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When his wife was away in Lebanon for several months with their six children, Keysar Trad was lonely and considered taking a second wife.

It seemed the natural thing to do for Trad, 44, who lives in Sydney's western suburbs.

Trad had already lived through the experience of being the son of his father's second wife, who became part of the family after the first wife became too ill to look after their children. A childhood spent living with a mother and a stepmother was completely normal. "There was nothing out of the ordinary," Trad tells The Australian. "My mother and my stepmother were always best friends. They never argued. She looked at my mum like she was her sister."

Their extended family took shape in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in the 1960s. "That society was very open-minded," Trad recalls. "Even though it was not the norm. I was not aware of any other family with that sort of relationship. But generally, I found people didn't care as long as the relationship was a peaceful one."

But Trad's mother warned him not to talk about the family arrangements, saying people really were not that open-minded.

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