• Sarah M. Neal

Supporting Your Polyamorous Partners in Times of Heartache.

The idea of compersion in polyamorous relationships is that you receive/feel joy when your partner(s) find joy in their other partners. So, what happens when your partner is saddened or gets hurt in one of their other relationships? Say… in the event of a breakup or argument? How do we support them?
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The idea of compersion in polyamorous relationships is that you receive/feel joy when your partner(s) find joy in their other partners. So, what happens when your partner is saddened or gets hurt in one of their other relationships? Say… in the event of a breakup or argument? How do we support them?

As parents, friends, siblings, and children, we automatically feel hurt when our children, friends, siblings, and parents feel pain. When they are sad, we feel compassion and empathy and share in their burden of their hurt.

Shouldn’t it be the same for our partners?

When John or Tyler are upset, for whatever reason, I do my best to comfort and support them. I don’t always nail it and do /act/say the way they need me to, but I do make my best effort. It is definitely a learning process.

That’s what partners do right? We love and support each other even when they/we are feeling shitty about something.

What about when they break up with another partner or another relationship doesn’t work out the way they hoped it would?

Our partner’s pain is our pain, right?

BUT… What if our own gremlins start to get the best of us? What if we weren’t super psyched about the relationship for whatever reason? Maybe we weren’t fond of the person or maybe we weren’t fond of the actual relationship because of our own insecurities or ego, or maybe the relationship was adding some stresses on our relationship. The list could go on.

Does our relief overshadow our compassion and empathy for our partners?

Does our relief cause us to ignore, downplay, or disregard whatever our partners may be feeling?

Do we start to get frustrated with our partner’s pain because how could they be sad if they still have us?

Something I often teach/preach is that not everything is about you.

Not everything that is going on with our partners, children, friends, parents, coworkers, etc.

has ANYTHING to do with us.

If a partner or a friend is acting grumpy or distant towards you, but they tell you that their issues have nothing to do with you, then you need to trust them. Because not everything is about you.

Your partner meets someone they want to date or explore a connection with. It isn’t about you. It isn’t how your partner feels about you. It is about the connection they feel with that other person. It is between the two of them. Their connection. Their relationship.

Our gremlins try to convince us otherwise (and they can get LOUD), but it really isn’t about us.

If you struggle with compersion, I feel you. I struggle with it too. I get it. So that is when conversations need to take place, so you and your partner figure out how to support you through your struggles.

But at the end of the day, that relationship ain’t about you.

It has nothing to do with you when it starts, and it has nothing to do with you when it ends… or at least it really shouldn’t have anything to do with you. If it does, that is a whole other topic to delve into, which we won’t do right now.

Regardless of what we are feeling regarding a relationship that has nothing really to do with us, shouldn’t we show enough compassion for our partner, who may be dealing with some very unpleasant emotions, to ask them about those feelings? Shouldn’t we show enough compassion to at least ask our partners what they might need from us?

Shouldn’t we have enough compassion for our partners to understand that while we may not be sad over the relationship ending (you know, the one that has nothing to do with us), our partners could be and that it is okay for them to feel what they are feeling? Just as it is okay to feel what you are feeling in any given situation.

When we don’t take the time to try to understand how our partners are feeling in any given situation and we don’t hold the space our partners may need to process transitions, then we don’t really deserve their trust with those emotions.

When we don’t earn that trust, or we lose that trust when it comes to our partners dealing with difficult emotions, we stop being emotionally safe for our partners.

Emotionally safety is essential for any meaningful relationship whether it is romantic, platonic, or familial.

If we don’t feel emotionally safe around someone, we shut down. If someone makes us feel like our emotions are unreasonable, insignificant, invalid, or not worth the effort, then we shut down. That person ceases to be a safe person to be open and honest with when it comes to how we are feeling concerning different aspects of our lives.

If we cannot be open and honest with our partners about how we are feeling concerning other relationships, that can create a whole host of problems within that relationship.

I’m not talking about sharing all the gory details about our other relationships and then getting upset if our partner isn’t excited for us.

I’m talking about if we can’t express some excitement about a new relationship with my partners, then I might be reluctant to talk with my partners about other relationships or experiences with that new partner that bring me joy.

If we can’t express pain or frustration concerning a breakup or transition with my partners, then we might be reluctant to talk with my partners about any other relationships. We might clam up and swallow that pain instead of talking about it.

When we have to swallow our difficult emotions because our partners have become emotionally unsafe for that particular type of situation, the emotions will eventually bubble back up. Those emotions won’t be suppressed forever and will find their way to the surface.

Unfortunately, that often means those emotions show back up as resentment or anger towards the partner we feel unsafe around.

Look, you don’t have to feel the same way your partner does about THEIR other relationships to hold the space that is needed to create and nurture emotional safety because it ISN’T ABOUT YOU.

Let me put it to you this way, if your partner is in a space of pain, disappointment, frustration, or anger over something that is not a result of your actions but from some other catalyst are you just going to write off their pain? Is their pain not your pain? Do you not want to do whatever you can to help them through those unpleasant emotions?

So, then what is the difference if their pain is caused by another relationship or some other outside experience?

If you are having difficulty finding that compassion when your partner is going through a difficult time with another partner who you might not be a fan of, there are several things you can ask and do to help be the supportive, loving partner you know you are and that your partner needs you to be.

“How are you feeling about this?” Let your partner speak. Listen to your partner. Keep your comments to yourself.

“What do you need from me?” These six, little words can have such a huge impact on anyone. These six, little words have been a challenge for me to use because sometimes I forget that I don’t know what everyone needs all the time. I forget that I don’t read minds and that I don’t have all the answers or know all the things. Learning to ask this simple sentence and then LISTENING to the answer and then APPLYING the answer can be EVERYTHING to the person who needs it. Even if they don’t know what they need at the time, just hearing that question and knowing that you will do what THEY need you to do, not what you assume they need speaks VOLUMES to the person in pain.

It is that simple. These two questions can make all the difference with ANYONE who is in emotional pain over something or someone. Asking those questions and respecting the answers and doing what the person in front of you needs you to do and keeping your opinions about the situation to yourself can be the difference between you being an emotionally safe person to talk to or someone who isn’t safe to talk to.

Because remember, it isn’t always about you.


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