Savage Love Jun 22, 2021 at 4:15 pm

Knowing You




Does LW 2's gf routinely kiss their mutual friend on the lips?
Maybe that was why he seemed taken aback.


My gut feeling is that NPP will go back to being mono-amorous before too long. Some people are cut out for the lifestyle, some aren't, and she seems to fall into the latter camp.


Re: WTMHB, I have so many questions:
What is the current (or former) relationship between GF and host?
What was GF's intent - or did LW neglect to ask her?
What was the Uber driver's reaction?


LW1, more importantly, what is the link to OnlyFans page?


I think it's likely the first letter is fake. The porniverse is so very large that the odds are long of running across one of the few neighbors in it in his Rear Window, let alone one that then starts dropping by.


Re NPP: BiDanFan, where art thou?


@2 I don't know about that particular relationship, but I do know of people that do in fact kiss their friends on the lips as a greeting. Which, if that works for everyone, I'm all for.


Oh dear, NPP. You are newly polyamorous. This is a dynamic you are going to need to watch out for and reject.

They are the primary couple. Everything revolves around them. You are dessert. You don’t count, not really.

Yes, he will tell her everything because they have no boundaries between them: the two of them are a unit. You are not part of the unit. You are an accessory.

There are different forms of polyamory. The form of polyamory that involves a primary relationship with secondary relationships orbiting around it is very desirable for couples but typically less so for women who discover themselves to be the disposable piece on the side.

It’s sneaky. The true dynamic is obscured with vocabulary: your boyfriend has two girlfriends. There’s nothing obviously problematic about this. It’s even possible that your boyfriend has been less than completely forthcoming about just how secondary you are.

When the secondary is a man and the primary couple are heterosexual, they don’t necessarily call it polyamory. They might call it swinging, hotwifing or cuckolding. There can be all kinds of specialist vocabulary. “Husband,” “Wife” and “Bull” are common. It’s very clear. The bull and the husband are not equivalent roles. The husband and wife are costars; the bull plays a supporting role in their romance.

It’s rare for women to identify as cuckqueans but it’s possible the primary girlfriend is one, if she gets turned on when her boyfriend goes out and has sex with someone else and then goes home to her.

There are lots of great guys who don’t want to be monogamous. Women who genuinely don’t want to be monogamous are less common. Hold out for guys who treat you how you want to be treated.

Next time you get involved with a partner in a primary couple, ask about their disclosure practices. If they don’t work for you, move on. Ask what primary and secondary mean to them, or whether they use different vocabulary. If you aren’t thrilled, move on. In polyamory, partner selection is key. Weed ruthlessly.


Tl; dr: “couple privilege.”


Rear Window
I’m not sure you’ll be necessarily crossing a line if you mention you saw him at work. A lot of it depends on the context and what you want to achieve by your disclosure.
Build some neutral rapport with said rising star, don’t give any sexual hints, maybe something like “Thanks for the beers you got me the other day. I’d like to reciprocate by getting you a pint of that delicious stout now available at the brewery few blocks down the street.”

If things progress you may be able to assess if he is feeling safe enough to bring sex work on his own. I think it will be ok to also tell him he’s not your type yet stumbled upon some of his videos and give him an honest account of what you liked and maybe some hints as how to be even better.
Performers of his nature know they may be spotted, yet if you prove yourself to be trustworthy as opposed to a stalking freak, he may actually appreciate your feedback and advice.

Where That Mouth Has Been
As opposed to the official advice I believe the unwashed post-bj kiss to the host to be a violation of them for obvious risk and context reasons.
Rereading the letter, it seems like you knew this kiss is going to happen but it never really bothered you and only became an issue once you two noticed the look on host’s face.
One practical advice to avoid such situations in the future is to have a small bottle of mouth wash readily available in the car and/or personal belongings.


@1 nocutename: WA-HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congratulations on scoring the highly coveted FIRDT! honors for this week's Savage Love: Knowing You. Savor the honors and bask in the glory of leading the comment thread. :)


Letters 1 and 2 have a strong whiff of "Dear Penthouse."

RW: Perhaps the fact that you're both men makes a difference, but I'm not as sure as Dan that there's nothing skeevy about interacting with this guy in real life while secretly perving him in an interactive way. It's the interaction that crosses a line for me. Sure, if you have an OnlyFans you have to expect that people might recognise you, or that people you know might want to subscribe. But suggesting content that Sexy Neighbour (SN) provides seems to turn this into sex work, only SN doesn't know the nice dude who lent him jumper cables is the client. I'm a bit of a prude when it comes to online nudes so I will leave it to the men and the millennials/zoomers to opine on this one.

Also, Dan doth protest too much about ageism two weeks in a row now -- though I completely agree that RW is protesting too much that SN isn't his type. Sure he isn't, that's why you find him so hot. Dan, if some other 40-year-old has a lower age limit, that's not a personal dig against you. Some of us don't want the drama, even if those young things ARE willing to date us.

WTMHB, I'm wondering where this en-route blowjob happened. Were you driving? Did you pull over? Were you on public transport? Walking? Maybe the strange look was due to the lip-kiss; this isn't a standard greeting for people you're not dating or fucking or want to be fucking. Perhaps it was due to her kissing the host in front of you. Anyway, maybe if you typically engage in car/subway/pedestrian blowjobs, carry wet wipes and breath mints with you.


Fantastic @6, sleeping!! Time zones, remember? :)


I agree with just about everything Alison has said. This is clearly a relationship where the couple is primary and they have an agreement to tell each other everything. (Or at least for him to tell her everything; we can't assume he wants to hear everything about her other relationships.) The red flag is, "She knew everything about me... And I knew next to nothing about her." This means he's not just an oversharer; she is, as Alison said, a secondary partner and a distant one, from the look of it. This is indeed very common. It's good that he introduced his new partner to his primary so soon, and that he says he is "willing to adjust his behaviour." This is a new relationship. I don't know how experienced the couple (let's call them Tom and Betty) are with polyamory but it could just have not occurred to him that while "you must tell me everything" or even "I find it hot when you tell me about your other dalliances" seem reasonable agreements to make with one's primary, they're not necessarily respectful to the other partner in the equation.

Telling one's existing partner(s) about who else one is dating/banging is standard polyamory behaviour, in the absence of a DADT agreement; sharing intimate details is not, and NPP isn't wrong to be upset that this was done without her consent. She's now met Betty; was she welcoming? Does NPP feel less squicked about intimate details being shared with someone she now knows and likes than with a stranger -- especially if Tom is willing to share reciprocal levels of detail, perhaps not sexual unless NPP wants that, about their relationship? Can Betty respect NPP's desire to keep intimate details confidential, only sharing the sort of information one might tell a good friend about whom one is dating? They've all met; this seems a good opportunity to sit down at a kitchen table* and renegotiate boundaries. If Tom and Betty are willing to do this, Tom might be a keeper.

