Feeling deprioritized in newish relationship with married partner

I thought I shared the secondary's bill of rights with you, but maybe I shared it on another thread! I understand you don't want to be in a hierarchical relationship, but since you are the new partner, and not cohabiting, face it. You are currently a secondary. This article should explain things for you.

Thank you for your willingness to help. I believe the term "hierarchy" needs more nuance, or individualization, than your response suggests.

I am not currently a secondary, nor will I ever be a secondary. That term seems pejorative and calculated to hurt. Regardless of your level of experience and how you view and practice polyamorous relationships, the only people who get to decide the parameters of MY relationships are myself and my partners, together. Why do you feel the need to say something like, "face it, you are currently a secondary," especially when I have not only said that I do not accept that term, but have also expressed that it has caused me a significant amount of trauma? You even expressed that you understood that I did not want to be in that kind of situation. The whole point of polyamory is that one does not have to subscribe to social norms, predetermined expectations, or prescribed relationship roles.

If you don't have a problem with the term, that's fine. Use it for your own relationships, as long as everyone involved is consenting. In this instance, I was the one asking for help, and I have a problem with the term. The solution to my conflict lay in a conversation I needed to have with my partner about boundaries, not a role that I needed to "face" and learn to accept, regardless of my level of discomfort. It is not, nor will it ever be, necessary or acceptable for me (or, I believe, for anyone) to compromise my own power and personal safety in order to address obstacles in my relationships. I would not accept a partner saying something like that to me, and I certainly will not accept it from someone who does not know me.

I encourage you to put some thought towards why you feel that it is necessary to lay down the law. I expressed that the term "secondary" makes me feel disempowered. When you say, "face it, you are currently a secondary," I hear, "face it, you're not a priority because you are the new partner and you don't live with your partner." Feeling deprioritized is not the same as not being a priority. However, a statement like the one you made also heavily implies to me that you feel your opinion on this matter is more important than my comfort and safety, and that you feel you know more than my partner and I do about my dynamic with him. Does that truly strike you as an open-minded and compassionate approach to offering advice to a stranger?

This needed a conversation, not a new label that could cause harm. It needed the right kind of communication, not someone forcing themselves--or being forced--into a box they do not fit into. Perhaps, in the future, if you don't think you can offer a suggestion without insisting that someone conform to your relationship style, you could consider stepping back until you are able to say something more considerate of the person who made themselves vulnerable enough to ask for nonjudgemental help. What works for you does not have to work for others, and what works for others does not have to work for you. It is, however, absolutely essential to maintain a level of compassion and flexibility if you are going to be offering advice to people, especially people with less experience than you. Otherwise, conversations will end and feelings will get hurt.

Thank you for your time. Love and Light. ✨❤️✨
 
Hi. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I hear that you have an extreme aversion to the term "secondary." It seems, because of past painful experiences/trauma, as though it makes you feel small, unimportant, disregarded and other negative things.

You started the thread by saying that it seemed your partner was treating you as a secondary and you wanted more consideration. I offered the link above to show you how to claim your power, despite their longer relationship history, marriage, living together, shared finances, habits, and all that. To me (and maybe to most poly people) "secondary" is not a pejorative term. It merely means you don't share a home, finances, a legal contract (marriage), a long history, etc. Lacking those things, there is a
power differential, and it’s vital to understand how that power differential will manifest itself in your relationship. ... your needs may not be given the same weight as those of the [established couple], but that does not mean that your needs are not important. It also does not mean that your needs should be disregarded... It is up to you to decide where your limits are, what needs are non-negotiable, and what you want to get out of your relationship. Bring these things to the table, and all the relationships involved will be healthier.

The info in the link explains how you can claim the power you do have. I think you'll understand if you just take a look at it.

I am not judging you. Why would I judge someone who is not being treated well and wants better treatment? I offered the link to show you what your rights are, what kind of consideration you deserve, etc.

I have the right to be treated with honesty, integrity, compassion, and sensitivity to my needs.

I have the right and responsibility, to clearly understand the terms of a relationship.
When I enter a new relationship, I have the right to have rules and the reasons behind them clearly explained and to have my questions answered. “Because that is how things are” is not an answer.

I have the right to be a part of discussions about decisions that affect me, wherever possible and practical. It is unfair to be told about changes in the form and rules of my relationships after the fact. While it is not reasonable for me to expect full decision-making partnership in all aspects of the [more established] relationship—for example, I may not have decision-making power in whether or not my partner decides to move away for a better job—I do expect to be part of any negotiations that directly impact the form my relationship takes.

I have the right to ask my partners to compromise and seek to reach a middle ground when possible. I should not always be the one and only one to make changes and do all of the bending.

I have the right to have relationships with people, not with relationships. That is, I have the right to conduct my relationship with a living, thinking human being rather than with an established relationship or a set of rules.

I have the right to expect that plans made with my partner will not be changed at the last minute just because a primary partner has had a bad day.

Or wants Chinese food.

I deal with most of my bad days alone and have the right to expect last-minute changes in plans to happen only in rare and unavoidable situations...

And so on. These issues appear to be just the kinds of things you were asking for help with addressing. I just happened to find it on the s-c-d-r--s bill of rights page.

The core couple may have certain rights and privileges (such as cohabitation, sharing mortgages or child rearing, and so on) that are not afforded to [the newer partner].

If your true desire/need is to have (and be) a primary partner, but the only relationship your lover can offer is of a [less fully immersed] nature, then you should probably figure out whether you can be happy in that role, either temporarily or permanently.

For instance, it may be possible for the relationship to evolve into a primary (or co-primary) form over time—but that does take time, and during that process, you will have to find a way to make peace with [your less fully immersed] role.

