Input from non-primary partners sought: How to treat non-primaries well?


New member
I run a blog called, which is by and for people who identify as poly or open who don't have (and perhaps don't want or aren't seeking) a primary partner of their own.

I'm putting together a post that would be list of tips intended for people in poly/open primary couples, with advice about specific things they can do or avoid in order to treat their non-primary partners well.

I realize this advice would vary greatly according to the relationships and individuals involved -- but I figured I'd just gather as much input as possible and look for common themes.

I want to keep this simple, so it's easy for people to read and remember. I would like it to be do/don't bullet points, not essays. Just the basics, a jumping off point for discussion. Think of it as a brief, action-oriented corollary to Franklin Veaux's popular and controversial "Secondary's bill of rights" (

Got input? Please comment below, or on my blog post seeking input ( or e-mail me at Please clarify in your contribution whether you are currently have a primary partner.

While people who are part of a primary couple may have good insight to offer on this topic, my goal here is to present tips that come from the perspective of solo poly/open folk -- since the vast majority of what's been written about poly/open relationships is not from our point of view.

If I use your input in my post I'm happy to attribute to you if you like, but will keep it strictly anonymous unless you give clear permission to attribute to you.


- Aggie
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New member
Speaking as someone in a sole relationship with someone who has a primary partner, here would be my $0.02. Hope it helps.


  • Assume good intentions - Most secondaries get into this with their eyes wide open. Share anxieties and worries from both sides. All parties can probably all make simple changes to improve the dynamic when needed.
  • Keep in touch - Not every detail of primary life, but nothing feels better than getting an impromptu "Thinking about you. See you soon." message.
  • Encourage Friendship among partners - Putting a human face on someone makes a big difference. Being friends (although not a requirement) with your partner's partner really rallies everyone in the right direction since the combined happiness of the group becomes critical - driving all the right behaviors.
  • Plan, plan, plan - As a secondary, I still have a hard time with sometimes feeling like I'm getting the primary's leftovers. Simple things can avoid this heartache, like scheduing and being up front about priorities.


  • Don't let things slide. Address issues immediately. Most likely, they'll re-surface.
  • Don't be an ass. Sounds simple, but recognize the complexity of your relationships and the additional reassurances and gestures that need to come with it.
  • Don't lie. End of story.
  • Don't make it any more complicated than it needs to be. Often, it's easy to get sucked into problem solving all of the time, when really focusing on having a good time and living it will make things feel better for everyone.
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Well-known member
Love your blog, Aggie.

I wish I had something to say on this topic, but I'm still so new to poly that I have almost no experiences with dating someone with a primary partner.

Unless I count my college boyfriend from 10 years ago--but he and his "housemate" [primary partner, but not using that label] were complete nutcases. So nothing of my experiences with them would apply to a world where people don't lie routinely to each other :)

Oh wait, I've got one:


  • Insist that your primary and I have to be best buds. We might like each other just fine, respect each other's relationships with you, but have no interest in hanging out as friends.


Active member
Been thinking about this thread, and ready to post two tips of my own for now. Maybe more later, after I formulate the language for what comes to mind. But here goes:

DON'T expect to manage every non-primary relationship in the same manner as your primary one. In addition, DON'T expect any of your metamours to relate to your primary and expect (or put up with) the same treatment from your primary that you do. If a metamour reacts or handles situations differently than you would, DON'T automatically start building a case against them. DO recognize that different people have differing needs and styles of expression. Some examples: just because you and your primary check in with each other every day doesn't mean your non-primary partner(s) or metamour(s) need or want that. And just because one non-primary lover wants a friendship with your primary doesn't mean that another non-primary lover would.

DON'T assume that the boundaries you have agreed to with your primary partner are the only ones that count. DO ask any potential new lovers what their personal boundaries are. If they say they don't know or don't have any, recognize that that is a problem, and exercise extreme caution in moving forward. If they do have boundaries, DO respect those boundaries and, in your negotiations with the new person, DON'T insist that the agreements between you and your primary take precedence. DO have some flexibility. DO keep in mind that any of your non-primary partners may have agreements with other lovers that could be at odds with or require some adjustments to your own. DO know before getting involved with any new lovers exactly which boundaries you have with your primary that are non-negotiable and which are more flexible. DO be prepared for the possibility that some adjustments to your boundaries and renegotiations with your primary may be necessary.

Respect each person you're involved with as an individual and DO take responsibility for all the relationships you choose to be in! In other words, DON'T expect your primary partner to manage and/or act as a go-between in your relationship(s) with your non-primary partner(s). DO make consistent efforts to nurture each relationship and to see what is needed when.
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New member
Be clear about the similarities and diffences each person in the primary couple has about what "poly" or "open" means to them; and also how they intend to handle the differences. They should have this discussion before seeking out other partners. The couple should be able to present an absolutely united front to any new partners, they don't have to agree on everything but they do have to agree to disagree and have guidelines in place to deal with their differences.

My qualifications: recently ended a relationship as a secondary to a primary couple / recently changed my relationship with my primary to secondary or "transitional status"


New member
I've got one. PLEASE make sure that you and your primary are on good terms before you start seeing someone else. Parameters and rules should be well established and understood BEFORE taking on a secondary lover. DO NOT wait for a secondary to come along before hammering out what you and your primary are and aren't comfortable with them doing with other people. DO NOT use your secondary as a focal point for resolving issues. Trust me, it can *really* be a pain in the ass for everyone involved if you wait until your partner is seeing someone else to tell them that you weren't happy with the established rules. So I guess this is more directed toward metamours-to-be: if you agree to an open relationship, do A LOT of introspection before you agree to something in theory that you might be uncomfortable with in practice.


Active member
I have another one. For those who have primary partners: DON'T think the dynamic of your primary relationship will not change. No matter how you attempt to control (or wish to control) the feelings, behaviors, or attitudes of your partner, nor how you may attempt to limit their activities or time spent with a secondary or non-primary relationship, YOUR relationship will never be the same. It cannot be stagnant anyway, but the fact that your partner is intimate with another will change the dynamic you previously had. This is not a bad thing. It should be expected, not avoided.


New member
First version of this list is live, thanks for your help!

Many thanks to everyone who contributed thoughts on this topic. I've assembled info from here and elsewhere into the first version of this list, published today on

Non-primary partners tell how to treat us well

This is a living document, still a work in progress. So if you have anything further to add, or any feedback to that post, please either comment here, on my blog, or e-mail me at

I worked really hard to include, and be respectful of, a variety of viewpoints here. I'd really like feedback on this post. Thanks!