Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Can I Tell My Family My Husband and I Have a Boyfriend?

I’d really appreciate your advice on coming out to my parents. For context: My husband and I are in our early 30s, together for thirteen years and married for eight, and we have two wonderful children under the age of five. Our marriage is strong – we communicate regularly and openly, support each other through struggles, and never lose sight of making each other laugh.

Ten months ago, we tried “hotwifing” (I had to look up the term because I originally thought it was about internet connection) with a dear friend whom we’ve been very close with for three years. Long story short, we’re now in a full-fledged romantic relationship with him in a closed triad. This is nothing I had ever expected in my life, but we couldn’t be happier (and I know how much we all love birth control on DW – I have an IUD and we’ve discussed what would happen with an unexpected pregnancy if that failed).

BF is a wonderful addition to our family. The children love him; they’d known him almost their whole lives as a family friend and now they’re happy to have him around all the time. He’s glad to be co-parenting the kids and loves them dearly. The three of us have decided to not muddy the waters at this time by being more affectionate in front of the kids than we would be with any other close friend. We’re looking forward to our plan to move in early next year; my husband and I just bought a house with an in-law suite that our boyfriend will occupy.

My concern is this: BF’s family is local and knows about the relationship, with varying degrees of acceptance (his brother adores us, mom likes us as people but isn’t thrilled about the situation), but my family and my in-laws live seven states away and have no idea. Our only family member who knows is my sister, who has enthusiastically welcomed our boyfriend. My husband is distanced from his family and has no desire to share this with them, but my people are close-knit and it feels terrible to keep a person I love so deeply a secret from my (conservative) parents.

Should I even tell my parents about our boyfriend? I want them to accept this person who means so much to our family, but I wonder if that goal wouldn’t be better served by saying nothing and continuing to let them think he’s a dear friend? How would I justify bringing him traveling for holidays when he has local family unless the relationship situation was clear? I’m also worried about depriving my children of a relationship with their loving grandparents by coming out about this, but I also don’t want to essentially shove our boyfriend in the closet the couple times a year when my parents visit like I’m not proud of him. He’s shared that he’s okay with being a secret from my family because we’re out to all our friends, emphasis on “okay” – it’s not ideal. How should I proceed?
— Caught Between Family


Just like any kind of “controversial” announcement you might make — either privately or publicly — you have to weigh the potential benefits against the potential costs, consider your motivation, and think about how sharing your news may affect the various related relationships, for better or for worse. The drawback to keeping a relationship in the closet, of course, is feeling like you aren’t living authentically – like you aren’t being true to yourself or your identity. There can be a real sense of freedom in coming out, particularly if what you are coming out about is a truth about your personal identity. That may or may not resonate with you though. What may feel more relevant is the truth that there is a new addition to your marriage and family whom you love and whose presence may challenge how some people define family. It may feel important, as you say, to show your pride and love for your boyfriend, especially in the face of those who challenge the validity of his role in your family. This may be accomplished, as you suggest, without sharing all the details. The end-goal may, in fact, be better reached, by sharing just some of the truth and not all of it.

I am struck by your admission that in an effort to not “muddy the waters” with your kids, you and your husband choose not to be any more affectionate with your boyfriend than you would be with any other close friend. This is, presumably, to not confuse them? You have probably decided to adjust your behavior and what details you share with them as your lifestyle demands it and as their ability to understand the details supports it. I would apply this same logic to how and what you share with other family members. Does your lifestyle at the moment demand that your family know the details of this relationship in your life? Does their ability to understand support the idea of sharing details with them? If the answer to either of these questions, in your best judgment, is no, then don’t share all the details.

Your next question may be to ask how to know what lifestyle changes demand the sharing of details. Obviously, moving in your boyfriend into your family home would qualify as a lifestyle change. I imagine there will be some explanation you’ll share with your kids about that. You might explain that you and their daddy love “Uncle Greg” and want to share your life and home with him and make him part of your family. They may have questions about what that means and you will, I’m sure, answer those questions as you believe they’re able to understand and with details you believe are appropriate for them to know. I would think their well-being would be your top priority. I would maintain this line of thinking as you approach your family. Share just the minimum information that your behavior/lifestyle demands to be shared and answer questions with only as much detail as you believe they can understand, with your children’s wellbeing always as a guiding light through the “muddy waters,” so to speak. If you have any fear that your parents will alienate your children in a reaction against a lifestyle they don’t understand or approve of, maybe that risk isn’t worth the potential benefit of sharing your truth, you know?

