A candid and compassionate interview about infidelity, marriage, and open relationships. Ben and Kate, hosts of the Organ House, talk about how and why they opened up their relationship. Special thanks to Yue, host of the Date/Able podcast, and producer Julie. You can also listen to the podcast on Soundcloud or read the transcript below.
00:46 Yue: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Date/able, a show that opens up a candid conversation about dating in San Francisco. Today’s topic is one of those topics that a lot of people have written in about, who are very curious about. And it’s also one of those topics that I don’t know much about. So I’m really excited to have Ben and Kate in the studio with me today to talk about polyamory. Let’s just define what polyamory is. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding around that word.
01:16 Kate: Sure. I can take a stab at that.
01:18 Ben: Go for it.
01:19 Kate: I mean, my belief is that it’s not necessary that you are only ever going to be in love with one person or one person at a time, that you could potentially love many people concurrently. Just like when you have another child, you don’t love your first child any less, it seems like if you were to meet somebody wonderful, and then meet another wonderful person, that that would be the greatest thing ever to have more love in your life. So that’s my take on it.
“…my belief is that it’s not necessary that you are only ever going to be in love with one person or one person at a time.”
01:47 Ben: Yeah. The main difference that we find between polyamory and other kinds of open relationships, the swingers, and all that other stuff, is that we’re allowed to have feelings.
01:58 Kate: Yeah.
02:00 Ben: For the other people that we get involved with.
02:03 Kate: Yeah, exactly.
02:03 Yue: Okay, so you can have deeper emotional feelings. Are these feelings of love for other people?
02:08 Kate: I have not yet been in that boat. I have not yet fallen in love with somebody else that wasn’t Ben. I think we’re both open to that. I wouldn’t say it’s something I’m looking for. I don’t feel like there’s anything missing in my life. It’s just that, on a really deep logical level, I just don’t believe that I can only love one person at once.
02:28 Yue: I guess what I’m hearing is it’s not so much what you’re allowed to do, but what you’re restricted from. So it’s not so much you’re allowed to love other people, it’s just that you’re not restricted to love other people.
02:38 Kate: Yeah. I try to… People are really always curious to hear more about our relationship. And we get these questions a lot. And the best explanation that I’ve come up with so far is that it’s like being in a video game where the physics are different. The rules of our relationship are just different, and that’s just the way it is.
“The best explanation that I’ve come up with so far is that it’s like being in a video game where the physics are different. The rules of our relationship are just different, and that’s just the way it is.”
02:54 Yue: And that could be different for other poly couples, right?
02:58 Kate: Oh, I absolutely think that it is. I think most people who consider themselves poly would probably consider us fairly new at this. We are… Probably pass as pretty normal, like we’re married, and we look like a normal couple on the outside. And that gives us a lot of benefits that I think people in some other types of situations don’t have. We have friends who live in houses with more than one wife or husband, and all the kids are raised as siblings. And honestly, I think they’re really happy, well-adjusted, wonderful people, and their kids are too. So that’s kind of the… as what I’m familiar with being like the far end of the spectrum, and we’re probably on the other end, where it probably seems like we could fit into a bunch of different molds.
03:48 Yue: Let’s just focus on you guys for a sec. How did you guys meet?
03:51 Kate: Oh, we met in college.
03:52 Ben: Yeah, we were young. We were…
03:54 Kate: Yeah, we met when we were, what? You were 21, and I was 22. He was my sexy, younger man.
04:01 Yue: Cougar.
04:03 Yue: And how did you guys start dating?
04:05 Kate: My gosh.
04:05 Ben: We were friends for a couple of months first. But I…
04:07 Kate: Yeah. There was an art exhibit. It was really cool. It was in a bunch of knitted fabric filled with spices and stuff, in this big armory in New York City. And I thought he would like it, and so I asked somebody who had his phone number to invite him. And we all went to the art exhibit, and I thought he was really cool.
04:30 Ben: That was Kate’s perspective. I walked into the room, and saw her and was like, “Okay. I have to make this happen.” She was…
04:37 Yue: What was it about her?
04:39 Ben: I walked in and saw this very beautiful, clearly very intelligent woman. I was like… At 21, you’re not meeting a lot of those people. At close to 30, I’m still not meeting a lot of those people.
04:51 Yue: What is it about… I mean, you can physically look at someone and say they’re beautiful. But what was it about Kate that made her intelligent in your eyes?
04:58 Ben: We started talking. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a little harder to spot.
05:05 Kate: I do remember he walked in, and he had on a button down, so he had clearly come from some sort of a job, which was already attractive. And he looked at me square in the eyes.
05:14 Ben: She was going to film school, so…
05:16 Kate: Yeah, I was.
05:17 Kate: He looked me square in the eyes, and he shook me hand, and he said, “Thank you for having me.” And [he said] something really nice about our place, and “thanks for having me as a guest.” And that really struck me. That’s not a thing that the dudes I was seeing in college or going on dates with were doing at all.
