I’ve been non-monogamous since I was 16. My 26th birthday was in July, which means I’ve been non-monogamous for a decade. That’s freaking intense. a decade of non-monogamy has taught me some very important lessons. I could talk all day about the big lessons that everyone learns, but I would like to focus on some of the more personal ones. It’s gonna get really personal in here. For the purposes of these posts, I will switch between Poly, Polyamor(y/ous), and Non-Mon(ogamy). Don’t worry, I’ll include this note in all the posts. Check out Part 1 Here.
It is believed that 85% of relationships end in a breakup. Those of the elite 15% that result in marriage have a 50% chance of divorce. That’s just for monogamy. Polyamory and non-monogamy carries a much higher risk. Sometimes it simply ends. Perhaps they decide to default back to monogamy. Perhaps they don’t feel that you mesh well with their other partners. Perhaps they cut back on the number of partners they have, because they don’t have time. Perhaps someone you love simply doesn’t feel the same way about you.
So why would anyone do it?
Well, for me, the reward is greater than the risk. The risk of heartbreak, of sadness. These are all things that pass. Pain fades with time. For me, the love lasts longer than the hurt. Still, breakups happen, and when they do, they hurt.
The kindest thing that anyone has ever done for me was during a breakup. I was having such a hard time telling them that I needed to end this relationship. I didn’t have enough time, or spare energy, or ability to maintain the relationship with them due to the distance, and in 9 words, they made the entire thing okay.
“Do you need me to break up with you?”
How kind is that? When the person who you love, who loves you, is struggling with the decision of ending things to take care of themselves, taking the burden off of them. I was used to silent acceptance, or agreement, or anger. I wasn’t used to someone making it easy for me to end a relationship with them. Which brings me to the point of this post.
You need to know when to walk away.
In polyamory, this has been the hardest thing for me to accomplish. It’s always been incredibly hard for me to know when things need to end. When to walk away. Too often I’ve let things go on because I couldn’t bring myself to end things. Whether it’s because I am too attached, or because I’m staying out of some strange sense of obligation. I don’t always know when to walk away.
I still don’t have an answer for when to walk away because it’s different for everyone. It depends on how you value the relationship, how you value yourself, how much are you willing to take before the relationship is no longer worth it.
How much is your relationship worth? How much are you worth? Is your relationship affecting your self-care? Your sanity?
For me sometimes that answer is hard to come by. I’m a person who, once I fall for someone, will do just about anything to make it work. Sometimes it’s comfort, but a couple of times in my life it’s been about how I’ve felt about the person. I wanted them to be happy, I wanted to love them as best I could, even if we weren’t well matched, even if it made me miserable. That’s not a healthy way to live.
I think that in relationships things are a give and take. It’s a compromise. It’s finding a balance between caring for yourself and caring for your partner. It’s delicate. Sometimes, you’ll find that it’s worth it. Sometimes you’ll find that changing your life, your plans, changing parts of yourself are worth it. Those changes can better you, can put you in a place where you feel better about where your life is going. That’s awesome when you find that. It’s amazing to feel that rush that a person has made you better.
Sometimes though, those changes come at a very steep cost.
In ten years of non-monogamy, I have learned how much I’m worth. I’ve learned how to gauge the cost of the parts of me I give and change. I don’t change, and I don’t compromise with people who won’t compromise with me. I have learned that at the end of the day I am a self sufficient human. It took a long time to build that self esteem. That confidence that I will be fine.
It was a hard road though. It was hard and required a lot of self loathing and pity. It took a lot of self-doubt that is still there. A lot of tears and fear of being alone. Even now I have days where I look at my life and I realize that being poly means that I’m never going to be someone’s “One”. We live in a culture that has raised us on monogamy, has raised us on needing to be dependent on a partner. It leads to self-doubt for people who don’t believe that is the case. Some people feel that they’ve absolutely gone down the wrong path. That can get dark. Those spaces can get scary and overwhelming, and it truly tests the idea of “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”.
I don’t need a partner to complete me. My partners are in my life because I want them there, not because I need them there. If they left me today, I would be devastated. I would be heartbroken. I would spend time grieving the relationship ending and changing, as I do whenever a relationships ends or transitions into a new stage.
I know when to walk away, because I know who I am.
I will be okay.
And so will you.
Until Next Time.
-The Frisky Fairy