Actually, some time ago I decided to publish a post on my blog at least once a month…right now even that pushes me a bit to my limits. The last weeks and months have been quite exciting. For the first time I gave a lecture in front of 250 people and shared my experiences from the last 5 years as a poly living person. I’ve been to different cities, held individual workshops and talked a lot, lot, lot about relationships. From all these experiences of the last few months a few thoughts have emerged on the subject of primary and secondary relationships that I would like to share with you. This is my perspective, there are a lot of others, but it is important to me that I position myself because I felt that I was being asked more and more frequently.
1. primary and secondary relationships and the problem of flimsiness
My basic problem with the terms primary and secondary is that I don’t really see the need behind them. Many people use the terms to show relations. For example, because they share responsibility for children with one person or live with them and spend time together with another person at irregular intervals without any great obligations. However, I must agree with Franklin Veaux in his contribution to More than Two when he describes this argument as absurd. Each relationship is so individual and tailored to its own needs that it doesn’t feel like a good argument to me to call it primary and secondary for this reason. I have recently gained the impression that this very reason is being put forward in order not to have to clearly name the actual power and hierarchy relationships behind it. I would like to make it very clear at this point that I do not want to accuse anyone of using certain concepts in a dishonest or insincere manner. It is only a matter of the impression to me that in my perception the dominant relationships are not clearly and distinctly named. As long as they are consensual concepts of relationships, I don’t care if people live monogamous or non-monogamous, just as I don’t care if they describe their polyamorous constructs as primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.. That’s not my point. In my perception it is only very often ignored that terms like primary and secondary cannot be used without their hierarchical terminology. I believe that even if one pursues the best intentions with the terms, the associated hierarchy cannot be thought or talked away. Some terms are so strongly connoted that it seems to me unrealistic to use them completely differently. So to a certain extent they are embedded in a fairly firm power – and hierarchy relationship. And again: I have no problem with people agreeing on it by consensus and being aware of what connotations and expectations resonate. However, that brings me to my next point.
2. hierarchies and the need for simplicity
I understand the need for simplicity and why some people choose to make rules in their relationships or ultimatums. I know from my own experience that polyamory and open relationships can be totally exhausting and disturbing and often ask more questions than give answers. I understand where the need can come from to think goal- or result-oriented and to make the relationship(s) as simple as possible. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. Sorry for spoiling ;). It is simply difficult or unrealistic to say that if you “only” see people twice a month, no serious feelings of attachment or desires will develop. I can fall in love with people I see twice a week, just as well as I can fall in love with people I see maybe only twice a month. Neither seems to me to be absurd, which is why it is so difficult to find rules or arrangements for it. I have got the impression that people have been asking me more often lately how I feel about hierarchies or vetoes and every time I say that I would not want to live with the consequences. That’s what it comes down to for me. What if I get to know a person and they don’t fit into my concept of secondary relationship? Do I rethink my concepts then? Or do I say goodbye to the person and keep looking until someone fits into my idea of secondary? And what do I do if the person develops other needs? Are they even allowed to bring that up? These are all questions I had in various situations when my relationship person(s) and I tried to simplify things. In the end, everything turned out very differently and what remained was disappointment. Every time I have the impression that relationship concepts are in a way already pre-made and looking for people to impose them on, I am back where I started. Namely with the monogamy that I did not question and considered the only true form of relationship. And I get skeptical…For me it’s more of an “I figure it out along the way” thing. I may say how my time capacities are at the moment or how much I am willing to change to date or get to know other people or let them into my life, but I cannot say that this particular spot in my life is free or not. In a podcast by Polyamory Weekly I recently heard the sentence “I would like to get to know every new person as if I was single”. I kind of liked that. A high standard in my eyes, but somehow also beautiful 😉