I am relatively new to poly, while I've dated someone in an open relationship with a poly person and been in the friends with benefits situation I am very much lacking in practical experience.
I recently had the opportunity to be in a poly relationship, it ended it total communication breakdown sadly.Sigh.
I'll use J and L in place of names...L and I re-met online, we'd actually met briefly before as I've known his partner for a quite some time now. We exchanged a bunch of really great emails, all hung out one evening together which then led up to L and I spending some time together on our own. We had three really good dates and a makeout session on the last one. L then communicated to me via email that he would like to continue to spend time with me, I said most definitely.
Then the talk came, I was prepared for the most part. He lives with and is engaged to his primary partner, the discussion of their fluid bond, no sleepovers or sex without as much notice as possible etc. It all made sense for the most part, although I did have some questions which came up later.
Here's where things started to go awry. In the midst of this really intense communication with me L makes me aware that J is struggling with things right now, but that they are talking about it and it is moving forward. I felt terrible hearing this, I know she had a rough go with her previous relationship and was concerned. I expressed this concern and L suggested I contact J, but it was up to me - if I wasn't comfortable that was okay. I said I really wouldn't know what to say, how to start this convo and started to feel anxious as I didn't know what she was struggling with. L reiterated that I could contact J, but it's my call. I started to feel very painted into a corner.
If I didn't contact J she would think I didn't care...but what would I say...eek!Four emails later L finally tells me that J is struggling because she isn't aware of my stance on things and what I am looking for. L was only trying to open dialogue. By then though I was feeling so overwhelmed and suggested that I take a break and clear my head. I did, felt better and came back with some questions of my own as I did a ton o' reading.
I suggested a different approach to a situation like this arising in the future. To me, if someone is struggling addressing their feelings is important.I suggested something like " I was talking with J, she mentioned she's struggling as she doesn't know you're looking for from this relationship.Why don't we all sit down and have a good talk about this." Short, sweet and to the point.
This was agreed upon which was a step in the right direction.
I shall explain why this has all been conducted via email...I have an insane schedule. Setting time aside from my son and two jobs is difficult, let alone working with the schedule of two other people.
The goal then was that we start a group email to discuss the questions I put forth.
Why do they choose the terms primary and secondary? What are the reasons, are they practical or emotional?
They feel that language is needed to discuss these concepts in poly and so far these are the only terms developed.
Primary also refers to the arrangement they have - they are living together and as such sharing a home and soon a marriage. They are primary in their focus and do not have a relationship aimed to have more than one primary (ex. another person sharing our home, another spouse).
I expressed that I myself wasn't comfortable with this terminology. I related very much with some of the reading I had done.
"Primary/secondary/tertiary' terminology is not universally accepted among polyamorists. Some consider it as demeaning to 'secondaries' and 'tertiaries', or as an undesirable form of pigeonholing, and so prefer not to classify their relationships in this way."
J expressed that she felt defensive about the way I communicated this.That know a lot of people have aversions to these labels because they load the terms with meaning, that is not always applicable to the relationships being discussed.
This confuses me, referring to someone as your primary would be loaded with meaning for me. You co-habitate, are fluid bonded etc.Stating someone is your primary and someone is your secondary seems to be a very clear status to me. How is fluidity achieved with the ground rules and labels stated above? Is this something I have to un-learn from the monogamous world, am I too literal?
All said and done though it became clear email was not an ideal form of communication for us. Very different styles of communication led to some very intense, heavy emails. A lot of circular talk(definitely contributed by my confusion) combined with a lack of full on personal communication was creating a stressful situation for all.
I communicated that I was not accustomed to this volume and intensity of communication, that it was very new to me and I was feeling very overwhelmed. Labels, jargon, etc....so many things to ingest and process and try to put into practice. When would this be fun again? Would communication flow easier as this became less intense?
To me the concept seemed simple -the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. The idea of having an open, honest and loving relationship was appealing to me. That an arrangement such as this would be ideal for my busy lifestyle, knowing my partner had someone else who they valued and cared for who contributed to their life as well was, well, wonderful.
It just seemed to become more complicated as time passed. L suggested we take a break and decompress as I was becoming exhausted feeling like my heart was in my throat constantly. Maybe we could all sit down next week and talk as L's schedule was booked for the rest of the week...which can't happen.Sigh.
