I recently came across an AskReddit thread where u/AydanZeGod asked "Children of poly relationships, what was it like growing up?"
It piqued my curiosity, so I took a gander. The stories people shared were incredibly eye-opening. Here are some of the most honest responses:
1."Honestly I think it's waaaay more boring than most people would think. Most of the time, my mom wouldn't introduce a partner to me unless it was a long-term relationship, so most of the time I got the single mom experience. For the most part, it was so completely average other than knowing my mom had two girlfriends and eventually I also got a stepdad. The worst part was around 6–8th grade when kids found out and started bullying me for it. They asked all kinds of disgusting sexual questions about my parents."
"Eventually, I learned to just not tell anyone unless we were close and I knew they were cool. I only ever had one person I trusted enough to actually come to a family picnic where my mom's partners would all be there. My mom's partners aren't my parents but they are part of my life and my family. They're wonderful and supportive and have helped me through some horrible dark times in my life. I'm grateful to have such a wonderful, loving family."
2."My parents weren't poly until I was a toddler. I thought of the other couple as just nice people my mom and dad were close with. They met online and came to visit, they all clicked well, and eventually, the other couple moved in with my family. I didn't make the connection they were all together until I was a teenager. I suppose I thought they were all just roommates of sorts (though bed swapping and sharing were occurring the whole time)! By that point, my mom and dad had divorced and so had the couple. My dad married the other woman, and my mother married the other man. My mother has divorced and remarried again, and my father and stepmother are still together, almost 20 years later."
3."It's fine. I got a bunch of extra parents, but I wasn't allowed to have friends over when I was little 'cause my mom was scared someone would call CPS, and I don't get along super great with my stepmom. It's not cause of the poly thing but it's just that our personalities just don't mesh well. I had one therapist insist that my beef with her was over the fact that she was sleeping with my dad and not the fact that she routinely threw out my belongings. The other moms are cool tho."
4."My parents became polyamorous when I was around 6 or 7. They didn't tell me or my sisters until their girlfriend (long-distance) came to visit for a few weeks. After that, they were pretty open about who they were dating if it was serious. All of my friends at school thought it was cool and it just seemed normal to me. The long-distance girlfriend and mom broke up after a few years but stayed with my dad up until a couple of years ago (I'm 24 now). There were never any huge issues, except for when my mom and dad's girlfriend came to a family gathering and my mom didn't warn my grandma. And it was also weird when my mom moved in with a boyfriend which left us to live with just my dad and her other boyfriend."
5."It wasn’t super different than any other way of growing up I assume. I just have one extra dad than everybody else. That’s just always how it’s been, and I never really thought about how ‘abnormal’ it was until high school. The biggest difference I can think of while growing up is that there was ALWAYS someone home, which can be frustrating for a rebellious teenager."
6."When I was young my folks dated a couple of couples. One was very long-term. We were military families but they managed to fenangle a transfer together. So that would've been 8 years at least. They kept in close romantic contact when they separated, but I don't know if they qualify that as still being together. They were my aunt and uncle, essentially. We and their kiddos got sent off to grandparents (theirs and ours) together to give them alone time. It was kind of a given that we'd all see each other every couple of days. Either they'd come to our house or we'd go to theirs. Not for them to sneak away for sexy time, but just to spend time together and be a family together. I knew I could go to them about anything I could talk to my folks about and even some things I couldn't."
"That closeness continued even when my own folks split. I don't know what standing they had with them after that though. Unfortunately, my aunt kind of had a psychotic menopause and we had to go to North Carolina with her. Nobody knows that I'm still in contact with my "uncle" tho. I don't know how my mom would feel about it. But he stayed a rock for me when my own dad didn't. It was the same drama as any other family I guess, just more players on the stage."
7."It wasn't a huge deal when I was a kid. Essentially, it was just like hanging out with your parents and their friends. Some of my mom's partners had kids my age that I got along with really well. That being said, a little while ago my mom was flirting with a guy and referred to me as her 'mono kid' (meaning that I'm monogamous) as if it was a bad thing so our relationship is a little strained these days. Her other daughter is 12, so I'm really not certain why that comment was anywhere near necessary. Another thing, while they have never had any authority over me, she refers to her partners as my 'rampparents' because they're not quite stepparents."
