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Primary and Secondary - (mis)use of the terms

23-Mar-2011 | 01:50 pm

I have come across a few postings on other resources which use the terms Primary and Secondary in ways that just plain do not compute with me, and I wanted to start a discussion in this slightly safer space and see what others think.

The statements were along the lines of "he is my primary, but I am his secondary".  My instant reaction is "huh?  How can that be", before I reliase that they use a different definition from me, and one that feel is fraught with all sorts of dangers.

What I mean
For me, a relationship is either primary, secondary or tertiary, and it goes in both directions, because it is about the nature of the relationship, not some sort of ranking.  In my understanding it's quite possible to have no primary, but secondary or tertiary relationships.

A Primary relationship is one where the people involved live together, share all sorts of day-to-day decisions, often sharing finances, and other duties like child-rearing.

A Secondary relationship is one where there is regular contact between the people involved, but they do not live together.  Big-picture decisions are made together but often not the day-to-day stuff.

A Tertiary relationship is one where there is irregular contact between the people involved, and very little discussion on life issues.

So you see, in this way of thinking it's just not possible for "him to be my primary, but I'm his secondary".  It has nothing to do with how much people love each other, but instead to do with the practical nature of the relationship.

What other people seem to mean
Your primary is your "number one squeeze", no matter what the practicalities of the relationship - you rank all your lovers in some sort of pecking order, which presumably is reviewable when someone else comes along. "Honey, this new guy I have met, I really think he is now going to be my primary, and you are going to be my secondary, but this doesn't change anything about our relationship".

The problem, as I see it
This smacks of the old middle school thing of ranking your best friends "Well, you're my fifth best friend now, since Ian is now my fourth best friend".  Don't we all just love to be ranked by other folks?  Isn't that even more comfortable when it's by people you love and who love you?

It also creates inherent imbalances in the relationship - "but you're my primary and as my primary I expect this from you" - "yes but you're MY secondary and as such I'm not giving that to you."

Feels like a recipe for disaster to me.

Many people state in discussions about this that the hate the terms, precisely because it smacks of that ranking.  I would suggest that there is nothing wrong with using those words, as long as the meanings are made very very clear, and this is done not as a ranking of how much you love somebody or even your degree of commitment to the relationship, but instead a shorthand way of talking about the nature of the practicalities of the relationship.

For further reading, I would suggest this article by Franklin Veaux - "Polyamory for Secondaries" www.xeromag.com/fvsecondary.html

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Poly Relationship Dynamics and decision-making.

10-Nov-2010 | 12:41 pm

Cross-posted from another board that I am on, so that I can find this later!

My relationships work on (amongst other things) the principles of synergy and consensus.  Anybody wishing to come into our relationship dynamic must be prepared to work on that basis, or it's just not going to work.

Synergy, for those not familiar, is the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - in particular, that the group can come up with better decisions that the individuals.  The more minds you have working at it, the better decision you will come up with.  Therefore, decisions which affect the relationship dynamic need to be discussed by those already having a commitment to it, to decide on what might and might not be best.  Often this includes a period of "information gathering" so that everyone feels that they are informed enough to have an opinion.

Consensus is the idea of the group reaching solutions which everyone can live with.  It is distinct from majority rule (or voting), in that it tried to find solutions that cause the least amount of negativity, and respects and takes into consideration minority viewpoints, than than ignoring them because they are in the minority.

So yes, the folks in the existing relationship dynamic have a privilege over those wishing to enter it, in the same way that a rock band's current members have more of a say over who should be the new guitarist than the person auditioning.

I am fallible, as is each of us in our relationship.  I make less than optimal (i.e. bad) decisions from time to time.  While learning from my own mistakes is useful, it often involves unnecessary pain and disruption to myself and those who I love and if it can be avoided, it should be.  Anybody who believes that they are not fallible and can always make the best decisions on their own and who believes that synergy is a crock can probably stop reading at this point... Synergy is a good-faith effort by those already invested in a relationship to help folks make decisions which are optimal for the relationship dynamic.  This is where consensus comes in...

In the same way that the Toyota Production System allows each and every employee, no matter what their position, to be empowered to "push the button" and stop the production line when they see something that doesn't look right, each member of a relationship has that ability to call a time-out and to discuss issues which may be a problem.  The method of consensus says that if someone who is in the relationship has a strenuous objection to some action which will alter the relationship dynamic) then they have the right to be heard, and that no action will be taken until those concerns have been addressed and a consensus is reached.  Since this is effectively one person unilaterally "stopping the line", it could be regarded as a Veto power.

This is all basic organisational dynamics - nothing rocket-science here.

And this presumes good-faith efforts and mutual trust on the parts of all those involved in the relationship.  If that is not in place, then motivations can easily be questioned and accusations of "having an agenda" can be leveled.

For those whose poly-style is more the loosely-knit series of mostly unconnected relationships, most of this will seem unnecessarily laborious, but for those who have a closer-knit style, I believe it is a very useful set of tools for "making it work".

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Some more definitions

8-Nov-2010 | 09:25 am
mood: amusedamused

Someone for whom I have developed a great deal of respect for on online polyamory-related forums recently goes by the name of "Lady Lubyanka" or sometimes just "Lubyanka"  she has a blog at ladylubyanka.wordpress.com where she covers a wide range of topics.

