casually I wouldn’t expect to be able to bring all of your flirt-of-the-months to the company party, but if that’s the case, do they *want* to go to their cheerfully-temporary fling’s company party?

        3. JustKnope*

          The answer is “wrongly” for the record! When a poly person talks about their partners, they are ALSO referring to their family. The way you’re framing your comments is icky. There is a stigma associated with poly people being overly sexual that you’re contributing to right now.

      3. Myrin*

        Yeah, in the chat of a streamer I watch the topic of “virginity” came up recently and he said “Well, you know I’ve had sex at least once because I have a kid”. It was all in good fun and very amusing but that thought weirdly seemed to blow some of the chatters’ mind a little.

        1. Pocket Mouse*

          And ‘know’ is a little strong. There are several ways to become a parent without sex being involved.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, yeah, but all things considered, that’s still the most common way to acquire a kid.

      4. Lydia*

        Precisely. It’s so weird to me that people assume poly people are any different than the average couple, but probably with more calendars.

          1. anon for this*

            tbh the “be three times more organised” was the point where me and my partner opted back into monogamy. We didn’t have problems with the my-partner-sleeps-with-other-people part, just the ~~scheduling~~ part.

            1. Quill*

              This has killed enough dungeons and dragons groups for me that I have a vague idea how much of a pain it would be if it were your sex life and not rolling dice while making stupid plans.

      5. Quill*

        Yeah, also I do not love the asexual automatons language here. Today’s Name, you can be an adult about “whatever my coworkers’ relationships or sex life includes is aggressively none of my business” without equating ace people to robots.

        1. Joron Twiner*

          I didn’t read that post as saying that asexual people were robots. In this case “asexual” is an adjective that describes what kind of automaton they are.

    2. Fiona*

      Right but to follow your logic, I am a woman married to a man. The minute I tell someone I have a male partner, they know at least 1 thing about my sex life – I have sex with a man. It’s no different if someone has a same-sex/trans/multiple partners. I agree that because it’s novel/more unusual, some people will find it titillating but talking about your relationship is NOT something “not normally shared.” It’s actually shared all the time by people in hetero relationships…

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Actually, not to put too fine a point on it — they ASSUME one thing about your sex life, that you have sex with a man. They don’t KNOW. Which means THEY’RE the ones making it about sex, not you.

        Signed, a woman married to a male partner who in fact does not have sex with a man (or anybody else).

      2. B*

        The difference is the thing those people “know” about you is a perfectly mainstream thing that is (in most circumstances?) non-prejudicial to your career. That’s what it comes down to. For cis straight monogamous couples, the fact of your relationship makes you relatable and unthreatening. For anyone else it does the opposite.

    3. Blue Chicken of Happiness*

      This is the same kind of argument that kept queer people in the closet, though. And really, we know something about people in cis hetero relationships, too, especially if they have children, but no one seems to talk about “oh I don’t want to know that Bob is married to Jane because now I know he likes to have sex with women!” As a lesbian, I’ve been through that, and you know, it’s just as valid for me to have a picture of my partner up at work as it is for Bob to have a picture of Jane and his two kids. I feel the same about poly people – don’t know, don’t care, none of mine or anyone else’s business what they do in their private lives, but I do celebrate their love and the love anyone finds in this world, regardless of what configuration it takes, and in all its complicated and sometimes messy beauty.

      1. This_is_Todays_Name*

        I get what you’re saying, as the Mom of an very out and proud and activist lesbian daughter/trans son in law. Which is why I said the LW has to be prepared for some negative reactions if they choose to say, “Hey I’m poly, can I bring both of my partners to the function”. Coming out as anything other than “straight blah blah” is always going to elicit some reactions and some of them will be negative, although I’d hope many would be positive or even better 100% neutral. I didn’t recommend that the LW “keep it in the closet” I said, “realize… ” My daughter went thru a lot of Hell as an out lesbian in the military, and finally chose to give up her career over it :(

    4. different seudonym*

      Yeah, straight marriage is typically a sexual relationship! So much so that non-consummation can be grounds for annulment. But it isn’t stigmatized as “talking about sex” when spouses show wedding photos or talk about their anniversaries or whatever.

      People SAY queer, trans, poly, and kinky people, and people who work in sex-related industries, are “shoving their sex lives in our faces” when they merely exist. They say that in order to evade responsibility for their hate, and more broadly to maintain a conservative social order. The whole point is to make those who are beyond the norm the problem, when it’s bigotry that is the problem. Don’t internalize that garbage. And for pete’s sakes think about how your child would feel if she knew you were ashamed to mention her or her husband in casual conversation.

    5. Engineer*

      No, you still know precisely nothing about their sex life. Asexual polyromantic people exist too!

      And quite frankly, unless you extend this attitude to *every* person who mentions a spouse and/or kids, you’re coming off as very homophobic, lesbian daughter or not. “I don’t want to know about your sex life” is a dogwhistle to shun queer folk and has been for at least 40 years, so you can’t claim ignorance here.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Was coming to say exactly this.

        You KNOW nothing. You are ASSUMING at least one thing – and given my experience with monogamous individuals who don’t know I am polyamorous and how they talk about the community, you’re probably assuming a ton of things, almost none of which are likely to be true, because any discussion of polyamorous relationships seems to immediately invoke the most lurid fantasies.

    6. NeedRain47*

      Oh heck no. People (including you, right here) are *assuming* things about most peoples sex life every day. You assume people are straight and monogomous; you assume, but don’t actually know, anythign about what they do in bed.

      If you find out someone isnt’ straight and monogamous, all you know is who their partner is (or appears to be, its entirely possible you still don’t know their gender identity etc.) You still don’t know anything about what they do in bed. Interpersonal relationships and sexual relationship are not the same.

    7. Ex-prof*

      People are replying to your comment in terms of how the world SHOULD be, but you are really talking about how the world IS. And you’re right. We can’t change what goes on in other people’s heads. Nor can we always accurately predict what actions they’ll take as a result. So that has to be factored into the choices we make.

      People do need to consider their well-being, safety, and comfort in a world that was never always kind and seems to be growing less so.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I think we can acknowledge the likely difficulty due to prejudice, and the assumptions people make about polyamory, without adding to them ourselves.

      2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        I disagree. The response from Alison and the expert acknowledges the risks of being out as poly at work. No one is being naive about how the world is.

        The comment everyone is pushing back on here, though, goes much further. It outright says that telling people you’re poly is akin to telling people about your sex life which isn’t accurate. It condones the criticisms, or at the very least, certainly doesn’t condemn them (eg “rightly or wrongly”).

    8. Rainy*

      Oh jeez, no. Look, if you assume I’m a woman and I tell you that Mr Rainy and I went to see the Barbie movie and loved it, you’re like, aww, fun weekend outing. If you assume I’m a man and I tell you the Mr Rainy and I went to see the Barbie movie and loved it, suddenly I’m tElLiNg YoU sOmEtHiNg AbOuT mY sEx LiFe? No.

      Telling you I’m gay or bi tells you nothing about my sex life that you assuming I’m straight didn’t, and if you know I have two partners, you still know absolutely nothing about my sex life.

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My policy is not to talk about sex at work. Period. In my head all of my coworkers are asexual automatons. I don’t want to know who does what and I don’t think it’s their business what I do.

      I agree with you for this part. We are all Ken dolls under our clothes.

      … which means that knowing that Sam is poly doesn’t ACTUALLY tell you anything more about Sam’s sex life than knowing that Chris is married tells you about Chris’s sex life or than knowing that Pat is dating someone named Morgan tells you about Pat’s or Morgan’s sex lives. (News flash: Asexual people can be poly too. :P )

    10. Generic Name*

      This is the same argument people have (and still do!) used against people in same sex relationships.

    11. Lenora Rose*

      Unless you react the same to people mentioning their singular and hetero partner, or their children (more definite proof of sex than a partner, unless adopted!), you’re attributing more to poly than you are to monosexuality.

    12. Heinous Eli*

      This dilemma is so interesting to me. I haven’t been straight, monogamous, or single since 2008, but I also just don’t talk about a lot of things at work. The only reason people knew I had a husband is that it’s relevant in the HR/benefits sense.

      I feel like growing up the way I did gives me a different mindset. In my family, not only is homophobia the assumption, but also you aren’t really supposed to bring around a partner even if they’re of the so-called “opposite gender”, not unless you are engaged or right about to become engaged for marriage with a marriage date and wedding plans in hand. I’ve had so many fights about my life with my family that I’m exhausted and don’t talk to most of them anyway.

      Bigotry aside, the mere thought of having every single partner I have ever had meet my family gives me a headache. I have a large family, of which a significant portion lives locally. No thanks.

      Thankfully, I’ve had partners who understand that I’m not trying to hide them nor am I ashamed. It is odd to me that some people think that unless you reveal every detail about your gender/partners to everyone in every context, you’re “living in shame” and “closeted”. It feels like a very Anglo/mainstream American mindset to me. I care a lot more about what my chosen family thinks about my partners anyway.

  13. Why won't boomers retired*

    I think fine to say ONE plus one. If you lobby for either employees only or unlimited invites, i am guessing you will piss off coworkers. These things cost money.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Two isn’t unlimited though. If it turns out they really only have enough chairs for one guest per employee, fine – LW should of course ask if there’s space.

      As others have said, the purpose of the plus-one makes a difference. If the point is “bonding with employees and their life partners,” there’s no reason to be pissed that someone gets to bring both their partners (unless you’re offended by the existence of polyamory). If the point is just “let everyone bring along a guest for social lubrication” and it doesn’t matter who the guest is, then there’s more of an argument for saying everyone gets 1.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      Two partners isn’t unlimited invites though. It’s the employee plus two. Most people aren’t going to then turn around and bring even two people. I don’t think this is a slippery slope situation at all and if it becomes one, then it can be addressed appropriately (e.g., employer limiting to employees only or limiting to significant others only).

    3. Jiminy Cricket*

      Google tells me that polyamorous people make up 4 or 5 percent of the population. So, you’re talking about 4 or 5 additional people at a 200-person event, and that’s assuming everyone is out and in relationships. Rent some extra chairs.

      1. Quill*

        Also there are going to be a couple of people who either don’t come or come alone for whatever reason, so I’m not even sure there will need to be much reshuffling…

      2. Rachel*

        I think the slippery slope argument comes in with people bringing multiple plus one’s.

        For example, if they say “plus one” and a poly person wants to bring both partners and that is approved, somebody else might say they have two roommates and want to bring both roommates.

  14. Anon Today*

    The phrase “unrecognized partner” has given me a lot to mull over.

    In terms of work, I have never been out, and I would worry quite a lot about the judgements that might be made, and the opportunities that might quietly evaporate.

    1. AnonyMoose*

      “In terms of work, I have never been out, and I would worry quite a lot about the judgements that might be made, and the opportunities that might quietly evaporate.”

