Metamour: How To Manage This Non-Monogamous Addition To Your Life

Although all types of relationships have always existed — just look at the fun they had in ancient Rome — it's only been fairly recently that people have started to openly embrace other ways to have a partner. In fact, according to a 2020 survey by YouGov, 23% of U.S. adults are in non-monogamous relationships and 32% indicated that their ideal relationship would be non-monogamous. Yes, we're living in a time of free love and poly wonder, and it's beautiful.

But being in non-monogamous relationships isn't without its problems. Like any relationship, there are ups and downs, and complications that arise. While some monogamous people may think that non-monogamy is a free-for-all without rules, that couldn't be more wrong. If anything, ethical non-monogamy (ENM) requires more rules and boundaries than monogamous relationships, and because of this, these relationships put communication front and center. If you're in a non-monogamous relationship, eventually you may be faced with a metamour.

A metamour is your partner's partner. This is someone with whom you basically share your partner, although you're still in the one primary relationship. While some people may have mastered the art of managing a metamour, for those who haven't, listen up. You agreed to open up your relationship, so you knew that at some point this was coming. Now lean into the compersion and enjoy the ride.

Communicate with your partner

If you're in an ENM relationship, then you probably already communicate more than people in monogamous relationships — good for you! But once a metamour enters the scene, there will be a need for even more communication, especially if this is your first metamour. 

It's completely normal to have conflicting feelings about your metamour and be unsure as to how to navigate your relationship with them — if you choose to have one — so talk to your partner about it. Tell them your concerns, your fears, and how you're being affected by this new addition to your life. You have every right to have very strong feelings about the situation even though you agreed to have a non-monogamous relationship, so don't keep those feelings and thoughts to yourself. Like anything, when you don't express what's going on in the inside, you become a boiling pot that's eventually going to overflow. For the sake of your mental health and the health of your relationship, don't be that pot. Let it all out early on so as to avoid feelings of resentment and complications further down the road. 

Decide if you want to meet your metamour

Again, your metamour is your partner's partner. That being said, you're not under any obligation to meet them, ever. For some people, meeting their metamour is a good thing because it takes the mystery out of the equation. You no longer have to wonder if your metamour is better looking, more interesting, or can make your partner laugh in ways that you can't. In meeting them, you can remove the shroud and see that this person is just that: a person. It just happens to be a person who's having a relationship with your partner.

For others, being kept in the dark about one's metamour is best for them. Although you know they're there, you don't feel it necessary to cozy up to them and become best friends. As long as your partner is happy and both you and your metamour care for your partner, sometimes that's all one needs to know.

Discuss boundaries

When it comes to ENM, boundaries are a must. If you talk to anyone who's in an open relationship, they'll tell you that they and their partner have a list of rules that they both agree to stick to. For example, some partners decide what parts of town they'll visit on their dates so as to not run into each other, while other partners will have a rule that sex with a metamour can never be had at the house and must be had elsewhere. These boundaries exist not only out of respect for everyone involved, but because it keeps things in line so there's a feeling of safety and understanding from all parties. 

If your boundaries were fairly loose before, but now the relationship with the metamour is becoming more serious, then you may want to revisit your previous boundaries and see if they still fit the situation. Boundaries don't have to be set in stone and should be changed to cater to specific scenarios. So don't think what boundaries you initially set when you opened up your relationship were a done deal. You can always go back to the drawing board and tweak things. 

Examine what compersion looks like to you

By's definition, "compersion" means "a positive feeling that comes when knowing that a partner has been sexual or intimate with somebody else." It doesn't mean that you're not jealous or not battling your own insecurities about your relationship and/or your metamour. As humans, we're capable of feeling a lot of things at once. You can feel jealousy right alongside feeling the true happiness that comes with knowing your partner is happy with your metamour. 

"It's super normal to struggle with feeling compersion because we grow up in and are programmed by a mononormative society that takes a lot of effort and energy to unlearn," sex and relationships expert Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT tells Women's Health. "It's hard to feel happy for someone when our old fight, flight, or fawn system is activated."

In recognizing what compersion looks like to you and how it feels in your day-to-day life, you'll be more likely to manage your feelings about your metamour. Not everyone can go into an open relationship free of jealousy. So just remind yourself that everything you're feeling is valid and you can still practice compersion no matter what other emotions come along with it. 

Don't put your needs on the back burner

If you start to realize that your physical and emotional needs aren't being met by your partner because they're spending too much time with your metamour, it's time to speak up. One of the most difficult aspects of non-monogamous relationships is time management. When you have more than one partner it can be a struggle to spend time with everyone equally. 

But in an ENM, you're the primary partner. It was you and your partner who decided to open your relationship up to others, so you have a say in what you need from your partner. Of course, this doesn't mean your metamour should get shafted on time spent with your partner, but it does mean that if you feel like you're being neglected in any way, you have every right to say something and you absolutely should. What you need and want from your relationship doesn't change just because you have a metamour now.

Get support

As much as having a metamour can be a great thing for your partner and even a great thing for you if you decide to welcome your metamour into your life, it doesn't mean it's going to be easy. In some cases, you may struggle with jealousy or, if you don't care for your partner's metamour, you can keep yourself up at night wondering how your partner could be smitten with someone like them and also be smitten with you. In general, metamours can bring up a lot of feelings and thoughts. Don't ignore these thoughts and don't try to go it alone. 

To reconcile these things, seriously consider joining poly or ENM groups so you get the support you need from people who have either been there or are currently in the same situation as you. Also, read books by people who have been in your shoes or relationship experts who can explain why you're feeling and thinking as you are. A therapist who specializes in ENM relationships is also a great resource.

Although there's a lot of beauty and love that can come from your non-monogamous relationship and your metamour, it doesn't mean it will always be smooth sailing. Learning to understand your feelings is the first step in being able to manage your metamour. The second step is expressing those feelings to your partner.