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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.



Comments

( 82 comments — Leave a comment )
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skye_ds
Jan. 27th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
*applauds you and EMIII* Bravo! Well Done!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 28th, 2011 09:36 am (UTC)
I was linked via a link of a link, etc. Like several others here, any humor to be found in this kinda hit with a hollow thud.

On the whole "I will be required to keep the relationship a secret from family, friends, or others" bit: It should be noted that some people don't have a choice, given their profession or family situations, about who they can tell about their lifestyle choices. Making fun those who have to struggle with that very painful and difficult process doesn't ring funny or clever to me. It just seems mean in the end. Metaphorically slapping people on the back about it and saying, "HA HA JOKE!" doesn't make it any less upsetting. I do not think it makes someone a bad partner if, because they'll loose their job/clearance/etc., they decide to not discuss their private and personal relationships with their partners, except those they know they can trust. Many people have families they cannot trust with that caliber of information. Many people have even more friends they cannot trust with such potentially damaging information. If that makes me someone who 'needs a card', oh well.

This strikes me as the typical point-and-laugh-you-are-doing-poly-wrong diatribe I've heard ever since I realized I was poly. Admittedly, nearly all of the situations mentioned on the card I find personally revolting. And rock on if you can live in a world where none of those categories are necessary (especially the whole secrecy bit). Most poly people I know can't.

Just a thought from a random poly-passerby. I'm sure you're an awesome person, and I don't mean to make this a personal attack or anything. I've never met you, and I don't know if I ever will. I just got slightly irked.

Posted anonymously because the internet remembers everything...and, as you might suspect, I have a career where if I was found to be poly, it could go very, very bad for me.
emanix
Jan. 28th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
Anonymous,
A post about secrecy that might or might not be relevant to your situation: http://emanix.livejournal.com/19531.html

My partner, P, was risking the loss of clearance in his job not because of our open relationship, but because he wasn't comfortable enough to be open about it. My still-current partner, A, is in exactly the same line of work but our relationship has never been a security risk precisely because he *wasn't* secretive about it.

I've not always been vocal about poly myself, but I eventually took a stand after realising that every person who *is* able to be out of the closet and chooses not to adds weight to the oppression of the rest of us - and it's so very hurtful to be a 'dirty secret' when there is no other reason but shame or clinging to privilege to excuse it. I believe that was the group aimed at in the checklist, not those who genuinely can't be open about who they are.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 28th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
First of all, I was sorry to see what a hard time you experienced with the P situation. Sounds exceptionally unfun.

Secondly, while none of my partners are a 'dirty' secret, I'm including the lies of omission in there as well. There was/is recently an occasion where nearly all of my partners came to my house and we celebrated the holidays together. When confronted by multiple people (family) about who these various folks were I'd simply say, "That's so-and-so." I've usually found people to be fairly confused by this answer when I don't add the modifier.

Thirdly, while I'm glad A doesn't carry the danger of loosing his clearance, there are still many agencies who frown and/or take subtle action against those who are poly. They never say it. They just do it.

Lastly, recently, I took my own 'stand' and, given the circumstance, I don't lie, deceive or deflect about my relationship status except in a career setting and one family member (she's elderly, I'm sure she knows what is going on, but honestly, the stress and pain of our disagreement on it would be just too sad to face). It hurts me to have to do the latter. But unfortunately, it's a risk I am not yet confident enough to take. However, it doesn't mean I love any partner any less.

A side note - I've noted the proliferation of attaching the word 'privilege' to things people don't like or find pretentious/offensive. Is it just me?

Thank you for your kind words though. It's nice to know there's other people like me out there in general. Sometimes, where I am, the community is rather small.
emanix
Jan. 29th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC)
Good luck with the secrecy issue, seriously.

Privilege is a bit of a buzz word at the minute admittedly. Generally it refers to unearned advantages conferred on a particular group of people by other members of society, usually over and above another group, based on how that group is perceived - so it's related to how behaviour is often based on stereotypes.
In this case I'm referring to the advantages conferred on people who are perceived as monogamous couples over and above people who are seen as anything else. For example a mono couple might be invited to more parties and social events than a poly family because they are seen as more 'normal', or 'better' than the poly family, they might be better respected by their local community, they might well receive a whole raft of other benefits that I can't think of, having not been a part of that world for a long time. If a couple decided to go from mono to poly but remain in the closet in order to maintain that image of normality and 'better-ness' - and continue to reap the rewards of that false perception, then that's the sort of behaviour I'd term 'clinging to privilege'.

I've already gone into why I'm not keen on that, however tempting it might be sometimes to do so, because it's maintaining the stereotypes instead of fighting them, and that, in small ways, harms all of us. I don't think it's used as a label for *anything* folks find offensive though (at least, I don't ues it that way), but that unearned privilege is offensive wherever it happens to crop up - and once you start noticing it, it's hard to stop!

(Oh gods, I get wordy when I'm online past midnight- best get to bed now!)
tacit
Feb. 1st, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
A side note - I've noted the proliferation of attaching the word 'privilege' to things people don't like or find pretentious/offensive. Is it just me?

I've noticed a proliferation of people attaching to word "privilege" to situations in which one person (or group) has an unearned advantage in some situation over some other person (or group), and then other folks saying "I wish you'd stop talking to me like I have these unearned advantages because it's clear to me that you're just trying to make me feel guilty." Is that what you mean?

