When you hear the word “relationship,” in the context of love and romance, what do you think?
Most people think of that type of relationship as being between two people. That’s what our society (United States; I don’t know about the rest of the world and don’t want to speak from lack of knowledge) has taught us. You date one person at a time until you find “the one,” and then you move in with and maybe marry them. When I posed the question “What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘relationship?’ on Facebook, the one word that showed up in nearly every response was “commitment.” Faithfulness and “to someone” were also part of some responses.
Some people read menage romances, which involve more than two people in a romantic relationship, with a sense that it’s purely fantasy and imagination and nothing like that could exist, or at least could work, in real life. My novel Shiny Objects (Passion in Print Press, August 2011), was written in response to an editor friend of mine who said she didn’t believe a menage could exist or work in real life because “no man would ever want to share his woman.” In that novel, I presented Elena, a woman living with and almost engaged to her boyfriend Corin, who reconnects with an old lover Niko and realizes there are still feelings there. Corin, a fairly laid-back guy, thinks he’s okay with Elena “getting Niko out of her system” before she finally settles down, but he soon realizes it’s harder than he believed. It isn’t easy for Elena or Niko either, but Elena can’t choose between the two men she loves. So with a lot of negotiation and communication, they become what’s known in the polyamory community as a V triad; the two men have no relationship (other than a sort of friendship), but share Elena.
Some people insist a situation like that can’t exist in real life, but I’ve known people who are in a committed triad (or more) and make it work. Sometimes kids are involved, sometimes not. Sometimes the families, friends, etc. of the people in the poly relationship are aware of it, sometimes not. There are many ways to form that type of relationship and to make it work, but three factors seem pretty consistent no matter what: communication, negotiation, and commitment.
I’ve mentioned in the past that when I was growing up, my dad had three male friends who were in a committed triad relationship. And their relationship was one of the healthiest I saw as a teen. They fought and argued, and there were probably things going on behind the scenes that I wasn’t aware of, but overall the three of them communicated, enjoyed each other’s company, and seemed to genuinely love each other.
The thing about love is that it isn’t finite. A parent can love more than one child, so why can’t someone love more than one romantic partner? I’ve seen it work, not only with my “uncles” but with other people in my life. It isn’t easy, by any means. And it isn’t the same as polygamy, in which one man marries more than one woman, often for religious reasons. I’m talking about polyamory, which means loving more than one. If there’s more love in someone’s life because of an unconventional relationship that everyone involved agrees about and is happy with, what’s wrong with that?