Though she’s new to poly lifestyles and still adjusting to the terminology, one might call Heidel’s living arrangement a poly-fidelitous closed triad, though she prefers to just call it her pride. Prior to discovering poly lingo, that’s what she called her family: a pride of lions. Heidel’s pride consists of one other beautiful woman, one gorgeous man, three sons, two stepsons, a step-baby on the way, one very, very old pitbull named Jones, two snakes, a bunch of lizards and toads, and one ham-eating Eastern box turtle named Gary. Heidel writes from Central California.
Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.
When it comes to three, there are a lot of clichés. Queer as a three-dollar bill. Houseguests and fish stink after three days. Hotter than a three-pecked goat in a field full of nannies.
Sometimes, when you have a houseful, it feels like a three-ring circus. Depending on how you’ve set up your house, you might be lucky to get a good night’s sleep without being interrupted by someone else snoring, stomping past your bedroom or tossing and turning beside you. You wait your turn to use the bathroom. You serve or eat meals you don’t particularly like just because everyone else in the house prefers it.
There’s a lot of give and take in a binary relationship. And that give and take is easily doubled in a triad. It’s not just one person’s feelings you have to consider, it’s two. It’s not just one person’s schedule you have to keep track of when making plans, it’s two. And at home, it’s not just one person creeping into your personal space, it’s two.
In a polyamorous relationship, particularly when you’re living together, alone time becomes suddenly precious and rare. In our case, we’ve gone to great lengths to give everyone their own private space – we found a house with five bedrooms, a garage and an office so that everyone has his or her own bedroom, and there are plenty of different community spaces to choose from as well. This seems to help. Because as much as you might love someone, there are going to be times in a large family when you want to hear nothing but silence when everyone else wants to chatter; to read a book when everyone else wants to watch a movie; to pay the bills or check your email when everyone else is whooping it up in the kitchen.
The same principle applies to the individual relationships in a polyamorous group. Our pride realized this recently after an especially bad fight. Incidentally, our fights seem to stem from jealousies, and our jealousies almost always seem to stem from someone feeling like he or she (usually she) is not receiving enough attention from one of the other adults. Along with these feelings come a certain amount of sniping, pouting and door slamming. And the fit usually passes once the nature of the emotions causing it is brought to the fit-thrower’s attention. But during our last fight, we all got into the fit. (Yet another aspect of three is that fights that get out of hand aren’t doubled in intensity, they’re tripled.)
Shortly after the fight and the ensuing make-up period, the Lioness left town for a family vacation. This left the Lion and me alone for five days. We hadn’t been alone for more than 12 hours since our intimate relationship began. And we realized that this was exactly what we’d been missing all along – alone time. Suddenly, without interruptions from kids, family, work obligations or other partners, we could talk about the things that were really bothering us, that had been weighing heavily on us for months. The conversation evolved from our usual banter to deep, in-depth discussions about our wants, needs, desires and goals. These are the sorts of conversations that are necessary to the survival of a relationship regardless of its polyamoric status. But in a house full of people, such conversations are easily avoided, especially since, in our case, whenever we’d start a conversation like this, someone with a louder voice would inevitably happen along and interrupt us. By the end of our long weekend together, Lion and I felt closer than ever before. We felt strong and prepared for our future, satisfied that we’d exhausted all our wants and needs in the little bit of alone time we’d been allotted. And the jealousies fueling the earlier fight were gone – I was more than happy to let the Lion and Lioness have a long weekend, too. Sure, they had 12 years of marriage to get to know one another alone, but I recognized that their relationship could easily begin deteriorating if they don’t get to reconnect once in a while as well.
Lioness and I noticed a similar phenomenon in our relationship. Several months ago, she and I became very competitive. We normally enjoy arguing, but we were starting to take our usually philosophical banters to personal levels. Our competitions raged in the kitchen as we tried to outdo each other in meal preparation. We argued over the best way to wash clothes, to season cast iron, to celebrate Christmas. Lioness noticed it first, and nailed me down at work one day to say that she felt the problem was that she and I didn’t have enough alone time. I didn’t get it. We’d had alone time for 15 years. Why would we need it now? But she was right. A couple of months ago, Lion’s job took him out of town during the weekdays, and since then, Lioness and I began spending a lot more time together – alone. Now we cook together (those meals only she and I like that we can’t get Lion or our picky sons to eat). We watch “girl” movies together. We do crafts. We chat and gossip and trade Lion stories. We cuddle.
And suddenly we grew closer. We quit bickering. Sure, we still argue, but we’re back to our old habit of arguing philosophically not personally. And when the Lion comes home on the weekends, we share nicely, and truly enjoy the time we’re all together.
There are a lot of clichés about three. The triad is a spiritual number found in ancient mythology and most polytheistic religions – some of our modern monotheistic religions, too. There’s a reason for it. A table is more balanced with three legs rather than two. And the same holds true for a relationship. Where one receives only part of his or her needs from one partner, he or she can find additional fulfillment in the other partner. Where one partner can’t provide something, or perhaps just “doesn’t get it,” the other partner might be able to provide what’s missing. Plenty has been said about spending time together as a family – it strengthens the group, bonds it together as a strong, complete unit. But if you neglect the individual relationships that make up the whole unit, it will disintegrate from the inside.
In our case, all it takes to keep those individual relationships healthy is a little alone-time to reconnect. To remember just how much we love each other as the individuals who make up our beloved pride as a whole.
Heidel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.
Heidel ; July 24, 2007
folks have read this article.