What’s the best way to introduce new partners to your primary partner (who is not used to hanging out with metamours)?
First, I want to point out that not all NM configurations exhibit negotiations that are flexible and inclusive enough as to allow (or warrant) all partners and metamours getting to know one another. If your primary partner has always maintained that they have no interest in meeting the outside folks you indulge in - and you agreed to that boundary at the onset of your relationship - then trying to turn everyone into a big happy family down the road may very well prove fruitless, and you can’t very well blame your partner for that! Likewise, sometimes couples enjoy the idea of creating a trusted, interactive community of partners and metamours, only to find it too uncomfortable and time-consuming once they attempt to practice it. That too is just fine!
I myself, however, have always thrived within a family style of polyamory. I require all of my partners to get to know one another on a base level so that - at the MINIMUM - they’re comfortable sharing space with each other, as well as potentially working together should some emergency befall me and I need multiple partners’ assistance. I practice non-hierachal polyamory; when I plan vacations, accept wedding invitations, or decide who to “bring home for the holidays”, it’s always felt exclusionary and unjust to be forced to demonstrate a single prioritization within my circle. Now everyone gets invited - even if finances or scheduling prevent some from attending - and we’re all much happier for it.
That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of my partners leap into the air and click their heels when I onboard someone new, and I don’t expect them to immediately show profound interest in the well-being of the other folks I’m fucking. It takes slow, intentional time - accompanied by clear communication and a ton of reassurance - to build up familiarity and trust between your loved ones.
I treat the introduction of my preexisting partners to potential new partners like an intricate dance. It’s something that I put a lot of consideration and strategy into, and largely my partners have appreciated it. As such, I offer some “Dos & Don’ts” to help you facilitate introductions as painlessly as possible:
- DON’T surprise your partner with a name they’ve never heard before. If my primary all of a sudden saw a Google Calendar invitation to “Poly dinner with Jess” on Friday night, it better not be the first time I’ve brought “Jess” up! Instead, be sure that you’ve been sprinkling information about “Jess” since interest was first sparked, so that by the time your primary has opportunity to meet them, they’ve already gotten used to “Jess”’s name on your lips. Also, it should go without saying that the partner-to-partner introduction should be just as much your partners’ decision as it is yours’. It’s perfectly normal to introduce two folks who you know to be nervous and insecure to one another, as long as the decision was reached consensually. It’s an altogether different thing to drag one or more parties to dinner kicking and screaming; worse still if you know that your primary is only agreeing to the intro out of fear of losing you.
- DO watch how - and how often - you bring up a new interest with your primary before an introduction. This is sensitive business, as the last thing you want to do is unwittingly nurture your primary partner’s resentment towards a new interest. If you’ve been skipping around your house singing your new beau’s praises to your primary for weeks or months ahead of a first meeting, your primary is likely to go into the encounter feeling intimidated, inferior, and/or resentful.
When I’m starting to see someone new, I’ll first ask my partner(s) how much information they’d like to know about the person, ie. Do you want to know every time we get together? Do you want to know what we did during our time together? Do you want to know any details about physical intimacy? Etc. For the record, all of my partners’ preferences are different. My girlfriend LOVES hearing all the dirty details, my boyfriend doesn’t feel like he needs to know anything unless I’m planning on getting “serious” with the person, and my partner wants frequent updates but is sensitive to hearing about anything sensual/sexual.
Regardless, I’m always sure to present any new interest to them as - above anything else - a human being with flaws. I’m just as likely to let them know about my beau’s amazing sense of humor as I am their annoying burping habit; I withhold from placing them on any kind of pedestal, no matter how intense my internalized NRE (New Relationship Energy) is. If I want to get super swoony and boastful about my new connection, I have close friends I can call to spill ALL the dirt to!
- DON’T forget to negotiate PDA rules ahead of sharing space with multiple partners. I always make sure to check in with my longterm partners first and ask what THEIR preferences are around PDA when meeting a new beau. Typically, however, regardless of what their answer is, I tend to play it safe and reserve any PDA for my long term partner as means of reassurance during the meeting. I’ve never had a new beau protest when I explain that my partner is feeling a little sensitive about our impending meeting, and therefore I’ll be reserving all my PDA for them while we’re together so that they feel grounded and prioritized. If they DID vocalize their resistance or annoyance, I’d know immediately that it wasn’t going to work out.
- DO encourage your new interest to bring one of THEIR beaus along to the initial meeting. Let’s face it: a three person dinner is just plain awkward. To even out the power dynamics I’ll typically invite said beau to bring one of THEIR other partners out with us. This both demonstrates to my longterm partner that my new beau has other meaningful connections in their life, AND allows me to get to know someone else that my new beau cares about.
- DON’T shame your primary partner if they’re slow to warm up to new partners. You DO have the right to reprimand them for being a jerk, though! Your long term partner does not have to fall in love with your new beau right off the bat - or ever, actually! And although that sounds like an obvious statement, it’s pretty common to feel disappointed and discouraged if your partner is slow to warm up. Patience, compassion, communication, support, and continued opportunities for sharing space are your friends here. All that being said, often the only thing that truly settles our nerves around feeling threatened by our metamours is TIME. Time for the new beau to set a dependable trend of “showing up” for you, time for the new beau to continue expressing their reverence for your relationship with your primary...basically, time for the new beau to earn the trust of those already in your circle.
Exceptions: a) If your primary expresses an intense, unwavering dislike of your new beau after the initial meeting, this new connection is probably better left unpursued, and b) If your primary intentionally treats your new beau disrespectfully during the initial meeting - ignoring them, using the wrong name or pronouns in referring to them, antagonizing them, etc - then you have every right to cut the meeting short and call them out on their behavior.
- DO provide your partners with a TON of reassurance, positive reinforcement, and acknowledgement of their efforts. I can’t say enough about this. We ALL feel both energized and stabilized by the recognition and validation that comes with being shown how much we mean to our loved ones. In terms of affirmations as they relate to onboarding a new beau, I’ll be sure to carve out intentional, intimate time with my long term partners after I’ve spent a period of time with the beau. I’ll also regularly make myself available for difficult “feelings” conversations that my partners may want to have around my new beau, as well as routinely champion - with enthusiasm! - their efforts, i.e. If I invited both a long term partner and a new beau to an event I’m producing and I catch my partner initiating engaged conversation with said beau, I’ll express my pleasure and gratitude for their efforts when we’re alone later on.