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.