My guess is that when he said "Caroline has a child" the first time, he meant Chuck and typed the wrong name. If you read the letter with that assumption, it all makes sense.

Chuck has a child. Chuck's child believes that Chuck and Caroline are in a monogamous relationship. This works because they don't live together (Caroline lives with the LW) and so whenever the child sees Caroline, the LW is never around or never around without Chuck being present. But if Chuck moves in with Caroline and the LW, the child will learn of the LW's relationship with Caroline.

Caroline and the LW have no children or at least none mentioned in the letter.
I was going to post a different reading but now I'm pretty sure @1 is the better one.

Anyone get a gender on the LW, out of curiosity?
Read like a man to me, but that's just gut reaction assumption and I have no basis for it. Retroactively, I reread to see if I can glean why I assume this, and it's because the "wonderful woman" contrasted with "great guy" plus the concern about the conservative town finding out they are poly (but not that Caroline is bi or the LW is les/bi) all sound like a het man.
I thought something different to EmmaLiz.

Caroline has a child in his/her/their teens. Chuck has a child who is probably pre-pubertal (his/her/their knowing about the triad is less of a concern). It will be Caroline's child who will be living part of the time with Caroline. Caroline's child believes his/her mother and the LW are in a monogamous relationship (Chuck is not around when they're together; Chuck lives elsewhere). Chuck's child believes his/her father, viz. Chuck, and Caroline are in a monogamous relationship. The LW has played the part of a friend to Caroline in the presence of Chuck's child.

When the LW means 'Daddy', he means himself. (Or does he? This was my impression).

Maybe this is entirely wrong.

LW, prioritize not risking a custody battle over the children. Your triad seems strong; you are not threatened by Caroline's wanting to live with Chuck, not with you, for a bit; and it seems you can afford to bide your time outing yourselves.
what a hassle!
I couldn't figure out who the kid belonged to, who was presumed to be monogamous, who could be in a custody battle--and I'm too tired to try to do that much work.

It is pretty clear that it's Chuck's kid, who thinks "dad" (Chuck) and Caroline are in a monogamous relationship. The LW merely made a typo.

The real question is why didn't Dan write to the LW first before publishing this insanely complex piece of advice about potentially multiple kids.

Pick a different letter, Savage.
I grew up in a small, conservative town. One of my friends, who was living in a home as a foster child, knew that her foster parents had a "roommate" who was actually their third. She found it horrifying (we were maybe 14-ish when she told me) and didn't talk about it much but it seemed that everyone in the town kind of knew and simply maintained the polite fiction the triad presented - good friends who helped each other out with housing, rent and childcare, etc.

Of course, that was a thousand years ago when people were more about minding their own business so I don't know if that would be the case in this time and in LW's location but most kids have a pretty firm deny/ignore policy about parents and sex.

If the kid is a talker, gets angry at any one of them or any of them could realistically face personal, professional, social or custodial harm if this comes out, then probably it's best to maintain separate residences and the accompanying plausible deniability. My friend only told me because she was angry at getting grounded by her foster parents' third. And in her defense, it was total bullshit.

I'd consult a family attorney in your area, but since you already raise the issue of a possible custody dispute I would probably go with the plan of having Caroline & Chuck live together and the LW move out. Doesn't sound like that would be an intolerable financial burden, and it would only be until the child turned 18.


Chuck and Caroline have a kid. Kid thinks her parents are monogamous. Period.

For a few years, your SAFEST bet is to go with the 2 apartment plan. Maybe when the kid is 15 or 16, revisit this again. Custody is much harder to change at that point if the kid does not want to change.


I was only 11 when I figured out that my mom had a boyfriend. The major clue was that she was rushing and acting too excited about seeing him after church (Without my dad. And yes, church) She was in such a hurry that she did something she had never done before, which was to drop me off at a trusted friend's house so the friend could drive me to a sleepover. Side-eye at shady-acting mommy. It was obvious something was really wrong and in my gut I just knew. In my 11 year old mind that meant she liked him as more than a friend and that she was going on something like a date. When she continued to see him, mention him and even introduce him to the family- it was always as her "friend", even though she admitted to the affair early on, she continued this farce for almost thirty years. When he finally died a few years ago, he left things to her in his will, much to the chagrin of his surviving wife.

