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Types of Polyamory: Metamour Arrangements

by | Nov 8, 2023 | LGBTQ, RELATIONSHIPS, SEXUALITY, Uncategorized

three people who are exploring Types of Polyamory

Let’s say you have discovered or are thinking about exploring polyamory, a type of relationship style that involves multiple people. You are creating boundaries, but now it’s time to figure out how involved you want to be with your metamour(s), which is a process is called metamour arrangements. This article will explore different types of polyamorous metamour arrangements, tips on figuring out if an arrangement that works for you, and guidance on how to meet your metamour for the first time..


What is a Metamour Arrangement?


In polyamory, a metamour is your partner’s partner or someone who shares a relationship with the same person as you. The word metamour is the combination of the words “met” (a Greek prefix meaning “with”) and “amour” (a Latin word “amor” meaning “love”); together this means  “lover of the spouse” or “secondary partner”. The shared partner is called the “hinge” as they connect you and your metamour.


In a polyamorous relationship, there are many ways in which you may interact with your metamour and primary partner. Each relationship works differently and has different values on the importance of these connections. The process of deciding on how much interaction one has with their metamour is called a “metamour arrangement”. These arrangements specify the boundaries and interactions between all people involved. 


What you will learn is that there is no one way to be a metamour. In some types of polyamorous relationships/metamour arrangements, individuals might be the best of friends, only see each other on special occasions (holidays or birthdays), or may be strangers. One’s attitude toward metamours can range on a spectrum from feeling it has many benefits to feeling it has many challenges. One challenge could be your hinge not being able to manage new relationship energy (NRE) within their secondary relationships. 


Different Types of Polyamorous Metamour Arrangements


There are many types of successful polyamorous metamour arrangements. The ones explored in this article are: lap-sitting polyamory, kitchen table polyamory, garden party polyamory, and parallel polyamory. These arrangements are customizable and dependent on the boundaries and needs of each unique relationship. You are free to create a chosen family that is right for you. 


Kitchen Table Polyamory  


Kitchen table polyamory is the idea that everyone in the group could sit down at a kitchen table and share a meal together. In this type of metamour arrangement, these individuals are not romantically or sexually involved, but there is a baseline of friendship, communication and mutual respect.


Lap-Sitting Polyamory


Lap-sitting polyamory has all aspects of kitchen table polyamory but these connections are very close. Often these metamours engage with each other as close friends, romantically, sexually, or cohabitate. All of the people linked through romantic and/or sexual relationships, to one or more members of a polyamorous group are in a polycule.


Garden Party Polyamory


Garden party polyamory or “birthday party polyamory” is when members of the group do not have close relationships with one another, but metamours interact on special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, or special life events.  


Parallel Polyamory


Parallel polyamory is when metamours do not interact at all. In this type of metamour arrangement, all partners are aware of the multiple romantic relationships but they have no desire to meet or hear about one another. For example, individuals who find it difficult to experience compersion for their partners’ experiences may prefer this type of polyamorous metamour arrangement. 

Figuring Out What Type of Metamour Arrangement is Right For You

Now that you know the different types of polyamorous metamour arrangements, how do you decide what metamour arrangement is right for you? One of the best ways is to take some time to personally reflect. Martha Kauppi Licensed marriage and family therapist,  AASECT-certified sex therapist, and author of Polyamory: A Clinical Toolkit for Therapists (and Their Clients), shares some questions to consider when reflecting on what type of polyamorous metamour arrangement is right for you: 

  • What type of depth are you wanting ( emotional closeness, physical and/ or sexual closeness/ activity)?
  • What are your safety concerns or fears around shared resources? 
  • Are there any special activities or traditions that you want to do with just your partner? Why are they special to you?
  • How do you imagine handling differences of opinion when it comes to various life activities?

It’s important to note that polyamorous metamour arrangements are not static and can change over time. For example, you may start as a parallel polyamory style but as you become more confident in polyamory you may change to a kitchen table style. 

Now that you know what type of polyamorous metamour arrangement is right for you may be thinking, “what happens next?” Well, that is all dependent on you. There are many ways to go about what you decide to do next.


Meeting a Metamour


Simply put, whether or not to meet your metamour it is a personal choice. But for the sake of conversation, let’s say you decided to meet your partner’s partner. You are stressed and nervous about meeting them for the first time. Many thoughts are running through your mind and all the books, meditation, and yoga in the world has not prepared you for this moment. Breathe! This is a totally normal experience. Many people grow up in a monogamous relationship centric society that does not model how to function in relationship this way.


We have been taught that love is a competition, to protect it, and live in fear that love will be taken away. Even if we are following what is true in our soul, which is the ability and wanting to love more than one person, it does not mean that we are not impacted by societal messaging about relationships. 


