Children are naturally curious and open to learning new ideas without prejudice. They think freely without the social restrictions imposed on us as adults.
Love is not limited to one person. Children instinctively get this, as they love both their parents, not just one. Though not romantic, their love is directed towards several individuals: their parents, their siblings, even their pets. Love knows no boundaries. Polyamory is basically love for human beings. And children naturally love and are loved by more than one person.
As long as your relationship is loving and positive, your child will develop in a healthy manner. With one out of three monogamous relationships being bad, what matters is not whether your relationship is monogamous or not, but rather the quality of your relationships with your partners.
We are all born with the capacity to love more than two people simultaneously.
In fact, all children are polyamorous!
The younger the children are, the more readily they can accept additional partners in their parents’ lives. In contrast, older children or adolescents raised by monogamous parents have undergone a gradual process of conversion by which they have come to adopt monogamy as the only legitimate type of relationship and see non-monogamous relationships as flawed or frivolous. The older the children get, the more ingrained monogamy becomes in their views. Thus, when formerly monogamous parents of older children and adolescents suddenly introduce a new romantic partner or partners, they are likely to confuse and undermine the sense of security of their children, who have been brought up on the sacred values of monogamy.
Children’s biggest concern is that the new partner would threaten the stability of the family and cause their parents to divorce. Polyamorous relationships are probably a new concept for them. Given the conservative culture of our society, they may think, like monogamous adults do, that polyamory is weird or simply an excuse to sleep with another person. They may ask themselves why their parents have chosen to love other people while their friends’ parents are satisfied, at least seemingly, with being with only one partner.
In order to prevent such fears in your children, have an open discussion with them about the change in your relationship. I suggest you talk to them only when you are sure of your new relationship or you might confuse them further. In The complete beginner’s guide to polyamorous relationships, you will find a detailed explanation on how to test the waters of polyamory without getting hurt. You may give it a try and decide polyamory is not for you, so there is no point in telling your children in the early stages, as there could be negative consequences.
What not to do
- Don’t argue in front of your children. You should work out any differences you may have with your main partner. Be careful not to stir their fears by saying something like “Don’t worry, we aren’t getting a divorce.”
- Don’t inform your children of every date you have with the new partner. This information should be shared with your main partner.
- Don’t talk to your children about sex with other partners. It is of no concern to them, and they do not want to know about it.
Note: Unlike your main partner, who deserves a truthful account of your meetings with your other partner, your children should be spared the details of your new relationship. They need to know you have a lover and that the other parent knows and approves, nothing more. Only when the relationship with your other partner becomes more serious can you introduce them.
- Don’t air your doubts and concerns about polyamory in front of your children, as they might fear that you are not capable of handling the situation.
What to do
In order to reduce your children’s fear of change in the family situation, you can explain to them about polyamory. Here is a brief example of what you can say:
“The vast majority of couples in the world are monogamous, because monogamy has become so deeply rooted in our conservative culture that people don’t dare to think differently. But the same way people like a variety of foods (or other stuff), Mom and Dad love other people. The love we two share is the strongest. Another partner is like a good friend that makes us happier. It’s only natural to love more than one person. Maybe one day you’ll think that way, too, and if not, that’s okay; monogamy works better for some people. In any case, we are still your parents, and nothing will change that.”
Polyamory is based on love between people, which is plentiful, natural, and real.
Small children understand this intuitively, while older children and adolescents may feel anxious and afraid of change. If you want the best for your children, talk to them with openness and candor. In the long run, they will benefit from your polyamorous relationship. They will be more sociable, more self-confident, and more ready than their peers to have good, healthy, long-term relationships.
Isn’t it better to hold off telling children about a relationship with a new partner until it becomes serious?
Absolutely. There is no point in worrying them if the relationship is not serious. Let your new relationship develop for a few months, and if both you and the other parent are happy with it, then you can tell your children.
Isn’t there a chance that one parent will fall in love with a new partner, who will then become the main partner?
Yes, it is possible, if the new partner is more compatible. (See my article Help! My partner might fall in love with another person: What should I do?)
But what is the alternative? Divorce? That would be much more traumatic for a child. Even if you decide to decrease the intensity of your relationship with the other parent, you will still be together. This is one of the greatest strengths of polyamory; you don’t have to sever all ties, just take it down a notch. In the world of monogamy, the child would be exposed to and hurt by a possibly ugly divorce.
Should the additional partner move in with us?
That’s up to you. Often the third person is in a relationship with only one of the parents and so does not live with them. In a triangle relationship, all three partners may occupy the same household, though this is not very common.
We have more than one child. Should we tell all of them?
Use your judgment. You know your kids. It may be possible to have a joint conversation with all of them, even if they are of different ages, but it is your decision to make based on your family situation.
Your child’s level of exposure to your relationships should be in accordance with your capabilities.
If you have anything to add or ask, please write in the comments or in our forum.