“It would be ridiculously nice not to have to worry about metamour drama. We both know how terribly that can go,” she wrote. “One of the reasons I would be open to exploring something with him in the future is because I know how awesome you are.”
I’ve been a metamour (i.e., the partner’s partner) many times, though I’ve never really stopped to think about myself as one. I do know that I’ve striven to be supportive and open and to allow my loves to explore opportunities without being, frankly, a killjoy. Otherwise, it seems like it defeats the whole purpose of being poly in the first place. Why throw a party if you’re the only one who is allowed to have any fun? So yes, I’ve battled insecurities and fear just like anybody else going through radical relationship changes, but it was always important to me for everyone to have fun (while still being reasonably safe and respectful of others). When I was uncomfortable, I tried to work through it without making demands that would have surely stopped the worry in the short term but also would have ruined my partners’ fun. Really, it was my prime directive. Why do it if it’s not fun? And everyone should be allowed to have fun; otherwise it’s not fair.
Apparently I’m a great metamour. It felt amazing to be told I’m good at what I set out to do by someone I care for and respect (Skyspook has excellent taste in women, very similar to my own). It flew in the face of what I’d been told the first time out of the gate from my ex-primary Seth, that his being married got in the way of him being able to date women, something my former boyfriend (also married) echoed when stating how grateful he was to have found me, someone who could look past his prior entanglements. I was certainly never mentioned as a draw, and Seth would point to my existence as a chief obstacle to his meeting with success.
Maybe with people who aren’t really okay with the poly thing this is the case? Poly people sure seem to appreciate it.
Speaking from my own experience, my absolute worst times came from metamour drama. I remember clearly an incident early on when my former boyfriend’s wife came home early from the library and caught him having phone sex with me. She freaked out and let him have it, and he came very close to deleting me from his phone and never talking to me again. Because of phone sex! Bear in mind that they’d been open for 8 years, she’d had a lover of her own for 4 years with whom she had slept, been on vacations, etc., and I wasn’t my boyfriend’s first love interest (he’d slept with a few other girls and had one girlfriend before me). I was livid and devastated and probably should have ended things then (however, it’s probably best that I didn’t – otherwise, I never would have moved to the city).
I spoke with another poly friend about this, and their immediate response was “Good metamours are hard to come by.”
Psychologically speaking, it’s a lot more difficult to focus on a goal to STOP doing something or to avoid something than it is to focus on a goal of DOING something. There are many reasons for this, but a big one is that the way negation works is that first you think about the object or concept and THEN you negate it. For example, when you think to yourself “don’t be jealous,” you are first summoning up the lemma of “jealousy” and then instructing yourself to not emulate it. Unfortunately, the semantic prime for negation is very low. Think about it – how difficult is it to really think about absence in a tangible sense? Extraordinarily difficult. Absence is more of a process defined by comparison of two or more states. Absence is an abstract relationship that requires presence to demonstrate it.
So when you think “don’t be jealous, don’t be insecure,” you’re thinking “jealous, insecure,” followed by an abstract correction — it’s not really an efficient way to retrain yourself. I think that’s why compersion as a reframing of the heightened nervous system response of jealousy is so successful. It takes that extra energy and diverts it from fear into joy rather than fighting against having the feelings (often futile and can backfire) and eliminating whatever caused them in the first place (often shutting down the fun for your partner and metamours and shooting the messenger rather than addressing the underlying issues).
From here on out, I’m not going to avoid the inevitable twinges that come with personal growth. I’m also not going to put my energy into worrying whether or not I’ll find or retain more partners or if I’m as attractive as I can possibly be to potential lovers, aside from any self-improvement I ought to be doing anyway, for my own sake.
Instead, I’m going to leave myself open to the possibilities — and most importantly, I’m going to be the best damn metamour that I can be.
My new book is out!
Dealing with Difficult Metamours, the first book devoted solely to metamour relationships, full of strategies to help you get along better with your partners’ other partner(s).