Why You Should Meet Your Partner’s Lovers
Two months ago, my lovers met over tacos.
The holidays were coming up, and it seemed like a little familiarity would help us all negotiate those emotionally-charged times more easily. Also, one lover felt a little jealous when she saw me with the other in selfies on social media.
I was confident they’d get along. Besides the obvious, they have several things in common: They both love cats, feminism, and, of course, Tex-Mex food. This would give us at least three topics to talk about, even if things got awkward.
If you’re new to the idea of ethical and open non-monogamous relationships (which are sometimes grouped under the heading of “polyamory”), the idea of two people you’re having sex with meeting may seem strange or even foolhardy. It’s the stuff of easy drama for fiction writers: When a monogamous character’s partner meets their secret other lover, it provokes shouting, slammed doors, and even physical violence. It’s to be avoided at all costs.
But this is, as with many things, a myth not rooted in reality. While I got a certain thrill out of watching Cookie Lyon wrestle Anika Calhoun on Empire, that’s the opposite of what I want for my own life. And for the polyamorous, connecting with our “metamours” — a neologism meaning our sexual or intimate partners’ other partners — can be rewarding.
It can even, in some cases, create new friendships.
Why Meeting Metamours Matters
It might seem like meeting “the other lover” is a recipe for jealousy. Even some non-monogamous relationships are explicitly “don’t ask, don’t tell” — in other words, you’re free to see other people, but I don’t want to know about it. These relationships are usually built around the idea that learning about your metamours, or seeing your partner with one, would be unbearably painful. This relationship style can involve a bit of social juggling to make sure you never accidentally cross paths, and seems to work best when most of the relationships remain fairly casual.
On the other hand, in my experience and for many polyamorous folk I know, meeting other lovers can alleviate jealousy and reduce relationship drama. Until you meet, “the other” is a scary unknown; if we let our imaginations run away, we can inflate them into something perfect and unattainable, and most importantly, better than me. But when you do meet, you find out they’re just another human.
“Keeping them at arm’s length, never experiencing their actual humanity as a person, limits the potential of that relationship,” said Kiki Christie, a polyamorous and sex positive relationship educator from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Kiki’s actually writing a book on metamours, because she believes there’s too much focus on their negative potential, even among polyamorous people:
“Especially when new people are getting into polyamory, they tend to focus a lot on limitations that they can put on their relationships, including how they interact with metamours and how metamours interact with them. There’s very little focus on or even attention paid to the value in a metamour relationship, and how that is a very unique thing in polyamory.”
“There’s a fearfulness that it’s going to take something away from you when it’s actually a whole new relationship that you can explore,” Kiki added.
One of my lovers, who has now met several metamours, told me she appreciates how meetings enable her to understand my other relationships more clearly. “For me, there’s the moment of seeing what your partner likely appreciates in that person and going, yeah, I see why they like them.”
When Metamours Become Friends
“One of my early relationships was with a couple that was married,” Kiki told me. “I got to know my partner’s wife really well. They were living in a different city, so every time I went to visit him I would spend time with her, because it was at their home.”
Because they shared each other’s company so often, she felt safe bringing up problems and dealing with difficult emotions.
“Being in a familiar relationship with my partner’s partner, with her, meant that I felt more open about talking about my feelings to both of them. I didn’t feel like my communication had to be mitigated at all,” Kiki said. “If I had an issue I could speak directly.”
Genuine affection and connection blossomed between Kiki and her partner’s wife. They became such close friends that “we spent some holiday time together without my partner around. We just became very comfortable with each other. In fact he and I broke up, and she and I are still very good friends.”
Like Kiki, I shared a partner with a metamour for years. Our relationship remained platonic, but the intimacy we formed was genuine. We even had pet names for each other. The friendship outlasted our mutual relationship too, and we even got matching tattoos.
As Kiki said of her friendship, “It was its own relationship and it ultimately enhanced the poly relationship.”
Challenges And Fears
“Even if you’ve been poly for a long time, or it’s something that feels like the right type of relationship structure for you, it can still be very difficult suddenly having a new person in your life who is intimately connected to you through your partner, but who you didn’t choose necessarily — just like having a new in-law,” Kiki said. “This is a new person that you have to deal with and that can be really challenging and frightening sometimes.”
“There’s going to be metamours that you don’t really click with, that you don’t want to be friends with, or that you might not even like all that much,” she cautioned. “So how do you manage to still have a sustainable relationship through that? Focusing on people as individuals can help.”
I believe that the idea of a “one true love” is a myth, and that it’s impossible to be everything to anyone — to fulfill their every desire. Polyamory forces us to confront this in ways both liberating and terrifying, especially when your metamour offers your lover something you just can’t, whether that’s a sexual kink that turns you off or a shared love of bowling when you find it boring.
Even when I’ve felt jealous of one of my metamours, witnessing their small gestures of kindness and affection together during a meeting helps me open my heart to a better understanding of what my partner sees in them. When I’m challenged by difficult emotions, I focus on my partner’s happiness and often find I can share in it a little.
As Kiki explained, mutual respect is key when metamour relationships are challenging:
“If you’re constantly thinking of this person as someone who’s attached to my partner, or someone you’re not relating to one-on-one as an individual, even if you don’t particularly get along with them or see eye-to-eye with them, you’re not giving them or the relationship the respect it deserves. It’s like a relationship with a coworker you don’t get along with — you still have to see them as a person.”
Especially when there’s tension or distrust, we both believe metamour meetings can be crucial.
“It’s a tool we can use to both humanize people and keep things in perspective,” Kiki said.
2016, A.T. (After Tacos)
So what happened with my lovers and me? Well, we enjoyed the tacos, and we all feel a little more comfortable now. Conversation about everyone flows more freely. I don’t worry about sharing our selfies on social media, and we got through the holidays with love and compassion. And it made my newer relationship feel a little more real, for me, because she was willing to experience something challenging: her first meeting with a metamour.
She’s got a friend with benefits, which means I have a metamour I haven’t met yet. Austin is a small town pretending to be a big city, so it’s inevitable our paths will cross, especially because the four of us might all go to the same festival in the near future.
How do I feel about being at an event also attended by both my lovers and my metamour?
I think I might start with tacos first.
Lead image: Dave