Monday, September 9, 2013

The Polyamorous Family Next Door

By my count, this is the twenty-third ongoing relationship I've covered through exclusive interviews in which the lovers are denied the freedom to be open about their love and/or denied their freedom to marry.

“Allykat”, “Gray, and “Sis” were very generous with their time and privacy to provide this extensive interview about their polyamorous family. The interview is primarily with Allykat.

Read the interview below and ask yourself if there is one good reason their rights to love each other the way they want should be denied.


FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Describe your background.

Allykat: I'm a largely self-educated woman, 42 years old, reasonably confident, slightly overweight and working on it. I'm a member of a poly triad, a "V" if you like, with Gray (hubby) at the center and sis at the other leg of the V. She and I are "sisterwives" for lack of a better term, and we interact as sisters and co-wives rather than as lovers. We're ALL partners, though, and I truly feel the need to stress that. She is as much my partner as he is, and as important to my world. I'm blonde, short, with a round face. I tend to smile and laugh a lot, and I like to use humor to educate, inform, and sometimes to disarm.

When I speak of  being a partner here, I mean it in a very straightforward way. We are, the three of us, partners in the sense that we have a commitment to our family, our "team" as it were. It doesn't imply, nor is it meant in any way to imply, a gay relationship. It actually bothers me that I have to make that distinction, but there are some people who will see it and knee jerk, and it's important to me to be very clear about what our life is and is not like. I'm into "brutal honesty" that way.

I'm an interfaith minister trained and ordained at The New Seminary (of NYC), and recently founded a still-coalescing open and affirming organization that aims on taking some of the stigma and fear out of "the other religion" (defined as "the one you're not a member of"). Over the summer we've held several interfaith worship services, and during the cold months we plan to host several symposia (topical meetings) at our home. I offer services as a pulpit supply person, stepping in when a local pastor has a family emergency, is on holiday, or becomes ill. I'm also quite pagan in my outlook and personal practices, having started my adult life as Wiccan and moved on to something more akin to Greek reconstructionism since then.

I also write. I am a professional copy writer and editor on a freelance level. I have published one book, and hope to publish another sometime soon. I write blogs and create dynamic website content for businesses large and small. I'm also the "stay at home mom" in our family, as most of my work seems to occur in the evenings and on weekends. I'm the one home during the day in case the kids need anything.

Sis is an elementary school teacher at the local school. She's a reading specialist, working with very low and very high kids to better their ability to read, comprehend, and respond to what they've read. She's an expert in her field, and often deals with the tough cases because of this. She's often called a miracle worker. She's also the bio mother of our 8 year old boy-girl twins. She's tall, leggy, a natural red-head, a stunning beauty in my opinion. She's a hard worker, too. She's 48 years young, and the only thing that gives away her age are the laugh lines in her face.

Gray is our guy, and he's tall, a bit heavy (we do like our food), and 51 years old. He has a salt-and-pepper beard that he keeps mostly trimmed, and he has horns (really!). He's a geek by trade, and is rumored to be one of the top ten programmers on the East Coast, although we aren't sure about that. He says no, and we say yes. Regardless, he's very good at what he does, and we often call him Neo, because he can see the numbers of the Matrix where the rest of us just see computer monitors. He likes to come home and work on his backhoe and in his machine shop. Gray is bio dad to the twins.

FME: Are you legally married or have you ever been legally married?

All three of us have been married before, but none of us are currently married. Unless there's some kind of change in the law that lets us formalize our relationship, it's unlikely any of us will ever be married again. We don't feel comfortable with just marrying one of the two available loves... it seems wrong, discriminatory in a way, although that's not a legal fight we're interested in touching.

FME: How would you describe your sexual orientation... are you heterosexual, bisexual, what?

Gray is quite heterosexual, as is sis. I, on the other hand, am an avowed bisexual, and have been since childhood.

FME: How you would describe your relationship orientation or preference... polyamorous, monogamous, what?

Good question! Gray and I both consider ourselves polyamorous. We've both been actively poly for a very long time. Sis considers herself monogamous, because Gray is her only sexual partner, but is also poly-friendly (obviously) and is happy with our little family. She came from a very strict religious background, and so this is a bit of a stretch for her, but she loves us both (in different ways) and we all love our kids. I usually say we have a poly family, without going into the details of it.