*The phrase "kitchen table" -- which I only learned recently -- refers to a style of polyamory where the partners all meet and get along with each other, logistics permitting, and sit down at the kitchen table and have a conversation. This is my strong preference over the alternative, parallel polyamory, where one's partners do not meet each other and each relationship is conducted in a sort of vacuum. A friend who's also a kitchen table proponent described parallel as "multiple monogamy." Tom and Betty appear to be kitchen-table polyamorists, and I'd give them the benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps in Tom's experience, his partners didn't want to hear the details of his relationship with Betty -- in fact, most wouldn't -- so that's why he didn't share them with NPP.


Edit to my postscript @14: "The phrase "kitchen table" -- which I only learned recently -- refers to a style of polyamory where the partners all meet and get along with each other, logistics permitting, and COULD sit down at a METAPHORICAL kitchen table and have a conversation." One could still be kitchen-table poly if, for instance, one's partners don't live in the same town. The kitchen table could be friending each other on Facebook and sharing Google calendars. In this case they have met in person so it could be a literal table, either in their kitchen or at a restaurant, which might be preferable as a neutral space.


UpAndOver @2, I don't share your prognosis. The road from monogamy to polyamory can be bumpy in the beginning; that doesn't mean one is "not cut out for it." It is understandable that she's shocked to learn intimate details were being shared with someone she's never met. That's not standard polyam behaviour, so it's unfair to conclude she's not cut out for relationships with people who are behaving in more generally accepted polyamorous ways.


Oh, and confidential to Betty: Maybe don't freak your primary partner's new shinies out by revealing how much you know about their relationship? Unless your end goal is to scare them off because you're not really comfortable with your boyfriend banging other people, which is why you demand so much information about it. Hmm.


@17 Bdf - incredibly good point. Maybe Betty is a bit of an oversharer in general

@8 Allison - I love the advice to weed ruthlessly.

@10 CMD - I don't agree with the idea of offering tips on how his neighbor could do better in his own profession. Unsolicited advice easily wanders into annoying territory, and avoiding boundary crossing here is going to be tricky to begin with. Annoying + boundary crossing seems like you'd go directly to Awkwardsville do not collect $200. If the goal is to be more friendly with the neighbor (?) then do friendly things: chat about local eateries, etc.

NPP: so my own advice here is that you've encountered something here you find uncomfortable. Notice that. Sounds like you might want to spend more time with this guy. So try to identify what you need from a partner so that you can be comfortable, and lead with that from now on. As you proceed you'll probably fine-tune it more. That's ok. It's also ok if the relationship can't recover from this. It does sound like an incredibly unpleasant meet-the-paramour experience. It's ok to bail. Good luck! You're doing great!


CMD @10, I agree with Luluisme. RW doesn't want to date SN, so I don't think he should invite him out for beers. If he is going to reveal himself as a customer, he should continue to offer advice when it's solicited -- ie, via the OnlyFans page -- and not when SN is off the clock. Personally, I think RW should avoid getting further involved with SN socially, and keep his identity as a customer secret. It would bug me knowing that someone who can see into my living room is wanking to my OnlyFans, but maybe that's just me.


I'm glad Ms Fan got in before I did, as I was thinking of time zones myself. I don't know if there's a more obvious Tom and Betty; I settled on Dutch tennis players Tom Okker and Betty Stove. He was the losing finalist in the first US Open to Arthur Ashe; she the losing finalist in the centenary Wimbledon to Virginia Wade.

I'll admit I did not go immediately to bestowing on Mr Savage a Gertrude Award for the conclusion to A1 about age limits/concerns, though LW1 does appear to merit a Gertrude Award for his type. I just wondered where Mr Savage got his idea that LW1 was saying anything about YM1's dating habits/preferences. Maybe I was just recalling my PLB and agreeing with Mr Savage's sentiment, or being pleased that Mr Savage didn't request a link.

Having never had anything to do with OnlyFans, I cannot guess anything about YM1, although LW1's [went through everything, including his gay sex vids] and Mr Savage's pointing out that those are for women too made me wonder.


Dear NPP

It turns out that everyone has different expectations around privacy in poly, so it's important to have a "privacy and information-sharing" discussion early on. I make it a point to ask, at a very early stage in a new relationship, how much information I can share with my nesting partner. Some people are fine with everything being shared, others are more private. But it's absolutely essential to ask.


I love reading about poly.


I was pleased to see Dan calling out LW1 on his rather absurd claim that the guy isn't his "type" because if that's true, why is he obsessing over him so much?


I was in a poly triad, with my wife and a girlfriend of hers. We had all the problems you might imagine. Couple privilege is a drag! And I was in the couple! I just hated how our girlfriend got jacked around by my wife and her crazy rules. She's about to be my ex wife, unrelated to the triad.

I'm still with the girlfriend and we probably won't participate in any more poly relationships. Of course we didn't set out to have a poly relationship in the first place either, we just sort of fell into it. It was a LOT of work. I will say when it was good it was indescribably good. Heart explodingly good. I didn't really have any jealousy issues and we were "kitchen table" poly which I also liked. But poly isn't for everyone, that is for sure.


Regarding LW1, I don't think there is any scenario where coming out as a client is a good idea. It would be a serious boundary violation. Even sex workers (especially sex workers) are entitled to a feeling of privacy in their own home environment.

In this case it is not real privacy, but I would argue that civilization depends on pretend-privacy. We all pretend not to know certain intimate details of our neighbors' lives, and we expect them to do the same regarding ours. For example, we don't comment on our neighbors' midnight sex noises or lingerie we saw in the shared dryer when saying hello in the hallway. You don't mention to the young woman living across the street that you masturbated thinking about her. It is not done. This is no different. The young man's line of work is irrelevant. Arguing that sex workers are fair game for what would be a creepy come-on is like arguing that women are fair game because of what they happen to wear. We all know the latter is wrong. Well, so is the former. And yes, this is so very creepy.

If the LW does become closer to his object of admiration in real life, the decent thing to do is to delete his account, get rid of all evidence, and take this to his grave.


@25, myself, I just realized that I compared women's choice of dress to sex work. That was a bad comparison, I don't claim equivalence, and I apologize for any offense caused. My point was that sex workers aren't "asking for it" because of their line of work.


WTMHB - your GF kissed your mutual friend on the lips! Did she have consent? Was that the friend's preferred greeting? Never kiss someone on the lips unless affirmative consent is assured. Also - this - Herpes (HSV1 and HSV2) can be asymptomatic and shed viral particles, and herpetic lesions can occur anywhere. Google "herpes lesion on cheek". Air kisses are best or, at the very least, wash well after any sex before touching your lips onto a third party. (Can still infect but washing is believed to help reduce virus shedding if asymptomatic / microscopic lesion.)


"In this case...civilization depends on pretend-privacy."

True, Cocky.

