We all experience loss - the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, being let go from a job. This week we discuss helping a partner through grief, how to care for yourself while you're caring for someone else, and also the particular challenges non-monogamous relationships present when coping with loss.
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Dedeker: On this episode of Multiamory Podcast, we're talking about helping a partner cope with loss. Now, this loss could be the loss of a relationship, like a breakup. It could be the loss of a loved one or it could be pretty much any other significant personal loss that your partner is struggling with.
This week as you'll notice, we're dealing with the loss of Jase. Sorry to make that sound dramatic, Jason is alive and healthy and well. He has not left this podcast. He's just taking a break this week, so it's just the two of us that you'll have to deal with.
Emily: Yes, we gave him a week off, but the two of us are actually in the same time zone for once on the other side of the planet from where we usually do this podcast. Us being on a more like China East Asia time, we decided that we'd give Jase a week off, which he’s grateful for. You get the two of us this week.
Dedeker: Jase is probably sleeping right now.
Emily: You’re right. It's like 3:00 in the morning there.
Dedeker: Hope he's blissfully sleeping anyway.
Emily: I certainly hope so. We’re going to talk about a few things in this episode. The first one is going to be, how often does loss tend to happen in relationships because obviously if you're human, you go through loss, you go through multiple types of loss, not just in your relationships, but in your personal life. We'll talk about how often that tends to happen. Also, how do you help your partner or your partners deal with great personal loss.
Dedeker: In addition to that, we're going to be talking about specifically how do you help a partner deal with a breakup specifically if they've lost another relationship that's outside of your particular relationship. Also, we're going to be exploring is dealing with loss potentially more difficult or less difficult when you're in a non-traditional relationship of some kind.
Emily: We have a couple of statistics as we like to call them. Stits and stats, wow. That's a tongue twister right there even though we say it all the time on this show, stits and stats. This was a difficult one to find, but I was looking up like how many people on average does a person lose throughout their life, in terms of like family members or friends. Even like how many deaths do you see in your lifetime?
The only statistic I found was that there were around like 40 deaths that a person sees in their lifetime, which seems like a huge amount, but I guess that also does go up the longer that you live obviously. They were talking about it in the way of funerals you might go to. Like anywhere between 40 and 50 funerals in your lifetime. I'm sure once you a certain age, that number continues to skyrocket because you're getting older, people around you are getting older, et cetera.
Obviously, if you're in a relationship, you're going to have to deal with that yourself and also deal with the loss of your loved one’s loved ones. We wanted to explore that a little bit today.
Dedeker: Right. I also tried to find statistics for the number of breakups that you'll go through in a lifetime, and that's really difficult to find. It's difficult even if you're going under the assumption of trying to find how many breakups does the average monogamous person go through? There's one study out there that suggests that women tend to have about an average of five relationships in a lifetime and that men have six. We can extrapolate from that.
Emily: That’s that? That’s like the difference?
Dedeker: Here's the thing though. I'm hesitant to even talk about this study because of course we have to assume that the sample size is likely heteronormative monogamous. We have no idea what they actually count as a “relationship” or not if that's an amount of time or if it's a feeling or what it is. This study was also commissioned by I think a very biased source.
Also, out there, there's a lot of people searching for how many relationships do you go through before finding the one or there's a lot of how many relationships you have before you get married. It doesn't seem like there's a lot of good hard data about over the course of a lifetime including marriages or multiple marriages, how many breakups or how many relationships you're likely to have.
Suffice to say, it's likely that you or someone you love is going to go through at least one breakup in their lifetime. If you're dating someone and if you're in a multi-partner relationship, those numbers I think increase. Who was saying this? Shoot. Yes, it was Kim Tallbear Actually, I was listening to her being interviewed on a different podcast.
She just off the cuff, mentioned that often people who are non-monogamous or polyamorous at least anecdotally, seemed to go through more breakups, which is kind of both a good and bad thing. Bad on the one hand that it sucks to go through a breakup, but good in that you get more data essentially and more information about who you are in relationships and what kind of person does and doesn't work for you.
Emily: That's a good point.
Dedeker: I thought that was interesting. Of course, we don't have any hard data yet or research yet that specifically tracks how often someone who identifies as polyamorous is, how many breakups they're likely to have. Hopefully, that'll change soon. Basically, I guess the takeaway from the stits and stats is just that you're going to be supporting someone through the death of a loved one. You're going to be supporting someone through a really bad breakup. That's why it's important to talk about these things.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. Even through big life changes or big difficulties in a person's life in general, like a loss of a job even. Something else catastrophic happening in one's life. I do think about the way in which my family and friends dealt with my breakups when I was in college and just how long I would talk about it and how difficult it would be.
