Often for non-monogamous folks there is no “taking some time to be single” between breakups and new relationships. Today Melisa and Keely explore how to hold space for both the death of something dear, and the birth of something new and exciting. They also touch on some more advanced ENM situations and techniques.
Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships!
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Melisa: it's definitely something that comes up a lot in non monogamy transitioning relationships and starting something new while something else is evolving, you know, or falling away. And like you said, holding the grief, like holding the grief and then the new relationship energy at the same time.
Keely: Yes, at the same time, like.
Melisa: That's a lot of energy to be holding in lots of different varieties.
Hey everyone. Welcome back. It's Queer Relationships, Queer Joy.
Melisa: Happy to have you back. And today you have just got Keely and I talking at you.
Keely: Yes. We're gonna give some updates and uh, the main thing we'll talk about is relationship transitions and
Keely: Oof the whole, I will say my theme of life, I do like the both ends so this topic of relationship transitions, talking about holding two similarly opposing things or holding two very different emotions
Melisa: At the same time as both potentially true and valid. Present.
Keely: Yes. We're gonna start with updates. Melisa, what is going on in your life and what do you wanna update listeners and viewers?
Melisa: For anyone actually watching. I look like all excited, like I've got some really juicy updates and like, not really sorry. Psych out. I'm doing well. I'm loving fall. I've, I've said that before. I'm obsessed with this season. I, I realize this is my third fall living here in Portland and it's the first. I know, like crazy and it's the first time I'm actually going out and doing things in the fall. So I've been to three corn mazes.
Melisa: I'm obsessed. Yeah. So really taking full advantage, but relationships are, are continuing to go smoothly for me. I would say I have two active relationships. One that is a local in town person and one who is not local. But been able to do some, like FaceTiming and, and getting to spend some, you know, quality moments with my- I don't know what to call him, the person I'm dating who doesn't live here. It just feels like a mouthful. So things are going well. It's, I think everything is gonna keep evolving both in my personal life and, and in my relationships. So just embracing a lot of really good communication right now across the board with partners. And I think part of it is, I, I feel expectation less right now in both of my relationships. And it feels really good. I feel very present with what's happening now. I don't feel like I have a ton of, and I'll, I'll clarify in this moment, I'm, I, sometimes I have expectations. Yeah, right. Like, catch me tomorrow, we'll see. Right now I'm feeling, I think because I feel very settled in my own self, in my own life, in my identity, in my community here in Portland right now. I'm just enjoying what's present for me without a lot of expectation about where it must go, where it needs to go.
Melisa: I do need to work on getting a passport so that I can travel and see the person who doesn't live here.
Keely: Do that as soon as you can because I hear that it's taking forever.
Melisa: I know, I know. And the really, the annoying thing is I have one that's valid technically, but it's from my married last name. So add that to the list of things you have to do when you get divorced, ,
Keely: I don't even know where to start fully and how much detail or not detail I wanna give for an update that one, one update. I may talk about this update more next week or in a couple weeks though, because basically person who I'd had a dating. Relationship with for about nine months. They left this summer on a contract to the Midwest. Well, they are back in town.
Melisa: I'm excited for this update.
Keely: Yeah. TBD. Because they got back just in time for rain and snow, this weekend. And so we are having, we are meeting up tomorrow, so more information on that to come. And then I officially now am dating a human who yeah, we say, we're saying we're not dating. It's more than just hanging out or going on dates, but we are actually dating non monogamously. They'll be a part of my Queer Joy at the end. Fun times. And we are consciously going very slow.
Melisa: That doesn't sound very queer Keely.
Keely: No, we're laughing and people are asking us like, what? And the, the, the way I can frame it is comparing to others. I have other humans, other people that I am in relationship with in some or some situation with, sexually and/or romantically who have people that they're dating and I'm watching them just go full speed ahead.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Keely: I met this person in very similar timing to these other two people, and they're just full speed ahead dynamics. And I'm like, Whoa. And I notice, and this would be, I'm kind of foreshadowing for another topic we're gonna have, but I'm noticing almost like doubting if we like, or we're both doubting how much we like each other because we're going so slow.
