Tom Becka: What in the world is polyamory? Hello and welcome to this edition of TomBecka.com where everyone’s exceptional and everyone has a story to tell. Polyamory is, I think, rather misunderstood by a lot of people.
Maybe a lot people don’t even know what the word is or what it is? It is a lifestyle. It is a situation where a couple is married and committed to each other but they go and — date, outside of their circle. — It’s not an open marriage. — It’s not swinging.
It’s a relationship with the one couple and….others, all in a happy unity but not quite the same as polygamy either. It’s an interesting concept and one that’s not really talked about very often and one that has a lot of stigma to it, which that’s why their voices are — disguised.
They would have you know that it’s not necessarily a lifestyle choice. At least the husband, he said he was born polyamorous.
Anyway, the voices have been disguised a little bit because of any ramifications it might have in the workplace and out in more acceptable society. But it’s another interesting story here, on Tombecka.com. How would you define yourself?
Man: Polyamorous? Polyamorous is open to outside relationships — romantic relationships.
Woman: Yeah, we’re married but we’re open to the relationship.
Tom: It’s basically an open relationship, would be another way of putting it?
Man: No. We really don’t have an open relationship, strangely. I mean, being open to possibly having other people join you isn’t the same thing as being open…it wouldn’t be OK for me to just meet somebody in an evening and hook up with them. It wouldn’t be OK for me to just have a fling, or go out and have sex with people. That’s not what this is about.
Woman: Yeah, it’s more we have this whole process, where if we are interested in somebody, everybody has to meet and everybody has to get along. We go through an interview process to see if it’s feasible before anything even happens at all.
Tom: OK, so you’re not swingers.
Man: No, we’re not swingers.
Tom: You’re not polygamous?
Man: No, we’re not polygamous.
Tom: You will date other people, but with no intention of marriage or no intention of having them actually be part of your day to day life? Is that it?
Man: Well, no. It’s actually the opposite. I mean, by the time we’d be willing to date somebody or spend time getting to know them in a romantic way long before we would be ever having sex with them, we want them to be someone that potentially we would be interested in that sort of relationship, a long term relationship with.
Woman: They get along with everybody, including our family. It’s not going to make big waves, or cause problems within our existing family unit.
Tom: Now walk me through this, because this is strange to a lot of people. First of all, a lot of people when they listen they’re thinking, “How do you do this? How do you get the rest of the family all involved?”
First of all, let’s start how you got to this point. How did you get to this point? Whose idea was it to say, “Hey, let’s date other people?”
Man: That would have been my idea.
Tom: Why would I have thought that.
Tom: Why would I have guessed that would be the thing?
Man: That’s a shocker, especially when you meet all the guys out there who are just looking for another woman or a threesome, something like that. But the truth is, I’ve been like this my entire life. I mean my entire life. My very first experience with women was in a group setting [chuckles] and I’ve never at any point had a monogamous relationship. It’s never even seemed natural to me.
In fact, a lot of the things that people talk about — there are things that I can understand intellectually, but have no real emotional connection to.
Tom: Then why get married in the first place?
Man: There’s a difference. I hear that question a lot. It’s like, “Aren’t you committed?” There’s an enormous difference between being committed to somebody, and being committed away from anybody else. You see the trite little explanations like you can love more than one child at a time, which is kind of fine, except that it’s an entirely different thing.
But how committed I am to my wife [laughs] , is not connected with my feelings for other people. I’d walk into a fire for her; I’d do anything for her. I will never leave her. That isn’t the same thing as not finding someone else who I also feel very close to, and am attracted to.
Tom: Now, I would think this causes more problems. In a weird way, I guess I could understand swinging more than this, because with swinging, emotions aren’t involved. But you’re talking about you want emotions to be involved.
Woman: Yeah, especially since I wasn’t like that all my life. I was the monogamous, only one person at a time type thing, date person. It was a big change for me. I wasn’t the experimental type, so I’m getting used to everything throughout life. It caused problems, especially on my end, because I didn’t have that mindset.
I couldn’t grasp where he was coming from, but I know I loved him and he loved me. It’s been an ongoing working process.
Tom: Now, you’re dating. You start to date. At what point in time do you tell her, “By the way, you seem like a really nice lady. We’re having a good time. I’m loving all of this, but you know, I’m going to be dating other people, too. I’m never going to be monogamous to you.” Does that come before you get married, after you get married? Where does that come in?
