When we invite our grown children to join us on vacation--when we're footing the bulk of the bill--how much say do we have on whom our child can bring along as our guest. A long-time girlfriend or boyfriend: Most of us would say OK. A romantic interest of a few weeks: That might be a little more complicated. But what if the long-standing boyfriend or girlfriend is married to someone else?
If you're reaching for the same quick-reflex answer I had--No Way!--hold on. Philip Galanes at Social Q’s turned my head around (and introduced me to the term "polyamory.") Let me delay no further. Here's his answer to a mother who's divorced from a man who cheated on her. She has invited her daughter to join her on a trip to Greece. The daughter wants to bring her boyfriend, who is married to someone else:
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.
Let’s put aside the trip to Greece and the specter of your cheating ex. Unlike him, people in polyamorous arrangements usually set ground rules with their partners for opening their relationship to others. (No one is cheating!) Try to understand, as best you can, what your daughter likes about this arrangement and how it satisfies her.
As a show of respect, read up on polyamory before you broach the subject with her. Then ask questions. I am not suggesting that you set aside all of your concerns — only that you try to respect your adult daughter’s decisions. In a more open-minded context, you may find that the trip to Greece resolves itself.
painting: Mykonos by Mikki Senkarik