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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Splat.


Sometimes relationships fail. People grow apart, their goals shift, they realize a mistake was made, or they simply change their minds. My philosophy regarding relationships is that they are transient. I accept that relationships may end for any number of reasons. That doesn't mean relationships aren't valuable to me, they are. I don't enter into them lightly, nor do I give them up easily. Entering into a relationship for me involves a psychological as well as an emotional commitment. When I agree to a relationship I am committing to do everything I can to work through problems. I'm agreeing to try and compromise, to communicate, to understand, respect, and meet my partners needs as best I can.

Prior to entering into a relationship I like to have a lot of conversations with a potential partner. Just a few are things like how important communication is to me, that I am willing to try to work out any and every problem we may encounter, that we will do our best to support each other. Essentially I want to ensure we both understand the commitment we are making. This way of approaching relationships has worked fairly well for me. Rarely do I lose the friendship when a relationship ends or changes. There usually aren't hard feelings afterwards nor are there huge emotional explosions. Most of the time my relationships morph into a good friendship with both myself and my partner agreeing it is the healthiest thing for us both. Other times my relationships will naturally change to a friendship without the need for conversation.

Recently I had a romantic relationship dissolve that threw me for a bit of a spin. Being a fairly new relationship I wasn't completely surprised it happened. We had only been dating a couple of months and though we had what I thought was a good connection we were still learning about each other. What surprised me was how the relationship ended.

Prior to entering into the relationship we had the requisite talks. My existing partner was present for many of the conversations since she was also entering into a relationship, though separately, with the new person. We were all in agreement about things and the relationships moved forward. My relationship with the new partner quickly became romantic and we began depending upon each other. Soon after, my new partner went out of town for a couple of weeks on a trip where communication wouldn't be possible. Upon their return I expected some communication but didn't get any. I reached out a couple of times but each time my new partner was busy or unable to talk at the moment, so I let it go figuring they would contact me when there was some free time. After some time with no communication I finally got a hold of my new partner and ask them what was going on and why they weren't communicating with me.

The answer, "I changed my mind".

Further conversation basically revealed my new partner didn't feel we had the connection originally felt and had decided that our relationship should be a friendship rather than romantic. And they were very persistent about my agreeing to maintain a friendship. There was no allowance for compromise or working out what they felt were differences. There was no room to consider that since our relationship was new we were still adjusting to each other. They had made up their mind, with no input from me, and were essentially telling me how things would be. It was stated by the person that we would be good friends now.

Now, I'm a realist and I know that sometimes you can try to work with someone in every way possible and still come to an impasse. When you have put in your best effort, invested time and energy, and still can't resolve things then of course it is time to make a decision for yourself which may include ending the relationship despite the other persons desires. But we never got to that point since they had never even told me their feelings were in question or changing.

Much to their dissatisfaction I refused to agree to a friendship at this time. I wasn't happy about that decision but feel I had no other choice. You see, with all the conversations we had together this person had agreed to commitment within our relationship. They had agreed to communication, resolving problems, respect, and other things I mentioned above. In general, they had agreed to partnering with me to make a relationship. Instead they had made a decision for us both. I felt they had disregarded our agreements about communication and partnering to build our relationship. In my mind a friendship is still a relationship though the expectations are largely unspoken. You expect a certain amount of respect and for your friend to keep their word. This person hadn't kept their word when it came to our agreements and in doing so showed a lack of respect. If they couldn't keep specific agreements we had made about a romantic relationship how could I expect them to keep the unspoken agreements of a friendship? How could I agree to a friendship knowing they might suddenly change their mind again?

So what I'm asking for today is a reality check. What do you think about my decision? Do you agree or disagree? And why? Would you have handled things differently, and if so how? Have you been in this situation before?

4 comments:

  1. Oh, PP. I'm sorry to hear that your new relationship has ended so suddenly. And I agree with you that the circumstances around it were not ideal.

