Collateral Damage

Relationships have peaks and valleys. To make a relationship last…people must be committed to the climbs, just as much as they are to admiring the grand views.

~Kaliana Dietrich

 

Sometimes an argument saves a relationship, whereas silence breaks it. Speak up for your heart so that you won’t have regrets. Life is not about making others happy. Life is about being honest and sharing your happiness with others.

~unknown

Sometimes, just writing the hard stuff, without drawing conclusions, without sharing lessons learned, is what is most needed. Today, I need to write this experience, just as I do others, so I can continue my journey. I hope it offers some backstory and perspective on what break-ups — monogamous or polyamorous — can be like.

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I knew, when we met, in June 2010, that he was different. When he spoke about polyamory, and how people should be treated, he gave words to the conclusions I’d been drawing, as I sorted out my own philosophy, building poly relationships that were honorable, ethical, and designed to last a lifetime. The more he talked, the more I knew he was someone I could fall in love with, my heart would be safe. He had a primary relationship; he lived in Dallas and she in Houston. I knew and accepted that — even when his primary didn’t treat me with respect. I worked hard to find and live within the boundaries that made up his life, hoping he’d defend my heart, if his primary decided to use it for target practice. He, in turn, respected my marriage from the start.

I fell in love, trusting him completely.

In April, 2011, he began dating someone new. She too lived in Dallas, while I lived 251 miles away. Things between us began to shift. Time once spent on the phone with me was now filled with date nights, and weekend trips with her. It was NRE (new relationship energy). I was glad for him, but scared. We scheduled our weekends, talked through the changes, and he affirmed his commitment to me. I affirmed mine to him. I met new girl in May 2011, and she was beautiful, inside and out, genuine, caring, and head over heels with him. Together they glowed. I was very glad to see him smile, after so much hurt and upheaval in his primary relationship. She was a bright light in a room of shadows.

I liked her, and she scared me.

I was insecure, fearing he’d only been poly because he hadn’t found the right one yet. Maybe she was the right one, and I’d get squeezed out, as their relationship grew. I let those fears beat me up, especially when a few months later, his primary partner decided the new girl and I were both, indeed, disposable — and I should be the first to go.

New girl did something amazing. She stood up for me, fought for his love for me, and encouraged him to do the same. She spoke up and didn’t back down when it got ugly and difficult, supporting him while he broken-heartedly went into battle for me, and the polyamorous life he’d planned. I supported him too — from afar — but she was there in the trenches. I was thankful she’d come into our lives and loved her for being brave.

His primary relationship did not survive.

It died in December 2011 and like a wall of love we came together, surrounding him and sharing his grief. We loved him, and respected each other, and it was good.  I learned over the next several weeks how tenuous my place in his life had really been as his primary partner had attacked. I heard of new girl’s support, and how she’d been heart-broken by his pain. I was grateful, and yet, insecure. It might not make sense now, but then I was rattled by the depth of their connection, and the fact that I was so in the dark about the battle they’d been fighting for me. He’d not told me any of it. Communication was not his strength.

Turns out, communication wasn’t a strength for any of us.

In February 2012, he and I had plans to celebrate a late Valentine’s weekend, here at a local B&B — at the last minute told me new girl was coming along, and staying in our suite. I didn’t flex well. I panicked, and the resulting conversations only made things worse. He finally insisted she come, when she felt unwanted.  He insisted I trust him, as he wanted to talk to both of us. We were both physically ill, scared, and flying blind, But we trusted him, and when we came together for a heart to heart, we trusted each other.

That night in our suite, he declared his decision to make us both the core of his world… dual primary partners, each with different relationships, but neither with more importance or value than the other. He announced his intention to hold public commitment ceremonies with each of us, and to build a better life. Throughout that beautiful weekend, we talked and talked, vulnerability and fear giving way to trust. The walls between us crumbled, and we cried with relief in a three-part embrace.

Then it happened. It had been happening, but I’d been scared to trust… and on that day, seeing her vulnerability and beauty, and knowing my own, I took a risk… and I kissed her. We dropped our defenses, and began to fall in love. I was terrified, and I’m not sure that she wasn’t, too.  But buoyed by his love, and the trust we were experiencing, I let myself leap into an unknown place, opening my heart for the first time ever, to be loved by and to love a woman… her.

It was probably the best weekend we ever had.

The next year and eight months were filled with ups and downs. We argued a lot, and didn’t communicate enough. There were discrepancies, misunderstandings, and occasionally wonderful times in a huge king-sized bed. We shared trips, came out to some family, attended poly events and funerals… there was some good. But, communication about basics, like the structure of our triad, the individual relationships, the future, commitment ceremonies, designations like “fiancee'” and “girlfriend”, living arrangements, and expectations was not clear.

Eventually he moved in with new girl, and prepared to sell his condo. She proposed; he accepted. She expressed a need to be primary, insisting he declare her publicly as such.  I asked him for clarity, guidelines regarding what he needed from our relationship. He insisted I was still primary, too. No one came before me, no one came before her. I asked her for clarity, and it became clear that her views were not the same as his. I asked for triad conversations, which erupted into arguments without actually addressing the questions. When put on the spot in those triad discussions, he clammed up, afraid of hurting her, or hurting me.

The chasm widened; the pain continued.

I failed at communicating. Instead of pressing for clarity, I tried not to rock the boat. I believed him, when he said his feelings and plans with me hadn’t changed. I went on planning, hoping that things would get better. He failed at communicating, hoping the storms would blow over. For over a year, my fears and hers made it impossible for the two of us to explore the love we’d hoped to grow. She failed at communicating her needs and fears to him, and she stopped communicating with me. We were all hurting, wounded, and avoiding pain.

In October of 2013, she declared to him that she was done. She insisted he dump me, declared me toxic to their marriage plans and future happiness. She insisted I never wanted her, and wanted him all to myself. He gave me the news over the phone, that she was unwilling to continue, asked me for time to sort out his life, as his plans and dreams for our triad had just blown up.

So, I waited, mourning the loss of her love, alone.

In theweeks to follow, he gave me hope that he could make the transition from a triad to a V relationship. I waited in near silence for six months, until in April, 2014, he told me, he couldn’t continue. She was forcing him to choose. Though he still loved me, he had to end our relationship to save theirs. He swore he would fight to build a future with room for me. She — after six months of silence toward me — emailed him, my husband, and me, to make it clear she’d never permit him to have a relationship with me.

Two days later, they married and flew off to a European honeymoon.

I mourned the loss of my relationship with him, alone.

Today, he’s still trying to change the future. Today, she still wants me to disappear. Today, I am his friend. For ten months, I’ve been collateral damage, fallout from a polyamorous triad explosion. But, the road ahead keeps going. I know I am a good friend, a good poly partner, a good lover…

…and I will find my own way. 

 

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