Relationship Hierarchy – Answering the Question: “Which partner is your favourite?”

Featured photo: Lena Headly playing Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Meeting my nesting partner and deciding to dive into my first polyamorous relationship happened at the same time. Given the amount of terms, definitions and information, I had only begun to scratch the surface before we dubbed each other our “Primary Partners”. It only made sense: we spent our time primarily together. It felt as though it became even more apparent when we became nesting partners, and shared the majority of our day-to-day responsibilities as well as financial decisions. It wasn’t until I heard questions like “Well which one is your favourite?”, and I had researched a bit more, that I realized that our relationship doesn’t exactly fall into what others would consider a “Polyamorous Hierarchy”.

What is “Hierarchical Polyamory”?

Before I further get into my situation and personal experiences, I want to explore what exactly defines polyamorous hierarchy; what makes a “Primary” a primary. Is it based on the amount of time spent together? Or is it something more? In hierarchical polyamorous relationships, from what I have gathered, there is pecking order of importance for partners involved. A “Primary” relationship is classified as the most important one, putting it above any other relationship type whether it be sexual, intimate or platonic. Secondary relationships would be deemed the less important sexual and romantic ones. Wearing the ‘primary’ crown gives the individual more power than any of their metamours, including but not limited to, the ability to veto and/or give restrictions on any secondary relationships.

I feel like this relationship structure is very mono-centric in the sense that it delegates that level of importance to one partner over the other(s). While it may work well for some, I feel as though it has the potential to open a doorway for a toxic power struggle, depending on the individuals involved. It removes a certain level of autonomy and freedom from their partner, and puts a limit on the amount of love that can be given/received.

This can often be somewhat unfair to those considered the “secondary” relationship. Perhaps details of the relationship can’t be posted on social media, or there is specific times that they are unable to plan dates because the primary expects their needs to be met first and foremost.

Are you saying there are other relationship structures?

The more I analyzed our relationship, the more I realized that we follow more of a “non-hierarchical”/”relationship anarchy” model. While I often times will give my opinion on situations surrounding my nesting partner’s other relationships, and I will remove myself if I feel as though my daughter or I could be affected directly, he is free to handle his relationships how he sees fit and maintain connections that make him happy. The definition of these specific labels allow for more autonomy and freedom which in turn, makes our time together not forced. He spends time with me not because he needs to but because he wants to.

But what if your needs aren’t being fully met?

If I feel like my needs aren’t being met, that is not his responsibility. I’m a grown ass adult, capable of caring for myself and I have other avenues I can take to handle that. If he felt responsible for meeting my needs all the time, it would be suffocating. Our relationship would feel forced or as though our job was to satisfy each other. We often times joke that our relationship is nothing more than “best friend roommates that have sex/are intimate”, which when you think about it, it isn’t really a joke. The reality of our situation is that we expect nothing more than respect, honesty, and understanding from each other in terms of our relationship. Obviously, like roommates, we expect equal share on the housework, bills and adult responsibilities. What we do with our alone time is up to us and if we collectively choose to spend it together, then that’s what we do.

When you think about it, there’s somewhat of a social hierarchy that everyone sort of has that deems a level of importance each person has in your life; a natural pecking order. For me personally, I come first. If I don’t ensure my own needs are met, I can’t be the type of partner/friend/mother I want to be for those I care about. Followed very closely to myself on that list is my daughter, then my partners, my best friends, friends and then my acquaintances. I wouldn’t put any of my partners first in how much I care about them because I love them for different reasons; the time I spend with any of them is enjoyable and fulfilling in their own way.

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You can also Ask Me a Question. This helps me with topics to write about. Polyamory, relationships, attachment parenting, feminism, communication and mental health are just some of the topics I read a lot about and have formed quite a few opinions on.

Thanks for reading!

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