Deborah Anapol’s article in Psychology Today, “Group Marriage and the Future of the Family,” was published back in March, but it only crossed my path today. It is a very positive article (I’d expect nothing less from Anapol, author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits) and paints a very rosy picture of the benefits of polyamory on children:
“One of the most common concerns about polyamory is that it’s harmful to children, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Multiple-adult families and committed intimate networks have the potential of providing dependent children with additional nurturing adults who can meet their material, intellectual, and emotional needs. While parents may end up focusing less attention on their children, children may gain new aunts, uncles, and adopted parents.”
I find this article timely, as my poly-family has recently had its limits tested and right now looks dangerously close to breaking. I won’t go into details because it’s still a fresh wound and nothing is certain. But it does raise the question for me, what if these adults, with whom a child forms a close bond, decide they no longer want to or are unable to be a part of that family? It could potentially be as stressful as a divorce, especially if there is animosity amongst the adults. What about when the departing adult wishes to maintain a relationship with a child they helped raise, but the biological parents want nothing to do with that person, the pain of loss being still too strong? In cases where the relationship is clearly defined, i.e. the leaving partner is the biological parent or a spouse of one of the parents, there are legal rights and clear custody arrangements, but what about the ‘other’ people? The pseudo-aunties and sort-of-uncles? Is the idealistic dream of ‘one big happy family’ just that? An unattainable ideal?
I worry sometimes that we who practice polyamory and advocate for its acceptance perhaps paint too rosy a picture of polyamory. Sometimes, it’s very, very difficult. Lately, I’ve been facing a lot of challenges in my relationships and they have all come fast and hard, one after another. A friend of mine once asked me, baffled by my emotional pain about a recent breakup, “Isn’t the point of getting married so that you don’t have to go through this again?” and I’ve asked myself the question several times over the last month or so whther it is worth all this pain to keep pursuing polyamorous relationships. For me, the answer is just as easy to answer as if I were single and pursuing monogamous relationships: yes. My relationships are worth it.
Whatever the shape of a relationship, there is always potential for pain, heartbreak, jealousy, anger, loss and more. When it goes wrong, it hurts. Furthermore, you can be doing everything right and still wind up hurting someone else or getting hurt. When you open yourself up to intimacy, you make yourself vulnerable. That’s what makes it intimate. The more people you open up to, the more chances there are for things to go horribly wrong. Is it fair to put children in the middle of that? I don’t know. It’s a good question, and I’m starting to see the benefit in people being closeted to their kids. It breaks my heart to think of taking away a member of my son’s stable network of adults, but at the same time, I don’t know if I can open up myself or my husband to being hurt by this person again.
I still believe that polyamory opens up the potential to a larger network of adults to give children a larger family of which the typical nuclear family deprives them. I agree with everything in Anapol’s article, and I’ve seen examples personally of people forming a large poly household of interconnected and inter-committed adults. Maybe that is the key, that a greater commitment is required to make things work, whether between two people or more. I don’t have all the answers, but I do hope I find them, and I hope Deborah Anapol is right when she says,
“…polyamory may be at least as good as the other options for raising healthy children.”
It’s the least I can hope for.