All this talk of subs and hot subs and now I'm hungry for a sandwich.
People are uncomfortable with changing definitions and statuses. Apparently they're so uncomfortable they need to be hit over the head repeatedly with the fact that definitions and priorities do, in fact, change.
Wow, Jen, you reminded me that I've got some pastrami and Swiss cheese here. Yum! Thanks.
Here's the test of whether I get Dan's rules about primary/secondary relationships.
If the primary husband, instead of seeking out a new playmate, had instead asked the primary wife to cut back on her focus on her secondary - that would also have been appropriate. Yes? It sounds like the agreement to open the marriage wasn't crafted in a way that respected the primacy of the partners - and the husband was the first to feel deserted. Too bad he didn't contact Dan a year or so ago.
Instead the primary wife gets to be hypocritical - she ignored her primary until being dumped by her secondary. I think she owes her primary an apology.
I, for one, could believe in a covert letter writing scheme to give "poly and/or open relationships" a bad name.
I'm happy for the folks that can find balance and fulfillment in their poly endeavors, but for everyone else—assuming there's no children—suffering under the stickiness of a badly communicated, or suffered through, "open" relationship—what the hell is wrong with just being single? Why not just move on? It almost seems like the last gasp of the co-dependent.
It's a marriage, not a death match. You are free to change the rules or initiate a divorce.
JenV wins!
Are all the letters from miserable monogamists a letter-writing campaign to make monogamy seem like a bum deal, or are people just shitty all over?
What's certain is that, all other things aside, two things:
1. The wife is proposing to walk through the door and say, "I changed the rules so that I could be happy with someone else, now I'm changing them back so you can't be"; that's what it is, whether it's right or fair or agreed to or not.
2. It is NOT going to go down well. I rather expect an explosion.

And a question on the whole primary/secondary thing that Dan took care to highlight:
Does a primary get to keep primary status if they treat their primary like a secondary?

And a general question: Anybody want to lay odds on the likelihood of the wife wanting to switch back the second she has a new hot piece, and then switch back again when that one ends? This really isn't polyamory, is it? This is just adultery with the wording changed to make herself feel better about being so goddamned selfish.
I could certainly do with two foot-long hot subs myself...
Oh, karma's a bitch.....
"Hey, hon, my secondary dumped me, so I get to make you dump your secondary" is unreasonable. It's unreasonable regardless of who suggested opening the marriage in the first place.

"I know we both have been paying more attention to our secondaries than each other, but we are supposedly each other's primaries -- aren't we? -- and right now your primary needs some attention" is not unreasonable. It's not unreasonable regardless of who suggested opening the marriage in the first place.

She's probably feeling like she made her bed in a big way, by basically ignoring her husband for the past year, and now she has to lie in it. Thing is, were both of them happy ignoring each other for the last year? It would be one thing if she had made him miserable ignoring him for a year, and now it's her turn to find out what it feels like. But it's not clear that that is the case. Sure, he is having a grand hot time with his dessert on the side. That doesn't necessarily mean he is going to find it to be a burden to give some quality time to the woman he loved enough to marry.

Has she actually tried asking her husband for a little more attention? That seems to me like a good place to start.
Re: 1, 3: Hot meaty balls, open face, for me. :-)~~~
Wife sounds like a selfish bitch.
I don't really get how people don't get it.

If you care about your partner, whether it's an open relationship or not, when they need reassurance you give it to them. If that means you have to focus on them more, then guess what? You have to focus on them more. Whether it means you stop going out with your friends a little more, or stop boffing your 'secondary', so that your partner can see that you're in this life together, then you do it.

If the feeling of giving up your own 'pleasure' so you can help them deal with their pain is too abhorrent for you, then you're in the wrong relationship with the wrong person.
I'm with @7. It's a negotiation, subject to rules, which can of course change. If one side doesn't like it, s/he can bail.

Of course, the definitions of the *words* "primary" and "secondary" do not change. If the designation is to have any meaning, the primary lover should be treated as such.

All that aside, Dan has said many times that some people are "wired" for nonmonogamy (c.f. this week's Control Tower), some aren't. I'm not sure both these folks are truly wired for nonmonogamy, given that they started monogamous, and now that they opened it up, they're miserable...well, at least Mrs. Dom is miserable. Sounds like opening it up might've been a mistake, and closing it back down again (at least temporarily) would be the way to go if they want to save the marriage.
It sounds like these folks are due for a long talk and some possible renegotiation of the openness of their marriage. And it sounds like that for the most part, the openness of the marriage was working out for them at first, as opposed to being something the wife forced on her husband like some commenters seem to be assuming. For all we know, the husband's immediate response to the suggestion of opening up the marriage could have been "Well, there is this girl I've had my eye on..." (as an aside, this is one of the reasons I hate "I have a friend who..." letters, they're a lot less clear than ones written by people actually involved in the relationship) The current lack of symmetry is a problem, yes, but let's face the fact that one of the disadvantages of opening up a marriage is that you possibly have to deal with the bullshit of dating as well.

