Though sheís new to poly lifestyles and still adjusting to the terminology, one might call Heidelís living arrangement a poly-fidelitous closed triad, though she prefers to just call it her pride. Prior to discovering poly lingo, thatís what she called her family: a pride of lions. Heidelís pride consists of one other beautiful woman, one gorgeous man, three sons, two stepsons, a step-baby on the way, one very, very old pitbull named Jones, two snakes, a bunch of lizards and toads, and one ham-eating Eastern box turtle named Gary. Heidel writes from Central California.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

A Love Story

You can learn a lot from lions. They spend their days basking in sunshine, working together to keep their young ones safe from harm, to bring in dinner, to raise their cubs. The females care for each cub as if it were theirs, and share one strong male, who loves and protects his little tribe.

Itís such a wonderful way to describe a polyamorous family. We have our moments when our teeth and claws are bared and we have our moments when we nuzzle and purr, but always, we stick together and care for one another.

Years and years ago, I met my Lioness in high school. She was this vibrant, curvy beautiful girl with long, auburn ringlets cascading down her back. We saw each other on the school yard one day and said, "Hey, I know you." We didn't really know each other, but in a sense we did. People thought we were sisters. She and I could never figure out why exactly. We both had long, curly auburn-blonde hair and thick eyebrows, but that's where the similarities ended. She had blue eyes. I had brown. She was thick and curvy and sexy. I was thin and bony and surly. We were best friends. And we could communicate without speaking. A churlish teenager, I usually wore jeans, and one morning I was upset to find that all my pants were dirty; I had to wear a skirt to school. So all morning as I dressed, brushed and plaited my unruly hair, painted thick, black eyeliner onto my eyes and ate breakfast, I chanted, "Lioness, wear a skirt. Lioness wear a skirt," hoping such a silly thing would work, but not really believing that it would.

Later at school, I was standing in the hallway, and here came Lioness sashaying down the hall, wearing a skirt that was identical to mine. I grinned. From the end of the hall, Lioness pointed at me and yelled, "You! It was you!" She told me that all her skirts were dirty that morning but she had been compelled to pull that one out of the laundry basket and put it on. She heard me. Through space and time she heard me. And she listened. And I have loved her ever since. Around that time I started dating Husband #1. My Lion was his best friend. Actually, I met Lion first. He and his father were old family friends, and Iíd known him for years. He was a few years older than me, and as a teenager, he used to come over to hang out with my parents who he thought were these cool, partying hippies.

Eventually I introduced Lioness to Lion, and she immediately pursued him. I considered pursuing him as well. I had a heavy crush on him, but was torn between him and his best friend. It seemed appropriate to let Lioness pursue Lion while I dated Ė and later married -- his friend. The four of us were inseparable for a couple of years -- until Lioness and Lion had a falling out. That's when Lion and I grew very close. I became his confidante. He became my best friend. And I lost touch with Lioness. For a year or so I spent every waking moment with Lion. I hated Husband #1 by then and was trying to find a way out of my marriage. He had a drug addiction, but I was too young and scared to leave him. I escaped my miserable reality to my safe harbor in Lion's arms. Eventually he asked me to leave Husband #1 to be with him. But I freaked out. I told him I couldn't. I wanted to be strong, to stand on my own before I leaped into another relationship and committed to him. I asked him to leave, and as my heart broke silently, I told him he should look up Lioness again. So he did. A few months later I found my courage and left my husband, and shortly after, Lioness and Lion were separated again. They had a bit of a falling out in Vegas and Lion disappeared. Lioness called me from Vegas, in tears, and I told her to come home to me. She and I lived together for a couple of years and for the first time I felt at home. Lioness and I went to college -- like we had talked about doing all those years ago in high school before men and babies and life got in the way. She and I slipped into a comfortable groove. She was what I affectionately called my ďlovely housewife,Ē staying home to take care of my three young boys while I went of to work. She was very protective as Lionesses tend to be, and used to tell the man I was dating at the time that I was always her first love (and she was mine), and if he ever screwed up, she'd kick his ass. We joked that she and I should just go to Vegas and get married ourselves since we were each other's first loves. And when things got serious with the man I was dating, she teased him that someday I'd leave him for her. Then, after a year and a half without a word of where he'd been, Lion came back. No one knew how I had spent my nights crying into my pillow over him -- especially Lioness. But when he came back, and after he explained why heíd left (a story too long to relate here), and after we forgave him, we slowly became like we were before.

The three of us. Inseparable. Years before, my mother, who has a bit of a psychic side, had looked at the three of us and said, "You three. You'll live together. That's how it's supposed to be." And then she sighed and her eyes got all distant and I shivered. But that wasn't to happen yet. Lioness and Lion decided to leave for the East Coast. The man I was dating would become Husband #2. And when they left I felt like my world was collapsing. Husband #2 was there to catch me. For the next few years I filled my loneliness by keeping busy: earning my degree, raising my kids, growing miserable with Husband #2. And then, when I was looking into transfer universities, Lion called me and said, "Come back to us here on the East Coast. There are universities here." Shortly after I moved back there, Lion was transferred back to the West Coast and Lioness went with him. It was too much for me. I sat still. I decided finally, after twelve long years, to give up the chase. It was silly, after all. The man I loved was with Lioness. The woman I loved was with Lion. They were happy with each other. I was a third wheel. I was tired of being miserable with Husband #2, but I wanted my marriage to work. It was my second marriage, after all. It had to work. But last year, after threatening to leave Husband #2 for the sixth time, I realized I had to do it. For my kids' sakes. They were miserable. I was miserable. I told Lioness this. And she told me to come on home to her. So I did. Before I moved back to the West Coast, Lion explained to her that we had history. And that if I was going to live with them, there was a good chance that our history would come back to life. And Lioness said she was ok with that. And this is why: Whenever the three of us are apart, we call and write to each other incessantly. If two of us are together without the other, we talk about that missing person and how much we wish they were there with us. It's like the three of us aren't whole unless we're together. And once each of us realized this, we realized we can't be happy unless we're together. I can't explain it any other way, except to say it is one of those strange things that's just meant to be. At first it was very awkward. Iíve never considered participating in a polyamorous relationship. I didnít even know what that sort of thing was. I had every intention of getting a job and moving out as soon as I was on my own two feet.

But things started happening. We started growing more comfortable and confidant with each other. We slipped back into our well-worn groove, as if Lioness and I had never parted, just like how it should have been if Lion and I had moved in together all those years ago.

And then, a few months into our new living arrangements, Lion explained to me that everything was out in the open with Lioness, and we three realized that we were all ok with whatever happened next. That was nine months ago. Since then, weíve struggled through some powerfully emotional moments, overcome tears and fits of jealousy, screaming rage and consuming love. And weíre talking about commitment now. Real, ceremonial, name-changing commitment. This column will be a diary of sorts, filled with all the ups and downs, the ugly and the comic and the beautiful moments of life as a member of a polyfidelitous triad.

But itís so impersonal to call it that: I much prefer to call it a pride of lions.

Itís a strong, healthy, happy way to live. I hope you join us in our adventures once in a while.

Heidel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Heidel ; April 21, 2007

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