I sometimes go on about how I see that playing out where people in dense urban areas pretend to ignore each other, whereas in sparsely-populated rural areas greetings are standard. (As for the ignoring with population density, I draw the comparison to how grizzlies, when they are very un-naturally for them in close proximity at salmon streams, try * really * hard to ignore each other. Both grizzlies and humans are large predators quite possibly dangerous to others.)


@5 curious2 I was thinking fake too until I got to the part where, after the jumper cables, the thank you was just a 6 pack of beer and a note, rather than LW getting to jump on top of the guy. No hookup = sounds legit!


I'm more suspicious that you. I think he simply made sure to not take the 'Penthouse Letter' thing so far it wouldn't make the column. I think that the letter wasn't as hot as it could have been was intentional.

There are very few people living across from RW's kitchen window. The odds of stumbling onto one while visiting the vast porniverse are low. The odds of the guy then knocking on his door are unbelievably low.


BiDanFan @17: “Oh, and confidential to Betty: Maybe don't freak your primary partner's new shinies out by revealing how much you know about their relationship? Unless your end goal is to scare them off״

YES. That’s a total power move. In a league with “bless your heart.”



I’m getting a whiff of disinhibition here. Since they both appear disinhibited the disinhibition is more likely chemically-induced than a manic episode.

Maybe the host wasn’t expecting them to be that drunk/high before they even got to the party? Maybe they showed up uninvited?


Or maybe LW2 is just experiencing paranoia and the host was cool?


Cocky @25, thank you. I was hoping my view wasn't skewed by my gender. Glad to know a gay man has reacted similarly to the way I did. And I took your comment @26 in the spirit it was intended. A short skirt is not implied consent; working in the sex industry is not implied consent. A very good point, well made.


Unless the person that WTMHB kissed is a blowjob-giver, I would wonder if they'd know exactly what they were tasting or smelling.


I can understand the skepticism about the guy recognizing his neighbor through the window as being someone whose content he enjoyed on OnlyFans- the porniverse is gigantic, I'm sure- but it's not impossible. I, too, lived in a densely populated city and worked at a strip club all through college. The number of customers I bumped into- miles away, years and vastly different circumstances later- was shockingly large. I recognize that this is a somewhat different situation, but I opine that the etiquette is still the same: keep your mouth shut about it. Unless you become best friends with this guy- AND he opts to tell you about his work, neither likely- there is no reason to disclose. You can, as you say, see each other through your apartment windows. Performing for the faceless masses is one thing. Knowing a client can also see you eating a bagel or watering your plants is creepy. Respect this man's boundaries, please.


The last line of Dan's response to NPP delivered the gold. NPP was making assumptions about what was being shared with her paramour. It's really up to everyone to either use their words, or not complain when their assumptions aren't correct.


Curious2 @5: In the fantastical place where I live, we find our neighbours on porn sites all the time, run into them at the liquor stores, have them showing up at our doors looking for jumper cables, then dropping off beers (we call them brewskis).

But in the case of RW, I find it odd that the neigbour would be knocking on doors in a building across the alley.


BDF @13 - I know, and I first started writing something to the effect of "can't wait til it's BDF's time zone to chime in," but wasn't sure if that was getting too personal or not, so I opted for something more vague. :) I love the influx of "other side of the pond comments" while I'm sleeping - so nice to wake up to a fresh set of commentary.


Fubar @37, nah, I think people have the right to complain when reasonable assumptions aren't correct. She's new to poly and this isn't something that would occur to most reasonable people; she herself says, "It turns out this was a boundary that I didn't know I had." If it didn't occur to her that Tom would be sharing intimate details with Betty -- and why would it -- she can't be expected to ask him not to. This is something she now knows is a thing that happens, and she can have that conversation in future relationships. But she's fully entitled to complain about it now. (Hell, I've been polyamorous for close to 10 years now and it's only through letters like these, and wonderful comments like ThatOtherGuy @21's, that I now see that it may not in fact be reasonable to assume people recognise some degree of privacy when it comes to polyamorous relationships; that in addition to kitchen table, some people are "bedroom" when it comes to including all metamours in their relationships, so it's worth discussing those expectations rather than presuming a common understanding.) Also, see the double standard -- he didn't share -anything- about Betty, so NPP couldn't have reasonably expected that he would be telling Betty all about her.

(Also, the term for one's partner's partner is metamour, not paramour.)


Where That Mouth Has Been: Your girlfriend shouldn't be kissing anyone else but you on the lips, period. It's improper.


Thank you very much for your 2¢, Dr. Laura.


Dan wrote "I'm not sure I believe you when you say this guy isn't your type considering the number of loads you've blown while watching his porn."

But Dan also touched on the power exchange that's going on (probably unbeknownst to the neigbour, but perhaps not, as he showed up at RW's door).

It's not unlikely that RW is getting off on (or with the aid of) the power trip, or the voyeurism, or something else about this fantastical situation.


"I find it odd that the neighbour would be knocking on doors in a building across the alley." Yeah, point. I suppose it's possible that during the liquor-store encounter, RW introduced himself, told SN where he lived and said something like, if you ever need anything, feel free to drop by. It's also possible that the jumper cables were an excuse to get better acquainted with RW. Dear Penthouse, you won't believe what happened next...


"'s possible that...RW...said...if you ever need anything, feel free to drop by."

Sure it's possible. But all he said was that he "ran into" the guy; if he was trying to make the letter appear plausible he should absolutely have made up that invite.

As it is, we're to believe that he'd already asked everyone in his own building and the buildings next to it, and then reached the building across the alley before finding anyone with jumper cables.
(Hell, I carry jumper cables and I shouldn't even use them on my car.)
Only in the fantasy of the voyeur would you first ask the guy who you are on display to.


@23 I dunno. There are things I like in porn that I wouldn't really be interested in in real life. Age gaps being one of them. I think it's fine to separate masturbation and dating/fucking. They're two very different things and may just not overlap. There are porn actresses who I really enjoy who I wouldn't feel super into for a long-term relationship. Sometimes you just wanna celebrate Palm Sunday and that's all it is.

P.S. I also think that knowing that a porn actor/actress lived across the street from me would make things way more attractive. I think that's what Dan's saying when he talks about power imbalance. Knowing this person is real adds a certain naughtiness. It's the basis of sexting and emotional affairs - the intimacy comes from knowing it's real.


Curious @45, did you read to the end of my post? That should clarify the level of "possibility" I'm reading in the scenario.


NPP does want her bf to change--Dan picked up on the key point at once. She's too self-effacing to feel entitled to ask her bf to change, and buck what she may suspect is his typical pattern of behavior (being very forthcoming about his dating his secondary with his primary gf). I would guess the reason she's (NPP is) inclined to hold herself back is that she readily grants primacy to her bf's primary partner; and also that she believes her primary connection, even in poly terms, is with the other two members of her triad, and that she has less right to seek to dictate terms in her own secondary connection. But if she feels this, she's mistaken: Every relationship, no matter how many sexual relationships one has, stands and must work on its own terms.

