Polyamory: Married and Dating, Episode 2 Review

The triad struggle with Lindsey's new sweetheart, and the quad start making their new relationship rules. Jessica highlights the common themes this week: healthy (and less healthy) communication, monogamy used as insults, negotiation, and more!

 **Author's Note:  I claim no knowledge on the making of the series or the people involved beyond what is shown in each episode. My observations are based on my perceptions as a viewer, which may not line up completely with what actually happened. This review isn't endorsed by Showtime or the cast members.**

A list of all of our episode reviews can be found here!

I'm excited to bring you my review of the second episode of "Polyamory: Married and Dating!" Like my previous review, I examine the show's connection with the greater polyamory community, first by providing storyline synopses for easy reference (spoiler alert!), and then laying out my own observations and views on the themes and behaviors presented in the show.

Before I launch into the review: it's worth noting that, two weeks into the new series, the online response has been really active. As with other times that polyamory has been presented on mainstream TV this year (Like Sierra Black's household on ABC's 20/20, or Carl and Kenya Stevens on the Dr. Phil show, or Dany, Lon and Troy an NatGeo's Taboo series to name a few), the show has generated a lot of chatter.  I've seen a variety of demographics chime in with incredibly diverse opinions in high volume, and I plan on covering the response in-depth in a later post.

 

 

Story 1: Anthony, Lindsey, and Vanessa (with a brief appearance of Krystoff)

The show begins with Anthony on the computer while Vanessa and Lindsay slowly wake up. In a side interview, Anthony talks about how the triad feels solid again, and Lindsay is willing to spend more time with them.  Cut to the bathroom, where Lindsey and Vanessa shower together while Anthony rummages in the bathroom. There's a brief, humorous exchange about the women (allegedly) using up all his shaving cream.

As we watch Vanessa and Lindsey prepare for the day (clothes and make-up), we see a brief shot of Anthony laying on the bed with a book. He mentions something that a professor told him: that a happy family sits and reads to each other once a week. This leads to a brief discussion between him and Vanessa about shared activities.

At that point, Lindsey's phone rings, with Krystoff on the other end.  He wants to meet her for lunch. Lindsay tells him she has to check with her other partners.  Anthony asks who called, and tension starts to build when Lindsey admits it was Krystoff, who was in town for work. Vanessa says that she saw him a few days ago (whether it was when Lindsey left school or after, we don't know). After Lindsey says she needs to be given a chance to break the news to Krystoff, Vanessa calls her a coward for not doing so already.

Lindsey repeats her concern about not being given a chance to talk to Krystoff about the conversations that the triad had about him. Vanessa accuses her of not telling Krystoff because she's afraid and doesn't want to lose him. Anthony points out that Lindsey had the conversation with Krystoff about becoming boyfriend/girlfriend without bringing it to the other members of the triad.  Lindsey voices her frustration with how she's being treated, and says Vanessa's attitude is making her want to go see Krystoff anyway.

Vanessa calls Lindsey's "bluff" by saying that no one is stopping her from leaving. When Lindsey confirms that she is going to lunch to do what the other two want her to do, Anthony says that by going to lunch she is doing what they don't want her to do.  Vanessa further chimes in that if Lindsey goes, and is affectionate with Krystoff, and doesn't tell him what's going on with the triad, she's lying to him. Vanessa presses that this is supposed to be a "we need to back off" conversation (during which Lindsey repeats "Of course I'm going to tell him" twice during Vanessa's rant). Lindsey accuses Vanessa of being passive aggressive, which is making it hard for her to be compassionate. After Lindsey leaves, we cut back to Vanessa and Anthony looking shocked and appalled.

Next, we see Lindsey approaching the restaurant to meet Krystoff for lunch. In her side interview, she mentions she doesn't know if she's making the right decision, or what the reprocussions will be. She feels conflicted. After the two of them meet, she starts to discuss the current situation with Krystoff. She admits to leaving things a mess, that Vanessa didn't want them to meet, and that she had neglected her partners.

The show then cuts to the other two members of the triad getting ready to leave the house. In a side interview, Anthony comments that Lindsey's actions-- going to see Krystoff while Vanessa was so upset--were out of line, and she should have been more sensitive to what they were going through. He's concerned that Lindsey is presenting different images of the situation to her family and to Krystoff, and needs to see whether those stories match up. The solution, we find out, is to show up unannounced to the restaurant where Lindsey and Krystoff are at.

