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Secondary relationships

In polyamorous circles, there are many people who want only "secondary" relationships outside of their existing "primary" relationship.

However, the term "secondary" is confusing and often means different things to different people. In the interests of helping clarify some of that confusion, my friend Edward recently proposed a short questionnaire that might be useful to help get everyone on the same page about what exactly is meant by the term "secondary." I've taken his idea and turned it into a handy 3x5 index card, which you can print out and hand to prospective suitors. You can even download a PDF version of the card here.


( 82 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 26th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can see this as a helpful tool! I can see where you would mark it as humorous too. Seeing how long it has been since you've actually been single. Being a single poly person, even in "non-hierarchical relationships" it isn't uncommon to be treated like this. Even after the other person has sworn they wouldn't treat you like this.
Jan. 27th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
Yes. . . I had this same reaction. It's funny in a dark way, but in real life, it's oh so sad.

(no subject) - lightcastle - Jan. 27th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks for making this...I might find myself using it, in the future. :-)
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
Ah, a couple I hadn't thought of initially. Nice!
Jan. 27th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
i knew it was you!
(no subject) - edwardmartiniii - Jan. 27th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mcfnord - Jan. 27th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - datan0de - Jan. 28th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Ahhh! - brandyeileen - Nov. 4th, 2016 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
I was looking for an LJ poll idea..

Jan. 26th, 2011 11:42 pm (UTC)
*snerk* Now THAT is funny.
(no subject) - cortejo - Jan. 26th, 2011 11:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
That's brilliant
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
What madness hath I wrought and then to watch it grow.
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
Way better than having kids! ;)
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Wow. I am so glad my relationships don't run like that. Seeing this makes me sad.
Jan. 26th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
links: medical history is often HORRIBLE. And, YMMV, lets remember...
User terriaminute referenced to your post from links: medical history is often HORRIBLE. And, YMMV, lets remember... saying: [...] for anyone who takes him utterly seriously at all times): http://tacit.livejournal.com/346761.html [...]
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:01 am (UTC)
I have to link to this. Brilliant.
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC)
Here's the link. I've come up with a few more.
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:04 am (UTC)
Nice. Might have helped if I had that, once.
Jan. 27th, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
me too, on a few of those times *sigh*
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Oh this is perfect. :D
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Oh, you crazy poly people. *laughs* - nice one, hon. :D
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
this seems like a lot of primary relationships.
Jan. 28th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
"this seems like a lot of primary relationships."

Wouldn't it be awesome if every relationship, in its early stages, included some list of "the conditions under which I'd dump you, FYI."

I think that would be a fascinating map of each person's relationship model.

Even funnier if it was posted on the fridge, and reviewed and modified regularly.
(no subject) - quaryn_dk - Jan. 30th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - madpiratebippy - Feb. 3rd, 2011 03:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 27th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
Oh dear this was priceless. ;)
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
Followed you here, love this! It's so sad and true. I definitely agree banishing the "primary/secondary" language would be a good step to helping people understand that relationships are still relationships and not to pretend they aren't disposable when they treat them as such.
Secondary != disposable - (Anonymous) - Jan. 28th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 27th, 2011 01:02 am (UTC)
Have my Card!
User petemosq referenced to your post from Have my Card! saying: [...] them out in the light where we can laugh at them. The latest being the Secondary Relationship Card [...]
Jan. 27th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Re: Have my Card!
As you can see I linked you back. Scary robot dude! :)
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
I lul'zd.

Sadly, this was on the table for me a while back, and I'm glad to say I've moved past it. But a great way to put it in perspective!
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
This is hilarious and horrible at the same time. My hubby is going through a breakup right now and he is wishing he'd had this when he and his girlfriend started dating.

This is the exact reason I do not like the whole "primary/Secondary" terminology
Jan. 27th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
sigh...not so damn funny actually..been there. hated it.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 28th, 2011 08:39 am (UTC)
I think that's the point - to show how fucked up it is using humor - that's how most of his informatics go
(no subject) - edwardmartiniii - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 27th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
Maybe I'm nitpicking, but:

"I'll be dumped if I become inconvenient"
That may happen to the primary partners as well. Depends on what sort of inconvenience are we talking about, and the chances of resolving it.