05:32 Yue: What a polite young man.
05:32 Kate: Young gentleman. Yes.
05:35 Yue: Have you guys been in polyamorous relationships before?
05:39 Kate: I think I had been, and I didn’t know it.
05:41 Yue: Well, that’s probably the worst.
05:43 Kate: Probably, and I think I’m “the worst” in this story. I had honestly cheated on a lot of people. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal. I thought that that’s just what everybody did. And granted, this is all before I was 21. So this is back in the territory of like, “Oh, we’re not exclusive yet. We didn’t have that conversation.” The idea of being exclusive was odd to me and I just thought, “Oh, I must not be ready for that.”
“I had honestly cheated on a lot of people. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal. I thought that that’s just what everybody did.”
06:06 Yue: You weren’t ever in a defined polyamorous relationship?
06:09 Kate: No.
06:10 Yue: Okay. What about you, Ben?
06:11 Ben: No.
06:12 Yue: So how did you guys get together, start dating and have the relationship progress?
06:16 Ben: We were together for about four years before we opened things up. We were engaged already.
06:21 Kate: Well, honestly, once he put a rock on my finger, it was like, “Well, now I know you’re coming home; you can do whatever you want!”
06:28 Yue: So you were dating for four years?
06:30 Ben: From the Southern perspective, I dragged it on forever. At least I…
06:35 Yue: And then you put a ring on it? And then when you put a ring on it, did you guys discuss what this marriage will look like?
06:41 Ben: We’d started to have some conversations before…
06:42 Kate: Yeah, I think we had already started to discuss it. I had expressed that I was terrified at the prospect of only ever being with one person.
06:50 Yue: So you brought it up?
06:52 Kate: Yeah, I think I did bring it up. Is that correct?
06:54 Ben: You brought it up a couple times and then, at a certain point, when I found out that I had also been cheated on, I was very upset but also very curious.
07:06 Kate: Okay. So yeah, I think we had been dating for two years or something and I cheated on him. And it was just a physical thing, wasn’t like I was pining after this other person and I honestly… Again, I just didn’t really think it was that big of a deal. I know that many people listening to this are probably gonna think that I’m a terrible person, but I genuinely didn’t understand this from his perspective at the time. I didn’t have that empathy because I don’t feel that way, I don’t feel that kind of jealousy.
07:37 Yue: Did you know you cheated? Were you defining it as cheated?
07:41 Kate: Yeah, I’m not in denial, or I wasn’t making up some way to make it okay in my head or anything, I just really assumed that that’s just what people did and you just didn’t talk about it. And that that’s just how relationships work because I’d heard so many stories of people that cheat on each other and it just seemed like a normal thing that we just brush under the rug and we don’t talk about.
08:07 Yue: But did you tell Ben?
08:08 Kate: So I did. When it felt like the time was right, we were gonna move in together and I thought, “Well, that’s really serious, I should tell him.” And I was actually shocked when he was like, “I’ve never cheated on you.” It’s like, “What are you talking about? We have been dating for years.”
08:23 Yue: You were surprised he had never cheated on you?
08:26 Kate: I was shocked. I was really, really surprised, and I was almost angry, I was like, “Oh, drop the act.” I was irritated. But he never had. And him being kind of a scientist at heart was just… Of course, he was angry and this took us many years to overcome. I don’t want to gloss over this like this is not something that was serious for both of us, but he was very curious like, “Why did you do that?” Like, “What did that provide for you? What were you thinking about?” Not just, “What were you thinking!?” but like, “What were you actually thinking about and what was it that you needed?” And we had just some very, very frank conversations, which I think, is the requirement for anybody to be able to have any kind of open relationship is to be able to talk about things that are hard to talk about and just be… You have to be able to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with another person, so really figuring those things out took some soul-searching.
“You have to be able to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with another person.”
09:27 Yue: So what were some of your answers to that?
09:30 Kate: That it was just new, it wasn’t an experience where I had to reassure somebody after a long day of work. It wasn’t about them, it was about me. It was a lusty kind of thing. And we hadn’t had that because we’d been dating for years and at this point, we were very much in love and I think we both kinda knew that it was gonna be a long-term thing and I needed to find something — or I thought I needed — to find something where I could just have the sexual experience, that was about my sexuality and not about somebody else’s reassurance. That’s how I felt at that time.
10:08 Yue: So it was purely physical?
10:09 Kate: Yeah.
10:10 Yue: And Ben, how’d you…
10:11 Kate: I like this person, I wouldn’t throw them away and I would probably still pick up the phone if they called and if they needed something. It’s not like this is somebody I didn’t care about or don’t care about, but no, never in any kind of relationship way, not at all.
10:27 Yue: Okay. And Ben, how did you respond to this when you found out?
