What is Lap-Sitting Polyamory?
Lap-sitting polyamory is the form of polyamory that this blog previously called "kitchen table polyamory with extras" - it's about polycules with extremely close metamour relationships, where metas may be close friends, occasionally romantically or sexually involved, or build platonic but closely logistically entwined connections like cohabiting. I had never heard this term at all until the Multiamory Podcast used it in their episode 322 "from the Kitchen Table to the Parallel Universe" - and since then I've heard it online a few times and "in the wild" once so it does seem to be gaining traction. I don't live in a big city, so terms definitely "trickle down" into my area's open use a little slower than online or in a place with a bigger critical mass of polyamorous people like NYC or Portland. That said, I know a fair number of people who if they chose to, could use this term to describe either their whole polycule, or a significant wing of their polycule.
As we discussed in that previous post, it's important to state up front if possible what our expectations and hopes are for romantic and metamour connections so that folks come in with open eyes. If one person's expectation is "occasional dinners and social gatherings" and another is "sexual access to the whole polycule is implied," it's going to be a bad time when those run up against one another. Lap-sitting polyamory is in some ways a flexible term, just as kitchen table is - you always get to negotiate what it means to you, it just implies a greater level of closeness. For some folks that closeness is platonic intimacy; metas hanging out, maybe going shopping or to the gym together or figuring out being roommates over time (I have a friend who moved in with her meta when it became apparent the pandemic wasn't a two week lockdown and they both were living alone at the time, and it made them both a lot happier to have each other around; this would be unthinkable in a parallel situation and is closer than many kitchen table situations even but isn't sexual or romantic). For others, it's explicitly sexual at times; some folks in the polycule are into more casual sexual connection and it's encouraged to play within the network. For still others, it's romantic - building triads and quads within the existing network feels like it supports a community or family feeling for them. Any of these options are legitimate, any are lap-sitting polyamory if you want to label them that way.
But what if we do this and just call it Kitchen Table? Honestly? That seems fine. I think most polyamorous people view kitchen table and parallel as bigger umbrellas and some of these other labels as smaller categories within them - and much more important than what label you use is that folks within the dynamic consent to it and are not coerced to participate.
What do you mean coerced to participate? I mean, that while it is perfectly legitimate to lay your expectations out early and say "this is the kind of relationship I want and if you're not here for it, we aren't compatible," it's not ok to manipulate and bait and switch and say "oh I've so been enjoying getting to know you but we can't continue unless you do XYZ activities you'd previously said you were uncomfortable with and I said were optional." If they were optional, they are optional. If they are not, break up. Don't string people along, pressure them, suggest they aren't good at polyamory because they don't do it the same way you do. It is always an option to have some parallel or less-entwined relationships connected to a highly-entwined portion of a network, if you're comfortable with that. Only your own preferences, history, and needs of your existing polycule can determine what you're willing to do.
So lap-sitting polyamory can combine with other types? Yes. Some people would say that a polycule with a bit of everything, if it gets big enough and has enough parallel or near-parallel connections in it, becomes garden party if you're looking at the whole ecosystem. But I think it's valuable to be able to say "I have a lap-sitting dynamic if you look at it from me outward - all 5 partners connected to me and half those people's partners are in a comfortable lap-sitting, occasional kissing at parties, coffees and beers on their own without the hinge kind of dynamic. There are also a couple parallel relationships out from my partners at those people's request and preference and I respect that, but it isn't my preference and the whole polycule looks more garden-party because even those parallel people turn up for birthdays, Halloween and New Years." It's evocative of the actual relationships you're getting connected to.
Likewise something like "well I nest in a quad, so that's very much a lap-sitting dynamic even though Mark and John aren't romantic with each other, all the other connections within the quad are; and we're all open to outside connections getting as involved with any and all of us as they'd like or just with one of us, depending how it evolves" leaves room for a polycule where Mark, Amy, John, and Kim live together, Kim starts seeing someone new, Dave, who is already connected to an entwined polycule and doesn't really want to fully entangle with their quad, and now Dave and Kim are the parallel bridge between two entwined units. Your different relationships can have different dynamics, this is one of the beautiful things about polyamory.
So, is lap-sitting polyamory possible? Absolutely. Is it, and its kitchen table plus some provisos, hard to maintain? Only as much as any other polyam relationship structure. I'd say the goal should always be openness to change and seeking ongoing consent from one another, as very few things in life stay the same forever. Is lap-sitting polyamory a term folks you know use, or are most still calling it kitchen table and clarifying what they mean?