After what was a tumultuous better part of this past year, my primary partner and I have chosen to go our separate ways. I was and am committed to a polyamorous lifestyle and he hadn’t been familiar but decided he wanted to try it out in order to be with me. He never quite committed to the lifestyle, never feeling fully comfortable with it and therefore never committed fully to me the way I had to him. This led to repeated rejections of my love and affections and passive-aggressive behaviors, each one breaking my heart into smaller and smaller pieces.
I’m trying to pick those pieces back up now and glue them back together with a popsicle stick, but I feel like they keep getting stuck to my fingertips and in my hair. I’m thankful to the other lovers in my life for being understanding while I deal with all of these heavy emotions, but the days don’t seem to be getting much easier and I don’t want the pain I’m feeling to damage my relationships with others. What’s a girl to do??
Consumed with Coping
So, it sounds like you’re treading water in this big puddle of grief right now. While it’s awful to be stuck in the midst of this, it didn’t happen overnight. Don’t get me wrong: when life throws you a curveball and your life explodes all of a sudden, it’s traumatic and bewildering and about 90 degrees of DaFuq. The slow build of grief in a breakup, however, is a special kind of hell.
You described the past year as tumultuous, which clues me into this being a slow burn. That, and your ex’s difficulty accepting, enjoying, and committing himself to a core piece of who you are, mixes in yet more resentment and pain. The picture I see is of a relationship starting out with the best of intentions, but running into difficulties (as ALL relationships do, mono and poly alike). It sounds like he had a hard time committing himself to you and the openness that you require in your life. This led to misled expectations and unfulfilled promises on both of your parts. This was dealt with, at least by him, with passive aggressiveness and rejection.
Fuck, that hurt me just typing it. And this has been your life for the past year.
Polyamorous and monogamous relationships have different considerations, but they are not altogether different animals, despite what some may think. A monogamous couple breaking up can ricochet drama around a friend group, family, and community. I think everyone’s seen that breakup where people felt the need to “pick sides,” which is usually totally gross and unnecessary. That can and does happen in poly communities, though there’s the added elements of love and sex that can make a breakup in one person’s life really volatilize a lot of other sections of the “web.” You’re recognizing the potential for this, which is fantastic. Now, the trick is to heal without harming the other people you love.
Let’s start at ground zero: if you haven’t already, cut contact. Block his ass on social media and avoid places you know you’re likely to run into him. For some reason, some people get all shitty when their ex needs space from them, but for fuck’s sake, you don’t need to be crying in the bathroom of Wegman’s, cafes, or bars. Cutting contact doesn’t mean that the time you didn’t have was special or meaningful or that you hate them. It’s an act of self-preservation.
It’s definitely time to check into your self-care practices. Make sure you’re eating good, healthy food, drinking water, and getting outside. Do things that you like to do and make sure your bills are paid. A gentle reminder that self-care isn’t always fun; sometimes it means budgeting yourself emotionally and financially and saying “no.” Try to remember what feeling whole was like. If you can, hold onto the memory of that feeling. When you’re especially off-center, remember that you can get back to center one day. It’s just gonna take time.
As for your other partners, it’s worth it to have in-depth conversations with each of them about what part of the emotional load they can shoulder. Some may be good for listening to you cry and holding you while it hurts. Others may be better at taking you to dinner and getting your mind off of it, but may not be so cool with constantly hearing about how much you love your ex. Ask them what the limits are and make sure they get respected. What makes each of your partners so special? What brought you to them? Make sure you remind them and yourself of what it is that you bring to one another.
Ask your lovers and friends to let you know if you’re overwhelming them. The last thing that you need right now is a grand exodus of people. The good news is, you have multiple people in your life that want to help you. If you ask before you start to spill your heartache out, you’ll probably find someone who has the time and emotional space to give you what you need.
Lastly, there’s no rush in putting yourself back together. You’ll never be the girl you were before this relationship, but with time you can come out stronger.
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