The following is a chapter from my book Polyamory: It’s Not Complicated. I’m currently writing a sequel and am publishing a few chapters of the original for free. — https://www.amazon.com/Polyamory-Its-Complicated-DeWayne-Lehman-ebook/dp/B00Y7ITG3I
The day that man allows true love to appear, those things which are well made will fall into confusion and will overturn everything we believe to be right and true. — Dante
A metamour is someone who is your partner’s partner, but with whom you have no romantic relationship. This can be your partner’s other boyfriend or girlfriend or your partner’s spouse. Of course, this can also include those who have another relationship status with your sweetie, such as their Dominant, Submissive, Slave, Protector, Sugar Baby, or what have you from the thousands of types of relationship statuses. All of these, to you, make them your metamour.
It’s always seems to be a nervous time, when first meeting a new metamour, especially when they are the established, existing partner and you are the new partner. Meeting a metamour can be stressful.
You didn’t pick them, your partner picked them. Whether you like them, or not, your partner likes them enough to see them. You don’t get to pick your partner’s partners, which puts you at a disadvantage. But remember, they didn’t get to pick you either.
Some people within polyamory choose to have no contact with their metamours. It’s hard to imagine too many situations where this is not a huge pain in the ass to pull off, though. Dealing with a metamour is perhaps the biggest challenge in polyamory. It is not something that our culture has prepared us for. In fact, it has taught us quite the opposite.
Our culture and media teaches us that love is a battle, and that we must fear, hate, and fight those who would take our lover.
And I’ve been there. I’ve been cheated on. And when I was told the next day, I lost my shit. You can read that story in this book elsewhere. But realize that a metamour is not the person your lover is cheating on you with.
A metamour is just like you. They care about the person that you care about. And they can be an invaluable resource when you work together. They can be a friend that you can confide in. Or, they can be someone you share another partner within the future. They might just introduce you to your next partner.
I’m by no means saying that you use a metamour as a dating resource. But what I am saying is that you should treat your metamour like you would treat a close brother or sister, or at least as well as you’d treat a co-worker.
Metamours are not clones of you. Some poly people like to have partners who are very similar, while others prefer partners who are very different, but share one commonality.
In this chapter, we will discuss ways in which you will relate to a metamour, how to make it work well, and what to do if it is a poor relationship.
I have found that I tend to date women who are married. Thus, I come in as a secondary with a metamour who is a primary. This is actually not the most difficult situation to deal with. In fact, I am the most difficult situation that they deal with. Yes, there is a difference.
Coming into a new relationship, I have no existing relationship dynamic to deal with, whereas a married couple who is poly has a dynamic that they’ve grown accustomed to. When I come into the scene, I can have a dramatic impact on their relationship.
I affect their time, resources, attention, money, and stability. If I’m always going dutch with my partner, she’s spending money, time, and attention on me that is not going to her primary partner. As the new partner, I’m also a potential source of drama. If her and I get into a fight, no matter how well she might hide it, she will come home and her primary partner is left to deal with the fallout.
Realizing this, I have made a decision that you may wish to make, though by no means is it the right decision for everyone. I’ve decided that in order to maximize my relationship and minimize my impact, I always throw full support behind existing relationships when and where possible.
Because there is one situation I certainly want to avoid, and that is seeing a partner go through a divorce, and myself becoming the object of an estranged husband’s anger.
Therefore, I have sometimes even gone so far as to inform partners that if they were to leave their husband, that I would like to also take a cooling off period.
First, I don’t want the appearance of being the reason for the divorce and the “other man” to whom they are running. I’m not out to steal anyone away from their husband. Second, when such things happen, as they are want to do, it will affect my relationship as well. Seeing any primary or secondary relationship fall apart will impact me.
I’ve even taken this a step further with my metamours. I have had the experience of a metamour breaking up with a completely different partner than the one we shared (called a Hinge or Vertex when referring to the person that two people share as a partner) occur on several occasions. Nearly always, they were very hurt, and I could tell even if only through our hinge. This would ripple through every relationship connected.
This is a fact I realized early on.
If a metamour breaks up with someone else, they will adjust their schedule and needs with our hinge, who will adjust their schedule and needs with me, and I will adjust my schedule and needs with my other partners, who will adjust their schedule and needs with their other partners, and so on.
This is an area very unique to polyamory that doesn’t have an equivalent in monogamy or swinging. The ripple effect can be very stabilizing or destabilizing.
This is why it is important that metamours stick together for each other, to ensure stability, communication, and above all, happiness.