FME: You currently live with…?

Right now, our home contains Gray, Sis, and myself, our two 8 year old twins, and my best friend and her daughter (neither are poly, both are poly-friendly and quite aware of our relationship). At various times over the past 12 years of our relationship we've had Gray's older children (now 21 and 25, I believe) living with us, other friends, and an unfortunately failed attempt at blending two poly families into one.

FME: Please describe the structure of the relationship.

We're in a V, FMF. Sexually speaking, he is with us both and we're friends. In practice, we're very much partners to one another, all three. We all work together to make our house a home. And raising twins really does require a village, and we pretty much make up a village on our own!

FME: How did this polycule form? Was it a sudden event or a gradual process? Was there a clear initiator?

I met Gray many, many years ago, probably around 1998 or so. We met online, on a MUSH, and I was warned that he was not to be trusted. Of course I became immediately interested in him. We were just acquaintances for about four years, and during that time I met sis on the same MUSH. She took a liking to Gray, and asked me to introduce her to him. I did, and they got together. At first, it was online, then it was visits, then she arranged to move from her then-home to be with him. She was leaving an emotionally abusive situation, and both Gray and I were helping her as much as we could. Then 9/11 happened.

Gray should have been near the Pentagon that day, as he was working with the government at the time. I couldn't reach him for hours and hours, and at that point I realized that I wasn't just friends; I loved him. Over the next four months, things progressed relatively quickly. In April of 2002, sis went to live with him in Maryland, and in June, I joined her.

The first four years were... well, to be frankly honest, they were hellish. Sis and I did NOT gel well as  sisterwives at first, and there were many squabbles. Since then, however, we've learned to work together and life has been pretty smooth, for the most part!

FME: Describe your relationship now.

We all live together in a sort of modified ranch home in New England. We got together in 2002, so that's 11 years, and coming up on 12. Our home is really spread out and long, and so sis has a main floor bedroom at one end, and at the very other end on the second floor, I have my bedroom. She and I work up a schedule, and Gray just goes where we tell him to, for the most part. LOL! We view ourselves as partners, but not necessarily as spouses. Spouses implies a legal aspect that we just don't have, and can't have, and we're definitely more than girlfriend/boyfriend/girlfriend.

Sis poins out that we both call Gray "hubby", but that's become such a generic term that it really has little meaning on a legal level. We both refer to him as spouse or boyfriend at various times when it's necessary (hospital visits, for instance, when they need to know why you're there; explaining we're a poly family is not really a possible thing when you're dealing with staff). I personally don't think of us as married, but I do see the hand of the Divine in our relationship. Sis tends to think more along the lines of us being married but in a non-legal manner, being between us and God.

Gray: I hear the people in the poly community talk about being in a "poly relationship" and how hard that is to explain.  I use a couple of terms that help in twisting outsiders view points to be more friendly to us. The first is that it is almost always safe to call somebody a "serial polygamist" in that they have loved many different people but one after another rather than at the same time.

Second, guys often times talk about having "Two girl friends"  I just tell people "Yes, I have two girlfriends, they live with me and know about each other, obviously."

FME: What are the sleeping arrangements? Is there a schedule?

Allykat: Generally speaking, Gray spends Monday, Tuesday, and Friday nights with me, and the other nights with sis. That can change if there's a reason however. If someone is ill and needs alone time, that's fine. As an example, sis had surgery and for several weeks she needed him to be there for her, so she could get help getting to the bathroom and such. When I had a very close friend die, he spent quite a bit of time with me. The schedule is to help, not to tie us up.

FME: Is the lovemaking always, sometimes, or never one-on-one?

Usually it's me and him, or her and him. On rare occasions we might get together the three of us, but it's almost always for his birthday or some other special occasion. He is our focus when that happens. :)

FME: What kind of rules/agreements for maintaining the relationship are there?

