Ask Polly – Over to You – What do you do if you really can’t stand a metamour?

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Cats packing their bags

During July and August, we’ll be crowdsourcing answers to oft-asked poly-related questions via Polytical’s facebook and twitter. Polly will return as usual in September – so please do continue sending her questions! Today’s column is brought to you with grateful thanks to Polly’s Facebook friends, and you can follow Polytical to join in the conversation – we’d love to hear from you!

What do you do if you really can’t stand a metamour? (a partner’s
other partner)

“That depends. How much time do you spend around them? How close are you and your partner (are you dating casually, have you been together a while, are you in a serious capital-R Relationship, what)? Why do you dislike them? Is it partly or wholly a jealousy thing? (‘Cause that’s okay as long as you’re self-aware; you should probably talk to someone about it, though, whether that is your partner or a different person who you think will help.) Is it because you think they treat your partner-in-common badly? Because if it is I would speak up – although again, who you speak up to would depend on the situation. Or do you just not like them as a person? ‘Cause that’s okay too! But depending on how serious your relationship with your partner is, how serious their relationship with your partner is, and what that means for how you two interact, it’s trickier to solve. Sometimes people just don’t get on.”


“Well, what if you can’t stand a co-worker? Or an in-law? You have to work under the assumption that you have to get along and make it as pleasant as possible.”


“Have a rocky and emotionally problematic relationship for years and then break up in order to not have the metamour be your metamour? (I’m being snarky) – I guess it depends on why you don’t like them, doesn’t it?”


“I’ve had to deal with this in the past: I could see that my partner was in a relationship that really wasn’t good for her, but she wasn’t ready to see that. I just had to be respectful, give them space, but be honest and gently explain why this might not be the best idea – and most of all, how that was hurting me. It took a while, but she came around eventually. If it’s more of a case of their relationship is fine and you’re just irritated by this person I think you just have to be honest with your partner about it and let them know that you’d rather not spend time with them when they’re with their partner.”


“I had a metamour I couldn’t stand – her approach to relationships was that her partners never met each other, and she wasn’t comfortable sharing a social space with me. I prefer for everyone to meet and get to know each other if possible as I think it makes problem solving easier and I love to spend time with more than one partner at once. Unfortunately we both met our boyfriend in the same social space, so some negotiation over who went to what social events pretty much had to happen. My default approach would have been for everyone to go to the things they wanted to, but she didn’t want to be at any of the same things I was at. She also found it quite rude of me to try to negotiate directly with her rather than via our partner, as she saw me as not being part of her life, and for me to talk to her about what events she and I both wanted to go to felt very intrusive for her. It didn’t help that I am a blunt, direct kind of person, and capable of saying what I want, whereas she finds that kind of communication difficult both to give and receive. It was an absolute nightmare and not helped by the fact that our partner didn’t feel able to mediate or help us in any way as he feared being accused of “taking sides”. This of course meant that he didn’t get what he wanted either! In the end my relationship broke down with him for other reasons and I didn’t have to deal with her again, but it is taking me longer to recover from that bad relationship with a metamour than it is taking to recover from that breakup!”


“I think I displaced a lot of things I couldn’t stand about my partner onto his other partner. It was too hard to admit to myself the kind of person I was dating, so I didn’t: rather than seeing him as inconsiderate, I decided she was unreasonably demanding; rather than seeing him as manipulative, I decided she was bad at communication, and so on.
In retrospect, even though he seemed to want us to be friends and seemed to hate hearing me complain about her, he also constantly used her as an excuse for his behaviour. I’m sure there are much more benign examples of disliking a metamour, but I think that if I ever get into poly again, I would see ‘an intense dislike and resentment of a metamour’ as a huge red flag, and I’d like to think that in the future I would take several steps back and give very, very serious thought to what exactly was going on.
I also found, over and over again with other partners-of-this-partner, that while our relationship remained strong and intact, that I felt that he was treating them badly and they all seemed to emerge very hurt by the experience of dating him. I’d like to think that that would also be a huge red flag to me. It took me three years after breaking up with him to finally apologise to her and to fully centre my resentment where it belonged.”


“With minor metamour problems, I remind myself that my partner has good taste and so this other person must be lovely, or they wouldn’t be my metamour! It helps me to give them the benefit of the doubt.”


“I think there are a lot of theoretical answers to this that stress getting along, that people are different people, and so on. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of them, but because I think there’ll be lots of those answers, I want to stress something else. Generally, I’m not dating somebody unless I think they’re wise, mature, have good values about relationships, are generally people I’d trust to give me important life advice, and so on: I date the kind of person whose instincts I want to listen to. So, if someone I’m dating doesn’t like someone else I’m considering dating, experience has shown me that they’ve almost always had a really good reason that I should have paid more attention to.
That experience would have been very different if I’d dated more people who’d tried to control me; in that case, I don’t think I’d want to automatically put faith in a partner’s professed instincts. Fortunately for me I’ve mostly avoided those relationships so far.”


Liked this piece? Why not check out the previous Ask Polly column?

About Polly

Polly has scarlet hair, big green glasses and is made almost entirely of cats. She likes swimming with sharks (they like it too), extreme haberdashery and surreptitiously electronic-tagging journalists. Polly has a not-so-secret alter ego as one of Polytical’s regular contributors. Her secret will probably come out sooner or later.

One Response to Ask Polly – Over to You – What do you do if you really can’t stand a metamour?

  1. Well for me, we have a clearly defined veto within our primary relationship. That is if my wife dislikes a new partner she can say ‘no sorry’ and vice-versa. It has been used, and it was painful, but IMHO not as painful as trying to continue with a family that is divided. Obviously that works for us, but won’t for others in other situations.

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