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By Chandrama Anderson

E-mail Chandrama Anderson

About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Plural Relationships

Uploaded: Jun 23, 2014
June, thanks for sending in your question.

I should say for the sake of disclosure, that I support gay marriage, and worked quite hard within my professional organization (CAMFT) to change the stance of said organization. It was eventually successful. And, I do see polyamory couples.

With that said, it sounds like your son is happy and hopefully his wives and children are, too. It is not surprising that you would want him to live a "one man one woman" life since you were raised with "one man one woman."

However, not everyone is wired the same.

I think the more important question is whether you are happy with your relationship with your son? Are you getting what you need from him and giving what you want to?

You are entitled to feel uncomfortable. Our feelings are there to let us know we need to attend to something, and usually once we do, the feelings pass. It's okay for you and your husband to think and feel differently about this. In a good marriage, we think together, not alike. Ask your husband to let you feel as you do, and you let him be okay with it.

One way I like to think about important issues is this: I am on my deathbed, reviewing my life. What is important? Will it be how many wives your son has, or whether you feel loved by him and have loved him well?

You may decide to seek counseling for yourself to sort this out inside you. And perhaps after you do that for a while you will find you want to go with your son to counseling for a little while so you can talk with him about what's most important to you.

You may find the book, "Difficult Conversations" helpful, too.

June, let me know if you have follow-up questions.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by June, a resident of Southgate,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Chandrama, thank you for your reply.

You sound like my son, who has three wives. Anything goes, as long as everyone is "happy", whatever that means. My husband feels the same way as you.

My other son has a traditional marriage, with one wife and three kids. My daughter is also in a traditional marriage with two kids, and pregnant with her third. My other son and daughter think that plural marriage is bad, while the son also thinks gay marriage is bad, and my daughter is fine with it. I have asked my daughter why she is bigoted against plural marriage, yet supportive of gay marriage. She says that plural marriage is bad for kids and women, but she can't quite explain why in a logical way. I have asked her if she would be upset if she had two moms, instead of a mom and dad, and she says, "Of course, Dad is very important to me!". Confusion all over the place.

I have noticed that my traditional marriage kids spend a lot of time doing traditional things with their children (scouts, little league baseball, soccer, camping trips, etc.). My plural marriage family runs in a different way, with the sons seeming to seek alpha male status and the girls eager to please, yet all appear to be happy in their roles. I have seen absolutely no signs of abuse in the plural family. Do you think that some modern women are eager for the plural relationship and its security and subservience? Are they just wired (genetic) that way?

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi June,

I do think it would be worth talking with a therapist about all of this. Let me know if Connect2 may be of service.

The truth is we have very little control over many things, and no control over others. We can gain mastery within ourselves, however, and that's the best place to focus our efforts.

Everyone defines happiness in his/her own way. I can not get into the heads of all these people you describe to me without meeting them.

I personally would not choose a plural marriage; neither would I judge another for it.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 24, 2014 at 6:43 pm

> neither would I judge another for it.

I would.

What kind of time can he find for 12 children to be a father?

I think (hope) this was a bad joke.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:50 am

This is astounding.

When the debate was about gay marriage, several said this was the beginning of a downward spiral and the next would be plural marriage or marriage between siblings or other close relatives. The gay community told us that "there are laws to stop that", well it seems laws can be changed to anything anyone wants since the law was overturned on same sex marriage. Plural marriage, or bigamy, even if there is no actual marriage, is obviously the next deviation from traditional marriage and family values.

I am with Crescent Park Anon on this one, but I very much doubt it is a joke and if by any faint chance it is, it is not a very funny one.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Jun 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Resident, Thanks for sharing your views in a constructive manner.

Just to be more clear, when I say that I support gay marriage, and would not judge this son, I am not saying I support plural marriage.

I am saying the mom can not change her son, and she needs support to deal with her feelings.

Posted by Thoughful Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jun 26, 2014 at 6:09 pm

June, it's so tough to deal with the choices our kids make. You deserve a lot of sympathy as you explore how to deal with some difficult situations with your family members.

