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  #1  
Old 01-27-2015, 07:43 PM
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Default A Primary Says...

A friend of mine recently posted something to summarize his definitions of primary/secondary/tertiary in polyamorous relationships.
I know most of you don't practice hierarchical poly, but for those who do, I was curious to discuss.

It was:
Imagine we've been in a relationship for a year then I tell you that I'm moving 1000 miles away for my dream job.

A primary says, "When do we move?"
A secondary says, "When can I visit?"
A tertiary says, "I'll miss you."

Thoughts?
Does this sound like a reasonable way to quantify each level of relationship?
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Old 01-27-2015, 07:54 PM
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My initial response was - of course.
But then, I don't have a particular tie to any particular geography or place, my career can be done from anywhere, and I've always been the submissive one in my long term relationships.

The more I thought about it though, I wondered how that would work in larger poly networks.

I can see such a thing working in a duo, but only if only one person has strong career aspirations that are tied to a specific company or job, or for whatever reason strong ties to a geographic area or location. What if one person gets their dream job 1000 miles away from where the other person gets their dream job? What if one person wants to stay in a particular area for family or cultural reasons?

Similarly, I can see it working in triad, but again, only if one person has the overriding reason they have to move, and the other two don't have any objection.

But as soon as you start having a network - what do you do? Uproot the whole network for one person?
What if there's a V relationship where all three are co-primaries raising children together, but the person wanting to move is not the hinge? (That's my definition of a primary relationship - living together and coparenting.) And what if the three have other relationships they don't want to leave? What if it's even more complex, like a W formation? Would objecting to moving mean that the relationship with the person who was moving for their career was secondary as opposed to primary?
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Old 01-27-2015, 09:29 PM
FieryPhoenix FieryPhoenix is offline
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To a large degree, you answered your own question.
It CAN work that way.

And then there are also those "game changers" in life;
where someone makes a decision or encounters something that completely changes everything-often unexpectedly and whatever existed before is knocked off it's rocker so to speak.

your example is a prime one.

I was in a situation with two primaries by the definition of two partners who lived with me, we all shared responsibilities and expenses.
But-I am moving. A major move. It's in the best interests of me and my children.
When it was hypothetical-both of my partners expressed that they would "of course" go anywhere I went.
Now that it's no longer hypothetical and they have had to face the reality of a major move away from the only place they have ever lived, leaving their jobs, friends, "home";
Both have backed out.
Decades long relationships, terminated.


In reality the idea of heirarchy is complicated. If you look at it as I did where it was simply a label to define how far enmeshed a partner was; not how important they were but how enmeshed in terms of intermingled responsibilities (finances, bills, property ownership, children etc)-it can look simple enough, because the more enmeshed a person is, the more individual obligations that they have WITH the other person.
But people tend to think of it as obligations TO the other person, when in fact that isn't true.

I am obligated to the mortgage company for my half of the house payments, the credit union for my half of the vehicle payments, the utility companies for my half of the utilities, the children for parenting etc.
I am not obligated to my PARTNER for each of those things, I am obligated WITH them.
Those obligations CAN be met by each of us even if we decide we are no longer partners. (which is being proven as I type because that is precisely what is happening).

To each other, partners still remain obligated only as partners to treat each other with respect and love etc. These obligations may be met via different methods in any given relationship, but the obligation is the same for any relationship.
Thus hierarchy concepts break down for me here, because functionally my obligation to treat each person as an autonomous individual, with respect, consideration and love doesn't change regardless of how frequently we hook up.
What changes is that I may SHARE more or less obligations with any given person-but this is true of people other than my partners AND it can be true with our without any level of romantic or sexual commitment or agreement.

SO-back to your example, my partners who were identified as "primary" reacted (in the end) to a move across the country with "um no. I will always love you but I can't". Whereas there are others who are not even sexually involved with me who reacted with "when can I visit" and "when do we leave". They would have been considered "less than tertiary" as they aren't romantic or sexual partners at all.....
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Old 01-28-2015, 12:25 AM
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Re: when do we move, when can I visit, and I'll miss you ... work well enough as simple examples, if we assume all else is equal and there are no complicating factors.

