Wow, I finally pinned this one down!
I have some sort of an interest in my friend Ally, who has been mentioned before. Both Mya and Alec know I'd be open to having sex with her, and that I like her. I think neither of them would be ready for me to have a third partner. We are still working on stabilising our current poly-family.
Thing is, I feel pretty safe to say that I am not ready either. I definitely
know that I cannot have a third partner with a similar level of involvement that I have and am planning for in the future with Alec and Mya. There are also very many factors which contribute to making that impossible for me and Ally, even if we both suddenly decided we wanted that (which we won't suddenly do, since both of us are very rational in our decisions, and that just would not make sense). What I see as potentially realistic for us is some type of friends-with-occasional-benefits arrangement, if both of us were in that place. I think I would be open to that, but I haven't got a clue if she is (or if she feels ready in her relationship; they are open but don't really exercise that).
So, when "adding a third partner" isn't something I'm considering, why is this on my mind? Well, firstly, the dividing line between 'a friend' and 'a partner' isn't excactly clear in my head. This doesn't just pertain to this situation, but in general: say that I have a close friend, with whom I sometimes have sex with, and whom I love, and if that love is mutual; isn't it just a choice of wording to say that this person is a friend with benefits and not a partner? For me I guess the choice of word would depend on how me and the hypothetical person defined our relationship to each other. But I'm not sure if that would be the important bit to my existing partners... I would think the feeling of not-ready comes from something more concrete for them.
Secondly, though, I have a problem with the fact that since I am so aware of the not-ready status of my partners, I find it hard to look at what I want
outside of that context. I tend to do lot more of this hypothetical analysing with Mya than Alec, so I'm more aware of her specific/concrete boundaries than his, and regarding to the situation at hand none of the things she has said she would feel uncomfortable about (still not forbidding me from doing them) are anything I feel like would happen with Ally anyway. So I have no problem respecting my partners' boundaries (that I can identify). It's just that I find it hard to see in which ways I
feel not ready, since I feel that we
are not ready.
Maybe these kind of definitional problems are sometimes why people separate primary/secondary/tertiary involvement..
I will never be adopting those terms, but perhaps it would be useful to adopt the non-hierarchical alternatives we were trying to find in a thread at one point. Was it Annabel that suggested life-partner and love-partner? I think I would not be ready for another life-partner any time soon, if ever. Two is all I have energy and time for. But the line between friendship (particularly when it's with benefits) and love-partnership is somewhat arbitrary to me... I also do recognise that love-partnership can evolve into life-partnership at some point (as can obviously FWB and friends and any relationship with a person you've just met), and I am fine with that if that point comes and everybody feels comfortable. But since that feels very distant now, I think it would be fair to communicate to any potential sexual/romantic friends or love-partners that fact from the beginning.