But if she's come out of her relationship with her boyfriend to find that things with her husband aren't where she left off, she needs to talk to him about what they want in terms of their relationship. If they set any actual ground rules, they need to go back over them (if they didn't set any ground rules, they're morons). This open marriage either needs to be renegotiated (even if it's just 'cut back on the girlfriend for a little while until I get back on my emotional feet') or ended altogether. The latter might be better in the long run, as I'm really getting the feeling that these two might not be as compatible as they thought when they got together. They're both doms that clearly prefer relationships with subs and might be better as close friends or roommates than spouses.
#13 wins. Hands-down.
Are people allergic to being honest in relationships? I just don't understand why she doesn't feel comfortable going to her husband (who supposedly loves her) and saying, "I've been feeling really lonely since my secondary dumped me."
@14 But hold the cheese, right??
Dougsf: Totally with you. My very close friend and her husband just randomly decided to ask a mutual friend to be a third in their relationship because their marriage was totally on the rocks and they are both ridiculously codependent and the whole thing exploded and because I pointed out the problems we are now no longer friends because my friend is in denial. Soo yeah, it seems that yr on the right track for interpreting this kind of shit.
@18 hit all the points I would have.

@1 wins.
cheating is always bad.
cheating with permission is perverse and bad.
people should be sterilized before being allowed "poly"
it should be a law...
I bet a few old-school Mormons would have some useful advice here.
Yup. It's confirmed. Dan Savage thinks that secondary partners are not real people. They are Real Dolls and can and should be discarded on a whim if the primary has any kind of problem with anything.

What is so hard to understand about the idea that relationships are relationships, and people need to be treated with respect and humanity whether they're "primary," "secondary," or "person I met five minutes ago at a bar"?

The people who call Dan out for "bashing monogamy" have no fucking clue what they're talking about. Dan has no idea what an open relationship is, and he's way more monogamous than he wants to admit. It colours his judgment, and he can't see it.

The wife needs to talk to her husband, tell him that she's feeling bad, and get him to pay more attention to her. And let him keep seeing his girlfriend. She can't just tell him to end his secondary relationship because she's a bit upset right now, but she can expect that her partner will provide emotional support. We don't know whether she's actually had a conversation with him about the way she feels. It seems like she hasn't. But it's very important for her to know that she can ask for more attention without destroying the other relationship her husband is having. And it's important to remember that her husband's relationship is a real relationship, and the secondary has feelings too, which deserve respect.

For fuck's sake, Dan, you're giving open relationships a bad rap by giving people the idea that if they get into a relationship with someone who already has a partner, they'll be discarded as soon as there's any problems. Way to piss in the punchbowl, Dan.
@24 - Bitter single person, are you?
@24 - "people should be sterilized before being allowed 'poly' it should be a law... "

I bet you consider yourself conservative.
The best subs in the whole wide world come from Desimone's Sub Shop in Absecon, NJ.
"I need you to take care of me" and "I need you to make your girlfriend a much smaller priority" are not actually equivalent.
"Dan, you're giving open relationships a bad rap by giving people the idea that if they get into a relationship with someone who already has a partner, they'll be discarded as soon as there's any problems."

You bet your ass I'm more important than you are to my wife, and that when there are needs at stake, mine outrank yours handily. If I was only equally important as you, and no more, I would be just a friend of hers, same as you, and I never would have married her. So, yes, in terms of my marriage, you are of inferior status. Deal with it. You want to be on equal footing with all the other partners, don't go after someone who's married.

(yes, I admit it, I don't actually have an open relationship. That does not change that I would not conduct an open relationship with a spouse without being completely "primary," with all that implies. I had a girlfriend once, decades back, who basically forcibly opened our relationship. She insisted that I was her primary and I should be proud to be the one that she "chose," the one who got to "keep" her, when in reality "keeping" her mostly meant that I was the one who fielded the credit card bills, and little else.)
I feel divided on this one. I rooted entirely for Hilary Makepeace while watching *The Final Cut* and don't find this situation too far off. But then again, it's hard to think any too well of either someone who would value the right to play the Fairness Card over the genuine(?) suffering of a spouse or the marriage in the case.

I also wonder what line the LW was taking during the Year of Ignoring Hubby, but that's a side line.
A bunch of shit from people who've never been in emotionally open relationships.

For the record, not all poly people believe in the primary/secondary thing. These letters are why I don't believe in it.
This woman is hurting from the end of a relationship. She needs her husband to comfort her and let her know she's still loved and he isn't doing that. I'm going to bet she wouldn't be wanting to close the relationship if her husband had been supportive enough after the initial breakup. If you've married someone and they're your primary partner, their emotional well being should be a higher priority. I don't think her husband should hurt his girlfriend by dumping her, I disagree strongly with Dan there, but spending a bit less time with her to focus on making sure his wife is okay and happy is perfectly reasonable.

If you are a secondary partner you have to accept that sometimes you aren't the priority, if you can't handle that you need to get yourself a primary partner of your own.
@26 and @33: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm the person whose words (criticizing Dan) are in italics ups there.

