#1098: “Oops, just figured out I’m polyamorous, 18 months into a serious monogamous relationship with the father of my child.”

Captain Awkward,

I’ve found myself in a really damn sticky situation. I’m polyamorous. I just recently told my partner, we’ve been together for 18 months this June, we’re engaged, and we have a kid together. (For anonymity, I’ll be referring to my partner as Darin and our son as Ash.) I love Darin, and I love our son, before they came along, I didn’t know that kind of love was possible. I want to grow old with them. But I’ve recently figured out I’m polyamorous, and I told Darin, and he had said, ‘If you wanna go out with other people you do realise that we’d break up, right?’ And obviously, that’s the last thing that I want. But I feel really strongly that if I don’t explore my polyamoury, I’m doing myself a disservice. I feel like some part of me is saying, ‘You have to do this, if you don’t, you’re killing yourself.’ And there’s this guy, who I’ll refer to as Fireball, who I like and who likes me, and I did our natal chart for compatibility and we’re basically made for each other, unlike me and Darin’s which was 3/4 negativity and challenge.

My question is really, I feel like I need to do something about my polyamoury, like if I don’t, I feel like my Soul is dying, but my partner isn’t cool with it, and I have no idea what to do.

–I Don’t Want to be a B*tch to My Fiancé

Hello there,

Only you can decide what you want to do, but maybe we can help you with a framework for how to make the decision. There are lots of books about polyamory (Opening Up, More Than Two, and The Ethical Slut are recommended here quite a bit) where you can read the wisdom of other people who have been through the same dilemmas and tough conversations.

My take:

Darin has already told you he’s not about it. So you know how he feels, and you know what he would want to do if you did want to pursue other relationships (Break up). Whatever polyamory is going to look like for you, it will not be Darin + You + Fireball/other people. It will be more like You + Fireball and/or other folks as you meet them. I think once you start thinking of it that way, it might clarify a way to make decisions and imagine your future.

You will always have some sort of relationship with Darin because you have a child together. So, think about how that relationship would change if you stopped being his long-term romantic partner, and make a plan for that. For example:

  • If you and Darin did split up romantically, how could you be great co-parents to your son?
  • How would money work? What would your living situation be like? How would you divide up the time and work of raising Ash?
  • What’s the kindest way to end the romantic part of your relationship & call off the wedding?
  • What’s the right timeline?

Getting involved with Fireball in secret in hopes of holding onto Darin is not ethical and you know it. So if you want to explore dating or sex with Fireball, you need to call off marrying Darin. You need to let Darin know what you intend, you need to make sure you always practice safer sex and protect Darin’s health, and you need to give him space to possibly exercise his option to end the relationship rather than open it up. And while you’re still deciding all of that, it’s definitely time to stop flirting with Fireball. Don’t put yourself in a gross “it just happened!” situation.

It’s okay to ultimately decide that a monogamous relationship with Darin long-term isn’t what you want. You’ve only been together 18 months, during which there have been a ton of big changes in your lives. Maybe Darin wasn’t the right guy to settle down with, maybe it wasn’t the best time to have a baby, but Ash is here and babies don’t give a single shit about timing or regrets or lust. Deciding to leave probably does mean playing some parts of your life on Hard Mode, but if it’s worth it and necessary to you, then you get to make your choices knowing that lots of families think they will be together forever and end up making other plans.

But can we agree that this Fireball dude is bullshit? You won’t actually die if you don’t explore your polyamory right this second, with him. When you talk about star charts, what I hear is “I have found an excuse that will let me have what I want and pretend that it’s fate.” There’s a lot of language in your letter (“I’ve found myself in a really a sticky situation”) that feels like an attempt to remove agency from you, like this is something that’s happening to you and not something you are making decisions about. I mean, like the stars I also forsee a lot of conflict and strife with Darin as you figure all of this out, but there will be other hot, interesting dudes after you’ve spent a little more time thinking about both how to get the romantic life you want and how to ethically and lovingly co-parent your kid with the person who didn’t sign up for this. You don’t owe Darin the rest of your life if that’s not right for you, but you do owe him and Ash some very careful thought. You owe honesty, and kindness, and doing your homework. You owe yourself and everybody else language like “I’m choosing to do this because I think it’s right for me.”

Movie recommendation: Take This Waltz, by Sarah Polley. Synopsis: Happily coupled woman gets hit by the Lust Lightning Bolt and makes some decisions about that. I don’t know if it will give you answers, but it might make you feel less alone.


535 thoughts on “#1098: “Oops, just figured out I’m polyamorous, 18 months into a serious monogamous relationship with the father of my child.”

  1. It’s so hard. Polyamory sounds like the right solution for you, but it’s not the right solution for Darin and he has made that very clear. You aren’t going to get 100 percent of what you want here, but I agree with the Captain that’s important to own your choices and think all this through very carefully. Darin will always be the parent of Ash with you; that is one very important given.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Hm, as someone who’s done open relationships for 2 decades now, I don’t know if I agree that polyamory is “definitely” for the LW.

      We know that she’s got the hots for another guy, and she doesn’t want to break up with her current partner. And, to give her credit, she’s being honest about it.

      None of that means that polyamory is in fact the best relationship style for her. I finally admitted I was not monogamous after multiple relationships over a decade when I cheated in almost every one. It was a struggle, and I still feel guilty about the shit I inflicted on people before I dealt with reality.

      LW meets hot dude and suddenly decides that she will be untrue to her “Soul” if she doesn’t do it? Maybe so, but I wonder how true to her Soul she’ll be if she takes her fiance at his word and breaks up since they obviously don’t agree on relationship style (or it’s run its course anyway). …But DOESN’T immediately get involved with the hot dude and takes some time to reflect on how poly might actually work for her in reality?

      Frankly, I think the Captain’s advice is accurate and amazingly charitable given the story presented here.

      1. “We know that she’s got the hots for another guy, and she doesn’t want to break up with her current partner.”

        And that, my friends, is the long and short of it.

  2. Dear Jennifer, it sounds to me like you answered your own question: “you don’t owe Darin the rest of your life if that’s not right for you.”

    1. Okay? JenniferP = Captain Awkward aka the question answerer, not the Letter Writer.

  3. In my experience, it’s much, much better to have the Polyamory Talk and Negotiation when there isn’t someone waiting in the wings.

    1. So true! I’ve seen several situations where the relationship got burnt to the ground only to realise the person in the wings was actually pretty boring and not very hot at all once the “forbidden fruit” aspect got removed.

      1. Yes, this right here. For the Letter Writer: Were you interested in polyamoury before you met Fireball? If not, it’s possible you’re mistaking your interest in sleeping with this particular guy with an interest in sleeping with other people in general. If you and Darin break up just so you can sleep with Fireball, will that decision be worth it for you if it turns out that you and Fireball aren’t as compatible as your natal charts would indicate? It’s important to recognize that the urge to sleep with particular other people isn’t the sole domain of polyamorous people. Monogamous people are tempted all the time–they just don’t act on it, because the life and bond they have with their primary partner is something they value more and don’t feel up to the time, effort, and emotional labour it takes to balance multiple relationships, even ones that are fairly casual.

        If you truly desire the freedom to take new partners as they come along (other than Fireball specifically), and are willing to put in the work it will take to co-parent with Darin, then it sounds like you’re probably poly. In that case, breaking up with Darin to pursue that is probably in your best interest, because you value that freedom more than the romantic/sexual relationship you currently have with Darin.

        If you just want that freedom right now to sleep with Fireball, and your decision to break it off with Darin is contingent on how great Fireball turns out to be, then… you’re probably best sticking with Darin and keeping Fireball as a private ‘what might have been’ fantasy. From how you’re talking about him, I’d be concerned that you’ve built up such a fantasy of how great you and Fireball would be together that any actual relationship with him wouldn’t be able to measure up to whatever you have in mind.

        1. Yeah it kinda sounds like if LW didn’t consider this until there was someone waiting in the wings, it could still be poly but also sounds like LW has found the thing that would let them get to have Fireball and Darin, if only Darin would get on board.

          Sounds like LW wants to bang her star-foretold dude without having to blow her life up the way she knows she’d have to if she really wants to see other people.

          Sometimes you don’t get to have everything you want.

        2. Yup. I’ve even seen “omg I’ve been poly all along!” as a fake “realization” when they’re experiencing lust and that’s how humans work (and it turns out they suck at trying to be poly). You might be a serial monogamist, you might be experiencing dread in dealing with normal relationship baggage and looking for an easier out, you might be wanting to point blame at Darin as being “the bad guy” and not going along with your needs.

          Regardless of what it is, back-burner “Fireball” hard. Ideally, get him out of the picture entirely. You have a lot of thinking to do and New Relationship Energy (you already have a relationship going with Fireball, face it) is going to mess up your reasonable planning right now.

          1. “Regardless of what it is, back-burner ‘Fireball’ hard. Ideally, get him out of the picture entirely.”

            I think this is really important advice. It’s much easier to think “Of course I’m definitely poly and would be so even if Fireball weren’t in the picture at all!” when Fireball still is totally in the picture. If at all possible, LW should minimize (or completely cut off) contact with Fireball while focusing on understanding what she wants out of her relationship with Darin going forward, be that as a monogamous romantic partner or as a friend and co-parent. Especially because if the LW and Darin do decide to split up, co-parenting will undoubtedly be much harder for both of them if she immediately jumps into a relationship with Fireball.

          2. Similarly, I’ve experienced it when the relationship was troubled but we were basically too afraid to break up. (Spoiler alert, neither of us is poly and we did eventually split.) I imagine having an infant is strong pressure against ending your relationship, so perhaps poly is appealing as a way to “save” it.

        3. Building on this, it might be an idea to put a moratorium on Fireball for a period of time (I’d recommend at least as long as you’ve known him for) while figuring out what to do about your relationship with Darin and everything surrounding your child. Explain to him what you’re doing and why, then go no-contact for that period of time.

          Since you and Fireball are made for each other and he’s poly, it shouldn’t be too difficult to pick up where you left off. But you need to sort out the rest first.

        4. So much this, re: Fireball guzzling.

          LW, would you still break up with Darin even if the ultimate outcome of Being True To Your Soul resulted in you being alone forever?

          Because being alone IS better than being with the wrong person. And you don’t have to stay with the wrong person, even if they are the father of your child.

          But don’t bet the house, nearly literally, on Fireball being so great. Life is bigger than that. Polyam is bigger than that.

    2. Yeah, it’s not healthy (or fair) to add more people to the relationship when there’s trouble with the primary. :-/

      1. ‘There’s trouble with the primary’ isn’t a great way to describe ‘you are in a monogamous relationship’. I see what you’re saying but these are surely two different problems.

    3. Yes, strong agree. It’s important to distinguish “I’m polyamorous” from “I really want to bone this one dude, right now, here in front of me.”

      1. That is exactly what I thought . It feels like a red herring. She doesn’t say I want to explore all manner of dudes and what… she doesn’t say grow old with lots of dudes.

      2. And to also clarify that if “I really want to bone this one dude, right now, here in front of me,” is the LW’s only indication of this newfound identity, that actually doesn’t mean she’s polyamourous. If that attraction is the information basis she’s using, it doesn’t even mean she is in the wrong monogamous relationship! There will likely never be a dude who renders her incapable of finding any other man attractive ever. All that means is her identity is probably not asexual – nothing more.

        Fireball is not a sign from the stars that you’re destined for polyamory, LW. And if he had a hand in helping you come to this sudden realization, he has a self-serving ulterior motive and shouldn’t be trusted here. He needs to be 100% absent from any discovery of your identity, and removed entirely from any decisions you make about the future form of your relationship with Darin. Exploring what it would be like to have sex with this dude and exploring polyamory are two completely unrelated things. Make sure you’re not using the former to mean the latter.

        1. Your second paragraph is really pertinent Madison. It’s possible that LW found Fireball, and a new facet of her identity appeared. It’s also entirely possible that is a run-of-the-mill ‘forbidden fruit’ scenario that is going to leave a whole slew of broken relationships in its wake.

          Tread very cautiously, LW, and leave Fireball and his natal synchronicity out of your examination of your sexual identity, especially when you have a young child who has no say depending on your decisions.

      3. Yep.

        Wanting to bone this dude, right here in front of me, right now, is REALLY COMMON.

        And monogamous people have many options for dealing with it, too. My favorite is “whack it and move on,” to quote a friend.

        But even late-blooming polyamorous people might still decide that staying in a monogamous relationship is worth it; there are many ways to be True To Yourself, and many of them are entirely disjoint; you can’t honor one part of yourself without abandoning another. But that’s okay; that’s life.

        And so, you choose.

        Choose wisely.

    4. Yeah, that felt like a red flag in this question. You’re in a monogamous relationship, but you’re already drawing up compatibility charts with a dude you say you fell for, who fell for you, and comparing them to your current relationship?? I’m very curious if LW has run the compatibility numbers by her fiance, and what his thoughts are on the fact that she’s already scouting out other partners. If she is poly, that’s cool, and if she needs to be free to explore that, that’s cool (hard, but cool), but everything she wrote sounds like a prelude to cheating and like she is trying to figure out a way to make the stuff she is already engaging in magically be not sketchy as hell.

      LW, cut it out with this third dude until you’ve sorted out your actual relationship you are in. If you can’t do that, then you already have the answer and you need to rip the bandaid off.

      1. “everything she wrote sounds like a prelude to cheating and like she is trying to figure out a way to make the stuff she is already engaging in magically be not sketchy as hell.”

        LW *knows* this is a terrible idea and a shitty thing to do. Otherwise she would be relying on reality and not signs from the heavens for justification.

      2. Jolly I love how you’re saying to sort out the actual relationship the LW is in.

        I’m married and monogamous. Marriage isn’t just a government status or a relationship goal you hit like in a game, it’s a commitment. 100%, all in for life, no back door commitment. I’m not looking for a boyfriend, my husband isn’t looking for a girlfriend, so when we have challenges we have to solve them because we committed to each other for life.

        Before we did that, we wrote out all of our values, the things that we could get divorced over if they weren’t in alignment and we quizzed each other. We didn’t get engaged until we were clear that was in alignment and that we were ready to commit for life.

        LW, you need to get clear on how committed you are. Are you and Darin getting married because you actually want to be lifelong partners? Because you want to be best friends in life? Because you’re ready to have him as a witness to the rest of your life?

        If it’s just to have a happy family for Ash or because it just seems to be unintentionally moving in that direction, don’t get married. Check your values. As for polyamory, that’s a decision/value not a feeling. I feel like sleeping with other people instead of my husband sometimes, but my values are to be monogamous. Not everyone is like that though, and you’ll have to decide if that’s a core value for you or a lustful feeling.

        Love isn’t a feeling. That’s lust. Love is waking up every day, and saying “what can I do today to let my partner know they are appreciated and loved?” Love is modeling a relationship that you want your child to have. Love is building a life for your family. Love is a decision you make based on your values every day to stay committed to your marriage because it’s the right thing to do. This isn’t boring or a “ball and chain”, this feels WONDERFUL. Don’t cheat Darin out of that if you’re not willing to be all in with him.

        1. Hmm, I’m not sure I’m down for that vision of marriage. Yes, it’s a commitment, but it doesn’t have the exact same meaning for everyone. I don’t think you can say “if your reasons for marriage don’t look exactly like this, your reasons are bad.”

          1. It sounded to me like this comment had more of an emphasis on consciously *making* the decisions and not so much on what those decisions are, because right now everything in the letter seems unintentional and flung around by fate. Flung around by a child existing, flung around by the stars or by ladyboners and hot charismatic new people.

            If LW is marrying Darin because she feels she has to versus because she wants to/is committed to him in whatever sense of the word, then that matters.

            What’s most important here I think is for LW to actually make an *active* choice here (whatever that choice may be) and not write off these decisions as “X-circumstance made me do it.”

          2. It’s true that this isn’t everyone’s vision of THEIR marriage. It’s just what Audrey/Audrey’s Partner envision for their marriage. But I think the point is that they had these talks and aligned together on it. What they both want and value won’t work for everyone, but also: what they want and value won’t work even for them if they aren’t very much on the same page from Day One.

            Relationships only work when both/all people in the relationship want and are willing to do the work to make sure the relationship continues. If both/all people in a relationship want to stay together but have fundamentally different visions of what that will look like or how it will work, then they don’t actually want the same relationship.

            It doesn’t sound to me like Darin and LW want the same relationship.

      3. Also, as someone who is astro-positive, I want to flag that astrology is an interpretive art, not objective science. Whatever kind of feedback loop may be in play with charts, different astrologers can look at the same charts and read them differently. Part of what feeds into that interpretive process is experience and knowledge of the world. This isn’t to say that self-reading has no use, but with any divination technique you need to approach self-reading with extreme care, especially if you don’t have the depth of experience that comes from reading for other people. LW, you should not be basing any life decisions on your own (almost certainly pants-influenced) interpretation of the synastry here.

        1. If star charts were important to the LW then why is she with Darrin, who is supposedly incompatible? To me it sounds like a convenient justification because she wants Fireball but doesn’t want to take responsibility for making a decision.

    5. THIS. “I just happen to want to explore polyamory right now so I can bang this hot person” is not saying anything to your partner but “I want to bang this hot person and have it be OK with you”.

      1. LW sounds like she’s trying to have her cake and eat it to *regardless* of her orientation. IMO her orientation actually has nothing to do with this situation logistically. If she’s not actually poly, she’s using polyamory as an excuse. If she is actually poly… she is still using being poly as an excuse! Her current partner said no, so no matter what — if she wants to explore her polyamory with others OR just get with Fireball — she must either cheat on Darin or leave Darin. There’s no getting around that.

        1. Bats are cute, yes, this!!!

          I couldn’t pin my finger on what didn’t sit right with me. You summarized it so well. It’s not about her orientation, because the end result is actually the same.

    6. Yep. My ex had someone in the wings when he asked to open our relationship, and all of a sudden it was a matter of what two people wanted vs. what one person (i.e., me) wanted, which was kind of coercive.

    7. Yes, especially to the way the LW’s fireball-focus is probably making it very hard for Darin to give LW a real answer on polyamory, which I’ve read fairly far down on and nobody seems to have touched deeply on.

      I’ve been in polyamorous and monogamous relationships, and been both the asked and the asked about opening up relationships that were monogamous. I can say that I have a 100% rate of getting “yikes no I feel threatened,” either from me or from my partner, when the ask is made in the context of THIS PERSON partner/me really has to pursue, inlvuding from people who are happy in polyamorous relationships (such as me, but also such as some of my partners).

      In addition to the Fireball NRE being distracting for LW and maybe not giving them a clear picture about how important polyamory genuinely is to them as an identity, it’s also probably making it very hard for Darin to give an honest answer about whether he would be okay exploring polyamory generally rather than with specifically LW+Fireball. In this context–young baby, thinking that my partner has been spending this time in preparation for ramping up their commitment to prioritize my/our relationship needs through a wedding–I would be screaming “NOOOO” to any polyamory request about a specific person that my fiance had been spending a lot of time with recently, even if I’d otherwise be open with that person. It would be like, “instead of thinking seriously about this additional commitment you’re making to me, you want me to bless pulling back on that and focusing on a new person right before our wedding? That feels very threatening! If this is how our marriage will be–I think things are getting more secure when actually my partner is doing the opposite of that–I am not okay with that!”

      It’s totally possible that Darin would not want a polyamorous relationship, with or without Fireball as context for the ask. And it certainly sounds like with the wedding deadline, there probably isn’t a way for the LW to table this discussion until the Fireball crush has been resolved and then try again with less threatening pressure, on a timeline that makes emotional sense. But I think it’s worth pointing out that the context of this request–open with Fireball or no marriage–is also deeply unfair to Darin and doesn’t give him a real opportunity to seriously consider whether he would want to stay with LW in a more open relationship, and is an additional reason for LW to take Fireball as far out of her decision here as possible.

      1. (that isn’t to say that LW should go forward with the marriage and assume that Darin will change his mind when he’s genuinely answering “open or break up” instead of “open with Fireball or break up.” It’s just to say that it’s almost certainly the case that Darin can only really process and answer that second question at this time.)

    8. Yes! Does anyone else get potential Darth vibes off the steamy albeit brief description of Fireball? I have felt that and been there. Once I “reopened” a relationship I had closed years before while I was doing a 6 month stint long distance from partner. PURELY TO BANG A FIREBALL DARTH. Oddly the sex wasn’t even that good. Ultimately it wasn’t to open the relationship…it was to leave partner but I couldn’t admit that yet.
      LW could it be that underneath it all you are having strong misgivings about fiance (chart of 3/4 challenge and negativity) and you’re covering all that up with Polyamory! and Fireball!

      If you are like me, sit with yourself and first say…do I want to be with Darin long-term? Really? Really, really? Or do I feel trapped? Then proceed from there. Shiny Polyamory and shiny Fireball may just be a convenient excuse.

      1. Yep. I’ve seen it happen that someone wants to leave a relationship, isn’t ready to yet, and so attempts to open the relationship in hopes that they’ll be okay staying if they can just get some of their needs met by other partners. LW, you’d do well to think about whether you’d just end up breaking up with Darin anyway even if he did agree to open up the relationship.

  4. I’d love Bad Advisor’s take on this. Own your choices, don’t blame things on natal charts.

    1. My head started turning sideways when I read that. Like blaming an affair on a dating site match rating…

      “Oh honey, I still love you but I had to sleep with him. It was meant to be. Our OkCupid profiles said we were 96% compatible, and you must remember when we met we only got matched at 72%!”

      1. Or Myers-Briggs profiles. “I’m sorry, honey, but I never actually thought I’d meet an INFJ!”

      2. My polyamorous roomie’s boyfriend was a 98% match with me on OKC…we were not compatible IRL and also even if we were…100% nope because roommate’s boyfriend.

    2. I did not know what a natal chart was read into it that it was some kind sexual compatibility thing in some subculture I was not aware of. Either way sketch af if she hasn’t worked things out with her fiance.

    3. I looked at this letter and thought “Yup. 100% chance that Bad Advisor is doing this one. She won’t miss it.”

        1. No, she writes regular bad advice for The Establishment now. Congrats, you’ve got some catching up to do!

          1. My bad for being wrong, she did a hiatus post on Tumblr before moving to TE and then basically didn’t post between then and now so I just assumed it was the original post. I should read things before opening my gob, sorry!

    4. Speaking as someone who believes in natal charts – high compatibility doesn’t mean this person is a good fit for you. It doesn’t tell you anything about their current situation, emotional maturity, or really how willing they are to actually put in the work necessary for this amazing compatibility to come to fruition. Conversely, someone can be terrible for you “on paper” but actually they are a better fit because they’re willing to put in the work necessary to make a relationship happen. You still owe your actions.

      1. After I broke up with my son’s father (23 years ago, after 11 years of marriage), two different friends told me that he and I were a perfect match, astrologically. If that is true, it didn’t translate to a successful marriage.

      2. Very good point. I was wondering whether a sincere belief in natal charts would change any of this, because my gut says it doesn’t but I don’t know much about natal charts. It sounds like it applies the same way any other metric of compatibility does — nice to have data, but there’s so much more that goes into the fit and the work necessary for a relationship.

        1. But from what we know, OP doesn’t even *really* believe in the natal charts. She’s after all been in a (mostly) happy relationship, got enagaged, and had a baby with someone who is 3/4 negativity. The bad natal chart wasn’t a problem when starting a very serious relationship, but suddenly now it is?

      3. Exactly. All sorts of people can be “good fits” according to this, that, or the other–hell, I’m sure there’s a chart out there somewhere that says Hitler and I would really get along. THAT DOES NOT MEAN I AM DESTINED TO DATE HITLER.

        1. And thank jebuzus, because Hitler most certainly isn’t the reich man for you!!!

        2. I mean, if he were alive, he would be almost 130 years old by now. He’s not the right man for anyone.

          1. And yet would still be on dating sites saying his age range for women is 18-24.

  5. Oof, that’s tough. Good for you for not immediately acting on the Fireball situation, but Cap is right that you need to be ethical about this. I can’t offer much, not being poly myself, but I’m glad you wrote in *before* something with Fireball happened.

    1. Not picking on you specifically, many_splendored, just noticed it with your comment — can we remember to use polyamory or polyam instead of poly when not discussing Polynesian persons?


  6. It seems like you are in new relationship energy (NRE -more information on what that is here-https://loveuncommon.com/2018/03/20/nre/ ) fueled lust with Fireball. I work with lots of people transitioning to poly from monogamy, and it can work. It rarely works when someone is so utterly in NRE that they are not able to be fully present with their partners perspective and their existing agreements and responsibilities.
    My advice is to really think about this NRE. Dive into working out for yourself what is driving it. Think about what past you would have thought. Beyond that, start writing your own user manual. It is a huge self reflection tool that will help you to work through who you are in relationships and what it is that you are looking for from polyamorous relationships (Pro tip, not just with Fireball). Using this you can probably talk with your partner in a more balanced way that isn’t just about your compatability and pants feels for fireball. An intro to user manuals is here: https://loveuncommon.com/2017/04/13/user-manuals-an-introduction/

    1. This… seems like a bad take. The Captain is right on when she says the whole Fireball situation is bullshit. What the Letter Writer needs is to step *away* from spending every moment thinking about Fireball. She definitely should not fill out some lengthy Star chart about their NRE when they don’t actually have an R.

      1. I thought that’s what sophialoveuncommon was saying? That the Fireball situation may just be exciting because of the novelty, not because it’s actually a good idea, and that if the LW wants to practice polyamory now, they need to first spend some time figuring out what exactly they want out of it, and in the meantime be mindful of the existing relationship with Darin and respectful of the responsibilities they have with him. If LW decides to pursue polyamory, they need to go slow and not pursue any other relationships until they’ve sorted out how the relationship with Darin will look going forward.

        (If that’s not what you meant, sophialoveuncommon, do feel free to clarify! But yeah, I thought this was mostly a gentler version of what Captain said.)

        1. thatjillgirl, that was I read this comment as well. LW needs to do some thinking about the NRE (it’s not like she’s NOT going to be think about it, might as well try to cast critical eye) and really spend some time examining what LW is looking for in relationships and what being polyam would really mean to them. It doesn’t have anything to do with Fireball or the new relationship specifically.

          (If you check out the “user manual” link, it’s explained thusly: “It can include the things that are most important to you, how you like to connect with others, how you function in relationships, bugs and features and anything else you feel is important.”)

      2. I was meaning to suggest that she focused on herself and her values, not this new connection. Basically, when nre(which can absolutely happen without an R) is present it can be hard to be real with yourself. I think she needs to refocus on who she is and what her values are and whether she can live according to those values in her current relationship.

        1. Look, maybe this is out of line, and if so, I imagine the Captain will tell me. But this “advice” isn’t specific to the LW, it doesn’t say anything that the Captain didn’t already say better, and it doesn’t strike me as especially caring or thoughtful. It looks like trying to poach people off of someone else’s blog.

          1. A lot of people reiterate the Captain’s advice, especially in terms of their own experiences (as in this case—she’s talking about how she sees this a lot with couples she works with). She then offered a resource. I think “poaching off someone else’s blog” is awfully harsh and is taking her well-intentioned comment and making her feel bad about it. I’d be afraid to comment here if I was attacked like this.

          2. If we’re saying you can only comment if you are going to say something different or better than what the Captain already said, then a good half of the comments on every post would have to go. Besides which, I thought this comment did add something. It brought up the concepts of NRE and user manuals, both of which are complementary to what was already said but not the same as. This seems like an unusually harsh reaction to a pretty gentle and pertinent comment.

          3. Hey that seems really harsh. It’s totally normal for commentors to reiterate the Captain’s advice, and I think Sophia does have something new to add – the links that they shared, which are on topic and not spammy. I recommend LW look at resources like Sophia’s blog (and others, there are tons!) to get more polyamoury-specific advice and/or just to find other people in similar situations and hear how they handled it.

    2. Yea reading the letter it sounds like the LW is chasing that NRE and is willing to throw away stability and carrying for her child to get that high. What happens when NRE with Fire Steve fades? Will she find a new “destiny” to chase that high.

    3. I disagree.

      I think figuring out her real orientation is less important than figuring out what relationships she wants with Darin and baby Ash.

      She can be in a monogamous relationship regardless of her orientation – if that’s what she wants. She can recognize that she’s not ready to settle down (or not ready to settle down with Darin) and still be monogamous.

      So, again, as LW describes her situation, creating a guidebook to herself, seems less pressing than deciding to stay or go.

      1. Yeah, even if OP is 100% certain she’s poly, that doesn’t mean she is obligated to be in a poly relationship or should feel pushed into trying it out by Fireball or anybody else. If she examines her choices and goes, well, I think I’m really poly but these relationships are so important to me I am willing to live monogamously, that’s a valid choice. It’s like, if I think I’m straight and I’m in a relationship with a man, and I later realize I’m bi, there’s no obligation for me to break up with him and go find a woman to date, unless it’s what I actually want.

        (of course, the opposite’s also true–just because OP is currently in a monogamous relationship doesn’t mean she MUST stay in it, and just because a bi woman is in a relationship with a man doesn’t mean she MUST continue to be in a relationship with that man. But I want to point out that you don’t owe anybody anything, even yourself–you’re not “doing it wrong”!)

        fakeedit: basically what B. said below. Your choices don’t make you poly/not-poly; your sexuality is what it is regardless of how you act on it.

        1. Speaking as a bi woman who has been dating the same man monogamously for the last five years, I agree. Do I admire some of the women around me, and think it might be interesting to date them? Yes, of course. But I don’t have the *energy* to date anyone else, and I like dating my partner and raising our kid together, so that’s what I do. My bisexuality and polyamory don’t need to be proven in any way to be true. I don’t have to be dating men and women simultaneously as some sort of demonstration model.

          1. This is what I was coming here to say. I am a bi woman happily monogamously married to a man. My marriage doesn’t invalidate my sexuality, but it represents a choice that I made to be with one person exclusively, regardless of how many attractive men and women I may meet and have a spark with.

            It is entirely possible to be polyamorous as a person, but be part of a monogamous relationship. It doesn’t change anything about your personal orientation, the relationship dynamic is a choice.

      2. For me, working our who you are, what you value and what you want in your life is fundamental to deciding what to do with specific relationships. I think all relationships start with our relationship with ourselves and our values and boundaries. This is a tool to do that work. I agree that her relationship with Darin and Ash is important, but so is working out who she is, what she stands for and whether she is able to be that person in her existing relationship structure. I think personal therapy is the best way to figure that out, but user manuals can be a helpful tool (clearly not the only tool)

        1. Fair enough.

          I think I misunderstood your post. I read it more as offering an explanation to others (essentially dating partners), and less as a tool for self understanding.

          1. I have shared mine with some of my partners, but it is mostly a prompt to think through my own wants/needs as well as bugs and features. I know, for example, that when I’m in NRE I make some decisions that aren’t great for me in the long run. My user guide is a helpful way of pre-thinking about that and giving myself a checklist to look at to see if I’m engaging in any of the undesirable behaviour (evading responsiblity, using my most productive time to talk to new shiny person, neglecting my routine etc). It can also help me be accountable to myself and my values and to ask for help with that from friends and partners of I want to.

    4. Thank you for this. My primary is definitely having an NRE experience right now and it’s put some strain on our relationship. I have some thoughts to think.

  7. What the Captain said. Darin and you have a monogamous relationship, and you have the right to ask about opening it up, but he has the right to break it off rather than altering the previously agreed-on dynamic. If you explore your polyamourousness by dating or hooking up with other people while on a relationship with Darin, you will be cheating, because he told you he ain’t ok with that. If you date or have sex with other people without Darin’s knowledge or consent, you will be cheating, because you have his answer on this already: “no”. Don’t stongarm him into changing his answer, please; it will only end in tears.

