Polyamory.com Forum  

Go Back   Polyamory.com Forum > Polyamory > General Poly Discussions

Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 07-19-2012, 12:04 AM
Tonberry Tonberry is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Canada
Posts: 1,369
Default Primary and Secondary: could there be other terms?

I realise the primary/secondary issue has been discussed a lot, but I saw this in another thread:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
The whole "primary/secondary" classification is not something I've really thought about until I came onto these boards. I have been acquainted with a couple of triads and folks in open relationships and have heard these terms but I hadn't put much thought into it. It seems that everyone gets a rank in the hierarchy, primary is the relationship that matters and secondary is the relationship that doesn't. Sugar coat it all you want, but that is the truth of the matter as far as I can tell (if it isn't, you guys might really consider using language that is not explicitly hierarchical).

I have no problem with people being in relationships that make them happy, but if these boards have a story to tell it is that these "secondary" relationships tend to have some real frustration. I can't blame them, I wouldn't enjoy being classified as secondary (or primary, for that matter) and would see myself to the door if I found that's how I was being thought of. This idea of assigning rank to relationships seems very dogmatic to me, archaic even. Why would I ever tell someone that I loved "I love you, but your life and feelings are not as important as my primary, get used to it"? That just seems cruel to me.

To find out how it feels to be a secondary partner you need only read through these boards. The general consensus, as far as I can tell, is that it feels about the way that it sounds... like being secondary.
And I wanted to talk more about it.

First, for me "primary" and "secondary" are badly worded descriptions of stages. You can have several primary relationships, or you can have none. Same with secondary relationships. To me a primary relationship is the kind where you live together or share responsibilities in raising a child, or share finances, etc. Secondary relationships are less involved into each other's lives. Some people also talk about tertiary partners, which as far as I can tell means casual and/or very rare (once a year or less) encounters.
To me, these are different stages, and I wouldn't expect anyone I date to start at a primary level. But I understand how the root and numbers (one, two, three) are misleading. It sounds like a ranking system.
Sure, I know you can have two secondary partners and no primaries, or two primaries and no secondaries, for instance, and so all partners are at the same "stage". It's not like you can only have one of each.

While I don't like the idea of stages that much, either (it gives the impression that a secondary relationship is less evolved, or that every relationship ends up being primary at some point), I feel like it makes it more apparent that it's something that can evolve and change, and not something fixed. I'm all for people keeping the words "primary" and "secondary" when they have rules in place about who can be what - as much as I think it's pointless to try and decide how relationships are going to turn out rather than let them develop on their own - but I definitely like the idea of other terms for when it's a description.

We have many people on these boards. Maybe we can come up with something. It doesn't matter if it's only used on the boards, I think it could still have its benefits. Of course, nobody is required to use any labels to begin with, and sometimes just describing each relationship, although it takes more time, might be the best way to go.

I think what is typically considered a primary relationship has as a major factor a commitment outside the relationship. That is, if the relationship was to suddenly end, there would be something left to deal with: a child to raise together, a place that is still being shared, a joint account, a marriage in place. So I think we could use a term that reflects that, although I can't think of any.
For secondary relationships, I can't think of any way to describe them except saying it's "in the dating stage", but I'm worried it sounds less important than it might be.

Of course using this previous description, we could say "relationship with outside commitment" and "relationship with no outside commitment" but that's kind of a mouthful.

I realise it's often pointless to try and find new terms or redefine existing terms. But this specific issue has been there for a long time. There are lots of misunderstandings about what primary/secondary might mean, and it can be off-putting for someone to know they'll be "secondary", when if it was described as "You don't have to move in with me or help raise my kids", the partner would be happy about it rather than feel inferior because of it.

Going back to the idea of stages, I guess we could define Stage A, Stage B, Stage C or something (with letters rather than numbers, because they don't necessarily come one after the other), but that would not explain much I'm afraid.

Personally I also find the "boyfriend" or "husband" distinction useful for that purpose, but the problem is that people give you weird looks when you talk about husbands in plural, and that many people seem not to want to say "husband" (or wife) about someone they're not legally married to.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 07-19-2012, 12:31 AM
Marcus's Avatar
Marcus Marcus is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Haltom City, TX
Posts: 1,287
Default Mindset

It is my opinion that over-fixating on the terminology "primary" and "secondary" puts the actual point of the discussion on a back burner.

At least for me the issue is the view that with encumbrance comes greater value. If someone has kids with one person, that person is by default of higher value than someone they don't have kids with. If someone shares a mortgage with one person they are somehow "closer" than someone who they don't share a mortgage with. If someone has been with one person for 10 years the relationship takes higher priority than the relationship that has been around for 1 year.

Relationships are all different, they all have their good points and limitations. My relationship with my friends are highly valuable to me, as are my relationships with my lovers, for example. But if one of my close people gets sick, is hurt, calls me in need of help, you can bet that I'm going to ditch whoever I am with (friend or lover) to go to their aid. You bet your sweet ass. Their "rank" is irrelevant. I love my people, my friends and lovers, and I treat them with dignity. When they need me I go to them, when they are in trouble I fight for them, and I don't feel the need to place one over the other. Doing so devalues the relationships.

