Dear Poly,

I'm married and in a polyamorous relationship. I am open and honest about the relationships I am in with my friends, family, and co-workers. While my husband's circle of people know our situation, oftentimes he will receive concerned phone calls from people reaching out to him. Topics include, "Do you know what your wife is doing?" and "Hey man, are you really ok with this?" and even, "You can crash at my place when your marriage falls apart.” For clarification, we are happily married and he knows "what's going on." I understand that they are reaching out to him out of friendship but it makes me angry that they can't mind their own business.

Sincerely, Actually Really Okay

Dear Actually Really Okay,

It takes courage to be open about your consensual non-monogamy. It's difficult to have your choices questioned by those who don't know what they're talking about!

What I am hearing is that there is friction between your husband and his friends as a result of the choices you both made as a couple. It’s possible his friends are jealous of the freedom the two of you have found. It also seems possible that his friends struggle to reconcile their interpretation or understanding of non-monogamy with their own experiences of being (compulsorily) monogamous.

I imagine you may worry that this is a commentary on you or your relationships. If this is the case, I suggest you work to keep your own truth in mind. Consider reaching out to a polyamorous friend for affirmation or journaling about the ways polyamory has benefited your marriage. As for how to proceed, I believe it's best to let your husband manage the relationships with his friends. As much as we may want to intervene on a partner’s behalf, I hereby free you of that emotional labor!

Instead of concentrating on what others interpret, consider checking in with your husband about his strategies. Do you need to know if his friends are still saying this stuff, or is this an opportunity for a boundary? If your husband is truly bothered by the commentary, then he needs to enforce his own boundaries with his nay-saying-friends. Communicate with your husband about how you feel, and then you can problem-solve together.

If your husband is looking for ways to communicate his frustrations with his friends, here are some ideas for asserting these boundaries:

  • I know your concerns about my marriage come from a place of care and concern. I really appreciate that and I need you to stop making jabs about it.
  • I feel really frustrated when you belittle my relationships by poking fun at them. I want to be able to share this really wonderful part of my life with you, and I need us to find a different way to navigate these topics.
  • I feel hurt when you insinuate that my marriage will eventually fall apart. If you want to talk openly about your concerns, I will make space for that. If not, I need you to please stop.
  • I noticed today you named some concerns about my marriage and polyamory. I wanted to send you this Ted Talk that might help further your understanding of non-monogamy, and make it easier for us to have supportive conversations.
  • Polyamory: A TEDx Talk by Leon Feingold.

If your husband’s friends are the type of people who want to learn, his (and your!) patience and emotional work will be rewarded. If not, know that there are many spaces where your relationship structures will be supported!