      Exactly. I won’t even try. All sorts of LGBT tags have been attributed to me by the (highly judgemental) work rumor mill, but never the truth. I still need that job for the next years.

      1. AnonforThis*

        Look at all of us, replying anonymously so we can keep our mysterious work reputations.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I wouldn’t come out as poly at a job unless I lived in San Francisco, honestly. (Disclaimer: had a poly relationship at one point, am flexible on this topic but nobody wants to date me any more anyway.) I live in a relatively hippie area and people were *so* upset when they heard I wasn’t dating monogamously, and that wasn’t even work.

  15. Prospect Gone Bad*

    I work at a very liberal company in a liberal area and don’t think that’s going to provide the shield you think it will. People will still ask loads of questions to the point of annoying you.

    Where do you sleep, which one did you meet first, who leads the group, how do you split up tasks and money, whose name is on the lease/mortgage, and on and on and on.

    I mean, I have a straight coworker who was single forever and he finally got a girlfriend and everyone was “gossiping” “OMG Mike has a girlfriend? Did you see her. She’s really nice.” Etc.
    Mentioning this because even if everyone is super liberal and friendly and lovely and accepting, you still may be seen as the main attraction. Do you want that

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. Something novel is going to stir the pot, regardless of how liberal your area thinks it is. Also, like with your manager, you can’t account for individuals in a liberal setting. It sucks, I wish it was different, but it’s something to go forward understanding.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not gonna lie, I would LOVE to sit down with my poly friends and pick their brains about how they handle the day-to-day logistics of managing a multi-adult household. But I also have a weird fascination with household logistics, and I’d ask the same kinds of questions of my couple friends as the three-plus folks. (But I definitely don’t WANT to know the sexy times details, from anybody, and I resist the urge to ask the mundane logistics questions too, because it’s still not my business.)

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I don’t know if you saw it at the time, but you should read (or re-read) the “can I put running my household on my resume?” from February 25, 2020. It’s a fascinating peek into that household’s logistics.

      2. Double A*

        I was talking to a coworker about a relatives’ poly relationship and at first the coworker was kind of shocked and asked a lot of questions and by the end of the conversation he was mostly sold on polyamory being a great idea (“Another adult in the house to help with the kids?? Hm….”).

      3. Lenora Rose*

        I know folks who run a multi-people household without poly (IE, several unrelated couples and singletons share a three-story space) and I sometimes desperately want to know how they fairly divvy up tasks and settle disputes.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have done that to an extent – this March became the first time in eleven years my husband and I have lived together with just the two of us in the house, we had housemates previously – and I think that’s part of what drives my interest :) But we never had more than 4 people involved in ours, I bet theirs is WAY more involved.

      4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        If a friend asked me something like that, phrased that way — “how do you three divide the chores?” or “how do you handle the day-to-day logistics?” I’d be willing to answer, though maybe not in detail, because the details of who’s doing the dishes tonight and why aren’t that interesting unless there’s a problem, even if they include something like “the Gollux’s doctor told her to keep her left hand dry for a couple of days” or “Partner1 is out of town, so I’m doing the dishes, not leaving them in the sink until she gets home.”

  16. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

    I had a bunch of thoughts about this.

    First, my husband works in politics, and we have a deal about how many events I have to show up to with him, because (a) they’re not my cup of tea; (b) we have two children (one of them a nursing infant!); (c) limited childcare options and it’s expensive and I want to save that expense for date nights; and (d) I already work full-time and am away from the children; I don’t want to be away from them more than I absolutely have to.

    So, really dig into which of these events either/both of your partners would *WANT* to attend.

    Second, for fully social events in which it’s not a sit-down, plated dinner (like maybe a fall fest or night at a baseball game), I think as long as you RSVP for all of you, it’s fine. As previous posters have mentioned, though — once you’re out as poly, you’re out, and you can’t put that genie back in the bottle. That’s something only you would be able to judge the importance of.

    Third, for smaller, more intimate, or more formal events, it’s really going to depend. At a wedding where each plate cost $XX, and the decision to allow or disallow plus-ones has probably already been fraught with issues and tensions, that might be an occasion where you need to defer to the host’s preferences.

    Ultimately what it comes down to is how much political capital are you willing to spend on this. If you have a lot, go for it. As Lilo mentioned up above, bringing more than one plus-one will be seen (rightly or wrongly) as taking more resources than your ‘fair share.’ Also, you’re now putting your sex life in front of people in a very concrete way, and a lot of people will be uncomfortable with that, so you need to be OK with them being uncomfortable, possibly treating you differently (not that they should or that it’s OK, but it’s a fact of humans that they will).

    FWIW, when I got married, we invited a friend and his wife, by name, on the invitation. He asked if he could instead bring his ‘traveling companion’ because they’d be on their way back from a trip at that time and it was easier to bring her than his wife. I am 99% ‘traveling companion’ is code for ‘open marriage and my other partner,’ and I cared not even at all, because it was still two people, and two seats, and my table of 8 still balanced.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Why is it “putting their sex life in front of people in a very concrete way” any more than if they brought one partner?

      I realise some people will *feel like it is* (I know that from my own experiences with poly relationships!) but you say it *is*, as if it’s a fact, a reasonable feeling for people to have?

  17. LinZella*

    Another factor to consider is cost. Some events are free, some are one price per one person, and others (and this is what rankles me), a single ticket might be, for example, $50, but for two/a couple it gets discounted to $90, not $100. Why are single people subsidizing their ticket? For the same event/experience?

    1. LinZella*

      So my point is the OP also has to factor in the cost to their family. Depending on the event, it could be exorbitant.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        This really isn’t a zero-sum situation, though, is it? After all, single people are paying more to go to an event than coupled people.

        The only way around this is to find another single person who wants to go and buy a “two-for” option. And that puts undue burden on single people.

            1. Eliot Waugh*

              Yup, and assumed they were talking about the vast majority of work events where the ORGANIZER takes ticket costs into account and gets discounts for multiples, not the attendees.

              Even at charged events, one would frankly have to be pretty petty person to get all het up because a couple paid $10 less for your tickets than you did.

              1. Anonon*

                Eh, if you work somewhere you need to pay for work social activities (whether because it is a government or other issue where it is not legal/possible for the employer to cover the cost, or thee company is just cheap) I can imagine getting pretty annoyed that your relationship status is effectively costing more.

                I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an event that allowed plus ones and also charged different amounts though, normally with a work event there would be some kinf of group booking that means the cost implications don’t really apply

                1. Despachito*

                  If this is a work amount you can pair up with another single person to get the discount.

              2. Lenora Rose*

                A couple did not. HALF a couple did. The couple as a whole is still spending almost twice as much, and if they’re a single income household, this effectively means your coworker is being punished for being in a relationship. Getting a small discount on twice as much is not “paying less”.

                1. Susannah*

                  Of course it is – you get a discount if you’re two people in a relationship, but two individuals attending singly are paying more.
                  OK, if it’s just $10, it does seem not worth fighting. But single people are tired of subsidizing couples and families – there’s “family day” at venues, wherein people in a family pay less pp than single people. And then there’s the health insurance imbalance – A family with 4 kids on a family plan is not paying 6 times as much as the single person does in premiums.
                  And if it’s a single-income household, so what? That’s their choice, and single people (who, for the record, pay school taxes so married couples’ kids can get an education) should not have to pay more for someone else’s household financing choices.
                  I’m married now, and I’m just as furious over the imbalance as I was when I was single.

                2. Roland*

                  > The couple as a whole is still spending almost twice as much, and if they’re a single income household, this effectively means your coworker is being punished for being in a relationship

                  This is such an odd way to think about it. A couple is two people. They are not one person. If two people pay $90 then each of them paid $45 which is less than $50. If a couple made the decision for one of them not to have an income, that is not them being “punished” for being in a relationship. And there’s no need to list why maybe it wasn’t a choice because of this and that health/childcare/other reasons because literally all of those apply to single people as well.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            People who work at the many, many types of organizations where the company itself does not / cannot pay for events, e.g. a government agency that wants to host a holiday party.

    2. NeedRain47*

      if your employer is charging you money to go to work events…. well first of all wtf. Second of all just don’t go.

      1. UKDancer*

        As established in Friday’s open thread a number of people in the public sector customarily pay for their own parties because of regulations around taxpayers not funding them. I know someone in the UK public sector who has these rules and judging from the thread it’s not uncommon. So in some sectors it’s normal and you can either pay for the event or not go.

        1. allathian*

          Thankfully I work for the government in Finland where the taxpayers are willing (I’ve never heard of anyone objecting) to pay for government employees to get similar perks to private sector employees, such as free coffee and holiday parties paid for by the employer. That said, this only applies to employees, not spouses. My agency hasn’t invited spouses or other plus ones to our holiday parties for years, if ever. Certainly not during the 16 years I’ve worked here. I’ve heard of other agencies organizing events where spouses can attend but have to pay, while the event is free for the employees.

    3. Ccbcc*

      not directly related but myy HS used to sell prom tickets as follows: $60 for an individual or $100 per couple. two sisters tried to buy a couples ticket since neither of them had dates, it would be cheaper, and they wanted to sit with each other anyways…. they were told two girls couldn’t buy a couples ticket (this was around maybe 2007?) and when their mom complained suddenly all tickets were the same price and only sold individually

    4. Antilles*

      Are we talking about work events or just events in general? For work events, the company should be paying for tickets in the first place…or at the very least, pay the $10 per person difference out of the department budget or whatever. And if you’re being charged different prices (or charged at all, tbh), that’s the biggest problem here.
      But in terms of general events, that’s usually just the pricing offered by the venue considering economies-of-scale. The cost of having two attendees instead of one usually isn’t much extra, so if you can get a second person to come by offering a bit of a discount, you’re still making more profit. Using LinZella’s numbers, let’s say the venue’s expenses might be $35 for one person and $50 for two (remember, there’s usually a bunch of fixed costs coming into play). So if offering that couples’ discount gets two people paying a total of $90, that results in more profit ($40) than the $15 you get from one person showing up paying $50.

    5. a clockwork lemon*

      It’s because as with most things that cost money, the small discount is to actually incentivize people to spend more than they would otherwise. I go to events without my husband all the time (both professionally and socially) and pay the single ticket rate, just like I wouldn’t get a compounding discount if I brought a third person to an event with a discount for two tickets.

      The cost is what it is for the same reason that you can’t get a “15% on purchases of X or more” or get a block-rate discounted hotel room outside the block, or get a happy hour drink special when it’s not happy hour.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, characterizing a bulk discount on event tickets as single people subsidizing couples seems like odd framing. It’s a bulk discount, and would presumably apply if you and a coworker, a friend, an aunt, or anyone else wanted to go together and buy multiple tickets in one purchase. I currently work for a sports team that sells group and season tickets at a lower rate in order to incentivize buying more. Group and season tickets are better for us than single tickets; the latter is not subsidizing the former, and likely the same thing is true in the above scenario.

  18. EngGirl*

    I have to say I hated the comparison with children! I think the intention behind the statement is good, but I think from a social/work aspect it’s very different. As in how many work events do you have that welcome children/families vs how many do you have that would involve a plus one? At my last place we had 1 family event a year where people could bring their kids. When I started it was employees, their significant others, and their kids. My last year there, people were bringing friends, siblings, their adult aged kids, and their kids kids, so it was kind of crazy and a free for all. On the other hand for other events it was always “you’re entitled to your seat, and you may bring a guest.” We always had a few people who would ask the single people in the group if they could use their plus ones (for all I know they were poly) and there was never any issue. We also had people just bring a friend or a sibling.

    I think it’s one of those more complicated than it seems questions/issues for sure. For me, the emotional/liberal side of me 100% says “well if you’ve been in a relationship with Jamie and Jo for 6 years at a minimum, then yeah, you should be allowed to bring them both since it’s certainly a more meaningful relationship than Kyle’s tinder date from last weekend” but the type A planner side of me says “well if I invite you and say to bring a plus one, I meant bring one person.” I don’t know, maybe it depends on the tone of the evening? Like a game night/trivia night is very different from a formal dinner? Maybe it’s an introduce the concept in a more casual setting first?

    I feel like this was a very long comment for me to basically say “beats me” lol

    1. lucanus cervus*

      I think it massively depends on why you’re inviting people to bring guests, actually – and that’s something we often don’t really consider! Is it ‘this is a major celebration and we want you to be able to share it with your most important people’? Or ‘we want to know our employees as humans and therefore we want to meet your most important people’? Or is it ‘we don’t want anyone to be stuck on their own with no one to talk to’?

      If the latter, limiting it to plus one makes some sense, and people should have the option of bringing a friend or family member instead of a partner (someone did this at our wedding – she was single at the time but she didn’t know any of the other guests, so she brought a friend for company and moral support). If either of the former, then I think people do need to be able to bring long-term partners even if there’s more than one.

      1. EngGirl*

        That’s totally fair and I like that perspective! As someone who is usually single I usually just decline the plus one to events, but if I were taking someone I definitely wouldn’t say “hey I’m bring my sister to keep me company, can I bring my other sister too?”

        Unprepared, I’ve noticed a lot of people on this are making a comparison to weddings which I also think is a not quite right comparison because if you’re being invited to someone’s wedding presumably they know you well enough to know you’re poly. Although I guess that’s maybe not quite right for family weddings because not everyone is comfortable being out to their family

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, this is where I fall on the issue too. “We want to make sure everyone has someone to talk to” = yeah, everyone gets a plus one and polyamorous people don’t need to bring all of their partners.

        “We want to know our employees as people and meet their romantic partners/the members of their family” = all of a given employee’s romantic partners should be invited, just as all of a given employee’s children should be invited (if it’s an event that children are invited to). It would go against the purpose of “meeting all members of an employee’s family” to say “actually, you can only bring two of your children. We don’t want to meet all of your kids, you really should have stopped at two anyways like normal people.”

        1. BubbleTea*

          “You should really have stopped at two anyway” has been UK government policy since 2017, but only for low income families. Former prime ministers can have as many children as they can count (and then maybe one more).

      3. Olive*

        While other people may feel differently, I really don’t want my work to feel like they should be meeting all my “most important people”. For a company party, I think that the company wanting to ensure that everyone can bring one emotional support person plus giving the company planner the ability to easily estimate the event size (everyone can have a +1, and typically only 80% of employees attend and 30% of those come by themselves, we’ll plan accordingly) is an appropriate corporate choice.

        1. KWu*

          I agree with this–seems odd to expect one’s workplace to validate my personal life, so I go with the thought that the purpose of employee’s bringing guests is to make sure they have at least one person they enjoy socializing with.

      4. M2*

        When I graduated from graduate school they limited tickets to 5 for the actual ceremony. There were parts of the few days where you could have more people. I know people who had three kids and then could invite their partner and one parent. Therefore they asked others who didn’t use all their tickets if they could have one or two. It’s about space constraints but certain people always complained why they couldn’t get 10 tickets…

  19. Duckles*

    How I wish the tradition of inviting partners would die… I’ve gone to work dinner parties where it’s 16 couples and me and it’s absolutely miserable.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. I have found that the younger staff just automatically bring a roommate or a friend or another +1 if we say “partners welcome” and no one bats an eye at it. YMMV but I’d definitely encourage individuals to ask forgiveness over permission in those cases and employers to be less rigid with who can come.

      Though still in LW’s case I think the “outing” is the biggest concern.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      My work never lets partners be invited (also everything we do is during the workday) and whew to that.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        We never have partners at our work-dos either. No, that’s not 100% accurate. We once had a meal out to celebrate a colleague going on maternity leave’s upcoming new baby and her husband and toddler came along as it was the birth of their child/sibling we were celebrating, but that was an exception.

        And I definitely prefer it that way. It would be pretty boring for partners anyway as the only person they would know well would be their partner and they probably wouldn’t even get a lot of the jokes and references and gossip points.

        1. Quill*

          My mom used to bring me to her school’s unofficial functions, but I did volunteer work there occasionally, so I already knew people. (And I was patient enough to hang with the much younger kids of some of the other teachers.)

    3. Irish Teacher*

      You’ve reminded me of my college reunion, though for a somewhat different reasons. Technically, we were allowed to bring a plus-one, but virtually nobody did and at the table I was at, there was one guy accompanying his wife. Now, my college was primarily a teaching college, so there was a group of us comparing the schools we worked in and one guy who was in a completely different role (for some reason, I have it in my head that he was a mechanic, but I may or may not be remembering correctly), sitting there listening to a mixture of school talk and reminiscences of our college days.

    4. Zee*

      I also am not a fan. Everyone ends up talking primarily to their date, because a) naturally they like their partner better than their coworkers, and b) their partner doesn’t know anyone else so if you socialize with the other people present, they’ll be left twiddling their thumbs alone in the corner.

      We haven’t had any +1 events since I started my job, but I also am the only person on the team who is single and if we did have a dinner with partners I probably wouldn’t go.

    5. MF*

      Yeah, I’m onboard with this. How many people really *want* to go to their partner’s work event anyway? And when you’re the employee bringing your partner, you have to look out for them throughout the event, introduce them to your coworkers, etc. It’s boring & painful for everyone!

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely! I’m so glad that these aren’t a thing at my organization, either. And the only event that could even tangentially be described as a work event that I’ve attended as my husband’s plus one was the one time about 10 or so years ago when we attended the Queen’s birthday celebrations at our local British embassy. He was invited because he’d worked with the British Met Office on a fairly high-profile project. None of his coworkers were there, though!

  20. Ihmmy*

    am polyam, I’ve brought multiple partners to a work event before.
    I also work for a fairly liberal employer, and checked in with some colleagues on if they felt it might be a mis-step. This was an event where whole families were invited (bbq type shindig) so folks were there with multiple kids, having multiple partners there didn’t seem like such a misstep. Plus we got some cute pictures together! But it was definitely a check with the work culture type vibe. I was already out as polyam at work too, it’s something I’ve been pretty open about.

  21. ErikSamAndMe*

    To the LW: if you do decide to be out at work, seriously, *thank you.* You are doing for us what a lot of us don’t feel we can safely do for ourselves. We are so incredibly marginalized (see the recent Vanity Fair piece about this) but since we have no legal protections, we don’t feel we can advocate for ourselves… which then leads mono folks to think, poly rights, who cares, no one I know is poly.

    I take Dr. Powell’s point, but I’m uncomfortable with the assertion that it’s “generally frowned upon” to be closeted poly these days. Most poly people I know IRL are closeted to one degree or another. (The online community is disproportionately people who’ve made openness and activism their whole thing across the board.) The poly people I know IRL are college professors, software engineers, federal employees or contractors, etc., and their jobs are generally supporting families in one way or another. They can’t afford to be legally discriminated against at work and lose their means of supporting children/partners/parents. And being out socially is bound to get back to the office in a social media age.

    I’ve been with my husband “Erik” for well over a decade and my other partner “Sam” for about half that time (a lot like the LW actually). Sam’s family knows about us — I’ve met them! — and the poly folks in our community do too. But more out than that would get back PDQ to Erik’s and Sam’s workplaces, and that would get very sticky very quickly. So yes, we’re socially closeted in almost every way. This is what we do to survive. If the poly community wants to frown upon that, they first have to tell me how the three of us are going to pay our bills if we come out and lose everything.

    I applaud folks who come out. I am indebted to them, actually. But secrecy means survival for many of us (especially us middle-aged people with kids and mortgages and ailing parents). It’s not shame on us for being secretive; it’s shame on society for giving us a reason to be.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Well put. When it’s safe (including emotionally/socially) for me to be out, I am. Sometimes I have decided that it’s worth the possible cost, but that doesn’t mean there’s never a cost.

      I do this partly because in some ways, it hasn’t been as risky for me as it would be for you or a lot of other people, in part because we don’t have children. I was careful about what I said in public/online for several years, because one of my partners was worried about the information getting back to the wrong government agency. [And I’m being vague here on purpose.]

      1. ErikSamAndMe*

        Having children, as I do, really does change everything. Not least because I live in a state where it’s technically illegal every time I am intimate with Sam.

        Quite aside from this issue, I love The 13 Clocks!!

    2. Tommy Girl*

      I think people are just worried about their own relationships, that’s why there is such animosity. If poly-type relationships become vastly more common, then mono-relationship people might worry that their husband will want/expect to have another woman in the relationship (for example). A lot of people are heavily invested emotionally in being in one-to-one relationships. I’m a jealous type, so I get this! Yes, people should have the freedom to be in whatever kind of (adult-consenting) relationships they want to, but changing societal norms affect everyone.

      1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        Anyone who thinks their partner would want to be polyamorous if it was less stigmatised and is only monogamous out of social convention should have a conversation about that, immediately!

        I know you’re not quite endorsing this view, but it is so, so wildly unreasonable to be annoyed at other people’s choices on the basis that you aren’t secure in your own.

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I read it as them saying it is frowned upon to force a partner to remain a secret, or to pressure people to remain closeted. Not that it’s frowned upon to remain closeted/private as an intentional choice for your own safety.

  22. Why won't boomers retired*

    1. I think that mandating everyone gets ONE partner means they get ONE person they can talk to. Mandating multiple partners is a luxury.
    2. At many events, fees for children are much cheaper.

    I think fair to say invite includes 1 adult and say 3 kids. How many people does employer have to invite?

    1. Mmm.*

      I do think the dynamics are different with the kids and it’s not the best comparison. An adult partner won’t need a babysitter,
      which is a major reason people don’t attend–no sitter. Children are often cheaper and don’t invite raised eyebrows as much. There are protected class issues, too.

