I’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship for over three years. Last year, one of my partners and I broke up in dramatic fashion. I partially blame my primary partner for this, because although he said he was okay being in a non-monogamous relationship, he refused to acknowledge or meet my other partner for the entire year we dated.
Now, my primary partner has a new partner who he’s growing close to. I’m trying to be encouraging of the relationship — I’ve even met my metamour [a term referring to your partner’s partner] and I’m trying to be chill about scheduling mix-ups, my metamour’s integration into my partner’s friend group, weekend trips, etc.
But I can’t stop myself from just really, really resenting my primary partner. The closer he gets to my metamour, the more detached from the relationship I feel. My primary partner has been super loving to me through this, and it feels really nice to receive that care, but I just feel entirely resentful of my metamour and the relative ease with which he’s entered our lives, and this resentment is really damaging my relationship.
What’s going on?! How do I preserve my connection with my partner without sabotaging his other relationships?
I Can’t Take it Metamour
Dear Can’t Take It,
Pretty much no matter how you slice ‘em, non-monogamous relationships are flippin’ hard work. That you’re able to maintain your commitment to your values as an accommodating partner within a non-monogamous structure is admirable, especially since you’re also simultaneously in the throes of growing resentments.
Two things here are true that are also hard to swallow: 1. When it comes to all relationships, and especially in non-monogamous relationships, equality doesn’t necessarily result in “fairness” and 2. Being “chill” will only take you so far before inner emotional realties heat up and boil over.
First, when it comes to non-monogamy, one set of expectations or agreements doesn’t fit all. For example, if my desire in an open relationship is to have spontaneous one-night stands with beautiful strangers, but my partner’s sexual style is based on ongoing romantic connection, to make our universal rule “One-night stands only!” really only suits one of us. To try to make agreements fit across the board for all partners easily results in struggle, imbalance, and resentment.
If your beliefs around non-monogamy, Can’t Take It, include welcoming all metamours into the fold with open (well, at least friendly) arms, that’s wonderful (and honestly, will likely make things easier). But if your partner isn’t prepared to meet your other partners, that’s not something you can force.
Can you have disappointed feelings about that? Of course. Can you request that your partner address his deeper feelings that are creating such a strong, year-long barrier between him and your other (former) partner? You sure can. But this doesn’t mean these requests will be met right away, easily, or without some effort from you.
Secondly, addressing building resentments with “chillness” is like trying to patch a flat tire with a piece of gum — that shit is not even going to work, so let’s not crank up the Britney and turn on our left blinker like we are about to merge back onto the healthy relationship highway with that thing, because you are not.
Refusal to meet a metamour often points to an inherent discomfort with what’s going on in the relationship as a whole, and perhaps some foundational work between primaries is in order. I’m not saying that all discomfort at interacting with metamours is negative because this process can be challenging and take time. However, a year-long metamour boycott complete with dramatic breakup doesn’t scream “EVERYTHING’S FINE HERE!” (or maybe it does, but only in that wide-eyed, totally unconvincing way).
Similarly, to sabotage a metamour’s relationship with your partner is perhaps effective at cutting out the trigger of all these resentful feelings, but it’s not going to address the larger issues at hand that will just continue to emerge in various ways. Preserving your connection to your primary partner needs to start exactly there: with your primary partner. Reduce the hyperfocus on your metamour and let your primary know directly how you’re feeling. Because no number of scheduling chillness will save a relationship from the rot of unaddressed resentment.
Readers can find me and other non-monogamy-friendly therapists across the country on polyfriendly.org.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.