A letter writer is tired of playing happy families in secret.

Go public, urges our elder.

Dear EWC

What should I do? So, I have accidentally started falling for my ex boyfriend’s brother. He and I live together because of circumstances I’d like to keep unknown. We have been doing a lot of couple type things. I take care of the house and his child while he’s at work, then when he comes home we all hang out then put the kid to sleep. He even calls me mommy sometimes, but I correct him. We eat dinner together, cuddle on the couch. I sleep in his bed with him. It’s almost as if we are married. But the catch it that we can’t tell anyone. Oh, and the worst part… he’s already slept with my best friend before all of this happened between us. But the reason we have to keep it a secret is because we know what people will think and say about us. And we’ve both been hurt so bad; both of us are scared to love. Please help I really like him and love his children and the time we spend together.

PJH replies

While I understand your desire to keep your quasi-family status a secret I want to begin this response by asserting I find nothing odd or disreputable about your choice of roommate and your contentment with a traditional division of labor in the household. If you have no moral qualms about your relationship I would urge you to raise the curtain as soon as you can, and certainly, before there’s any risk of discovery—i.e., go public tomorrow at the latest! 

Observant elders know your situation is a variation on a very common theme we’ve seen again and again: Friends and relatives who have relaxed views about intimacy find themselves changing partners. From the Beatles to the neighborhood barbecue, anywhere where close contact and free expression is permitted, best friends and siblings end up in each others’ kitchens and bedrooms. These behaviors don’t always please everyone and often garner a good deal of angst and anger, but they still happen and almost everyone gets into the act. Fact is, most of us find our long-term partners in the company of friends, neighbors, and workmates, and usually some explorations have occurred before we settle with the ones we love. It’s more a matter of opportunity than morality.

So this is the line in your letter I take exception to, “…the reason we have to keep it a secret is because we know what people will think and say about us.” If you’re all adults at worst you’ll be gossip for a day; more likely folks will say they always thought you were with the wrong brother! And anyway, please let go of believing what people “think” matters with regard to who you choose to spend time with.

That noted, even though there are no hard and fast rules there are some boundaries worth observing. Once a discreet arrangement firms up, the smart move is to make it common knowledge as quickly as you can after any principals have been informed. In your case, the brother and your best friend need to know you’re exploring a relationship, and it’s going well, so far. Don’t have people finding out by spotting a car in the “wrong” driveway, or some equally inappropriate disclosure. Close off the chatter by early disclosure.

I know your final sentences refer to past hurts casting a cloud over your present lives. Without details, I can’t comment except to remind you that romance is almost always both bitter and sweet. It brings out the best and sometimes the worst in our characters, but we don’t escape pain by being scared to love, and to borrow an old political slogan life for most of us is better together. I hope that proves true for you.

Please feel free to write again. I’d be happy to hear from you. 

Letter #: 427154
Category: Dating/Relationship

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