Secondary? No thanks!

opalescent

Active member
Despite the flippant title, I've been doing some thinking about this topic lately. I went to a poly discussion group in my area recently. While there, I realized that I don't want to be a secondary. At all. Ever (well for the foreseeable future).

When I was dating (taking a break currently) I mostly dated men who were already married or in relationships. I initially thought I would be fine with being a secondary. I have no desire to harm anyone's relationship with their spouse, I don't want to replace their spouse, I'm good with boundaries and being respectful of other folk's boundaries. I communicate and all that.

I have no desire to date a couple. A main reason is that I have never experienced being attracted to both people in a couple. Ever. I usually have sexual attraction towards one and warm friendship fuzzies towards the other. (I also have warm friendship fuzzies with the people I'm attracted to but that's not the point.) I'm also terrible at multi-tasking and dating a couple seems like way too many plates in the air for me. I know people manage it but seriously, it seems like a circus level trick to me.

Ok, lots of people in couples date separately. The men I went out with all had spouses who were fine with them dating separately. I tried that for a while. Met some fine people but nothing catching fire. That happens with dating right? Takes time to meet people with whom one has chemistry, right? All true.

But what I realized during this discussion group is that I don't want to date someone who is not going to be able to make me a high priority. And I also realized that I am a somewhat demanding partner. I give much in return, yes, but I do need a high level of time, involvement and intimacy. I'm unwilling to be in a relationship that has no chance of offering that evolution. I realized I no longer want to waste time dating people who have room for a secondary but not a high priority relationship. This does mean my available pool of compatible people shrinks which I am bummed about. I don't have a big pool to begin with! For me commitment is about who gets your time when there must be a choice. I want to be in the top three of that list for another. That for me defines a primary partner - who gets the time and attention when those things are scarce. I don't automatically want to live with a partner although I will consider it, I will likely never intertwine finances again, and I don't have children nor want them, so those definitions of 'primary' don't work for me. But who, in a crunch, gets time and attention - that makes sense to me.

I want a primary relationship in that sense. Where I am the top one or two priority. Where I offer that kind of commitment and care back. I've never had that and I want it. Beaker loved me but her career was always going to be first. Most of the time, that was ok, I felt a very close second. But I want to know what it feels like to be 'number one'.

I suppose it is possible to have more than one primary relationship using this model. I find that hard to conceptualize though. So in that sense, this is a kind of hierarchical. I don't like the idea of hierarchal where people are disposable or seen as lesser. But it does make sense to me that there is only so much time and attention and where those resources are directed should be a conscious decision. And that decision means some get less. They might be just fine with that - may work well for them and be what they want. But it is still less, still not a top priority. And I do not want that anymore.

I like the idea of solopoly. I think it is a fine counterweight to assumptions about coupledom and what relationships 'should' be. I also intellectually like the idea of seeing what level a relationship reaches 'naturally' and going on from there. But my reality is different. I find if I do not focus on what I actually really and truly want, my life gets cluttered. Cluttered with good things and people but not what I want. For me I need to focus and set an intent to be open to what I want. Not a happenstance 'level'. I suspect this model does well for folks who are way better at accepting what is and going with the flow than I am. I'm an only child and have that bone deep certainty that, yes, the universe does spin around me and bends to my will. Do I know this isn't actually so? Yes, of course. But I do so much better when I am seeking what I want. It's true I have met my loves when I wasn't 'looking' but I was open to love in some way.

I am keeping the option open for now of having FWBs and play partners. I have people I do play with in a kink sense now. I want more sex in my life and at least potentially I can see meeting that need through FWBs. But I may evolve away from this and only have sex in the context of connection and commitment. But I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger on that.

I do feel oddly selfish about this. I would like to be a person who could go with the flow, accept things as they are, see the level of a relationship. But I am not that person. I don't want to be a secondary at all.

I'd be curious about other folks thoughts on their process on deciding if secondary could work for you or not. Or if primary type thing was just too much and solo poly is the way to go. Basically I'm curious how people sorted out what they wanted.
 

MightyMax

Banned
I found out quite early on in my relationships that it's wiser to find out what a person can offer rather than the label that they apply to that offer. I first learned this when a friend and I decided to become "friends with benefits" and her expectations of what that meant differed greatly to mine. It's happened a few times since. It's not always immediately apparant when it is happening. Talking helps.
 