Eventually, my mother being like, “Okay, you're done now,” which maybe wasn't always great, but sometimes good advice to be like, "Okay, we're maybe done with that." Not only like you're going to probably support partners through this, but you're going to support friends through breakups and through various things as well.
Dedeker: That's funny. That reminds me not too long ago, I had to search through some old emails for something. I don't remember what it was, completely unrelated, but I came across this old email exchange between myself and my mom, talking about a breakup I was going through like seven years ago, eight years ago. It feels like ancient history now. It was so funny just to see this snapshot of my younger self, and just dealing with this upheaval and the things that my mom said that stuck with me and the things that she said that I thought were like total BS or whatever. It was really interesting to see.
Emily: Yes, that's fascinating.
Dedeker: Today, we’re going to talk about a couple of things. We're going to talk about not only some strategies or some things to think about when you have to care for a partner who's going through something difficult like this, but we're also going to be talking about how to care for yourself in the midst of this as well. First, we're going to talk about caring for your partner. I think we'll start out by stressing the importance of the fact that if something really devastating has happened to your partner, whether it's the loss of a loved one of some kind or the loss of a job or the loss of a relationship, it's likely that your partner is going to hop through the different stages of grief.
The thing is that, with the stages of grief, they don't happen in just one order, it's not a linear progression. It happens all over the place that you'll hop from depression and sadness to rage, to denial, to acceptance and then wake up the next morning and be back in sadness again. Just expecting that and knowing that in the wake of something devastating, like it's likely all those emotions are going to come up.
It's not necessarily going to be predictable. You can go the extra mile by letting your partner know that it is allowed and it is okay for them to be all over the map because that's, I think, a recurring theme, we'll come back to is that it's very easy when something really devastating is happening to you. I think it's really easy to feel nervous about asking for help or self-conscious of having whatever emotions because just as a culture, at least in America, we're not great at talking about grief and loss and stuff like that. It really goes a long way to proactively express to a partner that what they're going through is okay for them to feel essentially.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. It's interesting. I'm currently working in Shanghai, China and one of my coworkers is going through a divorce right now. It is fascinating to see that progression between the different stages of grief because he was being very respectful, but at some point, we’d joke and be like, "Whore, whore, whore," and other points will be like, "But she was my best friend. This is the hardest part about the ending of this relationship and talking about I've seen him cry about it and talking about his kids and how difficult it is on them and all of that." It is really fascinating. We become as a culture rather voyeuristic in watching other people's pain sometimes, but I think it is as a culture, us wanting to help and to be there for someone. It immediately kicks this response on I think in all of us, like in myself and my other coworkers when he's talking about it, just being, "Listen, it's going to be okay."
Really talking about all the things that he's doing right and trying to be there for him and stuff. It is fascinating how we go there.
The next one in terms of caring for your partner is allowing expressions of emotion. Because again, the way in which you grieve, for example, may be very different than the way in which someone else grieves, so maybe someone else grieves in a very angry manner, maybe someone else grieves in a very mournful manner. That might be uncomfortable for you in either scenario, but it doesn't mean that it's wrong.
In really allowing people, their method of grief, is incredibly important because no two people are going to grieve in the same way. Some people might be very reserved and not want to talk about it at all or is like, I am a spewer and so I'm like, "Oh my God, this happened. I need to talk about it right now." It's spilling out of me for example. Whereas other people that might not be the case.
Dedeker: That's like my card is totally the opposite. Over here as the chewer, but I'm totally I need to withdraw I need to constrict, I need to hide in the cave for a little while before I'm going to be ready to talk about it and to let it out. That is important, just to recognize it's going to look very different depending on the person.
Emily: For sure.
Dedeker: Yes. Moving on to the next one is, and I want to build on what we were saying earlier about the way that in western culture that we deal with other people's grief and I do think it's a little sad that we don't have a ton of ritual around grief.
Emily: No, we don't. Not like other cultures.
