Polyamory: Married and Dating Episode 3 Review

Jess's review of Episode 3 asks, where's the drama? But the episode covers important topics, like compersion, legitimacy, and coming out to family and friends.

**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!

If you already watched episode 3 of Polyamory: Married and Dating, you probably noticed that this episode seemed a little "different". A lot of the drama, arguing, and "Oh no [he/she/they] didn't!" moments were next to non-existent. Instead we see more dialogue and processing, and we're provided with additional information left to assumptions in prior episodes. The scenes involving sex are even different: they switched from group sex to a one-on-one dynamic.

Story 1: Anthony, Lindsey and Vanessa

The show opens with Vanessa waking up Lindsey (not a morning person!). We see a quick interview clip where Lindsey mentions that Anthony would threaten to pour cold water on her to wake her up, but Vanessa has a different tactic. They cuddle and slowly transition to making out. As the scene progresses, we see clips of interviews with Lindsey and Vanessa talking about learning how to have sex with each other.

"I adored her from afar for many years," Vanessa muses, "And now I get to actually touch the body that I wanted so long."

"She's going to make a morning person out of me in the end," Lindsey says with a chuckle.

Vanessa meets up with her lover, Ilya, to discuss her relationship with the triad. She tells Ilya that while the triad has discussed a life commitment and acts like it's a given, her relationship isn't taken seriously by the public when she's introduced as the "girlfriend."  In the studio interview, Vanessa confides that one of the challenges of dating a married couple is that she constantly feels left out. She feels she has to fight constantly to be seen as a full partner in the relationship.

Vanessa confides to Ilya that she is going to propose to Anthony and Lindsey.  He asks why she is the one doing the proposing. Vanessa says she's the one with the highest amount of urgency in the situation.

Ilya asks if the title change is going to make a difference. Vanessa seems to scoff at this, and in an interview, she explains that what she's asking for is more than a title change; she wants the life commitment to be official.  In her discussion with Ilya, she explains that she wants "a symbol, a ritual, a commitment" to publicly show her place within the family.

After Anthony finishes teaching, Lindsey meets up with him for lunch. At the restaurant, Anthony tells Lindsey how he's both nervous and excited about the future of their relationship. He also admits he feels bad about the confrontation over Krystoff, and that he's comfortable with Lindsey having a boyfriend... but he'd prefer that Lindsey date someone nearby so that he could "enjoy it" as well. In a side interview, Anthony explains further by discussing compersion (taking enjoyment from the happiness that a partner feels towards another lover).

Lindsey responds that she's open, but her hands are full with Anthony and Vanessa. But she mentions that a former lover, Jacob, has a gig tonight. Anthony jokes that he'll be her wingman. When Lindsey brings up men who might be wary because she is married, Anthony offers a funny comeback: "If it makes you feel better, he can watch, and then you know it's not a problem."  In an interview, Lindsey discusses how Anthony encourages her to seek enjoyment from other men, and how he doesn't feel threatened.

In the final scene, we see the triad at the venue where Jacob is performing. During her studio interview, Lindsey confesses that she wants to get back together with Jacob. As we watch the triad enjoying the show, we see Vanessa's admission in an interview that she feels overwhelmed.  She's keeping her desire to propose to Anthony and Lindsey a secret.

Lindsey on stage
Jacob introduces the next song by calling Lindsey on stage. Lindsey starts by dedicating the song to her husband, her girlfriend, and all her potential lovers. As she and Jacob perform, Vanessa and Anthony look on, cuddling. In an interview, Lindsey says she enjoyed the performance and the dynamic between her and Jacob. 

The tension starts to build when Lindsey and Jacob go to the bar. Lindsey asks how Jacob is doing, pointing out that he was celibate the last time they were together.  Jacob admits that he was celibate because he was waiting for his girlfriend to come back from Thailand. We find out that he's in a closed monogamous relationship, and he's very happily in love. Lindsey takes the news in stride, saying they should keep in touch.

