How this polyamorous couple plans to celebrate Valentine's Day

These three have it figured out.

ByABC News
February 10, 2017, 4:35 AM

— -- It's hard enough trying to figure out Valentine's Day plans if you're a couple. But imagine you're in a polyamorous relationship with two boyfriends or two girlfriends.

Jamal Benjamin, a 40-year-old freelance editor, is in a loving relationship with his two girlfriends, Amy (who asked ABC News to create a pseudonym for her) and Ebony Thomas.

Amy, 40, and Benjamin have two children together. Thomas, also 40, and Benjamin are parents to a 3-month-old baby girl.

The three all live in New York City and Benjamin alternates daily between the two households. When it comes to celebrating holidays, including Valentine's Day, they're pretty diplomatic.

"We alternate each year," Benjamin explained to ABC News. "I know Valentine's Day is important to [Amy] -- well, it’s more important to her eldest [10-year-old] daughter."

Benjamin and Amy, who have been together for seven years and met at a house party, plan to travel to Cuba in March to belatedly celebrate Feb. 14.

Thomas, who has been with Benjamin since 2015 after meeting through Facebook, is completely fine with that.

"Luckily for Jamal, it’s not a big deal to me. So if we don’t see each other on the 14th, I’m perfectly fine with him spending the day with [Amy]," she explained. "We did talk about splitting the day and to me it just seems like too much. I’d rather see him the next day or the day before...or vice versa."

She added, "It’s funny...I’m happy on days when Jamal is home and then I’m happy when he leaves."

All three, however, admit Mother's Day this year will be a bit tricky. Just the thought of celebrating the holiday with both girlfriends is "rough," Benjamin said.

"I'm hoping I have to work that day," he quipped. "But I really don't know how that's going to work right now because [Amy] asked that to be her day."

As for their children, Benjamin said his two kids with Amy are too young to understand the unique dynamic.

Thomas, however, said she plans to inform her newborn daughter when she gets older. "My conversation with her will be, 'Daddy has another family that he loves just like he loves us,'" she said.

Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., an expert on polyamory who's been studying sexual minority families for 20 years, told ABC News that she estimates between 1.2 and 2.4 million U.S. adults are having sexual non-monogamous relationships. Still, the number of adults who actually identify as polyamorous is a lot smaller.

"What is clear is the growing interest in consensual non-monogamy and that is clear because of the number of websites available and the traffic available of those websites, [along with] the number of meetup groups for people to meet in person and the media attention it's being given," she said.

Amy, Benjamin and Thomas all decided to be in a polyamorous relationship for different reasons.

Benjamin, whose parents have been married for more than 30 years, decided to try polyamory after he cheated in a previous marriage.

"I hurt that person very severely and I didn't want to put any person through that pain again," he said. "So I wanted to be honest with people going forward and give people a choice. More times that not, women have rocked with me."

Thomas agrees. "I just was never good at monogamy, frankly. It just did not work for me," she said.

Still, Amy, whose mother and stepfather have been married for more than 30 years, prefers monogamy and calls her relationship "very weird."

"We had a lot of ups and downs and I've had a lot of struggle with it," she said, adding that she's accepted the lifestyle because she's in love with Benjamin.

But there are restrictions. Amy, being the first girlfriend, must approve of any future girlfriend "to see if they're somewhat suited for my family lifestyle," she explained.

"It's not carte blanche," Benjamin clarified. "I can’t just go find another my age, I’m not too interested in that."

And he's fine with his girlfriends having other boyfriends "if they can handle it."

Thomas, who grew up in a single-parent household, said she could have another boyfriend if she wanted to.

"Often times [polyamorous] women get portrayed as the victims and that’s not the case here," she explained.

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