    My guess is that your new love was inexperienced in polyamory?

    If I were to guess at motives behind the sudden change, it would be that she was overwhelmed. That communication, as desirable as it may have been, may have been part of what was overwhelming her. She may not have had the resources to voice the private dialogue she was having in her head, which was telling her that the relationship as it stood wasn't what she wanted. "I changed my mind," may have been all that she could muster by then.

    In my opinion, to feel that you have to be "committed" after only a couple of months can be a scary thing. Partnering and communication are good and wonderful things, but constraining things for someone who isn't ready for it.

    That said, she was inconsiderate to have left you hanging without any communication at all. It's one thing to say, "I am reconsidering some things in terms of what I want from our relationship, and I need time before we talk." It's entirely another to simply withdraw and only respond once confronted.

    Also, it's one thing to say you could be good friends, if that's a mutual desire and the limits of her comfort. It's another to say you *will* be good friends, which is what it sounds like you were hearing from her. That is just weird. Friendship, or any relationship, is a two-way street. Sounds like she made a u-turn there.

    I have had people that I have had to dramatically change my relationship with. In general, this has involved me telling them why I need the change, my own feelings, and what I hope for. I have never assumed, though, that I could actually dictate or predict the outcome of the change. I could only establish my boundaries, and what I was willing to do. The other half is always up to the other person.

    Again, I'm sorry that things ended so suddenly for you, and that it was difficult. I hope you find peace and comfort soon. <3 <3

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  2. Polly,

    Thanks for the feedback and the sympathy :)

    Really I’m not at all as upset as I may have sounded. Although I’m disappointed the relationship ended I truly believe that is part of life and she was doing what was best for her. What surprised, and yes upset, me a bit was the lack of communication about changing things. I have a very hard time comprehending someone changing something as important as a relationship without feedback from their partner first. At the same time I understand not everyone is like me so, although it is a challenge, I do my best to accept their actions.

    Your comments about commitment were a good reality check. When I used the word ‘committed’ it may have come across more strongly than intended. Rather than commitment in the traditional sense I meant commitment in my heart to maintaining the relationship, which is what I thought my new partner and I had agreed upon. Not necessarily commitment to ‘forever’ as is usually understood. That said you make an excellent point that it could feel constraining to someone who is unprepared for a relationship with that type of depth. That may also explain why I never got a good answer as to what prompted the changing of her mind.

    It was also nice to hear you felt her insistence that we be friends was a bit strange. My existing partner, who is also involved in a relationship with the woman, has heard both sides of the situation and also thought it very strange. Despite her relationship with the woman, she never got a good explanation from her either.

    Again, thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it! The sympathy is also appreciated though not needed. I learned from the experience and had the opportunity to share love with someone, even if just for a brief period of time. In my poly world the chance to love someone is what makes me happy, and it far outweighs the sadness felt when we go our separate ways.

    PP

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  3. Well, I have to say you shouldn't have had to track her down, so to speak, for an explanation. Changing her mind, I suppose, is entirely up to her but, according to your agreement, she should have been up front with you about this. Not all people are comfortable with talking about things and maybe she wasn't able to start a conversation herself. Had most of your previous talks been instigated by you?

    No one should insist that you remain friends. Beyond being a bit strange, that really isn't fair. She has a right to state the preference that you both remain friends but, she should know that her preference may not be something you are prepared to go along with.

    I understand why you made your decision. Without being able to give you her reasoning for her change (whether you agree with that reasoning or not), I wouldn't be comfortable myself with how she would deal with things in the future.

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  4. Lovingmorethanone,

    Thanks for the comments :)

    Thinking back you are right, I instigated most of the important conversations. That might be something I need to be more aware of in the future.

    Thanks for confirming my choice to step back rather than try to be friends with her right away. I rarely feel the need to end a relationship without a friendship so it tends to be a choice I question for a while.

    PP

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