In the end, if your biggest goal is that your conservative parents welcome your boyfriend at Christmas dinner as a member of their extended family once you make clear what your relationship status is with him, you have to consider how likely that is to happen and then weigh whether that end goal is worth the potential costs of “coming out” to them. If your biggest goal is to maintain harmony at each level of your extended family relationships, especially between your children and their grandparents, share only the details that best support that goal.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

39 comments… add one
  • avatar

    _s_ August 26, 2019, 11:31 am

    I won’t weigh in on whether to officially “come out” or not, but if in following Wendy’s advice you weigh the options and decide not coming out is the best decision for now, I think you just incorporate “Greg” into your life with the “dear friend” moniker you mention combined with the non-controversial truths of the situation. For example, once you move, you can tell your family that your dear friend Greg is moving into your in-law suite – and if they feel the need for an explanation, you say honestly that your kids are excited because they love Uncle Greg and it’s a great move for everyone both financially and with day-to-day tasks (i.e. Greg’s a great help with the kids, or very handy, or whatever). All 100% true, just without the BF part. That way if they come visit you they know Greg is part of your household, and if you all want to visit them for holidays and whatnot, your dear friend Greg can come with you without raising eyebrows. Either your parents will eventually catch on but hopefully either like and be used to Greg by then, and/or else be willing to pretend like they don’t know what’s going on to keep the peace; or else they really will never figure it out and just welcome your dear friend as your dear friend. You can always try this route for a while and re-evaluate later if you want to come out fully.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy August 26, 2019, 11:39 am

      Yes, this is what I mean by sharing as few details as you need to but still be honest about the situation. I think this goes even when direct questions are asked, like if he parents say, “So, are you romantically involved with Greg?”, the LW can answer, “husband and the kids and I all love him and are thrilled he’s part of our lives” or something like that. As politicians know, there are ways to reply to questions without revealing the entire truth (or revealing as much as you feel comfortable revealing).

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  • avatar

    Kate August 26, 2019, 11:41 am

    I looked up hotwifing, and it’s just about the wife having sex with other men. But now this guy is both of yours “boyfriend?” Okay. I just… it’s only been 10 months. Why is he co-parenting your kids? That’s early for someone to be taking on a stepdad role anyway, but in this case the kids already have two parents. Why do they need 3?

    I would tend to just refer to him like a dear family friend. I’m pretty sure your parents don’t want to know what’s really going on, and I’m not sure it would benefit anyone involved, in any way, to know that he’s actually “our boyfriend.” This seems like info you’d share on a need to know basis (not sure what the need would be though), and maybe give it some time to make sure it’s truly lasting.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 11:48 am

      I was coming up with the same thing. Why rush this. It’s been ten months and she says they are concerned about the kids. What could possibly go wrong with moving a lover into your home after only 10 months.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 11:44 am

    You’ve been in this relationship for ten months. Yes, you’ve known him longer but you’ve been in a romantic, sexual relationship for ten months. As with any relationship that involves kids I’d say slow down.

    I’d give it at least another year before moving him into your family home. That’s the same thing I’d say to a single parent wanting to move a lover into their home. You’re still in the honeymoon stage of the relationship and it has to work for both you and your husband and the other guy so has to work three ways to last. That’s even more pressure on a relationship. If you really care about the kids give this relationship time to fall apart and if it doesn’t then proceed with moving him in.

    If he is going to live with you will he share in owning the home? Will he be an equal partner or will he always be the extra, third person who is there and pulling their weight day to day but not building anything of their own long term? Will the three of you have a joint will? Will he become the guardian of your children if anything happens to you and your husband? What happens if you and your husband divorce? Where does that leave him?

    You need to slow down and answer everything thoughtfully and fully and get it all in writing. You are rushing like star crossed lovers.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark August 26, 2019, 11:47 am

    Eh…. This was far more interesting to me when I thought your husband was banging the guy as well…
    .
    Honestly? I don’t see why or how you think telling your folks won’t just be one big trainwreck.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 11:50 am

      My impression was that they are both involved with the guy because she calls him our boyfriend. If the husband isn’t involved I do wonder what he’s doing on the side.

