I recently went through a breakup and a confusing one at that. I’m usually pretty good at sensing when there’s trouble in paradise, but this threw me for a loop. The breakup came out of nowhere. It seemed like everything was going so well!
I had originally met this ex through a mutual friend who set us up, so I pressed them for answers. My friend was trying to play it cool but accidentally let it slip that part of the reason that it didn’t work was that I wasn’t super close with the other member of my ex’s poly web, my ex-metamour, their partners, and their partners’ partners. That I should have been closer friends and maybe even dating them. (Something that nobody told me.)
I was NOT expecting that. My metamour and I were actually pretty friendly. Not best friends. But I would consider it kitchen table poly. We’d met a few times and were comfortable talking (at least I was). I’d met the rest of the web, too, and liked them. I was looking forward to getting to know them better.
In hindsight, I can see how close knit the rest of my ex’s web is. They do a lot of game nights, go on trips together. I hadn’t done any of that yet. But I’d met everyone. First impression were that they were all pretty nice, and I was looking forward to getting to know them better.
But apparently that wasn’t close enough. It had only been a few months so I’m not sure what they expected.
Anyway, you recently wrote that you’re a big fan of kitchen table poly, so I wanted to ask you — how common is this expectation in kitchen table poly? Have you been in situations like that? What do you think of it?
The Love Borg
A long time ago, when I first started writing for a wider audience, I had one very vocal reader who gave me what at the time was one of the strangest insults I ever received: That I was a wannabe cult leader.
I laughed it off the first time. But he persisted. He kept on making the same bizarre observation. Over and over.
And as we sparred back in forth in various comment sections, I realized that this seemingly non sequitur charge came from a personal history he had dealing with other polyamorous people who from the sound of it behaved very differently than me and those within my poly circles. But to him, all polyamorous people could be painted with a single brush: We were a kind of Love Borg, people who had adopted a kind of hive mind in relationships, becoming connected to one another but losing our identities in the process.
Now, part of the issue was that he couldn’t grasp how people could share time and loyalties with others in an equitable way without losing their autonomy or agency in the process. He couldn’t fathom that level of emotional security. And that’s fine. That’s on him. And I get that it can be difficult to understand if you’ve never personally experienced it.
But I realized as we spoke that he’d also known people who were in relationship systems that to my own thinking (at least as relayed by him) weren’t exactly healthy as far as individual boundaries went. In some webs, everyone was expected to date, have sex, or at least be incredibly close friends with everyone else, even if interpersonal compatibility wasn’t there. There was an expectation that it was on each individual to essentially force those connections. That everyone in the web was in essence entitled to close connections with all other members.
Technically, yes, I would say that what you describe is in the realm of kitchen table poly (because it’s certainly not parallel poly). But it’s a very specific type. I would call it “lap-sitting poly.” Essentially, one in which you’re expected to not only be comfortable enough to be sitting at the kitchen table with your metamour, but instead, you’re expected to sit on their lap (either as a best friend or a lover).
It’s not terribly common, but yes, I’ve experienced it in the past myself. I wrote about one such situation in an earlier piece, “The Curious Case of the Unicorn Exchange Program.” And that wasn’t the only time.
I’ll go on the record: This is not a form of polyamory I personally enjoy. I’m happy when I find that I naturally have great friend (or more) chemistry with a metamour, but I don’t like forcing connections with other people. And I’m usually uncomfortable being around lap-sitting polyamory because in practice, it often seems to fall somewhere in that gray zone between consent and non-consent, with people being coerced to have relationships that they normally wouldn’t have in order to preserve ones that they would (see also: the package deal).
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