Many people still think of polyamory as monogamy plus, with the plus being that little something on the side that is an additional partner.
This attitude is even reflected in the language we use to describe our relationships: “I have a primary partner and two secondary partners.”
So what does it really mean to be a secondary partner? The title itself suggests a lack of importance, or a lover who demands little time or attention, but it’s almost always more complicated than that. Nobody wants to be treated as if they are secondary to your heart.
How to Make Your Non-Primary Partners Feel Valued and Respected
Honor Your Commitments
If you have agreed on having date night two times a week, be sure to be there, excited and on time. If you can’t make it for whatever reason, be sure to give lots of notice and try to make up for the missed date in a timely manner. Try not to make your partner feel that his or her time isn’t important, or that your primary partner takes precedence.
Take Their Needs Seriously
If your secondary partner expresses a concern about something or requests a little extra attention or commitment, don’t ignore or minimize things. A secondary partner shouldn’t be seen as there when you need it, gone when you don’t. You probably outlined the boundaries of your relationship at the very beginning, but sometimes things change. Be prepared for ongoing conversations about needs and expectations.
Keep Them in the Loop
Don’t assume that your secondary partner(s) aren’t interested in or entitled to know about important things that are happening in your life. You might not see each other every day, but the things that impact you are sure to affect each of your partners as well. Always be sure to include everyone in decision-making processes, especially when the choices made will have widespread consequences.
Don’t Simply Use Them as a Sounding Board
Even if you’re primary partner is driving you CRAZY and all you need is someone to console you, be sure to spare your secondary partner the full burden of your angst.
This person deserves your undivided attention and is probably not content with being a receptacle for your anger and frustration. Go to a therapist, or vent to a friend if need be. That’s not to say you shouldn’t acknowledge your feelings as you experience them, just be careful that you don’t unload too much too often.
Keep Their Secrets
If your secondary partner confides in you, don’t feel that you can then go home and discuss it with your primary. Each of your relationships should be considered separate and respected entities, not curiosities that can be analyzed or talked about without consent.
The main point to be taken from all of this is that secondary partners are people too, and should not be treated with any less love and respect than any other partner in your life.