Lastly, recently, I took my own 'stand' and, given the circumstance, I don't lie, deceive or deflect about my relationship status except in a career setting and one family member (she's elderly, I'm sure she knows what is going on, but honestly, the stress and pain of our disagreement on it would be just too sad to face). It hurts me to have to do the latter. But unfortunately, it's a risk I am not yet confident enough to take. However, it doesn't mean I love any partner any less.

So in other words, you would not check the ticky-box next to "I will be required to keep the relationship secret" without adding an asterisk to explain which particular people and why.

Seems reasonable to me.

Hey, folks can and do have perfectly sound reasons for checking some of these ticky-boxes. The point is that if you're carrying any of these things around with you and attaching them to your expectations for romantic relationships, it's kinda nice to be up front about it with your prospective partners, so everyone can make informed decisions about whether or not to be involved.

Because it rather sucks if person A assumes that of course ticky-box number 3 is checked, and person B doesn't.
emanix
Jan. 28th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
I also note that while I think some of these checkboxes might well be applied with valid reason in some circumstances, the sort of relationship that flags *several* of these needs to be looked at very carefully and examined for privilege, insensitivity, etc. If you're only flagging one, then you may well be able to give yourself a pat on the back.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 28th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC)
Fair enough, and thanks for the pat encouragement. =) However, as a whole, it kinda smacks of pigeon-holing a type of relationship style and openly mocking the pain of others. It's like a poly-version of those horrible Cosmo articles where they bullet point relationship advice. Sometimes they're funny, sometimes they make you think, sometimes they're wildly offensive, and sometimes they're hurtful.
ditenebre
Jan. 30th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC)
Like several others here, any humor to be found in this kinda hit with a hollow thud.

Wry humor is often like rye bread: tends to be dark, and slightly bitter.
(Deleted comment)
said_wednesday
Jan. 28th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
Now that I could find more light-hearted humor in. Thank you for posting that kiki39 After the steely pang and harsh truth of the "secondary card," your list was a cute play in the other direction. ^_^
(Deleted comment)
mightydoll
Jan. 28th, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC)
You know, some of these can apply to any relationship. My partner has been accused of: "dumping when s/he says love" fun fact, MOST people will get twitchy if you start talking love 4 weeks after meeting someone. If you are then. 2 weeks later asking when you can have a commitment (not if, WHEN). It's not that the "primary partner" is primary so they get special treatment, it's that in the many years the couple has been together, this kind of thing has had a chance to grow naturally.

I think it makes more sense to ask onesself not if you're being treated the same as a partner with more history, but if you're being treated appropriately for the stage in YOUR relationship with the person. Too much of this writing about secondaries seems to do a lot of comparing and comparisons, as far as I can tell, are poly poison.
petemosq
Jan. 28th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Wise words indeed.
lovewithoutfear
Jan. 30th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
comparisons, as far as I can tell, are poly poison
THIS..
tacit
Feb. 1st, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
You know, some of these can apply to any relationship.

Yup. I reckon a lot of folks have an internal card like this they carry around inside their heads, with entries like "if you tell me you love me before my subjective internal clock says you should without coming across to me like you're nuttier than a Babe Ruth bar, I'll dump you."

Wouldn't it be cool if folks actually talked up front about what that list looked like?

It's not that the "primary partner" is primary so they get special treatment, it's that in the many years the couple has been together, this kind of thing has had a chance to grow naturally.

Ideally, sure. If, you know, you're into DESCRIPTIVE relationships of what 'primary partner' means.

A lot of folks are into a more prescriptive definition, one that includes things like "you always have to love me most" and "I reserve the right to unilaterally veto any and all of your other relationships for any reason." It's the folks who've had run-ins with THOSE models of primacy who see the humor in the card, I reckon.
pingback_bot
Jan. 28th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
Amused
User muphinmadness referenced to your post from Amused saying: [...] anyone out there who understands the polyamorous world. http://tacit.livejournal.com/346761.html [...]
(Deleted comment)
wyohloucormet
Jan. 29th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
A brilliant thread, lots of wise words and plenty of smiles illicited.

On the subject of SLA's for relationships.. did anyone hear last weeks Manifesto on Radio 4? someone suggested that marriages (relationships?) should be MOT'd every 5 years with questions, a bit like a bad episode of Mr. & Mrs.. if you fail you're instantly divovced.

I liked that :) keep people on their toes.

In a lot of Heinleins books he has 5 year marriage contracts and so on, no hard feelings if you go your separate ways after that with a chance of renewal if both want it. Having some set expectations at the beginning sees awfully wise to me!

.. but then. I am an analyst.

Wyoh
morrigan191
Jan. 31st, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
This made me giggle, and be thankful that I haven't dated any of these people.

For various reasons I took just my 'non primary' partner with me to see my family at Christmas. Although some were confused, all behaved themselves appropriately (at least on that subject)

(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
Just hilarious...in a pained sort of way...
It is completely, horribly accurate. unh...is there space on the back for additional options? ;)
twisted_times
Feb. 11th, 2011 02:40 pm (UTC)

Oddly enough, I had the reverse of one the above caveats happen to me; my LDR dumped me because she had met someone else who didn't live 350 miles away from her...

*bookmarks for future reference*

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