Two is company and three is a crowd, as the saying goes.
But what if you happen to be in love with two people? And they happen to be willing to share you?
News that two Kenyan men have signed an agreement to “marry” the same woman has created quite a stir, with many questioning the fundamentals of polyandry.
The three-way “marriage” agreement sets out a rotating schedule for Sylvester Mwendwa and Elijah Kimani, the two men in the arrangement, to live with the unidentified woman in her home. It also states that both men will help raise any children she bears.
But what about jealousy, rivalry and all those “natural” yet negative feelings that drive the impulses of wary lovers?
“It could have been very dangerous if the other man would have come to her house and caught me,” Mwendwa said to the BBC. “So our agreement is good as it sets boundaries and helps us keep peace.”
Mwendwa’s rationalization seems like a mature way to handle what was likely an awkward love triangle; but the agreement is based on a foundation of deceit, as Mwendwa and Kimani were apparently both having an affair with the woman.
And while she at the centre of the story remains anonymous, many may question her autonomy in the arrangement. Yet Mwendwa calls her “the central referee” in the setup, saying the choice is hers, whether she wants him or another mate.
Polyandry – the practice of a woman having more than one mating partner at a time – is not as prevalent as polygyny, which is recognized in various patriarchal societies. Traditionally, polyandry has been found in egalitarian societies where fertile women are scarce, the result of a slanted ratio between men and women; or in societies where high male mortality or absenteeism rates create a higher demand for fathers.
There aren’t many recorded cases of polyandry that stem from love and an inability to just choose one mate. And since Kenyan laws do not explicitly forbid polyandry, this trio may be able to have their union legally recognized and, perhaps, someday, even legally dissolved.