Couples Chronicles ó Interview 18
I Can't Imagine a Life without Both of Them
First published in September 1988
© 1999, Demian
Bob, 37, is a teacher. Mark, 35, is a warehouse worker. They have been partners for 12 years [in 1988]. Don, 24, who has just started a designer gift service, was a friend of Bob and Markís for two years before becoming an equal part of their family. They have lived as a trio for the past four years, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
How did you become a trio?
Don: I went to a party with a mutual friend who introduced me to Mark and Bob. After getting to know them, they helped me deal with two bad relationships.
During the third year, our friendship and mutual support became a more intimate relationship. The day it became more sexual we define as our anniversary date.
Mark and Bob had created a very caring environment, and we had a lot in common.
How do you relate with your families?
Don: My father passed away when I was eight, so my mom and I became very close and mutually supportive.
When I had a back injury, she brought my niece to visit. My mom told her not to drop cracker crumbs on the other side of the bed, and I said, ďNo, thatís O.K.Ē My mom turned to me and said, ďOh, whoís side of the bed is that?Ē
It was obvious she knew what was going on, but we had not talked about it. I will probably discuss my relationships with her soon.
Of my three, older sisters, one is very supportive of my being gay, and another sister is civil. I had a falling out with my third sister, who told me God says in the Bible that it is wrong to be gay. I said to her, ďArenít you divorced? It also says in the Bible that it is a sin to be divorced.Ē
She told me it was embarrassing for her to tell other people that she had a brother who was gay. I told her that she neednít consider having a brother any more, for as far as I was concerned, she didnít exist.
Mark: Donís mom and supportive sister are also supportive of Bob and me.
Don: We all get birthday and Christmas presents.
Mark: Weíre all included in all their family activities.
Bob: I have a real good, supportive relationship with my parents. They are aware of my being gay and of my relationship with Mark. They are not aware of the trio relationship.
I give them a lot of credit since they are in their mid-70s. The whole issue of my being gay hit them hard. Now, they treat us as a unit.
When an invitation is extended, it is to all three of us. Both Mark and Don feel very comfortable around them. I also have three older sisters, one of whom is very supportive.
The other big support in my family is from some of my nieces, who are about 21 years old, and are aware of the trio relationship. We had been very cautious about telling them, but it was no big deal when we did.
Mark: I donít have a good relationship with my family. I have one younger sister who is aware of the three of us, but she took it very hard, couldnít understand it. At this point she is fairly supportive, but itís not a close relationship.
Don: She didnít understand, but she bounced back quite a bit. Sheís very nice, very friendly to all of us, and I can easily talk with her.
Sheís come a long way from actually hating us and our situation to accepting it.
Bob: Markís sister is one who would not necessarily condone our relationship, but she would certainly defend it.
Mark: My parents found out from my sister that I was gay and that Bob and I are together, but they donít want to discuss or face it. I donít see much of them, even though they live only a few minutes away. They are recluses and donít really like people.
Do you own your own home?
Bob: Mark and I bought our home about five years ago, one year before Don moved in. If we move into a larger house, it would be a three-way split.
Mark: Don is the sole heir of the house if something should happen to both of us. So far as Iím concerned, itís equal to the three of us owning it.
Don: I am the beneficiary of Bob and Markís life insurance policies, and likewise, they are the beneficiaries of mine. They also have taken care of their wills. Up to this point I havenít had need of a will, but because I am in the process of starting my own business, I will do one. I fear that one of my less-than-friendly family members would try to take control of what I started.
So far as this house is concerned, we split the bills three ways, mutually paying for items. However, Mark and Bob have been supporting me financially for the last six months so I am able to start the business. There is potential for them to work for the business.
Mark: As far as finances go, we take care of our own personal bills. Though we do have a common savings account, we do not share checking because we believe that if one of us should become irresponsible, the others shouldnít be brought down because of it.
Has there been any problem with an individual overspending?
Bob: No. Any spending we do on the house, right down to groceries, is mutually decided.
Do you have Powers of Attorney papers on each other?
Don: Not yet.
Do you all sleep in the same bed?
Bob: Of course we do!
Mark: Unless one of us is ill and wants to be left alone.
Don: That has only happened twice in four years. We never considered another option. Weíre used to sleeping in the same bed, in the same order every night. I cannot sleep in any other position.
Who gets the middle?
Don: Bob. Mark gets the spot to his left. He got a side because he needs to get up the earliest for work. I got the other side because I like sleeping on the end.
Bob: I do have to get up early to feed the dog. When necessary, I jump out of the covers and crawl down to the foot of the bed. Itís all worked out to a wonderful system.
Mark: Our relationship isnít built on sex, itís built on affection and caring. Sleeping in the same bed is the affectional part of it.
Bob: As a rule of thumb, we try as much as we can to not talk about business or work at night, and not go to bed when we are angry. Weíve struggled through that and have been real successful.
Are you ďmonogamous?Ē
Mark: No formal agreements, thatís just the way all of us were.
Don: Yes, in four years, all of us have been faithful.
Are you sexually compatible?
Don: We do have different levels of sexual need and desire. We have worked it out so it is no longer uncomfortable if two of us are very active and one not. Sexually, all of our needs are being met.
Mark: From the very beginning, the three of us have had no jealousy between us. We assume that we each love each other, therefore, whatever goes on between any two or the three of us is fine. Itís one relationship.
In truth, itís four relationships. Itís how Bob and I relate after 12 years; how Don and I, and Don and Bob, relate after four years; and how all three of us relate. Though the complications go beyond those of just a couple, we run our lives like a couple, making decisions equally.
Have you had any problems relating?
Mark: Because of a bad family background, I have emotional problems to work out. One attitude my parents left me with was that people, sex and love are dirty. I went to therapy for six months. Now, I work on it internally, or with Bob, Don and friends.
Specifically, what would you like to change?
Mark: I have a problem with communication. There are many times when I just donít say anything, or am not sure what to say, but Iím improving.
Has there been a history of alcohol in your family?
Mark: My dad is an alcoholic, as is most of his family.
While growing up, there was no one for me to talk to, so Iíd go to my room to be by myself. I brought some of those bad habits into the relationship. The closer I got to people, the more I thought I was going to loose them.
The more complicated a relationship gets, I tend to close off. Because I was hurt by family, I just figure anyone close to me, or those I care about, are going to hurt me too. What Don and Bob repeat to me is, ďWeíre not your parents, we didnít do anything like this to you. Just open up, talk.Ē Itís something Iím learning to do.
How has this affected the relationship?
Don: There were communication problems, specifically with Mark, that did cause a problem to the point where we considered the option of terminating the relationship. That was not what any of us wanted. Weíre in the process of instituting new, better communication methods, like writing notes when we need to discuss things.
Bob: We used to passively assume what each other was really thinking. That lead to all kinds of problems. More recently, we say what we want and need from each other.
Advice to others?
Mark: To surround yourself with people who are basically stable and care about you.
Bob: We donít put a lot of emphasis on the fact that we are gay. Thatís one aspect, but we look at the total person, the total relationship.
Don: Be strong individuals. This is a strong relationship because we have chosen to be with, support and be supported by each other. We are not dependent and could make it on our own if we had too.
What do you see as the future of your relationship?
Don: We have agreed that this is our life-long relationship, something that we will build on and grow in.
Mark: I canít imagine a life without both of them.
Bob: Iím real hopeful, excited about the growth thatís going on now in the relationship. I donít see any reason for that to stop or change. Our network of support and friends is only going to grow.