Like @33 said, not all poly people believe in hierarchical poly. But even among people who do, there is such a thing as a secondary's bill of rights:

Having the kind of authority/veto power that Dan and a lot of the mono people here are talking about is what is necessary for a lot of people to be in open relationships. But that is exactly why some people think that established couples looking to open up a relationship exploit their new partners... and some do. In my poly relationship and among my poly friends, asking your SO to dump someone without making attempts to resolve the issue in a way that preserves the relationship is not considered okay; it's considered controlling. Giving in to jealousy is not seen as a solution, except as a last resort if the situation reaches an impasse.

Dan knows how to have the kind of open relationship where the primary partner gets that level of control... but obviously that doesn't work for everyone, or people wouldn't be so frustrated and saddened by it. When you really love your secondaries, being forced to give them up is a no-win scenario. It's bad for the secondary getting dumped with no chance to try to solve the problem and work things out. It's bad for the primary partner doing the dumping, because they'll feel like they have no choice. And ultimately, it's bad for the primary mandating the dumping, because they'll be faced with their partner's growing resentment for having to cut someone they loved out of their life. Loving someone and wanting to spend the rest of your life with them (and considering them your primary partner) doesn't magically make resentment not happen--that much should be obvious.

All of Dan's responses (and the responses mono people like to hear) center around the idea that partners are in competition with one another and it's necessary to "guard" the primary relationship by weighting things in their favor. For a lot of poly people, it just doesn't work like that. It's not supposed to be about everyone being out for themselves. There are so many ways to resolve these scenarios that Dan never suggests because he does not know what being in a poly relationship is like; he just knows how to fuck people on the side. Which is fine... but that's suggesting a one-size-fits-all solution (dump the extras) to an incredibly diverse range of relationships.
@34: Actually, what I accept by being a secondary is that, if it's absolutely necessary, I might get dumped to preserve the primary relationship. And I wouldn't be a secondary if I wasn't okay with that. But the other side of that coin is that we'll all try other things first before it comes to that.

Every time Dan gets one of these letters, his first response is to dump the secondaries. Usually people have to be at least kind of an asshole to warrant the DTMFA. He just can't think of any other solutions because he doesn't know what being in a working poly relationship is like. If you look at the advice poly people give to each other (ie, advice from people who know what they're talking about)... it's pretty much never, "OMG, break up with everyone!!" I know that he's only ever claimed to be qualified because people write to him... but I can't figure out why people keep writing to him with poly questions when he gives the same answer every time, and it's a demonstrably bad solution.
@34: Actually, I reread your comment and agree with most of what you said, since you weren't actually advocating dumping anyone. It's perfectly reasonable for him to spend more time with his wife right now to support her through this. Sorry; it's late over here on the east coast... I misread your comment, so that shouldn't have been directed at you.
sacculina makes some interesting points.

Noadi @34, though, is off. The letter is clear: "Except that, after focusing more on her boyfriend than her husband for a year, my friend got dumped by her boyfriend..."

Poly isn't a licence to be a shit. She treated her husband as secondary for a long time; when she was happy it didn't matter to her. But now that he's happy and she's not he is expected to INSTANTLY dump his secondary, INSTANTLY put her first, INSTANTLY be the supportive man he apparently was before she found a better playtoy, INSTANTLY adapt to what she wants and needs. That isn't poly and it isn't equitable, it's just old fashioned self-centeredness. I repeat, even if he does do all these things she will just make him a secondary again when she feels like. Hell, I knew a spouse like this once: blew out of her H's life when she felt like it, came back when she needed a shoulder to cry on and then woosh, out the door again as soon as she felt better enough to find people more interesting than her husband.

And am I the only one here who thinks that making such demands (almost akin to treating your primary partner the way McDonald's treats casual labour: you're hired! you're important! We don't need you now, so no time or money! Whoops! We need you again! You're important! And be loyal to the company!) is basically a Dom trying to turn her fellow Dom into a Sub?
BTW, the wife gets it: she wants to be this shitty to her husband, but she intellectually realizes and makes clear to LW that she feels that she's wrong to feel this way. It's the pro-dump forces, Dan included, that are encouraging the selfish shittiness. At least the wife understands not actually being a shite even though you want/need to, which is more than a lot of us can say, I bet.
Sometimes Dan's letters make me glad I'm single and gay. This is one of those times.
I don't know, Vince, this one ade me glad I'm single and straight. "Single" being the operative word here.
@38: I think you're pretty much right, but, really, that's no way to treat a sub either... unless the sub was really into having no emotional support or relationship stability as a kink, which sounds incredibly unhealthy and drama-inducing to me.

I take heart in the fact that the wife seems to realize it'd be unfair (and bad for their relationships) to ask her husband to dump his secondary just because she got dumped, and it's the (I'm presuming mono) letter-writer trying to get Dan's help to persuade her. Hopefully she won't take the advice.
Being non-mono is hard. It takes communication, empathy and compassion. There is nothing easy about it. Actually, being mono requires all of these things too. So, being mono and being non-mono are both hard. Lets all say it together "relationships are hard!"

