is there a better word?

AnnabelMore

Active member
I've been thinking a lot about primary and secondary as terms to describe relationships.

It seems like a lot of people are willing to accept the idea that a newer lover, or a less involved lover, may be equal in love and respect but not necessarily equal in terms of making life decisions together or getting priority for time, commitment, etc. Things may change over time, a lover who was once secondary may become co-primary. But until that happens, or if it never happens, I find it useful to have a way to talk about the relationship's structure.

However, even those people who acknowledge the idea of the sort of relationship described above often seem to HATE the word "secondary" itself. Or, if not hate it, they at least may be kind of uncomfortable with it or see it as meaning a whole host of bad things. Like, people may assume that folks who have a commited life partner (a primary) and call another relationship secondary are going to have a host of rules, or are going to think of the newer person as disposable, or are going to mistreat their secondary partner.

I don't want to bring up a big discussion of "why don't we get rid of all these labels." We need words in order to think and talk about things. As long as the words are descriptive and not prescriptive, I think we're all good.

Maybe the problem is the word itself. Maybe secondary sounds too negative... maybe people can't help it, they see or hear it and they think second place, second in love, always thought of last, etcetc.

Can we as a community find a word that conveys the concept without all the negative baggage? Or is it just inevitable that the way people so often mishandle their relationships with newer partners will taint any word associated with the concept? Has anyone tried to come up with a new system of talking about these things before? Should it just be unique to every set of relationships (that would make it really hard to easily discuss things as a community...)?

Thanks for your thoughts!
 

SourGirl

Member
Just a little question here.

How,..does a group of people that encourage each other to face the things they are afraid of, for example - jealousy, then turn around and want to forget words that make them uncomfortable ?
We don`t come up with a new word for jealousy, just because we don't like it.

Why not face the words, face what makes us uncomfortable about it, and find some way to accept it ?

Fear is fear, is it not ?

I think people should be encouraged to find a level of acceptance, rather then duck and avoid.

*******

There seems to be a number of people who have equated 'secondary' with being 'not good enough'. I think that is more from former baggage they have yet to claim !

Rather then accepting the fact that it can be a whole lot of different things, depending on the various people involved.

I say,...work on that.
 

Chimera

New member
Just a little question here.

How,..does a group of people that encourage each other to face the things they are afraid of, for example - jealousy, then turn around and want to forget words that make them uncomfortable ?
We don`t come up with a new word for jealousy, just because we don't like it.

Why not face the words, face what makes us uncomfortable about it, and find some way to accept it ?

Fear is fear, is it not ?

I think people should be encouraged to find a level of acceptance, rather then duck and avoid.

*******

There seems to be a number of people who have equated 'secondary' with being 'not good enough'. I think that is more from former baggage they have yet to claim !

Rather then accepting the fact that it can be a whole lot of different things, depending on the various people involved.

I say,...work on that.

You're saying people should just accept uncomfortable words, word that make them feel less than? So you'd ask us to put up with a whole lot of hate words in this society right now? Personally I'm glad that we don't have to just get over it. It's not fear driving this or discomfort, it's anger, rejection, it's the fact that some people don't feel like they have to accept the logic behind those words.

"Secondary" has negative connotations of "less than" in our society. It does, it's not just personal "baggage." Why should anyone have to accept hierarchical language if they are working to not live their lives in that way? Hierarchy isn't "natural." We don't have to give in to rankings, competition, less than, more than. Language is incredibly important and I think AnnabelMore's question is a valid one.
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
Just because you don't like the word and don't use the word doesn't mean that relationships aren't hierarchtical .

What about alternate ....much softer ...kinder ....I think I got something here ..
 

marksbabygirl

New member
I went to dictionary.com and thesaurus.com and looked up the actual definition of "secondary" and its synonyms.

Depending on what point of view you want to take, secondary CAN be seen as less than or less desirable.

From dictionary.com:
sec·ond·ar·y   [sek-uhn-der-ee] Show IPA adjective, noun, plural -ar·ies.
adjective

1.next after the first in order, place, time, etc.
2.belonging or pertaining to a second order, division, stage, period, rank, grade, etc.
3.(in scholarly studies) pertaining to or being a derived or derivative account, an evaluation of original data, etc.; not primary or original, as in secondary source; secondary research .
4.of minor or lesser importance; subordinate; auxiliary.


