Feeling Helpless

Last week I had a reader email me during my brief mourning hiatus and express how much my blogs had helped her deal with her own emotions and breakup. It reminded me why I do this. It’s not only for me, but it’s also for others who are going through something similar. For solidarity. For support.

Thank you, reader, for that reminder.

One of the things she asked in her email was how my husband handled my breakups and subsequent brokenhearted state. As I’ve commented on before, he handles them quite well. This last split, however, whether it was the experience of last year & knowing I would survive or the absence of blatant abuse or because I stood up for my own self-worth, wasn’t as painful. Nowhere near as painful. 

Ironically, my husband handled this one with less patience than the first two, again, perhaps because we had been here twice before so recently, but I think it was more about him feeling like he somehow failed me. (Which, of course, he did not. Not by a long shot.) After all, he had met this man. Spent time with him. Shared meals with him. Went hiking with him. I’m sure my husband feels like he could’ve somehow protected me better.

When we see someone we love in pain, we want to relieve that pain. Of course we do. Although some just want to run away, absolve themselves of any knowledge or feelings of responsibility to support a loved one in pain, most loving people want to help ease the suffering.

But, ultimately, we can’t.

It’s so hard to watch someone you love suffer any pain, but especially the pain of a heartbreak or loss of a love. This difficulty is magnified by feelings of responsibility.

If only I had seen it coming. In cases of abuse or neglect, if only I had seen their ex for who s/he was. If only I had seen s/he would hurt us, for when one in a couple hurts, they both do. If only I had seen the lack of integrity. The abusive nature. If only I had seen the potential for pain, I could’ve protected my SO/spouse better. If only I had voiced my concerns.

This was touched upon in the Beautiful Poly Story I blogged about late last year.

Some people shun responsibility of everything, as if it were a type of leprosy. Others take on too much responsibility, feeling blame for things and actions that from any other perspective they could never be held responsible.

I’m of the latter, I’m afraid.

I was taught early in life that every action had consequences, and someone was responsible for those consequences. It was someone’s fault. Normally, mine. Or at least I took the blame if no one else would. I still do.

Working on it.

The truth is that sometimes things just happen. It’s no one’s fault. A very difficult reality for me to accept. Just doesn’t fit into how I was taught to view the world. Then sometimes, it is someone’s fault…whether they accept responsibility or not. Usually, it’s a combination of actions and circumstances.

The bottom line in this: regardless of responsibility or fault, it happened. Regardless of whether or not we should’ve seen it coming or we could’ve done something differently, we didn’t. It’s in the past. The past doesn’t exist except in our minds. Holding on to that past is what causes the pain. Still, it’s a part of the grieving process. So in polyamorous relationships, not only the abandoned feels the grief, but so does his/her spouse. Not only does the broken hearted feel pain and hopelessness, so does the spouse/SO.

One person’s unconsciousness and lack of courage to face their fears, incapacity to know themselves or to be honest, inability to communicate or unwillingness to try, abject betrayal of a deep trust…causes a world of hurt in another family. And there is nothing we, the discarded, can do about it but move through the pain, work through the stages of grief, look forward to new joy when we’re again ready to open our hearts again enough to risk it. Still think we’re lucky poly people?

My husband and I are very grateful to have each other. When times are hard, we become closer. When times are fun, we become closer. We turn into each other and into the love between us, and that’s why we’re still together 13 years later. He is there for me. I am there for him. We don’t limit each other. We don’t edit ourselves. We love and we love more. When another person comes into one of our lives, we allow space for that relationship and love to grow. After all, that’s what love means, that’s what it takes to be in a long term, loving, completely fulfilling relationship.

Responsibility for our own and the other’s heart.

Patience while we each learn hard lessons and navigate through our fears and insecurities.

Easing suffering when we can for our other, just being present when we can’t.

And loving completely. Reveling in the joy when it comes. Standing strong against the storms when they come.

That is relationship. That is love.


The image I pilfered for this blog post is from this page on GRIEF. It’s a process. Sometimes, a long one.

~ by omgrey on March 14, 2012.

6 Responses to “Feeling Helpless”

  1. There is a difference between being responsible and being at fault. And usually the one who is at fault is at fault because they’re not being responsible.

    OK, not very helpful, but I just couldn’t resist the play on words. 😀


    • Ooooh!!! I like it!!! And it really fits in my current situation!!! Thanks, Doc!!!

      Look for a post on commitmentphobia in 2 weeks. You were right, I really didn’t get the depth of the engulfment fear.


  2. Doc is right. I have been surrounded by people who dont take responsibility most of my life. I was shouted and snarled at about things that occured before I was born! So now, we are to blame even though we didnt exist yet. Ok. See the psychotic behavior? I have no loving support system of which you write. The number one reason for all the chaos and pain amongst humans can basically be traced to selfishness and failure to take responsibility.

  3. […] too much. More fun effects of the PTSD. My husband, of course, has been nothing but supportive. He just held me and reassured me that it was okay through my embarrassed apologies, telling me that I was […]

  4. […] Feeling Helpless […]

  5. How interesting that I said it wasn’t as painful. This was written 3 weeks after the split, when a big part of me believed he’d come back. Because how could someone walk away from what we had.

    Well, he didn’t. Over 4 months now.

    The pain exceeded pain, really. Past agony into despair & hopelessness. Into giving up.

    My husband is as supportive as ever.
    I am not as idealistic or trusting as ever.

    I’ve hardened.
    But I’ve survived.

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