Sounds like the wife got really excited about her former guy and went all out, and now her hubby is following her example. It seems like he needs to back off now, and she needs to not jump in so totally in the future.

Non-mono is a learned set of skills and a mono upbringing does prepare us for. You have to be pretty deliberate in not going all in on secondary relationships, the mono model pushes us to go all in with who ever you are with at the moment.

Dan, thanks for all the replies to people trying, or failing, to make non-mono work.
tinpdx has it nailed when (s)he points out that both mono and non-mono are in the same boat on this one. I'd just add that a sure relationship killer is "backsies"! You can't agree to one thing when it benefits you, then yank it back when it doesn't. Otherwise you end up defining "fair" the same way American trade delegations do: anything that puts your goal net at the bottom of the hill and anything that puts mine at the top ... and if there's an earthquake reversing that then it's only fair if we switch places.
All this poly/mono talk is amusing, in that it seems to be an attempt to avoid talking about what apparently happened here: these married people found other people to love, and their marriage died like an unwatered houseplant.

Now wife finds herself alone, because she got dumped by her current lover. So she does what women often do when their current lover dumps them: call old lovers, hoping to ease the ache. In this case, her old lover (i.e., her current "husband"), has a new lover himself, so he is unavailable to her.

But she is playing the I'- the-wife card, now, because, like plenty of lonely people before her, she is willing to crack up other people's love to ease her ache.

She may be her husband's wife, but I am not sure she has the standing to make him give up his lover. The fact that they didn't bother to divorce or otherwise break up before getting new lovers is very European and all, but that seems a mere formality. They found new loves, and that likely altered for good the nature of their marriage, which became more friendly than primary or whatever.

Entering even farther into the realm of wild speculation, I am guessing her proposal to open the marriage was the prelude to her husband feeling hurt and sad when the wife couldn't keep the smile off her face as she ran out the door--again and again--to go play with her lover. His hurt ended when he found a woman who really enjoyed being with him. Good for him.

As I said, her marriage died out like a houseplant that got no water, now she wants it back, because it suits her needs now. Selfish!
@ Sacculina

I think what these discussions are showing is that when people decide to enter a non-mono relationship in any fashion or capacity, they need to have conversations clarifying exactly what that means to each person and what everyone's definitions and expectations are.

For some people, poly is a network of relationships, each of which has some claim on your heart and must be lovingly maintained, with no "veto power" from a primary. For others, non-monogamy is a way to get some variety while maintaining loyalty to a primary, who has an absolute claim on one's love and attention if they choose to exercise it. Each type of person, I hope, finds his/her true love(s) out there as best they can, but misery happens when the two types try to find happiness with each other, mistakenly believing that their ideals of non-monogamy match.

You are of the first type. I, and others here like Avast2006 (whose posts I heartily second), and perhaps Dan (though I cannot speak for him... but he quoted Avast in his reply), are of the second type. I have been involved in and closely witnessed numerous mono and poly relationships, both successful and not. My experience, and this is ONLY my experience, is that poly relationships that make the primary truly primary (including that veto power) are more stable over the long term.

Since marriage is meant to be something beyong just "shacking up until we decide it's in our best interests to do something else" (and I was raised in an Old World family, so please forgive my archaic notions of obligation and duty), I would counsel the husband in this case that, fair or not, the right thing to do is for him to put the secondary sub on hold and turn towards his wife. She should realize that if her extramarital adventures were causing her husband discomfort, then she needs to appreciate his sacrifice now (though it is his duty as her husband), and re-dedicate herself to loving him.
@1 For all practical purposes, this comment thread was completed as soon as it began.
@46: You're missing the point. I certainly am not advocating the notion that there should be no primaries and secondaries, and that these relationship categories shouldn't have different priorities. I have a primary partner, to whom I am married. I have a secondary partner as well, who has her own primary. That makes me a secondary too. I have a greater obligation to my wife than to my girlfriend as far as emotional support is concerned. But that doesn't mean that it's fair, ethical, or even rational to just drop my secondary if my primary needs more of my time and attention. I can just spend more time with my primary, perhaps at the expense of some time with my secondary.

And my wife also cares about the feelings of my girlfriend, as crazy as that might sound to you or Dan. She doesn't want to force us to do anything that's going to hurt us. We all want to find a mutually-acceptable solution to any problems that arise. Toward the beginning of our relationship, my girlfriend's primary felt a bit threatened by our relationship, because they were new at being open and he wasn't really comfortable with the idea of her doing things with other guys. So we kept it platonic for a while. And then added more sexual things as he started to feel better because we were demonstrating that I was not going to change their relationship. We didn't call it off at the first sign of trouble. We worked something out, keeping the priority on the primary partners, while still respecting the secondary relationship as a real, important relationship.

This is not rocket science, but you and Dan and some of the "I'm monogamous, but I have opinions about open relationships!" people in these comments seem to think that people are simply disposable objects that are there to be used and discarded when they're no longer convenient. That's terrible.
35: "All of Dan's responses (and the responses mono people like to hear) center around the idea that partners are in competition with one another and it's necessary to "guard" the primary relationship by weighting things in their favor."