What I wonder about is Chandrama's reasoning about the issue of whether or not we can change other people, including our kids. True, our influence with our children wanes as they get older. True, we do need to respect their choices, even if we disagree, and for very carefully thought out reasons, as opposed to knee-jerk adherence to societal or religious values. And true, we will be in relationship with our kids for as long as we live.

So does that mean that, because we can not change our sons or daughters, we are left only with the option of go into counseling for support to "deal with our feelings?"

I'm all for support for dealing with our feelings. I think we also need support as we decide what actions we need to take in the face of difficult situations. Is there a hidden premise here that, because we can not change our sons or daughters, that we need to change our feelings about their choices, and the effects of their choices on the people around them?

For example, June says, "My plural marriage family runs in a different way, with the sons seeming to seek alpha male status and the girls eager to please, yet all appear to be happy in their roles." Does this not sound like a patriarchal framework? I have no problem with alpha male striving, but perhaps alpha female striving doesn't go amiss in our male-dominated society. Is that possible in the family structure you describe?

For the record, I'm male, and not afraid to assert myself, and yet my wife and I worked hard to raise our kids to fully develop all sides of their personalities.

Of course, you can use thoughtful support as you work through your feelings about the choices your family members, particularly your son with two families, make.

So here are some questions, June: Is it really just about your feelings? Are there not legitimate questions about whether this multiple family, and it's seemingly rather patriarchal model, works in society? Is this a good environment for your grandkids to grow up in? Does the fact that your husband is comfortable with all this mean that your judgments are in questions?

By all means, seek support. But don't give up your ability to make thoughtful and careful decisions about how to work best with your family and its relationships

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Jun 27, 2014 at 7:20 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

At times, writing is such a tough medium as we can not say all we want, and no body language or tone goes with it. And let's remember that we don't know any of these people personally.

For June to seek counseling would be for her feelings, yet not just for her feelings. She has to decide if, what, and when to say something to her son, or daughter-in-law, or the other women involved. And that may come after she has a safe place to talk about a situation that is complicated and outside the norm.

If this were your family, who would you feel you to turn to to discuss it without judgement (including potential judgement of June, herself)?

A good counselor provides that safe place, offers support, asks good questions, teaches important communication skills and tools, helps June find her authentic voice AND let's June decide what, if anything, she is going to do about it all.

Posted by June, a resident of Southgate,
on Jun 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I spoke to my plural marriage son this weekend, and told him that I actually communicated with a local blog. He read the blog. He told me that he supports my feelings, but he does not agree with my biases. He asked me to not tell what his address is, because there is so much bigotry against plural marriage, and that he could get arrested. He also reminded me that there are many plural marriages in our society, but they are closeted. He lives on a cul-de-sac in the greater Bay Area, and he owned three homes, now he has bought two more, for two more future wives. He says that there are many women who want a man who can take care of their needs, and he does not force anything. He thinks he is a great dad. His three wives have college degrees, and seem to go along with it all. I would not, but they do.

I think this all comes about, because traditional marriage has broken down. I think children deserve one mother and one father. Divorce is bad for children, no matter how much it supports the "happiness" of the parents. Gay marriage prevents a male and female parent connection for those kids who are subjected to it. Plural marriage may look good, at times, but there are serious risks, I think.

I think I may not need counseling as much as moving to a more traditional area.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Jun 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

June, I am glad to hear that you talked with your son.

Sounds like it went well inter-personally, and that you did not get the outcome you were hoping for.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 10, 2014 at 12:27 am

I think our society's interpretation of the nuclear family is toxic and dysfunctional for the most part. Kids grow up break off and go off alone finding someone and then their kids grow up with two parents who usually work and cannot devote the time or resources they wish to their children. I am certainly critical of what our society is becoming, but I am really creeped out by this story. They say it takes a village, but that is because each member of an open village can add something valid to a child's perspective in life. Not so when someone's life is distorted so that the village has no idea about it.

