Polyamory is not easy. Not only do you have to consider your own needs and the needs of your partners, but you also have to consider the needs of your partners’ partners (or metamour, in poly lingo). Someone (or multiple someones) in the polycule might learn through trial and error that polyamory isn’t right for them.
So, what happens then?
Try not to panic
Try not to torture yourself with unknowns.
Feelings do not equal decisions. Just because someone wants to close the relationship, that doesn’t mean they will. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s all over and you’re never going to see your lover again. But one person does not a relationship make. Or put another way; it takes two (or more) to tango.
Your partner’s partner doesn’t control your partner. However, they are important to them. Especially if you’re dealing with a pre-existing couple who opened their relationship to allow for yours.
Remember that your partner’s partner matters to them
In a polycule, emotions are all over the place and things can get pretty messy. You can’t just make demands on your partner because their partner wants something that upsets you. And you can’t start shit-talking their partner either.
It’s like when your friend starts dating someone you don’t approve of. You can’t really just tell your friend not to date them anymore because they’ll get upset and probably choose their lover over you if you make them choose. The best you can do is stay supportive enough that you can remain in their life and step in if things get out of hand, or pick up the pieces if the relationship falls apart.
Dealing with your partner’s partner means trusting your partner to make the best decision for themselves and supporting them in whatever they choose. Loving them means allowing them the autonomy to make their own decisions.
Remember that YOU matter to your partner
Similarly, especially if you’ve been together for a while, YOU matter to your partner, and they’re not likely to give you up without a fight unless they already weren’t that invested. So, if push comes to shove and they cut you out entirely, either their partner is quite emotionally manipulative or they weren’t as into you as you deserve.
You deserve to be with someone who wants to be with you. If your partner does want to make it work, they’re going to do everything in their power to work things out. Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it, too? They’re going to try to keep all the flavors they can.
If you believe that your relationship is strong and valuable for both of you, it’s not going to be extinguished just because one person is uncomfortable. If it is, then maybe your partner needs to learn a few things the hard way. Let them.
Understand the source of the conflict
I reiterate: polyamory is hard.
When your lover loves someone else, all sorts of emotions can be triggered. Are you enough for them? Is there something you’re not giving them? Do you just need to try harder? Do more? Be better? Will they leave me? Are they bored?
It’s enough to drive you crazy! The good thing is that polyamory can teach us about our own insecurities. Seeing our insecurities and feeling them so acutely is an opportunity to heal those parts of ourselves that are hurting. When your partner’s partner wants to close the relationship, it’s likely because they’re overwhelmed by their own insecurities and need some extra love and attention to heal.
The partner that you share might be the best person to comfort them and see them through that healing. And the partner that you share probably loves you both, but sees a need to give extra attention to their other partner. Recognizing this can not only comfort you with the knowledge that they can be a supportive partner when they’re needed (and therefore supportive of you when you need them), but also will remind you that healing takes time but it isn’t permanent.
They might just need a little time.
Advocate for your needs
Of course, it’s great to be understanding and sympathetic, but make sure your needs are also being met. They don’t necessarily have to be met by a particular person, either. This might be a good time to lean on your other partners, friends or family members, or to seek out new connections. Just because your partner needs to shift some things around, doesn’t mean you have to just ignore your own needs.
This is the beauty of polyamory.
Maybe you can meet your sexual needs another way, but you need to stay connected with your partner. Or maybe you’re ok with distance so long as there’s a time limit. Maybe you just need to know that your partner is ok day to day. Try not to confuse your wants with your needs, but do ask for what you truly need.
Yes, you’ve probably gotten comfortable with a particular partner and gotten used to them fulfilling your needs, but there was probably a time when those needs were met another way. And there are probably plenty of options you just aren’t seeing because you’re feeling attached to the way things were.
Change is inevitable, even in monogamy.
Maybe you can stay connected as friends, or occasional hookup partners. It might just be a certain element of your relationship that needs adjusting. Any changes that are made to accommodate the other partner are also likely to be temporary, as most things are. Things may not ever return to what they were, but nothing ever really does, does it?
Allow yourself time to grieve
Any major life change comes with a bit (or a lot) of stress. An element of uncertainty can often make things worse. Even if your relationship isn’t completely ending, it is changing and it’s ok to be upset about it. In fact, it would be a red flag if you weren’t.
Let yourself cry and stay in bed a bit longer. Maybe you just need to watch some trash tv or talk your friend’s ear off about it. Whatever your grieving process looks like, let yourself have it. Even if it all goes back to normal tomorrow, you’ve got some real emotions to process.
It won’t be pretty and you don’t have to be whatever your idea of “perfect” is. Feel the feelings you have and honor them. Learn from them. Heal from them.
There’s always more fish in the sea
I know, this saying might be outdated now that global warming is wreaking havoc on our water, but the sentiment rings true. Even if your partner was your soul mate, do you really think we’d only get one? Sure, it may not be easy to find the next one, but they’re out there.
We are compatible with more than just one person, especially when we’re open to mixing and matching to get our perfect blend. The poly pool may be small, but it’s a pretty good one and even if you have a hard time finding your next twin flame, you’re sure to find others who understand what you’re going through. Talk to them.
All is not lost
I know it feels bleak right now, and it’s ok to stay in those feels for a few days, weeks, or whatever timeline you process things in. If you want to, and when you’re ready, you will love again. You will feel loved again.
It won’t be instant (or at least, not likely), but with time and patience, you will grow through this. You will find other connections somewhere, somehow. You will find a way to keep going and you may even find yourself better off than you were before. Life has a way of working things out, usually to our benefit in the end. Though, we may not know when the “end” will be.