10:32 Ben: I already didn’t like the guy.
10:33 Yue: Oh, so you knew the guy?
10:35 Ben: Yeah.
10:36 Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
10:36 Yue: That makes it a little harder.
10:40 Ben: Part of the hard part for me was that I didn’t like him. It was like that was part of the icky feeling was like, “Wait, of all people, that one?”
10:49 Kate: Which has actually come up a few more times. We now have… We call it… Well, we didn’t coin this term, but we call it “kitchen table polyamory.” We have to at least all be able to sit around the kitchen table and have a good conversation with each other or we get veto power, if we just really don’t like somebody, which has happened. I think both of us have told each other like, “I just really don’t like that person that you’re dating.”
11:14 Yue: Okay. So I do want to get to that, because I want to get to the boundaries and the rules. How did you open up this conversation about possibly seeing other people and how did you guys solidify this sort of relationship?
11:28 Kate: The worst threesome ever.
11:30 Yue: It started with a threesome.
11:32 Ben: That was a great story.
11:32 Kate: Is that a topic we can talk… We can talk sex?
11:34 Yue: Oh no, fuck yes.
11:38 Ben: This is a pretty normal thing for couples that are just getting into all kinds of relationships, non-monogamy whatever, the first thing most couples do is “Let’s have a threesome!” because it’s…
11:48 Kate: And I want to interject and say that there are a lot of things that are wrong with that initial approach that some people in the audience who may be polyamorous are thinking about right now, so we can talk more to that, but…
12:02 Ben: Of course, but when you’re…
12:03 Kate: This is how we also first got into this.
12:04 Ben: When you’re brand-new, and you’re working on limited data, and you don’t have anybody else to talk to, this is the thing that makes sense to a lot of people, where it’s like, “Okay, let’s bring another girl into the bedroom.” Very often, it’s a fantasy that the guy has had, and it’s less threatening too.
“When you’re brand-new, and you’re working on limited data, and you don’t have anybody else to talk to, this is the thing that makes sense to a lot of people, where it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s bring another girl into the bedroom.’ ”
12:19 Kate: If somebody finds out, it’s not something that could be said negatively about a guy. So, since I was the one broaching this topic, and he was the one that was less comfortable, I was letting him say like, “This is the way that I would like to dive into this deep end.”
12:33 Ben: It’s on the low end of outrageous things you can do.
12:36 Yue: Totally. Threesomes are like the entry level.
12:39 Ben: Yeah, exactly.
12:40 Kate: Which, and so, many people, I think may be listening to this, who are aware of the fact that, actually being in a triad relationship is one of the hardest things to pull off. That is, like… a very difficult thing to do.
12:55 Yue: Well, we’ve all watched “Three’s Company.” We all know what happened there.
13:00 Yue: You brought in the third party. Did you know the girl?
13:02 Kate: Nope.
13:03 Ben: So, I’m out having drinks with my co-workers. Kate’s on her way to the bar. And this woman starts hitting on me in a way that doesn’t usually happen, just at the bar on a Tuesday.
13:14 Yue: A random stranger.
13:15 Ben: Completely. And I don’t think I’d ever taken anybody home from a bar in my entire life, because it’s just not really how I roll.
13:25 Kate: I really don’t think you have.
13:26 Ben: I don’t think so, but she was laying it on really thick, and when Kate walked in, she doubled down.
13:31 Kate: Apparently, she thought I was very pretty.
13:34 Yue: So, explain to me, how was she hitting on you, and how did she double down?
13:39 Ben: She was pretty grabby even before Kate got there. She was making herself very clear.
13:44 Ben: We’d been talking about having a threesome, and we had no idea how to go about it. And all of a sudden, here’s this woman throwing herself at us at the bar, and we’re like, “All right!”
13:49 Kate: We’d been talking about it for a while. We had been talking about it, for a year. And so, this was the first opportunity. Because I don’t think either one of us actually went to much effort to seek that out. I was trying not to be pushy, and I think he was a bit nervous.
14:04 Ben: We didn’t want to sleep with our friends, you know…
14:05 Yue: Right. So the universe basically handed this to you: “Take this woman.”
14:10 Ben: Very, very clearly.
14:12 Yue: Okay, what happened next?
14:13 Kate: She had some say in the matter, too, but yes. Thank you, universe.
14:17 Ben: She did not seem prepared to take no for an answer, so…
14:19 Kate: So, anyway, we all end up in a cab on the way home. And unfortunately, the bartender, who we knew, and really liked us, gave everybody one last shot, because he was really rooting for us at this point.
14:31 Kate: It was pretty clear what was going on. And so I felt like she probably had one too many. And by the time we got home, I had decided, “Okay, we’re gonna tuck her into bed.” And I put sheets on the sofa, and I put a pillow out, and got her a big glass of water, plugged her phone in, and everything, and…
14:48 Ben: Southern hospitality.
