Ask Amy: Polyamory creates an extra family challenge
Dear Amy: My son and his wife have been married for almost 10 years.
Recently, his wife explained to me that they are polyamorous.
I did not really know what this was. She explained it and said that she wants to be honest with everyone.
I was in total shock.
After they left, I thought about what she’d told me.
I love them both. I want them to be happy. They were married in her church, and I do not understand this.
I want to be a part of their lives, but I do not know that I can cope with them bringing other intimate partners to our family gatherings, which is one of the things she says she would like to do.
I don’t know anyone who has experienced this. How can I keep my relationship with my son? My daughter-in-law wants open and honest acceptance. She says they have the right to live their lives the way they want to. But do I have any rights to what I am feeling about all of this?
I am in shock and trying to process this.
Your advice? — Confused Mom
Dear Mom: A polyamorous relationship is one that has more than two partners, where, for instance, a couple will bring another adult into their intimate life as a partner.
I shared your question with sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., author of “When Someone You Love is Polyamorous” (2016, Thorntree Press). Dr. Sheff and I agree that you deserve lots of credit for your kindness to your son and willingness to accept his family.
Her response: “This is a great first reaction if you want to maintain positive relationships with sex and gender minority family members. Acceptance doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and I suggest that you all take smaller steps of getting to know each other at first. For instance, instead of meeting for the first time at grandma’s 90th birthday or Passover dinner, meet the son, daughter-in-law, and their partners on Zoom for a chat, in the park for a walk, on the porch for cup of coffee, or eventually a restaurant for a regular dinner a couple of times. This allows you to establish a connection, chat with less pressure, and talk about boundaries before plunging into a big family gathering, which is already kind of stressful, even if it is fun.”
“At the same time, educate yourself on consensual nonmonogamy by reading and asking your son and his wife questions about their lives. There are literally hundreds of websites and social media pages devoted to polyamory and even more for other forms of CNM (consensual nonmonogamy).
“Finally, give yourself some credit for trying to understand, as well as some patience if it takes you, and them, a little while to adjust to this new family style.”
Dear Amy: My husband is very handsome. As he has aged, his hair is going gray and is now George-Clooney-perfect.
My problem is that he insists on at-home coloring it with box dye ... from a pharmacy. It starts out OK, but then fades to a kind of “burnt fox” brown. His hair is lovely when it’s gray.
Please help me have this very sensitive conversation. — Dyeing for Help in CA
Dear Dyeing: Your husband seems to be open with you about his hair habit. The pandemic has inspired many people to let their hair grow out naturally, and it really is the ideal time to do this.
Call this a true “silver lining.”
Tell your husband, “Honey, this might be the perfect time for you to assume your identity as the original ‘silver fox.’ I’m willing to risk how attracted other people will be to you, if you want to give it a try.”
There are some fun apps that will let people experiment virtually with how they’d look with a different hair color. Your husband could start there.
Dear Amy: As a family physician of more than 40 years, let me point out what I consider an important distinction to your reply to “Concerned,” who was struggling with obesity.
You suggested a “nutritionist.” I would suggest a registered dietitian.
RDs are an important part of the health care team.
They have four to eight years of education and have passed the standard CDR exam of the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
They are licensed/registered in most states. In contrast, anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a “nutritionist” without any training. — Ken Levites, MD
Dear Dr. Levites: Thank you for prompting this clarification.