The Bride, Her Wife, Her Husband & Their Lover: "Triads" Want To Put A Ring On It

Polyamory advocates now want their marriages recognized. Good luck with that!

Polyamory is likely as old as time, love, censure, and certainly marriage. And now that same-sex marriage is gaining a legal foothold in more and more states, the World Polyamory Association, is, as the Daily Beast puts it, "pushing for the next frontier of less-traditional codified relationships." Says one member of the "triad" profiled (a married lesbian couple who recently committed themselves to a man), "I want to walk down the street hand in hand in hand in hand and live together openly and proclaim our relationship. But also to have all those survivor and visitation rights and tax breaks and everything like that." The concern, of course, is that they'll block the sidewalk for same-sex couples.

While polyamory as a concept can encompass any number of partners, WPA is seeking legalization, at this point, only for triads. As distinct from the fraught Jules et Jim-style menage a trois of popular imagination, triads are about stability:

Unlike open marriages and the swinger days of the 1960s and 1970s, these unions are not about sex with multiple outside partners. Nor are they relationships where one person is involved with two others, who are not involved with each other, a la actress Tilda Swinton. That's closer to bigamy. Instead, triads-"triangular triads," to use precise polyamorous jargon-demand that all three parties have full relationships, including sexual, with each other.

These are relationships which, if they are to succeed, demand a level of communication, clarity of expectation,organization, grasp of math, and maturity that few of us can aspire to - maybe a clue to why the vast majority of the community are, apparently, of the boomer generation. The truth is, while the notion of verboten "threesomes" still has a lurid grasp on the popular imagination, an untitillating adult version strikes the same people as weird. And yet, it's not hard to imagine that agitiating for legal acceptance of the three-way marriages would be prize ammunition for those anti-gay-marriage types who feared doomsday "floodgate" scenarios. While caution rarely changes much, would running in this case jeopardize the right to walk? (To use that metaphor, yes, again.)

Of course, it's hard to get a read on exactly how many triads would take advantage of legal marriage - although the nonprofit "Loving More" estimates that a quarter of "the estimated 50,000 self-identified polyamorists in the U.S" live together. That's not a big number, although one imagines a lessening of stigma would swell their ranks somewhat. In any case, the triad whom the author introduces as the "face" of would-be legal polyamory is, how shall we put it, far from mainstream: the most vocal of the three, Janet, claims on her website to "travel astrally," while all three "helm the school of tantra." In short, it's easy to dismiss them as crackpots, which, while it may do the movement a disservice, certainly makes the notion less scary to those who'd be alarmed. (The WPA website home page, it must be said, features a first-person account titled "More to Love!") Says Janet, <"We should have every right to inherit from each other and visit each other-I don't care what you call it, we're not second-class citizens! Any people who wish to form a marriage with all the rights and duties of a marriage should have the legal right to." But, the thing is, they, um, don't. And in legal terms, we're guessing this is very much a discussion for another day - if not another decade. Insert walking metaphor.


Threesome Marriages
[Daily Beast]