August 11, 2013 by aggiesez
This week marks one year since I began writing this blog, SoloPoly.net. So much has happened since then — most of it good, all of it instructive.
The spark that pushed me to start this blog was a horrible breakup I suffered last July: I was dumped, courtesy of blatant couple privilege, by my married poly boyfriend of 3+ years. Turned out that once his wife got insecure, she was not expected to manage her insecurities — and I no longer warranted consideration.
Yeah, that experience sucked — but it clarified some valuable lessons for me. Especially why, and how much, I treasure my autonomy — and how I can use that as a foundation for navigating relationships.
Often people fear breakups, and avoid them even when relationships are hopelessly toxic or beyond resuscitation, because they fear being on their own. Such is the stigma that single or solo people face in this society — as is the myth that staying visibly coupled up protects you from feeling lonely.
But what I discovered, partly through breakups, is that for me solohood is the best way for me to live my life and relate to others. It literally took many years and a lot of pain to finally get that through my skull.
Since that breakup, this blog has been an important part of my healing process. And many people have told me they find it helpful, too — which makes it even more of a “win” for me!
Before that ill-fated relationship, I’d been married for a long time to a man I love very much — he remains very close and dear to me. Still, I was often lonely and depressed in that relationship, which spanned nearly two decades. It wasn’t just that he and I were ill-suited to be married to each other. No: As long as I made it a top priority to preserve our couplehood (an identity I’d always unconsciously assumed I needed to be happy), I avoided taking responsibility for my own happiness. I kept sacrificing myself on the altar of an “us” that ultimately couldn’t exist without “me.”
When I reluctantly, finally let go of couplehood, I found me. And so much more.
As it turns out, I am indeed damn good at being my own primary partner. I’m so much happier this way, and my life is far more stable and fulfilling. I do have important intimate relationships with friends and lovers who matter greatly to me, but I stand on my own feet. I make my own decisions for my relationships and life. I decide which goals to pursue and risks to take. I roll with the consequences whenever I screw up, slack off or simply happen to be unlucky.
And I don’t feel one bit guilty about focusing on myself as an individual first. It’s right, and good, to put on my own oxygen mask before assisting the people next to me.
Like any human being I am not an island; I value interdependence as well. Especially my close friends, four of whom stuck by me on a daily basis with sympathy and patience while I duct-taped my heart back together last summer.
More recently I’ve discovered a strong sense of the interdependent value of community, locally and in the world. I believe in acting on behalf of the greater good; that’s the kind of “us” which resonates with me far more strongly than mere couplehood. My book project is a big part of that.
Fortunately, having such a solid sense of autonomy is what allows me to be the best lover, friend and family/community member I can be. I try to choose my interdependencies consciously and carefully, and to add value to any connection I make.
Couplehood doesn’t exempt anyone from heartbreak; neither does solohood. But now, when someone close to me makes a decision or holds a view that saddens, hurts or betrays me, it’s so much easier for me to grasp that their choices are not a personal referendum on my worth as a human being.
… And it only took me 46 years to really grasp this lesson! (OK, so I’m a late bloomer.)
So for me, my last bad major breakup ultimately yielded a world of good. Starting this blog led me to strong kinship and community with fellow solo poly folk. It also put me on the path to my current project, a book on nontraditional relationship options. (So far I’ve gathered input from nearly 800 people for this project via my survey.)
Recently I asked the members of the Singleish & Solo Polyamory Facebook group to share the value and insights they’ve gained from their own bad breakups. Here’s what some of them had to say. (Quoted here with permission)
Crystal Joy wrote:
For me, I learned SO much. To sum it up I learned the importance of being authentic to me, speaking my truth at all times, and honoring my personal boundaries in relationship.
A bit more specifically I learned that:
Abuse can occur even when someone does not physically hurt you or threaten your life.
Codependence is not just a relationship thing. It is in my opinion a U.S. societal structure that is slowly shifting toward coempowerment.