Man: With my wife, long before we were married.
Man: The night I met her, she was with a friend of hers. Within a month, I was involved with both of them. Again, it’s not something that I’ve ever been any different. To be fair or to look on the other side, I’m in my 20′s at that point. I’m kind of a butt, and I’m a pretty typical guy at that point. A lot of it is just about getting laid.
You have to grow up, no matter who you are, or what else is going on. But having said that, I’ve never felt as I’ve become more committed and more in love with somebody, I’ve never had the interests or feelings for other people go away. It just doesn’t work that way.
Tom: Now, when you say that when you first met you were seeing both her and her friend, right? Was this a threesome sort of a deal, or was this you go out with her on Saturday night, and the other one on Friday night? How did this all work out?
Woman: Some of both.
Tom: But you just said you weren’t brought up this way. You just said that you were all monogamous, and you said that this is it. Then, all of a sudden you meet this guy and all of a sudden, it’s like wooh, party time?
Woman: It was a little different. I did my first stint in the service, so I saw things a little differently. I’m like, “OK, live life a little.” I was in my 20′s too, and I was like, “OK. I’ve been very staunch and brought up this way. I see people doing this, so why not try it and see what the whole hubbub is about”
It’s like you see people, whoa, and just smoke a joint just to see what it’s like. I’m like, “OK. Well, we’re single. It’s not like we’re married or anything like that.” That’s kind of the mindset I went into it. But like I said, you think things are going to be different. When you’re brought up that way, you think things are going to be different when you’re married.
Except it didn’t change, but I did know I still loved him and he still loved me. That’s why it was kind of an adjustment.
Tom: Did you think when you got married, was there part of you that said, “Now that we’re married, Ozzie and Harriet, white picket fence, and he’ll change.” Did you?
Woman: I think in the back of mind, yes I was thinking, “It’s going to be different now, because we’re married. We have it on paper.” Because the paper’s official, you know? But like I said, it was a real adjustment. I’d started going there, but I hadn’t got there. I didn’t consider myself poly at that point in time, yet.
I was just, “Oh, I’m settling down. Things are going to be different.” When it didn’t change, I had a little bit of an identity crisis, I think.
Tom: You’ve been married for a long time, haven’t you?
Man: We’ve been together going on 18…
Woman: 18 years, yeah.
Tom: What happened to the other woman, your friend? Whatever happened to her? How long did that relationship last, and do you guys still keep in touch?
Man: Several months is all. Most people who meet someone and they date them for a while, it doesn’t work out. One of the things I want to say defending her, is that I was surprised that getting married and settling down didn’t change me. I fought that very hard.
Tom: Oh, you wanted to when you got married. You kind of wanted that to be?
Man: I’ve always wanted that.
Woman: That’s what everybody says you’re supposed to be like. There’s nothing out there that shows another option, because it’s not very public, especially here. In Europe it’s a little more open. But here, oh no — it’s one man, one woman, the two point five kids, the dog, whatnot.
Tom: Which is why we’re disguising your voices, because you’re afraid of being found in this, right?
Woman: It could impact us, yeah.
Man: I have spent my whole life until very recently, feeling broken. How many TV shows, how many Disney shows you watch, where you’ve found the one. Suddenly all this other stuff goes away, and you’re happily ever after. Why doesn’t that work for me?
More horribly, like most people, I am interested in other people when I get comfortable, when I feel good about myself. The better my relationship would be with her, the more interested I would find myself in other people which is exactly backwards from everything I’ve ever been told was right or normal.
I felt horrible about it, especially when I would hurt her feelings. I spent really my whole life trying to undo something that I didn’t really have any control over.
Woman: The square peg in a round hole. Look, up until recently, you get ostracized for divorce and things like that. People start looking at this and like, “Oh, my god! What are they doing to themselves, to the kids? Are they impacting clients or customers?” People just like, “I don’t want a person like that here.”
Tattoos are another one. Now, you’re seeing them everywhere. Things like that that people don’t consider mainstream, they don’t know how to deal with, so they lash out at it. It affects not only the people that are in that particular group but everybody that associates with them.
Tom: Is that part of the appeal here is that you’re not mainstream? If people can just look at you or your neighbors and think you are mainstream. Is that part of the appeal that you are living this double life of you?
Man: No, there’s no appeal in that for me at all, at all. Without going too far into my background, I spent my life living a double life professionally for the longest time.