I don't know what would have made anything normal at my house during the years of coming to terms with my mom's many, many overwhelming shortcomings as a parent. But to the parents out there who beleive they are covering their tracks- you aren't doing as great at parenthood as you think you are. Maybe start saving money for your kids future therapy bill now, cuz they will need it. These days there are even worse ways for your kids to find out what you're doing than there were when I was a kid. Your kids are probably smarter and also much more tech savvy than you. It usually comes out eventually and I know from personal experience that it is devastating. If you are going to bring fuckwits to your family home for sexing, you have to make sure it's your problem only and not your kid's problem. BECAUSE IT IS YOUR SHIT NOT THEIRS. Your kids are just trying to grow up into healthy adults, so don't go putting any unnecessary trauma on them, ok? Also, be kind and remember to...seriously vet these pervs before you bring them around the house. Thankfully, my mom was lucky her asshole bf wasn't a molester, but that was only dumb luck because my mom typically has horrible judgment.

My dad put up with this so long that it has occurred to me that he may have had his own side relationships (gross). Or he may have, you know...been into it (even more disgusting). However, the only evidence was that he worked late a lot so at least us kids never had to know for certain about any possible affairs. Meanwhile my mom put us through hell.

Consenting adults can do as they please in triads, poly or open relationships- as long as they don't dump their relationship garbage all over their kids. I've long since forgiven my parents for being human because they are only human, but really, almost any other way than how they swept it all under the rug would have been better. They are still together going on 50 years of dysfunctional craziness.

My opinion is the kids don't need a third wheel aka potential molester at their house. You can let those extra fuckwit partners into your pants if you want, but not into the house. Your kids have enough problems saying no to drugs as it is. Just my two cents and some free advice. Take it or leave it. You're welcome!


Confusing letter indeed, though in Dan’s favor the overall great advice is covering much of what one needs to know in such situation/s.

As for LW’s gender, I first thought it’s a woman but now think it could also be a man since it would probably be very unusual for a woman to live with two men as opposed to a woman and a man. I have my doubts, yet have no desire to extend my current confusion and read the letter again.

EL- couple terms to suit your somewhat-justified teenophobia:
“Teenofet” = Hebrew for “filth”
A bumper sticker seen in the hood some 20 years ago: “FART- Fathers Against Radical Teenagers”

And then girligams @11 rightfully reminded us that kids aren’t that stupid after all. We all figured out few things about our own parents, some may also dread as to what our own kids know about us.


None of the ins and outs of this letter really matter, the long and short of it is there are a whole bunch of people hanging around fucking each other and the kids either have a pretty good idea of what’s going on or they soon will. All three living together will almost certainly open up a big can of worms for kids and custody. Put the move-in off for 3 or so years. Seems inconvenient, but three years will fly by, and you’ll be glad you made this decision.


I don't know who is who, but it seems like LW is asking about 1) kid finding out about triad, 2) co-parent finding out about triad, and 3) community finding out about triad as a result of living together in one home. My opinion is that co-parent should be aware of who the kid is living with and what the dynamics are in that household. It should not be a question of whether the kid will find out and then tell the other parent. The other parent should be aware upfront. Dating without living together is a different issue. Other parent can mind their own beeswax about that. But living arrangements that include the kid should be transparent. So if that might cause a custody issue, seems like more trouble than it's worth to me.

As for the kid finding out, my friends who grew up with unconventional parents were aware and usually embarrassed, bored or both. All lived to tell the tale and are mostly still bored or embarrassed by it as adults. It's not easy to parent without boring or embarrassing your kids in one way or another. The conservative community stuff is a different issue, but not sure officially living together makes their judgment any more likely.


it's a matter of how this will effect the child. Without knowing the child, it's hard to say. It all sounds like it could become a burden for them, in a conservative town and all. If the mother is ok to go ahead, what has she said about these objections.
With the letter being so messed up, hard to tell who's who. Edit your letters people.
Obviously Dan had a big weekend.


See, I read it as: Caroline and her (no name) ex have a kid, who thinks Mom/Caroline is now monogamous with Chuck (reference to Dad was typo in this scenario) and housemates with LW. If they all move in, and kid cottons on, kid may tell Dad that Mom has not one boyfriend (Chuck, who everyone knows about) but two, with worrisome implications for custody/status in community.


Yeah no wait I read it three more times and now I agree with @1


I'd like to say it depends on your assessment of the child(ren? whotfknows), how they're likely to respond to being told versus figuring it out. But they can surprise you...

Many commenters are figuring the "play it safe" route is to be stealthy, but I dunno. I suspect the LW overestimates their stealth, and the kid pretty likely knows or will know. So the risk you can minimize might be in their reaction, if you level with them instead of setting up mistrust.

Honestly, I think the risk is not small whatever the choice, but I doubt the LW would take any advice to restrict their dates to meeting in other cities for a few years.