It matters that your metamour is happy. You are on the same team. You seek the same goal with the same person. Realise that your mouths touch the same lips, and hands feel the same hips. And when you come to this realization that they are a source of happiness to the one who is your source of happiness, it is only in your best interest that everyone is happy.
This is not to say you put up with bullshit. No fucking way. But we’re going to go through that and come out the otherside with a deeper understanding of metamours and ourselves. Let’s get started.
Status Doesn’t Denote Respect
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. — Lao Tzu
A person’s a person, no matter how small. — Dr. Seuss
Should a primary be respected more or less than a secondary? I say that they should both be respected equally. In fact, as one of my favorite poly podcasters, Cooper S. Beckett, says, “Treat others better than you want to be treated,” the Golden Rule of treating others exactly how we want to be treated is bullshit, treat people even better.
I have a fantastic example of this.
On the first night of meeting a new metamour husband of the woman I was dating, I had the pleasure of attending a little in home party they’d put together with friends and his other partner. Towards the end of the night, as it was getting late, everyone but I, my partner, and my metamour had left. I was invited to crash on the couch, and was even given a sleeping bag if wanted. And then something quite magical happened.
My metamour decided to go to bed and leave me and my partner alone.
Not only that, he shocked both of us by returning a minute later with a full box of condoms and a bottle of lube with the comment, “Here, you guys might need this.”
My partner and I burst out laughing, and I was genuinely touched by this act. This was a true act of compersion, and gave me a serious man crush on my metamour.
I’m a secondary in that relationship, and yet, the primary showed me the highest level of respect.
Everyone can learn from that example of compersion. Status doesn’t denote the respect you show towards a metamour. Someone might just be a friend with benefits that sees your primary once per month. But when they do have time, showing them great respect goes a long way.
Your Partner Is Watching
The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching. — John Wooden
Your partner will certainly notice how you treat their other partners. Do you give them the evil eye, avoid talking to them, treat them like something the cat dragged in? That doesn’t go unnoticed. And even if they don’t directly observe it, they will find out one way or another.
Assholes don’t get far in polyamory. Not only will your partner see your conduct, but future partners will as well. The other partners of your metamour will hear how you are an asshole, friends of your partner will observe it as well. There aren’t that many polyamorists in the world, far less than the majority. It’s quite easy to become known as the uncooperative one who will be a horrible partner. Would you want to date someone like yourself if you were the one who would treat all other partners like shit? Of course not. So, don’t be that person.
Karma Is A Bitch
There’s a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out of their way to hurt others, will end up broke and alone. — Sylvester Stallone
This isn’t a spiritual commentary. But those who are negative tend to draw other negative people to themselves. Being an asshole, controlling, manipulative, and just plain shitty person will drive away partners who are positive and attract partners and metamours who are just as bad as you.
If you want positive experiences, positive partners, positive sex, and love, then you must first be such a person yourself. How you act is a conscious choice with ripple effects into every area of your life.
Stop Trying to Fuck Them
I really get inspired by songs. Like, if I hear a thug ‘Want to kill ya’ song, I’m ready to go out and get crazy. Or if you hear this really sexual, sensual slow song, I want to go have sex. I’m very animalistic when it comes to stuff like that. Very basic emotions. — Channing Tatum
I say this jokingly, but often, we can default to a style of thinking where we are not thinking in a healthy way.
Often, a newbie will think that they can date/fuck/live with everyone else who is poly. Even when this silly realization goes away with experience, some poly still believe that everyone within their tribe/family/network of poly relationships is available to them. This is simply a bad mindset to have.
As an example in my tribe, sure, there are very hot women. I definitely want to fuck them, as I tend to have this view with all attractive women.
But I value the relationships I have far beyond sex. And unless there is an organic friendship that turns into more, I don’t pursue these options. Quite frankly, I have two full time partners, a friend with benefits I occasionally see, several friends I’m available for but might only connect with once or twice a year.
But as many poly people say, my dance card is full. When you are getting started, you believe you have all the time in the world, and can therefore “DATE ALL THE POLY!” No, you can’t. Build slowly, build solid, enjoy people for who they are, and don’t just go from one fuck to the next. That is closer to swinging, and I suggest that such a mindset spend some time in the swinging community until they realize what their true wants are. This is expressed in the following two pieces of advice:
- Don’t use Swingers to be Polyamorous
- Don’t use Polyamorists to be a Swinger.
Sure, you will meet people you know and do have a connection with. I’ve met a new partner whose husband was a friend of another partner of mine, but that did not automatically make them available. My metamours’ partners are often relatable to me, but I don’t consider them potentials for me. That only changes if they enter my life usually in some other way while I’m available for new relationships.
Also, you must realize that every new relationship or relationship attempt will impact everyone connected, and should be taken into account to some extent. Always keep the ripple effect in mind.
