Ask Aunt Poly is an advice column. While it is meant to offer genuine, helpful advice, Aunt Poly has no degree in this area, and is not a professional. She will offer her opinions and advice, as well as those of her staff. Please use your own best judgement when considering advice given here. Before submitting any letters to Aunt Poly, please make sure that you read the official disclaimer regarding this advice column.

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Dear Aunt Poly, 

When do you think the best time is to "break the news" about a poly relationship to family members?  Best method?  My parents live several states away and while I've hated lying to them, it's been relatively easy to keep the poly nature of my relationship with my boyfriend from them (they simply think he's divorced).  When I last saw them, there was a little talk of a possible visit when they drive through on their way to my father's high school reunion in September.  By that point, there is a very good chance that the 5 of us (me, my boyfriend, his wife, and their 2 kids) will be living under 1 roof.  I would hate to surprise them by waiting until they arrived, but not sure telling them on the phone is the best way either.  They were raised fairly conservative (Mormon and catholic upbringings) so while I want to tell them because not only do I hate deceiving them I want them share my happiness, I know that there's a big possibility they're not going to understand.  That of course is making the thought of telling them everything more than a little scary.

Scared to spill the beans in OH  

Dear Scared,

  Even as adults, wanting the approval of our parents for our life choices is a part of who we are. We may be reluctant to admit this fact, but it is there all the same. Aunt Poly has these thoughts …  

  1. There really is no “best” time, nor “best” method. You are the one who knows your parents, so ask yourself the following questions. If you tell them by phone or in person will they listen quietly while you present your lifestyle choice and the reasons for your choice? Or will they choose in anger or disbelief to not absorb what you need them to hear? Consider the possibility of an email or “snail” mail letter if you feel they may not be able to absorb the information “live.”
  2. Be sure you let them know that you have made this choice with forethought. It is difficult enough to manage a relationship between two, much less multiples thereof, and you are not “taking the easy way out,” nor shirking commitment. If anything, polyamory can be a more difficult path and one you hopefully have not chosen lightly.
  3. Understand their greatest concern is most likely your well being. More loves and a less traditional model may give them reason to worry about your heart being broken. Moreover, given their religious background they may take an instant concern for you based on a moral position.
  4. Be ready to be open and honest, they may have questions, be sure you are prepared to answer them.

Aunt Poly has been witness to a wide variety of reactions of conservatives toward the poly lifestyle. Regardless of when and how you inform your parents, be prepared for any response. It’s highly possible they may not want to hear of your choice at all, just may be content knowing you are safe and happy. Try to keep in mind understanding your choices are totally different from accepting your choices. Even parents have to learn to take baby steps.

Aunt Poly can be reached here, at her Polyamorous Percolations email address.