Poly Holidays and the Difficulty of Telling Half-Truths

Around the holidays, you tend to get a spike of interest in your family, spurred by that oh-so-popular “what are you doing for Christmas?” question (regardless of your actual religion, I’m guessing the question gets asked).  I find this frustrating because in choosing to only be selectively out about my polyamorous status, it means that I necessarily get stuck telling some lies, and I’m a big truth-teller.  In fact, just being in two relationships has put me very out of synch with my values in some areas, which is uncomfortable.  But the alternative is, of course, being completely open and risking losing job, friends, family, and livelihood.  So I’ll deal with the forced dishonesty.

My coworkers know about Miss H because I told them about “my girlfriend” before Miss A and I were dating.  Most of them know about Miss A as a friend, though it seems like every semester I end up confiding in one intern (the chosen poly truth hearer, ha!)  Telling them about Miss H ends up being a little bit complicated, though, because she has kids, and as was bound to happen eventually, I got hit with the divorce question.  And I stuttered for a moment, since I hadn’t come up with a response to that one in advance, and ended up saying yes.  And it felt awful. Miss H’s husband is awesome, for one thing, and for two, I just don’t like lying. And now, around the holidays, it gets even more complicated, because everyone views Miss H as a single mom and can’t figure out why we wouldn’t be seeing each other, blah blah blah. And when I do get to see Miss A, I can’t be publicly excited about it.  And thus end up feeling, basically, like a rotten person.

So if you’re poly and not fully out, how do you deal with questions like these?  Lie?  Try to tell the truth without telling the truth?  Use the whole “I’m a private person” line?

This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.


  1. This is truly hard for me as well. I don’t tell my co-workers either…a lot of them are fundamental Christens that look down on anyone that aren’t in the norm of life and go to church every Sunday like you’re “supposed” to do. So I just don’t tell anyone to make my life easier at work. I hate it because I want to be myself and feel like I have a right to be. My family didn’t know about me being Poly until the past month or so and that was difficult as well. Before then it was a situation where they get the half truth and if they asked too many questions I was forced to lie. I grew up Southern Baptist so telling my family about my chosen lifestyle was very hard and took me a long time. Only my immediate family knows, the rest does not. But I don’t see the rest of them for it to make a difference at this point anyway.

  2. Why do you have to tell them anything specific? Better to be vague than to tell a lie. People who are not close or accepting enough to you to accept your lifestyle, don’t need to know the details of how you spend your time. Chances are, they are just collecting fodder for gossip.

  3. […] ● “Around the holidays, you tend to get a spike of interest [from others] in your family,” writes blogger sexpositiveactivism. “I find this frustrating because in choosing to only be selectively out about my polyamorous status, I necessarily get stuck telling some lies, and I’m a big truth-teller….” See Poly Holidays and the Difficulty of Telling Half-Truths. […]

  4. Advice: MOVE. Yes, actually move to a place where you can feel comfortable being yourself, honest and open about who you are and who is in a relationship with you. A family isn’t necessarily blood relatives, it is comprised of people in your life who can accept you for who you are, who’ll encourage you to reach your full potential, and who’ll love you no matter what. Life is too short to hide behind a mask to suit others; it is a sure way to waste it.

    I missed savoring my two children’s early years because I played the role of “his perfect woman” in an emotionally painful marriage to their abusive father instead of kicking him out the door. Secondly, I stayed in a conservative town, where I became fearful of letting my children out to play or to go to school because of the neighborhoods’ bullies, when I should have moved back to the big city on the east coast where I grew up immediately after my divorce. When I look back, I realized that I had squashed who I really was inside just to keep my first marriage together and then among people who couldn’t think beyond their beer cans just because my father lived nearby.

    I learned a hard lesson: If something or being with somebody does not nourish my soul, then I am better off without it or them. My aging father has come to understand this during my last visit when he looked at me and said, “My, how you glow! Are you happy?” My heartfelt answer was YES. He accepted that with grace, because all he really wanted for me was for me to be happy and loved by people who were worthy of my enduring love.

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