There is a lot of talk surrounding “couple privilege” and “primary privilege” in poly relationships. As a single secondary by choice, it’s a topic very close to home for me and one that I have lived and lost with in my relationships.
The common slant is that it’s wrong and hurtful and should be abolished in order for healthy and fulfilling relationships to be. That’s a simplified synopsis of a long and drawn out topic but it pretty well sums up the general consensus for the most part.
Taking a look at it though it’s not that simple.
In relationships, boundaries and parameters are set by the people who are IN the relationships. There aren’t , and can’t be, “rules” that everyone should abide by. That would insinuate that we are all the same or that we all have the same goals or aspirations in our relationships. And we don’t.
Some climb on the relationship escalator and thrive in the progression of integrating lives and finances and social circles and all aspects of their lives. They tangle themselves happily and beautifully into each other lives and enmesh and forge a bond that fits them. That fits THEM.
Other float like satellites…tethering briefly from one person to the next for a time; maybe hours or days or weeks or even years… but essentially solo. Their own sphere being what fulfills them and they choose to connect in a different way. Not necessarily less emotionally bonded or less enmeshed. Just differently as seen from other points of view.
Others create vast and strongly intertwined polycules of loves and partners. Families and shared lives- together but separate. Or multiple couples and singles circling the same expanse of a community, creating and forging different bonds with different people in a fluid and ever-changing dance of love and respect.
Poly takes on so many forms and versions and it all is a flow of communication and finding – and expressing – your needs and wants so that you can find what it is that you DO need and want. Something we each have to do.
Which brings me, finally, to where I started. Couples who are in primary style relationships. Poly in nature but living a bonded and committed long-term relationship that fits the understood term of primary. Two people who have decided that the relationships they have with each other are Primary and the most important to them emotionally. With that, for each partnership like that, comes sets of boundaries and parameters that are in place in order to protect and preserve the stability and security of that primary relationship. Why? Because they have agreed , together, that it is the one relationship in their lives that must come first, before all others,and they have built their lives together on that. They have based their boundaries for secondary interactions on the basis that their primary relationship is to be protected – above all else.
That isn’t a bad thing. It is what works for many many couples. It’s no different from a person who identifies as a solo poly or single poly stating their boundaries and need to remain and be “solo” even within establishing relationships. A solo poly person is not selfish any more than a couple in primary relationships are exclusion based. They’re just different.
Where it comes up that it’s “bad” is when people have experiences that hurt when they either don’t have that basis communicated or when it isn’t adequately conveyed that that is what is in place. Secondaries who come away from “couple privilege” hurt and angry and ranting about how bad it is have usually been subjected to either lies or omissions. They have been told that the primary coupling does not exist within the relationship they are joining or they have been told that it will change – when in fact there was no intention from the couple that it would. People have more reasons that able to be listed as to why lies are told or deceptions are perpetrated and they are usually set in fear of not getting, or keeping, something they want.
A partner who is one half of a primary coupling who plays the “primary card” and ends a secondary relationship is not bad or wrong or unfair. Not if it has been established that , at any time, they can choose to end a secondary involvement if they feel that their primary relationship is threatened or if they decide that it’s not working anymore. If someone is told and actively empowered that they have that right, then it’s not wrong for them to enact it. The secondary may get hurt but if it has been initially laid out, then regardless of hurt, acceptance is how it ends…because those are the rules that everyone agreed to play by. Knowingly and with mature awareness.
Not right or wrong. Just how it is – for them.
It may strike some as wrong but if something is right for those involved, then its’ right for them and that;s all that matters. If a secondary is handed those rules at the outset and doesn’t think it’s fair or right, they have the option of walking away. oOt because it’s “wrong”, but because it’s not right, for them. There may be another secondary who sees those parameters and thrives and fits in perfectly.
It all comes down to ensuring that our needs and wants and parameters are clearly – and honestly – laid bare. From day one.. and knowing that we are responsible for seeing what is laid before us. With open eyes, seeing with our heads and our ears and our eyes… not just with our hearts.
We live and we learn and if we’re lucky, we don’t make the same mistake twice.