Here is a guy who is really playing with people's lives here ... and when you look forward this is going to be a whole branch of people into the future, because of his alpha male ego. A guy who presumably has to live a lie and so cannot be his real self with anyone, save maybe his family, but how can his family really know him when they all have to pretend there is nothing odd going on. I just see bad vibes and nothing good in this kind of thing, think of what he is stealing from his children that they will never have and quite possibly always be uneasy with.

My only example of this was a very good woman friend of mine from the Far East who told me the story of her family. Her father was a very successful man and owned multiple businesses and factories and she had many brothers and sisters ... I think 8 in all in the family. Then her father passed away quickly and unexpectedly. At his funeral she and her family met 2 whole other families that he had kept and been going back and forth to and from her whole life. What does that kind of thing do to someone.

Our normal family structure is bad enough for most of us ... why compound it by living in the twilight zone? Finally as every year the human population looms larger as the biggest problem this planet faces, having so many children is just stealing from everyone else. Sure, it's not felt by any one person but to me this is a selfish and ugly action against and in contempt of society and others as whole. I'm very sad to have read this and just the indifference of someone who would do that to so many people creeped me out for quite a while after reading Junes post.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm

I don't think our traditional nuclear family is toxic, I think it is the most child-protective and nurturing model I can think of. There is no contradiction between a nuclear family and the village, since our children can join in village groups outside their own families.

I don't like gay marriage or plural marriage, because they are both less than optimal for children. However, if gay marriage is to be legal, then so should plural marriage, because opposition to both is based on bigotry and/or tradition. Once plural marriage is legal, they will come out of the legal shadows and celebrate their existence within the village.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Jack, your reasoning really seems faulty here.

First, let me qualify my comment on the "traditional nuclear family". I do not mean the nuclear family where the family and relatives all live in the same town, where children, parents and grandparents live in the same house or property or neighborhood. What I meant was that I think it is very dangerous for parents, especially one-parent families to live along and isolated in a city for purposes of employment, moving frequently and never putting down roots. This is what our country has turned into ... perhaps I should have not qualified that with the term "traditional" but it has been going on since at least since post-WWII.

Second, your comment that somehow ties gay marriage to plural marriage, which you say do you not like, really baffles me. I don't really see the relationship between gay marriage which involves a commitment between two people, and plural marriage which has all kind of other connotations and problems. Opposition to both is NOT based on bigotry and tradition.

There are a lot of reasons against plural marriage, and look to why it was made illegal in the past for that. Marriage is a relationship, plural marriage is a corporation - and speaking for myself I have had enough of the corporations and the powerful trying to distort everything in American life to their whims - and damn the consequences.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

CPA, you might want to look at the following opinion piece in the NYT. It discusses various angles concerning plural marriage.

I don't like gay marriage, and I don't like plural marriage, because I think kids deserve better, and I think our society should model the best marriage model. However, if our society is moving to freedom of choice among consenting adults, then we are on a relatively new path, and it needs to be considered in a fair way.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 12, 2014 at 6:39 pm

> It also discusses certain inconsistencies by liberals.

You expressed your opinion, I expressed mine.

Got no argument. This is not a political issue.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Jack, if you really want to argue this issue, there are 197 comments you can troll on the NYT page , jump right in, this is really not the place.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Jul 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Anyone else have a couple's topic they would like to hear about on Couple's Net? Perhaps a topic more common to many of us?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jul 14, 2014 at 12:10 am

> Perhaps a topic more common to many of us?

LOL, we hope anyway. ;-)

What is the new couple's paradigm these days. On TV and in Movies one seems to see a lot of serial relationships ... almost every character is dealing with an ex, and kids, and the incumbent problems.

Do people expect to be with one person throughout their life anymore, or do they prepare for the worst and rehearse in their mind how to cooly have a conversation with their ex, in front of their new spouse while their kids look on soaking it all up? ;-)

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