    I feel you on the “I’m leaving a piece of my soul behind if I don’t explore this part of me” thing. As a pan gender-non-conforming human, I’m acutely aware of being read as a straight woman whenever I’m out with my partner. No matter how much exploring I do, gender- or sex-wise (we have an open relationship), there are important parts of my soul that the world refuses to see. So I’ll tell you what helps me through: you are polyamourous. You already are. You have proven it, because you’ve said to yourself “this is me, my soul is this”. No matter what the world sees, no matter how much partners you see at once, you are polyamorous and nobody can take that from you. If you decide to marry Darin and grow old with him and Ash, you will be being polyamorous. If you decide to break up with him and see or fuck several people at once, you will be being polyamorous. If you decide to tell the world to go fuck itself and go live as a hermit in a Mongolian cave, you will be being polyamorous. Your identity is valid and true, always, regardless.

    1. Oh how I love you right now for saying this!

      I’m currently kind of questioning myself about being poly and non-binary all the while being very much pansexual/panromantic and also extremely single. I’m aware and also very annoyed that people, when they see me, just assume “woman/monogamous/straight”.

      It’s a breath of fresh air to be reminded that we get to carry our truth in our minds and hearts even when the world doesn’t see us as we really are.

      1. I’m glad I was able to help ♡ *offers jedi hugs if wanted*
        I hope your questioning process goes as constructively and painlessly as possible, Ixolite. No matter what identiti(es) you end up deciding work(s) best for you, and regardless of whether they change in time, your truth is real and valid, now and always. The most important person in your life (you) already knows that, but nevertheless I hope you’ve an awesome Team You around who get it and can remind you if needed 🙂

    2. I love your entire comment but especially your second paragraph. Brilliantly said!

    3. I really appreciate this.

      I’ve never had sex, but I’m 98% sure I’m a lesbian. I’m at least a Kinsey 5. I used to say I’m asexual, but really I’m in sort of a strange area where I don’t want to have sex right now for physical reasons that I’m trying to deal with on my own, related to broader disability / chronic illness things, but I do find people attractive and have come around to really wanting to have sex and experiment someday, so long as it’s with someone I can really trust and communicate well with.

      It’s so strange to say I’m a lesbian though, since I’ve never had sex with anyone and I’ve only casually dated guys (although my first two kisses were with girls, but they were pretty PG).

      And yeah! There’s no need for me to rush into a relationship with a woman if I’m not ready just so I can be “officially” a lesbian somehow. I’m still a lesbian even if I never date a woman. You’re still pansexual and pangender even if you wear feminine clothes and your partner reads as a dude. LW is still polyamorous even if she decides to not pursue this specific attraction.

      1. Lesbians can be virgins too! I know a lot of the world likes to think so, but it’s really not like you’re default straight until you actually have sex with another woman. Knowing what direction your attraction points is enough. After all, straight people know their orientation long before they actually engage in sex stuff. So why shouldn’t anyone else?

        I swear this was the most difficult thing for straight people to understand when my niece first identified as a lesbian. Her father affirmed his support publicly, because he didn’t want her feeling shamed, and people came out of the woodwork to shame him instead for promoting his pre-teen daughter having sex. Nobody ever said she was sexually active, people! She was just aware that she had girl-crushes not boy-crushes. No different than when I drew hearts all over boy-band posters and plastered them up in my room. Nobody assumed that meant I was sexually active at age 12!

        1. ❤ I'm glad your brother (in law?) is affirming his daughter. Gah, me and my Dad have had weird, hypothetical conversations like, "Well, I definitely support the idea of people being gay," etc, but I'm so hesitant to come out to him. I think he'd be supportive? And I'm an adult who lives on my own, so it's not exactly like I need a ton of support anyway. But it's still a weird stressful thing. Anyway, kudos to LGBT affirming parents; it's enormously helpful.

        2. In response to Indoor Cat and Madison:

          Oh gosh, yes. My now-13-year-old told me a year or two ago she thought she might be bisexual. We are close, and at the time I knew for a fact that she’d never kissed anybody (or wanted to) and wasn’t interested in sex AT ALL. But she recognized in herself the possibility that she might be attracted to girls in addition to/rather than boys. Which I thought was pretty fabulous self-knowledge. She told me, pretty low key, that she thought she might be bi/gay, and I was all, “well… that’s cool that you told me, thanks for that. You okay with this? You want to talk about it at all?” and she said, calmly, that she was totally fine with it and while she didn’t mind talking about it, she didn’t feel any particular need to chat about it either. Okay, awesome.

          At 13, she thinks she’s most likely straight, or potentially not very sexual (or even asexual) – I myself was a late bloomer and didn’t want or have sex until I was 18, so I think there’s at least a likelihood she might be a late bloomer too rather than actually asexual. But that’s all kind of beside the point; the point is that she feels however she feels, and that’s valid and worth respect. Also she isn’t stuck as one thing forever: she can label herself right now if she wants to; it’s her own body and mind and life, and that’s fine if she wants to choose a label as the best way to define herself. But it doesn’t mean she has to stick with that one label forever. People change and grow.

          1. As an asexual adult, I definitely went through some years of thinking “well I definitely don’t like boys that way, I must be a lesbian” before I realised that I didn’t love women that way either. Finding yourself when your identity is “nope” can be difficult!

            Your reaction sounds awesome and I wish teen-me had that kind of acceptance ❤

      2. What a lovely, sane comment, Indoor Cat. There can often be a huge difference between what one is in one’s heart/soul and what circumstances allow one to be … but that doesn’t mean that one is repressed or in denial, just dealing with the practicalities of life. Sexual feeling doesn’t need to be given expression to be valid, and it would be good if a few more people realised that.

        1. “Sexual feeling doesn’t need to be given expression to be valid, and it would be good if a few more people realised that.”

          THIS. /claps

          Should be made into a t-shirt. I know I’d buy that.

      3. Thank you, Indoor Cat 🙂 (That should have been “pansexual and gender-non-conforming”, sorry I wasn’t clearer!)
        Before I fell in love with my current partner, I identified as a lesbian, although I’ve never had sex with a woman either, so you’re definitely not alone in this. It still feels weird to say “I’m demi” and “I currently identify as pan, actually” because, for a third of my life, “cis” and “lesbian” were deep-seated and fundamental truths about my identity. But it gets a bit easier every day, and I’m sure it will for you as well!

      4. I’ve been exclusively attracted to women since kindergarten, long before I knew the word “lesbian”, even though I didn’t start dating other women until my mid twenties and forced myself into disgusting and traumatizing relationships with men as a teenager.
        If you’re also a woman exclusively attracted to other women, you’re a lesbian, whether or not you have or will ever date or sleep with another woman.

      5. It took me such a long time to realise that I had the right to call myself bisexual even if I never dated or had sex with a woman. Since then it has gradually become more and more important to my identity, even though I still feel like a phony for saying that as i also may never sleep with or even kiss a woman. I keep thinking of all the women who have had sexual experiences with women but ID as straight and comparing myself to them. Even though I know logically that this should have no impact on what I identify as, I’ve had a whole few decades to absorb that my sexuality is wholly defined by my sexual past and that you can always tell someone’s sexuality from their sexual history. This is society’s message.

        I 100% affirm you as a lesbian, Indoor Cat.

        1. Very similar situation here. I’m a bisexual woman married to a man, and I never bothered to come out to my parents because they’d read it as a confession that I was cheating on my husband, because why would I identify as bisexual unless I was sleeping with both men and women? (Also it would never occur to them that we’re polyamorous, but that’s beside the point.)

          Solidarity, y’all.

          1. This whole “confession that I’m cheating” scenario recently came about with my mother…I don’t regret coming out, but my parents are blocked right now…so there are consequences, I guess.

        2. I use “heteroflexible” as my orientation lable. When I identified as bisexual, so many people (mostly gay men and lesbians) insisted I couldn’t be bisexual unless I was equally attracted to men and women, unless I simultaneously was dating a man and a woman, unless I had a girlfriend, and/or unless I engaged in specific sexual activities. They also told me I was greedy, couldn’t be monogamous, needed to make up my mind, etc.

          Heteroflexible gets the point across that I am primarily attracted to men, but occasionally attracted to women. Nobody argues with me that I can’t be heteroflexible!

          I am not into casual sex, and certainly won’t “experiment”or have sex with someone just to prove I am bisexual.

          1. A very loud “urgh” and massive side-eye to all those biphobic jerks who thought gatekeeping your identity was even a remotely okay thing to do to you (and God, they should know better! I mean, yeah, being LGBT+ doesn’t cure you of your own prejudices if you don’t put in the effort to deconstruct them, but we’re supposed to support and affirm each other, not keep oppressing people for who they are or who/how they love!).

            I’m very sorry you had to put up with that, Perlandra. You are not greedy or confused or lying if you identify as bisexual and/or heteroflexible, and you definitely don’t need to experiment 50/50 attraction or engage in polyamorous dynamics for your identity to be true.

        3. Let me just say that as a woman who has had sex with LOTS of men & a few women, the *only* reason I identify as “straight” is because, being overwhelmingly attracted to men but only the occasional woman, I’d feel like calling myself “bisexual” would not only be claiming an identity that is not mine to claim, but it would connotate something even less correct than calling myself straight.
          And I don’t know any good words to describe being close to one end of the Kinsey scale or the other, but not all the way there, who don’t feel that either homo/heterosexual or bisexual quite fit.
          “Mostly straight” is the best I can do right now, but since I’ve heard that some non-straight people find that term insulting or belittling, even that is problematic.
          What I’m saying is, don’t worry about how other people identify! It doesn’t reflect on you or your decisions, and they may *also* be struggling with the terms we currently have available to describe various points along the spectrum of sexuality.

      6. Strongly agree –

        I’m a heterosexual cis-woman, and have *always* had significant trouble getting dates (I’ve literally dated three guys total and have only kissed one and I am now middle aged), and have also chosen not to date at various points due to life logistics — but nobody ever bugs me about whether I’m *really* straight. There is *no reason* anyone with a slightly less common orientation should be doubted just because they haven’t had the opportunity to try it out yet or have decided not to.

      7. I’m asexual and in the exact opposite position — after never so much as hooking up with anyone my entire young adult life, I entered a long term relationship and, yeah, we’re sexually active. I’m still asexual though! Having sex, even enjoying sex, does not cancel out my ace credentials. My sexual attraction (or lack thereof) has not changed. Orientation =/= behavior.

        Of course now I’m more invisible than ever as a queer woman, since my relationship is with a hetero cis man. It’s awkward sometimes.

        1. Virtual high-five–I’m in your boat, I’m ace but am in a long-term relationship that includes sex, so everyone just thinks I was a late bloomer. Noooo…i’m still asexual. It took me till almost my 30s to start dating and have sex BECAUSE I’m so very asexual. And having sex is neat, but I’m still ace.

    4. Joining the chorus of congratulations for this comment!

      LW, I’ve been non-monogamous for about twelve years. (Not poly–I’m not interested in multiple relationships, just one open relationship.) During that time I’ve occasionally been in relationships with monogamous partners, and I made and kept an agreement to behave monogamously with those partners. I’ve also been in a long-term open relationship that included long stretches of time when I did not see other people even though our agreement allows it. But during all that time, I was a non-monogamous person regardless of how many people I was actually seeing. Thanks, B–I’ve never quite put that into words before, and I like it!

    5. I love this second paragraph! I’m bi-sexual but am married to a straight male. I am also very monogamous. Recently my daughter came out as bi-sexual. My husband mentioned in passing to her that I was also bi-sexual. My daughter actually scoffed at this info which made me incredibly angry. I shouldn’t have to “prove” my bi-sexuality by having a relationship with a woman while I am in a monogamous relationship with a man. If I divorced my spouse and found a lovely woman to be with for the rest of my days I’d still be bi-sexual. If I divorced my spouse and lived alone for the rest of my days, I’d still be bi-sexual. I said something similar (though not as well said as written above!) to my daughter and I think she understood but dang, I wish I’d had this to refer to when we had the conversation. 🙂

      1. How old (approximately) is your daughter? If she’s a child or an adolescent, it might be more of the “Ugh, my parents actually think about sex and maybe even have sex?!” hang-up that a lot of kids have.

        My daughter (now a young adult) came out to me as bi/pan when she was about fifteen, and I don’t think she actually expected me to say, “Yeah, me too,” to her coming-out conversation. She didn’t seem disbelieving, just, “Oh, wow, I didn’t know that!”

      2. Ouch, I’m sorry that your daughter reacted to your coming out in that way 😦 I’m sure that your explanation was perfectly alright, since she understood, and hopefully she’ll do better next time! Sadly, being bi doesn’t immediately counteract the biphobia one inherits from society (one has to work hard to get rid of that), but it always hurts more when the aggression comes from someone who shares the same oppression as you. It’s a tough conversation, but I’m sure you did great.

    6. This is really important.

      I’m a Kinsey 5 women or so and my partner of almost a decade is bisexual and has recently been exploring a gender queer identity. We’re both poly, but it’s not a thing we’re actively doing at the moment. Mostly in our relationship it amounts to discussing that if the opportunity presents we would be super up for exploring that, and actively talking about people we both find to be super attractive on a regular basis. We may never actually be in a situation where it feels right explore. We might find ourselves in it next month. It’s still true, even if it never happens.

      To the world we look like a monogamous lesbian couple. That doesn’t change anything about either of our identities. I think this is a really important distinction to make, for a lot of people. Your identity is not dependent on what the world is able to see, or on the things you actively do in your life. It’s part of you.

    7. hi B, I’m an agender pansexual person monogamously married to a dude I love very much and just… thank you so much for this.

      1. You’re very welcome, Typhoid Mary ❤ Thank _you_ for the kind words, I'm glad my comment helped 🙂

  8. Speaking as a long-term polyamorous person with two long-term partners: polyamory isn’t “I have a partner and I have a crush on a new person, so oh wow I’m polyamorous!” Having a crush on someone while in a relationship with someone else is just part of being human. Lots of people experience that. Polyamory is about *what you do* with situations like that. It’s about ethics, good communication, and acting lovingly and honourably with everyone involved.

    OP, you’re not suddenly polyamorous because you have a crush on this new person. You *could* maybe *become* polyamorous in the future, if your choices led you that way and the folk that you were involved with were on the same page. That doesn’t sound like what’s going on right now. I really think that the advice that CA gave you is good – you need to sit down and figure out what your relationship priorities and desires really are. Do you want to maintain and build your relationship with Darin? Do you want to walk away from Darin and instead sew your wild oats? Is Fireball even polyamorous? If you ditch Darin for Fireball, who’s to say you won’t be repeating this same dance in a year or two?

    As has been already pointed out by others, you appear to be framing the situation in your head in a very rose-coloured-glasses tinted, wishful-thinking-flavoured way. I strongly suggest you try to put aside your “Oh wow, Fireball is so hot and we’re sooo compatible!” thoughts and work through some of the questions that CA suggested with as much honesty and self-reflection as you can. That way you may be able to get a clearer idea of what is most important to you in the current situation, and make decisions accordingly. Also, I suggest you try to lose the melodramatic framing of your situation. If you don’t hook up with Fireball, you will NOT be “killing yourself”, and your soul will NOT be “dying”; you’ll just have some emotions to work through. Seriously. Melodramatic framing feels good in the moment, but it won’t do you ANY favours at all when you’re trying to figure out how to handle a situation like this.

    I’ve been there. I know it’s not easy in the heat of an enthusiastic crush to say “nope” to yourself and walk away. But it won’t be easy to walk away from Darin either, and it looks to me like those are your two choices, right now. Only you can decide which one you really want to select. Choose wisely. 🙂

    1. I think you got what I was trying to say and said it much better. Wanting to be involved with two people at once doesn’t *automatically* make someone polyamorous, it just makes you someone who wants to be involved with two people at once. I mean, yes, maybe LW IS polyamorous and maybe exploring simultaneous relationships is important to her self-actualization, yes being skeptical of someone’s self-identification is potentially problematic, and also there are some people who really really want to be polyamorous when it benefits them (new sexyguy!) but not when it doesn’t.

    2. Yeah… like, is this really polyamory, or just some pantsfeelings? Seems like she might just have some cold feet regarding the wedding at the same time she found some hot guy.

    3. LW: I know people (including one of my partners) who feel strongly that polyamory is part of who they are, the same way being bisexual is part of who I am. But even if you are polyamorous on that bedrock level, it doesn’t determine, or require, your actions.

      My bisexuality didn’t only become a real thing after I’d had both female and male partners; similarly, I identified as polyamorous even during long stretches when I had one (or even zero) partners. (SubmarineBells knows this, but most of this board hasn’t known me for a couple of decades.)

      Polyamory doesn’t mean “you will be able to have sex with everyone you want to,” even if you’re doing solo polyamory or agreements in which nobody gets a veto. Sometimes people you’re interested in will still say no to you; some of them will say no because you’re polyamorous, or because they’re just not interested in any sexual or romantic relationship with you. And some people wlll say no because time and energy are finite.

      Like SubmarineBells, I’m polyamorous, with multiple long-term partners, and given reality and the finite amount of time in the week, I hope I’m not going to have any new partners for a long time, because the only way I can see that happening would be for one of the excellent relationships I have now to end. The hypothetical new shiny wouldn’t be worth throwing away what I have; if you think it would be, consider whether that’s about wanting freedom, wanting Fireball, wanting a good night’s sleep and a break from infant care, or just not being sure you want to spend your life, or even the next few years, with Darrin.(Anywhere from none to all of those reasons may apply–maybe you’re exhausted and Darrin is wrong for you. Maybe you’re exhausted and Fireball is one in a million for you. Maybe something else is going on.

      My advice here, in addition to sleeping on any relationship decisions (including going forward with the wedding), would be to find a polyamory-friendly therapist to talk to, Polyamory-friendly because a reasonable starting point here is that you think you’re polyamorous and aren’t at all sure what to do next: you want someone who may ask “what led you to that conclusion?” rather than someone who asks “what’s wrong with you? How can you believe that’s a good idea?”

      1. “given reality and the finite amount of time in the week, I hope I’m not going to have any new partners for a long time, because the only way I can see that happening would be for one of the excellent relationships I have now to end.”

        This is such a key point, and also why my relationship is monogamous — I’m so into my partner that I’d rather spend ALL of that finite time on them. As others have said in this thread, it doesn’t mean I never have crushes outside the relationship (although if Partner does, they don’t mention it all that much), but it does mean I make the conscious choice not to ruminate on them and allow them to grow into temptations. LW, I promise it is possible to have a crush flare on Fireball and still choose monogamy with Darin and be happy, if you decide that’s the right path for you.

        As far as the star charts…trouble doesn’t mean a bad relationship, nor compatibility a good one. It’s what you do with it. You could devotedly weather each storm with Darin, growing closer and becoming a better team with every hurdle jumped, and you could equally well grow complacent with Fireball and break up after the first fight because you never learned how to work through conflict with them.

      2. Absolutely. I think it’s really important the LW thinks deeply about what is going on in her relationship with Darrin right now – given they have a small child. I agree with the other commenters saying that the LW seems to be feeling like this is something she must do or decide upon now or it’ll be gone forever, and that’s very black-and-white thinking.

        I also agree that having a small child is a very challenging time in any relationship, and perhaps big decisions need to be considered even more carefully than you otherwise would. Even people in polyamorous/open relationships aren’t always living it, because multiple relationships aren’t their only or even primary priority. Here’s one (celeb) example, a quote from Neil Gaiman about his marriage with Amanda Palmer:

        His marriage to Palmer was, initially, “a very open relationship”. They have a two-year-old son. So while it is “a theoretically open relationship, it’s kind of closed in practice. Because neither of us is going to sleep with other people when we’ve got a two-year-old with us; and neither of us is going to sleep with other people when the other can’t because they’ve got a two-year-old with them.

        “There is a fairness to relationships. At some point maybe it will open up again. Right now it’s kind of moot,” he says, given that they are “sharing a bedroom with a two-year-old who’s just figured out how to get out of his crib. So that is the answer to that. It’s boring and human, I’m afraid.”

        1. Heck, many of my polyamorous friends even without kids are currently in a state of “Theoretically polyamorous, but life is too busy right now and dating sucks”

          1. Yep. The only being dependent on me is my cat, but between hanging out with my bf a couple times a week, spending time with my platonic friends, and making sure to get enough alone time (I love alone time), I haven’t gone out with any other romantic prospects in years, and I don’t anticipate that changing.

        2. A lot of my friends have young kids, and pretty much everyone’s life goes off the rails in some way around when the child is 12–24 months old. Sleep deprivation messes with you, stress and anxiety mess with you, there are extensive demands on your body (even if you didn’t give birth), your money and time are abruptly very constrained, maybe there are career changes, maybe you lose access to social spaces and events, maybe there are complicated changes to your relationships with your friends or family or religion/spirituality—it’s HARD. No one copes well under those circumstances, and some people handle it especially badly.

          If that’s the age Ash is, LW, please do all of you a favor and don’t even try to start a new relationship right now. It’s a time when the lure of someone new and exciting and low-commitment can be very, very strong, but you’re responsible for a vulnerable young child and that responsibility has to come first. I know it’s exhausting and sometimes all you want is a break, but that’s something you need to negotiate with your partner, not something you get by fleeing headlong in any direction that looks vaguely like away.

          I am especially concerned that you don’t even mention Ash in the context of your maybe-relationship with Fireball. Once you’re a parent, “this guy likes me and I like him” isn’t enough. How is Fireball with your child? Is he interested in a degree of commitment that would lead to him co-parenting? If not, are you okay with the possibility of breaking up with Darin and having to solo parent Ash 50% of the time, for the sake of occasional dates with a guy who doesn’t really want to be part of your life?

          Is Fireball subtly or overtly offering you an escape from parenthood, the way he’s offering you an escape from monogamous commitment? If so, that’s not someone it’s safe for you to be in a relationship with when you have a young child, because there is no escape from parenthood.

          It could turn out that you and Darin are incompatible and need to break up. That’s between the two of you. But you can’t break up with Ash. He’s yours and you’re his. If that’s terrifying you right now—if you want to flee the wedding and flee parenthood and flee all that responsibility—then please get some help and support in coping with it, because it’s a part of your life now. And please talk to polyamorous people, because we will be the first to tell you that juggling multiple intimate relationships often requires MORE commitment, responsibility, communication, and care, not less.

          Some polyam-friendly mental health support would probably be a good idea regardless, because IMO every parent needs a good therapist who can help you untangle what you need, what you want that’s good for you, what you want that’s bad for you, what you fear, and so on.

          You sound like someone who’s very passionate about mystical and spiritual things. I am too, and I know how bewildering and hard it is when a relationship or experience that you expect to be magical turns out to be a long everyday grind. Maybe that’s how you feel about Darin; maybe it’s how you feel about Ash. If that’s something you’re struggling with, talk with trusted spiritual counselors and look for ways to bring magic (back) into those relationships before you give up on them altogether. Especially if Ash is very young, you may need to just wait until he’s old enough to get involved in the spiritual things that have meaning for you. Somewhere in your future is toddler Ash happily playing 77 Pickup with a deck of tarot cards (I suggest getting him a cheap, brightly colored Morgan-Greer deck that he can get all sticky) or helping you sort crystals by size and color; that might not sound like much, but those first moments have so much potential for the future, and help to keep you going when it feels like everything is diapers and spit-up forever.

          There’s a long stretch of time between here and “grow old together”. Take some time to really figure out what you want that to look like. Your soul and intuition are valuable guides, but use your head too, and ground yourself in the reality of the commitments you have. Sleep on it, pray about it, talk with Darin, talk with people you trust to help you make good choices, and forge a deliberate path forward into the future. Best of luck.

    4. It’s also important to remember that saying “nope” to yourself and walking away isn’t just a thing that only monogamous people are ethically required to do sometimes. It is highly likely that even IF LW ends up in a polyamorous relationship, she may very well find herself in need of saying “nope” to another enthusiastic crush in the future too. Polyamory is not a Get Out of Jail Free card to act on all pantsfeels, no matter how potentially compatible you believe the two of you might be. It doesn’t magically transmogrify the unethical into the ethical. It only changes the number of people you are required to act sexually ethical toward.

      1. I’m not polyamorous and have never even casually dated more than one person at a time (things just haven’t worked out that way), so if I’m way off base someone feel free to tell me so, but it seems to me that nonmonogamy would make having pantsfeelings for someone other than your partner more complicated, not less. If you’re monogamous you don’t have to agonize about it: you just don’t act on those pantsfeelings, the decision is already made. But if you’re in a nonmonogamous relationship then you have to consider the current partner(s) and their boundaries, plus the potential new partner and their boundaries, before you decide whether to follow those pantsfeelings through to their conclusion. You’re just adding more variables to the situation.

        1. Plus, they should ideally take their potential partner’s other partner(s) boundaries and needs into consideration.
          Being close friends with metamours isn’t mandatory, but communication, schedule coordination, etc. are easier, and drama is less likely.

        2. yep. New Partner While Polyamorous is more complicated than New Partner While Single (in a similar way that Exciting Job 300 Miles Away is much more complicated for a married parent than it is for a single person). I mean, sure there’s another option monogamous people don’t have, but making that option work isn’t simple.

        3. yep. New Partner While Polyamorous is more complicated than New Partner While Single (in a similar way that Exciting Job 300 Miles Away is much more complicated for a married parent than it is for a single person). I mean, sure there’s another option monogamous people don’t have, but making that option work isn’t simple.

    5. “Having a crush on someone while in a relationship with someone else is just part of being human.” So much this!

      I’m as monogamous as they come, but if I go out on the flirting limb far enough to know the intimate desires of wrecking-ball or whatever his name is, I’m going to get pantsfeels, for a second dude, while still in love with my main man. For a monogamous person, the second guy may overtake and destroy the first relationship, (or the fling may fade out) but for a while there youll want both.

      Stay off the limb! At least while you’re ethically bound to be monogamous.

      Even if you’re so monogamous that juggling is unpleasant, it’s still possible to want to cheat. And if LW does discover she’s poly all the way, that’s still not carte blanche to cheat with whoever her soul leans towards. Poly peeps get to veto who is invited in and set boundaries too.

    6. For women in particular, we get told over and over that sex without romantic love is empty, shallow and even immoral. Not speaking necessarily about the LW here, but I have seen plenty of people convince themselves that what they’re feeling *must* be love, because surely they’re not the kind of awful person who has sex with someone just for the sex, RIGHT?!
      If you already have that attitude, and then you happen to be interested in two people at the same time, you get an even greater whammy of cognitive dissonance.

  9. Not sure how helpful this will be, but you’re gonna base your near-future happiness, your relationship with your co-parent, and your kid’s start in life off a fucking NATAL CHART?! What the actua! hell? Will you be consulting Madam Cleo for how to raise your kid?

    1. Er, listen, I know this space is pretty secular (which I appreciate) but can we agree to respect each other’s differences when it comes to spirituality and religion? Unless a religious belief entails actual harming someone else, I don’t think it’s wise to insult someone’s spiritual vantage point. That’s just how they see the world.

      Like, I really liked the thread around Christmastime for observant Jewish and Hindu people (and other non-Christian religions who don’t celebrate a winter holiday) who supported each other. That’s generally the accepting vibe I appreciate here. I wouldn’t consult the Kabbalah or star signs or my ancestors when it comes to my personal life choices, but I do pray to Yahweh and read scripture for spiritual guidance, and honestly that’s just as weird from the outside.

      1. This is true, but I kind of get what The Original Flavored K is trying to say. Sometimes in an effort to be Really Understanding of All Walks of Life, the art of calling bullshit can get lost. A more sensitive, but still blunt way to put it to LW might be: Definitely use spirituality as guidance, but don’t use it as a thinly veiled attempt to justify falling head first down the Pants Feelings Rabbit Hole without thinking about the consequences of those actions—especially how they affect children.

        Because let’s face it, there’s a lot of passive language in this letter that reads a lot like LW just wants a reason to fall into bed with “Fireball” and not merely figure out what her newfound polyamory means to her.
        -signed, a person whose spiritual shit def dances into weird/not mainstream

        1. What I’m curious about regarding the LW’s reference to astrology is actually the second part where she says that she and Darin are not compatible. To me it felt like kind of a passive language way of alluding to some not quite as of yet acknowledged feelings that maybe what she and Darin have isn’t working (beyond just the polyamory/monogamy divide). It seemed strange that she interpreted what she said about the charts as “I should be with both Fireball and Darin” not “I should be with Fireball and Darin and I aren’t romantically suited for each other”.

        2. Yeah, I am reminded of Christian friends (I am Christian as well) who have tried to justify iffy relationships by claiming that they feel God is telling them to pursue the relationship or declining a relationship by saying that God is telling them not to pursue it (or worst of all, the parents of a friend who used this phrasing as a justification to emotionally abuse her about a relationship they didn’t approve of). Cause I mean, that’s great and I’m not going to say that it’s not valid to have spiritual or religious feelings that are affecting your decision making, but at some point you have to do like the Captain said and own your actions. You can firmly believe that God/fate/the stars/whatever are really truly telling you to do something, but you still need to be able to say, “I am *deciding* to do what I think God is telling me and pursue/not pursue this relationship.”

          1. I would say that’s even more true of astrology than of “God is telling me,” because there’s a major difference between a statement like “if you’re looking for a new partner, this person is compatible with you” (or “you two aren’t very compatible, so making this work will be difficult) and “You should leave your current partner and date the first person you meet who has a compatible natal chart.”

            Yes, people are much more likely to hear that divine voice telling them to pursue what they already want than to do something that might be a good idea that they don’t want. (Whether the voice says it more often I don’t know, but we’re much more likely to go “la la la la I can’t hear you” when it’s something we don’t want to hear.than something we do.) But as you say, there’s are several large steps from “we’re compatible” to “we should change our lives in order to be together.” LW, if you weren’t already considering this, you wouldn’t have had both those charts drawn and compared them. Whatever you base your decision on, it is a decision: own it.

          2. Ah! I think we agree, then; you believe that your Christian faith doesn’t mandate you make poor or cruel choices, and you realize that some of your Christians friends use God as a cover for doing what they want. I also see this sometimes, and it bothers me!

            But that wouldn’t warrant me saying, “you’re gonna base your near-future happiness, your relationship with your co-parent, and your kid’s start in life off a fucking BIBLE?! What the actua! hell”

            I mean, swap it out with Qur’an, Torah, Tao Te Ching, or whatever book or teaching you hold close. LW holds star charts to be important. So, I guess I’m just saying, let’s all respect that please? Rather than acting like seeking this particular spiritual guidance is beyond-the-pale foolish?

          3. I love the quote “You can be pretty sure you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.”

            It would be FAB if my floating lusts, random angers, and bizarrely spiking dreads all juuuuust happened to line up with what God wants for me and thus I never have to do another thing or be uncomfortable for one second, but that’s not really the case.

        3. “Sometimes in an effort to be Really Understanding of All Walks of Life, the art of calling bullshit can get lost”

          so much truth. Love this.

        4. Yeah, this. I’m with K, and I say that as a neopagan who routinely uses various methods of divination to try to help me figure out my shit. Anyone who practices divination should know that it’s more of a tool to help with your introspection on your situation. It’s not literally a guide from the future with a simple, objective Do This, Not That. I would never, ever base my entire marriage on what a divination reading told me. It’s irresponsible and unrealistic and also pretty disingenuous. How you read the results says more about how *you personally feel and what you want*—which is kind of the point.

          1. I see divination of all sorts as a way to access your subconscious, especially things like tarot cards. It adds shading to the overall p[icture, it is not the entire picture in and of itself. I would not base a major life decision on what the I Ching or tarot cards or my astrological chart suggested. Especially since I see it as communicating with myself, in a way.

            But that’s me.

        5. Re: “It’d be like me saying, you’re going to base your child’s life on the BIBLE?!”

          I feel like this isn’t a good analogy, because divination isn’t a religious text, it’s a literal *tool* connected to various types of spirituality. It’d be more accurate to say, “You’re going to base your child’s life on Bible divination?!” (where you pray and select a random passage and read it for guidance), and yeah, I’d find that pretty irresponsible and suspect, too. Divination is tricky and nebulous and is so open to all kinds of interpretation. It’s not a religious text set down in black and white—and even *those* are hard to decipher and interpret.