We don't really have any rock-hard rules, with one exception. If there's a time any one of us "wants out," then we have to let the other two know, and then take an entire week to think it out. During that week the other two will leave the one alone (no sexual or other pressure, etc.) to think it out. Each day we'll talk about whether the one still wants to leave. If, at the end of that full week, the one still wants to go then we'll figure out terms and split things up. So far, both sis and I have both invoked this verbally, then not made it to the end of Day One. For us, it's been a relationship saver so many times. It gives space to someone who's hurting enough to lash out without thinking, and it also puts emphasis on the stability of our relationship, but it doesn't trap someone.

Beyond that, we're largely polyfidelitous, although I am usually open to getting together with another if I meet and like them and the family doesn't have any major issues.

FME: What is your past experience with polyamory, if any?

I've been poly my whole life. I used to marry my stuffies and dolls to one another in large groups. While I did date one guy largely exclusively during high school, it didn't stop me from having girlfriends (yes, sexually) during that time, and it didn't stop me looking around. I didn't realize there was a name for it, and thought I was just an oddball until I was 18, when I ran into the poly community in the town I lived in. I attempted to have a one-on-one relationship with the father of my daughter (who doesn't live with us and is an adult at this point), but despite his claims to be monogamous, he spent a lot of time cheating. I decided that I was not willing to give up or "put on a shelf" something that was so much a part of me, ever again. I've been in open poly relationships since then.

FME: Who are you out to? How were you outed? What has been the reaction by family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, random strangers, etc.?

Well, that's kind of complex. Let's see. My parents know, and that is why my bio daughter has not lived with us. Gray's  parents know, and have known since the first year, and they're incredibly supportive and loving. They think it's marvelous! Sis's dad passed away a few years ago, but never knew, and her mother sort of knows. She just repeats to herself that we're Mormon, and that makes her feel better about it. Even though it isn't true and we've said so, unless she talks to us about it directly we just let her think what she wants to make herself comfortable. Many of our neighbors know, because Gray is physically affectionate with both of us (he holds hands at swim meets with whichever lady or both happen to be there, for instance). Where we live, though, traditional New England privacy is still upheld: people only ask if they really want to know the answer, and if they don't feel comfortable with the answer they blame themselves for asking. Honestly, we've been pretty accepted throughout. It's possible that some of the teachers at the school know (kids do talk), and Gray's employer and his staff all  know.

Our approach is generally this: we are who we are and we don't hide it nor do we yell it from the rooftops. If you'd see a monogamous couple doing it, we probably do it. We don't do inappropriate things in public, because they're inappropriate but not because we're poly. Gray will happily peck each of us on the cheek before going to work, even if the neighbors are watching, but he wouldn't think of throwing us down on the front step and doing the nasty. People will see or not see what they want. If we're asked, we tell the truth. Our kids know, after all, so at some point EVERYONE will know.

FME: Is there anything you've had to do to hide the nature of your relationship from anyone? Having to hide can be a lot of trouble. Are there other disadvantages to being in a relationship like this? Conversely, do you think polyamorous relationships have some advantages (in addition to some people simply needing polyamory)?

When we lived in the Baltimore, MD area, we had to be very careful not to let sis's school system know we were a triad. She would have been fired and branded as a child molester. Unfortunately we had the opportunity to see the kind of nastiness that erupts from it, when it happened to another poly group. We were incredibly circumspect about the whole thing. Beyond that, no. When Gray had to get security clearances for his work, he was very upfront and honest about us, and I've never been in a traditional job since being with the two of them, so haven't ever had a need.

Are there disadvantages? Yes, most definitely. There are some people who will disapprove, and a small subset of those will very noisily cause problems for you. That's something you need to be prepared for. There's a lot of paperwork and expense involved if you want to make sure children are legally available to all the people in the relationship in case of emergency. In many states you can't even have a non-legal "joining ceremony" for fear you'll present yourself as married and thereby come up under the local bigamy laws. There are also people who will use poly relationships as a reason for attempting to take your children away. In fact, one of the reasons I insist on being so open about our relationship is that we're establishing a public presence with nothing to hide - our neighbors and the teachers know us, and know we don't abuse our kids, because there are no secrets. That kind of consistency goes a long way in court, in case there's ever an issue.

