I was dumped by a polygroup a few months ago, and it still hurts

My polygroup dumped me - like they're all dating and I'm just out of the picture. It was at least a couple months ago and I don't even see them in person like at all anymore but I'm still hurting. I want to be over it, but for some reason I find myself still getting sad and angry when I see reminders of them.

Friend, this is entirely normal! Getting dumped by one person is miserable enough - getting dumped by an entire group is going to hurt like nobody's business. You have my deepest sympathies.

This is not really a problem with a solution besides "wait it out." You're already doing the right things by not seeing them in person and trying not to wallow in the sadness, but a few months is NOT much time to get over such a painful breakup!

Be patient and gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and tenderness when you're sad and angry. Nothing is wrong with you for feeling this way. It's not that you're sad and angry "for some reason" - you're sad and angry because a really sad, maddening thing happened to you! It's okay, and you're okay.

Find distractions - whether it's rearranging your hamster's cage or getting back into playing The Sims or hitting a local concert or foraging for mushrooms. Reach out to friends who are not connected to that group of people. Indulge in some comforts. Consider talking to a therapist or an informal support/venting chat or forum. And know that you will get through this. 

I've realized that my polyamory is a dealbreaker and I need to leave my 5-year mono relationship

I have been in a monogamous lesbian relationship with my girlfriend for 5 years, when about a year and a half ago, I realized that I am both bi + poly. I did a lot of research + soul searching, and then 8 months ago I told her how I was feeling. It didn't go well, we swept it under the rug and I've tried very hard just to sit on these feelings. I realized now that for me, it's my identity and likely a deal breaker: how do I have this conversation again, knowing it will end in a breakup?

If you know it will end in a breakup, there's not much else to be done, or scripted, or strategized. It's heartbreaking and painful to end a 5 year relationship, but it's understandable, and normal, to have to do so after learning about a dealbreaker.

You let her know that you've tried monogamy with her, and you've tried to 'sit on' these feelings, and now you have 8 months worth of information about how it feels and whether it's working for her. You explain that, unfortunately, you've realized this is a dealbreaker, and so you need to break the deal, and leave the relationship. This conversation will suck - breakups always do. But it's important and necessary.

Try not to frame it as "you wouldn't let me date polyamorously, so I have to leave - this is your fault." It's no one's fault, it's just how the universe has shaken out. You two were good together for five years, and nothing can change or erase that, but you're not good to continue dating into the future. Give her the space she needs to grieve, and rage. Best of luck. 

I don't know how to tell my ex that I don't want to get back together

My ex recently got back in touch with me and wants to start over. I still kind of have feelings for this person, but I can't see us being happy together because they're monogamous and I'm polyamorous, and they aren't open to the idea of being in an open relationship. I've tried to be mono for them before and while they were happy, it made me miserable, and I don't want to go through that again. I don't know how to tell my ex it won't work between us. What should I do?

"No" is a complete sentence. Consensus is not required here. You don't need to get them to agree, or see things your way. You don't need to convince your ex that getting back together is a bad idea. You can just decline to get back together. You know that dating them made you miserable, and you don't want to do it again. Some lines you can use:

  • "I don't want to get back together with you."
  • "The reason we broke up still exists for me, and I haven't changed my mind."
  • "I know that you want to try dating again, but I don't feel that way."
  • "I'm not going to try and argue or get you to see things my way - you just need to know that my answer is no." 
  • "Please don't ask me again. If you keep trying to push for another relationship with me, I'll have to take a step back from even a friendship."

If they won't take no for an answer, do what you need to maintain your boundaries. Block them through whatever channel they used to get back in touch. Take emotional and physical distance. You have no obligation to "tell them" in exactly the right way. You don't need their permission to not date them. Stop worrying about how to tell them - just tell them, and then walk away.

My partner chose a monogamous relationship over staying with me

I was with this really amazing girl - the love of my life, and she and I are both poly. But her main wasn't. Her main said that she wasn't comfortable anymore with the fact her girlfriend was dating other people. I thought that maybe I would be chosen. That she could love me more. And we could live our lifestyle together. But no. They're getting married next month. I still love her so much. I want so much to be a part of her life. I could even deal with her partner not liking me. I just need her.

It's okay to grieve the end of this relationship, but there's nothing else to be done - I am sorry to be the one to tell you that. Sometimes this happens, not only to polyamorous people, but to monogamous people as well. A partner who you love chooses their work, or the freedom of singlehood, or another partner, or something else, over their relationship with you.

And it hurts. It really does. But you will survive. It feels like you 'need' her, but you don't 'need' her like you need air in your lungs or food in your belly, even if the loss of her does feel like drowning or starving. You will get through this. It's okay to mourn, to be angry, to feel hurt. Breakups suck. Loss is painful. 

