Sonya, Shallena and Cliff at the dinner table in their home

Sonya

Place of Residence: Folcroft, PA

Occupation:  HVAC contractor


Shallena
Place of Residence:
Folcroft, PA
Occupation: Baby equipment rental business, Uber driver.

 

Cliff

Place of Residence: Folcroft, PA

Occupation: Branch manager at a major financial institution

Sonya, Shallena and Cliff live together with their 5 kids and Shallena's mom in Folcroft, PA.  Cliff and Shallena have been married since 1999.  Shallena met Sonya on Facebook in 2013 where they were all looking for romantic connection.

They now all identify as polyamorous and call each other 'husband', 'wife' or 'partners'. 

Shallena and Sonya in their bedroom

Cliff:  So we were already married.  You know at that point when we met Sonya, we kind of figured out what we wanted.  Someone that we could both be involved with romantically. And because we did the hook-up thing and that was kind of played out.  So we wanted somebody we had a connection to holistically. And Sonya, after the pic sharing and conversations, they went out and Shallena updated me.  One thing lead to another and we liked her so much that we took her to Las Vegas with us on Valentines day.

Shallena: And she was so quiet.

Sonya:  For the whole trip. And I didn’t eat.

Cliff: She did not.  We were kinda weirded by that [laughter].

Interviewer: Were you nervous?

 

Sonya: Yea.  That was my first time going away with them.

Shallena and Sonya in their kitchen

Shallena:  She was very consistent in what she wanted.  I mean a lot of people have experience in dating, but especially when you’re poly, people often don’t really know what they want and aren’t very consistent.  But she was always consistent. Not very verbally consistent but very consistent.

Sonya: I was learning about polyamory at the time.  I didn’t know about a husband and wife that would want somebody else until after the fact when I started getting more knowledge.

Sonya with two of the kids while the old braids the younger's hair

Cliff:  I think the thing that works as well is, the kids all get along with one another for the most part. Outside of sibling disputes.  But everybody normally gets along as one unit. So, they like each other. Compatibility, that was my main concern. Especially two households coming into one.  Parenting styles are different, so how are you gonna deal with that? And that came through learning, talking, and coming together on one accord. That was pretty much it.  But once the kinds understood, they were okay. They know that we’re not going anywhere. We are here to stay. This is not temporary. So we let them know. And we let them know that kinda up front.

With the parenting coming together as a family meeting and all of the kids having that conversation, “as long as y’all are happy basically was the outcome.” Which was awesome.

Father daughter workout routine

Shallena:  Lei’Aryah, the oldest, she was taking some instrument a couple years ago.  

Was it the trombone?  I don’t remember which one it was because I think she had more than one.  But anyways, she says that she told the music teacher (because the music teacher asked her) “Who listens to you practice at home?” And she’s like, “My mom, my dad, my step-mom, my siblings, you know.”  And she’s like, “Oh your mom and your step mom in the same house?” And she’s like, “Yea. They’re Bi, it’s okay.” I was like, oh lord, we are gonna get a phone call home from the music teacher. But as far as our relationship, knock on wood, we’ve never had an issue as far as anyone saying anything negative with parenting. 

And with our lifestyle and with the children at school. Which is a blessing. 

Sonya and Shallena take a break from laundry folding

Cliff:  It was a lot of self discovery, being polyamorous and letting go of the ego type of thing.  Even though some jealousy is good, but at first I was very jealous.  Especially with them two. Like seeing reactions on Shallena’s face that I may have not gotten. 

But also knowing and self evaluating, is the stuff that I’m seeing realistic or just my mind playing tricks on me?  And on the other hand, Sonya, trying to make sure I can see what I’m doing so I can make sure that her and I are strong and things of that nature. A lot of asking questions and not assuming and letting that go as well. So verses just assuming, “Well they’re not really into it”. I used to joke with them like, “Oh y’all are like 80% lesbian. I’m just here to dedededah…” That’s the immature thinking.  That was my fear.

But having the reassurance at first from the both of them saying that “I’m really here for you, for us, as a whole”, is good.  But I grew from that. Because like I said that was a lot of ego. Like if you’re monogamous for the majority of your life and now you have to share your life partners with someone outside, that’s a lot to take in.

Sonya and Cliff

Shallena:  Knowing yourself is a definite benefit.  You feel a lot of growth once you’ve gone through few experiences and educate yourself and talked to a bunch of people.

Challenges?  Challenges is probably just personalities. There are so many personalities that are intertwined.  Compromising to make sure that everyone is happy.  Or as happy as they possibly can be.  Everybody is getting what they need in order for the relationship to be healthy. So I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges as far as us, is the different personalities. And making sure that we are connecting well.

Family dinner

Two of the kids playing with new Christmas gifts

Cliff:   I feel as though living a polyamorous life, I would like for each and everyone to have equal benefits. For instance if I should pass or if anything should happen, I would like them both to be recipients for life insurance and things of that nature. Also kids being taken care of.  Each child having insurance. Adding them on to my medical insurance would probably be beneficial as well. 

Chilling in the bedroom while Sonya nurses a headache

Sonya:   I was a side chick... that’s what my mom thought I was.  I mean that’s how she took it as. Because they was already married and I was coming in.  She just realized after a while.   It was what it was so.  She would accept me or that was her loss.

Shallena getting a hug attack from one of their daughters

Shallena:   And we do do check-ins to make sure we’re all on the same page.  Do we all still want to be open? If there are any issues going on with the three of us or individual couple stuff?  But we try to check-in and make sure things are running as smoothly as possible.

Cliff: And in regards to the check-ins, I think individually couple-wise we have our own check-ins to see how everybody is doing.  Somebody might ask a question and then holistically if we’re out at dinner we might do like, “So how’s everyone feeling?”  We get doctor Shallena, “How’s everyone feeling?”

Shallena:  Shut up [laughter]!

 

Sonya: She normally starts the check-ins. 

 

Shallena: Yes I do.

Wedding photo on the wall

© Erika Kapin Photography

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