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    • avatar

      Kate August 26, 2019, 11:51 am

      Wait, I thought they were both in a relationship with him.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark August 26, 2019, 12:26 pm

        I read it like the mirror image of polygamy. Meaning the boyfriend is like a brother-husband. Mormon sister-wives don’t bang one another.

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    • avatar

      Kate August 26, 2019, 12:34 pm

      How do you read “our boyfriend” then? I don’t think Mormon wives refer to the other wives as “our wife?”

      Looking up “closed triad,” it says all three of them are romantic with each other.

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      • avatar

        Kate August 26, 2019, 12:36 pm

        Yeah, it says further, “they are all romantically and sexually attracted to each other.” For it to fit this definition, both guys would have to be bisexual and the wife would be straight or bisexual.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark August 26, 2019, 12:57 pm

        The hotwifing thing implied (to me) that the two men don’t bang. It can STILL be a closed triad. But hey… Hopefully, I am wrong. I eagerly await LW clarification.

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    • avatar

      Fyodor August 26, 2019, 12:39 pm

      I understand the term to refer to situations where there is another man having sex with wife and the husband watches for his own gratification. It was not something that I understood to happen outside of pornography.

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      • avatar

        Kate August 26, 2019, 12:42 pm

        Okay but I looked it up and that’s what it says. She may have used the wrong terminology, but given the terminology she did use, it would mean all three of them are romantic and sexual with each other, and no I did not click any videos.

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      • avatar

        Fyodor August 26, 2019, 1:15 pm

        I was referring to “hotwifing.” I will concede that there isn’t IEEE standardization of these terms so it’s possible that she’s just using terms loosely or they brought him in initially for one thing and it evolved into a different kind of relationship.

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      • avatar

        Kate August 26, 2019, 1:17 pm

        Yeah, she says they started out hotwifing and became a closed triad and he’s “our boyfriend.” She left out all the interesting detail though, with a “long story short” cop-out.

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    • avatar

      Donna August 26, 2019, 2:38 pm

      Just……wow. Yeah, I’d give this situation at least a year from now before setting anything in stone. I have a feeling changes are going to arise over this – one way or the other.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 11:56 am

    You have two kids under the age of five. Preschoolers are hard on marriage. You’re moving to another house. Moving can be hard on marriage. You’ve added another adult to your relationship. That’s can also hard on marriage.

    What happens if your kids seem to like Greg more than mom or dad? What happens if Greg disciplines the kids in a way you don’t like or doesn’t discipline them at all? Parents often disagree on how to raise kids and now you want to add a third adult to the mix. Is Greg going to be an equal partner or a second level partner?

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  • avatar

    Fyodor August 26, 2019, 12:30 pm

    Everyone should google this term from their work computers and open the first few video links.

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    • avatar

      anonymousse August 26, 2019, 12:44 pm

      LOL

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 12:52 pm

      Always the best advice!

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    • avatar

      Fyodor August 26, 2019, 12:55 pm

      Plenty of four to six minute documentaries elucidating the operational aspects of this particular arrangement.

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  • avatar

    anonymousse August 26, 2019, 12:42 pm

    I think you’re moving way too fast. Why is he there everyday? I don’t understand why he’s involved with your children at all other than the same way he was before you started having sex with him. I’m actually shocked he’s leveled up to “coparent.” I don’t care who you’re having sex with but I think you’re moving too fast. It’s been ten months and you’ve bought a new house and he’s going to move in? Did he put money down for that, or is he paying rent? I just don’t really understand where the waters aren’t getting muddied. It seems like they’re very muddy. Even if he is going to be your third, for keeps, what is the harm in exercising a little more caution and taking this a little slower? Pump the brakes a little. Are you seeing a counselor? That might be a really good idea.

    He doesn’t need to come on family vacations. It doesn’t sound like he’s offended by being a secret to your conservative parents for now. He might even enjoy a day or two to himself now and again. A lot of people have open marriages or a side relationship but in most of the cases I know, it’s on a need to know basis. Close friends know. Mostly because people don’t want to know about your sex life . I know he means so much more to you, but just imagine people have small minds and there’s only so much understanding most are going to do. “Dear friend” is a good way of explaining him, I think.

