Recently, I met a friendly “Thruple” at The New York Open Center where I used to work and still occasionally take classes. The triad were participants in a mindfulness workshop and we began to chat after I complemented them on their necklaces; they all wore identical Gold hearts with an infinity symbol in the center. It’s a powerful message and I had no idea that it was commonly used by members of the “poly” community. I am fascinated by the diversity of human experience so I had to ask them about the pros and cons of being in a relationship that society considers weird at best and evil at worst.
I could have just used common sense and my background in social science to answer those questions but nothing ever replaces asking someone that is living an experience their perspective on their experience. Primarily because there are certain aspects of a subject that might be overemphasized by others outside a community that would be a total “whatevs” to members of a group and vice versa. This I understand all too well being a woman and a person of color.
Jake” is Italian-American, “Alyssa” is Irish-American and “Zoe” is African American. All of them are in their late thirties, attractive, have been together almost a decade and seemed very much in love. By being so, they literally broke many preconceptions that poly people are all old, all white, generally unattractive and non-committal. I wouldn’t have minded if they fit the Ron Jeremy or Robin Byrd stereotype but if they did I would have deviated the discussion to the necessity of bears and rhinestone bras.
At any rate, the trio mentioned that the main positive of being polyamorous is not having to lie, repress or pretend anymore when they have certain feelings with the person they care for. Jake was tired of being considered “insensitive” in relationships for having normal desires and Alyssa agreed with Zoe’s statement that “possessive love was a form of control and emotional retardation”. So, when they found each other at a poly mixer eight years ago they instantly hit it off, began dating and never looked back. Now they have finally found the unconditional love and acceptance they had been waiting for their entire lives.
As for the cons, all three cited lack of family acceptance, ignorant stereotypes about polys by non-polys and their inability to legally marry as obstacles to feeling “normal”. Though Alyssa has not spoken to her family since she came out as a “hardcore poly” in the late 90s, Jake has to pretend to be single to keep up appearances at work and Zoe’s mother constantly “jokes” about Jake’s brainwashing powers at Thanksgiving dinner, they are mostly bothered by their inability to legally wed.
The triad are free to have lovers outside of their relationship (they are required to meet all potential paramours and see proof of a clean bill of health) but they made sure I understood that they are 100% committed to each other mentally and spiritually which in their view is “the only way that really matters”.
Six years ago, they pooled their money together to buy their dream home in Long Island, they travel internationally every year to celebrate their “anniversary” (they still had their Tahitian glow when I met them) and even had wills drawn up to secure all involved. The only thing they don’t have is medical insurance for Alyssa which would not be a problem if Jake were allowed to marry her and Zoe. Alyssa said it was way more important for Jake to marry Zoe since they plan to have a baby in the near future and she’s not interested in giving birth. Zoe believes marrying Alyssa would “save them from the inevitable non-poly legitimizing bullshit” that would come from one of them marrying Jake. Zoe’s frustration than prompted Alyssa to go into a full fledged rant about the hypocrisy regarding the separation of church and state. Alyssa was clearly resentful about same sex couples getting acceptance while polys of all sexual orientations are still ignored and maligned.
Alyssa considers herself a Christian and has even thought about taking the issue up with clergymen that might be sympathetic to their cause. Her argument is that the “big three” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) only banned Polyamory because it denied children the right to know their father’s identity. A point that she respects but says is clearly outdated in the 21st century now that we have birth control pills and DNA testing. The generically “spiritual” Jake and Zoe simply rubbed Alyssa’s back as she became increasingly flustered.
Our chat was suddenly interrupted by the instructor gesturing for us to return to class but I thought about them as I rode along the Hudson River on my bicycle that evening. I wondered if Alyssa would ever agree to let Zoe “save” her via a gay marriage and if the legalization of gay marriage has aided any other poly couples consisting of four or more partners. As for the “big three” changing their position based on contemporary scientific developments, I doubt it but its an interesting notion. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how history unfolds.
Tayannah McQuillar is a writer and the Founder of Demimonde Public Relations (www.demimondepr.com) send her a tweet @demimondepr