What I Don’t Like About Kitchen Table Polyamory

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So Kitchen Table Poly sounds like an ideal arrangement: All your partners should be comfortable sitting around the kitchen table, old friends sipping coffee and sharing merry conversations. What’s not to love?

Well, for me, kitchen table polyamory is a lot like democracy in Iraq: it’s a great idea if everyone just sorta settles on it, but a terrible idea if you have to invade and force people to do it.

Full disclosure: I try to do kitchen table polyamory for the very real sense that eventually anyone dating me is gonna meet my wife, and you’re gonna be hanging out in our living room at some point. If you’re all about “I like you but why would I want to hang out with her?”, it’s probably gonna go poorly unless we meet only at conventions, which I don’t do much any more.

And to be honest, I like my partners. They’re all dazzling personalities with interesting stories to tell, great opinions, funny jokes! I understand that there are folks who are like “I don’t want to know about anyone else you’re smooching,” but for me personally, it’s awkward when the people I love treat the other people I’m dating as radioactive jealousy-mines to be avoided.

I’m not gonna monopolize the conversation with talks of my other sweeties, but if something interesting and relevant happened to them, I’m gonna tell that anecdote. So yeah, if it’s all envy and resentment, we’re probably not gonna last long.

As such, I try to settle for a “have a beer with” polyamory – I want to be able to belly up to the bar with my sweeties’ sweeties, have an amiable chat, tip the hat when I see them in public.



When I see Kitchen Table Polyamory practiced in the wild, all too often there’s this Amway-style pressure – Oh, you’re dating me, now you’ve gotta be BEST BUDDIES with my partner! I’ve set up a date! Now you have to talk! Are you friends yet? Are you friends yet?

And again, there’s nothing wrong with being friends – but I also feel that friendship has to come naturally and from a freely-chosen sentiment, not from a “I will wrassle you to the kitchen table and you will LIKE it, mister.”

Because that – and its sibling pressure, “You must now have sex with everyone I’m dating” – is often a way of slamming people face-first into dysfunctional relationships, covering over very real issues with this crusty spackle of “FRAAAAANDS.” It can be a joyous smothering where yeah, the new person is crossing boundaries and being a douche, but this is our lovely kitchen and do you really want to mess up the linoleum with your petty complaints?

(Or the old person! The time you’ve been in the relationship should not be the measurement, the quality of the time you currently have should be. But that’s another essay.)

Friendships shouldn’t be mashed together like some sort of sex-lubricated turducken, but evolve naturally out of common happinesses and goals. And while some shun the kitchen table because I LOVE THEM SO MUCH I CANNOT BEAR TO LAY EYES UPON ANYONE WHO MIGHT POSSESS THEM IN A SMOOCHLY FASHION, which is, yeah, often a little problematic, well….

Some people like a little space.

I said I try to be beer-buddies with my metamours, but sometimes a fine indifference will do. I don’t have much in common with them, but they make my sweetie happy. They seem perfectly functional as a metamour, but I don’t particularly regret not having time to spend with them….

And that’s okay. What’s important is that everyone is content with the arrangement, not that we’re being herded into a circle by enthusiastic shippers shouting “NOW KISS.”

Kitchen table poly is fine as an ideal, and I certainly aspire to practice it. But it’s not wrong if it doesn’t happen. And the folks who are trying to make fetch happen are often jovially expecting people to suppress their own instincts for the will of the group, which is a dynamic that often allows weird traumas to fester and spread.

I would say I could cheerfully kitchen it up with about 80% of my partners’ partners. The remaining 20%? I don’t consider them toxic – I generally wouldn’t date someone who was attracted to someone I thought was actively bad for them.

But those folks, well, I don’t know much about them, they don’t know much about me, except that hey, we’re both dating this one person and we think they’re pretty neat.

That’s enough.

1 Comment

  1. I love this take – many good snippets to bring into conversations about poly boundaries and what you want your relationship dynamics to look like 🙂

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