How to treat non-primary partners well? Seeking input from non-primaries


November 6, 2012 by aggiesez

I’m putting together a post that would be list of tips intended for people in poly/open primary couples, with guidance on specific things they can do or avoid in order to treat their non-primary partners well.

…UPDATE: The result of this crowdsourcing project is now live! See: Non-primary partners tell how to treat us well. This is a work in progress, more input welcome!

I realize this advice would vary greatly according to the relationships and individuals involved — but I figure I’ll just gather as much input as possible and look for common themes.

I want to keep this simple, so it’s easy for folks to read and remember. I would like it to be do/don’t bullet points, not essays. Just the basics, a jumping off point for discussion. Think of it as a brief, action-oriented corollary to Franklin Veaux’s popular and controversial Secondary’s bill of rights.

Got input? Please comment below or e-mail me. Please clarify in your contribution whether you are currently have a primary partner.

Important: While people who are part of a primary couple may have good insight to offer on this topic, my goal here is to present tips that come from the perspective of solo poly/open people — since the vast majority of what’s been written about poly/open relationships is not from our point of view.

If I use your input in my post I’m happy to attribute to you if you like, but will keep it strictly anonymous unless you give clear permission to attribute to you.


UPDATE NOV. 23: I’ve received input from many readers and others in the poly community, and am compiling that into a post this weekend. In the meantime, here’s a guest post from reader SHG with tips based on her experience.

8 thoughts on “How to treat non-primary partners well? Seeking input from non-primaries

  1. scattered_kisses says:

    Honor time commitments and dates. Give advance notice of schedule conflicts and reminders; don’t assume your partner knows or remembers something mentioned in passing several weeks ago.
    Listen to your partner’s concerns and feelings. at the very least, acknowledge them, even if you cannot address them fully.
    Do not compare, do not compare, do not compare your partners.
    (from a solo secondary with two partners.)

  2. Ali Golightly says:

    Remember that the non-primary partners are real people with real feelings and treat them 30% better than you want to be treated to allow room for error.

    Have a reasonable idea of what your primary relationship means to you, so that you can express the spirit of the boundaries and requests.

    Foster relationships as metamour with significant secondary relationships (for primaries, and significant primary relationships for secondaries) by spending alone time together on a regular basis. Build a comfortable communication with them and get to know them as people, not roles.

  3. Melanie says:

    I think scattered and Ali covered most of what I would say. I also have a boundary both of my boyfriends no texting or playing on their phones while they are with me, UNLESS it is one of the other girlfriends/wives needing to know an answer to something important. I think the time I get with them should be as uninterrupted as possible since I get very little of it. But this phone rule carries over to everyone in my life. I encourage people to be present in the moment with real life people. Posting what you are doing on Facebook or Twitter really isn’t all that important.

    • anon4anon says:

      Having a “my partner’s date flaked so I now have to cancel/not have sex with my secondary” is a pretty goddamned shitty rule, and you should consider very carefully before you adopt such a policy.

  4. Yes, above all else honor time commitments if at all possible, yet at the same time be flexible when plans made weeks in advance need to be altered due to unforeseen circumstances. Make efforts to include your secondary.

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