How responsible am I for my ex's healing process while we're cohabitating? | I'm Poly and So Can You

My bi male/gay male/bi fem (I'm the fem) triad of two years (the works: cohabitation/king bed/meeting ALL the parents) just ended amicably. I'm still living with my ex who is a gay male. We're not continuing intimacy together but we support each other a lot. He is way more upset about the breakup than I and I'm having trouble with how swiftly I want to move on. How do I take steps to start dating again when he's still miserable? There's never been a road map for our relationship, but right now I'm feeling so lost...

First of all, reader, my condolences for the end of your triad, and congratulations on navigating the transition with some semblance of grace, compassion, and mutual respect. Transitioning out of a relationship with a single individual is hard enough, but transitioning out of a multi-person poly configuration is, well, akin to splitting up a family. My heart goes out to you and yours’.

I feel like I need more information about how your triad worked - the dynamics within it - before I give you my best ruling. Were you all single when you decided to date, or did one individual join a preexisting couple? How much experience with open relationships did you all have before getting together? Who initiated the break-up, and what were the circumstances? etc.

That being said, the three pieces of advice that I feel confident giving are as follows:

1. *This first point is based on an assumption I made with the information at hand. Move past it if it doesn't apply.* Keep in mind that connections between folks who were assigned the same gender at birth are often more emotionally intense than folks who were assigned different genders at birth, which in turn can make the ending of those relationships more challenging. There are multiple camps of thought on why this is the case, but in my opinion it’s because we have so many shared experiences built in from the get-go. When you date someone who already has a context for so much of your forges a bond that can feel more complex and powerful in a way that is difficult to articulate. I’m not quite sure how much of your gay male ex’s sorrow is over the loss of the bi male partner versus how much of it is over the loss of the triad as a whole - and it doesn’t sound like conjuring up empathy for your ex is the problem - but this may put his grief in perspective. Also, perhaps past experience is partly to blame. If you and/or your bi male ex have more experience with non-monogamy than your gay male ex, it would make sense as to why he's taking the separation harder than you.

2. Consider ending cohabitation with the gay male ex, even if it’s just temporary. If I were you - and if it’s financially accessible to you - I’d sublet my room out for a few months and live elsewhere to give both you and your ex some breathing room and time to heal. It certainly doesn’t mean that you have to stop seeing one another or supporting one another once you’re no longer sharing a space, but it will release you from much of your sense of obligation for his healing process, and will work to ensure that you’re able to remain in each other’s lives in a healthy and meaningful way in the future.

3. “There is nothing wrong with me for moving on.” Have that sentence looping in your mind on the regular. Your lingering guilt about moving on while your ex continues to grieve is a direct result of your socialization as a fem. I give a lot of lip service to feminine emotional labor, but only because we as fems need to - and deserve to - be reminded, frequently. Folks of feminine experience are trained both subtly and overtly to elevate, nurture, care for, and serve the whims of masculine folks so that they may never be uncomfortable and never feel unappreciated whilst reaching their full potential. Meanwhile, all of our needs get de-prioritized. These socialization strategies are being triggered by your witnessing of your ex’s pain. You may care about your ex deeply, but you are no longer responsible for him or his emotions - truthfully, you never were! - and right now the guilt you are experiencing is stifling your own healing process. Your ex needs to seek out other sources of support that aren’t you if he hasn’t already; friends, family, other past exes, etc. He needs to distract himself, either with work, hobbies, travel, a passion project, Tinder, etc. Perhaps he needs to find a professional, sex positive, poly-savvy therapist. It doesn’t sound like he is consciously trying to manipulate you or place a monopoly on your time or attention, but that’s what he’s doing, and you need to free yourself before you get stuck.

Andre Shakti