Of course partners are in competition with one another. Time and attention are both finite resources. Time spent with one partner is time that cannot be spent with the other partner. There is no getting around the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. And protestations of deep and abiding love don't mean a hell of a lot when they aren't backed up by actual face-time. Actions speak louder than words.

Which brings me back to my previous question. Did Mrs. Dom actually ASK Mr. Dom to pay more attention to her? And yes, that will necessarily mean spending less time and attention on the hot sub girlfriend, unless the amount of slack time in both relationships has been seriously understated. It does not necessarily mean dumping the hot sub entirely, but it does mean cutting back.

"Time spent with one partner is time that cannot be spent with the other partner."

Um... has it not occurred to you that all the people can hang out together in a group, and it's perfectly fine and lovely? One-on-one time is still important, but it most certainly is possible to spend time with both partners at once. I wouldn't date anyone if they couldn't get along with my established partners in that way, because it *would* be too hard to find time for everyone. You have to find a balance, obviously, but it's certainly possible. A lot of people do it.
The wife should talk to her husband and ask him to please give her more time and attention than she's been getting, because she's hurt and she needs him. She should apologize to him for having neglected him, and stop neglecting him. But she shouldn't try to close the relationship just because she's on the rebound. Perhaps another nice man for her will turn up and this time she and her husband can maintain their own relationship as well as ones with their secondaries. But if after some time they *agree* that having secondaries has made them unhappy, and that they wish to change their minds about having an open relationship, then fine.

Adding people and taking people away are not solutions in themselves.
The wife should talk to her husband and ask him to please give her more time and attention than she's been getting, because she's hurt and she needs him. She should apologize to him for having neglected him, and stop neglecting him. But she shouldn't try to close the relationship just because she's on the rebound. Perhaps another nice man for her will turn up and this time she and her husband can maintain their own relationship as well as ones with their secondaries. But if after some time they *agree* that having secondaries has made them unhappy, and that they wish to change their minds about having an open relationship, then fine.

Adding people and taking people away are not solutions in themselves.
Of course, I should add that not all poly people are like me. I like to have a lot of time with all of my partners, so that's important to me.

I have poly friends, though, who just don't need or want to spend all that much time with their partners, and so they're perfectly happy to get some alone time while their partners see other people. Or one or both of them go off to do other things. Most people have friends and hobbies that take us away from our partners and occasionally cause a time conflict that has to be resolved. Once you get past whatever sexual jealousy might be around, it's not that different.
50: I assume you spend one-on-one time with your lover. Does the spouse not merit the same level of one-on-one engagement? Yes or no? If yes, then group time is an insufficient substitute, and you know it -- and we are back to there being only 24 hours in a day, at least some of which have to be carved up equitably among the multiple partners in the form of private time.

No getting around it. Nice try, though.
The whole "dropping people as if they were props" trope is seriously overblown, too. People break up with their partners all the time, for all kinds of reasons, all of which eventually boil down to "the situation isn't working for me, so goodbye." This is true of monogamists, serial monogamists, polygamists, cheaters, whatever. When the situation isn't working anymore, somebody gets dumped.

You just can't stand the idea that someone else might rank ahead of you in those considerations. You might not call yourself primary or secondary - but dammit if anybody else's needs might count more than yours.
@emote_control: Actually, Dan frequently comes out and says that secondaries, or one-night-stands, or any other more-casual sexual partners ARE people who need to be treated with respect. And avast is absolutely correct; to extend the explanation to encompass the role of the secondary: if you're signing on to be a secondary in an open relationship, you're signing up to have your needs/feelings considered in a fashion that's secondary to the needs/feelings of the primary partners. It's exactly what the fuck it says on the tin. It's not that the primaries shouldn't CONSIDER the feelings of the secondaries, it's that they are, by-definition, less important than the primaries.

Also, most of the responses aren't (or aren't necessarily) advocating dumping the girlfriend, just "relegating her to a less central, time consuming portion of his life." That's not only reasonable, it's as it should be, if the marriage is, in fact, considered to be the primary relationship.

@Vince, Fifty-Two-Eighty: Amen.
@54: Are you suggesting that there is not enough time over the course of a week to spend time with more than one person, even if you live with one of those people? Because if that's the case I humbly suggest that you don't know what the fuck you are talking about.

Since I am actually living in a situation that requires me to spend quality time with both my primary and secondary partners, play in two bands, take dancing lessons, work part time, look for more work, raise two kids, go out to social events, get in some online gaming, post on messageboards, and sleep, I can say from experience that there are plenty of ways to find extra time if someone needs it.

I think I am to understand that you aren't in a poly or open relationship, and so you actually have no idea what kind of time commitment having multiple partners involves, or how easy or difficult it is to deliver on that commitment.
@48, 57, etc.


I think that we agree on some things, but there is still a fundamental difference between our positions. I think that you are absolutely correct that secondaries are people too, and their needs and feelings should be considered (though in the limited way that John H describes in @56). I also agree with you that it's best if conflicts are handled by a re-distribution of time and attention between partners rather than by completely cutting someone off, if that's possible.

