When my husband and I decided to open up our marriage our kids were about 4 and 6 years old. I was worried about how our lifestyle would affect them, to say the least, and wondered if we were setting a good example for them. Would they judge us? Would their peers make fun of them if they found out? Or would we just have to deal with hiding it from them forever and would that psychologically damage them in the end... Well, it's been a few years and so far I only see the positive influence of polyamory on our children. Here’s why:
1. Opening up our marriage has improved our communication significantly. As we learned to better express our needs and concerns in a clear, effective way, this translated to how we communicate with our children.
2. We started to appreciate quality family time even more. When we are out with our other partners we know that when we get home there is going to be more love there waiting for us. We miss our kids and want to hang out with them and we are more present than ever when we do.
3. It’s allowed us to steer their upbringing towards a more positive direction. This isn’t to say that I try to impose my world views on my kids. On the contrary, I just try to help them develop an open mindset that they can apply in the real world. Often when I get a random question like "Mom, I like this girl and that girl, which one should I choose?" my answer is often along the lines of "It's okay to like one person and it’s okay to like multiple people. All you can do is be honest about how you feel with yourself and with both of them."
4. An open marriage has taught me the difference between genuine love and attachment (check out this video for a quick summary of what that is), which extends to how I raise my children. Grasping on to people and things that make me happy is not really love. But wanting people to be their happiest selves and to experience their lives to the fullest is the highest manifestation of love I can bestow.
5. Seeing our partners interact with their kids, gives us ideas on how to improve our own parenting. Our poly network is also a trusted community of people that we often turn to for advice.
We don't want to influence our kids to eventually adopt our lifestyle – we want to empower them to make their own choices. We don’t actively wave the poly flag in front of them. But we also don’t try to actively hide the truth from them either. If they ask questions, we answer as honestly as we can in an age-appropriate manner. We’ve also started teaching them the importance of consent and honesty, which is a necessity regardless – polyamorous or not.
Our kids are thriving in school and overall are doing great. They are learning to express their feelings and needs constructively and to show an open mind when obstacles or uncertainties cross their path. It seems that our lifestyle has not affected them in any negative way.
To my delight there is now a whole book written on this topic. And according to the author’s research, "children in open non-monogamous relationships do not have worse outcomes than children in monogamous relationships. They are not more likely to be insecure, they are not less trusting, they do not have greater incidence of socialization problems. In fact, often they have greater emotional security and better communication skills." Thanks, Elizabeth Sheff, for this valuable and supportive data!