For polyamorous families, three hearts are better than two

See also: Five myths about polyamory -- and why they persist

For polyamorous families, three hearts are better than two
Mitch O’Connell

Reggie Alexander is a good-natured guy. It's a trait that serves him well.

Sitting on the couch in his Denver home, he's holding hands on his right with his wife, Eeza Alexander, who is dark-eyed, playful and eager to let Reggie know when he's made a bad joke. His left hand, meanwhile, is intertwined with that of Cassidy Browning, who is thoughtful and confident.

Reggie and Eeza and Cassidy, all in their mid- to late forties, are a couple. Well, not a couple. They are a polyamorous triad — a group of three committed partners living together in a relationship under one roof. In their case, Reggie explains, he acts as the "hinge partner. It's a relationship where the person at the center of the V is fully involved with both of the people at the ends of the V, but they are not as fully involved with each other as they are with the person at the center."

Cassidy Browning (left), and Reggie and Eeza Alexander play together and work together.
Anthony Camera
Cassidy Browning (left), and Reggie and Eeza Alexander play together and work together.
Cassidy and Reggie have written several novels together.
Anthony Camera
Cassidy and Reggie have written several novels together.

And after six years of living in this group, Reggie is used to being in the middle of everything — including their California king-sized bed. "It's hard to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom," he laughs. "It's an athletic accomplishment."

The literal definition of polyamory is "many loves." But in practice, the term usually applies to non-monogamous but ethical relationships where the people involved believe in honesty, consent, open communication and trust. In fact, the general principles of polyamory are similar to those of monogamy; you just have to do the same things more often, and with more partners.

See also:
- Five myths about polyamory -- and why they persist
- Check out the kinky work of local authors Reggie and Kasi Alexander

For the most part, mainstream culture has associated polyamory with swinging, hippie love-festing, cheating and, of course, certain religious groups, either current or historic. The Mormons, the most well-known of these, no longer officially embrace polygamy, but some splinter groups still practice it.

But the image of polyamory is changing, especially with reality-TV shows like Sister Wives and Polyamory: Married and Dating. And, anecdotally, many monogamous couples are changing their relationships to be what sex-advice columnist Dan Savage calls "monogamish."

In fact, Reggie, Eeza and Cassidy believe that having a long-term relationship with more than one person is a significant accomplishment at a time when divorce rates in the U.S. continue to increase, nasty breakups seem to be the norm, and everyone knows someone who isn't getting their needs met in a monogamous relationship.

"Our society...is looking for alternative dynamics that work," says Reggie. "The days of the traditional nuclear family being the only model are giving way to other options."

**********

That tradition is how Reggie and Eeza got their start. The two fell in love in high school in Edmond, Oklahoma, and got married in 1984, before Reggie graduated. They moved to Colorado shortly thereafter, and Reggie worked in the public sector while Eeza took a job as a certified nurse's assistant. They also had two children.

Over the next decade, however, Reggie and Eeza watched many of their friends go through messy divorces, and when the couple's best friends decided to split, they decided to try something different with their own marriage. "I have always believed in the idea of a poly lifestyle, even when I didn't know it had an official name," says Reggie. "I always felt I had more than enough love to give to more than just one woman, but I never acted on it."

"We were curious about the kink lifestyle but hadn't done anything before the polyamory," Eeza adds.

After spending three years discussing what they wanted out of a new relationship dynamic, they tried Polymatchmaker.com, an online dating site with a specific theme — and found Cassidy.

Cassidy was born in Michigan and lived in New York and Arizona before moving to Denver, where she has worked at various colleges and nonprofits. She had been married twice (once for six years and once for ten) and was coming out of her second divorce when she decided to explore polyamory. She had been interested in alternative sex scenes, but polyamory was something entirely different.

"I had always been intrigued by the idea of being polyamorous," says Cassidy. "I experimented briefly with it during my second marriage, but it wasn't successful. After that divorce — not caused by the poly experiment — I consciously went out to find a polyamorous situation."

After trading e-mails, the three met in person in 2006, at a Christmas party being held by the local polyamorous community, and they hit it off right away. "We dated for a short time and then convinced her to move in with us," says Reggie. "We haven't let her escape yet."

But making the relationship work, physically and emotionally, wasn't easy — and it took time.

"I got jealous big-time in the beginning," Eeza says. "It's just something you have to work through. I still get jealous every once in a while, but I've learned to deal with it. Reggie does his best to make us feel special."

