Metamour Misery in Polyamorous Relationships
Having an awesome metamour whom you like, and respect can go a long way when dealing with those compersion gremlins ... But what happens when you don’t like your metamour, AT ALL? I’m not talking about just not wanting to have a relationship with them because it is weird for you to hang out with someone who is also involved with your partner. I’m talking about hands down, cannot stand the person.
For those unfamiliar with the term “metamour”, it is a word used in the Polyamorous Community to describe your partner’s partner. For instance, I am married to John and have a romantic relationship with Tyler. Tyler and John are not romantically involved with each other; therefore, they are each other’s metamours.
For those of us who like to practice “kitchen table” polyamory where we get to know our metamours and develop a platonic or familial relationship with them, it can be a comfort and even help with compersion if we actually like and respect our metamour.
If we decide we don’t want to have any type of meaningful relationship with our metamours, it is still a big plus if we at least respect them. After all, you don’t always need some deep, meaningful relationship with your metamour to like them. Sometimes, we just don’t feel comfortable hanging out with our partner’s other partners and that is okay too, especially if we still think they are good people with good intentions towards our partners.
Having an awesome metamour whom you like, and respect can go a long way when dealing with those compersion gremlins. However, it has been my experience as well as the experiences of others that having a great metamour doesn’t always subdue them. I have liked the vast majority of my metamours and still wrestle with my compersion gremlins. I feel that there are several factors involved with compersion and I discuss that more in my blog - Compersion, Compersion, Compersion, another F***ing Blog About Compersion.
In most of my compersion sparring matches, my issues had far less to do with my metamour and more to do with my insecurities and issues.
But what happens when you don’t like your metamour, AT ALL? I’m not talking about just not wanting to have a relationship with them because it is weird for you to hang out with someone who is also involved with your partner. I’m talking about hands down, cannot stand the person.
I have been writing a lot about letting relationships take and run their natural course and not trying to force them into what you think they should be – even when they aren’t what you intended for them to be. You can read those blogs here and here.
Whether we like it or not, the same idea of “letting your partner’s relationships grow as they will naturally” applies to the “I really don’t like my metamour” situation as well.
I know. It can suck. I feel you. I’m right there with you.
As much as I am all about giving people the benefit of doubt; liking people until they give you a reason not to; meeting people from a place of non-judgement; and finding grace for others, there are some people who have pushed passed that and shown me behaviors I neither trust nor like. There are people who have given me more than one reason to dislike them and I do. I am human too.
John has reconnected (after over 3 years) with the one partner I have truly disliked and still dislike.
He asked me “permission” and I came to the realization that I could do two things. I could resist and fight this relationship because she is nothing but red flags in my eyes and has been for years; or, I could do the ethical non-monogamy thing and just let go and let this relationship run whatever course it is going to.
John knows of my dislike for the woman and why I dislike and distrust her. At the end of the day though, I’m not the one in the relationship with her and John is his own person and I am not responsible for his choices.
However, in any given situation, we all have choices we can make.
It is perfectly okay for you to talk to your partner about any concerns you may have about your metamour. Sometimes we see red flags that our partners don’t see when it comes to our metamours. Part of that may be because we are not in the throes of NRE (New Relationship Energy). However, I encourage you to take the time and space you need to make sure that your concerns about your metamour aren’t because you are having jealousy issues. Sometimes, we may think we dislike someone when really it is because we are feeling jealous or insecure. It can be tricky to discern between the two. However, if you are witnessing unhealthy, manipulative, or abusive behaviors from your metamour, don’t discount it or write it off. If you are feeling uneasy about your partner’s relationship with your metamour, talk with your partner.
When we communicate these concerns with our partners, we are navigating through some potentially tricky waters. We want to be heard, but it’s important that we make sure our partner knows that the decision is ultimately theirs and that we will be there for them regardless of their decision.
In my case, even though John knows my feelings about this woman, I have also had to make it clear that the decision is his and I’m not going to fight him on it. To fight him on it, to give him constant grief or shit about it will ultimately cause harm to OUR relationship and I REFUSE to let that happen because of this woman or any other woman.
You can try opening the conversation with something like, “I have noticed certain behaviors or things about so-and-so that are red flags to me and I would like to talk with you about them.” If your partner is receptive, then continue the discussion CALMLY. If your partner isn’t receptive to that conversation, then table it until they are ready for it. Trying to force a conversation at that point will only escalate the tension and problems. Your partner won’t be receptive to hearing and will immediately take a defensive stance and it will likely blow up into a big argument.