14:49 Kate: And I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll call you a cab in the morning.” And I thought that she was going to go to sleep. And she was very appreciative and sweet. And I went to go take a shower and then… From my perspective, I’m taking a shower, and I’ve got shampoo in my hair. And she just runs in the bathroom, and hops in the shower with me, and starts kissing me and touching me everywhere. She bumped me into the hot water thing, and it turned off. And all of a sudden, we’re just both being blasted with cold water. And Ben ran in and he’s like… He thought we weren’t okay. I guess you thought maybe somebody fell in the shower. It’s like, “What’s going on?”
15:23 Ben: I didn’t know what the hell was going on. We tried to like, “Here you go, you can go to bed,” and I turn around, and she’d stripped off all her clothes, and was running headlong into the bathroom.
15:30 Yue: I mean, this is like the start of some of the pornos I’ve watched. This could be your fantasy come true.
15:33 Ben: I know. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that well.
15:38 Kate: Yeah, so she… So, at this point, I’m just like, “Okay, everybody, chop-chop! Get out of the bathroom, get a towel, get dried off, go upstairs, get in the bed. I’ll be right there. I have to get the shampoo out of my hair.”
15:50 Yue: So the threesome didn’t go well. Why?
15:53 Kate: Well I had never been with a woman before, at all, so I didn’t know, really, what to do. I know what I like, so I was trying that. I wasn’t getting a lot of constructive feedback. She was… Everything was great. She’s like, “Oh, my gosh, you’re so wonderful, ah, ah,” just like you would imagine in a porno. And I was hoping for, like, “But really, tell me, like, do you actually like this?”
16:12 Yue: You wanted to learn from this.
16:14 Kate: Yes, I did! I thought it was gonna be a learning experience. And so, we just ended up all giggling on the bed, and probably all had a little bit too much to drink. And I think everybody ended up feeling perfectly happy about that situation. And then she went home and we never talked to her again.
16:29 Yue: But this opened up a polyamorous relationship. How did that happen?
16:33 Ben: So we made an OkCupid profile, the two of us…
16:36 Yue: For two of you? Okay.
16:36 Ben: Like you do.
16:38 Kate: Now, they have a new feature, where you can link your profiles together. But at this time, they didn’t have that.
16:44 Yue: Back in the day.
16:43 Ben: This was the polyamory Dark Ages of OkCupid, all three or four years ago.
16:49 Kate: Actually, OkCupid is one of the most progressive dating sites. They do allow you to actually put “open relationship” and things on your profile. They’re great, I think.
16:58 Ben: Yeah, but that didn’t use to be a thing, either.
17:00 Kate: But that didn’t use to be a thing.
17:00 Ben: Not when we made our profile. That was all like…
17:02 Kate: So we made our own profile, and then we just put up some cute pictures of us with our cat like, “Hey, we’re normal people. Look!”
17:08 Yue: Of course. We have a cat.
17:11 Kate: “Cats like us, we like cats, we’re great!” And somebody reached out to us. It was another couple. They seemed absolutely lovely. They had just moved to New York from the Bay Area, actually, and they were really missing their community. And so, they were trying to find like-minded people in New York. So they said, “You guys seem like the kind of people we would just be friends with. Can we all go get coffee together? We’re trying to put together some… ” They call them “soirées.” “We’re trying to put together some soirees at our house, and we want to invite the right people.”
17:44 Kate: And I immediately got the hint. I was like, “Oh, my God, this is that kinky sex party thing that people do! I’ve read about this in magazines!” I was so excited. It was like, “We are going!” I was super, super pumped. So I went to get coffee with them. They were absolutely lovely. They came to our wedding, we went to their wedding, they are still close friends to this day. And they made us just feel really confident like, “Okay, we can meet strangers on the internet and this can go well. This is nice.” So they invited us to a soirée at their place and it was our first play party where we actually… It was like a group of people were having sex, which was awesome.
18:24 Yue: Swapping or just orgy?
18:26 Kate: No. Yeah, more orgy in style and the difference there is swapping implies that one couple will switch with the other couple’s partners and what we would call play party has a lot more focus on individual consent, where individual people can do things that they would like to do but it doesn’t necessarily imply that their partner will or wants to do that same thing with another person.
18:48 Yue: Consent. You have to get consent.
18:51 Ben: Consent is huge.
18:52 Kate: Consent is huge but it’s more… I think swapping, it’s definitely not a non-consensual thing, I don’t mean to say that at all. I think that there are definitely pre-negotiated agreements between couples when they go into a swinger situation, where lot of people are okay with swapping, where if one person in the couple approaches another couple, there is an implicit agreement that they will be basically trading places. And it’s very consensual because I’m sure that these couples would never approach anybody that they hadn’t previously talked to their partner about ahead of time. The play parties are just a little more lax in that I could go up to a woman or a man and say, “Hey, would you like to do this kinky thing with me” and they can say yes, and that’s fine, and I don’t necessarily need to get Ben’s permission or that person’s partner’s permission.
