“I [36F] am solo poly by choice. I need my own space and I practice self care frequently by being by myself and with my children. I see Partner A [36M] and Partner B [35F] (who are married) almost every weekend. We are out to all of our children and they are all around the same age and all get along like siblings and friends. I have known A for 30 years and B for 13. When introducing me to new people B says “I am the wife. She is our life partner”. While the romantic side of things are fairly new (we’ve only recently moved from friends and sometimes lovers to classifying ourselves as partners). Our relationships are separate and individual. I get alone time with each of them and I love them more every single day.
I am also a sub. One of B’s other partners (they have been together for about 10 years) [45M] is a Dom, and after spending a lot of time with him and feeling an amazing connection with him, I asked A and B if they would be ok with me setting up a scene with him. They enthusiastically said “Yes”. After talking more intimately and spending more time together, he and I realized that the way that we are feeling is so much more than causal and decided to not just be in a Dom/sub relationship, but he asked me to be a more permanent fixture in his life. So he has become Partner C. No one has ever made me feel more valued and special and seen as C does. The 4 of us get along amazingly. We all have an amazing time together. No drama. All of the compersion. It’s just a big ball of love and fun and zero drama.
Here is the issue… C has a Nesting Partner (who I will call NP) [22F]. And I met her for the first time this weekend. It. Was. A. Disaster. Partly my fault. (I’ll admit that, but to be honest, I was getting some serious mixed signals.) C and NP have been together for a little over a year. She is considerably younger than us and this is her first poly relationship. In my nervousness about meeting her, I got a little too intoxicated Friday night. I was overly affectionate with all of my partners and NP became really upset. C spent most of the evening consoling her.
Then Saturday, everything seemed fine. We all laid in A and B’s bed in a giant cuddle puddle and made plans for the evening. We decided to rent a suite and go to the local Lifestyle club. By the time we got to the club the tension was palpable and rolling off of NP. B and I decided not to drink and just stuck to water. I gave C and NP all kinds of space and just hung out with A and B and friends. I was totally happy and having a great time despite the tension. Finally, NP asks if we can talk. We go somewhere quiet and she jumps down my throat. Fine. She is upset. She admits that she is jealous. I am the first additional partner for C and she felt that I crossed a line the previous night. I apologized. Told her that her feelings were 100% valid and asked if we could try to start over. She said that she would like for us to go to lunch, but “not now. Please just continue to give us space. I can’t even look at you right now. I honestly wanted to punch you in the face or kill you last night”. Wow. Ok. Thank you for not.
I thought that was the beginning of the end of it. Nope! The drunker she got, the worse things got. By the end of the night, she couldn’t even be in the same area as me. I told A and B that I was just going to get my stuff from the hotel and go home. She doesn’t need me in her space right now and my presence isn’t fair to her. C was obviously upset when I told him, but he agreed. A and B asked if we could get their stuff from the hotel and then the 3 of us could just go back to their house and sleep in “our” bed. I thanked them for being so sweet, but it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s fun and this was about her comfort. I’m honestly completely ok with everything that went down. But, A and B insisted. They were over her drama and just wanted to go home. We went and got our stuff, went back to their house. Had a lot of laughs and a lot of cuddles and went to sleep.
C came by this morning and thanked me for being so understanding. He said things like “you are amazing. You are absolutely perfect for me. Thank you for being level headed and open and understanding with her.” C and I are good. We have some things to iron out between us, but that can wait. He had to drive 6 hours away for work and he had to deal with a lot from her, so that can wait. It’s nothing immediate.
Here is where I’m struggling… I really don’t think that I want any kind of relationship with her. I told him from the beginning that I am not going to force anything. I don’t do that with anyone. I would like to get to know her and see what happens. This weekend has soured me on even that idea. But, they are now moving here. She is going to be around a lot more. I guess I’m willing to meet her for lunch like she requested, but I just don’t know if we can come back from this weekend. I don’t deal with drama very well. I tend to run in the complete opposite direction. But, I feel like if I don’t make the effort, then things are just going to be harder on him and my other partners. I just… don’t know what to do.
I’m sorry that this is so long. I guess I just needed to get it out. I don’t even know what advise I’m looking for. Maybe just support? I know I was in the wrong on Friday, but I feel like everything that came after was just drama for drama’s sake. It makes me want to just remove myself from that narrative completely, but I can’t.
Thank you for taking the time. Love and Light to you all.”
Dear Throwaway 011084,
Let’s first start off by discussing different metamour relationship styles. There are three major styles of relationships you can have with your metamours. We are defining metamours here as partner’s other partners with whom you have a non-romantic relationship with. If you’re already familiar with the different types of metamour relationship styles (DADT, Parallel, and KTP), feel free to skip to the picture of asiatic lilies.
