Note: The subject matter of this commentary may not be suitable for children. Please use parental discretion.
Earlier this week, the cable network Bravo aired the documentary Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family. The film is designed “to challenge conventional ideas of family,” according to director Susan Kaplan.
Three of Hearts shows two gay men, Steven Margolin and Sam Cagnina, bringing a woman into their relationship. For several years, the director followed Steven and Sam—and the woman they called their “wife,” Samantha Singh. (Sam actually married her, presumably on behalf of both men.) We see them interact with their families, run a business, and have a daughter, Siena. We do not find out until later which man is her father.
Significantly, at least two of the trio come from difficult family situations. In particular, Sam speaks movingly about what life was like with his father in and out of prison. He confesses, “I chose [Steven and Samantha] as my parents. . . . I need someone to try to take care of me.” All three are in therapy, and Sam’s therapist thinks it is likely that as he matures, he may outgrow the relationship—an indication of the immature attitudes that got this relationship started in the first place.
But it is Steven who leaves after thirteen years, just before Samantha’s second child is born. Now, battling over everything from business arrangements to dog-care expenses, everybody has a different opinion of their former relationship. And Sam admits, “I think we were all building a house on false foundations.”
Although Sam is helping Samantha raise both children, he has no legal rights to the little girl. Steven turns out to be Siena’s biological father—but he has her only for a few days every month.
On top of it all, Sam and Samantha no longer have a sexual relationship. Though they are still married, Samantha calls the marriage a “technicality.” On the film’s website, Sam explains, “What we both want eventually is to live next door to each other raising our children together; we will both live with someone we love.” Since Steven already has a new partner, this would give Siena six parental figures and three homes!
If your head is spinning, I don’t blame you. It’s hard, however, not to feel sorry for these unhappy and disillusioned people—but it’s also hard not to get upset with them for bringing children into such an inherently unstable situation. You have to wonder, what on earth were they thinking?