By no means limit yourself simply because you are afraid of sharing two partners with the same metamour (think “my girlfriend’s boyfriend is seeing another woman”, and then you start seeing this other woman as well, which would be known as a Quad style relationship, as the connections make a square). You may have sound thinking. If your metamour shares one of your partners, they may have similar tastes to you, and therefore, their other partners may be compatible.
But this thinking becomes faulty, and is honestly a bit lazy, to simply try to date everyone your metamours are dating.
The best way to handle this is to allow all relationships to develop organically and naturally. If you happen to share more than one partner with a metamour, this is fine so long as you consider the dynamics this will create. But please, don’t be a relationship leech. Nobody likes this, and if this is how you appear, your partners may view their relationships to you as more of a convenience, rather than genuine.
When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead. — Barney Stinson
Alternatively, don’t break up with partners just because your metamour does. They may have a falling out, and you may feel the need to take sides. The problem here is in fault finding and blaming, two things which are completely unproductive in polyamory.
Monogamist culture teaches us that someone must always be to blame. Therefore, if your partner is the one you blame for a breakup with a metamour, you may feel the need to break up as well. You may feel like punishing them for bad behavior, or you may believe that the problem they had will eventually be a problem you have and want to avoid.
Do your best to avoid this type of thinking. Your relationship is your relationship. Take ownership and responsibility for it, and leave the relationships your metamours have to them.
What does a good metamour look like?
The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him. — William Lyon Phelps
Let’s go over some positive qualities to demonstrate as a metamour. Remember, you are first and foremost the metamour of all your partner’s partners before they are metamours to you. Be the good metamour you want others to be.
Above all, before you can think about how to act around someone, respect should always be demonstrated. There is a saying that respect isn’t given, it is earned. That’s completely false. If that were true, we’d all be disrespectful to each other, waiting on everyone to earn something better. Respect should be easily given and hard lost. If for no other reason, do it to be the better person. It will only hurt the person who choses to not be respectful.
Respect is offering someone a chair and a drink. Friendliness is rearranging the seating so that you and your metamour can sit on either side of your shared partner, and asking them how they like their drink. It is showing kindness and generosity. Chat, show interest, find common ground, hang out. For goodness sakes, it’s ok to smile and laugh with your metamour. Friendliness is the true demonstration between metamours that they don’t consider each other a threat.
Your metamour is a metamour for a reason, which means that your partner is into them and vice versa. To be a good metamour, you must respect the boundaries of where your relationship ends and their relationship begins. This means not trying to capitalize all of your partner’s time, and sometimes giving up your own. If you see your partner on Wednesday and Friday, but you, your partner, and your metamour have Thursday nights free, then Thursday nights are not automatically yours. Your metamour may only have Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights free. Negotiating with your partner, you should determine who gets what nights. And as always, remember that your partner may want a night alone. I’ll cover this more in the chapter on calendars, which focuses on making sure that everyone has time together, and time alone.
Also, realize that quantity isn’t quality. Swingers live and breath this mantra. As someone who frequently dates married women, I’ve been in positions where I’m also considered a primary relationship, even if I don’t live with or spend every day with a partner. Having more time doesn’t mean having better time.
If you want more time, simply ask. And be prepared to concede time to other partners. Ensure your partner’s happiness, and you will ensure your own.
You should be supportive of your metamour. Don’t bad mouth them when talking to your partner or others. Your partner may wish to talk about them, and even complain. Your best course of action is to be a good listener and ask questions that allow your partner to discover their own feelings. What you should not do is ask loaded questions like, “Don’t you think they’re being selfish?” Questions like, “How does that make you feel,” are more appropriate.
It helps if you start from assuming the best. Think of how you would like metamours to talk about you, assuming that everyone makes mistakes, but usually have good intentions. Did the metamour blow someone off for a date? Asking, “Do you think maybe they are scared of their feelings or had an emergency they’re afraid to share,” is the supportive thing to do.
If you have difficulty with this, read, reread, and read again the chapter on Jealousy. Identifying as polyamorous doesn’t make you immune. And even if you aren’t jealous, you might have bad communication habits from your culture or past relationships. Work on it if for no other reason that it is in your own best interest.
Compersion is sharing. But over sharing can be a problem as well. Demanding to know all details can diminish the dignity of an individual. They may feel that certain actions are private. It’s best for your partner to determine on their own what they wish to share, and your job as a metamour is to be clear about what you want to know. Knowing too much may diminish your dignity and your metamour’s.
