Fidelity dating

Terisa Greenan and her boyfriend, Matt, are enjoying a rare day of Seattle sun, sharing a beet carpaccio on the patio of a local restaurant.

Matt holds Terisa's hand, as his 6-year-old son squeezes in between the couple to give Terisa a kiss.

A couple years later, Scott introduced her to Larry, a software developer at Microsoft, and the two quickly fell in love, with Scott's assent.

The three have been living together for a decade now, but continue to date others casually on the side.

But because academia is only beginning to study the phenomenon—Sheff's study is too recent to have drawn conclusions about the children's well-being over time—there is little data to support that notion in court.

Today, the nonprofit Polyamory Society posts a warning to parents on its Web site: If your Poly Family has children, please do not put your children and family at risk by coming out to the public or by being interviewed [by] the press!

But there is one policy issue rousing concern: legal precedents concerning their ability to parent.

The notion of multiple-partner relationships is as old as the human race itself.

But polyamorists trace the foundation of their movement to the utopian Oneida commune of upstate New York, founded in 1848 by Yale theologian John Humphrey Noyes.

Custody battles among poly parents are not uncommon; the most public of them was a 1999 case in which a 22-year-old Tennessee woman lost rights to parent her daughter after outing herself on an MTV documentary.

Anecdotally, research shows that children can do well in poly families—as long as they're in a stable home with loving parents, says Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist at Georgia State University, who is conducting the first large-scale study of children of poly parents, which has been ongoing for a decade.

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"There have always been some loud-mouthed ironclads talking about the labors of monogamy and multiple-partner relationships," says Ken Haslam, a retired anesthesiologist who curates a polyamory library at the Indiana University-based Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

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