Melisa: Ah. Uh-huh.
Keely: But it feels really good. And I have been doing some reading around like love addiction and codependency and all that stuff and folks that are used to like love bombing and how we see what love is quote unquote supposed to be like in our culture, in our society, and not just cis hetero, I mean we, we see it in L word, we see it in the queer movies right now. There is more representation than there was five years ago, and we still see this dynamic of this like big productions and it's supposed to be fireworks and those are great, what we're finding is those aren't usually the sustainable relationships.. So foreshadowing for next week or two weeks from now.
Melisa: We should also introduce ourselves before we get too far into the topic.
Keely: So Melisa, you introduce yourself first cause I've been blabbing.
Melisa: I'm Melisa DeSegiurant and I am licensed as a marriage and family therapist and a professional counselor. I work at Connective Therapy Collective in Portland, Oregon. I am a white person. I am bisexual. I am able-bodied, polyamorous. I am gender fluid. I use she and they pronouns.
Keely: My name is Keely C. Helmick. I am a licensed professional counselor, sex therapist. I am white, non-binary, fem presenting, solo poly currently still recovering from my injury. Maybe one day we'll do a topic about that. Definitely a very interesting experience. Sex and dating and injuries
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Keely: yeah. So what spurred this thought and then it has come to fruition. I was in a situationship with somebody who I had been off and on dating for like five years, and came to find out on the anniversary of the day. That I found out about my ex a year ago. Rewind to our first season. If you wanna hear that story about an ex find out in a very not fun way who the person they're dating is. Cause this situationship, this non monogamous dating situationship had been don't ask, don't tell and they had forwarded me their itinerary for our trip and I saw the email of the person and guess what? They're another therapist and I know them and we're Facebook friends.
Melisa: Small community.
Keely: And so like it, it hit. I didn't like how I found out, but we had a really lovely conversation about it. Fast forward to now and we are transitioning our dynamic and they have decided to be in a monogamous, monogamous, romantic and sexual relationship with this person. And so they broke up our sexual romantic relationship dynamic and we're exploring what it would mean to be friends.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah.
Keely: And holding that grief and sadness. Well, hanging out with a new person.
Melisa: Yeah. And I don't think this is an exclusive experience to well, certainly not to the queer community. Certainly not to non monogamy, but it's definitely something that comes up a lot in non monogamy transitioning relationships and starting something new while something else is evolving, you know, or falling away. And like you said, holding the grief, like holding the grief and then the new relationship energy at the same time.
Keely: Yes, at the same time, like.
Melisa: That's a lot of energy to be holding in lots of different varieties.
Keely: Yeah, it really is. Well, and I, and I, I wanna slow down a minute cause I know I can talk really fast and also reflect on this time of the year as we're talking about this topic, that this is a very transitional time of year.
Keely: And so within that, it gives a lot of knowledge. We can take knowledge from the earth and from how our bodies and how animals come to this place of transition and when we're reflecting on transitions of relationships, we can have that as a source of connection and a source of the continuance of growth and change. I also know that we're going in at this moment, it won't be when people are necessarily listening to this, but this is going into Scorpio season. And Scorpio season is really about a piece, there is a piece of death in it, but like really intense. And with death, as we know, there's always that opportunity of new beginnings. Like death doesn't reflect. It's part of the cycle.
Melisa: Yeah. The death and rebirth. And that's exactly what we're talking about today.
Keely: Yeah. So, I mean, what comes up for you? I've, I already talked a lot. I mean, we'll go back and forth, but
Melisa: Like please share some. No, as soon as you started talking about this concept, and it was a couple weeks ago, Keely I think we started talking about it it hit home for me. And the first thing I, I thought about was my experience going through the end of my relationship with my ex-husband, while starting new relationships. And I should say relationship in particular because there was a kind of a, a already formed relationship that was there. But I did start a brand new relationship as the divorce was happening and it, oh God, it for me, I don't know. I mean the, like, just strange out of body experience. And part of that was, you know, thinking about some of these, well, some if not all of these relationship endings, they're traumas. You know, the, the impact on my system, I was in a trauma response, I would say from September of 2020, probably until February of 2021. Certainly the depression and things lasted longer than that, but while I was in a trauma response, a grief response, also experiencing excitement and potential and new relationship energy it, like I said before, it takes a lot of energy to sustain both of those experiences. I mean, my therapist brain comes online and I'm like, Okay, basic needs, are people sleeping? Are you drinking enough water? Are you eating? Like we really need to feed our systems and nourish our systems to hold this kind of a dual experience.
