Romper

Why I'm Honest With My Kids About My Open Relationship

Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

The first thing people always ask when I tell them about my open/polyamorous relationship is ""but what will you tell your children?!" The question always catches me off guard when I hear the panic in their voice, but my response is always the same: "I'll tell them the truth." What else would you tell a child? I find that the overall narrative we have surrounding love, sex, and relationships isn't one that includes the many types of sexualities, the types of relationships, and the types of love that I've found in my own life. I find it to be very limiting, and not a true reflection of what the world is like. So I've chosen to talk about my open relationship with my kids, who are 6 and 7, so that they understand what love and relationships look like for me, for some of my friends, and for other people around the world. My hope is that their ideas about love and relationships are formed without judgment, without boundaries, and that they're both open to possibilities, whatever they might be.

When talking about polyamory with people, I've found that most tend to be hyper-focused on how it affects my children. The first things they want to know are often: Is it confusing for them? Are they secure? I tell them a story about when my daughter was 4 or 5. I was doing her hair, and she asked me, "Mama, when are you going to get a boyfriend?" At the time I did have a boyfriend, but my husband and I hadn't told the kids. I asked her why she thought this, and she responded, "I just want more adults to love me, and I want you to have more people to love you. I want a large family." A few months later when we told the kids that we were seeing other people, but that we obviously cared about them the most, they weren't surprised, shocked, or even upset. I braced myself for something dramatic, but it was probably the most boring conversation we'd ever had together as a family. They just shrieked, "MOM HAS A BOYFRIEND! DAD HAS A GIRLFRIEND!" They got a kick out of that for about five minutes, then moved on to something else. It was the least dramatic moment I could've ever expected.

Love exists in many ways, and in many different forms. It's why I told my kids about polyamory. You can love one, two, or three people, and it doesn't diminish any of your love. It doesn't make it less true, or less real.
Courtesy of Margaret Jacobsen

At the time, I felt like talking about being in open, polyamorous relationships with our kids was "so radical," but now it's just our norm. Granted, polyamorous and open relationships all look different from each other, and our norm might look drastically different than someone else's. There's even a difference between polyamory and being "open." According to Poly-Coach.com, polyamory is the practice of having many loves, and loving many ways. Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart coined the term in 1990, according to The Guardian, and polyamorists believe it's possible to be romantically linked to more than one person at a time.

When there are multiple people supporting you and loving you, you don't place all the expectations on one person to be all that and more for you. You allow them the space to take and carry as much as they can, respecting them when they just can't hold more. Love, for me, is a village; a community. And my children are lucky enough to grow up within it.
Jean-Daniel Echenard/Flickr

My current partner and I fall a bit in between polyamory and being open, but when I was still with my ex-husband, we practiced a true polyamorous relationship. There's a stigma that when you have more than one partner you suddenly go from being a "good, wholesome" person, to a "depraved" one, constantly hosting orgies, or hanging out in dungeons. I never understood how my relationships determined my outward "goodness." I believe that you can have orgies and still maintain healthy relationships with people. Yeah, it takes a lot of work, like it does with any relationship, but it's possible. Love exists in many ways, and in many different forms. It's why I told my kids about polyamory. You can love one, two, or three people, and it doesn't diminish any of your love. It doesn't make it less true, or less real.

Anyone who'd bother to tell me that my "lifestyle" will somehow damage my babies hasn't met them, or seen the love that surrounds them because of how I've chosen to love and be loved.

For a period of time I dated my son's best friend's dad, and both of my children were aware. If anything, they were excited to be connected to their friend on a different level, and glad to have even more playdates. Polyamorous relationships often look and feel the exactly like they would between two monogamous partners. You balance schedules, have conversations about boundaries, have arguments, and you fall in love and stay in love, or maybe you break up. Except, usually, the relationships last for months — sometimes even years. In the relationships I've been in, I found that the same pressures to follow a set schedule don't exist within polyamorous relationships the same way they do in monogamy. When there are multiple people supporting you and loving you, you don't place all the expectations on one person to be all that and more for you. You allow them the space to take and carry as much as they can, respecting them when they just can't hold more. Love, for me, is a village; a community. And my children are lucky enough to grow up within it.

Delores/Flickr

Anyone who'd bother to tell me that my "lifestyle" will somehow damage my babies hasn't met them, or seen the love that surrounds them because of how I've chosen to love and be loved. When my kids talk about falling in love and having partners, it's not just limited to only one person, but to different possibilities with different people. Their beliefs surrounding love are beautiful because they understand that love looks different with different people, that it's not a one-size-fits-all experience. I want them to experience all of the extraordinary love they can, be it with one person, or multiple partners. And no matter what they choose, I hope they know how happy all of their parents will be for them.