          And yeah, I’d also side eye someone who decided to raise their child based on literal Biblical law from the Old Testament. It’s just not a good idea to forgo critical thinking so you don’t have to feel responsible for decision making or its consequences.

          1. Cherries in the Snow, those people are called Jewish people. Let’s not jump down that anti-semitic rabbit hole any further, shall we?

          2. Out of nesting, but @Elizabeth Mount, you’re right that talking about how the Old Testament is just so barbaric is anti-semitic, but talking like Judaism is just Christianity minus the New Testament is anti-semitic as well. The Tanakh differs from the Old Testament in small but important ways, and there are other texts that are also central to the Jewish faith.

          3. I believe what Cherries in the Snow is saying is that reasonable people don’t feel justified in keeping slaves or stoning disobedient children because parts of the Torah suggest those things are okay. Nothing anti-Semitic in that.

          4. Elizabeth, actually those people would be called Kara’ites, if there were any more of them still practicing. Jews *interpret* Written Torah; we don’t take it entirely literally. If we did, we wouldn’t be looking at “don’t seethe the kid in the milk of its mother” and coming up with “don’t eat meat from one breed of cow and cheese from a different breed of cow within two hours of each other or off the same plates.”

          5. Working Hypothesis, there ARE still Karaites around. They are few in number, but they exist, are fully, legitimately Jewish, and deserve not to be thought of as extinct. Our way of being Jewish is not the only way.

            And yeah, “Oh that barbaric Old Testament” is a very old anti-semitic trope from Christianity. No bueno.

        6. Thank you for This! Respect for other beliefs and cultures does not preclude calling out justifying self-serving behavior.

      2. “Unless a religious belief entails actual harming someone else…”

        If the LW is using the difference in compatibility shown by these natal charts to justify cheating on their fiance or blowing up a positive, civil relationship with the co-parent of their child to be with Fireball, then I think it qualifies as harming someone else. If the LW ultimately decides that a monogamous relationship with fiance is not what they want, there are ways to handle it to inflict less harm. Rushing things to be with a specific person giving them intense NRE pantsfeels and grasping for justifications that distance them from responsibility for the choice they are making is not one of them.

        1. I’m going to push back a bit and say that it’s her choices that cause the harm, in that case, not her using a Natal chart for guidance.

          From her viewpoint, in her own words, her charts says her relationship with Darin is “3/4 negativity and challenge,” whereas she and Fireball, she finds, ” [are] basically made for each other.” Now, I’ve never done astrology or tarot, but I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly what the stars or cards say, in those words. It seems like, and sorry LW to be speaking for you, this is just my perspective, it seems like the star charts reveal her perception of how difficult these paths will be. I noticed that the charts said nothing about a path that equally includes Fireball and Darin.

          So perhaps the star charts have given her some introspection that she needed. They illuminate how her choices will affect her, but they aren’t telling her which choice to make.

          Or maybe they’re totally random and she’s interpreting them how she wants. I definitely know people with more traditional religions who do that too: “Oh, I prayed, and God wants me to do the thing I wanted to do anyway. Can’t argue with God!” Or, secular people who rationalize with other means and think they’re being logical.

          On the whole, I don’t think belittling someone’s spiritual beliefs is good in most contexts. The only context I think it’s okay to be mocking and sarcastic is either when someone has a position of power to a great degree and their harm extends beyond themselves (i.e. the power to create harmful laws, etc), or if the immediate harm they might cause could be extremely dangerous– as in, “I’m going to use the power of prayer / healing crystals instead of going to the ER for meningitis” or “I’m going to disown my transgender child.”

          But using star charts to figure out if someone’s your soulmate or to figure out your destiny isn’t harmful in that sense. I can’t know for sure, but maybe star charts give LW a sense of comfort and clarity when she faces stressful decisions the way my religion does.

          1. As I said in another comment, I don’t do astrology. I do, however, do tarot. I have done for 26 years. I’ve occasionally done so for money. I’ve written a short book and several essays. I’m working on designing my own deck. I’m pretty seriously into tarot, here, ok?

            You can absolutely use tarot, or astrology, to gain some perspective and clarity. As a general rule, this is not how people sound who are gaining perspective and clarity from tarot, or from astrology. This is how people sound who are using tarot or astrology to justify doing something they want to do. “The cards told me this would be better” is NOT a reason to do something that will hurt someone. It is one piece of information to make an informed decision, sure, but again, people who are doing things that way don’t talk like this. They don’t say “The cards said my relationship will be really hard,” they say, “These are the difficulties I am seeing in my relationship, and the cards are backing me up.” The LW doesn’t mention any difficulties they’re having with Darin, other than Darin wanting a monogamous relationship.

            Any student of any form of divination should always remain aware that their interpretation, and even their casting, can be wrong. The LW seems to be accepting the charts as fact, above even reality. This is a misuse of divination.

          2. @Rebecca — thank you for your insight; I really have no experience with tarot or astrology, so I’m glad to learn that people don’t necessarily do things like LW is doing.

          3. Well said, Rebecca. I also do Tarot and have an interest in astrology. This definitely reads to me like someone who is using astrology to justify what she wants.

            LW can break up with Darin, or live monogamously with him. Those are the ethical options. Having Fireball on the side is not an ethical option.

          4. +1 to everything Rebecca said, as someone who is transitioning from doing astro for family + friends into doing it for strangers by donation. Divination is not binding arbitration.

          5. Let us remember that astrology isn’t a religion. It’s not comparable to replace “natal chart” with “the Bible”. Yes, we’re trying to be respectful of others’ beliefs, but being so open-minded that your brain falls out is not a good thing. If the Bullshit Rationalization Shoe fits, you’ve got to wear it.

            LW appears to be engaging in a fair amount of It’s Meant To Be-ism, and is using an amateurish understanding of astrology to convince herself of that. She’s using it as a means of absolving herself from taking responsibility for her choices.

            I’m not being mean about this. I’ve been a Neopagan and occultist for over 20 years, and our community is very diverse. Divination systems are practically ubiquitous in Neopaganism, but use of astrology is typically limited to Ceremonial Magic (and other occult orders) and the New Age movement. The New Age movement (also not a religion—more of a philosophy) has nicked bits of occult systems, traditions, and practices from here and there and assembled them into spiritual fast food.

            The pop-appeal of astrology is that it has the potential to allow one to shirk responsibility when convenient. Perhaps using astrology in this way helps one find comfort, but so does washing down a bag of Doritos with a six pack in front of the teevee after a rough day at work. It doesn’t mean that it’s inherently good for you (or anyone else).

      3. Unless a religious belief entails actual harming someone else

        My read is that in this particular case, the belief in question involves harming one, possibly two other people. I’m still reticent to raise the philosophical question because I doubt it will ultimately be helpful, but given the abnegation of responsibility and displacement of agency to imaginary forces here (a needle CA’s response threaded with considerable skill), I can’t really criticize The Original Flavored K’s response, either.

      4. Even for people who believe in astrology, the classic (and I mean going back hundreds of years) saying is “Astra declinant, non necessitant.” The stars dispose, they do not compel. Having compatible natal charts does not someone obligate you to do anything at all.

        1. This is a better answer, what I was getting at with less skill. I don’t believe in Astrology, but respecting it is not condoning cheating. I don’t think we have to bring in disrespecting a religion to point out that LW’s choices are up to LW.

          I’d say star charts are harmful if they had commands like “thou shalt cheat on your partner,” but they don’t. Honestly, I find my own religion’s guidelines much more quandarous (and explicitly instructive) than those in Astrology, but I still manage to make my own choices and reconcile decisions when my conscience conflicts with a widely accepted teaching. I do this with my heart’s understanding of God, and with prayer, and with reading scripture, and I could be wrong. But, I would still feel deeply hurt and excluded if the CA comments turned to insulting me for my faith rather than advising me.

          1. Using your faith, of whatever kind, to justify doing harm is still a problem with your belief. It is not a problem with the faith apart from you, but it is a problem with your faith.

            So this is not a problem with astrology, but it is a problem with LW’s belief in and use of astrology, because they are using those beliefs harmfully. Which is totally something that should be open to criticism.

            I don’t particularly believe in astrology, but I don’t particularly disbelieve, either. I do believe in things that are way less common and more misunderstood than astrology (such as communicating regularly with the Dead). If I was talking about leaving my wife because my Dead great grandmother was telling me to, people would be totally justified in taking me to task for that. If my great grandmother wants me to bake her a cake, that’s totally reasonable, and I should do that, based on my beliefs. If my great grandmother wants me to leave my wife, I should tell her to fuck off. (Only possibly a little nicer.) (But then again, possibly not.)

            Believing in astrology is not the problem. Believing you should do harmful things based on astrology, that’s the problem.

        2. A wise astrologer once read my natal chart and observed that “We can slide to hell on our trines”, so good, or easy isn’t always good for us.

      5. We can respect people’s beliefs but we can disrespect bad parenting when we see it. This LW is willing to throw away a relationship with someone she loves, who is the parent of her child, risk getting into a life time of poverty as a single mother, all because of a strong desire to sleep with a dude named fireball and oh look coincidently her religious believes seem to matched thrist-ness.

        1. I don’t think it’s a good idea to equate possible separation with bad parenting. Plenty of people split up and are still good parents. The reason behind the splitting up is quite irrelevant.

          1. True. But making life choices which will probably affect one’s child based on a whole lotta personal wants and zero attention to the needs of the child *is* bad parenting.

            I say this as someone who is currently moving away from people I love and thought I’d love with for the rest of my life, because that’s what my child needs right now, so I get exactly how hard it can be to base your decisions on your child’s needs when your own are pulling you the other way! Self-care is a necessary part of parenting, and I wouldn’t be doing this without finding a way to be able to meet my own needs in the new situation too, because it wouldn’t be sustainable otherwise, and therefore wouldn’t *actually* be good for my kid. But I see absolutely no attention in the letter to Ash’s needs or the question of how Ash would be affected by a decision to get involved with Fireball and break up with Darin. What’s Fireball like with Ash? How interested is he at stepparenting? If he’s not interested in that role, how does LW intend to make sure that Ash’s needs are met during the large part of the time when she’ll be single-parenting? If he *is* interested, how good is he at it? What reasons (other than compatible star charts, which our community astrologists have already pointed out do not by themselves a good relationship make) does LW have for believing their relationship with Fireball will last; and if it doesn’t, what do they intend to do to protect Ash from attaching and then losing him? How does LW intend for their newly discovered polyamory to play out against a background of having a “primary relationship” with their child, which requires an enormous amount of their time and energy, and may not leave enough for even one romantic relationship to run smoothly or easily for a while, let alone more?

            These are the kind of issues I’d expect to hear analyzed from someone who was taking their parental obligations seriously in this kind of a situation. “How can I deal with my feelings about Darin and Fireball while still prioritizing my child, as is only fair to them?” hasn’t even come up in this letter, however; and to ignore that question is bad parenting, whether they break up with the kid’s father or not.

          1. Statistically speaking single mothers have a greater likelihood of being in lifetime poverty. So there is actually a chance that breaking up with her current boyfriend so she can bang Fire Steve would have long lasting financial ramification.

          2. It’s still unfair to equate splitting up with your partner with bad parenting though.

          3. The reason single mothers are at a statistically higher risk of poverty is because so many of them are in situations where they get no support from the father of their child. That isn’t the case here; Ash has an involved and loving father who can continue to pay child support. Splitting up would certainly have long-lasting financial ramifications to some degree, in that two households cost more to keep than one household, but I think it’s highly unlikely that it would lead to poverty for LW and Ash, so I don’t think ‘Oh noes, risk of poverty!’ needs to be a factor here (unless the LW and Darin are literally in such dire financial straits already that they have no idea how they’d keep two separate living spaces, which admittedly is not impossible and would be very sucky).

        2. Yeah, no. Deciding to leave a relationship that no longer serves you (regardless of what that may mean) is not “bad parenting”. Ever.

      6. My general stance is this: if your religion/spiritual beliefs require (or suggest, or imply, or whatever) that you behave badly toward other human beings, then they’re bullshit. Any god / higher power / guiding principle worth believing in will not tell you to go forth and be an asshole.

        1. I think the astrology aspect is a red herring. It sounds like LW made a bunch of pretty impulsive life-changing decisions over a short period of time, they’re having second thoughts and now they want to make further impulsive decisions based on that dissatisfaction. And oh, btw, the stars are saying they should totally go for it. It sounds like rationalization more than anything.

          1. I agree. In less than 16 months LW has found love of a kind she didn’t know was possible, made a human being with her body, and decided to spend the rest of her life with one person. That’s a lot to pack into less than a year and a half. And now she’s discovered she’s polyam and found the one the stars have led her to?
            LW would benefit from slowing down a bit. Put the marriage plans on hold and don’t make any more big decisions for a long while.
            She needs to learn that there’s no one decision you can make that will suddenly fix your life. Life is a constant series of decisions.

  10. I have been the Darin in this situation, and one thing that I wished very much my partner had realized after we had a similar conversation is that no matter how much they wanted to open up the relationship, my feelings about what I wanted were not going to change. Instead, they kept trying to have the conversation over and over again, to try to get me to give them the open relationship they wanted and then blaming me repeatedly for their unhappiness when my answer didn’t change. My biggest piece of advice here is to believe that Darin knows what he wants, believe what he tells you, and make your own choices accordingly. You get to choose whether to stay with Darin or not, but you don’t get to choose for him what kind of relationship he’s in. And I just want to second the Captain… do both you and Darin a favor, and do not even consider dating Fireball behind Darin’s back, especially since he’s already told you that would not be cool with him. Not only is it unethical, it’s basically demonstrating for him right up front that if he *was* in a polyamorous relationship with you, you could not be trusted to respect his feelings or your mutually agreed upon parameters.

    1. Yes, this! There’s a tiny whiff of “Darin’s killing my soul if he won’t be cool with this!” that I hope I’m just reading into this. LW — you are who you are, and you want what you want, but Darin is who he is, too. Darin’s not killing your soul by living his monogamous truth, just as you won’t be killing him if you decide you need to live out polyamory. It’ll suck, but it’s not death, and it’s not even unjust. Once you know that your “imagined ideal” (Me + Darin + Fireball) is off the table, then it’s up to you to do the tough thinking that Captain suggests, in order to figure out how to live in the real world and to make that world as stable as possible for your son. Darrin isn’t obliged to make it easy. (And I’m also with the letter writers that suggest “just met hot dude” is a different dynamic then “thinking in the abstract I’m probably polyamorous”.)

      1. Thirded. The Letter Writer sounds like she’s in a place where this all feels very, very urgent and high stakes. As for me personally, I have learned to be suspicious when things feel that urgent and drastic. In my personal case – not to get my feelings all over this comment section – it’s more likely that my brain has latched onto some kind of urgent quick fix for a more complicated or difficult feeling.

        If this were happening to me, it would be an escape urge of some kind. It would not be about Fireball, it would be about the rest of my situation, the boring parts of my life, and something I didn’t want to deal with in those.

        Even if you were a polyamorous person who was in a polyamorous relationship with another polyamorous person, it still might not be the time to date. You might still be in a situation where you needed to put the priorities and feelings of your co-parent ahead of your attraction to this dude. Or, you know, where the time management involved with dating with a young kid was a total damn nightmare and you couldn’t pull it off. There’s a feeling I get from this letter like this seems like a big drastic step that could fix! Everything! And it’s important to remember that you still have to pay bills and buy toilet paper no matter how drastic the big drastic step is.

        1. Your comment reminds me of that saying that no matter how hot he is, someone, somewhere, at sometime has been tired of putting up with his sh!t. I remember reading about a swinger couple who became a triad when the husband realized that wife’s hookup (who she was developing feelings for) was getting stress-free-mini-vacation wife on extended dates, and he was getting screaming-kids-and-still-trying-to-cook-dinner wife day to day. And that was neither fair nor realistic for anyone involved. I kind of get the vibe that’s what’s going on here. Except Fireball is getting the flirty-fun LW, and fiancee’ is getting dirty-diapers-and-no-sleep LW. So of course Fireball looks all interesting right now. He only has to be interesting in limited bursts. Her mind can fill in all the blanks with whatever fantasy she chooses. It’s escapism. And Darin is the reality, the stable day-to-day that she doesn’t really know if she wants to lose. He doesn’t look as sexy right now as Fireball because she isn’t viewing them through the same lens – at all. Eighteen months after a new baby together, and Fireball might not stack up compared to Sexy New Love Interest either. In fact, I’d almost guarantee it. Very few people are as interesting in Mundane Day Mode as they are in Forbidden Fruit Mode. And most forbidden fruit turns out to be quite rotten after it’s sat on your counter for a few weeks.

          1. Yessss I know other couples that realized that they were putting on perfume and doing their hair for date night with other people, but each other got the baby-puke-sweatshirt edition of being in a relationship. And, like, who doesn’t want a partner who still cares about you when you’re wearing that sweatshirt? But the human brain is a tricky place, and so many people talk about finding it really hard to connect with their partner when they’re both in the baby trenches.

            I wasn’t crazy about Daniel Gilbert / Stumbling On Happiness, but I feel like I got a lot out of his research about how the future is very blurry to humans, and we tend to erase the fine details when imagining a future that’s very different from the present. We know that in the present in Indianapolis we have to pay bills and buy toilet paper, so we understand that staying in Indianapolis probably means bills and toilet paper – and then we imagine running away to Paris, or living on a houseboat, and because those are drastically different futures our brains provide this very impressionistic, emotive picture of what that’s going to be like. The more that I’ve noticed this kind of thinking in myself and other people, the more things I feel like it applies to. We say “I should have been an author”, but we’re not imagining deadlines and filing self-employment taxes when we say that. We say “I wish I was with that other person instead of in my current situation”, but we imagine a soft-focus montage of kissing in the meadow, not that other person flossing with the bathroom door open.

          2. And this is why I have always recommended people NOT try polyamory unless they are happy with their existing relationship.

          3. This makes me think of the ‘grapes and cucumber’ experiment that is discussed in the ‘more than two’ book. Basically, everyone thinks the other person is getting delicious grapes while they are getting less delicious cucumber. It makes them sad. But having a home, baby and stability is difficult to compare with a fancy free new partner.

          4. I think this is a good point. I met my husband while I was dating someone else (and had been for like, 4 months—not super long term). I realised over the course of several weeks, as I hung out with now-Husband, that he was just a much better fit for me in every way. So I broke up with the guy I was seeing and started dating husband. Obviously we are now happily married (and monogamous). All the things I loved about my husband are still true, we still fit in exactly the same ways, and we have a much deeper and better bond than we did when we met—at that time, it was all potential. But nothing will recapture the new relationship sexual feels and wild abandon we first experienced. That’s just how life works. All the compatibility and “I want to build a life with you” had to be there so we could mellow into a genuine romantic sustainable relationship. It couldn’t exist on gagging for passionate sex alone.

        2. Supporting this comment. I feel it’s not at all coincidental that LW has a very young child. Life is very much about the paying of bills and buying of toilet paper at this most sleep-deprived, draining and questioning-whether-you-have-an-identity-beyond-that-of-mother of times. I don’t know whether LW is stay-at-home/on maternity leave (in which case it can sometimes feel like the walls are closing in on you, and life is an unbroken cycle of cleaning, cooking and caring) or working (in which case you are permanently juggling and sometimes feeling like you are failing on all fronts). However, it’s possible that LW’s brain has latched onto superhappysexyfun dude/polyamory as the escape from all this. I sympathise; been there myself. Hang on in there LW. It will get better. Maybe best not to disrupt your life, Ash’s life and Darin’s life at this point. That’s not to say that there aren’t issues with you and Darin and that you can’t/shouldn’t end your relationship, just… maybe not now, and maybe not because of Fireballs?

        3. “As for me personally, I have learned to be suspicious when things feel that urgent and drastic.”

          One thing that becoming a parent taught me is that when I have small kids, EVERYTHING feels urgent and drastic and terrible and my whole life is a EMOTIONAL DISASTER…and also that if I try to solve it by doing drastic things, stuff will get worse.

          Having a young child, no matter how great they are and how much you love them, messes with your brain and body in weird ways (yes, even if you did not give birth, but EVEN MORE if you DID), and you should probably just take 85 steps back from literally any life-changing decision until the kid in question is at least 2 years old. Kids change relationship dynamics, they change how you feel about yourself and your partner(s), they mess up your sleep. If you gave birth and then the kid is old enough and your sex-feels come screaming back at you like a freight train but your partner is busy and tired because HEY YOU GUYS HAVE A KID, those sex-feels can get real weird on you, and that can be very hard to evaluate sensibly.

    2. THIS.

      LW, do NOT grudgingly go along with this and then try to shame/nag/manipulate Darin into a poly agreement. Darin wants a monogamous partner. If you feel strongly that you cannot do that, then let him go. If you choose to stay with him, DO NOT bring this up to him or try to push this, ever.

      1. YES. I wanted myself to be polyamorous so bad, and tried to force myself to be for my partner’s sake, but I’m just not. I was miserable, started self-harming again after years of not doing so, and managed to traumatize myself by trying to strongarm myself into being okay. It’s been four years and my partner and I have done a ton of therapy (both as a couple and solo), and I’m still kind of fucked up around it.

        There’s no shame in being monogamous. If Darin’s monogamous, pressuring him into polyamory won’t be good for anyone.

        Also: NRE/crushpantsfeels makes it reeeeal easy to rationalize bad decisions. I’ve been on both sides of it, and hoo boy. It’s really important to at least TRY to set it aside and make decisions from a less catastrophizing point of view.

  11. As a polyamorous person, this is sending out tons of “not a good idea” signals. Goodness knows it’s not unusual for someone to get into a monogamous relationship first and then figure out they’re much better suited to polyamory after, that is a thing that happens a lot. But…this is smelling like a whole lot of “I want new hot guy in my life without breaking up or changing anything”, and actually being polyamorous …there’s a bit more to it than “I can date New Person without breaking up with Established Partner.” Some questions to ask yourself:

    What if Darin said “you know, I’ve wanted to be polyamorous too but didn’t know how to bring it up! Actually there’s this woman I’d like to start seeing, is it OK if I sleep at her place this Friday night?” What if Darin was OK with you seeing Fireball but then started to complain that he’s not seeing you often enough, would you be all “I gotta do my thing!” or would you be willing to have the hard conversations (and maybe see Fireball less often than you’d like?) If Fireball lost interest in you but Darin was seeing someone else, do you think you’d be OK with that? What if Darin said that maaaybe he’d consider the idea eventually but he’d want to wait until the kid’s a little older, say 3 or 4? If dating Fireball was suddenly not an option, would it still be important for you to be polyamorous?

    If you broke up with Darin to date Fireball and it didn’t work out, would you want to go back to the way things were (monogamous with Darin) or would you think “well, this is hard, but I’d still rather be free to love multiple people, even if I’m single right now, than be monogamous”? If Darin changed his mind and gave his OK for you to date Fireball without breaking up, but Fireball said “I’ve thought about it and I can only see dating you if we had an exclusive relationship,” what choice would you make? If you started dating as a polyamorous person and noticed that most of the people you were attracted to weren’t willing to be polyamorous, would you still want to be polyamorous?

    Basically, have you thought about the potential difficult parts of being polyamorous, the rainy days if you will, and decided it’s worth it — or are you just thinking about this in terms of “I want Darin and Fireball and if I say I’m polyamorous then I won’t have to choose”? Some people see polyamory as an identity (I see it as an identity) but it’s also in a real way a choice, and sometimes people who identify as polyamorous choose to be in a monogamous relationship if they think it’s worth it, so even if you’re pretty sure the polyamory identity fits you that doesn’t excuse you from having to make hard choices. It definitely doesn’t mean Darin has to stay with you if you decide you’re going to see someone else. His identity/choices are important too.

    tldr: I think the “to date or not to date Fireball” question should be different from the “should I start considering myself polyamorous” question. If it’s really just that you want to be with Fireball and you’re willing to break up with Darin for that, own it — only bring in the polyamory thing if that’s something you want independent of Fireball (and you’ve taken a hard look at the downsides/challenges of being polyamorous.) Being polyamorous does not mean getting to be with everyone you want to be with.

    1. As a monogamous person, I’m super curious how polyamorous people with very young children usually handle dating anyone new. The examples I know of usually involve a few dates, and then time management clashes/lots of “maybe we’ll try that again in 6 years when we’re less sleep-deprived” – much like single parents of young kids, though with more childcare pinch-hitting available. But I don’t know if that’s typical or just my sample.

      1. Yeah, I’m curious too. You already need to negotiate the needs of the primary partner AND the other partners as well as who has the kids. Does dating someone outside the primary relationship count as “me” time, like getting your haircut or going to the gym? Speaking for only myself of course, between work, my regular relationship, the kids, mealtimes, appointments, my family and friends… I’m impressed people can find the time!

        1. Not every polyamorous person has a “primary partner,” or they may have more than one.

          (I’ve spent a good chunk of my polyamorous life with more than one emotionally-primary-level partner, although I’ve only had one live-in/”nesting” partner at a time — that wasn’t a premeditated decision, just the way things worked out.)

          I discovered polyamory (and went “Oh, THAT’S why my feelings work this way!”) when my daughter was 7. Before then, I’d felt very guilty about having feelings for more than one person at a time, although I chose not to act on those feelings and cheat on partners.

          I wanted to be sure not to have a parade of temporary parental figures or partners revolving in and out of my daughter’s life (providing her with a stable upbringing was paramount for me), so I tended to treat the people I was dating as if they were close friends (they were — I tend to date people I’m already friends with), we spent a fair amount of time hanging around the house and doing family-friendly activities, and if I wanted to go out, my daughter’s father (with whom I’d amicably split when she was a toddler) would stay at the house with her.

          My personal relationship preference is for polyfidelity (not “open relationships” or a bunch of new partners, polyfi tends to be more stable and less volatile), so the people I dated were normally in my life for years. I’ve had a very good track record of staying on friendly terms with former partners, so there are only a few people who have dropped out of our lives (two of whom were people I’d dated monogamously, one when I was still in my teens.)

          It worked out fine — I had a “village” of close friends who were a consistent part of our lives, my daughter’s father was a mostly-good coparent (I had primary parental responsibility, he did more “babysitting,” I had physical custody), he’s still a part of our lives to this day (she’s in her mid-twenties now), my longterm long-distance partners (14 and 10 years) are part of our extended family, and my ex who I started dating when she was 7 (we were together for 12 years) stayed a part of her life until his passing in January of this year.

          Please note that this is a VERY ROSY OUTCOME, and it was the result of a LOT of hard work, trial and error, screwups, hurt feelings, occasional insecurity and jealousy, a couple of bad breakups, hard choices, and so on.

          I didn’t end the relationship with my daughter’s father because I wanted to sleep with other people (we got together WAY too young, and weren’t compatible as partners in the long term), I didn’t make a bunch of passive decisions based on star charts and things I wanted to do anyway, and I put my daughter’s safety, happiness, and well-being before ANY decisions I made that had the potential to affect her living situation or family stability.

          LW, this is a very serious situation that deserves a lot of heavy thought — and you need to decide what’s best for your child, before you split up your household and end your relationship with Ash’s father. The short-term benefit of dating or sleeping with Fireball may be very cold comfort if it makes it difficult or impossible to co-parent with Darin. You need to think about whether or not you want to be in THAT relationship, before deciding whether or not to pursue someone else.

          I have to say, I have a lot of concerns, based on your letter. To me, polyamorous is something I *am*, rather than something I *do* — it doesn’t matter whether I have ANY partners, I’m still poly at heart. But not everyone feels that way — for me, it’s more like an orientation than a preference or a choice, but I still have agency to decide whether or not I want to pursue any given relationship.

          In the end, you may still decide that you are polyamorous . . . but that maintaining your relationship with Darin is worth more than acting on those feelings or that orientation. You can agree to monogamy, if you want. If you’re going to be miserable in a monogamous relationship, then you’ll have to end things with Darin . . . but you have got to make that calculation based on the you/Darin situation, without giving weight to Fireball’s existence.

          Be very, very careful before you break something that may not be fixable — your relationship with your child’s other parent is important and carries more weight than a breakup that doesn’t involve a child.

      2. All the poly people I’ve known with kids under school age have been like, “Too tired for new partners.” They have dates with non-co-parent partners from once a week to once a month, whenever they can arrange — and usually more towards once a month. Those “dates” often consist of going over to partner’s house and collapsing on the couch for snuggles and tv, especially for the people who actually gave birth.

        1. That’s also been my experience with people in this situation – that we all have people who are significant to us besides our partner/coparent, but that it gets tougher to make substantial new time commitments, and keeping up with significant people in our lives in general requires more planning/scheduling and involves more collapsing onto a couch than it used to.

          I read about examples of couples with school-aged children who manage things like two date nights a week each, and one other-partner weekend a month each, and I admire them for their time management but good lord that’s a lot of holding down the fort singlehandedly. Some people are just that together! … I will never be that together, monogamous or polyamorous.

        2. You prioritize, and think, and talk, and schedule. For us, that came out as ‘only continuing existing relationships, and when they come to their natural end, well, we do love each other and we can revisit new relationships when we get more time.’

      3. I’m not a parent, but I discussed this with a polyamorous friend who is. She said that when she was ready to date again after her daughter was born, she explicitly looked for someone else who had a child, who would both understand that her time was limited by having a toddler as well as a husband, and accept that child-related emergencies might mean postponing or canceling plans. (A single example, here, not scientific but might be interesting.)

      4. I don’t have kids, but I’m in a polyamorous relationship and have many friends who are as well. I know of three cases that involve(d) couples with young children. In two of the cases, the partners formed triads and households together with one partner romantically involved with both of the others, and the partners on either end of the V having a close, loving, but nonsexual relationship (though of course there’s nothing to preclude all three people having sexual relationships if enough people in the triad are bi). The kids were coparented by all three, and the nonbiological parent was presented to the outside world as something like an aunt/uncle but with guardian status. Kids got age-appropriate information as they needed it and grew up / are growing up just fine.

        The other polyamorous couple I know with a young child seems (to me as an outside observer) to just be miracle family. It helps that the genetic lottery gave them a fairly “easy” kid, and that they both seem very grounded and good at communication. My best guess is that in those cases, the other partners are treated like any other external demands on the parents’ time (hobbies, other friendships) as they negotiate how best to meet everyone’s needs.

      5. It might be helpful to just think about it in terms of how anyone who is a parent with young children manages to date? In some cases, this can be *more* easily arranged for polyamorous people than, say, single parents (who do manage to date, sometimes!), since poly parents usually have at least one other built-in co-parent available for childcare support.

        I know monogamous people with young children go out and hang with their friends sometimes. Logistically, dating is about the same level of complicated. Don’t overthink this 😛

      6. When I was in that phase of my life, I identified as more having an open relationship and had several friends-with-benefits. I was married to someone who was only home on weekends, so having a friend come over after the kids were in bed and asleep was not a big deal. One of our parameters was that no one but Husband and I actually -slept- in our bed. So fun would be had, I’d kick him out to the couch, and it was not too unusual to have a friend asleep on the couch anyway, so this was not something unusual for the kids.

      7. I’m polyam, with a 2-year-old and two live-in partners R and J. J has recently started dating another parent of a 2-year-old, amusingly enough. The way it works for us is we discuss scheduling a lot, we have a couple of local babysitters to rely on, we all quite like J’s datemate and their kiddo, and we established years ago a pattern of having weekly rotating date nights. I think that last one has helped more than anything, tbh. (So like, one week it’s R and J, next it’s me and R, next it’s me and J, and so forth.) It gives us dedicated time to spend on our own relationships away from our kid, and it makes “I’d like to date $person” a lot easier to fit in.

        (All language fail is because I’ve just woken up.)

