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Breaking up with a person when everyone's poly.
December 30, 2012 7:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for breakup advice. Male breaking with a female, long-distance in a poly relationship. Special snowflake details inside.

Background: I'm in a poly relationship with three separate girls, who know about each other, but haven't met. Everything's on the table and open. One of them is long-distance - I met her online and we've spent about a week of in-person time together, but we don't live anyhere near. But now I'm starting to feel like I need to leave that relationship.

It's hard to articulate the reasons I feel uncomfortable with the relationship, and I want to be able to break up in the best way possible. I'm worried that this will simply turn into a list of grievances, so I'm hoping MeFites can help me sort out my thoughts and say the right thing.

* I enjoy most conversations with her. The problem is that she starts conversations with me a _lot_ - I end up talking with her far more often than the girlfriends I spend time with in person combined, and she's complained in the past when I didn't want to converse. This makes me uncomfortable - I feel like I should have the reasonable ability to say that I'm busy or just not converse if I want to be able to head out in 10 minutes without jumping out of a conversation. She also asks a lot of questions in conversation, so I can't just let a conversation come to a point that could be a conclusion and head out. I sometimes swear at the computer when I'm trying to do something and she sends me a Facebook message.

* She expects me to share every detail of my day. I really do not like this. I feel like I should be able to keep some events in separate spheres of my life without feeling like I'm trying to hide something.

* She wants to share my interests, but this mostly consists of asking me about them. We don't have many shared experiences, and I don't like feeling that I'm forcefully creating those shared experiences.

* She's implied that I'm her primary (or maybe only) boyfriend. I do not feel like she is my primary, because we've only ever spent a week together, and it bothers me that she's telling people I'm her boyfriend because of its embedded meanings.

* Mostly - and this is the biggest problem - I don't feel like I'm that much into her as a romantic partner anymore. I don't really feel strongly romantic towards anyone, and I think she expects a lot more romance than I can provide.

One event bothered me in particular, but I don't want to share it here because it may be identifiable.

I don't want to just break up - I do enjoy conversations we've had that haven't been about personal lives, and I still want to spend platonic time with her in real life when that's possible. I don't even necessarily want to close off the possibility of a relationship later - we're both still young (barely post-college), and I'm sure we'll be different people in five years.

Throwaway e-mail account: mefipolybreakuphelp@gmail.com.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You cannot have your cake and eat it too. That is selfish and unfair. Either cut her free completely, or keep trying the romantic relationship.

I would say: "I am sorry to say this, but I no longer feel the romantic chemistry we once had and I wanted to be upfront about it with you as soon as I knew. This isnt something that will change, and I have enjoyed getting to know you and hope we can maintain our friendship, which I am grateful and glad for, but I will understand if you aren't comfortable with keeping in touch."
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:21 PM on December 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


It is selfish of you to try to break up with her but keep her as a friend. You can tell her, while you're breaking it off with her, that you want to leave the door open for a future friendship. But probably the biggest lesson I've learned through my 20s is that when a relationship ends, people need time alone. People can reconnect, and friendships can re-form, but that time alone to heal is absolutely vital.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:32 PM on December 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh, also you should tell her as soon as possible. She sounds clingy (it's okay, I'm a clingy girl!!) and speaking from experience, she probably can already tell that something's wrong. The more that you're "unavailable" or tell her everything's okay -- the more she'll be need reassurance by talking to you all the time, etc, that everything really is okay. So it'll just be easier for both of you if you're up front about breaking up with her and honest about why [you just need to phrase this the right way to minimize the hurt but still being honest].
posted by DoubleLune at 7:34 PM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Let her go and be honest.
posted by irish01 at 7:37 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a good rule of thumb - if someone is really really into you and you want to break up with them - then to be kind you MUST go no contact.

If you broke up with me in this scenario and said we could stay friends, I would pine for you and hold out hope I could change your mind. In fact, I have had this happen to me. It sucked!

