A lot of what I am thinking about here has been talked about with couple’s privilege. I’m not really saying something new, but I do feel like I need to say something and it’s that there is couple’s privilege and there is couple’s supremacy. I have to admit that all those dreadful talks about privilege in poly internet groups MADE ME CRAZY. The reason they made me crazy is that it felt like a bunch of people nitpicking infinitesimal crap that has nothing to do with real life.
I’m starting to get it though. I’m pretty lucky that the people I am dating are very generous and fair and giving and thoughtful. My partners try REALLY HARD to do the right thing, and I’m finding that this is rare. But I have to admit that even there, in these smart, loving, thoughtful, giving situations there does exist a couple’s primacy. It’s okay in my case. Primacy isn’t supremacy. I have only been with my partners a year or less and I have thoughtful partners. Unfortunately I’m seeing supremacy EVERYWHERE around me though. I thought it was nuts to talk about this stuff all the time because everybody knows it’s lame to treat people that you love super unfairly and to say this human is worth more than this human. Nobody I know would do that. Sheesh.
But they do.
I quit a few internet groups over such long windy discussions. I was married and poly and I would NEVER do the things they were talking about. I posted a picture of a kitten with a gun to its head saying “SAY PRIVILEGE ONE MORE TIME”. I was so tired of the bleeding soapbox ramblings and 14- post discussions back and forth about minutia.
I love when people want to honor their existing commitments. I talk about it all the time. I’m not saying that people honoring their relationships is a bad thing. I’m not even saying protecting connections is a bad thing. I am saying that having couple’s supremacy kinda sucks though. Why does holding x down make y stronger?
I read posts all the time about how okay and supportive a couple is of real connections with other people and how they are so inclusive or good to their others, and never jealous and so compersive, and in the same breath say things like they “aren’t comfortable” with having overnights and won’t ever have them, now or in the future. Seriously? That just feels like right out the gate you are saying that other partners will never be as worthy as you. You are the husband or the wife and it’s vital that all 7 nights of the week belong to you? It’s okay if your spouse has a relationship with this person but you will make sure you are number one by saying they can’t fall asleep together. Or you’ve grown used to sleeping together and can’t change so other people can have the joy of sleeping with the person they love too? They better come home where they belong.. with you.. alone. And this will NEVER change.
Or people talk about scheduling their dates around their husband’s/wife’s schedule. “Oh.. It’s easy for me! I just make sure I schedule my dates/overnights/whatever when Mr. X is doing this or that.” Or “sure.. we can plan a date. Let me just clear that with my wife”. I’m not saying couples shouldn’t be considerate and plan with each other. I am NOT saying not to talk to your spouse about scheduling. But why wouldn’t that same person ever tell his wife “Yeah.. we can maybe go to Tahoe this weekend. Lemme let my girlfriend know and/or make sure we don’t have big plans”. Because let’s be clear.. he’s being considerate to his wife by checking her feelings about him disappearing all weekend. My question is why isn’t he considerate to his girlfriend too? It doesn’t have to be the SAME consideration, but why isn’t there consideration? The girlfriend is simply informed and not expected or rarely permitted to have a response. “Oh.. by the way.. it’s been decided that I am going to do this. I’m just telling you and you will adjust”. It might affect the girlfriend. That’s fine.. but it does kind of chap my ass a little that it’s just so expected. It seems ludicrous to ask the girlfriend “Hey.. the wife and I are thinking of taking that trip in May. Early May and Mid May seem to work best. Any thoughts”? I’m not saying she has to okay trips with his wife, but why is it such a ridiculous notion to consult or include the girlfriend or boyfriend at all and such an expected right that wives or husbands must be consulted always and in all things? I know there are exceptions to this.. of course.. I’ve been that exception.. but it’s not super common.
I’m not saying every poly couple must plan every damn thing by committee or that girlfriends or boyfriends or husbands or wives must “permit” their partners to do things. I’m just saying that it really must blow to be a non-primary or a girlfriend sometimes. There is the assumption that the primary or the husband or the wife or whatever must be respected or considered or told and there is NO ASSUMPTION that anyone else deserves ANY consideration. Again.. I’m not saying that all relationships from conception must be equal … but would you always want to be the girlfriend or boyfriend in that, when they can NEVER be equal?