She has a very simple conversation to initiate. She's uncomfortable with her metamour knowing as much as she does--about, say, the jokes she made, and would be a lot happier with her knowing just the outline of what she, NPP, and her bf's partner got up to together (let's suppose where they went, what they did, and in the broadest terms his perception of her). The scope of what her bf shares is then a matter of conversation or even, to give it a harder word, negotiation. This--as Dan and others have made clear--is the essence of poly. This is what she's getting herself into. Of course, the comeback from her bf might be that his partner is not comfortable about his being poly without sharing everything with her--and because this clearly violates NPP's boundary, it will become likely the relationship has no future. But then the relationship has not (it would seem on balance) been a bad thing for her, and she seems happy with, even enthused by, poly.

There are some considerations which it doesn't seem helpful to me to entertain. The first is whether her bf behaved correctly in sharing so much intimate with his partner. Maybe he did--but since NPP didn't frame any guideline, she probably has no ground on which to make the case. The second is any sort of generality about the relation of partnered poly people (especially men) to non-partnered secondaries. Maybe these generalities will become germane later. But for the moment she's not a solo poly; she has her own primary triadic relationship, and there's no question that her bf, as a guy, is into nonmonogamy more than she is. The point at issue is no more than her grasping the nettle and thrashing out a deal on disclosure and privacy with her bf.


Apropos RW: leaving a six pack and a friendly note is an invitation to get to know someone better, possibly even in a flirty way or way that leaves open a path to sex. RW should not let the fact he's one-up, in a sense, on his OnlyFriend-ing neighbor, in one-sidedly knowing about the vids, inhibit him from getting to know him better and going for, angling for, sex if he wants. Many (or some) of the people the hot young guy fucks will have watched him as a porn performer beforehand. If the guy isn't actually inviting this, he's open to it; he's accepted that he's professionally (or exhibitionistically) shown himself in advance to new lovers, and he can at the very least live with it. Maybe he likes it. Dan also got at the essence of this question.


@25. cbu. All the lw has said about the hot guy is that he doesn't want to have sex with him (and Dan at once thought he was protesting too much). (He said nothing about potential relationships, about whether he was single or not, about whether he was typically monogamous, and so on). We don't know what's in the younger guy's mind (e.g. he could see RW as a hot daddy; he could be new in the neighborhood and want to make friends only with an avuncular gay guy, etc.). If their interactions come to have any sexual subtext, RW should hold off from revealing he's jerked off over the OnlyFans material. If it comes up--that is, if Hot Guy volunteers it--he could ask if he could take a look, or whether it would squick his neighbor out to know the guy across the way was perving on him (he should especially say this if it would salve his conscience). After that, and if he gets the okay, the neighbor's sex work can be something between them.

I agree it would be somewhere between tasteless and intrusive to bring up the Only Fans stuff over beers at a 'first date' meeting or anything with that vibe.

At any age--20, 40, 60--someone can think an offer too good to be true, and not believe in an invitation (or, more starkly, in 'yes' as an answer).


@36. Morganatic. The set-up in RW's letter also struck me as true. There are lots of apartments in cities where one residence has a full-on view of another (this was something that surprised me about NYC when I moved there). Further, it's plausible to me that a 40yo guy and a guy in his 20s doing OnlyFans on the side can afford to live in the same neighborhood. I didn't take the OnlyFans as the younger man's only line of work, but as something he did supplementary to his employment, to pay the bills, especially in a metropolitan context where they would be high.

I guess there are three possibilities:
1) the story is true and RW would love to have sex with the hot guy;
2) the story is true and the question, as stated, is only about etiquette: should RW reveal he jerks off over new friend's OnlyFans videos?;
3) the story is RW's voyeur fantasy.
The answer to 2) is 'no'. The answer to 1) is 'don't hold back because you know about the porn; and you don't seem the type anyway to exercise power illegitimately over someone through a knowledge asymmetry'. The answer to 3) is 'got me once, but as a generality voyeurs and fantasists shouldn't think they're condemned to being no more than voyeurs'.


"did you read to the end of my post?"

Of course; I know we are in complete agreement.


I brought up NPP's letter in my Poly Social group, and it spurned on a tangent discussion about primary and secondary relationships in general. Interestingly enough, most people shared that, contrary to popular assumptions, they'd had more fun being the SECONDARY partner in a poly dynamic, and more fraught, up-and-down experiences being the primary. This matches my own experience as well. People have identified multiple reasons for this, such as:

1) As a primary partner, you often have more to lose if things go sideways, as you are already very invested in the established relationship - emotionally, financially, socially, logistically, etc.

2) It can be harder to tap into feelings of compersion towards a new metamour, as you're dealing with anxiety associated with change, whereas as a newcomer/secondary you can see the love your partner already has with their primary, and it's easier to be supportive, appreciative and protective of that from the get-go.

3) As a secondary, your time with the hinge partner is more consistently 'quality time' - fun, sexy, NRE-fuelled dates, etc. Whereas as a primary, you could be spending a lot of time together, but the bulk of it is filled with more mundane life things, like household chores, working out the finances, family commitments, etc.

On balance, I think being a secondary partner may suit NPP's current situation pretty well - so long as her metamour isn't an awful controlling person, and the three of them can discuss and resolve the issue around privacy. I think that 'couple privilege' is definitely an issue in unicorn-hunting closed-triad situations, where the established couple demands exclusivity and imposes lots of rules on the unicorn, without taking her wishes into account or offering much in return. This doesn't seem to be the case here. NPP is part of a "fun and amazing" triad, as well as this extra relationship with "some serious NRE". Sounds like a good place to be when you're new and exploring.


"in my Poly Social group...they'd had more fun being the SECONDARY partner"

I thought (from my reading including a number of poly books) that the whole concept of tiers had become seen as problematic.


