IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Parents Found Out About My Open Relationship

"We saw Ron with another girl. I'm so sorry, honey."
Publish date:
December 15, 2015
Dating, polyamory, family drama, open relationships

It's strange to think that the way Ron and I met would now be considered "the old-fashioned way" — that is, in person as opposed to online or on a dating app.

Our relationship, however, has a decidedly "modern" aspect to it: it's open.

It was 2012. I was young, relatively inexperienced and nursing a newly acquired wanderlust. My hometown, which had once been a source of pride and comfort, had become a prison where I spent restless days dreaming of seeing the world and experiencing new cultures.

That summer, I went to college and took solace in the local used bookstore, spending my afternoons reading and educating myself. I was happy studying from books, but soon life sent a hands-on lesson in the form of Ron, the tall, dark and sexy cashier who struck up a conversation with me as he checked out my purchase of Infinite Jest.

"I wish I could go back and read Infinite Jest for the first time again," he said.

The sexual tension between us was palpable in the moments of silence as he scanned and bagged the book. I had never felt so viscerally attracted to somebody in my life. As if possessed, I found myself scribbling my phone number on the receipt.

After a few excruciating days, he sent me a text inviting me to meet up for coffee. To say that I was nervous for our date would be a vast understatement. But our connection was easy and electric from the start, and we soon started spending our nights intertwined.

I fell fast and hard into the kind of love I had never experienced before. My friends started to notice that I had changed, that I seemed lighter and calmer, that I was "glowing." My parents noticed the same thing.

While I was excited to share the story of my new relationship with my parents, something kept nagging at the back of my mind: a certain conversation between Ron and I, conducted in the small hours of the morning in the warm and cozy world we had created for ourselves under the covers of Ron's duvet.

"What do you think of polyamory?" he had asked me, eyes hopeful but with a glimmer of nervousness.

I floundered. The word frightened me, bringing to mind religious fundamentalists; but more than anything else, it brought a surge of fear, the fear of losing this spark of joy in my life that was so comfortable, so warm, and that I was so quickly becoming dependent on.

"I... don't know."

Ron let the subject go, wrapping his arms around me as we went to sleep.

Over breakfast the next day, Ron introduced me to the real meaning of polyamory. I found myself becoming excited by the idea of shedding the rigid structure of monogamy that I had never questioned but always felt restricted by. It was as if the feelings I had always had in my mind but repressed were being put into words and affirmed. Why go against human nature and conduct relationships the way society dictates? Ron and I both felt attraction to other people, and we recognized that wanting to act on it didn't take away from the connection we share.

So, guided by the The Ethical Slut, we embarked on a new and exciting phase of our relationship. The relief of being able to eye up the cute boys I had felt guilty even noticing before was tangible. Ron didn't tell me about his conquests, and I didn't have to tell him about the hot and steamy night with my biology lab partner.

I was enjoying myself immensely, but for the first time, I had something that I was afraid to talk to my parents about.

My parents had always been loving, and I loved them back fully. I was never the kid rebelling against her parents or complaining about them. I understood that every restriction my parents put on me came from a place of love and wanting what is best for me. To this day I still call my parents "Mommy" and "Daddy" and talk to them every day.

Remembering my own presumptions and first reaction to the subject, I had a feeling that they would not take it well.

A few months later, I was in my room, basking in post-orgasm bliss after a quickie with the aforementioned biology partner. My dad called me, and I picked up happily, expecting one of our normal catch-ups. Instead his voice was tight.

"I think you should come over right now," he said.

A knot of fear building in my stomach, I got dressed and caught a cab as quickly as I could. When I arrived at my parents' house, they were both sitting at the kitchen table in silence. My mom was on the verge of tears as she got up and hugged me.

"We saw Ron with another girl. I'm so sorry, honey."

My mind went blank. I had imagined telling my parents about the decision Ron and I had made, but never like this. I looked back at them. My mom was watching me with a worried expression, and my dad couldn't even look at me. He was staring at a spot on the table, his hands balled into fists and grinding his teeth.

Should I act distraught? Would they even believe me if I lied? I made a decision and did what I knew was right, what my gut had been telling me to do since the beginning.

"It's OK, I know," I said, "We both see other people."

For a moment, the three of us were suspended in an uncomfortable silence. I could see my parents processing what I had told them. My dad's hands slowly relaxed, but his expression remained tense. My mother looked relieved, but confused. They both looked shocked.

"Sorry, but what do you mean you both see other people?" my dad finally asked.

"I mean what I said. Ron and I are in love, but we decided to be non-monogamous."

After explaining what "non-monogamous" and "polyamorous" mean, the details of our arrangement, and that I was happy, safe, and knew perfectly well what I'm doing, they visibly calmed down and seemed to accept that, at least, I felt good about the choice Ron and I had made as a couple — which isn't to say that they were happy, just that they trusted me to take care of myself.

"But how can you be happy with somebody else if you love Ron?" my mom asked in disbelief.

I shrugged.

"I love Ron more knowing we're both free to do what we want, but still come home to each other at the end of the day. And some variety never hurt anyone."

While we talked, my dad was mostly silent, but I could see in his eyes that, because he loves me, he was making the effort to understand my new lifestyle. It'll take both of them some time to understand it, and it'll probably take them even more time to warm back up to Ron after the shock of seeing him appear to cheat on me.

But my relationship with my parents has been solid from the start, and I highly doubt that something as ultimately minor as this could really cause serious problems between us. At the end of the day, I love my parents, I love Ron, and the three of them love me.

And I know what I'm giving my dad for Christmas this year: The Ethical Slut.