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Don't Call My Chain Polygamy
10/06/2039 12:03 AM ET
Don't Call My Chain Polygamy

Marisse O'Shea
Chained...to love

Public domain image Icon of man and woman holding hands by AIGA, AnonMoos, Monomo | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 beautiful faces by tommerton2010 | Public domain image was remixed and adapted. Writer image was cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Two is nice...but some people just need more.
Since plural marriage was affirmed eight years ago, there's been an explosion in creative marriages. Polygamy was once held to be a Mormon institution, but from the time the Ryan administration demanded the states comply and issue multiple marriage licenses to individuals, people of all faiths and none, have fashioned marriage as they see fit.

* * *

For the past four years I have been part of a growing relationship chain. The term is still entering modern popular use so let me explain.

Six years ago I married my husband, Craig. It was everything I wanted it to be.

I was 25, he 29.

He came from a Roman Catholic background but was lapsed, as I was also from my Baptist background. We had met through mutual friends and we clicked as soon as we set eyes on each other. You might say we bonded over tequila.

Before long we were spending every spare minute with each other - when he finished work (he's an architect) he would race over to meet me as I left work (as a legal secretary). He cooked for me and I cut his hair - not at the same time of course. We liked the same indie music.

The sex was amazing and when that piece of the puzzle fit I knew we were going to be together. He popped the question on our three month anniversary at the end of a breathtaking rooftop dinner he had prepared. I said yes as my eyes teared up with the Los Angeles skyline in the background.

A month later we were wed in a small non-religious ceremony on a beautiful beach and we honeymooned in Tahiti. The romance was amazing and we were on fire.

The first year was fantastic but as year two greeted us, some things changed. His firm closed and he was out of work for four months. Craig became a little moody, nothing we couldn't handle, but a definite change. We became pregnant and I miscarried. There were a lot of unanswered questions.

Things seemed to change decidedly when he started drinking. He would go out, stay out all night with his friends, and come home anytime between 2 and 5am. It happened often enough to put a strain on our already taut relationship.

After I miscarried again I knew I couldn't go on anymore and I demanded to know what he wanted. I remember throwing something at him which smashed near the fireplace. There were a lot of bad things said.

The next day he came around and he said we probably needed to talk to someone. Craig had a friend who had gone through marital problems, and had seen someone with his husband. He later swore she was amazing.

As we sat in the waiting room I gripped Craig's hand tightly. Would this woman, this stranger, be willing to listen? Would she blame me? Was I to blame? I couldn't stop thinking. Sweat rolled down my back and traced little ticklish lines on my skin. Craig held my hand tightly.

Maryann was indeed amazing. She was completely non-judgemental and basically helped us forge an atmosphere were Craig and I could just talk without it descending into acrimony.

There were a lot of issues and some of them were easy to deal with: Craig's drinking, my insecurity (rooted in a lack of trust). We both cried a lot.

After a couple of months we thought we were on the right track, but Maryann wasn't finished. She said we had made great progress, but that we were not going to succeed, even with couples' therapy. We both did a double-take. What? What had we been working toward, then?

She sat us down and explained to us that during the months we had been working with her, she had noticed a fundamental impatience in us both, a need to fly, to explore. Maryann called it 'wandering heart'. She explained that three out of five couples she sees present this way.

Essentially, we would never be enough for each other. We could leave and try to make our marriage work based on the techniques she had taught us, but we'd be back in six months because we needed something more.

She slowly explained to us that we would always need the comfort of leaving, and being able to come back. To go exploring, to find love elsewhere, but to return to the nest refreshed and revitalized. Maryann described the powerful feelings of intense emotion and sexual energy that bond a couple together after they have been apart for while.

It was not easy to grasp this and we did not go back to therapy for many weeks, but we knew, we just knew after another major fight in the first month on our own, that Maryann knew what she was talking about.

When we returned to therapy, she elaborated: "you don't have to leave the nest completely. Arrange a couple of days apart, spend time embracing someone else, and then return to the nest. Your relationship will be stronger each time you both realise you want to return to each other."

Another two weeks passed with many intense conversations. How would it work? Who would we date? Was it classed as 'dating'? Should the other person be involved in the selection of the other's dating partner? Could they veto further contact if things got too intense? How much information were they entitled to?

We hashed it out with Maryann. And decided the ground rules: Fridays and Saturdays were to be 'other date nights'. We'd spend as much time as possible with someone else romantically and sexually, but only on those two days. But only one person. There was no need for each person to be involved in choosing the other's second partner. No communicating about our dates, they were to be treated as a separate relationship, with privacy and respect. The dates had to be told about our primary relationship. Protection had to be used always. Any issues had to be raised as soon as they presented themselves.

I found my 'Second Craig' (as I called him...his real name is Morgan) at a bar. Again, I bonded with a charming man over drinks. He had tight, dark curly hair, a slim toned body, and he worked as a consultant. He was subtle, authentic, honest and totally taken with me. I explained the situation and what I was looking for. He was in total agreement.

