For these young romantics, 3 (or more) is the perfect company
Group offers support for people in or seeking polyamorous and non-monogamous relationships
With big smiles and youthful faces, Melanie Lynch and Alex Wilkie look like an average happy couple on social media, head over heels in love.
While the smiles are real and the love is genuine, this couple does not have your average relationship.
They are polyamorous — meaning that while they live together, they also date other people.
"No one is cheating here," Lynch said. "Everyone is on the same page, there's good communication constantly. Partners are always talking."
The couple is part of a support group, started on Facebook, to help guide people who are either in a polyamorous or non-monogamous relationship, or who are interested in the lifestyle.
It's a mystery to the common person, Wilkie said, and something that draws a lot of curiosity.
"I think that's why we have a support group in the first place," said Lynch. "There's a big stigma against what we are doing."
'No one is cheating here'
Lynch and Wilkie entered into the relationship with the goal of being polyamorous.
Wilkie had first tried it out while dating a bisexual woman, when he felt it was unfair for her to be in a relationship solely with him.
"She just wouldn't have been able to explore this whole other area of her identity and her life if we just remained monogamous and continued being together."
While their relationship didn't last, Wilkie and Lynch had similar conversations about being polyamorous when they started dating. In time, they found it worked for them.
"You have to talk about a lot of hypothetical situations that you normally wouldn't have to think about," Wilkie said. "Like, if you're going on a date with somebody, is it OK if you went back to your apartment after?"
"We also have an excellent calendar together," Lynch laughed. "We're good at scheduling."
Different strokes for different folks
Jeff Anstey, another member of the support group, said his relationship works a little bit differently.
His partner is monogamous, but Anstey has dated other people throughout the course of the eight-year relationship.
"When we met, we were both pretty young," he said, noting they began a monogamous relationship by default. "That's kind of the way our culture is. People are taught from a young age those types of expectations, I guess, and it's kind of implicit."
But after three years together, they began talking about feelings they were having. At first they discussed a typical open relationship — seeking other sexual partners without a strong emotional connection.
Throughout their conversations, Anstey realized polyamory — something with more of an emotional connection — was more along the lines of what he was searching for.
He said his partner understands and respects his feelings, but doesn't feel the same way.
Even though his partner does not date other people, Anstey said that doesn't make him any less committed.
"Most people associate commitment with an exclusive sort of connection," he said.
"I'm very committed to my partner. We've been together for a long time … But that doesn't make feelings go away. That doesn't make, you know, other parts of who I am disappear."
Blanket terms, many different relationships
Terms like polyamory and non-monogamy are blanket terms, the group said, and the relationships between the people involved can vary greatly.
There can be a hierarchical structure — meaning a person has a preferred partner, and the other partners are considered less serious or committed.
For example, Lynch and Wilkie consider themselves "nesting partners," meaning they live together and intend to stay together but have other relationships, too.
"My other partner, I would refer to him as a satellite partner," Lynch said. "Someone who kind of comes in and out of my life in a different sense than Alex does."
Then there are situations where all partners are considered equals — these relationships commonly happen in groups of threes called triads.
"It amounts moreso to seven relationships than one relationship," said Wilkie. "Because you have the relationship between A and B, the relationship between B and C, A and C and so on and so forth."
While it's totally normal to them, they understand that their lifestyle is the source of questions from others, but that's OK.
"Most people when you talk to them are genuinely curious," Wilkie said. "And they have a lot of questions, which is nice."
With files from On the Go