19:42 Yue: Got it.
19:42 Kate: It’s implied if I go in there…
19:42 Ben: And I’m not necessarily hooking up with that person’s partner either.
19:47 Yue: So you’re not doing stuff as a couple really. You’re there individually.
19:49 Kate: Usually, no.
19:50 Ben: Not necessarily.
19:50 Kate: We typically play separately when we go to events like that.
19:51 Yue: Not necessarily. I mean, it’s like when you have playtime as kids too.
20:00 Ben: They call them play parties for a reason.
20:00 Kate: It should be fun.
20:02 Yue: What is the progression of events after this?
20:04 Ben: In parallel, I had started talking to a woman who wanted to go on a date with both of us.
20:09 Kate: On OkCupid, you met her.
20:10 Ben: On OkCupid. And so the three of us went out and we had a great time at dinner and we all went back to our place and had another awkward threesome. And Kate and I were talking about it the next day and she says, “You know what? I don’t have lot of sexual chemistry with this woman, but you two, you guys should date.”
20:36 Yue: Okay.
20:37 Kate: And I really liked her and I still really like her. I definitely consider her a friend. But I just wasn’t feeling like we had a whole lot of sexual chemistry. And that’s, I think, when we first started to realize, wow, the odds of finding one other person that we both have an equal amount of sexual chemistry with seemed very low actually. We really should probably just be meeting new people that we like and spend time with them and see what happens. And I realize that what happened was they had chemistry and they really, really liked each other and I thought they should pursue that.
“We started to realize that the odds of finding one other person that we both have an equal amount of sexual chemistry with seemed very low, actually. We really should probably just be meeting new people that we like and spend time with them and see what happens.”
21:12 Ben: And you guys got along as friends, which was important. So this is where we figured out the whole kitchen table polyamory.
21:16 Yue: Yeah, let’s talk about the rules and the boundaries.
21:19 Kate: Yeah.
21:19 Ben: Sure.
21:21 Kate: We have very limited rules. Most people you would talk to, probably, I think would have more rules than we do. Mine are basically no tenants, no students, no employees, nobody in a subordinate position who could… Really, this is legally covering our ass. Nobody who could say, “Oh, these kinky people forced me into something.” We need to be able to actually like this person. If it’s somebody we don’t want in our home, that’s veto territory right there, that doesn’t usually happen.
21:55 Ben: And the other reason that us all getting along is so important is because one of the things that you hear when people go on the radio and talk about polyamory is about how love is infinite and that may be true but time is not, and a lot of other finite resources, they get wrapped up in relationships, so if I have to sub-divide my limited free time when we’re both working full-time to go see this other person, that will get inconvenient.
22:22 Yue: I have so many questions about applying the rules of dating or the norms of dating to a polyamorous relationship. When you guys go on dates with the third party, who pays for the date?
22:34 Kate: Oh, I think it’s different every time. If somebody is hard up for a job, the other people who are gainfully-employed will split the bill. I don’t think we have any specific thing we do there.
22:47 Ben: No.
22:47 Yue: And then do you ever get in a situation where you go on a date with someone and the two of you are like, “Oh, when should we text her next?” Or, “When should we ask her out again?”
22:57 Kate: Yeah. That’s definitely intimidating.
23:01 Ben: Insofar as we have rules, one of my number one rules of poly is don’t be weird. If you want to text somebody, text them.
23:10 Yue: So no game-playing.
23:11 Ben: No, why? We’re adults. Nobody has time for that.
“Why [play games]? We’re adults. Nobody has time for that.”
23:16 Yue: But do you guys, at home, just the two of you, go, “Do you think she liked us?”
23:21 Kate: Oh, yeah. Totally.
23:22 Ben: Of course.
23:22 Yue: You discuss it?
23:23 Ben: Of course.
23:23 Kate: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I just don’t like eating in front of people and it’s polite to take somebody to dinner and I get really self-conscious because I’m chewing, and it’s a whole thing.
23:32 Yue: This date is just you and this other person.
23:34 Kate: Yes, I am going on a date with a man I met on Tinder.
23:40 Ben: It’s her first Tinder date.
23:41 Kate: Yeah. I only just downloaded Tinder a week ago. I don’t think I’m going to keep it on my phone. But I did meet this one nice person and so we are going to go meet at a burger place.
23:51 Yue: And Ben, would you have to approve him beforehand? Have you seen his profile?
23:55 Ben: I have seen his profile because Kate has been avoiding the whole social media dating thing for a long time because it stresses her out. So Kate’s Tinder experience was lying in bed next to me, inspecting every profile, every detail.