Curious @54, judging hierarchical polyamory as problematic is problematic! Perhaps Margarita should have used the less-value-laden word "non-primary," but "secondary" here just refers to "the person who is not part of the existing couple." And I agree with everything she's said. I've never felt jealous of the existing partner of a new partner, because that person is a known quantity; they're either completely comfortable with their partner dating other people, or it quickly becomes apparent that they're not, so you can cut your losses and move on. When you're in an established relationship, a new person is an unknown quantity (to both you and the person dating them) and a potential threat to a relationship you're really vested in. It's good to have experienced and seen this from both sides of the coin; when NPP is part of a nesting or established pair herself (I don't agree with Harriet that the triad is by definition her "primary relationship"; if the other two are an established couple she's joined, she looks like a solo polyamorist to me), she too will feel those unexpected and unpleasant pangs when the most important person in her life is awash in NRE for someone else. It is all part of the journey. I would encourage her to read as many books and blogs as she can and go to poly groups, where she can learn from others' experiences instead of having to learn each and every lesson the hard way.


curious @54, this, too, was a topic of discussion in my PolySoc! It seems the primary/secondary relationship structure is making a bit of a comeback (not that it ever really went away, but I think it fell out of vogue in late 2000s and 2010s, as the younger and trendier folks embraced "relationship anarchy". Now the relationship anarchists of yesteryear are 10-15 older, they may be gravitating back to more structured forms of non-monogamy). Many folks in my group expressed discontent with the value judgement implicit in the primary/secondary terminology, but agreed that we definitely need the language to describe inevitable FUNCTIONAL differences between relationships. It's all fine and well to say "all my partners are equally important to me" - and this may well be true - but your time and resources will NOT be distributed equally between a long-standing partner that you share your home, children, and finances with, and a partner that you've been dating for a few months. You may have very strong feelings towards both people, but structurally, these relationships are not equal. We need to be open and upfront about these structural inequalities, otherwise it's just obfuscating the reality of the situation with wishy-washy romantic language, and that's not fair or ethical.

BDF @55, I'm not sure if "non-primary" sounds any less value laden than "secondary", tbh. I've noticed that many folks are now using "nesting partner" instead of "primary", which I like, because it communicates what the structure of the relationship is without necessarily giving it higher value (although, at 1.5 year mark, I'm not sure if NPP's boyfriend and metamour are "nesting"). Personally, I'm cool with "primary" and "secondary", so long as these terms are used descriptively rather than prescriptively.


Harriet @50, fun point about not taking yes for an answer. So true. I grew up in a culture where modesty and selflessness were prized to the point of internalized self-effacement, a trait that jigs badly with the dominant culture where I live now. So disbelief or more commonly genuine obliviousness is my typical internal response to subtle come-ons from hot guys.

But regarding the LW being called out for protesting too much, it is worth noting the creep in age-discordant come-ons is often the younger person. Maybe the LW's online interactions with this guy gave him reason for caution. The creep factor can be the obvious economical one, or not. For example, while many of my partners have been younger guys, I need to feel that I am a person to them and I am therefore deeply repulsed by the objectification of being called "daddy." The word is also often used by young gay men during sex to put you in your place as an older guy, distancing you from them and making sure don't get any ideas this could go anywhere. Rude, and total boner killer whatever the motive! After that there's nothing left to do but kick that fatherfucker out.


Yes, many people love being able to connect with partners without being “enmeshed” (poly-speak for sharing living quarters and/or finances and/or work and/or children). It can be great for lots of reasons.

For instance, it can be great when:
• you’re allergic to restrictions and need to feel free at all times;
• you need a lot of privacy;
• physical or mental health issues make you unreliable;
• you travel or work a lot;
• you’re aromantic;
• you’re in a transitional phase of your life;
• you don’t need anyone picking up your socks and you don’t want to pick up theirs;
• you know you shouldn’t, but you have a Madonna/ whore complex;
• you feel bad about it, but you know you’ll stop being sexually attracted to a new partner after about four years;
• you are already fully grounded with other partners/ relationships/ networks and aren’t seeking more of the same.

I’m in that last category. It’s an extremely comfortable place to be.

In an unenmeshed relationship I have no stake in my metamours at all… and I don’t feel like I have any either. They don’t destabilize me or make my life less predictable. On the contrary, by making my partner happy they relieve me of significant responsibility.

In an enmeshed relationship… yeah, not necessarily the same. As Lost Margarita @53 lays out, there’s more at stake.

But. When my enmeshed partner has a lover, that’s still no more of my business than when my unenmeshed partner does. I need to find a way to respect that. It’s hard, but it’s on me to figure it out. If my metamour has no stake in me, it’s unreasonable of me to behave as though I have a stake in them. Even if I feel like I do.
• Life is unpredictable. Maybe I need to focus on my financial situation and make sure I know I’m going to be okay even if my enmeshed partner walks away from me. Important even when there is no metamour.
• Maybe we are in a rut and have allowed our shared life to become dull. Maybe I need to stop being complacent. Important even when there is no metamour.

Couple privilege is when unenmeshed partners are given the burden of making their enmeshed metamours comfortable.

Being an unenmeshed partner can be great, like I said.

What’s not great:
• leveraging an enmeshed partnership to control or frighten a metamour;
• treating your unenmeshed partner’s needs, feelings or dignity with less respect than your enmeshed partner’s.


Lost Margarita @56,

I use “entangled” to refer generally to partnerships where people have shared commitments.

I use “nesting” to refer specifically to situations where partners make a home for raising children.


Alison Cummins @58,

Fuckitty fuck fuck fuck.

“Entangled,” not “enmeshed.”

My brain is getting old.


@Lost Margarita and Alison Cummins: Thank you both so much for your very interesting comments about polyamory. Both of you have been really informative and comprehensive and give me lots to think about.



I am both happy and surprised to hear this!

IIRC I've only read the two most highly recommended (including by Dan) books on poly and ENM. I wish I could recall the (to me strong-sounding) argument the poly book made WRT hierarchy being problematic. OTOH I'm sure I needn't remember, since you both probably read it too.

I do sorta recall that it made much of stepping back from what Margarita called the "value judgement".

I think it also observed that in the world of poly in practice it is often correlated with things getting "problematic". But in pondering your responses, I wonder if the problems aren't being wrongly blamed on hierarchy.

For one thing, one of the things I most admire about poly people is that they have embraced the challenge of doing things that for most people wouldn't be easy. Instead of being daunted by difficulty, they grow and develop skills. While the authors saw many people have issues when employing hierarchy, why blame hierarchy? It could simply have been a challenge not met with sufficient success by those people.

Despite having thought hierarchy was passe, at some point I posted on a poly forum about a way in which my personal situation might fit very well with being Secondary. I got quite a few responses, every one of them scolding me to the affect that (they said) poly folks oppose hierarchy. Honestly they seemed only interested in saying that, rather than my situation. (In case someone wishes me to elaborate on my personal situation, thank you, but I don't feel safe here.)


I definitely think the problem should be addressed as treating people as disposable, not issues with heirarchy.

We all have to make decisions when different needs, wants and desires come into place with relationships. Some will come first, but that doesn't mean the person who comes second is disposable or less than as a person. For example, I often have to make decisions for the best interests of my children, even if it might make things more difficult for my parents. This doesn't make my parents disposable, or mean I don't care about them. My children are just a higher priority.

The key is being transparent, treating people as people and not making or indulging unreasonable demands. Which frankly are skills that applies quite a bit to monagamous and even platonic relationships.


Allison @58-60, I haven't heard the entangled/ unentangled terminology before, good to know!

"If my metamour has no stake in me, it’s unreasonable of me to behave as though I have a stake in them. Even if I feel like I do."