Lindsey returns to Anthony and Vanessa and breaks the news to them.  We see a slight look of excitement on Vanessa's face. In her interview, she says what she was thinking: "more for me."  Anthony checks in with Lindsey to make sure she's ok. Later, he notices Lindsey exchanging glances with Wayne, another guy at the venue. Anthony talks to Wayne's girlfriend to see if she is comfortable with Lindsey and Wayne talking, and the two of them walk off. As Lindsey and Wayne chat, we cut to a studio interview where Lindsey admits that she doesn't feel any chemistry there. The show ends with Lindsey sprawled on Anthony and Vanessa's laps. She tells them that she's not interested in looking for a boyfriend. Rather, she wants to spend time focusing on the triad and bringing in their closer friends.

 

Observations and Thoughts

As mentioned, there is surprising lack of tension and conflict that we saw in the past two episodes. The increased amount of communication and processing allows us to learn about two topics: compersion and societal acceptance of multi-partner relationships.

Wanting Legitimacy

During Vanessa's meeting with Ilya, she discloses the reason she wants to propose to Anthony and Lindsey: she wants a public life commitment. If the triad already believes they will be together for life, why is a formal commitment ceremony important? 

The answer: she is seeking public validation of her relationship within the triad. Society is couple-centric and uses titles to show the level of commitment between partners. Fiancee is seen as more committed than boyfriend/girlfriend by the average person, and husband/wife trumps both in level of perceived commitment level. When Vanessa mentions to Ilya that being called the 'girlfriend' places her at a lower level, this is why Ilya asks if the motivation for the proposal is based on titles.

The challenge that Vanessa (and other polyamorists in similar situation) faces is the desire for equal public recognition, which clashes with societal norms.  One of the examples that Vanessa mentions is party invitations: many allow invitees to bring one guest, which results in multiple partners being left out. We also learn that the triad is not "out" to everyone, which is something that can be emotionally difficult to handle. We don't know the specifics on who the triad is/isn't out to, but we can probably assume that Anthony and Lindsey's family and friends aren't completely in the know.

What I would have liked to have seen is a discussion among the members of the triad where Vanessa voices her concerns and perceptions. Seeing that type of dialogue modeled on screen could help polys watching the show who are in a similar situation. However, that would have been a less dramatic response than what we will see in episode 4: Anthony and Lindsey being put on the spot to act. (Sound familliar? Remember the Krystoff surprise in episode 2?)

Compersion

During this episode viewers learn about the concept of compersion: finding joy in your partner finding happiness in another person. For those unfamilliar with the feeling: think about a time when your partner was happy over a life achievement, or found pleasure in a hobby or past-time. How did you feel? Did you feel happy for them? Compersion is similar to that.

In some instances, compersion manifests simply as a happy acceptance of the metamour (a partner's other romantic partner) in our lives.  In others, a polyamorous person will go out of their way to help their partner find other lovers. Anthony seems to fall into the latter style: telling Lindsey he will be her wingman, offering suggestions on handling interests that would hesitate to flirt with her, and setting up the opportunity for her to talk with a guy she seemed interested in.

I like that Anthony brought up the past incident with Krystoff.  While we only get a small piece of that conversation, some of us can probably fill in the blanks on what else was said (which wasn't included in the final cut). Anthony's admission of remorse over how that situation was handled humanizes him. It is one thing to emotionally react to a difficult situation, but it's another to reflect on those actions and see where you may have messed up.

 

 

Story 2: Kamala & Michael, Jen & Tahl

The scene opens with Michael working in his office and Kamala half dressed in the bedroom. Michael asks Kamala if she's getting ready for her date with Roxanne, which she confirms. He enters the bedroom, asking if there's anything that Kamala needs to tell him.  In an interview clip, Kamala explains that before anyone goes on a date, the couple checks in with each other to make sure potential concerns are addressed in advance. She also admits that she's more nervous than usual because she feels there's some unsaid tension.