Lindsey is visibly surprised when her partners show up. Anthony tells her and Krystoff that they didn't trust Lindsey to explain it all herself, and that they triad should be able to discuss it together since they do everything together. In a side interview, Lindsey confides that she doesn't know if her partners are going to make a scene or if they are going to tell her to break things off right then and there.

The group discussion starts with Lindsey telling the other members of the triad that she didn't have a lot of time to talk to Krystoff prior to them showing up, and that she had hoped to talk to him before having a group discussion. Anthony responds by saying that Lindsay and Krystoff's discussion about becoming boyfriend/girlfriend surprised the triad and that it wasn't okay for her to have these types of conversations and bring them to the triad after-the-fact.  Krystoff explains his understanding of the situation: that Lindsay has to get permission from the other members of the triad for certain things, and that the things she doesn't need permission for are okay. Anthony says that's not completely accurate. In a side interview, Vanessa says Krystoff doesn't understand that he is not "entitled" to Lindsey, but that he would soon.

Back in the main scene, Krystoff admits he can take responsibility for some of what happened. Vanessa's response is that the situation isn't about a couple of actions, but about honoring the function of the triad, which didn't happen when Lindsey asked for permission to have a boyfriend after the fact. Lindsey says that her feelings that she has for Krystoff feel different than any other crush she's had. Vanessa points out that her response to those feelings was to be secretive and take away fro the triad.  Krystoff says that he understands, but doesn't know how to fix the situation. We see Anthony and Vanessa look over to Lindsey, who awkwardly tells Krystoff that their solution is that she backs off from him to focus more on the triad.

As tears well up in Lindsey's eyes, Vanessa moves over to hug her. She admits to crashing Lindsey's time with Krystoff and that as a gesture of good faith she and Anthony would leave so that the two of them could have some time together. 

We then shift to Anthony and Vanessa returning home.  Anthony says that he thinks that things went well and asks if she's okay. In the side interview, Vanessa admits that she took out her anger on Krystoff when she was really mad at her girlfriend and the situation, but in her dialogue with Anthony she just says that she's processing and that she feels 'blegh'. Anthony suggests that there's nothing that wine can't fix and they both drink.

Lindsay returns later. Anthony asks how it went, to which she responds "painful". Vanessa says that even though she's been hurt and that Lindsey messed up, the good of the situation is that it showed Lindsey's capacity to love. Anthony chimes in that they should be grateful for being polyamorous, because if they were monogamous, Lindsey would have to choose between not pursuing her feelings or breaking up with them to be with Krystoff.  The story ends with a cuddle and make-out session.

 

Observations and Thoughts

I want to make sure the following is clear:  It is not my intention to critique the cast members themselves or nitpick on their personal lives. I appreciate the cast's willingness to be filmed and to have their story of their lives filmed and put in front of an international audience. I also appreciate that someone was willing to put in the time and effort to create this series and pitch it to a major network - something that the poly community would not have been able to do on their own.

My analysis is focused the behaviors presented within the context of healthy relationship dynamics, as well as the messages that this show sends about polyamory and the poly community.  Since the show is "edu-tainment", it is meant to introduce a mainstream audience to the concept of polyamory and not be a comprehensive guide on the various aspects of healthy, open, honest relating. My hope is that by providing additional commentary, I can expound upon (or challenge) the messages that this show presents, from the point of view of someone who is both a member of the polyamory community as well as one of the local and national leaders.

We don't know how much time has passed between the events of the first episode and the start of the second. Based on one of Vanessa's comments (Lindsey seeing Krystoff a few days ago), I suspect it's a couple of days past when she returned from school. This casts a lot of uncertainty on analyzing their actions, but we can still get pretty far if we break it into three main themes in this week's episode: expectations, communication within conflict, and ownership of feelings.

Expectations

Vanessa and Anthony were upset that Lindsey wanted to meet with Krystoff for lunch, and that she hadn't broken the news to Krystoff prior to that. Likewise, Lindsey seemed frustrated at Vanessa and Anthony's reaction to her wanting to meet with Krystoff for lunch and to discuss the triad's situation with him. While we watched Anthony and Vanessa convince Lindsey to back off from Krystoff, there was no further discussion on how or when that conversation would occur. 

Both sides had different expectations on when and how the "back off" conversation should occur. Did Anthony and Vanessa expect Lindsey to break off her relationship with Krystoff by phone or video chat, or was there a separate in-person meeting between Lindsey and Krystoff that we don't know about? Did Lindsey wait for Krystoff to be in town so that she could break the news to him face-to-face, or was it because she wanted to stall the discussion? While some assumptions are made in the moments of conflict, we don't know for sure.