From thesaurus.com:
Main Entry: secondary
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: subordinate; less important
Synonyms: accessory, alternate, auxiliary, backup, bush-league, collateral, consequential, contingent, dependent, dinky, extra, inconsiderable, inferior, insignificant, lesser, lower, minor, minor-league, petty, relief, reserve, second, second-rate, small, small-fry, small-time, subject, subservient, subsidiary, substract, supporting, tributary, trivial, under, unimportant
Antonyms: first-class, first-rate, important, primary, superior


So based on those definitions of what a secondary is... yeah - those are not very pleasant.

In case you're wondering - I like to make sure we're all working with the same definitions before I give an opinion.

I prefer the above bolded & underlined definitions. That's how I use secondary.

Not inferior, insignificant, lesser, lower, minor, trivial or any of those. Simply, an auxiliary who has less time in my life due to the fact that I am a busy woman with a full life.

I can and do make time for things that are important to me. I am making time to go to Kamloops this weekend for derby - its important to me. If someone were to come into my life who was important to me - I'd make time. I do for my friends. I do for my family.

But derby doesn't get equal time with my husband and kids. My friends don't get equal time with my husband and kids. An auxiliary/secondary/supplementary person wouldn't get equal time - and I wouldn't expect equal time in their lives either.

It doesn't mean the people in my life are less important - it just means that I don't have a lot of time to give them.

For me.. .secondary isn't a bad thing. Its just a fact of time.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Not inferior, insignificant, lesser, lower, minor, trivial or any of those. Simply, an auxiliary who has less time in my life due to the fact that I am a busy woman with a full life.


...derby doesn't get equal time with my husband and kids. My friends don't get equal time with my husband and kids. An auxiliary/secondary/supplementary person wouldn't get equal time - and I wouldn't expect equal time in their lives either.

It doesn't mean the people in my life are less important - it just means that I don't have a lot of time to give them.

For me.. .secondary isn't a bad thing. Its just a fact of time.

I agree.

BTW, as a pagan who likes to read the Bible for fun, I recently found this deep in the Old Testament:

I found a family where a guy had 2 wives (1 Samuel 1):

"Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb."

Interestingly, Peninnah means, "second."

"Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her."

Anyway, I've been wanting to post about that for a couple weeks. Just thought I'd throw it in there. Written about 2600 years ago...

The notes say Elkanah probably took a second wife to provide children.
 

AnnabelMore

Active member
Dinged, "alternate" is an interesting option, I think that has potential.

How do people feel about the idea of using "full-time partner" and "part-time partner" instead of primary and secondary? It occurred to me, because time and finances seem to be the main differences, and those are also often some of the major differences with a full versus part time job. Plus, there are no negative connotations to a part-time job, and it's understood that you could get more serious about a job over time.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Well, I don't live full time with miss pixi but she is still definitely my primary. She also considers her bf's house a 2nd home... she's welcome there as family... even though she could call him a secondary and he could call her that... and yet he might be moving away with his gf cross country. :( And she's just gonna be left behind.

sigh... just rambling.
 

River

Active member
The term "secondary" works for some people and doesn't work for others. I'm one for whom it doesn't work. And I agree a better word is needed. And I'm glad this conversation is happening, because of it. I'd love to find a word I find more comfortable, should I ever have a relationship roughly resembling a "secondary" one.
 

dingedheart

Well-known member
How about altamour ....

ok ...great so you invent a new name or pick a new name the definition would remain the same ...right. A guy riding on a garbage truck is a ???? Pre owned car is a used car right. Hundreds of millions of us went to Jr. high School and never felt the stigma ....but yet someone thought it a good idea to climb up and change the signage to Middle school....same building doing the (same) job .. ..at least in theory...trying to do the same job.

What happens if the chain gets longer....invent another word. My guess is that's why people with large constellations drop the labels because it may suck thinking of yourself as fourth runner up. But in fact that hierarchy still remains for a host reasons.

Whats the attraction of the "primary spot" ???? Wouldn't that be a fundamental flaw in poly thinking .....trying to achieve primary status?? Or at least in-congruent to poly thinking.
 

