‘Season 1, Episode 3
Polyamory: Bustin’ Myths and Talkin’ Truths with Franklin Veux
Catalina Lawsin, PhD
About This Episode
In this week’s episode I’m delighted to have chatted with Franklin Veux about polyamory. Franklin has always engaged in polyamorous relationships, is an educator and go to guy when it comes to polyamorous and ethical non-monogamous relationships. Franklin has been practicing polyamory since before the term existed and launched the leading web resource on polyamory, morethantwo.com in 1997. In 2014 Franklin and his partner Eve wrote More Than Two: A practical guide to polyamory. Throughout his public and private adventures, Franklin integrates his own experiences as well as those from the thousands of individuals and couples around the world who have shared their hard learned lessons with him. Franklin has started and expanded conversations on ethical non-monogamous relationships, how to navigate them and how to grow and expand love for yourself and others through them. It’s so great to meet you Franklin, thanks so much for joining my show.
In this episode we’ll start off chatting about Franklin’s personal journey with poly and his experience educating others about poly relationships.
We’ll address some common Myths about polyamory. Franklin provides some great info on common myths about poly on your website Morethantwo.com and will share the most popular myths that need busting.
We’ll explore transparency in poly relationships and barriers to transparency in poly or any relationship.
We’ll talk about growing pains and gains in poly relationships and how to navigate these.
We’ll differentiate between Rules vs Needs vs Boundaries in poly or any type of relationship. We’ll also explore how these need to be flexible as relationships and individuals evolve.
We delve into so many common experiences of relationships in this episode. It was a lovely chat and sharing of our experiences. I hope you enjoy the show and I’d love to hear your thoughts any questions you may have.
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Dr. Catalina: Polyamory. Maybe you’re considering a polyamorous relationship or maybe you’ve been in one for years or you don’t even know what it is. I’m excited today to welcome Franklin [Voh] to the show, so stay tuned and let’s explore polyamory.
Dr. Catalina: I’m Dr. Catalina Lawson, a licensed clinical psychologist, and I love talking about sex. Sex Marks The Spot is a podcast that bridges the gap between what we know and what we actually do when it comes to sex, relationships, and health.
Dr. Catalina: Okay, well I’m delighted to introduce our guest to the show, Franklin Voh, a leading practitioner, educator and go-to guy when it comes to polyamorous and ethical nonmonogamous relationships. Franklin has been practicing polyamory since before the term even existed and launched the leading website resource on polyamory. morethantwo.com in 1997. In 2014, Franklin and his partner Eve wrote More Than Two, A Practical Guide To Polyamory. Throughout his public and private adventures, Franklin integrates his own experiences, as well as those from the thousands of individuals and couples around the world who shared their hard learned lessons with him. Franklin has started and expanded conversations on ethical nonmonogamous relationships, how to navigate them, and how to grow and expand love for yourself and others through them. It’s so great to meet you Franklin. Again, I am so honored and super psyched to have you on the show.
Franklin: It’s wonderful to be here. Hi.
Dr. Catalina: Hi. Okay, well why don’t we just start off? I gave you a little bit of an intro, and definitely clarify anything I messed up, but can you give me a little bit of background about your journey with Polly and what led you to even sharing this experience so openly and definitely actually going through the effort of creating these wonderful resources for everyone?
Franklin: Well, okay. So that’s kind of a long story because I have never been in a monogamous relationship in my life. Even when I was a kid, monogamy really didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I didn’t understand why people wanted it. I didn’t understand this entire idea of you should devote yourself to just one person and you can never have more than that.
Franklin: When I was in high school, I took two people to my high school senior prom, which raised a few eyebrows.
Dr. Catalina: Okay. Two girls? Two guys?
Franklin: Two girls, yes.
Dr. Catalina: Okay.
Franklin: But I’ve never been in a monogamous relationship. The problem is that I never knew that there were other people who were like me either. So actually when I got out of school and I went into the real world, I started dating a woman who ultimately became my first wife, and she was monogamous and came from a very traditional Italian Catholic background. So as you can imagine, there was some tension in our relationship. We didn’t really understand each other in a lot of ways and I think it’s amazing that we held it together for as long as we did because we were together for 18 years, even without really understanding what we both wanted.
