To 3 Or Not To Three

If You’re Thinking Of “Adopting” Seek Knowledge From Leather Mentors And Navigate These Waters Safely.


They bought me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. I said I loved it. I said I loved it for many reasons, none of which had to do with my fondness for vacuuming.

My partner and his new, young friend from the Mid West bought me a maid’s gift. I said I loved it simply because this boy made my husband happy. He was an ego stroke, a student, and eventually for better or worse, my husband’s raison d’être. I loved my husband of 15 years and wanted him to be happy. So I “loved” my vacuum cleaner.

It wasn’t his fault, the vacuum cleaner, the boy. My husband’s main blueprint for successful marriage was his parent’s, superimposing a hetero-normative narrative over our gay lives. And like most men his age, a biological time clock was buzzing an urgent need to care for, nurture, and raise something… besides his own ego.

“The Daddy-Daddy-Boy triad is pervasive… I admit the family element was wonderful when it worked, and brought us all tremendous joy… Without navigational aid however, we lost our way.”

With paternal instincts raging and us not making babies, what to do? Unwittingly he’d begun infantilizing me, parenting, controlling. I responded by pulling away. It happens in long-term relationships. Something is missing. Things get sullen and stale but with no children, it can get confusing. Without proper navigation, it can be a shipwreck.

At this point in life’s twisty current, a child reinvigorates most relationships providing focus for hard-wired reflexes. Couples are reunited in a manner only creating a family affords and rifts heal. Some gay male couples; to avoid driving each other crazy, bring in a third. He’s typically younger, commonly referred to as “the boy”, and boy the dynamic changes.

Although they met online three years prior, I had no idea this kid existed until he washed upon our shore with two small duffle bags… eventually moving in. What the hell was I thinking? I saw someone in need.  Not just the boy, my husband who literally ached for family and especially someone to mentor besides me. Eight years his junior that dynamic was cute in my twenties. By my late thirties, it was downright annoying. So we entered uncharted waters and “adopted” a boy.

People clicked their tongues insinuating we were all in bed together. Truthfully, the boy slept on the couch but I think my husband enjoyed the buzz. We thrived in our one-bedroom apartment clubbing, museums, trips, and restaurants. Time my husband and I spent arguing evaporated in a sea of, “I think the boy would like the Getty,” or, “You’re tired, I’ll take the boy instead.”  His presence gave us a desperately needed break from one other and the chance to rediscover each other. My partner saw my caring, older brother side emerge. I watched him shine as a father figure. We formed a family. It was awesome.

But a storm brewed. For Christmas the boy got Ray Ban sunglasses, nice clothes, and I got… a vacuum cleaner. I’d experienced emotional distancing and was ganged up on a bit, sure. But the cost/benefit ratio of this “throuple” was such that I tolerated it because my husband actually changed for the better. He was happier. Energetic. Hopeful. I was able to do more independently and consequently, we enjoyed each other more. Any misgivings I had about our arrangement seemed trivial in that light.

The summer my stepfather passed away, real life interceded our fantasy, family world, rocking the relation-“ship.” I asked my partner to travel with me for the memorial services. He hemmed and hawed. It would spoil his 50th birthday plans, so I offered he stay home and celebrate with the boy. That was my biggest mistake. He agreed I travel solo. Later, he admitted that was his.  It completed the emotional rift that had been forming even before the boy.

They partied in L.A. while I dealt with my mom, widowed at 68. Grief struck, I didn’t pay attention to how far I’d sailed from my man’s affection. It hit me like a shit ton of bricks when my mom joked, “I lost mine to cancer. Seems you’re losing yours to a twenty-something”. My biological time clock froze.

Returning home I experienced what can only be described as getting emotionally kicked out. My grief was termed a “drag,” my emotions “too heavy.” I insisted the boy leave, shared my situation with friends to gain support. Then came the gas lighting. My man couldn’t give up his new drug, but didn’t want to look bad. Rumors spread I was mentally ill, bi-polar, anything to smoke screen.  (He should’ve gone into politics.) The boy didn’t want to lose his living situation, but didn’t sign up for this bull-honk. The ship was sinking.

Without discussion, my partner posted our break up on Facebook. Shocked, I packed what self-respect I had and moved out, continuing paying rent. I spent a miserable summer ironically filled with pinnacle career moments, helped my mom, and prayed for my husband to come to his senses.  Countless dramas ensued in which we were all complicit. The holidays passed with not even a vacuum cleaner, and the boy finally moved out.

My partner and I began couples counseling with the goal to part properly (not on Facebook) or reunite. There we determined my husband developed an unhealthy, emotional attachment to the boy, excluding me. This clouded, and then shattered his judgment. I used the boy as a shield against dealing with my husband’s needs, pushing him farther away, equally to blame.

All relationships after a certain point become a congruous, 50/50 responsibility split, no matter what the circumstances. We willingly stepped into this boat. But the sea swelled so slowly around us, it was impossible to turn back until we were in a capsizing storm. With honest communication, I moved back in and over time we repaired. Our relation-ship sailed steadier than ever.

The Daddy-Daddy-Boy triad is pervasive, but is it successful? Statistically, the majority sinks either discretely or in a Facebook torrent of crazy. I admit the family element was wonderful when it worked, and brought us all tremendous joy.  Without navigational aid however, we lost our way.

I wish we’d discovered the Leather Community. They have a firm handle on myriad non-traditional relationship stuff with clearly defined roles, comfort levels, etc. If you’re thinking of “adopting,” seek knowledge from leather mentors and navigate these waters more safely. The dynamic of three is naturally unstable, like balancing a boat with three men. When two keep to one side, alliances shift and the boat tips. I was just glad it tipped back to me.