Primary/Secondary: Merged Threads, General Discussion / Debate
Personally, I do not use these labels in regards to my own relationships. However that does not mean that I believe it’s wrong to do so or that I cannot see the advantages of having that kind of structure in a polyamorous set up.
When I first entered into polyamory we discussed this mode of being but I felt that at the time OUR reasons for wanting to be the primary relationship and all others secondary where more because of our insecurity’s rather than any practical or other rational reason. When we deliberated around the issue more we decided to drop these labels completely and let each relationship develop organically and in its own unique way. I felt strongly that I wanted to be free to allow love to nurture without restraint and so if that meant I ended up with 2 or 3 people in my life that I was completely committed too I would be happy with that and if my other relationships developed in a way that was more informal as long as it felt right that was ok too. The main and only restriction I have is time because there are only so many hours in the day to devote myself to my many lovers.
Starting out in polyamory there is often a lot of insecurity. Being polyamorous does not mean that we are immune to the same jealousy and insecurity that monogamous people often struggle with. An example of one of those insecurities is often the fear that you’re partner will like or love the other person more or that they are better or will become more important than you. Having the concept of I am the primary partner and therefore I am more important and my needs will always come first can often be a way of containing this insecurity. That is one way to deal with it but I felt that there must be another way rather than just contain the issue I wanted to get to the root of it and so there was a lot of talking and reassuring and gradually we where able to find other ways to deal with these feelings. Yes they do still come up. I am the first to confess I do get jealous. However rather than feel the need to start putting labels and restrictions on my partners other relationships I have decided to keep working at our relationship and making it stronger so that I can not just let go of those feelings but learn something from them.
The fact is the in polyamory the primary/secondary label is not about who is more important or loved. It isn’t about who will always come first it is just about the dynamic of the relationship. For example a married couple with children might define there relationship as primary because they live together and are raising a child together. Perhaps the husband has a girlfriend who does not live with them and who does not have the same commitments. That does not mean that the girlfriend is of any less value even though she may be classed in that dynamic as being the secondary partner.
I can see how in this situation the primary secondary label could apply. I see no problems with this at all as long as the secondary partner is respected and valued in her own right.
Other reasons one might use the secondary label;
• Not having enough time to dedicate to the relationship to meet enough needs to warrant it a primary relationship
(In this instance sometimes it might seem fair too the secondary partner to be open about what is expected in the relationship so that they can make an informed choice if they feel that there needs can be met in this dynamic and using the primary/secondary structure is one way of doing this)
• The relationship being long distance
• Wanting a different level of relationship that will not involve the commitment and other issues that would usually arise from having a primary relationship
• All party’s being happy to keep the relationship only on a casual level
(There are some relationships that work best on this level and can be extremely fulfilling for the people involved)
I could add more but these are the main ones.
I can see in all these circumstances why those labels can and do exist.
I will continue for the time being not to use these labels because I feel like it is far too easy to fall into the drawbacks. I want all 3 of my partners to know that they are equally important to me no matter what the unique circumstances of our relationships. Nobody’s needs come first and nobody comes second in each situation that arises I simply look at what is best for us in that situation. Sometimes one might need me around more and that is perfectly ok as long as they understand and respect my commitments and love for the other 2. Nobody has veto power to end any of my other relationships and likewise I will never accept or want veto power over any of my lover’s relationships. (This however is a whole new topic)
It would be interesting to see what other peoples opinion is on this subject and find out what you do or would do in your situations. I hope this is at least some food for thought.