Keely: Yeah, for sure. And I think that when you say that Melisa, I think about many people have this bodily reaction that it's similar in both grief and sadness and in NRE, you know, new relationship energy of not having a big appetite
Keely: Of being a little consumed or a lot consumed by what's going on. And having this extra energy and some difficult sleeping or sleep interruption.
Keely: So I think there is a commonality in this that is really speaks to being especially aware of basic needs and that can help the experience go, I don't know if smoothly is the right word, but allows us to incorporate it in our bodies. Allows us to integrate it.
Keely: Cause experiences can feel like trauma and when we move through them and are able to process them and integrate them, that's when we move into the next phase in a way that is more healthy in our systems.
Keely: And I do wanna note we, yes, we're definitely, this happens in monogamy as well as non-monogamy. I probably said this before, but there's this idea that when you end a relationship, a sexual romantic relationship, you're supposed to take this like certain amount of time to be with yourself.
Keely: Or jumping into a new relationship. And that's such a monogamous, centered way of thinking that doesn't really jive for. For a lot of non monogamous folks, because you're already in relationships sometimes
Keely: A lot of times you're already in relationships with multiple people.
Melisa: Yeah. I was thinking from the monogamous like vocabulary, rebound. I don't, I don't hear poly people talking about rebounding as much as I hear people talking about that, using that word .
Keely: Yeah, for sure. For sure.
Melisa: And there's a lot of stigma about that. I mean, certainly there's the people who would be like, Yeah, I'd love to be a rebound, whatever. And I think what they, what they mean when they say that playfully is like, Cool, no strings attached, just sex. Like that's kind of the assumption.
Melisa: But in terms of building a relationship that's maybe a more of an attachment based or a romantic, there can be this idea that, yeah, you can't find that right after or while you're going through a breakup. So people will say, I don't wanna be their rebound, meaning I want something more. And like, why can't that more also be there, even though there is a transition happening?
Keely: Yeah. Grief in general is this really beautifully sad opportunity that brings us right into the presence.
Keely: Birth and death bring us just right to the present is such an opportunity to be present. And so when I think about balancing or having these really intense experiences going on at once, is that really being present with the one and then with the other.
Keely: And so having, creating space or allowing space that is for the grief or for the relationship transition with the person who you're transitioning with whether it's from romantic and sexual to friendship or romantic and sexual to no contact or not having a relationship with that person anymore. And then having that newer person who you're developing sexual, romantic relationship with.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah. It's almost like a healthy compartmentalization you're talking about. But I like the reframe of it being less, thinking about the compartmentalizing and more thinking about just being present. I mean, shoot, that's what we do in non-monogamy anyway. Like when we are with a partner, we are present with. Hopefully.
Melisa: I'm an advocate that you all are present with the person you're with, and I think that's a, it's a great way in this context.
Keely: Unless your fantisizing. . Y'all can play a fantasy, another topic, another day.
Melisa: Yeah, exactly. But I, I, I think that's a beautiful way of honoring both experiences and not having to, like, for example, like rush through grief and getting over that so we can move on. Like, no, we get to honor that process. And to your point, when we're with someone new, we get to embrace the joy that comes with that too.