Franklin: I told her, of course, early on in the relationship that monogamy was not something that was important to me. She was actually the first of the two of us, while we were together, who had an outside lover. And for a while she and I and my best friend and my best friend’s girlfriend were in what would today be called a polyamorous quad, although of course we didn’t really have that language back then. This was late 1980s early 1990s that this was going on.
Dr. Catalina: Okay.
Franklin: So yeah, it was an interesting experience because we didn’t have a community, we were sort of making things up as we went along, and so we got some things right, we got some things wrong. We ultimately were not able, she and I, to make the relationship last because, as she put it, this was really not what she wanted. She wanted a traditional relationship, she wanted a traditional marriage, she wanted that this suburban house with the white picket fence and all of those things.
Franklin: And I started writing online on my personal website back then about polyamory. So I had gone into a project with a college friend of mine, we started a small press magazine, and we created a website for the magazine.
Dr. Catalina: You have to tell me when that was where you were in your relationship, in your relationship development, as far as you exploring Polly.
Franklin: So this was in the mid 1990s, I was still with my ex wife, and a college buddy of mine and I had started a small press underground magazine. It was called Zero Magazine, which is why my website is called zeromag.com, and then each one of us put up out… It was mostly a website that was for the magazine, but each one of us had our own little private personal page. And on my personal page, I talked about polyamory. And I wasn’t actually trying to write a resource for polyamory, I was writing basically for the early version of me who was screwing things up and getting things wrong and stuff like that. We woke up one day and the poly section of the site was more widely visited than the rest of the site. And then in… When was it? It was sometime in the mid ’90s, Montel Williams, the talk show host, did a segment about polyamory and we woke up and we had an alert from our ISP that the website had exceeded its bandwidth because people went online after the episode and they started Googling polyamory and they found the pages on Zero Mag and so it kind of exploded from there.
Dr. Catalina: Wow.
Franklin: And I kept adding on and I kept adding on, but I was writing a resource that was for the younger version of me, I wasn’t setting out to write what it ultimately became. And then it got so popular and dwarfed the rest of the site to such an extent that I took all the poly stuff and I moved them onto their own domain, which is where More Than Two came from. So Zero Mag still exists and it’s my personal site now, the magazine is now defunct, but all of the poly stuff has been shifted over to morethantwo.com.
Dr. Catalina: Cool. Okay. Well, I definitely saw a lot of overlap between what you have on morethantwo.com as well as what you have in More Than Two, your book. Definitely, it seemed like you shared so much of you and Eve’s experiences. I mean it just sounds like it was such an organic… One, I mean you’re an amazing writer and so for you to just so openly to just begin to share this and then actually to just continue and particularly, it almost sounds like you’re saying everything was really for this younger you, that naive you, that it almost, I can imagine, was a bit of like a journaling process for you of making sense and integrating your own experience into who you are now too. Right?
Franklin: In a lot of ways it was, yes. The early poly community didn’t have a lot of institutional knowledge and there wasn’t a lot of real understanding of what works and what doesn’t. So if you trace the poly community when it first started to develop from the early 1990s up through today, you’ll see that it has gone through a lot of really significant shifts.
Franklin: And one of those shifts actually is a move away from the idea that polyamory is something that couples do toward an idea that polyamory is something that people do because the early poly scene was very much a couples plus kind of approach to polyamory where there was an emphasis on the couple, there was always a central couple and then they had secondary outside partners, and that caused a lot of damage and that caused a lot of harm to people. And there wasn’t a lot of institutional knowledge really about why that approach could be damaging because people were so concerned, I think, that polyamory would harm the couple, that polyamory was this dangerous thing that needed to be controlled, that they really, really believed that other partners needed to be kept at arm’s length so they wouldn’t hurt the core couple.
Dr. Catalina: Gotcha. Gotcha. Well I think that actually reminds me to take one quick step back and get your definition of polyamory and considering, but can you give me your definition of how you, I guess, introduce polyamory or describe it?
Franklin: So I think that polyamory at its core is basically any romantic relationship that involves more than two people. And the core components of it are romantic relationships, so it’s not purely recreational sex. There’s an expectation of continuity and an expectation of a emotional connection, and more than two. There’s three or more people involved somehow. Polyamory can take a lot of different forms. There are still many people who do a sort of couples centric model where they have a primary couple and then they have secondary partners. There are people who do more egalitarian polyamorous networks. There are open networks. There are a closed poly families. It’s all polyamory.
Dr. Catalina: Well, and I felt like you in your book, you were using polyamory and ethical non-monogamy as almost interchangeable. Is that fair or… There’s so many terms out there, I think it gets confusing, right?
Franklin: So it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I think that ethical non-monogamy is essentially anything that involves more than two people with the understanding that it’s honest and that people consent to be included in it. But for example, swinging is ethical non-monogamy. People sometimes have [inaudible] rules. That would be a type of ethical non-monogamy. People do like closed groups swinging or friend’s first swinging, which are forms of ethical non-monogamy that are not necessarily the same as poly… Ah, you want to go down? Okay, kitty, you may go down. I am definitely cat’s slave.
Franklin: But all of those things are under sort of the umbrella of ethical non-monogamy, but they’re not necessarily the same as polyamory.
Dr. Catalina: Gotcha. Okay. I feel like I’ve seen all of these Venn diagrams-
Franklin: Yeah, I did a big one a while back and yeah, it got a little bit out of hand.
Dr. Catalina: I guess the one thing about polyamory, which I feel like does distinguish itself is the relationship component of it which very much shifts it from just being open to… And that’s where I felt like one of the biggest things I got from exploring your work is how much so many of the tenants that you talked about in poly are really fundamental to any relationship.
Franklin: And that’s something that some of the reviewers of the book have said as well. It’s a book that you can take the ideas that we talk about and apply them to business partnerships, to friendships, to family relationships, essentially any kind of human interpersonal relationship.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. And I feel it’s so interesting because I feel like, on one hand people, who are maybe just very… Poly is very new to them or it’s foreign. I mean the number of friends or clients or particularly physicians in healthcare, it’s just not a term that they even are familiar with.
Franklin: But they will be.
Dr. Catalina: They will be. No, definitely I feel like things are shifting quickly.
Dr. Catalina: And I actually want to talk about that because how it’s shifting is interesting to me and you’ve mentioned it a little bit, but I’ll get to that in a second. But it does seem like there’s so many assumptions too that actually threaten just the dialogue of actually understanding. And with all the different labels of whether it be identity or the relationship status, I feel like sometimes it actually overwhelms people that they can’t actually engage in really just exploring where someone else is at and seeing how they define things.
Franklin: And there’s a huge amount of baggage that people pack into their relationships and into the way they think about relationships without even necessarily being aware that they’re packing it in. So for example, you’ll hear people say things like, “Well, isn’t polyamory for people who can’t commit?” Which is really weird because if you can’t commit to one person, you sure can’t commit to three or four. Or, “Polyamory is for people who are sex addicts,” and leaving aside the idea that sex addiction is not really accepted in the medical community at all, there are asexual people who are polyamorous. So there are all of these assumptions and all of these strange kinds of interpretations that people will pack into the idea of polyamory that you need to unpack before you can’t even start having these conversations.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. I guess along those lines, one of the common myths that you addressed was this idea of, “Oh, it’s just an excuse to cheat,” when that is the… I mean, well I’ll let you clarify it, because the idea that polyamory and cheating is seen side by side is the most ironic thing.
Franklin: So people forget what the word cheating means. Cheating doesn’t mean having sex with somebody else. Cheating means breaking the rules. If we’re playing poker, it’s cheating to look at another player’s cards. If I’m playing a different card game that lets me look at other players cards, that’s not cheating, by definition. And if I am in a relationship where it’s not against the rules to have other partners, not cheating.
Dr. Catalina: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like one of the biggest tenants that polyamory almost… I mean part of the ethical part of it, but that I guess I really appreciate of it is that first and foremost it’s about transparency.
Franklin: Ideally. There are people who do what is called don’t ask, don’t tell polyamory. And there can be some problems with that in the real world. That creates situations that make it very difficult for the people outside of that core couple to feel safe, and we talk about some of those in More Than Two, but there are people whose approach to polyamory is not necessarily transparent.
Dr. Catalina: Well, and that was definitely something I’m happy you brought up because throughout even just meeting people who are poly and who really publicly identify themselves as poly, or clients who still when they meet someone new will have a real hard time about being transparent even if they don’t have the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And I guess I’m wondering, what have you seen are some of the barriers or some of the things that maintain that lack of transparency even amongst individuals who have been engaging in poly relationships for a while?
Franklin: There are a couple of things that can really sort of become a problem there. One of them is that none of us just Springs fully formed out of the head of Zeus. We are all the products of the environment that we grew up in and particularly, the ideas about relationships that were given from the time we’re in diapers. And when you approach polyamory [inaudible] history of monogamy, in many monogamous relationships, and I won’t say all because certainly there are people in monogamous relationships who do not become threatened or jealous, but in many monogamous relationships, it is very common for people to have this idea that if they express interest in another person or even if they find another person attractive, they cannot say that. It will trigger jealousy, it will trigger feelings of threat or abandonment. And so when you live your entire life believing that it is dangerous to express interest in somebody else or even express attraction to somebody else to your partner, it’s hard to let go with that overnight.
Franklin: And so you can say, “Okay, well we’re going to be polyamorous now,” but you still have to unlearn that. You still have to let go of that baggage. And honestly, there are people in polyamorous relationships who still do feel very easily jealous. I’ve been involved with some of those people myself. And as much as we like to say polyamory is about transparency and you should always be open with everything with your partner. When you are in a relationship with a partner who is jealous, who is insecure, who feels threatened easily, then there can be penalties for being open, emotional penalties primarily. But then you have to deal with your partner’s jealousy. And you can say that the easiest solution to that is simply you don’t date people who are jealous or don’t date people who are insecure, and to some extent there is maybe some truth to that, and that’s kind of an approach that I’m taking in my life these days, but you can’t just say, “Oh well if you’re insecure you can’t be part of polyamory,” that’s not reasonable. And most of us do carry insecurities with us.
Franklin: And it is very important if you recognize that in yourself to create a safe space for your partner to be open. Because if your partner is open with you and you respond with feelings of jealousy or threats, you’re not creating a safe space. There’s actually sort of a way that I like to frame that is approaching your relationships from I feel therefore I rather than I feel therefore you.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. It is so interesting how much that little shift is so impactful in how it just doesn’t threaten the other person and it actually creates a harbor that actually… I mean, and one of the things I like when, I’m not even sure where I’ve, like in any relationship I do think it’s important to have kind of scheduled check-ins, particularly when you have more than two of just checking in. Because one of the things I loved about your book was when you differentiated between rules versus needs-
Franklin: Rules, needs, and boundaries, yes.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. And so you want to give us a little bit of where you talk about your little synopsis of that bit that differentiates between rules, needs and boundaries.
Franklin: So the way we define them in More Than Two is that rules are behavioral prescriptions that you put on somebody else. And boundaries are always about yourself, access to you, your intimacy, your emotions, things like that. So for example, I feel jealous if you take a partner to our favorite restaurant, therefore you may not take a partner to our favorite restaurant is a rule. That is not a boundary. It’s something that you place on another person or other people. And in cases like that, without the consent of the third party, in fact a lot of rules don’t even think about the third party and don’t think about getting the third party’s consent.
Franklin: Whereas boundaries are things that you place on access to yourself. So for example, I will not be with somebody who talks to me in a certain way, I will not be with somebody who yells at me. That’s a boundary, not a rule. And the difference between, I won’t be with somebody who yells at me and you cannot yell at me, may sound like it’s just purely semantic, it may sound like it’s trivial, but the key component is the locus of control. I am controlling myself versus I am controlling you.
Dr. Catalina: Which we know we can’t control anyone else. I mean-
Franklin: Well, we can try.
Dr. Catalina: We can try and we’ll fail.
Franklin: But it’s so tempting to try.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely.
Franklin: Like when you’re in the middle of those feelings, it’s so tempting to say, “If you stopped doing these things then these feelings that I have will stop, so stop doing these things.” And it’s so hard to try to step away from that.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. And it feeds though this idea of, “Oh, you can give me this,” and as well as it gives us someone to blame, but it also, it seems particularly in relationships we, “Oh, this person makes me feel happy, makes me feel powerful.” No, actually they’re round. They’re fostering an environment. You make yourself up.
Franklin: Exactly. Exactly.
Dr. Catalina: I mean as so much romance out there that there is such this ideal that we actually put pressure, so much pressure on the relationship to do that. And I think that that was one of the other things I liked about your book was how much you were differentiating between when the relationship isn’t working for you.
