Happy Metamour Day! Today is all about celebrating a type of relationship that is fundamental to polyamory: metamours.
So, what exactly is a metamour, and how can you be a ‘good’ one? Thankfully, this is one area of non-monogamy that I’ve had a bit of experience with, so I am happy to share a few insights about navigating this unusual but enriching connection that is unique to polyamory.
A metamour is someone who is your partner’s partner. They have a romantic relationship with a person with whom you also have a romantic relationship.
The term metamour is a portmanteau of meta (a Greek prefix meaning ‘beside’, ‘with’, ‘among’ or ‘adjacent’) and amour (which comes from the Latin word ‘amor’, meaning ‘love’). So, it is about concurrent love that happens at the same time.
How can I be a good metamour?
I was going to title this blog ‘how to be a good metamour’, but then I thought about how the good vs bad judgment is quite unfair as most of us don’t know anything about metamours before trying polyamory. Plus, it’s also worth remembering that if someone isn’t an amazing metamour now doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. So, we shouldn’t label people as inherently good or bad.
We don’t grow up with any reference points or social scripts for a partner’s partner type of connection, perhaps other than the negative concept of ‘the other woman.’ The Multimaory podcast suggests that an in-law is the closest dynamic we have that is socially similar to a metamour relationship. Having dated people who are good friends with their exes, I have found this type of connection also to have some similarities.
However, there isn’t much that can prepare you for being a metamour for the first time. It’s not like many of us can call up our mum and ask for advice about how to behave around our partner’s partner/s because this isn’t a connection that many people have much experience with… yet. I am very hopeful for the future, though.
So, how can you be a good person to your metamour? Simple: by being a decent human being. You’ll notice that most of my tips below are generally fundamental life advice that you can apply to most interpersonal connections. However, getting to know your partner’s partner/s can be a genuinely scary or triggering concept at first, so it’s important to remember this is a very new situation for you.
What typically gets in the way of us behaving kindly to our metamour is the social conditioning that causes us to see these people as competition or a threat. Sometimes, it can take a little while to work through those impulses and begin to not only co-exist with your metamours but also enjoy your bond with them.
It’s also important to remember that some of your metamour connections will go deep. You may also decide to have a sexual/romantic relationship with them. You will probably have to come together to support your mutual partner through a crisis at some point. You could even end up living and/or co-parenting with them.
I’m yet to have any experiences of this intensity, so I can’t offer any insights around navigating what I call polyamory level 2+ (the truly next-level stuff). However, I have done quite a bit of the early, getting to know you stage of being a metamour. So, if you’re still finding your feet in the wonderful world of polyamory, here are some key ways to approach this new type of connection.
10 positive ways to be a metamour
Acknowledge their existence
The most basic (but important) thing: don’t pretend like your partner doesn’t have other partners. If you can’t bring yourself to acknowledge your metamours existence, then you should think about whether non-monogamy is genuinely what you want.
There are some simple but very effective ways to acknowledge your metamour in the early days. Tell your mutual partner to say hello to them for you. Make an effort to have a conversation with them if you find yourselves at the same event. Drop them a hello message on social media. It doesn’t take much, but these simple gestures mean a lot to everyone involved.
Create a connection (if you want)
There’s no one way to have a relationship with a metamour. Beyond the basic acknowledgement above, it comes down to what you both want. If you’ve heard the terms parallel or kitchen-table polyamory before, this is what I’m referring to. You both should get to decide how well you want to know each other and shouldn’t be pressured to have any connection at all if that’s not what you want.
My main tip for this: don’t involve your mutual partner. They should never be responsible for fostering your connection, so don’t rely on them to create the circumstances for you two to communicate or meet. Show some initiative. Perhaps ask for your metamours number and break the ice yourself. And don’t leave it too long. I recommend reaching out within the first three months of a new connection.
Being vulnerable was a big lesson for me to learn with metamours. My initial experiences were very awkward because no one could say, ‘this is a bit weird, right?’ So, I’ll let you in on a big secret: you’re both nervous, a little threatened and also pretty curious about each other even though you’re pretending to be all nonchalant.
The first time I meet a new metamour one-on-one now, I acknowledge my vulnerability. I let them know that I’m feeling anxious (because I always do) and that I find these initial hangouts a little strange (yep, even after all these years). If they aren’t ready to be vulnerable and want to pretend that they’re totally cool with everything (newsflash: they aren’t), that’s ok. Their walls will probably come down eventually, so just give them time.
Being raised in a culture that convinces us that we have to find our one true love creates a ruthless sense of competition. But in polyamory, there is no top prize to be won. One relationship isn’t going to replace the other, so there is no reason to see your metamours as opponents.
Every relationship is entirely different, and you shouldn’t need to compete for your mutual partner’s time or affection. You can ask for what you want. Talk to your partner and see if you can agree on what works for you both, without comparing it to your partner’s other relationships.
Stay in your lane
Don’t try and influence or control a relationship that doesn’t involve you. We all deserve the space to grow our romantic connections without other people trying to influence the direction it takes. For example, I try to avoid knowing too much about a partner’s other relationships because, quite simply, they have nothing to do with me.
There are many ways that metamours can mess with each other’s relationships, from subtle criticism to a full veto. From experience, I can say that having someone outside of your relationship try and control it is incredibly unfair and upsetting. So, please don’t do it. Focus on your relationship/s and let others grow organically.
Occasionally, a short message to let your metamour know that you are thinking about them and their feelings can greatly impact your bond. It lets them know that you are mindful of how your concurrent relationships can affect each other and shows that you care about them.
For example, if your metamour has confided that they find social media posts about you and your mutual partner a little blindsiding, drop them a message and give them the heads up when you’re about to post something. It lets them know you are thinking of them and hopefully will help them feel more comfortable in time.
Your metamour is not a punching bag. Please don’t take your frustrations or insecurity about your relationship with your mutual partner out on them. No one deserves to be the outlet for this kind of energy.
Even if you find it hard to stomach at first, this person is loved by someone you love. While you don’t have to love them yourself, you should show them the kindness and respect you would want in return. If you feel your metamour has been unkind or lacking in respect, talk to them about it so that it doesn’t build resentment.
Acknowledge that your metamour is part of the core structure of your mutual partner’s life and include them in the important stuff. For example, if I was to throw a surprise birthday party for a partner, I wouldn’t dream of organising it without my metamour/s involvement right from the beginning. Firstly, because one of the joys of polyamory is that you don’t need to do things on your own and secondly because simply inviting them along as a guest could make them feel like an afterthought.
Also, I love it when my partners collaborate or act in ways that are inclusive of each other. It lets me know that they really see me and my whole life, not just the part that they share with me. So, being inclusive of your metamours is another excellent way to show love to your mutual partner.
Your relationship with your metamour will grow and change over time. How it looks at the start is not how it will look a year (or a decade) later. So, be patient if you don’t immediately have the type of connection you want.
Most people need time to get comfortable with a new metamour relationship, and it’s always a good idea not to rush anything. You should talk to your partner’s partner about what you would like your connection to look or feel like, but don’t pressure them. In time, things will grow to be what is best for you both,
Think long term
The thing about metamours is that they aren’t going anywhere. They are likely to be part of your life for a very long time to come, so do the work, both with them and on yourself, so that they can become a positive part of your life.
It’s also important to remember that you may end up having this metamour connection again and again at different times in your life. If you’ve ended up being involved with the same person once, it could easily happen again with a different partner too. So, it’s worth investing in having a healthy relationship with this person because you never know what the future holds.