Dedeker: We have, for instance, the ritual, a funeral for instance, which for some people is very helpful and for others it's not so helpful. I think about things in Jewish culture, when someone dies and your loved one dies and you sit Shiva. it's this set process of, "Okay, great. Here you go, here are seven days, we're going to cover up the mirrors. It's not a time for you to have to worry about your appearance. We're going to bring you food. Here's your set time and you're not going to work with. There's not a time for you to have to work or deal with these things."
We have this established process that like, "Here's the container for you to have." Not that that's necessarily a perfect container, anything like that, but in contrast in the west, it is kind of a like, "Well, I still got to go to work."
Emily: Get up and deal with it.
Dedeker: I guess I'll put in a request for bereavement leave or if it's not a death, if it's some other kind of loss, I will just deal with it. Maybe call on a sick day I suppose and we don't really know what to say to people. I guess at least I think in American culture we don't have these very easy rituals to go to for helping someone with their grief or with their pain. It's okay to acknowledge that.
For instance, we always struggle when someone's loved one has died. We don't know what to say. It's like I guess you say, I'm sorry, but it's not you're apologizing or something or pitying them or whatever. Ultimately it's better, to be honest, that you know what to say.
It's better, to be honest, and say to a partner, "Gosh, wow. I don't know what to say, but I'm so sorry to hear that and I want to be here for you however you need." It's better to just be honest about that feeling than to do what I think a lot of us do, which is resort to cliches about, "Oh, this person is in a better--"
Emily: They're in a better place.
Dedeker: Yes, or it's for the best or stuff like that.
Emily: God's plan.
Dedeker: There's definitely, of course, some holdovers from Judeo Christianity that makes a lot of assumptions about what we think is going to be comforting for someone to hear or not. Just that, that it is okay to also be honest if you're shocked too or you're surprise too. Or you also don't know what to say or how to comfort this person. It's probably going to be more connective, to be honest about that than to try to find the perfect words that are going to make it all feel okay.
Emily: I think that's an impossible thing to give someone the perfect words. Just being there for them is I think can be really, really helpful. The opposite of that is potentially you may also be feeling challenging emotions, but don't necessarily project your grieving process on them. For example, if they seem happier a couple of days later, don't be like, "Well, I thought this terrible thing happened, why are you all of a sudden doing okay?" Don't criticize their grieving process for being too short or too long or for them crying too much or crying not enough. Don't project what you might feel is appropriate onto that. Because honestly, again, like we said earlier, their expression of emotion their way in which they're going to grieve is going to be different than yours.
It's just challenging to know how you're going to feel it. I've had friends die and just one minute you're like, "I couldn't think of anything else about this awful thing that happened," but life does go on and we are so incredibly resilient as humans. The world keeps moving forward, it keeps spinning forward and we really can just keep going. It's understandable that to some degree, you're going to need to keep moving and keep getting back into your regular life. Don't fault someone for trying to do that in a way.
Dedeker: I think I've definitely come in on the opposite side. I've definitely done this in the past of like projecting my own grieving process onto a partner onto someone else. Because in my family of origin, the grieving process was just culturally understood to be very short. That it's like, "Okay, you had a day or two and now it's time. You've had your day or two to cry, and now it's time to get back to work and get back to being productive."
That works for some people, but I definitely have found that it comes up like when I'm helping a partner coping with something that that comes up in me. That if I start noticing thoughts or frustration about, "Gosh, they're still upset about this. Gosh, when are they going to go over this thought?" I really have to check myself to be like, "I think I'm just applying what I was taught growing up onto this person. I have honestly no idea how they were taught to grieve growing up." It's definitely a really important thing to check I think.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. For sure. That could change over time too. They could one year with one death feel a certain way and their grieving process takes much longer or be much shorter year to year. People change throughout their lives, so that's completely understandable. We love to say this and talk about those, but really use the triforce whenever you can. It's incredibly important and we love it. Triforce one, two and three because sometimes just listening is what the person needs. They just need to talk about what they're going through or they just need support in that moment. They just need your love and your understanding or maybe they need problem-solving, but that can change and so ask. Be a good communicator and be understanding of their needs in that moment and know that maybe what you think they need is not what they actually need. Be a good communicator.
Dedeker: Right, definitely. If you have no idea what we were just talking about, just then go to episode 159 to learn all about the triforce [chuckles] and get back up to speed.
Emily: Absolutely. We use it all the time.
Dedeker: Every single learning day.
Dedeker: Every single learning day.
Emily: In the Patreon group as well, which we'll talk about a little bit later.