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Keely: and there is this beautiful poem, Joy and Sorrow. It's one of my favorites, and it talks about holding both joy and sorrow and actually the balance and the two sides of the coin without sorrow, not experiencing joy, without joy, not experiencing sorrow. So it's really lovely. And so this new, yeah, this new person I'm dating asked me about it. And, I'll say, still very vulnerable, but it's a very much a therapy technique if anyone has done EMDR up there, and what I've done is created this beautiful box for them, in my mind, full of Disneyland stuff. Because their happy place is like water, rivers, Disneyland, cats. So I've created this whole image of like, they can go to a river, but there's like Disneyland stuff and then there's cats. Even more so, not when necessarily with the person, but definitely when I'm prepping to like getting ready to do something with somebody, I, I start thinking about them and so I put them in their lovely container, leave them outside my home, my little spot, and then go on my merry way and, and and that's the technique I use consistently. I just put them, Put them back. Put them back.
Melisa: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And that's, I like that you're getting into the practical, So what do we do about it? Because I think where, when it can be problematic to be going through these or feel problematic to be going through these kinds of transitions simultaneously is when it feels like one experience is leaking into the other one more than we would like.
Melisa: So the container is a beautiful way to do that. And part of that I think, you know, I've had clients who have done some EMDR and used the container, but then come back like after session, be like it didn't all stay. And like, I mean part of that is the container is not a vault where it goes and never, you never come back to it.
Melisa: We have to make space to be with it. You know, and I would say that specifically about the grief, I think more of us might be inclined to try and avoid hard feelings. , but like make space for your grief about relationship transitions that are hard.
Melisa: And actually be with it. Like whether that's looking through old pictures or photos. I mean, for me, like going through the divorce, I've probably said this before, but like music was my number one resource. And I mean, you know, God, love Adele, like, oh, her songs really hit home,
Keely: Like it pops up on my cell phone all the time that I-miss-you song. I'm like, why is this in my phone and why do you keep popping up? I hate you.
Melisa: Yeah, totally. Now, that like when we were young is just that song. I literally would play that song and just like, I couldn't sing it. I was just bawling too much. But like that was how I would sit, one of the ways, I would sit with my grief and I would play that song and I would then breathe and, you know, wash my face and like drink some water and rehydrate, you know, And then like you said, getting ready for a date. The song, that would not be the song playing. Now I'm switching music, now I'm like putting on a cute outfit. Now I'm looking at the sexy texts I got. I'm getting all excited, you know? So there is a way to make space for each so that you're not feeling like you're flooded by both at the same.
Keely: Yeah, and I think, and there is a bo- and those are favorite term boundaries with the new person I'm hanging out with that I'm dating. They like we talk about it, but I really pay attention cuz I want them to know. But I don't wanna spend a lot of time talking about this other person. And I mean, that may be also intricately part of our slow down process of recognizing. The place that I'm at and the types of activities we're engaging in. But there is an open dialogue about it.
Keely: And I'm really being selective of how much I talk about with them, how much I talk about with other people. The person who I'm actively involved in the relationship transition I did a couple weeks ago we had been doing the friendship thing and then after the Thorns game this weekend, I realized I'm really sad. And guess what? Even as a non monogamous person, taking a week break from a human doesn't mean we can't be friends, but it means I need some space.
Keely: To really. For me, the space represented that. I was just feeling so many big feelings and every time I hang out with them, we were processing.
Melisa: Yeah. That's a lot to process.
Keely: And that's not transition. Yeah. That's not, I mean, for me, if we're transitioning to friendship, it's like, what are friends? What? What do you identify as a friend or what do you think of as a friend? It's not processing old relationship constantly.
Melisa: Well, and even as we're saying, like new relationships can blossom and we can navigate these transitions, the, the, the, the previous feelings don't just fall away because we decided we're gonna be in a different kind of relationship.
Melisa: You know? Yeah.
Keely: And that was the problem. And that's, and that was the thing is that I, and that doesn't mean everyone is like that, but I, it. It took a little bit time cuz I was thinking, Oh, I'm not monogamous. We do these relationship transitions. I got this. And when I was sad and was real with myself and really identified the feelings that were coming up, I did it for myself and I was very clear with them. I said, I'm taking space for myself.
Keely: It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with like, I still have these big feelings for you, and this is more than friend feelings, and I need to sort those out