If your bf says you aren't secondary, but treats you as if you are, you'll be looking at whether you will be able to be patient enough to take the time needed to grow into a more co-equal role.

At what point would you have to admit that the relationship is not meeting your needs and not healthy? Are you hanging around mainly hoping that circumstances will change, or can you find a way to accept and embrace the situation as it exists?

Denying the power differential will not make it go away. A newer partner does have less power and influence. Your bf's actions showed how he's thinking of you. Knowing your rights and how to negotiate to have them met (if he is willing) will only help you.
 
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The whole point of polyamory is that one does not have to subscribe to social norms, predetermined expectations, or prescribed relationship roles.

The reality is that relationships often follow the typical social norms unless everyone involves tries to challenge them. In your case that's not happening. So whether or not you think you do secondary relationships, the fact your partner leaves you early to grab his wife Chinese and that's not an automatic "pause and discuss" shows you're currently doing one.

It's very easy to find yourself in a situation you didn't imagine because these social norms are so pervasive. But you are indeed in the situation you outlined as a hard limit. There is no escaping that. I think that's what Mags was pointing out.
 
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I think because of her strong reaction, and things she said earlier about dating partners (more than one?) "running at the first sign of trouble," we have a misunderstanding.

I know that many people (men) willing to date poly people (women) have the wrong idea of what polyamory is or how it works. They seem to have our role confused with a NSA good-time girl, good for a few laughs, some good sex, but do not want to accord us actual girlfriend status. They think we're just offering them some fun playtime. They don't understand how poly people can commit, despite being non-mono. So, if a conflict arises, the good time is over and since they think there's no strings attached, they just bail or ghost.

In other words, mono guys, and even men who claim to be poly (but actually aren't) have poly women confused with some chick who just wants to "hook up." If she steps out of that zone, he runs. Maybe this is the kind of guy that has hurt you in the past. I'm just hazarding a guess. I know it's happened to me!
 
When we were negotiating boundaries and relationship structure, I made it very clear that I don't participate in hierarchical relationships, and I will not be a "secondary" partner. This personal decision comes from a lot of reasons, but it is particularly because of past trauma I have that is associated with feeling disposable in my relationships. He reassured me that they don't have a hierarchical arrangement. However, I have been feeling a lot like a secondary partner, especially recently.
You then went on to list multiple behaviors by him (and her) that indicate that they do actually have a hierarchical arrangement but weren't being honest about that, perhaps even to themselves as they learn to navigate polyamory effectively.
I feel very stuck and want to give this some serious thought before I attempt to have a conversation about it.
Have you had that conversation with him yet?

If your boundary is, "I don't participate in hierarchical relationships" have you removed yourself from the relationship until such time as he can more authentically act with autonomy in conducting the you+him relationship rather than being beholden to the more trivial wants of the him+her relationship? Or are you continuing to 'grin and bear it' in the hope that they will become what they claim to be, that is, non-hierarchical? If the latter, how long will you give it before you are either satisfied that his behavior is such that you are not feeling deprioritized anymore, or respect your own boundary and exit the relationship?
 
Hey! I get you @AlsoSometimesPoodles.

I have a similar view about hierarchy and the term "secondary" as you do. I feel accepting a role as secondary would be to accept I am in a hierarchical relationship - and also will be for as long as I agree to it. It would be me giving away my power and even the possibility of growing into a non hierarchical relationship. If the relationship looks like there is hierarchy and I have agreed with my partner that we will be having a relationship of equals. It will mean that my partner and I, possibly with co-operation of the metamour, will talk through what it means to be in an equal poly relationship. Which for me is, in essence, that the needs and desires of each person involved are equally important. Even, if some of them are cohabiting or not, even if they have children or not. Surely children have needs and this is where it gets trickier, also, because it's easy to use children or cohabiting or the long held dysfunctional dynamics of a longterm partnership as an excuse for hierarchy or hierarchical behaviour. For me it makes things quite simple, the fact that I will not consent to hierarchy. I will not be a secondary. If my partner is able and willing to grow, I can be patient and keep voicing my needs and keeping boundaries as I wait for them to heal and liberate from mono-normative patterns. This has happened for me. It is possible. Even when there is children involved, shared finances and shared housing. But not everyone will do the work.

For me polyamory is not only that I love many people. It's having an impact, socially. I want to change the mononormative structures that surround us. Often, it's hard work. Sometimes I find myself so tired of trying to battle the believes about love not being possible while wholly free and at least not safe, if free. The saddest I get when I find other poly people - who were supposed to support me - telling me I live in a fairytale and should just confirm to the rules of monogamy, or at least hierarchical structure (that stems from monogamy).

Then again not having hierarchy does not need I would spend the same amount of time with each partner. Also with some we have a stronger connection and stronger commitments than with others. These things off course affect. I will no be giving my house keys to the person I met yesterday, nor will I ask them to take care of my kids. What non-hierarchy means for me is that there are the least amount of structures keeping things in a certain way. That anyone entering this relationship dynamic will be heard and we will work together to find what feels best for all of us. That the people already in this dynamic are ready to hear the new person when they show us the structures hurting them. And we will discuss needs as equals, not expect that the newest conform to what we were doing as they came.

It does sound like the man you are dating is used to pleasing his wife in certain ways. They may not be fully aware of this dynamis and now you have the unpleasant job of showing them their shadow. Don't expect to be praised, as this will most likely trigger responses in both if they are new to poly, or to anyone pointing out their relationship dynamic. Sure he can also be the kind of man for whom it is important to be on call for his lovers full time. Surely with two partners he will soon notice how little time will be left for his own freedom if he keeps doing this. :D Be honest about what you see, and let people grow at their own pace! If you have that kind of patience, he otherwise sounds like a great guy. We all have our shortcomings and places to grow. <3
 
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