While I fully understand the sentiment in the adage “if you love something, set it free” this is ultimately a terrible bit of life advice. It’s an oversimplification and likely to cause more heartache than not. While it’s true you should always be careful not to smother and kill something with your love, that’s just not how most of us love.
As I faced the need to break up with Justina, I didn’t think much about this adage. All I thought about was the pain and suffering we’d both have to go through in the wake of the breakup. Only through that pain, which is ongoing, have I finally given thought to the importance of Justina’s freedom.
This is a painful realization for me, and I still have a lot to process. But perhaps this will begin to bring me some inner peace.
I’ve been struggling to reconcile my emotions over my break up with Justina. Logically, it’s clear this was the right action. Emotionally, it has been a mess. She’s on my mind at times and in ways I cannot handle emotionally. Thoughts of her are pervasive in my daily routine, and I’m not processing them effectively; instead finding that they just grind my motivations for anything else to a halt. I’m not proud of how poorly I’m handling this for myself, but I’m human and I accept that this breakup is a pretty big deal to me.
Realizing that I hadn’t dealt with a breakup in over 25-years, I went to the internet for assistance. Heck, people deal with break ups all the time, so there must be some good advice out there! In seeking this advice I learned a few key things:
- Yes, there is a lot of advice out there
- Some of it is pretty good!
- But, my situation is more unique than most
- So much of the advice doesn’t really apply
What makes my situation so unique?
There are two key things that make my break up with Justina pretty unique. First, most relationships where the two people still really love and care about each other, and are getting along well, don’t come to an end like this. Second, most advice is about “getting over” the former lover and trying to forget about them. Let’s look at each of these.
An Necessary Breakup
Traditionally, break ups happen because there’s a rift in the relationship. One person isn’t getting what they need or there’s an untenable imbalance or love has turned inward on itself and the relationship has become toxic. These aren’t the only reasons, but you get the idea. For Justina and me, we were doing great and there was nothing wrong between us. But being poly means that every relationship ultimately needs to take other relationships into consideration. In this case, my relationship with Jeannie might not recover unless I separated from Justina. Jeopardizing my marriage was just not an option.
What I’m going through right now, and presumably Justina as well, is unique because we still care about each other and still want a bond. We at least want a meaningful friendship once this all settles down. We could even have more than just friendship again. Probably not, but only time will tell. This isn’t quite the same as “getting back together with an ex” because in the poly world nothing is ever that black and white.
So when you break up because it is necessary, there is a whole other layer of emotions to consider. I found very few resources for handling this type of break up.
Getting Over Your Ex
The other thing I found was a lot of advice for getting over your ex. This is mostly advice to help you forget about them and move on. I don’t want to forget Justina. I do need to “move on” in a sense. And perhaps this is the biggest problem. How do you “get over” someone you hope to eventually be involved with again, even if only as friends, in the future? Does this struggle mean that she and I having a friendship later may not be possible? Pondering this is so sad for me, and precisely why I’m on this circular emotional ride; because there is no clear and definitive goal other than “to feel better” which is way too vague.
What I Need
What I need is to simply not have Justina and our breakup dominating my thoughts and emotions. The whole point of this separation is so I can focus on Jeannie without distraction. Yet in removing the distraction of Justina The Lover, I’ve created the distraction of Justina The Ex. The former was more of a practical distraction – my time with Justina was taking away from time with Jeannie. The latter is more inwardly emotional and perhaps, therefore, even more challenging for me. Although there is likely an end to the latter; practically speaking, at least. That’s why I’m in this place today – to make sure that I have both the time, and emotional space to do the work that Jeannie and I need to do.
I guess I will, sort of, “get over it” as times passes. That’s how time works. It feels like this trivializes what I’m going through right now, but this is simply reality. Then, and only then, will I know if Jeannie and I can get to the place we need. And if Justina and I can truly have a meaningful friendship or not. In the meantime, there will be a lot of strong emotions and very little practical advice for processing those feelings. Other than time.
What She Needs
Here’s why I titled the post as I did, and this is really hard for me to admit publicly. Like it or not, my love may have been smothering Justina. Despite her doing a good job of having her other relationships, she was likely reliant on me for some things that I could not commit to providing consistently. I allowed myself to fly to close to the sun, and I got burned. Justina may have known what she was getting into, but no one knows what the repercussions may be down the line. In order for Justina to get to her best place, I needed to step back and give her the space and freedom she needs to figure this out for herself.
Now I’m at her mercy. Currently, her silence is truly painful; it feels as though this means she wants to get over me, forget about me, and never talk to me again. It’s unlikely this is her goal, but I must accept that, if it is, that’s her choice and my love for her means I’ll need to set her completely free to honor and respect her. Until she is ready to re-engage with me in any way, I need to find my own path and my own ways to get through these emotions.
I must respect our love by truly setting her free. Let’s not forget that there is a second part to the adage:
If you love something, set it free
If it returns, it was meant to be