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When a baby’s on the way should you close the relationship if you feel you can’t trust your partner? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

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Episode 8 – Polyamorous and Pregnant

When a baby’s on the way should you close the relationship if you feel you can’t trust your partner? That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help. Find the full audio transcription of this episode on Patreon.

Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

Letter:

My current partner and I have been together for about a year and will be having a child with the beginning of next year. When we first made the decision to be in a relationship, we both said that we wanted to be a non monogamous relationship. Both of us have been in long term relationships previously and felt that we would want to be able to pursue other relationships as well.

Both of us agreed that it was important to us to talk about possible other relationships openly. At the time, we were both living in separate apartments and I wasn’t pregnant. To me, our situation has drastically changed now that I am pregnant which in our case means that we are legally tied to one another and we are planning to move in together the beginning of next year.

Not only am I not the same person hormonally, physically and emotionally I was before we made the decision to have a child, every decision we make from now on will have an effect on all three of us. After having a few talks I have suggested that we close our relationship for now and figure out our current ever evolving situation all the while keeping a non-monogamous relationship as a long-term goal. Both of us aren’t dating anyone at the moment.

I have made the suggestion in part because I feel that this is such a fragile situation in many ways but also because I find it hard to trust him. He, for example, wanted to go on a date and wanted to reassure me by saying that was just going to be a friendly lunch. I knew it wasn’t but I didn’t feel it was my job to point that out, but his. Afterward he told me all about it but couldn’t bring himself to say that he actually been on a date and made out. When he wants to reassure me he does so in a way that is all too familiar with regard to monogamous relationships, meaning he minimises possible relationships and says stuff like he “doesn’t want to develop feelings”  for someone else which isn’t necessary at all.

I don’t find any of this helpful on the contrary I find it quite unrealistic because who can possibly predict the future? I feel like we have much work to do to actually be able to be non-monogamous. At the moment I feel that, because of the way he behaves, there’s so much emotional labour that I have to do that actually is his which I just can’t deal with on top of all the pregnancy stuff. I’d really appreciate your prospective.

Response:

There’s a few things that are a bit off here. I think that… the big thing I always typically say to people… the big sort of inclination people have when it comes to opening their relationship is the idea that closing the relationship is safer.

Sorry for the background noise. And they do this because… they do it in times of stress and they think… Oh crap there is all this stuff going on. Let’s close the relationship and deal with the issues and then will open it up later on again. I feel like… on the one hand this can be helpful but on the other hand I really don’t think it actually fixes the problem. In fact I think it delays the inevitable because I think people tend to assume that monogamy is safer and it’s not really safer.

If you really look at it being monogamous doesn’t guarantee that your partner won’t fall in love with someone else. It doesn’t guarantee that your partner won’t flirt with someone else. It doesn’t really guarantee anything. It’s just that we have grown up in a society that has endorsed monogamy as the only option and so we have a lot of cultural scripts that reinforce the idea that monogamy is safer. That if you… especially if you have ever been introduced to the concept of the relationship escalator— the idea that, like, you know these are the steps you go through. You date, you marry have kids, duh dah duh and those are the steps. And you feel comforted when you do those steps because society is sort of reinforcing to you the idea that this is making a relationship more stable and psychologically it works that way too.

And so it can be really hard for people in open relationships because they don’t have that script. And so they feel like they’re trying to establish some sense of stability and they don’t have the same cultural scripts to establish that stability. So they are kind of at a loss and and have to figure out alternative ways of establishing that stability. And I think what you have here is a problem that will be a problem whether you’re monogamous or not. Now monogamy may feel safer because you don’t have any active threats to focus on but you’ve kind of zeroed in on the issue — it’s that you can’t trust him.

Now… different people define cheating in different ways and I’m a very much of the opinion that it’s not up to me to define cheating for someone else. In some people’s arrangements in a relationship looking at porn is cheating. If that’s how they want to define it then it’s totally up to them. I personally define cheating as a partner hiding or trying to hide something basically. And that doesn’t even have to be another relationship. If someone chooses to lie or is lying by omission and is hiding something from me, whether that be… it doesn’t even matter. It can just be just making out. If they’re hiding it from me than that to me is cheating. I don’t like that. That’s a big no for me.

In the way I define cheating, what your partner would have done by not telling me or hiding from me that they were making out with someone would be cheating to me. Now it’s not up to me to define that for you. However I do find that in a lot of cases where people are new to non-monogamy, oddly enough because of the way they’ve learnt relationships in monogamy, cheating feels easier to them then telling their partner the truth. And that when they first have a date or they first sleep with someone else or they first… they feel so inherent that they need to hide it, they have actually have a really hard time telling their partner the truth. Because they’re just so intrinsically trained to accept the fact that their partner is going to be upset.

Or you know yet they just trying out non-monogamy and it’s easy to say “I’m fine with this. I’m fine with that”. But when it actually happens, who knows what your feelings are going to be? So they delay it or they do exactly what you describe your partner doing, is trying to minimise it or trying to find some easy way of doing it but not doing it. And it may not be that your partner is like trying to hide things from you actively because I do think you can cheat without like intentionally trying to. I think this sometimes quite a lot happens when people start opening up their relationship. They don’t really mean to hide things but they just don’t have the tools to say it and they don’t know what else to do. So they just try to say so without saying so.

It’s also another big thing because you mention being “totally open” and I think another thing that I find that people do is they share every detail because… I mean I’ve even read some letters from people who only will have sex with another person if their partner is physically present because they’re so afraid of being accused of cheating that they want their partner to witness it so that they can’t be accused of cheating.

This is really difficult to navigate. It is really confusing to know are… and this is something that I find awkward as hell as well like… when do you tell your partner and how do you tell your partner? And as the other partner, you don’t want to feel like your partner has to like report to you about the people that they slept with. It just feels weird but at the same time that you don’t want them to hide it from you. So I just… I think you might just have to accept that this is weird and you guys might need to talk to each other about this.

You’ve decided to be open but you haven’t really decided to you know… and it’s honestly a discussion I’ve sat down and had with my domestic partner. It’s like… ok when do we tell each other? How do we tell each other? I think I’ve just kind of accepted that it’s awkward as fuck, but it’s just…. it is what it is, you know. In my personal relationships, I have a rule of like…  if I’m really upset, if I’m having a bad day… There was one time when one of my partners slept with someone new and it was actually just after the Orlando massacre and I was not in a good position to be told that.

Not necessarily because I’d feel jealous it’s just because… if I was going to have anxiety about a new partner, which I did and do, telling me when I’m already hugely fricking anxious just isn’t that great of an idea. So they ended up telling me later which was fine with me. Like it wasn’t hiding something from m, it was going, ok maybe now is not the best time, you know? And so we kind of have an agreement that… telling me… basically because of sexual health is really the only reason I want to know. I’m not like… I don’t need a tally. But for sexual health reasons, you know… like my partner doesn’t have to tell me when they kissed someone else but if there’s a sexual health risk, I just want to know.

So you need to negotiate that with your partner and decide when do you need to know? What do you need to know? You don’t need to know every detail and this is something that I really, really want to emphasise. Because I think sometimes people think that being open and honest means “oh and then we kissed and then we took things to the couch…” like you don’t need to know that. Some people really like that detail. Some people are into that. Some people are not and it’s ok to not be into that. Just because you aren’t into that doesn’t mean you’re not non-monogamous.

I think some people think that they… they picture like this aspect of polyamory that’s some sort like emotional bootcamp and they have to sit there and listen to their partner going into detail about all the shit they’ve done with someone else as if it’s testing their ability to be… like you don’t. For what? For what for what reason? You don’t need to know all the gritty details. You really don’t. Just decide what you need to know and when you need to know it and just create some rules around that.

And that makes it a lot easier and it might not be…  I can totally understand why you wouldn’t trust him. And I feel like this is a key problem like… closing or opening your relationship won’t fix that. I think you know that. And I can totally understand why in this situation, especially with pregnancy, especially dealing with a bunch of hormones, that you just felt like it was easier.  I totally get that but you definitely have to solve the inner problem because that’s going to be a problem regardless.

I think you just need to sit down and think about… find a polyamory friendly therapist and figure out why it is that he’s hiding things. Is it because of this? Because it might not honestly be malicious. It might just be that he just honestly doesn’t know how to tell you. And maybe is worried… I think it’s some people and it drives me freaking nuts cos I’ve been in this situation before. I really hate it when people— and I feel exactly the way that you do— I really hate it when people try to protect me from my feelings or try to protect themselves. They don’t want me to get upset so they try to mitigate my feelings by, I don’t know like, asking me for permission for stuff or saying “Are you going to be ok?”.

