Whether you’ve got one partner or twenty, relationships aren’t easy. But what can make it harder is when your parents or friends don’t approve of them.
Speaking of judgement, a recent ethical dilemma submitted by a reader to The New York Times’ social questions section has just showed why much of the US is not ready for polyamory. The reason? They can’t help but think of it as inherently immoral (and it gives them flashbacks to times in their life when someone has been unfaithful to them).
Submitted by the concerned mother of what Americans call an “adult child” (a 30 year old), the reader asks whether she is morally obligated to invite her daughter’s polyamorous partner on a family vacation, even though she doesn’t really want to.
The post reads: “My 30-year-old daughter is in a polyamorous relationship with a married man. She brought him home for the holidays, and while he was charming, I felt uncomfortable. (This may have been triggered by my husband’s infidelity that led to our divorce.) Now, my daughter tells me she would like to bring this man on our family trip to Greece this year.”
The post continues: “It may be petty, but I don’t want to foot the bill for another woman’s husband. And I don’t see any way this relationship can lead to my daughter’s happiness. Should I lay out my boundaries and risk my daughter not joining me on vacation?”
The moral dilemma expert over at The New York Times responsed: “I may be off-base, but I don’t think the real issue here is the cost of a trip to Greece or your ex-husband’s infidelity. This is about respecting your adult daughter’s choices. You have substituted your idea of happiness for hers. This is a common (and often well-intentioned) trap for many parents. It’s not productive, though.”
The response to the dilemma on Facebook suggests many readers of The New York Times either don’t like, don’t trust or don’t understand polyamory. One user wrote: “Adultery is literally still on the books as a crime in certain places.”
“Until laws catch up with newfound relationships, you are indeed contributing to the decline of his marital household. There are serious financial ramifications for this behavior.”
“There are consequences to adultery that don’t just involve your daughters pleasure.”
Another wrote: “Since when did ‘polyamorous’ replace ‘adulterous’? Not everything is OK. He is cheating on his wife, and you don’t need to enable it. And the fact that your daughter knows that he is married doesn’t say much for her character, either.”
“Set your boundaries and stand firm. He is someone else’s husband and she has no ethical, moral or legal right to him. Your daughter has to come to terms with that.”
It didn’t end there. Many more Facebook users wrote such remarks as: “Please don’t enable her behavior?” and “Encourage her to have some dignity and find her own husband,” as well as “Since the boyfriend is in a polyamorous marriage, he should bring his wife and they foot the bill for themselves.”
“No way should you be paying for it. Period. I wonder what his wife would say to joining his girlfriend‘s family at his and hers‘ own expenses? I’m with you Mom”
Another Facebook user wrote: “He’s not family so not sure why he’d be included on a family trip.. you can respect that your daughter has a relationship with him without bringing the man on vacation with you..if you’re paying for the trip you don’t have to invite anyone you don’t want. if your daughter is paying and generally free to bring a guest then this is no different. I guess what a family trip is would matter to me.. I assume that varies by family.”
Others encouraged tolerance: “Yes always lay out your boundaries though be considerate and respectful. Tolerance has limits and every family has to find that balance. We live in a complex world and it is not smart nor balanced to feel the need to accept everything just because times are changing or there is societal pressure. Be open but when it comes to family, your personal space, your home etc YES BOUNDARIES are both smart and compassionate .”
And yet others got more into the detail. One wrote: “It doesn’t say the daughter asked Mom to pay for her man. It says just that the daughter wants the man to come on their trip with them. The bigger question is why the mom is paying for her daughter when the daughter is 30.”
This idea that adult children should pay their way regardless was also quite popular, cropping up a number of times: “He can’t even pay his share?? This is beyond amazing. But then again, it might be a strong indication that he doesn’t want the charge to show on his credit card statement… I bet his wife doesn’t know anything.”
“If you’re footing the bill, you get to choose who comes along.”
Oh and one Facebook user thought it could all be a big set-up.
“I see a set-up: The daughter must know what her Mom would think of a ‘Poly amorous’ relationship. She’s either testing her Mom, testing him or testing herself. In any case, I would say sure, invite them all and see what happens.”
Finally, a few social media users suggested the woman do a bit of reading on the topic: “Grow up and get with the times. Your daughter would like to bring her bf and you have the financial ability to do this. Let her be happy. There’s nothing wrong with ethical non-monogamy as longs as it’s practiced ethically.”
“All these Boomers getting their mind BLOWN by the concept of polyamory… “
And there you have it: a spicy ethical debate to kick off your Friday.