24:09 Kate: I would ask him, “What do you think? Do you think he’s cute? I can’t tell. He’s kind of far away in this picture. Oh, he’s into rock climbing. Does that mean he’s a douche or does that mean he’s cool?”
24:16 Ben: I was like, “Babe, right or left.”
24:18 Yue: Right or left, just make a decision.
24:20 Kate: He was getting irritated with me because I kept asking for help basically. I’ve never been on Tinder and he does all of our online profile maintenance, mostly because I just don’t really care to. I find it very stressful.
24:34 Yue: So you guys date as a couple but then also date individually.
24:37 Kate: Yes, we do.
24:38 Yue: Right? And you’ve introduced other women into the threesome, but what about men?
24:44 Kate: I have dated another guy. Yes.
24:45 Yue: Into your relationship with Ben?
24:48 Kate: No.
24:48 Yue: No. Okay.
24:48 Kate: It was just he and I. I think they tried to be friends. I don’t think that worked out very well. They just didn’t have… On the surface, they had a lot in common, but when it really came down to it, they just didn’t have a lot to talk about. So that was a little stressful. And that’s actually…
25:01 Ben: He was terrified of me.
25:02 Kate: That’s actually one of the reasons that we stopped dating, was that it just wasn’t…
25:07 Yue: Why was he terrified of you?
25:08 Ben: I don’t know. I was trying to be friendly.
25:11 Kate: He was new to this and I think he… Honestly, I don’t think he believed me that everything I was doing was okay with Ben. I think that he felt very unsure of what our rules were. He felt unsure of them because we didn’t have a lot of them. He was expecting me to have a bullet list to go down and I… He was just like, “Well, it’s a little more chill than that, you know? We do things that make us happy and we check in with each other. We never want to make each other unhappy.”
25:37 Ben: And we use condoms.
25:38 Ben: Unless…
25:41 Yue: But do you condoms with each other?
25:42 Ben: No.
25:42 Yue: Okay. Are you into men as well then?
25:45 Ben: No.
25:45 Yue: Okay. So only women for you. And for you, Kate, men and women?
25:49 Kate: Hetero-flexible. I tried to date a gal once and she was probably the loveliest gal. I just can’t say enough good things about her and I just realized I just wasn’t that attracted to women. I do like to play with women when it’s at a party and, I guess, I feel a little more, go crazy and have fun, but as far as dating one, it didn’t seem like the right thing for me.
26:18 Ben: I want to jump back to my New York girlfriend again for a second, just because I feel like it really encapsulates our experience of this. About once a week, she would come over and she and I would catch up, and hang out and have sex for a couple hours, and just relax, do our own thing. And Kate would go out shopping and be very grateful for the totally unencumbered alone time.
26:44 Kate: Loved it. Yeah.
26:47 Ben: And then Kate would come over and we’d all have dinner together.
26:49 Yue: Okay. Okay.
26:50 Ben: And that was great.
26:50 Yue: And I want to ask about this time spent. Because I feel like… Your time… Time is not infinite, right?
26:56 Ben: Correct.
26:56 Yue: So do you allot time in a week to spend with other people versus with each other?
27:01 Kate: We definitely sit down and look at our calendars and make sure that we’re leaving enough time for everybody.
27:06 Yue: Gotcha.
27:06 Kate: I don’t want anybody to feel like they’re on the sidelines. Ben has a really beautiful way of putting this. He says he wants… Well, you say it. I’m gonna mess it up.
27:16 Ben: I guess I was explaining to somebody and I basically said that we want our partners to be as much a part of our family as they want to be.
“We want our partners to be as much a part of our family as they want to be.”
27:24 Kate: Yeah. Yeah. But we understand that when somebody’s coming into our situation that we are married, we definitely are in a hierarchical open situation where each other definitely comes first, but that doesn’t mean somebody’s emotions are any less important, and so we try very hard to make sure that we don’t ever make somebody feel like they’re a third wheel. We have a two bedroom place we rented on purpose and we try to make sure that neither bedroom feels like the master bedroom. We just have two spaces. And I’ve made them… I decorated them both very beautifully to make sure that it felt really equal, that if you had a woman over for the night that she didn’t feel like she was getting shoved in the dinky junk closet room or something.
28:12 Yue: Well, so let’s go to that. If you do have a woman over, what happens? She spends the night. Where does she sleep?
28:19 Kate: They’ll sleep in one of the beds. It actually depends on…
28:23 Ben: That’s ‘cause Kate doesn’t like to cuddle.
28:27 Kate: That’s true. I don’t like to cuddle.
28:27 Yue: Perfect.
28:28 Ben: So I’m trying to squeeze her into the same bed and Kate’s like, “No. You guys gotta… ”
28:33 Yue: So they’ll go into the other room.
28:35 Kate: Yeah. And whichever room we sleep in depends on who wants to watch TV that night, because one of the bedrooms has a TV and the other one doesn’t. So it’s up in the air, which bed you’ll sleep in, which is totally fine; they’re both really comfy.
