“I love your new book,” she said.
“Thanks,” I replied. “I don’t usually like what I write, but I’m proud of that one. I’m happy with how it turned out.”
“I’m glad someone said it,” she said. “Loud and clear.”
“That metamour relationships can be difficult sometimes. There’s a stigma against it. About actually admitting it.” She told me she tried bringing it up in a class with another polyamorous educator and was interrupted midsentence. Told that all metamour problems stem from the shared partner. It’s never a metamour-to-metamour conflict. It’s always the hinge’s fault.
“I mean, sometimes?” I said. “Yeah? It can happen. Especially when a shared partner is in the middle conveying information and doing so poorly. But always?” I shrugged.
She shook her head. “Not always.”
We talked about situations we were both familiar with that involved metamour strains. Ones that were workable — or would have been — had the parties involved had broader tool sets.
“That’s what I was going for anyway,” I replied. “A set of tools for troubleshooting. For situations when you’re dealing with a difficult metamour — or when, as happens to nearly everybody at one time in their life, you realize you’re the difficult person in the conflict. And you want tools for figuring that out, too.”
“Stuff that’s only possible if you can admit that there are problems in the first place.”
Defensiveness Impedes Learning & Effective Problem-Solving
The trouble with defensiveness is that it makes a lot of really important conversations impossible. It can also foster an emotional environment that impairs your ability to problem-solve.
And a lot of polyamorous people spend quite a while defensive about their relationship structures.
This defensiveness is understandable. When you have a plethora of people telling you polyamory will never work, it fosters an atmosphere in which folks can’t admit when they run into actual problems.
But it would be less understandable if we didn’t run into problems.
First of all, all human interaction is occasionally fraught with conflict. Doesn’t matter which context. So no matter whether you’re polyamorous, monogamous, or even something in between (like ambiamorous), you’re going to run into interpersonal conflicts from time to time.
But secondly, there’s a ton of love triangle social programming that most people are subjected to their entire lives. And that actively works against healthy metamour relationships.
We’re inculcated to view a partner’s other love interest as some kind of rival, competitor, or threat. Even once you make a conscious decision to move away from that, it can take some time. And you certainly can’t control how hard your metamour fights against this programming.
Still, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding acknowledging that you struggle with a metamour (or that a metamour struggles with you, or both).
Understandable stigma. But one that does us little favors when we’re trying to work out any bumps in the path towards peacefully coexisting with people that society has set us up to expect conflict from.
There’s no shame in struggling with a metamour. It happens. What would be the real shame is pretending like it never does. And letting it destroy relationship systems that could otherwise thrive.