When Partners Leave Polyamorous Families With Children

Parents' and children's strategies for dealing with shifting family members.

Posted Oct 07, 2013

The larger poly groups get, my research indicates, the more often they experience a change in membership. It makes sense —the bigger the group, the more likely it is that someone will leave or others will join. What happens when the group includes children who become attached to adults, and those beloved adults are the ones who leave? 

Sometimes it Really Sucks


small white boy crying in black and white photograph

Kids can feel devastated when a beloved adult goes away.

Some kids in my study of poly families reported feeling quite upset when their parents broke up with partners whom the children had come to love. The kids missed their former adult companions, and occasionally compared parents’ subsequent partners to others they had known and loved before, refusing to get close to new partners because of the old hurt they experienced when they bonded with an adult who then left. 

More Often it is Not a Big Deal

Stone statue of child in woman's arms kissing woman on cheek

The kids in poly families I interviewed routinely reported that they felt safe and secure with their parents.

Slow Introduction

A turtle on a rocky beach with the word slow written above

It is best not to rush poly relationships, and parents are especially careful when introducing their partners to their children.

Blend In

A group of people smiling and chatting on a beach at sunset.

Dinner parties, group camp-outs, movie nights, and support groups are common in poly communities and often include children.

A party of people standing around a kitchen talking and drinking.

Poly communities often host potlucks where kids go off and play while the adults chat.

Staying In Touch

Three adult elephants standing around baby elephant, trunks lovingly entwined

When adults are friendly or at least civil and supportive it is easier for kids to stay in contact with beloved adults.

Creating Chosen Family

A statue of four silver people holding up an oddly shaped box together

"Chosen kin" are usually friends who become family members, such as honorary aunts/uncles, siblings, or cousins.

Three young white women smiling and laughing, rough-housing outside.

Sisters 4ever. Polys value emotional bonds, often above sex. Friends are very important, and some become family.