"I live with my husband and my boyfriend in one big happy family"
The Daily Mail, distributed throughout the U.K., is a conservative lowbrowish newspaper, so you can guess what it makes of polyamory (remember its story last December?). This time, however, the quality of the poly family that it profiles shines through all the shocked editorializing.
By JENNY JOHNSTON
...For the past 18 months, Shanea, a 35-year-old full-time mum, has shared her home with her husband John, an electrician, and her lover 30-year-old Noel, a teacher.... While she has sexual relations with each man requiring some serious diary-shuffling, as we shall discover the two men are not romantically involved with each other.
Their off beat some would say highly dysfunctional domestic set up surely makes them one of the most unconventional families in the country.
Shanea is in fact, the woman with two "husbands". But is she the luckiest woman in Britain, or the most insane? And how on earth did she ever agree to get two men to share her never mind the household chores?
She laughs. "I'm in love with two men, simple as that. I love Noel and John, and they both love me. They, on the other hand like each other in a kind of sibling way.
"We didn't set out to have this sort of family, but it works for us. I'm very happy."
Clearly. What is more shocking perhaps is that her husband John, 36, also professes to be content unbelievable when you consider how this menage a trois came about....
"When I actually met Noel it was weird," [John] recalls. "The second I opened the front door we politely shook hands and I asked how he was. We decided to go to the pub, where we talked about work and general stuff. But we steered away from the whole topic of Shanea. In a way, the meeting wasn't about Shanea it was him and me.
"The evening finished with us having a few drinks. I actually liked him. More importantly, I could see that he made Shanea happy. Anyone who makes Shanea happy can't be all that bad in my book."
Few men would display such tolerance. Was he mad? Naive? Or so desperate not to lose his wife that he was prepared to share her with another?
[After Shanea later got pregnant by Noel], John threw himself into his role in the next chapter of this saga.
Both he and Noel were present for the birth of baby Mercy which caused raised eyebrows in the maternity suite.
"I remember the midwife saying only the baby's daddy could come in," recalls Shanea. "I told her that they should both stay. 'He's the Dad,' I said, pointing to John. 'He's the Daddy,' I said, indicating Noel."
So, from the day she was born, Mercy has shared two dads and has both their surnames so she can choose one day.
...From Shanea's perspective, though, there must also be something quite exhausting about having to keep two relationships alive. Since she seemed to struggle when she had one husband how does she cope with two?
The answer is that mainstay of modern family life the meticulously planned diary.
"Sometimes John works a few nights away or takes all four girls to see his parents, and Noel will do the same. Otherwise I book weekends in nice hotels for either John or Noel and me to be alone without the pressures of family life.
"It sometimes feels as if I have more pressure because I have to keep two men happy instead of one. I have to maintain the stable position, and think about the kids too."
Oh yes, the kids. Mercy is too young to know that her family life is in any way "different", but it is telling that the older girls do not inform many people that their mother actually has two partners.
Yet Shanea refuses to accept that they might be adversely affected.
"There's no doubt about it, we are a weird family from the outside," she says. "But when you see us at home with the washing up, the cleaning, cooking, ironing we're the same as anyone else."
Until bedtime comes, of course, then even the children must be aware that something is different.
Their mother seems blissfully unconcerned about that. Most nights, it seems, she is too busy thanking her own lucky stars to worry about what confusion might be reigning down the landing.
"Every night, I realise how lucky I am," she admits. "I'm adored by two men and I'm in love with two men. I feel so totally and utterly at peace."
• John, Shanea and Noel feature in Hidden Lives, on [Channel] Five, Monday, April 16.
Read the whole article (April 7, 2002). Here's the photo. And you can leave a comment on the newspaper's site.
Note the announcement that the family will appear on Great Britain's Channel 5 on April 16. According to the promo, they'll be one of two poly families featured in a one-hour documentary titled "Three in a Bed", part of Channel 5's "Hidden Lives" series. (Update: See April 17 post about the TV show.)
Update: The Daily Mail article was rewritten under a different author's name, and minus the shocked editorializing, in Wales on Sunday for April 22. Read it online, and leave a comment on the newspaper's site.