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Kitchen Table to Parallel Polyamory, Part 6: Mildly Parallel Relationships

Rather than focusing on a polycule, today, we’re going to focus on how a pair of dyad relationships, each involving one common person, work. That is, we’re going to look at a V unit of three people; two metamours and their hinge partner; but we’re looking at a V in a narrow font versus a V in a wide font today. The latter is the next section in the series.

Just a small note - V or vee is also a term for a shape of relationship in general that doesn’t include a definition of parallel or kitchen table in it; I lived in a V relationship for a few years and that’s definitely kitchen table - we’re using it as a visual example for these last three sections but in general the term does not include an indication of how entwined a relationship is in its definition.

I’m using the narrowness of a particular V to indicate the level of interactions of those metamours. This could be because of the preferences of one, or both, of those partners on the end of line, or because of the hinge partner between them. Like all relationships, the one between metamours is a matter of discovering the space between everyone’s boundaries; the venn diagram where everyone is comfortable is ideally where the relationship lands. Sometimes, in polyamory, the hinge partner’s hopes for a specific relationship between their partners create expectations that cause tension between metamours or between the hinge and a partner whose boundaries don’t line up with those expectations. Today, we’re going to talk about a situation where the relationships aren’t as intertwined as they would be in a kitchen table situation, but still the metamours have some relationship.

Questions to ask yourself, to figure out what your boundaries are regarding your metamours and your interactions with them:

  • What information are you okay with your partner sharing with their other partners about you?

  • How often are you comfortable interacting with your metamour? Does it depend on what the level of intimacy of the interaction is?

  • Do you mind interacting one on one with your meta for short periods of time?

  • Do you feel comfortable interacting in small groups (a three to six person dinner or outing, for example) with your metamour?

  • Do you feel comfortable interacting in larger groups (celebrations, parties) with your meta?

Your answers and theirs will indicate where on a spectrum of parallel relationship interactions you fall; and whether you honor each other’s preferences in finding a place to land for that relationship will dictate how healthy that relationship will be.

A lot of people who I would classify as in these narrow parallel relationships are the people who, if asked, would give an answer like “oh, I don’t really like defining it as kitchen table or parallel, I don’t mind seeing my metas but we’re not all moving in together in the future or anything.” These are the “party friend” metamours - you can tell a story about them using “my friend” as a fill-in for their name, you have a nice time when you talk to them, but they aren’t who you call in a crisis, unless the crisis is of the hinge partner and you need them as an emergency contact.

The upside of this scenario is that, because you interact pretty regularly, if not as much as a kitchen table group’s metas would, you “humanize” all your metamours. There’s no awkwardness or fear because you either build them up in your head into someone “better” (more sociable, more accomplished, prettier, etc) than they are because of your own insecurity, nor fears that they’re a negative impact or influence on your partner because you never see them and only get the “hey I need to vent do you have a minute for that” updates. You get to know their base character and have a sense of them; you’re at least friendly, if not friends.

The downside is when people’s boundaries don’t line up at the same point on this spectrum, because it’s a fuzzy part of it - being glad to see someone at a party every couple of months, more often for a series of events once a year (like the bunch of fall and winter holidays and their attendant parties that can mean seeing each other biweekly Halloween to New Years; or both taking part in a project or activity the hinge is involved in, like a monthly d&d game) is very different than being comfortable in small groups often; on double dates or both being +1s at the same wedding, as well as some of those big social situations - but I would argue that both fall into this same category.

The other big possible downside is if the hinge partner wants the metamours to have a specific, closer relationship that they don’t want. At this level of entanglement, that usually presents as a hinge who wants a kitchen table relationship and didn’t express that to his partners beforehand. That adds a lot of tension and pressure on the partners to not disappoint the hinge.

In the next part, we’re going to discuss more concrete examples of these situations, as well as further-separated parallel relationships.

Kitchen Table to Parallel Polyamory Spectrum Series

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