If COVID caught a relationship when it was just forming, is it worth picking back up again if you’re feeling disconnected?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Discussion Topic: How do you prefer to end a relationship? We always assume that in-person is better, but is it?
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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.
So before COVID I started developing feelings for a close friend with benefits. I haven’t felt this intense about a companionship in years. We worked on some creative projects together and we helped each other with our careers. I started to become friendly but not intimate with his fiancée but I was open to develop something with them potentially a throuple or be a part of their constellation. But it never got there. I got very sick probably from COVID two weeks before lockdown and then lockdown happened. During this time we all kept in contact texting each other at least once a week.
I was doing a lot of self reflection, work on feelings about this and being poly[am], reading self help books, and talking with friends who were in open relationships. I was feeling pretty heartbroken from not being able to see them. It hurt so much I needed to talk about it. I had a really heartfelt conversation with the one I was closest too and it ended on a really positive note. We agreed that it is uncertain where we are going to go or how this will develop but its clear there were some strong feelings between us that we were both excited to explore.
Then the city started to open up. I expressed interest in trying to meet up somehow but it never seemed to work out, not sure if that was intentional or not. I saw them both by chance at a protest for a brief minute but we all got lost in the crowd. We started to grow apart less texting. Then I noticed they went on vacation with two of their friends possibly other companions, not sure, but I felt really left out.
A little bit before this point I was having mental health issues from all the changes in my life from COVID and this so I stopped initiating conversations through text at which point our channel of communication basically stopped. He then recently released a project I was a part of without much notice and I just have a lot of conflicting feelings about it because of all this.
I understand COVID really has been shaking things up and I don’t want to blame but I feel really neglected. It kinda feels like I broke up with folx before I even got to develop a relationship with them which really hurts. At this point though I feel so burnt out by the situation I’m not sure I want to continue to be intimate in the future without any commitment on their part, but still open to be friends.
Do you think its worth trying to salvage something from this situation? Am I being too clouded by the hard circumstances and mental health stuff I am in at the moment? Should I be doing things differently? Part of me hopes that we can one day mend this but part of me would rather move on and find folx who are going to meet my needs better. What are your thoughts?
So I think that the first thing that you should do is think about — and this might be something that is quite difficult for you. Think bout what it is that you want or expect out of the situation. And, if you’re just starting off trying out polyam, it might be hard for you to really know what that is. And sometimes I do think that we can sometimes end up in situations where we don’t know that a need isn’t being met until we’re kind of hurting from it not being met and that really sucks to be in.
But I do think that the first thing that might be helpful in approaching them is understanding what it is that you want or expect, and you kind of have a good idea of that because you talk about commitment, but I think that you need to establish what commitment really means. What are you hoping to be in their lives? Are you really wanting this thruple situation? I’m always really really hesitant. I’m assuming that they didn’t approach you as a couple. It just so happened that you were interested in both of them.
If they approached you as a couple, I’m just really, really hesitant about people who date as couples because I’ve written a whole article or column about it. It tends to be a thing that people do because they think it’s safer than dating individually. And I’m not saying this is always the case because sometimes it’s not but it tends to be something that indicates that they aren’t really having the conversations in between them, and they’re sort of dating as a couple as a fail safe because they think it’s just easier, or they don’t trust one another.
And they need to be present while the other is dating somebody else because they’re worried about being accused of or cheating. And that just doesn’t bode well in general, but if they didn’t approach you as a couple, and you just so happened to have some interest in both of them but naturally developed into being closer to one of them just because you met that person first, that’s fine. But I do think you need to think about — what is polyam to you? What is non-monogamy to you?
What do you envision your life being like? Are you more of a solo polyamory person where you don’t really have any established primaries, or even people that you live with? Do you want to live with partners? It may be a situation where you’re kind of open to different aspects but clearly I think the fact that you’re hurting in this situation, which makes sense, means that you do want something more and I think that just saying “commitment” isn’t really clear.
Because the thing that you have to remember is that, with monogamy, you’re kind of operating with a cultural script that everyone sort of knows. If you haven’t read it before there’s a really great article called The Relationship Escalator. And I think there’s been— the same person who wrote that wrote books about it. I’m not quite sure. But the article itself I have read and I think that that really illustrates the kind of script people have.
The thing that people kind of know indicates commitment within monogamy— people kind of have a shared definition of that. But when you’re in a non-monogamous relationship or polyamorous relationship, you kind of have to come up with your own definitions of what commitment means and what it is that symbolises commitment. I think that that’s the first thing.
The second thing is is that I think that you’re not really on the same page, because when you talked about this discussion that you had, it seemed like you *were* kind of breaking up with them because you kind of both acknowledge that you did want to continue things, but COVID was restricting you from meeting in person. It may be possible that neither one of them do long distance very well, and just aren’t very good communicators, when it’s not in person.
