Poly Musings

On Staying Friends: Valuing People Over Relationships

Yeah…  ummmm…. what?

Romantic relationships are hard. Long-term compatibility is difficult and hard to predict.  Relationships end.  When they do, it seems that it is almost required for the former partners to nearly disavow the others’ existence.  Does it really make sense for us to discard people when those romantic relationships end?   What once was close connection becomes cold, distant.  Does my interest in you only extend as far as my romantic connection? Or, to put it more crassly, am I only interested in you if you’re sharing my bed?

No, emphatically no!  (well, maybe that occasional hottie who seduces me before I get my senses, which doesn’t happen very frequently).

I only choose to date people with whom I feel a broader connection. I keep my heart open – I don’t preciously guard connection, caring and even love.  They tumble forth when I connect.  I choose to love with abandon.  This does open up the possibility of getting my heart-broken.  I see no other way to live this life fully, passionately.  A broken heart is not my biggest fear.

The dedicated life is the life worth living. You must give with your whole heart.   – Anne Dillard

A broken heart is, however, a stumbling block to staying friends.  It can cause us to desperately cling to our hopes for what the relationship could have been or the glory of what it once was – blocking the natural flow of caring as the romantic relationship ends.  Friendship doesn’t have a chance.  Even worse, it seems that we need to exaggerate our differences or feelings in order to fully make a break.  I’m not sure what’s going on here inside our brains.  But, I wonder if it’s always been thus.  It is hard for me to imagine that this is evolutionarily adaptive.  If we evolved in relatively small tribes, the kind of dismissal and denial that characterize modern relationship failure would be highly disruptive.  So, maybe it’s a modern cultural quirk. I don’t know.  I think the impulse is unnecessary.  That is not to say that I think it is easy.

I don’t.  My personal experience is that maintaining a friendship with someone after a romantic relationship ends is very difficult.  The difficulty is both personal and social.   From the simple, lusting for something you can’t have – at least not in the same way – to the complex emotions of grief and loss, I am committed to getting over the emotional challenges involved in transitioning a relationship.  I have faith that the strong friendship on the other side is worth working through short-term issues.

Love, like a river, will cut a new path  whenever it meets an obstacle.  – Crystal Middlemas

The social challenges seem to revolve around pressures from other friends and potential new partners who presume – perhaps usefully – that there’s clinging and a desire to rekindle old flames.  This is logical and probably is reinforced by experience.  Nonetheless, my motives are pure.  Seriously!

I value people over relationships.  If I let you in my life and my heart, I endeavor to keep you in my life – but in a different capacity.  Life is constant change.  Relationships evolve.  Friendship and care are at the core of all my connections.  I see no reason to give those up when the romance dies.

The only way to have a friend is to be one.  – Jasmine Crespo

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