Do whatever you need to do to feel okay: Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in grief at the end of relationships. Eat a bunch of ice cream. Join an online dating site. Go for a long bike ride. Have some drinks with your friends. Block your ex on all social media so you don't see any wedding nonsense. Pet a dog. Go camping. Write a letter to your ex and then burn it. You'll get through this, I promise.

one of my partners and I broke up a little while ago. I feel like she is doing so much better at finding happiness especially with herself while I have had like 2 good days in about 2 months. Am I weird for taking so much time and still struggling?

Two months is not a long time to get over a breakup, so don’t beat yourself up for still feeling down. There is no “weird” or “normal” way to grieve the loss of a relationship. 

Remember that “we see other people’s Highlight Reels, but we see our own Behind the Scenes.” Especially if you’re getting this information mostly through social media or what she chooses to put out there, you are definitely not getting the whole picture. People do a good job of sending the message that “I am so happy with my life and myself!!!” when they are in control of what gets shared. Here is a powerful article about this (tw suicide mention). So don’t compare your day-to-day, internal struggles with the momentary victories she chooses to share.

It may also be true that she is having an easier time finding joy and confidence after the breakup than you. That’s also okay! People are different. Instead of feeling like you’re “failing” in comparison to her, try to focus on yourself instead. Are you better now than you were two months ago? Some things to try:

  • Focus on your own mental health first! Consider looking for and working through resources on getting over a breakup or increasing satisfaction with life 
  • Visit with a therapist, counselor, or life coach about finding happiness with yourself
  • Start a gratitude journal where you list 3 things daily that made you thankful or joyful (this sounds so cheesy but it really works)
  • Do something just for you! anything from a fancy shower wash to a mental health day off work to watching TV with your favorite snack
  • Reach out to your support network of friends and family to let them know you’re struggling and ask for help
  • Unfollow her on social media or otherwise limit your exposure to the information about her life that’s driving these feelings

You will get through this, I promise! Sometimes things just feel bad. It sucks, but it’s part of being a person who has relationships and feelings and life. 

Both of my partners (an established couple) decided they could not handle poly and broke up with me at the same time. It was my first poly relationship. One of them is still in love with me, but says they cannot handle dating two people simultaneously because or mental illness. Do you have any advice? I’m devastated. My first instinct is just to try to help them.

I’m sorry that this happened to you - it’s fair to feel devastated in the wake of a breakup, and to want to do something to help solve the problem that caused it. But no matter how much you care about someone, you can’t do their thinking and feeling for them. 

Your exes have decided that what’s best for them is to return to a monogamous relationship. Whether you think they can be helped, or whether you agree that this is what’s best, is sadly irrelevant. Your devastation and desire to help them is understandable, but they didn’t ask for your help, so it will be difficult to give in a way that respects their agency.

Moving on from a breakup is hard, and it means different things to different people. Maybe you need to take some space. Maybe you need to re-establish friendships with these people on different terms. Maybe you need to have a drink with some other friends and watch a stupid movie or take a bubble bath with your favorite herbal tea. Don’t make yourself responsible for someone else’s healing, especially someone who didn’t ask - look after your own right now.

(A note for all my other readers: I get a lot of asks from established couples looking for thirds to join them, and I write a lot about how difficult it can be to join an established couple as a third party. This kind of situation is key to many people’s unwillingness to be a unicorn. Note that this is not a triad that split up; the third person was just pushed back out of their relationship with the couple. When looking for a third, be very honest with yourself and potential partners about whether you’re looking to form an equally committed triad, or whether you as a couple-unit want to date a third person while intending to keep the couple-unit intact, possibly at the expense of the third person.)

My partner and I broke up a number of months ago. We were in a poly relationship. He had one quite substantial ldr, and was dating a few others. I only very occasionally dated other people, and nothing substantial, mainly as a result of just not meeting the right people. I always felt compared to his other partner, who was always his priority, and I’ve walked away feeling like I was never enough. I felt like they got all of the fun dates, and I got his weekday stress. How do I unpack that?

While I acknowledge that it’s always good to process and heal from the past, I also want to take the chance to expand on your metaphor a bit. Why are you still “unpacking” baggage from a relationship that’s over? It sounds like he wasn’t healthy for you - he made you feel deprioritized and inadequate and he didn’t appear to value your time spent together. That’s not a suitcase worth unpacking. Just throw the whole thing in the ocean. Leave it at the airport. Go buy another empty suitcase and pack it with delightful things.

You may be feeling angry and let down by this partner. That’s okay. Let yourself be mad. Don’t hang onto bitterness and let it poison you for other relationships, but know that it’s okay to feel hurt after someone hurt you. You may have some self-work to do to remind yourself that someone treating you like you’re not valued doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. His problems are his problems, and they don’t reflect on you or your ability to find a loving, attentive partner.

And try not to let this tarnish other poly people or poly arrangements for you, either. Your partner was crap at polyamory, which is sadly all too common - although many people are also crap at monogamy, so it’s less a reflection on the relationship styles and more a reflection on how poorly we’re socialized to be in healthy relationships. If you want to try poly again, go ahead, knowing that you’ve gotten a good education in what to avoid. If you want to steer clear of poly in the future because of your bad experience, that’s fine too.

