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Polyamory: Ending Relationships

I've scarcely had time to blog these days, what with running the crowdfunding campaign for the polyamory book and having kidney stones and all.

One of the perks we have available to backers is the ability to have us write a poly blog post on the topic of their choosing over on the More Than Two blog. Our first backer to ask for a blog post came up with a topic that's a oozey: how do we end or transition out of poly relationships? Here's the teaser:

There’s a trope in some parts of the poly community that being poly means staying friends with all of your exes. I’m going to buck poly convention and say that’s not always the best approach, or even possible.

It’s the ideal I strive for personally, but it isn’t always going to happen, and sometimes that’s okay. What happens after a relationship ends depends a great deal about what kind of relationship it was, what course it took, how it developed, and how and why it ended. (I will say “ended” to mean that it’s no longer a romantic relationship. I’ve heard some folks say no relationship ever really ends, they simply change, though if two people who were once romantic partners aren’t anymore, I think it’s reasonable to say the romantic relationship has ended.)

I’ve had relationships end in just about every way you can imagine. I’ve broken up with partners, I’ve had partners break up with me, I’ve had breakups go smoothly and transition into awesome friendships, I have former partners I will probably never see or talk to again, I’ve had breakups that went really badly… you name it.

The most basic lesson I’ve learned from it all is there is no “breakup roadmap.” I no longer try to carry a set of expectations with me about what might happen if and when a relationship should end. Instead, what I try (not always perfectly) to do is to approach relationship endings with the same tools I use to approach relationships themselves: compassion, integrity and kindness.

It’s a tall order. When a relationship ends, especially if it’s the other person ending it, it’s really tough to reach for compassion and kindness through pain and loss. In some cases, it might be appropriate to take enough space to be able to mourn the loss of the relationship and work through the emotions attached to that before trying to go ahead with a friendship; it’s perfectly reasonable to say it might take some time to get there.

You can read the whole thing here. I's a complicated topic, and will probably be an entire chapter in the book. I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can reply here or over there.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2013 03:25 am (UTC)
"No relationship ever really ends"? I suppose that's true in some sense, but there are some situations where that 'sense' is so abstract as to be virtually meaningless.

For example, all of my grandparents are long dead. I've made peace with that to the point where I don't even think about them anymore. Even saying "my grandparents are long dead" doesn't cause me to think about them all that much. Short of time travel, there's no way of meeting them ever again. The relationships between me and them have, for all practical purposes, ended.

And even if someone doesn't accept that as "ended" (they consider it, I dunno, drastically muted or something), how about when I'm also dead? How about when there are no living witnesses to have seen, indirectly experienced, or heard about the relationship outside of its appearing on a family tree? How about if civilization collapses and even the family tree is lost forever? (I was tempted to escalate that further, ending with "the universe spontaneously suffers a total existence failure", but that would be going ridiculously overboard.)

Don't know why, but the statement "no relationship ever really ends" feels overly simplistic and silly to me.

Edited at 2013-09-18 03:25 am (UTC)
Sep. 18th, 2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
I never have this problem. I just pray that all my exes get hit by a car. Works for me. And less fattening than a gallon of ice cream.;)

Sep. 22nd, 2013 02:28 am (UTC)
"What that means to me is I don’t have a roadmap of what “should” happen when I meet and connect with someone. I’m open to that connection taking a lot of different forms, and more important, I’m open to the form it takes changing, if that seems like what’s most natural."

THIS - my best friendships have come about from not trying to fit people into a pattern, especially the dysfunctional ones handed to us by pop culture. My eyes have been opened to the fact that underneath the labels we have for any kind of relationship (friends, friends-with-benefits, boyfriend, girlfriend) is whole kinds of human experiences that blur the lines of all of those and we have no words for.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )