Ménage à trois four

Four young gay men navigate the slippery path of polyamorous love

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: May 30, 2009 in Cover Stories

In a quiet and ordinary apartment complex on the south side of Charlotte live three not-so-ordinary young gay men. Jim Messaros, 20, Thomas Freyre, 21, and Chris Morgan, 22, are the best of all friends –and they are lovers.

Just like a “traditional,” monogamous couple, they laugh and love, fight and argue and then love some more. Their relationship together is everything you’d expect of a romantic and committed relationship: love and mutual respect, friendship and trust, life and work. But three’s company makes for exciting times and Jim, Thomas and Chris are certainly on the fringe of the mainstream. Somehow and some way, their committed, multi-partner relationship works. Getting the outside world to understand, that’s a different story.

“People don’t understand,” says Jim. “They don’t really get inside of what a polyamorous relationship really is all about. They just think about preconceived notions. For the gay community it is kind of rough. We shouldn’t be preconceiving anybody because we get it ourselves, being gay alone. This is almost just like a monogamous relationship, except it is just between more than one person. I can say that I love Thomas and I love Chris.”

The boys say their most strident criticism comes from peers who say they “want to have their cake and eat it, too.” Not true, they say. Their relationship is nothing like the hedonistic orgy critics would like to portray.

Digging into their life together and scraping away the layers of stigma and misunderstanding, any rational person might find their world of love and friendship as normal as any other, even if it does present its own unique set of challenges and circumstances.

Young love
Jim and Thomas both grew up in southwest Florida. They met in seventh grade, having both a Spanish class and a lunch period together.

“We were instant friends,” says Thomas. They both liked “Charmed,” a popular TV series at the time, and immediately hit it off.

Landing together at the same high school, the boys came out to each other and their friends in their junior year. They began dating soon thereafter. Life, as it seems, destined the couple to remain together.

“My parents got a divorce midway through our senior year,” Thomas recounts. “My mom moved to Chicago and my dad is a flight attendant and he travelled a lot. I couldn’t stay with him.”

For six months, Thomas lived with Jim and his parents. They attended homecoming and prom together, and despite being out to friends, the two had never come out to their parents. When Jim’s mother and father discovered them making out in his bedroom, they asked Thomas to leave. After his 2006 high school graduation, Thomas decided to make the more than 700-mile move to Gastonia, where his older sister had been living and where his mother had since relocated after living in Illinois.

“I chose a boy,” Jim says of his decision to follow Thomas from his childhood home. “It was a pretty tough decision. I could stay in Florida with my family or move somewhere I didn’t know. I was very confused and shell-shocked. It was really hard.”

But he loved Thomas, Jim says. The move just made sense.

Uncommon road
Two years after moving to North Carolina, Thomas and Jim found themselves in the midst of a relationship crisis. Unlike Jim — who had a chance to meet other gay boys and explore his sexuality before coming out and getting involved in a long-term relationship — Thomas had never experienced sex or love with anyone else.

“We had been together in high school and straight out of high school,” Thomas says. “I had only been with Jim. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to just be with Jim the rest of my life and never experience anyone else or see what else was out there.”

Jim says he understood why Thomas had to have some time to explore himself. “Thomas never had what I had.”
So, as winter turned to spring in 2008, Thomas took the time to branch out. Meanwhile, Jim found comfort in a new friend. Through Facebook, he began talking to Chris, living at home in Albemarle at the time. The two talked online and over the phone for a month and eventually met up, saw a movie and found they enjoyed each other’s company. Soon thereafter, Jim and Chris were seeing each other.

It wasn’t long until an unplanned series of interpersonal conflicts, romantic altercations and sexual trysts culminated in a late-night, after-party fling between Thomas, Jim and Chris. As the months rolled by, Chris found himself torn between the separated Jim and Thomas, and, in return, they found that they both had feelings for Chris.

By the end of July, Chris was spending so much time with Thomas and Jim the three were basically sharing a bedroom at Thomas’ house. But the drama resulting from not knowing who was dating whom, along with the divisions it caused between high school sweethearts Jim and Thomas, was too much to bear.

Jim, Thomas and Chris have been in a polyamorous relationship for a year now.

Jim, Thomas and Chris have been in a polyamorous relationship for a year now.

Their next leap into the uncharted waters of multi-partner love was like a revelation.

“A few months went by and we were all three doing everything together and we were like, damn, maybe this could work out,” Chris recounts, as though there had literally been a light bulb flipped on over each of their heads. “We all three had feelings for each other.”

