There’s rarely a Poly.Land post that doesn’t resonate with me, at least on some level. Sometimes I want to be Page Turner in another life. But Tuesday’s post about What People Get Wrong When They Talk About Partner Selection hit me directly in the feels.
Maybe it’s because I just went through a breakup. Like two days ago. Maybe it’s that the concept of “this just isn’t working for me” is one I’ve struggled with for the nearly two decades I’ve been polyamorous as a valid breakup reason, both for Relationships-with-a-capital-R and also their lowercase counterparts. Maybe it’s because “this doesn’t work for me” or “I’m not comfortable with this” has, quite literally, cost me relationships and jobs.
As I mentioned in my comment on that aforementioned post (the one that was originally posted to Fetlife and cross-posted to the link above), I agreed with Page in that about cultural scripts oversimplify breakups. Further, I said:
And also, they don’t encourage breaking up in amicable ways. There has to be a bad person, or a bad enough situation. “This just isn’t working for me anymore” isn’t considered valid, generally. We’re taught that you should fight for relationships, stay in them and work it out, especially in monogamous ones, especially when you’re on the relationship escalator. I’ve been unlearning a lot of that over the last few years. Kimchi Cuddles has helped a bunch. Tikva Wolf, the artist, has had some amazing strips about how sometimes relationships can last 5 minutes and be life changing. That instead of forever being a goal, shifting to “for as long as it’s good and healthy for all involved”.
This isn’t something I grew up learning. You were supposed to persevere. Fight for love. Tolerate abusive family members because they’re family. Stay on the relationship escalator until you get to the top (white picket fence with 2.5 children, a minivan, a McMansion you can’t afford…y’know…”happy”). Discovering polyamory revolutionized most of that for me, but there are still some holdovers and lacking skill sets.
For instance, I have no real breakup skills. Completely missed putting points into that skill set. Dumped a shit-ton into “giving to the point of exhaustion and complete depletion”. Burned a bunch on “I’m gonna ignore all the warning signs that I should get out”. And don’t let’s forget the buckets of points that went into empathy and “feeling all the damn things all the damn time”. I’ve stayed in relationships waaaaaaayyyy after it’s clearlys not working (at least for me), and usually to the point where it seems to not be working for anyone involved. And yet, sometimes, I/we’ve stayed longer. Since I think in song lyrics a lot of the time, “Louder Than Words” from the musical tick….Tick….BOOM! springs to mind:
Why do we stay with loversWho we know, down deepJust aren’t right?Why would we ratherPut ourselves through hellThan sleep alone at night?
Seriously, why? One reason is the cultural scripts Page talked about. Another could be that it simply sucks to lose someone you love, even if it isn’t working. I mean, I could feel the breakup I just went through coming from a mile away (hell, if we’re honest, about two hundred miles away, but who’s counting, right?), and yet it didn’t stop my heart from breaking, me from crying, nor me from reaching for a a glass (or, um, a bottle) of St. Germain to dull the edges a little that first night. It didn’t help that work was a complete shitshow that day, as well, and the breakup happened at work. Cause that added a swell level of suck to the day.
But for some reason, beyond how much it sucks to lose someone, we’re still not supposed to leave unless there’s a “good enough Reason-with-a-capital-R”. And it has to pass muster for those around you. “It wasn’t working” is too vague for people. Not valid enough.
Related side story: a few years ago, a family member died. This person was a pedophile. Another family member called me and demanded to know when I would be there to help start making arrangements with them. That day, I decided not to go. (I was also slated to be flying out in a day or so to another family member’s wedding.) And it wasn’t that I chose one family member over another. It was that I could not make myself celebrate the life of a person who was going to be heralded as a hero. This person tore my family apart. Hurt people I love very dearly. Made me feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions but we weren’t supposed to talk about that. This situation/person was one of the biggest secrets in my family for years. Keeping up appearances was more important than actually dealing with shit.
So I took a deep breath and told my family member that I wouldn’t be coming for the funeral. They asked why. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Their response?
“That’s not a real reason. I want a grown up, real reason.”
I had nothing left after that. At the time, I didn’t know how else to say it and was gutted; how I felt simply didn’t matter. So I kept repeating myself, and they did, too. We wound up in a stupid, crazy loop along the lines of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My reason was simply not valid. My discomfort was not valid. At the very least, it was not allowed to trump their pain in their time of need.
I was effectively disowned at that point. That person said they never wanted to speak to me again and two and a half years later, still have not (save for a bizarre FB photo that came at about 1am right after I had just finished a semi-interrogation scene at a kink convention. But that’s a story for another time).
My mind made an easy, awful conclusion: they chose the memory of a pedophile over a relationship with me, someone alive and hurting, as well. I felt disposable. Passed over for a pedophile. I didn’t matter. It threw me back to my childhood when there were many other instances where it didn’t matter how I felt:
- when I was thrown into cars with drunk people driving to “get them home safely”
- being taken down to bars and businesses at 2am to try and convince a family member to come home
- getting phone calls from family members who said they wanted to see me and couldn’t explain why they weren’t able to nor why they suddenly disappeared
- people I cared about ghosting me without any phone calls or reasons
When the adults were talking, whatever they said went. Even when it’s wrong. Even when it hurts. Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. It’s not that big a deal. Stop being so dramatic.
I feel a great kinship with Amanda Fucking Palmer’s songs, but this one from “Ampersand” is ingrained in my heart:
I have wasted years of my life
Agonizing about the fires
It started when I thought that to be strong you must be flame retardant
And now to dress the wounds calls into question
How authentic they are
There is always someone criticizing me
“She just likes playing hospital”
It’s no wonder I have a hard time simply saying, “no, actually. This isn’t working for me. This needs to end now.” Hell, I even have a difficult time saying, “this is fucked up. I won’t/can’t do this anymore.”
And the hardest yet: “I deserve to be treated better than this.”
It took me way too long to leave one job where I was saying to myself on almost a daily basis “this is all so fucked up and broken. I’m not able to change/fix/improve anything anymore. I need to stop. This isn’t working for me.” Similarly, the relationship/aforementioned breakup seemed to not be working for either of us for a while, but it took a bit to actually call it. (Fittingly, just about a week after I started writing a song entitled “Call It.”)
This sucks. I want to learn more about how to level up my breakup skills. That sounds terrible, but in reality, I think it’s a great skill to have. If anyone’s got any suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments.
I like what Kimchi Cuddles has said about it, and this strip has helped my mentality about letting R/relationships progress or transition as they need to:
I will say that I’m grateful that when my now former partner said they didn’t have many spoons for Relationships that require attention right now because of stuff in their own life, I didn’t just say “DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME. I DON’T NEED ANY ATTENTION. THAT’LL KEEP US TOGETHER, RIGHT? BECAUSE STAYING TOGETHER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, RIGHT?!?”
No. I honored what they were saying and agreed that transitioning to friends was for the best for me, too. Because I do need some attention. And me saying I didn’t just to hang onto the Relationship wasn’t going to help either of us. I’ve had enough bitterness in my life to last for eons, so I ain’t got the time nor energy for holding tight to things that aren’t working anymore. I have needs.
One of them is a higher level of attention than I was getting. Another is to figure out my damn life. Still others include healing from leaving an incredibly stressful and toxic job, re-evaluating the last twenty years of my life, figuring out how to make amends, and getting my health in order. I had already decided at the end of January that I was going through a personal evolution and as such, ain’t got time to be dating.
Also, I also have barely any energy left to sustain fairly decent romantic relationships. The past year drained and damaged me more than I realized. I’m still assessing it all and trying to figure out how to heal. Only thing I know right now is that I need to focus on creativity, my health, blood and chosen family, mourning/grief, and moving on. It’s actually part of my treatment plan in therapy now to evaluate current Relationships-with-a-capital-R and ending the ones that are no longer working for me. AND for the foreseeable future not seeking out new Relationships to fill the void that will leave. To instead focus on creativity and cultivating a strong support network of relationships. Because how I feel and what I need is fucking valid and it’s about time I believed that as much as I believe that what other people feel/need is valid.
So, here’s to Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth.