Metamours: everything to know about your lover’s lover

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What’s a metamour?Klaus Vedfelt

At some point as a non-monogamous person, you will very likely experience a new person entering your life via your partner. Congrats, this means you now have a metamour!

Simply put, a metamour is your lover’s lover – aka your husband’s girlfriend, your boyfriend’s boyfriend, and/or your girlfriend’s Saturday night submissive. Whatever the labels may be, the crux of your relationship with a metamour is a shared partner.

Monogamous people tend to flinch at the very idea of their partner sharing intimacy with a person who is not themselves, but that is due to bad social programming. Metamours do exist in the monogamous world, but always in a dysfunctional, toxic context like cheating.

In ethical non-monogamy however, having metamours is part of the goal. Multiple people come with the territory, and they too may bring even more people into the mix, making those who are less familiar with the polyamorous lifestyle confused about how things are supposed to work.

So while metamours can bring various joys and challenges with them, it’s not as complicated as it might seem. As is the case with any non-monogamous relationship – and ideally monogamous ones, too – healthy doses of communication and honesty are the key to harmony. So let’s answer some of the biggest questions people have about what life with metamours looks like.

Are you in a relationship with your metamour?

There is a misunderstanding that your partner’s lover must share an intimate relationship with you too. But a metamour is first and foremost your partner’s partner, not yours. It’s true that sometimes the relationship can evolve to bring you all together, but that happens circumstantially. In fact, it’s a red flag if the central partner tries to force a friendship or romantic connection between their lovers where one would not exist naturally.

Although it’s lovely when that does happen organically, “there is no guarantee that all parties will energetically connect,” says Valerie Poppel, clinical sexologist and co-founder of The Swann Center, an organisation providing inclusive sexual education and training.

Sure, the existence of their relationship does bring you into a larger romantic network that includes them, but whatever connection you end up forming with a metamour should be on your terms. But when your shared characteristic with a metamour is loving the same person, it can actually be really easy to get along.

Writing professor Patricia Fancher, says she got along so well with her husband’s girlfriend – her metamour – that the girlfriend became more like her husband’s metamour instead. “We just liked each other so much that the relationship shifted,” she says.

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This outcome isn’t the status quo by any means, but Fancher’s openness to her metamour led to a place full of love for everyone involved.

Do you have to meet your metamour(s)?

You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but it’s worthwhile examining your motivation in making this decision either way: Is avoiding meeting them a way to pretend they don’t exist? Is getting together for coffee at the beginning of the relationship a way to exert control? Do you subconsciously want to ensure your partner’s connection with them involves you on some level?

Let me just say: If this relationship construct is by design based on the wholehearted consent of yourself and your partner(s), then there is nothing to fear.

Take a breath and remember that the one thing you and your metamour for sure have in common is caring deeply about your shared partner. And because we’re not talking about nightclub makeouts or casual hookups here, your metamour is going to play a meaningful role in your loved one’s life – and by extension, yours.

Meeting a metamour can be the best way to bring them down from that pedestal you may have placed them on, while showing support for your partner’s choices. Fancher recalls the insecurity she felt around her first metamour, a younger, blonde woman she believed was everything Fancher was not. Before meeting, it was easy to idealise her metamour as, “this mythical person who is better at sex, better at listening, a better cook, doesn’t awkwardly laugh – all these magical, special things because you make up in your head.”

Once she, her husband, and her metamour started getting drinks together, it became easier to remember that metamours are humans first and foremost. This approach is called “kitchen table polyamory" and it’s the idea that everyone in the same poly network can comfortably socialise around a kitchen table.

That said, you do not have to meet your metamours. There are no rules! While the kitchen table approach works for Fancher and others, as always, you need to set the boundaries that work best for you. If “don’t ask don’t tell” is your vibe, then live it.

How can you best get along with your metamour(s)?

If metamour meet and greets are on the table, put some effort into it. “Plan special trips together or just schedule an occasional date night where you can all spend time getting to know each other,” suggests Daniel Saynt, founder & chief conspirator of The New Society for Wellness (NSFW), a sex and cannabis friendly private members club in New York.

“When you approach them with an open heart, you’re able to better establish trust, set boundaries, and feel confident in your partner’s love for you.”

In doing so, you’ll be able to help their metamour be more comfortable, while also establishing a line of open communication. For Saynt, meeting his metamours helps him confirm that they aren’t looking to replace him. From that foundation, a healthy relationship can grow.

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How should you deal with needs not being met by your partner?

Time management is one of the most challenging aspects of a non-monogamous lifestyle, but if you aren’t having your needs met in that regard, then it’s time to talk about it.

“Communication is the key to any successful relationship, especially in a relationship with a metamour,” says Dr. Poppel. Staying quiet does no one any favors, least of all yourself.

“Don’t be passive aggressive and take one for the team. Know your worth, speak your truth, and allow yourself to be fully self expressed in the possibility of personal growth and acceptance in your new relationship adventure.”

Whether you’re not getting enough time, energy, emotional support, or something else from your partner, make it known. Plus, opening up the discussion can help you, your partner(s), and your metamour(s) find that perfect balance.

“There’s an eastern philosophy of balance, of duality, of interplay between light and shadow,” explains Kenneth Play, international educator creator of the Sex Hacker Pro Series. “Sometimes I think we need to be selfish, and sometimes we need to be selfless. That balance is key.”

That doesn’t mean you’ll be out there picking partners for your loved one or vetoing their romantic choices (unless that’s the relationship you design), but it’s worth it to make your needs known so that you and your partner(s) can negotiate and find compromises that make everyone happy.

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