I don't know if I agree with that. Different people have different emotional needs, right? It doesn't necessarily seem terrible to me that 'Betty' has been asking 'Tom' lots of questions about his dates with NPP, especially as he's been "spending a lot of time" with his new girlfriend, but the two women hadn't yet met at that point. It stands to reason that a more entangled and potentially more experienced (?) poly partner would have a greater interest in their partner's 'new shiny', than the other way round. Being both new to poly and new to this relationship, it seems plausible that NPP has been entirely focussed on getting to know Tom, and has only considered his "other girlfriend" as an abstract entity until now.

I take your and BDF's point that Betty should have played it cool during their first face-to-face encounter. I think I'd be weirded out too, if a metamour I've only just met revealed that they "knew everything about me, every private joke we shared, and so much about our intimacy". And yeah, it could have been a power move designed to freak NPP out. But might also just be an issue of different temperaments and/or different approaches to poly (kitchen table vs parallel, etc). Now that everyone has met each other, hopefully they can discuss this and find a happier middle ground. Perhaps with time and good will on both sides, NPP and Betty can get more comfortable and establish some rapport, and maybe Betty will have less of a need to hear detailed lowdowns of Tom's and NPP's dates, and/or NPP will feel more comfortable about some details being shared.


Who's hungry for this week's delectable Lucky @69 Award honors? Tick...tick...tick....

Everybody in the PNW and similarly forecast regions stay cool----this weekend is promising a deadly heat wave! Do not leave pets inside locked parked cars. My beloved VW, however air cooled, purring like a cat and running like a champ and I will be staying home if we reach the predicted triple digits. Climate change is no joke.


@BiDanFan sorry, I am on my phone and don't have the energy to juggle windows or scroll back and forth to label specific posts to respond to. If it's unclear what I'm talking about, I will do my best to clarify when I come by next!


"Should she have refrained from kissing the host?"
JFC yes she should have refrained from kissing the host before having a chance to wash her face and rinse out her mouth. I'm also not ok with a blowjob "on the way to the party" unless you're traveling by fancy town car with privacy glass between driver and passengers or parked for a few minutes in a dark and private corner of a parking lot or something.
Would you fool around in your girlfriend's pants then shake hands with the host before washing your hands? That's gross too.


I really don't like primary/secondary terminology. I don't want to feel like I'm someone's Insignificant Other. I don't want to make anyone else feel that way either.

However, I recognize that it's not going to be equal, if I get involved with someone who has been in a relationship for years. Or vise versa, if my boyfriend and/or I get into a relationship with someone else.

Hopefully it feels different, rather than better/worse per se, but more quantum/poly entail is going to be involved with the partner they are "nesting" with or have dated for years.

I wanted them to know I respected their relationship, and them as an individual, and hopefully they reciprocated. I want them to like me and care about me. It doesn't need to be sexual or romantic, but I need some emotional connection.


When I was involved at all with poly/ENM people, I always needed "permission" from their partner.

I wanted to be confident it wasn't a DADT, that they were comfortable with what their partner and I planned to do, etc. I prefer both being involved,both in interacting with both of them at once, and that sense of ongoing, real-time consent.

I'm not generally an "oversharer" and I try to respect privacy and confidences. I feel the need to explain what I did, how I felt about it, how they feel about me doing it, etc when I'm in a relationship.

Even minor things like getting turned on while partner dancing. My partners haven't demanded it. They are willing to reassure me, and share in return. I always ask the other people/people involved if it's kink/sex/etc rather than something ordinary.

So far, they've expressed that it's sexy, sweet, and cute, not that they felt it was a violation of their privacy.


Maybe that's partly because "scene reports" or erotica of reality are more common in the kink community? Perhaps not, since BiDanFan and Alison don't operate that way? Maybe my brain just processes thongs weirdly about sex and relationships, but not other private things?


@69 WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Congratulations, Opalescent, on scoring tis week's luscious Lucky @69 Award honors! Bask in the highly envied accolades and savor your glory. :)


Margarita @56, to me "nesting partner" is someone you live with (not necessarily for the "purpose" of having children, which sounds weird to me -- the purpose of the relationship is the relationship, right? You have children if you want them), and one might not live with one's primary partner, so those two wouldn't have a 100% overlapping Venn diagram to me. I consider myself to have two co-primary partners, since I've been with them for very long durations. One's nesting partner is almost certainly one's primary, but not necessarily the other way round.

Agree 100% with your analysis of why the millennial rejection of hierarchy and embrace of the concept of relationship anarchy hasn't worked in practice. You simply CAN'T give equal priority and time to every partner in your life, it's just not workable. As above, once you move in with someone, they will of necessity become the central, or primary, partner in your life; you can't sensibly give someone you've just started dating the same priority. A better approach is to consider all partners' needs fairly and individually, whether they are nesting, primary, non-primary, FWB, comet etc.

Cocky @57, good point that younger people can objectify and prey on older ones as well. Perhaps it's not considered as creepy because indeed, we middle-aged folks are more likely to be experienced enough to see the objectification and turn down chasers, though this is of course not always the case.

Alison @58, I'm there too and I'd describe my reasoning as "you own your home, nobody else will fit in it, and you don't want to move." I wouldn't describe myself as "allergic to restrictions" -- I've been in cohabiting relationships twice -- but at this stage I love the freedom living alone brings, both for polyam reasons (no co-ordinating with someone else about whether I can bring a new partner home for the night) and the usual reasons. The only downside is no longer having a live-in DIY expert, but that's a trade-off I'm happy to accept!

However, I do feel I have a stake in my metamours. I value these relationships and if someone comes along who insidiously wants to claim my partner for themself, that's an issue for me. The solution for me is kitchen table, where I can meet these metamours and see that they respect our relationship and therefore aren't a threat. (If they don't want to meet me, red flag.) Only then can I move to the compersion you describe, where I'm happy my partner is going off and doing their own thing with someone else so that I can have my time free for other partners, work and hobbies too.

Agree that it's the responsibility of the person in the existing relationship to become OK with the idea of this new challenge; feeling threatened does not confer an excuse to behave possessively. That is the main responsibility of polyamory -- to deal with any unpleasant feelings your inner two-year-old may feel when someone who is "yours" has feelings for other people. If you can't do that without causing drama, you should just be monogamous.

Alison @60, hmm. I think I prefer the word enmeshed! "Entangled" sounds messy. :)

Curious @62, the words "hierarchy" and "secondary" may be the issues rather than the practices. Telling someone their needs are secondary to someone else's doesn't sound very kind. Their needs are -different-. But in practice, if one's nesting partner is ill one is going to drop a date to tend to them, that's just reality. I prefer the term "seniority" to "hierarchy" to mean that the the people I'm in established relationships with take precedence over new shinies. But now (coming out!) that I am in two new relationships in addition to my two existing ones (thank you, double jabby!), this discussion is super germane to me as I try to juggle schedules so as not to neglect my existing partners while making time for new ones. I'm taking all your comments on board too -- one of the new relationships is with a couple, so I'm super conscious of the potential pitfalls and possibly overthinking it all, since it's going incredibly well so far and it would be a nice change to keep it that way! :)

You're absolutely correct that we have a lot of challenges to navigate, and I'm thankful to you for pointing that out. Many people think polyamory is just fucking everybody all the time, but there's also a lot of emotional labour. And yes, you're right that some folks are what I call "polier than thou" and will lecture others for "doing poly wrong." It sounds like you encountered some of those; they exist in every community, and ours is no exception.

