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-   -   Tertiary partners/relationships (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=25905)

quianaa2001 07-24-2012 12:16 AM

Tertiary partners/relationships
I was looking for information on the internet and I can't find much. I can find a lot of information on secondary's but hardly anything on tertiary partners. I know they are similar to secondary's but different in there own way. What can people tell me about tertiary partners/relationships? :)

CherryBlossomGirl 07-24-2012 12:58 AM

Can you be more clear about the context? Do you simply mean the order in which you met people? Or are you giving different weights to different relationships based on time spent together/longevity of relationships/amounts of sexual contact or ????

LovingRadiance 07-24-2012 01:08 AM

Really depends what you want to know.
The "line up" of terms would be

so if you are using heirarchy-they come third in line.

Some people use it to mean those whom they see least often.
Some don't use the term at all.
Some use it to mean people they have hte least commitment to.
Others see it as equal commitment but further away.....

quianaa2001 07-24-2012 01:19 AM

I know the order of the terms, but besides that I don't know much other besides that. How much time is spent with these partners? What makes them different than a secondary partner?

nycindie 07-24-2012 02:32 AM

I believe LR just explained why a designation such as "tertiary" would be different from a "secondary." Distance, amount of time spent, emotional investment, financial involvement, whatever - can all be factors in "grading" someone's involvement in one's life. Just ask yourself what reasons you would consider someone third place in your life. Seriously, though, you don't even need to use those terms. Not every poly tangle goes by hierarchical positioning. Many of us, myself included, find the whole primary/secondary/tertiary terminology rather icky. I think of people whom I see less often as "satellite relationships" rather than tertiaries.

quianaa2001 07-24-2012 02:36 AM

That totally makes sense. Thanks guys :) This forum is so helpful!
I'm not a big fan of the term myself but I was just wondering what it meant to more experienced poly people.

LovingRadiance 07-24-2012 04:25 AM


I happen to find the terms... disgraceful. ESPECIALLY in terms of poly. I don't think there is anything loving about heirarchies.

But, really-there are no hard/fast definitions. You could check out the following link:


It's a collection of the understood definitions and meanings of LOTS of poly-terminology. :)

CielDuMatin 07-24-2012 09:58 PM

For me, a "tertiary" would be someone who has very little regular connection with my day-to-day life. Some folks think of "Friends with Benefits" or "FwB", other use the rather more explicit term "fuck-buddy".

When I use the terms at all, I tend to think of them in terms of degree of decision-making, and sharing of resources. It has nothing to do with how much you love someone, and it most certainly has nothing to do with hierarchies.

If you're looking for a "I see you once a month, so we're tertiaries, but if I were to see you twice a month, we'd be secondaries" you are absolutely not going to find any hard-and-fast rules.

Could you tell us more about why you are interested in researching this? Maybe we can help you more.

JaneQSmythe 07-29-2012 12:58 AM

Primary/Secondary/Tertiary terminology doesn't bother me as long as it is used in a descriptive rather than proscriptive manner (shorthand for where the relationship IS, not a restriction on what it CAN BE). I use the terminology when it fits the conversation/audience.

The term "Tertiary" could be applied to my LDR FWB relationships. These are women that I am friends with (although not the closest friends), that I have sex with, that I care about and have for a long time. I see them a few times a year with maybe a few phone calls in between. There is no "rule" about these relationships not becoming something more/closer but there is no particular expectation/desire that they will ever evolve to some sort of "next" level - limitations of geography, other relationships (they each have male primary-type relationships with men that they live with full-time), and a lack of desire on each of our parts to work to try to develop anything further (we are happy with where things are).

Some polyfolk don't seem to feel that these more casual types of relationships - FWBs or fuckbuddies (which, to me, are two different things) - really "count" as poly as the level of "romantic love" is generally low (although not necessarily non-existent) and the "love" involved may be more of the "friend" variety. Because of this I don't think you see the term "tertiary" used nearly as often as primary/secondary. I don't form emotional attachments easily so for me these relationships are very significant to me in their own fashion. And "casual" doesn't necessarily mean "temporary" - my relationship with VV is almost as long-standing as my relationship with my husband.


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