The journey of a happily married couple whose relationship disintegrated deal with being together and not together at the same time!
A polyamorous married couple who both have ‘multiple’ lovers have lifted the lid on the tangled world of open relationships.
Carl and Kenya Stevens have been happily married for 22 years, with over half of their relationship ‘opened’ to different partners who they invite into their home – and they say they’re pioneering ‘the future of love’.
The couple from Asheville, North Carolina, actively look for multiple partners on Tinder and dating sites, and insist their children are comfortable with their ‘boyfriends’ and ‘girlfriends’ living in the family home.
Carl, 46, and Kenya, 42, invited cameras to their ‘modern love’ therapy sessions to reveal what it’s like living as a polyamorous couple – in and out of the bedroom.
Kenya told Barcroft TV: ‘Carl and I have been open for 12 years. We enjoy it so much that we support other people coming into this lifestyle.
‘We deal with every kind of problem, from people cheating on their spouse, people who want to open their relationship and people who want to learn how to relate to one person.’
Carl added: ‘I think poly relationships are becoming a lot more common. A study showed that it was the fastest growing relationship type in the US.
‘I believe people need help in becoming that, a lot of people are making a big mess out of it. They are not seeing it as a process, I think by 2050 it will be normal like monogamous.’
A 2016 study carried out in the US, on two nationally representative samples of single individuals, found that one in five people had practiced polyamory.
And with relationship dynamics evolving, Carl and Kenya use their own experiences to help others wanting to dip their toes in the polyamory pool, which they freely admit is not easy.
Carl said: ‘Kenya and I met on a blind date. She matched a vision I had of the woman I was going to marry. – I was very physically attracted to her. I wanted to have sex with her right away.
Kenya added: ‘It was love at first sight. We got engaged eight weeks later. Then we moved in together, within three months we were living together. By the next summer we were married. So less than a year after we met we did have our wedding.’
But 11 years later, Carl admitted to falling in love with another woman.
Kenya said: ‘Carl came home and told me he was falling in love with another woman at his job and I was distraught.
‘He and I had spoken about polygamy – that is one man, many women. I have never agreed, I felt like if the man has many partners then the woman should be allowed to have other partners as well.
‘I told him if we’re going to do this, then I’m going to do this too.’
Carl added: ‘I’d heard of men dating other women, but women dating other men when they’re already married was completely foreign to me.
‘But the more I thought about it, I said maybe it does make sense for equality. If I want something, then Kenya should be able to have that same thing.’
The start of their polyamorous marriage
Instead of breaking up, Carl and Kenya decided to both became free to have multiple lovers.
‘Discussing polyamory was extremely difficult at first. There were a lot of arguments, a lot of emotions. It was really challenging,’ Kenya admitted.
‘Two years of discussion and then I went first [on a date]. He told me to go first and have another boyfriend outside of our marriage. By then our children were a little older.
‘When I first went on a date, it felt like I was betraying my husband. In western culture here in America women are not supposed to have a sex drive or desire men when we are married. It is taboo. It was hard to break through all of those belief systems.
Carl agrees: ‘It was very painful for me. I started having all these thoughts and images of her having sex. My jealousies and insecurities really came out.’
Whilst accustoming to their new way of loving, the parents also came out to their three children Senbi, 19, Sanu, 16 and 12-year-old Kaheri.
Kenya said: ‘From the time that we opened, we told our children. And it meant that mummy and daddy could love more people and they just got it. They didn’t have any issues with polyamory.’
How they told their children – who were very accepting
Their 16-year-old daughter Sanu appreciates her parents’ liberal lifestyle, especially when it comes to sex and relationships.
‘My childhood was pretty normal, it was nothing out of the ordinary for me. Maybe just because I was raised the way I was,’ she said.
‘My parents first gave me the talk when I was seven-years-old. That is when they first mentioned it to me. I wasn’t interested in talking about it until I started puberty.
‘I think unlike most kids, I felt comfortable asking my parents questions. Most of my friends could not talk to their parents, they had to figure it out alone and that is where ignorance comes from. I am glad I did not have to go through that stage.
