Relationships with Couples for Non-Primaries: a Primer

If I was a linear person, this would probably not be the note I started my non-primary poly writings on… but I’m not.  So welcome to my personal patented process of jumping into the middle ground.

Imagine the following, if you will, as a yes or no style flow chart.  Maybe someday it actually will be.

1.        Are you poly?
If you can do poly, but secretly habour fantasies of one partner leaving the other for you, or you can do poly, but crave someone who picks you first just stop.  Stop right now, turn around and find someone who will make either the monogamous, or primary commitment you really want.  If yes, proceed!

2.      Is the primary relationship stable?
A stable couple will make your relationship easier.

2b.     If they aren’t, do you care?
If (Big.  Huge.  If) you can find a way to enjoy your relationship without any  fuckery splash-back then you may not care, and you may not need to. If yes – walk away.  If no – proceed.

3.        Will you be treated like a human being?
Even if your role is to be a play toy for one or more people, you still  deserve to be treated with respect, care, and not tossed aside at the first sign of inconvenience.   And yes, this still applies in power based relationships.  Above all else, we are human beings.   If no – run away.  If yes, proceed.

4.        Do you want to be involved with both of them or just one?
How involved do you want to be?  Emotionally?  Sexually?  If your partner has a primary, it’s improbable that you have zero interaction, but just how involved you get with your partner’s other partners can be up to you.   No matter how you answer this, is this acceptable to all parties?   If no, walk away. If yes, proceed.

5.        Are you clear about your role in the relationship?
And are they clear about your role?  Are you clear about theirs?  Are they? Whenever expectations aren’t aligned, disappointment follows – go back and talk about it some more.

5b.        Is there room for change and growth in that role?
If yes , awesome.  It may never happen, but it’s always better to know the reality of the situation before you make a commitment.   If no, what happens if someone’s feelings change?  Go back and talk about it some more.

6.        Do you know your emotional and physical limits and boundaries?
Do they?  Do you know and understand theirs?  See previous comment regarding aligned expectations.   If yes, proceed.  If no, go back and talk about it some more.

7.        Do you want this, or is it simply better than being alone?
It’s the last question, but the most important – and requires the most honestly.  Settling is an awful way to start a relationship.

If you’ve managed to make it to here – congratulations, you’re almost  ready to go! There are probably just a few more things you’re going to want to talk about:

  • How does conflict get handled?  Does your style of conflict resolution match theirs?  If not, can the different styles be reconciled or at least be respected?
  • What will your relationship look like?  Will you attend events all together, or trade off?   Will you have weekly phone dates or bi-monthly sleepover dates?  What happens on special occasions?

And I’m sure there are other questions I’m missing completely – feel free to drop them into the comment section!

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4 thoughts on “Relationships with Couples for Non-Primaries: a Primer

  1. Zed says:

    Two additions:
    Children – If they already have children, what is your relationship going to be to them? How involved will you be with them? If there aren’t any children, is it a “yet” or “never” thing? What about “surprise” children?

    Additional Partners – What happens if either side of the relationship wants to add another person (or people) to the relationship? In my experience, the partners from the start of the relationship are easy, it’s the ones that come after that get… interesting.

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