/u/hopelessly_floating on /r/polyamory writes…
“I met my metamour recently. I’m still feeling a bit shaken up and confused about it. I think they were maybe feeling nervous and a bit jealous which I know are normal and natural feelings.
My metamour seemed very territorial, possessive, and pretty verbally/emotionally abusive to my partner. They are a long term primary, but the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.
I’m very attracted to the new partner, but I’m not sure if I want to continue to emotionally invest myself. It would be hard for me to watch them endure what I see as a hostile and abusive partner. Any advice or suggestions are welcome.”
Dear Hopelessly Floating,
One of the most difficult relationships to manage in polyamory is the one between metamours. There are many factors that add to why it is such a challenging connection to maintain.
First is that there is absolutely no established role models for a healthy metamour relationships readily available in popular media. We live in a mostly-monogamous world where the closest comparison to metamour relationships is a one you might have with your in-laws in marriage. Because there’s no pre-established expectation or guidelines, it can be really difficult to forge a new model for connection from ground up.
Another is that metamours are additional confounding elements to your poly relationships which are already inherently difficult to maintain internally. You have to be mindful of your hinge partners and their metamours, especially if you come into an established dyad. This goes hand-in-hand with the point above.
But the most difficult part of managing metamour relationship is that it really isn’t your responsibility to maintain one. It is the hinge partner’s responsibility to maintain and manage their respective relationships. As legs of hinge partnerships, legs do not have much sense of agency in managing other relationships. Often, I’ve seen many people establish strict boundaries regarding abusive behavior as a way to insulate and protect themselves from potential harm (“I will not be in a relationship with someone who is in an abusive relationship with my potential metamours.”).
Consider that you really might have had a really bad first circumstantial impression of your metamour. They might have had a really difficult day and were not able to be fully present in their engagement with you. Depending on the level of poly experience your new partner and your metamour might have had, fleshing out a new connection with you might have proven very challenging for them as well. But more importantly, you might need to more mindfully approach what your body and mind is saying and consider this as just as a point on a line. In similar circumstances, I’ve seen many experienced polyfolks gauge their metamour from a distance while indirectly communicating their concerns with their hinge partner. I’ve also seen some polyfolks actively establish boundaries to limit emotional development in uncertain situations. But do keep in mind that it is not your responsibility to manage your new partner’s relationship with their other partner. That is their own emotional labor to handle. What you do have responsibility over is if your hinge partner’s relationship with your metamour starts to affect your relationship with your hinge partner.
Lastly, I think it is important to keep in mind that people do change all the time. So it might be beneficial for you to keep an open mind, be patient, and allow your metamour another opportunity to improve on a bad first impression. We are all humans after all.
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