    2. A (Former) Library Person*

      I understand what you’re saying in your first point, but this gets a little more complicated when you dig down into the implications. Historically (see Alison’s point in a reply above), the plus-one originates from an assumption that that “one” will be a spouse/partner; even if there’s been some relaxation of that particular assumption in some contexts (the “one” becomes a partner or conversation buddy), a lot of events still have that vibe (i.e., people bringing their spouses/partners). In the latter case, the “one” being a spouse/partner can be overt or unspoken (but definitely understood), so when the limit is one and someone has two people who occupy that position in their life, it forces that person into the position the LW and Dr. Powell describe above.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, and there are implications on the kids side too, with the suggestion to include “1 adult and say 3 kids.” Sure, most families have between 0 and 3 kids, but what about families that have 4, 5, or more? Setting a limit (on kids or romantic partners) establishes a norm and says that people with too many kids, or too many romantic partners, are not accepted.

      2. Susannah*

        Oh, I used to bring a good friend to events as my “plus one.” It’s not always Noah’s Ark.

  23. Mmm.*

    I think it’s important to evaluate why you’re not explicitly out at work. This is not something that can stay hidden forever unless you choose to hide one partner or pretend to be single forever. I do think it’s important to be out before bringing both of them to a party, as your partners may feel really awkward if it’s a surprise. You don’t need to make a big announcement or a central part of your personality or anything. But bringing in a photo and making sure one or two of the more talkative people know could better set you up for success.

    If you’re not explicitly out because you don’t think it would be received well, you need to figure out what’s best for you and your partners. As mentioned, this isn’t a protected class, and we live in a nation of at will states.

  24. Michelle Smith*

    I’m not poly, but I just want to say how much I appreciate that you went out and sought advice from an expert on this topic in the same way that you do for many LGBT questions. That kind of thoughtfulness is appreciated.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      And acknowledged where your own immediate thoughts were flawed. I think that’s incredibly helpful, especially for people struggling with their own gut reactions to various things.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Yes, 100%! I definitely learned something from today’s post and respected that aspect of her approach as well.

  25. Keymaster of Gozer*

    This is a difficult one because there’s how the world *should* be and how it actually *is* and the two often don’t come within range of each other. Ideally anyone with a non-monogamous, non-heterosexual etc relationship should be able to be open about it.

    But reality shows that it isn’t the case. Safety first – do you feel safe and comfortable being out about something? There are people who will react better than you thought, and there will be people who’ll react worse. If the people who react worst can in any way harm your employment or make the environment a hateful place to be then that’s a very hard thing to deal with.

    So…I don’t know. Honestly. There’s things that are key about me that nobody at work knows about because the resultant fallout could be horrendously negative from others. I don’t know it would 100% be bad but the risk is bad enough.

  26. All The Things*

    I work in higher ed and my first question to the OP would be this: are the other spouses or significant others actually going? There are many small “social” events in my field and significant others do attend occasionally, for various reasons (it makes sense logistically, they are attached at the hip, they also work in the same field) however that is definitely NOT the norm. Then the situation ends up with one or two outsiders (almost always women) who are uncomfortable as everyone else has a shared background and shared interests to discuss, and they typically just end up latching onto me as one of the few other women present…

    1. Sara without an H*

      This. My other concern (and I, too, worked in higher ed) is that the LW says she doesn’t socialize much with colleagues AND she has only been there for 10 months. The issue, itself, is outside my area of competence, BUT 30+ years in higher ed have convinced me that a lot of things become much easier if people generally like you and you have allies within your department and elsewhere on campus. The LW may be able to make a better call on this if she invests some time in getting to know her colleagues, especially the ones who’ve been on campus for a while and can alert her to the presence of booby traps and minefields.

  27. Meowww*

    Relating poly-partners to people bringing multiple children to family-friendly events is absolutely the worst analogy I have heard. Sorry.

    Frankly, for events where the plus one is plus ONE, pick ONE. If it’s a larger, family & friends or otherwise informal event it may be reasonable to ask if additional invites can be extended other other adults. I’d find this to be an interesting lapse in judgement though if someone approached me asking to bring two plus-ones to an event where everyone else only gets one.

    Decide if you want your coworkers to know this about you. As others have mentioned, once you’re “out” at work, you’re “out” and can’t take it back, and there’s definitely a risk that people may be a jerk to you. I understand your frustration especially since these are both longer-term/serious relationships for you.

    But poly people have not and will not be oppressed as lgbt folks have been and it’s ignorant to act as though “mononormativity” is anywhere near as negatively impactful as heteronormativity. People thinking you’re hypersexual or annoying for being poly is certainly unfortunate, but being killed or mutilated for being gay is entirely different. Don’t act like it’s nearly the same thing.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I don’t think it’s the worst analogy when discussing the specific issue of “employee + significant other” invitations. If the intention of the event is to get to know your colleagues’ significant others, then it’s a reasonable question to have, or at least seek advice on. Even if the LW doesn’t bring up the discussion in their workplace, it’s a worthwhile discussion to have on this site: it can widen peoples’ perspectives and at least bring up different points of view.

      Your last paragraph is unkind and undermines your other points; I haven’t read anyone here trying to make this argument. Just because some harm is more traumatic than others doesn’t mean it’s not worth it to try and reduce all harm where we can.

    2. Eliot Waugh*

      No one here has made that argument, but also, people have had their children taken from them, have been disowned, have been beaten, and have suffered corrective assault for being poly.

    3. Someone Online*

      I suspect (without hard evidence, admittedly) that poly people are lumped into the LGBT community by bigots. Because again, people are obsessed with genitals and sex and they will immediately jump to all sorts of conclusions and then get mad about it.

    4. justcommentary*

      As someone who’s not polyamorous but is queer and trans, I think it’s very myopic to think that polyam people have no parallels to our communities and oppression, especially given the notable overlap. Also given that most of mainstream society and politics aren’t set up for polyamorous people (polygamy being literally not legal for one thing), I think it’s also absurd to imply that they’re not marginalized.

      1. Lyra Belacqua*

        Thank you. I have really mixed feelings on this. I do see some poly people claim queerness/take up too much space in queer spaces when it feels unwarranted and unearned (particularly cis men and people in straight-passing relationships.) That said, as a cis queer poly person, I am much more open about being queer than I am about being poly. Few in my progressive city are going to raise their eyebrows if I talk about having a partner who is also a woman, or will think this means talking “too much” about my sex life. Which is amazing! This was definitely not the case when I was growing up. I still make calculations most days about whether to say something that discloses my sexuality to someone (I read as pretty visibly queer if you’re queer, but straight people can be pretty blinded by their assumptions!) But I almost always do. I am much more selective about revealing my polyamory. I do feel more at risk from violence due to my queerness (and due to my gender) than due to my polyamory. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real parallels between these experiences.

        I think it’s also very important to consider the historical overlap between queer and trans liberation movements and movements for sexual freedom, as well as the concept of the chosen family that connects our communities. Mononormativity and heteronormativity/compulsory heterosexuality are very closely linked, and I personally don’t think we can challenge one without also challenging the other.

        1. justcommentary*

          Yes, I think due to how mainstream, more assimilationist-oriented activism has portrayed LGBTQ+ rights, the politics of the family, the private household, and sexual freedom have fallen by the wayside. I understand how fellow LBGTQ+ people bristle at the idea of otherwise privileged cishet people being lumped in with us, and even that many members don’t think beyond being allowed into the dream of a monogamous marriage and having middle class careers. But given how many members also need or desire alternative familial structures, how harshly judged LGBTQ+ people are as unrepentant “sexual deviants,” I think we really should be in solidarity with polyamorous communities. (And quite frankly, just promoting the idea that people’s private relationships and households can look all kinds of ways without being inferior, dangerous, or undignified.)

      2. Quill*

        This. We don’t have to be the same social group, but we’re fighting the same fight and need to be able to remember that. (And that’s not even going into the fact that there can be significant overlap between queer labels already, so obviously there are going to be queer poly people too…)

    5. Queer Earthling*

      Hi, I’m queer and in a polycule, and I think it’s an apt comparison.

      1. You don’t know that both (or any) poly relationships are “straight” in this case, so that’s something to navigate. If someone has a boyfriend and a girlfriend, not only are they outing themselves as poly, but also inherently as not-heterosexual in one direction or another.

      2. It does go against the heteropatriarchal assumptions of what life is supposed to look like. To me that is perhaps not inherently queer, but potentially queer-adjacent, particularly if you look at queerness as a socio-political movement in addition to purely a question of personal identity.

      3. As a queer person, ranking whether or not our identities or concerns are valid based entirely on what violence we might receive is…problematic, and leads to a lot of in-fighting and invalidation. It’s one of the reasons we’re so splintered and becoming easy targets for bigots.

      4. Similarly, my queer identity is about a lot more than just how much violence I face and how oppressed I am. To reduce queerness down to the potential for violence is kind of insulting. Maybe don’t do that? Maybe consider why that’s your primary dipstick for comparison?

      5. Being out as queer at work, depending on where you live, may not earn physical violence, but it can produce some weird assumptions by your coworkers and bosses, and could cost you some social capital; the same can be said of polyamory. And there are people in the comments using the same arguments that people used to use about being out as gay: “Don’t tell people, they don’t need to know about your sex life.” That is an IDENTICAL argument, hence the comparisons.

      6. That is all, of course, leaving aside the resources linked above about issues that do face polyam people in court etc. Discrimination is real; you just don’t hear as much about it because you probably don’t care lol

      1. ErikSamAndMe*

        Re #2:

        ” …all of our lives we have experienced ourselves as queer, as not belonging, as the essence of queer . . . queer not as being about who you’re having sex with – that can be a dimension of it – but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live. And I think that is where we are going towards in trying to find [sexual freedom].” –bell hooks

    6. Poly OP*

      Hi, I’m trans and queer as well as poly, and neither of my relationships are straight-passing. I asked about the poly issue because I have much more experience navigating heteronormativity and cisnormativity in the workplace than this sort of social event. Reading the comments to see how various people react to this specifically is useful.

  28. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    I would suggest OP check to see if there are any Queer support groups for faculty/ staff. There might be someone who they could discreetly talk to to get a feel of how coming out might go over.

    1. ErikSamAndMe*

      I have never found that a queer employee resource group gives two craps about advocating for poly people. I mean, I’m not trying to pick a fight, but meowww’s comment right above yours is the usual response I get from the mono queer community.

  29. BluRae*

    I mean, I wouldn’t really want my coworker to bring their 5 children to a work event either because children don’t belong at 99% of work events.

    1. NeedRain47*

      this is almost certainly referring to things like “here are tickets to local amusement park/six flags equivalent” or “labor day picnic in the park” or those kinds of things where people are encouraged to bring family.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I think the events they’re talking about are kid-friendly, such as a Summer Fun Day at the park with a cookout and games.