I think LW is a woman (just the vibe I get), Chuck (I'm assuming Chuck is a man) is NOT the "Dad" in question, but has his own kid of unspecified age from his own previous circumstances.

That leaves us with two kids of shared custody with previous baby-parents, and either FFM or (if I'm wrong) MFM triad.

As to what they should do, I have no kids and one partner, so I got no advice. IDKS.


I just realized why I think LW is a woman: it's because the teenager thinks mom is in an exclusive relationship with Dad, which would be unlikely if mom's "roommate" were another man, but might just hold water if LW were a woman.


That would look like the teenager's parents were separated or in some long-distance situation, which would give mom credible deniability for living elsewhere -- we have no information on where the teen lives (with Dad, no? Or LW would have said the teen was living with Mom already, not visiting, right?).

Boy, it sure would help if we could edit these posts.


I wish people would indicate their gender, at the very least. I know it's not imperative or even necessary, but it just is nice to have a clear picture of things.


Adults shouldn't be allowed to form housholds with kids until they, the adults, can articulate themselves properly.

Everything rests on
"..Caroline has a 13-year-old child from a previous relationship who believes Dad is in a monogamous relationship with Caroline. To date we have wanted to maintain this illusion of monogamy .."

It wouldn't make sense if Dad refers to the biological father because Mom is living in another house and that doesn't pass as monogamy when it comes to your parents.
The desire to maintain the 'illusion' suggests that LW has role of 'Dad' now. Ergo LW is male.

What is unclear is how Caroline and LW manage to give Chuck's kid the impression of monogamy unless Caroline's kid has never met Chuck and his kid.

So how can the LW moving out be a trivial thing to do from the POV of Caroline's kid?
Surely that kid is going to wonder why its mother's partner and, to them, 'Dad' has suddenly moved out.


LW is male. I did have a big weekend, Lava, thanks!


I am with girliegams @11. Parents of young teens need to focus on their child because they are about to go through a complex, difficult, developmental and formative phase, the outcome of which will affect them for the rest of their lives. This is an opportunity to set them up as well as you can for coping independently - it requires your full attention. Stop being selfish and self centred and shoulder your responsibilities. You have the rest of your life to fuck and live with as many people as you want - don't impose it on them by bringing it into their home where they have no choice but to live.


As for who's who in this letter, clearly it's anybody's guess.


@24: ' you're a queer one Julie Jordan' 💕


Well here’s my story, as this is something we have grappled with in our triad. We got together when the kids were a bit older than this. Let’s see…my youngest was 14 when we got together. We don’t live together but our girlfriend lives literally down the block from us. She was a friend before, but they would have had to be really unobservant to have not noticed that she started hanging around A LOT right around then. Of course, she was also getting divorced right around then so who knows. We weren’t poly before so no reason for anyone to suspect anything. Even our friends didn’t know.

I was in favor of telling the kids once the relationship became obviously long term. At first it was just threesomes and fucking someone new. Once we moved into a definite poly triad, it felt like the kids SHOULD know. But the gals were opposed, so we kept us a secret. That posed a lot of challenges for us, especially the girlfriend and myself since we really couldn’t be seen in public without eyebrows raising, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was cheating or she was doing something behind my wife’s (her best friend’s) back.

This fall the youngest kid heads off to college. Whether or not they know is a mystery. I think they suspect something for sure. About 2 years ago both my kids started referring to our girlfriend jokingly as “other mom”, mainly (I think) because she is always here and has a kind of very friendly step mom type relationship with them. It is pretty great really, they both feel comfortable telling her things that they wouldn’t tell us, and she keeps their confidence which I think is right. My kids are good kids and nothing I need to know about is going on. She is an excellent adult ear for them to bounce things off of. Would they do the same if they for sure knew about us? I doubt it.

Once we are empty nesters (can’t wait!), we will likely be together even more. Our girlfriend is very independent and will likely keep her house. She likes a quiet place to work sometimes, and we also think of it as a little oasis where we can break off one on one from time to time. At this point all our friends know, so I’m very much looking forward to being a little more comfortable “in our skin” with the kids gone.

For LW I would say the apartment and plausible deniability are probably the best bet, especially with potential custody issues. We didn’t have that problem since the girlfriend’s kid was 18 at the time. It IS a pain, but you know what, parenting is a pain. You agree to sacrifice for your kids until they can do for themselves. It can be all about you when they are a bit older, and really you guys are on the cusp of a lot of new freedom anyway. Once those kids get a driver’s license, or a job you’ll have to beg them to eat dinner with you.

