A new way of thinking about relationships is growing in the US. Polyamory is the ability to have romantic love for more than one person at a time. Dayton is home to a growing polyamorous community. Dayton is known for being a city of innovation and now that innovation affects relationships as well. A local group called Southwest Ohio Young and Poly was formed in response. Community Voices Producer Nicole Richter has the story.
This is not a story about swingers, religion or cheating. This is a story about love. At the Southwest Ohio Young and Poly monthly potluck, children run around, folks have conversations and there is lots of food on the table. Here families and friends join together in a celebration of community.
Since the group was formed a year and a half ago it has grown to over 150 members. Jason, Brianna, and Keely run Southwest Ohio Young and Poly—together they form a triad.
Keely explains, “I live in a household with two other partners; Brianna and Jason. We live in a triad, which means we all have fully developed romantic relationships with each other.”
This is just one of several relationship structures in polyamory. Other structures include a ‘V’ where two of three people in a relationship are dating one another, or a ‘quad’ where four people date one another romantically.
“We are a whole,” Jason explains, “When I’m thinking about making a choice or taking an action I don’t think about is this good or bad for Keely is this good or bad for Bri. I think, ‘Is this good or bad for the triad, for our family?’ I see us as a unit and I wish the world could see us as a unit.”
When first hearing about polyamory many people wonder about jealousy. The triad explained to me that jealousy is an emotion often based in fear. In order to be successful in polyamory you have to be willing to confront your own insecurities.
“The three principles of successful, ethical non-monogamy, especially polyamory, are communicate, communicate, communicate,” Jason says, “If you are open and honest with your wants and needs, open and honest and willing to listen to the wants and needs of your partners, you will be successful. If you can’t put them before yourself then you probably won’t be successful. But you probably won’t be successful at monogamy, either.”
Jason and Brianna have been dating for three and half years. Keely met Jason and Brianna at her first potluck and the triad has been happily dating for a year. Together they have four children between the three of them.
“I am by nature polyamorous,” Brianna says, “I believe that in my core more than one partner is the best path for my happiness. Because I believe I shouldn’t count on one person to fulfill all my needs and that’s why I have partners who are different who fulfill different aspects of what my soul needs.”
Jason adds, “We are energized by the love we all share and it inspires us to find adventures, follow whimsy and go on road trips and end up stuck in Indianapolis in the middle of a blizzard because we didn’t pay attention to the weather at Christmas time. Things like that. It inspires us because we are so genuinely happy and comfortable together.”
This alternative relationship structure has practical benefits, especially for parents trying to juggle multiple household responsibilities.
“There are splits in the family duties that are incredibly beneficial,” Brianna says, “I hate taking out the trash and I don’t have to do that anymore. I hate doing laundry [and] I don’t have to do that anymore. But, I can organize like no one’s business and I get to do that because we have a large and complicated household that needs to be organized.”
Keely says, “Coming home to a household where I know I don’t have to do everything everyday, where I have partners who love and support me. I have more resources to go to, more people that I know have my best interest at heart.”
In the end it is really about the love that the three share for each other.
“I definitely think I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Jason says, “But I get a fair share of comments the other way, especially [from] people who are in monogamous not-so-happy relationships who go, ‘How can you deal with two women at once?’”
“There’s a lot of fringe benefits and not the ones that people would expect,” he says, “It’s the great peace of the three of us curling up together and watching the shows we all enjoy and having one of them on each side of me holding my hand while we watch TV. And it allows us to build this home together, to build a family. Family is very important to me and feeling like somewhere is home.”
Something exciting is happening to the triad. Jason has asked Brianna to marry him.
“And it made me cry but that’s not that difficult to do,” Brianna says.
“Made me cry, which isn’t that difficult to do,” Jason adds.
Brianna has a romantic fairytale approach to love while Keely is more grounded and practical. Keely is fully supportive of Jason and Brianna’s engagement and is happy when her partners are happy. For her, love is not about possession, it is about joy. As an affirmation of her love for the two people she cares most about, Keely went with Jason to pick out the ring for Brianna.
“Keely kept pointing at different rings and then the woman who sold it to them said well don’t you want to try it on? And Keely said, ‘No, it’s not for me.’ And I can only imagine the look that woman must have had at that moment but I feel completely surrounded by love,” Brianna says.
“I think everybody feels jealousy,” Keely says. “I think the longer we’re together, at least for me, the less I feel jealous of their relationship because their relationship being strong benefits my bonds with both of them and the feelings in our home. So, it’s hard to feel jealous when your partners are happy together.”
There is a name for the feeling Keely is describing. It’s called compersion. It is sort of like the opposite of jealousy.
“Oh, compersion is a wonderful feeling.” Brianna says. “Compersion is the joy that you feel because your partner is having fun with someone else. I think any parent knows the feeling of compersion incredibly well.”
Keely adds, “Anytime anything wonderful happens to your child or you see them happy even if you didn’t make them happy you’re happy for them.”
Brianna, Jason, and Keely want to get married as a triad but the law will not allow that. In the meantime they are working on a private ceremony to unite the three of them to recognize their commitment to one another.
“I definitely consider it a civil rights struggle,” Jason says, “As the gay marriage movement goes on it seems to be opening the door for poly to become much more prevalent in the mainstream and the legal issues will have to be dealt with. We face a lot of the same issues. If I die tomorrow who will inherit my house that we all three share?”
While the triad faces obstacles socially and legally, they feel there is growing understanding of alternate relationship styles.
“There will always be members of society who don’t accept anything that is outside of their definition of normal,” Brianna says, “There will always be people who stand against me but I also understand that there are more and more people who stand behind me everyday.”