I will start by saying that I agree with most of what everyone else has said and I'll try to add a little of my own advice to that.
I know there are some people in the world who think hierarchical poly is ridiculous, is a cop-out, is controlling, is unrealistic, etc. I also know a massive amount of people who think monogamy is the best way and cannot even fathom the idea of poly. Then you've got swingers, who believe that sex is great, but don't want to go off falling in love with other people. Then, you've got yourself. Really, you are the only person that matters. It's about what *you* want. What makes *you* happy?
Let's talk about hierarchy stuff first and communication afterwards - because they are two separate issues.
Wanting hierarchical poly can be related to insecurity, sure. But it can also be related to other things. For example, there is no way in hell I'd be happy D's preferred agreement. I think it's a lovely idea in theory and it's one that my GF and I tried for a brief period when we first met, before realising that (for us) it didn't work.
Why wouldn't I do non-hierarchical poly right now? Like you, we're in an LDR. I live in England, she lives with her husband in America. We have made no small amount of personal sacrifice to make this happen. Would I be happy with an end goal of leaving everything I've ever known to move to her country, if I wasn't sure she wanted to live in a house with me, get me orange juice when I'm sick (as BG very correctly said), etc? No way. I also want to know what I'm signing up for. Currently it's going to be myself, my GF and her husband, plus our toddler, under one roof. Do I want to invest another two years if she's planning to move more people in, or planning to spend half of her week away from the family home? Nope. I know what I want, what she wants and we agree to that with a realistic amount of room for future surprises. Sometimes we simply need stability. There's nothing wrong with that. Plan A and plan B. Is knowing where you stand in the grander scheme of someone's life important to you?
Onto the communicating-poly-stuff issue:
It is possible to accept a partner's way of thinking, *if* it feels healthier for you. I am currently doing this with my GF, after suggesting a trial period of a new approach, suggested by people on this forum. The new approach is that we don't need to know every little thing - that we date autonomously from each other, which a few key guidelines. So far, this is working amazingly well.
If this helps, this is how it works for us right now:
- we still happily follow hierarchical poly and are not seeking more primaries
- love is acceptable with secondaries
- what we do with secondaries is our own business and isn't discussed
- all partners must be aware of their place in our lives - and we all know about each other and how we all respectively fit, what the feelings and committments are to each person, etc.
- if our feelings grow for someone else, we tell each other, because we think that matters
This has helped hugely, because the security and communication is there, without overshare and without stomping on each other's freedom. But there's no lying of omission; no pretending that certain people aren't important when they are.
To look at some of your questions:
Is he right that none of this should matter to me, if I'm actually okay with non-hierarchical polyamory?
To me, it isn't about whether you're ok with non-h poly. It's more about your communication
needs. They are two separate things. You aren't saying "I want to be the most important person in your life" - you are saying "I want to know where I stand in your life, where others stand - and I want them to know it too". I think that's perfectly reasonable.
It's also ok if you do want hierarchical poly, or you do want to be someone's priority. But only *you* know that - he can't tell you what you're feeling and has absolutely no right to.
If R doesn't want to know anything, I do believe that is her own right and perhaps that's where he is stuck. But he has a choice to make. Either he's more compatible with people who genuinely don't want to know anything - or he needs to adapt his communication style to the two of you. It is possible to do that, to an extent. But only if he's capable of it and wants to do that. I'm hearing that he doesn't want that.
Can people really share intimacy like this, compartmentalized away from each other, without feeling betrayed someday if they learn of another deep emotional bond?
It's a great question. I can definitely relate. I wish I could answer it for you. Indie has a good point - what difference does 'love' make? It's really good advice. But yeah - to be honest? It makes a difference to me, personally. For me, it comes back to knowing where I stand again. If you've never read it, have a look at Sternberg's love theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_theory_of_love
I have a funny feeling that if you even dared to ask D how he felt about each of you using that theory, he would protest that love doesn't work like that. Well, for me, it does. It's not about better love, worse love - it's about different kinds of love and knowing where I stand
. Why is it important to know where I stand? Because I don't want to waste my time making someone a priority, or wasting a high portion of my love on them, if they do not feel the same, or want the same things.
I don't know about this wishy-washy love stuff. For me, I know how I feel for people and knowing that, I know where they fit into my life. I know exactly how much I want to spend time with someone, I know exactly what my commitment level is to them and I know exactly what I want from them in the future. I make this clear through my actions and through verbal confirmation.
For example, I really into a woman I've met in my country. Quite rightly, my GF has been asking about this. She's not asking because she's my primary - she's asking because she wants to know how this is going to effect us. Am I going to want to move in with this other woman? Am I going to want to take her to a primary importance kind of level? Am I as committed to this new woman as I am to my GF? Do I see a longterm future with this other woman? How often per week do I want to talk to her? Do my feelings for her change my feelings for GF? **Am I honest with the new woman about my relationship with GF?** Does new woman know about my existing commitments, feelings, etc? I think it's completely understandable that my GF would want answers to these questions, because she's investing *herself* into our relationship. So I answer them and we all know where we stand.
To me, you're not simply requesting that R knows about you. You're requesting that *you* be given some idea of where on Earth you stand in D's life.
Should I try to stop thinking about R and just focus on what works between me and D?
Well, again, it comes down to what makes you happy. Regardless of how you each fit into his life, do you consider yourself compatible with him? Does his communication style work for you? Does this non-hierarchy thing actually make you feel warm and fuzzy?
I think this might be one of those important moments in life where some self-reflection is required. You must think about what you want and need and how D can fit into this - rather than just how you can fit into what he wants. Perhaps a happy compromise could be reached. Perhaps, also, you can find what you want with another person (or people) - but still be involved with him on a more distant basis and find more happiness that way.