To be poly like this and be able to hide it only looks like an advantage at first, but what it does is you wind up being in your late 30s, and you still haven’t dealt with it. You’re still pretending to be something else to everybody you meet and then going in a different crowd of people and pretending to be…I don’t know if it’s who you are, but then you’re hiding the other half of your life from them too.
At some point, it just doesn’t work. At some point, you have to grow up and be a human being and say, “This is me. This is the way I am.” There are things I would change if I could change. I don’t even know if this is one of those things anymore, but it certainly was for the longest part of my life.
Tom: You want to be monogamous. You wanted to be…
Man: …normal. Normal, and I’ll say that. Normal like most people, or at least I find that they believe most people are. The more I get around people and the more people open up to me now when I say that I’m poly, the more convinced I am that there are very few people who are monogamous in the Disneyland sort of way.
Tom: But it seems to me like more of a serial monogamy. You mentioned divorce. I’m married for a while. If that didn’t work out, then I’ll find somebody else and be with her. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll be with her. It’s like serial monogamy more so than polyamory like you guys are doing.
Man: Yes, that’s true. In fact, I know the main difference between what happens with me and what I hear happening with other people is that the less comfortable I am in my relationship with my wife, the less interested I am in looking for other people.
I don’t feel good about myself. I don’t feel good about a relationship. I’m not looking for anybody else. It’s only when I feel confident and secure that I start feeling interested in other people.
Woman: But our one main difference is we’re open with everything. You have these people that go out. They’re married. They’re lying. They’re cheating. They’re going out and having relationships with other people, but first, they’re married person, and their married half doesn’t know about it.
Tom: Now, you two are not currently in another relationship?
Woman: Not at the moment.
Man: No, we’re not.
Tom: By the way, when you get into other relationships, it’s not necessarily that you’re dating another couple. In other words, it’s not like one polyamorous couple meets another polyamorous couple, and you meet like that.
It’s like you could be in a relationship for a while or you could be in a relationship for a while. Either one of you could be, and then the other one not be. Is that how that works? Or do you both have to be dating somebody at the same time?
Woman: It doesn’t have to be. Most of the time one or the other will be in a relationship.
Man: It would be ideal. It would be wonderful if we met another polyamorous couple, and we all found each other attractive. But what are the odds of that?
Look at how hard it is if you’re a single person to find one person that you get along well with and want to date and spend time with. Now, you get married, and not only do you have to find that person, but now your wife has to find her husband attractive and vice versa.
That’s very difficult to arrange. It really has never worked out that way. That would be nice. That might be the polyamory version of Prince Charming and Snow White. That’s nice to think about, but it just doesn’t happen.
Tom: What about jealousy though? Because again your emotions are involved here. Emotions are involved here. It’s not just sex. It’s a real thing.
Woman: Well, we’ve had instances where when it gets to that point we have to break it off with the other person. We just were open and honest the whole time. If we have those problems, we all sit down and talk, and more likely if the relationship ends, we’re still friends.
But if the relationship in that particular aspect would end, there would be no more emotional commitment, no going out on dates type thing because when it comes to that point, our marriage and our commitment to each other gets uneven shaken, so we need to solidify our marriage again.
Man: To explain that further, what has happened to cause that is that the person one would have been dating will decide that they want a traditional monogamous relationship with one of us. That’s really the only time that we’ve had that issue.
Tom: That’s more jealousy in their part than it is on you two.
Man: That’s threatening. It might start there. But neither of us is superhuman or lacking emotions. I get insecure. I get worried about losing my wife. I get afraid of these things, and to suddenly have a man that she’s with attempting to break the two of us up and take her away, well that hurts.
Tom: Does that happen a lot?
Woman: Actually, most of them have been that way. Like he said, it would be ideal if we found a couple that was married already.
But when you get into relationship with a single person, it’s fine where you have the honeymoon phase, but then it gets to the point where, “Wait a minute. I really care for this person. If I could have them full-time and they have no other commitments…” It’s very subtle at first, but it starts shifting, and they start doing things to try to make that happen.
Tom: It sounds to me like you’re a married couple that’s looking for friends with benefits. Would that be a fair way to put it?
Man: No. No, I can see where you will get that. The problem is that as we’ve gotten closer, things would change with the other relationship. I can’t even be really critical.
I spend, again, 30-some years of my life trying to be normal and believing that’s the way it ought to be, and the closer I got to somebody, the more I wanted to try and the more I did try to be monogamous. Even if this other person felt the same way I do, I imagine that they would have the same pressures.