Some things that can make this process hard is sometimes you can be connected to a hinge who is already established in a long-term preexisting relationship or has a spouse. When entering these dynamics, it is hard because we also did not get to decide who we are connected to, but they did not as well. Sometimes if you are entering into an already established dynamic, you may feel a lot of pressure to be perfect or be afraid if the other person does not like you. You may feel that your opinion does not matter because you are entering the dynamic at a different time, which is a common feeling.


Though individuals are practicing polyamory,  some may practice in what’s called hierarchical polyamory. According to Flicker et al. (2021), in a hierarchical polyamorous relationship configuration, people tend to prioritize one or multiple partners (designated as primary) over others (often designated secondary or tertiary). Traditional polyamory typically does not endorse hierarchical relationship configurations. Regardless of the connection type, there should always be a foundation of communication, mutual respect, and prioritization of each connection.


So, back to you meeting your metamour, which can happen in multiple ways. Some prefer to meet their metamour with their hinge present, not present, or some may have specific places they prefer to meet. Below is a list of suggestions on meeting your metamour for the first time.


Discussing what you want beforehand


Before deciding to meet your metamour discuss what your intentions are in wanting to get to know them. Do you want to be friends? Do you want to eventually be able to live together? How close or involved do you want them to be in your life? These are important questions to ask yourself beforehand to get clear about your intentions for meeting them.


After the meeting, go back to these questions and see what has come up for you. Thinking about what kind of metamour arrangement may also guide what you desire from the connection. For instance, someone who wants a more garden party metamour arrangement might have different expectations than someone who wants a kitchen table dynamic.


Decide where to meet


Try to meet your metamour in a safe, neutral place. A place that is not connected to your intimate relationships or someone’s home in the dynamic. This is recommended because you do not want to meet someone where there is an emotional connection, for instance a place you had an anniversary with a partner. This may elicit stressful emotions because of the connection you might have to the setting. You might ask, “why not the home of someone in the dynamic?” Well, similar to the reason above, also because of power dynamics. This is why a safe neutral place is always recommended.


Meeting your metamour with or without your hinge


Meeting a metamour with or without your hinge is also a personal choice. Some feel meeting their metamour without their hinge would allow for the metamours to have their own connection outside of being connected to the same partner. It could be hard in the first meeting to see displays of affection from your hinge and your metamour. Also, some may fall into comparing their connection with their hinge and their metamour. Some feel that ripping the bandage from the start could stop the delay of inevitable feelings around seeing your hinge and your metamour interact.


Will Jealousy Surface?


There is a possibility that you will experience feelings of jealousy. It is normal to be jealous and supportive at the same time. Being jealous is a human experience, but how someone acts on jealousy is their responsibility. When jealousy arises, become aware of it and assess what is the root cause of that jealousy. What are you afraid of? Being replaced? Comparing yourself? Is a sense of competitiveness arising? Take a moment to assess where this is coming from and use it as an opportunity to grow. Try not be hard on yourself, take little steps, and have a sense of compassion for yourself.


Getting along with a metamour


Getting along is another concern that many express when thinking about meeting their metamour. This can also be distressing because many do want to have a great experience. Some people worry if they do not have a stellar first meeting then it will jeopardize the whole dynamic. Try to take the pressure off, be present in the moment, and allow things to unfold naturally. 


It is important to acknowledge that there is no guarantee that you and your metamour will get along. There may be personality differences, unexpressed feelings, and other relational conflicts that may get in the way of you and your metamour connecting. The best thing to do in these situations is to express what you are feeling and what is interfering with connecting. Polyamory is all about authenticity and communication. When things are not acknowledged and left unsaid, it creates more issues down the line. When we take responsibility and express our inner experience it can be connective for everyone.  


Check in with your partner


After you meet up with your metamour make intentional time to discuss the interaction whether if your partner was there or not. Setting this time will allow you to recap your experience intentionally. It can be risky to just let it come up in a random conversation, so it can be helpful to set the time and speak about the topic and go from there. If things went well, you might make those interactions a regular activity over time. This will help with getting over the discomfort and build tolerance which allows for growth to happen. 


Hopefully this article has allowed you to have a better understanding about the different types of polyamorous metamour arrangements and deciding if you want to open the door to meeting your metamour. There is even much more to explore within the world of polyamory such as relationship anarchy, solo polyamory, mono poly relationships, and much more!

 If you are someone who identifies as polyamorous or are not sure if polyamory is right for you or don’t feel equipped with the skills to explore, a therapist with experience in polyamory can help you navigate these topics and more.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Emily Martinez, AMFT (she/they) is a clinical associate at Modern Intimacy who works with individuals, couples, and families around myriad mental health and sexuality issues/goals. Emily specializes in working with clients of all backgrounds, especially those who identify within diverse sexual orientation, relationship dynamic, and gender identity backgrounds.



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