When Your Love’s Other Partner Is Your Friend

Elle Beau ❇︎
Mar 2 · 5 min read

Metamours show that jealousy isn’t the only option

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Not all monogamous relationships are centered in jealousy, but for some people possessiveness is considered a sign of real love. In fact, it’s an aspect of monogamy that is often fostered, and there are countless movie plots and song lyrics about the rightness of this sort of territorial outlook. “Don’t even look at my woman — she’s mine,” — that kind of thing.

The thought of being friends with someone that your partner has feelings for or even has sex with doesn’t really compute in that outlook, and yet, for many polyamorous people, metamours are a regular, normal part of life. Polyamory is the practice of having intimate relationships with more than one person at a time, relationships that don’t necessarily involve sex, but very often do. The term metamour refers to someone who is involved with your partner, but with whom you do not have a romantic or sexual relationship.

February 28 was National Metamour Day — a day created to honor these unique relationships. And just as with anything in polyamory, there are no set rules. Relationships and parameters need to be co-created by those who are involved in them. Some people choose not to have any contact with their metamours, while others treat them almost like extended family. Some people live with their metamours, while others have completely parallel lives that never intersect.

In my local polyamory group, there was a thread on the 28th for people to celebrate their relationships with their metamours. Several wrote about how much they cared for their metas and valued their friendship:

“I love my wife’s boyfriend. He’s a great guy, and I’m glad we’re friends.”

“My meta is probably one of the most thoughtful, intelligent and competent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

“I love my meta because she is the absolute sweetest!”

It makes sense that if you love someone you may very well have a lot in common with the other people who care about them also. If obligatory jealousy isn’t a part of your relationship style then you might even find that it’s easy to feel warmly towards the other people that your partner also loves. I sometimes joke that my partners James and Nat have more in common with each other than I do with either of them. I’m the one in a relationship with both of them, but they still care about each other.

James and Nat actually like each other a lot and although they sometimes talk independently, mostly if they do communicate, they do it through me. I keep them apprised of the major events in each other’s lives and some of the more minor ones as well. “I just talked to Nat, and here’s what’s going on with his (pick one) health, job, kids, workouts, latest food creation.” That’s something that I say to James a lot, and vice versa as well. Several years ago when I was on vacation with friends and our room got broken into, James called Nat, who is in law enforcement, to ask for his advice on whether or not I should cancel my credit cards, which were still in the room, but might have been scanned.

Conversely, Nat’s wife and I don’t have any sort of relationship, because that’s the way she prefers it. I’d rather be more like James and Nat in that regard, but I also respect her right to go about all this in the way that makes her the most comfortable. She prefers Parallel Polyamory, where none of the separate relationships interact, but instead, run parallel to each other, and that’s OK too.

Kitchen Table Polyamory is the polar opposite of that. “Kitchen Table Polyamory is a new term even in poly circles. It refers to poly relationships where everyone in the polycule is comfortable sitting together at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. Folks who prefer kitchen table polyamory want to know their metamours and be friends with them. They may want their kids and their metamours kids to spend time together, or their metamour’s other partners to be comfortable calling them up to plan a surprise party together.”

Of course, there are all sorts of other options between these two possibilities. Metamours might be somewhat friendly but not actually feel comfortable spending a lot of time together, even if they are connected on social media or otherwise on the fringes of each other’s lives. However, actively socializing or hanging out might be a bit more than they really want to do. Whatever the people involved want becomes the dynamic. If one person wants a lot more of a relationship than another, they have to find a way to resolve that by talking it through and reaching some agreement — which frankly, makes a lot more sense than having some “rule” that everyone is supposed to adhere to.

From what I’ve heard, Parallel poly is actually the way that most polyamorous relationships take place, with partners having no relationship with the other people in their love’s lives. But for those who prefer to have some sort of interaction with their metamours, these relationships can be very fulfilling.

James and Nat look on each other almost as though they are extended family, and even if they don’t talk often, when they do, it’s very friendly and cordial. They celebrate each other’s high points and feel bad for the other one when things aren’t going well, and even though most of that is getting communicated through me, I love that they care about each other. What makes me feel loved is that they don’t feel the need to compete or be jealous of each other. It makes everything a lot easier for us all.

Of course, the more people who are involved in anything, the more complex it gets, and relationships are no exception. Issues with metamours are one of the potential downsides of polyamory, and depending on how self-aware, mature, and adept at clear communication all of the parties are, problems can arise. But it can also be a wonderful opportunity to have a sense of tribe that mostly doesn’t exist any longer in modern American life.

National Metamour Day is an opportunity to celebrate that, and although we didn’t do anything in particular to mark the day, I did enjoy reading all of the shout-outs to terrific metas that took place in my group. It made me happy to know that so many people have been able to fully transition away from a territorial mindset to embrace a relationship style where that isn’t normalized or needed — one where they can enjoy the benefits of abundant love and caring with multiple partners, and their partners as well.

© Copyright Elle Beau 2021
Elle Beau writes on Medium about sex, life, relationships, society, anthropology, spirituality, and love. If this story is appearing anywhere other than Medium.com, it appears without my consent and has been stolen.

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