We Broke Up and Our Partners Were There for Us
I had been watching its approach, a storm gathering big black clouds, dark and frightening in the distance. You see it coming and think, “Oh shit that’s not good!” But then optimism takes over and you think, “That won’t reach here. That’s the neighboring city. I am safe.” Except, I wasn’t.
I couldn’t pretend any longer that my relationship with William was working for me. I had no doubt it worked great for him, but on my end, things were more complicated. I knew and still know that he loves me, and I love him. But the songs and books are wrong when they say, “love conquers all.”
I was surfing Medium and reading some of my favorite poly authors and kept highlighting pieces of Ella Dior’s work as she herself was going through a break up. Things like:
“I no longer see him the way I needed to see him. I’ve stopped trying to fit him into the mold created by my expectations. I tried my best not to be disappointed when he didn’t meet these expectations, but in dating, it’s often an unconscious process when our expectations start to color our perceptions of the other person. But the disappointment you feel when they don’t do something you hoped they’d do is always there to let you know where you had an expectation.
And this one made my head buzz in too many ways. https://medium.com/myfuckingfeelings/adrift-16b717bec0a
Too many of our dates lately, (when we actually had dates, we were only averaging one every 6–8 weeks) included conversations about ways I could make this relationship work for me, ways to make me feel more connected to him in the times we did not see each other. Too many times I had either thought or even said to him, “I am still trying to figure out what to do about you.”
“Maybe if we text more, if you can reach out to me and let me know when you are thinking of me.” That worked for about 2 weeks.
When I met my boyfriend Benjamin and his wife Mia, William was the one person I really wanted to talk to about it and even though I sent a bazillion texts, when I asked if we could chat? He didn’t have time for me. So, the next attempt was “Maybe if we can talk on the phone once in a while? That might help me feel more connected.”
What I really wanted was to be more to him than I was. When people’s feelings are not aligned, the person with the stronger feelings is the one who “suffers,” and ultimately, I needed to decide how much “suffering” I could do for this relationship.
I would make myself forget about him in between dates. I would remove his texts from the front page of my WhatsApp queue. I would force myself to just not think about him or stress about what might or might not be happening in our relationship. But I could always tell when it was getting to be too long between dates. I would start to get sad when I thought about him, I would start to think about breaking with him. Troubling thoughts swirled in my head almost obsessively, “Why is this relationship this way? I don’t like the way I feel about it.”
I had a party a few weeks ago, my one-year anniversary of living in Berlin. I was so excited because William and his partner Alison, as well as my boyfriend Benjamin and his wife Mia were going to be there. It was my dream evening! My loves and my friends all in one place, meeting each other, having a nice night, all together. I would have been devastated if he wasn’t there! Yet, a few weeks before that, he had a party at his place, with his poly “crew”, and he consciously chose not to invite me. I am still a bit unsure as to why, there was a comment about the fact that I would be an English speaker and everyone else spoke German, which seems legit, except at the time he invited one of his other partners who also only speaks English, she just wasn’t able to go, so that doesn’t really work for me either way. In the end, it just highlighted to me the obvious differences in how we feel about our relationship.
Finally that giant, dark black storm cloud was directly overhead, and it would no longer allow me to ignore it. The rain drops were heavy in the air and starting to fall from the sky. I told Benjamin a few days before. “I think I am going to break with William this weekend. We have a date, finally, on Friday.”
He was so kind, his first reaction was, “I am so sorry sweetie. Are you ok?” After being sure I was ok, he asked a few questions, like why? And was I sure? I even told the man I just started dating, Roland, (you can read about my first date with him here) as we were talking about our poly relationships, and he was incredibly supportive right from the beginning.
That afternoon, before our date, I was with my girlfriends, sitting in the beautiful summer sunshine and enjoying “oliven und Weisswein” at a street side cafe in one of our favorite neighborhoods. Maybe there was a little too much of the lovely dry Riesling, but knowing what I was facing when I met William later that afternoon, I felt like I needed a bit of fortification.