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38 comments
gemimz28
gemimz28

@jenna-furrr, you probably wish you had a relationship period, but since you think you know so much more than most, you probably can't find anyone willing to put up with your mouth. And you probably resemble those gals physically & have a huge chip on your shoulder to boot.

 I'm all for polyamourous relationships, I'd like a couple of physically fit 20 yr olds to start with, thank you.....;p

gemimz28
gemimz28

@jenna-furrr, you probably wish you had a relationship period, but since you think you know so much more than most, you probably can't find anyone willing to put up with your mouth. And you probably resemble those gals physically & have a huge chip on your shoulder to boot.

 I'm all for polyamourous relationships, I'd like a couple of physically fit 20 yr olds to start with, thank you.....;p

gemimz28
gemimz28

@jenna-furrr, you probably wish you had a relationship period, but since you think you know so much more than most, you probably can't find anyone willing to put up with your mouth. And you probably resemble those gals physically & have a huge chip on your shoulder to boot.

 I'm all for polyamourous relationships, I'd like a couple of physically fit 20 yr olds to start with, thank you.....;p

gemimz28
gemimz28

@jenna-furrr, you probably wish you had a relationship period, but since you think you know so much more than most, you probably can't find anyone willing to put up with your mouth. And you probably resemble those gals physically & have a huge chip on your shoulder to boot.

 I'm all for polyamourous relationships, I'd like a couple of physically fit 20 yr olds to start with, thank you.....;p

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I prefer the 'Not enough time for a relationship', 2 - 6 dates per month, kind of woman . I have ya beat there buddy ....

whatdivawants
whatdivawants

There's no point in arguing that monogamy or polyamory is better or more correct than the other - what works for me won't for you. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

The poly lifestyle is not for everyone. Some people are monogamous, some aren't. If it's not for you, great, more power to you, but judging others for their lifestyle choice is petty and immature. If you wouldn't judge a person on their orientation, skin color, or religion, don't judge them on their love life.

And anyone who trashes another person based on weight alone has obviously not left their junior high mindset behind them. Humans are visual, yes, but can also be civilized to each other.

Griff2
Griff2

After 15 years of marriage, my wife and I unexpectedly found ourselves with an opportunity to have another woman join us as a polyfidelitous triad. We had a great relationship (while it lasted). The benefits were numerous and the experience of having two loving partners was unbelievable. Unlike the family in this story, our relationship was even all the way around (each of us loved the other two similarly.) 

But make no mistake, it's very tricky ground to navigate. With only 3 people, there are now 4 relationships to nurture instead of 1 (the 3 pairs and 1 triad). Ultimately, jealousy ended our relationship, but with the right people it can work out splendidly and I think it's a much better arrangement than a traditional couple. There are more people like us out there than you might imagine!

maxplanck0
maxplanck0

Don't get it and quite frankly, glad to keep it that way. By the looks of things, I suspect their grocery bills are a bit prohibitive.

Deborah Watts
Deborah Watts

Brother husbands works for me! Still just a DREAM!

lezlijo
lezlijo

It all sounds a little selfish.

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

I condone relationships of most natures between or among consenting adults, but when it comes to poly I just don't know where people find the candidates or the TIME. I have calculated for my own life that there is maybe one viable prospect every three years, so the idea of having more than one prospect at a time just blows my mind right up. I also am suspicious about the "his and hers and hers" makeup of most of the poly relationships I've been made aware of, as though sharing a mate is most often a relegation of females.

Also: There is an absolutely insufferable arrogance to every poly person I have ever met (mostly men who think that because I am a little eccentric I want to be someone's third/fifth/whatever-the-fuck wheel). It's always T-minus five seconds before they're trotting out anthro 101 rhetoric about how "humans aren't meant to be monogamous." I am often approached having not given any indication that I am amenable to an "alternate" lifestyle because of the presumption that I'm either into it or simply not as romantically evolved as they are.  

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@Griff2 Thank you for the positive--and realistic--comment. Jealousy is a real bitch, for sure, and has ended a few of my poly relationships in the past as well. I had to learn a slew of good lessons from those relationships, and one of the most significant ones is that communication is crucial. I have learned that it's impossible for me to effectively control the behaviors of others---as much as I'd like to at times...lol--and when I stopped viewing my partners as my property, poly got simpler and easier for me.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@Juan_Leg Eeza and Cassidy are many things, but stupid and desperate?--not even a little bit.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@maxplanck0 Something about glass houses and throwing rocks comes to mind here, sir.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@David Kotzebue Are two bulls better than one?

