Permanent "third wheel" -- is this healthy?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2014
Permanent "third wheel" -- is this healthy?
Tue, 03-18-2014 - 1:20pm

Hi, this my first post on iVillage so I hope it's the right place.  I am having some confusing feelings and I can't afford a therapist so I thought I'd see what some peers think.

I am a single woman, never married, and 38.  I used to work in the medical field, and even though we are very different I became best friends with a younger woman who worked alongside me.  She is very very petite and I am a plus-sized woman and then some, but we became inseparable.

I unfortunately developed some alcohol problems a few years ago.  I ended up leaving my job, and overall I had a really tough time.  I stayed in close touch with my friend, who by then had moved in with her much older boyfriend (she's 29, he's 49).  They were warm and welcoming and although they have a very small old house, they converted the living room into a bedroom for me. I've lived with them for about two years.  They are a lovely couple, and don't drink at all and it has been easy for me to stay away from alcohol for two years.  They definitely aren't rich, but are doing okay.

We have become more or less a family unit.  We do everything together and they are super kind to me.  They have never asked for a dime.  They both work, and I don't currently work so I do keep the house clean, and cook for them, take the dogs for walks and so on -- they never asked me to, but domesticity really suits me.  Outside of their jobs, we do almost everything together (except jogging which i'm terrible at), and I'm sure we look pretty strange: the bf is very tall, bald and conservatively dressed, the gf is flea-sized, gorgeous, and outside of work wears incredibly high heels, somewhat overly skimpy outfits and has tongue and belly rings (certainly tarty but at the same time cute), and I just wear normal clothes and flat shoes.  People must think we are an odd spectacle.

I do feel like I'm a huge intrusion but they seem 100 percent okay with letting me live there as long as I want.  They have more or less adopted me and I them.  The bf even loans me his car most days if I just run him over to his office in the morning.  They long ago gave me a charge card, saying vaguely, some day you can repay us, it's fine.  They don't say a word about the cost (not that I'm at all extravagant).  My room is lovely and would seem to really impinge on their lviing space.  The only downside is that the house only has one full bathroom, which is off their bedroom, but at least has a separate loo in the hall.

They are quite into PDA and while it was awkward at first, I'm fine with it now.  It is, after all, their home.  Our bedrooms share a common wall and I hear everything -- including what clearly sound like her extensive oral performances.  It makes me smile though, for the most part.  Put it this way: she is genuinely excited for him to come home every day, and is very very welcoming when he walks in the door.  Then he goes to the hall bathroom and takes the world's longest pee while she is standing in the door catching up on the day's events.  I mean it's exactly like that almost every day!

I guess I'm starting to feel love for both of them, almost like family love.  I find myself taking perhaps too much time to make the house perfect, the little yard perfect, their bedroom perfect, their clothes perfect, and their meals perfect.  I don't have any strong interest in men, and vice-versa.  All in all, it's perhaps too good a situation and I am becoming attached to it.  It doesn't seem typical or healthy for an under-40 woman to live like this, but on the other hand if I lived by myself I think I would get lonely and go back to some not-good things.  I don't think they are ever going to get married or have kids, and I think they are perfectly okay to let me live there as long as I want.  There has never been a harsh word that I can recall.

Any thoughts about whether this situation is okay?  Is it just a harmless modern version of a family unit?  Or not healthy?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

It's really hard to say but the fact that you are questioning it yourself makes me think that this is not the best permanent situation for you.  If you just had a female roommate or even female and male roommates and you all got along well, no one would think anything about it.  Not everyone is interested in romance either and there are women & men who are very happy not being married.  I know I would find it very hard to live with watching & hearing another couple being romantic every day.  I do think the fact that you are completely dependent on them and don't seem to have any other friends is troubling--what happens if they get tired of you someday?  Then what will you do?  If they are nice people, I don't think they would throw you out w/o notice but what if they say hey, we think this has gone on long enough, maybe you should start to look for another place.  Is there any reason that you can't work now?  The fact that you aren't working is really going to affect you in the future--I don't think they expect to support you forever, do you?  And years without work means that you aren't saving for retirement and your Social Security payment isn't going to be that much.

I won't even get into the romance area, but why don't you have other friends?  I don't really think it's healthy to only have one friend or basically 2 friends who are a couple--if some kind of rift happens, you won't have any other person to do things with.  Why don't you start looking to do something where you can meet other people?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-18-2014

Thanks for the reply.  I do have some other friends but you raise good points.  Clearly I need to find a job and get back to where I am not receiving a handout and taking advantage of these very nice and very sexy and very lovely people.  At least if I could support myself, even if I didn't immediately move out I could help compensate them somehow.  Very worried about the alcohol thing if I go back by myself though; the fact that they keep no alcohol in the house and have no interest in it is really good for me.  I am starting to worry that I am falling in love with both of them, which is good only to a very limited degree. It's nice to socialize with their friends but it's time I get back on track and find my own.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003

This is the oddest living situation I've ever come across, online and IRL. I would understand if it was them living their couple life, and you living your completely independent life regardless of them and paying them rent/bills etc. Living in their pocket to that extent AND being financially dependent on them is to me, very seriously unhealthy, to put it mildly.