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    • avatar

      Kate August 26, 2019, 12:54 pm

      Right? Even if this were a conventional type of boyfriend relationship, you don’t have your boyfriend co-parenting, sleeping over every night/around every day/living with you at 10 months, or you shouldn’t. Let alone be buying a new house with him / for him to move into. But given that this is a totally new type of relationship you have NO prior experience with, none of this stuff should be happening yet. Like, this is still the honeymoon/hot sex phase.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 12:58 pm

      In many ways I find it a red flag that the guy is so involved with the children. I find it suspect when anyone wants to move in and spend a lot of time with the children. Are they sure he loves them or is he wanting the kids. Has he been grooming them, the parents, with an eye for the children.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark August 26, 2019, 1:00 pm

        Eh… THIS is a bit of a reach.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 1:08 pm

        Kids are hard work. The idea of any adult wanting to be there taking care of them day in and day out when they aren’t their kid and when the relationship has moved so rapidly should make the parents step back and evaluate. They shouldn’t bring any adult into the lives of their kids this rapidly.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom August 26, 2019, 2:20 pm

        To explain a bit more. I’d be wary of anyone who is volunteering to take care of the kids so rapidly. I am reminded of situations I’ve known.

        My great uncle volunteering to teach my aunt to swim. He was fondling her while “helping” her to float.

        My great uncle, who was a mailman, carrying candy to get kids to run and meet him while he was driving his rural mail route. He fondled girls who ran out to get candy.

        The kindly gentleman who moved into town and was volunteering to take the kids to the park. It was like having a grandfather next door until the kids refused to go with him and when the parents tried to push the kids to go with such a nice man they found out he was molesting the kids.

        When someone is so interested in taking care of kids, which is hard work, you have to be careful. Two preschoolers are especially hard work. Maybe he truly loves the entire family but it is up to the parents to be cautious.

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      • avatar

        Kate August 26, 2019, 2:30 pm

        Yeah, it’s weird all around, that they’re all so enthusiastic about him being part of the family and parenting the kids. Also I know we’ve all seen Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix where the molester had a sexual relationship with both the mom and the dad. I know when I was little and a guy was asking my mom if he could babysit us, she said no thank you and went with a female student instead. Can a guy just simply love kids? Absolutely, but you have to be very cautious.

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      • avatar

        anonymousse August 26, 2019, 4:02 pm

        I don’t think it’s a stretch, really. What sex partner would readily jump into being a third parent so quickly? Who would let them? It’s strange and too fast. And yes, I also watched Abducted in Plain Sight. The stakes are higher when you have two very young kids. I’m not sure, if I were dating or sleeping with someone else if I’d let them even meet my kids for a long, long time. It’s just not necessary.

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  • avatar

    ron August 26, 2019, 2:30 pm

    Five-year olds have an understanding of what goes on around them. If LW isn’t willing to come out to her kids, then she shouldn’t come out to her 7-states-away family. She says she is very close to her family, but 7-states-away has to dampen this closeness. Really, there is just too great a chance of someone in family saying something in front of your kids or you inadvertently blurting something on phone in front of kids in response to aggressive phone questions from family. If it is a secret, keep it secret from family. You can’t control what they say on social media, what complaints about immoral daughter they make to friends and minister. Remember: two people can keep a secret, if one is dead.

    Also, moving VERY fast on co-parenting and house sharing. I really wouldn’t do that until you 1) have more time in this triad and 2) you are willing to tell your kids about it. Why are you all moving in together? Likely to make it easier to have sex and semi-sexual romantic intimacy. How long do you think that can go on until your kids glom onto what is happening. I’m sure they will. My parents when through a period as swingers. My much younger sibling didn’t take long to realize what was going on. Kid’s aren’t nearly as dumb/oblivious as LW thinks. She’d be amazed what , at least urban, Kindergarteners and first graders talk about among themselves and the language used.

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    • avatar

      anonymousse August 26, 2019, 4:05 pm

      I agree with this, kids ARE perceptive. Even if you aren’t being affectionate in front of your children, they are bound to pick up on this.

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  • avatar

    CET August 27, 2019, 7:23 am

    Eh, it’s only been 10 months. I say in front of your parents call him your friend for now. If this lasts 5 years then consider letting your conservative parents know the truth. By this time they will know him pretty well.

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  • avatar

    CET August 27, 2019, 7:25 am

    Also, I agree with the poster above that you should be wary of someone eager to take care of your kids so quickly. I’ve heard many horror stories. It’s always the super nice, wonderful person who just adored the kids and everyone loved.