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@Deborah Watts Right?--in my fantasies I would have more menfolk around so that someone would take the trash out before it overflows....lol

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

@lezlijo Seriously. Sounds like someone has time to volunteer at the animal shelter or something instead of racking up the love interests.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@lezlijo For some, yes, but I would counter your point by saying that many mono couples who aren't getting their needs met in their relationships tend to get them met elsewhere without consent, honesty or communication, which to me sounds far more selfish.

brittyfly46052
brittyfly46052

@thewreckingbelle if you would like to email me on the subject I would be happy to explain my poly lifestyle, the transition and whatnot.  I was raised extremely conservative but I think I can maybe help you relate even if you don't agree.

Bahlii
Bahlii

@thewreckingbelle

Hi! I saw your comment and felt moved to respond, in part because I felt that the other commentary/interactions you got was really not representative of the poly population that I inhabit. It sounds like you've encountered some d-bags, and that really sucks. It also sounds like poly really isn't what you're into, and I hope that future encounters of the non-monogamous kind are a little less pushy. Pretty big on personal boundaries over here myself, and I find that sort of behavior from others to be really irritating at a minimum.

Time-related matters and scheduling can be a sticking point, in my experience, but I swear that with regular communication, it's manageable. :) I love my partners, but there are still a finite number of hours in the day, places I can be at once and dollars in my bank account, so I feel you there. This is part of the reason why I am firmly in the "poly is not for everyone" camp, and am happy to respect the choices of others to do what suits them.

To expand on your mention of the gender dynamic, I'm a pansexual woman with two male partners, who are also free to have partners of their own, of whatever gender(s) they fancy. The "one dude plus a harem" perception is probably one of the more visible poly stereotypes, but I've never done that dynamic in the 7ish years I've been at this. I've seen it, and seen it done in a fashion that seems to make everyone involved happy, but as with every other type of dynamic, I've also seen it make a mess. The author of this article actually has another one that actually addresses in part that perception regarding male-centric relationships; I wandered over there after I read this. It's here, if you're so inclined: %s


...I'm also completely sick of hearing about how it's our "nature" to be poly/mono/etc, ESPECIALLY if it's cloaked in some evo-psych BS or someone anthropomorphizing biological imperatives to make them sound like they're driven by emotion. (whether it's "natural" or not is actually the #1 poly myth in that other article I linked....my husband had a laugh at it too)

We're all individuals, so I think that to suggest there's a one-size-fits-all relationship model that will be equally valid for everyone is kind of insulting, no matter what that model it is or how other species do it. We don't all eat the same kind of food, live in the same kind of dwelling, have the same hobbies (like the ren faire, for example...), so the idea that we'd all build relationships in the same way just strikes me as weird. Besides, what I do works for me and I figured it out, so I trust that other people will figure out their own happiness in due time. Or not. Their choice, so the judgement of others upon it is extraneous and usually done out of ignorance anyway. *shrug*

This went on longer than I intended, sorry to bore you with a wall of text. Hopefully it doesn't make me Arrogantly Poly; I'd much rather Pontificate Poly, lol. Have you ever played that drinking game in public? I can think of a message board or two I could apply it to...

Aside: That little story about the lions was cool, @freetofear , but completely irrelevant. As was your amazingly ignorant assessment of MFM+ relationships like mine, which you've obviously never been anywhere near. My dudes are both straight, and friends who can spend time together without me and have fun; the worst rivalry I've seen out of my partners is at board games. "A dangerous competition"......does not compute, sorry. If we didn't get along, why would we be together?

freetofear
freetofear

@thewreckingbelle  

It sounds to me that you are quite bitter, therefor it makes sense that you are having trouble.  Without even knowing it you are probably sending out conflicting signals.

No offense but was there a point to your rant?  I could not grasp it, just seemed to be the rantings of an upset bi-curious/poly-curious woman who isnt currently satisfied by anyone. 1 prospect every 3 years?  Are you having trouble staying with one person for any amount of time?

I am in a poly relationship and have been for years, Im sexy, and younger, not an "off-season renaissance faire type"  I agree many 3way relationships are not attractive, and yes when me and my woman were looking there were quite a few manly dikes who wanted a piece of her and not me.  So that much I do understand.

I suppose the luck I have is that I can see through people like water so it was easy to find us a 3rd, just had to look for that cute, young, bi-curious girl to show herself and then I made it happen.

