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What tips do you have for someone going through a polyamorous breakup?

Mar 1, 2023

What tips do you have for someone going through a polyamorous breakup?

I think that there is a common misconception that if you are polyamorous and you have multiple partners and you have a breakup with one of them, it’s not as big a deal as if you are monogamous because you still have people.

And that’s not true.

If someone has multiple closed friends and one of the friends stops talking to them, that’s going to be hard even if they have other friends.

So if you are going through a breakup and you are polyamorous, I think my first tip is like make space for you to feel whatever it is that you are feeling.

That thing about feelings and emotions is that for the most part, the feelings that we have are coming to us for a reason and they need to run their own natural course.

You can try to stop yourself from having feelings that are challenging, you can try to avoid feelings that are hard and you might be able to pause them for a while or put them on a back burner for a while, but feelings that are part of your genuine reaction to a situation aren’t going to just go away because you don’t feel like having them.

If you are going through a breakup, you are probably going to feel a mess of things, right?

Grief is what we feel when we lose something, and grief can be about death, it can also be about things like breakups.

It can be about losing a job.

There’s a lot of ways that grief can show up for us in our lives.

And here in the United States, we tend to be very bad at grieving.

So, the old school model grief talks about the stages of grief, talks about it as a linear process.

We know that it’s like far less linear than it’s presented, but the stages of grief tend to be denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance.

So if you are going through a breakup, depending upon if you are the one who – the one where if both of you agree that it’s time to break up or if you are a person who was being broken up with at a time that you did not want the relationship to end, you may have different amounts of denial or bargaining.

So like if you initiate a breakup and you’re like, “Hey, I don’t think that this is working,” most likely, you’ve already gone through processes related to the denial and bargaining.

Many of us go through a phase where we try to figure out how to not have a problem with something that is problem for us.

That is one of the many manifestations of denial.

We will also often go through a phase where we are trying to figure out how to be OK with something that we are not OK with or how we can get enough of the thing that we need that maybe we will not need it so much.

That’s often another manifestation of bargaining where we are trying to figure out how to not have to move through a process of challenging change and instead be able to stay as close to where we are as possible.

So if you are a person initiating breakup, often you’ve already done a lot of the denial and bargaining processes that you are going to end up doing.

There may be other pieces that come up related to what kind of connection if any you maintain with the person with whom you are having this breakup but a lot of times, you’ve gone through that.

If you are being broken up with especially if you did not see it coming, if this hasn’t been something that was like on your radar for a while, there may be those periods of denial and bargaining that you have to go through in order to be able to move through that grief.

Anger, very common.

Sometimes we get angry at ourselves.

Sometimes we get angry at someone else.

That may be the person who is no longer our partner.

That may be a metamour.

That may be somebody else entirely.

You might get angry at the world or at circumstances.

Anger is a totally natural emotion to feel.

It’s not OK to hurt other people with our anger, but it is important to be able to feel anger and to have a relationship with your anger where you aren’t treating it like something that is either so overwhelming you can’t go anywhere near it or like so unwanted that you can’t hear it.

Anger is essential to our ability to move through things like grief, to move through people pushing or disrespecting our boundaries. Give yourself space for the anger that you have.

Just be mindful of what you do about that anger.

Depression, sadness is very common in a breakup.

Sadness because it didn’t work.

Sadness because you may believe that you tried too hard for too long.

There are a lot of reasons that we can end up feeling sad.

Give yourself space to feel whatever is coming up for you around that related to sadness.

And then acceptance is kind of a place to end up.

By which I mean, it is a place that we often park for a while in progressively longer amount of time until we don’t spend much time in the other places.

This is not a linear process.

You may spend some time at acceptance and then something kicks off and you are like way back to anger for a while.

That’s OK.

One of my favorite quotes about grief from Motherland: Fort Salem, which is a great show about witches if you haven’t watch it is, “Grief is stubborn and wild.”

Grief moves on its own timeline.

Grief has its own way of doing things.

We can direct it.

We can maybe ask it to give us a moment to do other things.

But grief is going to do what it wants to do and the best thing that we can do is make space for it and make sure that we are creating intentional time and focus and places in our life to be able to experience what we are feeling so that we can move through it to something else.

