Primary/Secondary Model, Couple Privilege, etc.

I love being part of the newly formed Open group on FB- it’s really refreshing to read other people’s perspectives and opinions on poly/open related stuff.

One thing in particular that sparked my interest recently is the idea of couple privilege, and also how the primary/secondary model leaves a lot to be desired (for some).

Here are the articles offered by several friends in the group that sparked such great conversation:

Care and Feeding of Polyamorous Secondary Relationships 

Couple privilege: your thoughts?

Five Things Your Secondary Wants You To Know

I think I could probably think for days and days about all of this, and I think my ideas around it all will be constantly evolving. But some of my ideas today/right now include:


For me, the primary/secondary model that J and I ascribe to is out of a recognition that relationships take a lot of time, energy, nurturing, investment, etc. Neither of us knows if we have enough of all of that to build and maintain more than one primary relationship. A primary relationship for us, too, is about long-term planning: financial entanglements, buying property, tax benefits, taking out loans, whether we wants children together, etc. It’s also about the values that we share that allow us to enter long-term planning (what do we want to spend our money on, how do we want to live day-to-day, what will we prioritize with our time and energy, etc). It is difficult, but not impossible at all, for me to imagine adding a third person into that complex mix. Really, the primary/secondary model seems to be a way of describing our relationship right now; we are both open to the possibility of having another primary if that is what happens.


And yet, it has at times dictated coursed of action with other people (so it has entered the prescriptive mode as well), during which times for me, it did act as a buffer for insecurities that I was having. However, I don’t think this is necessarily a “bad” thing, because I don’t think other partners of ours have been treated as expendable. I think for the most part, other partners of ours have also operated from a perspective that they are, too, maintaining a primary relationship and understand the complexities of maintaining a healthy and happy primary relationship while building a new secondary relationship. So when insecurities flare up, there has been understanding and compassion all around.


I don’t think there is anything wrong with being clear with one’s capacity for building and maintaining relationships. I know a few monogamous people who sincerely don’t want to have an open relationship because they just don’t have the drive, time, energy, etc to build and maintain more than one intimate, romantic relationship. Why is it so different when a poly person is honest about their capacity to build and maintain multiple intimate relationships? Right now, I am with a primary partner and a secondary partner. I do not feel like I have the energy to devote to another partner- I would be lying if I said I did. And if I met someone that I really liked, I would have to be honest with myself and them about my limited ability to nurture an intimate relationship with them. If I wasn’t honest, I would do disservice to both of us, as well as to my other partners.


I loved the “five things” blog post, because it allowed me to reflect on how I feel as a secondary partner to other people and to enter into my feelings of compassion for those in my life who have been a secondary partner to either me or J. I think it can be a tricky, but still wholly satisfying and loving, relationship to build.


Couple privilege is both fascinating and boring to me at the same time. Fascinating in that privilege is a hard thing to confront when you are the one experiencing privilege. Boring in that it’s so obvious. When I read the blog post on couple privilege I noticed a visceral reaction in my body; my stomach tightened up and I felt attacked. So is the reaction to hearing for the first time about a privilege you have. I don’t want to be in an oblivious dominant position. So it can be hard to swallow the first time. My personal solution to this, for now: recognize the privilege I have in being in a long-term coupled relationship, advocate for relationship diversity, educate those who I can about relationship diversity, and maintain equal decision-making within my primary partnership and allow room for our relationship boundaries to change depending on changing needs/desires/wants.


Thanks sexy friends for a stimulating discussion!

2 thoughts on “Primary/Secondary Model, Couple Privilege, etc.

  1. Thanks for noting my first SoloPoly post on couple privilege. It is a thorny and uncomfortable issue — both for people who are part of a primary couple, and for people who are either solo or who are non-primary partners. It's of course valid to choose to enshrine couple privilege in how you conduct your relationships; the key is being completely up-front early in a relationship about how this might affect non-primary partners, and about why you're choosing to embrace couple privilege (what you think that will achieve).

    Also, I did publish some substantive additional posts that also might interest you:

  2. Thanks for commenting! I do agree it's a thorny and uncomfortable issue, and I appreciate how insightful and articulate you are on the subject. I'll look at those posts of yours, and thanks for providing them for other readers, too! :)

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