A healthier alternative to the resolution that was presented could have been for the triad to follow-up the "Lindsey needs to break things off with Krystoff" talk (from the end of the last episode) with a discussion on how to lovingly handle that issue together, or at least to discuss the means by which that talk would happen, so that everyone would be on the same page and supportive. However, that could have made for a pretty boring episode 2.

 

Communication Within Conflict

The conflict between Anthony/Vanessa and Lindsey is further escalated by the way they communicate with each other.  We hear Vanessa call Lindsey a coward and make accusations about why she didn't talk to Krystoff sooner. She also talks over Lindsey, and talks back to her whenever Lindsey tries to speak up (the part where Lindsey is fastening her boots). Anthony frames the situation by bringing up a past hurt (the surprise of the boyfriend/girlfriend situation) rather than focusing on the issue at hand (the meet-up and "talk"). Lindsey initially tries to defend herself, but then uses the emotional reactions of the other two to defend her own emotional actions ("you're making me want to go anyway").  Lindsey also accuses Vanessa of being passive aggressive and says that it is difficult to be compassionate given the other's behavior. While the latter set of comments might have been better suited for an after-the-fact assessment, they do little to calm down an already worked-up Vanessa.

In this scene, everyone wanted to be heard, yet no one appeared to listen. Each seemed like they wanted to be the "wounded party" in the situation without acknowledging how their words and actions were affecting the other person (or people).  No one asked questions or sought any kind of clarification. (I don't count Vanessa's "give you a chance to do WHAT?" because her raised tone of voice gave me the impression that it was intended to be an accusatory statement).

The lack of communication continues when Vanessa and Anthony crash Lindsey and Krystoff's meeting. In the side interview, we seem to gain some insight on Anthony's motivations. He voices his disapproval of Lindsey leaving when Vanessa was upset. He says that his motivation for showing up was to see if what Lindsey was telling Krystoff matched with what she was telling the other members of the triad. However, once he drops in, he says that the reason that he and Vanessa are there are because they don't trust Lindsey to have this conversation alone (ouch).  His statement on how the conversation should become something that the triad does together may have been intended as being supportive, but the timing and shots of Lindsey look of shock and Vanessa's stern look made it seem controlling.

Lindsey's private conversation with Krystoff contrasts those between Anthony and Vanessa. Where the latter pair expresses their frustration towards Lindsey's partner without her present, we see Lindsey discussing the situation with Krystoff in a way that places the other two members of the triad in a sympathetic light.  When there is conflict in a relationship, the low-drama approach is usually to have the affected parties settle the issue between themselves, and not cause others around them (be they friends or other romantic partners) to take sides.

 

Ownership of Feelings

Polyamory involves practicing the art of emotional intelligence - being conscious of one's emotional responses to the situation in hand and learning to manage those feelings. By being aware of our emotions and how we're triggered, we're in a better position to communicate to our partners what is causing us pain (or fear, or joy) in a way that places the source of the emotion on a situation rather than on them. In contrast, when we say that someone is making us feel a certain way, it implies that the other person's actions control our emotions and our subsequent reactions.

When Vanessa and Anthony admitted to feelings of jealousy and insecurity (in episode 1), we didn't see any further exploriation of those feelings or attempts to navigate through them. Instead, the expectation to fix the situation was placed on Lindsey's shoulders. In a side interview, Anthony said that he had hoped that Lindsey would have been more considerate of Vanessa's feelings - again placing the responsibility on Lindsey. However, we don't see any emotional support given to Lindsey, who is in NRE and now having to break up with the person to whom she is deeply attracted. The response to her coming home hurt is for Vanessa to re-affirm that she's also been hurt and that Lindsey fucked up before saying that she's proud of Lindsey's ability to love (backhanded compliment alert!). As a viewer, Anthony's response of saying they're fortunate that they're polyamorous feels equally as hollow.

The closest that we see to Vanessa reflecting upon her emotions and responses is in the studio interview where she admits she directed her anger at Krystoff when she was mad at her girlfriend and the situation. However, that moment of relfection is cut short when she's not able to articulate her feelings, and he offers wine instead of discussing the issue further.

I'm hoping that the show starts to portray Vanessa in a more positive light. As a viewer, I'm having difficulty feeling sympathetic for what she's going through given the show is portraying her as jealous, possessive, and easily angered. Otherwise, story arc so far has been entertaining, albeit a little tense and dramatic. 