If your partner is open to the conversation, continue by pointing out examples of the behavior. Using terminology like, “I just don’t like them.” Or “I just have a bad feeling about them.” isn’t going to help your case.
Give you partner space to respond. Give your partner the space to make their own decision in their own time. State your case, and let it be.
*Now, it is possible that you don’t like your metamour because you just don’t like them. Maybe they rub you the wrong way or they just irritate the crap out of you, they haven’t shown manipulative or toxic behaviors. If this is the case, don’t be a petty bitch. While it’s okay to say, “You know, I really don’t gel with so-and-so and I really don’t want to hang out with them” it is NOT okay to tear that person down in front of your partner and be all bitchy and petty about it to your partner. Just set the line of not wanting to hang out with that person and then leave it at that. Now, if you’ve got to get it out of your system, find your trusted, supportive Beloveds who will not only let you be a petty bitch about your metamour, but won’t judge you for it and will keep your rants between you and not blab it all over the place. If you don’t have Beloveds like that, then journal. Get it out of your system, it just isn’t productive, helpful, or kind to spew it all over your partner. You can leave it with, “I’m not particularly fond of this person, but I’m not dating them. So, as long as you are having a good time with them, go for it.”*
If your partner continues the relationship, what can you do to stay sane?
Creating boundaries with your metamour is a good thing. I’m not saying that you can dictate your partner’s relationship with your metamour. None of that crazy rule setting like “You can’t do this sex position, go to this restaurant, or call them this pet name.” But boundaries for your personal space and interaction. I set the boundary of not wanting anything to do with this metamour. I don’t want to see her. I don’t want to go on double dates with her. I don’t want to hang out with her. And I don’t want to “Kitchen Table” poly it with her. If she comes over, I don’t want to be home. I won’t keep her from my house, but I will keep her from my presence. And, I don’t particularly want her around my kids, so I will put a boundary there as well.
While we are going to feel what we are going to feel, we alone have the choice as to what we will do with those feelings. I was listening to Deepak Chopra’s “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” when he started talking about making conscious decisions. We can choose to let an emotion debilitate us, or we can choose to acknowledge the emotion and then decide to not let it get the best of us.
THIS IS NOT TO SAY that if you have mental health issues that need medication or that is debilitating despite any situation that you can just push through it. I know that anxiety and depression can absolutely be debilitating for many people and I encourage you to get professional help to address that.
What I mean is that I can choose to let my dislike for this metamour consume me and make me miserable OR I can choose to acknowledge my dislike and distrust, set my boundaries, and then go about my business doing the things that bring me joy. I am not saying that I won’t go through some compersion gremlin battles. I have no doubt I will be feeling some kind of way when John goes to see her. But I alone get to choose what effect I will let those feelings have on me, my time, and my energy.
Find a good friend, coach, therapist, or family member you can talk to and help you sort out all that you are feeling and support you as you need it. I also find exercising with punching and kicking bags and journaling also particularly helpful when I need to vent frustration, anger, sadness, worry, insecurities, etc. Find whatever helps you best when it comes to sorting through your emotions and then expressing and working through them in productive, healthy ways.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter whether or not we like our metamours. What matters is how our partner feels about the people they are in relationships with. I know it is incredibly difficult to see your partner blind to or just flat out ignore all of the red flags you see when it comes to the people they are involved with. Unfortunately, when we try to step in and stop or prevent the relationship, it only leads to resentment. What can happen is that our partners blame us for the relationship not working instead of attributing it to any manipulative, toxic, or abusive behaviors by those people.
It can feel icky, infuriating, devastating, and painful when our partners continue relationships with the people we don’t like for whatever reason – but most especially when it is because we have seen certain behaviors that set off all the alarms in our bodies, hearts, and minds. I feel you, I do. However, our partners are consenting adults and we are not responsible for the actions; and, as polyamorous people, we cannot ethically force them to end relationships. It doesn’t work that way. We have to let our partners make their own decisions about who they date.
It sucks sometimes. I know. But part of personal and spiritual development and growth is knowing and accepting that no matter how much we may want to, we cannot control people and every situation, and that includes our partners and their relationships with our metamours.