Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that 10 percent of males cheat when their partner is pregnant, according to the book What’s Your Pregnant Man Thinking? by psychologist Robert Rodriguez. Many other studies have mirrored these findings. While there’s not much research on infidelity in same-sex female relationships during pregnancy, studies done on general infidelity have found little difference between same-sex female and heterosexual couples.
So what’s the deal with prenatal cheating? Some suspect two primary factors at play in this unfortunate statistic. First, some women have a big drop in their libido during pregnancy, or are so physically ill that the only thing they want to slip under the sheets for is sleep. It’s also believed that this cheating might stem from the partner’s unmet emotional desires, as many women are navigating so many changes during pregnancy they don’t have room for their partner’s emotional needs. Of course, neither is an excuse for cheating. But these factors do provide a good jumping-off point for the conversation we’ll get to in the “What to do” section.
The good news is, you’re not a statistic! You and your partner are individuals who make autonomous decisions. It’s not a foregone conclusion that infidelity will play a part in your pregnancy. Your partner might even be one of the folks who’s incredibly turned on by your pregnant body and can’t get enough of you. Or because of a drop in testosterone (something that commonly happens to males during their partner’s pregnancy), they might have a diminished sex drive. Remember that your relationship is unique, and that there’s so much you can do to bypass infidelity.
What to do
Talk to your partner ASAP. In many situations, so much grief can be avoided if partners summon the courage to be candid with one another. Here’s how to navigate the conversation:
• Kick off the conversation. When you’re in a good headspace — for example, after you’re well rested, well fed, and not distracted by to- dos — ask your partner for a sit-down. Preface the convo with a re- minder that you’re not accusing them of cheating. You can even blame me: “This book I’m reading was talking about infidelity rates during pregnancy, and I just thought a chat would calm my fears.”
Then, you can share some of the catalysts for cheating I listed: lack of sex or need for emotional nurturing. Ask your partner straight-up how they feel about those aspects of your relationship. If they try to shrug it off, remind them that opening up is one of the best ways they can help you have a more relaxed pregnancy.
Navigate challenges. As you get deeper into the conversation, some challenges might come up. For example, your partner might say they feel like you’re not attracted to them. Or maybe it comes out that both of you feel emotionally detached from the relationship. Whatever it is, resist the urge to blame, and instead commit to making a plan. If sexual connection is the issue, discuss ways to reignite the spark (covered in this book!). If the emotional glue is dissolving, brainstorm ways to fortify it. As you wrap up the conversation, I encourage you to commit to re-engaging in this honest sharing anytime either of you feel your lust or emotional intimacy slipping.
Consider counseling. If this talk makes you realize how much you don’t trust your partner, it could be a sign that you need to seek additional support to discover how to move forward. I recommend reaching out to a therapist in a private practice, or utilizing complimentary counseling services through a local pregnancy support organization. This mental health professional can help you determine where your concerns are coming from, and if further action is required.
Even if you’re not questioning your relationship, seeking some form of counseling can seriously nourish your pregnancy journey. This healthy outlet allows you to explore all the layers of your experience that pregnancy is exposing and to receive the emotional support you might not be getting enough of at home (which is so normal, even in the healthiest relationships). This release in a counselor’s office might also give you more patience and desire for nurturing your partner’s emotional needs, thus sidestepping that second aforementioned infidelity trigger. And while it’s hard to encourage someone who isn’t asking for help to see a counselor, it could be a good gentle suggestion to make if you see your partner struggling with emotions you don’t feel equipped to handle.
When I was pregnant, I had a lot of therapy — for many reasons. But a big one was the fear of infidelity. Eric couldn’t get enough of me, but I was still terrified he would stray. We became pregnant early in our relationship, and he had an ex who reached out more than I liked. That was enough to totally freak me out. Even though he showed no signs of straying, “What if?” kept scrolling through my mind. Even though my therapist urged me to talk with him, I hid my thoughts, thinking I would seem “hysterical” if I gave them a voice. I didn’t realize holding them in was what made me hysterical.
It all bubbled out the day before our baby shower. We were making a Costco list, and suddenly fat teardrops distorted the words “brownie mix” and “Metamucil.” A three-hour conversation, with lots of hugs, commenced. The results: a promise to encourage said-ex to cool it on the communication and a commitment to share our fears and concerns, no matter how out of place they seemed. While we still have plenty of issues, we’ve become obsessed with communication, piping up when anything feels off in our relationship. And I still frequent therapy.