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  • avatar

    TheHizzy August 27, 2019, 8:48 am

    I do agree with others that you seem to be moving super fast. It’s been a while since you’ve been in a new relationship, and you’re in the honeymoon phase. That’s ok, but maybe consider a slight slow down?

    As for telling your family – they don’t really need to know. I’d give it time to ensure you guys are sticking together. And once you figure that out you can bring him around more and more and people will just get it and most likely not even ask. Those who really want to know, can ask, and you can be truthful there.

    Maybe consider finding a website dedicated to the lifestyle and read up on peoples stories there. I think that would be more fruitful than here honestly.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 27, 2019, 1:34 pm

    I think you should have an agreement with your spouse that if either of you decides BF should go then he is out of your lives, no questions asked, no anger, no disagreement. An arrangement like this only works if it works for each of you. If one of you becomes unhappy with the arrangement then it will destroy the marriage. Your marriage needs to take priority over the relationship with BF so if the relationship with BF begins to not work for either of you then that relationship should end for both of you.

    At this point you’ve all seen BF through rose colored glasses. You haven’t known him long enough to see his downside, and everyone has a downside. If he moves in and one of you becomes closer to him than the other one of you it will adversely affect your marriage. If he decides he likes one of you better he may purposely cause strife in your marriage. If you find that he is initiating arguments, maybe he appears to be the innocent victim, you need to remove him from your lives.

    The trouble with moving him into your home is that he becomes a tenant and he then has rights to live in the home even if you want him out. You should wait a long while before moving him in. Maybe try an occasional weekend sleepover but slow way down on moving him right in and having him coparent. Caution will not harm a good relationship but it can protect you from a bad relationship.

    Read a book about sociopaths. They come off as the most wonderful, charming people you can meet. When someone is too good to be true they often are fake. Come up with a list of red flags that indicate you are being used or conned. You shouldn’t be putting your house in his name or buying him a car or giving him legal guardianship of your kids. You shouldn’t be going away for the weekend and leaving him with your kids.

    You should be parenting your kids. You should be the ones bathing them and dressing them and feeding them and putting them to bed. You should be the ones meeting their basic needs. Uncle BF should have a relationship where he does the occasionally piggyback ride or reads them a book in the living room with everyone around. He shouldn’t be doing the day-to-day intimate things like baths and changes of clothes or tucking kids into bed. That’s your job as the parent. Keep yourself in the role of parent, day in and day out, parent. Parenting day in and day out is what builds and maintains your relationship with your kids. Doing that while they are young is what makes the teen years easier. You are laying the ground work for your relationship with them for the rest of your lives. Don’t give that to someone else. You are the parent. Be the parent.

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    • avatar

      Ange August 27, 2019, 5:09 pm

      While I agree to an extent the bf is also a human being with feelings and apparently an important part of their triad. I can’t see a successful relationship building where he’s essentially being told ‘you’re in until one of us gets sick of you then you’re out on your arse’. Which means i also definitely agree on not moving him in yet. Being a third to an established couple sounds like pretty tenuous work and all of them should be stepping back and evaluating what their future should look like in a way that none of them get left out in the cold.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom August 27, 2019, 8:23 pm

        They’ve been together for 13 years and married for 8. The marriage makes them legal heirs to each other. The marriage combines their property, their retirement benefits and their incomes. The marriage has produced two children. No BF of ten months should come into the relationship equal to a legal marriage, joint property, retirement savings and joint guardianship of children. The marriage should be primary. If for no other reason than it isn’t worth blowing up the lives of their children over a 10 month relationship. If the short term relationship begins to interfere with or be detrimental to the legal, committed relationship then it should end.

        It took them five years to get married and then at least four more years to have kids. Suddenly they are moving at a much faster pace to have this BF be a full partner in every aspect of their lives. Why so fast? They need to slow down and take their time like they did before getting married and before having kids. They are taking a sex partner of less than a year and making him into the equal of a spouse and a co-parent. They are buying a house with him being an impetus for what that house is. One of their biggest life purchases is being based on a relationship of less than a year.

        I have to wonder, whose idea was the purchase of the house?

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      Ange August 28, 2019, 6:43 pm

      Yeah which is exactly what I’m saying. The BF is in a precarious position and they should be respectful of that.

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