I talked to Johnny about his polyamorous family. His long term relationship was impacted early on by the birth of triplets. They are a family of six, with Ivy and Divi, and the triplets.
How long have you been involved in polyamory?
About 14 years, we had been looking for a third person for probably 3 or 4 years before we met Divi. We have been together almost ten years. It was something we felt might finish balancing our relationship.
Is your relationship legally formed?
With us it has been a matter of mutual respect and honor. Treating the relationship as if it was a legal and binding marriage situation. You can’t do that in this society. Three people can own a home, it is hard for three people to own a car, it is even harder for three people to have a checking account with a money card for each. We have simply honored ourselves as a family, especially when it comes to the children. We have just always acted as though we have the same say, the same rights, same decision making authority. I am recorded as the father of the children.
Do you live together as a family?
We are a nuclear family. We went through the pregnancy together and are raising the kids together. We share the bills together. Everything that the traditional nuclear family does, we do together, except there are three of us.
Were having the kids part of the motivation for polyamory?
Part of our search of finding a third was to open the possibility of having kids. It was something we had been talking about at the time the triplets came along. The triplets were spontaneously conceived, we weren’t using any fertility treatments. It is just the way things went.
The fact of having three of us has allowed us a little easier time dealing with having triplets, especially in the early days. When they first came home we had to feed them every two hours around the clock. Divi carried the kids to 36 weeks, full term for triplets. When they were born, they weren’t premature so they did not spend a lot of time in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) like you see with many triplets. When they do spend a lot of time in the NICU, they tend to all get in sync with each other from that hospital routine. The parents we connected with for triplet support, all said, “Don’t worry about bringing them home, they will all be on the same schedule.” We brought them all home after five days and they weren’t on any kind of a schedule. We had to feed them every two hours. I don’t think I have ever been so tired as those first two years.
What are some of the challenges of living this lifestyle?
The number one challenge is having no role models for how to do it growing up, we grow up and learn how to be a husband, wife, father, mother, by watching our parents in those roles. A huge part of this culture is being monogamous. With Ivy and I, when we first started talking about trying a polyamorous relationship, we agreed that we would not engage in any type of activities with another unless we had discussed it first, and our relationship was rock solid and in a place that it needed to be. We approached it from that perspective. The first time we got involved in a polyamorous relationship it went horribly wrong. We had miscommunication and misunderstandings. We thought we were on the same page and we weren’t. There was a lot of pain for everyone involved. We sat down and inventoried the experience, and worked through it and stayed together as a couple. This was almost fifteen years ago, and there wasn’t much out there on polyamory. There was the Loving More website, but not a lot of information or support out there. Now there are weekly meetings, and groups and places to talk about what it means to be poly. For us it has always meant that there was a third person included fully in a equal loving relationship. The kind of relationship that we had experienced with each other. It was never about being in an ‘open’ relationship, about sex or more sex. It was about opening our hearts and having a deep, loving, meaningful committed relationship with a third person.
How important are communication skills?
We have a certain advantage in practicing taking our own inventory. We are both clean and sober and have been for many years. In that process of recovery, learning to take our own inventory, to keep our own side of the street clean and be honest with ourselves, helped tremendously in our ability to attempt a polyamorous relationship. When you have a relationship with one other person, there are three relationships involved. There is the relationship with each to yourself, and then the relationship with each other. Add a third person in there and that expands the number of relationships involved, each to one another, and ourselves, and the three together. It changes the dynamics of a family. You have new considerations. Am I favoring one over another? Does it matter? One person meets these needs, the other may meet other needs.
Is it easier being Pagan and poly?
I think people that are Pagan are a little more ‘outside of the box’ than other more traditional folks. Pagan folks have a tendency to think in different ways anyway. They are often looking for more freedom, less fear, more joy. The capacity to want to love more than the one person I am with comes from the realization that that is how human beings are anyway. There is a huge community in America, Muslims and others, who have multiple wives, off the books. In the Judeo-Christian bible it is referenced, usually because the first wife may not be able to have children, but there are conditions specified.
Have you ever consider a second husband?
I am not bisexual in any way shape or form, but I think there would be certain challenges with me in that regard. I am not against it. I think if the right person came along, and we saw things much the same way, and we got along, then it could work. It doesn’t have to be a sexual thing.
Did your community accept your lifestyle?
When we declared ourselves polyamorous it caused a stir in our community, it was a big deal.
It was huge, for myself, Ivy, and Divi. The community that we were in, Sacred Path, and Seven Generations Community Center was a vision that I had been working on for about ten years. We had the house in Ann Arbor, and it was going pretty well, doing lodges once a month. We kept our relationship out of the community. When things started to go bad for the center, the cause was assigned to our relationship, and that was difficult. Something for us, the triplets, that should have been a pure joy was tainted by people leaving, and the center closing. Rather than having a community to share our joy and welcome the kids into the world we ended up by ourselves. We took a big economic loss and moved to northern Michigan. There are always a few people who stick with you in trying times, but they were few. You find out who your friends really are. I don’t think it really had to do with polyamory.
What are the benefits?
I don’t think the traditional, one man, one woman thing works for everyone. Even one man, one man or one woman, one woman. If your partner is also bisexual, that need is something you can not fulfill. To honor those differences you have to step out of the man-woman thing. For me, there is not ever going to be one person that can meet all my needs. It is unrealistic for me to try to make or mold someone to meet all those needs. In a traditional marriage we have other social groups, of men and women to meet some of those needs. It is taboo to have a deep loving emotional relationship with someone other than our spouse. If love is the greatest thing, why is it wrong to love more than one then? It is because it often comes with a lot of deceit, dishonesty, and manipulation since it is taboo. A lot of being poly is to step out of that and say there is a lot of opportunity to love other people, to be open and honest about it.
What is the personal characteristic you most need to be successful in a poly relationship?
Honesty – I don’t think you can be successful in any relationship without honesty. You have to be honest with yourself. You can’t be successful at it if you have low self esteem, or insecurity and you refuse to work on those things in the process. The problems that you bring into a traditional relationship are the same ones you bring into a polyamorous relationship, it is just they are magnified and intensified. We have to be in a good place ourselves, have our house in order, be willing to get uncomfortable sometimes in the relationship. It is a completely different dynamic than with monogamy. You just can’t pick up the phone and say, “Hey mom, how did you deal with this situation?” You often can’t talk to brothers, or sisters, or other traditional sources of support.
Has the poly relationship contributed to your happiness?
I would do it again. These last ten years with Ivy and Divi have been great. We have been able to bring out in each other the things that we need to heal. As individual people it has been a challenge because it shows us the areas we need to work on and to heal. It is easy in a monogamous relationship, if one person sees a problem within you, and you don’t want to own it, to simply deny it. When you are in a polyamorous relationship and you have two people saying the same thing, you have to look at it. It is not easy to get away with a lot of the things that people do in a monogamous relationship. Maybe that is why we came together, and why the triplets chose us. There has been a hell of a lot of growth in the last eight years! Between our age differences, economic conditions, and the triplets, just those can be enough stressors to statistically break people apart. I have had too many great loving times with my whole family to ever have regrets, it has been great!
Will you stay together?
No, I don’t think in the long run we are going to end up staying together. While we all remain committed to providing a healthy and loving environment for the triplets, our goals and desires have grown apart. Our time together seems to be drawing to a natural end because of who we are as individuals and where we are in our lives.
Next week an interview with a poly couple with poly friends.