I couldn’t choose between the two men I loved, so I kept them both

I couldn’t choose between the two men I loved, so I kept them both

The case for polyamory

Mortuza Janssen Photography

In July 2013, I drove to Montreal for the Just for Laughs festival. When I stopped at a café to charge my phone, I found myself sitting next to a cute guy in his early 30s with brown eyes and a goatee. This man, whom I’ll call Charlie to protect his privacy, was from the U.K., visiting friends in Montreal after attending his father’s wedding in Toronto. I got a friendly vibe from him and started a conversation. Over the next 40 minutes, we were lost in each other, talking about our lives, how our friends were all getting married and how we loved the freedom of travel. We even traded crude Jimmy Carr jokes. It was unusually comfortable for a first chat. Two nights later, back in Toronto, I took him on what I call the “Scott Pilgrimage,” a tour of filming locations from the movie (he’d mentioned that he was a fan). I showed him the Metro, the last operating porn theatre in Ontario, and he pulled me close as a picture of Ron Jeremy reflected from the marquee. After he went back to London, we chatted on Skype every day.

A few weeks after I met Charlie, I was chatting with a photographer at the Toronto newspaper where I work. “Adam” is a tall silver fox with a teenage son; at 61, he was 30 years my senior. For eight years, I’d considered him a good pal. We had a comfortable groove where I could talk about personal things, including how much I liked the hot British dude I’d met in Montreal. But that day in the newsroom, something changed. He describes it like the scene in Wayne’s World where Mike Myers sees Tia Carrere through a misty lens, with “Dream Weaver” playing in the background. Suddenly and inexplicably, we were drawn to each other. Over the next few weeks, we fell hard. We had our first kiss in front of a Starbucks in a North York strip mall.

The next month, Charlie invited me on a “second date.” I flew to London and we and spent 72 hours together, buzzing with new relationship energy. He took me to some of his old haunts, including Borough Market for meat pies and the Natural History Museum to look at fossils. We walked hand in hand in Clapham, and he showed me where he went to school. I knew we had something worthwhile.

For over a year, I tortured myself with indecision. My previous relationship had ended—badly—with infidelity. This time, I committed to openness and honesty. Charlie and Adam knew about each other, though I never defined either relationship. We had an unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. But over the next few months, my feelings for them deepened—and, as time ticked by, so did my maternal clock. I wanted to be a mom. I loved Adam, but I wasn’t sure about committing to a man in his 60s who didn’t want to do the parenting thing all over again. Charlie was the right age, but it was impossible to gauge if we had a future when we lived an ocean apart.

One day in 2015, Adam came to me with a surprising proposition: What if I didn’t have to choose between them? What if the three of us could make it work? Charlie and I would be able to continue our romance and have children, while Adam would have someone who would love and care for him into his retirement. Until then, we didn’t even realize polyamory was a possibility. But Adam had been through two marriages—one had ended in divorce, the other when his wife died of cancer. He knew that every relationship had its own dynamic, and he trusted me.

I brought the idea to Charlie, and he was open to it. Over the next few months, the three of us spent countless hours on Skype, hashing out the possibilities. Around the same time, I discovered Design for Living, a 1933 film about a woman named Gilda who meets two men on a train to Paris. They both fall in love with her, and she with them, but she can’t decide between them. By the end of the movie, she’s in the back of a cab sandwiched between her two guys. She kisses one and then the other. I took it as a sign.

In December, Charlie moved to Canada to begin a life with us. I knew there would be complications, jealousy, emotional turmoil, but we were willing to be patient and work together. A few weeks later, my two guys went to dinner at Terroni, navigating their new roles as each other’s metamour—their partner’s partner. Charlie returned hours later, beaming and gushing over how naturally the conversation had flowed. I felt a buzz from my phone: it was Adam. “Wonderful night!” he wrote. In the coming months, they continued to get closer. Adam even proposed a nickname that the guys now call each other with pride: “Co,” as in “co-partners.” They both lovingly call me “the Chairman,” because they joke that I can be as tyrannical as Mao Zedong.

Charlie is my nesting partner­—we live together—and Adam lives up the street from us. But there’s no hierarchy, and neither partner is more important to me than the other. A couple of times a week, I’ll spend the night at Adam’s, and on Sundays, the three of us usually do dinner and a movie at Adam’s condo. We call it NestFest.

Charlie and Adam are not romantically involved with each other but are emotionally connected. I am the person who balances the emotional weight of the two sides. But really, the guys balance me. If I’m fighting with Charlie, Adam remains neutral. He’ll text me the Swiss flag emoji as a reminder to take a breath and calm down. Polyamory has also improved my communication skills. I used to rely on my partners to guess what I was thinking, but with poly, I discovered that I need to express my emotions to avoid misunderstandings and jealousy. Even my Chinese parents have accepted it. “You’re all adults, so be happy,” my dad told me when I revealed my relationship status. I think my mom likes having lots of people to help carry groceries when we visit.

It can be overwhelming to handle two full-time relationships simultaneously. When everything is going great, it’s all warm and fuzzy, but if something is not going well with one partner, it can affect all three of us. The guys have done a lot of emotional work by talking out their intentions and insecurities privately with each other, and I’ll support them if they ever want to see other women. I’ve had to face my own insecurities about what happens if one or both my partners leaves me. Love is infinite, but it can also cause extreme heartbreak. Then I take a step back and remind myself that that’s my fear talking. Jealousy dissipates when you figure out the root: Is it fear that your partner will leave you, or love you less? Is what you’re feeling real, or imagined? When you talk about these things, it’s easy to find reassurance.

 

In 2016, Adam and I held a non-legal commitment ceremony. It wasn’t a wedding—we called it a welding. I wore a gown made from newspaper clippings of stories that we’d worked on together. When I saw Charlie smiling at us from the front row, I knew I’d made the right decision to love these two men. It was the ultimate moment of compersion—feeling joy because your partner feels joy.

Charlie and I got married in 2017, and we’re expecting a daughter in January. Adam will be occupying the “cool uncle” role. I have no doubt that our child will be loved and supported. Charlie, a huge Star Trek fan, says that one of the things he likes about the show is that there isn’t much conflict between the crew members—the plot hinges on discovery and acceptance. I never figured Star Trek would be a good analogy for poly, but there you have it. “Adam loves you. I love you. You love us. That’s it,” he says simply.

Jenny Yuen is a journalist in Toronto. Her new book, Polyamorous: Living and Loving More, is out this month from Dundurn Press. 


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