Dedeker: I think the other side of that also is really learning to listen when your partner is asking for what they need. Because, again, that is a very vulnerable process. Again, in Western culture, the way we respond to grief just really varies and sometimes isn't very healthy. Again, just learning to listen if your partner is asking for, “I just need to be held right now,” or, “I just need to not talk about it right now,” or, “I need you to make me dinner right now because I can't get off the couch,” or whatever it is. It's a two-way street it isn't just like being proactive and asking if someone needs listening or support, or problem solving or whatever. It is also learning to actually listen and accept that response as well.
Emily: Yes, absolutely.
Dedeker: We're going to change the focus a tiny bit, we've been talking a lot about loss in particular and of course like the very heavy loss of like of a loved one dying or something like that. We haven't spent a ton of time talking about breakups specifically, which can also be extremely devastating and painful. I apologize in advance, I purely just remembering this off the top of my mind, but I did read a study once that I forget what their methodology was. It was essentially found that it's like the pain of a breakup can actually be commensurate with an equal to like the pain of spilling hot coffee on yourself as far as what your body goes through and how your nervous system reacts to it.
Emily: I guess I can get that.
Dedeker: The sensation is different, but the way that like your nervous system and your emotions react, can be actually quite a similar level. I think it totally makes sense.
Emily: Wow, I just remember a breakup like where I basically stayed up all night calling people and being like, “This happened to me.” Then I was really just tired the next morning, so that's what I remember my body going through. Yes, I mean obviously it's horrible and very challenging for your nervous system.
Dedeker: I don’t know, I been through some breakups and I read about this study several years ago, and so it's always stuck in my brain. I've definitely been through some breakups where in the worst moments of it, I've been like I would rather spill hot coffee on myself right now than be feeling this way. I'd rather deal with that really intense short pain for a little while than this really intense extended pain for a long while.
Anyway, just so you all know, we did specifically cover supporting a partner through a breakup a few episodes ago. If you go to Episode 128, you can get more specific tailored advice about that particular situation. We are going to reiterate a little bit of that here, but again, if you want to focus on that specifically--
Emily: It was like half a year.
Dedeker: Was it half a year ago? Good heavens.
Emily: Well, you said 128, and we're like in the 190s now.
Dedeker: Oh, that’s true.
Emily: So, yes, at least. You're like a couple, you're like Jase now, "It was a week ago, I don't know."
Dedeker: You're like, "It was five years ago, Jase."
Emily: Yes, exactly. Oh, I don’t know.
Dedeker: You can go to Episode 128, but if your partner is going through a breakup with another partner of theirs, this can be really, really difficult. It's so important to mind all the things that we've said above about letting your partner hop for the different stages of grief, expressing their emotions, not projecting your grieving process onto them, using the Triforce, all those same things. It's also really important to let your partner find their own path through that breakup. I think that what I've seen happen and what I've definitely done in the past. Is like a partner comes home and is like, “Oh, I think so-and-so and I are breaking up,” and then I'm like, “Oh, great,” this is my opportunity to finally talk about what I've really thought about this relationship or what I really thought about the unhealthy things this person has done."
Emily: Haven't we all been there? "Well, good because I hated that bitch."
Dedeker: I don't think I've ever said that, but I've definitely felt that.
Emily: No, I know. Man, yes.
Dedeker: I mean, first of all, not helpful, but then the second problem is if you get too into the weeds with that or if you get too into the mode of trying to guide or coach or advise your partner through the breakup, like telling them what to do or telling them, “Oh, you should not talk to them, or you should tell them this, or you should have this kind of talk with them, or you should never talk to them again or whatever.” It sets both of you up for the potential of disappointment and frustration.
Frustration potentially from your partner if they didn't want this advice in the first place, if they're hurting, if they're not sure what to do. Disappointment if you feel like you've given all this great advice to your partner on what to do and then they don't do it. That is just another opportunity for there to be more tension in an already tense time.
I've seen this lead to a partner sometimes being cagey about when they've reconnected with an ex because if one of their partners has been really vocal about any number of things. It could be like, “Oh, good, I never liked that person,” or, “Oh, good. I really did think that relationship was good for you,” or, “Oh, good I really didn't think you should have ever been with that person.” That then like as happens with breakups. Sometimes there's kind of this back-and-forth process or sometimes people just take breaks and then that actually ends up being a good reset that I have seen it result in that particular partner, again, maybe omitting it or kind of being afraid to talk to their other partner about the fact they've reconnected with their ex.
