breakups and the bigger picture
Hi guys, I hope you are all well. Ah, the life of Sparklepop is a right pile of shite right now. ~grins~ Get your popcorn.
I'm looking for perspectives and advice on navigating breakups in poly. Also, the concept of 'pseudo-veto'... where your partner never outrightly requests that you end a relationship; but you end up feeling like keeping the extra relationship may cost you your current one.
A synopsis, if you want it.
My GF and I have had a rough year. She broke up with her main secondary of 2 years in January and was devastated, depressed, distant. In May, she broke up with her other secondary, of 7 months. This time, for some reason, she pretended she was fine. Both scenarios had different impacts on us as a couple. The first breakup created a feeling of loneliness and neglect in me after some time. The second created none of that; but I wasn't able to be supportive enough, because I couldn't see her pain.
My own secondary relationship of 7 months ended a couple of days ago. I am devastated. We had a rare and deeply special relationship that neither of us wanted to end. During the lead-up to this, I tried to remember how I felt during GF's breakups, but I'm not sure how successful this was. My GF voiced her feelings of neglect last week and I'm glad that she did. I arranged some one on one time with her and vowed not to talk about it as much.
So, it seems that my GF and I have both now been on each side of the breakup coin and we're trying to learn from that. What we've found so far is:
- we will become distracted during turmoil / breakups; it's to be expected
- we should speak up if we feel neglected
- we need to try not to have the debunk 'your relationship made me feel x y z insecurity' on the day of the breakup
- we need to administer care without losing ourselves; similarly, accept care without sucking our partner dry
What are your thoughts on this? How to practically make this happen?
The next issue... is why these relationships end and what we do afterwards.
In the past, we've both ended some relationships partly or largely because of their impact on our relationship. I'm currently seeing a new perspective on this. My secondary relationship ended because I was involved in a triad with her and her girlfriend, but no longer have feelings for her girlfriend. She decided to stop, because it was clear that her girlfriend was going through too much hurt for us to continue. But now that I've been there, I guess I'm feeling... sticky... about doing that to someone else. At the same time, I would never, ever want to hurt my GF. I adore her.
By some force of divine intervention, GF's most recent ex emailed her out of the blue, asking to reconnect, the very night I broke up with my secondary. It really got me thinking. Prior to this, she'd stayed away from him post-breakup because she didn't think I could handle it (and I probably couldn't have) - and because she didn't want to get attached to him again. They broke up in the first place partly because of my issues with him / impact on our relationship, and partly because they had a troublesome, high-NRE, time-sucking, emotion-draining connection that was driving her nuts.
I never close doors to exes; but my GF struggles with this. She doesn't want me to keep the door open with my most recent ex. I understand this and don't want to put her through turmoil. GF mostly approved of my ex; moreso than my other partners. She now feels that my ex messed me around during our relationship and is very angry about how she treated me during the breakup (my ex cut off communication for a week so that she could think, which was agonising, and avoided confirming her decision to split until I pressed her for it). GF and my ex had a... volatile.. conversation and things are on very bad terms between them. Finally, my GF is angry with me because I actually accepted my ex's reasons easily. During our breakup talk, I understood everything, felt how genuinely cut up she was, understood why she had hidden from making the decision, how she'd tried to distance herself from me to make it easier to forget me. I don't see the point in hanging onto anger. GF feels resentful that she has spent all this time supporting me and hearing my upset, anger, etc. and feels I let my ex get off far too easily. She said that not only would me getting back involved with her effect our relationship; but would also be unhealthy for me.
I am wondering...
- What constitutes as being 'bad' for an existing relationship, regarding extra relationships?
- How can we avoid neglecting our relationship during breakups, or the lead-up to breakups?
- How can we ensure that we provide immediate care to the heartbroken partner, without finding ourselves swallowed by their grief?
- How and *when* can the non-grieving partner voice their own feelings on that former relationship, to eradicate resentment and strengthen the existing relationship?
- Would you end a relationship because your partner was unhappy about it?
Thank you everyone.
All I can say after reading all that, is that it seems you two really spend a huge amount of energy worrying about and attempting to manage and control each other's other relationships, instead the one you have with each other. No wonder there are sticky issues and questions that come up when another person enters the picture - you've both zapped each other's agency and ability to choose for yourselves.
It does seem like you're starting to see that, so keep looking. What's that about? Can you let go of the reins, and trust each other to run your own lives and manage your own relationships? The only people who should have a say about a relationship are the people in it, not anyone else on the periphery. Can you be brave enough to just be with whatever shows up and handle it without setting down rules and expectations?
I totally agree with nycindie. I cannot comment on most of what you have said because I don't allow one relationship to affect the other to the extent that you and your girlfriend seem to do. My advice is to keep out of each other's relationships. You two may need an explicit rule that limits how, when and where you can discuss other relationships and perhaps if you have that much trouble from handling multiple romantic relationships, you should scale it back to something more like swinging, where you don't have that emotional attachment to others.
