Ask Page: Being There While My Partner’s Conservative Family Is in Town

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Hi Page,

I need your advice. My girlfriend who is not out as kinky or poly with a Christian faith based family is scheduled to have MAJOR surgery. Her family (elderly Mother & two young adult daughters) will be in town for her surgery and recovery for a few weeks.

Here is my dilemma: I want to be there for her as much as I WANT and she needs. However, her family are not even aware that she is dating (she has been widowed for one year) let alone dating a married poly guy who is also her Dominant.

So: what is the best approach?

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So the good news here is that I think you can be there for her quite a bit, even with her family in town.

The bad news is that it might have to be as a “friend.”

What’s working in your favor: It’s pretty common for widows and widowers to do a kind of “slow open” with their dating lives.

For example, my monogamous grandmother (who is very Catholic, a eucharistic minister) was widowed fairly young, at 52. And she had a transitional period where she had some very suspicious-seeming “friends.” By suspicious, I mean they were totally her boyfriends. She was just trying to figure out what she liked and was dating a bit before letting people know. I imagine this was so that:

  1.  Her children and grandchildren wouldn’t wonder about the implications. So that we wouldn’t ask: Is this guy gonna be my stepdad? My new grandpa?
  2.  People wouldn’t judge her for dating again too soon. For not grieving my grandfather for what they thought was “enough time.” Because people can be so judge-y.

Anyway, my super Christian family totally knew what was going on, but they were polite and quiet and never said a word.

So if she shows up with a random boyfriend who she’s calling a “friend,” they’ll either get that she might have started dating again in a kind of slow open and not say anything about it (since ideally their focus will be on her and getting her through the surgery) or they’ll think you’re just a friend.

It’s likely that if you are helping her out that if you keep the romantic affection to a minimum that they’ll assume you’re a friend. Even if you are married. And actually, to the more traditional folks, the fact that you’re married will point AWAY from their thinking you’re dating her.

Now the tricky part with the “friend approach” is what to say if they do ask further.

It really all depends on your girlfriend’s comfort level. I would advise discussing it with her, what to say if they ask.

In general, I’m in favor of being as out about relationships as you can be and this includes being as open as you possibly can to friends and family. But you know what? Your girlfriend gets a pass here. Coming out to conservative family prior to major surgery qualifies as an unnecessary health risk.

I know it’s hard but try not to worry too much about what the family will think. Cross the bridge when you come to it.

Meeting the family is typically way scarier in theory than in reality.

I look at my own experiences. My former boyfriend Rob was outed by his sister as poly right before his conservative Catholic parents came over for Thanksgiving dinner. A Thanksgiving dinner that my partner Seth and I attended, since we were in Cleveland visiting.

I was nervous as heck. Rob’s mother knew that I was Rob’s girlfriend. And that the other guy siting next to me was my husband. And his mother, oh she was conservative and a bit of a stickler.

But you know what? I was just myself. Polite and friendly. And that lady liked me. Even though she still thought polyamory was really weird and didn’t get it.

And that’s even with my cover blown.

So I think if you go in looking like the caring friend you are to your girlfriend, they’ll like you, too.

Even if you have to be on your guard a little to blend in with the vanilla normals. And shelve the really overt orders until your girlfriend is back on her feet.

I hope everything goes smoothly for your girlfriend and that she heals up quickly.

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