Basically, just care for your partner, but make sure that you are also giving them space to kind of navigate their own way through the disillusion potentially of this relationship. Of course, everything I just said you can completely ignore if your partner's in a truly abusive relationship because that is a whole other level and it's a whole other set of ways to talk to your partner about it or things like that. Abusive relationships aside just make sure that you're giving space for your partner to still be able to do their own discovery and process with this breakup.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. Before we move on to ways in which to care for yourself, we wanted to take a minute to talk about the ways in which you can care for us, and there are so many ways. One of them, and probably the way in which we feel the most passionate about and the most connected to is our Patreon. Our Patreon Community is a community of wonderful beautiful people and if you go to patreon.com/multiamory you can become a part of this community. Our community is awesome, we have it on Facebook and Discourse.
Dedeker: Both Discourse and Discord.
Emily: Okay, both.
Dedeker: We have all the communities yes.
Emily: Yes, every way in which to communicate we have it. You can become a part of all of these communities just by donating $5 a month which really isn't that much, and then you get to be part of a community of like-minded people who are awesome, lovely, share so many things about what they're going through, and help us help everyone around this community. It's like 650 strong at this point over that over that. If you become a part of this community then you can talk about things that are going on in your life, things that are going on in their lives and just sort of commiserate and figure out what you need in the moment.
You can also come to our video discussion group which we just had this week for this month. There you can get one-on-one feedback from people and we're always there every month as well in a video discussion format. There's a bunch of awesome ways in which to contribute and then also be a part of our communities. Again, go to patreon.com/multiamory and join us today.
Dedeker: Another way that you can help care for this podcast and also care for the other people who want to listen to this podcast, is you can take two minutes out of your day and go to iTunes or Stitcher and leave us a review. The review isn't just for us, it's not just about making us feel good or helping our podcast show up higher in search results or things like that. It helps the people who are looking for a show like this to know what to expect.
We get a lot of reviews where people specifically mention that they feel that this show is good and accessible for not just people in non-monogamous relationships, but people in all kinds of relationships. That kind of feedback is definitely helpful for helping to not scare away monogamous people essentially from listening to this show.
We definitely love that, we love hearing from people, what their favorite episodes are or what piece of advice they found the most useful, or even things that they're looking forward to seeing on the show. Again, just take a couple minutes out of your day, go to Stitcher, go to iTunes leave us a review, and we'll really appreciate it and so will the people who are looking for this podcast. Then last but not least, our sponsor for this week's episode is Quip, our very favorite toothbrush company.
Emily: Our favorite.
Dedeker: I can't even think of any other like toothbrush companies, what? Oral-B I guess, there’s Colgate, Sonicare. Okay, whatever, I don't care about them they're too mainstream, I like Quip. Quip definitely appeals to the hipster millennial and me from everything from their packaging to their pricing to the way that their toothbrushes look.
Emily: Their aesthetics.
Dedeker: Yes, exactly. Long story short, Quip is this company that makes these really awesome electric toothbrushes. They're not like the big, huge, bulky, Sonicare toothbrushes that need to charge up every week and that don't fit into your bag when you're traveling and they cost like $200. No, these Quip toothbrushes, they're super slim. They're very fashionable, they're very sexy. They run on battery and the best thing is that every single month they send you a replacement battery, a replacement toothbrush head, and new toothpaste. Sorry, not every month, every three months, which is the interval that you're supposed to be replacing your toothbrush.
Emily: How much you need.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Dedeker: Anyway, if you want to get in on that, if you want to have the super awesome sleek, sexy, Quip toothbrush, which has become the unofficial symbol of coolness in the Multiamory Patreon group and amongst us, I will say, you can also get a discount on your first order. It essentially equates to getting that free refill, replacement head, and battery and toothpaste.
If you go to tryquip.com/multiamory, you can get in on that and you'll also help support the show. With that, let's dive back into it. We've spent a lot of time talking about some practical things that you can do to take care of a partner who's going through something like this. It is also so, so important to take care of yourself as well because I think that we all know anyone who's supported someone through this, whether it's a family member, or friend or partner, it can get so draining so quickly.
It can really take so much out of you being there for someone all the time. There's definitely a couple of specific things to bear in mind and to avoid when you're also trying to care for yourself in the midst of this. These first two tips they kind of go together. The first one is, it's really important to be mindful of not taking your partner's emotions and then throwing them back at them.