It was as awful. Exactly as you imagine breaking up with someone you love would be. I enjoyed our first hour or so together, I always enjoy being with him when we are actually together. He is soft spoken, tender, and a great listener and communicator. Our in-person connection is special and it always makes me so happy to be with him (partly why it took me so long to break with him.) This only made the situation doubly difficult because the whole time, I knew what was coming and I was just waiting for the right segue way.
Earlier in the week I had asked him to do the Five Love Languages quiz, hoping I could compare our results as a way into this conversation. You see, I know that my Love Languages are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. Neither of which I was getting from him. The perfect entry into this conversation, I thought. But then he texted me and told me he couldn’t complete the quiz because he couldn’t answer the first question, “Are you in a relationship, or are you single.” THAT really hurt my feelings. Of course, he is in relationships, he is in more relationships even than just me!!
Eventually this came up in the conversation, after lots of talking and lots of tears, (on my part). I told him that I disagreed that he wasn’t in any relationships, and I asked him point blank, “Who are you in a relationship with?”
To his credit, he didn’t hesitate when he responded, “Alison and Jill (a woman he had met a few months ago, and described their relationship as slow moving and complicated.)” My heart sank, but the confirmation of what I had known for so long came forward.
“And that is why I can’t be in a relationship with you, William. I need to be on “the list” for the men I am dating. “
(Sigh- Just writing that hurts again. If I wasn’t at a writing event right now, I might allow myself another good cry, but carry on, I must.)
The thing is, I respect his list. I honor the fact that he has one. I am happy he can admit to being committed to these two women. Being polyamorous allows us both to pursue as many relationships as we feel we can sustain and enjoy. It just happens that the kind of relationship I want to sustain and enjoy with him is one in which I make “the list.”
It was really important to me that he know that I was not blaming him or saying he did anything wrong. My love for him is stronger, no not stronger, different, than his love for me. That is not anyone’s fault. What I need is something he is not capable of giving me. Again, no one’s fault. He just isn’t a good fit for me. I hope he is able to take my love, forgiveness, and honor with him and remember me with goodwill when he thinks of us in the future. Together we decided that going forward, if we wanted to send a quick text to say Hi! we would, and if we see each other at some poly event or other we will greet each other, kiss on the lips, and recognize the love we have/had for each other by being kind to one another.
As soon as he left, and after I had a good long, loud, ugly cry on my couch, I started to respond to the texts I had been receiving all evening from my friends, my boyfriend, and even my new guy.
“Are you ok?”
“How did it go?”
“How is William?”
“Love you! Here for you!”
“Did you do it yet? Are you guys ok?”
“I know this is hard, but remember you thought long and hard about this and you have to do what is right for you and your heart. He loves you. He will understand.”
“You are brave. I love you. You ok?”
“I am here for you sweetie, if you want to talk.”
How could I be SOOO sad, and yet feel so much love all around me?
I sent a text to William’s partner Alison, wanting her to know what had happened, so she could be there for him. Her response probably sums up the reason I love this poly life so much:
“You are wonderful and deserve all the happiness you can get. My first instinct was to write something about how much he likes you. But that wouldn’t help. You’re hurt, and the wounds need to heal. I think it’s good that you know and have a support system. Because you’re not alone. And it’s good and healthy that you realized for yourself that he is not capable of giving you what you need and that you decided to break up with him. For most of the people it’s so hard to be kind to themselves. This kind of self-care is so important, and you should be proud of yourself. And you will feel better and as you said the positive memories of what you had together will never leave.”
Yes, this was love and support from William’s girlfriend. Before falling into an exhausted, emotional, and wine induced sleep, I spent quite a bit of time chatting with my own boyfriend and being comforted and loved by him.
This is the first time I have ended a relationship since I have been living my poly life and it sucked. But I also discovered that this network of relationships provides so much love and support that it has made it easier to bear. I am not bearing it alone. Other men who love me can relate and be there for me. Other women who love him can also be there for me, as well as him. WOW!
This whole thing has brought up a lot of other thoughts too… but like most break-ups, I think it will take a little time to process before I can adequately express it here. I barely wrote this in cohesive English and it’s been a week since we broke up!