|Torn … Maria with her men Paul (left) and Peter
A ZIMBABWEAN woman in love with two men came up with an unusual solution… she got both to move in with her.
Maria Vogel, 33, originally from Bulawayo, now shares the family home in Barking, London, with her children Laura, 16, and Amy, 12 and the two men in her life Paul Butzki and Peter Gruman.
Maria, who grew up in Saurcetown and did part of her secondary education at Northlea, was 15 when she met Paul in school and she fell pregnant with Laura two years later.
The couple got married before they had their second daughter, Amy, but the relationship hit a rocky patch in 2006.
Maria told the Daily Mirror: “Paul was out of work for six months and it put a strain on our relationship. The stress led to less sex and we grew apart. Although we carried on with life – cooking, cleaning, looking after the children – we’d lost our intimacy. The relationship was more brother and sister than a couple.”
Around the same time a new manager, Peter, started at Maria’s workplace.
“Someone introduced me to Peter and when we smiled at one another, I could feel the chemistry straight away,” she says. “Until that moment, I’d been happily married for 13 years to my childhood sweetheart and had never thought about being with another man.”
Peter, who was also married at the time, recalls the same instant attraction. “It was like a bolt from the blue… love at first sight,” he says.
Soon the pair were meeting secretly. “We’d meet at the local pub for lunch,” says Maria. “One day he put a hand on my leg and my whole body began trembling with desire. I knew it was wrong but soon we were sleeping together.”
Their affair carried on for a year before Paul stumbled on messages between them on Maria’s phone. She managed to convince him they were just friends. But a few months later her lover left his wife and moved from Luton, Beds, to be closer to Maria in Barking.
“I grew even closer to Peter,” says Maria. “Paul had to go away on business for a few weeks and so Peter took the children shopping, spoiling them rotten with gifts.”
But on Valentine’s Day in 2010, Maria says she could no longer cope with the secrecy. “I began to feel more and more that my future lay with Peter,” she says. “So I confessed my affair to Paul, and moved out to stay with Peter.”
Paul and the children were devastated. He says: “I was just shocked and heartbroken. I couldn’t believe Maria had left me.”
Over the next few months Paul and Maria took turns to have the children. “I felt bad about tearing the family apart,” says Maria. “So after work I’d go and clean and cook for Paul and the kids and then go home to Peter.”
So when the two men struck up an extraordinary friendship last year, Maria – tired of to-ing and fro-ing between her husband and lover – came up with the perfect solution… and moved Peter into the family home with Paul.
“People might think it’s weird but I love both men and couldn’t choose between them,” says Maria, a housing liaison officer.
“When I left Paul there was a huge hole in my life. But the thought of never seeing Peter again was heartbreaking. So living with both men is the only way.”
Incredibly, the men agree. Paul, a railway assessor, says: “Peter is a great guy. When Maria first had the affair with him I was just heartbroken. But as I got to know him, I realised we have so much in common. We both adore fishing, and he’s like a surrogate dad to the kids.”
Peter, a construction site manager, adds: “We all get on so well. It doesn’t feel as if I’m sharing Maria. There’s no jealousy… it feels as if we are a team.”
Peter sleeps on the sofa while Paul has a room upstairs. Maria shares a bedroom with her eldest daughter.
She says: “The three of us never share a bed. Although I have a sexual relationship with each man, that side is kept very private.
“If Paul is out, then Peter and I might make love, and vice-versa. But both men turn a blind eye and we never discuss it with one another.”
The “family” are now in the process of buying a larger house to accommodate them all.
Maria admits many friends and family find the arrangement difficult to understand.
“Some people are shocked, mostly because they get the wrong idea and think it’s some sort of threesome,” she says. “Most people seem to think I should just remain with Paul, but those who see all of us together think differently.”
She adds: “There are huge benefits to living together. For example, as Paul and I leave for work early, Peter is often able to take the children to school.
“Ultimately the children benefit from three adults able to help with school work or give them lifts. Financially too, it makes sense as the bills are split three ways.”
Ironically, Maria is now the one who sometimes gets jealous. “I’m left on my own when the pair of them go on a long fishing trip,” she says.