The other thing I would say about a breakup specific to polyamory is that in the culture of the United States as well as some other places in the kind of like British influence, Western European influence world, for a lot of us, our very closest emotional connections, the people upon whom we rely the most for support are our romantic and sexual partners.

And so if you are going through a breakup, it is important for you to be aware of how much you are leaning on your partners for support around that breakup and to make sure that you are checking in with them about how they feel about how you are interacting with them about the breakup.

Sometimes you have a partner who is like happy to make all the space for you.

Sometimes you might have a partner who wants to support you but doesn’t want your relationship to be taken over by processing grief.

Both of those are valid.

Neither of those are wrong.

So just like understand that part of this process is going to be feeling out with those people who are in your life, how much space they have for supporting you around this grief whether that’s listening to you talk about things, whether that’s helping you problem-solve, whether that’s being there while you cry.

For a lot of us, our communities are very highly interconnected and so people may have connections with the person with whom you are experiencing a breakup that makes them being like a primary support person for you more complicated.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be that or would not be that.

It just means that it is important for us to be very mindful, very intentional about how we use the people or rely on or ask for support from the people in our lives who our other romantic connections or other sexual connections or other deep connections when we are experiencing a breakup.

And that’s true for like your closed friends.

That’s true for everybody, right?

When we are in the middle of something really hard and shitty, it is very easy to lose track of how the needs that we have for support maybe impacting the people that we are going to to fulfill those needs.

We may be making demands of people rather than requests in a way that makes it hard for them to be honest with us about their capacity, which then makes it harder for them to actually show up for us in a supportive role.

So just be aware of like who you are leaning on and how much.

Check in with them a lot to make sure that it’s working for them.

And if they need space from it, if they can’t be there for you, honor that request and see who else you can go to in your support network for help.

I think the last tip I would give when you are going through a breakup in polyamory, though this also applies in monogamy world, is just be aware of how you are talking about the person that you are no longer in a relationship with while you go through the breakup.

If it is a particularly fraught breakup, if there are a lot of very like strong emotions around it, it can be very tempting to head to social media, to head to the group chat and like trash this person in a very big and public ways that at the moment feel very really good for us.

But that as we get some time and distance from it may feel like that’s less in alignment with how we want to be that may be really harmful to the person that may end up kind of backfiring on us.

And so, just be like aware of how you are talking about this person in the wake of the breakup.

If you need someone to vent to, make sure that you get their consent to vent to them, make sure that you remember that if what you are doing is venting, you may not a hundred percent mean everything that you are saying.

And so, give yourself space to feel those feelings and say those unkind things without putting them on the internet forever, without making it something that everybody thinks about that person forever.

And I say this as somebody who has both gone on the internet and said things about their ex and also as someone who has been like very thoroughly trashed on the internet by an ex in a way that lost me a whole bunch of friends very quickly.

So just be aware.

I have seen several times people going through what looked at the time like a breakup trashing their partner on the internet and then a couple of weeks later getting back together.

And now, there is that whole thing on the internet and all of their friends commenting in support and now they’re trying to be back together, like how do you actually handle that at that point?


So just be mindful that when we are feeling angry and hurt, it is easy to lash out in ways that we may not feel good about when we are out of the like heat of those feelings.

And so, take some space.

If you need to vent, do it face to face or over a phone call rather than in writing or on social media.

Try to find ways to give yourself space to have those feelings and process them without creating situations that are going to blow back on other people.

Now, if we are talking about a situation where there was abuse or violations of consent, that is a whole different ballgame.

So this is talking about like relatively normal breakup drama, relatively normal breakup issues.

Again, just like be aware.

Be aware that the way you feel about this may not be the way you feel forever. If you are feeling super angry about it, you may not be feeling super angry in two months.

You may not be feeling super angry in two weeks. And just don’t say something on the internet that you are not pretty darn sure you are going to want to have on there forever.

If you are in the middle of a big feeling, you have no way to know whether you’re going to want it there forever because our feelings are very good at convincing us about things that we want to do or that we are going to be totally OK with that are just not going to be the case when we are out of that big feelings.

So if you feeling big feelings, that is not a time to make decisions that have long term consequences.

Just give yourself some space.

You can always come back.

If you in a few weeks are out of those big feelings and you still need to write that post on the internet about that person, you can make that decision then give yourself time and space.

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