privacy/ limits with secondaries


New member
I'm new here, but I have lurked for a few hours this morning and haven't seen my question addressed in other threads.

My problem is about boundaries and rules/ agreements. I recently realized that it is important for me to know that my primary partner comes to me first (and preferably last) with problems about our relationship. I found out a while ago that she had been discussing our problems with one of her secondaries and it made me feel threatened. I don't want to prevent her from having a support network of friends, family, therapist... but I would prefer it if she doesn't include her secondaries in this network.

I am open to any and all perspectives on this situation. There are more details below for those who are interested.

About me: a bit of a polywog, been in my first poly-relationship with a lovely lady for about a year. Realizing that I was poly was a revelation. This is the kind of relationship that I have always wanted. My partner keeps telling me that this agreement I am asking for is "too monogamous" and isn't really poly. It drives me crazy, because I really like being poly. I just want a form of poly that feels right to me.

The details:

We had some problems this summer. We both had some emotional issues that ended up bumping into each other and we started fighting. I had problems managing my anger and yelled. I'm working through this anger problem with a therapist and she is working on her things with her own therapist.

She told me at one point that she had started talking about these fights with her main secondary. At the time I didn't express how this made me feel, because I was ashamed of the fights and didn't think I had the right to say anything. But as time went on, I lost all feelings of compersion for this other guy. I became jealous and insecure about our relationship.

She says I am trying to censor her or control her other relationships, but I feel like if this other guy gets to step in as relationship counselor about us, then he isn't really a secondary. I feel like I have been pulled into a V that I didn't agree to.

EDIT: I know a lot of people don't like the hierarchical terms "primary" and "secondary." These fit well for us because my primary and I have been together longer than any of our other relationships and we recognize that our level of commitment makes us more important to each other than any of our other partners. The secondary she talked to also has a live-in primary partner of 5+ years, so it is clear that their relationship is non-primary for both of them.
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Active member
My boyfriend is my best friend and tends to be MUCH more mild mannered and accepting than I.
So I do frequently ask his advice in terms of issues between dh and I. Frankly-without his input, I would have destroyed this marriage a long time ago.

He's much more likely to support a solution that benefits my husband than anyone else in our lives AND he knows both of us well.

On the otherhand, if a lover didn't have a good knowledge of both of us or they weren't prone to supporting the relationship between DH and I-then I would definitely not go to them for advice.

I dont think primary/secondary or lover/nonlover matters. What matters is the persons ability to prioritize suggestions that are beneficial to both your partner and you. Some people are gifted in that-others are not.


New member
My boyfriend is my best friend and tends to be MUCH more mild mannered and accepting than I.

She keeps saying that this person is her friend too, but I think him being a lover and romantic partner makes it more complicated. Once he starts learning things about me that I didn't want to tell him, I feel like he becomes competition.

He's much more likely to support a solution that benefits my husband than anyone else in our lives AND he knows both of us well.

That's the other problem. I don't know this guy very well and I don't trust him because he is a well-known gossip.


Active member
He only becomes competition if you choose to compete.

As for the trust-I do understand what you are saying.
In my case, my boyfriend has been my best friend for 20 years come April. He's been in the picture longer than my husband (we've been together 15 years). Furthermore, we have all lived together the last 10 years.

So there is a LOT of knowledge and understanding.

But-the bottom line for me is that some people aren't trustworthy for that type of role (advisor, confidante etc) REGARDLESS of if they are sex partners or not.
Other people are great for that-regardless of if they are sex partners.

If you don't trust HIM-that is a whole different issue to address.
If he's a gossip-that is a specific issue to address.
If you don't want your private info shared-that is an issue to address.

But each is different and ESPECIALLY in poly dynamics its IMPERATIVE to name the distinct and specific issue-not to allow ourselves to ball up the issues into being about "a lover" or "a friend" but specific people and specific behaviors.

Otherwise-we end up in a quagmire of semantical bullshit.

So-My advice is to sit down with yourself and make a list of what specific characteristics (not relationship status's) make a person a GOOD confidante and adviser. Then make a list of what makes someone not trustworthy as a confidante and adviser. Also make a list of what things you absolutely don't want discussed with ANY other people versus things that you are ok with being discussed with a trusted adviser/confidante, vs things you don't care who knows. Finally-what information is YOUR personal info, what is your partners personal info and what is "our" personal info. Because anything that is your partners and anything that falls into "our" is also your partners info.. where as things that fall under you alone-are not your partners to share ever-without your explicit permission.

Once you have that knocked out-then sit down with your partner and explain to them what you have written out and that you want to discuss with them creating an agreement of understanding regarding what information is shared and with whom.

