“In a polyamorous relationship, the primary is given first choice for attention, while the secondary takes what is left.” Ummm…. WHAT?! In *SOME* polyamorous relationships that’s the case… but this blanket statement just pisses me off. But I guess polys who use the terms “primary” and “secondary” do so for this very reason, to rate one relationship as more important than the other…
I meet a number of people in Portland these days who consider themselves part of the polyamory community. As defined in Wikipedia, Polyarmory involves “having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved,” as distinct from Swinging (which involves recreational sex with multiple people).
Back in September 2011, the entire polyamory community in Portland became electrified by a lecture by Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn. Mr. Ryan’s well-researched book asserts, based on a review of anthropological studies, that people are not naturally monogamous. In case that sounds radical to you, my niece just visited me from college and told me about a great anthropology class she took on human sexuality. She also learned that people are not naturally monogamous. Clearly, what we have here is a mainstream concept that is mostly ignored.
So, a bunch of people in Portland, Oregon are trying to recreate our hunter-gatherer past by connecting together in more than pairs. There is specific terminology associated with such relationships, like ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’.
I have a friend who is in a primary relationship without sex and is looking for a secondary that doesn’t need as much of his time, but who does want sexual intimacy. In a polyamorous relationship, the primary is given first choice for attention, while the secondary takes what is left.
There is an extremely important point, I believe, that Mr. Ryan, while briefly touching on it, does not delve into in any great depth. For those trying to apply this ancient form of sexual relationship to 21st century life, it is important to remember that, in the ancient past, people grew up in small, wholly independent and self-contained tribes of about 200 knowing everyone very intimately for their entire lives. Had I lived 10,000 years ago, I would have known all my lovers all of their lives, as I would have known their parents, siblings, children, and cousins, too.
My primary and secondary would have not lived miles of traffic from one another. In fact, in a tribe, it’s possible they might have been brothers living together who would not have to take turns to see me. Nor would there have been the issue of who got to be with me for the holidays.
Furthermore, none of us would have worked forty to sixty hours a week at a far off job, so that seeing each other would not have been part of a complex juggling of multiple commitments within the limited time frames we experience in modern life. In other words, given how things are radically different from our tribal past, can we expect to adopt an ancient pattern of relationship that historically depended upon proximity and lifelong intimacy to thrive relatively drama-free?