At some point, you want to feel like you’ve got your Romeo and Juliet. Well maybe not Romeo and Juliet [laughs] , but your typical fairytale ending. When they start pushing for that, that’s when things get difficult.
Tom: What you said was your first sexual experience with women was in a group setting, which brings about a couple of questions. Number one, was your first sexual experience with a man?
Tom: Your first sexual experience in general was a group setting?
Tom: How old are you at the time?
Tom: Was everybody else 13?
Man: No. There were no adults involved.
Tom: It was basically a bunch of teenagers all together in a group setting.
Man: It was my neighbor and her friend. So, yes [laughs] .
Tom: Now, prior to that actually happening, was that how you envisioned it being? In other words, do you think you were already polyamorous, not in connection with those two? Or do you think that that just shaped your entire life?
Man: I don’t think that shaped my entire life. We talked before about whether I was born like this or whether it came about because of the way I was raised and I don’t know. I do know that the way I was raise certainly could have had an effect on that. I had never lived, until I lived here, I had never lived in a single place for more than a year. My parents are on their third marriage to each other.
Tom: Oh, so your parents are together, break up, together, break up, and now…
Man: Yeah. Right. I’ve been all over the world and I have a mixed race…parents.
Tom: So, you were always sort of an outsider to begin with then?
Man: Always. Always. My whole life was showing up in a new place, knowing nobody and reinventing myself for the people there. The advantage of going to a new place is they don’t know you and you are what you make yourself out to be when you get there.
That was my whole life. My whole life. Maybe that was it. Maybe that’s the lack of lasting relationships. But at the same time, I do have long term relationships and I had to maintain those despite having other relationships moving in and out of my life. I was able to learn to disconnect the relationships from one another. How I felt about one person was not connected to how I felt about another person.
Tom: What’s the longest polyamorous relationship the two of you’ve had?
Man: Two years?
Woman: I think it’s about two years.
Man: I think about two years.
Tom: Oh, two years. Yeah. Talking with other polyamorous people is that par for the course? Is that…?
Man: No, I think most do like us, there’s that period where you’re dating, you’re looking for somebody and eventually they find someone then they settle down.
Woman: They come from all kinds of backgrounds. I mean, he has an extreme background for moving around and stuff like that. Some of them they were raised in a Catholic family, very staunch and everything more like me but they’ve always been poly so it’s not necessarily…I don’t know how you would figure that out.
Man: If you asked 100 different polyamorous people about what it means to be poly, you’d get 100 different variations.
Tom: Now, he says he’s always sort of been this way. He’s always been this way. You haven’t always been this way.
Woman: No, I haven’t always been this way but I’m more open now. Kind of like if you’ve been told something your whole life it builds a barrier. I’m slowly trying to break down those barriers. I’m not comfortable with it and sometimes it’s kicking and screaming. But I’m trying to be more open.
Tom: Slowly breaking down these barriers but you’ve been married for 18 years. He said he was open with you at the very beginning but yet it sounds like you’re now just starting to admit that this is what you’re doing.
Somebody listening to this from the outside is going to think, well here’s this woman who’s been I’ll say mostly battered by a man that wants to go out and get a lot of strange and that he says OK, you can go and do some too while he’s out carousing and they’re going to hear that and think that you’re just being too nice, to let him get away with this.
Woman: No, it’s more on my part. I would start opening up and then all of a sudden it’s the environment. Oh you know everybody’s like, OK that’s not right. You shouldn’t be doing that so I’d snap back. Then I’m like, wait a minute, why am I letting everybody else rule what I feel? I start opening it up.
It’s kind of a yo-yo effect. Almost like dieting, you know? You do a little bit and it’s just back and forth. Or the gay community. We haven’t reached that whole coming out phase so it’s hard to find people and we’re kind of, OK how do you find somebody that’s open to that without actually opening up?
Tom: Now, you say the gay community. Are either of you bi? Are you bi? Do you…
Woman: We don’t say we’re bi in itself but we’re not completely, oh I’m not going to look or I freak out where there’s somebody else involved of the same sex.
Tom: Right. OK.
Man: Then another thing that I think might clarify the misconception here. When I met her and I was in my 20′s, I’m a young man and interested in the strange as you put it and there’s that period. Then there’s a good 12 years of us fighting and failing to be monogamous. I don’t mean failing as in we were cheating. That didn’t happen. But not having our marriage be healthy for the entire time.
