I have been a member of a parenting group for over six years. A wonderful set of women, who were due to birth within the same month, and so went through pregnancy, babyhood, and in some cases, even literal labour together. The group has begun to wane as some become more confident in their parenting, and less in need of support and assistance. A core remains, along with others like myself, who check in a few times a week, sometimes reply, and very occasionally post themselves. For the most part, I have been supported and lifted by these people, apart from one instance when I felt that I was horribly slut-shamed, and left the group for a few months. Interestingly, this instance was shortly prior to discovering polyamory, and when I rejoined the group, I was reticent about explaining my new lifestyle. I think it’s safe to say that while I’m generally accepted, I am somewhat an enigma within a gaggle of families which are mainly made up of married women with at least one child, most of whom have not been single for at least 8 years.
The other day, there was a “Search and Rescue” post for me. This is when someone who normally posts frequently is noticed as being absent for a time, and a post is thrown together to check if everything is ok. I jumped on board to let the lady know that I was fine, but had been left feeling a little low after a break up.
At this point, I realised that most of them don’t really know what this means, and despite it being my second ‘poly break up’, I hadn’t really had a chance to unpack my sadness very much. To them, the end of a relationship would be a make-or-break situation, as it had been for me, eighteen months ago. A breakup would mean the end of an existing lifestyle, a housemove, splitting up a family. I get it, I do! I’ve been there! But I feel that they don’t get me anymore.
I had tried to explain the concept of polyamory to them, but now realised that for the most part, they will just see it as ‘sleeping around’. Even if I move in with somebody, they will not understand that there can be real love or meaning if I’m prepared to see other people, or even worse, prepared to ‘allow’ them to date others. How could I possibly be sad? This isn’t really a post about their understanding of polyamory though, more about how I am approaching my sadness, and how I feel that this is much healthier than previous relationships.
Disclaimer: In all three of my long term monogamous relationships, I have been the one to end things. This has probably skewed my feelings toward confusion and guilt rather than sadness or loss. However, in all of my “Covert Polyamory Attempts”, as I shall call them (CPAs: the times I have fallen in love with new people while being in a monogamous relationship, and thought I was a bad person), it has been the other person to put the breaks on and end things when I have desperately wanted to see what could happen if we had space to grow.
When I have previously experienced a break up, or an ending of a CPA, I have felt terrible for weeks. It has felt as though there was no end or beginning to my grief. I have lost weight and appetite for days. I have been snappy, or retreated into myself. I have cried and been unable to sleep. The world may as well have ended.
This time, I felt positively shitty. Horrific. For two days. Two.
(The time before, my first poly break up, I felt worse for longer, even though my depth of feeling was less, mainly because he left me feeling as though he was open to a deeper relationship, even suggesting that he look over my CV with a view to suggesting me for a position with his employer. And then he took it away, leaving me with a huge sense of personal rejection.)
This time, I felt worse, I did. And I’m still sad when I think of her. But I have been able to place her in a mental box which doesn’t need to be opened. This may sound unhealthy, and perhaps there is a better way to explain it. I have talked extensively about this break up with several people, and worked through what it means and why it has occurred. I don’t feel as though there is any more unpacking that needs to be done with this box. I can seal it up, neatly packed with the things that came along with her, and pop it away in my mental attic until I need it again. Which will only be if she would like to reapproach our relationship.
I think that monogamous people would look at me this week, and even more, last weekend, and imagine that I had no feelings for this woman at all. She couldn’t possibly have mattered to me. Good grief, I made other plans and went through with them all. I filled my time. I didn’t mope. I didn’t even cry at work.
I was supposed to spend Wednesday night with her (before Robin Hobb Day). But I couldn’t, so I saw somebody I was going to date the week after instead. This does not negate my sadness.
I had a hot date arranged for Friday and went through with it. We even discussed the break up, as they had met each other through another previous partner. I didn’t cry, and I liked the new person enough to arrange two further dates which I am looking forward to. This does not negate my sadness.
I was supposed to see her at the weekend, but as that was not going to happen, I shoehorned in a Polyamory Meetup in a town over an hour’s drive away, then a party afterwards, in which I laughed, hot-tubbed, drank gin, and snogged too many very attractive people. Maybe one or other of those things could go somewhere one day but excitement over this does not negate my sadness.
I entertained a guest at my home on Sunday. We talked about other things. This does not negate my sadness.
Throughout the entire time I have been exploring polyamory, and for all over a year before that, I have held in my heart a special person, (a CPA, if you will) who cannot be in my life more than he already is. And this still breaks me every day, and every time I see him, especially as there is no mechanism there for me to understand how he feels for me. But my ongoing heartache there does not negate my current sadness here.
This morning, I re-read the letter that I sent her (of which I kept a scrawled copy). And I had to wipe my eyes. I could listen to the piece of music which now represents our relationship in my head, and I may sob with grief. But then I can put it back in the box and go about my life. Her Song: In Un’altra Vita, by Ludovico Einaudi.
Recently, I have come across other people saying the same. A friend of mine is coming to the end of an extensive relationship with a person that he has loved deeply. He was upset enough that he admitted on the group we are in that he cried at work. But at the same time, he was flirting with other people and having fun, and falling deeply in love with somebody new. The thing to take away from this, for people who are new to polyamory, or learning about this to better understand someone who is living a polyamorous lifestyle, is this:
Polyamory is not the same as having an open relationship. It’s not even about having more than one relationship, as there are all sorts of reasons why people can’t. It’s about being open. Open within yourself, to the possibility of love. And open to allowing other people to love you to the best of their own ability. Sometimes this means you’re going to have all the fun. Sometimes this means that you are going to have all the heartbreak. And sometimes, they come along at the same time. Side by side, hand in hand. They can’t easily be seperated. And just because you see somebody smiling, or excited about a new connection, does not mean that the person they were sad about has disappeared from their mind, or no longer matters. Just that for a while, the good feelings are able to overshadow the bad. More openness means more possibility, more fun, sometimes more sex, and definitely for me, more love, more care, more community.
And a little more sadness.