Building a relationship
Managing any sort of romantic, long-term relationship can be difficult. The constant and daily push-and-pull of life and love — working, sleeping, eating, cleaning…all the seemingly mundane tasks of everyday life — take on a new meaning when two are involved. Couples across the country spend exorbitant amounts of money each year on family, marriage and sex counseling. Bringing three separate lives, personalities, wants and needs into accord might be uncommon, but the issues really aren’t all that different than those faced by couples.

“Just like when you have a regular relationship with two people, you have drama,” Chris notes. “If you have three people, it is triple the drama.”

Although there are three involved, instead of two, Thomas says they have to navigate the same issues all other couples and committed partners have. The three’s dominant and outgoing personalities lend family life an extra dose of disagreement.

“We’re all three strong personalities. We all try being the ‘HBIC,’ which stands for the ‘head bitch in charge,’” Jim humors.

After their decision to go all in, Jim, Thomas and Chris very quickly set down one simple ground rule.
“There was no going outside of the relationship,” Chris says. “To where this is the most untraditional relationship you can ever imagine, I’m still traditional. Don’t cheat on me.”

Trust and respect, the throuple’s other ground rules, are designed to keep the relationship equitable and fair for all involved. They say jealousy and issues of fairness were among the hardest emotional — and sometimes logistical — obstacles to overcome when they began their relationship. Feeling like you were becoming the “third wheel” wasn’t a sentiment any of them relished then or now.

“Sometimes just two of us like to do something that the third one doesn’t like to do,” Jim says. Situations involving favorite TV shows, movies, hobbies or other activities two might have in common, leaves the third partner alone and feeling left out.

Finding a time for Jim, Thomas and Chris to spend together as a family is a large part of the battle. Recently unemployed, Jim doesn’t work. While he’s at home, Thomas works a first shift job and Chris works second.

The wonky work schedules create frustration, Chris says. By the time he comes home, Jim and Thomas have already had their together time and are settled watching a movie or already involved in some other activity.

The relationship is definitely an odd-numbered juggling act, and Jim had just the solution.

Poly dating
Thomas wasn’t too keen on the idea when Jim broached the topic of bringing a fourth partner into the relationship.

“They were more open to adding a fourth person than I was,” Thomas says. “I didn’t want it to be like a brothel.”

Jeremy Eudy, 22, from Midland, has known Chris for years, seeing him out and about around town. Jim met him recently and told him about his two boyfriends and asked if he was interested in dating them.

“Well, part of me was like, ‘Okay, this hot,’” Jeremy laughs. “But the second part of me really liked the trust thing. This is a closed relationship and they are all honest with each other. That’s the main thing that kills me — I’ve been screwed over a lot in other relationships. The last guy I dated for two years was sleeping around behind my back and I didn’t even know it.”

The three guys say they have a sense, so far, that they can trust Jeremy, too.

Thomas still has his reservations, but he’s working through them.

“I was very against it at the start,” he says. “We are still going through it though. We’re almost like dating, you could say.”

His initial rejection of the idea turned around when he met Jeremy. “It all depended on the person,” he says. “If it had been someone else maybe it would have been different. But Jeremy has a good personality. He is line with us, with what we have in common. He more meshed with me.”

{democracy:31}

Jim, Thomas and Chris hope Jeremy can solve some of those third wheel issues.

“It is all about simple, everyday things,” Chris says. “Going to bed, now there is two and two. Going to a restaurant and sitting in the booth, now there is two and two. Going to an amusement park for two-seater rides, now there is two and two.”

Family
The guys’ relationship is still growing. Jeremy’s addition will serve a challenge, but it isn’t anything they can’t overcome. All four say there are certain qualities to the relationship they love.

Chris and Thomas say they enjoy the variety. “What you can’t share with one person, you can with another. Everyone has different qualities and personalities,” Thomas says. “It isn’t always one or the other. It is collectively sharing with each other.”

Jeremy says the relationship just works. “They have this going on and they have so many qualities. I think it just fits together like a puzzle.”

He admires the group’s commitment and honesty with each other. “That’s one of the main things I value anywhere,” he says. “I hate being lied to.”

Jim’s parents have grown since the day they told Thomas to leave. Having his “second family” in Charlotte is important to him. “Everything is good. The sex is good, the friendship is good, but they are more than just my lovers. They are my family.”

Family is really all that counts.

All photos Copyright © Jimmy Cobb.

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