"Three's Company": Poly life in the northland
It's been more than a week, so the obligatory Gingrich reference is buried far down in this excellent profile of a group household and others in the warm poly network of icy Manitoba.
The Winnipeg Free Press is the province's leading and oldest newspaper. Today's Saturday edition serves the role of a Sunday newspaper elsewhere. The article is on the front page of the E section.
Loving more than one person isn't a problem for people in polyamorous relationships.
By Carolin Vesely
Michelle, 39, has been married to Michael, 50, since 1995. They live in rural Manitoba and have two school-age children.
In 2005, however, Michelle found herself falling in love with Liam, a friend, fellow musician and bandmate she'd known for as long as she'd known her husband. He sang at their wedding, in fact.
Turns out the feelings were mutual.
This is typically where the weaving of the tangled web begins. Except that Michael not only knew about his wife's extramarital attraction, he consented to and supported her decision to get romantically involved with the divorced father of two.
Seven years later, Michelle, Michael and Liam are sitting in a downtown cafe telling a reporter how they managed to prevent the destruction of either a marriage or a friendship.
Let's just say that since 2007, Michelle and Michael's marital home has had two master bedrooms. And there are three names on the deed.
"I alternate nights," Michelle, a research scientist, says in response to what is probably the question most often asked of people who practise polyamory.
And Michael's relationship with the man eating soup beside him?
"Somewhere between good friends and brothers," he says of Liam, a 49-year-old fellow IT professional and, in poly lingo, his "metamour" -- the partner of one's partner....
..."We're not terribly fond of people who come along on our forum and say, 'I'm polyamorous but my wife doesn't know'," says Anlina Sheng, a Winnipeg polyamory activist and moderator at polywinnipeg.com. The forum has about 200 members in and around Manitoba.
You might say polyamory is free love with strings attached. Although practitioners have multiple romantic partners, openness and honesty are core tenets of the lifestyle.
Sheng, a 29-year-old freelance graphic and web designer, has a live-in boyfriend, a Winnipeg girlfriend, and casual male partners in both Illinois and the Yukon. They all know about each other.
"This feels really natural to me. It's not something I chose," says the one-time Green Party candidate, who has been "poly dating" since she was a teen and likens being polyamorous to being gay....
John Ince, a Vancouver lawyer and spokesman for the Canadian Polyamoury Advocacy Association, estimates that about three per cent of Canadians live in multiple-partner relationships....
Polyamorous relationships are post-modern, secular, egalitarian and consensual, says Ince, while traditional polygamy is a pre-modern institution with religious and patriarchal roots.
...Her feelings for Liam did not negate, trump or interfere with her love for her husband -- which has only deepened and grown for their ability to stay together through the whole experience, Michelle says.
"What I had to learn through this whole process is that fidelity does not have to be defined through exclusivity, she says.
"Polyamory provided me with a context to make sense of my feelings for both (men), understanding that just as a parent can have deep and equal love for more than one child, so can an adult have deep and equal love for more than one partner."
Although Michelle and Michael were legally married in a religious ceremony in 1995, there has been no ceremony or rite to mark her relationship with Liam, although they often talk about having one. And they do wear matching rings to reflect their commitment.
...When asked why he didn't issue his wife of 16 years an ultimatum, Michael, who is soft-spoken and bears a striking resemblance to Liam, replies: "I think I understood what I'd be asking her to give up."
"Which is exactly why I love him as much as I do," Michelle says.
For more info on Winnipeg's poly community, go to www.polywinnipeg.com.
Read the whole article (Jan. 28, 2012). It includes short sidebars on poly lingo and other items.
The comments need help. Go do it. Registration is easy.
The people profiled certainly seem like excellent folks. Polys often say that this life, among those who make it work long-term, forces personal development. Often it really does, writes Shaunphilly:
...In my experience, having these complicated networks of relationships with people of various strengths, weaknesses, and different levels of experiences exponentially increases your own relationship experience and makes it more likly that we will mature faster....
My experience with polyamory has opened me up to people of quality (and some not so quality who have returned to either normality or to unhealthy poly relationships), circumstances of personal challenge, and the freedom to truly be myself in ways that I don’t often see in mainstream culture....
My polyamorous lifestyle creates motivation to make myself a better person. It has contributed significantly to this effort that is, frankly, invisible to much of the world. When you live an abnormal lifestyle and have abnormal opinions, the abnormality is most of what the world sees.
I wish more people could understand what both skepticism and polyamory have done to improve my life. Sadly, most of the people I know and see only rarely have only a superficial understanding of it all, and usually avoid talking with me about much of it.
Its a consequence of being weird, I suppose. So, thank you, weird people in my life, for getting it. May we continue to be weird together.