I wouldn't have you guys redefine your terminology (which I've had to Google not shy of a dozen freaking times btw), I only hoped to bring up the question, to shake the bees nest and get people considering. That's really all we can ask of each other, right? To try and keep growing.
__________________
Independent (Anarchist) Non-Monogamy

Me: male, 40, straight, single
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 07-19-2012, 12:53 AM
nycindie's Avatar
nycindie nycindie is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: The Big Apple
Posts: 7,124
Default

Marcus, the terms are common in poly circles, not just here on this board (it sounds like you're saying it is "our" terminology here). Personally, I eschew the whole idea of such hierarchies in love relationships. Read some of SchrodingersCat's posts on the subject - I like her outlook. She calls her approach "relationship triage," meaning that there is no automatic hierarchy in her relationships, as she responds to who needs her attention and time the most (I hope I got that right).

We have a long "Master Thread" on this topic. Maybe you will find some good, interesting info in this one:

Primary/Secondary: Merged Threads, General Discussion / Debate

(If you set your viewing preferences in your user CP to 40 posts per page, this long thread is only 6 pages. Much easier to read longer threads this way!)
__________________
The world opens up... when you do.

Oh, oh, can't you see? Love is the drug for me. ~Bryan Ferry
"Love is that condition in which another person's happiness is essential to your own." ~Robert Heinlein

Last edited by nycindie; 07-19-2012 at 12:57 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 07-19-2012, 01:22 AM
Tonberry Tonberry is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Canada
Posts: 1,369
Default

Marcus, I don't see why you think it's saying the relationship is more important. I see it as a descriptive that because of other factors, more time is spent together. Surely, it's normal to spend a lot of time with somebody when you're living together. Similarly if you are raising a child, doing so makes you spend time together. If you're sharing finances, you'll have finance-related discussions.
I think all it means is that time is spent between the partners outside of dates due to the type of relationship. It's neither a good nor a bad thing, and doesn't make the relationship better or worse, more or less important. It just leads to different dynamics.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 07-19-2012, 02:21 AM
Marcus's Avatar
Marcus Marcus is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Haltom City, TX
Posts: 1,287
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
Marcus, the terms are common in poly circles, not just here on this board (it sounds like you're saying it is "our" terminology here). Personally, I eschew the whole idea of such hierarchies in love relationships. Read some of SchrodingersCat's posts on the subject - I like her outlook. She calls her approach "relationship triage," meaning that there is no automatic hierarchy in her relationships, as she responds to who needs her attention and time the most (I hope I got that right).

We have a long "Master Thread" on this topic. Maybe you will find some good, interesting info in this one:

Primary/Secondary: Merged Threads, General Discussion / Debate

(If you set your viewing preferences in your user CP to 40 posts per page, this long thread is only 6 pages. Much easier to read longer threads this way!)
Will do ny, I'll check out the debate.

When I refer to it as "your" terminology I mean the poly community, so we're solid on that front
__________________
Independent (Anarchist) Non-Monogamy

Me: male, 40, straight, single
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 07-19-2012, 06:39 AM
GalaGirl GalaGirl is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,856
Default

Quote:
First, for me "primary" and "secondary" are badly worded descriptions of stages. You can have several primary relationships, or you can have none. Same with secondary relationships. To me a primary relationship is the kind where you live together or share responsibilities in raising a child, or share finances, etc. Secondary relationships are less involved into each other's lives. Some people also talk about tertiary partners, which as far as I can tell means casual and/or very rare (once a year or less) encounters.
To me, these are different stages, and I wouldn't expect anyone I date to start at a primary level.
That's the ballpark I'm at with it for using those words.

I think it's moot though because for who it MATTERS? It's the people I'm involved with and what OUR vocab preferences are.

Quote:
But this specific issue has been there for a long time. There are lots of misunderstandings about what primary/secondary might mean, and it can be off-putting for someone to know they'll be "secondary", when if it was described as "You don't have to move in with me or help raise my kids", the partner would be happy about it rather than feel inferior because of it.
This does not compute in my world. Why would anyone sit around feeling inferior instead of going simple and speaking up to clarify? Get the word so you can let go of the emotion that is ugh. You don't pick what to feel when you feel it. You get to choose how to respond to the feeling -- manage it, process it, clear the air. REACT to emotion or ACT WITH INTENT? I prefer to act.

"When you SAY ____, does that mean ______? Clarify, verify please." (sit with feedback, come to conclusion, report.)
"Ok, I see how you mean it. I am ok with it. You can call me that." OR "I do not like the word ___. Please call me ____ instead. Thanks."

When I was open, I didn't have a huge poly vocab. I didn't even know the word "polyamourous" til after I was living it. I was young, the world wide web was barely getting moving. I had few to little sources, and by the time the first edition of "Ethical Slut" hit the bookstores and I finally met another poly person to friend it was like -"I want to be closing down to marriage space time now. Where was all this when I could have used it better when I wanted to be in open space?"