Break up with her and don't be friends, don't say you guys can get in touch in a few months or anything remotely like that.

Clean break is kindest. Anything else and she will carry a torch. Don't let her do that.

She deserves to be with someone she digs, who digs her right back.

Get out of the way so she can have that.
posted by jbenben at 7:39 PM on December 30, 2012 [25 favorites]


I don't want to just break up - I do enjoy conversations we've had that haven't been about personal lives, and I still want to spend platonic time with her in real life when that's possible

I know you do, but the problem is that to you she's a poly partner and to her you are her boyfriend. You need to understand that - this is going to be hard for her.

Ideally I would follow Miko's breakup advice. Except in reality I would semi-bail and blame the LDR, saying that it's not her, it just turns out you're just not cut out for long distance, sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:00 PM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Look, if you really think maybe in 5 years you two could potentially get back together, then get back in touch with her in 5 years.

Don't be friends in the meantime. The only way the two of you can be friends long-distance is through conversation, and although you say you enjoy them your question suggests otherwise.

Miko's breakup advice is excellent.
posted by asciident at 8:33 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


You don't get to determine what happens after you break up with someone (and yes, you should break up with this person). I would not leave that door open in any way, either platonically or "maybe someday." Think of it this way -- this young woman (at least you think) has designated you as her primary partner even though she's probably aware that she's not yours, because of how you act towards her/treat her. She has done this even though you clearly have different romantic needs. This is probably not a person who is going to able to handle fluid boundaries in a healthy way.

I'm not sure if you've ever actually articulated your grievances/concerns to her, but just because you're poly doesn't mean that every person you can be in a relationship with is a good person to be in a relationship with. I always think briefer is better -- "I don't really feel strongly romantic towards anyone, and I think [you] expect a lot more romance than I can provide," would be fine, but there are other examples above.
posted by sm1tten at 9:22 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The poly thing is a bit false flag. If this was a mono relationship it'd be the same - she wants a level of connection you aren't willing to give at this point.
posted by Jilder at 12:35 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I met her online and we've spent about a week of in-person time together, but we don't live anyhere near. But now I'm starting to feel like I need to leave that relationship.

You've only spent about a week of in-person time together? That's not a relationship; that's a few casual dates. You're feeling way too guilty about something that never was. Her demanding details of your life, etc. is too inappropriate for someone she's spent so little time with, and suggests that she's desperate and/or unstable. Treat it like any other casual dating experience: you don't see it going anywhere, so it's time to break it off.
posted by Melismata at 5:14 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So... how is this a poly-specific question?

As I see it, what you're saying is "This woman is really into me and I'm not all that into her." The solution here is the same as it would be if you were both inclined towards monogamy: "Fess up, end the relationship gently, and give her some time to herself to get over the disappointment."

Or have I missed something? If you've got some specific reason why being poly makes this more complicated, maybe you could message one of the mods and ask them to add it to the thread.
posted by and so but then, we at 3:21 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just tell her it's not working out. My advice is that you can't keep her on the hook, whether for a future relationship or as a friend now. She wants intimacy and you don't. I mean, maybe you can keep her on the hook, I don't know -- but that's going to hurt her. A lot. You non-intimately enjoy impersonal conversations with her, so just cut her loose. It's not like you can't find that elsewhere.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:01 AM on January 1, 2013


It is selfish of you to try to break up with her but keep her as a friend.

if someone is really really into you and you want to break up with them - then to be kind you MUST go no contact.

I agree that it's selfish, but I don't think it's unfair or unkind so long as you're consistently upfront about what you want. If she gives you what you want despite not getting what she wants, she will learn her own lesson. I think that it's paternalistic to try to protect other people from making mistakes as if you know what's best for them. And anyway, it's best not to flatter oneself — maybe she will find someone else and want to be friends sooner than you think.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:06 PM on January 1, 2013


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