We have tentatively said we will tell the kids when they are done with college and not needing summer and Christmas break at home. I’m certain they will laugh out loud when we do and tell us they have known for years. One thing is for certain, from this side of the family there will be three grandparents should any kids be born.


Occam's razor says that it must be that TRIAD fucked up simply by failing to mention that Chuck is now the kid's (non-bio) "dad".


No, Occam's Razor means the simplest explanation is the one you go with, and the simplest explanation is not that Chuck is now the step-father to Caroline's child (even though they don't live together and that he first refers to the child as Carolines and then later as Chucks even though Chuck is the non-bio dad and Caroline is the mother (that would be odd phrasing), the simplest explanation is just that he made a typo. Seriously if you change the first "Caroline has a child" to "Chuck has a child" then all the rest of the letter makes perfect sense. It requires changing ONE word, and zero convoluted rationales, relationships, forgotten/extra children, etc.

Since the LW likely made up the names in the first place to protect their identities, it's easy to think he'd make this little mistake.

I've enjoyed the anecdotes here about how they experienced non-traditional families as either children or adults. I'd like to read a whole series of that- a shame the letter had a typo and got us all side-tracked.


I guess I should add as a side parents were swingers. They had a regular group of 5 or so couples that they traveled and partied with all the time and several other peripheral couples that were around part of the time (it was the 70's). I figured it out when I was 16, I just thought they were gross old I came home one night to find them all in the hot tub naked sitting next to someone else's spouse, bathing suits in a pile off to the side. Now I'm the gross one I guess. I wasn't damaged by it, but it did give me the example that you could do nonmonogamy and stay married early on.


Great share coolie. Seventies swingers, movies have been made about them.

I'm pretty sure the letter says the child is the woman's twice.
A thirteen yr old kid is starting to not give a toss what parents are up to. They enjoying/ tortured by their own bubbling adulthood.
The child's welfare is foremost, and the three adults need to talk this thru before any moves take place. More people are talking about poly and open marriages, and this child will grow up knowing it's one of modern life's options.
Custody issues, is the parent concerned.. again, it's the parent who has the know here, the adults need to talk.


Aside from the possibility of the child's father suing for custody, and dragging everyone through the mud, the kid could get bullied and shunned in school if their poly lifestyle is known, since they live in a conservative area (read full of mean bigots). LW could move out and let Chuck move in, but it's 5 years before the child turn 18, that's a long time. Will LW continue to be content with being the secret partner of the triad for that whole time?

It might be better if LW moves out, but Chuck keeps his own place, and Caroline can just "date" both men openly as a single mom, and they continue to do most of their activities as separate couples, and all hang out together as friends. The ex (and the Courts and nosy semi-conservative neighbors) can't object to that, Caroline can date more than one person if she wants. Wait until the child is 18 to have the talk about their open relationships. Fitting in will be less important once he/she is out of high school.


I'm a little surprised how many people here are advocating lying (by omission) to the kid(s). Relationships are complicated and varied, and kids aren't stupid. I should think the combination would make it worth being honest, even if the kid finds it all horribly embarrassing and a drag. I have a couple friends whose parents waited until they were in their 20s to tell them important things like that, and in neither case did my friend think, "Gee, I'm glad I didn't know this before." No, they were pretty pissed they'd been lied to.

I suppose if the ex is a malicious asshole, then there's a reason to be in the closet. And only the LW et. al. know how conservative the community really is. Sometimes places are conservative because they are populated by mean-spirited individuals. But sometimes places are conservative because of their local history and lack of exposure to alternative ways of life, and they adjust just fine when well-liked members of the community turn out to be unusual, if said members do so in a friendly, non-attention-grabbing way.


I’m with the Occam’s razor explanation that it’s Chuck (and only Chuck) who has a child and that when the kid is first mentioned saying it was “Caroline”’s was a typo.

A good explanation for this could be that the LW changed the genders of the people involved for privacy sake, and thus became confused with “Caroline” and “Chuck”’s gender when it came to mention the kid. So Chuck is probably a woman. And Caroline, in turn, might be a man, since the kid believes them to be in a monogamous relationship in a small semi-conservative community and there’s no mention of homosexuality being an issue. Statistically, it’s also more probable that a child from a previous relationship would be living with its mother, although not at all a given.

Whatever the case, Caroline and Chuck moving in together (with or without LW) is bound to cause problems. Right now, the kid might have no clue what Caroline is doing on the nights she’s not with Chuck. Once they’re living together, she might find it weird that Caroline regularly spends the evening out on her own, whether the kid knows she’s consistently spending time with her former roommate or not.

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