People show you how they really think a lot by their actions outside of their words.
When your internal guidance (your instinct) is telling you “no,” it will continue to tell you that over and over — until you finally see this in your life and realize it.
Even in a abnormally intense crazy breakup, later on you can end on a positive note — even if both of you have differing viewpoints on life.
Michael Fleming wrote:
The breakup of my marriage felt like I had been stripped of everything I held to be right, my world was turned inside out. I had to rebuild myself and reacquaint myself with my core values.
I am eternally grateful to my former spouse for ending the relationship. I am a better man because of it. The breakup strengthened my belief in polymory.
Wayne Dyer says that your greatest growths come after a great fall. It’s like you have to get down low, like a high jumper, in order to spring yourself up. That’s what it was like for me.
Stephanie Bolick wrote:
My line of polyamory-themed jewelry was the result of my breakup of my quad relationship, which had lasted a year and half. I lost not only three partners I loved very much, but two children in that breakup as well.
It’s only been four months since then. My health had tanked pretty badly due, in large part, to the enormous amount of stress I’d been under during the six to eight months leading up to the breakup (which mostly had nothing to do with my partners). So as you can imagine, the breakup was incredibly devastating.
I was also a stay-at-home mom at the time. In an attempt to keep myself as busy as I possibly could (to keep myself from being alone with my thoughts) I took a job offer from some of our mutual friends who owned a handmade jewelry and craft boutique downtown. During my downtime there I began playing with ideas for a poly charm for myself. When I posted pictures on Facebook it went viral — and now I have an entire line of handmade poly jewelry.
I worry sometimes that maybe I’m using the jewelry to avoid dealing with my feelings. I still wake up crying in the middle of the night and I wonder if I haven’t processed my feelings properly.
My worst relationship was such a pit of hell, but I came out of it so much less naive and more willing to stand up for myself — and also really understanding my own darkness so much better.
I still think about it frequently. Not in a bitter or angry way, but just reflecting on how I survived and am a totally different person now. But the lessons in my own darkness were priceless. Maybe I should send my ex flowers!
How interesting. Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my first miscarriage, the event that saw me pull my life into focus and triggered the chain of events that led me out of the monogamous marriage I had been in. What curious synchronicity! Here’s my post about that part of my life: Birth and Rebirth.
Most good I got from a bad breakup: Friend and lovership with the metamour. That was completely unexpected. They broke up in the cascade failure that my breakup was part of. We bonded over processing the strangeness we just went through and have remained dear to each other for a decade now.
I think the most good that’s ever happened from a bad breakup is that I escaped a future with the sort of person who would put me thru a bad breakup. I think that’s a pretty big “good” all on its own.
My latest bad breakup happened only a few days before I spent several days sharing a hotel room and co-presenting with an ex from a good breakup. The contrast and the conversations with the Atlanta Poly Weekend attendees who were surprised to learn that we were exes because of how well we get along has inspired us to co-write a workshop on how to break up well, to be presented at next year’s APW, followed possibly by a book on the subject.
But as that hasn’t happened yet, I hesitate to count it as one if the good things that came from a bad breakup, in case it doesn’t pan out.
At 16 I married a physically and verbally abusive man. He told me that, since I had kids, nobody else would want me. He kept telling me I was stupid — even though I was always a straight-A student. I believed him. We were married nine years during which he hit me, cheated on me and put me down.
After the last bout of physical abuse I left. I put myself through college while working three part-time jobs and raising two young children on my own. Turns out the only stupid thing I did was believe his lies.
I don’t tend to pick abusive men anymore. I see the signs early enough and get myself out.
Many thanks to all the solo poly folks who contributed to this post! And also to my former boyfriend and his wife: thanks so much for being unintentionally helpful while acting like complete jerks! It gives me some hope that the jerks in this world may serve a higher purpose :-)
What’s the most good you ever got from a bad breakup? Especially if you’re a solo poly person. Please comment below!