In February, TLC aired a new special, Brother Husbands, which is exactly what it sounds like: a family taking the the opposite approach to the polygamous family structure in Sister Wives. The special introduced Amanda, a mom of five kids (including a set of triplets) who has a pretty traditional life except for one big thing: she has two husbands, Chad and Jeremy.
While the one-hour pilot covered a lot of our most basic questions about the polyamorous family (for example, they rotate who sleeps with Amanda: It's Jeremy one night, Chad the next and then all three on the third night), we still wanted to know more.
SheKnows sat down with Chad, Amanda's first husband, to chat about everything from how he deals with jealousy to whether he watches Sister Wives.
SheKnows: First of all, I have to know: Do you use the term "brother husbands" around the house?
Chad Ferris: No, we say co-husbands.
SK: I'm guessing it's been some time since the special was filmed. How old are the triplets now, and how is the family managing?
CF: They turned one in December. They are all walking now, they’re all talking and eating real food. When they became mobile, it changed everything. It's crazy.
SK: During the special, your mom came to visit and she was obviously still getting used to the situation. How is your relationship with family now?
CF: That was the first time I'd seen my mom in four or five years. We had talked on the phone and started rebuilding, and that was the first in-person interaction. Since then it’s been good. I've also reconnected with my brother, who had felt kind of betrayed. When we came out as polyamorous to him, we had been doing it secretly for over a year, and he wished we had been honest sooner. We grew up with a conservative, religious background, and he saw our decision as abandoning our traditional family values and our faith.
SK: Are you currently religious?
CF: I'm not religious on any level. I worked at a church, and I had been working in churches for seven or eight years when I met Jeremy. Based on the response we got when we started talking with the community about our family, we left. We had already been moving past that, but the response from the church confirmed a lot of our feelings and we left that part of our life behind.
SK: Do you watch Sister Wives?
CF: We watch Sister Wives. There are a lot of similarities between us, and I can totally understand and relate to them, but we also operate much differently. For example, we raise the kids as five siblings. My oldest son is seven, and he doesn’t recognize that he isn't related to his sisters differently. They are also very closed-off and private. They don’t show affection in the open, they don’t talk about their relationships with each other. We don’t have that type of boundary. We believe that the more open we are, the less insecurities and doubts. We try to be more honest and authentic. We don’t hide affection.
We also don’t have a religious reason for doing this. We weren’t seeking it out. It was a complete shock and surprise that this even happened, and we are just learning as we go. We’ve done a lot of research and reading.
SK: What book do you recommend most for learning about non-monogamy and polyamory?
CF: My favorite book is Sex at Dawn. You should be handed a copy when you are born. There are a lot of lies that are ingrained into us in our culture, and there are lots of gender roles forced on us in our society. We are at constant war with ourselves. Reading a book like that, and seeing that we are fighting our very nature, makes you understand why a lot of our societal ideas don't feel natural. Jealousy is so ugly, and letting go of that and realizing that jealousy is not an emotion you have to feel is so freeing. My relationship with Amanda is better now because the book forces you to break down those walls and be more authentic and honest with each other.
SK: Jealousy seems like it would be one of the biggest problems in polyamorous relationships. How do you deal with those feelings?
CF: I’ve noticed that the easiest way for me to deal with jealousy is to not really talk about feeling jealous out loud to Amanda. When I mention it out loud, it can grow and turn into an ugly monster because it can make Amanda feel guilty. She'll say to me, "Now it feels like I’m committing adultery."
If you learn the skills to deal with jealousy on your own, you learn that it isn't a real emotion. It's based on fear, though, which is real emotion. Jealousy is fear that Amanda will leave me, and that's not going to happen. It’s easier for me to process and move on knowing that. I know that Amanda loves me and that Jeremy and I are not in competition. Understanding that has been great because I can flourish by myself. I can just be the best Chad. And Jeremy can be the best Jeremy.
SK: It sounds like you have been to therapy!
CF: We've been to therapy as individuals, as couples, and all three of us together. Pretty much every combination! Our therapist specializes in poly relationships and we all see the same therapist.
SK: What are most of the conflicts about in the household?
CF: The most common conflict is parenting style. I’m more liberal and free-spirited, and Jeremy is more structured, maybe because he has to be with the triplets. I am a hippie and laid-back, we co-slept with the boys and everything like that. Jeremy and Amanda are more structured with bedtime, and the girls have always slept in cribs. Sometimes I need to check myself and respect Jeremy’s boundaries, and sometimes Jeremy needs to realize that he could be a little more flexible. We've gotten to a place where we know to respect one another but also learn from one another.
SK: What’s the hardest thing logistically about having two husbands in the house?
CF: Space and time are really difficult to deal with — alone time and time with Amanda. There are so many people in the house, it’s hard to escape. It’s also difficult to have fights. What is the proper way of fighting? Do you fight in private, or do you let the third person in on what's happening?
It can be complicated. It's hard to do even simple things like taxes. Not that taxes are simple, but having two dads in one family when all of the systems are set up for couples isn't an easy thing.
SK: Do you and Jeremy spend quality time together alone?
CF: Jeremy and I do try to make an effort to do that — bro dates when we go get a beer or play video games, or go see a movie or go shopping to stay connected. It's easy to slip into dad mode, and we both try to keep the house running as smoothly, so it’s easy to forget that we were friends in the first place. It’s a completely different friendship now than it was. He’s a family member now. Our relationship requires so much trust for me, an amount I didn’t know I was able to have with another person. And some times it’s easier and sometimes it’s harder, but at the end of the day, I trust him so much.
SK: Since the three of you can't legally be married to one another, how do you deal with last names?
CF: We call our family the Stone family, though that's not legally the case. My last name is Liston and Jeremy's is Johnston. Both had "-ston" in them, so we added an "e." It was a big family discussion, and it took us months to come up with it. Amanda doesn't like her maiden name, so that wasn't an option, though Jeremy and I would have done that! Since we came out as poly, I usually go by Chad Ferris (my middle name) or Chad Stone.
SK: What are the most traditional aspects of your relationship?
CF: The fact that I consider myself married. I don’t date other people or have sex outside of our relationship. Some of the parenting roles are more traditional, too. Jeremy has primary roles with the triplets, and I have a secondary role. I have a primary role with my sons. In the end, we are based in love, we’re supportive, we have fights, we have bills and jobs. We just have an extra person.
SK: You are bisexual. Would you want to have a more open marriage where you got to explore that?
CF: That could happen down the line, but the kids are young and the family is young. We might revisit later. The benefits of our family structure is that I get to spend my days with both of my best friends. It’s easy to over-sexualize our relationship and all relationships. I never felt dissatisfied with my sex life, even when it was just Amanda and me. I wasn’t going to have more kids, and to see my kids with their little sisters is a gift only Jeremy could have given me.
SK: Right now, TLC has just aired a one-hour special about your family. Is there a series in the future?
CF: TLC is extremely excited about the show, and they have been busy filming. You will be seeing more of us!