Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Today's post introduces an eight post series on the spectrum of parallel and kitchen table polyamory. There are wonderful, healthy examples, and horrible, abusive examples at pretty much every level of both.
Kitchen Table polyamory is defined differently by different people, but the most popular definitions are “the entire network gets along well enough that they could sit down at the kitchen table together” or “the network operates like a family and lives around the same kitchen table” - it’s being expected to have a close-friend, sibling-like relationship with your metas. My definition of Kitchen Table Polyamory is “A style of polyamorous relationship in which the interrelationship of a network, and the integration of multiple romantic relationships into one life or group, is prioritized. Close relationships between metamours and/or telemours are strongly encouraged or required.”
Parallel Polyamory is also defined in a variety of ways; my definition is “A style of polyamorous relationship in which each individual relationship exists largely independent of either partner’s additional romantic or sexual relationships, and in which there is not an intentional focus on entwining the relationship network. There may be close relationships between some metamours or telemours, but there is no requirement for this and there may be low or no contact between some members of the larger relationship network.”
Both of those sound pretty complicated. They sort of are. These are umbrella terms that cover a lot of relationships, that people use very differently from one another. Coming into conversations about “how someone does polyamory,” hearing one of these phrases might mean they see it just like I do, and it might not mean that at all. I’m going to try to address what people often versus sometimes mean, and questions to ask to clarify that you and a new or potential partner mean the same thing as one another, today.
A lot of forums and poly resources hold up kitchen table poly as the healthy way to do poly, by leaning hard on the word family and by presenting it as in opposition to Don't Ask Don't Tell relationships, without considering the rich variety of middle ground that most relationships necessarily fall in. Since I think the greatest strength of polyamory is being able to design your relationships to best serve you and the people you relate to, taking a little time to decide which features of kitchen table poly appeal to you and have those conversations with the people you're with openly will only help - so long as you're clear on the actual behaviors you mean.
My personal opinion is that parallel poly is choose your own adventure and kitchen table poly is choose your own adventure -in committee. But, I acknowledge that this is an oversimplification. Over the course of this series, we're going to examine varieties of polyamorous relationships along a spectrum, and I hope demonstrate the rich array of options available to poly people.
Kitchen Table to Parallel Polyamory Spectrum Series
Part 2: Extreme Kitchen Table
Part 3: Kitchen Table “With Extras”
Part 6: Mildly Parallel Relationships
Part 7: Strictly Parallel Relationships
Part 8: Extreme Parallel and Don't Ask, Don't Tell