Like I really hate that shit. I really hate feeling like I have to… you know, that I can’t have an emotional reaction to something or that I have to guarantee that I won’t have an emotional reaction to something. And you can’t. So really be wary of anything that’s like, “oh are you sure you’re ok with it?” Sometimes we don’t know that we’re not ok with something until it happens and then we’re like “ah actually I’m not ok”. And that’s alright. It’s not that you are manipulating anyone. It’s not that you’re holding anything back. It’s just sometimes you think you’ll be ok and you’re not, you know? And that’s just life.

So I think like… sit down, figure out why he’s doing this and… to me it doesn’t sound malicious. It doesn’t sound like he’s trying to keep things from you, especially when you said that he tries to sort of minimise relationships and says he doesn’t want to develop feelings. I mean he needs to accept… and you both need to accept you cannot control your feelings. The other big intro to polyamory mistake is people going, “I’ll only love you and I won’t fall in love with anyone else and you’ll be the only person I love”.  And that’s just not realistic. It’s not realistic for monogamy. It’s not realistic for polyamory. It’s not realistic for life. You cannot control who you have feelings for.

You can control your actions. And there are times when I think people develop feelings, and they know that they’re developing feelings and they know… like you can see them slowly being drawn into things and they behave in ways like.. “I’m just going to go over to this person’s house and we’re just gonna have a chat. Nothing’s gonna…” You know, they… they know that they’re developing feelings and they’re not seeing their actions. Like people can be not that self-aware to the point where they actually are walking straight into a situation that they could have prevented. But you know, you can’t control your feelings. You can control your actions. And maybe that’s a discussion you all need to have, especially with the child coming in. Cause that’s another big thing.

Now again, I’m not here to tell people how to be a parent. I’m not here to tell people how to raise children but I can say from personal experience as a former child that I don’t think… I’m very against the idea that children need a specific number of parents of specific genders. One parent who is dedicated to being a parent, who is dedicated to making sure that child is their top priority in life is good enough. I think that’s what children need. They need stability and they need the people who are part of their lives, regardless of who they are, who say to them that they are an important part of their lives— they need those people to stick around. That’s what they need. It only hurts a child like…  I don’t think that… I think it’s difficult like if you, for example, don’t have a father and you grow up in a society that says you should have a father. That is difficult. I’m not denying that that’s difficult.

But I think that it’s hurtful regardless for someone to come into a child’s life and be like “I’m going to be here for you. I’m there for you. I am one of your parents.” or be something like a parent and then just piss off. So you guys need to have some real discussions about priorities because in my opinion when you have a child they are your primary focus. You know, there is a hierarchy in my opinion. There should be a hierarchy when there’s a child involved. That child should be the most important person in your life and you should care about their welfare first and foremost and that needs to be for every person that considers themselves a parent.

And you also need to think about, when are you going to introduce other people into your child’s life? When is it appropriate? How do you communicate that to a child? I’m not sure if you’ve discussed where you see non monogamy working out in your life together. How much time do you spend with other partners? How much time do you spend with the family? You know, do you want a live in partner? Is that something that either of you want? These are really important discussions to have especially if a child is on the way and especially if you’re going to be living together.

And that’s another big thing that I think you also need to be I prepared for. You both have lived apart your whole relationship. Living together is another kettle of fish. Living together introduces a lot of issues that may not have been there before. I had really great, really solid relationships with people and then when we moved in together that changed because living with them was very different to just dating them and having them visit me occasionally. Because living with them meant you know, the daily squabbles. There’s cleaning. There’s logistics. There’s a lot of things. You can love a person and love dating and love being around them and living with them is a nightmare.

So that’s a reality that you all need to discuss and think about. What if you don’t like living together? What if that doesn’t work out? How is that going to work out with your kid? Cause that might happen you know. You need to think about especially like… you’re worried about all this emotional labour you’re doing now. What about physical labor? What about, you know, there are plenty of studies that suggest that even as women are working— and I actually don’t know if you identify as a woman. I apologise — But generally people were are read as women who are working… I’m pretty sure there is enough statistical evidence to prove that they still do the vast majority of the fricking house work. So is that going to be a thing? And that’s something to think about. Especially if you can’t trust him.