Woman: Couldn’t find a balance.
Man: It was a miserable 12 years of monogamy. Practice…
Tom: This has made your marriage better you think?
Woman: More stable, more happy, more…I don’t know how you would describe it. Yeah, he was trying really hard to fit the norm. He was the square peg trying to fit in that round hole and he was miserable that whole time and then I was miserable because he was miserable.
Man: To say that things are better, yes. Very much better. However, and there’s a big caveat. That does not mean that the last, well four years opening up and really coming to grips with being poly has been in any way easy. It’s been painful.
That’s what I referred to earlier where I feel bad that it’s such an easy thing to hide. It would have been better to have learned to deal with that younger, earlier. Been more open when I first met her. Have more of a clue about who I was.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying to be honest with her it was like I didn’t understand. How many people really have a good grip on their life when they’re 20 something years old? I certainly was not one of those people.
Tom: How do you meet other people that would be open to this? Because I would imagine that if you meet somebody and you find there’s an attraction, you’ve got to bring it up pretty quick. “Uh, by the way I’m married but my spouse is cool with this.” How do you get that done?
Man: Just like that. Very early. I don’t really say that my spouse is cool with this. I say, I’m polyamorous and I’ll explain what it means. I pretty universally will get, oh you’re a guy who’s just looking to have a little on the side.
I very, very rarely say anything unless this person has known me for quite some time and knows that that’s not what it’s about. It’s a difficult thing to get past, being a man and being interested in this. For example, my wife put an ad online. What she got was hundreds of emails from other married men whose idea of what was going on was that they wanted to cheat on their wives and they thought that she wanted to cheat on her husband.
Woman: Nobody needed to know anything.
Man: On the other hand. If I try to respond to an ad the woman, and I understand why she thinks that, I look like just another one of those guys. I don’t blame her. It’s difficult.
Tom: Is that how you do it primarily? Through ads on the Internet?
Woman: Yeah, I mean that’s one way. But there’s times where you’re just sitting in a group and things come up and you start talking about it because, they find out, they want to know more. The group that’s going to the 20 something right now. They’re very open about that and they’re searching for information on other things because what they find is they’re not quite happy with where they’re at.
There’s something not right and they’re looking for answers. When they meet someone that’s a little older and they’re having an alternative lifestyle or something different they want to ask a lot of questions. I do mean a lot.
Man: The three longer term relationships that we’ve had. One man, two women who actually lived with us for a time, not at the same time…None of them were met on the Internet. All of these were people that we met and knew who found out about us and were interested.
That’s how that went about. I mean, really…on the Internet the few people that we’ve met through that I don’t think that we’ve had any higher or lower percentage of success than most people have when they [chuckles] meet somebody…
Tom: On the Internet.
Man: …that they picked up, yes. It’s always difficult.
Tom: How often are you looking? Say, right now you’re not in a polyamorous relationship. SO are you online a lot looking for somebody else? Are you going out hoping to find someone or is a matter of like, if it happens, it happens?
Woman: You’re never, I guess, not looking. It’s always a possibility. It’s not like you’re actively searching all the time. If you meet somebody that you like then you may pursue that a little more. Otherwise it’s, if it happens, it happens.
Man: I guess the misconception would be that we’re not satisfied the way we are. Because we are. For me to be happy it’s not a case of having to have multiple relationships but I cannot be closed off to it, I cannot…it sounds strange but have you ever tried not to think about a thing?
OK, don’t think about a white elephant. Good luck with that. That’ll be all that’s on your mind all the time. The harder I try to close myself off and only be monogamous the more difficult and more agonizing it gets. But having the opportunity to be open, to meet people, to look at them and like them and…
Woman: Not feel ashamed for it.
Man: Yes, and not feel ashamed. That’s huge. Not to feel ashamed. Not to feel concerned that if I’m interested in someone that it’ll hurt my wife and break her heart. That’s an enormous relief. It frees me to be able to just be…
Man: Yes. A human being, and to be a good husband. To be there for the first time in my life and really put her wants and desires and needs before mine and I know that sounds a little counterintuitive but to not have to think about it all the time, to just be able to relax and just be myself.
Woman: Which why it comes back when we meet somebody. It’s everybody’s involved. If I’m having bad feelings and not liking or some bad vibes between me and the other person, we all discuss it.
