What It’s Like to Hide My Happy Poly Relationship
Last year, the story of my life altered forever. On a November day, my Sir told me he wanted me to move to his city when I completed school. To be a tangible part of each other’s lives. In one day, the solitary future I’d anticipated changed completely. Instead, I chose a future that included him. And not just him! But also his live-in lady, his Most Significant Other. Plus their mini-menagerie of cute pets.
I was cautious at first. Was he joking? Daydreaming? If I took it seriously would he freak out?
A few hours later I asked, “…how much did you mean about me living there?”
“Every bit of it,” he promised.
Moving for Love
Then everything started to really change. It had been changing incrementally in the previous months. When we started texting every day. When we started beginning and ending our days with emoji kisses attached to “good mornings” and “sleep wells”. But that was when everything started moving beyond the electronic screen. A transition where the feelings and bond we’d been developing could manifest in the real world.
Ironically, this was also when the hiding began.
For professional and familial reasons, we can’t be out except to a miniscule list of trustworthy friends. My Sir and his lady have to seem monogamous to the rest of the world. Until I am lucky enough to have a primary, I appear to all the world as ‘single’.
Not openly sharing an online relationship is easy and perhaps largely appropriate. It’s even more true when the two of you live far apart and connected in the first place through FetLife.
It’s less easy to explain why you’ve suddenly decided not to go off to live in a cabin in the Oregonian woods after grad school and instead will embrace your full potential, pursuing a career in a big city on the opposite coast. It wasn’t a huge leap. It was a good fit for my profession. I had friends from my undergrad days in the area. There were relatives nearby. But the switch still slightly confuses my mom.
Some of my excitement and confidence to take on this adventure had to be dampened. My Sir had encouraged and mentored me as I grew through my studies and ambitions. I knew I would have a significant other and his other significant other waiting there to support me (when I first met my Sir’s lady, she gave me a great big hug). These were amazing forces enabling me on this path. And no one could know.
Now I’m in a new apartment with a new job, adapting to and exploring this new home. Am I also having more sex and kinky fun than I’ve had in years? You better believe it! But even better: I’m doing all of this with someone cheering me on. I have a close friend, a great mentor, a cuddle buddy, someone to exchange “I love yous” with. It’s wonderful. It’s transforming my life for the better.
Hiding Our Poly Life
But we’re still trying to figure out how this new life can continue while shielding ourselves. We’ve been discussing ‘cover stories’ about how we met for social events. We can’t decide on one. Evasions and omissions are one thing. An outright lie is another. Let alone one you have to keep straight between three people.
My mom and I are quite close. She’s been worried about me coming out here, starting almost from scratch. I’ve kept my mom largely in the dark about my support system here. I tell my mom “I went out with friends last night” or “Don’t worry about me being sick, I have friends that will check up on me.” What that actually means is “I’m having fun with and being taken care of by this amazing person that you will never ever know about.”
I think my mom would like to know that I’m seeing someone. She would like to know that I’m being looked after in this new big city. I don’t think she’d like to know that person also has a live-in girlfriend. Even if said girlfriend is absolutely lovely and they have a pair of adorable dogs.
Sharing My Joy and Happiness
There is a lot of prejudice against what many see as a ‘closed loop’ relationship, the one that can’t spiral upward with societal relationship ‘achievements’. The non-monogamous relationship. The “it’s just sex” relationship. There’s a prejudice that the only worthwhile relationships are ones that have a prescribed potential story arc: meet, love, move in, marry, kids, death. Investment in a relationship without that potential on the table is seen as a waste. Instead, the plot line of multiple relationships is assumed and seemingly preferred to be ripe with conflict and unhappy endings. Outright infidelity is easier to talk about than successful non-monogamy.
Why do we have to hide these joys? Sharing pieces of yourself with another. Growing in trust, respect, and love. Finding support when you need it most. The different stories that are just as worthy, the endings that are just as happy, are unacceptable to tell.
Some would say supportively: “Well it’s nobody’s business but yours.”
It’s true. Sure, no one really needs to know about when Sir chained me to the futon and fed me sushi (but let me tell you it was super fun!). However, it’s unfortunate to not be able to share, to celebrate what we’ve found and are enjoying. It feels deeply invalidating of our happiness. It adds stress that isn’t fair for us to endure.
And there’s the tiny but real possibility that it won’t always be about hiding happiness. Suppose we break up? Worse, what if one of us gets hit by a bus? We’d have to squirrel away that whirlwind of feelings everyone else has a right to openly express during heartbreak and loss. Another story that we’ll never be able to tell.
Currently, our story is: we’re happy. But to the larger world, the story is: just not the ‘right’ kind of happy.
About Bittersweet Mercy
Bittersweet Mercy is a bi and bold millennial who tries to save the world under one name by day and at night writes, performs stand up, and plays under aliases. She is greatly enjoying her new life in the DC area.