On the other side of that, I know for certain that I could not have raised twins on my own, and I doubt sis or Gray could have either. It's taken all three of us (and a hoard of willing friends and family) to raise these two successfully. There's a joy in knowing that 99% of the time, there's a parent at home for sick kids or to deal with homework. Our kids never come home to an empty house. There's always someone available to go to swim practice or watch a baseball game. Our kids are constantly surrounded by love. Of course, they're also constantly surrounded by *parents*, which I've been told can be frustrating. ;)

FME: What do you want to say to people who disapprove of your relationship, or disapprove of anyone having this kind of relationship? What's your reply to those who would say that women are victimized by a relationship like this?

If someone disapproves of our relationship, it's unlikely I'd say anything. I just wouldn't spend much or any time with that person anymore. They have the right to dislike it, if that's their decision, and I've got no need to try and take that right away. Of course, conversely, they have no right to stop me living my life.

As to those who feel women are victimized in poly relationships, I say that victimization happens in all types of relationships. We have wonderful laws already in place to stop rape, child marriages, and abuse. We should use those laws, judiciously. I certainly am not victimized, and came into the relationship with eyes wide open. Sis did as well, although an argument could be made she wasn't quite as knowledgeable, being monogamous and sheltered until she joined up with Gray and myself. Still, there was no hiding it. Gray was poly at the time, made no bones about it, and made certain she understood that it was a part of him that was not about to change. We each made the decision to be here individually as well as together.

FME: Aside from the law, can you think of anything that would make relationships like this inherently wrong?

I don't think the law makes it inherently wrong either. I think that the law itself is inherently wrong. For those called to live in a polyamorous family, there should be freedom. Of course, if you're trying to include child brides or coerced marriages of any kind into that, then I would have problems. But a group of informed adults deciding to have a relationship? There's nothing wrong with that.

FME: If you could have a legal polyamorous marriage, and that included protections against discrimination, harassment, etc., would you? Or even if you do not want a legal polyamorous marriage, do you see a need for protections against discrimination?

That's a tough question. I would like to see me have the right to religiously marry my partners. It would be extremely fulfilling, and I know ministers who would be more than happy to support us in that venture. I would like to see us have the right to a legal partnership that protected our home, our goods, our children, and us against prosecution, discrimination, and the rest, yes. These are, for me, two separate things. I'm a huge proponent of the idea that the government should get out of the religion business and stop meddling in marriage. Marriage is religious; the legal protections are a contract and should be dealt with separately, because they're largely for tax and enumeration purposes.

I don't know if there's a need for protections against discrimination. The only time I've experienced discrimination was when I did something stupid. Of course, there was the question of the Baltimore school system, and whether they would have persecuted sis simply because of who she had in her household. I think that being open and honest about things without shoving it down people's throats is probably the best method available. When everyone around you thinks you're normal, then discovers you're poly, they think, "Huh... they're just like us!" It helps heal a lot of rifts.

FME: What advice do you have for someone who thinks they may be polyamorous or may want to enter into a polyamorous relationship?

Take some time and really think it through. I don't know the feeling of discovering being poly, because I can't remember a time when I wasn't. I would honestly ask yourself, if this is a later-in-life onset thing, if perhaps you aren't just unhappy in your current relationship. I tend to wince when a marriage isn't working well for some reason and then I suddenly hear that one of the partners has spontaneously become poly. I don't know if that's "real" poly or just a response to the situation the person is in.

Go slow. Don't rush yourself. If you're in a relationship that's been monogamous up until now, don't rush your partner, either. You can't throw in a game changer like that and expect it to just be okay. If you've made fidelitous vows to someone, it may mean that you can BE poly all you like but unless you're willing to walk away, you might not be able to PRACTICE poly.

Be honest. I can't say that enough. Communicate daily. Don't expect bringing another partner in to solve the problems you're having with your current partner, because it won't. If you're settled and happy and decide together to move on to something new, together, then do it with a happy will. But bringing a new person into an already-damaged relationship is going to harm not just you and your partner, but that new person as well. Don't do it. You ALL deserve better than that.

