Hi Doc –
My wife and I have been together for 11 years and have 3 great kids. About three years ago my wife’s friend moved in during a tough spot and never left – we have been a ‘throuple’ ever since and she gave birth about a year ago. After our daughter was born we even had a ceremony and signed a living will to make us all ‘married’.
Here is the issue: She won’t tell her family. They all think we took her in during a rough patch and let her stay after she got knocked up by a dude they have all made up in her minds she was dating. They think it’s cute that she and my wife call me ‘daddy’ when they hand me the baby (‘go to daddy’ etc). My mother and sister know and are, broadly speaking, supportive. My wife’s family adores my “second wife”* and daughter.
*Yes we need better language than that but it’s the best I’ve got.
I get that her family is very conservative but I am not comfortable hiding our deal. I am in love two beautiful women and have great kids. Let’s shout it from the mountaintops or, at least, speak it in conversational tones from a well sized hill.
How do we come out to her family? I’m not comfortable hiding.
Three Some and More
So, a couple things, TSM. First, in terms of language, terminology and so on: I’m not sure how much reading you and your family have done on polyamory, but hitting the books might help not only handle issues of labels or descriptors, but help you navigate some of the difficult waters that come with having a poly relationship, including a triad like yours. One of the terms I’ve heard used in a group marriage like yours would be co-wife or co-spouse. That seems like it would work fairly well for your arrangement.
Now as for your co-wife not wanting to be out to her family… that’s going to be a tricky one. While I can completely understand your wanting to be out, open and proud about your relationships, the truth is that while people are increasingly more aware and accepting of polyamory and ethical non-monogamy, there’re still a lot of legal and social hurdles that can end up causing problems. For example: there’re very few legal protections for someone in a polyamorous relationship. Employers can — and do — fire people for being in polyamorous relationships. Because polyamory isn’t a protected status, there isn’t a legal recourse if your boss decides to fire you because they disapprove of it. Similarly, being poly can — and has — been used against parents in child custody cases in court. And while issues like child custody may not be an issue for you and your co-wives… that doesn’t mean it may not necessarily become an issue.
I bring this up because you mention that your co-wife’s family is very conservative. Right now, they’re cool with their daughter and granddaughter living with you while they think that you and your legal wife are helping their daughter out. If they found out that their daughter was actively sleeping with you and that you are the imaginary dirtbag who knocked up their precious baby… well, that could all change in a heartbeat. If they have a freak-out about the fact that their daughter is in a poly relationship, that could have any number of repercussions for her… and for the rest of your family. This could range anywhere from kicking your co-wife out of their family to actually challenging the three of you for custody of their granddaughter. While this is, admittedly, one hell of a worst-case scenario, there have been cases where in-laws or grandparents have sued for custody because they discovered that their child was in a poly relationship. And if you live in a state that doesn’t have third-parent adoption laws — which is most of them — the biggest thing keeping your family together would be the judge’s opinion on the matter.
I get that you aren’t comfortable hiding… but this isn’t strictly about your comfort. Your co-wife knows her family best, and if she isn’t comfortable being out to her family, then I think it’s best to respect her wishes. She has the better insight on how her family is likely to react, after all. She could well be pleasantly surprised, yes, but it’s still her call. Keep in mind: the fact that they think it’s cute that their granddaughter calls you “daddy” now. But if they discover that you actually are her daddy… well, this wouldn’t be the first time that parents did a 180 and decide that you’re a monster and unfit parents.
I think in this case, I think your best choice is to respect this as a boundary she’s established. However, this doesn’t mean that the three of you can’t discuss things.
I reached out to my friend and poly relationship expert Dr. Liz Powell, author of Building Open Relationships: Your Hands-On Guide to Swinging, Polyamory, and Beyond! and they recommended that you check out It’s Called “Polyamory”: Coming Out About Your Non-Monogamous Relationships by Tamara Pincus and Rebecca Hiles. This can help give you some tips and talking points to help navigate the process of coming out as poly to your co-wife’s family, and give you some perspective on if, when and how she wants to come out. Dr. Powell also had this to say: “The three of you will need to figure out what she needs to have set in case her family shuns her. Is she financially stable? Does she have a therapist or coach for support? And figure out if her work would fire her if they found out. Some folks can be vindictive.”