One thing to consider is that there's more than one way to define primary, secondary, and tertiary. They can be defined by how much romance is shared, or by how many life logistics (e.g. living together) are shared, or by what priority we give different people ... and I'm sure there's other ways to define those terms.

In my situation, a tertiary would be someone I'd just met and/or was dating for the first time. A secondary would be someone I'd been dating for a long time, and had become a real candidate for becoming a part of the poly-fi V I'm in. A primary would be the people actually in that V (or N if we added another primary partner). It's not an exact science. The words convey general ideas.
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Old 01-28-2015, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FieryPhoenix View Post
Decades long relationships, terminated.
Wow. Sorry to hear that!!

The rest of your reply is really interesting. That is a salient point about how being obligated WITH someone is not the same as being obligated TO them. I agree, I think most people conflate the two.

Out of curiosity, if you feel like answering, after your move, would you still consider the partners that were left behind as primary partners?

I can see how someone would consider a long distance partner as still primary, if the move had an ending date - like a tour of duty in the military, or going to grad school in a different state - but I wonder if an *indefinite* long distance move makes it impossible to continue a "primary" relationship with someone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kdt26417 View Post
Re: when do we move, when can I visit, and I'll miss you ... work well enough as simple examples, if we assume all else is equal and there are no complicating factors.

One thing to consider is that there's more than one way to define primary, secondary, and tertiary. They can be defined by how much romance is shared, or by how many life logistics (e.g. living together) are shared, or by what priority we give different people ... and I'm sure there's other ways to define those terms.

In my situation, a tertiary would be someone I'd just met and/or was dating for the first time. A secondary would be someone I'd been dating for a long time, and had become a real candidate for becoming a part of the poly-fi V I'm in. A primary would be the people actually in that V (or N if we added another primary partner). It's not an exact science. The words convey general ideas.
That's a really good point also. I ran into that when discussing this subject with Guy, because I was curious where his relationship with Lee is going, if it was something he saw as becoming a co-primary situation in the future - and we found that there really wasn't a good way to nail down what exactly those levels were.

So I'm very curious what everyone's definitions are (and thanks for giving yours!) for primary/secondary/tertiary. (For those of you who use such things.)
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Old 01-28-2015, 08:25 PM
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I used to think I was a no-hierarchy type of a guy, but then I realized that when you've just barely met someone, they can hardly be a primary partner to you. Thus, we must all be hierarchical in that sense at least ... amirite?

I too am interested to hear how various people define primary/secondary/tertiary.
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Old 01-28-2015, 08:47 PM
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I don't think it's a good description. I don't practice hierarchical poly, but back when my husband and I were together -- and monogamous -- he had brought up the idea of relocating somewhere else for his job, if an opportunity came up (his employer had lots of positions that required a commitment of a year or two in a different place), and I told him I wouldn't want to move but would consider some kind of dual-city arrangement so he could take advantage of the opportunity but we could visit each other. I don't think a spouse should be required to uproot themselves just because their partner wants or would benefit from doing so. We were married, with our finances co-mingled (essentially primaries in that sense, though no kids), and I was terribly devoted to him and in love, but I just wouldn't have moved because I didn't want to.

Now, as a solo poly, if I get to a point where I have, say, three steady lovers with whom I am emotionally invested, and I told them all I wanted to move, I would not assume that their responses to that would indicate my importance in their lives. People gotta do what's right for themselves.

As far as how to define primary, secondary, etc.... it always bugs me when people say, in response to those of us who do not like heirarchies, "You wouldn't expect me to treat a new bf/gf the same as a spouse I've been with for 20 years!" Well, that's not what I see as the problem with hierarchies. Of course there is always a period of getting to know a new person before you entrust them some of the same things one would give a totally entangled partner - but non-hierarchical, egalitarian poly is more about treating each person with equal respect and consideration, not necessarily that they get the same "perks." It's about not making one dyad more important and expecting another partner to always and automatically defer to the primary's needs/wishes. Every person wants and needs different things, and so you use "Relationship Triage," which was described by SchrodingersCat here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
Yeah I really hate using the Primary/Secondary labels myself, even as a "quick and dirty" description of my circumstances . . .