HOWEVER... I still believe in the necessity, FOR SOME PEOPLE, of a model in which the primary has the absolute power to call a halt to sex with others when they need the security of monogamy. This is a fundamental difference between me (and Avast, etc.) and you (and Sacculina, etc.). For you guys, such an arrangement is "controlling". Sure it's controlling! It's not absolute freedom, and if you need absolute freedom you should be in a relationship that provides it. At the same time, sex carries powerful emotions and dangers, and your partner having sex with someone else can be scary and make you very vulnerable. For me, and others like me, it's highly analogous to BDSM, where situations that are potentially very scary are OK because of the ability to safeword out.

I think that perhaps some people are just less vulnerable to being wounded by conflict over sex, and for them a more unrestricted arrangement is possible. For others of us, and I speak as someone who has been involved in poly relationships and communities and seen them succeed and fail, the ability to retreat to monogamy is a necessary prerequisite for non-monogamy. I don't think either position is wrong, per se, but I've seen more stability in poly relationships where primary status really meant a great deal of control. I have to say again that the real problem, it seems to me, is when people of the two different mindsets about it try to have a non-monogamous relationship without being aware of that.

Both in this case and in the case of PTSD from this week's column, I think refusing to give up your own sexual gratification, when your spouse is threatened (for whatever reason) by your extramarital adventures, is wrong. You don't have to agree with me. Good thing we're not married to each other.
@58: The analogy to BDSM doesn't hold, because your flogger doesn't get hurt feelings if you use your safe word.

If you agree that these things are best handled with a redistribution of time and attention, then you ought to also disagree with Dan's repeated advice in his column, his blog, and his podcast, that secondaries should be tossed out unceremoniously when there's trouble in the primary relationship, because for some reason you can't deal with problems in the primary relationship when there's a secondary relationship also happening. That's the thing I take issue with, and why I say Dan has no idea what he's talking about with respect to open relationships. He's always giving that same advice, and it makes about as much sense as saying you should dump your primary because you're having some extra stress at work, and how can you deal with your work stress when you also have to deal with a marriage?

It seems that you actually don't think that secondaries are disposable, and therefore you disagree with Dan's advice. So why are you arguing?
57: "Are you suggesting that there is not enough time over the course of a week to spend time with more than one person, even if you live with one of those people?"

I'm suggesting that in order to start spending MORE time with the spouse you will need to reduce the time you spend somewhere else. It's immaterial whether that additional time comes out of the time you spend with the girlfriend, or whether you sleep less, or whether you skip doing your laundry, but time is ultimately a zero-sum game.

I'm also suggesting that if you live with one of those people, then the time and attention you spend with that person doing dishes and paying bills together is not remotely equivalent to the time and attention you spend taking the girlfriend out to dinner and dancing. Also, if the way you carve out extra spouse-time, in order to balance the girlfriend-time, is by neglecting the laundry, you are still neglecting the primary relationship.
Pardon the word-geekery interruption, but I can't help but notice that "Doms in an unprofessional capacity" probably should be "non-professional." Then again, given their behavior, "unprofessional" fits pretty well, too.
@56: This is what I said: "One-on-one time is still important, but it most certainly is possible to spend time with both partners at once."

I'm not sure how you interpreted that to mean that I never want my partners to be alone together. We're all entitled to one-on-one time with the other partners. Most of the time that just occurs naturally based on what people feel like doing, but it's explicitly established that asking for time alone with a partner is okay.

@58: I know what you mean, and, practically speaking, "retreating to monogamy" is always an acceptable option if that's both what people want. And it is, in fact, an option my partners both have, and I don't begrudge them that, and there's literally no way I could stop them from doing that, if that's what they wanted to do. It would be sad for me (and probably for them), but I'd want their relationship to succeed, even if I'm not in the picture.

What I take issue with is the way no other options to solving these problems are given. To me, getting into a poly relationship means that you're willing to see jealousy (if/when it arises) as a problem you deal with, because dealing with it brings rewards that giving into it doesn't. Namely, the love of other people in your life. If you give into jealousy as soon as it crops up... you're not going to be in a poly relationship for very long. The foundation of poly relationships (really, any relationship) is communication, and that's something Dan is usually behind... but when has he suggested that all parties get together and talk about the problem and try to figure out a solution? He does call them out on having poor communication issues, but he doesn't actually suggest that they communicate.

It's hard to have a relationship problem if you're not in a relationship. But that doesn't mean that ending a relationship is always the best advice.

Of course, when it comes to his advice to PTSD, I'm really disappointed for an additional set of reasons. I know what it's like to be triggered, and Dan has no clue. If he did, he might be able to muster up some empathy and understanding for PTSD, who is in an incredibly difficult situation. Dan... if you're still reading the comments, I would really encourage you to reach out to someone who is willing to talk to you about this so that you can give better advice to survivors of rape/sexual assault. I'd be happy to do so. I respect you, and I think you have the power to help people like PTSD better than you are. If you're willing to listen, I'd share my experiences.
@59 and @62

I disagree with you guys, and here's the crux of it. Yes, those secondaries are people too. Yes, you try to redistribute time and attention IF THAT IS POSSIBLE, etc. etc. etc.

