Thursday, June 23, 2011

Polyamorous Widower Needs to Come Out to Family

“Dear Prudence” by Emily Yoffe had a letter touching on a polyamorous situation. The great blog, Polyamory in the News, has already noted this, too.

A man signing his letter “Can't Stop This Thing I Started” wrote…

I am a widower in my mid-50s with three grown children and many grandchildren. My wife died 10 years ago, and three years ago I moved into a new house. I hit it off very quickly with my next door neighbors "Jack" and "Diane," a married couple in their late 30s with a now-7-year-old son. Our relationship soon became sexual and we are a three-member "couple."

Great. Good for them.

The problem is my youngest son recently lost his job, is in terrible financial straits, and has asked if he, his wife, and two young children can move in with me! I haven't told any of my children about my unconventional relationship…Turning away my son in his time of need isn't an option, but breaking off my relationship isn't an option either. Should I keep the whole thing under wraps while my son and his family are here? Jack and Diane think I should be upfront and tell my son, but then everyone would know about this. Most people wouldn't understand, and frankly it would be humiliating!

Humiliating isn’t the right word. It could be uncomfortable or could result in a loss of employment or bullying, depending on how bigots react. It would be great to answer this by asking what he would do if there was no Jack; if Diane was a widow. But unfortunately, the fact is that people in many places aren’t allowed to be polyamorous the same way others are allowed to be monogamous or seeing several people casually; so prejudice is a complicating factor in this case.

I think the approach depends mostly on how his son and his wife are likely to react, and since it sounds like they will tell the other two adult children, how they will react. Will any of them try to cause grief for Jack and Dianne by calling the “child protection” authorities, or telling anyone’s employer?

This man will be doing his son and son’s family a favor by taking them in, and they should respect him in return.

Prudence concluded that it was best to tell his son.

Notice that the problem is not the polyamory itself. This polyamorous man has his act together, so much so that he’s able and willing to take in his adult son, daughter-in-law, and their children to help them through a difficult time. The problem is that if someone is prejudiced, they still have the power to make someone else’s life miserable because the laws allow people to be discriminated against for being poly or for other factors in their love lives or, in many places, their sexual orientation. Hopefully, the man’s son and daughter-in-law will be fine with the situation. Some people can’t handle their parent, even a widowed parent, finding love and enjoyment with someone else, but if that love falls outside the approved boundaries of the sex police, the upset person can wreak havoc. Those laws need to be changed.

Widowers in middle or later age are usually presented a choice by life: renew yourself or shrivel up and die early. Children should be happy when their parents choose the first option. This man has renwed himself through a thriving, loving relationship.
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