How does a polyamorous relationship work?

A married man in a consensual non-monogamous relationship talked with CBC Saskatchewan's Zarqa Nawaz about jealousy, time management and having kids.

Married man in non-monogamous relationship answers questions about jealousy, having kids

Three young parents in St. John's won a court challenge to each be identified on their daughter's birth certificate. (Paul Daly)

A recent legal decision in Newfoundland and Labrador has turned attention on polyamorous relationships.

On June 14 a family court judge ruled in favour of an unconventional family — made up of two men and a woman — who all wanted to be legally recognized as parents to a child the woman had in 2017.

All three now have their names listed as legal guardians. Before, the law only allowed two people to be listed. 

"Society is continuously changing and family structures are changing along with it," says the decision by Justice Robert Fowler.

So how does a polyamorous relationship work?

David spoke to host Zarqa Nawaz on CBC Saskatchewan's The Morning Edition's about his consensual polyamorous relationship. CBC has agreed to refer to David only by his first name to protect the identity of his children

Talk to me about how you first entered into a polyamorous relationship and why?

I had been dating the woman who eventually became my wife. We actually had broken up for a period of time but stayed really close friends and we were talking about possibly getting back together. And she said, "I can't get back together with you because I love you and I could see myself spending the rest of my life with you." 

I was a little puzzled by that, that those two things didn't line up. And then she basically just said, "I'm not ready to be with the last person for the rest of my life." And I said, "Okay, let's try not being that" and we sort of went from there.

So both of you are committed to each other and are married and have two children. How old are they?

They're eight and 10. 

At what point would you introduce the people you're dating to your children?

That can vary a lot. In a lot of cases, people we've started dating have been people who have already been friends, so they know our kids. And it's just a matter of that continuing on.

In other cases that's not the case but it depends on sort of circumstances. Usually it's relatively early on but like I said it can vary.

I often think of it just the same way as someone who's, let's say, a single parent may have to navigate that. No two single parents are going to have the same guidelines.

Is is difficult on children when those relationships break up?

It is. My wife had a really heartbreaking break up a few years ago and it made the kids sad to see their mom hurting.

So I know that's — I've always said the most difficult part of polyamory even for me as an adult isn't having my wife have a happy positive loving relationship with someone else. You know, the jealousy is there, but that's not the tough part. The tough part is seeing her heart broken. That, for me, has always been the toughest. And kids pick up on that.

I'm sure the same way they do when single parents are dating and have a breakup — that's got to be difficult for kids to see their parents hurting. But you know, we talk to our kids, we make sure that they know that they're loved and that if mommy's sad about that, she's not sad about the family that we do have and the relationship we do have.

We have similar conversations when there's been job losses or deaths in the family, things like that. It's important for kids to see what good healthy grieving and sadness looks like too. So we try and translate that into a learning opportunity.

Talk to me about some of the challenges of a polyamorous lifestyle.

Time management is probably the biggest one. And every single polyamorous person listening to me say that probably just nodded at that point. It's a matter of making sure you're being on top of schedules and that can be true for every single non-polyamorous person.

One of the added elements in polyamory is you do really also need to be aware of making sure everyone is feeling respected and valued. You never want an outside partner, someone who's outside your sort of nesting relationship, to feel like they are less than or not valued or not someone who is a priority in your life.

Talk to me about feelings of jealousy.

Jealousy definitely still can exist. It can rear it's head. It's a natural human emotion.

There's sort of some things that make it more difficult, some things that make it less. One of the things about being polyamorous with regards to jealousy is, in some ways, there's certain things that monogamous people have to deal with on the jealousy front that you don't as much.

If my wife calls me and says, "Hey I'm trapped at work, I'm gonna be two hours late, can you make sure you pick up the kids and get supper taken care of?" I know that's exactly what she says.

I don't have to worry, "Oh, okay, is she sneaking up off to have an affair?" because if she was meeting, you know, one of her other partners at that point she would just say, "Hey, I've got a date tonight. Can you make sure you pick up the kids and and make sure supper's taken care of?"

So, that's one of the things that helps on the jealousy front. In order for polyamory to be successful, just like monogamy, you need to have lots of communication. You need to be talking about your feelings. It's important to own your own feelings, including jealousy.

How many partners have you had in the past?

Over the last 20 years, I've probably dated a dozen people in total. I currently have three other partners other than my wife.

Talk to me about what the polyamorous scene is like in Saskatchewan.

It's hard to tell for sure. Like, I know the people who I know. Any time there are studies done on this, the numbers are so hard to measure because most people aren't open about it.

Most studies show that, of people who are in married or common-law relationships, about five to 10 per cent are in some form of consensual non-monogamous relationships.

Do you feel there's still a stigma against polyamory in society?

I do, yeah. Certainly I know most people I know who are polyamorous are not going to be open or public about it. That's certainly not 100 per cent of the case. It's something that there's a lot of taboos around, so I'm curious as to see where society shifts over the next few years on that.

With Files from CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition