My wife and I are in a non-monogamous marriage, which means that while we are deeply devoted to one and other, we are both free to date, have sex, and even fall in love with other people. This is the relationship style that makes most sense for both of us (which is one of the things that makes us such a good match for one and other), but it often requires some explanation for others. Our son is still very young (under a year) so we don’t really have to discuss it with him yet (nor do we have much time for dating, to be honest), but we’re already thinking ahead to how we’ll explain our non-monogamous marriage to our son. We want to be prepared when the time comes to explain why we made the relationship choices that we did, why they differ from many other people’s choices, and why that’s OK.
Obviously, conversations about relationships and sexuality will look different depending on what age he is when we tell him, but I think the basic message of what we'd like to get across is fairly simple: We want him to understand that we respect each other’s freedom and autonomy because we love each other, that romantic relationships can look many different ways and still be good, that no matter what happens he is (and will always be) safe and loved, and that we are committed to making our family a safe space for him to grow up.
There is nothing wrong with our marriage.
In the simplest form, we plan to tell our son the truth. Secret keeping can be stressful for young children, so we want to do our very best to be open with him, and with others, without giving him information that he doesn’t need or that isn’t age appropriate. So he’ll probably know, for example, that his parents sometimes spend quality time with other adults, but I won't ever feel like I need to explain my sex life to him. Just like I don’t feel the need to tell him about the sex I have with his mom. I would never go into detail about my physical relationship(s) with any other partners I may have, mainly because my son doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of my sex life to understand that his mom and I are committed to a loving relationship. An honest foundation will help him to understand that there is nothing wrong with our marriage, that it's still healthy and whole.
We’ll explain that our relationship is not about ownership, and that we allow each other (and ourselves!) the freedom to explore romantically out of love and respect. I am in love with my wife. I think she’s one of the coolest people around, and I’m excited to get to share life with her. For us, that’s what our relationship is all about. Because we love each other, we want to share many things — like parenting and doing taxes — with each other.
We’ll explain that relationships are what you make them to be, and this is just one example. Different people may need different things out of their relationships, and I want my child to grow up understanding that that’s OK. Just like I don’t think it’s OK to try to force the monogamous model on everyone out of some sense of what is “right,” I also recognize that not everyone wants to be non-monogamous. That’s fine, and it will always be fine. What a relationship is, and how it works, is up to the people in that specific relationship. That means that everyone gets to define their relationships the way that they need to, in order to get their needs met.
We value the work we’ve put into our partnership, and we are proud of it. It has never been a secret, and it never will be.
We’ll explain to our child when he’s older and wants to have romantic relationships (if he does) that he has the freedom to discuss these issues with potential partners in an effort to create relationships that are mutually beneficial.
We’ll also explain how we got here. When my wife and I met, we both already identified as non-monogamous. It was something that brought us closer together, rather than a stumbling block for our relationship. Even so, we spent a lot of time talking it out, making sure that we were always respectful and aware of one and others feelings. We value the work we’ve put into our partnership, and we are proud of it. It has never been a secret, and it never will be.
We’ll tell our baby boy that no matter what happens, he’s safe. We want our family to be a safe space for our son to grow, learn, and play. He should never have to worry that his family is on shaky ground or that it might crumble under his feet. I don’t believe that people who are openly and intentionally non-monogamous are any more likely to leave their partners for someone else than those trying to be monogamous. Just in case that’s something that worries him, we’ll remind him and show him that our family is steady and stable. In the very unlikely event that his parents did separate, caring for and supporting him would still be our top priority.
I think it's a very good thing for our son to grow up with a firm understanding of how his family is different from others, rather than us trying to put on a more “normal” face. My wife and I don't want to send the message to our son that we need to fit in, or that fitting in is the model of life to which he should subscribe to. He'll be whoever he is, and that's absolutely fine with us. We’ll stay open to answering any questions he may have, and helping him process any feelings that may come up for him.
Today he is just a baby, but one day he'll be child who looks to his moms to help him make sense of the world. One of the ways we’ll do that is by sharing our ideals with him, by talking, teaching, and learning along with him. We want him to know and understand the world, and part of doing that is teaching him there's no right or wrong way to live or to love. And we're proud to serve as an example of that.