You thought polyamory was just a theoretical but impractical concept? Well, 44-year-old Mary Crumpton who has a husband, a fiancé and two boyfriends hopes that by observing her life, curious people can better understand it.
The therapist lives with her husband, Tim (43) and fiancé, John (53) in Manchester, England, while the two boyfriends Michael (63) and James (73) live nearby.
I find that I have a huge capacity for romantic love. I just naturally fall in love with more than one person at a time. So to settle down with just one person for the rest of my life just doesn't feel natural to me.
"The idea that loving more than one person might not make me a terrible human being only dawned on me when, at a pub, I bumped into a person who had more than one partner. I had never come across it before, or the term 'polyamory' which means 'more-than-one love'. I was quite shocked, and curious about how it all worked for them," she told the U.K.'s Daily Mail.
Crumpton — who was raised in "quite a traditional home" for most of her twenties, says she never questioned monogamy. "It was normal. I did sometimes have feelings for other people, but I felt guilty about doing so, and just took it as a sign that I didn't love my husband enough."
When that marriage didn't work out, she met someone else – and it was while she was with this person that she came across the polyamorous person at a pub. Soon afterwards, she suggested to her partner that they try an open relationship, which soon led to polyamory.
"I married one of the people I first dated polyamorously. My husband Tim and I got together in 2004, and were married in 2013."
She is also planning to "marry" John, with whom she's been since 2011. "We can't legally marry, but we are having a full wedding-style commitment ceremony at Chorlton Unitarian church in May."
Although polyandry — where a woman has more than one husband – is illegal in the U.K., polyamory is not outside the law.
Crumpton stresses that for her, it's all about love, and although some of her relationships have been sexual, sex is not the driving force for her.
"I find that I have a huge capacity for romantic love. I just naturally fall in love with more than one person at a time. So to settle down with just one person for the rest of my life just doesn't feel natural to me."
"People sometimes ask me if it means that I love my husband, or any of my partners less. And I say no. Perhaps it is a bit like how we love our children — when a parent has a second or third child, it doesn't mean that they love their first child any the less. I think that romantic love is unlimited too. Time is limited of course. But I do not believe that love is. It certainly isn't for me."
One of the lovely things about a life with more than one partner is that there is no pressure on one person to supply all my needs.
"One of the lovely things about a life with more than one partner is that there is no pressure on one person to supply all my needs. My husband Tim and I share an enthusiasm for environmentalism and all that entails, like electric cars, and veganism. With my fiancé John, I enjoy watching science fiction and we go to church together."
"With Michael, I like to watch and support him playing for his local darts team at the Royal Oak, and we go to karaoke nights – which is possibly more embarrassing than admitting to polyamory."
She also points out the financial benefit of this type of relationship. "Cohabiting with two of my partners makes things easier financially for us. So much so, that the three of us took the decision that I would reduce my paid-work-hours and do more unpaid voluntary work in our community."
As far as relationship security is concerned, she does admit that insecurity does plague her men from time to time.
Sometimes there might be a fear that a new partner is 'better' in some way than a current one, but good communication and offering reassurances allows that to be dealt with.
"Like in any relationship, insecurities can arise. Though in some ways there is less jealousy perhaps - no fear that a partner might cheat on me, because why lie about it, when having another partner is allowed anyway?
"Sometimes there might be a fear that a new partner is 'better' in some way than a current one, but good communication and offering reassurances allows that to be dealt with."
She has also faced criticism for her relationship choice, being called a slag, man-eater, or one out to seduce people's partners. "I have also been told that what I do is 'against God's law', though in fact there are many instances of multiple marriages in religious texts, and there are denominations of both Christianity and Islam that allow multiple marriages."
"Mostly though, people are open to my lifestyle - they can see that I am honest with my partners and that we are all happy, so they see it as no-one's business but ours."
Crumpton doesn't have children and says she does not have any desire to have any, although she points out that there is no problem with having kids in such a family setup.