What I mean by that is, I've definitely experienced and I've seen people experience kind of this vicious cycle that can happen where one person is dealing with a loss or something catastrophic, and they need a lot from their partner and they rely a lot on their partner and they vent a lot to their partner. Then their partner starts to get burnt out and starts to get depleted.
They kind of give it back to the original partner of like, "Oh, my God. I'm so depleted and I need support because supporting you is draining me. Now I need you to come back." That doesn't make the first person feel comfortable or supported or whatever and then it all kind of falls apart from there. There's been this feedback loop that's happened. That's why it's really important in times like these to find a support network that is outside of the partner who is going through the rough time.
That could be other partners of yours if you happen to have other partners. It could be reaching out to your friends, to your family members, it could be a support group. There are actually a surprising number of support groups out there for people who are supporting other people essentially like people who are caregivers, especially or people who are having to care for someone who's sick, or disabled, or injured or aging or things like that.
There's actually a fair number of support groups for the people who are connected to the person who's going through the tragedy or the loss. Those are definitely available to you and out there. It's just really important to check that to just know that basically, during this time, while your partner's dealing with a loss, or the breakup, or whatever, unfortunately, they're not going to be able to be the partner they were to you in the same way.
Emily: Even there for you.
Dedeker: Yes. It doesn't mean that that's how it's going to be forever. It doesn't mean that you've lost your support or you've lost the things that this partner, this relationship does for you. It just means that for the time being that may not be there. That's okay. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does mean it is important to have some kind of support network, some kind of outlet outside of that particular partner so that you can also go and get care as well.
Emily: Yes. On that note, if you're going through dealing with your partner's breakup or your partner's loss of a loved one or something, then definitely don't forget self-care for yourself as well. Again, as Dedeker said, caring for a loved one can be very draining and very challenging so don't forget to go out to a yoga class, or take a bubble bath, play some video games, read a book, go to a nice meal. Something along those lines, just to save yourself a little bit of energy and time and just like put some rejuvenation back into the challenging, draining things that might be happening at that moment.
Like you said, it's so, so difficult at times to just constantly be on and be there for your partner. Sometimes you just need a little bit of reprieve yourself. Yes, go out and do something nice for yourself, in addition to being there for your partner, because you can't be on for them if you are 100% depleted. You need to re-up your own constitution as well during this time. That's super important.
Dedeker: That's the other thing with self-care. It doesn't have to look I think the way that we're always traditionally taught to see self-care, which is the spa day, or the nice meal or whatever. It can be those things and definitely do those things if you can, but sometimes self-care can just be knowing when to say, no, to certain things.
Emily: Yes, that's true.
Dedeker: That's hard.
Emily: That's hard. Very hard for me.
Dedeker: That can be knowing my partner's taking up a lot of my resources right now and so I'm going to proactively say, no, to some other things, like things my friends are asking, or whatever in order to care for my partner. It can also mean saying no to your partner sometimes. You can be honest with your partner about like, "I just need to refuel. I need to recharge so that I can actually be there for you more completely." I think that's an important part of self-care as well.
Emily: Yes, absolutely. Along those lines, just recognize that your partner is probably going to be obviously depleted themselves, so while you may be wanting support for all the difficult times that you may be going through too in those moments, your partner may not be able to give it to you. Just understand like, "I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt in this moment."
Honestly, they're giving all that they can give and they're trying to lift themselves up in some way and they may not be able to in addition lift me up. That's okay, it's not going to stay that way forever. Just understand that and give them the benefit of the doubt. I think that that's really difficult in the moments we want our partner to be the bigger person in a situation.
If you can understand that they may just not have the capacity to do that in a variety of situations. Even in easier things, they're maybe just having a really difficult time at work and you need their help in something, but they just simply cannot give it, just recognize and understand like, "My partner's going through a hard time and so what I need may not be fulfilled in this moment but that's okay."
Obviously, if it's a continuing pattern, that's something else to look out, but if it's something that happens once in a while or especially during a challenging time, then be understanding because shit happens, it really does. That's something to be aware of for sure.
Dedeker: Right. Definitely. We're going to move on to our last segment here, which is addressing and recognizing particular challenges for non-traditional relationships, such as non-monogamous or polyamorous relationships when dealing with something like a death or a breakup when you have multiple partners. It definitely provides some really interesting unique situations that we don't really have social scripts for.