      8. Well, my then-husband and I started a new relationship with a triad when our kids were three and one. But we dated them as a couple, and we spent a lot of time together as a group WITH the kids in addition to some of us looking after the kids so that each separate twosome among the five of us could have date time to get to know each other and see if they felt like they wanted to be involved with each other. I’m not sure how it would’ve worked if I had wanted to get involved with an individual whom my husband wasn’t also getting involved with… and I wouldn’t have even *tried* to get involved with somebody who didn’t expect to become as much a part of my kids’ lives as they were of mine.

        More than ten years later, one of those five people is completely out of our lives due to abusive behavior. The other four of us are my kids’ parenting team. I’m only currently romantically involved with one of them (not the one who’s my kids’ biological dad), but the other two work closely with us to co-parent effectively. We’ve certainly got our occasional annoyances with each other, but we all care about the kids more than we do about being annoyed, and we trust each other to put the kids’ needs first. I think we’re better at the co-parenting because we’ve all lived together for a few years and brought our kids up as one family, even if we don’t do it that way anymore.

    2. The identity/choice dichotomy in polyamory is infinitely fascinating to me, and I wonder if it shapes people’s experience of polyamory. I know people on either side of that. For some people, the openness to other partners seems to be a deep part of their self-understanding and how they view the world. For me, it’s more of a choice thing: I’m both asexual and involved in a larger variety of social relationships than my spouse, so polyamory lets them get their sexual needs met, and the time is rarely an issue since they’ll often spend time with other partners while I’m off with other friends, or with my church, or whatever. If it is, of course we talk it out and figure out something that works. I’ve dated a bit, but after figuring out I was ace, it seems best for me not to pursue any crushes that come up and to focus on my marriage and on friendships instead. So it feels to me like less of an identity and more that we stumbled into a lifestyle that works for us. (Which of course doesn’t negate the experience of people for whom it is an identity; I just think it’s kind of neat that it seems to be able to go either way).

      1. This is something I picked up on in the letter too, and it made me uncomfortable – I think that something can be an identity without being innate (ie. I’m a nerd but I wasn’t born a nerd), and this letter uses language of a queer discovery narrative which people often experience as innate. Relationship structures are much more socially constructed, even *within* monogamy and polyamory.

        So LW – what if you reframe it as choosing to be polyamorous? there are many ways to do that. Which one do you have in mind?

    3. I love your hypothetical questions because they get at the possibility that LW may be taking both Darin and Fireball for granted here. Love triangles, in fiction and in real life, can feel like “my choices are love interest A and/or love interest B, and whoever I ultimately pick, I get to keep forever, and in the meantime both A and B will continue to hang around waiting for me to make the call.” In reality it probably won’t be like that. And polyamory isn’t a magic pill that will ensure LW can hold onto everyone she wants in her life.

  12. Step 1 needs to be “stop taking concrete steps towards getting married.” You don’t need to break the engagement just yet, but definitely don’t pick any dates or put down any deposits. Once you and Darin are legally wed, making changes to your relationship will be much harder.

    Step 2 will be to ditch this Fireball fellow. Don’t kid yourself: Darin is going to be on high alert for evidence of you being non-monogamous. This includes emotional infidelity. I know that the new guy feels amazing and you’ve found supernatural evidence of your compatibility, but figuring out what your *co-parenting relationship* should look like needs to take precedence. If Fireball really is your destiny, then waiting a little while won’t be a big deal, right?

    I’m not questioning the validity of your polyamorous feelings, but I do want to point out that you seem a little irrationally optimistic about convincing Darin to be ok with it. Doing the math, Ash is probably still waking up several times a night. Chronic sleep deprivation not only impairs judgement, it can also provoke you into being a little manic. Don’t make any big irrevocable decisions without literally sleeping on them first. While eventually you will have to choose either Darin or polyamory, you don’t have to do it right this very second. I’m a toddler parent myself and this shit is super fucking hard, even in a romantic relationship with a supportive co-parent, helpful nearby relatives, and financial security. I’m not saying you can’t go it alone and break up with Darin before Ash starts walking; I’m just saying that you want to handle things delicately so as to not burn that relationship to the ground. Getting involved with Fireball thirty minutes after breaking things off with Darin is a surefire way to ruin an amicable co-parenting relationship.

    One last thing: mainstream society can be pretty harsh about polyamorous relationships and super judgey about women insisting that motherhood doesn’t stop them from having sexual desires. If you handle this poorly, some of the fallout might be Darin gaining majority (or full) custody of Ash. I’m no lawyer, so I don’t have any concrete opinions to offer on the matter; I just wanted to point that out as a possibility.

    1. The issue of custody was one I was going to raise, too. If you and Darin split, you really should work out (hopefully in legal documents) what your parenting relationship (time with the kid, who pays for what with the kid) will look like because I can easily see “she’s an unfit mother because she sleeps around” becoming a thing. People on this site may be open to different lifestyles/identities/beliefs, etc., but the courts will look at it from the perspective of whether your choices make you a fit parent. In court, appearances count, however unfair they may be, and biases come into play, even though they shouldn’t.

      And I’m a newer mom, too. I felt super not-myself at work, with friends, at home. It took a while to recalibrate myself and figure out where “mom” fit into my identity. Please don’t rush into anything with Fireball. Consider the Captain’s questions and make sure that you truly identify as polyamorous and that you truly understand what it would mean to make that kind of change to your life.

      1. Yeah, this. Having Ash is a huge thing going on in OP’s life, requiring massive adjustment that is likely still going on. I would have wanted to be very, very careful about any really big decisions in the year or two after having either of my kids. It’s a headfuck.

      2. And even if Darin were fine in principle with polyamory and behaved extremely graciously over discussing custody, it might still be that his feelings for Ash were such that he would want at least equal, as in 50%, custody of Ash, and he would be completely reasonable to do so and to insist that no matter what life you wanted to explore for yourself, *his* was damn well going to include wanting a lot of contact with his child, and that would be something that will have an impact on your life for the next 18 years. Darin doesn’t have to be vindictive to want his child to live with him a minimum of half of the time. Of course, it might not work out like that at all, but it has to be considered.

        1. Agreed. He doesn’t have to be a jerk or trying to punish you, he can genuinely want to spend as much time with his son as he can in this scenario.

  13. LW, this is what your letter looked like to me:

    You have been with Darin for less than a year and a half at this point.
    You got pregnant with Ash less than a year into your relationship with Darin.
    You and Darin have plans to marry.
    You want to open up your relationship with Darin.
    Darin has made it clear that the only relationship he is willing to have with you is one in which you’re both monogamous.
    You don’t think you can be happy staying in a monogamous relationship with Darin.
    You have developed an attraction to Fireball, which is reciprocated.

    I don’t want to come across as dismissing your new identity as a polyamorous person or trivializing your feelings as “cold feet” about getting married to Darin, but as an outsider (who is not polyamorous, for the record), it looks to me like your relationship with Darin moved incredibly fast (facts 1-3), that you are not entirely comfortable or happy with the relationship as it currently stands (facts 4 and 5), and that you may be inclined to sabotage your relationship with Darin (facts 6 and 7).

    Your letter is vague about the timeline of when you and Darin got engaged, when you realized you were attracted to Fireball, and when you realized you were polyamorous. But if these things happened close together, I think it’s worth examining how each of these events (and your feelings about them) were and are informed by the others. If you have a history of self-sabotage, that is also worth examining and seeing if there are any patterns from the past that are relevant to your current situation.

    You owe it to yourself and everyone else to take some time out and do a little soul-searching (maybe with the help of a good therapist) to figure out if breaking up with Darin is what you really want to do. As I stated above, I don’t want to come off as dismissing your identity and your very real feelings, but I also want to point out that it’s not unusual for people to panic about a relationship that got serious faster than they were ready for, even if the relationship is good overall. It’s okay not to be ready to settle down with someone for life. It’s also okay to be temporarily freaked out about settling down with someone for life, even when you are ready for it.

    If it turns out that you can’t maintain a monogamous relationship with Darin (whether it’s because your polyamory or because Darin is simply not the right guy for you after all), you need to act decisively and call off this wedding as fast as you can. You will also need to be thread the needle of giving Darin some time and space to feel hurt, while also figuring how to be good co-parents to Ash. I don’t say this to discourage you from breaking up with Darin if that’s what you need to do, but to point out that the immediate aftermath of doing the right thing for yourself might really suck.

          1. I agree as well.

            But also your name keeps reminding me of a Charles de Lint story by that name.

    1. +1000
      If LW feels they need to break up, it’s fine but it does look like they might be pretty impulsive and might benefit from just slowing down and taking the time to think about what they really want out of life before any further major change.
      Having all this happen in 18 months is A LOT.

    2. Thank you for saying what I wanted to say in a much more thoughtful way than I was capable of saying it.

    3. To add a little to this fantastic comment- Having a baby can really be a headtrip identity-wise, especially in a newish relationship. I’d kind of suggest slowing down on ALL the relationship-focused decision-making, postponing the wedding, and stepping away from FireDude and taking some time with yourself to really examine some things. Preferably with some counseling, if it’s available. Stuff like- Was I ready for this baby, and realistic about the impact he has on my life/relationship(s)? Am I mourning aspects of prebaby life/style? Do I feel a loss of identity since I had our son? Does my partner contribute equitably to the care and feeding of our child? How do I really feel about these changes? Hitting pause and gaining perspective is really really REALLY important, especially when they have potential to enormously impact tiny people with no agency in the situation.

  14. Here’s my suggestion: firstly, put off any wedding between you and Darrin for at least 6 – 12 months. Start having the serious talks with Darrin regarding the relationship between the two of you, what having a child together means, what you each want by way of parenting duties and so on. Get Darrin’s perspective on what you figuring out you’re polyamorous means to him and what he thinks this means for parenting your child together. (Also, it may be worth doing these talks in the context of “relationship counselling” – that way you’ll have a neutral third party involved to defuse the fights, help the pair of you get things phrased in more neutral terms and such). Clearly there are relationship issues present (and even if they’re just the normal ones which accompany a new baby in a relationship, they’re issues none the less), and you could both do with some work on them. If nothing else, working on all these issues before the wedding will certainly be less expensive than getting a divorce afterwards.

    You’ll note I’m not mentioning “Fireball” anywhere in the above – this is because I think he’s a symptom more than anything else (and so, by the way, is your realisation of polyamoury). You’re in a relationship which, from the sounds of things, has moved pretty rapidly, and I suspect at least part of what you’re feeling is probably “oh gods, marriage is closing in, bolt for the hills while I still have the chance!”. So, put everything you’re planning for the wedding on hold for at least six months. Get counselling. Sort out how (and also whether) you and Darrin are going to be together, and how you’re going to be raising your child. Do all of that FIRST. Then think about the wedding, and the polyamoury. If “Fireball” is truly destined for you and is as compatible with you as you think he is, he’ll be willing to wait while you sort things out with Darrin.

  15. In my experience, a couple can sometimes mean different things when they say they are engaged – for some it is a just a mutual understanding that you will get married at some point down the line eventually, and for others the label is an indication that you are actively picking out stationary for invitations or booking venues. If you are in the latter category, I would suggest putting an immediate halt on that activity for now, and I would absolutely not enter into a legal contract of marriage with someone if the conditions they need to be happy in a relationship are ones that make you feel your soul is dying. A conversation about postponing your marriage doesn’t have to mean that the engagement is over, but it should happen soon if a wedding date is fast approaching (and hopefully with enough time to get reimbursed for any catering or venue deposits you may have paid).

    One thing that really struck me about your letter was the reference to the astrological charts. I agree that this came off as a way of emphasizing how much you want to be with Fireball while trying to avoid having to actually fully own those feelings. Given the way you describe your lack of astrological compatibility with Darin, I wonder if that is another side of what is going on here, i.e. that a part of you doesn’t want to be with Darin but doesn’t want to fully own those feelings either.

  16. I know little about polyamory, but I can suggest a way to approach the question. At every turn, ask yourself: What would be best for Ash? This comes in 2 parts. There’s What would be best for Ash now, and What would be best for Ash long term?

    1. I should clarify my comment with the information that I don’t have a pre-conceived idea that I already know what would be good for Ash. I’m only suggesting that his interests be given high priority. I’m not saying that children are better off in homes with their mother and father in a monogamous relationship– and certainly not one where one or both parents is miserable and resentful of the other. There are many situations, conventional or less so, where Ash can grow up loved and supported where he can flourish. When you’re considering what the future will look like depending on the decisions you make, think carefully on how they will look to Ash from his infant eyes now, through his eyes when he’s a teenager, and how it will look when he’s grown.

    2. I’m a little uncomfortable with asking what would be best for the kid “at every turn.” As a parent in a once monogamous, now theoretically but not practically open, relationship, I don’t think every decision needs to be made in terms of what would be best for the children. Sometimes it’s ok to make decisions that don’t harm kids that maximize the benefit for other members of the family, including the adults. Our society usually puts this burden of making decisions “for the children” squarely on women, so often asking this means accepting that a woman is less valuable than the other members of the family.

      Note that I’m not saying that making decisions that harms the people you chose to bring into the world is ok, just that not every decision needs to be optimized for the children.

      1. In my case, ending the relationship with my daughter’s father WAS the best thing for her — I put her health, happiness, well-being, and stability first… but one part of how I weighed my choices was whether it was in her best interests to have one parent who was miserable.

        Putting your children’s interests first doesn’t automatically equal self-abnegation, and you’re right that women are often asked to make more “sacrifices.”

        I do think there’s a middle ground, though.

  17. If Fireball were completely out of the picture, if Fireball didn’t exist, do you think you would still be polyamorous?

    1. With respect, I feel like it’s a little unfair to question how LW identifies. It’s reasonable to ask if LW is genuinely wanting to practice ethical polyamory, with all the rainy days included, or to ask if infatuation/NRE is clouding their judgment about how they want to proceed. But I don’t think it’s fair to be like, “But are you REALLY X?” People can be catalysts for a realization about yourself.

      1. I think that what you say is NORMALLY true, but with this letter…it’s kinda warranted.

        Her revelation about her orientation seems like another example of not accepting responsibility for her desires and choices, or as the Captain put it, distancing herself from her agency. Maybe not! But with the rest of the evidence presented I think it’s fair to ask her to double check. Especially since, if she IS polyamorous, she will be for her whole life. There is no rush!

      2. As a poly person, I think this is a totally reasonable thing to suggest that LW ask themselves. One should ask oneself difficult questions as they move into a new identity, to clarify exactly what that identity means to one. Especially because the LW is trying to use their new identity to not just justify their actions, but to say that they must take certain actions.

    2. And I think the flip side of this is, if Darin were totally out of the picture and you were with Fireball, would you want to be polyamorous with Fireball? Or would you want to be monogamous with him?

      1. Let’s also not forget that being polyamorous also means being ok with your partner(s) having additional sexual relationships. If you’re bothered by the thought of Darin finding someone who he would like to date in addition to you, that’s a bit of data in the “maybe I’m not ready to be poly” category.

        1. Let’s also not forget that being polyamorous also means being ok with your partner(s) having additional sexual relationships.
          Not always. There are non-monogamous relationships where not everyone is interested in “extracurricular activities”. But those only work if everyone is consenting.

          1. Not everyone in the polycule needs to want multiple relationships, but anyone who has multiple relationships should always be ok with any of their partners having multiple partners as well. If you want multiple partners but are not ok with any of your partners having the same, you’re a hypocrite.

  18. LW, I’m not a parent myself but both my sisters reported a massive strain on their (long-established) relationships when their children were babies and toddlers. Please don’t underestimate the effect that this change in your life has wrought on you as an individual, and you and Darin as a couple.
    Could it be that you have feelings about being a new parent which are propelling you towards a lusty time with Fireball, and away from less exciting everyday responsibilities with Darin and Ash?

    Before you make any moves towards sexyfuntimes and a relationship with Fireball, sit down and be as detached as you can possibly be, using your logic rather than pantsfeels. There’s a lot of excellent advice here already in this regard.

    But I want to bring up impulse control and impulsive behaviours, since they haven’t been explicitly covered. If you already know you are prone to impulsive behaviours, particularly around sex and getting together with new people, you need to work VERY HARD right now to overcome this tendency. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you and Fireball can flirt intensely or have sex or makeout sessions! Be vigilant!

    Please don’t allow impulsiveness to be your default position when there’s so much at stake. Your relationships with Ash and Darin are serious, and you have a responsibility to both of them no matter what your relationship configuration will be in the future.

    I strongly recommend you consider seeking therapy to help you move forward, if you can access it. Effective therapy is so beneficial when making life decisions that impact partners and children.

  19. I’m not sure if anyone’s pointed this out yet, but I do have one more question for LW to think on. If Darin were to consider polyamory and decide, “Hey, y’know what? Let’s try this!” but tell you that he’s uncomfortable with you and Fireball starting anything, would this change things?

    I’m monogamous myself, but a lot of posts on this site have pointed out that a partner is allowed to feel uncomfortable with their SO dating certain people. In this case, I think that, were I Darin, I’d feel uncomfortable with someone being the impetus of the polyamorous relationship. That is, I wouldn’t’ feel comfortable with you dating someone you were crushing on prior to our mutual decision to open up the relationship.

  20. So, LW, is it possible that Fireball the person isn’t actually what you want as much as what Fireball represents?

    Being a new parent SUUUUUCKS

    You went from a single, responsibility-free lifestyle to diapers and drool and marriage in less time than what it takes to film a season of Game of Thrones. 18 months is not a lot of time!

    They used to call this behavior a mid-life crisis. More accurately though, you have put your body through some trauma, your hormones are still a little jacked up, who even IS this person in the mirror with the diaper bag and stretch marks and clothes that don’t fit right? Maybe Fireball just makes you feel like the person you were BEFORE all that.

    If you are really truly motivated to find out who you are in your deepest soul, Fireball can’t help. He’s distracting you from YOU. Quit seeing him, and do some self-exploration. Read the books! Take a bubble bath! Go hiking! Journal! Have a Date Night with yourself, so you can get more grounded in who you are. Not as a mom, or wife, or coworker, but as YOU. Hot dudes are a dime a dozen. If you still feel you are polyamorous after, say, another year or two, there will be some other hot guy close by. You’ve got time to figure this out!

    You need to be sure enough in WHO YOU ARE to make decisions for YOURSELF, and not allow your decisions to be the fault of the stars, or the alcohol, or the crowd, or the fiancé.

    And figuring out who you are takes time and bandwidth. You don’t have time for Fireball. Don’t give to him what you need for you.

  21. I understand the feeling that you must explore this part of you. But, you don’t have to do it *now*. You can hold that part of you like a private treasure while you focus on other things – like getting enough sleep. You should be honest with Darin about that – you could tell him you need to postpone the wedding until you figure this out, but you’d like to focus on what’s already on your plate for a year or two and then re-examine. You might decide you are happy holding this piece of your identity as valid but unexplored, like a bi woman who discovers she’s bi after marrying a guy; or you might decide you need to explore it, in which case you’d be doing so when you have a bit more independence from your kid and thus a chance at dating while co-parenting without wearing yourself to the ground.

  22. It feels like you’re getting a lot of really great advice – I have 2 small comments to add.

    Firstly, I’m really struck by your choice of names: Darin, Ash and Fireball. Taken at face value (since you don’t offer context for your choices) there’s a big difference in how you’re constructing these people. The fiery, meteoric, dangerous and exciting alternative to your current situation which, in ‘Ash’ has finished burning. I don’t know what this means for you but I think it’s worth mulling over.

    Secondly, I agree that the natal chart is a red herring, but for different reasons. If you had been invested in natal charts’ ability to usefully inform your life choices it seems unlikely that you’d have pursued your match with Darin. I think the chart is a supplement, a way of safely articulating your concerns about your relationship with Darin. Do you, for example, feel negatively challenged by Darin? I want to suggest that you owe it to yourself, your child and your current partner to explore your feelings about your current relationship before considering other relationships. It can be desperately sad to break up and it is so hard to rub up against the reasons why this might happen but even if this is the path you decide to take, it will be a much happier start to your exploration of polyamory and new situation as a co-parent to end this relationship in a thoughtful way.

    Take responsibility for your decisions and I truly believe you’ll be happier in the long run.

  23. In my experience, the first year and some with a baby is a period during which one’s partner is just The Worst. You still like and love each other, except for a pretty substantial part of the time when you are pissed. You’re basically pissed at your adorable new baby for being so damned hard all the time, but that emotion gets directed at your partner instead because we’re generally hardwired to be nice to babies.

    I strongly recommend that new parents ignore feelings of vague romantic dissatisfaction, major crushes on others, and anything else that might torpedo their current parenting partnership. It’s not that these things aren’t real, it’s that neither of you is in a place to lovingly and respectfully work out what you need romantically when you can’t even get five straight hours of sleep. What can happen instead is that you do the romantic equivalent of burning the house down, and people get hurt that way.

    I don’t think people should martyr themselves for their kids, but I do think you should consider Year 1 a sort of life emergency, in which Little Dude is the first priority and the rest of everything just has to be on the back burner. You will still be you in six months or a year, and your soul will not be dead because you decided to prioritize baby stuff instead. Your ability to clarify your needs, examine your ethical framework, and articulate your desires will go way up, though, as will your ability to work things out with Darin. Really. However things end up, the co-parenting thing will work much better if Darin doesn’t feel like you’ve left him holding the bag in the middle of sleep training and teething.

    Please abandon thoughts of Fireball for now. You will not be able to coparent with Darin if he feels like you cheated on him and/or left him for some crush–and Darin is probably feleing exhausted and a little pissy right now, too, and isn’t going to see pursuit of Fireball as a natal-chart endorsed Right Choice. Assume that you and Fireball aren’t ever going to happen and move forward from there. You may find in a year that you’ve ended things amicably with Darin and Fireball is still there. But leave that in the future and do not pursue it in the present. Future You will thank you for doing all the hard ethical things now, because it will make life much easier in the long run.

    1. Definitely confirming that it’s a good choice for me not to have kids. Kudos to all the good parents out there!

      1. I tell everyone that unless they specifically want kids, don’t have ’em! Not just because infant care consume everything, including your money, but because having ambivalent, unwilling, or resentful parents is bad for a child’s development.

        1. YES to this! So much YES! And honestly… having children was absolutely the right choice for me, but there were so many times I thought “If I didn’t want children so badly, this would be unbearable.”

        2. When people ask me why I don’t want kids, I say I believe every kid deserves to be enthusiastically wanted, and until and unless I feel 100% sure I want to have a kid I’m not going to.

        3. Co-signed! Thank all the deities for reliable birth control. I would have made a terrible, resentful mom to tiny humans. I’m a very happy mom to cats. Parenting is haaaaaard, and people who love and want their kids and parent well have all my respect.

        4. Cosigned. I never wanted to be a parent to a tiny human, but I’m an excellent parent to pets. Even there, I am aware of my limitations (of finances, temperament, constant mental & physical health challenges) and schedule. I could not own a dog or a horse or a reptile, because their care needs would be burdensome.

          1. I mean, heck, I knew this when I was preverbal. I didn’t like bald baby dolls (found them terrifying, frankly), I didn’t want to pretend to feed or change or burp the baby dolls, and far preferred stuffed animals or fashion dolls.

            But I babysat regularly, adored my babysitting client’s kids, and I adore my nieces today. I just never wanted to change their diaper, give them a bath, bottle feed, them, etc., so, sure, I’d do it cheerfully if paid and that was it. I am indifferent to the smell of an infant’s scalp. I don’t feel my uterus twang when babies smile at me (and babies LOVE me, it’s uncanny). I like tiny humans, but I was always delighted to give my charges back to their parents!

            I’m also a doting pet parent, my pets know they are cherished, and they are healthy, happy and well-behaved (even around new people).

            You have to know your limitations. Sometimes being a parent to tiny humans is not what is right for you.

    2. My obstetrician has three kids, and one of the things she went out of her way to tell me was that, while people think the newborn stage will put the most strain on their partnership, it’s really the 6 months or so *after* the first trimester. She shared that she was convinced she had to divorce her husband at the 6-month mark with their first kid. I was so grateful for her perspective when I was at the 6-month mark with my kid, because damn if I didn’t feel like my husband was the worst human being in existence much of the time.

      God, just thinking back to that time is so painful. Sleep deprivation is no joke. (Mine was maybe on the far end of bad, since my kid was a terrible, terrible sleeper — she started reliably sleeping through the night at age 5 — and my partner, um, lacks middle-of-the-night coping skills.)

      1. I’m confused. Do you mean the last six months of pregnancy or months three through nine of the infant’s first year?

        1. Around 6 months is when babies leave the “luggage” phase and start being more mobile, more awake, and usually still aren’t sleeping through the nitgt (or better, my second slept/nursed at night just fine until 4 months then started crying every hour aaaaaaaagggg)

        2. Lol, sorry, “trimester” was confusing. Some folks refer to the first three months as a fourth trimester, it being such a larval stage. So, I meant months 3-9 (so, 8 months of age). But really, she identified 6 months as the breaking point, I think I was adding my own edits regarding the first chunk of time when my little one had so many complaints and slept so little.

    3. Most of the people I know with kids (myself included) had marriages that went right into the toilet for the first two years after their kids were born. It’s a thing. In almost every case, it got better.

  24. Dear LW,
    I don’t know anything about polyamory.
    I don’t know anything about your relationship with Darin.
    I don’t know you.
    But I know a lot about having babies. Unless my math is off (which wouldn’t be surprising), Ash is somewhere between 0-9 months old.

    Having babies messes with your mind, your emotions, your sense of self, and your relationships. Making Big Life-Altering Decisions in the first 12-18 months after having a baby is always dicey, because there’s a good chance that you literally will not recognize yourself when you look back a year from now.
    Everything feels like the absolute best and/or the absolute worst, sometimes simultaneously. Sometimes you feel like you’re soaring on clouds, and sometimes you feel like you’re actively dying.

    I’m not trying to question your identity, but the suddenness and intensity of the emotions in your letter make me want to offer you a hug (if wanted) and say, “It’s okay. Slow down and breathe. Just…give yourself some space and time and rest.”
    Don’t burn your house down just to get some light.

  25. LW, what was it that led you to discover that you’re polyamorous? Is it something you sort of felt deep inside for a while, and decided to pursue? Did you make this discovery while talking with poly people? Was it when you met Fireball?

    Is it your desire to be poly with multiple men/woman/non-binary people? Or do you see yourself with Darin and Fireball?

    Is Fireball poly? Does he want a monogamous relationship with you? Does he want any kind of relationship with you? You say he likes you, but have you discussed any of this with him?
    -Cautionary story – PolyAcquaintance of mine constantly had women flirting with him and when his wife gave him clearance to explore being poly, he discovered that when he told these women that he was now free to date them, they backed off. They just liked flirting with him. They didn’t want to date.
    -What does Fireball want?

    I get that maybe Darin isn’t compatible in the long run, that’s life. If you don’t want to marry him right now, then don’t get married at all, until you feel that is what you want. I just hope that you make your choices mindfully.

    1. These are some good questions for LW to consider, but in my opinion, the ones of what’s possible with Fireball, and what Fireball wants, should take a backseat in priority to whether, and how, LW wants to dissolve her current monogamous relationship in order to explore being polyamorous.

      Particularly this: “Is Fireball poly? Does he want a monogamous relationship with you? Does he want any kind of relationship with you? You say he likes you, but have you discussed any of this with him?”

      I would strongly suggest NOT having this discussion, and hopefully it hasn’t been had already. Unless and until you are no longer monogamously involved with Darin, testing the waters and laying the groundwork (…and mixing the metaphors…) for a relationship with Fireball does not strike me as an ethical thing to do.

      1. I thought of that question overnight, just read through the entire comments section, and am glad to see that someone else thought of it too. There are a ton of reasons why LW should go slow in considering what to do next. The reasons have to do with what would be best for her, what would be best for those closest to her, what the hard realities of her situation are. Whether or not Fireball is polyamorous and what Fireball wants is yet another consideration to be thrown in the mix. It could be that while Fireball likes LW, he might be interested in only mild flirtation when LW is in a committed relationship with Darin. He might not be interested in a polyamorous relationship with her. He might not be interested in a monogamous relationship with her. He might be thinking, on second thought, that baby makes a lot of noise.

        And now a message to LW. A lot of us have come down pretty hard on you, and you might be thinking that none of know what you’re really going through. That feeling of soul dying if you don’t get to explore with Fireball? I, and I bet a lot of us here, have had our own fireballs. I hope it helps to know that I have sympathy because I’ve felt it. Oh, was that man hot! The strength of that desire was like nothing I’ve ever felt, there’s nothing I can compare it to. I won’t even say if, looking back, I think I made the right decision. I’m not even sure I’m over him 40 years later. Here’s sympathy if it’s any use to you.

  26. Dear LW,

    If this June will be 18 months, then it’s 16 months now, and Ash is at most 7 months old.


    You don’t indicate your age or Darrin’s, nor whether one or both of you has had serious relationships before. Both age and experience probably factor into the whole situation

    So here’s my take : I don’t think you’re happy. Please consider talking about your life with a counsellor.

    Maybe it’s motherhood. Maybe it’s Darrin. Maybe it’s marriage. Maybe it’s age. I don’t know. But I’m sure that sex with Fireball won’t fix anything.

    Jedi hugs.

  27. I am surprised the engagement hasn’t been called off by Darin. Is he waiting to catch Fireball in his bed? The letter writer has already told Darin that she wants someone else, and that to me is the end of the road for what Darin wants.

    So for the letter writer…if Darin hasn’t already done it, help him out. Call off the engagement because you guys are not compatible.

    1. While I don’t think the LW ought to cheat on Darin or try to convince him to be okay with polyamory when he’s not, I think it’s a little harsh to go straight from “brings up the possibility of polyamory” to “wants someone else, therefore must break up.” I mean, if that’s what you would need, you do you, but having feelings about someone else while coupled is pretty normal, and saying “Hey, what if we were to act on these kind of feelings?” with a mind that’s truly open to a yes or a no answer is one way to deal with them.

      1. If someone’s bringing up the possibility of polyamory _at the same time_ as they’re planning a monogomous marriage, then they should definitely, IMO, call off the marriage. To me there really is middle ground on that.

        Whether that means they stay in their monogomous relationship and a year later decide that they do actually want to get married, or whether they stay for a little while and then decide they actually do not want to be in a monogomous relationship either with this person or at all, and so they eventually split, is another question.

        But IMO, seriously exploring the idea of polyamory is just not compatible with being engaged, i.e., making a mutual agreement to enter into a monogomous marriage.

        1. Not planning a wedding right now is certainly a good idea; my issue was more that “call of the engagement because you guys are not compatible” seemed to carry a sense of “and therefore you should break up,” because if you’re not compatible, a relationship of any kind isn’t going to work. It’s quite possible that I misread this.

          On the other hand, marriage in and of itself doesn’t necessarily mean monogamy, which sounded to me like what you were saying. Apologies if I’m misunderstanding that.

        2. Yes and polyamorous or not, LW obviously has strong doubts about her current relationship and that in itself is reason enough to call off the wedding, or at least postpone it until she has her shit sorted. LW really needs to stop rushing into major life decisions and take time to think about the future before compicating her situation any further. I think counselling would be a good idea because introspection is needed.

      2. I think that there’s a huge difference between having these feelings and actually, truly wanting to act on them. I don’t think it’s unusual for a monogamous person to want to be in a relationship with someone who also prefers to be monogamous.

      3. But there are plenty of people who are incompatible with anyone who wants any form of polyamory, and people who bring it up (“hey, I want to explore this”) are the people who want that.

    2. I disagree about immediately calling off the engagement. As other people have mentioned, being polyamorous doesn’t mean you are incapable of being in a monogamous relationship if you so desire. Given the irrationality that infant care instills in new parents, I think the best course of action will be to just maintain the status quo: don’t get married, but don’t decide to break up either. Wait until sleep deprivation isn’t the chronic, everyday norm before trying to make major decisions.

      1. ‘Don’t get married, but don’t decide to break up either’.

