When to End a Polyamorous Relationship

Ghosting is common in today’s hookup culture, but I’m not sure it was back in my day. Did people just disappear on each other in the 90s like they do now? I don’t think it was socially acceptable to just vanish on a connection that was budding.

People took more responsibility in their dating lives, without the ability to break up via text or email—doing it over the phone was at least partially humane, as a live human voice would accompany the bad news being received. But now? Poof! People just bounce, with often little to no logical reasoning behind the ending of things.

Read: Warning Signs of Poly Breakups

I can honestly say that I’ve never just pulled a Houdini on a lover and stopped calling and responding to their texts. Not once! I at least say goodbye, or tell them that I’m not feeling the same way I used to, or that we should be friends, or simply that it isn’t working for me. I’ve used variations on all of those to alter the poly relationships I’ve been involved in over the years, and it has led to some complicated situations being resolved maturely and humanely.

Good communication is necessary when your crossroads of connection meet, and even BETTER communication to ease each other down when things crash, and you both decide how to go your separate ways.

I’ve been learning lately with a very complex, painful breakdown that it’s not always easy to just cut things off and run in another direction until you find new open arms.

Read: Dos and Don’ts for Surviving a Poly Breakup

I have been with someone who I love, and who loves me, but through the ups and downs of practiced polyamorous behavior, her trust has been compromised. The extreme nature of my present polyamorous activity makes it challenging for her to continue on with me while I evolve and expand my interests. Therefore, we are together… but are breaking apart.

How long does one hold onto a poly relationship or any kind of relationship, before letting it go?

3 Stages of Breakups… and maybe Makeups

1. Try to save things from falling apart by reinforcing the foundation.

Speak on the original reasons you connected, and remind each other what you two are attracted to in each other. Appreciate the things you do for each other, and remember the reasons you connected in the beginning. It’s easy to forget in hardship. Take efforts to minimize the impact of conflict, and try to rein in the negative energy before it gets out of control. Avoid name calling, being cynical or snarky.

Read: How to Deal with Argumentative Partners

2. Realize that things are escalating, but it’s not the end of the world.

See that you are struggling, but seek to exert extra effort to heal things, such as going out to enjoy a night together. Communicate as respectfully as possible, but when you are getting angry or sad or frustrated, realize when it is getting worse and take a break when you need to.

Try not to go to bed angry with each other, and if you sleep in the same bed but are not having intimacy because of the conflict, then at least try to have some physical connection in place of sex. Speak to each other in the morning, and try to maintain routines. Ask friends or family for help if that feels comfortable. Be real when you’re being nice, and be fair when you’re being mean.

3. Think before you speak, before something gets lost permanently.

Be as consistent and clear as you can be, and focus on solving your mutual problem together, instead of pointing out your partner’s faults. Take responsibility for your own actions, but don’t take blame for things you never did.

Therapy, if you are both serious about saving the relationship, can help—a third party’s perspective, opinion, and mediation can work wonders when you think all is lost.

Be fair about what steps you need to take to fix things, and what steps they need to take to fix things, and whether those steps will lead you both back together. Screaming or physical altercations won’t help. If you do reach a breaking point, check out for a moment. You don’t want to say something you will regret forever.

Read: 7 Lessons to Learn from Poly Breakups

Remember, you did love this person before this situation. If you can’t break the cycle of argument, imbalance, mistrust, confusion, conflict, chaos and misunderstanding, stop everything. Take time apart—maybe a few days, maybe a week. Then phone to see where things are at. And who knows? It may be best to take more space, for a while.

In my heart, real polyamory never has to be permanently over. I’ve taken years apart between connections with people, and then got back together!

How do you know how long or when you should break up with a poly partner? Depends on your heart—ask it.

Addi “Malcolm Lovejoy” Stewart

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