Major life decision or NRE side effect?
I posted a small intro., but thought I would save the details for this advice section. I would really appreciate feedback from people more experienced than me. I apologize for the very very long post, but always find it better to err on the side of lengthy-but-clear.
Partner and I have been together for just over four years now. Two of those have been long distance, including the current one. I’ve been for about eight months with three visits in that time. I am supposed to head home in three or four months, if i can find work there.
Partner and I have been poly in theory from the get-go, defining cheating only as “lying and/or breaking promises” and with an agreement to “talk to me first” before starting another romantic or sexual relationship. In four years, we hadn’t had the opportunity to put it into practice.
That changed this year when I met Boyfriend, in Small Town where I am currently living for work. We’ve known each other casually for eight months and have been dating for about four. At first, I expected nothing much to come of it because I am leaving in a few months. But, totally unrelated to anything to do with me, Boyfriend landed his dream job in the City I’ll be returning to and will be there for the foreseeable future. The possibility of something long term-ish was really exciting to me.
As soon as I realized I had feelings for Boyfriend and wanted to pursue them, I talked things out with Partner and we had a very positive, affirming conversation about the status of our relationship and the nature of our commitments to each other (involving each other in major life decisions, financial teamwork, maintain a happy home, consistent and honest communication; etc.) We also re-discussed the “normal” commitments that we have expressly chosen not to make (not emotional or sexual monogamy, not ‘til death do us part since people can and do change, and our persistent failed attempts to reach an agreement on children). After confirming that our relationship is strong, that we are on the same page about what that relationship consists of, and after discussing what it would mean for me to see another person, we agreed that I’d pursue Boyfriend if I wanted to. The only firm boundaries we set were the affirmation of our current commitments and an agreement that I would always use condoms with Boyfriend.
So, I started a romantic relationship with Boyfriend and it is going fabulously. I’m happy with him in the day-to-day, I like his friends, our minds and hearts seem to mesh well. We’ve talked about my relationship with Partner, how Boyfriend might fit into my life when we are back in City, that I feel strongly about him and he does me, etc. I’ve been very clear with Boyfriend that my ideal situation (though I do hate thinking in ideals) would be to live in a “village” with lots of loving relationships (friend or lovers or both).
Partner and I have been building that sort of living arrangement – sharing our space with three friends whom we love dearly- and I would be thrilled for Boyfriend to eventually become part of that if it worked out. I confirmed that I would be happy raising children in such an arrangement, that I don’t think it would be damaging to children for the adults to be have varying combinations of sexual activity, and that I think it would be healthy for children to have lots of happy and loving adults around. Boyfriend said he didn’t know if he was into that sort of thing but that he’s keeping his mind open and wants to see how our relationship grows.
So the relationships themselves are good. The guys haven’t met each other yet but will in the fall.
However, I am having a small hiccup and/or major life crisis about children. As stated above, it is the one issue that Partner and I have never worked out an agreement on – he doesn’t want them. Firmly, categorically, does not want them. Is considering a vasectomy as his primary form of birth control.
Over the past four years, my response has consistently been, “I don’t want any now, but I might in the future.” I was in school and I didn’t want any then. But I knew that I have a strong caregiver impulse, love children, have worked with children my whole life, and think I’d be quality mother. So I consistently told Partner “I cannot commit to not wanting children.”
Over the years, we’ve discussed this probably a dozen times and tried to reach a middle ground- because we are all about communication and negotiating- but really have failed on this one. Presumably, because there isn’t a middle ground between having a child and not having child. At first we discussed waiting on it and seeing how we would feel in 10 years (we met at 22, so re-discussing at 32 seemed reasonable). We then discovered that we’d both be fine adopting and thought we’d do that later in life. I called his bluff on this recently and he said “you’re right, I probably wouldn’t be comfortable adopting.” Most recently, he has said “I don’t want to lose you over this, so I might be willing to consider having a child when we meet X, Y, and Z financial goals.” Which is tantamount to re-discussing in ten years, except we are five years older now.
So, cue Boyfriend. Boyfriend really wants kids and soon; not immediately, but sometime in the foreseeable future. Being with someone who is excited about kids has made me take a step back and think about whether I am excited about having kids without Partner’s aversion to them defining my context.
My thoughts are as follows:
1. If I got pregnant from either guy right now and they both bailed/got hit by a bus/disappeared/whatever and I had to raise the kid on my own, I’m financially stable enough to do that well and, though I would be a little scared jumping into singlemom-hood, I would ultimately be excited about having a kid.
2. Boyfriend being so excited about children is incredibly attractive to me. It is waaaay to soon to know if I want to have children with him but I am open to the possibility of things going that way. I want to pursue it if that’s how the relationship grows.
3. I do not want to have children with Partner. If I am going to choose to have a child it will be with someone who is excited about it or on my own excited lonesome. At this point, even if Partner agrees to a child in X number of years, I am unwilling to accept raising a child with someone who is “giving in” to keep me or whatever. I want an enthusiastic parenting partner who is eagerly welcoming a child or none at all. Additionally, I am unwilling too wait five or seven or ten years to see if Partner changes his mind or not- I am open to having children now and I don’t want to wait to cultivate a parenting-style relationship until I’m 37. Besides which, I don’t think he’s going to change his mind; I think he’s just saying he might because he’s afraid of losing me over this (that is essentially what he said). And, I really don’t want to be strung along.
4. If my relationship with Boyfriend develops into one that is sufficiently warm, loving, and welcoming to a child then I don’t think Partner’s aversion to having a child should prevent me from having children with Boyfriend.
5. Even if things with Boyfriend don’t work out, I want to continue dating with an openness (not a direct goal or pursuit) to eventually developing a parenting relationship with a friend/lover/partner.
So the fact that I have transitioned from “might want a child someday” to “actively open to having a child with someone, not you, in the foreseeable (say 2-4 year) future” is a major change for my relationship with Partner. In some ways this is making me feeling incredibly selfish, but this is THE major life decision that can cause huge regrets if not attended to, and we’ve been trying and failing to compromise for four years already.
Obviously, I need to tell Partner that I’ve made up my mind and I need to tell him soon because my willingness to have child with him impacts our immediate financial plans. Finances are one of his main aversions to child rearing along with the loss of personal freedom. Totally reasonable reasons, I’m just willing to sacrifice those things and he’s not. But my willingness to sacrifice my money and personal freedom impacts his money and personal freedom as we currently have things arranged. He needs to make informed decisions about that.
But, before I open this can of worms with Partner, what I could use is some feedback on whether I sound like a sane individual or one in the throes of NRE.
Once Partner believes I'm serious, he will probably end our financial relationship and ask me not to move back in when I come home in the fall. I expect he'll be hesitant to have sex with me. He may or may not stay best friends and adventure partners with me. And I could quite possibly will lose the “chosen family” we’ve been building because it is centered around our home, which he owns. I love Partner dearly and would be thoroughly heartbroken to lose him. However, if the idea of having me and my OSO (whether that’s Boyfriend or not) and my child with that OSO as part of our “chosen family” is too much for him, we both need to know that and sooner is better so that Partner can make an informed decision about if and to what degree to maintain a relationship with me.
But I think being open to children at this stage in my life is worth the risk of losing Partner and my life with him if and only if my feelings are an honest-to-goodness life decision and not just the product of happy fuzzy NRE with Boyfriend. This is where I need feedback - Do I sound like I'm just caught up in NRE? What questions should I be asking myself to ensure that I’m not? How long should I ponder this - balancing allowing Partner to make an informed decision before I move back home versus letting the NRE play out?
Again, I apologize for the length and I very much appreciate that this community exists. Thank you.