Inyourendo

New member
no being a secondary relationship will not work for me. I decided a long time ago I'm not willing to date somebody who has a live in partner. If they were seeing someone that didn't live with them that would be one thing and then I wouldn't feel like a secondary but if they live with somebody else I would definitely feel like a secondary and I wouldn't be able to go to their house which would be a problem for me
 

JaneQSmythe

Active member
So, the flip-side...as a women with two primary (male) partners I would be leary of dating someone who was "single". I only have so much time and energy to offer. I prefer to let relationships grow organically into whatever shape and style they assume - rather than try to fit them into some pre-ordained slot.

As an introvert who doesn't like to leave her house - anyone who wants to have a significant relationship with me has to meet me on my own turf. "Primary" to me means living together (which means almost daily contact). Lotus is welcome to come to our house anytime/anywhere - I consider her a part-time roommate. We all feel comfortable spending time at her and her husband's house - so that is very comfortable too.

Dude has stated that he is only dating (happily) married women from now on...they have proven that they can maintain healthy relationships and aren't likely to demand things from him that he isn't able to offer (marriage, kids, etc). (For the record, both of his girlfriends - me and Lotus - are married.)
 

wildflowers

New member
I am comfortable being secondary to my BF because he is also secondary to me, in the practical sense of how much our lives are intertwined. Neither of us has a huge amount of time to offer outside of other life/relationship/ family, so we are matched in what we can offer- in a logistical rather than emotional sense. Outside of family my BF is the person who I prioritize.

I would probably feel differently if I did not have kids and a primary partner, because then I would have the capacity to share more time and not be able to.

I am not bi so I would not consider dating a couple. I tend to interact best one on one anyway.
 

NovemberRain

New member
Hi opalescent :)

I doubt it would suit me either. FWIW, I am also an only child. Well, I didn't get my siblings until I was a teen, via my dad's second marriage.

My partner is an extreme introvert. I figured when I had the two of them, I might get enough attention. (it didn't work out so much - though for a while, it was awesome)

I am more poly in potential than deliberate practice. I am open to being in relationship with more than one, but I'm not crazy about 'seeking' it. Lotta work.

The one previous time it almost happened in my life was with two women. Only they headed off the bedroom and expected me to wait in the living room. No freakin' way was that going to work for me.

I dream of a life like Jane Q (only less dogs) :) I would love to share a king-size bed with two loves. I would have loved to share a household with my two men (though the one would have had to have an in-law apartment). My best memories are when I was rooming in a house and various permutations of inhabitants and guest were all together for a meal, or game-night, or just movie watching.

sorry, back to topic. No, I doubt secondary would work for me, although it might, if i was living with a primary. Living alone, and looking for people today - no, I wouldn't seek someone married and cohabiting.
 

JaneQSmythe

Active member
I dream of a life like Jane Q (only less dogs) :) I would love to share a king-size bed with two loves. I would have loved to share a household with my two men (though the one would have had to have an in-law apartment).

Hey NR, good to see you! We are down to one dog! (Lotus took the other in August). Still with all of us (me, MrS, Dude) in one king-size bed. Plan, eventually, is for Dude to have a Bachelor Pad (aka. "sex-den").
 

opalescent

Active member
I found out quite early on in my relationships that it's wiser to find out what a person can offer rather than the label that they apply to that offer. I first learned this when a friend and I decided to become "friends with benefits" and her expectations of what that meant differed greatly to mine. It's happened a few times since. It's not always immediately apparant when it is happening. Talking helps.

Yeah differing expectations can really bite one in the ass. I hate when I have expectations that I didn't fully consciously realize I had. Those are the worst.

no being a secondary relationship will not work for me. I decided a long time ago I'm not willing to date somebody who has a live in partner. If they were seeing someone that didn't live with them that would be one thing and then I wouldn't feel like a secondary but if they live with somebody else I would definitely feel like a secondary and I wouldn't be able to go to their house which would be a problem for me

I'm not ruling out people who already with live with someone although I would be more cautious. Some people are able to offer the kind of prioritization I want while in a relationship. I've met a few. But it is possible I will move towards your way of thinking over time. I do think it is much harder to add high priority relationships while in an existing relationship - not impossible but harder.
 

opalescent

Active member
So, the flip-side...as a women with two primary (male) partners I would be leary of dating someone who was "single". I only have so much time and energy to offer. I prefer to let relationships grow organically into whatever shape and style they assume - rather than try to fit them into some pre-ordained slot.

As an introvert who doesn't like to leave her house - anyone who wants to have a significant relationship with me has to meet me on my own turf. "Primary" to me means living together (which means almost daily contact). Lotus is welcome to come to our house anytime/anywhere - I consider her a part-time roommate. We all feel comfortable spending time at her and her husband's house - so that is very comfortable too.

