How Do You Transition Your Poly Relationships?

by Reid on November 21, 2016

Three female friends laying down togetherA lot of poly relationships don’t so much end they transition… how do you do that well?

With Reid Mihalko from and Cathy Vartuli from

Cathy: In poly relationships, you don’t so much break up always as transition.

Reid:    Those relationships never end, do they?

Cathy: Some of them don’t.

Reid:    They’re like lobster traps.  You just drag them along on your boat, slowing you down.

Cathy: If you know you’re ready to transition, how do you transition?

Reid:    I’m Reid Mihalko from .

Cathy: I’m Cathy Vartuli from .

Reid:    So how do you transition, Cathy?  I’m just going to pass the buck.  I want to see what she has to say.

Cathy: If you know you’re ready to transition, you can… I like to make lists.  I’m an engineer and lists are great for me.  I write down the things that I really want to keep, the things I value about the relationship and the things that were not so great, outside my Venn diagram.  If I’m clear I don’t want, say, a romantic or a sexual relationship with that person, I look for ways that I can give them that are still a yes, because a lot of people, when we’re separating or we’re transitioning, there’s a lot of insecurity comes up.

I like that.  That worked well.  Why are we doing something different?  If you can give them very clearly, I really loved this about our relationship, and I’d like to keep that, that’s really important to me, that can give some security and some gentleness to the transition that it might not otherwise have.

Reid:    Mm-hmm (affirmative).  The tricky part with non-monogamy and this also happens in certain communities where people explore dating and end up dating and sleeping with their friends, like it happens in college and it happens in other communities as well, high school too, but let’s say that you’re past the college part where you’re more in your adult life, in the poly community, what’s interesting is, you end up usually running into each other over and over again, and I think something that’s important to mention is that even some poly people don’t like being friends with their exes.

Cathy: Yeah, you don’t have to.

Reid:    You don’t have to love everybody and this is tricky in polyamory because it’s all about many loves and we’re supposed to be evolving and we’re all heart open and lalalalala.  You might be somebody who’s just like, I like having my lovers, and then if we ever break up, we’re not going to be friends because I just can’t do that.

Cathy: Yeah.

Reid:    To the extent that you can become clear about those things, warn people ahead of time, because you should, I think, be having that ‘what if we were to break up’ conversation at the beginning of dating.

Cathy: We have a video actually on exit strategies, which is so powerful.  I really encourage you wherever you are in a relationship to have that conversation.

Reid:    Also understanding that especially if you’re new to poly, you may not know any of these things about yourself and then maybe you’ve never had a bunch of breakups, so you’ve never been in love and then had to fall out of love, which is its own brain chemistry hell.  Read Dawkins’, The Selfish Gene, if you want to learn more about how that all happens, but the idea of like, wow, I’ve never had five relationships at the same time, and then had three breakups happening at the same… like what do I do?

You will, hopefully, and this is kind of like a mixed blessing, get better at breakups and transitions if you’re poly, and if you’re just monogamous, there are a lot of people who had to learn that, so take care to understand yourself about what do you need when you’re transitioning a relationship so that you can find your words better, be better at self care, and also warn the people that you’re in relationships with, and understand that it’s… I think it’s okay not to be best buddies with your exes just as much as it’s okay to be best buddies with your exes.

Cathy: Yeah.

Reid:    You have to figure that out for yourself and that might even change over time or change from person to person.

Cathy: It might change based on how they respond to what you’d like to create.  It might be a bottom line for them.  They may not want to have a relationship with you.

Reid:    Yeah, or you’re the one who doesn’t want to have a relationship with them, but they’re like, “Oh, my god, but I’m friends with all my exes,” and you’re like, “But you’re not friends with this ex,” or whatever that is for you.

Again, role modeling healthy relationships, even if that means healthy relationships while you’re ending a relationship, being transparent, showing up for the difficult conversations, not being abusive to each other, those things are healthy for open relationships as well as closed relationships.

Cathy: Yeah.  We hope this helps.  If you have specific questions or thoughts about transitioning relationships, would you leave a comment below?  We’d love to know.  Have a good day.


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