You need to figure out how to rebuild that trust because you’re gonna need to trust him. You’re going to need to— not just from a relationship aspect of is he telling you the truth about this friendly date or not— but from an aspect of, is he going to pick up the child on time? You know, that’s a big thing. So you know I think you need to work out some of those logistical issues and really think about what happens if you don’t like living together. Where does that lead you? Think about where you want non-monogamy to play into this and just make sure… in my opinion like again… I’m not necessarily here to tell anyone how to raise their child, but I do honestly and sincerely think that, regardless of your relationship style, if you have children and you want to be a parent and that’s what you want then they need to be the most important thing in your entire life. They need to be the focus of everything at least until they don’t require you to take care of them, because they’re brought into this world have of no choice of their own and they need you and it’s, you know, you have to provide for them and if you can’t then you need to give them to someone who can. I feel quite strongly about that as you can probably tell.

But yeah, to sum up what I’ve said. From what you said, I don’t think that… It doesn’t sound like he’s being dishonest because he’s trying to be malicious. It just honestly sounds like… he doesn’t know how to communicate it and he might also have a problem with self-awareness. Like you said he went on this date and it was just a friendship date. He might’ve genuinely felt that but isn’t just self aware to realise that it’s going to turn into something else. And he needs to work on that. So I think you guys need to find a polyamory friendly therapist. You need to figure out why he’s lying. If he’s doing it to protect your feelings he needs to stop doing that because it’s not helping. Or he’s doing it because he genuinely doesn’t know how to tell you and when to tell you and you need to work those things out. Expect that it’s gonna be fricking awkward cause it just is. It’s just awkward. One of my partner’s was like, “Oh I slept with someone”. Okay. Mhm. Awkward. It’s awkward. But I wanna know so there it is.

So just figure out what you want to know and when you want to know it. I really generally advise, you do not need the details. If you like that sort of thing, that’s fine. Do it.  If you like it. If you’re not sure you’re going to like it. If you think it’s just going to cause you loads of anxiety and make you compare and contrast and… don’t do it. There’s no reason. You don’t… this isn’t emotional gladiator. You don’t… You just don’t.

The other thing is, you need to figure out the logistical situation with the kids… or with the child sorry. With singular child. What’s it going to be like if you don’t enjoy living together? I think you also need to work on how you rebuild trust. Because it’s okay that you feel like you don’t trust him even if he hasn’t been dishonest for any malicious reason than… you still don’t feel like you can trust him because he hasn’t been honest. So you guys have to… expect that that will take time but figure out… I think it’s really useful in these situations to figure out concrete ways that trust can be built back. Like if you can trust him to do this one task, especially if it’s really hard for you to trust someone to do. Like I can be a person where I just feel like I don’t think this will get done right if I don’t do it myself and it can actually be hard for me to just trust somebody else to take care of something. So sometimes that helps me rebuild trust with people. If I can go, “This is your task. I’m giving it to you. You do it.” And I just do the best I can to step the hell away and I don’t check up on it and I just leave it in the hands of the other person. If they do it, it super helps me to rebuild trust with them.

And a therapist can help you figure that out. Figure out what can help you rebuild trust. And lastly I just think… everything that you’ve done sounds like it make sense. You’re having a lot of changes. Things are definitely going to change when you have a child… I think I’m probably preaching to the choir. It seems like you’re pretty well informed and understanding that you feel differently and things have changed. You might feel different about keeping your relationship closed. I do think it’s a bit delaying the inevitable and… because… closing your relationship to solve an issue almost seems like when you open it back up again there aren’t any problems anymore and sometimes… not only is that not the case but sometimes the problems only really manifest themselves when that person is dating more people and so you can’t actually adequately address those problems while the relationship is closed because the things that are causing those problems aren’t happening. So you may think that you’re addressing them because you’re talking about them but it’s easy to talk about stuff when it’s theoretical; but when it’s actually happening, it’s not so easy because, you know, it’s happening.

I do think, definitely find a polyamory friendly therapist who can help you guys work through this stuff. It makes sense what you’ve done. It makes sense how you feel. You just need to figure out… why is he lying? What you’re going to do about your priorities with the kids… or kid. Sorry, I keep saying kids. I’m not wishing you give birth to twins or anything. And just figure out how to rebuild trust with one another.

I really hope that helps and good luck!

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