I think there is a polyamorous trio living in my apartment building. A man and a woman live together, with their dog, two floors above me; on my floor there is a second man, who lives with his dog. I think the three of them are together because we walk our dogs at the same time, and the three of them are always together. Plus, on the weekends I often see all of them leave in a car together, which makes me think they’re on their way to their house upstate or something. Besides, the two guys really set my gaydar off, but one of the men is definitely married to the woman. I assume they don’t all live together because the apartments in my building are, obviously (as this is NYC), on the small side and besides, maybe Man #2 wants more private time.I realize all of this is not really proof that I’ve got polyamory goin’ down in my building, but ever since Anya James wrote about being in a polyamorous relationship back in November, I’ve noticed that three-way relationships have been everywhere. According to a study cited in Newsweek, “openly polyamorous families in the United States number more than half a million, with thriving contingents in nearly every major city.” Books have been written on the subject — including Jenny Block’s Open and Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up — and Oscar winner Tilda Swinton came out, so to speak, as being part of a polyamorous relationship.
Unfortunately, while society and the media are now recognizing that polyamory exists, the community doesn’t have much in the way of support, even from the gay community, which worries some polyamorists that associating themselves with a group that’s even less “mainstream” will have a negative impact on their pursuit of equal rights. Because of the “extra” people involved, and thus, extra emotions, Newsweek writes polyamorists are greatly misunderstood, with many lumping them in with polygamists or swingers. Newsweek defines polyamory (sometimes called a triad or “ethical nonmonogamy”) as “engaging in loving, intimate relationships with more than one person—based upon the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.” Unlike polygamy, men are not the dominant “head” of the family, taking on many wives, and the relationships have nothing to do with religion. Polyamorists are also different from swingers because the motivation isn’t casual sex, but commitment, with some relationships lasting as long as traditional marriages.
As James wrote for The Frisky, being part of a triad requires hard work just like a two-person romantic relationships does.
“There was twice the energy and convenience of a normal relationship. We all had a lot going on, but when one of us was busy, the other two were still able to spend time together. Jealousy just wasn’t there. We didn’t have to ration out love. It multiplied.
On the negative front, our problems turned out to be really the same as anyone else’s. Dan did dumb boy things and I did dumb girl things and Ellie just watched calmly and loved us like a true negotiator. Our situation felt totally normal to us, so much so that we often forgot that people didn’t expect to see a man out for Valentine’s Day dinner with two dates, or three people snuggling together on a plane.”
Certainly, being part of a polyamorous relationship takes the “right” people. Just like in a couple, if one person isn’t giving as much as the other or the lines of communication aren’t open, the triad can’t be sustained. James was correct to point out in her piece that there are “many stable societies in the world that aren’t based on monogamy.” Hopefully, as people start to open their eyes to the many happy polyamorous families living in our stable society, acceptance won’t be far behind.