Break-Ups, Transitions and the Impossibility of Romance in Financially Dependent Relationships

One of the things I liked in the book More Than Two was the idea that, in polyamory, couples rarely have to “break up.” Rather, they can “transition” their relationship into something new.

Our monogamous culture tells us couples who’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ (which EVERY couple loses eventually) should either “work hard” to get it back, or make a clean, hard break from each other. That’s it. Those are our only two options, according to the traditional monogamist worldview.

Although there are exceptions to the rule (ex-couples mature enough to remain friendly with each other) the standard protocol is to hate or forget about your old romantic relationships.

As a teen, I learned running into an ex-boyfriend was supposed to be an extremely awkward experience. If I expected I might bump into him somewhere, I was supposed to dress up as “hot” as I could to make him want me back and then tell him he couldn’t have me — to get revenge.

To me, polyamory is one way to end this sick cycle. In polyamory, because I am “allowed” to love more than one person at a time, I don’t have to pretend to hate, or feel nothing for, someone I love, just so I am “allowed” to love someone new.

In polyamory, I can be honest about the parts of a relationship that aren’t working without having to toss the parts that do work out with the bathwater. When a relationship is no longer fulfilling the functions it once did, I can “transition” it into a new type of relationship. I can say to that person – “I still love you, but it’s a different kind of love now” or “I still want you to be part of my life, but in a different capacity.”

I guess this is what I’ve been subconsciously trying to say to Brad – the father of my child and my life partner of six years – for the last year in a half, since I discovered polyamory.

He and I have been fighting a lot lately… but, the thing is, I can’t even remember when “lately” began… And here’s where this blog post turns personal… and actually becomes a desperate request for advice…

In tears now, I’m telling you… I’m tired. I’m so, so tired. And I know he’s tired too. But the most important thing is that our daughter is tired of our fighting. She told me so last night.

The sad thing is I know one of the biggest road blocks in our relationship is probably the same biggest road block in most people’s relationships – the stress of having to work too hard and too much to survive, and the ease of taking that stress out on one’s domestic partner.

Brad and I have been doing that – blaming our stress on one another – from the day our daughter was born, the day we became financially codependent.

It’s been a tumbling, rumbling battle ever since – one that’s left us both exhausted and wanting to throw in the towel over and over. But we keep working through our fights and staying together, partly because for our child’s sake, partly because of our financial dependence, partly because of our emotional codependence, and partly, because, when we’re not stressed out, we’re actually pretty good friends.

But all of my back and forth on whether we should “break up” came to a head after working a four-day festival on his food truck this weekend.

It wasn’t the first time my 4.5-year-old daughter asked why Daddy and I always fight, but I promised her I’d try to make it the last. “I’m getting bored [tired] of you guys fighting all the time,” she yelled, interrupting us yelling at each other last night. “You have to find a solution!”

While my daughter’s suggested solution was to sell the food truck, my immediate solution was “we have to break up.” It’s the only way to stop the fighting, I thought. But when I asked my daughter this morning if she thought Mommy and Daddy should live in separate houses to help us get along, she said no, she wanted us all to live together “like a real family.” And I want nothing more than to give her (and Brad and myself) that.

But I don’t know how to make it work, or if I should even continue trying.


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