PQ 22.3 — When a partner’s relationship ends, what can I do to prevent myself from taking sides or being drawn into the conflict?

two hockey players, one in a white jersey, one in a red jersey, shot from the shoulders down. Their sticks are crossed.
Image by Paul L Dineen / CC BY

PQ 22.3 — When a partner’s relationship ends, what can I do to prevent myself from taking sides or being drawn into the conflict?

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You know, maybe it’s not cool to admit this, but I’m going to: Sometimes you do take sides.

Especially if you’ve watched a disaster movie play out in slow motion for months between your partner and metamour. If you’ve seen your partner lose sleep,if you’ve lost sleep yourself, because their cell phone buzzing on the night stand. A flurry of 3 am texts that won’t stop coming when everyone has to be up in the morning.

“Do you want me to put that in the other room?”

“No, it’s fine.”

“…is it really fine?”

“I know what I’m doing.”

“Okay.”

Okay, you say. Because they’re an adult, and you love them. You move the pillow next to your head in a way to block the vibration so that it doesn’t bother you. Problem solved for you at least.

And you do your best to trust that they’ll know when they’re in too deep. To trust that it’s worth it to them. All of it. These late night text barrages. The tears that you catch them shedding when they don’t think you can see them. The heartache you can clearly see on their face when they don’t know you’re looking.

You’re keeping your distance and letting them make their own choices. Because you don’t know what it’s like being in the actual relationship. You have no idea what they’re getting in return. How could you? That’s not your relationship.

And then, after all those months of vicarious torture, when the metamour from H-E-double hockey sticks finally breaks it off, well… how could you not take sides? I don’t know if you get a choice in a situation like that. You’re going to feel a certain way about them.

But being drawn into the conflict? Well, that’s another matter altogether. You can usually set some boundaries around that. The exact implementation can vary on the situation, but the bottom line is pretty simple: “Not my relationship.”

Sometimes Losing a Metamour Is Like Going Through a Romantic Breakup Yourself

Conversely, depending on the circumstances, losing a metamour can be one of the most painful experiences there is. As a friend related to me in another piece I wrote, “I never expected this to happen. It wasn’t easy when we opened up. I had to stretch a lot to really get comfortable and make a mental and emotional place for her in my life. It was a lot of work. But now that it’s ending… I miss her.”

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Further Reading

The Boy with No Emotional Immune System 

Goodbye, Metamour: The Second, Less Obvious Breakup

The Crumple Zone: Partners Who Bear the Impact

 

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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