Tom: Now you said everybody has to be involved. You have kids. You said you’ve had relationships where the women have actually lived with you. What do the kids think about this? Do the kids know or how does…
Man: Our oldest knew. Yes but just like most parents, you’re not going to do sexual things in front of your children…
Tom: Yeah but not doing it but at the same time the kids know. Kids go to school, they start talking and stuff. We’re disguising your voice here but at the same time, how big of a secret do you think this really is with your circle of friends?
Man: It’s not. It’s not. It’s not a secret within our circle of friends. It isn’t our friends that we’re concerned about.
Woman: It’s everybody else that doesn’t understand or gets the wrong idea.
Man: You mentioned our kids. That is the reason why. Because very few people would limit their schooling and their vitriol to the two of us. They’ll come and get involved. I mean you read about what has happened with other polyamorous couples where the state has come and tried to take their children. Not tried, has successfully taken their children. One of the most painful experiences that I’ve seen happen, happened here in Nebraska when a man transgendered…
Woman: He was married.
Man: He was married, they had a child. He transgendered. The state of Nebraska took his child away despite no allegations of neglect or abuse. That is very instructive for people who do not fit the norm in this state.
Woman: We’ve got gay friends that live in Iowa because there are too many problems to be here in Nebraska. They’re not recognized and they’ve very ostracized yet on a lot of things.
Man: There’s a reason why we live in Nebraska. There are a great many wonderful people and on the whole I think it’s a wonderful place. There are also those other people who just simply will not accept…
Woman: Anything different.
Tom: What do you think the number of people would be open to this? In other words you say, OK it’s on the down low and all that but yet, like anywhere else, there are swingers and cheaters and all this. With all the TV shows and stuff that’s on TV about multiple wives and all of this, you know the Sister Wives and all those sorts of shows. What do you think the percentage would be of people, other couples or other people, that would be at least receptive to your way of life?
Woman: Actually I think the numbers are growing especially, like I said, with the 20 somethings. They’re searching.
Man: Again, it’s not that there are a large number of people who I think would be angrily opposed to it. It’s just that they’re awfully influential and they never stop. Again, it’s not an unreasonable fear. When you watch what has actually happened and does actually happen to people who just don’t fit the norm, it’s very scary and painful to watch.
Tom: What do you see the endgame being on this? Is there an endgame? By that I mean, human beings being what they are, emotions do get involved. Do you ever worry that you will find somebody that, as much as you might love each other, you’ll find somebody else where the love is even more powerful?
Woman: I think, in the back of their minds, everybody always worries about that, but we’re committed to each other. We work through things.
Man: Again, I suppose that’s a misconception I dealt with quite a bit too. Who has that guarantee, monogamous or polyamorous, otherwise? Who has that guarantee that their loved ones won’t find someone else that they love more? The difference here is, if my wife finds another man that she falls in love with more, which is almost silly, she doesn’t have to leave me.
She doesn’t need to leave me, there’s no desire to leave me, and I don’t need to feel threatened, because she’s not. It becomes a non-issue for us, whereas, for most people, that’s a terribly scary thought. What happens? Why wouldn’t she not choose him over me? For us it’s, why would she have to?
Woman: Yeah. You get those people out there who have the secret relationships going on, and they end up loving this person more than their married spouse, so they end up getting divorced and marrying this new person, but then the person that they left their spouse for, always in the back of their mind, is he going to do the same thing to me?
Is he going to find somebody else, or is she going to find somebody else, and going to leave me for them? We don’t have that. We don’t have to worry about leaving. Having this, it’s a really bad pattern, because then the new marriage that they would be in, it’s never really secure or trusting. That trust is a big one.
Man: Again, what’s the difference? Many people ask me that, and I’m like, “Really? Is that something unique to polyamory, or is that something we all share? Aren’t we all afraid that the people that we love will leave?” At the end of the day, eventually, everybody we love will leave, or we’ll leave them, either through death or through some other [crosstalk] . That’s the ultimate reality.
Tom: That’s what they say. Every marriage ends in death or divorce. It’s not a good gig.
Tom: OK. You say that your friends know. Do family members know? Sisters, brothers, mom, dad, aunts, uncles, do any of them know?
Woman: Most of them, I think, do.
Tom: OK. How does that fly with your family members? Especially you. You said that you come from a pretty straight-laced family. When they found out, what have they said? What did they do? They tried to talk you out of it?