SourGirl

Member
You're saying people should just accept uncomfortable words, word that make them feel less than? So you'd ask us to put up with a whole lot of hate words in this society right now? Personally I'm glad that we don't have to just get over it. It's not fear driving this or discomfort, it's anger, rejection, it's the fact that some people don't feel like they have to accept the logic behind those words.

"Secondary" has negative connotations of "less than" in our society. It does, it's not just personal "baggage." Why should anyone have to accept hierarchical language if they are working to not live their lives in that way? Hierarchy isn't "natural." We don't have to give in to rankings, competition, less than, more than. Language is incredibly important and I think AnnabelMore's question is a valid one.

Actually, what I 'said' is whats written, not your twist with hate included. I am included in the 'we' part. I am going to be a secondary or less to other partners. I don`t have a problem with being seen as such. I don`t feel 'less then' in a wrong way.
I do believe fear drives all these label changes.
Btw,...Where does anger come from ? Hmmm ?

The following thought is actually what prompted my opinion.

Think more along the lines of 'step-father' and its meaning in society.

In some families a step-father is a secondary role. It`s accepted, yet the man knows that he is a secondary role to the biological father.

In other families, the step-father is as equally important as the biological father. providing love, and needs on a equal level.

And yet, in other families, a step-father is a primary role.

By its very definition, 'step-father' does not men less then, it is simply a way to denote that A) not biological b) they came into the picture second.

For all the bad press that can happen for step-parents, I am glad that the 'title' has not been ' owhh there is negative press about us so we need to be labelled something else'. Once upon a time, the title DID have a negative meaning, as divorce was less common.

It seems time can heal a lot of wounds. We can change titles all we want, but its just running away from the time and work that society tends to need to do, before things have a positive spin.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I guess my point about the Bible quotes was, they've been called secondaries for over 2600 years, it obviously works.

Of course, a 2ndary can be loved more than one's primary. Hey, it happens. Even after NRE fades, you could be more enamoured of your second than your first. Maybe she meets more of your needs and accepts the newer version of you better than your primary does.

Second as far as linear time goes, first in your heart...

My thoughts are so disjointed today. Hurricane fear messin with my head.
 

AnnabelMore

Active member
Interesting connection with the term step-father, Sour, that makes a lot of sense. I agree that we need to redeem the inherent honor and respect of the role for those who choose it, and that's about way more than the word. It's about education, mainly. And it will, very much so, be different for every situation.

My concern is just about whether or not "secondary" gives people the wrong idea from the very start (note those less than cheery dictionary and thesaurus connotations versus "step" which doesn't really mean anything), and whether there's terminology that would be just as clear but wouldn't cause people to immediately think "less worthwhile."

A different term may or may not be called for, but I wanna see what we can come up with it. After all, ALL our terminology is so new, why not play with it?
 

ray

New member
I agree that there's no solid reason why we shouldn't consider a change in terminology. Labels change all the time including whether they're positive or negative. Negro used to be the accepted term but now its considered rather offensive. I don't hear anyone saying, oh they've just got baggage, we don't need a new word. There are A LOT of people who dislike the word secondary and for good reason. Sometimes, it can accurately describe a relationship but often it fails to do so. I see no reason why we can't continue to work through our insecurities AND find a more likeable term. If it weren't a big deal, there wouldn't be things like the secondaries bill of rights.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
Some people just say OSO, other significant other. Of course, there is a poster here who is a... secondary, who was thinking of herself as the Other Woman, which obviously has mono, negative connotations. But somehow "other significant other" sounds OK.
 

River

Active member
I suspect there are significant differences between those who are comfortable with the term "secondary" and those who are not comfortable with the term, in relation to how we conceive of loverly relationships. In my own case, if I am truly in love with someone, and we have become in some sense partners in life (which, I think, is what loverly relationships fundamentally are, at least for me), I'd want to be equal in importance, love, value... with my partner's other partners -- even if there are significant differences, e.g., if he or she lived with one or more of the partners while I did not. I'd simply want--and need--equal status in any partnership relationship. (Being equal in love status is not necessarily to be equal in time spent together, etc. This comes down to worth/value/affection/commitment.)

