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"Holly was very open about being polyamorous, and at the time I was like, "Patrick knows about this, and is okay with this?' And she was like, "Yes,' " says C.J., who works in inventory control.
All three moved back to Houston two years ago, and Holly and Patrick are making plans to have C.J. move in with them. They want to find a home with lots of rooms so they can each have their own spaces to carve out individual lives. It can be difficult, Holly says, trying to juggle Patrick's and C.J.'s affections. In the beginning, C.J. had to take a backseat to Patrick and Holly. He didn't want to threaten anyone, and he wanted to give the relationship time to find its feet. Holly and Patrick say they appreciate that.
Like many polyamorists, Patrick, Holly and C.J. have a certain way of talking about jealousy that makes it sound like an unnecessary demon that pops up once in a while and needs to be put back in its place. They hit "jealousy walls," says Holly, and they have little family meetings to figure out why. Usually someone isn't getting to spend enough time with Holly. They talk about it and wait for the green-eyed monster, as they put it, to leave. As if the jealousy were something they shouldn't feel. As if it were something they should have gotten over a long time ago.
In the beginning they had to set up a schedule. It was C.J.'s idea, because things were uneven, he felt. But it was painful. How can you set up a schedule for love? It was even more complicated when you consider Holly likes to spend quiet evenings at home with Patrick and nights out on the town with C.J. ("We never have that conflict of "I don't like baseball and you're dragging me to a baseball game,' " says Holly.) But what if one day she was feeling one way -- like she wanted to go dancing -- but she had promised to stay in and watch videos with Patrick? Nobody would be happy. And Holly would stress because the schedule was off.
"It can be exhausting," says Holly. So they got rid of the schedule.
They have their moments when it all comes together. Like the time Patrick asked Holly to marry him. Because Patrick was still working and living in Bryan-College Station until the wedding, C.J. became the official wedding assistant. He and Holly returned to Houston to prepare for the ceremony. C.J. helped her pick out the flowers and figure out what her dress should look like. Sometimes he'd even pretend to be the groom just because it made it easier to deal with the vendors. Because Holly identifies as a pagan and so does C.J. (Patrick claims agnosticism), the two of them had fun preparing the traditional pagan "hand-fasting ceremony," where ribbons representing Holly and Patrick would be wound around Holly's and Patrick's hands. C.J. even had a part in the event, helping to call the four corners of earth, air, fire and water.
Patrick and Holly had the ceremony to show the world they love each other, they say. And as they told the Wiccan woman who officiated the ceremony, they would promise to honor and respect and love and support each other. But of course there were no vows of fidelity. C.J. wants a ceremony too, he says. But there's no rush. He knows Holly loves him. She will love him forever, he says.
Holly and Patrick and C.J. adore talking about that marriage ceremony. It seems like it might have been their finest hour. All three of them were in sync, and they all played out their parts. Patrick was quite nervous, and Holly was very nervous, and C.J. was taking care of things. He relished his role as right-hand man for Holly, running around finding her allergy medication, keeping Holly's mother from panicking, dealing with the DJ who accidentally brought a Jimmy Buffett CD instead of the music Holly had chosen to make her entrance with. To this day, their favorite picture of the three of them is from that wedding reception. In it, Patrick and Holly are seated at a table looking at each other in that way that only just-married people can. And there, in the middle, is C.J. He is leaning in between the two of them peering over their shoulders, with a coffee cup in one hand and his head turned toward Holly.
Wolf Ravenheart, 35, of the famous California polyamorist clan the Ravenhearts, just had a hand-fasting ceremony himself. He was recently joined with his second wife, 21-year-old Wynter Ravenheart, who was raised in a polyamorous home. Wolf, who lived in the Houston area from ages six to 30, flew his mother out from Seabrook to attend the event. She was okay with it, he says.
Growing up in League City, attending Clear Creek High School, Wolf was kind of a geek, he says. Girls never paid much attention. If you had told him when he was 30 years old and working at a Houston Kinko's that he would soon make a connection with the Ravenhearts through mutual friends and end up living in a six-person marriage with two wives, he would have thought you were nuts. But he is happy. He refers to Wynter as his "younger wife" with the gleeful giddiness of a man who has found the promised land.