Dude has stated that he is only dating (happily) married women from now on...they have proven that they can maintain healthy relationships and aren't likely to demand things from him that he isn't able to offer (marriage, kids, etc). (For the record, both of his girlfriends - me and Lotus - are married.)

That is the flip-side isn't it? I quite understand. I don't have a pre-ordained order or roles - I understand these things take time. But I have been wasting my time with folks who can't offer me what I want. It's not their fault - they were upfront. I just hadn't figured out exactly what I needed yet.

And I am so picky about who is allowed into my home. My home is my sanctuary where I get away from people and just hang out with Tiny Dog and Tiny Cat. I don't even like having people over. That's so much work to get the place ready, to cook and so on. It's not something I enjoy doing. I'd really rather just go out. It's a big deal to me to have an overnight with someone in the house. And I don't sleep well with people - as in it takes me a long time to get used to having someone else in the bed with me. So that means I lose sleep until I adjust. And it can take months. That's a sacrifice I'm not willing to do for everyone.
 

opalescent

Active member
I am comfortable being secondary to my BF because he is also secondary to me, in the practical sense of how much our lives are intertwined. Neither of us has a huge amount of time to offer outside of other life/relationship/ family, so we are matched in what we can offer- in a logistical rather than emotional sense. Outside of family my BF is the person who I prioritize.

I would probably feel differently if I did not have kids and a primary partner, because then I would have the capacity to share more time and not be able to.

I am not bi so I would not consider dating a couple. I tend to interact best one on one anyway.

I think the secondary model works really well for quite a lot of people. And I suppose if I develop one or more primary relationships, I might think about revisiting my current 'no thanks!'. Circumstances matter, don't they? I don't have children or a primary at the moment. If that wasn't so, I may well be singing a different tune.

Hi opalescent :)

I doubt it would suit me either. FWIW, I am also an only child. Well, I didn't get my siblings until I was a teen, via my dad's second marriage.

My partner is an extreme introvert. I figured when I had the two of them, I might get enough attention. (it didn't work out so much - though for a while, it was awesome)

I am more poly in potential than deliberate practice. I am open to being in relationship with more than one, but I'm not crazy about 'seeking' it. Lotta work.

The one previous time it almost happened in my life was with two women. Only they headed off the bedroom and expected me to wait in the living room. No freakin' way was that going to work for me.

I dream of a life like Jane Q (only less dogs) :) I would love to share a king-size bed with two loves. I would have loved to share a household with my two men (though the one would have had to have an in-law apartment). My best memories are when I was rooming in a house and various permutations of inhabitants and guest were all together for a meal, or game-night, or just movie watching.

sorry, back to topic. No, I doubt secondary would work for me, although it might, if i was living with a primary. Living alone, and looking for people today - no, I wouldn't seek someone married and cohabiting.

WTF with the two women? Why would they think that was a good idea?

I also would love something more community orientated although I have little desire to live with a partner or partners right now. That could change with the right person or persons. But it just seems unlikely. I need so much time, quiet, and space to myself that making that work with a live-in partner seems daunting. Now a duplex next door? Or in the same neighborhood or apartment building? That would be full of awesome for me.

I totally want a king bed so I can have all the boyfriends in it plus all the pets without anyone being crowded. Except my pets sleep right next to me so I suspect my plan will fail. But I'm ok with that. :D
 

Inyourendo

New member
Yeah differing expectations can really bite one in the ass. I hate when I have expectations that I didn't fully consciously realize I had. Those are the worst.



I'm not ruling out people who already with live with someone although I would taking turns ore cautious. Some people are able to offer the kind of prioritization I want while in a relationship. I've met a few. But it is possible I will move towards your way of thinking over time. I do think it is much harder to add high priority relationships while in an existing relationship - not impossible but harder.

The only time I considered dating someone who had a live in partner was when I was considering joining a couple (dating each separately) and a guy living with his girlfriend and her family (he had his living area within the home)

I thought how I'd like it if Sam got another girlfriend who moved in with him and thought even if I had my bedroom there it would mean the 48 hours I spent there a week she'd be under foot. I want complete privacy with my partner when im with them, taking turns for command area space while there just isn't going the same to me
 

nycindie

Active member
Hi Opalescent!

As most people here know, I fly solo in my poly journey and prefer more casual parameters to my relationships than it seems most folks look for or expect. I have no desire for an entwined partnership nor to live with someone, do not require daily contact, and am happy with seeing someone once or twice a week or every ten days or so. I like having FWBs too. However, to me, casual parameters to my relationships do not equal casual relationships! Because of my pretty relaxed preferences for how a relationship will fit into my life, it comes across as a contradiction when I also state that I do not wish to be anyone's secondary. I don't really understand why there is any confusion about it. I may not want to live with someone or talk to them every day, but I damn well better be important to them!