And so maybe that in that discussion that you had, that really good discussion you had, maybe their understanding was that things were at a pause, so they don’t see the point in reaching out and trying to continue that and don’t see the point and inviting you to go on a vacation with someone who they maybe shared, like, met with or were closer with so it’s less of a COVID risk, or that they already had prior experience with. So, I think you need to have a better clarifying discussion because it could be that in that conversation you both walked away with different understandings of where exactly you were.
And I also think one thing to flag up about this is that — If you want to date them as individuals then you can’t use the person that you’re closest to as a kind of communication conduit. You do need to have separate conversations with them, instead of treating them as a unit. I think that’s one thing to note. But you have kind of continued the establishment of the communication. And I think it’s fair for you to feel like, “Okay, I stopped communicating and I basically fell off the earth to them, and they stopped initiating discussions with me”. I wouldn’t necessarily assume that that is because they don’t care about you or they’re not interested in you.
They may just think things are at a pause and that you will get in touch if and when things clear up and people can start meeting regularly in person. Maybe they are waiting for you to initiate that. Who knows? I can sit here and I can postulate on what’s going inside their minds as much as possible but you’re not going to know until you actually have that conversation with them. And the thing of it is, is I totally understand half of your brain that’s like, “Man, I just need to get away from the situation because I’m having to initiate all of the discussions. Now that I’m not initiating anything they’re not initiating anything with me. Screw this!”
I totally get that because I quite often feel that way. And I do think that this is probably how 98.9% of my online dating conversations end because I have actually found it really really important that people at least meet me halfway. And I know that sometimes people struggle with online communication. I know that sometimes people struggle to start conversations, but at the end of the day, whether it’s due to shyness or they’re just not interested in me, I want to have relationships with people who can actually start a conversation with me, or who have some interest in my life, enough to talk to me.
I am not going to be the one that initiates 80% of the conversations. I want a little bit more. 40% I’ll take from them, but I can’t like— I hate that and I’m not going to do that and I’d so I totally get where you’re coming from on that and I do think that’s not a bad position to be in. And I do think that when you talk about what you need from them, you need to bring the fact that you initiate most of the conversations up with them and be like, “Look, I can’t be the only one initiating conversations here. I don’t want it to be that way”. So, yeah, I do think that that’s fair.
But what I would say is because your last conversation with them to me sounded like a pause. It didn’t sound like “okay we’re still dating”. It sounded like “Well, COVID has happened. We can’t meet up in person so it’d be nice to explore this but let’s explore this later on when we can actually meet up more in person”. That’s what that sounded like to me.
Who knows what kind of impression? You need to have more of a clear discussion with them. Give people a chance to meet your needs before you decide that they can’t. You’ve already established this bond with this person you’ve already put some effort in. So I do think that you should at least give them the chance to not meet your needs before you decide that they can’t.
Have a sit down discussion with them over the phone, over Zoom, whatever you need. It’s okay for you to feel left out and all this stuff but I don’t think that that was necessarily deliberate. Make sure you’re clear on where you’re at. Are you still interested in dating as much as you can? Is this thing at a pause? Do they need to initiate more discussions with you? Where are things at? Because it could just be that you guys walked away or y’all walked away from that situation with two different understandings or three different understandings of where you’re at.
To sum up, I think that you need to think about what it is that you would like out of polyamory or non-monogamy. Where do you see it fitting into your life? That may be fluid. That may be something that you don’t know just yet but have a think. At least have a think about it. Because if you think about it, people will think about what they want out of monogamy— even though monogamy is— the way it’s presented is like one picture and it’s like marriage and this is kids and this is what you’re going to do.
People envision that and think about that all throughout their adolescence, so they have a million chances to think about what it is that they want out of monogamy before they actually ever even think of getting into a serious adult relationship. So, if you think about it, you need to have a couple of things yourself about what polyamory is to you, what it means to you, what your life will look like in the most ideal state, and that can give you an idea of what your wants and needs are.
And make it just a little bit more clear to them other than just saying “I need you to be more committed”, because that could mean anything to anybody. Have a sit down clarifying discussion about where things are, what it is your needs are. Tell them what your needs are. And really I don’t know if you should have like a three meeting. I’m very hesitant to suggest thrupledom, just because I tend to think that complicates things more than it needs to be.
Have a sit down discussion with each of them, or at least the person that you feel closest to right now, and figure out what it is that you need, and give them a chance, give either him or both of them the chance to actually meet your needs, before you decide that they can’t. I think that’s pretty much what I have to say about the situation. I do totally understand how you feel. The frustration is serious. The frustration is real. I am a most— 99.9% initiator, so I feel your pain. I hope it helps and good luck.