Metamours: The Partners of Your Partners (And Why You Should Invest In Them)

art by Callie Little

art by Callie Little

Some of the most commonly challenging but perhaps most beautiful parts of non-monogamy are the metamour relationships. What’s a metamour? Simply put, a partner of your partner. Partner is a tricky term, though. We often view relationships as being either romantic and sexual or somewhere non-specific, but decidedly within the realm of friendship. Within non-monogamy, however, it’s not uncommon to run into relationship shapes of all kinds, some being either sexual or romantic, some being based in non-romantic friendship but with occasional sex… Our opportunities are limited only by our own imaginations, willingness to expand, and schedules. As non-monogamous people, we get to explore endless opportunities with our partners of all varieties, and with their partners by extension, so honoring the myriad of infrastructures available to us is central to our idea of what non-monogamy is all about.

Non-monogamy at its core is about more love, not the scarcity of it.

Building a relationship with ones metamour(s) can be intimidating at first, and at times it can even feel impossible. Maybe this is why so many of us put off— or avoid— meeting our metas. Yet, there is something irreplaceable about making the space to get to know those connected to who we’ve been building a relationship with. Not only do we have at least one entire person in common with our metas, we also have personalities, cultures, and preferences that might not be met elsewhere.

For instance, in one of our relationships, one partner has an aversion to sushi. The live-in partner of that person often has dates with others that involve going out to sushi, and therefore they get that preference met outside of the live-in relationship. In another one of our relationships, one partner really loves celebrating Valentines Day, while the live-in partner can’t be bothered with it. It’s really important to them to celebrate, and they get that celebration with other partners and dates. Other meaningful metamour connections we’ve seen include shared languages, unexpected meaningful friendships, the opportunity to learn from one another about everything from cooking to heritage.

Building our metamour relationships, in our minds, is a key component of building our communities as a whole. Metamours are also often part of the construction of healthy and ethical non-monogamy. Knowing, accepting, and even building our own relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual, or otherwise) with them is a benefit of living outside of monogamy.

Often when a monogamous couple opens up their relationship, a common rule or guideline is that they don’t want to know the people their partner might be getting to know and sleeping with. This is a dangerous slope to plant oneself on, and most likely a result of what we’ve been conditioned to believe within traditional relationships. In Western culture, monogamy is the most common and almost universally expected form of relationship. This means there’s a process of unlearning we must commit to. We’ve had a lifetime of learning that this is the one way to have a relationship, with one person and one person only. Non-monogamy is, in many ways, the opposite of everything we’ve learned about love. It’s about vulnerability, pristine communication practices, and the cultivation of multitudes of relationships— some of the most important ones being metamour relationships. These relationships can help us to accelerate our growth the same way any friendship can: through conversation, relating, and becoming more familiar with viewpoints we might not have experienced otherwise. More than any benefit, however, witnessing a partner be loved by someone else is a core element of non-monogamy. It is the act of welcoming more love, despite it not being fully directed at you, not limiting where our own love is given, and accepting however it is shared.

Metamours are integral to creating a reality where love evolves past scarcity and into community.

But what does that look like in practice?

As mentioned earlier, it’s dangerous to play the “don’t ask, don’t tell” game in non-monogamy. The reason is that it plays into monogamous programming. Any time we cater to that impulse, we’re conditioning ourselves to keep one foot in the door of monogamy, and that makes every encounter with non-monogamy or relationship anarchy at least a little less natural. When we really incorporate our metamours into our realities (whether simply in thought or in our day-to-day existences), we build the relationships in our lives from scratch— the way that we, the writers of this article, personally believe relationships are meant to be created.

Of course, everything is easier said than done.

Loving a meta can come naturally in some moments and turn incredibly frustrating in others, similar to any type of relationship. When everyone’s in their healthiest headspaces, everyone’s adding to the collective pool of love, growth, and compassion, but there will be times when one person dips into a low moment or has a bad week, trauma, or other life-altering experience. In moments of upheaval, it’s easy to feel like one person is only “taking” from the constellation. This, however, assigns that same scarcity value we work so hard to transcend. We all have moments that require support from our communities, and we all have different gifts to give our community members. Using your best judgment and the knowledge you’ve gained from your partner, (and/or theirs, as in your meta metas) you can begin to form new habits. Step back and assess. Ask yourself: What can you do to support your metamours? Does it include directly supporting them, or perhaps supporting your shared partner with time, space, or funds? What do you have to give? What feels good to you? And don’t forget to keep everyone’s love languages in mind— these are some of the most effective tools we can possibly use in our relationships, and our natural inclination may be to use our own language when what’s actually needed is something totally different. Try to show up for your partners and their partners during these low periods. Just keep in mind your own needs, and don’t sacrifice your autonomy or best interest while also supporting the collective. No one needs to be a martyr. (Please don’t be a martyr!)

A healthy practice within non-monogamy is an ongoing conversation about what boundaries are healthy for you, and what boundaries are healthy for them. How does one manage expectations with not only their partner but also their metamours. What is everyone’s definition of a healthy relationship? What needs do you know you need met by your partners, and what are needs you feel capable of meeting on your own? What needs does your partner have that aren’t being met, and are you capable of being someone that can meet them? Communicating these ideas and sharing the experience of thought experiments is a valuable tool since all of us come to the relationship table with different expectations, and totally unique needs and desires. It’s important to remember that your boundaries are not a burden; they are a strength and a helpful tool for you to feel safe and secure within your relationships.

Boundaries— when shared— help those in relationship with you understand how to continue to make you feel safe, secure, and cared for. They’re not about exclusion, rather about including everyone’s needs— yours included. Boundaries are a damn gift!

Building harmonious constellations, communities, and families takes work. It takes frequent retuning back into harmony. Getting to know those in chorus with you will help with the sustainability of your relationships. Metamours help you bring in and celebrate the love surrounding you. They are echoes who fuel your own song. They become your allies in cultivating strong bonds and sturdy foundations with your partner(s), and for better or worse, they are part of the path of non-monogamy. So why not offer them a hand to hold as you walk forward, together, on this path of inclusion?

written by Callie Little & Margaret Jacobsen

Margaret Jacobsen