Craig found his 'Second Marisse' the following week, at a BBQ he attended with friends. To this day I don't know anything about her.

We proceeded as Maryann had suggested, spending as much time as possible with the other person, away from the nest, letting ourselves wander. She was right about returning to the nest. It was amazing. And when we wandered again, the sex with the other person was incredible. I had never known this level of satisfaction. Craig intimated the same thing.

I asked him point blank if there was any jealousy. In fact, we asked each other that question on a regular basis, just to make sure. On the second week Craig confirmed a few issues, but we talked it out.

In fact, we talked about our feelings so much, and I am convinced that the communication helped. If we hadn't communicated so much and so well I don't know if it would have worked out.

About six weeks passed, when Craig and I came to a mutual decision. We were so comfortable and satisfied in our new lives that we had stopped seeing Maryann (with her blessing). We spent an evening talking about our newfound happiness and decided to extend our second relationships to one more day. Three days a week - Thursday through Saturday - we would be away from the nest. But both Second Craig and Second Marisse had to agree, or we'd stay at two days. Otherwise, one person would return to the nest alone, possibly creating jealousy issues.

Turned out they were both fine with it.

Months passed and Second Craig simply became Morgan in my mind. We were happy. We were content. He asked questions about my relationship with Craig which I mostly declined, citing privacy and respect, which I clarified extended to my relationship with him (Morgan) also.

One day he made a bold move, and suggested marriage. If I could be married four days a week to a man, why not three days a week to another? I was taken aback, my prudish girly notions of monogamy still glued to my brain. I said I needed time to think. Turned out I didn't. I went back to the nest and then called him.


The question then became how to tell Craig. After we both returned to the nest, I explained the situation. I gave as little detail as I could, while sharing my experience and feelings. He took me and we made love for hours.

Then he said his Second Marisse (I still didn't know her name) had suggested the same thing weeks ago. He hadn't known how to bring it up with me.

We planned it perfectly, both of us getting married at the beginning of the same three day 'wander' and taking honeymoons. We filed for another marriage license each and received them the same day. There was no problem with names as I had kept mine when I married Craig. Morgan was in agreement, that I would remain an O'Shea.

Morgan and I concurred that we would create our new "nest" at his place rather than finding a new home.

We went to San Francisco for our honeymoon. We didn't want to go far since we only had three days. We spent time walking, exploring the city, ordering lots of room service and enjoying each other. He had friends who lived there who were quite wealthy and when my husband told them about our nuptials they insisted on throwing us a party!

It was magical.

When we returned home, my nest with Craig felt so different. But I resolved myself that these were normal feelings, albeit immature, and that they would go away quickly. Sex with Craig wasn't exactly the same as it had been, but I put it down to the high I was on - after all I was a new bride. Again.

Craig confided in me that he felt largely the same. But Maryann had been so right about our need to be in second relationships, and we agreed to stick it out. We had committed to our second spouses and they deserved our best efforts.

Over time things clarified themselves, and Craig and I realized that we still loved each other. The initial burst of marital bliss we both had experienced settled and we continued as a loving, committed, married couple.

My relationship with Morgan proceeded and was kept vibrant by the same routine absence that my relationship with Craig enjoyed.

Craig brought an interesting idea to me about four months into our dual marriage situation. He said that he had total trust with his new wife. He asked if I was equally as trusting with husband number two and I confirmed that. He then asked if we could consider going protection-free. Would it be a sound idea? We agreed to speak to our other spouses.

The following week at the next 'nest return' we both brought positive feedback, and we suddenly found ourselves in a three relationship, four-way trust situation. We all got tested and were cleared for take-off, so to speak.

I felt reserved but Morgan assured me of his love and commitment, and Craig assured me his wife felt the same.

Over time this new situation blossomed, and I fell pregnant again. This new joy was complicated however because I had no idea who the father was. My time during the previous cycle had sat between 'nests'.

An intense period of discussions was begun between myself and Craig, and myself and Morgan, eventually culminating in my receiving an abortion. Things were not yet as settled as I wanted them to be before considering a family. There were too many questions. There was no doubt I was happy, but how would a child fit? Plus, what if I had miscarried again? I wasn't sure the situation could handle that kind of trauma.

Both Morgan and Craig were incredibly supportive.

The next month, Morgan and I found ourselves cuddling on the couch. He was stroking my hair and we were watching 'Dread and Dodge'. Suddenly, he asked me what I would think if he were to pursue a second relationship?

I was stunned. What was I to think? Another relationship? My head swam. I think I was angry. I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure how far this could actually be taken. What had I gotten myself into?

I left the apartment, our apartment, and returned to my nest with Craig. I called him and asked him to meet me there. He returned to find me crying into my sweater sleeve. I told him about Morgan's suggestion, in the process breaking - I think - our rule about not sharing details of our other relationship.

Several hot drinks and hugs later I had calmed down enough to be able to see things sensibly. "He still loves you - he just wants the same loving, romantic experience we have," Craig said. He was gentle and tender and he brought me around. I hope his other wife was okay with him doing that.

We spent the night together, talking, finally falling asleep around 2am.