But when it comes down to the moment of decision, the primary is the primary, period. If my primary is uncomfortable with me having sex with someone else, we can discuss about it, and we do, but at the end of the conversation if she wants monogamy from me until she's comfortable going open again, she gets it. Period, end of story. I will never put my gratification, or the feelings of my secondaries, ahead of my primary's sense of security. She doesn't have to prove that her feelings are valid. She doesn't have to convince me with unassailable arguments that it's time to put the extramarital stuff on hold. Her feelings are paramount.

I consider it my obligation to put my partner's feelings and sense of security ahead of my sexual desires (and ahead of the feelings of any secondaries I may be involved with). Though jealousy is a problem to be dealt with, people are human, and have human feelings, and sometimes they must be allowed to have them even if they aren't what we'd like them to be. Saying "jealousy is a problem" is too often translated into "... and it's your problem to deal with", and turned into a noble-sounding excuse for being a callous piece of shit. If my mate is miserable over my screwing someone else I will not continue doing it, whether her feelings make sense to me or not.

And I'm sorry, but lots of happy non-monogamous relationships do work this way, over long periods of time. You have your model of non-monogamy. I'm glad you're happy with it. I'll stick to my version.
By mutual agreement a relationship is either the primary relationship or it isn’t. Actions rather than words are what ultimately count. A relationship that one of the individuals considers to be the primary relationship that the other individual(s) consider it to be secondary or tertiary is inherently unstable and ultimately untenable (even if they openly acknowledge the differences) and can have tragic or disastrous consequences. Conflict will eventually arise over the differing needs/expectations/goals of the individuals. (I need you/sorry, something/someone else has a higher priority that I need to attend to) Even in poly relationships, people will either prioritize the individuals or have to make difficult, perhaps painful choices. Even in monogamous relationships, the individuals are many times faced with choosing between their spouse/family and their birth family (often leading to divorce or alienation of parents/siblings)

Based solely on what the LW wrote, the wife (unilaterally?) made the new relationship her primary and her marriage her secondary (as indicated by where her focus was, actions not words). Whether the husband agreed to this or objected to it is unknown. He could’ve, but apparently did not, demand that the marriage remain the primary relationship. Whether this was through resignation, acceptance, or relief is also unknown. What seems apparent is that the husband also formed a primary relationship outside or the marriage, something that the wife did not object to until after she got dumped and found out that she doesn’t like the bullshit of dating.

It is not so much that she proposed opening the marriage as the fact that she made the marriage her secondary relationship (through her actions/focus over the course of a year) that does not give her any right to demand her husband end or curtail his primary relationship. After all, it was only after she got emotionally involved/vested in another man that she proposed opening the marriage. Something that I believe is supposed to be negotiated before opening the marriage. The husband was in a no win position at that point. He could refuse and face the possible end of his marriage, the resentment of his wife if she complied, have his wife ignore his wishes and openly follow her desires, or have his wife cheat after saying she would abide by his wishes.

The wife can accept her secondary status (since it was her doing), end the marriage, plead with her husband to return the marriage to its former status as the primary relationship (if necessary suggesting/accepting/embracing the role of sub in the relationship (depends on how desperate she is)), try to create a poly relationship with the husband sharing his sub (don’t know how hardcore the sub is and whether she would agree to it), or become a professional dom. Frankly, I think husband would be a fool to agree to any change in the existing relationships since the wife has already shown that she can become emotionally involved with someone with whom she is sexually active. If he does, he runs the risk of the same thing happening again. Since they are both doms, I expect that they need subs to be sexually satisfied.
In my past relationship, a marriage of 25 years (the last three open), most (but not all) of my and my husband's secondaries were FRIENDS to both of us, and in the situation described by the LW, would have supported the wife by not just accepting less time with the husband, but by both suggesting it and encouraging the wife to feel loved themselves. I have to say, too, that if those good decent secondaries needed him more than I did, during times of strife or stress, I would suggest and encourage him to spend extra time with them, as well. Some of the people who were my now-ex-husband's secondaries have been utterly wonderful to me over the course of years, not just because they got to be with him intimately, but because they loved me, too. In fact, among my best friends, even now that he has left, several of them were his very beloved secondaries who no longer see him, but remain devoted in friendship and support to me. We respect and care for one another immensely, and I cried with them because when he left me, he left them all behind as well, and has decided to attempt monogamy with his new girlfriend, a woman who pretended to be a caring secondary, but really was a "cowgirl", cutting out the rest of us to take him for herself. We all miss him terribly, and honestly, he seems truly miserable with a woman to whom he has to account for his every moment.
IF she's been paying more attention to the BF than the husband for A YEAR, I'm wondering who is really the primary? Now she's sad, boo hoo hoo. The real question is how OK was he when she started this playing around? Sounds like he went and found a GF because she wasn't very available. If he sucked it up... then it's her turn to do some sucking!
Reconnecting between husband and wife is a good thing. Ideally, they would have made sure to maintain a strong connection with each other *while* forming new connections with other lovers.

