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How do you deal with the complications of breakups in non-monogamous relationships?

May 13, 2022


How do you deal with the complications of breakups in non-monogamous relationships?


So hard to know like what exact complications folks are talking about.

Breakups in non-monogamy are interesting because I think that when you try to talk to monogamous folks when you’re going through a polyamory breakup, they’re like, “Well, you still have partners. Why does it matter?”

Because you know, everybody is the same.

It’s interchangeable.

Partner, partner, who cares?

It’s the same.

So, it’s not real.

That’s not true.

So I think a lot of times that if you have a lot of friends who are monogamous, you may have a harder time finding folks who can understand like why it is challenging for you or what’s going on for you because to them, if you have a relationship, you’re set.

Whereas for us, the relationships that are I have with other people don’t take away from the heartbreak that I’m feeling about one relationship ending.

I recently started dating someone new and I was super, super, super excited about them and things were really great.

And then some stuff changed in their life and they needed to take a big step back for a while and so, I don’t know if we are going to date anymore.

And it’s not a breakup breakup but it is a breakup of sorts.

And I still have a partner but it still sucks like it’s hard and it’s hard to know like how much do I process this breakup with my other partners because your other partners don’t necessarily want your whole relationship to be about the breakup you have with somebody else but they do want to know what’s going on with you most likely.

They care about you.

They probably care about that.

So like how much can I process with them?

Which friends can I actually talk to who are able to like holds pace for me about this breakup?

So I think that it is challenging in some ways to figure out where your supporters going to come from and who can be good support for you.

And I think a lot of us who are non-monogamous tend to be pretty good at building and maintaining fairly robust social support networks so that we don’t have to like put all of our support needs on the one person.

I think too that when a breakup happens in non-monogamy especially if you are in like a non-monogamous community or like a kink community, these are small worlds.

And so, going on the war path after a breakup and like trashing somebody tends to be something that causes a lot more trouble than if you do it in like a regular – like if you are just like a regular mainstream person and you break up with Brad, probably none of your friends knew Brad before you started dating and like you might occasionally run into him at a bar if it’s a small enough town but like you may never see Brad again.

So if you’re in a polyamory community though, even in relatively big cities, it’s a small ass town.

Kink community, it’s a small ass town.

And so, to some extent, it behooves you to figure out how to talk about the realities of your experience and process what happened for you without trashing that person to everybody.

And for me – somebody just like put in a clarifying question of like how do you make transition from partners to ex to friends with your ex?

I’m friends with a lot of my exes.

Usually what I do is I like to take some time where we just don’t talk or interact at all.

And then after that, we like get back together and figure out what friendship looks like for us.

And the reason that I do that is that for me at least, if I try to go immediately from we are breaking up to we are being friends, it is like too hard of a transition for me.

I need some time and space to like clear out my old expectations and my old thoughts about who we are and like my own schema about how we used to be so that I can be present to where we are now and figure out what that relationship is now.

And so for me, usually it’s at least 4 weeks, sometimes a couple of months of just like, “Let’s just not chat. Let’s take some complete space from each other and then we can figure out what becoming friends looks like.”

And during that time, what I try to do is give myself a space to have a little bit of petty party temper tantrum for a little bit because look, after a breakup, we all need to be able to have that moment where we like even if we don’t one hundred percent believe it, we get to have some person that we talk to and talk about what a terrible evil person this ex is so that we can get through that space and then come back to a balanced space of like, “I still care about this person.

We are still important to each other.

I don’t want to never see this person again.

I just need to figure out how to deal with the hurt or the anger or the – whatever it is that’s coming up for me around this change.

And I think that that’s one of the keys here, is recognizing that a lot of these stories that come up for you are you are in the middle of a breakup are driven by the hurt and the sadness and the fear and all of those other parts that come up for us when someone we are attached to leaves our lives.

The stories may have seeds of truth in them.

They don’t tend to be the whole truth.

And so, letting yourself have that space to feel those stories, to be in them, to share them with somebody else while knowing that they are stories and they are not the whole truth can make it much easier for you to then find your way back to this balanced understanding of what happened, find your way back to a place where your ex is but you don’t have to hate each other forever.

Straight cis monogamous culture is one of the only places where you get to hate your exes forever.

This is not talking about abuse.

This is like standard exes because like in straight cis monogamous culture, there are billions and billions of you all out there so like you’re going to be fine.

If you’re a queer person, there’s not as many of us so like you’re just not ever going to be able to completely get away from your ex forever.

So at some point, you have to figure out how to be a human being around them.

And so, figuring out how to process your feelings, figuring out what you want or need in terms of like, do I even want to be friends with this person?

Do I want to just like be able to be in the same space but we don’t need to be able to like chat and be friendly.

Do I want to be able to have a conversation with them?

Do we still want to be besties after this?

We just need some space so that we are not expecting that to be a romantic thing anymore.

And like giving yourself time and space to figure out what that is without any expectation or need for it to look a certain way is super helpful.

And I think reminding all of your partners, if you’re processing the breakup with them that like you’re so happy that they’re willing to hear it.

And if at any point it’s too much, they can let you know and you can find other supports like giving everybody the ability to opt out if they just don’t have it in them to support you right at that moment.

Yeah, breakups suck.

Breakups suck.

They can suck more.

They can suck less.

They’re going to suck.

Any time that something comes to a close, we as humans, tend to not love endings.

And that’s why a lot of us tend to avoid them for as long as possible and to be let them just explode rather than ending them at a point where we know it’s probably not going to work but it’s like not bad enough yet to break up so we are just going to wait until we hate each other.

I think that a thing here as well is that if you make the decision to consciously close your relationships earlier when you know it’s not going to work but you don’t hate each other yet, it’s much easier to have good breakups.

I think a lot of us operate on this very mainstream idea of you can’t end a relationship unless it’s horrible.

Unless they have really damaged you or are abusing you or they are the worst person ever then there’s no reason to walk away, when if it’s just not working for you, you can walk away.

It doesn’t have to be bad.

It can just be not right.

And if you’ve talked about it and you’ve tried to work through it and it’s still just not right, it’s OK. It’s OK to just say, “All right. Well, it seems like we are not good fit.”

And let it go.

Ending a relationship is not the end of the world.

And when you end it at that point where you’re just like, “Actually, this just isn’t working,” you’re able to have a much better breakup and stay friends with people much more easily than if you like hold on to the bitter end where all there is left is anger and resentment and rage.

So, break up earlier is the way to have good breakups.

Now, it sounds like terrible advice.

But I promise.

It’s not.

I promise.

It’s good.

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