I recently uploaded a video on YouTube covering a few basic polyamory terms.
I thought it’d be helpful to share that information here.
The terms I explained where hierarchical relationships, primary/secondary partners, descriptive primary, prescriptive primary, and entanglement as well as two of the many rules some polyamorous couples utilize: One Penis Policy and Veto Policy. I also shared my own personal boundaries for my polyamorous relationship and what being a polyamorist means to me.
Hierarchical polyamorous relationships are those whose partners adhere to having primary and secondary relationships. I forgot to mention in the video, some couples also have tertiaries. Hierarchical means there’s levels of importance in one’s relationships; their partners don’t carry the same importance either sexually, emotionally, or timewise.
The primary partner holds the most importance, the secondary is next, and the tertiary is third. Primary partners may be descriptive, which means it’s simply the way the relationship looks due to entanglement. Being entangled indicates a degree of involvement in a person’s life, such as living together, sharing property, having joint finances, raising children together, being each other’s emergency contact person, etc.
A prescriptive primary relationship is simply voicing someone as a primary, which lets potential partners know (as a secondary or tertiary) they’ll never be first, or a major priority, in your life. It could also indicate the person is dispensable, but not necessarily.
Being a primary or secondary is something that should be discussed at the onset of a potential relationship. Some people don’t want to be someone else’s second or to be told their feelings aren’t as important as your other partner(s). Some people don’t mind being a secondary, especially if they have a lot going on in their lives and don’t have time to fully commit to a full-fledge relationship, or if they have a primary of their own. Some have multiple primaries and no secondaries. It’s up to the individuals in each relationship to decide the level of importance, the degree of accessibility, and entanglement, they want each other to have.
The One Penis Policy makes me laugh and cringe at the same time and I’ll explain why. The One Penis Policy is typically a relationship where it’s agreed that the woman can have sex with as many women as she wants to, but she can’t have sex with a man. I think it ludicrous to tell someone or expect someone to allow their sex life to be restricted, especially in a polyamorous relationship. I cringe because this policy, to me, reeks of insecurity. A man may feel another man having sex with his partner is a threat, but not another woman. I laugh again because women do leave men for other women.
Another rule some hierarchical couples have is a Veto Policy. That means if one of the partners begins to feel threatened, anxious, neglected, etc. they will tell their partner to break up with other partners. Some honor this policy. Some don’t. Ultimatums are never a good thing. It speaks volumes about the person attempting to enforce the Veto than the one on the receiving end. Whatever feelings the Veto’er is having should be resolved versus hiding behind a policy to make him or her feel more secure in their relationship.
Whatever rules are implemented into a relationship should be disclosed upfront to potential partners. Many will not date someone with strict rules because those rules weren’t negotiated with them. A person attempting to come into a relationship with a partnered person shouldn’t, in my opinion, be subjected to that couple’s rules. I believe each person should decide for themselves how their relationships should be.
Since this article is longer than I intended, I’ll write a separate article sharing my personal boundaries for my polyamorous relationships.
Thanks for reading. I look forward reading about your experience with polyamory and any questions you may have.
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