Re: Couples’ Privilege

This special guest post on an issue in polyamory is by Beverly Diehl.  A writer, practitioner of solo poly, and breast cancer ass-kicker, Beverly is actively involved in Sex-Positive World.  She blogs about all these topics and more at

Sometimes married or partnered people can be upset at the idea your partner’s new love interest is getting “all the good times” with them, while all you get is duties and drudgery. You want to measure out the fun times to make sure it is fair. If the new partner gets a 4-hour date during the week, the existing partner should get a 4-hour weeknight date, and so on.

I’d like to invite those who feel that way to consider another angle.

Relationship building and bonding is hard work and takes time. It ain’t all Disneyland and hot sex (or hot sex AT Disneyland, my personal preference). It’s a thousand shared moments, and sometimes the worst of them: cleaning up pet or kid vomit; waiting for the tow truck in blistering heat; having to call the cops on the obnoxious neighbor, become treasured stories we laugh and joke about later.

When we enter your existing relationship, either as a partner to one of you, or as part of a triad – the existing partners almost always have a such huge head start on shared memories and events, we are never going to catch up. If we don’t live with you, yes, we don’t have to deal with the ants in the breakfast cereal or your broken washing machine, but we also don’t usually get a hug at the end of a rough day at work. We usually have to deal with our OWN household crises, without help. We don’t get to roll our eyes together at political commercials, or all the many daily touches, shared glances, conversation and more that you may be excluding, when you say your partner hardly spends any time with you. (I know, I know, depending on whether you practice Kitchen Table Poly, this may not be true for the way YOU poly.)

It’s intimidating, starting a relationship with someone who has been partnered for XX years. While cowboys and cowgirls who want to “rope one off from the herd” exist, I suspect most of us “outsiders” are more nervous about being kicked to the curb. Judged as “too” something – too needy, too sexy/pretty, too threatening in some way to the existing coupled unit. It’s a challenge to be authentic and honest about our fears and concerns; we don’t want to come off like Debbie Downer (at least, I don’t), but knowing at the same time, if we don’t communicate openly about ALL the feels, if our relationship is built entirely on happy fluffy moments and NRE (New Relationship Energy), it’s unlikely to last.

It takes a lot of courage to live a polyamorous life, and I appreciate that couples, especially couples who have to be closeted for professional or family reason, are risking a lot by inviting us into their lives and hearts. Just please consider that for those of us who become involved with a partnered person, or a couple, it is a huge emotional risk for us as well. Maybe even a greater one, because if our relationship with you fails, you still have each other, and we may or may not have other partners. Trying to figure out an exact “fair share” of time or events is unlikely to pay off the way anyone thinks it will.


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