It is also inconceiavable to me that you're quite happy with this set up. I wouldn't last a day... half a day.

It's not just being the 3rd wheel 24/7,  or being a spectator of a happy couple's very personal life.It's the fact that you don't seem to mind that you live off them and that it's up to them, more or less, what happens to you tomorrow, next week, next month. Why did you put yourself in this situation? You're 38.. not 18. What if, as Musiclover says, in a couple of months' time from now they decide that the want to marry/have a child/move out/move in a relative.. the list is endless? How can you bear the uncertainty and dependence on  people who aren't even your 'flesh and blood'?

What happend to your life to get you where you are now at 38? You used to be in a medical profession.. you must realise that being obese is life threatening. It is also stopping you from socialising, loving, living your own grow-up independent life... Cooking and cleaning for a couple for this what you've wanted for yourself at this stage in lfie?

My advise would be to start, slowly but surely, changing this set-up. First step would be looking for a job. Again agree with Musiclover, the longer you're out of work, the harder it will be to return to work.  How are you going to explain gaps on your CV? Can  you move out of their place and into a relative's/a close SINGLE friend whilst you're looking?  You must absolutely set a goal for yourself to get a job - and you will get one if you do. Once you have a job and a place of your own/shared with other people INDEPENDENTLY, you can start working on your weight. And yes, if you're saying that you are 'large and then some', you do need to loose a lot of weight.

You will feel like a completely new person when you're employed, independent and much slimmer. This will come accross in the way you relate to people. You'll become happier, stronger, more might even meet someone great. This limbo you're in has to end - soon. Even considering the dangers of alcohol being freely available - you can't hide from it all your life; you need to be able to face being surrounded by it and being able to resist. Otherwise, you're a 'dry alcoholic', or some such. It sounds like your drinking problems were quite short term and can be recovered from.

Please don't waste any more time. Sorry to say but you don't have all that much time to waste at 38. Start changing your life TODAY..............!

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-29-2010

I think it is unhealthy, mainly due to how dependent you seem to be on them and this situation. You seem to be 100% financially dependent on them, is that correct? You're sort of like a live-in maid except that you don't receive a salary but you have use of their credit no money that you can call your own, or the pride one feels in earning their own living, or sort of like a wife except without any rights to the marital assets in the case of a divorce. If for whatever reason they change their minds about the arrangement you have no resources to get other more conventional housing.

Something else that jumped out was that you mentioned a couple of times about alcohol. It sounds like you are psychologically dependent on living with these non-drinkers to keep yourself away from alcohol. IMO the alcohol issue needs to be dealt with, first to figure out if you used alcohol as just a temporary crutch a few years ago or if you are in fact an alcoholic, and then address the problem. There is counseling available on a sliding scale for fees so you could probably get it for free since you have no income.

Overall it sounds like you are using this comfy situation as a way to avoid the hard parts of being an adult. Its not a catastrophe to sometimes feel lonely, you may have to exercise self control to keep from going back to some not-good things---those are the normal struggles of all healthy adults.

I agree with the others that you should start by getting a job and having your own income, then transition out of their home and into a roommate situation, and try to spend more time with other friends. This couple can still be your "best friends" but with a little more space. You seem to be aware that its not completely healthy, trust your gut on this and start moving towards independence.

Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010

  Perhaps getting a job would  be the start and the CV(resume)  is not such a problem just say lived with BF.  that stops  that line of questioning.  Then address, the problem with alcohol (self medication).   Since you posted this you are thinking about making a chamge.


iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2009

What?  This makes no sense.  You must feel like absolute crap listening to her giving her blowjobs then going to change the semen-soaked sheets on their bed the next day.   Yuck!

From what I can tell, they may be taking advantage of you.  Cooking and cleaning for them full-time, in exchange for merely a roof over your head?  

There might even be something going on where this woman is -- whether consciously or unconsciously -- trying to make you feel bad.  You say she is petite and super sexy and into PDA right in front of you.  She sort of flaunts her submissiveness (you say the bf is taller and much older), or something, like "look how much fun I'm having right in front of your nose.".  She purposely leaves the bathroom door ajar while her bf is peeing with you apparently nearby, and acts like it's nothing.  She is loud in her sucking and sex with him, even though she knows full well that you're right in the next room.

I could be wrong, but something tells me you're being played.  I do agree that the idea of the family unit is certainly changing. And for sure, being around sober people is good if you have an alcohol problem. But even so this just doesn't feel right.  As the others said, get a job and move out.