Breaking Up, Polyamory Style

Breaking Up, Polyamory Style

Figure 1 – The worst statistics are the correct statistics

I am by no means an expert on the topic of breaking up. But, since we’re hitting Prime Break-Up Season (note figure 1), I think poly break up styles should be addressed. I, being the lucky girl that I am, was able to get my business done early this year.

Mid-October marked a significant break up for me. My secondary partner, Kasher, and I broke up due to all sorts of silliness, none of it being poly-related drama. The cause? Well, mostly normal relationship drama; lifestyle differences, timing conflicts, and general wrong time/wrong place dilemmas. Now.. what is done is done. The break up and heartbreak has left me in a fairly reflective place and, the way I see it, there are two types of polyamorous break ups.

Type 1 – The Knock Down, Drag Out War

This type of break up seems to be experienced by the sort of poly people who probably shouldn’t be polyamorous. Common causes: Triads gone dyads, jealousy, deception, and all the average Joe and Josephine’s cheating patterns. I’ve seen this a lot in the poly community, actually. The results are usually pretty nasty. There are the Facebook status updates which range from pathetic to drunken to hostile. Entire non-monogamous Communities torn apart by people taking sides.. and often a loss in the belief in non-monogamous lifestyles.

Not too long ago, a very dear friend of mine lost his wife to a secondary partner wanting to become a primary partner. It happens. There were tons of reasons why the dynamic shifted; so and so wants kids, so and so is too busy, one partner using a new partner to fix existing relationships (which outwardly appear to be amazing and healthy relationships), etc. The reasons are not nearly as important as the result; a general fear amongst the community that it could happen to us, too. Many non-monogamous people vest a lot of time and energy into one solid above all else relationship. Witnessing that happen to a primaries makes you look at your own relationships and wonder if all your vows could withstand that sort of testing.

This sort of drama is not saved for primary couplings alone. Quads and triads, secondaries and singles.. They all have their shot at the nasty Knock Down, Drag Out war. Luckily, this isn’t the type of break up I am experiencing with Kasher. I am in the midst of a type two poly break-up

Type Two: Love is not Enough

Breaking Up, Polyamory Style

Figure 2 – credit:

And so it comes to pass that under the test of time and trials.. Love is not enough. This is a truth that goes beyond polyamory and nonmonogamy, but seems to be more obvious in polyamory due to the fact that love isn’t thought of as a finite one-recipient only emotion.

When monogamous people experience the dissolution of relationships, they often note that they ‘fell out of love’, or that they fell in love with someone new, therefore cancelling previous love. Those monogamous people who are dumped are left heartbroken, believing that they have lost the ‘only one’ for them. They spend all of their recuperation time convincing the love they had wasn’t real love, and that there is some better, more worthy love waiting for them out there.

Polyamorous people know that this is nonsense. The truth is that relationships take a lot of different resources to be sustainable, not just love. You need proper timing, you need all parties to be on some sort of symbiotic developmental/maturity/lifecycle phase, you need time and energy and Kreplits, you need money and transportation and logistics. You need some really fucking unromantic things to pull off a sustainable relationship. And even if you don’t have those other resources.. That doesn’t diminish the love that you are basing the entire venture upon.

Poly people find themselves with a very large struggle.. There is no lack of love or want that keeps them out of certain relationships. But that doesn’t mean that they should stay in these relationships, either. A lot of genuinely loving relationships can end up being disruptive to the people within those partnerships when those other resources are lacking. And let’s not get into how disruptive they can be for the people around them. That is when the logic wins over love.

This is the hardest part of being polyamorous; knowing that the love doesn’t go away when the relationship does. The cruel hope; optimism leaves you wishing on your favorite star for the missing resources to show up.

Luckily, one of those resources is patience.


About Author

Shira B. Katz is a co-host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, bringing a pansexual and polyamorous viewpoint to the show. Shira also hosts Pedestrian Polyamory, a podcast on the Swingset network that focuses on polyamory and all of it's glorious (and not so glorious) features. When not writing articles, podcasting, or otherwise extolling the virtues of polyamory, Shira can be found in the wild getting crushes on nerds, lusting after boykisses, and fussing about in the San Francisco Bay area. To learn more about Shira B. Katz follow her on Twitter


  1. Very good article. I am one of the lucky people that had 2 beautiful "wives" at the same time for almost 6 years. Not enough room on this page to explain how it happened but just did and it was awesome. #1 was my wife for 19 years. We were in the lifestyle for some time. Mostly watching. Met another couple with a 7 year old. He got involved in some illegal things and was voted off the island. Long story short I ended up with both and responsible for the little one. We were all in love with each other still are. #1 wanted out after almost 6 years as a 3some. Business problems and stress took their toll. #2 and I did not want this. It was very painful. Like you said…"love doesn't go away when the relationship does."
    We moved to Vegas and #1 stayed behind. It has been almost 8 months and not a day goes by that we both with she could have been a little stronger or more patient or we could have been a little more understanding somehow. Everyone chooses their path. The best part is her demons went away and now she is very happy in her new life with another.. She has so much love to give. She keeps saying she wished she could have stayed but it was her choice. I blame me for not being able to hold things together being a "normal family". One of the things that we felt were very hard on #1 was the family things where she turned into Auntie at school or public functions. Could not explain her to people on the outside or in the Vanilla world we lived. Could not hold hands or express affection. The things that were so automatic. Sometimes she was the "cousin" or whatever she felt like saying. Anyway great article. You are so right….sometimes love is not enough. Not a day goes by we do not miss her.

    • You and #2 turned your wife of 19 years into an outsider in your relationship and expected her to be happy? Are you really that clueless?
      My husband of 21 years has decided he’s poly and wants to open our marriage to “new possibilities”. This is exactly what I expect is about to happen to me.

  2. great article…..sometimes it's the memory of poly-drama, and the acknowledged prospect for more tends to make me pull back from the lifestyle altogether. Both my marriages ended with both direct and indirect influences from our poly-practice (such that it was….maybe I just suck at it). But I am an idealist at heart………

  3. Thank you for that. I deffiently am going through type 2. I am in a poly relationship, I had only one lover, but we deffiently were poly. We had some friends on the side, but nobody serious. However at times there was. No jeleousy lieing or any of the stuff from catagory one. We were always on the same page about our relationship. However attitudes about life, development, timing, and all the above things you mentioned have come into play. In short, it just aint workin baby. Its not working, and its better if you were not here. Where we live isnt working for her. However its working great for me. Staying for me is not a good reason, because her life isnt moving anywhere. She wouldnt leave me though, and I had to tell her, please leave, for your own sake, mine, and the other person who lives with us (not a lover really, or kinda, but more just fun). It took hours of talking, and there was no fighting. However its rough still, I sit here thinking, how could we make it work.. but the truth is, nothing about here is working for her, and as a result is causing undo stress on everyone. I still am sad, and so she can get things in order I have given her enough time to make the changes.. But I gotta step back, and thats the hardest part right now.

  4. My partner and I have been married for 5 years and poly for life. While we have been polyamorous together things have been a bit difficult, running into issues here and there. After we changed our ‘rules’ to be simply just open communication and honesty things got a lot easier. Thanks for your posting, we love reading about other people in similar relationships and how to navigate the emotions behind everything.

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