‘My parents are really embarrassing. I mean putting aside their lifestyle, they like to dance in public. My dad cannot dance. We tell him to stop but he will not!’
Sanu’s younger brother Kaheri agrees, and will think about being polyamorous when he’s older.
He said: ‘I would not go into something which is clearly not as good as what my parents have.
‘Further down the line I will definitely consider doing the poly thing, 100 percent.’
No regrets! The couple plan for a polyamorous future together
Carl and Kenya have never looked back since becoming polyamorous and they firmly believe opening their marriage has made them stronger.
Kenya said: ‘For me, open relating and polyamory benefits my relationship in numerous ways.
‘Opening our marriage to polyamory has made our marriage stronger because we can actually tell the truth.’
Carl agrees: ‘We are very open and honest with each other. For the first time in our lives I felt like we were able to be completely transparent on all levels.’
The duo actively looks for multiple partners on Tinder and openminded.com, and have even had each other’s lovers living in the family home.
Kenya revealed: ‘Carl’s girlfriends are interesting. I get along with his partners who have so much common sense they don’t try to push me out of my place, but for the others it is more challenging.’
Carl said: ‘In terms of Kenya’s partners, I tend to always get along with them. We are not buddy buddy all the time, but I do get along with them. I think she picks really good guys.’
‘It’s like fireworks and craziness’: No limits to the number of lovers
Kenya added: ‘I meet most of my guys on Tinder. Most of the men I date are younger, why not? My husband is older than me so I already have an older guy. I need a younger man.
‘I don’t put a limit on the number of partnerships I have. I have partners here in Asheville, I have partners in other cities. I have my husband. I don’t know how many partners I have.
‘I used to feel like just a mother and a wife. Like my fun, my magnetism, my sensual energy was depleting. Now I feel like I’m a mother, I’m a wife and I’m a lover – I’m a goddess!
‘When Carl and I have sex it’s very healing, it’s very energizing. But when I have sex with a new partner it’s like fireworks and craziness. It’s just two different things.
‘I need them both, as a married woman of 22 years and to be able to have them is great.’
New beginnings! A business venture for the entreprising couple
Carl and Kenya believe in the lifestyle so much that they have turned it into their livelihood – by launching a ‘love academy’ and becoming relationship coaches that teach people all over the world about polyamory.
They are now sharing their relationship, which has been the model for their coaching business: a ‘love academy’ called JuJuMama.
Kenya said: ‘What we do in the love academy is educate people in what we call the new paradigm of love.’
One of their regular clients is a poly ‘triple’ Luna, 25, and her partners Mason, 32, and 32-year-old Taylor.
Sex coach Luna and graphic designer Mason live together – but Luna also has an intimate relationship with Mason’s close friend Taylor.
Luna said: ‘Mason and I met in a grocery store and I immediately had a crush on him. Our relationship took off really organically.
‘I knew Taylor before I knew Mason, we were just friends. I didn’t see him in a romantic way at all and he became one of my best friends whilst I was dating Mason. It just naturally happened and we were like, ‘Woah we have feelings!’
Mason admits: ‘That was the hardest part. It got really real at that point. What happens if I can’t handle it? This whole thing is an experiment.’
Initially, Luna and Mason visited the love coaches for advice on how to open their relationship and how to handle jealously and insecurity. Over time, Taylor has joined the sessions to overcome his emotions towards Luna.
‘We’re creating the future of love’ – Kenya
Kenya explained: ‘Luna and Mason first came to see us because they had no idea how to have an open relationship, yet they found themselves in one.’
‘I think Luna was concerned that if she were to be honest about her feelings, that it might make one of her boyfriends become distant,’ added Carl.
With the help of JuJuMama Love Academy, the threesome drew up a contract to establish everyone’s role in the relationship – with Mason being Luna’s ‘primary partner’ and Taylor as her secondary.
With the world of polyamory becoming increasingly more mainstream, Carl and Kenya believe it’s for the best.
Kenya added: ‘What is the future of love? The future of love is community. Humans need community and we’re creating the new culture. We’re creating the future of love.’