"I'll be dumped if I become pregnant" Now, that question already had me worried. Are you planning on getting pregnant? Cause we sure won't be able to help you much with all that parenting stuff. There's a reason we don't have children, you know. From what we know about how much time and effort it takes, you'll probably want to dump us in that case.

"I'll be dumped if I'm seen as a threat by anyone else"
Depends on how right they are about it, of course! I think that sentence should have a "for any reason whatsoever" to finish it with the intended meaning.
Jan. 27th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
You know, there are also people who only want to *be* secondaries. I'm not quite there, but I'm an independent enough person to definitely see the appeal.

Aren't you one of them? I didn't think you lived with any of your romantic partners, and you seem to be kinda nomadic.
How inconvenient?

If you'd be dumped for saying "love" in a romantic context, that's not a poly secondary, that friends with benefits, at most.

If you'd be dumped for getting a new primary (in general, not because they're objectionable), that's clearly not a secondary.

"Treated with respect" is vague to the point of being meaningless. A secondary will generally not get the same consideration because there aren't the same mutual obligations there. A primary is a partner, someone you've decided to build a life together with and mutually support in practical ways, not just emotional.

Of course a secondary will not usually be invited to family events. They aren't part of the family.

Keeping the relationship secret is more likely an indication you're really a secondary when you might think you're a co-primary.
Jan. 27th, 2011 08:12 pm (UTC)
you have done a fine job of pointing out (without a trace of sensitivity to the humor here, nor the audience and purpose here) exactly *why* this entire thing was prefaced with "often means different things to different people." And exactly why so many people are so bitter and suspicious about being invited into a pre-existing relationship. Of *course* solid communication ahead of time would help avoid half the disasters, but alas - people walk into things thinking they think one thing and finding later, in practice, that they are actually operating from somewhere else entirely. Certainly it's not confined to poly relationships. But this particular intersection of fucked-up-edness, lack of consideration, and damaging implicit assumptions illustrated on this card hits the nail on the head for far too many of them. In the interest of honesty, I've been on both sides of this, and have been shocked at others' cavalier attitudes and lack of insight into themselves, and shocked at my own as well.

"Of course a secondary will not usually be invited to family events. They aren't part of the family."

Huge implicit assumptions indicated by your language choices of "of course," "clearly," etc., most apparently the fact that you have a clear set of guidelines and definitions for primary and secondary. Yet there is no manual and there are no bylaws and not everybody is you. Mileage may vary etc. I admire your clarity but I sure hope you trot all this out succinctly with bullet points and maybe even a 3x5 card before you start dating someone new!
(no subject) - pstscrpt - Jan. 27th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seinneann_ceoil - Jan. 27th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pstscrpt - Jan. 28th, 2011 12:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - seinneann_ceoil - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pstscrpt - Jan. 28th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - said_wednesday - Jan. 28th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - edwardmartiniii - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - emanix - Jan. 30th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seinneann_ceoil - Jan. 30th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - edwardmartiniii - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
Secondary Relationship Card
User emeraldliz referenced to your post from Secondary Relationship Card saying: [...]  I do my best to not allow others to endure the same. http://tacit.livejournal.com/346761.html [...]
Jan. 27th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
How utterly depressingly accurate this card seems to be at times. :/

Edited for typos.

Edited at 2011-01-27 03:58 pm (UTC)
Jan. 27th, 2011 04:09 pm (UTC)
No title
User cortejo referenced to your post from No title saying: [...] my last poll was referencing this post: http://tacit.livejournal.com/346761.html [...]
Jan. 27th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
Here's what happened
User rain_herself referenced to your post from Here's what happened saying: [...] to me. I had this deep sense that I was doing it wrong. Then I read 's brutally on-the-nose post [...]
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( 82 comments — Leave a comment )