        Yeah, that’s called ‘calling off the engagement’. If you’re not getting married, then you’re not engaged. That’s literally what the word engaged means.

        1. I mean, you could postpone the wedding without deciding that you are no longer getting married at all. But it’s pretty much semantics one way or another – if you postpone, I would postpone indefinitely so you don’t feel rushed by an impending wedding date 8 months from now, and that’s not functionally any different than calling off the engagement but staying together romantically.

      2. Calling off the engagement does not mean “break up immediately”. It just means slow down before you rush into one more major decision without thinking it through.

      3. It’s semantics, but how you label your relationship has significance to a lot of people. “Canceling the engagement” is a lot harsher than saying “let’s just push this back a bit and not make any plans for now.” It says “I don’t want to marry you” and it’s going to be difficult for the recipient of that message to believe there’s a “yet” attached. It doesn’t sound like the LW really wants to end things with Darin if she can help it; flat out canceling the engagement is going to incur a lot of hurt feelings which would make it difficult to resume said engagement later.

        It’s also going to put Darin in the unenviable position of having to figure out what to tell people who ask about the wedding. Does he lie and say that they haven’t got any real plans or does he disclose that they aren’t engaged any more but didn’t break up either. I’m by nature a truthful person and also hate having to justify/explain my personal life, so I would be livid over being put into that position. On the other hand, it’s totally normal for couples to spend years “engaged” without having any concrete plans for a wedding. Getting married requires a certain minimal amount of planning and coordination, even if it’s just figuring out how both parties can be at city hall between 8-12 or 1-5 on a weekday with whatever required documents. If there aren’t deposits made or invitations sent, then simply putting the ceremony off indefinitely is going to be the easiest way to maintain the status quo.

    3. “The letter writer has already told Darin that she wants someone else, and that to me is the end of the road for what Darin wants.”

      I tend to agree. If Darin wrote the letter, I would be advising him to lay the groundwork for a healthy co-parenting relationship with the LW while taking steps to end things. It doesn’t really sound like they’re on the same page.

  28. As a monogamous person myself, I can’t speak to the “poly” side of this. But as a father to a child at just 20 years old (I’m now 42) I can speak to the parenting side of this.

    “If you and Darin did split up romantically, how could you be great co-parents to your son? How would money work? What would your living situation be like? How would you divide up the time and work of raising Ash?” <— Start HERE! I can't stress this enough.

    co-parenting is HARD. It's hard with someone you get along with, it's even HARDER when you start throwing other romantic partners into the mix, then throw in one or both of the parents are hurt by the actions of the other… everyone suffers, expressly the child.

    Am I saying you need to stay with Ash's father? Not at all, but please think very carefully about how to proceed.

    Best of luck LW.

  29. LW getting married, raising a child, living the boring day to day existence is mundane and repetitive. And on the horizon there are promises of forbidden passions and untapped elements of personal growth and discoveries, which is very appealing.

    Based on your letter you sound like someone who over romanticize anything that’s new and exciting. It sounds like you are interpreting the thrills of flirting as a sign of “this is my new identity, I have to explore myself, I am destined with the stars to be with fireball”.

    Do you actually want multiple relationships or do you want the thrills of a new relationship and of being desired?
    Do you want to prioritize feeling of self discovery over raising your child?
    Do you want to risk financial struggles the rest of your life because right now your relationship seems boring in comparison to dating strangers?

    If you genuinely don’t feel fulfilled by this relationship then you don’t need to stay. But over time the high you get from starting a new relationship will wear out. And after a few relationships that only last the duration of the honey moon period that would get boring too. And if you are in a financially unstable situation now, you’ll more than likely never bounce back from it if you are a single mom. Think about why you want to leave? Is now the best time for you? And what will you do when the fantasy has ended and you are now in a real relationship but with a new person?

  30. LW, I notice you sign yourself “I Don’t Want to be a B*tch to My Fiancé” rather than “I Don’t Want to Lose My Fiancé”. And the extent of the text was “obviously, that’s the last thing that I want.” If I read back to you what I see you putting out, at some level you are willing to lose your fiancé, but you don’t want to have people — including yourself — think you’re a jerk.

    A promise from an unknown on the Internet: I won’t think you’ve done anything wrong for ethically breaking up with him and doing a good job of co-parenting. People break up with their long-term partners all the time, it’s completely normal, I’ve certainly done it. And I know plenty of good people who broke up and I greatly respect their parenting.

    (On the other hand I will think poorly of your actions if you break up unethically, such as the old “oops, I cheated, now you’ll break up with me so I won’t have to do it” move, or if you place your son in a bad situation. You don’t want to do those, either.)

    I co-sign what people have said about whether this is really about Fireball or even necessarily about polyamory.

    1. Well spotted. LW, it sounds like what you’re asking, like so many LWs, may be “how do I get what I want without hurting anyone?” And in this case you simply can’t, unless you think it over again and decide that what you really want is what you originally planned with Darin after all.

  31. The young baby is really the elephant in the room, isn’t it?
    I would give you the same advice as people do after a bereavement – don’t make any big life decisions, if you can avoid it, until at least 12 months. You’re now currently living through the biggest change to your life, short of major illness or disability, that you’ll ever experience, and you need to let your feelings about that bed in. I don’t know where that leaves you with Darin but at least don’t marry him, or sleep with Fireball.

    I also, and I don’t know how to say this in a nice way, so I’ll be blunt – I hope you are not making the mistake of thinking that you can use polyamoury as a way of identifying out of the work of parenthood. Whether poly or monogamous (and especially if single), the first 3 years or so of parenthood are hard work emotionally and physically, and there’s not a lot of sleep to come by. Even if you were in established poly relationships I suspect you’d struggle even to keep up a meaningful relationship with your primary, never mind any secondary partner, while you have a toddler. If you’re seeing yourself going out and having the sort of new relationship experiences that you’ve had in the past, I don’t think it is going to be like that, as you now have so much less time to do it in.

  32. Okay, I’ll preface by saying that I know from experience that every mother quickly gets sick of ‘Best for Baby!’ being used by busybodies to squish down any need she might have to be a human being in her own right. It can be brutal, and that’s not what I want to do.

    That said, LW, I can’t help noticing that nowhere in your letter do you say anything about being concerned to do what’s right for Ash. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that ‘be monogamous with his father’ is the only way to do right by him, but you only mention him as part of a unit with Darin. (‘I want to grow old with them’.) And purely in terms of your own needs … I think you could shoot yourself in the foot there.

    If you do end up living polyamorous (which won’t be with Darin), you’re gonna have to think carefully about Ash’s needs and feelings when drawing up the lines with every new partner as well as with his dad. Believe me, I get the shock of new parenthood and the ‘Will I ever get to be myself again?’ feelings it provokes … but the reality is that while yes, you do get to be yourself, your self now has a new aspect that needs to be factored in to every major decision you may for the next couple decades. It’s a new skill, and the sooner you master it, the easier on everyone, and the freer you’ll ultimately be.

    And yeah, that can feel impossibly constraining when a baby is this young. You’re deep in the weeds right now; the first few years are extreme. But you’ll get more space to breathe, sleep and think as Ash gets older, and you can eventually get to a point where ‘being a mother’ and ‘being myself’ can co-exist. And it’ll be way easier if you think carefully about Ash’s needs as an individual BEFORE you make radical relationship changes. Upset, troubled children are way more constraining than happy, secure ones!

    Staying in a relationship that doesn’t work is not going to help Ash; please understand I’m not saying ‘You have a baby now so you have to marry his dad and shut up.’ It’s more that if you want to feel in harmony with your soul, working out ways to cope with the responsibilities of parenthood is going to be part of that new identity, and the more you think of Ash as a soul separate from Darin and your relationship, the more comfortable that’ll feel.

    Ash is your boy whatever happens with Darin or anyone else. Keep that in mind, and your decisions will be better.

    1. CO-SIGNED. As a (fairly) new parent myself (my son is almost 2), I totally get feeling like “what, so this is ANOTHER thing I can’t do right now”? And the answer is, sadly, yes. But you WILL be able to. When people tell you that being a parent requires patience, they don’t just mean patience with your kid.They mean patience with your new pace of life now, too. And that’s a hard one to learn. I know I’m still learning it.

      1. Yeah, it’s tough. And there’s always a world out there ready to make you feel guilty about it, which makes it exponentially more stressful.

        But believe me, LW, it’s a lot more soul-crushing to be the parent who keeps getting called into school because your kid has an emotional crisis. And if you’re planning to live a non-conventional life, you need to be extra, extra careful to have all your bases covered when it comes to proving you’re a good parent. It can get really ugly otherwise. Handle it so Ash is happy and you’ll have a lot more privacy.

        A psychological stitch in time saves nine here!

  33. Oh, LW.

    Time for your figurative cold shower:

    Firstly: Do not bone this dude. He is Trouble. And not sexy trouble, the kind where he has a motorcycle and a cute wink. He’s unsexy trouble, the kind where you cry alone on your bedroom floor at 3am while you wonder why you had to hurt a good person like that. Cut him out of your life today. Maybe you ARE poly, maybe you just need to be with not-Darin, maybe this is all just a big wobble, but you do not need a sketchy dude who is dtf with a woman in a monogamous relationship.

    Secondly, I’d like you to try to stop framing this in such dramatic terms. You aren’t ‘killing yourself’ if you don’t bone this dude. Your (capital-S, no less) “Soul” isn’t “dying”. Listen, you are having some big feelings, and you should pay attention to them, but cut the theatrics. They sound like the start of cheap excuses. (“Honey, we had to fuck, it was life or death!”) You are allowed to feel however you feel, but be very careful about what story you tell yourself to frame those feelings. Be very careful that you aren’t telling yourself a story that justifies some shitty behaviour.

    Thirdly: Holy shit! You have a (at most) 7 month old baby! Do NOT make any big decisions right now (and I include marrying Darin in that). You are SO tired right now, your body and hormones are still all over the place, and you are grieving for the life you had pre- baby. I get it. I would stand crying silently as I rocked my son in the middle of the night because HOLY SHIT I WAS SO TIRED.

    You are adjusting to your life as a parent, and being a parent can be wonderful and joyful and fulfilling, but it can also be tiring and draining and BORING. It makes total sense to me that a new and shiny man would be just the pick-me-up you need right now. You aren’t boring mum, with greasy hair and covered in baby vomit, who is so tired all she can do is lie on the sofa and watch comfort TV. You are hot, sexy, desirable, interesting LW! And this person makes you feel like that! Except that this is a REALLY bad way to get that itch scratched. Wait a few months. Think about whether or not you really are poly or just crushing hard on one dude for reasons.

    And lastly: You and Darin are kiddo’s parents forever. You can’t change that. And you owe kiddo your very best shot at maintaining a good relationship with Darin. That relationship doesn’t have to be romantic, I don’t know what’s the best answer here. But you need to shoot for a minimum of ‘friendly co-parents who live apart’. Don’t make kiddo grow up in animosity unless it’s truly unavoidable. And falling into bed with a hot dude is very avoidable.

    1. Damn, I remember the “I am so tired” crying while rocking my kidlet in the middle of the night. Also, cosigning this entire comment.

      I said this up-thread, but my OB straight up told me that I would want to divorce my husband at 6 months, and that I should wait out that feeling. I had been with him for almost 5 years at that point, coparenting his child, so I had lots to keep me gritting my teeth through the hard times. I can imagine a relationship where the die-off of NRE comes partway through a pregnancy (possibly leading to an attempt to strengthen the relationship via engagement?) could lead to the new parents thinking that baby stress feelings are a full reflection of their relationship to their partner.

      Seconding all the folks saying “make no major life decisions/changes for the first 12 months, including marriage.”

      1. Hell, I *am* polyamorous, and had been a parent for 15 years when my partners had their child, and it was still hard on everybody, because babies are GIANT NEED SPONGES, sucking up energy and patience and sleep.

        I’m grateful that I was in a position to say “I’ll take the baby, you guys need some alone time together” — I wish I’d had someone doing that for me when I was raising my Nightmare Colicky Child!

        (I adore my kid and she’s awesome, but she had serious stomach problems and I was breastfeeding, and I was such a mess for the first year of her life.)

        So, yes — even in really established, secure relationships, this is STILL an extremely trying stage of life.

      2. Yep. I love my husband and I want to grow old with him, and he is a good dad, but when I am pregnant/have a small baby, the very sound of his breathing can give me rage. The demands on me are so heavy that I have no patience, no touch hunger, no desire for anything much other than a BREAK from everyone in my family. With our first child I worried that our marriage was broken. With the second I knew what to expect but it was still tough. That’s not to say that no one can have valid doubts about their relationship at such a time, but the circumstances can have an enormous impact that is temporary. I would want to shelve any permanent decisions until later.

    2. I love all of this but especially
      ” He’s unsexy trouble, the kind where you cry alone on your bedroom floor at 3am”

      “you do not need a sketchy dude who is dtf with a woman in a monogamous relationship”.
      *nods, thinks ‘this dude is legion’*

      “Honey, we had to fuck, it was life or death!”
      *spits out coffee*

    3. What GrumpyZena said. Especially about the dramatics (capital-s”Soul”, etc.). LW, you don’t say how old you are, but your letter reads like it was written by someone on the approximate emotional level of a 16-year-old who wants what she wants when she wants it (NOW!!!).

      Whether you are, in fact, polyamorous, no one but you can say. But again, the way your letter reads… it sounds like a wishful-thinking excuse to eat your cake, have it too, AND have no one think any less of you for it. Not real likely to happen.

  34. LW. You don’t have to marry someone just because you have a baby with them. I don’t know whether that’s a factor in you being engaged, but again – you don’t have to marry someone just because you have a baby with them. Things happen. Babies come along sooner than we’d like. Yes, Darin will be in your life in some way as long as Ash is alive, but that doesn’t mean you have to marry him, or that you have to marry him ASAP. If you’re not sure or if you’ve fallen out of love with Darin or if everything is moving very fast and what if you’re making a big mistake… Ash will be fine if you don’t marry Darin. Ash will be fine if you are not together. Ash won’t be fine if you feel trapped in a marriage and Darin is suspicious and antsy because what if being poly means you’ll eventually cheat.

  35. LW, while you don’t have to stay with someone you don’t want to, I would strongly advise you to perhaps factor in how this would affect your child–what kind of custody problems and arrangements might result? Could you be a civil, good coparent with Darin? Would he turn around and leave you permanently, and your child? Your kid’s safety and stability matters more than your astrology pantsfeelings.

      1. Yeah, that could definitely be a thing to worry about. I can’t say what would happen but if they break up the LW definitely should get a lawyer.

  36. I think a really important part of being good at non-monogamous relationships is being able to manage your own NRE*. You need to be able to acknowledge that the world won’t end if you don’t get with [shiny new person], and to make decisions informed by emotion but not 100% driven by them. You can decide to be polyamorous (and thus break up with Darin), but this is a good opportunity to practice self-reflection and restraint before diving face-first into this Fireball dude.

    *new relationship energy: the intense feelings that a new crush can bring about

  37. Every partnered woman I know with a child, including myself, had fantasies about breaking up or radically changing the relationship while they had a baby. Not all the time, they usually include happy co-parenting, but they are really, really common. And I’m guessing men do too because it’s a common time to cheat.
    Becoming a parent is such a huge change in your life and even while you desperately love your partner and child it can feel desexualising and if all the fun of you is being sucked out. But it passes, or changes.
    This isn’t to say your feelings for Darin, Fireball or a possibly polyamorous you are all down to being a new parent. It just helped me to know that almost everyone feels deep feelings of anger and resentment to their co-parent in the first year of being a parent though, and helped me to remember the good things.

    1. Right, it sounds like this kid is 7 months old at the most… that’s a pretty young baby. Unless you and your partner are in a serious crisis, that by itself should be reason enough to take changes slowly. You are not in a burning house that needs to be fled immediately, even if it feels like that sometimes.

    2. Yes, came here to say this. The baby and toddler years are sofa king hard, it’s natural to be looking for escape routes. The bad news is, there are no escape routes, short of moving out of the area, changing your name and starting a new life from scratch. (Yes, I did give this option some thought.) You will always be your child’s parent. Nothing can induce babies to mature one iota faster than they naturally do. You’re not going to find one weird trick that allows you to routinely function on 4 hours of broken sleep. Society isn’t going to become massively more supportive of parents of young children in the time frame you would need. In a neat Catch-22, the people who need the help can barely find the time to shower and brush their teeth, and definitely don’t have time and energy to advocate for systemic change.

      Now, the good news. It Gets Better. I want to make my own It Gets Better video for parents of babies. They sleep through the night, they stop teething, they learn to use their words, they attain the good sense not to try to kill themselves every five minutes. You also get smarter at making everything work. You develop a support network, you learn what your particular child can roll with and what they can’t, you find clever ways to get things done. My friends and I used to joke that we attended the First Church of Childcare Included, because if an event offered childcare, we were there with bells on, whether we cared about the activity or not.

      Maybe Darrin will still be the right guy for you after you have been through the crucible, and maybe not. But parenting an infant is not a good time to make major life decisions.

  38. Polyam lady here who has ended a monogamous relationship for being polyam.
    I don’t get why you have even run the stars test and flirted with this fireball guy. I mean, you’re in a monogamous relationship, right? *First* you clear the situation (break up, open up the original relationship, whatever – make sure you are free to date) and *then* you start to flirt and star test and whatever.
    Your partner made clear that he won’t do a non-monogamous relationship. So, stay with him or break up, depending on how deeply you feel about the polyam stuff (NOT about the fireball guy!). Btw, don’t mistake a strong attraction to another person than your partner as being polyam. It’s being human. Also don’t mistake a strong attraction for compatibility or love or whatever.

    If you’re serious about polyam, please keep in mind that it not only means that you get to date other people but that your partners will date other people, too. I hope your suggestion to Darin to open up contained that fact. He refused; but it would have meant that he would have had other partners, too, equally important as you, as well as your future polyam partners will have other equally important partners, too, if you end up going that way.

    1. “And don’t mistake a strong attraction for compatibility or love or whatever.”

      Truer words were never spoken!

  39. LW, I’m going to join the chorus of voices suggesting that your first step should be to slow down–everything.

    However far you are on the wedding plan, you need to give yourself a stopping point and grace period. You will be doing a disservice to yourself, to Darin, and to Ash if you keep working towards this commitment while actively considering something that will render that commitment non-viable. And Darin has already made it perfectly clear to you that your options in regard to him are monogamous behavior with him, or polyamorous behavior without him. (Note, I said behavior, not inclination/orientation. You can be polyamorous by inclination and still decide that in the context of this relationship, you will be monogamous because that is a requirement of the other person in the relationship.

    You also need to drastically pull back on your relationship with Fireball. Can you arrange to not see him for a while, or to really cut back on the intensity/duration of your meetings for a while? (Ideally, the entire grace time you’re giving yourself on wedding plans: take a month off from working towards being married and from interacting with the shiny-awesome person you want to be in relationship with.)

    You’ve had a lot of major life changes in a relatively brief amount of time: dating Darin, having Ash, adjusting to being parents, and the engagement/planning a marriage and life together. That’s not even counting meeting Fireball and how what you’re feeling about him is making you reconsider a pretty important assumption you had about your sexuality. Maybe you need to put the brakes on for a bit, and sort out how you feel about all of this without a time crush of any sort. The world will not end if you take a little extra time to figure out how you feel and what is most important to you.

    Read some of the books Captain Awkward suggested. Maybe reach out to a polyamory friendly resource board where you can talk through some of this with others who have had to work through similar issues. Ask yourself tough questions, and look at what you want from your life, what is most important to you. Figure out how to square that with the responsibilities and obligations you absolutely have as a parent to Ash.

  40. I’m poly – polyamory is a lifestyle choice, not an orientation. There’s nothing in the letter that suggests the LW is genuinely interested in being poly; it’s all about this one guy she’s fallen in love/lust with and her attempts to justify pursuing those feelings. I’ve seen this exact situation a million times and it makes the poly community look bad.

    Captain is right. In this situation your only choices are to break up with your fiancé or quit seeing the other guy. And I think it would be worthwhile to really analyse your feelings and wants: if you start a relationship with this other man, do you visualise/fantasise that you will be dating him plus other currently unknown to you men? And that he will be in romantic relationships with other women too? How would you feel about your new star-crossed soulmate having relationships with other women? If Fireball was not in the picture at all (hypothetically say he died or moved abroad or dumped you) would you still feel that your “soul is dying” through not having relationships with other new men? Or in your fantasies is it just you and Fireball and your current fiancé somehow being okay with that?

    1. Hey, I don’t know if you saw, but a few months ago, Cap was asked by some folks in the Polynesian community if she could not use “poly” as a shorthand for polyamory, and she’s trying to encourage commenters thusly as well.

      1. My understanding of the Cap’s rules were that in situations where it might be ambiguous, we specify. It is not ambiguous here. We are talking about polyamory from the get-go. (Cap? A ruling?)

        1. I’d like people to spell out polyamorous on the whole. I don’t have time to edit/redact/moderate every instance where people don’t, but yes, let’s trend in that direction.

  41. Hey Lw! I remember Dr.NerdLove answered once a similar question, in that the Letter Writer was in a committed monogamous relationship and discovered he was Polyamorous (8 years in), but his partner was no-go.
    The question was different in one way tho, that LW wanted to stop being Polyamorous so the relationship would survive and also in general had some serious issues that you don’t seem to have. But there was some pretty wise advice about the situation in the doc’s reply and I would like to pass it on:

    He says that each relationship has it’s price of entry. Always, because perfect relationships do not exist and the only thing you can do is decide if the price of entry is acceptable for you. The price of entry into your relationship with Darin is monogamy, so.. is that a deal breaker or not? Because if to is, you know what you need to do – leave, as much as that can be painful. And your price of entry into a polyamorous relationship is not being Darin’s romantic partner anymore. Which one is less painful? When you thing about yourself in one year, 5 years, which of those scenarios seems to be the one you want to be in?
    Pleas try to thing about it not in terms of ‘I’m tired of my long-term relationship but Fireball is so hot and exiting right now’ but in ‘I’m changing something very fundamental about how I want to be in a relationship and this will have consequences for years to come’. Take into account that your relationship with Fireball can last 10 years or it can last 2 months after you decide to start it. If it was to end very quickly would you still want to be in a polyamorous relationship?
    I have this observation that people often mistake being in a relationship that lost it’s spark and having a crush on another person as being polyamorous. I’m sure many people actually are and discover this by accident when in a monogamous relationship, but I also think often it’s just a desire to have something different and fresh. You can have those things with your monogamous partner, too! But it takes work and effort.

    As the Doc says: “Nobody gets everything they want in a relationship, because people are people and people aren’t perfect. There is no One; there’s the .6 to .8 that you round up to One.”

    So I guess what I’m saying is that you can’t have it all.

  42. First things first, end the engagement and take any talk of getting married off the table for 6 months or a year. Your relationship is in crisis, it’s definitely not ready for marriage.

    Then take some time to figure out if you really want to be with Darrin (which, I should not need to add, means being monogomous) or not.

    1. Very much this too! Planning a wedding, for most people, is also wicked stressful, and not something to do if you’re not happy and excited to be with your partner. Do not add this to the pile of stuff you and Darrin are dealing with right now, LW.

  43. This seems like the sort of situation for which the “hall pass” was invented.

    If I was LW I’d pitch it to Darin as “Can I bang Fireball a few times before we get married?” rather than “I want to have an ongoing relationship with multiple people for the rest of our lives, starting with Fireball right now”. If I were Darin I’d find the first option much easier to accommodate than the second.

    The latter may eventually be the case, but it sure reads like LW mostly just wants to bang Fireball. I think there’s a nontrivial chance that once that’s been accomplished it will be easier to think clearly about what they want.

    1. If I had a fiance and he asked me if he could fuck someone a few times before we were married, I’d just break up with him. I would not be okay with it and it would be a huge red flag to me. If this is some sort of last fling before married life, you’re telling me that you regard married life as a terrible drag and I’m not here for that. I am attracted to other people but if I’m in a committed relationship, I want it to be monogamous. If the thought of that is somehow terrible to someone, they should NOT be with me.

      1. If Darin had written a letter, my advice would be a pretty unequivocal ‘break up with her and start figuring out the custody and coparenting issues ASAP’..

        They are going to (and should) break up either now or later, and I vote for now before any massive betrayals have taken place and they can still meet and work together as parents without being overwhelmed by a lot more baggage.

      2. Yeah… I don’t have any qualms with feeling like you have an itch to scratch, or thinking “gosh it’d be awesome if I could bang X a couple times before legally promising not to bang other people”. But my personal monogamous relationship would have been over shortly after that was asked of me.

        Not because the request is bonkers outlandish in of itself. But because after our history, and especially after I (in this Darin/LW situation) had already given a hard No to being with other people, making the request would be so incredibly disrespectful.

    2. Except Darin already made it clear that he’d be against LW seeing other people. If someone is monogamous, they generally won’t be more ok with “just banging someone else a few times” than “banging other people until the end of time”.

    3. There’s also the chance it’ll make things way more complicated, though. Good sex releases bonding hormones; it may get more feelings into your system than out of them.

      Besides that, pitching it will not have a neutral effect on Darin. They’ve already discussed the situation at least once, and since LW describes them as monogamous, the chances are pretty high that he’d hear the pitch as:

      ‘Hey, can we consider opening up thr relationship?’
      ‘Aw, go on, just a little bit? Are you sure? Come on, just a bit of sex with someone else! What do you mean I’m pressuring you, you didn’t say no to this exact variant of opening up the relationship! All options are open unless you veto them in the perfect formula!’

      He gets to say no, and if he feels the LW’s response is to haggle, he might just decide to call the relationship off himself.

    4. The “hall pass” is a terrible idea.

      My husband and I have been married and polyamorous for over a decade; we had a kid after many happy years. When Bebe was six months old, I set my cap at a friend – I wanted someone to take me out for cocktails and sex one or two evenings a month, to get a night out and a chance to be glamorous instead of covered in baby mess.

      Three years later, and that date friend is now a life partner, and has moved in with me and my husband.

      We’re very happy. Darin has made it clear he would not be.

      People are not lockers or restrooms to visit briefly when you need them; you don’t know where relationships will take you. A “hall pass” is a terrible metaphor and a worse idea.

      1. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that my experience with the “hall pass” concept have been different from yours. I’ve found it to be a fine compromise to have a almost-completely monogamous relationship while still people to pursue the occasional crush in a low-risk short-term way. Making forbidden fruit into just regular fruit goes a long way towards reducing its appeal.

        Of course you have to be upfront about letting that crush know what the limits and future of the relationship will be, but it turns out that many people are happy to be “visited briefly when needed” as long as they’re also getting something they want out of it.

        I’d be interested to hear more about why you think i’ts a worse-than-terrible idea. I certainly don’t claim that it’s the right thing for everybody, but I think it’s a valid approach that merits serious consideration when somebody is torn between a committed stable long term partner and an exciting shiny new one.

        As I read the letter it was unclear to me what specifically the “going out with other people” that Darin objects to entails. I would absolutely not be OK with my partner “going out with other people” meaning “pursuing an additional long-term relationship” but I don’t care if they occasionally want to get down with somebody else as long as everyone involved is being safe and kind.

        1. Since LW’s already talking about how Fireball is more astrally compatible than Darin, I don’t think she’s in the right headspace for ‘low-risk short-term.’

        2. “I told Darin, and he had said, ‘If you wanna go out with other people you do realise that we’d break up, right?’”

          The question has been asked and answered. He didn’t say ‘I’m down for you dating someone else as long as you just have sex with him’, or ‘I’m down for you dating other people under x or y or z conditions’, he said ‘we’d break up’.

        3. Yes, of course some people are absolutely fine with a relationship of occasional visits – but it can’t be only when *you* need them – the occasional visits have to take into consideration their needs, too. That’s a difference between a person and a locker, and a failure of the hall pass metaphor. Partners outside the primary relationship don’t just exist to soak up the needs of the couple; they have their own needs, too.

          The point of telling my own story is that even people who go into a relationship seeking something casual, who have enjoyed casual flings before, can unexpectedly develop more intense feelings. Ethical polyamory needs a way to handle that, to accept that you can’t predict the course of relationships. We all have responsibilities for our actions and choices; we’re not hapless victims of romance, but we also can’t predict everything or promise to effortlessly keep emotions in precise little boxes.

          Sometimes making forbidden fruit into regular fruit takes away its appeal. But sometimes it turns it into your daily bread and staff of life.

          Ethical polyamorists need to admit to themselves that that’s always a risk, that even a casual fling with experienced people who think that’s what they want can lead to heartbreak or greater intimacy.

          But it really doesn’t matter to this LW, except in a long-term, “figure out what polyamory might mean to you” kind of way, because Darin explicitly said he didn’t want any of this.

    5. LW already asked Darin, though, if he wanted to be in a polyamorous relationship with her, and he said no, he’s monogamous. I’m monogamous and if anyone asked me if they could then have a ‘hall pass’, they’d be out on their ass before they knew it, and I’d be furious with them for asking the question and think very lowly of them for approaching it.

    6. @Cordoba:

      The “hall pass” might be a viable idea if the LW didn’t already know that Darin isn’t ok with non-monogamy. She does know, however, so it’s a crummy idea.

    7. So Darin’s options are “You can choose #1 that lets me do what I want and void your monogamous relationship with me, or you can choose #2 that lets me do what I want and void your monogamous relationship with me.”

      Again, that’s all well and good if both parties involved are willing to discuss an open relationship, but Darin clearly is not. There is nothing to misunderstand: Darin does not want an open or almost-monogamous relationship, and that is his right. Now that he has made his stance clear to LW he is under no obligation to choose one of two options that do everything to fulfill LW’s wants and nothing to retain the integrity of the type of relationship Darin has stated is important to him (and that he was under the impression he already had!!!).

      “I want to bang others while engaged to you, but I super duper promise I’ll only want to bang YOU once we do this symbolic ceremony thing.” Anyone who falls for that, I dunno what to say. That would make me feel like shit to realize my life partner is distracted by shiny new things to the extent that he’s willing to destabilize the relationship he has with me. If my fiance told me he wanted to fuck other people before we get married, I’d ask him why he even wanted to get married if he was already looking to squirm around the vows we’ve prepared for each other. I’d be a complete fucking idiot to believe those dallying desires would just go up in smoke the minute we said I Do.

      It may work for you, but to me your solution sounds a lot like “let me stuff five sheet cakes down my throat before starting this diet.”
      That for me would be extremely telling re: what is REALLY important to you — what are you truly able to commit to, and why? That would say “I don’t REALLY want to do this diet at all, junk food is very important to me and I will miss it terribly.” Nah.

      1. I think it’s important to note that wanting to bang other people and actually doing it are two different things. Monogamy means “we agree not to bang others,” not “we agree not to find others bangable.”

        1. Oh, no doubt. I was referencing the former, not the latter, and completely agree.

  44. Polyam lady here who has ended a monogamous relationship for being polyam.
    I don’t get why you have even run the stars test and flirted with this fireball guy. I mean, you’re in a monogamous relationship, right? *First* you clear the situation (break up, open up the original relationship, whatever – make sure you are free to date) and *then* you start to flirt and star test and whatever.
    Your partner made clear that he won’t do a non-monogamous relationship. So, stay with him or break up, depending on how deeply you feel about the polyam stuff (NOT about the fireball guy!). Btw, don’t mistake a strong attraction to another person than your partner as being polyam. It’s being human. Also don’t mistake a strong attraction for compatibility or love or whatever.

    If you’re serious about polyam, please keep in mind that it not only means that you get to date other people but that your partners will date other people, too. I hope your suggestion to Darin to open up contained that fact. He refused; but it would have meant that he would have had other partners, too, equally important as you, as well as your future polyam partners will have other equally important partners, too, if you end up going that way.

  45. LW, you’re having an emotional affair already: you call your potential partner ‘Fireball’ (so hot!), you’ve looked for a rationalisation why you should sleep with him (we’re so compatible!). You’ve also told your current partner that whatever he does, it won’t be good enough for you.