I am making this post, though, to draw attention to a couple of articles she has written which, to me, nails some of the dynamics I see in polyamory-related discussion on online forums.

Hypocrism, for example.  Similar to hypocrisy, but, as she says "The defining element which distinguishes hypocrism from hypocrisy is the simultaneous nature of denouncing and perpetrating or embracing and denigrating."  She provides some great examples.

The other is a definition of the "One True Wayer" with some tips on how to recognise them.  Many times a One True Wayer will show some dramatic hypocrism.  :-)

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Poly Definitions

1-Sep-2010 | 09:06 am

The meanings of words like "polyamory" are a constant source of debate in the various on-line fora. A recent discussion on one forum led me to post this simple set of definitions, based on my own paradigms. Use it at your pleasure....

If a monogamous person in a relationship has a romantic or sexual relationship with another, then they are not monogamous, no matter how much they would like to think they are.

If their spouse doesn't know about it to a degree which is sufficient for them to agree with what is going on, then it is cheating.

If their spouse knows about it and disagrees with it, and it keeps on happening, then it's cheating, too.

If the spouse knows about it and agrees with it, and the primary motivation is a romantic loving relationship, then it's polyamory.

If the spouse know about it and agrees with it, and the primary motivation is sex, then it's swinging.

And there ya go.  I put no value judgments on monogamy, swinging or polyamory, and point out that since cheating is based on lies and going against the will of someone that you purportedly love, it is by its very nature something that I have a problem with.

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"You", "Me" or "We" - who makes you happy?

8-May-2010 | 09:09 am

What type of person are you - a "you" person, a "me" person, or an "us" person?

When you look at your circumstances, how you feel about your life, your job, your relationships, do you see it in terms of "you did this to me", "You made me unhappy", "You make me happy"? (Or the ever-present "they" that seem to be in control of your life) Do you see it in terms of "I control my own happiness", "I made the decision", "I got the career I wanted", "I get what I want from my relationship". Or do you see it is "We worked together to make something that I couldn't have imagined possible", "we wanted this to happen and it did"?

These are three descriptions of modes that a person can be in - Dependence on others for happiness and unhappiness, Independence of others, and Interdependence with others.

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"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you place the blame." - Oscar Wilde

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Carry Your Own Weather

20-Apr-2010 | 02:15 pm

I got some good and useful messages from some recent training I went through that have helped me. Guess I'm in a sharing mood. :-)

The fact is that we can affect the quality of the world around us, both in how we choose to see it and in our actions.

First a story, then some conclusions...

Story and conclusions here...Collapse )

We all have the power to create our own perceptions of reality. We can carry our own weather with us.

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Why aren't you doing it right?

7-Apr-2010 | 12:08 pm
mood: optimisticoptimistic

I have seen several posts in several different polyamory-related fora where the poster describes their situation and says something along the lines of "I'm sure you'll all tell me I'm not doing this right" or "I'm not sure if this makes me poly or not."

Last time I looked, there is no officially-sanctioned Polyamory Certification Board, and I don't think there is a similar one for swingers.

Here's what should matter

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This is the sound....

20-Nov-2009 | 01:03 pm
mood: pleasedpleased

... of me feeling like we might have done something good.

The Birdcage forum that I mentioned in my last post now has nearly 50 members from some quite diverse parts of the state. Some new to poly, some more experienced, joining in the conversations and helping to make the forum something that lives rather than just random blog that nobody reads (like this one).

I am learning some of the "back-end" stuff about how fora work, and at the same time seeing new people find out that they really aren't alone.

If on the strange happenstance that you are reading this, please spread the word about what we are trying to do - building an online community of poly people connected with New York State - provide a link to it, please - that helps us with our search rankings which in turn makes it even easier to find. Our documenation Wiki comes up first when you search for "Birdcage polyamory" so if people remember nothing but the name, they should be able to find it. And please tell your poly friends.

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The latest project

30-Oct-2009 | 10:44 am
mood: Proud

Well, it's been a journey, alright, but it's time to take the covers off the latest piece of work I have been doing.

I was getting lots of feedback from other local poly people that they felt there was a lack of a good resource for poly people in New York State - they had joined some Yahoo group but for various reasons (including some personalities, and general lethargy) they weren't getting what they wanted out of them, as well as getting a ton of email that they didn't really care about.

So one evening Bob, a friend of mine, came out with one of those wacky "Hey, would it be a good idea if.." type of things - and thus was born The Birdcage! I'm quite proud of what we have done, so want to write about it here.

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In Closing
If you are interested in signing up, please go to http://forum.thebirdcage.org/ and register. I know I would love to see you if you are interested in polyamory and live in New York State.

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You should be Committed!

14-Oct-2009 | 10:35 am
mood: pensivepensive

The word "committed" is thrown around a lot in poly circles, both those that say that it's impossible to be in a committed relationship with more than one person at a time, and those that throw the word around, saying that they are in a committed relationship, with their own definition of what it means.

Discussions with several people debating whether poly is for them has helped me to clarify my own thoughts and feelings on the matter (which to me is one of the benefits of doing this - it helps you with your own thought process).

Read all about it!...Collapse )

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