What do you do when you dislike a metamour? | I'm Poly and So Can You

What do you do when you dislike a metamour? I have never disliked any of my partner’s partners until now. I don’t enjoy their company, they are newish to poly and get weird and prickly at group functions which is hard on the whole polycule - but most of all I like my partner less when they are with this person. My partner is less kind, more cutting, they even have different body language and vocabulary. Talking about the difference in personality has not helped- it just freaked my partner out. I pride myself on being an easy-going lover with good communication skills, and we’ve done the “spend more time together” thing, but it hasn’t improved over the year. Help.

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First of all, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having conflict with someone who is in your intimate circle. I’ve been there, and it can cause a lot of emotional turmoil, resentment, and feelings of destabilization. It can also trigger a loss of respect for your partner, which never bodes well within an intimate partnership.

It sounds like you typically have close relationships with your metamours in a very “family oriented” style of polyamory that resonates with my personal preference, and I want you to know - above anything else - that the labor of initiating, sustaining, and/or healing the relationship between you and a metamour is NOT yours’ to carry alone. In fact, in my opinion, the bulk of that responsibility should fall on the partner that you have in common (particularly for this type of situation, which isn’t a reaction to a specific occurence between you two, but rather a dynamic that has been a constant since your partner synced up with this person).

Both you and your metamour should remain open and receptive to utilizing multiple channels of communication in troubleshooting this incompatibility, but in the meantime, here are some things that your shared partner can - and should - do to help support and encourage a relationship between you two:

  1. Watch how you speak about your partners to one other. Typically when I’m interested in someone new, I’ll relay a succinct, well-rounded “profile” of that person to my pre existing partners. Their name, identities, poly experience, politics, what they do/how they walk in the world, etc. This way my partners feel “in the know”, while also being presented with an opportunity to speak up if something concerns them (in your circumstance, I definitely would have communicated my anxiety around this new interest being a poly amateur to my partner). It doesn’t mean you give your partners “veto power”, necessarily, but if they’re people you love and care about, their opinions around someone new should matter to you.

    If you don't already know what individual qualities your partner(s) like to see in the folks you date - ie transparency, good communication skills, a sense of humor, someone in the LGBT community, activism, etc - and WHY those things are important to them, then you better sit down and ask them STAT. 

    Also, no matter how good at compersion my people are, I’m always careful to not downplay the new interest (ie. “Eh, I don’t know about this one, they’re kind of annoying but I’m going to wait it out and see.”) OR present the new interest on a golden pedestal (ie “OH MY GOD I’m already head over heels for this person! They’re SO smart and funny and empathetic and I can’t WAIT to fuck them!”). Much of my partners’ initial emotional reaction to a new interest is going to rely just as much on HOW I roll it out to them as it does WHEN, so I try to do it authentically yet neutrally, while always providing my pre existing partner with reassurance before and after. If I’m setting them up to dislike the new person at the outset - either via wariness or jealousy - it’s going to take much more effort to undo that perception later on.

  2. If you already know that there are going to be incompatibilities between a new partner and a pre existing partner, do the labor to brainstorm ways to bridge the gap(s). Constantly encourage your partners to talk to you about the challenges they’re having, and LISTEN. Ask them what their idea of an “ideal outcome” looks like in relation to the other partner. Highlight the authentic similarities that you’ve observed between both partners to illustrate that they may indeed be able identify commonalities that resonate. Ask them what YOU can do to help facilitate a happier, healthier relationship between the two of them. Then, show up.
     

  3. Be able to gracefully receive feedback about how YOUR behavior may have changed as a result of a new interest’s influence. Believe them. In your case, reader, instead of claiming to be “freaked out” by the personality/behavior shifts you've observed and then shutting the conversation down, your partner needs to understand that acknowledging this is only a fraction of the work. Immediately follow up with, "Thank you for hearing me and for validating my observations. Now, what are you going to do about it?" And if this whole situation is impacting your entire polycule as you indicated earlier - and not just you - then understand that there is strength in numbers, and perhaps multiple members can help cultivate a group "intervention". 

  4. Personality incompatibilities between partners may not always be impactful enough to mean the severing of ties, but you know what is? If one partner doesn’t respect the relationship you have with another.

This thankfully hasn’t happened very often in my personal partnerships, but if I:

a) Catch a new partner shit-talking an existing partner,
b) Watch them unapologetically ignore or throw shade at pre existing partners in shared spaces, or
c) Experience them challenging the hierarchy of my current relationships and/or trying to coerce more time or intimacy out of of my energy reserves when I’d CLEARLY stated what I was and wasn’t available for…

...then they don’t deserve the privilege of my companionship. Period, the end.

Show your partner this list, reader, and watch closely how they respond. You’ll know what to do.