This is what I am wondering, as you've pointed out. I want to work together as partners, without controlling and interfering with each other's relationships. I don't want us to prevent each other from making our own decisions. I don't want to be in a relationship where we completely neglect each other because we're constantly immersed in other people; but I do want to be in a relationship where we support each other's decisions. Finding that balance seems to be tricky. I will think on what you've said and also show my GF.
I agree that each relationship is individual-but there is overlap. How much overlap, depends upon the people involved.
It would be flat ludicrous to suggest that problems in one of my relationships won't impact the other-we all live together and we are raising children together.
THAT SAID-when Maca had a gf who was toxic for the rest of us-we simply declined to have anything to do with her. HIS CHOICE when/where/how he went to spend time with her. But-no bringing toxic people to our home.
As for NRE,
I quite sincerely have no patience for it and I don't abide by the "let your partner enjoy it" adage either.
I think any person who gets so googly eyed over ANYTHING that they neglect their already agreed to responsibilities is being irresponsible and deserves to suffer the consequences of that choice.
I don't allow myself to neglect my responsibilities and I expect my partners to manage their emotions so that they don't either. If they can't do that-they need not remain my partners-and that includes my husband. It is in fact the experience of watching him fling himself into NRE and make everyone miserable-only to repeatedly realize he had nothing in common with the various women he did this with-that led me to "FUCK OFF-you have responsibilities and you damn well better meet them before you go running off to fuck" attitude.
Which has stayed with me and probably always will.
Hi LR... hahaha... whoo, the other side of the coin then? I must admit... I'm not a fan of all-destroying NRE either. Even at the height of it, I don't feel that I neglect anything. It's when trouble comes that my life tends to be effected.
We don't have dates at our house, so that luckily solves that problem. I agree that if we don't like each other's choice, we simply don't have to be involved with them. I'm definitely happy with that and have been in the past.
The main problem I'm having is that 'drama', or turmoil, between myself and my secondary is seen as being bad for my primary relationship. I don't really know how to look at this. Conflict in relationships is inevitable. At least, I think it is. I'm really not sure how much is too much. In seven months, my secondary and I had about three larger issues; the most recent of which, obviously, being a break up, so that knocked me out of action for a week or two.
Perhaps external relationships only effect us as much as we all let them. Perhaps if we're sick of hearing about the conflict between a partner and their secondary, we can voice that opinion. If we think the NRE is effected us, we can voice that opinion. But perhaps outside of that we have to let each other make our own decisions. I'm not really sure where the line is. Perhaps it will be revealed over time.
Yeah, there's no hard strict line-each person had to decide.
I have a longer life span for listening than Maca for sure. He tells me "no GG talk today". LOL!
Which works fine.
Sometimes he will listen and have good suggestions, some days he just wants to NOT.
GG pretty much doesn't care, he will listen to me talk about anything at all.
I am in between.
People change over time and sometimes quite abruptly. Sometimes a persons focus changes to such a degree that their previous interests take a back seat or are removed from their list of concerns entirely. Relationships are not mechanically static nor are emotions determined by contracts.
I personally find little to no value to someone doing something for me simply because they made some kind of previous agreement with me. I want my partners to enjoy their time with me and if they are not enjoying it, I want them to go do what they would rather be doing. They are my romantic partners, not my indentured employees.
I was saying to my GF this morning that perhaps it's just time to accept that she gets lost in NRE and I get lost in turmoil. As long as we can try to communicate and help each other when things are bad, cheer each other on when things are good, things should be smoother.
Marcus, i think LR is talking about basic household and mundane responsibilities, not "i am not sure i still want the same things out of this relationship as you do anymore" artificial "obligations". If you share certain basic ne essities such as the mortgage, and one member of the household flakes because they spent their whole paycheck on some kind of bender, then everyone who lives there is affected in a detrimental way. It is not ok for NRE-person to coast along and have everyone else pick up their slack. Not everyone's finances are separate, and most people can't just pack up their shit at the drop of a hat and relocate. When you are one person such as yourself, you only need to think of what is best for you. But when you make an Adult Decision that consciously involves joint efforts, it is very sociopathic to arbitrarily decide that you will do as you please in the moment because "people change" and "relationships are not static".
Unfortunately, people act that way all the time, which is why the world is full of lawyers, contracts, fine-print, and red-tape. In my lab, students are all "of age", but because they cannot all be trusted to do the right thing, there are "cleanup points" and "safety points" to be lost. The safety points are divided into individual and group safety points, so that if something is done wrong and we can't identify who is responsible, everyone in that section loses group safety points. You would think everyone wants to be safe, right? No, there are quite a few who want to argue and avoid accountability and do the whole "harvard-please" thing, and that lowest denominator sets the tone no matter how perfect and mature and responsible everyone else is. If someone was a domestic partner or member of a household and they pull that crap, they drag everyone down. So, no. It is NOT okay for you to take the money you would ordinarily use to pay the electric bill or car insurance and use it for a weekend getaway with your new squeeze, i don't care how many epiphanies you've had or how recently you've had them. :)
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