Franklin: Yeah. And I think that one of the things that we inherit from this sort of monogamous culture that we live in is the idea that if the relationship doesn’t work for me or if the relationship doesn’t work for us and therefore, we agreed to end the relationship. That’s a failure. And that kind of failure always, always comes with blame attached. When monogamous people break up, when a monogamous couple gets a divorce, people always want to know whose fault it was.
Dr. Catalina: Yep. Who did this to who?
Franklin: Exactly. And they don’t see that a relationship has to work for all of the people involved or else it isn’t really working at all and that something like a divorce or the end of a relationship isn’t a problem. It’s solution to a problem. The problem is the relationship wasn’t working. The solution was to dissolve it and find a relationship that does.
Dr. Catalina: Absolutely. Absolutely, and I think that that’s important. I mean, and I think that sense of failure… I mean, because the other thing I really appreciated was this idea of scarcity versus abundance and how much that… Particularly in poly where it seems like, Oh gosh… I mean, and maybe not as much now, but definitely probably when you were exploring this or starting it out, “Oh, how am I going to find people who want the same type of relationship as me and in the same ways as me?” And I appreciate it because there’s definitely some people who, some poly couples who are in the public eye, when when they talk about even their Bumble profiles, they’re pretty explicit of what they’re actually wanting. And so this idea of actually just knowing that… Oh, she’s adorable. Knowing that we are a huge world. But what was your experience particularly early on? Because I think that this idea of scarcity really keeps people in bad relationships or-
Franklin: It does. So early on I absolutely positively came to relationships from a scarcity mindset and I totally believed that there was nobody else in the world who was like me that I would never find anybody who wanted all the same things that I did, and so I had to make it work. I had to make it work and that was all there was to it. And what happened, I think, was that I actually stayed in relationships that were dysfunctional with partners who didn’t want the same thing I wanted for longer than I really should have because I believed that I would simply have to go through all of this stuff again with any new partner that I dated, and so I would make all the same compromises because there was nobody else who wanted polyamory. And that messed me up for a while. It really did this.
Franklin: You get this sort of virtual speed back cycle going on. When you have an abundance mindset, you’re not desperate. You’re not always looking. That is attractive. And people notice you more because you are not constantly prowling for people, you’re not constantly acting desperate. So it becomes this virtual speed back cycle where the more you embrace an abundance mindset, the more people find you attractive. The more people find you attractive, the easier it is to embrace an abundance mindset. The more you do that, the more people find you attractive and yes, on and on it goes.
Dr. Catalina: Yep. Well, and I feel like that really does cut across all relationships as far as us actually just truly owning what it is we want and what we actually want to surround ourselves with you. And I feel like what it does also is, at the very beginnings of a relationship, it actually sets the plane.
Franklin: It does.
Dr. Catalina: Yeah. Okay. So my conversation with Franklin actually kept going and going and we were having so much fun, so I’m actually going to take a little bit of a pause for this week’s episode. But tune in for part two of my interview with Franklin, where we’re going to be exploring more about poly and exploring more about some tips of how to navigate poly relationships during, if you’re new to poly, and also how that translates into relationships in general. So thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode of Sex Marks The Spot. Check me out every Wednesday on hump day for your next episode. And feel free to add comments. I’m always open to questions or anything. You can find me on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube. Please comment, share, subscribe, and let’s get the word out and have these conversations about sex, health, and relationships. Have a great week. Cheers.
Dr. Catalina: The content on this show is meant to be relatable, educational, empowering, and hopefully, a little funny. It’s not meant to be treatment and some of the things we talk about may seem more easier said than done. So if you’re feeling stuck or alone or distressed, reach out for support from therapists, physicians, or other licensed healthcare providers. Thanks for listening and tune in each hump day for some juice to fuel your sexy day. Cheers
The content on this show is meant to be relatable, educational, empowering, and hopefully a little funny. It’s not meant to be treatment. Some of the things we talk about may seem more easier said than done. So if you’re feeling stuck, or alone, or distressed, reach out for support from therapists, physicians, or other licensed healthcare providers. Thanks for listening and tune in each Hump Day for some juice to fuel your sexy day. Cheers!
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