And honestly? Don't present yourself as "a poly couple." That might sound pretentious of me, but whenever I hear that, I hear, "We're a couple and we want a nanny we can have sex with!" or something similar. Even if that's not what you're meaning to communicate, that's what we're hearing. Be a poly family, if you like. Be a couple of individuals who are searching for more individuals. Mostly, be yourself. Date together, date apart, bring new dates home to meet the family, and don't neglect what you already have.

FME: What advice do you have for family members and friends who are having trouble coming to grips with the reality of their family member or friend being polyamorous?

Are you really all that hung up about your friend/family member having sex with more than one person? Just remember: our society today makes it both legally and socially acceptable to cheat on your spouse, but it's frowned upon and illegal to openly love more than one spouse. There's something wrong about being so up in someone else's business that you can't let it go. You may not like it, and that's your right! But making your friend/family member miserable over it is not going to help the situation.

Would you have trouble knowing that your friend/family member loved more than one of their children? If not, then consider why you're so upset that they love more than one adult.

FME: Do you know/meet up with other polyamorous families?

We're not really active in any poly communities. At one point we tried to blend together two poly families into a single unit, and that was a massive failure. It was painful, and a very deep learning experience. I'd hesitate to do so again.

My personal experience with the poly community in my area is that it's very filled with drama and swapping, neither of which are of interest to any of the three of us. We're just us... quiet, happy, "swim parents". We have a garden and chickens, we go to neighborhood barbecues, and we help out those who need it. We don't really care whoslept with whom, nor do we want to see it emblazoned on an online forum or blog. We just want to move on with our lives. In many ways, we have much more in common with the so-called normal neighbors than we do with those who make a big deal out of being poly. We're white-bread soccer-mom types, rather than showy or flashy or anything else. I don't know if that makes sense or not...

FME: Makes plenty of sense. Any plans for the future?

Tons! We're fixing up our house slowly but surely. We're hoping that next summer we'll be able to put a hot tub out back of our home. Our new chickens should be arriving in the next week or so. The garden is getting closed down for the winter, and we're canning produce all over the place. I have sermons to write and symposia to organize. Sis has another foot to be fixed via surgery. We all have weight to lose. We'd love to see our kids excel in swim, moving forward from their very promising start.

FME: Anything else you want to add?

Kids: Our wonderful twins are very aware that we have a different family. But we're not all that different. They have many friends who have divorced parents, and who have two mommies because daddy got re-married, or other similar situations. They don't see a lot of difference (at this age, 8) between that and our set-up. They often lament that there's so much supervision around the house, and that we work together so well, but I think secretly they like it, too. If there's a bad dream, someone always has a space in bed for them to come cuddle and hug. If they're sick, they will sometimes sleep with the available female parent, so we can keep an eye on them. And from what I can see, they're doing pretty well.

DS is autistic, very mild, and he has incredibly good coping techniques because we've taught him from day one. DD is a social butterfly who wants to dress and act much older than she is. Both of them are a couple of grades ahead in most school subjects because of challenges at home and because they're just smart that way. They attend advanced classes for some things (math, reading) and then spend the rest of the day learning appropriate socialization with their peers. They don't seem the least bit bothered by having a Momma, a Daddy, and a Mei Mei (their name for me, and yes it is a Firefly reference - Shiny!).

Just as we love one another differently, they love each of us differently, but just as intensely. There's something amazing about tucking a little girl in and having her twine her arms around your neck and fiercely whisper, "I love you, Mei Mei!" :)


There you have it. Three consenting adults who plan to continue to live as though married, yet not legally denied the freedom to marry. Some people try to claim that women in such a "V" relationships are victims. Does Allykat sound like she is hoodwinked or weak? No way!

Why should they or anyone like them be denied their rights? There’s no good reason.We need to adopt full marriage equality sooner rather than later, so that an adult is free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage any and all consenting adults. People are being hurt because of a denial of their basic human rights to love each other freely.

You can read other interviews I have done here.

Again, thanks to “Allykat”, “Gray, and “Sis” for doing this interview. They sound like the kind of people you'd want in our neighborhood. And you may have a family like them closer than you think.
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1 comment:

  1. I love that interview! Awesome! Thanks allykat, grey, and sis for your interview. You sound like the kind of people I want in my neighborhood.


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