In a lot of the poly how-to, we’re very partner centered. Even questions like “how do I manage jealousy?” tend to have our partner at the center of it, as something that is gained or lost and the metamour (i.e., your partner’s other partner) simply a happenstance agent of that scary change.
But thing is? It’s not our partners that really make the daily existence of polyamory that different from monogamy. Sure, you’re busier, and you may have layers of feelings that you’ve never deal with, but honestly where poly and mono really seem to diverge? It’s the metamours. The fact that you have these people in your life who love the same people you love. That you have these friendships (and lots of them, if you’re well connected) that there simply is no script for.
Metamour relations are a form of improv — sometimes hilarious, sometimes awkward, sometimes painful, sometimes glorious. But never dull.
In this Field Guide, we take a closer look at 3 basic types.
You love having metamours! For you, they’re one of the biggest upsides of polyamory. Rather than viewing your metamours as competitors, you see them as new friends and new opportunities for support — to you, your other partners, or both.
Strengths: Since you don’t view your metamours as competition, you tend to be good at sharing time and attention. Generally, this results in less conflict in a poly web.
Challenges: Being close friends with your metamour can lead to uncomfortable conflicts of interest if they fight with your partner. In these situations, it’s important to remember that it’s not your relationship and avoid butting in inappropriately.
#1 Metamours also struggle with feelings of disappointment in situations where they don’t hit it off with a metamour due to personality conflicts.
And it can be very difficult for #1 Metamours when their partners break up with a beloved metamour. The loss of the closeness of the metamour relationship can be devastating. And even if the friendship survives the breakup, it can be awkward balancing the concerns of the partner and the ex-metamour, particularly if the breakup was contentious.
Suggested Readings: Buttinski, #1 Metamour, or Compervert?: Walking that Fine Line, It’s Like She Gave Me a T-Shirt that Says “World’s Best Metamour”
You’re pretty easygoing when it comes to metamours. It’s not a relationship you actively seek out, but then again, you’re not fussed about having metamours in the picture.
Strengths: The Low-Key Meta has none of the downsides of the other 2 metamour types. They tend to be even keel and non-disruptive. More focused on romantic relationships. And flexible.
Challenges: Their level of detachment can be off-putting, often making Met-Averse suspicious of their motives and causing#1 Metamour types to feel rejected.
Low-Key Metas can also miss subtle cues in interpersonal dynamics that warn of upcoming trouble. And without noticing these, they can’t proactively address potential issues. So while Low-Key Metas don’t cause much disruption, disruptive forces can still come and find them when they least expect it.
Suggested Readings: Metamours: A Lot Like Sharing a Best Friend
Metamours are a major source of stress for you. Some of the met-averse are very protective of their partners and worry about metamours hurting them. Others struggle with jealousy and sharing their partners with others. Whatever the case, you have an aversion to metamours.
Strengths: Wanting to protect your partner from potential harm is noble. Being vigilant about threats to yourself or others often means you can detect dangerous ones well before most.
Challenges: Being constantly on the lookout is exhausting. Too much suspicion and unchecked jealousy can make polyamory very difficult. Plus, zero-sum thinking is terrible for you. It can literally drive you crazy.
Suggested Readings: Nocebo? No Thanks, Please Be Jealous, No One Is Stealing Your Toys, You Have to Fall in Love with Metamours
Update (3/9/2017): None of these metamour types are objectively better than the others. They all have their strengths and weakness. A reader pointed out that #1 Metamour signals “winning” and a “better than” designation. This is not the case. The “#1 Metamour” designation is intended as a cutesy, ironic label such as a person who wears a “World’s Best Dad” shirt.
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).