The following day I returned to Morgan and apologised for my behaviour. He said he understood completely. We walked down to our local Starbucks and talked. And talked and talked. And he reiterated his love for me, which he said was completely unshakeable: "I am your husband and I love you".

After spending much of the day together, I finally said ok. I agreed under the same conditions as my initial 'nest' arrangement with Craig. I also decided that we'd go back to using protection until a similar no-protection arrangement was worked out with his other partner, if that ever happened (I did not put Craig under the same conditions again, as his second relationship was still constrained within the 'circle of trust'). Morgan agreed.

I know he began seeing someone else fairly soon - maybe he had his eye on someone when he suggested he have another relationship - and to be truthful I did feel jealous. The other woman was getting my husband for four days a week, whereas I only got him for three days. Did that make me his second wife? How would I fit in?

This new jolt took weeks to settle, until I realized that it was just that - another jolt. We were feeling things out as we went; there were no rights or wrongs, just people in love with each other in a unique situation, trying to do the best they could, honestly, with people they loved. There was no book, and no rules to follow, just common-sense fumbling in the dark until a solution could be reached!

Months later Morgan confided in me that his second relationship was going very well and he was looking to marry again. He confirmed his partner was fully aware of our marriage and our new "philosophy" so to speak. His partner was very relaxed with our arrangement.

At this point we were so comfortable, and the whole non-monogamy thing so settled, that I agreed fairly quickly. It was only when he used a pronoun I wasn't expecting that I blinked a little.

He was draining water from spaghetti and explaining that his fiance (to be) would probably like to head east, because he had family there who would like to celebrate the nuptials.

"You're bi?" I asked. He nodded his head, bashfully, unable to make eye contact. I'd had no idea. Another jolt. I kissed him, he kissed me back, and I told him that I was proud of him and that I had no problem with his choice of spouse. We made love as the pasta cooled.

Morgan was married again, a month later.

Ironically, but perhaps somewhat predictably, Morgan's newfound bliss drew me closer to Craig. We hadn't grown apart or anything, but we had grown used to the amount of attention we were giving each other emotionally and physically.

It helped reinforce our love for each other now that Morgan had another relationship that justifiably deserved a little more attention (until the honeymoon period wore off, that is). I was able to be a little more giving to Craig.

In those first few weeks following Morgan's marriage, Craig shared with me that Christine (I finally learned her name!) was seeking another relationship. He confessed feeling a little down about it, but he wasn't as emotionally distraught as I had been. I gave him the same advice he gave me, and a little wink at how much better their sex life would be.

He laughed.

I did insist though, that he and Christine use protection again, and he found that reasonable. I also suggested we make it a rule that the next spouse down the line had a right to know if their spouse's second spouse was getting into a new relationship.

In other words, if Morgan's husband pursued a new relationship, that I would have a right to know. If only to ensure that protection was being used appropriately.

Morgan communicated this to his husband who agreed. Craig reported back that Christine was on board.

* * *

Four years have passed since Craig and I first wandered from the nest.

Morgan's husband was unable to handle the lack of monogamy and he divorced him six months into their marriage. Morgan was inconsolable for a few weeks and I had to ask Craig for some time away to tend to him. Craig was sweet and complied without asking further questions. There was something foreign about tending my husband in his despair at a failed relationship, but I had gotten used to the jolts by then and put it out of my mind.

Morgan is now dating another woman and is much happier! From the little I know she seems like a much freer spirit.

Christine's new relationship fell apart one month in. Craig said she didn't share the full details of our relationship chain with her new partner and once he found out, he left.

She has found love again, according to Craig, and is engaged to another man to be married. He has been tested and so from him to Christine, to Craig, to myself, to Morgan, we have gone protection-free. Morgan uses protection with his new love.

* * *

According to Jackson Polling the most common plural marriage is one man, two women, followed by one woman, two men and then one man, three women. These marriages fit a variety of living arrangements.

When Congress finally passed the Defining Plural Marriage and Divorce Act in 2026, they had enough vision to provide not just for marriages featuring more than one person, but one person with more than one marriage. I know people who have more than one marriage, but not many.

Most people seem fitted for monogamy.

I consider myself monogamous, in the sense that I couldn't be with more than one person at once. I couldn't live with two men, and I wouldn't want to have a threesome or foursome or moresome.

Mine is just a different kind of monogamy. Sunday through Wednesday, I am married to Craig and Craig gets all of me: physically, emotionally, everything. Thursday through Saturday, I am all Morgan's. It isn't as though the other person doesn't exist, but they are not part of the marriage I am enjoying at that time.

I'm not polygamous in that sense. In any sense.

My friends are all aware of my life's choices, and they are supportive and encouraging. I am sometimes wary about who I tell about my mairtal situation, but usually I get a positive, affirming response.

However, some people stubbornly cling to old notions of the binary monogamy/polygamy and I have to educate them. No, I'm not polygamous. Polygamy is a marriage involving more than two people.

I am married to more than one man, separately. Call it dual-monogamy.

I call it my relationship chain.
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