Kamala explains that things are good with her and Roxanne, and she wants to make sure things are good between the two of them. She tells him she doesn't want to have it where she's out on her date and he's at home hurting because she's not sharing Roxanne. In his interview, Michael theorizes that the reason Kamala wants to be the only member of the pod to date Roxanne is because she doesn't want Roxanne to treat others close to Kamala in the same way, which he feels is not completely polyamorous. Kamala says that the date is to reconnect with Roxanne and show her how much she loves her. Michael says that he's okay with her having a deeper relationship with Roxanne, but reminds her that the situation doesn't feel fair for him.

Later, Jen walks into Michael's office. After they kiss and embrace, Jen asks where Kamala is, and Michael says that she is getting ready for a date. As we watch Jen enter the bedroom, we see a studio interview in which she recounts her views on the earlier conversation between Michael and Kamala (from the end of episode 2). Jen feels Michael put Kamala on the spot. She also admits to feeling for Kamala, and understanding what it's like to have a lover who is an escape.  She can also see how Michael could feel left out in that situation.

Kamala talks to Jen about her upcoming date: She confides that she's going to talk with Roxanne about Michael, and see where she's at feeling-wise. Jen asks if Roxanne is interested in Michael, and Kamala doesn't know. Jen asks Kamala if she's nervous, to which she answers, "a little." 

Jen asks her if she's going through with this because of pressure from Michael. Kamala explains that she wants to understand the attraction level between all of her lovers, and she doesn't want to be the limiting step. In a studio interview, Kamala says she would love to share Roxanne, and is willing to change her relationship to allow that.

Kamala arrives at Roxanne's place. In a studio interview she says Roxanne isn't dating anyone else, beyond her boyfriend and Kamala. She also confesses that she sees Roxanne as an escape from her home life.  The scene transitions to Roxanne and Kamala making out and becoming intimate. During this we see clips of Kamala's studio interview discussing the poly philosophy on not being able to meet all of your needs with just one person. She notes that Michael meets the majority (99.9%) of her needs, but where Michael may not be very romantic, Kamala is able to fulfil that need through Roxanne.

After they make love, we see Roxanne and Kamala in the kitchen. While Roxanne prepares a meal, Kamala starts discussing the situation with Michael. She mentions the conversation that happened at the house the day that Roxanne visited, and that Michael is starting to feel left out.

Kamala then suggests Roxanne get to know Michael better.  She explains that she wants to treat a date as a gift to Michael.  Roxanne is concerned that Michael would read too much into that meeting ("Is he going to think a 'tea and a chat' is a tea and a chat or a TEA AND A CHAT?").  Roxanne explains that she doesn't want to lead Michael on: she finds him attractive, but isn't attracted to him. Kamala says the purpose of Roxanne getting to know Michael more is to see if there's potential for chemistry between the two of them. In the studio interview Kamala discusses her motivations: she wants to open the relationship so she doesn't feel like a hypocrite and so that her actions match her beliefs.

Back at the house, Jen's sister Michelle arrives. Michael greets her and the two of them hug. In an interview, Michael mentions that Michelle flirts with him, which he feels is hyporitical because she's monogamous. Jen arrives and hugs her sister before showing her the new place. Jen shows off the bedroom and the (naked) family photo. As Jen continues the tour by showing off the two beds, Michelle's expression seems more awkward.

Jen picks up on Michelle's body language and asks, "you don't like it?" Michaelle responds that she doesn't get it. When Jen asks what Michelle doesn't understand, Michelle brings up that Jen is married. She asks if Jen and Tahl share everything with the other couple. Jen says that she loves Michael and Kamala and that they all wanted to be together. Michelle smiles oddly at her sister before suggesting that they go out for coffee.

At the restaurant, Michelle repeats that she doesn't understand why Jen and Tahl are living with the other couple. Jen asks what she doesn't get, to which Michelle replies "You're MARRIED". Jen and Michelle go back and forth on the topic - whether it's healthy, whether Jen agreed to a polyamorous relationship or was coerced into it, and how many people Jen is sleeping with. During the studio interview, Jen explains that sometimes the term "lover" is mistaken for "sexual partner", when that's not always the case.