He doesn't have to break up with his girlfriend. However, he does need to be there for his wife. The married couple should talk about what activities will nourrish their relationship and maintain the emotional intimacy between them. Once they figure out what it is (and it differs for everybody), they should do it.
One assumption that is being made is that Mrs. is still Mr.'s primary partner. Yes, they are married, but I would venture that she is Mr.'s Primary-In-Name-Only (PINO). Let's look at Savage's last paragraph:

>if Mrs. Dom is Mr. Dom's primary partner

That's a big "if"

>SBCAC, then he needs to be made aware—he should want to be made aware—that the current state of affairs is making his primary partner miserable.

Sure, *if* Mrs. Dom is still the primary.

>Once informed, Mr. Dom should be only too happy to either take a break or—at the very least—cut back on date nights with his secondary partner until his primary partner, the Dom woman he married, isn't feeling miserable and heartbroken.

Where did the "if" go? I think the GF is now Mr. Dom's primary, and a secondary really can't demand that her partner spend less time with his primary. This PINO can try to figure out a way to win her husband back, but that may not happen.

What would have happened if Mr. Dom put his foot down and said "no" when Mrs. Dom wanted to most of her time with her boyfriend? She would have either left him, cheated (actually, cheated more - she was already cheating by falling in love before working out that area of their poly relationship), or stayed with the husband but been resentful. At this point, the tables are turned except Mr. Dom's reactions will be more intense and arguably justified.

PINO needs to figure out what she really wants. Does she want Mr. Dom, or just someone to fill the empty hole in her ... life? If she wants Mr. Dom, it will take a lot of work, and sulking around the house probably won't win him back. If she just wants someone, well, she's probably better of continuing dating, even though she isn't enjoying it.
The reason why fairness matters even when a marriage is at stake is this: if one partner, in this case the wife, is jerking the rules and the husband back and forth to suit her convenience, that marriage is doomed anyway. The partner being jerked around will eventually get sick of it. The divorce will happen not because he failed to accommodate his wife in her hour of need, but because he accommodated her too much: he accommodated and accommodated and accommodated until he couldn't stand it (or her) anymore.

Yes, if you made your bed, you should be prepared to go lie in it for a suitable interval. Either that, or be pretty fucking abject when you own up to wanting a free pass out of a situation of your own making, and be pretty fucking eager to please in every other conceivable way when he gives you that free pass.
There's a huge difference between treating someone a as human being and treating them as a basket full of rotten eggs. Treating someone as human beings means, among other things, to communicate with them openly, honestly and respectfully, not that they can never receive bad news because it might break their fragile little shells and leave a rotten stench all over the place.
Any secondary who can't understand and accept the message "my wife needs me to focus more on her for a while, and after that we need to renegotiate our ground rules" should never have signed up to be secondary in the first place. Period. Not only that, but there's a huge chance that the secondary never intended to stay secondary.

As for the fairness argument, while it is a valid argument, it is also an incredibly short-sighted one. The husband may be in his right to argue that it's her turn to feel neglected, but if his GF breaks up with him (especially if the wife has a new BF by then) it is going to come back and bite him in the ass. Hard.

If the husband still want his wife as his primary (a big if, they seem to have drifted quite far apart) and if the married couple negotiate some new rules and stick to them (looks sternly at the wife), they should be able to get it to work.
Keep in mind, everybody, that the info here is all second hand. This was passed on by a friend of the couple in question. We don't know how the conversations between this friend and the wife went.

I think fairness is important. I also think it's fair for the wife to express regret at not having maintained intimacy in the marriage, and to want to make it a priority for both people. I also think that there should be discussions between the three of them, so that they can work out together how to make that happen. If the girlfriend loves the husband, she wants the marriage to be healthy. That relationship does not have to end in order to strengthen the marriage.
This woman and the other writers are just plain idiots. If you have an open-marriage and begin to spend more of your physical/emotional time with seconday people and not the one you are actually in the marriage with, END THE DAMN MARRIAGE!!!!

We have too many people in the world, gay and straight, who are so damn needy and afraid to "be alone" that they insist on serial marriage (legal and otherwise) as a means of validating their life. This is why the issue of "gay marriage" drives me so crazy, especially for men.

LIVE ALONE or WITH A ROOMMATE IF YOU MUST. Then go date, hookup, 3-way, party all you fucking want and stop dragging yourself and others through emotional hell.

Marriage should be restricted to two people (gay or straight) who seriously, solemnly, want to make a life commitment to each other. All the related tax and other laws where marriage has rights should be expanded to "households" regardless of who makes up that household. That way marriage will actually mean something again and all the whiners will get to have the benefits they feel cheated on.


Chris Rock FTW.

Replace the word "pussy" for "dick" and both members of the Dom couple should see the folly f their ways. She's an idiot for getting sidetracked by new dick, he's an idiot for seeking solace in new pussy. And (I'm going against my personal grain, here) if the husband is or ever did love his wife, he needs to tell his side piece to take an extra day off every week so that he can attend to the woman who's wearing his ring.

Please wait...

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