    This is not a great basis for exploring what you want to do with your future, but it’s done. You need to put the brakes on *everything* before you go any further. This includes marrying Darin.

    Whatever you decide, you need to act ethically – which means NOT having an affair with ‘Fireball’ right now – and you and Darin need to work out how you can have a good relationship in the future, because you will be co-parenting your kid.

  46. So much offloading of responsibility in this letter!

    I’m polyamorous! I can’t help it! (As if it were an orientation and no monogamous person is ever attracted to someone who isn’t their partner)

    THE STARS GAVE ME THE GREEN LIGHT! (Ie. No tangible or observable evidence says this is a good idea.)

    Listen, LW. If you want to make a sound decision here, you’re going to have to do it in a way that doesn’t reconstruct reality to make it seem like boning the guy you REALLY REALLY want to bone is literally the only choice the universe will even allow you to make.

    If you want to leave Darin for this Fireball guy, at least own that desire for what it is when you do and know that the consequences are also on you. Not polyamory. Not Jupiter and Venus. You are what will cause this to happen.

    Make the decision you would be able to live with if you and all involved knew that YOU made it.

    1. A small caveat — a lot of polyamorous people *do* see it as an orientation (and plenty of others see it as a choice.) I’m on the “orientation” side, myself.

      However, that doesn’t give me any kind of a pass to act unethically, and my BEHAVIORS are choices that I have control over.

      I can commit to, and abide by, relationship agreements, even (especially!) when that means making my partners’ feelings my priority, even if there’s something shiny Over There. And I don’t make agreements that I don’t intend to keep.

      LW may or may not be polyamorous by preference or orientation, but none of that entitles her to break her agreement with Darin. She needs to invest in the relationship or end it, and figure out how to be a supportive and responsible co-parent.

      But, yeah, whether or not polyamory is an orientation seems to depend on the individual.

      1. Eh. Maybe it’s because it’s been my experience that a lot of people who talk about polyamory that way are usually in the exact same situation as LW with a side of “I’m gonna break all my agreements and you’re not allowed to be mad at me cuz I’m poly and can’t help it.”

        I’m poly myself, though on the non-orientation side and see the way one chooses to structure their relationships as the more important factor. But I guess I can still see people thinking of it as an orientation for reasons other than excuse making.

        1. I don’t get into non-polyamorous relationships, and I’m pretty clear that this is who I am (and have identified this way for 19 years.)

          For me, it’s about telling people that I don’t want to get their hopes up that I will change for them, or that polyamory is something that’s a nice option to have, but isn’t essential.

          (I have existing longterm relationships of 14 and 10 years that I have no intention of breaking off for anyone, and I’m not interested in starting anything new with a partner who has a problem with me being polyamorous. My preferred relationship style is polyfidelity and stability, rather than picking up a lot of new people or having an open relationship with revolving-door partners, and someone who is only looking for something short-term, or relationship anarchy, or NRE every five minutes, isn’t going to be a good match for me. I’d rather communicate that in advance than wind up in a situation where I and my partner/s are unhappy, even if that means turning down New Shiny rather than getting into a relationship with someone incompatible.)

        2. Another “orientation” person here. I’ve tried monogamy and concluded that I cannot make it work for me, hence polyamory for me is not a preference but a requirement. Sure, I could “choose” to follow a monogamous relationship structure, but only in the same sense that a Kinsey 6 could “choose” to marry someone of a different sex — sure, if I wanted to badly enough I could do it, but I’d have to be in a very bizarre situation to want to at all, because it’d make me miserable and forever deprive me of the kind of relationship I actually want. That makes polyam an orientation as far as I’m concerned.

  47. Captain, I always love your advice, but I just wanted to say I particularly loved your answer here. It was equal parts “reality check” and “kind and non-judgmental.” Whenever friends come to me for advice my first thought is always “what would CA say?” and this letter is one that I know I will come back to many times.

    1. This. The Cap never ceases to amaze me with the depths of her kindness. She is awesome. May we all learn from her example.

    2. So much this. I would not have been as charitable; but CA and the commentariat have been so good.

  48. I think that the captain is spot-on in suggesting that the LW has to separate her feelings about being poly from her feelings for Fireball and for Darin.

    From the timeline, it sounds like the relationship with Darin moved very fast. Even if her child was born yesterday, it would mean that she became pregnant 7 months into the relationship. That’s not a lot of time to figure out if a partner has long-term potential. It’s possible that they knew each other for a long time prior to being together, but that isn’t mentioned.

    In fact, not a lot about Darin is mentioned. It’s a huge red flag for me that the LW focused so much on her own feelings (her soul dying, doing herself a disservice, figuratively killing herself) but didn’t mention at all how this revelation has affected Darin or the consequences that it would have for their son. It would be incredibly painful to find out that your future wife and mother of your child essentially has someone waiting in the wings. It would be hard to go from “I have a happy new family” to “I’m likely going to be a single father.” She doesn’t owe him a relationship, and breaking up may likely be the best choice here. But it’s a red flag that she experiences all of her own emotions as very dramatic and heightened, while omitting the emotions of the people she should care about most.

    It sounds like the LW has already engaged in an emotional affair. She’s clearly planning out a relationship with Fireball. And if she knows for certain that he likes her, too, it seems that they’ve discussed it at least a little. As others have already mentioned, even in a poly relationship, this is not how these things usually go. Even in poly relationships, the primary partner has some say in who a person can date.

    As difficult as it is, the LW needs to slow her roll and put her feelings in perspective. The LW says “I have no idea what to do,” but I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. There are really only two ethical options at this point, and she’s going to have to choose one eventually. And the best way to make the choice is the weigh the options and calmly and clearly as possible.

    1. Yes. I know it might sound judgemental, but I feel a lot of immaturity in this letter and I suspect LW is very young. That’s certainly not a major character flaw in itself, and if LW is as young as I suspect she is, it’s quite understandable, but the problem is that once a child is in the picture, you really have some urgent growing up to do…
      The fact that LW doesn’t mention anything about her general life conditions (whether she has a job, could afford to go and live elsewhere, raise her child as a single parent, etc.) is a bit disturbing.

      1. I’ve seen people act in just this way well into their 30’s and beyond. It was practically a trend back when I spent time in new agey circles (and LW sounds pretty new agey to bring up astrology charts in a non new age forum).

        What I saw back then was lots of emphasis on fate and eschewing responsibility and lots of question marks around jobs and homes which made for a lot of 30-40 somethings basically extending their adolescence until something they couldn’t ignore (like a kid) shows up.

      2. Yeah, I felt really shallow when my first thought last night was “honestly, unless she has a year of rent coming from somewhere, she needs to sit on this urge until she figures her money out”. There are reasons that someone might need to leave right now, money be damned. (And those reasons can include “nothing is wrong but I’m miserable”). “He’s a wonderful man who I love, but I really want to have sex with someone else too” just… isn’t on that list.

        1) Darin is under no obligation to stick with a relationship that is not as monogamous as he wants
        2) The wheels of child support turn SUPER SLOWLY
        3) Darin is not married to LW and legally owes her ZERO support if they break up, besides any responsibilities that he’d have to any roommate who contributes to the household financially. (Often that makes someone a de facto month to month tenant legally).

        Maybe LW has thought this through and hasn’t mentioned in this letter that she’s independently wealthy or has a super family-friendy job that pays enough money for her to support herself.

        Maybe part of the reason why she values her relationship with Darin is – and I do not mean this judgmentally – that he is really good at making his partner and child feel safe and provided for.

        Maybe she’s supporting him and the kid as a pizza deliverer while he waits for his band to take off.

        But given the potential complications of the situation, if the LW decides that she wants out of this relationship with Darin, or wants to advance a plan that runs right across his dealbreakers, it would be an extremely. good. idea. to have a solid logistical plan for if things go south. And I think it would be a really good idea not just to move forward on the calmest possible breakup in order to be good coparents, but also in order to have extra, non-fighting time to put her plans together for where she will store her socks and eat her cereal.

        1. And make sure she’s got some money set aside for a lawyer: if Darin’s well advised, he’d be in court getting custody and visitation established ASAP, as unmarried parents don’t function under the same legal presumptions as divorcing parents.

  49. So, from the timeline, your kid is somewhere between zero and 7 months old, and you’ve been coparents or impending coparents for a lot of your relationship.

    Independent of the whole Fireball/polyamory thing, just worth considering: you don’t have to marry someone just because you have a child together. My parents got pregnant 5 or 6 months into their relationship and they didn’t get married. They actually broke up before I was born. Probably wisely! They would have been a terrible couple, and I much prefer their amicable co-parenting in different houses to a divorce later (which I also got to experience via my mother and stepfather). I have several friends who have accidentally gotten pregnant early in dating and a couple of them ended up breaking up sometime before their kid’s fifth birthday, and one couple turned out to be a good match and got married a few years after their child was born.

    Believe me, your kid is not going to remember or care when you got married. For that matter, you could never get married and they will not know or care. Provided the adults around them can just be cool, kids don’t have any hangups about different kind of family structures – whatever they grow up with is normal to them, whether that’s mom and grandma, same sex parents, three parents in a house, two parents in different houses, or whatever other deviation from the “typical” nuclear family you can think of. What matters more is that they aren’t put through unnecessary upheaval and strife. So maybe slow everything down and make sure this is actually what you want.

    1. Yeah, I definitely think that is worth considering. Is it hard? Absolutely! But it can be less hard than staying together because you think you should, having another child, and separating in five years time anyway with a lot more hurt feelings for the adults and very confused children. I’m not saying “go and break up”, but it is on of the options that is on the cards and should be considered seriously. Not least because if your answr is “Hell, no, I don’t want to do that” it is also telling you something.

  50. Believe it or not, it isn’t necessary to “explore” every single whim that pops into your head.

      1. “Well… sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm… better not.”

  51. Dear LW,

    I’ve had a thought that I haven’t seen addressed, at least not explicitly.

    It’s possible that you don’t want to be a parent now, and that Ash is as “soul destroying” as monogamy.

    Ash exists. In theory, all your decisions for the next 18 years or so are predicated on what works best for him (or harms him least). Maybe that’s not what you want?

    The good news is that Ash has a father, and perhaps Darin can do more (most? all?) of the parental grunt work. The bad news is that women get orders of magnitude more disapproval for walking away from motherhood than men do for walking away from fatherhood.

    Even so, maybe leaving them both is the right choice for you.

    Regardless of whether you go, it’s ok to examine and acknowledge the desire to do so.

    1. If someone finds that they really can’t do parenthood, there are sometimes solutions like agreeing for the other parent to have full custody (and not living with them) or maybe adoption or fostering, but “walking away” to me carries a sense of just abandoning the responsibility, and I can’t get behind that. Apologies if that’s not what you meant.

      1. I think the LW might want a child free life. So I think she’d do well to examine explicitly whether she wants to be a mother.

        Since the kid has a father (and perhaps other relatives), I don’t view allowing some or all responsibility to devolve on the father as abandonment.

        That’s what I meant by walking away.

        Apologies aren’t necessary. You’ve made my other point for me: women who choose themselves over their children (even if they pay child support) are condemned more strongly than men.

        1. I would not personally be super pleased with a man who walked away when their child was less than two years old. I think the words I used last time were “abandoning shithead”. I’m not applying that to the LW because, I suspect, I have gendered sympathies for her situation.

          It is entirely possible that that would be best for the child, but the situations I apply that to are situations where the departing parent is too unstable or abusive to have a safe role.

          1. I think leaving the kid is probably a terrible idea. What I’m trying to convey is that we have so much contempt for women who push against motherhood that many women (especially young ones) don’t even dare imagine it.

          2. +1 to purps. Don’t “walk away” from your child and put all the responsibility on the other parent just because you don’t want to be a parent. LW needs to own their decisions.

          3. @Audrey – well, but parents are allowed to do that. Adoption is a thing; terminating one’s parental rights is a thing. Plenty of people class abortion as a form of shirking responsibility for one’s actions. Can’t force a parent to parent, and is a child better or worse off with a biological parent who never wanted kids in the first place and feels sad and resentful now?

          4. You actually can’t legally just up and surrender your parental rights in my US state. That’s not a thing. There are safe-surrender laws for 72 hours after birth in some US states, but not all. There’s not actually a legal process where you just divorce your 1-year-old and don’t have to do stuff anymore.

            Either way, I feel like this subthread has gotten pretty far into the weeds. This is an incredibly drastic step that most people don’t undertake as a first-tier solution to their problems. It’s also a substantially more complex and damaging “option” than just going ahead and blowing up the LW’s relationship by fucking Fireball, so at least that bar has been raised somewhat higher.

        2. LW is a mother. She cannot now magically not be a mother, and she can’t have a child free life. She will always be responsible for child support and will always share parenting with the child’s father — even if they split up and the father has sole physical and/or legal custody, she can’t “walk away” and have her life return to the way it was before she had a child. That would be true of a father, too, and I can’t imagine that people would view a father who attempted to abandon an infant positively either. The fact that taking care of a baby is hard does not justify dumping 100% of the work of parenting on a partner who needs you to do your share.

          1. People are pretty lenient with men who pay child support.

            Look, I think – barring circumstances we don’t know about (Is LW a kid? Does Darin change diapers? Is LW in the middle of a postpartum depression?) – walking off into the sunset is and banging Fireball is a bad choice.

            But I also think that unless the LW is able to honestly examine what she wants she’s at risk for a lot of “Oops! It just happened!”

            And if even thinking she doesn’t want the kid, now that he’s here, is going to plant a scarlet E for evil on her, she won’t examine.

          2. It sounds like maybe what you’re getting at here is something along the lines of “If I’m honest with myself, I don’t really want to be a parent. But since I am, I need to figure out how to make the best of it and get my needs met as well as I can while still being responsible for my child.” That’s a sad and hard situation to be in, but probably not a terribly uncommon one. (Though seconding the advice to consider things like postpartum depression!) And yeah, one can’t necessarily make oneself want something that one doesn’t want, and trying to convince oneself otherwise can often make things harder. This might be the sort of situation where love as a feeling is less important than love as a verb.

          3. She can certainly think she doesn’t want the kid. But she has the kid, and feelings will not change this situation.

            It’s possible that she could work out an arrangement where the kid’s dad has sole physical custody and she pays child support, although I think in the absence of a genuine inability to parent (it might be true that she can’t parent, but there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that), it is an asshole move for anyone, male or female, to dump sole physical custody of an infant on anyone who didn’t expect it when they had a baby. It is hard to take care of an infant alone, she signed up to do part of that work, and she should do it. And I don’t think indulging in fantasies of running away and dumping everything on the kid’s father will be helpful for her.

          4. Thank you for putting it like this. The idea that she can somehow undo all of this, or just run off into the sunset and it be value-neutral, is ridiculous and terrible.

          5. If this were my letter, it would probably be the very un-undoability of the situation that would be pushing me to make these extreme emotional gestures. If the LW is young – and she sounds like she might be young – then this might be the first real “you can’t take it back or undo it” change she’s made to her life. And it’s one of the biggest ones a person can experience. That kind of thing makes many, many people want to panic and head for the hills.

            People do seem to learn to cope without, for the most part, actually heading for the hills. They get support, they get sleep, they get their mental health in order. (They deserve more support than they get in my personal garbage country, but the majority of new parents still arrive at year 2 and wash their hair and seem more ready to face the world).

          6. @ Mrs Morley: “People are pretty lenient with men who pay child support.”

            True, but that’s a remainder of a society where the woman was the obvious default parent to take care of the child. But society is changing, and I, as a feminist, judge men who bail and just pay child support pretty harshly.

            Dumping all the work of child care on one parent is a dick move, and it falls apart as soon as BOTH parents make that decision. The baby didn’t ask to be there but still has to be cared for.
            (Which is why proper sex ed, access to birth control and non-judgmental, professional support and advice when considering abortion is so very, very important. The one human being who always loses when the parent”s aren’t up for the stress and responsibilities of parenting is the child)

          7. Women are pressured into motherhood in a way that fathers aren’t, though, and there’s much stricter social judgment and punishment for a woman who gets pressured into having a baby and realising she Cannot Deal than there are for fathers.

            Part of feminism means that you have to recognise social structures at play; you don’t get to claim things are in a vacuum and that men and women have the same conditioning, factors, and consequences when making decisions like this.

          8. @Amtelope TBH my father “magically” stopped being a father when I was 9. I would maybe not advise the “leaving the country” route of that, but people can stop being parents if they no longer choose to be.

          9. @barlowstreet Being a parent who’s abandoned your child by running away from your obligations to your kid and their other parent doesn’t make you not a parent. It makes you a shitty parent. I don’t recommend being a shitty parent.


            Please don’t tell me that someone I haven’t talked to in almost 2 decades is a parent to me. They are not.

          11. To quote the wise words of Yondu, “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.”

            Bio parents are not, ever, magically ~PARENTS~ just by virtue of contributed to a kid’s DNA. Parenting is a choice.

          12. @bats are cute Are you suggesting that it is fine to have a child, raise them for a while, and then completely abandon them, and that you can then become “no longer a parent” and no longer have any responsibilities to them? I’m sorry, I am not down with that. Barring a sperm donor/surrogacy/etc. agreement, bio parents have obligations to their children, including the obligation to find a safe adoptive home for them if neither bio parent can care for them, and the obligation to pay child support.

            I think it is fine for people to decide that they no longer view their bio parents as parents. But for the PARENT, there is not a “get out of parenting free” card, other than placing the child for adoption with the consent of both bio parents. It is crappy and wrong for men to say “I don’t want a kid, so if you don’t have an abortion, you’re on your own.” It is crappy and wrong for a parent who is divorcing their partner to disappear from their kid’s life (assuming they are not fleeing abuse or otherwise unable to safely have contact with the other parent.) It is crappy and wrong for a parent to try to evade paying child support. I would not have thought these would be particularly controversial arguments, but I am hearing a lot of what sounds to me like “you don’t ever have to keep raising a kid if you don’t want to!” and … I just cannot get on board with that.

          13. Out of nesting, but it sounds as though there’s a terminology clash going on here. From what I can see, @Amtelope is using the terms mother/father/parent to mean ‘person who has chosen to take on the responsibility of raising a child’, and @barlowstreet and @bats are cute feel those terms should be more appropriately used to mean ‘person who, having made that choice, actually follows through on said responsibility’, and this difference in how the terms are being used is obscuring the fact that all three seem to agree on the basic principle under dispute, which is ‘person who fits the former definition SHOULD then make all efforts to fit the latter definition and if they don’t do that but instead run out on their responsibilities because that suits them better then that’s a shitty thing to do no matter what label we put on it’.

    2. I mean, LW *could* walk away from her child who is literally seven months old and her partner because she wants to party and “not let her soul die”, but it would make her a bad person. Flat-out.

      1. I don’t know her circumstances, but without even trying hard, I can think of 5 people who walked away from infants.

        Four of them were teenage girls. The fifth was a married woman in her twenties who moved her husband, their infant, and herself back with her parents.

        None of the five were bad people. None could cope with motherhood.

        1. Why we need comprehensive sex-ed, cheap/free birth control, Plan B, and the right to have an abortion!

        2. That’s an argument for comprehensive sex education and free birth control and family planning of all forms, though.

          Allow me to amend: jumping up and abandoning a baby because you want to go out and party and follow your astral chart and whatever bullshit without first ensuring that the baby has a permanent guardian who is actually qualified and wants to take care of them is a bad, wrong, shameful thing to do. Chucking a baby into the maw of the horrors that is the US foster care system is a bad thing to do, period. Assuming your partner is automatically going to take care of your baby and abandoning ship is a bad thing to do.

          1. Well yeah. But I didn’t propose that the LW dump her kid somewhere and bang her astral mate.

            What I said was that if she thinks the issues underlying her unhappiness include hating being a mother she’s better off acknowledging the causes of her unhappiness than not. If she names the problems, she may find solutions. In fact, if she examines it more closely, the problem might not be “I hate being a parent.” It might be “I hate waking up 3 times a night to nurse.” Or “Dear God! When will colick end?!” Or “Darin, it’s your turn to walk the baby all night.” Or “One lunch without Ash every week. Please!” Or “Really? You still haven’t put away the motorcycle parts?”

          2. @Mrs Morley that is a great point. Getting really specific is so helpful in so many situations.

            Another thing that might be helpful (with the caveat that I don’t have or want kids and may be totally wrong) is researching child development and/or talking with other parents about when any given stage of childhood generally starts and ends. Just having a light at the end of the tunnel along the lines of “the average kid starts sleeping through the night by age ____, I should have about x months to go” could be really helpful when it feels like you’ll never get a full night of sleep again. Again, I don’t know much of anything about kids, but maybe the stage of parenting that’s hardest on LW can just be waited out.

          3. Side note: a 7mo will probably go straight to permanent adoption, not foster care.

            But STILL.

        3. Agree 100% with Mrs Morley. I don’t think black-and-white judgements are helpful. Sure, it’s a pretty big mistake to make and I definitely agree with Kacienna’s very good points (I would also point out that society should stop equating womanhood with motherhood because I’ve known a bunch of people who had a kid “because that’s what you do/that was the next milestone/etc.”), but being responsible also means accepting reality and being aware of your own limitations.
          In any case, LW would really do well with some major introspection because to this internet stranger, it looks like she has a pattern of running headlong into responsibilities without really thinking them through.

        4. Barbara Hepworth, a celebrated sculptor and artist in England, put her three children in the care of family for their infant years so she could work on her art. It was scandalous for that time but she did it.

          1. Eta; not saying that this is ideal but women very much do make choices to opt out of motherhood.

            My mother conceived me via a failure with a pill after she caught a gastro bug during the final placement of her nursing studies. She did her exams whilst pregnant with me and nursed the night shift while I was a toddler. Life happens!

    3. Thank you for bringing this up. There are a number of situations that lead to people having children they were ill-prepared for and for various reasons (including both wishful thinking and sometimes coercion) they were not able or willing to get an abortion. I am not advocating for “oh yeah, just ditch your child in a bin in the street!” but sometimes an honest (and brutal) self-assessment can leave you aware that YOU AREN’T A HEALTHY CHOICE as a caretaker for this baby. I have known a few people who just…for various reasons were not in a good place to be a parent and honestly, their kids would have been better off placed with better parental figures early on instead of stuck with the parent who either didn’t want them or wasn’t able to care for them properly (or both), which led the kids to be in the foster care system for years and, well, let’s just say that didn’t have a great effect. The reality is, it’s easier to get a baby adopted than an older kid, and it can also be easier to adjust to a single-parent (or mainly single-parent) custody situation early than a messy drawn-out affair later after years of neglect or abuse.

      It’s not the right choice for everyone or even a significant minority of the time, but sometimes having that brutal self-reflection is urgent and necessary even when it leads to choices that Society is Not Pleased With.

      1. There are certainly cases where a person is going to do such a terrible job of parenting that they actually are better off removing themselves from the picture. However, the original comment that posted this thread was framing it in terms of, not how either choice would affect Ash or Darin, but whether leaving would be the right choice *for the LW*. I… don’t think that’s such a great thing to be saying to someone who already seems this focused on their own desperate wants.

        The LW has got a great deal of thinking to do, but I think that framing this in terms of ‘you know, maybe you’d be better off just not being a parent at all’ when the child is *there* is even more potentially destructive than ‘think about whether you want to bone Fireball’. Yes, there is a small chance that when the LW has done all her thinking, and reached a life stage where things have calmed down and she’s getting sleep, she will realise that deep down she’s not happy with raising a child and the best solution all round is for Darin to have primary custody. However, this seems like a very, very bad time to be offering that up as a choice to be on the table now and framing it as ‘maybe it’s the right choice for you’ when the LW is so desperate to change her current situation and when this choice would have such a significant impact on both Ash and Darin.

    4. I was following this mini-debate and while I agree that sometimes it does actually make a lot of good sense for a woman to decide that she’s just not equipped to be a mother, another comment further down helped me understand what was bothering me: just walking away on this whole baby thing is shitty because it’s shitty *to Darin.* Very few people like newborns 24/7, even people who like them for 23/6. I know I spent the first 18 months telling myself “this time is an investment for when the kid’s actually old enough to be fun/interesting.” Even if the LW would be happiest living a child-free life or only having partial custody, it would be really craptacular for her to unilaterally foist that decision on her co-parent. If she wants a different status as a parent, she really ought to negotiate it with Darin instead of just noping out on him. Parenting is just so, so hard even with assistance that I just can’t get onboard with anyone just ditching their co-parent in the first year.

    5. “The good news is that Ash has a father, and perhaps Darin can do more (most? all?) of the parental grunt work. The bad news is that women get orders of magnitude more disapproval for walking away from motherhood than men do for walking away from fatherhood.

      Even so, maybe leaving them both is the right choice for you.”

      There has been a great deal of debate about this comment that seems to centre on whether it’s a terrible thing for Ash for the LW to leave him like this, whether that’s OK for the LW to do from Ash’s POV, etc. What seems to be getting somewhat lost in this, but is possibly colouring people’s responses and indignation here, is the question of how this would impact on Darin.

      Leaving them both and expecting Darin to pick up most/all of the parental grunt work would dump on Darin in a way that’s hideously unfair. It’s not about (well, not just about) whether it’s OK for a woman to leave her child, which I quite agree that in some cases it is, or at least is the best solution. It’s about the fact that, when you have agreed with another person that the two of you will work together on an enormous long-term job, it is very much not OK to walk away and leave them with your share of the job just because you changed your mind. It is not OK to unilaterally decide to leave your partner with a horribly unfair share of the child-raising just because that suits you better.

      That may well not have been how you meant it. In fact, based on a follow-up comment you made, I’m pretty sure it isn’t how you meant it. If this was meant more as something like ‘If you do decide breaking up is the right choice for you, then bear in mind that it might be that in discussion with Darin you’ll both realise that the best choice all round is for him to have primary custody, and if so that’s fine and don’t let society’s stereotypes put you off arranging things that way with Darin’ then, great, I can completely get behind that. But that isn’t at all the impression given by ‘walking away’ and ‘maybe leaving them both is the right choice for you’. And I do wonder if a poorly-defined reaction to that is perhaps a big part of why your comment has hit such a nerve with many people.

      tl;dr: Leaving your child = sometimes a good choice. Expecting another person to take on your share of the childcare without appropriate prior discussion and ensuring they’re genuinely on board with it = never a good choice.

      1. Because Ash has two parents, his mother, the LW, doesn’t have to do all of the childcare.

        But sadly, any attempt she makes to do less than everything will probably be treated as abandonment by lots of people.

        1. ‘Because Ash has two parents, his mother, the LW, doesn’t have to do all of the childcare.’

          I agree with this completely. The point is, there’s a heck of a difference between ‘Is Darin doing his full and fair share of the childcare? If not, he should be, and it’s worth seriously exploring whether this is possible and whether it’ll help’, and comments about expecting Darin to take on possibly all of the parental grunt work/allowing all responsibility to devolve on the father/walking away from motherhood. The latter were the kind of things you were saying in your comments above, and that’s what people are responding to.

          I know you’ve since said that that wasn’t how you meant it and that you think just walking off into the sunset would be a terrible idea, but there does seem to be this really mixed message coming across from your comments where on the one hand you’re saying that, no, it would be a terrible idea for LW just to walk out, and on the other hand you seem to be saying (or, at least, this really is how it’s coming across) that the only reason people would object to someone walking out on her child in such circumstances is that society has unfair expectations of women. Um, no. Society absolutely does have unfair expectations of women, especially when it comes to childcare, but “Don’t walk out on your co-parent and leave them to pick up your share of the childcare as well of their own” isn’t one of those unfair expectations; it’s actually a completely reasonable and appropriate expectation that should be applied to both genders.

          1. I read this comment as an admonition. What follows goes along with that reading. I perceive three possible points to this comment. I think you probably intended one or both of the first two, and didn’t intend the third. I’d like to know if I understood you, so correct me where I’m wrong.

            1- You want to explain to me that what I wrote initially came across as an Ok on abandoning kids, and that I shouldn’t be surprised that people think that’s bad. If so, yes, I’m now aware that that’s how I came across. I think abandoning children is bad, and I’m not surprised that people are upset at the thought.

            2- You want me to acknowledge that what I wrote lends itself to the interpretation above. Yes, I acknowledge that. I hadn’t intended to say that only women are reviled for abandoning kids, nor had I intended to say that the reason to stay with children is to avoid opprobrium, but clearly people think that that’s what I meant.

            While I wish that I had written clearly (and thought I had!), I have found the discussion really interesting.

            3- You want me to apologize for writing that abandoning kids is ok. I don’t really think you want an apology (and I didn’t write that anyway), but some of your comment read that way to me.

            Again, as I said above, I’m responding to what felt minatory. I would be very interested in what you did mean, regardless of whether my reading was accurate.

            Thanks for writing so expressively.

          2. Oooh, really nicely put, so thanks!

            1. Yes
            2. Preferably yes, and thanks for so doing.
            3. Hmmm…. thinking about it, I was more after the above two points (clarification and acknowledgement). I think the strongest opinion I had on an apology was along the lines of “Well, an apology for having misphrased things might have been kind of nice but isn’t hugely important” and at this point I’m more like “Cool, it’s been clarified and acknowledged, I for one am good with that, so thanks and I appreciate it.”

          3. Ok. You’re welcome. 🙂

            Now, though, I’m curious. Why did you want to explain how people perceived what I wrote? Why did you want the acknowledgement?

            My best guess is that you wanted to confirm that I am not a really lousy person. (Because advocating dumping babies is lousy.)

          4. Good question. Primarily because your initial comment appeared to be advocating harmful behaviour and thus, even while believing from your follow-ups that you were not in fact meaning to advocate this behaviour, I still thought it important to disagree with the misleading phrasing and to get the whole “I know now you meant Y but, since it really did look as though you meant X and X would be a terrible idea, can this please get clarified once and for all” thing clarified. Partly because at least some of the ensuing subthread debate seemed to stem from that confusion and I like to clarify these things when I see them.

    6. I agree with this actually. It would be a terrible thing to do to Darin, sticking him with a newborn, and it’ll probably mess up Ash to know his mother walked out on him to bang some hot stranger but – if you really don’t want to be a mother, if you are going to resent and hate your child, /your child will know/. And your child won’t be happy.

      Being raised by a parent who hates you or wish you didn’t exist is hell. And it’s very, very hard to deal with a vulnerable little lifeform that you blame for everything wrong in your life without that attitude seeping out. /Your kid will know/ and I would argue that being constantly exposed to that for 18 years, minimum, is worse than an absent mother.

      The LW says she loves Ash now. I just don’t know how long that’ll last if she decides to stay with Darin and feels ‘trapped’ in her mundane life instead of her super exciting romantic life with Fireball (who will definitely not burn her to cinders!)

      1. Whoa up. Plenty of people who are mothers of kids under 2 years old are unhappy and wish sometimes that they didn’t have kids — it is a huge life change, it is natural to miss stuff you can’t do anymore, sleep deprivation is awful, and post-partum depression can kick in any time in the first year after a baby is born. Most people who feel terrible while their baby is young go on to be loving parents. While it is conceivably possible that LW hates having children so much that she is incapable of being a good parent, I don’t think it’s possible for her to know that right now. This is not a good time to make any huge life decisions.

  52. According to astrology — which is the same as those natal charts only a more accurate name — said my husband and I were completely incompatible. Not a chance in hell. Nope, nope, nope. We are still happily together more than 40 years later. Stop with the stupid excuses and own up to your wanting to cheat on the nice guy you have a child with.

    1. Ditto my parents: they’ll be 40 years married next year and any astrological compatibility thing I looked at in my neopagan years was like, LOLNO, these people will hate each other forever within a week. Do I want the exact same relationship as them? Nope. Does it work for them? Yep. Does astrology have anything to do with it? Nope again.

  53. Adding my voice to the chorus of “Don’t make major life changes while caring for an infant (if you can at all possibly help it).” It’s just such a time of upheaval and trauma, and you don’t do yourself any good by adding to it unnecessarily. Especially if it’s on the heels of a relationship ramping up much faster than you were ready for.

