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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. 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
(no subject) - trinker - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - seinneann_ceoil - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pstscrpt - Jan. 28th, 2011 06:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 28th, 2011 07:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - said_wednesday - Jan. 28th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - edwardmartiniii - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - emanix - Jan. 29th, 2011 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lovewithoutfear - Jan. 30th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lovewithoutfear - Jan. 30th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(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 [...]
Jan. 27th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
*applauds you and EMIII* Bravo! Well Done!
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.
Jan. 28th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
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.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 28th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - emanix - Jan. 29th, 2011 05:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 1st, 2011 12:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - emanix - Jan. 28th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 28th, 2011 06:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ditenebre - Jan. 30th, 2011 01:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
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)
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.
Jan. 28th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Wise words indeed.
(no subject) - lovewithoutfear - Jan. 30th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tacit - Feb. 1st, 2011 12:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 28th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC)
User muphinmadness referenced to your post from Amused saying: [...] anyone out there who understands the polyamorous world. http://tacit.livejournal.com/346761.html [...]
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( 82 comments — Leave a comment )