Terisa, 41, is at the center of this particular polyamorous cluster. A filmmaker and actress, she is well-spoken, slender and attractive, with dark, shoulder-length hair, porcelain skin—and a powerful need for attention. Twelve years ago, she started datingScott, a writer and classical-album merchant. A couple years later, Scott introduced her to Larry, a software developer at Microsoft, and the two quickly fell in love, with Scott's assent. The three have been living together for a decade now, but continue to date others casually on the side. Recently, Terisa decided to add Matt, a London transplant to Seattle, to the mix. Matt's wife, Vera, was OK with that; soon, she was dating Terisa's husband, Larry. If Scott starts feeling neglected, he can call the woman he's been dating casually on the side. Everyone in this group is heterosexual, and they insist they never sleep with more than one person at a time.
It's enough to make any monogamist's head spin. But the traditionalists had better get used to it.
I'm no fan of monogamy, as everyone knows, and I'm only a "traditionalist" when it comes to crème brûlée (stick with vanilla, please—all those lavender, ginger, anise, and rose brûlées taste like your grandma's soap), but the arrangement detailed above makes my head spin. I don't think that anyone in this cluster is doing anything wrong, of course, and I believe that people should be free to make whatever romantic arrangements they care to—even when children are present. Children need stability and structure; constancy is the one parental virtue that doesn't get the attention it deserves. A stable poly triad can provide that. And if religious nuts have an absolute right to teach their kids that the earth is 6000 years old and that Jesus rode a dinosaur and that God wants them to wear magic underpants—and teach their gay kids to hate themselves—then Terisa's crew can raise their kid(s) to believe that it's possible to be in love with, and to be loved by, more than one person at a time.
A polyamorous relationship that doesn't involve a massive conspiracy to enslave, brainwash, and rape young girls—looking at you, FLDSers—should be able to provide the stability that a kid or kids require. And before traditionalists explode at Terisa, et. al, they might want to look at the divorce rate among religious "traditionalists," and pause to consider kids with one mom and one dad whose lives are turned upside down when their "traditionalists" parents divorce. If honest non-monogamy and a secular, enlightened, egalitarian polyamory can keep a kid's parents from sabotaging their bond out of sheer boredom or a frustrated desire for some sexual and emotional variety, that may be to a kid's ultimate benefit.
But I wouldn't be capable of living in a polyamorous triad or quad or quint. There are just too many moving parts, too many personalities involved. My boyfriend and I prefer a traditional family structure—one couple, married, living under the same roof, raising a kid—and we have very traditional views when it comes to adultery, i.e., it's okay when husbands do it. And since neither of us is the wife...