"The well-organized home life of a polyamorous Springfield family"
This week's cover story for the alternative newspaper of western Massachusetts (for which I once worked!) is a thoughtful profile of an area quad family with kids.
Stories like this, hundreds of them as the years go by, are steadily helping to get us to public awareness and acceptance. People like these sharing their lives make life a little easier for all of us. Thank you.
Dishes, Dinner, & Sex: The well-organized home life of a polyamorous Springfield family
By Hunter Styles
Glance at Michelle, Aimee, Micah and Ian on the street and you might assume they’re two straight couples — or two gay couples. But they’re all going home together.
That home is a large, sunny house in the Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield. It’s where this group of four polyamorous partners — a “quad’” — live, laugh, eat and sleep under one roof.
Jerrey Roberts / Valley Advocate
These four adults are intimately connected to each other, but they’re also open to new flings and encounters. And so they face an unusual challenge: running a communal household while tending to the myriad romantic relationships that hold the four of them — and their lovers — together.
“It’s structured chaos,” says Michelle. “But we’ve maintained it for years now because we come together and talk about how things are playing out.”
For years, the four of them slept together on a queen-size and a king-size bed pushed together. But it’s not the hedonistic free-for-all some might imagine.
Having kids, for example, changed everything....
...The poly groups in the Amherst area tend to skew young, Micah says, because of the university population. A poly group that met for a while in Hartford skewed older. A sizable Boston group called Poly Boston has members who range widely in age and experience.
In the Valley, a close-knit poly population means lots of dating within the group.
“I have no interest anymore in being someone else’s training wheels,” says Micah. “I don’t want to spend all of the time and effort it takes to meet someone, get involved with them, then find out that poly isn’t really for them. I don’t want to go through that anymore.”
But there are other advantages to dating within the group. You may not be well-acquainted with a potential partner, but “you probably know the people they’ve dated,” Micah said. “So you can ask them about them.”
It can be challenging to make such thorough commitments to others. But the tendency runs deep with this clan.
...Connor is now three, and he has a one-year-old sister named Katie (also conceived by Aimee and Micah). Childcare comes in part from Ian’s mother, who lives on the ground floor of the house. Throw in four cats, and the place feels awfully busy sometimes.
“It’s really hard to get alone time in this house,” says Micah. “Especially with children. Right now, none of the bedroom doors lock. We’re changing that. We need to be able to keep the kids out.”
Before most decisions can be made, he adds, everyone needs to be consulted. It can be time-consuming.
Establishing a home life took time, and it wasn’t without its bumpy patches. Ian moved in later than the other three — along with his former wife. The original idea was to create a cooperative home of at least five people.
“But it didn’t work out as envisioned,” Micah said, referring to Ian’s wife. “She was a willing participant. But it just wasn’t working, so she left the house.”
As with any relationship, there are fights and bruised feelings. But in a polyamorous relationship, jealousy requires an extra dose of introspection.
In a monogamous relationship, “there are certain things that you just get to be angry about,” Aimee suggests. “Whereas for us, when I feel jealous about something, I need to really look at what’s making me feel that.”
“It’s uneasy,” says Ian. “It’s so much easier just to blame the other person when you’re upset.”
When a duo within the quad quarrels or needs more time together, the group will band together to work out a schedule giving the couple less “kid duty” or budget some extra money for a date night.
“Most problems that you could identify as poly problems are just relationship problems, honestly,” says Micah.
...“Coming out as poly was a hell of a lot harder for me than coming out as bisexual,” Michelle says. “You need to educate people more about what it means. When you say you’re bisexual, at least people kind of get it.”
Michelle is open about being polyamorous. Not having to hide her relationships was an important consideration when selecting a job, she says. “My boss and my co-workers have been over to the house for parties. They’ve seen my life.”
Ian’s open, but fairly quiet about it. “I don’t wave a banner at work. But it comes up in conversation sometimes, and it’s no big deal. I have photos of everyone up at my desk.”...
But that’s work. They have a lot of fun, too. Often, Friday and Saturday night are for getting together with other partners outside of the quad, or with extended friend groups Still, the four of them spend a lot of time together. They go to museums and festivals. They take trips together to visit family — and they do have a lot of family. And they all try to sit down together for dinner at least a couple of times a week.
“Here are four adults — five, counting Ian’s mom — that are actively involved in the betterment and well-being of these small things,” says Michelle.
“It takes a village, right?” says Micah. “We’re a village.” •
The whole article (print issue of Nov. 20–26, 2014).
The same writer has two companion pieces in the same issue. Trans, Queer, Poly… and Married profiles a different person. I’m Poly — Now What? is about finding the local Meetup group.