First is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). In DADT arrangements, each participant of that relationship agrees to not share any information about any external relationships outside of the ones they are a part of. This kind of arrangement is usually established in particularly insecure relationships where one or both parties do not have enough emotional balance to do labor to face jealousy or insecurity. This kind of metamour relationships can be ripe for miscommunication and possibly unethical behaviors. After all, how can you make sure that everything is still above board if that channel of communication has been severed? The best kind of DADT arrangements I’ve seen work successfully were anchored with a hinge partner who did an exceptional job of establishing and enforcing not just explicit but also implicit boundaries that their DADT partners might want.
The other end of that spectrum is Kitchen Table Poly (KTP). KTP is loosely defined as ongoing and friendly relationships between two metamours where the larger polycule can have dinner or tea at a kitchen table. Conversations are generally friendly banter or small talk but can also go into deeper dives depending on how familiar and comfortable everyone feels. One of the biggest benefits in KTP is that KTP allows you to expand your social circles and larger support circle. Even if you never become friends with your metamour, polyamory is really difficult to do without a sense of the surrounding community. It’s why we have subreddits, poly meetups, and online groups to feel like we all belong somewhere. As nice as it is when KTP works out, it does have a lot of challenges. It’s easy to be friendly when things are all going really well; it’s much harder when your relationships are not going well. Compartmentalizing relationship issues and maintaining proper boundaries makes the job of a hinge partner really difficult, especially if the metamours have relied on each other for support in the past.
The middle ground between DADT and KTP is Parallel Poly. In parallel arrangements, each metamours know about each other but do not spend a lot of time around each other. Unlike a DADT, as a leg in a parallel poly, you’ll hear a lot about the other partners (especially if they have a lot of enmeshment). Benefits of parallel poly is that it gets to double dip into some of the best parts of both DADT and KTP. Parallel gets to enjoy some of the stricter boundaries to protect each relationship without the fluid emotional compartmentalization that comes with KTP. Parallel also gets to avoid some of the negative hangups regarding DADT since each partners know about each other. Parallel poses its own set of difficulties and complexities as well. For one, forcibly separating different relationships limits the scope of enmeshment, especially if there are already large level of enmeshment in existing relationships. Parallel poly also has the same problem with DADT in that you are very limited in terms of your polycule community.
Different styles of metamour relationships have different merits. Each of them are good for different polycule arrangements and what each person has emotional and physical bandwidth for. You might have a parallel poly with one particular metamour but a KTP with another. Also, different arrangements can change over time as well. You might start out with parallel poly with one particular metamour due to logistics. And as you and your metamour each get more familiar with each other through your shared partner, you could develop a more familiar kinship after you run into each other at an event where it transitions into a more KTP style metamourship.
Now let’s talk more about what all of this relates to your situation. Three things stood out to me immediately when I first read your post.
First is that C is definitely trying his best to be the best hinge partner. One of the most common pitfalls I see even experienced poly people make is in perpetuating relationship drama throughout their polycule. In checking in with you briefly before his long drive out, he has shown that he is mindfully segregating the issues that arose from your polycule’s night out to the source of the issue, which is his NP. He’s a catch. His commitment to smooth things out with you reveals so much about his emotional maturity and intelligence.
And I think NP lies at the core of this issue. Others on the poly subreddit has already pointed the age gap between C and NP out. And while that gap does raise my eyebrows, I don’t think it’s important. What’s more important is her relative lack of emotional maturity. NP decided to weaponize her jealousy and insecurity to make you feel uncomfortable. If she felt uncomfortable watching you be affectionate with C, there were couple strategies she could have developed to halt that discomfort. She could have pulled aside C to talk about her discomfort and come to a better short-term agreement to keep PDA in check. Another strategy she could have employed is just to step away if she really felt that uncomfortable. If she really felt that uncomfortable, she could have easily excused herself to go home first. Instead, she chose to confront and threaten you, someone that she has met for the first time this past weekend. That was a completely inappropriate behavior from her, so I can understand how uncomfortable you feel right now.
My last impression was that you absolutely do not have to maintain a friendship with anyone you don’t feel like you need to. You can go full parallel with NP. This person has not displayed good judgment or fair representation of her character in the limited engagements you’ve had with them. Your initial trust and goodwill has already been broken by that horrific first impression. And it is her responsibility to earn that good faith back by displaying good character as your metamour. You do not necessarily have to run the other way. Just set up a more fundamentally sound boundary regarding your metamour so that you can keep your distance from this person who threatened violence against you. If she asks about grabbing lunch with you, you can come up with convenient excuses to opt out until you feel more comfortable with her as your metamour.
I am also really curious how your partner B also views her metamour NP following this incident, and if NP had the same kind of negative feedback toward A & B. I’m really sorry that you are going through this. Difficult metas are awful, especially because you are mostly at the mercy of your hinge partner to do their labor. But you’ve done the best you can. All that’s left is determining what kind of boundary you want to set around yourself and agreements with C so that this kind of mishap does not happen again.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!