I had communicated in the beginning that my schedule requires very advance planning, the next ten days are booked solid with work related commitments for me and time with my son.I have been talking about this for a while.This would put L and I at three weeks with not having spoken to each other in person.
The response that I received was that L realized that we may encounter this kind of scheduling issues.But that he didn't think it would be that difficult. I'm a single parent, not sure what he thought it was going to be like.
It was decided that this wasn't going to work. Communication doesn't seem to flow well between all of us and the schedule conflicts because of how my life works can't be worked around.
Sorry for the super long introductory post....I could really use some advice on what I can improve upon for future, or if maybe poly isn't right for me. Maybe communication will flow easier in a different situation?
It sounds like everyone is still relatively new to dealing with polyamory. Add to that communication over emails that don't work welll for people and I can understand your problem.
One thing I have learned is to tell people that I am very literal and logical. Sometimes people try to read what you mean by the wording you use or what was not said. I see that leading to miscommunication because a lot of assumptions are made.
One of the toughest parts of polyamory is learning how to communicate in an open way that gets your point across. It means that people have to be honest with themselves; know what they want; and be open to other people. It is too easy to get defensive or go passive aggressive.
It sounds like J was still trying to come to terms with polyamory to an extent. She was probably still feeling like you may be competition so talking about labels may have come across to her as seeing about the odds of you replacing or becoming more important than her. Yet on an intellectual, she may have realized that this is probably not happening. So this usually leads to confusion.
My advise would be to take is slow with them if you want to continue trying. Keep things at friendly banter and talk about it becoming more serious later on. I think polyamory could work for you, but it may work better with someone more experienced.
Thank you so much for your response!
I am very much a literal, logical person. If someone is to attach a label or term to something I take it as exactly that. I don't think I could attach to term primary to any partner I had in my life. Each person I encounter brings something special and unique to my life, I would like to think I do the same for them. No more or less important, just different. Using the terms primary and secondary indicates a ranking system for me, something I'm very uncomfortable with. Easy enough for me to say though as I don't feel the urge to be married or co-habitate with anyone any time soon.
We also discussed veto power, which they don't believe in. I can't say I believe in it either, I think my approach would be different though.
The spirit of their relationship agreement is in cooperation. So while a situation with a metamour may be difficult, they would work within the spirit of their agreement and talk and challenge themselves to work through whatever difficulty comes up. If the person dating the metamour chooses to stay with someone the other has difficulty with, they would choose to do so in the spirit of cooperation as well. What this means is that both parties would work together to try and ease whatever tension arises. If the situation was particularly sticky, they'd set up boundaries within their own relationship to help them cope with the other relationship. Their aim is to not interfere with each others' relationships while communicating their needs effectively within their own.
I just don't know if this would work for me either. My hope would be that cooperation existed throughout.If I had a partner who had someone important to them in their life, then they would be important to me. If something challenging arose then in the spirit of cooperation we'd all try and work it out together. Easy enough to say though having not been presented with a sticky situation this way.
I see so many posts and discussions with the balking towards the Primary/Secondary label.
Rather then rant, I just want to mention a couple of things to think about.
I do wish these labels would be seen as a welcomed starting point, at the beginning of the relationship.
If Person A and Person B have been together for XX-number of years, and Person C comes in, and is new to both, then logistically, it starts out as a secondary relationship, because person A and B -DO have a history, knowledge, and experience to look back on.
It`s the same concept as a 2 person relationship. You go on a few dates with someone, are they automatically called your boyfriend or girlfriend after a couple of dates ? Or, do you graduate, and build, and as time goes on, the relationship then develops more significance, and meaning ?
You go from being the person "I went on a date with and like."
to being the person; ' I am seeing"
...to then becoming :" my boy/girlfriend".
As trust develops in the relationship, the boundaries and walls should erode. The reward for good communication, and the right long-term 'click,' is that the couple doesn`t feel threatened, and those worries pass. For many newbies, this is a learned trait over time and experience. Those clearly drawn lines tend to be needed at first for guidance. Think of them as training wheels.
This is not to say, that the couple doesn`t need to earn the newcomers trust too. It just works differently. Any single person, (in their right frame of mind) entering into a relationship with 1/2 of a partnership, or with both halves, will have their boundaries, and walls constructed for their comfort zone as well. Over time, many of these fade as well.
