Episode 129: Struggling to Be Together

You can’t live your life only making decisions based on what will or won’t disappoint other adults.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Episode 129

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music.

Podcast transcript

I’m going through a rough patch with my husband. We have really been struggling. I find it really difficult to be with my boyfriend of 6 months during this time. 

I don’t feel like talking to him or doing anything with him either. Doesn’t really feel right. Like I just want to sit with everything that comes up and that takes time. How do I deal with this all without disappointing someone?


So essentially, you can't make your decisions of what you want to do based off of whether or not you're going to disappoint someone because here's the thing: Adults can handle disappointment. And it's not your responsibility to completely and utterly manage the emotions of somebody else.

And I know that kind of sounds callous and maybe a bit heartless at times. But the problem is that if you make all of your decisions based off of whether or not someone's going to be disappointed, then you'll never break up with anybody. You'll never do anything that could be potentially difficult for people, even if going through that difficulty is something that needs to happen or is something that won't kill them or is something that you can't necessarily avoid.

So I don't think that you should make decisions based off of whether or not somebody's going to be disappointed. I think that if you need space, then you need space and you need to ask for it. And it may suck when you have to put down boundaries or you have to ask for things that you know aren't going to make somebody else happy. But at the end of the day, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it and it doesn't mean that it shouldn't happen.

And it doesn't mean that you should make your decisions based off of whether or not they're going to disappoint someone. However, the big caveat I have with the situation – because you don't really give any context as to what the rough patch is with your husband – why it is you're going through that rough patch, what it means to be in the rough patch and you don't really explore why it is that you're not feeling like talking to your boyfriend at this time.

So that's really difficult for me to figure out – what it is about this situation that's making it difficult, right? Because maybe the rough patch that you're going through with your husband is that your husband isn't interested in polyamory and the reason you don't feel like talking with your partner is because every time you do your husband has an emotional reaction to it, and you struggle to be able to cope with that.

Or it could be maybe your boyfriend isn't actually really supportive and is – you know you have a history of whenever you try to talk to your boyfriend about any emotional problems or difficulties you have, he kind of complains about it and you don't want to hear him complain and because all you're going through right now is emotional difficulties.

You don't feel like talking to him or doing anything with them, because you feel like you're kind of lying. So you see how like those two situations are extremely different. And I would advise different things in those two different different situations.

I feel like if the reason why you are avoiding talking to your boyfriend has something to do with trying to save the relationship with your husband, I don't know as that that's necessarily the best choice or if – by that I mean if you're feeling the draw as many people do whenever they're in open relationships, or they start – I don't even know if your relationship started open or not. 

But a lot of people feel the draw when there's a rough patch or have some difficulties to close their “primary relationship” because it makes sens. Like it's not necessarily an ignorant idea, right? Like okay, opening has caused us a lot of difficulties. Let's close it, try to address the issues and then open it again.

I get where that comes from. However the problem with that is that sometimes the situations – just like in monogamous relationships, right? Like sometimes the situations that come up, only come up when you're actually inside of the problem or the situations can only really be dealt with whilst they're happening.

And you can't necessarily predict or really address the emotional issues of a situation when you're outside of it because you're not going through the most difficult aspects of it because you're sitting outside of it. So if the desire coming from you to avoid talking to your boyfriend comes from this idea that like, “I need to put this one relationship on ice because I need to fix this other relationship”. 

The problem is that there's going to be all sorts of things – like even if everything was going perfectly between you and your husband. There's going to be all sorts of things that could come up like you could have a sudden death in your family or your husband could lose his job or something could happen where your focus is pulled away from the immediate situation into a crisis mode. 

And it's not as if we have relationships and we decide that “oh no, I've just lost my job. So I'm going to dump my partner and deal with this job loss and then get back together with my partner.” Like if you need to dump your partner because you've lost your job because being with your partner won't actually help or support that situation then that does say a lot about that relationship, or about how you feel about your own skills and navigating a crisis situation while being in a relationship. 

So if you feel the need to put on ice or do something involving with your boyfriend, whilst you're going through this situation then is that because your relationship with your boyfriend is not that supportive? Is that because of the rough patch being surrounded in the issue of being non monogamous? Or however I said that really weird but you get what I'm saying? Like, it really depends on why it is that you feel like you're not interested in doing anything with him.

And yeah, this letter is so short that there's no real indications of whether or not either relationship is supportive, how supportive or in which way so it's really, really hard for me to advise how to handle the situation but to answer the question that you said, which is how do I deal with this with – how do I deal with this all without disappointing someone? The answer is that you can't.

You can't deal with situations, sometimes without disappointing somebody and in the end that really shouldn't be your primary goal, right? Because you're going to disappoint people in life and that's just part of it and adults can handle disappointment. You're not responsible for another grown adults' management of their own emotions and you shouldn't be made responsible. 

Obviously, like you want to be considerate and kind. You don't want to be a jerk about things and if you do need to tell your boyfriend that you need space, there are kind ways to do that. And you can say look, “I'm going through a rough patch. I need a little bit of a break”. And that might be really difficult for your boyfriend and he may feel like you are prioritizing your relationship with your husband over your relationship with him. 

And he would be very fair to feel that way and he would be very fair to feel disappointed especially if he feels like he's been being emotionally supportive or trying to be there for you. But at the end of the day, if for whatever reason this situation isn't working out for you, pretending like it is really isn't a viable option. Pretending like you're okay when you're not really isn't going to fix the situation. It's probably just going to make everything worse.

So you really need to get – try to get more comfortable with the idea, not only that, like you can disappoint someone and you're not a terrible person for disappointing someone but also that grown adults can handle disappointment. And if there is a person who is incapable of handling disappointment, then their feelings as a grown adult are also theirs to manage and theirs to address and their emotional issues if they have them are also theirs to address.

And it's not your responsibility to manage that. So, as long as you're kind, as long as you're nice, as long as you're honest, then I think it's fine. But I also think that it's actually much worse – like if you're talking about like realms of disappointment and realms of unhappiness, in my opinion, like maybe there are people who disagree, but I think I would rather know immediately then for someone to pretend like they're okay around me and then not actually be okay.

Like I'd rather just know the truth. And I'd rather hear it right away then have someone be with me who doesn't really want to be with me. I would never ever want someone who genuinely doesn't want to be with me. Like obviously we all have ups and downs and relationships. Obviously we have times in relationships where we're frustrated with people, etc, and so forth.

But genuinely if someone did not want to be with me, the last thing I would ever want is for them to pretend and I have met people who do want people to pretend even if they don't feel anything anymore, and those people aren't necessarily what I'd call emotionally healthy.

So also think about it from that standpoint. Like you're scared of disappointing someone, but pretending like you're okay with something and pretending like you want to go along with a situation that you don't want to go along with is not not going to disappoint someone and it may actually disappoint someone way more than you just being honest.

So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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