That said, perhaps there is the possibility that I may in some future time have a relationship which straddles a fence, which is between casual friendship and partnership, somewhere, and in which there is sexual / erotic activity and deep affection. I'm exploring whether I want or need such relationships. I do not at present have such a relationship. And yet I'm not closed to this possibility. I'm sure I have no interest in "casual sex" or "no strings attached" sex, or "fuckbuddies" and the like. My sexality is simply too much connected with my heart, emotions, feelings, spiritual life..., to treat it overly casual.

I'll have to admit, though, in this context of inquiry that I find myself quite attracted to a very new friend, whom I barely yet know. A guy, this time. And this sort of attraction sort of throws a monkey wrench in my thinking (and experience) about relationships at this time. It's impossible to know or guess how things will unfold; yet I do know I now have three people who need to be considered in all that I do, for I now have two life partners (and there is myself as the third person). And I'm committed to each of them/us profoundly. (It is not precisely clear to me how many romantic life partners I can take on, nor how wise or unwise it might be to bring two new ones in at the same time. This seems risky, at the least. But maybe I can have something "light" with this new person? and it may cause no harm(?)) Life must be some sort of grand experiment, no?
 
Last edited:

AutumnalTone

New member
You're saying people should just accept uncomfortable words, word that make them feel less than? So you'd ask us to put up with a whole lot of hate words in this society right now?

"Secondary" is not a hate term, nor has it ever been. It is a descriptor, nothing more nor less. Any baggage people bring to it themselves cannot be laid at the feet of the word--they have to take responsibility for their own shit.

"Secondary" has negative connotations of "less than" in our society.

Nope. Unless, you're intending that as a measure of amount, as in "a secondary source of income" referring to a smaller income source, that is incorrect. Even in that instance, noting the lesser amount of income does not indicate that source as being of less importance to an operation.

You may add extra meaning to the term when you use it; not everybody does.

Hierarchy isn't "natural." We don't have to give in to rankings, competition, less than, more than.

It certainly is natural. Do you spend an equal amount of time with each and every friend you have? No? You spend much more time with some than with others? That is the natural order of things--and it's hierarchical.

If you don't like the descriptors "primary" and "secondary," then don't use them. Use something like "base" and "additional" or "daily" and "occasional" or "live-in" and "outpatient" or some other combination of descriptors that works.

Trying to assign baggage you carry to perfectly good terms that other folks are happy to use is entirely your issue, however.
 

SourGirl

Member
Well for all those that feel they need to change the word, that is the beauty of freedom. You can be called whatever you wish, by those you love, and who you love.

I do implore those that have such a hatred of the word, to perhaps think a little bit more on why they have such a problem.

I see and hear ( no one in particular in this post, fyi) a lot of fear. Fear that allowing one to be labelled is a licence to others to be treated poorly, or not loved enough, or disrespected. Fear of being second-rate. The fear is controlling the logic.

I also see a lot of 'control' . It can feel easier to be fearful, and try and control the small things, when the big things seem so out of reach. Educating, and correcting people is a larger task, then simply trying to bully people into new terminology.

I think Annabel did a great job of bringing up a interesting topic. :) I don`t however agree, that it should be used across the board, for all.
In your own lives you have the ability to choose how you wish to be addressed and labelled, that is what makes things 'personal' and endearing to your own relationships.
 

River

Active member
"Secondary has negative connotations of "less than" in our society."


Saying "Nope" with conviction has little weight as a contribution to a conversation.

It seems to me we have here a linguistics question. What connotations does this word actually have in real world usage? That's the question. It seems to me obvious that people use first and second as value terms quite regularly. Some restaraunts / wines / books / furniture are "first rate," while others are "second rate". First generally or often connotes "best" or "most important". These, I think, are linguistic facts. "Nope" doesn't change the facts.
 

ray

New member
to say that secondary is no more or less than a descriptor is a woeful simplification of the reality. As some one who has studied linguistics, it is widely held in that field that words have not only definition but also context. Yes, baggage, if you will. If you don't personally feel that baggage of the word, great, but it is odd to say that it doesn't exist. In the poly community and in the English speaking community, the word secondary has contexts and connotations, bad, good and neutral. I don't think that anyone is suggesting that no on ever use it, especially if it works for them, but it feels like folks are trying to make those of us who'd like a new word feel badly about it. No word exists in a vacuum.
 
Top