My partner and I have been together for 2.5 years. Our relationship has always been open (we are both poly). I am autistic. He recently started seeing a girl that I have issues with, and may have knocked her up on Sunday. He handled the situation with less tact than he could have — it sounds like a miscommunication to me. She is refusing to speak to him right now, and I think their relationship may be over.
Although I do not trust her, I want him to be happy, and he really likes her. On top of that, he does not want kids, ever, and he is freaking out about that. He’s concerned about hurting her emotionally, too. How do I support him through this? I want so badly to be able to comfort him, but I have never known what to say when someone is hurting or scared.
I don’t like her because she’s irresponsible. She thinks it’s okay to drive drunk “all the time” (her words), she lied to a friend of ours about something big, and I can’t pretend that this pregnancy scare is not at least partially her fault. My partner uses condoms with everyone except me. This time, it broke.
Meanwhile, she has had multiple abortions and uses no other form of birth control. You would think that someone who is obviously so fertile would take precautions. As a result, I do not trust or like her, and I have to treat this health breach with extra caution because I have no guarantee that she will share her test results with me and I cannot take her word.
My partner keeps making excuses for her behavior, citing her harsh upbringing and anxiety. I do understand distress, as I have depression, GAD, ADD, and autism, but she is an adult and should step up and act like it. That includes not lying to people and owning her mistakes. Since their relationship progressed to more than a friendship a month ago, she has brought tenfold drama into our lives. The stress from this drama is also affecting me physically, and I know I cannot endure this much longer.
Honestly, it sounds like you know way more than you need to about your partner’s partner.
You’ve shared with me the reasons you don’t like this girl and… I can totally understand that, but the thing is that you don’t have to like her because, and not to sound harsh, his relationships are none of your business and shouldn’t be made to be.
When to step in with a metamour
The problem here is not that you need to learn how to comfort your partner better, but that your partner needs to not involve you in the emotional drama of his other relationships. Obviously, we’re meant to comfort our partners and help them through hard times, but there becomes a point where there’s too much involvement in someone else’s life that it becomes too much for someone to handle.
Let’s take this example to a workplace. Imagine if your partner worked with a co-worker who as absolutely horrible and untrustworthy. You would understandably comfort your partner, but you wouldn’t step in and try to manage those relationships. And if giving your partner advice about how to deal with this co-worker wasn’t something your partner was interested in listening to… you might eventually say that comforting your partner about this overriding your emotional capacity and you don’t really want to hear about this person anymore.
And that’s totally okay to ask. The fact of the matter is that this drama going on is your partner’s drama to manage. It should not be affecting your or entering into your life and if it is, that is because your partner is allowing it to. Your partner needs to find a therapist and work out the reasons why he chooses partners that are not communicative. He needs to figure out what he’s going to do if this person is pregnant and how he’s going to manage that. He probably needs to contact a lawyer to figure out his rights of relinquishing parenthood of the child.
Accepting responsibility for emotional labour
I do also think that you are accepting too much responsibility for this situation, which is totally understandable. I feel like when we’re socially encouraged to be caregivers, that also comes with it this inclination of feeling like one should help someone as much as possible when they’re going through something. But sometimes, we really need to secure our own mask on before we help others. And in this case, if the stress of this is affecting you seriously, you really need to consider putting up boundaries, for both your partner and yourself.
You are allowed to say to your partner that you don’t want to hear details about what goes on in this relationship. He can tell you that he’s feeling unhappy or stressed about the relationship, and you can provide comfort in the same way you would if he were stressed or unhappy about anything else. But if the details of what’s going on make you feel stressed or if you can’t control the inclination to get involved to the point where your partner is making excuses for this person, then you really need to be able to not be apart of it.
Because there is no real reason why you need to know the details about their relationship. Obviously if condoms break, that is something for you to be concerned with, but only to the extent that you maybe run through condom storage procedures with your partner or discuss the possibility of using condoms with your partner again for three or six months until he’s able to get tested and know he absolutely doesn’t have anything he could pass to you.
Also, side note, condoms do not protect against all STIs. So if your partner is not using condoms with you but using them with other people, that won’t protect against STIs which pass through skin-to-skin contact such as HPV and genital herpes.
Relinquishing expectations and a lack of control
Another thing you need to remember is that you cannot control others. As much as you might think your partner and your partner’s partner should behave better, it is healthier for you to come to accept that there is nothing you can do or say that will change that. With your partner, you’re allowed to have some rules and boundaries about how you’re going to conduct yourselves within your relationship, such as consequences if he lies to you about anything, but you cannot control what goes on in his other relationships. If he is willing to date someone who lies to him, that isn’t something that you can change. And trying to change who he dates will only result in more frustration for you and resentment for him.
I’m hoping this isn’t sounding too harsh. I really do sympathise with your situation and with seeing your partner make choices that you feel aren’t good and feeling frustrated by that. But the healthiest thing you can do for yourself in that instance is to ensure that you are not feeling extremely stressed. You can’t comfort your partner or be there for him if you are too worried about all of the choices he is making. He needs to step up and manage what is going on within his own relationship. He needs to find other resources and people who can help him manage the emotional toll that it’s taking — and that’s not you.
Your partner might think it really harsh for you to say, “I really don’t want to hear any more details about this relationship” but I do believe the alternative will be growing resentment and frustration from you. And the more resentment you’re going to feel, the more likely it will be that this will sour your relationship with him. So put those boundaries up, give yourself some breathing space, comfort him when he’s feeling sad or upset, but try and separate yourself from a situation that you really shouldn’t be in the middle of anyway.
I hope this helps and good luck!
Note: I wrote this column in 2018, so it’s possible my perspective on this may have shifted or expanded. Please feel free to resubmit a similar question.
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