Polyamory Breakup Tips: How to Support Your Partner Through a Breakup with Someone Else [Polyamory Conversation Cards #15]

I have thought more about breakups in the last one hundred and four days at the time of writing (but who’s counting?) than I ever thought either possible or desirable. I’m not even close to ready to write about the particular and brutal ways that my own heart has been torn out this year, and I’m not sure when I will be, but at least I can use this experience to bring you some hopefully-useful polyamory breakup tips.

In case you missed it, this post is part of a series inspired by Odder Being’s Polyamory Conversation Cards. Once a week or as often as I can, I’ll pull a card at random and write a piece of content based on it. There will likely be some essays, advice pieces, personal experiences, rants, and more! You can read the whole series at the dedicated tag. And if you want to support my work and get occasional bonus content, head on over to my Patreon.

This week’s card asks:

“How can your partner(s) best support you when you’re facing challenges in your other relationships or have a broken heart?”

I’m not going to give you my best “how to get over a breakup” tips, mostly because I don’t fucking know y’all, I wouldn’t still be crying every day if I knew that. So instead, we’ll look at another unique polyamory breakup problem: how to support your partner when someone else has broken their heart.

Ask What They Need

This is always my first tip when people ask me how to support their partner through a breakup or any other traumatic life event. People are different and need different things. Some people want lots of company and distraction when they’re heartbroken. Others prefer to be given plenty of their own space to turn inwards and process. So ask your partner what they need and what will be most helpful to them.

Of course, they may not know, and you need to make room for that. But even if they don’t know now, the simple act of asking shows that you care. It shows that you will be there for them as and when they do know what they need.

With that said, read on for some general tips that I’ve found tend to work well.

Take Care of the Practical Things

For the first four or five days after my most recent breakup, I could do almost nothing but lie on the sofa and cry. Mr C&K took care of practical things around our home, picking up the slack where I couldn’t and cooking for me so that I’d at least have a chance at eating something healthy.

Taking care of practical things can be a godsend for someone who is heartbroken. In the midst of grief, even small daily tasks can feel insurmountable. So feed them, take care of household chores, pick up the kids from school or walk the dog. By taking these things off their plate, you give them time and space to do the grieving they need to do.

Distract Them

Grief and heartbreak need to be processed. However, no-one can do this 24 hours a day until they feel better. Sometimes, it’s important just to get back out into the world and think about other things.

Providing distractions can be a great way to cheer someone up, pull them out of the fog, and show them that they’re still an awesome and complete human without the person who broke their heart. Take them out if they’re up for it. Watch fun movies or TV shows with them, play a game, do a project, or just talk about something else.

Let Them Feel Their Feelings

When someone you love is hurting, it can be tempting to want to make them feel better by any means necessary. This comes from a good place, but it can end up doing more harm than good. If you’re not careful, your partner may end up feeling pressured to hide their true feelings or to “get over it” more quickly than is realistic for them.

Hold space for their feelings. Do not diminish those feelings, try to “logic” your partner out of feeling them, or tell them that they shouldn’t feel a particular way. Instead validate, empathise, and let them know that whatever they feel is okay.

Don’t Expect it to be Quick or Easy

Breakups, particularly bad and traumatic breakups, are a form of grief. This pain does not, for most of us, pass quickly or easily. It can take weeks, months, or even years for someone to completely get over the ending of a relationship.

That’s not to say they’ll be totally non-functional for all that time. Most people won’t be. I went back to work a few days after my recent breakup, because I had to.

Sometimes, they might think they’re fine. They might even be fine for hours, days, weeks at a time. Then something will remind them of the breakup and they’ll be slammed by a wave of grief again. Be there for them when this happens. Be patient, and be prepared to reassure them that this experience is normal.

Resist the Temptation to Step Into the Ex Partner’s Place

When your partner is experiencing loss, it’s natural to want to fill that void. In a polyamorous situation, remaining partners often make the mistake of trying to step into the ex partner’s place or fill their shoes (either in a self-serving way, in an attempt to comfort the grieving partner, or both.)

Resist this temptation with all your might.

Nurture and grow your own relationship with your partner, and allow it to be what it is. This may or may not include changing some aspects of it in response to the breakup, either temporarily or permanently. But do not try to be or to replace someone else. It will backfire badly on both of you if you do.

Seek Support for Yourself, If You Need It

There are two important angles to consider here.

Firstly, caring for someone else – even (or especially) someone you love immensely – can be draining. It’s important to also take care of your own needs and seek support so that you don’t burn out.

The Circle of Grief can be useful here: support in, dump out. In other words, extend support to people who are closer to the current crisis than you (in this case, that’s your partner who got their heart broken.) Vent to, complain to, and seek support from people who are further away from it than you (in this case, that’s likely other friends or family, possibly other partners, and maybe a therapist.)

If you were practicing kitchen table polyamory or were otherwise close to your now ex-metamour, you might also be experiencing your own feelings of loss and grief. I’ve lost friendships and sexual relationships with metamours when one of us broke up with our mutual partner, and that loss is real and painful. If this sounds familiar, don’t forget to tend to yourself too.

Do you have any useful polyamory breakup tips for us? Any amazing ways your partner(s) have supported you when someone else broke your heart?

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