(side note-I do grasp well what your complaint is-we had a doozy of a battle for the last year because my husband shared personal info with a new interest and she wasn't trustworthy and it did get used inappropriately-try to be calm and find a rational way to convey the info to your partner.)


New member
I wouldn't be able to function in a relationship in which I was censored. I prefer to be open about my relationships, and being an introvert means I have a few close friends, and currently I have one lover and a fairly intimate relationship with his wife. I talk to them about people I'm interested in, because I need their support. I started a serious relationship with a man this past summer and the main failing point was his attitude about my lover, which I would not have discovered if I hadn't openly talked about my relationship with my lover... not to seek advice, because I don't necessarily need advice when I describe an issue or experience. it was valuable to see his reaction because I was able to conclude more quickly that I have no room for him in my life than I would have if I'd tried to keep every relationship in its own airtight container.


Stealth Mod
There's a difference between censorship and discretion. If you're unable to function in a relationship in which you're asked not to discuss one partner's personal details with another then you need to make that clear to everyone going in so that they can decide whether they'd be able to function in a relationship with no privacy.
You know, I am NOT OK in any way with my husband talking to other parties about issues he is having with me if he hasn't already talked to me about them. I know the intent isn't there, but to me it feels negative and gossipy (or fearful that it means our relationship is not strong), and I don't want to be married to somebody who can't discuss things with me first if they are about us. I know it may happen now and again, but I hate it with a passion, I'm a private person. If we've discussed a problem but it's ongoing, of course him talking about it with friends I expect, him discussing our stuff with metamours - well if I like them and am comfortable with them, I don't usually mind, and there will be a point where I specifically state that I am OK with them being a confidant of our "personal business". If I don't know them at all, or they come across as judgmental, I will ask Adam to not talk to them about it if the conflict isn't directly affecting them too. I talk to my two best friends and my sister about relationship issues to varying degrees, but I don't want to color a partner's opinion of another partner with transitory feelings or issues.

Oddly, I have no idea if my boyfriend talks to his partners at all about me. He doesn't talk about them in any way that includes sharing with me any problems they might be having. Because he is married I don't feel like it's necessary to protect some "core privacy", and if he's feeling unhappy about us, I imagine he would talk to his wife & girlfriend about it before he talked to me. I just realized as I wrote this that if he started dating somebody new and I hadn't met them, I would feel unhappy about the idea of him talking to them about issues he was having with me without a verbal statement from him that he was going to do so. So that was a tangent...

Anyway, if privacy is important to me, I make sure to discuss what I want or expect from any relationship, and to negotiate what is or isn't going to happen in that arena so I can figure out if I'm willing to accept them wanting to share differently than I do. If I haven't asked for privacy, I don't get too upset when I find out stuff I'd like to be private is shared with others.

On a side note - I think it is easier when both sides are sharing somewhat equally. If her bf is sharing relationship troubles with her, it might be natural for her to disclose more about her relationship with you. You have every right to ask her to only ask for advice and feedback from friends, relatives, forums without a heads up. You have a right to ask for whatever it is you want, and that's where negotiation begins. If she doesn't want to abide by your preferences, you get to decide if it means the relationship doesn't feel "safe" for you, and what that means to you.


New member
My personal opinion on it is that you need to work out how to deal with your emotions concerning the jealousy about the secondary. Like everyone else is saying, is he okay as a person for her to go to. Do you think that he is going to use that information against you. Do you think he's the type of person to tell her things like "Well if its that bad then leave the relationship" and not things like "how have you considered working this out?" Will he use this information against you, or are you just FEARFUL that he will use it against you. Has he done anything to make you fearful of this information.

If not, and he has proven to be a good supporting role, giving her advice, good advice as its needed, you have to remember that when you feel jealous and learn to look past that.

In the meantime, while you're trying to work through that issue, let your partner know, "Hey I'm trying to work through these feelings and not restrict you, for your secondary is not a bad person and I know this. So I ask that you work with me on this and let me know what you're going to discuss with him." or something along those lines. But actually work through those feelings, don't just keep constantly giving that excuse.

Good luck okay.


New member
I used to, and still do to an extent, feel the way that you feel.

I don't have a problem with my GF sharing our issues with her husband, or her coming to me about her husband, as we are both her primaries and would always be fair, encourage the other person's point of view, etc. I trust him now, after hearing that he has defended me in the past. I also trust him to tell me that I'm being a dick ;) when I mess up with her.

