Breakups and transitions suck, but they’re really helpful


December 11, 2013 by aggiesez

The upside of breakups/transitions, I’ve learned, is that they build my relationship & solo skills.

I was just reflecting: Over the last few years, I’ve had a few very bad, painful, jarring breakups from highly emotionally invested relationships where I felt profoundly betrayed by those partners; and one unacknowledged, unexplained abandonment by someone who’d been one of my closest friends for years; and one very gentle, amicable transition from a long-term former primary partnership to a close nonsexual but still deep and affectionate connection. Plus several fairly quick and painless transitions out of budding relationships with people who proved themselves incompatible with me.

Going through a lot of relationship endings and transitions has taught me much about how to be more rooted and stable in myself (regardless of my relationship status); how to make better decisions at the appropriate times; the importance of nurturing a robust network of loving, supportive connections (including nonsexual and nonromantic ones); and how to communicate more clearly with lovers, friends, partners and metamours. Plus, how to appreciate what I have, while accepting and not fearing (too much) that someday that will change/end.

I used to assume that the “right” thing to do was to hang on to my important relationships at nearly all costs, including sacrificing myself, trying to control others, or living in pain or denial. As much as breakups and transitions can suck, they’ve taught me that even though I don’t necessarily like change, and getting through change can suck, I am actually pretty good at dealing with it. I even thrive because of it. That makes me a better person — and partner, and friend, and lover, and family/community member.

And I’ve also learned to enjoy less emotionally intense or deeply invested connections, because they’re also wonderful. Not every connection needs to be a Major Romance (TM) in order to be wonderful. There are lots of kinds of wonderful. I’m not saying I don’t fear loss, get jealous, or possess 24/7 equanimity. But painful, stressful feelings and resentments are a much smaller part of my life today. I’m much happier much more of the time. That’s a major win.

What have you learned through shitty, painful breakups that’s made you better, especially in terms of thriving in solohood/autonomy?

11 thoughts on “Breakups and transitions suck, but they’re really helpful

  1. Luna_C says:

    Thanks for this!
    I’m currently going through one of those “very bad, painful, jarring breakups from highly emotionally invested relationships where I feel profoundly betrayed by my partner”, and I’m not quite ready to see the positive or take stock of what I’m learning. Your post gives me some faith that I’ll get there.

    • aggiesez says:

      It took me awhile, but you can get there. If it’s any consolation, the “lemonade” I made of my last bad breakup (due to my former boyfriend’s couple privilege and lack of forthrightness) was this blog, and my forthcoming book. 🙂

  2. My wife and I are new to polyamory, Our first attempt did not end well but, was not really a break up as there was nothing there in the first place but, some garbage from the couple supposedly into it.

    The 2nd was amazing for awhile, then the husband flipped out. We have no idea why as he just shut off communication and forbid his wife and kids from talking to us. We honestly have no clue what the hell happened.

    We gained good from it though, up until that relationship my wife would have the occasional boyfriend but, did not want me to have any girlfriends (that is another story entirely) but, as we moved through this relationship and it’s ending she has come to realize that is not a good way to handle this and she has seen that another woman can’t mess up what we have and as a result has more confidence in me.

    We found that when the relationship was good it was very fulfilling and it really is what we want not some passing fantasy or some such.

    On more personal note I found I can love another woman and it not affect how I feel about my wife. I found I feel half empty without another to care and share with. Knew before but, had it reaffirmed that communication and being forthright about my thoughts and feelings with my partners is the best way to handle things.

    We now know this is who we want to be and it is in fact the lifestyle we want to live. My wife is now ok with me having other relationships it has been a learning experience that is for sure.

    • aggiesez says:

      Hi Lantz. I’m glad that you learned from your poly breakups, but all your lessons seem to be about how much stronger and better this has made your primary relationship (your marriage). That’s not a bad thing. But, since you chose to leave that comment on a blog by and for solo poly people, who generally are nonprimary partners in relationships, I’ll ask you this: What did all these breakups teach you about bring fair, respectful, considerate, and compassionate to nonprimary relationships? What did they teach you about how to be a good metamour or nonprimary partner? And what role did hierarchy or couple privilege play in your breakups, and what did you learned from that? We’re any of your nonprimary partners solo, and what did they say about their experience in your breakups? And what’s this “half empty” stuff about? Do you view other people as prosthetics needed to “complete”you?

      • marie says:

        This is for Lantz,

        I wonder if you are upfront with the other non-primary women that you are half emtpy in your primary relationship without another party to share your feelings with. I am no counselor, but from the outside, it seems as though you need to look within yourself to see why you are half empty. It just seems unfair to the women you are involved or get involved with.


      • For Marie.

        Well, maybe I stated that incorrectly. Half empty to me implies that I am not being complete with anyone. I have a complete and fulfilling relationship with my wife. There is no one that can replace her. I found that I am capable of having the same type of relationship that I have with my wife with another woman and that both could be open and honest and fulfilling.

        In my experience with poly relationships it is not about replacing my primary, It is about having another relationship that is equally fulfilling. In my opinion that is best achieved by being honest with all involved. To me that means that I should be as open and honest with any woman I might get involved with, Just as open and honest as I am with my wife anything less would be unfair to any other woman I would get involved with.

        Just like any relationship whether it be poly or the stereo typical “normal” relationship of one man and one woman, when you lose that relationship you feel empty and alone. Especially when you have no clear idea about why it ended. That feeling that always seems to accompany the loss of someone you care about is more what I was referring to when I said half empty.