      1. Poly OP*

        Yeah, that’s correct – for formal work events I have a much clearer understanding of what to do (attend solo and leave as early as possible!)
        It’s the in-between, “we want you to socialize with each other and we want to get to know you outside of your worksona” events that aren’t as well-defined that make me nervous enough to seek out advice.

  30. Commenter*

    For the record, my work actually does limit the number of children per employee who can get tickets to family-oriented events. Each employee can have up to two children with them who are under 18 and who are their own children.

    1. NeedRain47*

      “Who are their own children” seems overly exclusionary. what if they have foster children? What if they have permanent guardianship of their grandchildren or other relative? Do adoptees need to show paperwork?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I would assume it means “two children that are formally attached to your family in some official manner” as in not your child and their friend from school, not literally only your two biological children.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I’d read “your own children” as meaning “children that are part of your family and not random ones that you picked up at the library and have never met before”. I doubt anyone would be checking for birth certificates. I’d imagine they just wanted to avoid people bringing complete strangers.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Don’t borrow children from the library. They invariably get dirty and you get a hefty fine from the librarian.

          2. doreen*

            Probably not just complete strangers – there’s a difference between the nephew/grandchild who lives with you and the one who doesn’t and they probably don’t want a bunch of people bringing those “not in the household” relatives which absolutely would have happened at my last job.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        I admire your desire to be completely inclusive and account for every single possibility. And I will offer to you that the number of “adopted kids are real kids and adopted parents are real parents” discussions seems to argue in favor of lumping the situations you mention into the “your own children” category.

        I read that and immediately took it to mean “you’re not bringing your niece/nephew/kid’s bestie to show them a fun time” not “adoption papers, bitte.”

    2. Dahlia*

      Oh that would suuuuck. I would not be bringing any of my hypothetical kids because that’s just asking for fighting.

    3. Desert Anon*

      My government employer does the same thing. We just had two separate events where it was explicitly stated that you could bring “up to four guests,” which left out several coworkers with more children than that (which is actually quite a few given the culture of where I work). However, I guess that phrasing would be beneficial to poly colleagues! But it’s a conservative environment overall, unfortunately. In the past, for Christmas events for example, they have stated explicitly things like “each employee can bring one adult guest and two children under 18).

  31. lost academic*

    I am very sympathetic to this but the biggest red flag I see is that OP is in higher ed. In the discussion to have when making this decision to be out at work, one of the biggest questions that OP will need to have some certainty on is what is going to happen if there are negative repercussions at work – and my experience in higher ed suggests that the traditional management and HR systems you might fall back on (both before and after a problem) are weaker and much less effective in higher ed. Finding a way to take the temperature of that would be valuable.

    Others have said it but my other large concern is definitely the potential fallout from gossip getting back to impacting the social and professional lives of OP’s partners. Academic buildings would collapse without gossip to hold them up.

    1. ErikSamAndMe*

      I know multiple poly professors and they are all DEEP in the closet at work. And these are professors at universities in the Maine-to-DC corridor.

  32. There's Alway the Reverse to Consider*

    I would not hold any plus anybody work events. Some of us single people have no one to bring and it just makes us self-conscious. Somebody showing up with two mates would really make me feel badly when I can’t get one. Work doesn’t need to be the place where my singleness is rubbed in my face.

    1. Eliot Waugh*

      Other people aren’t in relationships AT you. It’s quite selfish to expect people to hide their relationships to make you feel more comfortable.

    2. Anonon*

      I’m a single person with no intentions of changing that and I absolutely disagree with you. The fact that you are sad about not having a partner does not oblige the rest of the world to eliminate the concept of the plus one just as the painfulness of infertility does not mean pregnancies and babies should remain totally hidden

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Does this only apply to relationships? And does it only apply to your personal unmet needs/desires? If I long for a car, should no colleagues be driving to work? If I am desperately heartbroken over my hair loss, should my colleagues with gorgeous hair be expected to wear hats? If I am unable to walk or stand, should no one be allowed to dance at office parties? If I can’t drink alcohol anymore for health reasons, should all my colleagues stick to orange juice?

      1. There's Alway the Reverse to Consider*

        Ridiculous slippery-slope response. There have been posts about being sensitive to those who were having trouble conceiving when you are pregnant. Others don’t want to attend baby showers when they can’t conceive. The partnered state is such a norm that single folks especially older ones are looked at as freaks and never considered. Single folks really are othered in the workplace, church, all our social institutions. I’ve been married and single so I know whereof I speak.

        Nobody is talking about eliminating anything. Just offered another perspective. There is no business need for plus anybody events. Nobody has to hide anything, I didn’t say partner photos on desks should be forbidden. Maybe when you break up or get divorced you’ll grow some empathy. Partnered people and those with families rarely have any for those without either. This commentariat can be so harsh, insensitive, and lacking in compassion.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Honestly, as a single by choice person, I am going to push back a little here. I have never felt “othered” in any part of my life and yeah, I know, the plural of anecdote is not data, but I think in the 21st century, it would be a very odd workplace where single people were looked on as freaks. I have never come across one.

          Yeah, there are some people who assume everybody wants a partner and will respond with stuff like “oh, I’m sure you’ll meet somebody,” but…I would think not inviting partners becaues it might upset the poor single people sort of buys into that idea rather than combating it.

          I am pleased that our social events don’t usually include partners because I think it would be awkward trying to include people who don’t work with us, only know one person and probably aren’t familiar with a lot of our references, etc. I think it would make our social events feel a bit like a formal event rather than a group of mates hanging out. But it certainly wouldn’t make me feel self-conscious about the fact I’ve made a different choice than some of my colleagues.

          And honestly, I think I’d feel a bit sorry for anybody who thought me a “freak” because I chose to remain single. It would make me wonder if they felt they needed a partner to meet some kind of social rule rather than that they’d chosen their partner because he or she made them happier than they would be on their own.

  33. Bit o' Brit*

    I don’t quite get how events having one plus-one translates to not being able to be “out” at work or one partner having to be considered less of a partner. Those are two different concepts, if you have at least two plus-one events you can still bring a different partner to each of them and introduce them as such even if you can’t than bring both to both.

    1. Dahlia*

      That was literally part of the question, whether to bring one partner all the time or alternate.

  34. Phony Genius*

    The LW said that this event was hosted at the manager’s house. I wonder if that makes a difference, because the manager is presumably paying the expenses, as opposed to an event that the school would be paying for.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      I actually wouldn’t assume that in academia. Heads of departments often host in their own homes, but on the university’s time.

  35. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “Being polyamorous isn’t a protected category”

    EXACTLY. Someone a few months back complained that he can’t put the other “partner” under his (or her) health insurance. Bigamy / polygamy are illegal and not recognized in the United States.

    1. metadata minion*

      Polyam people are generally not legally married to both/all partners, just like you can have couples who are committed to each other but not legally married. There is no law against having a committed relationship with multiple people. You can have some degree of legal recognition, even, you just have to do it piecemeal like same-sex couples had to do before they could get legally married.

    2. Queer Earthling*

      Gee whiz, good thing the law is there to make sure we know what’s morally, socially, and ethically acceptable, since laws are unfailingly just and never change as a result of social mores changing or anything.

    3. alex (they/them)*

      being trans isn’t considered a protected category in the US either. doesn’t make it morally good to discriminate against them.

      1. Llama Identity Thief*

        Not true! Bostock v Clayton encoded both sexual orientation and gender identity into Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

    4. Dahlia*

      …yeah, having your relationship be illegal does suck. It does suck to have less legal protections and not be able to have your partner on your health insurance.

      Why does that surprise you?

    5. ErikSamAndMe*

      For other poly people reading this, please check out the work of Diana Adams of the Chosen Family Law Center in this space. They campaigned for the Somerville domestic partnership law to a) not disallow people from having more than one d.p., b) not disallow people from having d.p.s and spouses, and c) include anyone no matter where they live. So you can register as a Somerville d.p. no matter where in the states you live, and Mx. Adams has said that some of their clients have been able to use this paperwork to get health insurance for a non-married partner!

  36. NumberBlocks*

    Thank you for tackling this question, Allison and Dr. Liz! Nuanced discussions in a public forum like this gets us poly folks one step closer towards acceptance and visibility.

  37. Llama Identity Thief*

    Polyam (closed-ish triad for about 8.5 years) and out at work checking in.

    The two questions to most consider are obviously “what is the culture of your specific office?” and “how will this impact your reputation?” With being in higher ed, this becomes even MORE about your specific department’s culture, and the individuals at play, than it is a broader organizational culture. The amount of freedom given to individuals with power in academia can let them get away with a lot more subtle stuff, but I say that both as a warning and a possible benefit. If your manager turns out to be chill about polyam, the structure of academia would allow him to better protect you from people Not Being Chill in other departments or in admin. You say he’s fairly old fashioned, and you’re still a bit new, so I’d try to ask people you’re closer with. Obviously polyam likely hasn’t come up in this department before, but if there’s known reactions towards other LGBT+ identities, especially trans identities (due to relative newness to the mainstream discourse), that’s a highly correlated (but non-guarantee) data point.

    The bigger thing I’m not seeing stated is that how much polyam (or any other sexual/romantic minority) can become your reputation, if you don’t already have another established reputation. But if you already are a well defined character in the narratives other people tell, it’ll be looked a lot more as another personality trait. Like, despite being out as pansexual, polyam, and gender weird, I’m still much more known in my office as “loudish stats guy in the Hawaiian shirt who keeps seeming to get things done and tries his hardest to help teammates communicate with each other better” than “pan polyam gendernerd.” But I’ve also seen cases where identities come out so early on, or especially when an identity comes out from someone more introverted/keen to put their head down, that it becomes very definitional. You’ve been there 10 months, that’s long enough where it’s possible you have that defined reputation, and that will do a lot to decrease the amount of focus others will put on you being polyam.

    Oh, and if you do decide to be out at work, be ready to field a million questions. It’s real, it’s SO real. A certain percentage of well-meaning monoam people will always look at Some Of The Ways Monoamory Works That Don’t Make Sense and immediately jump to asking this that and the other thing. I give monoam friends credit when they don’t IMMEDIATELY go to the “but what about jealousy” question because they almost always IMMEDIATELY go to the “but what about jealousy” question. I’m fine with this – I love talking, especially about myself (can’t you tell), I love trying to be a helpful explanatory resource, and I have some strong opinions about relationships in general – but you better be prepared for it.

    (Final note that I like to bring up – please shorten to polyam instead of poly! Although by context it’s clear what you mean, that “shortening of the name of a marginalized group” was already there for Polynesians, and although it doesn’t come up a ton as a cross confusion, the cost of “two extra keystrokes” is worth it.)