My suggestion is that you do your due diligence, TSM, and discuss this as a family. Reading “It’s Called ‘Polyamory'” can be a good starting point for the three of you. From there, you can have a series of conversations about the benefits and potential drawbacks of coming out to her parents and how she thinks they might react. However, at the end of the day, I believe the ultimate decision resides with your co-wife, and she should have the final say on both if and when she wants to be open with them about this.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I was introduced to you via your recent column about the man in the Red Pill community, and I have a related question for you:
I have recently found out the my boyfriend (possibly soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend) reads these PUA websites, especially one particularly virulent one. Learning this explains a lot of his unsavory behavior, breaches my trust to the point of debating breaking up, and leaves me wondering: if you have a girlfriend, why do you need to read this stuff? You have a loving girlfriend who isn’t just after your money or cheating, so why do you believe these lies?
If this is what’s happening, is the relationship too far gone to a) salvage it b) prove to him that women are not as simple as dog breeds and not all universal liars/golddiggers/man-haters, etc? How can I show him why this stuff is wrong without it seeming condescending or like a manipulative attack, especially since these sites train men that all things that come out of a woman’s mouth is an attempt at manipulation?
Resenting My Red-Pilled Partner
Y’know, RMRPP, after reading both your description of your boyfriend’s behavior and some relevant articles from the sites you mention, I’m really tempted to leave a link to some “Whole Man Disposal Services” and call it a day. But as fun as that can be… it’s not necessarily helpful, especially for someone in your position.
The reason why folks like your boyfriend buy into sites like these is because they don’t just promise to teach you how to get dates, sex or a relationship. They — like a lot of PUA gurus — promise people control. It’s not just about how to become a player, it’s about how to be the one “in charge” and make sure that their girlfriends do what they want. If — so the theory goes — you use these techniques, establish these patterns in your relationships and condition your girlfriend to accept these behaviors, then you will always be in charge and never have to worry about her leaving you, cheating you or not being willing to put up with your bullshit.
This approach is appealing because, honestly, we’re a society in the middle of a tidal wave of changes, and it often feels like those changes are coming faster and faster every day. A lot of the so-called “rules” that dictated our behavior have been up-ended, especially with regards to gender and sexuality. It can be hard to believe that one of the top-grossing movies of the 80s was a comedy about Michael Keaton becoming a stay-at-home dad and isn’t that WEIRD? In the 90s, someone being trans could be the punchline (or surprising plot twist) of an entire movie and even in the mid 2000’s, date rape, revenge porn and sexual assault were still considered prime comedy material.
I mention this because one of the effects of all these changes is that we’ve become increasingly aware of just how much of what we as a whole — and cis, straight men in particular — were taught to believe, to expect and to act like, were not just wrong, but actively harmful. A lot of what we were raised to believe accepted and expected behavior was, in fact, bullshit. From gender roles to how to behave with women, to what a happy and successful relationship looked like… we’ve been watching all of that change and realizing that much of what we were taught was wrong.
To be fair: this sense of displacement isn’t new. That feeling that the world had changed and we were still scrambling to figure out what comes next is at the center of movies like The Matrix and Fight Club — especially when the unwritten rules that dictated so much of your life seem to have vanished. But new or not, there’re a lot of folks who feel lost and confused and uncertain. There’s a feeling of being adrift and, in a lot of cases, a sense of the loss of the “good old days” when things made sense.
Which is, ultimately, what a lot of sites like this appeal to: the idea of the dominant male, the submissive female. The man has to be strong and in charge, the woman is grateful to the man and everyone’s happy because they know their place. Throw a little evo-psych or profound misunderstandings about biology and sexuality into the mix and set it up in such a way as to create an artificial dichotomy that puts YOU as top-dog (such as the Pick-up Artist/Average Frustrated Chump, Red-Pill/Simp or Chad/Incel dichotomy) and you’ve got something you can sell to lonely, confused or anxious men.
After all, it’s easier to sell something that panders to negative emotions, whether it’s the desire for control, to dominate others or just feel superior to other people. Doubly so when you can ascribe that anxiety to someone else. This is one of the reasons why so many toxic sites and MRA-adjacent groups will make a production about Western women and how awful they’ve become; it’s easier to say “look, we gave women an inch and they took a mile” than to say “Yeah, turns out a lot of what we thought was fine was actually toxic as hell and it was making life a living hell and we need to reconsider.”
Now you mention how much those sites make women out to be hypergamous gold-diggers, liars, manipulators, etc. This is an important part of their pitch for three reasons.
