Buy 1 Get (≥) 1 Free?
Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month seven bloggers ALBJ, Delightfully Queer, An Open Book, More Than Nuclear, Post Modern Sleaze, Rarely Wears Lipstick, and The Boy With The Inked Skin will write about their views on one of them. This month we’re talking about “non-lovers”.
No man is an island, they say, and when you start dating someone they inevitably don’t come alone. Friends, parents, exes, siblings, pets and children can be an unexpected part of any relationship. It just so happens when you’re non-monogamous, you get your partner’s other relationships along for the ride, too.
Metamours, co-partners, shag-in-laws – no matter what you call them, or how much your particular set-up means you get to know and spend time with them, these people are (by default) a part of your life. The impact they have on you is limited only by your depth of feeling for the person you’re dating. Even the best of us carry relationship joys or troubles into our friendships, and poly people aren’t immune from doing this between romantic relationships either. It’s good practise to learn to limit the extremes of this, of course, and there are arguably great benefits to having a pre-cheered partner arrive to your date! Still, once in a while your partner will come home sad and angry, and you’ll find yourself tending the wounds of an outside relationship.
Personally, making space in my relationships for the impact of metamour’s actions was one of the most interesting, and challenging, transitions from monogamy. Probably, also, the one that has contributed most to my personal development. Allowing myself the understanding that people are not insular, that anything that brings my partner joy or sadness is mine to share and vice versa; to recognise and respond to these things but not take ownership of them? This has done wonders for my sense of self in a connected universe.
That’s all you really have to do, too. For a quiet life, just make space for the consequences of a metamours actions, just as they make space for the consequences of yours. Simple trade. Occasionally it’s a little more one sided than that. You can raise these issues with an adult, but a partner’s children can’t be expected to allow for your impact on their parents’ lives. Any partner not co-parenting needs to understand that a Small in the group is one non-lover you don’t get to take priority turns with! Other times you get much more than a comfortable agreement, you strike it lucky and may find yourself with a best friend or another lover in the bargain…
The way I’ve come to see it, is it’s like an instant pre-vetted family. You don’t get to choose them, but someone you love did, and statistically that’s going to imply at least some overlap in interest.
I remember the first time I met my closest metamour. Our partner cooked dinner at their place. We’d been dating for around a month, I was brand new to non-monogamy and had realised that, despite all my wild intentions, I’d already crossed the line from just lust into love. With her permission he’d stayed several nights at mine, I’d even slept in her bed! Honestly, I was so scared I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Turns out – he’s got a damn good taste in Girlfriends! Though in many ways we’re very different women, we get along in a way that couldn’t possibly have been forced or predicted. Far from “my boyfriends other girlfriend”, she’s a hugely important part of my life in her own right, one of my best friends, and my honorary ‘sister’!
Unexpected and indirect joys crop up all over the place in polyamory – I also recall the first time I successfully settled a partner’s baby daughter to sleep while his wife got some work done, or weeks of agonising secrets helping a boyfriend pick an engagement ring and plan a proposal to a mutual girlfriend!
I don’t want to sound insufferably smug. It isn’t always easy. Communication and compromise make the world go round, and at times there is more of both than you feel you’d like. It’d be ridiculous to say that we didn’t have spats and grumbles here and there, that we don’t have habits that annoy the crap out of each other or that sometimes our actions affect our metamours in ways we’d all rather avoid but, between loved ones, (and loved ones of loved ones!) they’re quickly forgotten.
I know every poly set up is different, and I fully support people doing things whatever which way works for them, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder why people wouldn’t want to get to know their metamours? After all, it’s the little extras that make a good gift, great – right?