Yes, I'm married. Yes, we share finances and a household. Yes, that means I have obligations and commitments to him. I also have obligations and commitments to school, to my parents, to my best friend and her son... And if I get into a serious relationship with someone else, I will have obligations and commitments to them. And triage will go thusly: who's having the bigger crisis right now and needs my time and attention most, at this moment?

It does not mean that I have already decided, a priori, that all my future relationships will be "less important." It does not mean that anyone will ever be considered disposable, simply by virtue of not being my spouse. I didn't roll that way when I was single, why would that change now?
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
I never claimed that primary and secondary relationships were not different. They are very much different. I have explicitly chosen to reject the implications of those differences by deliberately avoiding the labels of primary and secondary.

For example, suppose my "secondary" is having a major crisis like her mom just died, and my "primary" needs to talk about a bad day at work. The "primary/secondary" model implies that my primary's needs come before my secondary's needs, regardless of the severity or immediacy of those needs.

I prefer relationship triage. So: if you come into my hospital, I really don't give a hoot if you've sprained your ankle, Mr. President, I'm going to treat the homeless guy bleeding profusely from his 3" stab wound first.

. . . Sharing my finances and housing with a person does not, to me, constitute "my whole life." I still have my career, my friends, my alone-time, my hobbies, not to mention my other romances. These are all parts of "my whole life" and none of them include my husband . . . Really, the only "point" of poly relationships, and the only thing to "get" is: Can you be in love with more than one person, yes or no? Honestly, that's what it all boils down to. The rest is mechanics.

Like I said: primary/secondary is not *for me*... I certainly do not claim that they are not for anyone. Some people are extremely happy with those roles, and I'm a firm believer in "whatever works for you is fantabulous."

. . . every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It is not respectful or kind to tell someone that their feelings are unimportant simply because they don't match up with the feelings of someone else.

I like to let every relationship grow in its own way. To me, using a label of "secondary" means that I'm putting limits on the way that relationship is allowed to grow. It's like keeping fish in a small tank: it will limit the size to which they can grow, even though they're biologically capable of growing much larger.
:
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Last edited by nycindie; 01-28-2015 at 08:58 PM.
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  #8  
Old 01-28-2015, 09:32 PM
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Agreed with nycindie. Not moving with a partner doesn't necessarily mean the relationship is less important, because not everyone needs regular face-to-face contact for a relationship to be significant, and maybe they don't want to move because of other priorities in their life.

I don't use "secondary" or "tertiary." I only use "primary" and "non-primary," the difference between which is the amount of practical life sharing and time spent together. All of my relationships are equal in terms of emotional significance and commitment. None of them gets privileges like veto power or has a say in my other relationships.

As a side note, the response of the "tertiary" in the OP's scenario doesn't make much sense to me (assuming only saying "I'll miss you" implies they don't intend to visit). If I move away from someone and neither of us bothers to visit the other, I have a hard time imagining calling them a partner. We're probably not even close friends. I guess a tertiary partner is like a casual dating partner for people who use the term, but since casual dating doesn't compute for me, nor does "tertiary partner."
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Last edited by Eponine; 01-28-2015 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 01-28-2015, 09:53 PM
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Re (from SchrodingersCat):
Quote:
"I prefer relationship triage. So: if you come into my hospital, I really don't give a hoot if you've sprained your ankle, Mr. President, I'm going to treat the homeless guy bleeding profusely from his three-inch stab wound first."
Amen.
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Old 01-29-2015, 06:51 AM
FieryPhoenix FieryPhoenix is offline
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Would I consider a ldr primary.
I wouldn't consider anyone primary at this point in my life.
In the case of the oartners in question-both relationships have been terminated. So no.

But additionally; I have chosen to alter my relationship style to a solo approach since.

Regardless; I personally am an extraordinarily touchy-feely person. Without physical touch, I lose connection. I am a sex several times a day type of person, with a preference for every day. I CAN and do maintain long ditance friendships. I would be more than willing to consider someone a fwb and be sexual as opportunity arises. But if they are far away, I am not going to regularly prioritize them over someone close by.
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