/u/justlurking9891 on /r/polyamory asks…
“Commonly it is said you need to be over your ex before you should start dating again. So how do you do this in a healthy manner while still in other romantic relationships?”
At a first glance, this seemed like a unique problem to polyamory. Only in ethically non-monogamous relationships do we have such significant overlaps between different relationships. But I think the issue at large is one that is more general to the process of breaking up.
Before I start, I’ll share a small personal anecdote. Prior to polyamory, I had been a serial monogamist. I went from one relationship to the next as I fancied. I have always found the process of falling in love to most pleasant in my relationships. It was easy for me to fall in love, to create space for others to fall in love with me, and to continue to foster and nourish that love over time. But inevitably, relationships would fail and I wouldn’t wait too long before I found my next relationship, my next adventure. And I would be right back in the swing of things.
There was a small moment after my final monogamous relationship ended where I realized I was just over that breakup. I remember the exact moment.
I had just gotten off of work and on my way home to my then-girlfriend, now-wife. I was just sitting in the light, next to a gas station. I tapped my thumb on my steering wheel to some nameless music on the radio, vibrating with the world at large. The red light ran long, and my patience thinned. And I took a sharp breath and realized it had been weeks since I last thought about my ex. The light turned green. So I gripped the wheel tightly, smiled, and continued my drive home.
There is no magic formula or process with breakups. Some are already unpacked from even before the words have been uttered. Some breakups carry over the years after the end has been finalized. In my own personal experience, I have found the most success by mentally compartmentalizing each of my relationships and letting those space naturally grow and heal over time. That was the process for me long before I embraced polyamory, and it continues to be my process in my polyamorous relationships.
Mindfully and conscientiously asking for space to process the breakups could also be a good practice. But I also think that each moment of vulnerability is also a great opportunity to build trust. What I am trying to say is that working through the process of breakup does not necessarily have to be a solitudinous activity. Share your process through your pain with your loved ones – both partners and friends – and allow those pain to fertilize the soil for the next season’s harvest.
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