28:45 Ben: Just a little background. I was dating this girl a few months after we got to San Francisco and started making friends. And so she was coming over every so often. And she was the kind of person that would wake up in the middle of the night, wake me up, and try to have sex with me. And that would wake Kate up. And she was like, “We’re not sharing a bed anymore. She wants to do that, that’s fine, but you’re waking me up.”
29:05 Kate: I need better sleep than that.
29:07 Kate: I couldn’t function at work the next day if I get woken up in the middle of the night. So it was like, “You guys have to go in the other room to have sex.”
29:14 Yue: But what if you both want to have sex with Ben at the same time, but you don’t want her?
29:18 Kate: It would be up to her, of course, if that were something that she would be okay with.
29:21 Yue: It’s up to her?
29:22 Kate: Oh, absolutely.
29:23 Yue: To have a threesome, you mean?
29:24 Kate: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
29:25 Yue: So what if you both, individually, are competing to have sex with Ben? Does that ever happen?
29:29 Kate: That hasn’t happened. No. I think that’s part of why you have to be mindful of each other’s feelings and the calendar, the time thing, is the trickiest point.
29:42 Ben: I don’t think the word competing has ever entered my brain whenever I think about this.
“I don’t think the word competing has ever entered my brain whenever I think about this.”
29:45 Kate: Yeah. But if somebody’s had a really bad day and they’re like, “I need comfort. I need cuddles tonight. And I need this,” you step out of the way. The person who’s in a better spot goes to the side and makes sure that… We make sure we’re taking care of everybody the way that we need to.
30:01 Yue: So you have to be extremely in touch with each other and also communicative.
30:05 Kate: You just have to talk a lot.
30:06 Yue: A lot.
30:07 Kate: Yeah. And don’t assume. Say it out loud. We spend so much time just talking about this. I’ve learned so much more about myself from just having these conversations than I would have without Ben.
30:19 Ben: Yeah, I feel like our relationship is a lot stronger for having to talk about everything and just everything is on the table.
30:25 Yue: Do you ever get jealous?
30:26 Kate: I don’t, he does.
30:28 Ben: I get jealous about very specific things.
30:30 Yue: Like what?
30:31 Ben: Like if Kate wants to do something with somebody else that she didn’t want to do with me, like that. Or if I feel like she’s taking a lot of time away from me to go see somebody else. So we work that out.
30:43 Yue: How do you work that out?
30:44 Kate: Just say, “Hey… ”
30:45 Ben: Better scheduling.
30:46 Kate: “I feel like you’re spending three nights a week this week with this other person and then the nights that we do have at home I know one of them is gonna have to be take out the garbage night, and one of them is gonna have to be, we do our taxes night, and we’re not gonna get to have a date night this week. So can you please re-arrange your schedule so that we can have that time together?” Just say that.
31:08 Yue: Currently, as we speak today, how many other relationships do you have individually?
31:12 Kate: Right now I have none. God, that sounds sad.
31:14 Yue: Okay. So you’re not dating anybody?
31:17 Kate: No.
31:17 Yue: Is that sad? Is that sad at all?
31:19 Kate: I don’t know. When I say it out loud like that… No. That’s the thing. Again, I don’t feel like there’s anything missing in my life.
31:26 Yue: Okay.
31:26 Kate: It’s like I have this option to learn more about other people and about myself and to have these other great experiences. It’s also just a lot less stressful. If I find myself attracted to somebody, I’m not nervous about it or try to hide it from anybody. It just can be. And that makes my life, I think, considerably less stressful.
“If I find myself attracted to somebody, I’m not nervous about it or try to hide it from anybody. It just can be.”
31:47 Yue: And then Ben, how many relationships do you currently have?
31:49 Ben: None at the moment. I guess this is just a transitional time for us.
31:53 Yue: When was your last relationship?
31:55 Ben: A couple months ago.
31:56 Yue: Okay. Why did it end?
32:00 Ben: It was her first polyamorous relationship, I met her at one of the happy hours and it was a big journey for her and it was really good for a while and then just over.
32:14 Yue: Okay. When was your last relationship, Kate?
32:17 Kate: Oh, gosh. It was probably about a year ago. It ended badly and I’ve actually been avoiding dating since then, because I was just very sad afterwards. He didn’t really quite believe me that all of this was okay. I wish I could play him this podcast. I think he thought I was a liar.
32:34 Yue: And you should.
32:35 Kate: Well, I’m not talking to him, so…
32:37 Yue: Ben, were you there for her when she was going through this bad break up?
32:40 Kate: Oh, that’s the cutest part, yeah. If somebody breaks up with you… Actually, his last relationship ended on the day before Valentine’s Day, and he was really sick and we ended up just cuddling and talking about her pretty much all weekend.
32:56 Ben: Kate was far more upset than I was. I was like… I was ready for it.
32:58 Kate: I was upset.
33:01 Ben: We’d been growing a little more distant and, of course, her first poly relationship, I’m braced for impact, because people learn a lot about themselves when they’re doing this for the first time, of course.
33:11 Kate: I was upset on his behalf because I felt like she didn’t value how much he put into that and how much it meant to him. That was a fairly flippant way to say, “I don’t care as much about you as you care about me,” which is completely fair and if that’s where she is, she should say that. And I probably shouldn’t have gotten so upset. I didn’t get upset with her or anything, we’re still fine.
33:33 Ben: But there was clearly a misunderstanding there and what that says to me is that we probably didn’t communicate as well as we should have, like that.
33:38 Kate: Well, and this happens too, people feel like, “Oh, you can only really love me if you leave your wife.” Or, “Oh, you can only really care about me if you don’t care about this other person.”
33:48 Yue: One or the other, yeah.
33:48 Kate: Yeah. So I think might have been maybe a part of it, I’m not sure.
33:53 Yue: Well, that comes with a misunderstanding of what a polyamorous relationship is. So in the interest of time, I’m gonna wrap this up. We have to get you guys back because there are so many more questions.
34:02 Ben: There’s a lot of story here.
34:03 Yue: A lot of stories, a lot more depth and layers to all of this, but one last thought is, give me a two-second sentence of advice to someone who’s thinking about getting into a polyamorous relationship?
34:18 Kate: It just takes a lot of honesty with yourself. You have to know what you want. Sometimes that means you have to go experiment and figure out what you want. You can’t figure this all out in a vacuum. You have to be willing to be very honest with the people that you’re engaging with and telling them everything. If something is bothering you, you’re feeling jealous, be honest about that, talk about that. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot more time, I think, than a traditional relationship, to do it right. And it’s very intimidating too. There’s a whole big glossary of new terms you have to learn, because we live in a culture where we don’t have words for a lot of these things. All of a sudden, we’re hearing words like “metamour” and “compersion.” Compersion is the feeling of happiness that somebody you love loves another.
“You can’t figure this all out in a vacuum. … If something is bothering you, you’re feeling jealous, be honest about that, talk about that.”
35:12 Yue: Oh, wow.
35:12 Kate: I might not even be getting that definition right. So it’s just a very intimidating thing to dip your toe into.
35:18 Yue: Totally.
35:19 Kate: I would recommend OkCupid. I think that’s a safe place. I think there’s a lot of like-minded people on there. One thing is that the lingo changes from region to region within the US even, so find out what your local dialect for this is.
35:35 Ben: We found out that “swapping” was a loaded term when we started to travel.
35:39 Yue: Oh, okay. So basically take a course on…
35:43 Kate: Well, resources like this, like the Date/able Podcast. People who are willing to talk about this kind of thing. Go seek that out, go on, on Reddit, there’s a non-monogamy subreddit, there’s a polyamory subreddit.
35:56 Ben: Well, before I ever send anybody over there, I’d have them read Dossie Easton’s book.
36:01 Kate: Yes, and that’s a wonderful book.
36:01 Yue: What’s it called?
36:04 Ben: Dossie Easton and her friend, whose name I can’t remember right now, wrote a book called The Ethical Slut. But she’s still active around the Bay Area, we actually met her a couple weeks ago, she was speaking. And it’s still very, very relevant and that was a book that we read when we were trying to figure this stuff out.
36:25 Kate: Yeah, it’s a really great resource. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I guess, is what I would tell people and try to seek out resources. And if you think something is not for you, then it probably isn’t for you. There’s a lot of different varieties of this and you just have to do your research.
36:41 Ben: If I can take a stab at the short description, the advice I would give people that are just getting into this for the first time is that if you are doing this with a partner, you have to walk into it knowing that you will upset each other at some point because there’s no way to discuss everything in advance, and when that happens, you have to talk about it and agree to figure out what went wrong and not be upset with each other.
“you have to walk into it knowing that you will upset each other at some point because there’s no way to discuss everything in advance. When that happens, you have to talk about it and agree to figure out what went wrong and not be upset with each other.”
37:03 Yue: Great advice. So here’s a treat for all of our listeners at home. If you are someone who’s curious about polyamory or non-traditional relationships, email us, contact us and we will forward your questions on to Ben and Kate who, I’m sure you will love to answer some of these questions and guide people in the right direction. I’m sure there’s a lot of mistakes you learned along the way that you can help other people not make the same mistakes. And also we want to hear your stories, are you in a non-traditional relationship? Tell us about it, we want to get you on the show. I want to thank you guys, Ben and Kate, for being on the show and for being open and honest and telling us your story, and on the count of three, we’re gonna say stay dateable. Three, two, one.
37:44 All: Stay dateable!