As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Poly Patterson's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Kel and I are girlfriends. And we just so happen to share our boyfriend, Tony, as well.
Wait, soooo you're in a polyamorous relationship?
He gets to have two girlfriends?!
You mean you guys are like the Sister Wives or something?
We consider ourselves to be in a polyamorous triad, which means the three of us equally share an intimate relationship with one another.
We are by no means sister wives.
Television shows such as Sister Wives show a patriarchal version of polyamory. The women on the show are all sharing one man, but aren't in relationships with each other.
And because people largely believe that F/F/M triads are only male-serving, we often find ourselves explaining (and defending) the difference between our love and theirs.
Whatever the difference, this is how we have chosen to love. And our arrangement is what works for us.
I grew up in a very conservative town in South Carolina, the middle of three siblings. My parents divorced when I was 9, but both were very present in my life. Kel grew up as the only girl in a two-parent Guyanese home in Houston. We each had amazing childhoods: heavily involved in church, did well in school, and was active in our extracurriculars (dance for Kel, viola and other sports for me).
We had never witnessed poly arrangements before, but each of us certainly witnessed infidelity and dishonesty in many relationships as we got older. Actually, our opinions of poly relationships didn't even develop until we were in our 20's. We would sometimes see them on social media accounts and/or various entertainment outlets, but nothing too crazy.
Each of us honestly always thought poly relationships were interesting, but never something we imagined for ourselves.
Pictured: Cam (L), Kel (R)
Tony and I were together for six years prior to meeting Kel and we even had plans of marrying. Despite this, I was still "bi-curious" and I wasn't quite sure how to express my desires while being in a committed relationship. I talked to Tony about it—and we had casual conversations—but we didn't think too deeply into it for a few years. And since I had never been with a woman, I was somewhat terrified of the mere thought of it all anyway, so we dropped it.
Once we graduated college and moved in together, I brought it up to him again and told him that if I explore this side of my sexuality, I don't want to ruin our relationship by dating women and having connections without him.
We decided to try dating apps to find someone that we could build a trusting friendship with first.
This quickly got old because as we all know, after a while, scouring these apps became a chore. I was completely over it, so we gave up. But just as I was about to delete all of my apps, I divinely met Kel. It was her first day on the app and my last.
We met in person a week later.
Tony and I immediately connected with her and wanted to continue to hang out. We didn't know what we were in for or that we would end up in a throuple, but we were all just obsessed with each other and hung out every weekend after that. As time went on and feelings got deeper, we sort of just fell into this dynamic.
We've been in our exclusive relationship since.
And the journey has been great. Good and bad times, many ups and many downs. Poly relationships are more than an immature fetish. Triads are tough.
It would be irresponsible to tell you how happy we are without being honest about the hard times too. We struggle with the same situations that any other couple would.
There have definitely been times when we've questioned everything. And because we're in a nontraditional relationship, the smallest of ticks can have you questioning the entire arrangement.
For example, Kel and I argue the most because we are so similar. We are still adjusting to the relationship dynamic with another woman. We are also the same zodiac sign, so it causes us to mirror each other often. But our love for one another is so strong; we can't give it up. We've had to take the time to remember that any relationship, no matter the details, can feel like it's too much because humans are so complex.
And we're just human.
As for our families, most have questions, most are confused. But overall, we have their full love and support. They are supportive and trust that we will make the best decision for our lives. We're sure it took some adjusting as I had been in traditional female/male relationships throughout high school and college, and for most of them, this is their first time hearing that we are both bisexual and in a poly relationship, so I'm sure it can be shocking at times.
But as long as we're happy, they are happy, even if they don't agree.
Regardless of it all, we've found our rhythm and don't allow anyone's outside opinions to influence us. In fact, we always get a good laugh at others' curiosity, if anything. Something as small as checking into a hotel with one king bed and seeing absolute confusion, all the way to going out with friends/colleagues who don't all know we are in a poly relationship; maybe they know two of us to be together, but when the affection switches to another person, glances change.
After all, people have many ideas of what they think our relationship is but I can assure you that whatever you think, is not the case.
We just live in our truth. It's important for us to show representation of three young, black, educated millennials who have the ability to love and cultivate relationships with more than one person at a time.
So, we appreciate the people who take an effort to look at our content and ask questions to get a true understanding of our relationship. Our hope is that by continuing to educate people about relationships like ours and showing our dynamic, the F/F/M polyamorous relationship stereotypes will start to go away.
Ladies, if you are considering entering a poly relationship, or you're seeking advice on how to maintain yours, understand that our relationship take an insurmountable amount of self-work and self-awareness. You need to be secure with yourself, you have to be. Be good at sharing yourself: feelings, past trauma, your significant others, etc. Selfishness or strong jealousy wouldn't survive a day in a poly relationship. Learn to love yourself first. Be clear on your desires, understand that those desires may shift as you grow. Learn the practice of giving grace to yourself and your partners because perfection does not exist in humans.
As for what's next? Sustaining our happiness. We're often asked if we plan to get married, and the answer is yes. We plan to have a commitment ceremony, which will take place in the future. We also plan to continue our journey of destigmatizing our choice of love. Mostly because although we know quite a few black poly individuals, the masses still have a negative outlook on it.
We as a culture are still healing from the trauma of oppression. So many people in the black community don't have the capacity to explore the idea that genuine love exists beyond tradition, which is the reason it is so important for us to tell our story; this is why we use social media and other outlets to show what our love is really like.
We face so much judgement everyday, so much ridicule. We fight the very stereotypes that you reading this will likely have, every single day--just for choosing our happiness.
And that's OK, we are built for this.
We just ask that you understand that this happiness is ours. And that's OK too.