I have said in the past that a guy can consider me a secondary from his perspective as long as I don't ever feel like I am being treated as secondary. This has changed for me. I really don't want to be involved with anyone who would view me as secondary. There are no secondary people, so why does this concept of primary and secondary relationships still persist in poly circles? It holds no appeal to me.

The very idea of primary and secondary relationships is where the problem lies, IMHO.

For me, hierarchies have no place in love relationships, because human beings deserve better than that, and the assumption that there should be a primary couple in a poly configuration does a great deal of harm to the practice of nurturing and maintaining multiple, loving relationships. That is my opinion, and I do feel strongly about it, although I know there are people for whom a hierarchy works fine. There are people who enjoy being a secondary, though I would shudder if someone ever offered me an opportunity to have a relationship with "secondary status."

I recently added a link to my signature which brings people to one of AggieSez's posts at her blog at SoloPoly.net. There are two versions of that post and my sig links to the short version. In it, she writes about how using terms like "primary" and "secondary," even when one does not subscribe to a hierarchy in one's own relationships, continues to promote the idea that hierarchy is automatic in polyamory, when in actuality it is only one option. She also wrote a few sentences in that post about what kind of relationships she will engage in, which really ring true for me as well . Here is an excerpt (emphasis in bold added by me):

"The words we choose to describe relationships can be a simple but powerful clue to people (inside and outside the poly community) that polyamory does not equal hierarchy. Hierarchy is just an option. This small, subtle insight can profoundly affect how people understand poly/open relationships and treat people.

So when people describe me as “a secondary,” or say that my writing “tells people how to be a poly secondary,” here’s what I say:

I am not, nor will I ever be, a “secondary” partner. Nor do I wish to be a “primary” partner. I do not engage in hierarchical relationships, period.

Nor do I write about “how to be a poly secondary” — similar to how someone writing about feminism is unlikely to tell women “how to be a good wife.” If anything, my writing is intended, in part, to encourage people to see a bigger picture than a rank-based framework tends to permit.

Personally, I only engage in nonhierarchical, nonexclusive, fully honest intimate relationships. Also, because I prefer solohood, my relationships do not follow a relationship escalator toward a goal of cohabitation or deep enmeshment of life logistics (which does not preclude deep feelings, commitment or long-term relationships). This is why I call myself “solo poly.”

I always expect to have a full and equal voice in the conduct of my own relationships. I don’t enter or remain in relationships where this is not honored. My needs, wants, goals and priorities matter as much as anyone else’s.


I do prefer to consider how my relationships and choices affect others, but I never defer by default to other relationships — even when I’m in a relationship with someone who also happens to be in a primary-style or nesting partnership. Nor do I expect anyone to defer to me or my relationships by default. Where conflicts of priorities, needs or resources are concerned, I prefer to negotiate situationally and directly with my partners and metamours. I’ve found that this approach typically yields creative, constructive solutions that are far more satisfying to everyone involved than “relationship/partner X always comes first.”

Yeah, that’s pretty different from what most people assume when they hear “secondary.”

I hesitated to write this post. Normally I don’t like to tell people how to talk. However, I find that when people habitually use (or mostly hear) hierarchical terms like “primary/secondary,” it reinforces conscious and unconscious rank-based assumptions (rooted in socially imbued couple privilege) that tend to put people like me at a disadvantage in our own relationships. That’s a problem."​

The long version of her post on this topic is here, if anyone is interested: http://solopoly.net/2012/11/30/why-i-say-non-primary-not-secondary/. For the short version, click on the link in my signature.
 
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Atlantis

Active member
When I was dating (taking a break currently) I mostly dated men who were already married or in relationships. I initially thought I would be fine with being a secondary. I have no desire to harm anyone's relationship with their spouse, I don't want to replace their spouse, I'm good with boundaries and being respectful of other folk's boundaries. I communicate and all that.

I'd be curious about other folks thoughts on their process on deciding if secondary could work for you or not. Or if primary type thing was just too much and solo poly is the way to go. Basically I'm curious how people sorted out what they wanted.

