The topic of ending relationships isn’t new, I’ve written about it here before in my posts ‘Break-ups‘ and ‘Stages of a Breakup‘. Part of the reason for this is because lots of polyamory resources talk a lot about opening up, negotiation and dealing with jealousy, but not that much about handling breakups. Part of the reason is that ending romantic relationships is the area I most struggle with. Whilst I’ve not really had any major issues with jealousy, or problems with being able to negotiate or stick to agreements, I do struggle to come to terms with my romantic relationships ending. Sometimes I worry that I’m just not very good at it, that I struggle to let go, and that that indicates a possessive, jealous side of me that I don’t like.
Being polyamorous means that along with the excitement of dating, NRE and forging new connections with people periodically, I also have to deal with the potential for multiple relationship problems and inevitably, some romantic relationships ending. Logically I accept that as the price for living the life that I do, and I’d much rather have those relationships and deal with the pain of them changing form than never having had them at all. Sometimes the reality of dealing with that isn’t easy, and can make me question whether I can deal with the price of polyamory after all.
Let’s not play down what a breakup is. A breakup is a loss. It’s not quite as extreme as someone dying, but it can feel as suddenly bereaving. The shock of having called your aunt yesterday only to find out today she’s dead is a similar surreal feeling to a breakup with a serious love. Yesterday they told you they loved you and were entwined in your life, today they want nothing to do with you and you can’t even text them anymore. As I say in my post ‘Stages of a Breakup‘, getting over a romantic relationship ending is a process of grieving and coming to terms with that loss. It can be a long and hard road from that moment of shock at the ending to feeling real compersion for your ex when they are happy with their life without you as their partner.
I’ve been polyamorous for over three years now, and have had some wonderful relationships during that time. I’ve also had some relationships that were a bit silly to get into, and I’ve also had my fair share of heartache. I’ve been the dumper and the dumpee, and I’ve felt the difference between the two situations. I’ve been unceremoniously dumped because a partner found a new primary that couldn’t handle our relationship, and I’ve dumped people because they breached my trust so seriously that I utterly fell out of love with them. I’ve been in relationships that just weren’t making either of us happy, and been in relationships where we weren’t really suited to each other.
I’m happy that I’m in contact with most of my exes and we remain on good terms. Some are still very close to me, some are just acquaintances and a couple are still not on speaking terms. In some emotionally masochistic way I find being closer to my exes easier to deal with than being cut out of their lives entirely. Whilst it might hurt like hell to see them post stuff online about their other relationships, to see them in person and to hang out as friends whilst I’m still hurting, but I’d rather that than lose contact with them. The relationships I carry the deepest emotional scars from are the ones that I don’t count as friends, the ones where they weren’t allowed or didn’t want to be genuine friends, the people I’ve lost not only as lovers but as anything in my life.
Because no matter how bad the breakup, how deep the breach of trust, how badly we were suited, I have loved all of my partners, and to some extent I love them all still. I do want them to be happy, even if that means we aren’t partners any more. But I can struggle to come to the end of the process of breaking up, to feel genuinely happy for them with their new (or old) partners, without me. I can feel envy and jealousy that they are playing and loving others and not me. I tell myself that they don’t care that we broke up, that they aren’t upset and that they never loved me that much in the first place. I can struggle to let go, to miss them terribly, to want to hold them, kiss them, love them. I can find myself going to text, call or email them, to tell them about my day or ask after theirs. I find myself wanting to share news with them only to crestfallenly realise they probably don’t want to know any more. Sometimes the ache of wanting them to still be connected to me can be overwhelming.
So what can be done about this? The first step for me is what I’m doing right now, admitting that I’m not as awesome as I want to be. I’m human, and when I love, I love deeply. When I feel loss, I grieve deeply. I can struggle to come to terms with the change. The second step is that I need to work on that, to allow myself to feel but also to make sure I keep a check on it, to retain control and ensure I don’t end up back in a bad situation just to temporarily ease the pain of loss. The third step is to be honest with my partners about how I feel, not only at the time of a breakup by taking comfort from existing partners, but also being honest with my recent ex that I am feeling the loss. Finally I think I should be clear to prospective partners that I do struggle with breakups and that I prefer to be on good terms with my exes, friends ideally. That way people who want to enter into relationships with me will know not only how I like my relationships carried out, but also ideally how I want my breakups carried out, and can decide whether to get involved or not. You can’t plan for everything, but communicating needs is far better than hoping for the best and remaining silent, so here’s to that.