If you still feel yourself dwelling on the negativity from this relationship, feeling it affect your self esteem, or preventing you from building other healthy relationships, try visiting a poly-friendly therapist to talk some of these things out. And remember that a few months is still a pretty short amount of time to feel totally recovered from a nasty breakup, and you may feel that suitcase getting lighter over time without you having to do much significant unpacking. Junk has a way of falling out on its own, especially as you find better stuff to put in.

Hello! I am married, and my husband and I are poly. Recently, his girlfriend of about 6 months broke up with him, and he’s is completely wrecked emotionally. He wants to go looking for a play partner or another girlfriend to help him move on, and I would prefer that he work on healing before getting involved with anyone else so he doesn’t end up in a “rebound” relationship. Any advice on how to help support him though this rough time?

Breakups suck - and when you’re poly, it can be hard to know how to care for your partner through a difficult one. It sounds like you two disagree on what the healthiest path for him would be, which is a tough situation, but I think it’s best to let the person who’s hurting decide how best to cope. You may think that “rebound” relationships are unhealthy or impede healing - but if he thinks that’s what’s best for him, you should take him at his word.

Maybe he just needs to remind himself that he is desirable and capable of finding other partners. Maybe he just wants a distraction. Not every sexual partnering needs to turn into something long-term, and it sounds like he’s okay going for something fun and new to help get through this. I think you two should have an open conversation about why he is so upset about this breakup and what he really needs to heal from. There’s so much nuance to things like this, and understanding exactly why he’s sad, what he thinks he’ll get from a new relationship so soon, and how you define healing will be crucial to making sure everyone feels heard and like they can get their needs met. 

Of course, my advice changes if it turns out you’ve seen him go through this pattern before and know that rebound relationships always leave him sadder than he thinks they will. Or if you think he’s going after these new women in a way that’s not fair to them. Or if his new partner-seeking behavior and breakup mourning are affecting you in a negative way. You have every right to let you partner know when you think they’re making a bad decision - but when it comes to issues of “healing,” I generally believe that people know what’s best for them.

I was recently dumped by one of my two partners. I miss him a lot, and am really, really sad I don’t have that relationship anymore, but every ‘how to deal with breakup’ thing under the sun is about being alone / single, which is like. Not the case. I have a girlfriend, but that doesn’t change how I feel. How should a poly kid cheer up after losing a partner?

First off, big hugs to you. Getting dumped sucks and I’m sorry. Interestingly, I recently had a relationship of 3.5 years end and I was pretty wrecked over it, and like you, I felt frustrated that there was very little practical advice for poly folks nursing the wounds of a breakup. The whole “go out with your friends and celebrate your new singleness by flirting with people at the bar” is just not relevant. Nor is “learn a new hobby to rediscover who you are without that person” sounds ridiculous too. So I totally get you.

One thing I always tell friends dealing with a breakup, and something I made sure to remind myself too is this: there’s a reason you dated, and a reason you broke up. Both those facts of reality can exist simultaneously. Thinking only about the good times can get you in a sad-spiral of missing them and wishing you could get back together. Thinking only about the breakup and re-framing them as the worst person ever is toxic and can put you in a shame-spiral of blaming yourself for making such a mistake. The reality is often far more complex and acknowledging the complexity can keep you out of some of those spirals.

As for the rest, if there was a magic cure for breakup sadness, someone would be selling it for a lot of money. This sort of thing takes time. Let yourself be sad for a bit. Losses are to be mourned. Getting dumped sucks. It’s okay to let your girlfriend know that you’re very sad about this and let her comfort you. You’re not “alone” now, but you’re still grieving a loss, and the fact that you’re hurt about this doesn’t mean your girlfriend isn’t “enough” for you.

Do your best to take care of and indulge yourself. Go out for your favorite meal. Take sick day to sleep in and watch Netflix. Solicit love from your tumblr followers. Try making a playlist of songs that make you feel better - after my breakup I made a playlist of pumped-up shouty-vocals power-lyrics fuck-you music that let me indulge my anger at my ex and also remind myself that I can be strong and independent even when I don’t want to be. (He follows me on Spotify so I just titled it X to be especially passive aggressive.) Do whatever makes you feel good, because you have a wound that needs healing. 

It’s tough but important to find the right balance of “letting yourself feel the feelings” and “find distractions to keep you from wallowing.” You don’t want to push away or deny your feelings. It’s okay to feel hurt, disappointed, betrayed, confused, angry, sad, whatever, but it’s not productive to just feed those feelings until you get stuck in a misery spiral. Do what makes you feel better without feeling like you’re responsible for just snapping yourself out of any bad feelings.

Hugs hugs. It’ll get better, I promise. And if you find anything else that works, please do come back and let me know.