|Image courtesy of Anant Nath Sharma|
Or if you're neither.
If you're poly, chances are eventually you'll be with someone who is going through a breakup with someone else. How do you handle that?
First, and most importantly, take care of yourself. Breakups are hard, and affect not only the people breaking up but many people around them too. You're going to feel all kinds of things, some of them unexpected, and many of them unpleasant. Make time to get in touch with what you're feeling. Talk to friends who can support you. Accept your feelings as valid, no matter what they are. Find ways to reinstate calm, peace, and love when you find they're missing.
Second, take care of your partner. If you've ever gone through a breakup, you know how awful it is. Do what you can to be there for them. Remind them that they are loved. If you know the things your partner especially likes, do them. For example, if your partner enjoys cuddling, make sure every date includes cuddles. If they really like your spaghetti sauce recipe, spend a night in and serve it to them as a treat. As often as you can, create a safe space for them to relax and feel loved. Be gentle with them when you disagree.
Keep in mind that they will act in new and possibly unpleasant ways. They may be unusually sad or angry. They may pick fights with you over small things. They may cancel dates or reschedule at the last minute. Try not to take it personally. They are grieving the loss of a relationship. Your patience and understanding will be appreciated as they heal.
Possibly the most difficult of all: try not to berate the partner they are breaking up with. This can prove nearly impossible, especially if you witness their pain at the other person's hands. You may feel like you're helping by villifying their former partner, but you're not. Your partner doesn't need to hear how bad their ex is; they likely spend half their time thinking that anyway (and the other half missing that person). Instead, anytime you're tempted to badmouth their newest ex, tell your partner instead how special they are to you, and how much you care for them.
Also, don't interfere. Your partner is an adult capable of making their own decisions. Perhaps they decide to have a last night together with their ex after the breakup. Perhaps they are discussing getting back together with their ex. Maybe they want to try counseling to work out their differences. In any case, your job is not to tell your partner what to do, or to try to make it so that they have no choice. Even if you think that person was terrible for them, respect your partner's choice. You are, of course, entitled to share with them any concerns you may have about their ex. But once you've stated your piece, be done with it. Your partner has heard you. The relationship is between them and their ex, and not about you.
It's going to be hard. You and your partner will both experience pain, sadness, and anger. Accept your own emotions, and those of your partner, even if they seem strange. With time those feelings will pass, and your partner will be glad that you were there for them when they needed you.