    1. ErikSamAndMe*

      So take this with a grain of salt, and forgive me if you yourself are Polynesian, but the “don’t say poly” thing tends to be a thing that white polyamorous people say to other white polyamorous people. When Polynesian people weigh in on the debate, such as it is, they are generally confused as to why people are making this into A Thing. Here’s a representative comment on a typical “don’t say poly” blog post (again, I am not linking because I don’t want be caught in the spam filter):

      Kaalokalawaia Lovett September 4, 2015 at 1:30 am

      I call BS. Polynesians identify by their specific ethnicity. Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan.. Although we may refer to ourselves as a group of Polynesians.. I have not once in my life heard me, my family, or any of my fellow Polynesians as “poly”. Not only that why in the hell would we be offended? Poly isn’t an accurate description of us.

      Add to this that a) lots of people in lots of jargon-y circles use “poly” for all sorts of things (opticians for polycarbonate lenses; law enforcement people for polygraphs; fashion designers for polyester); and b) even in the queer community, “poly” gets used for polysexual. The abbreviation “poly” is well and fully entangled in at least a dozen different meanings, all of which are highly contextual, but none of which really appear to be “Polynesian” (or, if some very small group of Polynesian people use it, they are in a minority among their groupmates).

      As @eevee said on Twitter, “this is a fascinating linguistic event right here. group A is in the middle of shifting the whole way it describes itself to accommodate group B, who for the most part don’t seem to be asking for it.”

      1. allathian*

        Thanks for that post, very interesting. Sometimes people in fairly or very privileged groups who consider themselves woke and want to think of themselves as allies go overboard in PC terminology.

      2. Llama Identity Thief*

        Huge thanks for this! You hit the nail on the head – I’m not white, I’m neon white.

      3. Treena*

        The thing is, Group B did ask for it. But by the time things actually changed, it was basically too late.

        It’s true that generally, Polynesian people don’t refer to themselves that way in conversation or among their family/in-person groups. The ‘poly’ term is/was used exclusively online to find community on the internet. Because the polyamorous community was also seeking community online, all of a sudden, online forums were inundated with ‘poly’ suddenly meaning polyamorous and not Polynesian. This was difficult when it came to tagging platforms, as they were mixed and it was much more work to wade through the polyamorous content to get to your own.

        So while it’s true that polyester is also abbreviated to poly, fabric and plastic are not online seeking community and getting frustrated because another group has appropriated their abbreviation. And the Polynesians saying this is unnecessary or silly are also likely not in the groups that sought community online, so are not part of the original group that made this ask.

        That said, because the frustrations were immediate and polyamorous people flooded the internet, I think attempts at finding Polynesian community online via the ‘poly’ tag have been done for years, and likely have no chance of coming back because there’s no winning.

        So yes, the use of polyam has become more of a marker of the speaker being inclusive/woke. Even then, it is only ever needed on the internet, never in speech, although I’ve definitely heard people speak it out of habit.

  38. Ann*

    As a gay WOC, I have to say all of the comments suggesting poly people are a marginalized class/should have the kinds of legal protections extended to discriminated groups makes me really uncomfortable.

    1. BluRae*

      Yeah. It feels similar to people in 24/7 Dom/Sub kink relationships trying to make the same claim.

    2. Llama Identity Thief*

      Okay, genuine good faith question as someone pushing for more protections for polyam people. Is the take here that polyam people aren’t marginalized, a la straight people talking about rainbow oppression, or that it’s a class it should be fine to marginalize against, a la noxious political opinions?

      1. Ann*

        Do you really think the “discrimination” you face is the same that my mom, a working WOC, over 45 has dealt with vis-a-vis ageism, sexism and racism? Being poly is a choice, and one I don’t particularly care about as it is your private business, but to maintain you require the kind of legal protections people deserve based on their skin color and thousands of years of discrimination is total bullshit, and it does a huge disservice to people who need those protections.

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          Two portions to the response.

          1) No, I don’t think it’s the same. Hell, I am very clear eyed in the fact that in my trifecta of “pansexual, polyamorous, and genderweird”, the polyam is the portion of that I get the least discrimination of. And because I get to carry a shitton of “white male-presenting privilege,” I know the totality of the discrimination I face is far less than yours, far less than your mother’s, and always will be, and even within that polyam is the lowest percentage of the discrimination I face.

          But that doesn’t change the fact that I face discrimination. That doesn’t change the fact that when other people are talking happily about their relationship dynamic, I need to make a calculation to see if I’m safe in talking about mine. That doesn’t change the fact that, as the most likely breadwinner in the family, I need to balance the citizenship of my boyfriend with the insurance needs of any of our children when deciding who to marry. That doesn’t change the fact that the most kind reaction I get to my identity is playing the million questions game. That doesn’t change the fact that I could be fired solely for being polyam.

          Calling it “a huge disservice to people who need those protections” is the exact same rhetoric I’ve seen over the past 10 years from “LGB without the T” types, where the extension of protections for one group is seen as a threat to the protections of other marginalized groups. The strength and the value of those protections is not based on how much those groups are discriminated against each other, but instead because there is ANY discrimination against those groups.

          I will never be able to fully empathize with the years upon years you, your mother, your whole family has had to face for a variety of reasons, and how much those reasons compound on each other. I will never experience the amount of pain society has lumped on you, will not need the protections from humanity’s hatred of the other as desperately as your ancestors needed. But yes, I do experience pain from society, and yes, there are protections I believe should be put in place. And no, establishing those protections does nothing to diminish the much larger fight still to go against racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and transphobia.

          2) Being polyam was not a choice for me. I got to a point where denying the fact that I had strong feelings for multiple people would be as much of a painful denial of my own reality as would denying the fact that I am attracted to more than just members of the opposite sex. I understand for a lot of other polyam people, they felt it as a choice for themselves, but it wasn’t for me. Take for that what you will.

        2. Rainy*

          Religion is also a choice, so by those standards we shouldn’t allow legal protections for religion.

            1. Rainy*

              I didn’t say I think religion shouldn’t be protected. I think it should, because religious freedom protections also protect my lack of religion. But if you decide that only things people can’t help should be protected, you’re going to basically clear the field for a lot of discrimination, harassment, bullying, and violence against people who are just trying to live.

              And who’s going to decide what’s a “choice” vs. what’s not? You? Me? Ted Cruz?

          1. ItsMoreComplicated*

            I choose whether to practice my religion. I do not choose whether others identify me as a member of that religion (technically an ethno religion, one with a core of physical giveaways for a high percentage of members). I don’t have to practice Judaism as a religion to experience anti-Semitism, nor to have the systemic disadvantages of ancestors forced to flee their homelands with nothing/unable to find jobs because they were “dirty kikes”, nor to have the systemic disadvantages of millions of my people murdered, nor to have the crazy neighbor put live poisonous snakes in my mailbox when I was in kindergarten, nor to be literally run over by older kids because I don’t matter, nor to have teachers deliberately lose my work, nor to have to walk past Holocaust denier posters on the doors of every classroom and dorm and dining hall for weeks my freshman year of college, nor be expected to be in spaces with gaudy trees and loud music for multiple months every year, nor be expected to want to take the last week of the year off, nor to have experienced all sorts of other religious discrimination my entire life.

            1. Rainy*

              For the record, I am not actually saying that I don’t think religion should be a protected class, I was attempting to point out that the person I was responding to was being ridiculous.

              And yeah, I have also experienced a lot of religious discrimination, so I know it exists.

        3. justcommentary*

          As a queer, trans person of color, I agree that they’re different but to deny that they’re marginalized is a mistake. I did think similarly as you once but upon hearing the ways in which people’s perception of polyamory affects their livelihoods, their familial relationships, their safety, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to say that they’re marginalized.

          To me, in the context of the USA, a lot of bigotry when it comes to sexuality and gender ends up tied to disruptions of what the ideal family and private households should look like. Women shouldn’t work outside of the home, marriage should only be between a man and a woman, only an M/F couple should raise children, trans people are corrupting our children, etc. It is hard for me to believe that polyamory wouldn’t be affected by this as well, even just as “splash damage” when grappling with the idea that people can have multiple, consensual, simultaneous, committed connections.

          I think while polyamory is a wide umbrella term that contains many privileged people who see it as a kind of hobby or lifestyle, there are also many people to who this is the difference between having a fulfilling, honest life and not. Many people have made similar arguments that while gay people shouldn’t be attacked, allowing them “the choice” of marriage is too far, or why should be they granted “the right” to work with children, etc. The lines between what we mark a “choice” and who we are “born as” is much muddier than I think we realize.

          1. Ann*

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. Being a woman, being a person of color, being old–these are things that people cannot hide, and not only do they affect the way people treat you at work, they affect if you get a job or interview at all.

            1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              Nobody disagrees with that. But that wasn’t your argument. Your argument was that they don’t deserve protection and you do.

              You now seem to be implying that they can hide their minority status and you can’t, which you think of as them already having protection that you don’t have.
              That’s different than saying they they aren’t discriminated against and don’t deserve protection (which you said above). If you have to hide who you are, that means you are being discriminated against for who you are.

              Again, please stop the Oppression Olympics. Minorities only help the majority when they try to hold each other down instead of lifting each other up.

              1. Ann*

                Ok so a straight white guy with a wife and girlfriend deserves the same protections as my mom? Is that what you are saying?

                1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  He deserves the same protections as your mother, who has always deserved, but not always received, the same protections as every. other. person.

                  The injustices done to your ancestors were horrible. Preventing injustices being done to other groups does not lessen that truth, or deprive your mother and you of any protections you’re finally being given. Nor does it prohibit you receiving any you feel you have yet to be afforded.

                  It merely means that the future of humanity might not be quite so horrible as our past. That compassion is a fruit which can be nurtured, and more fruit grown from its seeds, instead of a finite resource which can only be depleted.

                2. Irish Teacher*

                  My opinion (and admittedly, this is as a white asexual woman, who has a fair bit of privilege) is that nobody should be at risk of being fired for something that doesn’t have an impact on how they do their job.

                  And yeah, I think that guy should be protected from losing his job just as your mom should. I don’t think businesses being unable to discriminate against people for anything that doesn’t affect their ability to do their job implies that those people are all equally marginalised or that it harms people who are marginalised in any way.

                  And while I am not from the US, from what I’ve read here, I think protected class already covers people like white straight males, like a person being fired for being a white straight male would have a case for discrimination? And I definitely think people who are poly are more marginalised than them.

                  I know I am coming at this from a different culture, but I feel if somebody is being discriminated against at work for having blonde hair when the boss prefers dark hair or being small when the boss thinks tall people look more authoritative, that’s a problem. Is it comparative to systemic discrimination? No. But I don’t think that means the boss should be able to fire a person for those things or refuse to promote them because of it or otherwise treat them poorly either. I don’t think something has to meet the bar of systemic discrimination to be wrong and for there to be laws against it.

                3. MCMonkeyBean*

                  They both deserve to not be fired for their skin color or their relationships if that is your question. Yes.

            2. justcommentary*

              I don’t disagree that certain kinds of oppression you cannot hide, but I think viewing oppression as a matter of being unable to hide an attribute or choose to (openly) partake in it is a false dichotomy.

              Is a bisexual man not oppressed anymore if he “chooses” to only date women, speak about dating/marrying women, and never reveal that his attraction to other genders? He can still be happy and fulfilled in his love live, and daily life may be easier in material, concrete ways than if he made a different choice, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t experience homophobia or biphobia. This goes similarly for trans people who aren’t perceived as trans in their daily lives, whether they have transitioned or are closeted.

              To flip your assumption, it would mean some people of minority groups making certain choices and being open about them means they are also “choosing” marginalization and backlash (and that should be a reasonable expectation?), which I don’t think is true.

              Anyway, I’ll it there but I encourage you to really chew on what “choice” means for certain groups of people.

        4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          This is a really strange argument. Being married is a choice. Having children is a choice. Buying property is a choice. Laws are mostly about negotiating when 2 things come into conflict and how to resolve those conflicts. Divorce, child custody, adoption, 2nd marriage, 2 people claim the same land, etc.

          Saying we need laws to protect 1 group of people does not mean we do not need other laws to protect other people. You seem to think that there is a box with only 5 protections inside, so if we use 1 for poly people that’s 1 less for you. EVERYONE deserves protection. Everyone.

          You’re right to be angry, but be mad at the people in the majority who are oppressing you, not other people in a different minority. I mean, do you hear yourself saying some people don’t deserve protection? That’s a really disturbing thing to say.

          1. Ann*

            I do believe some people don’t deserve legal protections, and for the same reason, some people do.

                1. metadata minion*

                  That would make sense if this were a post about homophobia in the workplace and someone brought up poly identity, but this is a post *about discrimination in the workplace for people with multiple partners*. The fact that some other people face more oppression doesn’t mean poly people can’t be fired from jobs or have their children taken away from them due to the way their family is structured.

        5. Quill*

          The thing is that protections for one group usually have a curb cut effect in helping other groups. For example, legal language about not descriminating based on sex or gender (intended to help cis women) has been interpreted to also include sexual orientation and gender identity. Protections for disabled workers end up making things legally easier for people who have to miss work a lot because they’re a caretaker of someone who is ill, or for people with temporary disabilities or acute health crises. People may have different “needs” for protection based on their demographics but they also have different needs based on a thousand other factors, such as their local community, their income, and the industry they work in. So if we try to triage who is in most need of legal protections we end up with nobody having enough of them, and if we write the protections broadly, we end up covering everyone eventually.

          1. Avery*

            This. This so much. Extending protections to one group just makes life easier for other groups who need protection, not harder.
            For those trying to envision how the curb cutter effect applies here, specifically: I’m acearo and can see protections along the lines of “if you bring a different plus-one to different events, we won’t ask questions” helping me, a person who will never have such a partner but have friends and family that I might bring as plus-ones if it wasn’t treated as a to-do because of course everybody has one singular long-term romantic partner they bring to such things. People in queerplatonic relationships probably feel even more strongly about this than I do.
            If I end up living with roommates, which is awfully likely, I’d appreciate “hey I need the day off, roommate A got Covid and we made dinner together last night so I might have gotten it from them” and then “roommate B needs a babysitter so I need to take off early Friday” being treated as normal an not lead to questioning about who these people are and how close I really am to each one, just as a polyam person would if you swap “roommate” with “partner” in those examples.
            And just generally speaking, a world where we stop fussing so much about who’s dating who would be vastly appreciated by myself as well as others.

            1. Quill*

              I can also see how it would be a massive benefit to people’s childcare arrangements if we didn’t assume two monogomous parents at all times too. At present it’s risky to be out as poly if you have kids, but I imagine divorced people, single parents, and adoptive parents would benefit a lot from the flexibility of “and this person is also a committed caretaker of Child. The only time you need to know if they’re genetically related is in specific medical contexts.”

              Plus, society in the US is just not set up for people to either stay single and living alone, or in long term platonic cohabitation. We’d all save a lot of money if “I’ve committed to sharing living space with this person” were seen as a serious commitment in the eyes of employers, the government, etc, regardless of whether that relationship is sexual or romantic or familial or just somebody you got randomly assigned to share a room with in college who is now your best friend.

        6. Anon For Today and Everyday*

          I struggle with this too, but I’m also beginning to question whether it makes sense to think of polyamory as falling under the umbrella of family status and/or marital status. From one WOC to another, I’m not going to write too much here, but I’d suspect that you might have a lot to unpack if you regard non-nuclear family structures as being private business or choices that don’t expose people to discrimination.

    3. Bookartist*

      As a bisexual poly person, I 100% agree. The poly part of me is a choice; the bisexual part of me is not.

      1. BadCultureFit*

        Totally agree with this, and glad to see it raised.

        Being poly is a choice. Good on people who choose it, but it isn’t something that requires protection from the law.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          They said the same thing about being gay, once.

          Poly is a choice, for some people. For others, it is intrinsic. I am one of the second group. Please stop invalidating our existence, based on what is convenient for yourself.

          1. BadCultureFit*

            Yes, they did once say that, and “they” were wrong. But I do not believe being poly is intrinsic. Sorry/not sorry.

            1. ErikSamAndMe*

              Why on earth do you think you get to rule on whether other people’s gender/romantic/sexual identities are intrinsic?

            2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

              You don’t believe bring poly can ever be intrinsic?

              Do you believe being monogamous is every intrinsic? Lots of monogamous people say it is.

            3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Well, I guess you can proudly add yourself to the list of everyone else in history who has snidely and sanctimoniously proclaimed they were right because of what they believed, even when told explicitly their beliefs were wrong.

              But thank you for demonstrating WHY we aren’t safe to come out. Again. Because that’s just what I fucking needed more reminders of in my life.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        It is very unreasonable to try to define other people’s experiences based on your own. You should believe the people who say that them being poly is not a choice just as much as you would expect people to believe you when you say that being bisexual is not a choice.

    4. Despachito*

      I think our freedom and safety are communicating vases. If people were able to get rid of all prejudices (I am skeptical they ever will, this is just wishful thinking), it would benefit everybody – you as a gay WOC, polyamorous people, ace aro people, old people, fat people, even the mainstream people… it will not take anything from you, on the contrary.

    5. QueerAnon*

      I am trans, disabled, and queer. My family is made up of me and my two partners who all live together. My queerness isn’t separate from the fact that I’m not monogamous. Sure, I could choose to have only one relationship. I could also choose to pretend to be cis and only have relationships that are perceived as straight. I do know monogamous queer people and straight polyamorous people, but for the majority of queer people I know the rejection of the heteronormative monogamous family structure means embracing relationships that work for the people involved. This leads to a beautiful variety of family structures with a variety of types of partnership, commitments, genders, and sexualities. For those of us who work in more conservative fields, navigating which parts of our identities are safe to share is complicated. I generally feel much more comfortable mentioning that I have a girlfriend than that I have multiple commited romantic partners, and I don’t particularly feel like I have less of a shared struggle with a straight cis person with multiple partners than I do with a cis gay monogamous person who’s married with two kids.
      I think everyone deserves protection from discrimination, even if you think my family is a choice that I could just make differently. I love both my partners so much, and I would rather lose my job than be without either of them.

  39. Head sheep counter*

    As a person working in a non-profit, government adjacent company for the majority of my career I find the variety of employee events super fascinating. 99% of the work events I have been to are employee only when sponsored by the employer. So no issue with any plus anything. Specific to this question – I would think that the LW is still quite early in their tenure at this employer. The questions about how you want to be known as/for are really good to think about. If this isn’t something that’s already come out about you at work – is an event really where you want to have your debut? Good luck!

  40. I Speak for the Trees*

    Another poly person here! First off, Alison, I respect and appreciate your advice on this. There is, indeed, a delicate balance here between workplace issues and relationship issues. I have two partners, too: one (my legal husband), I’ve been with for nearly 25 years, and the other has been part of our family for 12. In that time, I’ve had four jobs, and I’ve been out at all of them, as have my partners. Only once have I experienced any disapproval or backlash.*** They never have.

    In general, we have always ask/plan to bring both partners to work events, but sometimes schedules conflict. And, in one case, where it was a limited number of people allowed, a coworker volunteered their plus one. Interestingly, our biggest issue has been that one partner (legal hubby) is vastly more social than the other. However, everyone wants to be recognized, so that required some discussions and finesse.

    As far as being out at work, I’ve just tried to be very matter-of-fact about the whole thing, and other than the one manager, nobody seems to really bat an eye. This is partially because we are fairly boring humans, but even if we were not, I’d never talk about the “spicy bits” at work. People know about my partners because I mention things like, “I need to take off two days because my partner X is graduating from Harvard” or “We spent the weekend painting the living room and arguing about it. X wanted yellow and Y wanted grey, etc.”

    Full disclosure, the one manager who was disapproving had loads of other bad-managerial issues. While she never openly said anything to me, she consistently spoke about it behind my back, calling it “weird” and “unnatural.” She also found excuses to criticize my work, though clients, coworkers, and the Board of Directors, found my performance “stellar.” This manager was also an unhappily single fundamentalist Christian in a pretty liberal town, so that might have had something to do with it. Still, I got to bring both partners to events.

  41. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I work for a *very* liberal company and the only poly person I know about keeps it very discreet; I suspect those have known him for a long time already all know and nobody cares enough to bring it up or mention it publicly. There’s a lot more interesting things to gossip about.

    As for the whole +1 thing, I love it when there’s an event and it’s just staff. My husband is so shy that the evening is torture for him and he wants to be glommed to my side all night when I wanna chat in a more relaxed setting with the 50 ppl I know. Being his emotional support all night is no fun for me.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. I’m not shy but I’d still not enjoy being the +1 at one of my husband’s work events where he’s the only person I know.

      At my current job it’s not an issue because they never have +1 events, but I find the idea of trying to keep my husband entertained instead of being able to socialize with my coworkers rather uninspiring. I’m also not particularly interested in meeting the partners/spouses/etc. of my coworkers because I engage with them primarily on a friendly but professional level. Sure, we talk about non-work things sometimes, and in general I know which of my coworkers have kids, pets, etc. but that doesn’t mean that I’d necessarily want to meet their nearest and dearest.

      This also applies in social situations, I’ve attended a few weddings as my husband’s +1 where I didn’t know anyone except him and my in-laws. I enjoy talking to people but find it rather pointless to engage in small talk with people I may never see again, like when we went to my husband’s second cousin’s wedding, where the bride (the second cousin) was also my MIL’s goddaughter. I’ve met the bride once since the wedding, as well as some of the other guests who are related to that side of the family. But I put on a brave face and tried to enjoy myself for my husband’s sake. In the end I’m glad I went because I enjoyed myself a lot more than I expected.