First, it helps confirm the feelings that a lot of dudes have — that women just screw with men because FUCK YOU PENIS, THAT’S WHY. Validating those feelings means that the men who are more prone to buying into it will not only feel seen, but that this is an organization that gets them and understands THE TRVTH.
Second, it gives an opening for the school, site or guru to use people’s lack of understanding about biology and sexuality as a marketing tool. By ascribing these behaviors to biology or evo-psych, it lets them coat their advice with an imprimatur of authority that ALSO, coincidentally validates those older, toxic ideals. It’s not sexist, it’s just SCIENCE!
Third, and possibly most importantly: when you believe that women are testing you, manipulating you, tricking you or actively looking for proof that you’re unworthy, then you have tacit permission to use whatever it takes to get your way. All’s fair in love and war after all and love is very much a battlefield for these folks. When you’re convinced that you’re in conflict with women by definition, then everything is permitted. Plus, it ties into the whole “women like bad boys” schtick or the idea that treating women with basic respect and politeness makes you “a simp”. Yeah, some of the stuff that’s being taught is straight up emotional abuse, but hey, gotta treat ’em mean to keep ’em keen.
All of this actually leads up to your question: if he’s already got a girlfriend, why is he still reading sites that tell him shit like “Never be vulnerable around your girlfriend” or how “not having orgasms keeps women faithful”? Because, like I told Looking In the Mirror: all of the shit that they’ve been taught about what men “need” to have in order to be attractive and all the things they’ve been taught about women means that they can never feel secure. If women are “naturally” hypergamous or biologically programmed to always be looking for the better deal and men are always in danger of getting cucked by someone with better stats, then there is no point where they can ever let their guard down. Folks who buy into Red Pill ideas — or the various PUA schools that the Red Pill evolved out of — can never have an actual relationship with someone, never actually have a partner because they have been taught, explicitly and implicitly, that they can never, ever trust their partner. There will always be a bigger fish and that means that his relationship is always on the verge of collapse. Someone else who has bigger pecs, a bigger dick or a bigger bank account could always swan into view and walk off with his girl.
And even if they don’t… well, women are always looking for the upper hand, yo. They’re habitual line-steppers. You gotta keep them in their place, lest they either become complacent or make demands of you or get upset because you made them promises that you never really intended to keep.
In reality, the issue is that the so-called bad boys who get all the girls are actually really bad at keeping them. Turns out that being a toxic asshole with a superficial layer of charm isn’t really a great way of keeping a relationship alive. The techniques that a lot of PUA and Red Pill gurus advocate don’t work and a lot of the ones that do mostly rely on deception, trickery and trying to keep up a false front. Without any substance behind it, the appeal fades very quickly. And so, there’s a need to try to hold onto those relationships by any means necessary. Including, as you’ve discovered, gaslighting, violations of trust and boundaries and emotional abuse.
Which brings us to your second question: how can you show him that all this is bullshit and is actually hurting your relationship? To which I have a question in turn: why are you trying to stay with this guy? It would be one thing if you had told me that he was a good guy, but he’d been given shitty advice and bought into beliefs that were working against him. But you mention “unsavory behvavior”, including breaches of your trust. Breaches, plural. That’s the sort of thing that puts me in the “throw the whole man away” side of the argument. You don’t bring up anything that would seem to imply he had some sort of redeeming value or reasons why you would want to stay in a relationship with him.
Now I’ve talked before about how to talk to someone who’s bought into the alt-right or who seems to be acting like an incel, and I highly suggest you read those. Trying to change someone’s mind and make them see that they’ve made a mistake isn’t about debating them out of their beliefs, it’s about guiding them to question what they believe and how accurate or helpful it is. Pointing out articles from those sites and asking him “why do you think this is accurate?” and “Do you really think I’m like this?” might be the surgical application of the Chair Leg of Truth that wakes him the fuck up.
But here’s the thing: it’s not your job to deprogram him or redeem him. Right now, it seems like he’s proven that he’s not actually worthy of your trust, never mind the emotional labor to make him “better”. And, frankly, it doesn’t really sound like you even want to stay in a relationship with him.
Honestly, unless there’s some amazing qualities that you failed to mention, I think you’re better off dumping him and leaving him with a long, detailed list about how his behavior and all the shit he learned from those sites are the reason why he’s getting kicked to the curb. He may still rationalize it away — women be lyin’, and all that — but making it clear that all that shit is why you’re leaving might be the wake-up call he needs.
Good luck. And write back to let us know how things are going.