As always, in a lot of non-traditional relationships, you're kind of figuring that out as you go along. We wanted to talk about a couple of those scenarios. The first one being that, depending on your level of outness, you may be totally closeted about the kind of relationships you keep, you may have one relationship that is kind of the more "public relationship" or the relationship that people know about and then you may have a more closeted relationship if you're not able to be out at work or with friends or family.
That can definitely lead to complication when there is a death or a breakup because especially if you're already not able to publicly declare this relationship in some way or even if you did publicly declare it and it's not necessarily recognized which happens to a lot of people, it can be really hard in not having your grief be taken seriously, I think. It can be hard if your normal support network, your friends or your family don't know that you have multiple partners and then you go through a breakup.
It can be really difficult to not have that support network, or not feel like you can honestly speak with that support network about what's going on with you.
Emily: To get any understanding.
Dedeker: Right. That's why I think online community and offline communities have been so important for people who are in any kind of like sexuality group, essentially, like providing a space where people can talk about these things for sure.
To take it even up a notch, on top of that, as we know the majority of nontraditional relationships have the usual lack of protections or legal rights; lack of access to bereavement leave for instance. Actually, there isn't really any right to bereavement leave for someone who has a boyfriend or a girlfriend, actually. There are specific policies in most work places, like if it's a child or a spouse or a family member or things like that, but there isn't really a lot of language around non married relationships as it is which is an issue in it of itself.
Then, of course, on top of it there is this situation where if you're not out of work, and you have a partner who dies or you go through a breakup or whatever, that it can be really hard to ask for some kind of leave when you don't necessarily want to out yourself in that way. There's definitely something a lot of people go through, if you're going through that, you're definitely not alone. It's definitely not an easy situation for sure.
Emily: Along those lines, if you're in something like a don't ask don't tell situation, or just again if your family or your friends or your parents don't know that you are in a multi-partner relationship and then you go through a breakup or again if you have a death or something, then it's awful. It can be really, really challenging. I can't even imagine just how difficult that would be. I know that people go through it all the time, they've talked about it in our Patreon group. We've gotten emails and stuff about it in just how difficult it can be for people to have to truly mourn to a degree on their own without these continual support systems and their lives like being there for them.
Dedeker: If I get to share my personal experience with this. Like as you mentioned, we've seen a lot of people post in our Patreon community about that. When it's like this relationship just exploded and I can't talk about it to anyone and so this is the only place that I can go to talk about it.
Once upon a time, back in the day, I was in a functionally don't ask don't tell relationship. That was definitely a huge mistake, but I had that experience of I broke up with someone and then the next day went over to my other partner's house, it was a don't ask don't tell on both sides, it was a double Emmy, it was like all kinds of mistakes were made. I'll just say that.
Went over to my partner's house and I was just distraught and so sad and still in shock, but I don't even remember what I did. I think I just kind of told them that I was in a bad mood and I just wanted to just sit and watch movies and not talk because that was my only way of dealing with it. I couldn't cry, I couldn't talk to him about it. I'm like, "A lot of people go through it," it's definitely one of the reasons we encourage people to not do the don't ask don't tell thing just to be able to have more emotional honesty because it's excruciating being in that situation.
Emily: Even for these really extenuating circumstances to just understand that having a person on your side. If it's another partner like how freaking important that is. It really really is lovely to have just some understanding. That's really tough, it happens all the time. I'm sorry that you had to go through it at some point as well.
Dedeker: All those mistakes I made as far as setting up a don't ask don't tell relationships, I'm definitely doing that one again.
Emily: I get that. It's interesting because on one end, if you were the partner that is watching your other partner's sadness over the loss of a relationship, it can bring up this sort of reverse jealousy like, "They're having such a hard time over this person and that's difficult for me to deal with. I'm having jealousy over their hard time." That's something to be aware of because it can absolutely happen.
I've had jealousy over stuff like that like seeing a partner be really broken up about the loss of a relationship and just being like, "Well, jeez, what am I? Chopped liver?" Kind of thing, even though they're just having a normal reaction to something bereavement process. It still can be challenging on the other partners and to deal with. That is something to be aware of just like that may happen in these situations, so be understanding of that possibility and of yourself in those moments and like, "Hey, this is happening maybe I'm being a little ridiculous, but I understand for myself this is what's occurring."
Dedeker: I remember helping a partner through a breakup. Cunning Minx and Lusty Guy gave a talk at RelateCon in Boise this last year about the art of the break up. It was a great talk.
Emily: I remember, it was great.