        Having the love of two women and loving them both is an amazing feeling. Honestly I can’t see how anyone who has experienced that could not feel or understand the feeling of loss when that love is suddenly gone and not understand how the sudden absence of that love can make one feel like something is missing. I personally do not care for the terms “primary” and “Secondary” In my mind those terms indicate that one is more important then the other and in my opinion if you believe that one is more important then the other then you are doing it wrong.

        I am currently not involved with anyone aside from my wife. Would I tell a new person how I feel about all this ? yes I would. This brings me back to communication and being open with all involved, to be less than honest with another person would be unfair to that person. I am not however interested in bouncing from one relationship to the next in order to fill that hole. That in my mind would not be fair to the next person.

      • For aggiesez.

        I came to this site because in a post I read it said that although this was mostly a site for solo poly’s that other were welcome to come and discuss their experiences with others. Your statements seem to indicate this is not the case.

        I came seeking perspective from others involved in or interested in the poly life style. It appears that this site is more dedicated to drawing a clear line in the sand between solo poly and couples that are poly. I do not see a need for such a line and in fact feel that drawing such a line only leads to less then fulfilling relationships.

        I feel that what needs to be focused on for a successful poly relationship is the thought that no matter what the combination, be it a couple looking for a single or a single looking for a couple or any other conceivable combination, Each member needs to keep in mind that they are dealing with individual thoughts and feelings multiplied by the number of people involved. Each person is a thinking,feeling human with their own wants and desire’s and all need to keep that in mind. Any one member that thinks or approaches from a mentality that it is all about them and only them is going to find them self’s in an unfulfilling relationship.

        As I mentioned in the post to Marie, I do not understand how anyone who has felt the love of more then one can not understand how that love suddenly gone can cause one to feel as though something is missing.

        I felt that love, I felt the sharing and the caring and I felt and still feel the heart ache of that love being gone. My wife is the stone on which I steady myself while I work through the pain of having a love ripped away. I am sorry this seems to offend you.

        Perhaps you need to look inside yourself to get a better understanding of why you can not understand that. I know my experience has and continues to involve A LOT of soul searching.

        This will be my last post here as it seems you somehow find my being in a solid and happy marriage somehow offensive. In parting I will say that perhaps a reminder that polyamory by definition is poly=many amory=loves and I fail to see how you identify as poly yet, seem to not understand that I can love my wife and another person and feel the pain and heart ache of one relationship ending while another continues without that meaning I do not respect other partners.

        I wish you and all others here the best of luck in all future endeavors.

      • aggiesez says:

        Wow,Lantz, you might want to read my comment again. I wasn’t offended by your relationship; I was challenging the highly couple-centric perspective you expressed. And it was couple-centric because you expressed interest only in how being poly affected you, your wife, and your marriage. Nowhere did you indicate interest or empathy for the perspective of your former partners, or how those relationships might have seemed to or affected them. You might want to consider that. Also, you leapt to a ton of conclusions about me without knowing anything about me at all, or without asking me anything. You might want to consider why you felt entitled to do that — and why you were so threatened by my questions for you. And why you didn’t answer any of them.

  3. I don’t like breakups, they depress me, but I really appreciate you pointing out the bright side of them.

  4. Thea Nova says:

    I have learned to really trust my gut. There comes a time where you just “know” the relationship has jumped the shark, so to speak. When I first started out in poly, as a solo polyist, I tried to keep relationships going, when they had clearly run their course. One of the things that get’s talked about a lot in poly is that you don’t have to end relationships that are not on the escalator. I feel that is very true. But, that aside, relationships do end. At first I thought keeping relationships going was somehow being “good” at poly. I thought, at first, that I could tie all desires to end a relationship back to not being on the escalator. I thought I was “trained” to end relationships that were not on the escalator. And to some extent that was true. But there came a time when I just started trusting my gut. I found that once I stopped thinking of being on or off the escalator that there are many valid reasons to end a relationship. The primary one being that it just isn’t working for me. That makes it a lot easier to listen when it isn’t working for someone else. It made it a lot easier to accept that a relationship ending because it just isn’t working is okay! I don’t have to keep trying. I don’t have to tie myself up in knots (or keep someone else tied up in knots) trying to make something work. In a very good way, this was liberating thing for me.

  5. desert says:

    New to poly and have heard that people can make beginner mistakes. I’ve been reading tons of blogs and going to support meetings and knew the principles, e.g. that cheating is still cheating in poly, but happened to arrange something with someone whom I thought was on the same page but in fact was just clueless and cheating on someone, thinking it was ok because it was poly, and hiding that information from me, so the lying made it not ok.
    Makes me realize and learn that just talking with someone isn’t a good enough way to know what’s going on, it’s too easy for people to just agree if you’re making it obvious what the right answer is (e.g., are you going to be honest and open – who is going to say no to that). I suppose you have to test people in more ways and see them around other people, etc.
    It’s a painful lesson in an otherwise happy introduction to this way of life, and I end up feeling like “I shouldn’t have made that mistake.” And I ended up being stuck in the middle of two guys who both ended up being mad at me, and feel like it’s easy for them to say it’s my fault, for wanting the openness to apply to me too (since my boyfriend thinks only he should be able to connect with the opposite sex, gender rules and only reluctantly agreed) or for caring that an emotional connection with the other guy be clean/honest when he probably saw it as much less meaningful than that.
    I resonate with the idea of in the past trying to maintain relationships at all costs and saw that as one of the big drawbacks of monoamory – the dependence and the panic that ensues if you are yourself and it threatens your one intimate/partner connection, and the resulting dampening effect on asking for what you want or being true to yourself.

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