At that point, Michelle brings up societal pressure: that others who are in the know would see Jen as a "big old slut."  Jen stands her ground and breaks down the definition of "slut". In the end, she says she hopes those who are in the know focus more on the love in her family than the sex.

The waiter checks in on Jen and Michelle. After he leaves, Jen admits she thinks he's cute. Michelle jokingly questions if she wants to fuck him, to which Jen responds that being polyamorous doesn't mean wanting to have sex with everyone.  Michelle admits to being "judgy" and not understanding her sister's choices, but that she still loves Jen. The two of them continue to joke and hang out. In the studio interview, Jen says that she doesn't want to live her life based on how others think of her.

In the final scene, we see the pod in a hot tub together. Michael asks Kamala how her date with Roxanne went, and she quips that they had a 'hot time'. The other members of the pod coax her for information, and she responds by being teasingly secretive. In her studio interview, Kamala discusses her decision to give the date as a gift, and her choice to make it a surprise by not talking about it right away. In Michael's studio interview, he notes how Kamala seems to be hiding information, which is something that the family doesn't do.  The pod continues to ask Kamala about the date until she "shuts them up" by starting a group kissing 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.

This week we see the continuation of the Kamala / Michael / Roxanne plot arc. In addition, we are introduced to Jen's sister and shown the challenges that polyamorous people face in being accepted by their loved ones.

Jealousy and Sharing

During this episode, we learn some aspects of the situation which were previously left to assumption: while Michael is attracted to Roxanne, she doesn't feel the same towards him (yet?)!  Given how flustered Michael seemed about the situation, the image I had in my head was of Michael and Roxanne having a mutual attraction and Kamala not allowing it to go further. Instead, it's unexplored territory! 

I really liked the kitchen conversation between Kamala and Roxanne. Kamala brought up the topic of Michael's feelings in a way that kept him in a positive light. When you're frustrated with a lover or partner, it can be easy to start venting about that person to your other partner(s), which typically does more harm than good. She also set the expectation that the "tea and a chat" would be simply that, a casual date. And she expressed her own personal boundary that there would need to be further discussions before Roxanne and Michael could become intimate. 

Facing Family

After seeing previews, I was curious as to how the conversation between Jen and her sister Michelle would play out.  As a polyamorous, married woman who is also "out", I have had to repeatedly deal with the topics brought up. The misconception that polyamory means sexual promiscuity; A narrow definition of what married people "should"/"shouldn't" do; The concern about me being peceived as a slut (with sex-negative connotations), and more. The challenge is deciding how to address loved ones who may not agree with your views, and to do so in a loving way.

I liked how Jen handled the discussion. She was level headed and addressed her sister's concerns, despite occasionally being talked over. She brought up how polyamory was a more ethical alternative to cheating. When the "slut" topic came up, she diffused the argument by bringing up a definition of the word that would include her sister (the enjoyment of sex).  The result of Jen responding calmly and articulately was that she got her sister to listen, to try to understand, and to finally admit that she was being "judgy".

Based on my experience, the type of response that Jen modeled can't be done "off the cuff", at least not easily.  To have that discussion, and do so without becoming aggitated, requires knowing in advance how you would respond to different questions and concerns. It may also require rehearsing them a few times so that you know how to phrase it for a paritcular person. If you are starting to come out to family and friends about being polyamorous, I recommend writing down the questions or comments that you anticipate bring brought up (or check online forums and blog posts for the "frequently asked questions"), and come up with how you would respond in your own words.

 

What's Next

The title for the fourth episode is "Poly Anniversary" In the preview we see that Roxanne and Michael have their "tea and a chat". We also get confirmation that this is the episode where Vanessa proposes to Lindsey and Anthony.  What happens next? Stay tuned to find out!

 

Additional Reviews of Polyamory: Married and Dating, Episode 3

 

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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.