Woman: They were…mortified, I guess, would be a good word to use. They were like, “Oh God! Honey, this is bad for you. This is the wrong thing.” I know they’re becoming more accepting and everything. They see how, once we didn’t try to go mono [laughs] together, how we’re more happy, we’re more stable.
The kids are happy, they’re polite. Unlike a lot of issues we’re having with kids nowadays, our kids have manners and they’re polite. There doesn’t seem to be anything that screams, “Oh my gosh, this is bad for everybody involved.” We’re actually happier than most married couples we see.
Man: Then the other half, I suppose, of the misconception is to think we didn’t try.
Man: The family members, my parents find out that something is different, and I get disowned. You spend a decade working to try to fit that mold, and it pretty nearly destroyed us. At some point, you grow up enough to tell your parents, “I do love you, and it’s not that I don’t respect you, but what you think works doesn’t, and it’s not for a lack of effort. It just did not work.”
Tom: That had to be a very awkward conversation. How does that come up in conversation?
Tom: Is that out of the blue, or they suspect and just start asking question?
Man: They suspect and start asking questions, pretty much like most parents. Very few of them have the sense to not ask questions if they don’t want the answer. They ask questions, you give them an answer, then they’re horrified, and then they start telling you what it ought to be.
You shouldn’t be like that, or that’s not right. For me, as strange as it sounds, it took me a long time to realize that taking marital advice from two people who have been married to each other three times and have [laughs] been all over the world and they’ve sent their children together and apart all over the world is really not the ideal way to find happiness.
Tom: You bring up an interesting point. Do you think that it’s odd that society would look at somebody that have been married three times, four times — and there are many couples that have been, whether they’ve been married to the same person time and time again or multiple different people — do you find it odd that that is more socially accepted than what you guys do?
Man: Very. Very.
Woman: Very much.
Man: [laughs] It’s not even the social acceptance that I find darkly humorous. It’s that they would look at that person who’s on their second, third, or fourth marriage and believe that they understand commitment, whereas I don’t. I want to say that I’ve been with my wife for 18 years.
I’m just saying that which of us understands commitment? It is not 18 years of good times and rock and roll. We had terrible times and wonderful times. It’s like any marriage. We’ve had horrible stuff, and then we get through it, and we got through it because we committed to each other, that we would be together, with each other, the whole time.
Ideally, we would love to find another person who would be committed to us and us back to them in the same way. That would be wonderful.
Tom: When you said you’d love to find another person, you gave a look like, “Yeah, maybe.”
Woman: It’s hard to do. I’m not holding my breath thinking we’re going to find this person, because, one, you have to be completely open and advertise, and if we do that, then it not only affects us but our clients, our kids, and everything else. But we’re open to it.
If we do happen to find that person — by some chance, we strike up a conversation or something, and it progresses on — but like I said, I’m not holding my breath, because it is hard to find that person, unless you’ve got millions of dollars and very open and don’t care about what anybody else thinks — your family or your whatnot.
You don’t have to worry about making a living so you can put food on the table or have a house for your kids.
Man: You’re not worried about the state stepping in…
Woman: …and taking your kids.
Man: Right. The truth is those are not fantasies. Those are not unreasonable fears.
Woman: It’s reality. It happens. We see it happen all the time. Not something as big as this — little things will cause that thing to happen.
Tom: Do you think, though, with something like this, somebody might be listening to this and think that you guys are dealing with sexual addiction issues, that there is something wrong with you guys, that there are other issues at play here. Do you think there is?
Woman: No. [laughs]
Man: Now, having said that, for my part, I’ve told you that my background was splintered, and crazily so. I have people like, “That was how you were raised. It’s not really how you were born.” For me it’s like, “OK. Nonetheless, that’s who I am, and having spent a great deal of time trying to undo that, all it did was pretty nearly destroy us, our marriage and our children as part of that, so what difference does it really make?”
At the end of the day, if that’s really how I ended up, it wasn’t for lack of effort to do something else. Maybe they’re right. As far as sexual addiction, I think that’s pretty humorous, because I am so much less likely to hook up with a woman that I meet than a single person or even a cheating man. I don’t have any interest in a one-night stand or some cheap sex that’s going to threaten my marriage.
Woman: We look down on the bed notchers. We don’t want to be involved with people like that. Coming back to what you were saying before, we have people try to psychoanalyze that type of stuff all the time. It drives us nuts. “Well, it’s because you did this and this and this, or you were raised that way.”