 

Story 2: Kamala & Michael, Jen & Tahl

Kamala and Michael are making breakfast for Jennifer and Tahl.  In a side interview, Michael says he hopes the dynamic will develop beyond "roommates" into a 4-way relationship.  They walk into the guest house, where Jen and Tahl are still half asleep, and start setting up breakfast in bed. Kamala then says she wants snuggle time. Jen picks up the cue and suggests they move the breakfast off the bed.

We see the four of them have sex, intermixed with interview clips where they each provide their own perspective on the group dynamic and their own sexuality. Afterward, Kamala announces that they need to go shopping, and during lunch they would discuss house and relationship rules.

Jen and Tahl discuss grocery needs before Jen leaves with Michael to run errands.  During this scene, we see a side interview with Michael where he explains his feelings and dynamic with Jen. Meanwhile, Tahl and Kamala become more affectionate, and after a point Kamala mentions they should hold off and check in with Jen before going further. In the studio interview, Tahl discusses the passionate dynamic between him and Kamala, and how that sometimes results in a jealous response from Jen.

Michael and Jen then return from grocery shopping, and everyone goes outside for their "working" lunch. Both couples have their own rules, and now they have to come up with rules to support the 4-way dynamic. Tahl starts by bringing up chores, to which Jen chimes in that she'd rather give a blowjob than take out the trash (positive, humorous response from the guys).  Kamala brings up sexual boundaries, to which Jen responds that they use condoms. They continue to discuss other sexual boundaries and needs. Kamala confirms that Jen does not want Tahl to have sex with anyone else if she is upset, after which she brings up what happened while Jen and Michael were out shopping.  In the studio interview, Jen admits that she is working on her feelings of jealousy and that her boundaries have nothing to do with Kamala personally. The group shifts to discussing Tahl's "curfew" (Jen wanting him to be home when she's home). Kamala asks Tahl if he is okay with this. He says yes. Michael brings up that he and Kamala don't date anyone who doesn't enhance their relationship. He also says that they don't date people who are monogamous because they may not have the same values about honesty. In the studio interview, Kamala elaborates by saying that they've learned through the years that dating monogamous people takes a lot of work and that it creates chaos, but that there are exceptions.

The pod and Roxanne
Roxanne shows up and gives gifts to Jen and Kamala (underwear).  The interactions betwen the pod and Roxanne are intermixed with studio interviews of Michael and Kamala separately. Michael wants to see Roxanne in an open place in the pod, but says Kamala doesn't want to share.  Kamala admits she isn't ready to share Roxanne with anyone else in the pod, and that it's an issue of her own boundaries.  Michael says Kamala excluded him from dating Roxanne, and it's not okay. Kamala explains that she feels possessive about Roxanne, and like a walking contradiction by wanting everyone in the pod to share lovers while not wanting to share Roxanne.

The scene shifts to the pod inside the guest room. Michael brings up the topic of including Roxanne in their group discussions. Kamala says that Roxanne understands the group's dynamic through discussions.  Michael brings up the rule that the rest of the pod isn't allowed to date Roxanne, which he says doesn't sound like a poly relationship. He says that forbidding Roxanne from dating them sounds like a "mono" relationship. Kamala says she isn't ready for them to date Roxanne. During the moment of silence in the discussion, Jen's studio clip explains that the situation doesn't affect her, since she isn't interested in dating Roxanne. She also wonders whether Michael is making a big deal of the situation because he wants to date Roxanne, or because this is something to which Kamala has told him no.

Kamala says she is Roxanne's only girlfriend, and that makes her feel special. Michael says that if you dissect what the rules of polyamory are, it seems like Roxanne is breaking those rules.  In her side interview, Kamala admits to being hurt by Michael saying she was acting monogamous.  Kamala tells Michael that it seems he's bringing the issue up because he's attracted to Roxanne. He agrees that he is attracted to her, and brings up his concern: Kamala is making up rules for herself that the others aren't allowed (like having someone that only one of them dates). Kamala, almost in tears, admits she has to accept that her love with Roxanne isn't going to change if Roxanne also loves other members of the pod. She ackowledges that she understands what Michael is saying, and contiunues jokingly, she's just not ready to share her girlfriend yet.

 

Observations and Thoughts

The segments about the quad/pod are calm counterpoints to the contrasting drama in the triad's story. The key is healthy communication, where expectations are laid out and emotions are expressed and discussed.

