Hi, so I just started a poly relationship between my boyfriend and my date-mate. My boyfriend (who is biologically female) thinks he might be pregnant and is figuring that out asap. The same day I found out about that, my date-mate missed school because they had a huge flood of depression the night before and needed to take care of themselves. I want to take care of them both, but I don’t know how to tell them that both situations are stressing me without hurting/blaming them. Any tips for this?
When you are supporting a partner (romantic or otherwise) through a tough situation, it does take a toll on you as well - and it’s good and healthy to acknowledge that. You gotta look after yourself as well.
I try to follow the “comfort in, dump out” theory here - don’t lean on the person who’s dealing with the major issue, but definitely find people more removed from the situation to help you manage your own stress. Do other things to help you self care as well - whatever works for you, whether that’s a long bath, a Netflix binge, time out with other friends, a yoga session, etc.
It is also okay to set gentle boundaries with your partners. I tend to be a “venter” who just wants to yell about things that are bothering me. One of my partners doesn’t do well with that kind of interaction, and so when he’s feeling overwhelmed by me asking him to hold and absorb stress/negativity, he lets me know: he says “hey, I don’t really have the emotional energy for this conversation right now, I am sorry.” When I’m down, he is happy to give me cuddles and watch Steven Universe with me, or brainstorm solutions, but he cannot indefinitely go “yeah, that sucks” while I unload about something.
While it can be hard to hear in the moment, I would much rather he be honest with me than run out his emotional energy reserves and head into simmering-resentment territory! When he says that, I take some space from him, write an angry tumblr post, call a friend who has more tolerance for my bad day gossip, etc.
It sounds like both of your partners are deep in some tough stuff, so now might not be the right time to start working on that type of honesty. It is okay to be open with them: “This is hard for me too,” or “It makes me sad to see you so stressed out.” Don’t make your feelings their problem, but don’t sublimate your own needs just because they’re more upset. You two can be there for each other, both present to each other’s stress or sadness, in a difficult moment.
See them through this as best you can, then once things calm down, talk to each one about how both of you can get your needs met: how would they prefer you to communicate that you need space, how would they prefer to be comforted by you, how can you both ride out difficult times together by deepening your connection, not borrowing against it?