Happy @63, well said.

Margarita @64, thanks for bringing the letter back into the discussion! :) Very good point that Betty may know far about NPP than NPP knew about Betty because Betty asked a lot of questions and NPP didn't. And perhaps Betty overshared because she incorrectly assumed Tom would have told NPP lots about her. Yet another example of what happens when people assume instead of communicating! But they're all communicating now; early in a relationship, assumptions will happen until someone thinks to start a discussion. Experienced polyam folks will realise their assumptions may not be accurate, while those new to it may not.

Opal @69, congrats on the lucky number! I'm not sure which post you were referring to so I'll wait for you to come back -- please give the post number reference when you do.


Curious @62, I can't be sure if that's the book you recall reading, but More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert took a VERY strong stance against hierarchical poly, to the point of basically saying it cannot be done ethically. More Than Two came out in 2014 and was hugely influential in discussions about polyamory. I remember Dan recommending it more than once. I saw Veaux and Rickert give a talk about it at a poly conference circa 2016. Veaux talked about how he initially tried hierarchical poly with his ex-wife, but eventually came to realise that this structure was inherently oppressive and unfair to the "secondaries". Everyone at this conference was really down on hierarchical poly for the next two years, which was a bummer as that was something my partner and I wanted to explore and learn about. I remember thinking at the time that ~I~ have never felt oppressed or hard done by while being a secondary, but chalked it up to my limited experience with long-term poly relationships.

Then, in 2019, about a dozen of Franklin Veaux's former girlfriends, including Eve Rickert, accused him of partner abuse. I think the regulars here already know about this, as I vaguely remember reading about it in this comment section. At the time, I kind of went down the rabbit hole of reading all these stories on on and, and it was very insightful. In particular, I found it kind of striking just how "passive" Fanklin was in his mistreatment of his partners. When we talk about abuse, we usually envisage someone very controlling/jealous/domineering, but in this case it just came down to eschewing any responsibility in his relationships, and consequently pitting his partners against each other all the time, then accusing them of being insecure and vying for control and some special treatment in the polycule, when in reality they were just desperately trying to get some sense of stability. His strong opposition to any sort of hierarchy was just another tool to use against his partners when meeting their needs wasn't convenient for him.

In the last few years, both Eve Rickert and other writers have re-examined More Than Two and revised their position on many aspects of that book, including the conversation around hierarchical poly relationships. So this is probably another reason why the primary/secondary (or entangled/unentangled, etc) discussion is making a comeback. But if your experience on that poly forum happened somewhere between 2014 and 2019, I'm not surprised that everyone jumped down your throat for the bare mention of hierarchical terms. It was a very typical reaction in poly circles at the time, and I'm glad to see that this is changing.


Margarita @73, thanks for the background on that! Hierarchical always made sense to me as someone who likes structure. Relationship anarchy made me skittish and felt wrong -- are you (general you) really saying it's OK to give someone you've been on two dates with the same importance in your life as someone you've been with for five years? That seems really disrespectful to the five-year partner, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees it that way. I did read about Franklin Veaux, though not the details. It sounds like his particular brand of abuse was gaslighting, and ties in with my (negative) view of relationship anarchy as just a way to avoid committing to anyone. Polyamory isn't about lack of commitment -- polyamorous relationships can be just as committed as monogamous ones, if not more so, since you are committed to take multiple people's needs into account. If length of relationship and level of entanglement doesn't confer any special consideration then that feels far more, to me, like you (again general you) consider people "disposable" than referring to someone as your secondary.


"...I am in two new relationships in addition to my two existing ones (thank you..."

That is wonderful news, best wishes to you and yours!

Thank you so much that was priceless!

Yes I did read "More Than Two". I thought it was wonderful. And I found it's philosophy on hierarchy persuasive. Though now I'm seeing that as attractive philosophy undermined by practical realities.

Since nothing is permanent, I suppose that includes being primary. However primary one is, perhaps one's partner will develop other relationship(s) which will make one's own relationship a secondary one.

IIRC, Eve's voice was the one that resonated more for me (when they individuated in the text).

I find it fascinating that Franklin's emotional distance and passivity amounted to a means of mistreatment cloaked in equality. I've known people like that, and some are poly. I think poly enables their issues.

At the same time that wonderful people flourish in wonderful things, non-wonderful people can find sanctuary in them for their non-wonderful behavior.

"just a way to avoid committing to anyone"

Yes that describes the people with issues with emotional connection I know who I was just talking about.


@55. Bi. It was that she said she 'also' had a bf and made a point of unambiguously and commending the triad--this was what made me think that the relationship she considered primary was in the three. Yes, she could be a solo poly.

@55. Lost Margarita. I would be happy with 'primary' and 'secondary' as functional terms, as descriptions of different functional roles in someone's life, without any moral overtones of 'better', 'more important', 'less important', etc.

I think Relationship Anarchy probably a young person's game. If someone is poly and co-parenting with a sexual partner (in your 30s+, but really at any age), this partner will be a primary in life terms--whatever the durability, intensity, vitality, interest of their romantic connection. And as you get older, too, you likely become less energetic; the ratio of nights out to nights in tips towards the pipe and slippers, and the partner(s) with whom you are most comfortably domestic become more and more primary in any 'hierarchy'. (Of course, some of the many good things that poly opens up are that you can live and coparent with a Platonic partner, and have sexual relationships quite to one side of your domestic arrangements).


@57. Cocky. Yes, 'Daddy' can be a way of keeping you in your place, sometimes of reminding you that the relationship is instrumehtal, that you're there for the younger guy's convenience, either practically or as a fantasy projection.

The OnlyFans guy hasn't been a creep as yet.

I'm lucky in that I've always being drawn to protective, caring, manly older guys--who have sometimes chronologically been younger (not more than five years), but about whom I've had no trouble supposing they were older and more worldly. It was said of Stephen Spender that at any age he was always the youngest person in any company, and I can identify.... Now in my very young mid-50s I have to hope that I'm with my also disgustingly young older partner permanently, since it would be hard to imagine finding anyone else who fit the brief.