Poly people often desire the bliss that compersion brings. They want their partners to share in their elation. But sometimes this can have the opposite effect. Express what is TMI (too much information) and don’t demand more information from your partner than they are willing to share. Making statements that allow for privacy is also necessary. When comfortable, you can frequently say things like, “I’d love to know what she did to make you glow today, but if it’s private, it’s cool. I’m just happy to see you so enamored.”
Consequently, don’t show disgust. Your partner may share that, well, her partner had an amazing oral sex session. Don’t react in such unhealthy ways as to show disgust, shame, or negativity that may make them feel ashamed and hurt their dignity. It’s perfectly fine to tell you partner that such topics might be TMI, but don’t make them feel guilty. This will only hurt your relationship.
Dealing With Assholes
I interviewed Johnny Knoxville once. I was kind of scared to interview him because I thought he might be a real jerk, but he was really nice, and I ripped his chest hair out. — Rachel Perry
Ok, that’s a little severe. Most of the time, we assume people are being jerks, when in fact, they are just unaware of how what they do affects us. People are individuals, not mind reading clones who think and act as we do.
But it is ok to feel this way. When they violate one of the five good traits of a metamour, it is likely unintentional, but can make us feel pretty terrible. We need to identify which of the traits was violated, and then communicate through good questioning as to how to fix the problem
A quick way on how not to deal with this is to always use your partner as a go-between to communicate. This isn’t fair to your partner, as this is a “My partner is responsible for keeping all of their partners in line” type of mindset.
No, your partner is not responsible for the actions of all of their partners. They can and should be involved, but you need to realize that metamours are responsible for their own actions and you are responsible for your response.
Communicate issues, when you can, directly with a metamour. This requires keeping an open line of communication with your metamours. I recommend friending each other on Facebook or other social media so that you can easily send a direct message that seems natural.
Keep it casual and non-confrontational. And take things offline when it could in any way be misread. You don’t want to come across as whiny or a jerk.
Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery. — Malcolm X
Of course, there are real assholes out there. Manipulative, abusive, controlling, insecure little shits that you just want to body slam into a dumpster, regardless of how nonviolent you are. These creatons like doing such things as pouring drinks on people, slapping, hitting, spitting, calling people whores and sluts, public shaming, yelling and screaming, leaving people stranded, etc. And after these episodes, they usually apologize and beg forgiveness.
We cover a lot of this in the chapter on codependency, but that is geared towards dealing with partners who are codependent. Your partner might be codependent with someone who is abusive, and you need to take immediate action.
If your partner is being abused, you need to encourage them to go to the police. Even as a secondary, an ethical polyamorist takes the mental and physical well being of their partners seriously. If your partner has other partners, this is a time to reach out to them, possibly even confronting the offending partner as a unified front. Tribes come together when any one person is threatened, especially if the threat is within the tribe.
This can be done non-confrontationally, but the message needs to be clear. Abusive behavior will not be tolerated, and no amount of apologizing excuses this behavior.
The wonderful thing about polyamory is that it creates a very large network of support. Your other metamours in this relationship should be willing to help, along with your other partners and metamours.
Polyamory has unfortunately been historically used as an excuse for abuse, mostly by men. As a community and family, it is our responsibility to protect victims and potential victims with our combined resources.
Of course, people can only take so much drama. If after a few months, the partner remains in an abusive relationship, I strongly suggest that you leave the relationship. I’ve been in this situation.
I had a partner who was being abused by the boyfriend she lived with. This partner was not simply any partner, but my ex wife. Her boyfriend poured beer on her head, called her a whore, spit in her face, pushed her around, and burned her clothes. I was ready to drag this little shit into hot coals.
I called the police on him several times. I drove at 2am to meet her at gas stations as she fled, and helped escort her to hotel rooms for her safety. I even helped her move out twice. I did this over the course of an entire year.
She was extremely codependent and he was extremely abusive on a consistent basis.
Had this person not been so close, I likely would not have helped so much and for so long. But after a period of time, even I gave up. I told her, “I’m sorry, but I cannot have this drama in my life. It’s starting to affect my work and my other relationships. I have helped you, but you have abused my willingness to help as a temporary crutch simply to return to the abusive relationship, and I cannot continue.”
And at a certain point, you must give up. I went well beyond the point that I should have given up. The first time her alcoholic boyfriend spit in her face should have been the last, and when it was clearly not, I should have been making an exit strategy then.
This is why I am telling you my mistake. Be supportive, lend help, and coordinate with support professionals. But you are not responsible for this. Know how and when to recognize when your help is not helping, and bow out.
Read the entire book on Kindle! https://www.amazon.com/Polyamory-Its-Complicated-DeWayne-Lehman-ebook/dp/B00Y7ITG3I