I used to call my then BF/ now DH "my lover" or "my boyfriend."

"Lover" was a clear vocabulary word for what he was to me to anyone else. This is a person I have sex with, this is a person I date. "My boyfriend" was clear about the dating, ambivalent about lover but after a certain amount of time people assume.

To him, because he was in our inner circle of 2, our initial agreement was "sweetness and light for a year. Friends with benefits, lover, boyfriend person. No past, no future. Just enjoy the now for a year. Then we see what we see."

I had decided my wants, needs, and limits and just put it out there in my dating life. He signed up. A few others did, one other made it to long term rship. The rest decided it wasn't their scene after all. Fair enough. There was ugh moments, but nobody could say I hadn't been honest.
  • Do not lie to me. It's a deal breaker. Hard truth it to me. I can take it.
  • I am not exclusive right now. No interest.
  • I am ok with you seeing other people. I expect to see others too, so fair is fair. Don't date me if that's not your scene. We can be friends.
  • Just keep it clean and give me the heads up if it will go loverly so I can make an informed decision about my health BEFORE you go there. No unplanned babies or cooties. I feel this is reasonable expectation. Do not play with me if you can't hack that. Lies of omission are LIES.
  • If one of yours is changing, I can check out and we can be friends or we can see about renegotiating with the new person if this is going to be some overlappy thing. But just TELL me the news. I will tell you mine.
  • I do not need to know every little thing. I only get excited when it is time to get excited. Just tell me someone new is in the picture. After that tell me when there's something to get excited about like it is looking to go lover. All the rest I don't need to know if you don't want to tell and some of it I don't want or even need to know. I figure you on same page unless you tell me otherwise on my others. We can fine tune specifics there.
  • Repeat -- do not LIE. That's the quickest way to get me all excited in way you DO NOT WANT. Hard truth it to me or don't even bother to play here.

Over the years it's become this. But it is much the same style.

A framework, adaptable. Our conflict resolution style is another thing, but really? He became husband over the years because we fly well together.

My other boyfriend (and back then he went by NAME, because I had no idea of the word "Secondary" and I articulated only to then BF/Now DH that there was this person in the picture and it was functioning on LDR basis) also flew well despite some bumps. But he was not destined to be rship of a lifetime. He was a long season -- spanning a few years and it was lovely, and I have good memories. When the season ended, unknown to me he contact my then BF/now DH to look after me well because I was precious. DH agreed and they left it knowledge to themselves for a long, long time.

DH told me about it years later. I was stunned. It was touching compersion moment even at the end of a season. (Didn't know the word "compersion" then but there were many other compersion-y moments like it).


I had no expectation of them to interact at all much less go THERE -- regular evidence of compersion-y. I just thought I was lucky that the metas (who didn't even have that word to describe each other) played so well without too much jealousy FLAK going on -- they knew the other existed, they knew how to get in touch, I figured I did my job and what they made of it was on them. Maybe it was because I was clear in my wants, needs, limits? And pushed them to articulate theirs? We had stormy weather but most of it? Was the sweetness and light.

And we did it with no "official poly vocab."

So to me it isn't about vocab. It's more about the willingness of the person to speak their truth to their people and be in right relationship with each other.

GG

Last edited by GalaGirl; 07-19-2012 at 07:13 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 07-19-2012, 07:03 AM
dingedheart dingedheart is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1,269
Default

Oh look the weekly round table on hierarchies. Anything new ....Didn't think so. Better luck next week. Suggestion for next week...tertiary or fuck buddy which has a higher rank?......or non primaries treated like rental cars....ridden hard and left for others to clean up.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 07-19-2012, 01:13 PM
sparklepop sparklepop is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 335
Default

Dingedheart, are you having a bad week or have you been on the forums for too long?
__________________

Me: (29f) open poly
In a long-distance relationship with GF (39f)
Dating Descartes in my home country (27f)



“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 07-19-2012, 01:55 PM
dingedheart dingedheart is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1,269
Default

My week is going fine....it was a little hot weather wise earlier but has cooled off now. Here too long maybe .....

Being new you might not be aware of how many threads ...from how many angles this topic has been beaten.....that's all. It seems to come up indirectly in lots of threads too. Every other day....I thought I was being kind with once a week

Ironically people say poly is freedom to build whatever relationship that all parties agree to ....except if there is a hierarchy....hierarchies are wrong. And which ever side you fall on it alway seems to boil down to one side trying to convince the other that they are wrong. And it usually breaks into a semantic game or argument.


Did that seem harsh


Ps ...right now I'm cover in coconut oil .....

Last edited by dingedheart; 07-19-2012 at 01:58 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 07-19-2012, 02:16 PM
newtoday's Avatar
newtoday newtoday is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 173
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by dingedheart View Post
Ps ...right now I'm cover in coconut oil .....
OOOH Back to the coconuts! Happy Post-Hump Day!

Now I'm singing.. AGAIN.

And craving a Pina Colada.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
definition, description, primary, primary/secondary, secondary, terminology

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 10:37 PM.