Happy tale: "I Grew Up in a Polyamorous Household." And another not so much.
A lovely story has appeared on the website of Vice — a powerhouse of an online and print magazine that aims at a young demographic. The author, raised in London, is in his twenties.
I Grew Up in a Polyamorous Household
By Benedict Smith
...My parents are polyamorous, a Greek/Latin mishmash word meaning romantic non-monogamy with the consent of everyone involved. As a kid, I lived with my dad, my mom, my mom's partner, and for a while, my mom's partner's partner. Mom might have up to four partners at a time. Dad had partners too. I was raised by an interconnected network of grownups whose relationships which weren't exclusive, but remained committed for years, even decades.
They first explained it to me when I was about eight. My four-year-old brother asked why James, my mom's partner, had been spending so much time with us.
"Because I love him," mom said, matter-of-factly.
"Well, that's good," my brother replied, "because I love him too."
It was never really any more complicated than that. Looking back, that's what I find most extraordinary about our situation: how mind-numbingly ordinary it all was....
I never resented my parents for hanging out with their partners. We all went on trips to the movies and narrow boat holidays together. Having more adults around the house meant there was more love and support, and more adults to look after us. Dad and James didn't get jealous or resent each other either, far from the alpha male antler clattering you might expect. They were good friends.
I do remember the first time James told me off. I was eight, and had almost toddled into traffic, when he pulled me to the pavement and shouted at me for not looking left and right. I remember thinking: Oh, this grownup is allowed to discipline me too? But it didn't take me long to realize that it also meant that another grownup had my back — and would keep me from being flattened by oncoming traffic — and that this was a good thing after all.
...Our church community, on the other hand, did find out about my parents' arrangement. We were very close to our parish at a local Anglo-Catholic church in East London — my mom even taught at Sunday school. We never lied about our family dynamic, we just didn't want to broadcast it. James was called "a family friend," which worked for a while. Eventually though, we were outed. Someone trawled the web and tracked down my mom's LiveJournal page, and word got out that my family was poly.
Most people tried to understand, but not everyone could. One family was so condemning of our parents' lifestyle that they forbade their kids from playing with us....
Good parents are good parents, whether there are one or two or three or four of them. Fortunately, mine were incredible.
...All in all, my upbringing shaped my personality for the better. I got to speak to adults from all manner of varying backgrounds, whether they were my parents' partners, or parents' partners' partners, or whoever. I lived with people who were straight, gay, bi, trans, writers, scientists, psychologists, adoptees, Bermudians, Hongkongers, people of wealth, and benefits claimants. Maturing in that melting pot really cultivated and broadened my worldview, and helped me become the guy I am today.
I never envied my friends with monogamous parents....
A lot of people ask me whether having poly parents has shaped the way I look at love as an adult, which is hard to answer. Growing up with polyamory as the norm, monogamy seemed alien and counterintuitive. We can love more than one friend or family member at the same time, so the idea that romantic love only worked linearly was befuddling. I'm in my 20s now, and I tend to have multiple partners (though that's more my libido than a philosophical conviction). I don't consider myself poly, but I am open to having either multiple partners or just one.
Life is mostly pain and struggle; the rest is love and deep dish pizza. For the cosmic blink of a moment we spend on this tiny dust speck of a planet, can we simply accept that love is love, including love that happens to be interracial, same-sex, or poly? Discrimination against love is a disease of the heart—and we get enough of that from the pizza.
Read the whole article (June 2, 2015).
This piece stands in quite a contrast to a tale of poor parenting that's been going around Christian conservative sites in the last three weeks. It seems to have originated from the Witherspoon Institute, a leading culture-war think tank located in Princeton, NJ, and co-founded by Princeton professor Robert P. George of anti-gay-marriage fame.
Polyamory Isn’t Good for Children: My Story
By James Lopez
Redefining marriage increases the chances that children miss out on one of the greatest gifts any person can be given: being raised by the man and woman whose love brought them into existence.
Recently, I had a discussion about marriage with someone who calls herself a “Darwinian gay feminist.” I asked her, “Is there any principled reason that marriage should be limited to only two people? There is now such a thing as a ‘throuple’ — a three-way relationship. Should they have a right to marry?”...
This isn’t just a hypothetical question. Last April, the New York Post published a story with this headline: “Married lesbian ‘throuple’ expecting first child.”
...My own childhood gave me a glimpse of what it is like to be raised in such a household.
I grew up in a household living with not only my mother and father, but also my half-brother and his mother. My father had two kids: one with my mom (me) and one with another woman (my half-brother, who was three months older than I). When my mother was not there, I would see my father and my half-brother’s mother kiss and cuddle. When my half-brother’s mom wasn’t there, I would see my mother and my father kiss and cuddle. Although I was very young, these images still remain with me.
My mother and the mother of my half-brother were best friends. When they were in their late teenage years, they came from Guatemala together to the United States and developed a bond on their journey. My half-brother and I got along very well, but having the same father yet different moms in the household was confusing and troubling. It was confusing and troubling for me because I was never the center of my father’s attention, especially when he would mistreat my mom and when he would show affection to my half-brother’s mom....
When I was six years old, my father broke off ties with all of us and started a new family with a third woman. It was at this point that my half-brother’s mother and my mother went their separate ways. From that point onward, my mother raised me by herself.
Although this complicated romantic situation was not technically a “throuple,” because the adults each had their own beds and did not engage in three-person sexual acts, it gives a glimpse of what children would experience in such a household....
As a teenager, I found myself following the relationship patterns my father had modeled, even though he had not been part of my life for over ten years. I would always have two or more girlfriends at the same time.
What exactly explains this behavior? I am not sure, but I have a hunch that my childhood experiences played a major role....
James Lopez is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Political Science at Indiana University and a Masters Degree in Philosophy at Biola University. He is the president of Biola Anscombe Society and a research coordinator at the International Children’s Rights Institute.
Here's the whole article (May 11, 2015). What the author seems to have had is a chaotic home with a runaround, mostly missing father who "would mistreat" his mother, and for ideological purposes he's trying to generalize that experience to where it doesn't apply.