  42. Susannah*

    This is excellent advice – and I agree that the most important thing is to protect the relationships, making sure no one is hurt by whatever happens. And that means a cold, hard look at how it would be perceived at work, if LW came out. That’s not to say LW is doing anything wrong – and it’s no one’s business anyway. But reality is reality.
    My concern about asking to bring two people is that it opens up a whole host of other complaints from colleagues who might want to bring more than one person.
    The better idea, I think, is to *not* base the guest list on the relationships themselves (always hated the “no ring, no bring” rule for weddings, especially for those in very l-t relationships that were never going to result in marriage).
    Most parties now have a “plus-one” rule that doesn’t distinguish what the relationships are – spouse, lover, friend, whatever. And yes, that means LW would have to alternate between partners. But even when I was dating and not committed to any one person, I’d only be allowed to bring one of them to a company event.

  43. JustMe*

    This came up at my husband’s old work–one of his colleagues was poly but only one of her partners could attend the work holiday party. Whenever someone said, “So, is this your husband?” she would just politely say, “Oh no, my husband Fergus couldn’t make it, but please meet my boyfriend Todd.” No one had an issue with it, although this was a very liberal company in a very liberal West Coast US city.

  44. KatKatKatKat*

    My vote is for alternating between partners for the time being. In the future, you could approach the host about bringing both partners, if you felt comfortable asking – but I think it’s important to ask ahead of time from an etiquette perspective (rather than showing up as a trio instead of a duo).

    1. Llama Identity Thief*

      Seconded hardcore, not just as an etiquette thing but also intersecting with people’s preconceptions of polyamory. That’s a great way to give yourself the extra bad polyam stereotype – “I just couldn’t choose and I’m an entitled asshole who deserves both because I Am The Best!”

      1. KatKatKatKat*

        Agree! When you get a plus one, bringing more than one person (whether because you’re bringing two friends, two spouses, or your partner and adult child) may be a faux pas. I wouldn’t want the LW to face social repercussions at work for bringing two guests.

      2. Marna Nightingale*

        Ok, but, and yes, this is from my own personal experience — by avoiding that stereotype you’re likely to run bang into another one.

        If you do the alternating thing, and one partner has been around longer or has gone to more events or is otherwise the one everyone thinks is THE partner, that partner may at some point have to deal with The Most Awkward Conversation, Phone Call, Or Email Ever from whichever of the partner’s coworkers has the worst boundaries and Just Thinks You Should Know What’s Going On.

        I recommend “oh, yes, Crowley! They’re LOVELY” as an immediate response/non-response, but it’s still gonna get awkward if your partner’s coworkers think your partner is bringing their bit on the side to work events.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I will note that in some ways this is the worst of both worlds — you don’t get to have both partners at one event, but (assuming you keep the alternating plan up for more than two events) you’ve still outed yourself as having multiple partners to anyone paying attention over time. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad solution to the “I only have one plus-one” part of the problem, but if the competing desires here are “I want both my partners at this event” and “I don’t want to out myself at work,” alternating invites kind of gets you neither.

  45. Anon for this*

    There is no jurisdiction in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand where poly is a protected category. In an at-will USA state disclosure is betting that there isn’t a single person with authority or influence who will find something to object to. If they can fire you for the colour of your socks they can certainly fire you for being poly.

    I know Americans who lost custody of their children solely for being poly. I know Americans who had their children removed by CPS solely for the parents being poly. There is no USA jurisdiction where it is safe to disclose. As a poly person myself it seems madness to me to risk everything up to and including lynching so as to feel more fair in terms of who gets to go to work functions. I’d hesitate today even in other Western first-world countries; absolutely not in today’s America.

    1. ErikSamAndMe*

      I believe Somerville, Massachusetts is the one exception. Otherwise I 100% agree with you.

      1. Anon for this*

        Fascinating, I hadn’t known – odd when I’m friends with people in Somerville!

        Looking it up I see it only applies to those directly employed by the City of Somerville, and job applicants for those positions. It is a strong but very small shield.

        In Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s I was openly poly at work. I’m a white cis able-bodied male at the time in a senior role and involved only with women. I had a LOT of political capital at work and I spent it all on being out as poly. There were no career consequences for me there but I had little capital to spend on other things. FWIW I strictly alternated who I brought with me to work events where partners were invited, unless my partner’s schedule conflicted.

  46. music*

    “If someone was throwing an event that included an invite for their colleagues’ children, they wouldn’t cap how many kids someone can bring”

    That’s generally because kids (especially young ones) can’t be left home alone, childcare arrangements need to be made, etc. I don’t think you can really equate “well So and So isn’t being asked to leave 1 of their kids home!” with the OP’s question.

    “Is it a burden on the host if multiple people want to bring multiple partners and suddenly the gathering is bigger then initially envisioned”

    I mean, yes, that can very well be a burden. Food running out, not enough space at the venue (fire codes are a thing), cost per head, etc. That’s why event spaces ask for head counts and why events are sometimes specified as “plus one” or not (YMMV but the majority of work parties and events I’ve attended have not included a plus one for space/cost/logistics reasons).

    I get that the OP is in a conundrum but this feels like missing the forest for the trees, maybe.

    1. JustMe*

      So…yes, companies typically don’t cap the number of kids that an employee can bring and some of that may have to do with children not being able to be left home alone, but from my own experience, companies only encourage children/families to attend because they just *want* the children/families to attend. My OldJob actively encouraged children to come to the company holiday party and even had someone dress as Santa to give out toys, and one employee regularly brought her children AND her mother to the event. That was the philosophy of that particular company. Others (my dad’s old work while I was growing up, for example) had a strict +1 policy and explicitly said no children were allowed–so I always had to go stay at grandma’s. I don’t know if I’ve personally ever seen the cost/burden of childcare for employees play into this–I think it’s strictly a matter of a) budget, and b) how much they want to include/celebrate the employees’ families, if at all.

  47. Database Developer Dude*

    When one of my cousins got married, my aunt (her mother) imposed a rule on wedding guests, including relatives, that said essentially, “no ring, no bring”. So my sister had two kids with her at the time-boyfriend, later husband, and lived with him, but he wasn’t invited because they weren’t married. That caused serious drama in my family. I can only imagine what opening this can of worms will do to someone’s workplace. I do not envy the OP for having to deal with this, and I fervently hope for the best outcome possible with an absolute minimum of drama…preferably none.

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, one more reason why people who get married should have a wedding that’s only as big as they can afford to pay for themselves. That way, nobody except the couple get a say in the guest list. I hope that the drama was directed at the aunt rather than your cousin…

  48. Rachel*

    I think people have parties (especially weddings) that limit the number of kids or the ages. For example, I went to a wedding this spring that was kids 12+ and yes, this meant some families invitations included all the kids and some did not.

    Mostly, I think this is an area where you have to let go of the expectation that every single person will see a solution as fair. To the poly community, consistently being asked to pick among partners feels unfair and that is legitimate.

    To a host, consistently being asked to allocate more resources towards one employee over another feels unfair and that is also legitimate.

    Sometimes people have opinions that do not line up and nobody is wrong. The most equitable way to handle this is to allow each person a plus one to use at their discretion. But of course, many people will complain about it anyway.

    1. Anax*

      Yep. “Competing access needs” is the term I’ve seen used in the disabled community, and I think it applies equally here. Sometimes people have needs which conflict, and not everyone can be completely satisfied. It sucks, but it’s no one’s fault.

  49. Massive Dynamic*

    I remember back when I worked for a company that had AWESOME holiday parties, the subject came up once when someone asked if their mom could be their +1, another person asked if her good friend can be the +1, and someone higher up thought it should just be romantic SOs. The VP said to all that this is to honor their employees and whoever it is in their employees’ lives that support them when they come home from a bad day at work and need to vent to someone. Who’s your venter? THAT is your person to bring. So in a poly world, that’s LW’s two people. I do hope they all can live as authentically as possible with the respectful support that they deserve.

  50. Overit*

    Background: I am retired and am extrovert. I excel at making connections and small talk. I have been to countless work social events at my own workplaces and my husband’s over the last 40 years.
    My take on work “social” events: I LOATHE these events. At my husband’s events, initially, I enjoyed them but over time as he became A Person of Renown… no one wanted to talk to me for me. I was a means to or an obstacle to pass to get to my husband. I hated being the plus 1 smiling like a manequin and nodding like a bobblehead.
    At my own events, initially I was young and naive enough to think they were fun social times, unaware of the minefields. I learned fast and hated the falsity of sociability masking the need to perform and pass the hidden test set by the boss. Also I cringe at the fallout I have seen when staff reveal some previously unknown part of themselves due to the lowered mask of (fake) sociability and alcohol. As the years passed, I would only attend if it was necessary.
    So I cannot imagine wanting to attend or wanting my partner(s) to attend. But I can imagine others might.
    The Point, Finally: I can guarantee that any perceived variance from the “norm” will have a negative impact somewhere somehow. Only the individual can decide if the value of having >1 partner at a work event is greater than the fallout.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s worth the high potential for disaster to have both your partners at your work events. Really, really not worth it.

      1. Despachito*

        This is my take, too.

        Although I think it is fair to recognize both your partners, workplace is not the place where to do it. It is not worth the fallout.

  51. Tiger Snake*

    I imagine that in the ideal world, the polyam community would like something like being able to invite all your partners for most events, and if there was a strict headcount that they could rotate which partners came each time without judgement?

    I still see an argument that this could lead to people inviting a whole slew of guests if they were in a larger polycule though – it’s still a work focused event, so it feels feels kind of like inviting a whole bunch of additional guests to a friend’s party. Even without a specific headcount, you’re still expecting a set number of people, and you’re there to interact with your coworkers casually, not have a date night.
    I understand that’s more the “one bad apple spoils the bunch” thoughtless/selfish behaviour you can get from any group of people you name. Presumably most polyam people would be conscious about making sure they’re not taking advantage of hospitality. But the issue is I don’t know what kind of boundary you could set to prevent the bad apple without punishing everyone else; in the end, you’d still be setting an arbitrary limit to the number of partners people could bring.

  52. There's Alway the Reverse to Consider*

    FWIW, I just don’t attend the plus-whatever events. So, no worries.

  53. Lionheart26*

    maybe I’ve just had the incredible fortune to work for stingy companies, but some of my previous employers would DEFINITELY cap the number of children invited! Not to the point where they couldn’t attend, but if you wanted to bring more than (eg) 3 family members, you’d have to pay a surcharge for the additional people.
    this does seem like a practical solution for situations like OP.

  54. Bob-White of the Glen*

    I don’t have anything to add or any advice for the LW. But I sure wish we lived in a world where people spent less time condemning harmless lifestyles and the people in them, and used more of that energy to solve real problems, or to find the truly evil people in our society.

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