Polyamory and Pregnancy: When Primaries Have Children

Minor edits here. This post references a post about an earlier post about secondary partner’s becoming pregnant. That post needs a complete re-write and will (hopefully) be up sometime next week. Revised Feb 15, 2017

This isn’t one that generates the sheer Google traffic of a secondary partner getting pregnant, but I think it deserves just as much attention.

The thing is, hierarchical relationships tend to focus on what affects the primary partners. Of course, everyone fully sympathizes when a secondary partner becomes pregnant and the primary is floundering to figure out how to handle it. However, a secondary who finds out their partner is having a baby with their partner’s primary is affected as well. (For this post I will be referring to ’primary relationships’ as opposed to ’primary couples’. Some people have primary triads, quads or other set ups)

Like many things, I’d like to think it is self-evident that a primary relationship that decides to try to have a child should inform their secondaries. (It’s part of that whole ’open and honest communication thing’). However, even if every primary relationship in the world did this, there would still be the unplanned and expected pregnancies.

Every polyam relationship is different, and “primary” and “secondary” are used for such a wide variety of arrangements. So these situations can vary widely. The primary partners could discuss the possibility of a pregnancy with their secondary(s), asking their opinion and approval. They could inform the secondary(s) of their decision. And sometimes they inform the secondary(s) that they are seeking children and have decided to end all secondary relationships.

Personally, I think that last is a shit thing to do, but some people do it. And it is their right to end their relationships anytime they want for any reason (or no reason).

Equally, some secondaries won’t care what the primary partners do or decide, some will have very strong feelings/opinions, and some may feel threatened or left out. Caught on the outside looking in.

If you are a secondary partner in this situation, a pregnancy in a primary relationship will affect your relationship with your partner(s). But it doesn’t have to be a negative effect. Your SO(s) will need a great deal of support and help, especially at the end of the pregnancy and right after the child is born.

If you choose to back away from the pregnancy as ’something that doesn’t involve you’, then your relationship will definitely lose intensity. It may end as the baby becomes a major focus of their time and energy. This can be healthy, if the relationship has run its course and you are ready to move on, or if you decide it is the best thing for you. Or it can be unhealthy if you feel resentful of the ’wedge’ that the pregnancy has driven in your relationship(s).

However, you can choose to be involved as a friend. If you do, you can offer to help with transport to doctor’s appointments, help set up the nursery, or babysit (or help with the dishes) so baby’s parents can get a break. If you do this, then the pregnancy and child can become not something that drives a wedge in the relationship, but another way to have a relationship.

If you are a part of the primary relationship in this situation, try to keep your secondary(s) in the communication loop. Maybe they want to be involved on some level, maybe they don’t. Maybe you want them involved, maybe you don’t. IMO, within reason, the pregnant person should get what they want during pregnancy (they’re the one going through hell). But be considerate of the other people who are affected.

All of this is pretty much the same if the pregnancy is unexpected, except that it’ll be coming at everyone as a surprise. As I believe I’ve mentioned in earlier posts; take your time deciding how you feel about it, and don’t make any major decisions immediately. You usually have nine months or so to figure everything out.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Pregnancy blog series.

2 responses to “Polyamory and Pregnancy: When Primaries Have Children

  1. Hi Jessica,

    I’m at a crossroads and could use some advice. I’m in an open relationship with a married man who is a great match for me. His wife and I adore each other and she greatly approves of me. I held back from allowing myself to love him because I feared that I could never have a life with him since he already had a life with someone else. After a year of dating, he told me he loved me. I thought on it for a while and considered that maybe if we were still together in a few years, we could consider all of us living together or adjacent or something like that. So when I was finally able to tell him that I loved him too, not 60 seconds later, he told me his wife was pregnant.

    I absolutely do not want kids. Ever. Now it feels like there is no hope for any kind of future with them. I can’t even feel happy for them. I’m trying to come to terms with it. To see if I can ever accept this. To see if there’s any way we can have a life despite a child or if I could even be receptive to it all. I don’t want to walk away from the relationship because I don’t want to lose such a good person. At the same time, the whole situation makes me feel hopeless.

    • Hi Allyson,

      I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

      Let me ask this: Do you not want kids of your own or do you not want anything to do with kids? Because those are two very different things.

      My girlfriend does NOT like kids. Like, seriously does not like them, is not comfortable around them, prefers to avoid them when possible. But at one time we were talking about living together, and she still visits for several days at a time.

      The reason it works is my nesting partner and I respect her boundaries and she is okay being in the vicinity of the kids.

      She is not another parent, she is not an “auntie”, she is not an extra pair of hands for kid care. I have never asked her to change a diaper, watch the kids for five minutes while I run to the store, or otherwise interact with the kids. If we all go out o meals together sometimes she ends up sitting next to one of the kids, but she doesn’t need to deal with meal stuff in terms of getting the kid to eat of helping them read the menu.

      Sometimes my older kid gets a bit to loud and active for her comfort. Then I might ask him to go in his room and play there instead of the living room. She’s a gamer, like me and my nesting partner, and if she brings a multi-player game she might choose to play with the kid or to let my nesting partner or I play the game with the kid without her. But it’s all on her terms and her comfort level.

      If we had moved in together (she decided she wants to move out of country instead, which is sad-making, but she has this thing for Scandanavia) things would have gone much the same. Her interaction with the kids would have been more regular (bc that’s what happens when you live with people). But she also would have had her own room to be able to go into and close the door when she needed/wanted to.

      What I would suggest is don’t make any major changes in your relationship right now. You said that if you were still together in a few years you might consider moving in together. Well in my experience it takes about a year about the birth of a baby for life to go back to “normal” for the parents.

      In my experience new parents ALSO need an escape valve–a chance to get away from baby and be themselves for a while, and not a baby-life-support-system.

      So maybe for the next couple years, do what you can to be supportive while keeping your distance from all the baby stuff. Once the pregnancy hits third trimester or so they won’t have as much time or energy as they used to, but if they do care for you and want you in their life they will find a way to make time if at all possible.

      After the baby is born, you set the boundary thta you are in a relationship with them, not with the baby. You are neither parent nor “auntie” and are definitely not available as a baby sitter. But you can be one of their escape valves–with the understanding that when they are out with you they aren’t allowed to spend the whole time talking baby.

      If you want, and only if you want, there are things you can do to support them that have nothing to do with baby. Bringing over a hot meal, helping with the laundry, or making runs to the store for food when they don’t have the energy, can all make a big difference for them and is a way you can be a support during this transition without being involved with baby.

      Once baby is ~ a year old and you start getting a look at what “normal” life with a child will look like for your loves, then you are in a position to decide if it is something you can or want to be a part of.

      Of course that means getting through the next year and half or so of baby-stuff and life insanity. And it’s totally understandable if you decide you aren’t up for that. You can step back a bit, take your relationship to a more casual level, you can step back entirely with the intent of trying to reconnect in a few years. You have lots of options between “sign on for having a kid” and “ending your relationship.”

      One of the beauties and challenges of polyamory is you get to make it up as you go. This means there is no one to tell you what to do, but it also means you can craft a unique relationship that works for everyone–if that is what you choose to do.

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