I touched on this last week, but it deserves its own post.
METAMOUR: (Literally, meta with; about + amor love): The partner of one’s partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. See related vee.
-from More Than Two Glossary of Polyamory Terms
Some poly folk object to the term metamour. They feel like it forces them into a relationship with their partner’s other partner. To which I say, get over it. Metamour is no different than “in-law” or “co-worker” or “classmate”. You share a connection with this other person through a common point of interest. My graduating high school class had 22 people in, and the day I graduated I still didn’t know all their names. We were still classmates. Your metamour is connected to you through your mutual partner. Just like my classmates and I were connected through our school and classes and teachers. Doesn’t mean you need to like them, care about them, talk with them or even know their names. the connection exists.
As I outlined last week, there are good practical reasons for meeting your metamour. Not having a relationship with them. Not becoming friends. Just… meeting them. Knowing them enough that if you get stuck in an elevator together, you’ll recognize the person on the other side of the damn box. Maybe know a couple things you can talk about to pass the time.
So, your partner is going to introduce you to their other partner. If you’re new to polyamory, and sometimes even if you aren’t, meeting your metamour can be awkward and uncomfortable. Most cultures say you and this other person should hate each other for daring to love the same person. Instead, you are going to sit down and have a polite conversation, without the hidden war of words drama shows love.
Respect and honesty are the basis of polyamory etiquette. Keep that in mind as we go forward.
On being introduced:
Treat the introduction like any other introduction. “Please to meet you.” “Hey, how you doing?” “Thank’s for coming/Thanks for having me over.” Or, if you are the low humor type that some of my partners have been, “Hi. I’ve been dreading this, how about you?”
Humor can be a good way to break the ice, or it can fall flat and be a dead fish stinking up the room. Use your best judgment and don’t force it if it doesn’t come naturally.
After introductions, you have a choice.
You can treat it like nay meeting with a new person. Spend some time getting to know them, what their interests are, make some small talk. This can help lay the groundwork for further conversation.
You can clear the air. Given the way many cultures view non-monogamy, there is likely to be tension. You can start by stating your feelings/concerns/discomfort areas and giving your metamour a chance to do the same. Then talk it out.
Making conversation can be a good way to ease into things. It’s often useful if you are used to polyamory and your metamour isn’t. Making conversation gives them a chance to relax and realize that you really don’t see them as an enemy. This is part of respect—respecting your metamour’s uncertainty and concerns. Making conversation also gives them a chance to get their feet under them.
If you are both new to poly and/or both uncomfortable, making conversation can help you both ease into things or just increase the awkward. If neither of you is able to start a conversation, go straight to clearing the air. If one of you is able to start a conversation, try to go with it for a bit. See what happens. If it’s more awkward than relaxing, you can shift to clearing the air.
Starting with casual conversation can be a good icebreaker. But once you’re all a bit more comfortable, you still need to clear the air.
Clearing the air:
If you are both experienced poly folk, or if you see your metamour as an enemy or potential enemy, go straight to clearing the air. Making small talk with someone you are afraid of or don’t like is dishonest. Do yourself and them the favor of laying out the problems right away rather than acting like everything is fine.
IMPORTANT: even if you see your metamour as an enemy, do not treat them like one. Fighting with them over you mutual partner will only make all of you miserable. If your metamour is an enemy, you want to convert them into an ally. Working together to make your mutual partner happy is the best way to protect the health of your relationship with your partner.
Compersion’s episode 5 is a good example of how to (and how not to) clear the air. Spoilers below, so you might want to watch the show first 😉
Josh and Keena are married. Keena is about to go on her first date with Colt. Josh asks to meet Keena’s Colt. They are all new to polyamory.
Josh is hostile. He addresses his fears and concerns honestly, but he starts from the assumption that Colt is an enemy. And instead of just saying “I’m afraid,” he attacks Colt. He needs to claim possession of Keena, demanding Colt acknowledge that Keena is his wife and that she will not be leaving her family. He wants Colt to answer to him, to give a reason Colt wants to date a married woman. This is not at all respectful.
Josh isn’t just disrespectful to Colt. He is disrespectful to Keena. He doesn’t trust her to establish her own boundaries and instead is possessive and aggressive in defense of his right to her. Josh also doesn’t trust Keena to have told Colt that she is married and committed to her marriage.
A better approach for Josh is to state his fears clearly. This would have made him vulnerable, which is scary, but it would have been more honest and more respectful. And it would have a lot less potential to create a disaster. “Hi, Colt. Look. I’m real uncomfortable with this. Keena has never gone on a date before and this whole polyamory is scaring me. I want Keena to be happy, but I’m afraid of losing her, so you going on this date tonight is freaking me out.”
This would have been both respectful and honest with Colt. Josh would be treating him as an individual rather than an instant enemy. It would also have been respectful to Keena, acknowledging that she is in charge of her actions and trusting her to tell Colt how her relationships work.
Keena is uncomfortable. She tries to cut the whole thing short and drag Colt out of the apartment and on their date. “Yes, he knows we’re married. I told him.” Josh’s disrespect upsets her, but she is also being dishonest. She wants to avoid and deny Josh’s fears rather than address them. Trying to shut Josh down may avoid the discomfort now, but it would create more problems later.
Colt, in contrast, is both respectful and honest. He listens to Josh without interrupting. He answers Josh’s questions. He also answers Josh’s fears, by saying that he’s okay with his relationship with Keena being a short one. She is worth knowing for however much time he can enjoy with her. Colt’s honesty touches Keena and at least for a short time causes Josh to see him as another person who cares for Keena, and not a threat. Colt’s respectful treatment of Josh and Josh’s fears allow a stand down. Instead of getting defensive or aggressive in turn, Colt acknowledges Josh’s fears. He doesn’t denigrate Josh for fearing them. And he does this without giving up his right to have whatever relationship he and Keena make for themselves.
When you meet your metamour and clear the air, try to be Colt. No matter what your relationships with your mutual partner, whether you are spouse, boyfriend, fuckbuddy, or anything else, listen to your metamour’s concerns and answer them honestly. And if you have concerns, don’t be Josh. State your concerns honestly, yes, but also respectfully and without disrespect to your metamour OR your partner.
If you don’t have concerns, if you’ve been around the poly block (or even if you haven’t but are already comfortable) saying, “Hey, I know this can be awkward, but I really am okay with this and I hope you two have a good relationship.” can help a metamour who isn’t as confident or experienced be comfortable and not see YOU as an enemy.
(Being fair to Josh–he got tossed into this whole thing with not one clue what polyamory is or how it can work and he’s doing his best to deal with it. You, on the other hand, are reading this blog. So you know what polyamory is and are learning about how it works. You can do better.)
This post is part of the Polyamory Etiquette blog series.