Now,..if you get a year or 2 down the road with someone, reflect, and find you are still being made to feel as if you are being kept at arms-length, then that is the time to decide what is important to you. THAT scenario happens in couples just as much as poly relationships. Plenty of times, many of us have dated someone who 'stalled' the relationship from progress.
I apologize for being one demensional, with regards to your post. I just wonder if we all have a tendency to look to far ahead in new relationships. Worrying about the 'what if', and forgetting to just let nature take its course.
What a frustrating experience you must have had!
Email communication so easily turns to miscommunication, doesn't it? I write as a hobby and despite all my practice still find I can't avoid misunderstandings.
I remember that on our third or fourth date my GF asked if I might feel able to meet her husband. It seems to me that such a meeting is a very positive step that should be taken early on. I hesitate to be dogmatic, especially since I'm a newbie too, but in my limited experience it has been immensely helpful to know and be accepted by my GF's primary partner. Besides, he cooked us a great dinner...
That meeting might be something you gently insist on next time the merry-go-round turns. The dinner at least! :)
I do use the terms primary and secondary, and I use them with intent. Part of my goal as a secondary is to make sure that I do what I can to nurture the primary relationship. First, I know that my darling's happiness centers around this beautiful marriage, and I very much want to care for and enhance her happiness. Second, it is the nature of the relationship between her husband and herself which makes it possible for me to be with her at all, so caring for that relationship is important. And third, I like and admire her husband and don't want to cause him distress.
So I use the label secondary as a kind of shorthand for a set of constructive attitudes and behaviors. It is not in the sense of "second-class" at all.
Your mileage may vary. If the word feels bad then define something else. But it seems useful to think about your role in a relationship and how it can work to support both the other people, or all the other people. You can't always control your feelings but you can attempt to guide yourself toward mindfulness.
I'm also aware that not all relationships are as stable and as psychologically open as my GF's marriage. It was -- and is! -- delightful to be involved with people who are so centered and conscious. That's not always the case. Your mileage may indeed vary.
Sounds like you are going through some growing pains in the beginning stages of your relationship. It isn't uncommon. There doesn't seem to be as much in mono relationships... you get together, you hang out and everything falls into it's pre-determined place as laid out by societal norms. Much easier.
I agree with superjast in that he lays out my experience with labels such as primary and secondary. As time passes they lose their strength and fall by the way side and become what you are saying, everyone brings their own uniqueness to the situation.
Mono has posted before what Eugenepoet has said. He very much thinks the same way. I could not be with Mono without having my husband in my life as well. Because of the negotiated boundaries we have in our relationship, we really are all meant to be together. This came with a lot of time and a lot of work. We had similar discussions, long emails, long talks, heart in throat moments..... it was hard work, but eventually we talked it all out and came to the end of it all. To a place where we just understood each other as no one would unless they had gone through some difficult communication together.
I would hope that you stay patient and hopeful. I would hate to see you break up over the whole "primary/secondary" debate.... cause really it means nothing later on, what you create is your own with them. It will be like no one else's life and you can make it what you want....
Maybe re-defining the terms to make them your own would help. With them of course. We seem to of. To us, primary means the one I get to spend more time with, and secondary means the one I don't get to see as much. Full stop, end of story. The rest we blew off because it didn't fit.
Primary/secondary make sense as descriptive labels, but I really don't like the idea of going into a relationship with an artificial limit on how much it can grow, like a bonsai. Having different labels for different relationships is entirely sensible, but this whole thing with the secondary relationship being kept in it's place so that it won't possibly threaten the primary relationship...that just don't seem right. Now, having both points of a Vee involved in discussions so that EVERYONE is getting their needs met, no one feels neglected, that's great.
I can so relate to your post! There have been times when I have spent incredible amounts of time trying to communicate with a partner in an effort to better understand the relationship. We did a LOT of written communication like you are doing. My life has changed, though and I have come to believe that this is the least effective way to work out understanding and to deal with conflict. This is what I would suggest, because it works for me. When developing a new relationship (one on one or with a couple or a group- doesn't matter), I find it counterproductive to do too much analysis. I find it's better to simply begin to spend time together having fun and enjoying each other. Seeing how much compatiblity and chemistry is there. Bring a camera and take photos of everyone smiling. Create memories. Chemistry, and happy memories of good times together....these things go a long way in giving strength to a relationship when the time comes for communication and dealing with conflict. Good luck, and hope to hear more !!!
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