Being broken up with sucks for monogamous people. I’m sorry to say it sucks for polyamory people as well. Now, there can be some benefits to poly in this regard – a partner might break up with me, but I may have other partners to help me through the transition. Although it still sucks, at least the lonely part can be abated. But that isn’t always the case, and even when it is, some aspects of poly breakups are different – and some would contend, worse – than typical monogamous breakups. This chapter deals with the turmoil of being with someone and then having a break up that results in that person (or if breaking up with a couple, triad, etc, people) no longer part of our life.
When relationships end, either at our choice or at our partners, we not only lose that person/people in our life, but we lose a number of other relationships as well.
- We lose the presence of the specific person/people.
- We lose the “Us”. This is what I call that energy or entity that occurs when you and they are together. I’ve noticed that when I am with Karen I have a different view and perspective than, for example, when I am with dawn. And vice versa. One isn’t better than the other, but when I am visiting a furniture store with Karen we might come across a couch and think ‘that would be perfect for Saturday afternoon cuddling’. With dawn, seeing the same couch might lead me to think ‘that would be perfect to tie you down to Monday night kinky stuff’. Both reflect aspects of my authentic self. But just like my focus and presence at work is different than it is at home, the same is true when I am interacting with my friends that have a lot of spirituality interest vs my friends that have a lot of sports interest. And with my loving partners.
- We often lose metamores. I try to develop relationships with the other people in my partner’s life, and often these become friendships on their own legs. But if Karen were to break up with me, it would be uncomfortable to go to her boyfriend’s house and hang out.
That is a lot of loss. And it doesn’t include all the logistics, friends, and many other details that can come up when you lose a significant relationship.
So, what can you do about it?
One important step is to grieve. If you instigated the break up or it “happened to you”, grieving is still a great first step. Now that might mean a few hours of being bummed out to a few days of going through boxes of Kleenex. Either way, let it happen. Recognize it (“I am sad because they moved on”) but give yourself permission to be sad. The only trick is to make sure you recognize it; and that means at some point, are you still sad because they are gone (which is a fact, how things are) or are you sad because wish things were different than they are. Be careful not to get stuck in the trap of living in the past (things used to be so great) or in the future (maybe one day they will come back). Both of those states will keep you trapped in feeling bad now. A Buddhist would suggest that being sad is fine, but at some point, you realize suffering is optional, and that we have to live in the present.
Another important step is to realize that along doesn’t mean lonely. Be alone and be ok with being alone. Ok, I know, it isn’t easy sometimes. But if your self-identify is “Joe’s boyfriend” or “Kim and Phil’s partner” then you will always be in danger of losing yourself. Take the steps needed to become “Dan. Who happens to be in a relationship with…” This is a tricky bit of business but essential. The steps on how to this are addressed in depth throughout this book but you can start with something as simple making a list of things you like to do…and then make plans to do them. Is it ‘Go to a movie with Paul’ that you miss, or is it ‘Go to a movie with a boyfriend’. Or maybe it is simply ‘go to a movie with a friend’ or ‘Go to a movie’? Sometimes we feel weird doing things alone. Recognize that and check in – is the only thing weird about having lunch alone that you worry what other people are thinking? Again, this is just a start. But make your mantra that being alone isn’t bad. And to be honest, there are some great benefits to it. What will I have for dinner tonight? Whatever I want.
Finally, allow me to offer this saying – “A year from now, everything will be different”. Change is, as you’ve heard a million times, constant. When we feel crappy right now, we tend to forget that, but it is still true. So keep it in your mind that no matter what you are going through today, it will change. We don’t know if it will be better, worse, or very similar…but different is guaranteed. So don’t attach to today too much.