4 Tips for Secondary Partners in Poly Relationships

In our mono-centric world it’s hard to find people who will offer up poly-related support and advice. Tell your mom you’re a secondary, and she’ll probably say that you have no self-respect, and that you’re going to get your heart ripped out. Just remember: your choices are valid and you have the right to pursue the kind of relationship that works for you.

If you’re thinking of being a secondary partner for the first time, or you’re struggling to find happiness in your current hierarchical relationship, read on. I hope these tips can help you find the happiness you deserve.

4 Tips for Secondary Partners

1. Discuss Expectations before Committing

Don’t assume that you and your potential partner are on the same page—their definition of a secondary partner might differ from yours. Discuss things like time commitments, your level of say in decision making, how you will refer to one another in social settings, and whether or not there is room for emotional growth and change within the relationship.

Some secondary connections are inherently short lived, designed to fulfill a very specific purpose—like facilitating a threesome—while others are more open ended. Be totally honest about your motivations for being a secondary partner, and don’t settle for less than you desire.

2. Know Your Heart and Mind

As your relationship progresses, ask yourself: Am I getting what I need from my role as a secondary partner? On a scale of 1-10, how happy am I overall? While these questions sound like they are straight out of a market-research questionnaire, or the mouths of poly skeptics, they are important to consider.

Perhaps you entered into things hoping that your role would offer you the perfect mix of freedom and connection, only to discover, as time passed, that you want something different. Being in touch with your heart and mind will help you make sound decisions when it comes to ensuring your emotional well-being.

3. Speak Up when Needed

Remember that the term “secondary” refers only to your place in the involvement/commitment hierarchy, not to the overall importance of your thoughts and feelings. Healthy polycules give everyone a voice, regardless of hierarchical standing. You might not have a say in how your partner spends their long weekends, but you do have the right to ask for a heads up when plans that affect you change, when something upsets you, or when you aren’t feeling heard.

Secondary life sometimes requires being a squeaky wheel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If your partner routinely dismisses you, or minimizes your feelings, they aren’t being good to you and probably aren’t worth your time.

4. Check In Regularly

Sit down with your polycule to assess where things are at. Talk honestly about how you’re feeling, and bring up any concerns you might have. Some polycules have regularly scheduled check-ins, while others prefer a more spontaneous approach. In either case, defend your right to be included in these conversations.

If you notice that they tend to happen on the fly and that you’re not always notified, ask for them to be entered into the shared poly calendar. If you are happy not being included all the time, or you don’t want access to the calendar, that’s fine too. Some secondary partners prefer to be more removed from things. The important thing is that you are given the respect of negotiating your level of involvement within the group.

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