    I’m not a parent, but I do have recurrent major depression and adjustment issues, and every time it comes up I go through a phase in which I frantically cast about for the One Thing That Will Fix My Life. I think about quitting my job, moving hundreds of miles away, torpedoing relationships, latching deeply into other relationships, etc. I’ve slowly come to recognize it as my brain’s attempt to problem-solve — trying to reduce the problem to one source so that I can find one solution. But it doesn’t work like that. Inner chaos is complex and typically has many sources. So my rule for myself is to avoid making major decisions any time that I feel things spiraling out of control. It’s feels very counter-intuitive, but it’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.

    When a tornado comes, don’t try to outrun it. Seek shelter until it passes, *then* examine what you have left and go from there. Babies are adorable, wonderful, horrible tornadoes. Your best bet is to put all your other major decisions (marriage, polyamory, etc.) on hold until your current situation stabilizes.

    Of course, I am just a stranger on the internet, so if you can get access to a therapist then that would be best.

      1. Yes. I can relate this to the chaotic mess of my twenties with unmedicated bipolar disorder. Dialectical behavioural therapy taught me how to cope with painful feelings and use strategies to cope with life changes where escaping isn’t a wise option.

    1. Yeah, I’ve been having similar problems with recurrent depressive episodes and self hate for over a decade. This post really made me think – because about half a year ago, I latched onto yet another “One Thing That Will Fix My Life” – getting enough sleep. Looking back, all the really intense episodes coincided with periods of some amount of sleep deprivation. I’m now trying to make sure that I spend at LEAST 7h in bed, maintain a regular sleeping rhythm, proper sleep hygiene etc… I still struggle a bit with following through on all that, but I mostly manage; and while half a year is not enough to be completely certain that sleep deprivation is the major cause of my depression, I’m happy to report that the last half year has been unusually uneventful, emotionally. Though its not perfect – just yesterday I was emotionally somewhat instable, prone to crying and frustration etc – but it was relatively minor, was mostly gone the next morning and I reckon tomorrow it’ll be completely gone. Nothing at all compared to what I’ve been through.

      So all these comments about “you are a young parent and sleep deprived, don’t trust your judgment right now” really stood out to me. Although I reckon most people’s reaction on lack of sleep aren’t quite as severe as mine, I would really advise against making major decisions while sleep deprived. Deciding do risk an existing relationship for a shiny new maybe-relationship certainly is one of those major decisions. Especially since new relationships are quite the cat in the bag – there’s so much more to a healthy long-term relationship than just mutual feelings.

      1. Yeah, if there is One Thing that will improve–if not fix–virtually everyone’s life, it’s getting more sleep.

      2. Sleep! Sleep is wonderful! Sleep is the elixir of life! I know how getting adequate sleep can really make a difference – I don’t have a kid, but I do have severe sleep apnea. I was not clinically depressed, I was *sleep deprived* from waking up 60 times an hour because my own air passages were determined to choke me in my sleep, so I got none. I have a CPAP and now it’s a whole new world of energy and emotional balance for me.

        I always urge people who have a sudden onset of depression without obvious cause or “brain fog” or what feels like could be ADHD when you never had it before, to get a sleep test. Sleep apnea is stereotyped as something fat middle-aged men get but you can be any age, weight, or gender and have sleep apnea (with me it’s my mouth and throat structure; I have a crowded airway). If you sleep alone then there is no-one to tell you that you snore, choke, and wake up at night.

        Sleep is vital to feeling good, and I think more people need sleep tests than get them. I am So. Very. Glad that I got one! BTW CPAPs are not the cumbersome machines of yore; mine is the size of a small shoebox and is very quiet.

        1. I was 55 when I has my first sleep doctor appointment. He looked down my throat and said, “I doibt you have ever had a good night’s sleep in your life.” I thought he was wrong —I slept plenty, I loved sleep, how could he be right? Then I had a sleep test, and it turned out I have 65 events per hour, and after one week with a CPAP, it was like I had previously had no idea what sleep actually was. The next time I saw my GP, she said she had never seen me before look anything other than exhausted, and she was right.

          Sleep deprivation changes who you are. The good thing about the sleep deprivation from a new baby, is it passes. You don’t need a fancy expensive machine to wear while sleeping in order to cure it — you just need to survive until your child doesn’t need you so often in the night. But looking back on my life, I strongly advise the LW not to make any major life chnages or decisions until she is sleeping well again.

          1. Isn’t it wonderful and fabulous and life-changing to finally get a good night’s sleep? Co-signing that LW should not be making any big life decisions until she is sleeping well again – indeed, until her life isn’t centered around “baby and his needs.” That might well be a couple of years, depending on how easy of a kid Ash is and how much support LW has. Right now, there’s lack of sleep, there’s post-baby hormone fluctuations, her BODY has gone through an enormous effort with gestating, childbearing, and nursing, there’s the effect a new baby has on her relationship with Darin, there’s the effect being a first-time mom has on one’s own self-image…if we’re talking astrology, those are Plutonian changes! It’s no time to undertake any other major life changes or decisions.

  54. I’m probably going to get some flack from the poly-amorous folks (and personally, I’m barely monogamous, i.e.: I can barely have a relationship with one person, so mostly I roll alone.) but I find it interesting when people suddenly ‘discover’ something about themselves AFTER they have the kid/get married/have some BIG responsibility show up and this self discovery = I can’t be responsible because of this thing I can’t control. Maybe the OP isn’t poly-amorous as much as she doesn’t want the responsibility of a baby and a marriage. Labeling yourself a certain way doesn’t let you off the hook from being a parent. Your baby didn’t ask to be here. Please seek counseling to figure out what you’re really afraid of, because it sounds like emotional maturity and emotional intimacy with one person (not to say that poly people don’t have emotional intimacy with their partners yadda yadda….).

    1. YES Granny. Agreed.

      It’s fine for people to “discover” things about themselves, but not at the cost of shirking their responsibilities to their families.

    2. Even if the OP is polyamorous and this isn’t about responsibility, she STILL owes her child and the father of her child the decency of acting honorably in this situation. That means deciding what she wants, being honest/upfront with Darin about her choice, and accepting responsibility for the hurt she’s causing if she chooses to separate from Darin.

    3. I know lots of people who had a Big Discovery after they’d gotten married and had kids. They were gay, they were trans, they didn’t actually want to be a computer programmer, they weren’t actually ready to be married.

      Overall, their outcomes seem to be strongly influenced by how open they were able to be with their partners. In general, the amount of suffering and drama seems directly correlated with the degree of secret-keeping.

  55. A lot of people have mentioned therapy, and others have reassured the LW that she won’t actually die if she doesn’t get this new relationship right now, but I just want to stress to the LW something I have not seen mentioned:

    LW, if you really and truly do feel like your “soul is dying,” PLEASE consider seeing a mental health professional and possibly and Ob/Gyn for an evaluation.

    Every system in your body has recently been through a major upheaval and that doesn’t always bounce back into perfect balance after childbirth, depression following a pregnancy is shockingly common, and other complications which can have a significant effect on disposition, such as issues with the thyroid, arise more frequently postpartum. I don’t say this to scare you. I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on the internet, so I have no way to diagnose you. And I certainly don’t say this to invalidate a polyamorous orientation or to imply that you must be ‘cr@zy’ because no real relationship problems can exist that are not the result of the Hormones and Histrionics of Lady Brain. But it is possible that if you are truly feeling despondent, your impetus for drastically altering your life could be in desperation to fix something that is completely unrelated or only partially related to your current setup. So it’s important to identify all the factors. Mental health and hormonal issues are no joke; they can seriously alter the way we look at the world, drain our energy, and hinder our ability to make sound decisions, making things feel high-stakes that aren’t, leaving us grasping at (potentially unethical) straws, and causing us to lose focus on things that are truly important. I have seen these affect many new mothers in the first year of their child’s life – mothers who wish they’d known sooner that a health issue was interfering, causing them to feel overwhelmed and suffocated.

    You can’t make the best decision without all the necessary information. So for the sake of everyone involved or potentially involved, but especially for yourself, and so you can give your best self to Ash no matter how the rest of this turns out, if by chance this word choice isn’t hyperbole, and it accurately reflects an overwhelming internal sense of crushing and impending loss of self, then please see about your mental and physical health first, before you make any other decisions.

    1. Hear, hear.

      It sounds to me like LW is in some severe emotional chaos right now that could negatively impact their life, their loved ones’ lives, and definitely the life of their child. “My soul will die if I don’t blow up my life and bang this dude” has me hitting the buzzer and saying “What is code for ‘I need some professional mental health intervention immediately’, Alex?”

      And I don’t mean that unsympathetically. LW probably does not want to blow up their life, or negatively impact their child, or hurt Darin, or hurt Fireball, and NO ONE wants to feel like their soul is dying. It’s easy for someone not feeling that way to say it’s dramatic or whatever, but when you get down to it, that’s some incredibly fearful, wounded talk. LW may not be coping 100% perfect in our eyes, but LW is hurting.

      We also cannot rule out the long-term impact of being postpartum on LW’s body and mind. I think LW needs and deserves to seek and receive help with what they’re feeling, and it’s completely unrelated to whether or not they’re poly.

    2. This is an excellent point. There are a variety of post-partum medical issues that don’t necessarily *feel* like a medical problem, so if you notice a sudden change in your outlook then you should definitely run it by a doctor.

    3. This.
      I was struck by the screaming gap between “I didn’t know that kind of love was possible. I want to grow old with them.” and “I feel like my Soul is dying.”
      There’s a lot going on in LW’s head and body and she needs to figure out what’s going on, including anything physical. And she needs to include Darin in her exploration, so he knows what’s going on.
      Darin might be doing some serious thinking himself about their relationship, in light of her request, and it would suck if he decided to break up because he doesn’t want to be with someone who thinks she’s polyam, and have it turn out that really it’s that her mind and body are on a postpartum flip-out and when things settle down, they’re gold.

  56. LW, it seems like a lot of major life changes have happened in your life in very short order – changes that, as the Captain points out, you’re not claiming a lot of agency over.

    Are you using a reliable method of birth control? Possibly something long acting, that doesn’t depend on remembering to be responsible during a moment of passion?

    Consider talking to your healthcare provider about options.

  57. Hi, long time lurker here. Wow, LW, I emphatise with you quite a bit. I also have been in a similar situation the past year: no children, but becoming more and more aware that monogamy doesn’t feel right to me even though I deeply love my partner and can see us together in the long run (we’ve been together 5 years now). I also started having STRONG pantsfeelings for a friend of mine (a female friend, which also added the extra layer of “I guess I’m bisexual after all, should have realised this a long time ago”). None of this was remotely easy, but it makes me curious as to how you talked to your partner about it. Had you ever mentioned non-monogamy in any way? How did you phrase it to him – I have to have Fireball at all costs / I feel the need to date other people but we can decide together how and how fast this will go / other? I’m not asking because there is a single “good” way of doing it, or worse because I think you can change his mind (you shouldn’t try, that would be really manipulative). But I suggest you try and get as complete an answer as you can as to how he feels towards it – of course, “I could never ever accept any of this” IS a complete answer. But I get the feeling (and apologize if I’m wrong, which may very well be the case) that if he felt like he had to give you an answer immediately and it could only be “yes do whatever you want with my blessing” or “absolutely no”… Well of course it was the second one. I’m not saying it’s your fault if that’s what happened, I know you probably felt some urgency in trying to talk to him, but I also know that it can feel like an attack for the partner hearing it

      1. Yes, this. And he knows now she’s interested in that, so he can always bring it up later if he feels differently after some time has passed and he’s had time to think about it.

        It seems to me he made it pretty clear.

        And honestly ‘how would I feel if my partner had sex with other people’ is rarely something someone has never thought about and has no idea what they really think about it. You have a lifetime of stories, conversations, relationships, etc, to play around with this idea in.

        If someone says ‘no’, it does not mean ‘I don’t know my own mind so you should try to convince me because I probably don’t really know what I want.’

      2. And also, LW said this:

        “I’ve recently figured out I’m polyamorous, and I told Darin, and he had said, ‘If you wanna go out with other people you do realise that we’d break up, right?’”

        The way she put it, she might not have mentioned Fireball to Darin at all. He vetoed ‘other people’ in general. That’s a clear and complete answer. There is no loophole here, and carrying on asking isn’t helping him explore his feelings, it’s pressuring him to ignore them.

        1. My apologies if it came across as encouraging badgering, I agree that’s a shitty thing to do. I just meant that since it’s such a sensitive topic for everyone, and I got a “urgent and dramatic” impression of this conversation from the letter (“my soul will die if I don’t sleep with other people! Can I? RIGHT NOW?”), that if LW thinks they didn’t approach the subject in a way that gave their partner any space to think/elaborate/compromise, to do so ONCE, and that’s all. I say that because I made that mistake too, and in my case the answer my partner gave me to “OMG I FEEL SO SMOTHERED WE NEED TO OPEN UP THE RELATIONSHIP RIGHT THIS SECOND” and “ok, here’s what I’be been thinking and feeling. Here are some of the ways it could work. What do you think you could accept?” were VERY different answers. Opposite, in fact. (Once again, I don’t know if this is case for LW, just thought I’d mention it; if unhelpful, LW, please disregard)

          1. Ps to TO_Ont: it’s true that many conversations, films and books talk about “how one feels when their partner sleeps with other people”, but 99.9% of them represent people who cheat and who are to be judged horribly for this, and… Not much else. So, no, unless Darin is interested in the concept of non monogamy or knows non monogamous people, it is actually unlikely that he gave this much thought before. Not to say this makes his tastes or choices any less valid of course, but it might very well be something new to process.

          2. “Not much else. So, no, unless Darin is interested in the concept of non monogamy or knows non monogamous people, it is actually unlikely that he gave this much thought before. ”

            It’s possible, I guess, but I kind of doubt it. There are plenty of far older cultural narratives around ‘the way the french (supposedly) think about affairs’ and about ‘swinging’ and other variations of non-monogamy. Even ‘open marriage’ is a term I think almost everyone has at least heard of these days, unless they live in a very conservative country.

            Most relevantly, the LW is familiar with not just the idea but some of the language – ‘polyamory’, the idea of it being an orientation… It’s unlikely they live in such completely non-overlapping social and media circles that she would have been exposed to those ideas while he had never heard of them or thought about them (and if you’ve heard of them you’ve generally thought of them).

          3. I’m glad that that worked out in your relationship and that it’s working, but this is kind of patronizing. There’s a weird vein in these comments that Darin is, like, bad or close-minded for being monogamous or has never considered polyamory of any kind and so the LW must keep pushing on. If he wants to broach the subject again, he can, and he’s already aware of the LW’s desire to have sex with other people. Monogamous people who want to be monogamous have, like, thought about it and everything.

  58. Dear LW –

    To add my voice to the chorus: I don’t actually know anything about polyamory. But I’m a mom and I do know stuff about having a small child. Now, it’s possible that you had Ash years ago and you just got back together with D, but barring that, math says Ash is 9 months old or less. And even nine month olds aren’t sleeping more than 5 hours, usually.

    You are probably *tired*. I know that when my kid was 9 months old, I was tired in a way I didn’t know humans could be tired. I was so tired I wanted to throw up and didn’t have the energy to do that.

    And I was *lonely*. Motherhood can be very lonely, even with the best support system. When I was nursing, was just me and the baby at midnight, when the world is silent and the only sound is a sucking noise and my own breathing. And then again at 2 am. And 4, and then at 5 when I finally gave up and started the day in the empty quiet before the birds start to sing.

    There’s a good rule I heard once: Don’t make decision when you’re Hungry, Angry, Tired or Lonely (HALT). Even if you’re just one of those things, maybe think about delaying your decision until you’ve had, say, two months of unbroken sleep. (That could be years, btw.)

    Yes, it may be doing a disservice to yourself. But making a life-changing decision under those circumstance (when the decision isn’t urgent) may be doing a disservice to Ash. Motherhood is sometimes l

  59. My husband and I were married and monogamous for 15 years when he told me, “I think I’m polyamorous.” It made a lot of sense to me; it explained some things that had happened in our relationship in the past. How that looked for us:

    1. We talked a lot about what polyam meant to each of us, and what we were comfortable with. If we hadn’t been able to work together (together! both of us outlining our boundaries! respecting each others needs!), we would have split up. And that would have been okay.

    2. The first time he dated someone else, he screwed up my stated #1 requirement: He did not stay in touch with me. He just didn’t come home, didn’t answer my text when I finally said, “Hey, I’m sorry to intrude on your evening, but I haven’t heard from you, it’s 11pm, and I just need a check in, this is new and kind of scary.” That involved both me and the other person being extremely upset with him the next day, and a lot more talking about boundaries. If he had not apologized and proved to me that he was actually listening (by not doing that ever again), we would have split up. And it still would have been okay.

    3. When he told me about being polyam, he was not actively looking to date. He was not actively interested in anyone else. The person he started dating, we both met AFTER we were already talking about polyam, and we both liked them a lot. That made a difference, too.

    It was still REALLY hard. There were all kinds of feelings that came up, or became more intense. The two of us went to counseling together, and it helped make the transition work.

    If he had come to me and said, “I think I’m polyamorous, I want to date person X,” or if it had quickly become obvious that he’d been interested in someone else before even talking to me, I don’t think it would’ve worked. It would have been a huge trust issue for me.

  60. Haven’t read all the comments, so pls ignore if someone has already said this:

    What happens if you take Fireball out of the equation? Assuming you can never be with him, would you still want to separate from Darin to explore polyamory?

    You can’t have Darin and live a polyamorous lifestyle (I say lifestyle because you can always BE polyamorous regardless of what your relationships look like). And if you choose a polyamorous lifestyle, you do run the risk of things not working out with Fireball. So I think in your mind you really have to separate the two: living a polyamorous life vs. being with Fireball.

  61. I can’t really add much (tons of great advice upthread, and I’m not polyam), but given only the facts in front of us, I think your relationship with Darin is unlikely to survive this. Baby or no baby. I know that if my partner approached me and said “I’d like to have sex with other people” I feel like my response would be “Ok, goodbye then.” The baby complicates things, but that’s not going to make it work long-term. He now knows you’re looking. And barring some other development (therapy, understanding urges, realizing it was lust brought on my stress and exhaustion, etc), I just don’t see the trust being there. It wouldn’t be for me. Not saying it’s fair, just that it would permanently weaken the structure of a relationship for me, from my perspective.

    I’m not denying your identity. There’s nothing wrong with a polyamorous situation. But it only works if everyone involved is polyam, or at least ok with it. Darin is vocally not. Again, everyone gets to determine their own situation. I am extremely monogamous. It’s the way I am. I don’t expect everyone to be the same is me, but I would want a partner who was on the same page.

    Oh, and regardless, ditch Fireball. If you know he likes you, then he has shown himself willing to insert himself into a previously monogamous relationship, and that screams out “unethical asshole”, regardless of identity. Just saying.

    1. Yeah, who looks at an engaged couple with a baby and goes “I should start flirting with one of them?”

      1. I can think of two kinds of people who would do this

        a) assholes
        b) people who see flirting as harmless fun to make people laugh or smile, which is not intended to lead anywhere further, and who believe their flirting-friend sees it the same way

        Neither option is one to leave a relationship for!

    2. Yeah, that’s probably what’s on the horizon. I know that if a partner said “I want to be polyamorous/date/have sex with other people” then a dumping would be imminent, even if not immediate. How could you trust someone who just said that they need to cheat on you for their soul to not die? How could you want to restrict someone from what they feel is a fundamental part of their identity? It’s over.

      1. Woah, woah woah.

        Not everyone who feels that they’re polyamorous is incapable of having a monogamous relationship.

        But if you are in a monogamous relationship and realize the polyamory is something that you can and want to do, it’s worth asking your partner, “Hey, I’ve realized that polyamory is something possible, are you interested y/n?”

        If your partner tells you they’re interested in polyamory and you tell them that no, no way, you do not want any kind of open relationship, the next move is _theirs._ If they say “Okay, I’m happy in a monogamous relationship with you because I love you,” then it’s kind of a dick move to not believe them.

        And polyamory isn’t cheating. You can cheat on an open relationship. It’s really not the same thing.

        1. I guess it depends if you say ‘I’ve realised polyamory is possible and I’m curious about it, what do you think about it?’ vs ‘I’ve realised polyamory is who I am and my soul will die if I don’t explore it’.

          A lot depends on the actual conversation you have :).

          1. Seconded. That’s partly what I was trying to say (probably I wasn’t really clear upthread)

        2. Yeah, there are ways to explore polyamoury that don’t involve agonising experiements in non monogamous sex. My partner and I began dating as explicitly monogamous (We both agreed that was our deal.) After a year we explored the idea of play partners and how emotionally involved we were prepared to be with a play partner, and then polyamory as a concept. We stopped short of inviting anyone into our lives when we realised it wasn’t for us and monogamy was right for us right now. That could change.

          I don’t feel like my partner might cheat any moment. He loves me and he is a trustworthy person. If he ever met Ms Fireball then we might find ourselves reviewing things but I don’t live in fear of that. His commitment to me has been consistent and he abhors cheating (he has been cheated on.)

        3. I’m going to be very real here: calling me a dick for a hypothetical feeling in a hypothetical situation where that feeling would not be under my control at all is really not cool. Knock it off, thanks.

          But also, if a partner of mine wanted to explore being polyamorous, then I would never want to keep them away from that, or restrict them from expressing and living their identity and their best life. Just the same as if I was dating someone who realized their sexual orientation was totally incompatible with mine, or who didn’t want children when I do, and other things. I never would want to be someone who stifled a person’s life or growth.

        4. Also, it is cheating to date other people/have sex with them when you’re in an expressly monogamous relationship where the other person has even gone to the trouble of clarifying that they explicitly do not want you to date anyone else and would break up with you if you did. I haven’t said that all polyamorous people cheat or will because that’s not reality, but the ones in monogamous relationships who are trying to convert their partners to being polyamorous are very likely to.

          1. but the ones in monogamous relationships who are trying to convert their partners to being polyamorous are very likely to

            I think where we differ is in whether we consider a conversation about the possibility of polyamory, in general and not in this particular letter, to be “trying to convert your partner.”

            I do not.

            I also don’t think that polyamorous people who are in a monogamous relationship who are trying to convert their partners are “likely” to cheat. I think they’re likely to make their monogamous partners unhappy. I think they are statistically likely to either repress their feelings or talk their partners into trying nonmonogamy for a while (unhappily) or break up with them–OR cheat.

            I think that polyamorous people cheat, on average, at the same rate that monogamous people do.

            I object to the characterization where there’s a logical leap from “My partner just wanted to have a conversation about open relationships” == “My partner is more likely to cheat on me, so I should break up with them now.”

          2. There’s a pretty big difference between ‘having a conversation about’ and ‘asking for’ open relationships/nonmonogamy, though. Having a conversation can keep the whole thing very abstract, and is a good way to find out how people feel about it without it being personal (“Oh, Friend1 and Friend2 have an open relationship now, what do you think about that?” “Good for them, not for me!”). Asking for something often means, you know, people want it and will therefore keep wanting it even when denied it.

          3. You have, however, explicitly translated “I need us to open our relationship” as “I need to cheat on you,” which is unwarranted. If Darin were okay with LW seeing other people, then by definition it wouldn’t be cheating; and if LW wants to see other people if and only if Darin is okay with it, then she does not want to cheat. Even if her desire to date other people is strong enough that she may end the relationship over it, as long as she perceives her options as including “date other people with Darin’s blessing” and “break up” but not including “date other people without Darin’s blessing,” then she still does not want to cheat.

      2. Gonna agree. I mean, yeah, we all “round up” and yeah, “price of admission” is a thing, and yeah, we all have crushes. That being said, I wouldn’t want to be with someone who saw fidelity as some Huge Awful Soul-Sucking Sacrifice they were enduring for me, and, bad as it sounds, I’m not sure I’d trust them to eventually cheat behind my back, using some “well I’m polyam-as-an-orientation, so it’s not like it’s really cheating for me in my heart,” excuse.

        1. Infidelity != polyamory. (Also, polyfidelity is a thing we even have a word for, wtf.)

          Yeah, if someone’s being a dick about it, dump them. But not all polyamorous people find monogamy (what you’re calling fidelity, I assume? Not the same thing) to be a Huge Awful Soul-Sucking Sacrifice. Polyamorous people who find fidelity to be a sacrifice are called cheaters and are just as destructive to open relationships as they are to monogamous ones, ask me how I know.

          1. I think if someone brought up polyamory with me without being very explicit that they also knew they could be happy in a monogomous relationship, I likely would fill in the blanks to assume otherwise.

            And the context here is very different – the LW expresses very strongly that ‘exploring her polyamory’ is something she very strongly wants to do (she even feels she needs to), not just something she would be open to.

          2. I’m honestly less concerned with people judging whether the LW is incompatible with her fiance/has framed this conversation poorly than I am with people making really painfully judgmental comments about polyamorous people in general.

            I’m also invested in polyamorous people not using polyamory as an excuse to be a jerk, because these are my people and I don’t want the actions of jerks to reflect on all of us.

            The idea that polyamorous people can never choose to be in a relationship with a monogamous partner that they’re both happy with, or that there’s no such thing as fidelity in a nonmonogamous relationship, is one of those insidious things that is coming out a lot in some of these comments that I’m reacting against.

            I think if someone brought up polyamory with me without being very explicit that they also knew they could be happy in a monogomous relationship, I likely would fill in the blanks to assume otherwise.

            I mean, I feel like this is something that you could ask about in the conversation where they bring up polyamory. In fact I would hope it would be one of the things discussed.

            I do understand that it’s hard to say, “Well, if I’m not excited about this thing you want to do, could you be happy never doing it?” but if it’s impossible to ask that question, it’s a bigger problem in the relationship itself.

        2. Exactly, being someone else’s ‘well I’ll settle and live in this soul-killing prison of a relationship for you honey’ is really really not healthy or my speed. And people who are desperately unhappy in their relationships often cheat. It’s not a judgement on them so much as a plain reality–if someone says ‘I really want to have sex with other people, can we?’ even if they agree to not do so it’s a hell of a lot more probable than if they’re the kind of person who would never consider it or want to.

          @Aris Merquoni–you seem to be saying over and over again that it’s impossible that a polyamorous person who agreed to be monogamous would then cheat on their partner because they wanted to. I agree with your point that some people are perfectly happy in both polyamorous or monogamous relationships, but honestly people who say things like ‘if I don’t explore my polyam side my soul will die’ or ‘I want this to become open/polyam’ do not seem like those kinds of people.

          1. Hey, I agree this LW isn’t in a good place right now and it seems like they’re raring to go cheating on their fiance. If that’s due to sleep deprivation or being unhappy in her relationship or something else, something ain’t right.

            I object to generalizing this to all polyamorous people and have clarified that repeatedly. I’m also not sure where I said that all polyamorous people are non-cheaters? I said I have seen polyamorous people who have agreed to be monogamous cheat on their monogamous partners, and I have seen polyamorous people cheat on their polyamorous partners, so no, I don’t think that being polyamorous means you’re suddenly Immune To The Desire To Cheat.

  62. Here are some things I noticed in your letter:
    You have been together 18 months
    You have an infant
    You are planning a wedding

    There is a documented phenomenon in relationships where there is an initial rush of infatuation and a number of physiological changes take place. Psychologists call it limerence. In polyamorous circles we usually call it “new relationship energy”. Other people call it the Honeymoon Period. Regardless of what you call it, it can last up to two years. So at 18 months, a lot of that initial energy might be wearing off, making you restless and dissatisfied. On top of that, you’re planning a wedding (stressful) and dealing with an infant – something that is notorious for wreaking havoc on relationships. So here you have this perfect storm and then along comes someone new and interesting, someone who probably makes you feel interesting and attractive and excited. And that feels good!

    But here are the questions: if this other guy were not in the picture, if he didn’t exist, would polyamory be a thing you would want to explore? If he said “I just want to be friends”, would you still want to explore non-monogamy? Also, if he weren’t in the picture, would that natal chart for you and your current partner be something you would take into consideration at all?

    I say this as someone who is very much on Team Polyamory – are you sure you are feeling a pull to explore polyamory/non-monogamy, or are you just feeling restless and unsure?

    If polyamory is something you really need to explore, it doesn’t have to be right this second. There will be other Fireballs.

  63. I was conceptualizing it like this: it would be uncool for her to give the kid up for adoption without seeing if Darin wanted to be a single dad, thus it follows that it would be uncool for her to leave without seeing if Darin did not want to be a single parent. Denying and foisting are both unfair.

    1. Except, if either LW or Darin wants to break up, they will breakup. It’s not like either gets to say “I don’t want to be a single parent, therefore you must stay with me.”
      Their job is to be the best parents they can be to Ash, whether that is together or separate. Two happy single parents is probably better than unhappily married together parents.

      1. It depends what’s meant by single parent, I think. There are (at least) two different definitions, and they are both being used here by different people.

        A single parent can simply mean a parent who is single, even if they are dividing care of their child 50/50.

        It can also mean someone who is the only, or nearly only, day-to-day parent of a child.

        Being single with an equally contributing coparent is still very different from being a couple with kids, but it’s quite a different scenario than leaving your kids and deciding that the other parent will be doing 90% of raising the child(ren).

        From what I’m reading, the majority of people in this discussion are agreeing that the first is an ethical option and can be responsible and kind, but the second is much more problematic and iffy and it’s much more dependent on the circumstances and who you ask, if that can be a fair choice.

        1. My point was: if Darin or LW decides to break up, they will be single parents regardless of the definition, because they aren’t “together parents.” Which definition of single parent applies would depend on how things are worked out, but they’d be “single” one way or another.

          Perhaps I misunderstood the comment “leave without seeing if Darin did not want to be a single parent” –
          “Hey, Darin, I’m thinking of leaving. Do you want to be a single parent?” – “No.” – “Okay, I guess I have to stay then.”

      2. Having two single (in the sense of separate) coparenting parents is one thing, but some of the comments are about having a ‘single parent’ in the other sense of the term, i.e., one parent raising a child alone.

        Two different things entirely, and two different discussions.

      3. Two happy single parents is LOADS beyond better than unhappily married together parents.

        Source: Was raised by unhappily married together parents, am still in therapy, will probably be in therapy forever.

      4. True if by ‘single parent’ you just mean someone who is single and a parent.

        It’s somewhat more complicated if you mean ‘single parent’ in the sense of being the sole or almost-sole caregiving parent of a child. Which a few people here have suggested.

        I know many people who are ‘single parents’ by the first definition, and 90% of them share custody and care 50/50. It’s that other ten percent that’s more complicated as a choice to leave another person with.

        If you decide to split up with someone with whom you have a child, then do, but unless there are some unusual circumstances, don’t make that a reason to do less than your half of the childcare.

    2. No, if Darin was an abusive asshole, for instance, it would not be “uncool” for OP to place their child for adoption. There are plenty of situations where one person decides what happens to the child and not the other.

      It takes two people to be in a relationship. When one person stops consenting, neither are in a relationship anymore.

      1. Well, it would be illegal, where I live, for one parent to unilaterally adopt out a child without the consent of the other parent. It’s far more than ‘not cool’, it’s basically kidnapping, even if for the best of intentions.

        The courts could and should, however, remove the child from the abusive parent.

        1. And parental rights can also be severed by courts in cases of abandonment, e.g. if one parent has never chosen to be in contact with the child or have any fom of relationship with them, that can be grounds for the courts terminating parental rights, which would then allow the child to be adopted.

        2. There are people who know who their child’s biological father is and don’t put their name on the birth certificate, and say they don’t know who it is. People who are raped, for instance. (There’s documented cases of rapists being given custody.)

          That does not make those people who choose to withold that information bad people.