 

Communication

We already know each pairing has their own rules and dynamics. The conversation in this episode is when they started to explore which rules would fit into their 4-way dynamic.  Rather than have one person set the rules, it became a collaborative effort between the two couples. Both Kamala and Michael ask Jen about her limits, as it seems she's the member of their family with the tightest internal boundaries.  Kamala also checked in with Tahl to make sure he was comfortable with the boundaries they established.

I'm also very happy the topics of safety and condom use were discussed. It's important for the public to know this is an issue that is (typically) addressed in polyamorous relationships.

Even though the dialogue between Kamala and Michael about her relationship with Roxanne gets emotionally tense and in some cases hurtful, I see it as another good example of communication. Rather than using terms like "you are being", we see Michael using phrases like "to me, that sounds like (you said)..." and "it seems like you are doing/not doing..." The focus is not on the person, but rather the impact of their behavior and words.  This is typically seen by many poly people as a healthier (and less aggressive) method of expressing one's views.

 

Rules and Fairness

One of the themes in this story that was different from the triad's was fairness within establishing rules. Kamala checked in with Tahl to see if he felt Jen's requested boundaries were fair. We don't know about any boundaries set for Jen, but we know that Tahl's boundary is that he has to be there for her when she's home. 

Sometimes fairness in a polyamorous relationship doesn't mean having the exact same rules, but rather that the relationship is set up in such away that everyone's emotional or physical needs are met. Since Jen is working on her jealousy, she is in a more emotionally vulnerable position than the others. Rather than push her to face things she may not be really ready for, the boundary (which can be changed at a future date) provides her with some emotional security. Problems only come up if the rules are used to control Tahl, or if he feels restricted by those rules and grows resentful.

Another set of rules explored in this episode are rules surrounding partner sharing. It seems Kamala and Michael share lovers with each other, with the exception of Roxanne.  Kamala has her personal reasons for not wanting to share Roxanne, but by keeping her girlfriend to herself while maintaining the rules that other lovers must be shared (Michael can't have lovers that are exclusive to him), her actions don't line up with the values on which her polyamorous relationship is built.

 

Polyamory vs. Monogamy

I felt uncomfortable watching the discussion unfold between Michael and Kamala on her relationship with Roxanne. At the end, I could see Michael's viewpoint. It sounds like Kamala had set the rule that lovers should be shared among the members of their pod, but set a boundary on others dating Roxanne because she wasn't ready for the others to date her girlfriend. After a time, I realized my discomfort wasn't actually with the scene itself, though. It was the words Michael used to describe her behavior. He didn't immediately call her out for being hypocritical or unfair. Instead, he said that her boundaries seemed "not poly" and that she was acting "monogamous" by not sharing.

Polyamory does not actually require partner sharing.  Likewise, not wanting to share a partner doesn't make a person less polyamorous. (Sadly, these are stereotypes many poly people face). The show presents the accusation of "monogamous" behavior as a hurtful insult, which we see a glimpse of in Kamala's response.  When being called "monogamous" implies a proverbial fall from grace, the message it sends to a mainly monogamous, mainstream audience is that polyamorous people see themselves as separate, and perhaps superior. That's a difficult message to send to the group you ultimately want to accept you.

As we work towards greater public acceptance, I really hope to see increasing numbers of poly people standing in solidarity and acceptance for all ethical relationship styles, not just their own definition of polyamory. 

 

 

 

What's next

The title for the third episode (airing on July 26th) is titled "Poly Lovers". The previews on the Showtime website focus on the quad. It looks like Kamala's relationship with Roxanne will continue to be a point of contention between her and Michael. Meanwhile, Jen not only has to deal with processing her feelings of jealousy, but also the disapproval of her monogamous sister. We don't get any clues on what's going to happen next with the triad. Are we introduced to a new love interest? Is this the episode where Vanessa proposes to Anthony and Lindsey (one of the clips in the series previews)? We'll see on Thursday!

We <83 the cast of Polyamory: Married and Dating and look forward to being able to interview some of them in the near future.

 

Additional reviews of Polyamorous: Married and Dating, Episode 2

 

Categories: 

About the Author

Jessica Karels - Cheif Technical Officer - Active Contributor

Jessica is a writer, speaker, and workshop facilitator who is helping to bring about greater public awareness about polyamory. She is currently working on several creative projects locally and online, including her new blog (The Polyamory Pundit), and a webcomic (Not Quite Normal).


Jess is also one of the co-founders of Modern Poly, and currently serves as their Chief Technical Officer. She is in an open marriage with her husband of 10+ years.