I can’t recall a single instance of getting to know a metamour that didn’t contain the same tummy-bubbling nerves of meeting the parents. No matter how cordial or pious I might appear, I can’t help the internal monologue begging me to blurt “Hello, I’m the person who’s been fucking your partner’s brains out. Nice to meet you!” Despite the brilliant ethical discussions I’ve had with our shared partner, I fear the partner who has been around longer is likely thinking “Oh, so you’re the homewrecker who’s come to steal my spouse,” or some other leftover-monogamy-brain canned response. Depending on how “out” you are about your polyamory, meeting the parents might never even come up in your relationship. Being introduced to family-of-choice, close-friends, and kids all carry their own unique how-tos. There are no hard-and-fast rules for these meet-and-greets, but I’ve outlined some of what I’ve learned through my various non-monogamous relationships. This guidance applies, of course, to those that want to meet their metamours. Many people have successful polyamorous relationships that are “siloed,” or don’t involve meeting one another’s other loved ones.

1. Decide who will be in attendance.

One of the best metamour meets I had provided the opportunity to meet my partner’s partner, away from our shared partner. At the time, I felt apprehensive about getting to know her without the support of our mutual person. “What if she was bland or disingenuous?” I wondered. Despite my own neuroses, I greeted her outside the front of their shared home and the two of us traversed the icy sidewalks towards a nearby bar. Demure hilarity was hidden behind a gorgeous smile and we quickly found a rhythm to our banter. She un-ironically ordered a Bud Light. I panicked and ordered the first thing I read on the specialty drink menu. I relied a bit too much on astrology; she adequately hid what I later learned was a major eye-roll at the pseudoscience. After we’d affirmed we didn’t totally hate one another, we texted our mutual partner to come join us. He greeted us both with a quick smooch (more on that later) and strategically asked for a chair as to avoid sitting on either side of the booth. My meta and I had generated some shared context, leaving me feeling way more content—and way less of a homewrecker. Alternatively, getting everyone together can also be functional and has its own upsides. If conversation gets stagnant, the mutual partner is often able to jump in with more common ground for exploration. Trips to grab something from the bar or head to the bathroom can offer small windows for check-ins. If you’re open to it, a shared meeting can also offer a more concrete answer to “How do you think it went?”

2. Look to meet on neutral(ish) ground.

The location of your meeting might feel like a complicating afterthought during a pandemic, but establishing where you will meet your metamour is a surefire way to provide comfort to everyone involved. When coffee shops and bars were a safe and viable option, meeting in a low-stakes place felt easier to navigate. Rather than relying on the pre-covid standbys, consider taking a walk around a park or bundling up at a picnic table. Meeting in a neutral location means no one (or everyone) feels out of place. If weather or restrictions won’t permit an extended outdoor hang, get your coffee to go and create a small pocket of shared time before heading indoors. Parenting, temperature, and other life snafus might make it necessary to meet in a shared space. If a partner is nested, you might feel apprehensive about meeting in the space your partner shares with their other partner. Ideally, this will not be your first time in your partner’s home, but if it is, consider requesting to arrive earlier so you have a second to settle in before meeting your metamour.

It’s normal to have some nerves about meeting in a a previously shared space. may be home to many memories of an anchored partnership. For your metamour, it might also bring about emotions to see you in a space that shares those same memories. In the event that your space is the most convenient place for a meeting, remember to follow your usual hosting guidelines. If it feels right, you might even ask your partner or your metamour if there is anything you can do to help your metamour feel more comfortable in your space. Again, this might be the first time they are seeing where your partner shares time with you, where date nights have occurred, and where more recent (sometimes “shinier”) memories have been made. We can’t always know what will come up for us, but being aware of this can help ease the stress in the moment for everyone.

3. Set some bookends on your time.

In a neutral space, all parties can feel somewhat free to leave at their own discretion. You don’t have to schedule an exact time slot, but giving a sense of how long you are available is an opportunity to generate low-stakes boundaries right off the bat. This becomes especially important in a shared space. No one wants to overstay their welcome, and no one wants to be seen as the jerk kicking someone out. Again, you don’t have to mark it down to the minute, but giving an idea of when you will be going can provide a lot of reassurance and takes the pressure off any one person to “wrap it up.”

4. Discuss what physical intimacy will look like for all parties.

The truth is, we don’t often think about how our greetings will go. Though the pandemic has increased the discussion of physical boundaries and comfort, most of us in the US still do not have a culture that outlines these expectations. When considering your hello, think about what level of intimacy feels genuine to the partnerships. You might not be ready to see your partner kiss someone new—even if you are the “new” person to your metamour. You may not feel comfortable kissing in front of someone, or may not feel comfortable being “out” in this way in public spaces. All of these concerns are valid, but if you go in for a hug when you would normally smooch, you might leave a partner feeling slighted or distracted through the rest of the encounter! Knowing what to expect reduces the number of variables and will allow everyone to focus on all the other things they might be (low-key) panicking about.

5. Establish a plan for checking in with your partner after the meeting.

Rather than relying on the subject to come up on your next date night, find time with your partner for a recap of how the meet went. This may be easier to navigate if you are nested with the partner, but don’t skimp on the recap. Make a space for whatever feelings might have arisen and approach them with tender curiosity.

Extra Credit

By no means should you orchestrate a disingenuous connection for brownie points, but if things went well for all parties, make it a regular thing! Even meeting up every now and again will help you lean into the discomfort that can come up in navigating polyamorous partnerships. I have personally found it is much easier to be flexible and offer support to my partners around their other relationships if I have a face for the other side of the ask. The stress of the first meeting will dissipate, but building a tolerance for the discomfort will inevitably lead to more compassionate relationships on your polyamorous journey.