It’s not that way. They’ll have an answer for everything. Just completely make up something, and they’ll tell you this is what caused it. This is the turning point. This is what made you that way. That’s not the way it is.
Man: What was really great is, when we were trying to save our marriage, and things were very difficult, we go to a marriage counselor, and he tells my wife, “That’s because your husband doesn’t really love you. If he really loved you, he wouldn’t have those feelings.” I say, “Really?”
Woman: “You need to leave him”. Then they were pushing down my throat — it drives me nuts — pushing down my throat the whole abuse thing, you need to have a bug-out bag for when things get really rough, and all this other stuff. It drove me nuts.
Things like that drove me nuts in the military, because I was in the military, I will admit that, and I’ve been overseas in war, so the whole PTSD thing, but then, being female, they always tried to put you in the sexual trauma groups.
I’m like, “That’s not my problem. I don’t have issues with that.” It just drives me nuts when people try to psychoanalyze and they misdiagnose. It’s like, “OK. That’s not me. I’m not having these problems. You guys have got to sit here and listen to what I’m saying, not sit here, ‘Oh, here, we have a box ready for you all prepared. This is what you are, this is who you are, and this is what you’re supposed to be.’”
That’s trying to put that square peg in that round hole again. It just drives me nuts when people do that. It’s always me being female, it’s always I’m the weaker sex, I’m the one vulnerable, I’m the one being taken advantage sexually, whatnot. I’ve had issues. Yeah. Everybody’s had issues, male or female. Somebody won’t take no for an answer. I ended up breaking somebody’s nose because of it.
Woman: I am not defenseless. I can take care of myself. We’re both very educated. We’re not somebody that dropped out of school, middle school or whatnot, who didn’t complete high school. We’re both educated. We both have college education behind us. It’s not like we’re not informed and we’re not smart people.
So, when somebody comes in and tells you, “Oh, the reason this is going on is because of this or that or whatnot,” and tries to take one little tidbit from your past and saying that’s what made it this way. That doesn’t work. It drives nuts.
Man: Think how horrible is it to be told for years that you’re abusing your wife emotionally, and to spend all those years trying to not do a thing. But it’s strange. We’re open with it now, but far less interested in practicing, in actually going out and doing things.
We don’t feel incomplete, and we’re happy, we’re stable, we’re secure. Instead, we went for how many years of people telling her that I’m abusive, and me believing it. At least some. How can you not hear that message repeated to you from everybody you know, from the counselors you’re seeing, shown on TV shows over and over.
I’m not a superhuman. I’m not immune to those influences.
Man: Yeah, and indoctrination. It hurts. I don’t want to hurt my wife. I don’t want to do horrible things. I want her to know that she’s loved and wanted in bed. I will always be there for her. That’s what I want.
Woman: Yeah. We were having a difficult time when we were going to these so-called professionals and seeking help to try to help us. The only thing that helped is when we shut them all off and started working it out with us.
Man: Then I found a professional who was…and actually I went to her because she’s done a lot of work in the queer community, and openness and open-mindedness to the idea that things aren’t always that cut-and-dry and straightforward. That’s when I really started to make some progress.
That’s someone who has some experience helping people figure out who they are without trying to make them into something. Just let them figure it out.
Tom: There you have it. One couple’s experience with polyamory and their views on it, having lived the lifestyle and having lived this life their entire lives, really. Their entire marriage. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did enjoy it, would you please do me a favor? Would you share this with other people?
Would you put in your social media? Would you email it to friends. They’ll know about tombecka.com. Spread the word. Help grow this community of people, interesting people, everyday people with great stories to tell. If you really, really, really liked it, could you make a donation?
Buy me a beer, buy me a sandwich, make a contribution to help keep tombecka.com afloat. Until the next time, thanks for listening.
Tom: I just want to have this on record that you know that you were here, that you have voluntarily come here to talk, tell this story, that everything that was just said is all true, and that you understand that this will be put on a podcast and will be heard by many people…I don’t know, probably around the world. But that I will do my best to disguise your voice, but I’m not liable to any problems that might happen because of the podcast.
Woman: That’s fine. I agree.
Man: I understand. Yes.
Tom: Beautiful. Great.
Woman: Maybe you should set up an email account, disguised from everything else, so people have questions they can… [laughs]
Man: Actually, I’d be happy if you wanted to have something where people can ask me questions. That’s fine too.