When talking about parallel polyamory, books and theories often present it in strict opposition to kitchen table polyamory, so they’re talking about the most extreme models of this kind of relationship. There’s a lot of options available before you hit the extremes of very siloed spoke relationships and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, where a hinge partner is running interference between metamours who don’t want to know about one another beyond (vaguely) that other partner(s) exist or might exist.
Parallel polyamory can mean a lot of other things. It can mean being more comfortable in only large group “party friend” settings a couple times a year for the hinge partner’s birthday or a big benchmark event for the hinge (I had an ex have a major performance in his career, for example, where all the partners attended, even ones who didn’t otherwise interact with one another, and we were all in a front section). Or it can mean having each others’ numbers as emergency contact info in case of a problem but not using them because there isn’t a hinge based emergency and deleting them at the end of that relationship. Or: meeting up a couple times to see how it will go and deciding to be parallel, or a fluctuating level of contact over several years because of changes in the dyads involved or the overall polycule. Or a thousand other things, based on the boundaries of the folks involved.
Laura, those are each complicated in and of themselves, you might be saying. Well, life is complicated sometimes. Aren’t each of your friendships and acquaintances a little different from each other? And don’t some of them change over time based on how much energy each of you have and where your lives are? The same is true of relationships with your metamours. Metamours are just aquaintances who may become friends (or partners if you’re compatible and interested that way, but no requirement for anything past acquaintances) who you meet through your partner(s). If your partner happens to like people who are of a similar social circle, maybe you all become friends immediately. But if you don’t, sometimes this means you decide that a generally day-to-day parallel mode, where there’s no expectation of direct communication between metamours, is what you’d like to go with. You’re perfectly nice to one another when you see each other in person - there’s no hostility there - everyone is civil or better; but there’s no ongoing maintenance required between running into one another.
I’m going to be teaching at Tethered to Wifi 2.0, a virtual conference on rope, movement, & relationships, March 19-21! It looks like I’ll be teaching Saturday morning, but the final schedule is still TBD. Tickets for the weekend are $25 for the rest of February and are available at tetheredtogether.net; There are a lot of great presenters, check it out.