Who’s #1?

One of the faster ways to start an online pie fight is to bring up the topic of hierarchical relationships.

Some non-monogamous people practice hierarchy, in which one relationship is favored above others. (This is often the case, for example, when a married couple enters into polyamory.)  And, perhaps understandably, other people find ranking relationships distasteful and/or an invitation to treat other partners poorly.

But it’s worth noting that There’s a difference between a descriptive hierarchy and a prescriptive one. Descriptive is saying “I live with X and lived with them 20 years before Y came along, so there are aspects to that relationship not matched by the other.” Prescriptive is saying, “X will always be my #1, and no other may be allowed to rival that relationship.” It’s the difference between what is and what will be.

We will always have more experience with one partner than another. But so long as:

  • Duration of relationship does not equal or imply intensity or value of that relationship;
  • What one partner gets does not depend on what the other partner gets;
  • And neither can veto decisions about the other,
you’re working toward non-hierarchy.

One thought on “Who’s #1?

  1. Hierarchy is bad (or negative) if one person is always made to feel “less than” or “not valued”. So don’t do that. However, let us say I negotiate a primary relationship with someone. At a minimum we will spend at least one day a week together (sometimes more) and we will make on going life plans. Now I meet partner B. Partner B has other partners or travels a lot or for whatever reason, he can really only guarantee he can get together once a month. I might really like partner B, but what he can off is less than what partner A can offer. So if I accept forming a relationship with partner B, I accept that I will probably only see him once a month and beyond that will be texts, emails or phone calls.

    Not if partner B moves closer, has more time, leaves a long standing relationship, he might have more time available. Then there is the question, Would our relationship and happiness be improved if we spent more time together or deepened our relationship? Would deepening the relationship with B, have negative effects on the relationship with A?

    I think if you enter the relationship know what is offered and accepting it, then you are fine. However, life happens and then deciding if you can escalate or de-escalate a relationship is hard work.


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