His broken heart & my anxiety


New member
it's been a while since I posted, poly life was going along pretty uneventfully. But eventually something always seems to happen and I am in need of some perspective.

My boyfriends other partner recently broke up with him and he is completely heartbroken. He regarded her his primary (even though she is married (like I am) and regarded him her secondary). They were together for almost four years and also in a D/s relationship (with him being the sub).

I have generalized anxiety disorder and have had it for as long as I can remember even though the label wasn't used until 15 years ago. I have had good and bad and really bad periods and lately there has been a really bad period. So bad that for the first time I have decided to start medication.
Bo has never really understood my anxiety (which I don't blame him for, I doubt anyone who hasn't experienced it can understand how debilitating it is), but lately, we were talking about it more and I educated him a little (using websites and youtube clips etc) and he was becoming more supportive, which was great.

Then the break up happened.

He is the kind of guy who retreats into his cave when something bad happens - binge watching tv, not sleeping, drinking a bit too much. I try to be there for him but he also wants to be alone (then again, asks how early can we meet tomorrow because I need you - so, sending mixed messages about that).

My 2 core anxieties are being left by the people I love, and being ignored by the people I love. These 2 are now being triggered in a major way and I don't know how to deal.

I have a ton of anxieties and obsessive thoughts and worries going through my mind. I know some of those are irrelevant and made worse by my illness, some are completely ludicrous, but some might be realistic and might need addressing. I just do not have the tools to untangle the mess.

My biggest fear I guess is that he will leave me because this heart break makes him realize just how 'secondary' and unimportant I am to him, now that he misses the person who was most important to him. Like, I was good for the role of secondary partner, but I won't do as the 'only' partner.

Another fear is that he won't break up with me but eventually, when he has healed, will look for a new primary / Domme (could even be 2 different persons I guess) and I already feel nauseous thinking about it, fearing I won't be able to cope with such a change in dynamic.

Also feeling selfish about not being able to just be there for him but worrying so much about myself.
I don't have any advice to offer, but I just wanted to say that I completely understand and am in a similar position. It sucks and I feel like there's no roadmap for dealing with this kind of situation. I am curious as to what other people might offer ad far as advice.
Cleo, everything you say is so all-or-nothing that it reads almost like a standard monogamish romance novel. A bunch of dyads strung together by circumstance, not at all a familial group.

I've got to take a moment to try separating some of the fibers here.

Isn't Bo secondary to Ren? Is that where Bo will remain so long as he's around you? Is that what all parties intend? Is that what all parties want? Is that what all parties need?

So, Bo has you for his one-to-one relational needs, & had her for his D/s needs; without her, you are not enough to keep him out of his standard funk (which you've seen before, multiple times).

Is the D/s part more important than what he has with you? If he finds a replacement, & she doesn't want you in the picture, is it over with you, or is he stable enough to continue looking for a suitable Domme?

Is Bo seeking treatment for his depression? Will he? Will you expect that of him, or do you prefer codependence?

Who is responsible for setting the relationship up in this manner?

Who is responsible for recrafting it into something better?
My 2 core anxieties are being left by the people I love, and being ignored by the people I love.

These are the same fear - one is just further along into the imagined future than the other. Fear of abandonment. It's really good that you can pinpoint this because then you can work on it.

I suffered severe, repeated loss and betrayal as an infant and child, so I've had lingering fear of abandonment my entire life. It can influence every single relationship and experience of intimacy. Some people with this fear have it to such a degree that they experience anxiety most of the time, some have flare ups, some aren't even aware of the extent to which they practice pre-emptive protection against this fear. It's rarely based in the here and now. The obsessive thoughts perhaps seem ludicrous, as you say, but they are your way of protecting yourself as best you know how in the moment. The reason for the fear definitely came from somewhere - otherwise you wouldn't have it - but of course you know that you are not in actual danger today. All of which is to say that fear of abandonment always comes from something pretty serious and usually from something early in life.

This situation with your BF is triggering your anxiety response to your old fears, but it is not the source. You can re-frame this in all kinds of ways to soothe yourself regarding your BF ("it's his work to deal with his own grief," etc. etc) but you will still have your deep seated fear of abandonment. Your BF and his breakup are just one speed bump to get over and you can find strategies to do that, but your anxiety will keep coming at you in other forms. What's been your plan and support network to work on your fear of abandonment? I'll say for myself, that I've found a tremendous amount of relief and progress toward real happiness by targeting and working on my codependent thinking. I have a support & education strategy that includes several resources. I needed a full court press of change agents and I'm seeing some really good results now after a lifetime of some pretty severe anxiety and radical relationship choices concerning abandonment. What is your plan for working on your anxiety and your relationship patterns?
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Is Bo seeking treatment for his depression? Will he? Will you expect that of him, or do you prefer codependence?

Who is responsible for setting the relationship up in this manner?

Who is responsible for recrafting it into something better?

And these are really good questions.
Hi Cleo,

That's a tough one. When my nesting partner hit a rough patch with her other bf, I found this to be quite difficult, seeing her heart broken and distraught. I didn't know what to do other than just listen and hug her as much as I could. I felt a bit like I was feeling some collateral or vicarious heartbreak - the opposite of compersion/frubble. And of course, poly educators don't talk about the down sides of poly very objectively imho, so I was unprepared for this experience.

It looks like you are already managing your anxiety (with a Dr./meds). I don't know if checking out the Mind Over Mood book would help balance your thoughts and help you process. I don't want to presume what would work for you on this front, so just a thought.

In terms of working out your relationship with Bo, he is going to have to process his own emotions, and he may want your support in very specific ways or at specific times. It's up to you if you want to give that support, or if it makes you feel too raw. My instinct is usually to offer whatever support is asked for, but in your situation, if Bo's behaviour becomes destructive, this might be difficult.

If there are specific things you want out of your relationship with Bo, let him know what they are. He may decide that he wants to keep things as is (i.e., secondary, and he finds another primary partner). And maybe you decide that you would still enjoy that connection you have with him, even if not as intimate as you would like.

Anyway, sorry for not having much practical commentary. Hopefully these thoughts help. If I am way off base, don't hesitate to reply, of course.
Hi Cleo,

Sorry to hear about your situation. Are you seeing a therapist? It might be something to do, based on your GAD condition. A therapist might be able to give you the tools to untangle things.

We'll try to help on this forum as well.
With sympathy,
Kevin T.