I didn't find polyamory. Polyamory found me. Quite accidentally, I ended up in a relationship with a man who identified as non-monogamous and I discovered that my feelings were aligned with this way of loving. It was a roller coaster - exploring long-held beliefs, breaking down societal constructs, and attempting to keep the peace with a metamour who, from day one, seemed hell bent on pinning me against our mutual partner. With random messages asking if I wanted to join them for surprise sexy time to blatant lies spread about me when she felt threatened by our partner’s blossoming relationship with me, the red flags were there from the beginning. Being new to polyamory, I didn’t fully realize that this wasn’t normal metamour behavior. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

This learning experience was such an outlier from “good” poly that it set a chain of events in motion that ultimately led to the end of my metamour’s relationship with our partner. While this isn’t what I wished for them, it did pique my interest about what it means to be a metamour and, most importantly, what it means to be a good metamour. I asked friends who have great metamour relationships, I did some self-reflecting, and talked to people who had metamours who didn’t quite get along. The consensus? There are a few key ways that a metamour can be not just good, but great.

Collaborate, Don't Compete

Ditch the mentality that if your partner gives love or attention to one person it detracts from what they have available for you. A sense of scarcity is what drives competition, but when you embrace the idea that there is more than enough love to go around, you can shift into a position of collaboration. Instead of trying to outdo each other on birthday surprises for your mutual partner, put your heads together and come up with something that involves everyone. It’s important to remember that when you’re attempting a collaboration of any kind with metamours, personal boundaries should be taken into consideration. No one should feel obligated to participate in something that makes them uncomfortable. The key here is that trying to be better is not synonymous with trying to be the best. Let’s just take competition out of the picture, OK?

Practice Ruthless Compersion

When it comes to being a great metamour, practicing compersion (feeling happy when someone you care about is happy) is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and all the members of your polycule. This is a lovely emotion, but can be particularly challenging when it comes to polyamory. Remembering that happiness is a positive sum emotion (meaning that someone having more of it can never take any away from you) can help when it feels difficult to practice compersion. When you’re in a relationship with someone who’s other partner isn’t exactly making it easy for you to feel compassionate toward them, try accessing feelings of compersion by remembering that the happiness your partner is experiencing from their other relationship is likely going to spill over into yours. Fake it ‘til you make it with this one. Being a good metamour doesn’t mean pretending to be happy when you’re not, but the more you allow yourself to feel compersion, the easier it will get. (Read: When Your Partner Sleeps With Someone Else and It Makes You Happy.)

No Pedestals

Especially when you don’t know your metamour well, it can be easy to think that they are simply perfect. You might imagine that they have abs of steel, the best sense of humor, or an absolutely ahh-mazing vagina. After all, why else would your partner be so into them? That grand version you’ve created of your metamour in your head is just that - in your head. The real problem with this isn’t that you’re imagining how great they are (they probably are pretty great in a lot of ways). What becomes problematic is that often when you’ve put someone on a pedestal, it’s because you’re comparing yourself to them. You think he’s so hilarious and start to think that you’re just a stick in the mud. You see her pictures and think “Wow, she’s so gorgeous. I wish I was that thin. He probably thinks she’s prettier than me.” Want to know a secret? Your metamour is probably looking at all your pictures on Facebook since 2009 and wondering what your secret to glowing skin is or wishing they were as adventurous as you. Take a shot at getting to know each other - you’ll realize that you’re both really great and also really human.

Be Considerate of Their Time With Your Partner

I can’t stress this point enough. Time is finite and when you’re practicing polyamory, it can be a sensitive subject - and the cause of a lot of strife between metamours. Some poly people choose to have scheduled days to ensure that each partner gets adequate time. Others share calendars and schedule each other’s time when they both have availability. Regardless of how time is divvied up, when your partner is with another person (even if it’s a friend), try to be respectful of their time. Sure, there will be times when you need to reach out to your partner when they are with someone else. This is especially true for partners who share a home or children. While there are exceptions to this, generally speaking it’s best to just let your partner have time with their other person without sending them excessive texts, calling them, or otherwise intruding. This isn’t a one size fits all rule. Talk to your partner about what they prefer, what their other partners prefer, and think about the ways in which you’d like your metamour to be considerate of your time.

Respect Their Boundaries

Being a good metamour all comes down to respect. When you develop a sense of respect for your metamour - and their relationship with your partner - everything gets easier. If they aren’t into threesomes with metamours, but you are, respect that. If they would prefer uninterrupted alone time with your partner on their scheduled days, do your best to honor that. Even when you don’t fully understand why their boundary is what it is, showing them respect will go a long way in solidifying a good metamour relationship. This goes both ways. You’re allowed to ask and expect that your boundaries are respected by your partner and your metamours.

Being a good metamour is subjective. Some prefer kitchen table poly where they know the intimate details of everyone's affairs. Others want to keep it as separate as possible. More often than not, there is a complicated and intricate dance between the two extremes. You’ll find yourself learning when to speak up, when to reach out, when to hold back, and when to do nothing at all. While each person’s preferences are as unique as they are, there are some things that all metamours can agree on - compassion, compersion, consideration, and respect.