“I know you’re sad, but at least you still have your other boyfriend.”
“Oh, that’s ok, you still have Stefan.”
“You have two other boyfriends; how bad can you feel?”
“Good thing you have a spare boyfriend for when you break up with one!”
All of these things have been said to me at one time or another this year. People mean well, I don’t think any of them meant to be jerks when they let those words fall from their mouths, but it’s still awkward none-the-less. My responses varied,
“Well, you know my feelings about this relationship are still valid, regardless if I have other relationships, right?”
“It doesn’t mean my heart is any less broken over R.”
“Really? Did you just hear what you said!?”
Breaking up, moving away, relationship changes: every relationship has ups and downs. Real feelings happen. Sad, scared, jealous, happy, whatever! These feeling are real and legitimate within each relationship, regardless of how one is feeling in another relationship. I recently tweeted that polyamory can be confusing. I can be sad about one connection, but happy about another, at the same time.
Having another boyfriend or committed relationship when you’re in the middle of “feels,” doesn’t make those feelings go away. When William and I broke up, I was very sad. It didn’t matter that I “still had” Stefan, Roland, or Benjamin. My heart felt broken and I was miserable for a while. When you say things like, “At least you still have so and so…” it discounts my feelings. It minimizes the very real impact this relationship has on my life. It devalues the relationship and it’s unfair to me.
Now, to be fair, there are some potential advantages to having multiple relationships while you are going through something emotional or stressful in another.
- Sounding board
- Potential advice
Soon after Roland broke up with me, Benjamin came to visit. One of the first things he did was pull me into a hug and say, “I am sorry about Roland. That was a lame move. Are you doing ok? How can I help?”
It’s a very different feeling at first, to cry in the arms of one lover, allowing him to comfort you over another. But it’s also wonderful, freeing, honest and real. After seeing Benjamin, possibly for the last time before I leave Berlin, I went to Stefan the next week. I told him I was sad, and I might not see Benjamin again. He misunderstood and thought something had happened between us. He was concerned.
“What? Are you ok? What happened?”
He genuinely cares about my other relationships and how I am doing within them. That’s a level of support I never expected. A polyamory perk if you will. My other loves care enough about me to care about my wellbeing within my other relationships. They will hold me when I am sad, even if my sadness originates in feelings for another man.
When I was married, I heard bad news about an ex, it was cancer. I felt genuinely sad and worried for him and his family. My husband was annoyed and pissy that I had feelings about this other man’s situation. Today, my current loves would be asking what they could do for both me AND the other person.
It’s not always easy, and frequently feelings do arise, like jealousy or insecurities. But within these polyamorous relationships, we recognize that other relationships are an integral part of each individual’s holistic health. We do what we can to manage those feelings, talk to one another, and be as supportive as we can when someone is going through something.
But please remember, just because I have the support of my loved ones, doesn’t mean I don’t have very real feelings when I am going through something with one of them. You can’t discount those feelings by reminding me that I “still have” the others. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
You can read more from the “Things People Say about Polyamory” Series here: