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Documenting Love in 'Three of Hearts'


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

On Fridays we like to talk about film, and coming up we'll hear a roundup of new releases in Slate's Summary Judgment. First though, there's a new documentary on what's being called a postmodern family. In it, two gay men, Sam Cagnina and Steve Margolin, pose this question.

Unidentified Man #1: Wouldn't it be great to have a woman in the relationship?

Unidentified Man #2: But we thought, like, what woman would want to be in a relationship with two men? It's like--you--it just didn't seem--it just seemed like a fantasy. But we said, hey, maybe there's a possibility out there.

CHADWICK: Well, then they met Samantha Sing and the film that comes out of this experience is called "Three of Hearts." It's directed by Susan Kaplan. One of the gay men in the film, Sam Cagnina, spoke earlier with my colleague Madeleine Brand.


Sam, you were in a relationship with Steven?

Mr. SAM CAGNINA ("Three of Hearts"): Yes, I was. Me and Steven started in a relationship together. We were together seven years before we met Samantha and fell in love.

BRAND: And--but you were--before you met Samantha you were the instigator, if you will. You suggested to Steven, `Let's bring a woman into this relationship,' and I'm just wondering why you did that, why you wanted that?

Mr. CAGNINA: You know, we were young kids and both of us had been dating women and, you know, when we met we fell in love. And back then sexuality expression--my sexuality wasn't as defined yet at who I was as a sexual being. That's been a process over the years, finding out who I am, both as a man and as a sexual being.

BRAND: Was it just initially a sexual interest or was it something deeper than that?

Mr. CAGNINA: You know, I can look back now through, like, therapy. It was trying to find a way to have my cake and eat it too. When I was 21 years old, the thought of having children or adopting wasn't really known. I mean, we're going back--that's over 24 years ago. And so, you know, by bringing a woman to the relationship we could have children. We could have--we could explore our sexuality. We could--there were many reasons.

BRAND: And what was Samantha's reason for going into this relationship?

Mr. CAGNINA: I think she thought it was going to be a fling. I think it was going to be something new and exciting. I don't think Samantha ever thought that it was going to be a 13-year relationship.

BRAND: There was a point in the film where Samantha says, `I didn't want to grow up for a long time...

Mr. CAGNINA: Yeah.

BRAND: ...that part of this relationship was part of me refusing to grow up.' Do you think that's true? Does that say something about the relationship?

Mr. CAGNINA: I think that's for all of us. I think really growing up and being an adult is a very difficult--you know, especially on a soul level. I'm not talking about, like, you know, writing the bills, etc. etc. I'm talking about really knowing one's self and who one's self is. That's a very difficult process for most people. Samantha entered the relationship at 21. So when you go through a relationship from your, you know, early 20s through your 40s--and I'm 47--I mean, that's a huge span. You know, it's a huge, huge span.

BRAND: Someone leaves the relationship and it's devastating. It's surprising who it is and it's devastating to the three of you initially. So what does that say about these unorthodox relationships, do you think? I mean, is there a reason why so many cultures embrace monogamy, that that's the way it should work and does work?

Mr. CAGNINA: Well, Madeleine, if we really took that, you know, format and we looked the divorce rate now over 50 percent of people who are monogamous, to coin a--you know, heterosexual relationship or homosexual, you know, dyad end up in divorce or separation. So by that we would say that it doesn't--that marriage in itself doesn't work. I think to go 13 years is an incredible run and so, for me, it's a huge success, the relationship.

BRAND: I just have one more question for you, Sam.

Mr. CAGNINA: Sure.

BRAND: I'm wondering in hindsight...

Mr. CAGNINA: Yeah.

BRAND: ...if you and Steven were in denial about your sexuality and who you are.

Mr. CAGNINA: I think that's part of it, absolutely. The veils of who I am are, you know, as I go through life being lifted one by one. I think what makes a three-way relationship difficult now, in hindsight, Madeleine, is that it's hard enough to make it work with one person, much less two people. And so, you know, could I still enjoy a relationship with a man and a woman? Yes. Is that where I'm choosing now? No, because I want a one-on-one and I look at what works best for me as I've discovered myself.

But at the time with Samantha, we had such a great time, the three of us. And you feel that in the movie. I mean, you feel our love in the movie. And I think that's why it's called "Three of Hearts." It was this incredible epic love affair between the three of us, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything, Madeleine.

CHADWICK: Sam Cagnina, featured in the film "Three of Hearts." He spoke with DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand. And that film is in limited release in theaters across the country. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.