When I met her, she was close to divorce and would come to me with daily problems about her husband, other lovers, everything else. She told me that I was her best friend; that she couldn't talk to anyone the way she could talk to me. Then, later in our relationship, I discovered that she had been talking to a secondary about issues I didn't even know we were having, because she didn't tell me. One example, is that she was feeling claustrophobic due to a) taking something I'd said completely the wrong way, b) we had just moved in together and she needed a bit more physical space and c) she was trying to learn to balance two live-in primaries, plus secondary relationships. She'd even told him that she didn't know if we would work out. Now, I'd moved from one country to another to be with her. I was horrified, shocked and, like you, felt completely betrayed and threatened. She even told her secondary that she couldn't talk to anyone the way she could talk to him... and this broke my heart, to be honest, as I always thought that was my place. So, my feelings were:

1. Threatened - because I felt secondary was taking my place as her best friend and confidant.

2. Betrayed and embarrassed - I want some privacy and don't want to be thought of in a negative way by her secondaries

3. Disappointed - that she couldn't come to me with the problem(s) and sort them out more quickly.

Do you think that you are feeling these things? When you break it down?

It's often ok to do something, when it's us doing it... but we become upset when it's the other way around. Perhaps your GF wouldn't mind you talking to your secondary about her... but I have a feeling that it might bother her just a tiny bit. So, what are the reasons for our GF's talking to their secondaries instead of / as well as us? Based on what my GF said, and my own ideas, here are some suggestions:

1. They can't come to us. We react over-sensitively, with anger, go into a paranoid state for a week thinking that they will leave us. The idea of telling us they have a problem scares them, tires them, or puts them off.

2. Their secondary defends us, or points out both sides of the argument. They go to them because they *know* they will get a balanced view.

3. They can usually come to us, but just need to vent about something, without getting into a big discussion with us, or worrying/hurting us needlessly.

The other reason... and this is where our dark mind takes us... is that they are glowing closer and closer to their secondary... that we were once their best friend and confidant - yet, they are no longer happy with us, want to leave us and want to be with this new, caring, balance, soft person. Well - the possibility can't be ruled out. When I look back at my relationship with my GF, when she was talking to her secondary more often, she probably did have those thoughts. Hell, I know she did. We were fighting a lot and he was always placid. I didn't actually get over the fact that she might prefer him to me for about 18 months.... then, one day... she came out with the following sentence: "[secondary] and I wouldn't have the same passion as we have. And he is always so damn placid. I like your fiestiness." Hallelujah! I was worried she'd want him more BECAUSE he was so placid... and she wondered the same thing for a while... but, with exploration and being able to explore that relationship... she realised that it was actually too boring, too stable for her. We might have argued a lot; but we would slay dragons for each other, too. Her secondary never agues, is a great confidant, but he'd probably make a cup of tea for the dragon and get them both killed. ;)

My point with this... is that you do have to ask her if that's why she talks to him. Listen to what she says. Tell her how you feel. If it seems like she is currently preferring him... don't let it scare you. Be the best version of yourself that you can be and she will see it. If she IS thinking that he might be a better partner than you... what do you want to show her? Anger, insecurity and jealousy? Or self-improvement, development, support and understanding. Easier said than done, I know, but it's worth thinking about.

My partner keeps telling me that this agreement I am asking for is "too monogamous" and isn't really poly. It drives me crazy, because I really like being poly. I just want a form of poly that feels right to me.

Monogamy is choosing to love one person, choosing to be with one person. This has nothing to do with monogamy. Perhaps she feels that your feelings on privacy are too *restrictive* - she wants multiple relationships and wants to be able to talk about all of her issues with partners to all other partners.

So, what can you do next?

Firstly, work out WHAT is bothering you. Is it fear of replacement as her boyfriend, confidant, best friend? Is it that you are embarrassed about your faults and don't want anyone else knowing? Is it all of those things and more? Get them straight in your mind, so that you can lay them out to her. And REMEMBER - don't accuse her. When I'm talking to my GF about insecurities, I literally start my sentence with... "I know that I am being ridiculous, but these are the insecurities I'm trying to work through. I'm not telling you them because you've done something wrong - I'm telling you so that I can UNDERSTAND you better, so that you can understand me, and so that I can overcome them. Are you ready to listen?"

Once that's out of the way, try to come up with a compromise together. I think, as uncomfortable as it is, it is ok to talk to secondaries WHEN NECESSARY. What I don't feel she should be doing is giving her secondary a daily run down of your relationship. I also don't feel that it's right to talk to him about something without at least making you aware that she's having an issue. She needs to hear you out first, otherwise how is the problem going to get solved? Ask her what his responses have been. Tell her that you trust her to make her own decisions about who to confide in - but to consider people's responses as: "would I want my boyfriend's secondary to give this kind of answer, if he told her something about me?" Get her to think about what kind of advice she's getting. My last secondary always used to take my side when I confided in her. That messed with my head. My current secondaries tell me that I'm being an idiot, or if they think I'm right, they ALWAYS encourage me to talk to her, whilst coming up with a few ideas about what she might have done whatever I'm crying about.

I hope that this helps - please let us know how it goes if you talk to her!