Hey II, you raise some good points.
There are definitely valid reasons (I think at least, not all would necessarily agree), to treat one relationship differently from another. It may not be worth the struggle that a person or their family would face by coming out just to include someone who plays a relatively minor role in their lives in a particular event, as in the example that you furthered with Rhoda, the hypothetical gf. Or maybe Sue really just couldn't handle it, and of course her feelings deserve to be taken strongly into account (though I would posit that that couple may not be ready to open up after all, if they can't share major holidays with metamours).
My take is that such circumstances deserve to be considered on a case by case basis, which it seems like is really the same case you're making. In what I think of as prescriptive hierarchy, such limitations, whether on holidays, types of allowable intimate contact, etc. are set in advance and seem to be taken to be generally immutable... in prescriptive hierarchy, a secondary relationship is not expected to ever potentially become anything more, and indeed the rules generally seem designed to help ensure that. I find that all problematic because I don't think it honors the unique, individual relationships involved.
Even if the end result is the same, even if the structure ends up looking identical, I still thinks it's worth giving every new relationship -- not every crush or every fling, but every interpersonal connection that aspires to be a loving relationship -- the chance to find its place of most authentic, fulfilling expression in the context that will work for all affected by it.
Maybe there really are people who know in advance exactly how far they can and should progress in a relationship with any potential future partners, or people who know exactly how far they can and should allow their primary partner to advance with other future potential partners. I just find it off-putting and unnatural to imagine that I could know, when I begin to become involved with someone, where the end of the road must be. Is this idealism or naivete on my part, or the inability to understand a perspective (that of the members of a couple in a primary relationship) different than my own? Maybe! I'm not going to say I have all the answers.
Part of my resistance to the idea of prescriptive hierarchy is that it's explicitly rules-focused. I mean, what meaning does the term have other than the placing of limits on what a secondary relationship can do? Setting a host of rules and defining the relationship by them in advance doesn't challenge the person who feels they need those limitations to think about why or to think about whether they can relax them.
So, why is it a positive thing for rules to be challenged, what is the problem with rules? Some rules are expressions of personal boundaries necessary for safety/security... for example, "Safer sex only"="I will not be with someone who puts my sexual health at risk" and "Talk to me before scheduling any overnights"="I will not be dependent within the context of a primary partnership with someone whose presence I cannot rely upon." But many rules in poly relationships, to my mind, give the illusion of safety/security without any meaningful substance. For example, if we take circumstantial fears about coming out as poly out of the equation, it's hard to find any reading other than "No sharing holidays with secondaries"="I will not be in a primary relationship with someone who threatens my emotional safety by developing a relationship with someone else that's TOO scary, too present in our lives, too... real."
Again, these are my own reactions and musings, and I'm not going to try to say they're gospel truth. I am very interested in and welcome further thoughts on the topic, including opposing thoughts.
To be clear, I by no means think that every relationship limitation in everyone's poly lives should be dropped right at the start of a new loving venture, or possibly at all ever. What I do feel strongly about is that the door needs to be open for discussion as relationships develop, and I don't see that prescriptive hierarchy welcomes that.
Its really a matter of philosophy... I believe that its healthier to start, not from the perspective that rules are necessary and create greater functionality, but rather from the assumption that going for greater openness if possible in the long run will allow all involved to grow and explore and love more fully. I think that saying right at the start "this relationship is secondary and that means it can do x but not y or z", as in prescriptive hierarchy, embodies the former, whereas saying "we are doing x but not y or z at this point, and so it is fair to call this relationship secondary", as in descriptive hierarchy, embodies the latter.
Me, 30ish bi female, been doing solo poly for roughly 5 years. Gia, Clay, and Pike, my partners. Davis, ex/friend/"it's complicated." Eric, Gia's husband. Bee, Gia and Eric's toddler.
Last edited by AnnabelMore; 02-28-2012 at 11:17 PM.