I have been following the recent stories on polyamorous relationships, both on Offbeat Home and elsewhere, and saying a silent “hallelujah.” I’ve been in a polyfidelitous triad (like a marriage but with three people) for thirteen years, but I’ve never found the strength or the venue to start a larger conversation about long-term polyamorist relationships.
But given how long the three of us have been together, I feel like I can offer some useful tidbits of advice and some observations on living a life that exists on the fringes but still in the mainstream.
What does our family look like?
I have a male partner and a female partner; she and I are both bisexual, and he is heterosexual. We have three children, ages 18, 10, and 3. We’ve known each other for longer than we’ve been together romantically, and our relationship turned from friendship into romance at a point where we were all going through massive relationship upheavals. To make a long story incredibly short, we spent a summer flirting and talking (and drinking an awful lot of wine) and decided to give life as a triad a shot. I moved in with them, and we began co-parenting their (then) 5-year-old daughter.
In the beginning, it will be tough
In spite of our happiness and optimism, our larger relationships suffered in the first few years. We endured periods of estrangement and strained relationships with some family members in the beginning.
After a few years, it won’t be as tough
Once people saw that we were serious and were not barreling down the road to Relationship Armageddon, their views changed. It was slow and painful at times, but at this point we have full support, inclusion, and love from our families. We have found schools, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who welcome us and are supportive. We have an excellent group of friends who accept us for who we are.
The poly community may have nothing to offer you
In an effort to meet other families like ours, we spent a brief time meeting with a polyamory group in our city. We found many different relationship configurations but nothing that looked like what we had. There were people looking for recreational sex partners, trying to figure out how to make an affair into something livable, or trying to cope with a spouse’s desire for “fun” outside the relationship. We didn’t meet anyone who seemed like us.
In the end, we decided that we had our friends, and that even if none of them had a family like ours, we were okay with that. Families are different, and we had things in common with our current friends that were much more important than the genders or number of partners in their relationships.
It’s not always good, and it’s not always bad
We’ve had good times and bad times in our relationship, just like people in any relationship do. We disagree sometimes, we feel jealous or hurt sometimes, we have money problems sometimes. Our ups and downs aren’t any greater in number or severity than anyone else’s.
It’s not a porn film
We have three kids. Do I need to say any more about how un-porn-like our relationship is? In all seriousness, I would guess that we have a sex life that is very parallel to most married couples. We don’t get as much as we’d like, but we get by. My female partner has chronic pain issues, and that has definitely been a challenge, but we work with what we have. I can safely say that nobody will be knocking down our door looking for an adult film contract any time soon.
You’ll come out a lot, and you’ll get used to it
Initially, coming out will be an event. Those first conversations with family and friends are high-stakes and anxiety-producing. Once you get past that hump though, coming out can feel iffy, but overall we’ve had great experiences. Most people are inquisitive rather than rude. I generally wait until someone knows me to some degree and has figured out that I’m not a freak of nature or sociopath, and then I tell them. By then, they’ve figured out that I’m a decent person, so they figure it can’t be all bad.
Your kids will be awesome
Our kids have an incredible amount of support. With three parents, there is nearly always someone to attend a school function, drive a kid to a friend’s house, chaperone a field trip, or stay home when a child is sick.
Of course, it also means one more parent to go ask when they don’t like the answer they are given by the others, and they are subjected to 150 percent of the supervision that their friends are. We believe that to be a good thing. Our kids are smart, friendly, personable, and confident.
Legally, things will be weird
When I was pregnant with kid No. 2, we went to a lawyer to try to set things up so that we could all have some legal tie to each of the kids. After many interesting conversations, it was decided that three people cannot legally parent one child. We were able to work things out to a point where we felt reasonably secure, but it took a while. The moral of the story is that you should find a good lawyer, develop a relationship with that person, and put things in writing. It’s not perfect, but writing things down in an official sense is important.
Get used to explaining things to financing companies
We own our home. To be exact, I have the mortgage (this time around) and all of our names are on the title. We have moved and refinanced, so we’ve gone through the home-buying process several times.
Often, I feel like we should make a pamphlet. It could say things like “Yes, his wife knows about me” and “No, they are not getting divorced” or “He’s not my husband, he’s her husband, but we really want a loan together.” Everyone, from the realtor to the closing agent will need a quick explanation. Don’t take offense, just roll with it.
No, I don’t want to sleep with you, and we don’t want a group sex thing
Just because there are three of us does not mean that we are open to sleeping with people outside our relationship, that we are all “allowed” to have affairs, or that we routinely have other people in our bed. But thanks for the flattery!
We’re really not that interesting
A long-time friend of ours once said, “You know, you meet so many people who look normal from the outside, and then you find out they’re screwed up. With you guys, it’s the opposite — you look weird from the outside, but once I got to know you, I realized you’re just pretty boring.” Thanks, I think…