I talk a lot about NRE and how to set your polyamory in motion.  In fact, most books, blogs, and articles (oh my!)cluster around beginnings and how to get the ball rolling.  Right now I’m going to flip the coin and talk about something we seem to avoid like a taboo: endings.  Yes, I said it, endings. While we would all like to believe that once we’ve found partners who complete our circle and fulfill our needs we never have to worry about breakups.  It is a fact of life that this is simply not true.  For many reasons, sometimes perfectly good partnerships end.  Not that I’m trying to jinx any of you, but here are some important things to remember when navigating a breakup like an adult.

If you’re like me and most of the successful poly people out there you probably have a pretty severe allergy to drama.  Be that as it may, sometimes we forget that when things don’t quite turn out as we expected.  It’s easy to get caught up in accusations and exaggerations, but honestly, mudslinging reflects poorly on everyone involved.  You might feel justified in warning the world about your wounded perspective, but if it’s a true blight on the part of an ex partner most likely everyone else already knows about it.  There’s no reason to resort to social slandering.  Most circles within the poly community are rather small, and the likelihood of crossing paths with an ex or someone associated with an ex is pretty good.  In some cases you may still have to attend the same events and meetings.  Drama within these circles most likely ends with the one doing the loudest squawking alienating herself, as no one wants to sit next to a crying baby.  This includes social media.  The world has enough negativity without you blasting your latest libel where everyone has to read it.  It’s attention seeking behaviour, and it’s ugly.  Stop it!

That being said, not all breakups have to be ugly.  Not all reason for breakups are negative.  For example, maybe one partner is moving away.  I for one can’t function well in a long distance relationship, so a partner relocating would most likely end our relationship.  Instead of lamenting the ending support that partner in what was probably a tough decision to make.  Don’t make it a more difficult situation emotionally, especially if she’s moving towards something positive.  Let her be happy and excited about this new direction, and she will be more likely to be supportive as you process the change.

That brings me to my next point.  All partners in a relationship deserve to be happy.  Let me say that again. All partners in a relationship deserve to be happy. Partners, metamours, spouses, co-lovers, unicorns, children,everyone.  As much as we try, and as much as we work through issues together, sometimes the truth persists that for one reason or another you cannot avoid detrimental unhappiness.  I’m not talking about compromise; that’s a natural expectation of a relationship.  I mean the kind of unhappiness that’s harmful, the kind that breeds resentment.  There is no good reason for anyone to stay in a relationship that becomes something to be dreaded or burdensome.  I have often told Hubby that it would hurt to lose him, but if he were miserable with me I’d hope he wouldn’t stay just because we have a legal and spiritual bond between us.  If no compromise can be made, change is necessary.  Knowing that he’s with me because he wants to be, not because he has to be is a wonderful feeling.

I believe wholeheartedly that everyone in my life is here for a reason.  I might not know what that reason is, but I will damned well know when that reason has been satisfied.  Some relationships are the same way.  Not every partner I have is meant to be a long-term committed partner.  Not every loving partnership is meant to last a lifetime.  Sometimes a relationship serves as a wake-up call, a reminder, or an awakening.  Sometimes I have a need that the relationship fulfills, a lesson to learn, or an experience I would not have had otherwise.  Isn’t that what life is about?  That being said, when that purpose is satisfied those relationships have a tendency to become stale, unstable, or even unhealthy.  Being stubborn about holding on to these relationships generally leads to an unnecessarily explosive ending.

A few more things to consider before you unleash the drama llama…

The people you may or may not be dragging through the mud are people you once cherished, but they are also people who once represented you and your collective.  These are people you’ve possibly defended and upheld.  How you appear as a part of a relationship reflects on all people involved in that relationship, but the adverse is also true.  Whether or not you are still involved with them, what good is it to further muddy the waters?

On the idea of children.  I have had many friends who stayed in rotting relationships for the sake of children, both biological and non.  In my opinion this is a disservice to both the adults and the children in this situation.  Adults deserve to be in a situation that is healthy for them, and children deserve to be in a family structure that is happy and positive, and when that is not the case they often internalize it.  This can cause deep and lifelong issues, especially if the adults in the situation just can’t get along.  I am strongly convinced that children have a much more positive experience with happy, well-rounded, separated parental figures than with bitter, resentful, bitter ones who just shouldn’t live together.

With great love comes great responsibility.  Open, public polyamory often makes examples of us whether it’s warranted or not.  However we act and whatever we do becomes polyamory.  It’s an unfair responsibility, but it is a responsibility nonetheless, and a caveat to the freedom we enjoy.  For this very reason endings tend to become all about the polyamory, and this is a very easy trap for even those of us who live it to fall into.  One bad breakup and suddenly someone “had a bad experience”.  Just because in your eyes or the eyes of family and friends your relationship may have failed, it doesn’t mean that you or polyamory at large failed.  It also doesn’t mean polyamory isn’t for you.  It just means that relationship was no longer for you.  It happens.  Learn from it, grow from it, and move forward with a peaceful heart.

A peaceful heart.  I’m going to say this as bluntly as possibly.  Holding grudges is stupid.  There you have it.  Why are grudges stupid?  For the same reason holding a hot barbecue briquette is stupid.  Holding a grudge hurts no one but the person holding it.  Hate, pride, and shortsightedness may temporarily hurt the people at whom you hurl them, but in the end you are the one stuck with the lasting scars.  The only way to heal is to process it calmly and let it go.  Admit that very few endings are one-sided.  Admitting your part in the breakup is the first step.  Take what you can from it, don’t try to carry all  the blame or innocence, then toss it aside.

That last part is pretty important, too.  The polar opposite of pretending we are infallible is to take all the responsibility for a breakup and let it fester.  Guilt is quite a strong emotion, and it may lead you to reneging on the decision you made to move on.   Some initiators feel they don’t deserve to mourn the loss of a relationship they ended.  Some non-initiators feel the same way.  This simply is not the case.  Loss is loss.  When someone chooses to give a baby up for adoption or put down a sick pet we don’t fault them for grieving.  Why then shouldn’t it be the same for someone who ends a relationship that isn’t working?  It shouldn’t.  By the time we reach the end there is no reason to point fingers or lash out, and you cannot deny the other people involved their emotional right to feel the loss.

People? Yes, people, plural.  In some cases you may break up with more than one partner, but even if you don’t there are generally other people affected by the breakup.  Your partner’s other partners will feel the ripple effect of their grief, and you may have made some close bonds with them as metamours.  I know if Hubby and A broke up I’d have some pretty strong feelings to work through.  I’d want to support him, I’d want to help him process if I could, and I’d feel my own loss at the departure of a family member and the disruption of what has become a very comfortable routine for us.  We are not isolated beings in polyamory.  We are all connected like a spiderweb, and any break or movement in just a string on the web causes the whole structure to shift and change.  Everyone in the web feels it.

Endings are just as much a part of life as new beginnings, and without one we cannot have the other.  Instead of having a lifetime of bad breakups and negative feelings towards our exes there is a true peace at the core of anyone who can let all that go and truly be at peace with goodbyes.  One of the highest levels of compersion is found in the ability to with someone well when the best thing for him is not with you.  One of the purest forms of self acceptance and love is making decisions that truly enrich us on a psychological, emotional, and spiritual level.   Oftentimes the decisions that are the hardest for us to make are ones we have already made in our hearts.  Be honest with yourself, and listen to your intuition.  You alone know what is right for you and when it has stopped being right.  You owe yourself that level of communication and trust as much as you owe it to your partners.