I did the same. Dated people in relationships. But have decided that it is not what I would want if/when I start dating again. I would not agree to be "secondary" I would want to be "equalish."
Neither do I want to be "primary." Because if I am being treated as number one then someone else is being treated as less. Been in that position and it is not a bundle of laughs.
How did I sort it out? Many mistakes. Experience. Time. Lots of reading. Many, many mistakes. Still making mistakes.
Solo works for me at this point in my life. I do not wish to co-habit, I do not wish to dictate other people's relationships. I will not have a joint bank account. I am pretty happy where I am right now.
 

hislittlekitten

New member
I also learned very early into my involvement with a poly man that I will not be a secondary. That just isn't how it is for me. I consider myself monogamous, but I am dipping my toes in the water and meeting a few new people to see how it goes.

I'm not actively looking for new partners because I already feel that the man I'm dating is a primary for me. He says I am not a secondary and he considers both me and his other partner (whom he's been with longer, by like 7 or 8 months) to be equal lovers. She on the other hand, well, she's married... but from my perspective treats both her husband and our shared man as primary partners... especially if you count how protective she is over him and how she is seemingly unwilling to let our man get closer to and develop the relationship with me.

There isn't anything wrong with her being protective, but now she flips her shit over anything that happens - lately being upset over these things has come off as unreasonable - and she pretty much refuses to acknowledge my existence. She doesn't want to meet me, terribly dislikes me, and feels threatened by me. If she's going to act like that, then she should feel threatened. Who wants to put up with that shit?

Anyways...

But I had an issue from the start with her being primary and me being secondary, and it has only worked out the way it has - well! - in the last few months because I insisted on being equal and he considers us equal.

In fact I think his efforts to make sure I don't think of myself as secondary have been very, very admirable. So very admirable.

I think if he 'limits' me the way it felt like I was being limited in the beginning, I'll have issues. He told me recently he's sorry he ever used the word "secondary" and doesn't want me to ever think of myself as secondary. I do think he treads carefully around his other lover because she dislikes me so much.

So a post I'm trying to make, if any, is that this hierarchy is just... ugh. It made me feel horrible. And apparently it's making her feel badly, for different and - in my opinion - unfair reasons.

I'm pretty anti-hierarchy and it seems like that's the general consensus here.
 

Dagferi

Active member
I find most married/cohabitating poly people can't find balance in their multiple relationships. They put one relationship over another.

The excuse of well we have history, responsibilities, etc are usual thrown out as an excuse. How are you supposed to build a bond in your other relationship if they are not given the importance of the other. Who in their right kind wants to be treated as less than.
 

Inyourendo

New member
well a couple's defense.... I married nate because I found him suitable as a life partner. Now if I started dating Joe, we might have fun and I might care about him but that doesnt mean that he automatically is going to be someone that i would consider as a life partner. I put Sam on that level but there were plenty of people along that way that I had fun with but would never consider to be more than that to me. Of course you have to date people to discover if you feel that way for someone. If I'm open to that level of a commitment doesnt mean that someone is going to get it just because they are dating me. Co-primary status isn't something I would just give anyone.
 

Dagferi

Active member
No offense Inyourendo but I read your blog.

You allow Nate to put poor Sam through the ringer. Your relationship has been nothing but drama. That man is either a saint or a glutton for punishment.

Why would anyone want to deal with that BS even in the early dating stages? I wouldn't.
 

Candiedlove

New member
How do people think primaries happen, anyway? Just got into a relationship with a woman, who I consider to be a primary, despite only having known each other for three weeks. Yet she put in a INCREDIBLE amount of investment into the early relationship, I feel a natural connection, and she's not afraid of talking about things happening years away from now. I don't mind jumping in...but with most people? I'd want some time to date before making that kind of commitment.
 
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A2Poly

New member
I'd want some time to date before making that kind of commitment.

I agree, I've known Mal for over a decade, but we've only been seeing each other for 4 months. I consider our relationship secondary to his relationship with Djinn, and will continue to for sometime even though we all think that this could be 'forever'.

That said, there is a really big difference between BEING secondary (for a time) and being TOLD that I could only EVER be secondary. I'm ok with our relationship being secondary while that is its natural shape, but at some point it's natural shape may be different than this.
 

Inyourendo

New member
No offense Inyourendo but I read your blog.

You allow Nate to put poor Sam through the ringer. Your relationship has been nothing but drama. That man is either a saint or a glutton for punishment.

Why would anyone want to deal with that BS even in the early datinexcus? I wouldn't.

Its not nate, its been all me and I truly believe it was the birth control. Ive been off it over a month and feel back to my old self. Ive never had this kimd of drama until I got on hormones. i should have known better since i havwnt been on hormones in 16 years. Not trying to excuse my behavior but B.C. totally exasperated my bipolar cycles.

Sam stays with me because I accept him, not that many would. Yeah im crazy but I have a lot of good qualities and we're compatible
 
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