The reason for the man woman woman makeup of most poly relationships, instead of man woman man is simple.  Lions may have many females but if a male comes around, even a family member, someone dies.  Most MWW relationships have a very alpha male at the top, the only way another male would work is if both the alpha and the other male were bi-sexual which would create a "need" or attraction.  Anything short of that and it becomes a dangerous competition.  I dont know any other poly's and frankly I dont even say poly or designate us as such. 

Good luck finding your niche. 

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

I guess I'll also be the asshole on record to say that in my completely anecdotal and otherwise unsubstantiated experience, I've never been tempted by um, a "classically attractive" poly. It's most often off-season Renaissance Faire types.

lezlijo
lezlijo

@jenna-furrr @lezlijo Selfish is as selfish does

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@Bahlii This is actually the first mention I've hard of ren faire folks being particularly drawn to poly relationships--and here I thought I'd heard all the stereotypes. : ) If there is an Arrogant Poly drinking game, then is there a similar Mono Privileged drinking game? : )

fragglera
fragglera

@freetofear @thewreckingbelle nice homophobia and heterocentrism. no it isnt the case that most poly re's are mff. there are all kinds of different sorts. also look up alpha males in relation to wolves. not only are scientists now in agreement that the whole notion is garbage as it pertains to wolves, your application is a classic bs psuedoscience bit of (evpsych) gender essentialist garbage. but thanks for playing the game. also its spelled dykes and if you mean butches or studs- masculine queer women- you can say just that.

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

@freetofear @thewreckingbelle The "it sounds to me like you are quite bitter" sour-grapes explanation is exactly the kind of arrogance I'm talking about. The Poly can't CONCEIVE of any objections to their perfectly evolved lifestyle unless objector is bitter and "having trouble."

The points to my rant were basically that to me, poly lifestyle has always represented a lowering of standards, since in my experience, there are few people worthy of romantic love.

Your description of the experience of "finding a third" actually makes me think what you have is an open relationship, not necessarily a polyamorous one. (Consult Dan Savage for distinction.)

Since you pretended not to understand "the point of my rant" I will also reiterate my wariness that so many poly relationships have a male-centric constitution. I can't help but wonder if the women are content to be a side dish, to sacrifice being the one apple of a person's eye, because of some defect of self-esteem, which is certainly more a female issue in our culture.

Lucky me, I'd be wasted if I were playing the Poly Arrogance drinking game right now: Take a shot every time they (1)accuse you of being bitter/uninformed/close-minded (2) bring up "nature" or (3) mixed up their own lifestyle with another alternative lifestyle or (4) are sexually unappealing to the monogamous majority.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@thewreckingbelle Usually I'm the asshole on record, but I'll gladly let you claim that title today. : ) I will disagree, however. I dunno where you are meeting poly folks, but they come in all flavors.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

@thewreckingbelle @freetofear Ouch. You do sound rather bitterman. I have had my share of poly relationships that didn't work out, but I refuse to blame this on broad, sweeping generalities, preferring rather to take each on a case-by-case basis. Now, I will partially agree with your assertion that there are unfortunately some poly relationships out there that are male-led, often with M/s power exchanges, and some women who are unhappy with being in a hierarchical structure that isn't skewed in their favors. But they choose this. And they can choose to leave at any time when their needs aren't being met. And it's not a female issue--I've seen plenty of men who submit to female-led power exchange/poly relationships as well.


There is a lid for every pot. And there is nothing stopping you from having whatever type of relationship you wish--except you.

freetofear
freetofear

@thewreckingbellelle

Im not arrogant its actually quite clear you are bitter.  I didnt say that because i "cant conceive of any objections to their perfectly." blah blah blah.

I said it because you do clearly sound bitter.  You took it as an attack and in fact it was an observation.  I did assume you were unattractive as you only "have a prospect every 3 years or so." and because you are clearly ALONE.  I dont have to go looking for a "prospect" every 3 years, I have long term relationships because I am not bitter and Im great to be around.  Ive been with the same woman for almost 14 years, the other for 4.  Im very romantic and actually I have to go now because we are having a pleasant evening together starting now.  I cant waste any more of my time explaining anything to you.  You have made up your mind, like a man saying every woman who isnt attracted to him must be a lesbian....  You have excuses for everything but just look around you, You are alone on valentines day and ranting against people in love.  Good luck with that whole dying alone thing, Im sure it will be FUN!  


I will not read nor reply. 

 
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