Open, up to a point

I’ve talked fairly often on here about how I’ve been lucky enough to get, at worst, indifferent responses to disclosing poly. Even in terms of families, the responses we’ve had have ranged from confused-but-accepting, through to genuinely positive, supportive and interested. Myself, I’ve ended up in a position where I have very little to lose by being out about poly, personally or professionally – which is, perhaps, a privilege, though it doesn’t always feel like that. So as a result, I can afford to stick my head above the parapet a bit and will often mention both The Rake and Fafhrd in conversation with colleagues or casual acquaintances, and I hope that can go some way towards normalising non-monogamous relationships for those who can’t yet be as open.

Not everyone I’m connected to is able or willing to be as open, for many very good reasons. There are photos of happy times that I love but I don’t put on Facebook, there are anniversaries I don’t publicly comment on, there are congratulations I will only offer privately or in person; the internet is very very leaky. I am often far more open in person than, for example, on social media. This blog is a tricky sort-of exception. Some people have commented on how open and honest it is, but actually, I am mostly open and honest only about myself – not about others. Those are not my stories or thoughts to tell. Sometimes I wonder if that makes my writing alarmingly self-obsessed, but then… it’s a blog, about poly. What did you expect? 😛

I REALLY hope it never is, but if this blog were ever linked to my real-life name, there’s nothing here I wouldn’t stand behind. I’d far prefer it to remain pseudonymous, but it wouldn’t devastate me if this became googleable under my real name. I’ve always written it with that in mind, and any mention of others I will always run past them before I publish it to make sure that they’re happy with the level of information I share. There’s a lot I don’t and won’t write about here.

Over the last few years I’ve gained a greater understanding of the power of secrets, funnily enough completely unrelated to polyamory – more specifically, the fact that as soon as you have something you want to keep secret, you are handing over power to someone else. The more secrets you keep, the more power you hand over. Families can keep secrets for generations, but the explosion when it finally comes out can be unexpectedly terrifying. The instant you have a secret, as soon as someone else gets even an idea of it, you’ve handed them power to hold over you – at worst, you see this in blackmailed politicians and the like, but it can have extraordinary impact even in ‘ordinary’ lives.

I don’t like keeping secrets.

But secrets are necessary; even essential. For myself, what I keep secret is often out of consideration for others – for example most of my friends (or, worse, family) certainly don’t need or want to know the details of my sex life. Disagreements or difficulties are only the business of those going through them. Worries are eased by sharing them with close friends and loved ones, but perhaps not everyone needs to know. Private relationship moments, the wonderful and the less-so, are exactly that – private. If anything, polyamory can teach the value of discretion – it’s rarely appropriate to vent to friends about how much your partner annoyed you over something minor and silly and one-sided, but if your friend’s boyfriend happens to be also dating your partner, it’s even more inappropriate.

I suppose what I’m talking about isn’t secrets, but discretion – there’s nothing in those examples above, or any number of other areas, that I’d be devastated by someone else revealing without my consent. I’d be annoyed at their rudeness, and possibly embarrassed, but there’s nothing anyone could reveal that would break me. I’d be most upset by a disclosure making someone I care about feel uncomfortable – whether by revealing something about them too, or by giving them information they didn’t want or need to hear. I value discretion tremendously in others, and hope to manage it well myself.

But then, I’m lucky. There’s nothing in my life – polyamory included – that I need to keep secret for fear of losing custody of children, being disowned by family, putting myself at greater risk of violence or abuse, or losing my job. Not everyone has that luxury; I know it, and I’m grateful.

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3 responses to “Open, up to a point

  1. Yes. I hate that I do feel a need to keep this part of my life a “secret” from some people. If it came out it wouldn’t be the end of the world but I’d certainly face a lot of judgement, most notably from my ex husband and his family, who are hardcore conservative Christians and involved in ministry. Thankfully my own family is more understanding and I don’t really worry about what they would think. Still, having formerly been a preacher’s wife makes it kind of hard! There are a lot of people who still want to see me in that role, even though it was never really “me” to begin with.

    As for discretion, yes, sometimes it can be an issue. I was upset that the Professor was telling his other girlfriend’s husband things about me. He even sent him pictures and he couldn’t understand why that bothered me so much. I don’t feel its this other man’s business to know when we are having sex or to drool over me and I have iffy feelings towards him and his wife already since she sleeps with the Professor. He sees it as these people are his close friends and its okay, but it wasn’t okay with me.

  2. “As soon as you have something you want to keep secret, you are handing over power to someone else” – I’m going to have to remember that. I really hadn’t thought of it that way before.

    • I was just thinking about how secrets can also be used to control others if you are manipulative enough to reveal them with that in mind – “I’ve GOT to tell you about this traumatic/illegal secret but you mustn’t tell ANYONE, not ever, not even your partner/the authorities/the person I told you it’s about.” Effectively that passes on the burden of keeping the secret to someone else, and also the guilt if it should be discovered or revealed to more people.

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