How on Earth does it seem okay to say that this relationship can be all of these things but that it can’t ever include stuff like overnights because those are just for me? Many people don’t do overnights for a host of reasonable reasons… responsibilities at home and car conflicts and all kinds of things, but to arbitrarily say you can fuck and date and kiss and hold and be with them, but you must come home every night to me, for no reason but that I am your live-in partner and therefore must be allowed things that others are not.. well.. it’s couple supremacy.
There’s lots of examples.
- Couples that try poly and if it’s not working can just dump the people that invested in them and go be mono.
- It’s perfectly okay for members of a couple to want to meet and be okay with who their partners date but not expecting to meet or respect non-primary partners when you date others.
- Overnights or holidays or birthdays or special occasions are the property of primary partners alone.. just assumed.
- Partners must always be available to their primaries and will drop their other partners if their primary wants/needs/or expects them
- Members of the couple can cancel dates with outside partners. (and of course outside partners cannot do the same to members of the couple)
- Insistence that certain partners must have the most time (not saying that primaries generally having more time because of shared space and time is this.. I am talking specifically about people who have the idea that no matter what inside partners MUST have more time than outside partners)
- If any problem happens then the primary partner wins instead of the assumption that all members matter and must be adults and work to resolve the conflict
- If on a date with my secondary my husband can call, of course, but when I am with my husband I don’t answer my secondary. Or versions of this. (A glaring example is basically not treating partner calls the same – one set of rules and responses for a spouse and another for a non-primary partner)
- The seemingly natural assumption that because this person came second or third they will ALWAYS be lesser.
The hardest part about this is that it’s generally perpetrated by super well meaning people who actually love the people they are treating like second class citizens.
Some good suggestions on how to treat everyone well..
- when setting up dates thinking about what works best for everyone and understanding that there is usually no perfect solution and WE ALL give up things sometimes. Traveler many times has scheduled dates with his girlfriends when his wife is home. She’s an adult and amuses herself. Of course he tries to schedule around her but she is understanding when he cannot. Hubby and I scheduled dates with each other and with our other partners, not only seeing our other partners when it was convenient to members of the “primary” couple. Many times we amused ourselves while the other was on a date.
- Acknowledging that other partners have needs for time and connection and not limiting THESE partners to only weekdays or only until 12pm or only when the primary is busy. Allowing all relationships to be whole and include things like trips, special occasions, regular old days, overnights, shared intimacy, sex, meals, hobbies etc.. you know.. like any other relationship.
- Trying to be considerate of everyone’s time. Keeping non-primary partners informed of schedules and changes just as you would primary partners.
- Not cancelling any partners for any other partners except for true emergencies.
- Being with who you are with when you are with them. Not texting and calling your boyfriend constantly during dates with your spouse or having the spouse interrupt time with the other partner either. Allowing each to contact you or not contact you with similar parameters. (Realizing of course that if you live together some of your partner’s time at home will obviously need to be spent contacting others.)
- Trying to be either inclusive or taking turns or sharing special days and holidays.
- Not setting arbitrary limits on some relationships. You can contact them only once a week or you can only have date/dates 3 times a month. (An exception might be during the very beginning or “new relationship energy”. Some couples wish to slowly build connections and will try not to spend 7 days a week with a new beau.. also helpful when respecting existing relationships)
- Realizing that all partners are full humans. You can’t ask for their love and trust and then veto them or dump them to suit the primary couple. They are not expendable things for your amusement.
- Not dropping everyone and everything flat because your husband or wife is home. Other people’s time matters too. Certainly we all want to take advantage of and see our loved ones as much as we can… but it feels like shit when your husband drops everything, including you, because his girlfriend is suddenly available.
- Allowing for growth. It’s not reasonable to assume that this partner will ALWAYS come first because they came 18 months or 18 years earlier. Some relationships over time will become larger investment relationships too. It’s unfair and hurtful to assume that all of our partner’s connections will always be just a little less than our connection to them, or to ask for that. If we decide to be open, really be open. Sharing my loved ones means actually sharing their time and attention and energy and space and life.
Just some stuff I’m thinking of. Just a little rant about some observations.