Dedeker: They referred to the drunk talk period. They don't mean like actually getting drunk, but as in the period once someone's gone through a breakup and they need to talk about everything. It is all those different stages of like whether it's them burbling about like, "Oh, she was so wonderful and so beautiful and she was my best friend," or whether it is the, "Oh she was so terrible, like I can't believe she did this. Can you believe this is what she did? Let me tell you all the terrible," or, "I'm never going to find love again." They call it drunk.
Emily: You're drunk with emotion
Dedeker: Yes, you're drunk with emotion. There's definitely going to be some truth to it, but it's maybe not something to take super super seriously. Anyway, I had this experience where a partner of mine went through this really devastating breakup and he was definitely in the drunk talk phase of like, "Oh, she was so wonderful," and he was just collecting sappy internet memes about the one that got away. It definitely brought up for me that like, I guess reverse jealousy is the best way of talking about it where it's like technically you're not in a relationship with this person anymore, but like jeez.
Emily: You have a lot of feelings.
Dedeker: Yes, you got a lot of feelings idealizing this person. I think we're also not used to a partner waxing poetic about how incredibly wonderful another partner is. Some people are cool with that or some people are really not cool with that. It kind of depends on your relationship. I kind of wish back then that I had more of awareness of the drunk talk thing and holding space for my partner do that of knowing like, "This doesn't have anything to do with me. This doesn't mean anything about me. I can hold space and hold compassion for my partner just like letting all this well up and barbel out and get out of his mouth essentially." It's drunk talk and that's it.
Emily: That's a good thing to be aware of and understand.
Dedeker: Ultimately, I want to encourage people that it is so important if you're having a hard time supporting a partner who's going through a breakup or if you yourself are going through a breakup and you don't feel comfortable or out enough to talk to people about it, I still really encourage people, there are outlets for you to reach out to.
They all kind of depend on your level of comfort, your level of safety, again the level at which you are out. It could be something that we've mentioned earlier like posting in our private Patreon community because it's a private group and no one can see. If you don't feel like you can make a really sad Facebook post publicly, you can make one in the Patreon group and get people who will sympathize with you and empathize with you and be willing to listen send you funny memes and cute animal pictures to help you feel better.
It can be other online communities that are just more friendly to any kind of non mainstream sexuality or non normative sexuality talking about it at a person at a meet up, talking about at a person. Talk about to a person at a meet up.
Emily: Talking at a person, at a boy.
Dedeker: There's a lot of discussion groups and processing groups for things like these. Even if all else fails I would even encourage you even to reach out to a "normal" support network or resource or network community for handling loss of some kind.
Even if you have to stay clause and even if you have to come up with this idea of like, "Oh, it was a friend of mine that I lost," even if it was actually a partner or, "Oh it's a friendship that had to end for some reason," even if it is a relationship, there are still people that you can reach out to and share your feelings to. I think you'll be surprised like people will probably ask fewer questions to grill you on the details than you think because especially if the most important part is like centering your feelings and getting to talk it out. I don't think there's going to be a lot of people in a supportive environment that are going to be like, "Why are you so hang up on this friend? What was this friendship really like?" I guess anything is possible.
Rather than just feeling like you kind of need to suffer through it alone, it's better to have to make up a little bit of a cover story if it allows you that outlet to at least talk about some of your feelings even if you can't talk about the entire situation.
Emily: It's a really good point.
Dedeker: Yes. Even that's still going to be helpful to you than just not. That's just something to bear in mind that hope you take with you.
Emily: Absolutely. Again, like we said before in this episode, if you want a little bit more information on past episodes, 128, which was supporting your partner through a breakup is a really good episode to go through and then also 159, which is our Triforce episode, Triforce expansion pack. Both of those are great ones to revisit if you want to get more on communication and how to do it better, how to support people through breakups and challenging moments in their lives.
Thank you for listening to this episode on bereavement and loss and how to help your partners through their own personal loss. We would love to hear from you about how you have helped your partners in the past or how a partner has helped you with loss in the past. For Dedeker and me, I know we've personally been through some loss recently. That's why we really wanted to do this episode. It's been important to us and we wanted to talk about ways in which you can help your partners and people through that.
The best place to share your thoughts with other listeners is on this episode's discussion thread, in our private Facebook or Discourse forums. You can get access to these groups and join our exclusive community by going to Patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave us a voicemail at 678-M-U-L-T-I-05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook.