The ins and outs of having a partner with other partners
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Almost every relationship you have as a human being requires interaction with the other person?s friends, family, coworkers, or aquaintances. In polyamorous relationships, a facet to this is the relationships you have with your metamours. Simply put, a metamour is your partner?s other partner. For example, my girlfriend?s husband is my metamour.
How metamours relate in poly configurations
Lots of factors affect how you relate to your metamours. It partially depends on the configuration of your relationships. Are you practicing solo polyamory, where you?re more independent? Perhaps you?re practicing kitchen-table poly where everyone shares space. Or do you practice hierarchical poly, where there is a primary partner and then secondary partners?
People practice polyamory in all sorts of different ways. For some, meeting their metamours is imperative to success. They?re looking to form friendships within their polycules, or in some cases to build a poly family where metamours have their own rich, fulfilling friendships and relationships.
In some polyamorous configurations, metamours are willing to meet, and maybe even enjoy it. They generally get along, but there?s not an effort to build anything beyond a casual acquaintanceship.
Others can take it or leave it, or not want to meet their metamours at all. Some folks practice a more compartmentalized type of polyamory where metamours don?t relate to, or have relationships with, one another. In don?t ask, don?t tell style arrangements, partners may not want to hear about their metamours at all.
Benefits of having metamours
The advantages of having people who share your affection for a mutual partner can be pretty amazing. From the potential for mindblowing sexual adventures to built in babysitting swaps to having someone to ask for advice about your mutual partner to collaborating on a surprise for that person, benefits abound.
There is the simple joy that can be found in connection through understanding. When we find people with whom we have big things in common, we feel seen and heard. There is also an added possibility of teamwork and collaboration, and of generally building a support network.
Having metamours can also be a path to building and expanding your poly community.
Metamours can be an extra source of strength and support for our partners. We all get tired and emotionally drained sometimes, and that can make it hard to provide support and lift someone else up. Like passing a fussy baby off to the other parent, it can be really nice to have someone to tag in when you?re feeling too overwhelmed to be your partner?s rock.
Many people in polyamorous relationships also experience compersion for their partners brought on by watching them experience joy, love, and pleasure with their metamours. Some people describe compersion as the opposite of jealousy. It?s that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling you get from watching someone you love experience something great.
Having metamours can also be a path to building and expanding your poly community. Despite the fact that polyamory is slowly becoming more talked about and flowing closer to the mainstream, it isn?t widely accepted or practiced. Inviting people who really understand your relationship and life to share your trips and triumphs makes life much less lonely.
Challenges of having metamours
All relationships have their challenges. With metamours, some of the challenges are the same as in any friendship or familial relationship. Other stumbling blocks are unique to polyamorous relationships, and require some extra awareness.
Not understanding their partner?s choice in partners is one of the most commonly feared challenges. I?m a big believer in the concept that not everyone is going to like everyone else, and that?s absolutely okay. Sometimes your energy doesn?t mesh with someone else?s. Sometimes you just don?t have anything in common.
When your partner has a metamour you find unappealing, it?s sometimes difficult to reconcile the fact that they are super into someone who seems so different from the way you are. Sometimes, this leads to insecurity and doubt. When this happens, it?s a great time to ramp up communication and connecting with your partner to shine a light on why you?re into each other. Focus your energy more on keeping your relationship solid, and less on how you feel about that other person.
Not everyone is going to like everyone else, and that?s absolutely okay.
Having different ideas than your metamour about what a metamour relationship should look like can be another challenge. When expectations and ideals about relating to metamours differ, it can be hard to get to a shared understanding of what those relationships should look like.
When things aren?t going smoothly between your partner and their other partners, you may find it difficult not to intervene. It?s natural to feel upset or angry when something or someone is causing your partner pain. Feeling protective of the well-being of someone you love is a natural reaction, but not always productive or conducive to smooth sailing.
When relationships end
When I was first dating my boyfriend, he had a primary partner of over 6 years. I was less than a year into practicing polyamory and hadn?t built the community that I have now. When they broke up, it was heartbreaking for me. I saw him in pain, and I couldn?t do anything about it. I felt so helpless and sad, and the person who was usually my support when I felt those things was not available.
This was my first lesson in how important it is to build community. I needed to have people in my life who I could talk to openly about my polyamorous relationships. Non-poly friends may still be supportive, but there?s a difference when you find commiseration with people who have been in the same situation you?re in.
Breakups can be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your partner.
Your partners other relationships coming to an end can put you in a difficult situation if you?ve grown close or gotten romantically involved with a metamour. How do you nurture your relationship with that person without causing a rift or resentment with your other partner? My suggestion is to talk about this before it ever happens, and come up with a road map for how you think you?ll want to deal with it. Even if it doesn?t end up working exactly that way, at least you have a jumping off point for something to try.
When your partner?s other relationship ends, you must balance being supportive with self-care and not getting sucked in to the blast radius. You may feel things you didn?t expect, like guilt or self-doubt. This is a good time for positive affirmation and remembering that you?re not responsible for your partner?s other relationships.
Breakups can also be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your partner. Taking the chance to be a constant or refuge during the time of chaos can be powerful. That said, be honest about your limitations ? how much you can listen to and when you need a break.
Managing metamour relationships
Contributing to and managing positive relationships with your metamours is similar to building healthy relationships with anyone else. As with most things poly-related, communication is key. Practice clear communication from the beginning with your partner and your metamours about desires, expectations, and needs.
Remember to take your cues from your partner when giving support. Listen, and be empathetic, without giving in to the urge to fix things. Be compassionate and don?t give advice unless they ask for it. I?ve gotten into the habit of asking people ?are you just venting, or would you like advice?? It?s super straightforward, and everyone I?ve asked has appreciated my seeking that distinction.
Give yourself grace, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Meeting your metamours for the first time? Don?t be alarmed if there?s initially some awkwardness and insecurity. It?s hard to prepare yourself for something you?ve never done, or to know how it?s going to feel to do it. It?s okay to take things slow and normal to be a little bit unsure. Give yourself grace, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Whether or not you choose to have in-depth relationships with your metamours, it?s important to practice respect. Basic kindness is under-rated, and can make a huge difference in any relationship. You can choose to respect someone?s time and feelings without actively trying to become friends with them.
It?s important to practice respect.
When trouble?s brewing, you may feel the urge to mediate or step in between your partner and your metamour. This is an area where you should tread carefully. First, consider this: while you are an outside party, you?re not impartial. You have a relationship with each of them, so stepping into the middle of their relationship with each other usually isn?t the best solution. Anything that seems like taking sides can amplify the problem that?s already causing tension.
Don?t underestimate the human tendency to hold on to hope for relationships when it seems obvious from the outside it?s not working. If you find yourself in a situation where you can tell your partner?s relationship is likely doomed, just hang out and give them room to figure things out, then be there for them when they do.
Having metamours can be challenging, but like any relationship it can also be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Your partners partners can be allies, friends, or even family, creating a sense of support and community. Polyamory often provides the opportunity to build your own village, and figuring out how you want to relate to your metamours is a great first step.
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