Relationship Tips

Kitchen Table Polyamory Gives New Meaning to the Concept of ‘Chosen Family’

Photo: Getty Images/Maskot
The concept of a “chosen family” commonly conjures a tight-knit group of friends. For some who practice polyamory, the same can hold true for their polycule—the group of people connected through their various partnerships, and those of their partners, or metamours. This dynamic is called “kitchen table polyamory" or KTP, and functions as a community of partners rather than separately maintained, isolated relationships.

“KTP describes a relaxed and integrated status for your current polyamorous relationship," says Morgan K., a polyamory mentor and non-monogamy content creator. "It's when you feel comfortable enough to spend time with your partners and their partners, metaphorically at the kitchen table.” This metaphorical “kitchen table” can involve as many people as there are in a single polycule.

Unlike some other polyamory structures that prioritize separation of relationships—like parallel polyamory or a don’t ask, don’t tell framework—KTP brings people together, even if they’re not dating. “This basically curates a sort of found family or chosen family dynamic, so there’s a lot of interconnectivity among the polycule and all its members,” says Leanne Yau, a polyamory educator and content creator.

“Kitchen table polyamory curates a sort of found family or chosen family dynamic." —Leanne Yau, polyamory educator and content creator.

Kitchen table polyamory can look different for different polycules, but the component of connectivity among all members remains constant, says licensed clinical social worker and poly-affirming therapist Leah Cohen, LCSW. “It is often important to the polycule as a whole that relationships are cultivated between members, whether or not they are romantic,” they say. “People practicing kitchen table polyamory often try to befriend their metamours, or at least maintain open and friendly communication.”

Metamours being friends or at least friendly “can foster a sense of community and minimize any feelings of exclusion or secrecy,” Morgan K. says. This can result in group movie nights, individual hangouts between metamours, or close friendships even between others within the polycule. It might also lead to even deeper connections and further commitment to all members of the “found family,” Yau says.

As is the case with any relationship structure, KTP can include a number of moving parts that can manifest as benefits or detriments, depending on the people involved and how they choose to go about it. Being aware of these components and how they may uniquely resonate with you can in turn help you gauge whether a kitchen table polyamory framework could work for you.

Potential benefits of practicing kitchen table polyamory

Kitchen table polyamory stands to provide folks with a feeling of family, which can be especially powerful for those who may have less strong bonds with members of their biological family or could otherwise use an additional familial-like presence in their life. “The main thing is a very secure support network,” Yau says. “This is particularly useful if you’re married or have children.” She offers examples of partners being able to share the responsibility of childcare, picking each other up to go on dates, or even caring for each other should one member of the polycule get sick or have a crisis. Beyond the practical benefits of a KTP dynamic, polycules can enjoy “better communication, a greater sense of community…and ability to access shared resources,” Cohen says.

“[Kitchen table polyamory can lead to] better communication, a greater sense of community…and ability to access shared resources.” —Leah Cohen, LCSW

Partners choosing to engage in KTP might find that the network of communication it necessitates gives way to healthier connections, even when issues arise. “Open dialogue between [metamours] can help with accountability and even conflict resolution,” says Morgan K. Furthermore, a sense of obligation to keep communication flowing and minimize feelings of exclusion or jealousy usually benefits everyone, and helps to grow the sense of support and connectedness among the whole polycule. This could also lead to an increase in feelings of compersion, or the poly term for feeling of happiness from your partner's satisfaction with another partner.

Drawbacks kitchen table polyamory to be aware of

There are a number of benefits to feeling a sense of familial love and support among the members of a polycule, but that doesn’t mean KTP comes without any complications. When the expectation is everyone in the polycule be equally involved in sharing their lives, members who aren't interested may feel discomfort.

“Kitchen table polyamory can become toxic if a particular kind of interaction is a rigid expectation and doesn’t allow for individual needs or desires,” Cohen says, adding that the more people involved, the more potential that problems can arise.

Not all metamours necessarily want the same degree of closeness in their relationships with one another, and it's important that a KTP dynamic allows room for that nuance. “KTP can also get ugly if the dynamics are forced," Yau says.

How to decide if kitchen table polyamory is right for you

Ultimately, KTP doesn’t work for everyone. If it doesn't work for you, but you're in a relationship with someone who practices KTP, that's not necessarily a stop sign for the relationship, either. “It’s possible to start a relationship with someone who practices [KTP] without doing so yourself, however the success depends on an individual’s boundaries or any agreements that they may have made with other partners, as well as existing norms in the polycule,” Cohen says. This can mean that your partner might need to check in with the other members of the polycule to get a temperature check on their comfort levels, while making sure that your boundaries and emotional needs are also prioritized.

The most important component to consider when you’re exploring a KTP dynamic is what feels right for you and your partnerships. If everyone in the polycule is comfortable and open to trying the dynamic, you have a better chance of success in doing so. As long as everyone’s comfort levels and emotional needs are considered, Yau says, “KTP creates opportunities for a strong support network and found family, [and] it creates more opportunities for collaboration and compersion rather than competition.”

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