8."My parents often have potlucks where they invite their partners over. My parents are good people, and everyone they invite over are good people and have become my friends. I also usually meet their children and become friends with them. It really is just a wonderful environment, but it is very difficult to maintain. More partners means more drama, and a lot of times two people will get in a fight and cause the whole group to split for a while. But all in all, it’s pretty great."
"My dad is bi and my mom isn’t, and the group of partners that they have (called the polycule) consists of well over 50 people, but not everyone is in a romantic relationship. And in any group of 50 people, there are people who can’t stand each other. So my parents' circumstance is a bit of a special one, but it only leads to meeting more good people."
9."I had a therapist in a poly relationship and they all had a child together that was around 9 when I met them. Two dads and one mom. Unfortunately, they couldn't be fully open about the fact that the three of them were in love before she was born because the one she called 'dad' worked for a religious college. That information getting out at all could have cost him his career, so she only called one of them dad while she thought of the other like an uncle that visited every day."
10."It was fine. The poly part didn't really become known to me 'til I was 13 or so. The only weird bit was if I was bringing home a friend or someone I wanted to go out with I had to kind of explain what to expect beforehand and some people got weirded out. I'm an adult in a monogamous marriage now. I saw first-hand that getting three people to come to a consensus on anything was exponentially more difficult than just getting two on the same page. I also just realized how I was raised also made me very comfortable with talking about sex and boundaries in a relationship, whereas I think a lot of my peers were more easily pressured into things they weren't comfortable with."
11."My parents were poly since well before they got married and I was born. Mostly it was just boyfriends or girlfriends that would visit. I didn't know anything about sex and they didn't tell me anything inappropriate, although they did make sure that I wouldn't gab about who slept in what bed when I was young. They were dead scared of child protective services getting involved. One of my mom's boyfriends became a lot more serious and he moved in when I was about 8 or 9. It was a lot like having an uncle move in. He became part of the family, drove me and my brother to places, and got involved in our interests. I told people he was my uncle. He had another girlfriend aside from my mother, too, openly. He broke up with my mother in a big way (which they kept private from me) and moved out when I was maybe 14 or so. It might have been hard for my mother, but it wasn't traumatic for me."
"We kept in touch for a few years until he moved farther away for a new job. It wasn't like a divorce experience, but more like my uncle moving out. My dad had a serious girlfriend too, but she was also married with a kid my age, so she never moved in with us. But we went and visited as a family a few times a year. She's great friends with my mom to this day. Her kid and I were good friends for a while and drifted apart as we got older, a lot like cousins."
12."I come from what would seemingly look like a nuclear family. It's my mom, dad, sister, and I. My parents however would go out on weekends to swinger's clubs or house parties. I didn't know this as a child. I would say I learned this when I was around 13. He told me he and my mom have never been close and that they were happy to seek other partners as they saw fit. I remember a few of the people that they were 'friends' with would come over to our house. They were great people, I considered them like I would any other friend of my parents. I ended up expanding into poly relationships early in high school. My triad even went to the homecoming dance together."
13."My mother was involved in a poly relationship for a while when I was a kid. It was very confusing. For a while, there were four of us kids around. Me, the kid of the other woman, and the two kids of the man. We were all pretty confused and resentful. Our favorite joke was 'pick a number and wait in line.'"
14.And lastly "My parents have been a triad since 1998. It was hard, I won't lie. They dated a lot of fourths who brought their own children into the mix and then later broke up with them. It was really difficult to constantly have parental figures and siblings come and go. The most being 13 kids and four adults in a two-bedroom apartment. But I am glad though that I grew up with it. I'm poly myself and it was never something my parents encouraged or forced on us. In fact, they always say not to try it unless you're a specific type of person. It introduced me to a wide range of people and broadened my mind to what family actually is which is the people who love you and make you feel safe. Chosen family."
Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.