Hello, friends! This is an interesting Q&A session where I offer my advice on two personal questions relating to exploring your sexuality when you’re married, and coping with postpartum anxiety and feelings of anger during COVID.
Hey Robert, I hope you’re doing well. I’m a new listener and am writing to you about issues I’ve had with my sexual identity. I am afraid I might be more gay than I had thought, which wouldn’t be an issue if I haven’t been in a relationship with a man for the past decade. We started dating in high school, before I even realized I was bisexual, so I never had time to explore that identity or have a relationship with women. It felt like it was eating me up until it kind of crumbled out and I told him. He was kind and understanding, and offered to let me explore. But in a way, that feels like cheating and I’m not sure if he, or I would truly be comfortable with that. I love him and we are such good friends, it’s hard to navigate the situation. All the best & thanks for having this podcast.
Thanks for trusting me with this. You are who you are. And that’s okay. Your understanding of who you are may shift over time and that’s also okay. I think we mistakenly assume that identity formation is completed in adolescence and that is very much not the case. This is especially not the case when you factor in influences at the micro and macro scale that impact your ability to recognize or explore your identity.
Bronfenbrenner is a psychologist that has the ecological model. It demonstrates the different levels of context and influence on a person – microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. On the microsystem level, you may have overt or covert discriminatory beliefs in your immediate family. On the exosystem level, you might be in a state that has intolerance for queer people. The chronosystem of the time that you developed may also influence these things. So you may only have the opportunity to investigate and explore parts of your identity at this point in your life. You aren’t alone in that.
I’ve been open about the fact that my wife and I have explored non-monogamy in our relationship and I can’t speak for her, but I know that this helped her to more fully understand her own sexual identity. I suspect that the same may be true for me. But we are in similar situations, as we’ve been together since we were teenagers. Many people feel that they aren’t able to actively explore their bi/pansexuality due to the relationship they are in. I want to stress one really important thing to you. The partner you have does not dictate your sexuality. Being in a relationship with a man, woman, or nonbinary person has no bearing on whether you are bisexual. Being in a committed heterosexual relationship does not mean that you have to ignore your own queerness.
When it comes to engaging in flirtation, dating, sex, or anything else with other people regardless of gender, that is something that has to be discussed within the context of your relationship. But you are allowed to like who you like and be who you are. I’m glad that your partner was open and nonjudgemental about this. That’s awesome. I think it’s something you should continue to discuss openly. Cheating is not some externally defined action. It exists in the context of your relationship. If you are operating within the boundaries discussed, then you are not cheating. This doesn’t mean that everything will go as planned and that there will be no difficult feelings to work through. Ethical non-monogamy or polyamory may not be the solution for you. But communication is. Continue to process this and explore to the extent that you are comfortable. Give it time if needed.
If you do decide to explore nonmonogamy, I’d just like to encourage you to work on educating yourself first. There are a lot of dos and don’ts that you and your partner should know. In particular, looking up unicorn hunting and the ethical concerns about it may be a good starting point. There is also plenty of exploring to be done that doesn’t involve having sex with someone else. It sounds like this has been a part of your latent identity for a long time, but you are new to understanding it and exploring it, so don’t be afraid to not know what you’re doing. You don’t have to know everything. You are learning and feeling things out. That’s totally okay. It’s pretty common to feel a strong pull in a new direction when you are learning more about your identity, which is cool. But in time, you will understand more about where your current relationship fits in the context of things. If you find that this relationship is something that you don’t want anymore or you find that it needs to change in some way, these are things to explore and communicate about.
I would encourage you to find some support outside of your partner as well. This can be therapy, it can be friends, it can be online strangers who understand what you’re going through. There is going to be a lot for you to piece though and a lot of uncertainty. While I encourage you to be open with your partner, you also don’t want to dump all of your confusion and insecurities onto them as you are still working them out. I’m sure he wants to be a support for you, but he also won’t be able to help reacting if you come home and you’re like “I’m having doubts about whether I should be with you.” Work some of that out on your own and with your supports before you start a conversation like that.
Those are my thoughts for you. I am excited for you to learn more about who you are. Thank you!
I recently welcomed my first child in October. We found out we were expecting in February. Covid cast a heavy cloud over the entire pregnancy and I also struggled with HG. My husband is a healthcare worker so we were both under a lot of stress in 2020. I currently struggle with so much fear over everything. I’m afraid of things I used to not even think about. I find myself spiraling into worst case scenarios and before I know it I’ve been laying awake in bed for hours. I can’t leave the house anymore. I haven’t talked to anyone besides my midwife, my baby’s pediatrician, or my husband in person since the summer. Most recently I’ve also been experiencing a lot of anger with people moving on with their lives. I’m angry at my friends who are currently pregnant and don’t have to go to every appointment alone or worry if their partner will be allowed at the delivery or if their baby will be taken away from them. I’m angry at people who see friends and aren’t afraid of getting sick. I’m angry people can drive for fun when I’m terrified of crashing. I don’t like this person I’m becoming. I’ve reached out for help but kept getting met with people telling me it’s normal to feel anxious after having a baby. But I just can’t believe feeling this hopeless and scared and angry all the time is normal. How do I manage my fear when there are very good reasons to be afraid? Driving IS dangerous, covid IS dangerous, people ARE dangerous. I feel like I just want to take my baby and disappear. It just feels too dangerous to participate in the world anymore.
Wow. You are going through such a tough time, I’m sorry. I don’t blame you at all for struggling. That is a ton to deal with. I think that if you were to take any one of those things (newborn, healthcare worker husband, covid itself), that would be enough to cause some significant mental health symptoms, but you’re dealing with all of them. From what I can hear a lot of your fears and concerns have their roots in something really reasonable. It’s more about how much the anxiety is amplifying them and how much that is limiting you.
I don’t want to go through and convince you that each of your fears are unreasonable or anything like that. But I do think that it is possible for you to get some help to live a more satisfying life where you feel less terrified and trapped. I HIGHLY disagree with people telling you that it’s normal to have anxiety after having a baby as if that means you shouldn’t worry about it. Postpartum mental health issues ARE common, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help for them. In some cases, postpartum mental health issues persist and become long term issues. Not to mention that you STILL have to parent and that can be extremely challenging when you’re not feeling well emotionally. That leads to self-judgment, more mental health issues, and on and on. This would be the case even without COVID. But things are different and even harder right now.
So all of this is to say that I take your struggles seriously and you deserve to get some help. I would like to highly suggest that you get some therapy. There are tons of great therapists out there that specialize in working with people who have just had babies. If you need help searching for someone, I have a guide for that. Beyond that, I think that working on coping strategies on your own may be more fruitful than trying to change the way you see the world. That might take some time and we are getting closer to COVID easing up a bit, so hopefully things will ease up for you as well. But things like finding a great breathing exercise to practice, finding a favorite meditation app, and journaling your frustrations can be a great start. Give yourself some tools to just get through without being a 10/10 anxiety level all the time. It might also be a great time to grab a book or workbook. I obviously have my own anxiety resources that you could check out.
But all in all, have some grace with yourself. This is a crazy time and you are allowed to be struggling with it. You deserve to have your concerns taken seriously and getting some professional help at this point could really go a long way. Think about what you would like your kid to do if they were grown up and found themselves in this position. You wouldn’t blame them for having a hard time. You would love them and encourage them to get some help.
You can do this.
This episode of Hardcore Self Help is sponsored by Bulldog Online.
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