          1. Yes, there can be good reasons for doing something illegal, or something that in normal circumstances would be wrong.

  64. As someone currently watching a 13 year old relative disintegrate under mythomaniac, anorectic and suicidal impulses with her parents split up, I may be biased to Ash here. But I will say you’ll have to think about your kid first. Will it make you unhappy to wait 10-20 years to explore your sexuality? Probably. But will it make you unhappy enough to make you a worse parent, keeping in mind how your and Darin’s relationship may be affected by ending (presumably) every part of it not related to Ash? I don’t know a lot about relationships, but that seems like a big gamble to me. Thinking carefully and talking honestly about it, with Fireball having no lines, indeed seems like a good start.

    1. I happen to have experiences of both “incompatible parents split up when child was very young” (my mother and father) and “incompatible parents stayed together until child was 18” (my mother and stepfather), and they both sucked, but being in a household with two adults who fought all the time was far, far worse than having a mostly absentee father I saw once a week. Parental divorce is often much harder for an older child, who’s much more capable of self-blame and self-harm even without the natural turmoil of adolescence factored in, than for a younger child, who can grow up accepting it as the way things are. If the relationship needs to end, end it, and end it now while your kid is young and resilient and has lots of time to recover and adapt to the new normal.

    2. While the LW should absolutely be taking Ash’s well-being into consideration, that doesn’t automatically equate to ‘staying with Darin is going to be better for Ash than splitting up with Darin’.

      I’m truly sorry to hear about your 13-year-old relative, but I’m guessing that what she’s going through is more than just the divorce itself. How are her parents handling it? How is that impacting on her? How would the problems in their relationship be impacting on her if they stayed together – particularly if she felt they were only staying in a relationship that made them miserable for her sake?

      I think it’s well worth the LW stopping, taking a deep breath, and getting counselling and taking time to figure out how much of this is actually about problems in her relationship with Darin and how much of it is about temporary things like dealing with a baby and having the newshiny wear off her relationship and having newshiny feelings for someone else. I think it would be a horrible idea to rush into any decisions right now, and for all we know the LW and Darin might have a great future together once they’ve weathered this storm. But, if it turns out that the LW and Darin are going to be absolutely miserable together, then the choices they have include ‘figure out an amicable-as-possible divorce and co-parenting situation now’ and ‘co-parent as a married couple in a non-ideal marriage and consider divorce further down the line’, and it isn’t a given that the latter would be better than the former.

    3. As someone who’s spent 16 years trying to figure out how I felt about being “the reason” my parents stayed together and were both miserable and feeling blamed for their misery, please don’t assume that two people living unhappy lives “for the sake of [Child]” can do a good job at it, okay?

      1. No, definitely don’t assume that. The point I was trying to make is be as sure as you can which route is going to make your kid the least unhappy. That probably involves you also being less unhappy.

    4. “13 year old relative disintegrate under mythomaniac, anorectic and suicidal impulses with her parents split u”

      Oh wow, I feel so sorry for this 13 year old 😦 This sound’s terrible! But, from my experience, this is not the standard reaction to parents splitting up. I guess it just goes to show how differently people can react.

      My parents split when I was about 13 and I did not react badly to it at all, my mother’s parents also split – when she was a little younger than that, and she was happy that they did because the marriage was very unhappy and it was turning the atmosphere of the house sour. She also has a sister who did not react badly.

      I’m not trying to in any way say that this child you know is reacting ‘the wrong’ way or that those reactions do not happen! But it’s really not the obvious thing that’s gonna happen and I don’t think it’s helpful to stay in a unhappy marriage because if not the child is going to have those very hardcore self destructive tendencies. I would even go far enough to say most children will not have them and if a child is having them – it is possible that more stuff is influencing it, not just the split up (or maybe the split up is terrible messy and parents are using the child for some sick head games on each other – which, sadly, does happen! But then it’s not an issue with split-up/divorce itself but with the way it’s conducted).

    5. But will it make you unhappy enough to make you a worse parent

      Can we not with this “stay together for the kids” bs? No child wants to feel like the lock on a cage, to paraphrase a commentor on another post. If LW had many years of happy marriage with Darin behind them and was only wistfully thinking “gee it would be nice if I could date other people too” then it would be appropriate to ask if a vague wish for a different life is really worth geting divorced over, but LW describes their feelings as ” I feel like some part of me is saying, ‘You have to do this, if you don’t, you’re killing yourself.’” and “like if I don’t, I feel like my Soul is dying” That’s not daydreaming, that’s a really serious issue that I strongly suggest LW work out before making any progress toward getting legally married.

      I am terribly sorry for your 13 year old relative and I still strongly believe that divorce is not the sole cause of their problems. I believe that what causes most of the problems people attribute to divorce is parents not acting like parents, ie fighting in front of the child, using the child as a pawn or a weapon, bad mouthing the other parent to the child, getting so wrapped up in their own shit that they don’t make time for their child, etc. All of those things and more can happen without the parents even considering divorce, so I’m not sure what’s supposed to make divorce so devastatingly harmful in the absence of poor parenting.

      Sure, divorce is upheaval in the child’s life but so is their parents moving for a better job and I don’t see parents who do that get shit on anywhere near as much as parents who get divorced. Also Ash is under a year old, if LW and Darin break up soon he probably won’t remember the breakup at all and his parents living in different houses will be totally normal to him.

      In my case, my parents finally got divorced years after they should have. What I learned about relationships from their marriage is that it’s normal to live with someone you can’t stand and fight with them all the time. This did not serve me well when I started dating, to put it mildly. The years of never feeling safe in my own home weren’t so great either. Given the choice, I would much rather have learned that relationships don’t always last forever and that’s okay.

      1. I feel like some part of me is saying, ‘You have to do this, if you don’t, you’re killing yourself.’” and “like if I don’t, I feel like my Soul is dying” That’s not daydreaming, that’s a really serious issue

        Absolutely. But you don’t have to take every feeling you have at face value, because brain weasels are weird. When my anxiety reaches a certain level, I worry about turning the oven off. ‘Have you turned the oven off’ is my brain’s shorthand for ‘I’m not feeling in control’: it has nothing to do with the oven, and insufficient oven-wrangling isn’t a problem in my life. To take an extreme example, suicidal ideations are real problems, but it doesn’t mean that the person having them wants to be dead or should act on them; they mean that there’s something seriously in need of addressing.

        ‘I want to leave my stable relationship with the father of my kid to have sex with a stranger’ sounds self-destructive to me, and coming from someone who is certainly sleep-deprived and stressed, and possibly depressed, it needs to be taken serious as a call for help… not a call to action.

        I’m not saying the LW should not explore their feelings about polyamory and whether their relationship with Darin is fulfilling, but after they’ve slept themselves out and had a long talk with their therapist about everything else that’s wrong with their life right now. ‘Leaving Darin’ and ‘Finding New Partner(s)’ still need to happen in that order and with a clear head. If they’re splitting up, they need to split up while they still like (and trust) each other.

        1. Oh I completely agree that incinerating her relationship with Darin by banging Fireball would be a terrible idea for many reasons. My personal theory about why LW is suddenly having really strong feelings for Fireball is that on some level she’s not ready to be married at all/married to Darin. She might just need time, she might need to break up with Darin, she might need mental health care and a whole lot of sleep, but no matter what the problem is, I don’t think that swallowing her feelings is going to help.

          I think we’re arguing different things here, what I was getting at is that Amelie’s advice “But I will say you’ll have to think about your kid first. Will it make you unhappy to wait 10-20 years to explore your sexuality? Probably. But will it make you unhappy enough to make you a worse parent, keeping in mind how your and Darin’s relationship may be affected by ending (presumably) every part of it not related to Ash?” sounds very much like “stay together for the kids!” to me and that’s not on. LW should certainly think about how her choices will affect Ash, but “stay with my kid’s other parent” is absolutely NOT the only answer to “what is best for my kid?”

          1. (I think we agree completely, I just wanted to pick up the point that sometimes vivid urges are a symptom of something _else_.)

            ‘Wait ten years’ seems like terrible advice; no-one should put their life on hold that long. And a parent who is frustrated, unhappy, or just going through the motions will NOT be good for Ash. And while babies may pick up less than older kids, they’re social animals. They *know*. As I said, if you need to get out, get out while you’re still capable of being polite to each other, of respecting each other. (Doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt, but there’s ‘breakup’ and there’s ‘messy breakup’ and one should avoid the second if one can.

          2. I feel like there has to be some inflection point, though, where a choice is the size that it’s worth putting off until later. LW says – though we’ve all expressed doubts – that she’s happy with her current relationship and doesn’t want it to end. I would never advise someone to stay together for the kids, but there ARE destabilizing choices that aren’t compatible with young-child parenting for many parents. “I always wanted to be a touring musician but the money is bad and I’m never home” or “I want to finish my PhD while working full time”-size dreams are just really hard for some people to pull off when their kids are little. Some people do, but it’s okay if every single person isn’t capable of extraordinary navigation – and in this case the other parent involved actually does have a hard veto on participating himself. The LW does need to do some cost-benefit analysis and make some choices – and “my life as it is now is as complicated as I can handle, I’m going to add stuff to it later not now” is reasonable.

          3. @Friendly Hipposcriff
            I just wanted to pick up the point that sometimes vivid urges are a symptom of something _else_

            That’s an excellent point and in hindsight my comment was not very clear about that at all. I don’t want to be a jerk to LW, but given the timing and all the upheaval in her life lately, I’m not certain whether she’s actually polyamorous or sees Fireball as an escape hatch from everything that’s making her unhappy.

            Come to think of it, sorting out what your feelings actually mean (if anything, for me being super irritated usually just means I need a snack) is something you have to do a lot of if you decide to live a polyamorous lifestyle, so this is a great opportunity for LW to practice. For example, if you feel jealous, that might mean you need a little extra reassurance, it might mean you need to work on your insecurities, it might mean you’re unhappy about something totally unrelated, and it might actually mean your partner is treating you poorly. Until you sort out which one it is, you can’t really deal with it effectively.

            Or for another example, my sudden intense urge to write this comment has much less to do with how interesting this discussion is (not that it’s not interesting!) than it does with my desire to avoid doing my work 🙂

    6. It sounds like that child has other mental issues that deserve treatment. I watched my parents stay together, even though my mother’s mental illness makes her barely possible to tolerate … and it was bad.

  65. Letter Writer, repeat this three times, “Darin’s soul is just as important as mine. His soul’s need to be in a secure monogamous relationship is just as important as my soul’s need to explore the fulfillment of polyamory.” I feel for you. It’s horrible to be in this situation with so much at stake. But you have to choose monogamy and Darin or polyamory and no Darin.

  66. The *fuck* is up with people staying “stay with Darin for Ash’s sake” and “you’re a bad person if you give a child up for adoption” I seriously thought CA was a bit more liberal

      1. So, I don’t read any of the comments as saying “you must stay with Darin for the sake of Ash.” But I do think some people may be reacting with surprise as to how little thought the LW seems to have given to how whatever she decides is going to impact her son. I know that really stuck out to me. Upon reflection, I think it’s more likely that the LW is still hoping Captain Awkward can give her the right script to convince Darin to open up the relationship so she doesn’t have to choose than that she’s not thinking about her kid. But it’s just … odd that the fact that Darin and the LW have a child together is just thrown in there as a sort of side-detail when for me, and I think most people who have kids, that dramatically changes the whole question. Without Ash, it’s a pretty straightforward choice between Darin and Polyamory. With Ash, it’s also a choice about the whole nature of the relationship Ash is going to have with both the LW and Darin. Because you just have a different relationship with your child when you see them every day than when you see them 50% of the time, or every other weekend, or two weeks in the summer and alternate holidays, or whatever they work out. Not to say that kids can’t thrive in all kinds of circumstances, but those are fundamentally different parent/child relationships and it’s just… odd that it barely merits a mention that there’s a kid involved here.

        I mean, my husband and I just spent a ridiculous amount of time agonizing over which preschool to send our daughter to, and that will have a far lesser impact on her life than the question of whether we stay together. And I think you can be quite liberal and still believe that once you have a child, your days of following your star wherever it leads with minimal consideration for others need to come to an end, if they haven’t already. It doesn’t mean you have to stay in a miserable relationship or job or situation. But it does mean that you really need to give careful thought to whether the pros for you of any major course of action outweigh the cons for your child(ren), and I just don’t see that careful thought happening based on this letter.

    1. I don’t think anyone (or at least most people) is/are saying the LW is obligated to stay with Darin, as much as that cheating on him would be wrong and that leaving her marriage without thinking it through would be unwise.

      I also don’t think anyone is saying that adoption isn’t a perfectly fine way to deal with an unexpected/unwanted pregnancy, but outside of extreme circumstances, it’s not a responsible way to deal with the stresses of parenting. Raising a child is one of the very few things that you can’t ethically just quit because that’s the best thing for you.

    2. From what I see no one is saying “you’re a bad person if you give a child up for adoption”. They ARE saying “you’re a bad person if your realization that you’d rather not be a mom after all leads to you just dumping your child on child’s other parent and walking away with no thought to the devastation left in your wake”. If she examines herself and realizes she really doesn’t want to be a mom (and that’s unlikely, she said she loves kiddo and wants to grow old with him and Darrin) and she discusses that with Darrin and what that would mean for them all going forward, that’s one thing. But just noping out of there into the sunset to a shiny new life and leaving Darrin and Ash to figure out the consequences of that is another beast altogether and that’s what people are taking issue with. Any parent who does that, father or mother, is a shitty parent and a shitty person. I respect people who realize they aren’t good parents and take steps to see someone else takes good care of their kid. I have zero respect for people who just walk away and let other people sort out the mess left behind.

      I’m not really seeing “stay with Darrin for Ash’s sake” either, which would be a huge mistake. If you are unhappy in a relationship, staying “for the child” just models an unhealthy relationship for the kid. I see people saying “you have a child so you have to consider how your actions will impact that child” and “don’t blow up something you say is good, especially when a child is involved, because you’re having some pantsfeelings for someone who isn’t your partner”.

    3. Staying with Darin for Ash’s sake would be a terrible idea, I agree. And I am not anti-adoption, at all; if neither of a child’s biological parents can raise them, giving the child up for adoption may absolutely be the best choice. But this isn’t a situation where adoption is an option, because as far as we know Darin wants to raise this child. There is no option here for the LW to just stop being a parent.Especially if this was an unplanned pregnancy, it’s completely understandable if she is still struggling to accept that and grieving for her pre-child life. But regardless of her feelings, she has responsibilities to Ash for the next 17+ years.

      I think it is absolutely a liberal position to believe that both parents owe their children support and care. And I think that if LW does break up with Darin, they need to negotiate that breakup in ways that ensure that Ash is well taken care of — just straight-up walking out on someone who is relying on you to pick up the kid from day care while they’re still at work (for instance) is a dick move. They may well need to break up, but it may take more time for them to untangle than it would if they didn’t have a little kid, and that is just how it goes.

      1. Or even politics aside, it’s just a fact that babies bond with their caregivers, and that abruptly severing that relationship is traumatic for babies in a way that causes attachment issues, and attachment issues don’t just evaporate when you reach adulthood. From what I understand, current research suggests that a secure bond with a primary caregiver (which doesn’t have to be a mother, it just usually is) is the biggest predictor of mental health in adulthood. Please note that I’m not saying ‘all adopted people are nuts in the head’, because that would be ridiculous, but it’s a Thing To Deal With, and the fewer Things To Deal With a parent gives a child, the better. We all give some, I’m sure, but parenting is about minimizing them.

        So yeah, giving up a child for adoption may be the right choice if you can’t offer them a secure bond, and if you’re going to do that, the younger the better. (I knew a guy who was adopted at six months old; he didn’t consciously remember it, but his psyche did, and it did NOT see people as reliable. Babies figure out who’s who a lot faster than you might think.) Sometimes the options available are not ideal, and in that case, going for ‘traumatic separation followed by reasonably stable childhood’ is better than ‘entire childhood raised by person who can’t actually raise you.’ Nobody gets to adulthood without some knocks, and this might be the smallest knock you can offer.

        But the fact remains that changing caregivers is certainly not what Ash wants, and this doesn’t seem like a situation where he needs to be separated from everybody he knows – there are other options available, ie LW deciding she wants Darin more than she wants polyamory, or LW deciding she wants polyamory more than she wants Darin, and co-parenting amicably either way. In which case, pointing out that there are better solutions is surely reasonable.

        1. Yes, this! Adoption is extremely traumatic, especially adoption that involves severing a bond that’s already been made. I don’t think it’s unreasonable or ~~~conservative~~~ to say that traumatizing babies is a bad thing to do.

    4. Man, I side-eye people giving PETS up to shelters. Adoption is sometimes the best of crappy options in circumstances where one just cannot be a parent, but it’s not to be done lightly. Anyway LW isn’t even talking about adoption and/or giving up her kid which is why it’s seriously weirding me out to see people suggesting it.

    5. I think one of the reasons I am judging the LW heavily for her letter is because she appears to not particularly care about her child, nor has she seriously factored her baby’s health and safety into these hypothetical decisions she wants to make. Perhaps it’s because she and Darin have a rock-solid shared parenting agreement anyways, but more likely to me it seems that she just is being deeply selfish and irresponsible–this is a seven month old baby, and vanishing on the kid because of pantsfeelings is a really judgement-worthy action for anyone of any gender.

      Reading the rest of the comments, it also seems likely that she might have post-partum depression or another issue, or otherwise just be extremely stressed and overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. In any case she really needs some help and time to get to a more stable frame of mind before she makes any decisions that could burn down her life and/or traumatize her child (and adoption is traumatic).

      1. I get the impression she’s not thinking about how it affects him not because she doesn’t care, but because she has an image in her mind of having everything. Having a cozy little household with Darin and Ash, AND going out for romantic dates with Fireball.

        I think in the world she’s imagining, Ash’s life doesn’t change and he is never negatively affected.

        1. That…makes a fair amount of sense, actually. Though I think it’s extremely unlikely to turn out that way; you can’t have your cake and eat it all too, especially not with burning bridges with the other parent of your child.

    6. She can’t give the child up for adoption out from under Darin. That’s the key. He’s a parent, too. Once she gave birth, this stopped being about only her.

      1. It’s extremely hypothetical, anyway. Most parents who break up don’t put their children up for adoption! Most people who find being the parent of a baby really difficult don’t want to put their child up for adoption either!

        Anything’s possible, but it’s a very rare reaction and there’s nothing I see in the letter to suggest it.

  67. Jennifer, would you please add a reminder in the advice section reminding people to use polyam or polyamorous instead of Poly, since that term refers to Polynesian people? You posted about it previously, but a lot of people forgot.

    1. It’s the Captain’s space, and she absolutely gets to request that people spell out polyamory or polyam. I have no beef with that.

      But an abbreviation or word can mean more than one thing. “Poly” means polyamorous *as well as* Polynesian. Asking to spell it out to be clear is one thing… but insisting that poly doesn’t also mean polyamorous is simply inaccurate.

      1. As I understand it, it’s not that it isn’t a valid way of referring to polamory; it’s that it’s making it significantly harder for people from those islands to find forums with other people from their country (not typing the country out to avoid clogging up the Google results even more!).

        1. This is especially important in twitter hashtags, if you would like an additional data point.

  68. The LW reminds me of a lady in my social group in college (not close friends, but friendly acquaintance). She was single, and had a huge crush on a single guy. He repeatedly turned her down, kindly at first, then in no uncertain terms.

    She kept doing tarot readings and astrology charts and such that she felt “proved they were meant to be together.” She didn’t care about how he felt.

    “Don’t want to be a b*tch to my fiance” you aren’t being a b*tch to ask for a polyamorous relationship, or if you choose to break up with Darin over it. Darin has clearly let you know that isn’t an option if you are going to still be in a relationship. You can’t be his fiance or wife and still fulfill your destiny with Fireball. No matter what forms of divination you use, his reaction isn’t going to change. This isn’t something you can talk him into.

  69. LW, it sounds like you didn’t do a natal chart until after you had pantsfeelings for Fireball, rather than when you and your fiance got engaged and had a kid. Why is that, do you think?

  70. Here’s the thing:

    1. You can be polyamorous and live in a monogamous relationship.
    2. You can be polyamorous and break up with Darin to have polyamorous relationships.
    3. You cannot have polyamorous relationships while being with Darin, because he’s made it clear that’s a deal-breaker. Ignoring or rules-lawyering or astrology-ing around his stated deal-breaker makes you what we in the business call a jerk and could turn disastrous.

    My advice at this point is as follows.

    1. Don’t move forward on wedding planning at this point. If you’re unsure, getting married won’t fix it.
    2. Please do some hard thinking about what you want. Is this feeling simply the prod you need to get out of a relationship you aren’t happy in?
    3. Do that thinking without Fireball as a mental option. You may very well be seeing in Fireball what you want to see- “building him a soul” is the phrase that comes to mind.
    4. Remember that you are not the only one in this relationship. Darin might very well decide to end things because you want different relationships. He has a right to do so.

  71. I’ve often been afraid of making commitments because I worry that I’m not good at commitment; that I will sign up for something I can’t do justice. My life has brought me a fair few disasters out of nowhere and that has made me fearful of the next random bad thing.

    I can tell you that the people I have taken the plunge of committing to have given me wonderful times I never could have imagined. I was up to the challenges. If you can commit from a place of love, accepting that you are imperfect and each choice to commit closes doors to other scenarios, you’d be surprised what kinds of big love can result. I never thought that five years into my monogamous relationship, we’d have worked though challenges and negativity.

    If this desire for a polyamorous lifestyle comes from a place of worry about the realities of a marriage, I’d say that worry is normal. It is a big change to choose a person to live alongside for the rest of your life. It’s ok to feel the weight of it.

    Can you sit with that anxiety and give yourself room to think without jumping to an escape route? Tara Brach says that we control our lives by leaving out the back exit. Is Fireball a convenient back exit out of the family commitments that loom? I don’t know.

  72. Something that hasn’t been touched on much, but that popped into my head just based on the desperation and that feeling of her soul literally being destroyed that is clear in the letter – is Darin doing his fair share of childcare? Not just changing a diaper here and there, or maybe getting up in the middle of the night a token once or twice a week – but really doing his fair share of all the horrible drudgery of baby care?

    From the letter, I know there’s no way to tell one way or the other. But this is such a gendered thing that happens so often to new moms, and it is absolutely soul killing. It happened to me 19 years ago and I felt so trapped and lost, and had zero support for those feelings, and zero help, just smug advice to “sleep when your baby sleeps” which left me sleeping in hour long increments here and there, even on weekends and at times that my fortunately now ex was home. And many other mom friends have had similar experiences, and similar judgments against them from family and friends when they try to push back and insist that the child’s other parent taken on an equal burden of that soul killing drudgery and exhaustion. And it can really make you feel trapped and like your soul is literally being sucked away. I literally felt like I was becoming a not-person when it happened to me.

    So I think that’s worth exploring for the LW. I know from the letter there’s no way to tell, but it’s just such a common gendered trap, that can lead to such horrible feelings. If a “Fireball” had presented himself at that horrible time in my life as a way out from all of that living hell, I’d have jumped at that chance.

    I’m not saying the letter writer is not polyamorous – maybe she really is, maybe it’s something that has come up from this situation – but I think exploring is Darin truly taking on an equal burden of the soul killing duties of parenting and is the LW getting the support that she needs as a new mom might be a good first step to figuring out what’s going on and where to go from here.

    Jedi hugs to the LW if you want them

    1. Yes! Not directly comparable but when my partner and I brought home an 8 week old puppy, the sleep deprivation and constant puppy watching/training unravelled me really fast. I really did feel desperate to get out and awfully guilty that the drudgery made my feel so ragey. My partner was an absolute rock in assuring me that this was hard because raising tiny creatures is a hard thing and he helped a lot. If I had been left alone to do it all, I’d be feeling like you and LW might have felt.

  73. Dear LW: Is it possible that you’re having cold feet about the wedding as well as hot pants for the new guy? Keep thinking about the old trope of a guy, right before marriage, thinking “Oh, no, after this I can’t have sex with anyone else but my wife forever! What if she isn’t the right one? What if two years from now I meet someone really bangable? Hey, look at that woman over there, she’s hot…But no! I’m engaged. I mustn’t. I can’t…And yet: I’m sorry, sweetheart, I know we’re engaged but it just HAPPENED!”

    It’s absolutely acceptable to realize you’re not ready to settle down quite yet. As others have said, please hold off on making decisions about wedding venues. Better to delay than to make a breakup that much harder.

    (True story: A few days before her wedding, a friend of mine finally faced what she’d been denying to herself: that she shouldn’t marry the guy. Her mother said — I kid you not — “But everything’s all arranged and you have your dress.” My friend caved and married him, and her life was pretty horrible until she finally divorced him about five years later. She was left bankrupt and the parent of a child whose father never paid child support unless hounded to do so.)

    Polyamory might very well be a true part of your soul. But please do the hard work CA suggests. Think about what polyamory would look like for you, and how it would work for you as a single parent. As others have pointed out, Darin is not okay with this and if you decide that yes, polyamory is an important aspect of your identity then you’ll need to end it with him. Relationship-wise, anyway; ideally, you’ll be co-parenting your son.

    One more piece of doom ‘n’ gloom: If things end poorly with Darin, be prepared for a custody battle. I’m not saying it will happen, but it could. And I’m not saying you’d lose, but some judges are, well, judgy. Your decision to embrace the polyamorous part of your being might look odd or even deviant to the child welfare authorities.

  74. I agree with the people who are saying that if LW is genuinely feeling like she’s dying inside, it’s time to do a mental health audit.

    That said, I also think it’s worth observing that LW’s language is pretty dramatic about both positives and negatives. When she talks about Darin and Ash, she says, ‘Before they came along, I didn’t know that kind of love was possible.’ When she talks about Fireball, she says, ‘We’re basically made for each other.’ So it’s possible she’s having a mental health crisis, but it’s also possible that she’s just someone who has big feelings and uses big language about everything, and this is just how she talks.

    And if that’s the case … LW, I suggest that, as an exercise, you try describing the situation to yourself using as low-key, plain, factual language as possible. Talking up the drama of everything can be exciting and make life feel extra meaningful, but it can also lead to rash decisions, making yourself feel worse, misjudging situations and people, and, sometimes, thinking self-centredly because your big feelings are drowning out other people’s voices. Try describing it as simply and undramatically as possible. It can be a way to increase your insight by making room for nuance.

  75. You know how there are various and sundry warnings out there against people who are “emotionally unavailable”? They can sound all kinds of odd and confusing, but the ones that make sense generally boil down to, “don’t set your hopes on a particular type of relationship with someone not ready to have that kind of relationship.” One of the more common forms this takes is, “don’t get hooked on a dude who is into sleeping around,” with the assumption that the advice is addressing a female audience, and all women of course must want monogamous marriage.

    You can gain as much insight, though, by asking whether the emotionally unavailable person in question is the one in the mirror. The first time I finally understood what all that, “watch out for the emotionally unavailable,” meant was when I realized they’re talking about ME. Because I would rather defenestrate myself than do the whole “house, spouse, 2.7 children and a dog” thing. And yet all of society has been trying to push me into that my whole adult life and I’ve been endlessly pursued by men wanting me for that role.

    People have actually tried to convince me that not pursuing that is unhealthy and there is something wrong with me, which makes me laugh. It’s no secret that how our society does marriage is often pretty damn unfair to women. There’s nothing unhealthy about saying, “Nope, that’s not for me.”

    Anyhow, my point is that all that “beware the emotionally unavailable” advice often posits that the supposed emotionally-unavailable people may be prone to acting just like the Letter Writer is now, as a reaction to an impending fate they really don’t want (marriage and child and nuclear family focus).

    I’m not sure the Letter Writer’s current cluster of feelings indicates anything other than the Letter Writer having some serious misgivings about the future that’s bearing down on LW. LW, whatever happens, the big thing you’ve realized is that settling down to monogamous bliss and child-rearing with Darrin gives you major pause. So put a big pause on everything. Your first responsibility is to your child. Figure out the near future, until the child is of school age, for you and the kid. Major explorations of your sexuality don’t have to happen right this minute. They can wait until you’ve gotten through the most intensive part of caring for this child.

  76. Your options:

    1. Stick with your current relationship. Decide not to get involved in polyamory.
    2. Ditch your current relationship. Pursue a polyamorous lifestyle.
    3. Ditch your current relationship. Take some time to figure out what you want before making any further decisions.

    You might be tempted to hook up with this new guy behind your current guy’s back. This is not a solution. It’s functionally option #2–it’s just delaying the breakup until your current guy finds out about your cheating.

    If you choose option 2 or 3, try to do it as kindly and non-blame-y as possible, because you do need to preserve a co-parent relationship with your current partner at the bare minimum.

    1. A good summary, but I would add: Bear in mind that breakups and exploring polyamory are also options that can be taken up at any point in the future, but getting back together after breaking up with someone probably can’t be. If you’re not sure, it makes a lot more sense to stick with Darin and to see what can be done about working on problems/uncertainties until such time as you are sure.

      1. I actually don’t agree! If LW is feeling like their current relationship isn’t meeting their needs, then continuing a relationship with Darin and letting him think everything’s fine feels really dishonest to me. If LW decides that their current relationship is what they want long-term, then they should go with option 1. If they aren’t sure what they want but are pretty sure the status quo won’t cut it, I think it’s more honest and considerate to Darin to go with option 3, and free Darin to move on while LW figures themselves out.

        1. Oh, I absolutely don’t think she should be letting Darin think everything’s fine, when it clearly isn’t. I’m just thinking that if the LW really doesn’t know what she wants then the discussions at this point should preferably be looking more like “I’m not happy – can we see a counsellor about this to see whether or not it’s something we can work out?” than “I’m not happy and want to end things.” (Of course, Darin might then decide that he’s not OK with even the first of these and that he wants to split up, which is his prerogative if so. Just saying it seems sensible for LW not to burn that bridge while she’s still sorting her head out.)

    2. Alternatively 1a) stick with your current monogamous relationship even though you’re poly. Desire doesn’t force you to act on it, and it’s perfectly possible to be in love with someone without having sex with them.

      1. Monogamy isn’t just about sex, though–99% of monogamous people (including myself) would also not want to be in a relationship where their partner was in love with someone else. There’s a reason the term “emotional affair” exists.

        1. But knowing you have the potential to be polyamorous doesn’t mean acting on it emotionally any more than it means acting on it sexually. LW can choose not to develop romantic relationships with people other than their partner, if they so wish. It might not be worth it to them, if they feel that poly-ness is intrinsic to their identity or happiness, but it’s an option.

          1. Regardless of whether or not a hypothetical person would act on being in love with someone else doesn’t change the fact that most monogamous people including myself would view that as The Time To Break Up.

        2. Is that because you’d be worried that it wasn’t actually platonic, but sexual on the down-low? The LW, as the poly partner in that relationship, should — if they’re gonna stick with their sweetie — learn to sit /hard/ on their feelings to ensure that that particular disaster doesn’t happen, but the cat (of pretending that they can love no other) was let out of the bag when the P-word was brought up.

          (And ol’ Fireball? Does not sound like a winner, but someone who’s more interested in the game than in a relationship; when the game is over they’ll fade whether or not they got some sex in the process.)

          1. For me, it would be because it’s, you know, hurtful and agonizing and terrifying to even imagine. Because it’s infidelity, even if it is never meant to happen. Because people who are happy in their monogamous relationships and are monogamous in them don’t fall in love with other people. Because it’s a sign of fundamental breakup, death of the relationship, and incompatibility.

  77. Having a baby can serious sever your connection with your partner and make other guys look more attractive. Connect harder with Darin, kick Fireball out of your life.

    You might be poly and it’s possible that your current partner comes around. It’s also possible you are poly and choose to live monogamously. As someone who is poly and pansexual who is married to a man and monogamous because he feels strongly about it. I’d love for both of us to have other people in our lives to love and hang out with, but it’s not for him. It didn’t kill me.

    On days when our connection feels broken, other people start to look better than him. I have to choose connection and it fades.

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