@67 Ankylosaurus yes! Hands need to be washed after genitalia touch! Before shaking hands!!! Google herpetic whitlows! Ewww.*

*Despite my clear fear of herpes it doesn’t keep me away from sex parties. But I ALWAYS WASH CAREFULLY after! :)


@40 Bdf metamour - whoops I don't know if that was a brain fart or my phone's spell checker betrayed me again. Thx for catching that


delta35@78, you might investigate prophylactic valacyclovir. I just found an interesting study that investigated Valtrex used as herpes pre-exposure prophylaxis during wrestling camps. It was very effective at preventing infection with herpes. I know I'm taking some for my next sex party ;P


As this weekend heats up, who will score the Big Hunsky? Tick..tick...tick....


Mr Balls - Very true, and it would be seemly of Mr Savage to stop pushing everyone of a Certain Age to Embrace His Inner Daddy; many of us don't have one.
M?? Harriet - Interesting; I don't recall Mr Spender as writing young. If anyone, I'd have guessed maybe Duncan Grant.


@83. Venn. Spender and the Auden set were a jeunesse dorée who came to prominence young. Apparently Spender was a 'goose', a ninny. They went to a performance of Pelléas et Mélisande at Covent Garden, and, outside, about to launch on an appreciation of how transcendent it was, Spender instead farted.


@77, Harriet, about the "daddy" word, yes, I couldn't have said (and didn't say) it better. ;)

Also, I have the same pattern of dating significantly younger guys more mature than me. Are we the same person? ;P

@83, Venn, exactly, sort of... Though apparently I do have an inner daddy, it doesn't work for me to embrace him. A few years ago I discovered that I have the capacity to develop strong paternal feelings toward someone who was troubled. The experience was emotionally devastating to me. I learned that I can't stand that heat and needed to stay out of that kitchen. It gave me an appreciation for - and still strong feelings of shame about - some things I blithely put my parents through back in the day.


While the medication @87 cures herpes and other STDs, the one @84 can also fix your "weak erection," or your "virginal problem" along with other illnesses like hepatitis. And it can even--god only knows how--"get [your] ex-lover back."

So unless the stuff @84 is like a hundred times more expensive than the stuff @87, I think we know which we want. Get more bang for your buck.


Thanks to the high priestesses of polyhood for enlightening us. A very interesting discussion, as some have already indicated.


"Couples privilege" = "singles resentment".

The fact that you're having sex with someone doesn't automatically mean you suddenly have the same status as the person they've been in a committed relationship with for years. You're having sex with someone who is in a relationship with someone else. Did you just assume their partner was okay with it? Or is it possible that they discussed their expectations and boundaries with each other first?

If you want to start out with everyone at the same status, date a single person (that doesn't mean you can't ever become a full-fledged member of an existing relationship, but you shouldn't expect to begin there). If you don't want the person you're having sex with telling the person they've been in an established relationship with for years things about you, say that up front. If you didn't think that would be an issue, you didn't think things through very well. Relationships don’t all use the same rules and assumptions, and that’s especially true for non-monogamous relationships. In general, if you have boundaries or expectations, state them as soon as you're aware of them (and don't be surprised if some of them make some relationships incompatible). If you don’t know you have a boundary, you can’t reasonably expect other people to know you have that boundary.

Yes, some couples treat outside partners poorly. That doesn't mean outside partners get to regard the existing relationship as an inconvenience or an obstacle, or that the whole concept of "outside partners" is somehow abusive.

And "relationship anarchy" is a pretentious way of saying "I'm single."


Lost Margarita @53 and @56 and The Happy Anarchist @63 make very good points. Yes, hierarchy isn't necessarily the problem, treating people disrespectfully is the problem, and yes, there are very good reasons why the "secondary" role might be preferable.

re Lost Margarita @73, I wasn't at all surprised when Franklin Veaux was very credibly accused of abusive behavior (neither was my therapist, who considers Veaux responsible for a lot of the problems poly clients come in with). His whole critique of "hierarchical relationships" was not only full of logic holes but also had the same thought process emotional abusers to convince you that you're the one treating them unfairly.


Dan is cavalier about herpes in very much the same way he's cavalier about cheating, and in both cases his advice on the subject comes off as more self-serving than credible.


The only way I see RW's neighbor not being RW's type is if there's a personality/political problem. But I feel like RW is saying that his neighbor isn't what he typically goes for, but is working for him in the situation. Which just sounds like RW is pigeonholing his desires needlessly by denying that the neighbor is his type. And if that is what's happening, RW should loosen up some, whether it's with this guy or not. Allow yourself the mental space to enjoy things, even when it's not something you usually go for.


I accidentally a verb in my comment @91, should be:

"...but also had the same thought process emotional abusers USE to convince you that you're the one treating them unfairly."


Chase @90, of course singles will resent couples who abuse their privilege by treating them like third-class citizens.

Of course new partners need to respect the existing relationship. There's no indication that NPP didn't do this so I'm wondering why you are bringing it up. Of course people who are dating self-described polyamorous people are entitled to assume the partner, whom they've never met, is okay with it. If they're not, that's on them and their partner to work through before the partner goes dating others. The people in the couple are the ones responsible for having a solid and honest foundation for ENM, not the potential victims of the couples who are not suited to it yet inflict themselves on others anyway. It is not the single (or otherwise-partnered, ahem -- partnered people also date halves of couples) person's responsibility to do due diligence, any more than it's a monogamous person's responsibility to do a background check on dates who claim to be single.

Tom hasn't been with Betty for "years," he's been with her for a year and a half. NPP wasn't upset that Tom told Betty about her, she's upset that he told her highly intimate things and shared jokes she presumed private -while not telling her anything about Betty-. NPP is NOW aware of this boundary and HAS stated it. Your scolding seems highly misplaced. I can't disagree in principle with much of what you've said, though if you are part of a non-monogamous couple I hope you put the first sentence right there in your profile as a warning label, but I don't know why you're saying it when it doesn't apply at all either to the situation NPP is writing about nor any of the experiences people have brought up in these comments. And I don't know where you get the idea that "the whole concept of 'outside partners' is somehow abusive." Please tell me you're monogamous? If not, please work through the trauma that led to this anti-single bias with your therapist before you go dating anyone else.

Athari @93, I just thought RW was asserting that he doesn't want to date this guy. But even if someone is one's type, one is not obligated to date them if they fall outside your preferred age range, or any other reason.


BDF @74

"It sounds like [Franklin Veaux's] particular brand of abuse was gaslighting, and ties in with my (negative) view of relationship anarchy as just a way to avoid committing to anyone."

I may have muddied the waters by mentioning relationship anarchy and More Than Two in almost the same breath. To clarify, Franklin was a poster boy for "non-hierarchical" or "egalitarian" poly, which isn't the same thing as RA. More Than Two ideologically overlapped with some RA literature in its criticism of mononormativity and hierarchical poly, and both have contributed to a very anti-hierarchy climate in many poly forums in 2010s. But as far as I know, Franklin and his partners never claimed to be relationship anarchists. The concept of relationship anarchy came out of anarchist, rather than polyamorous, communities, and is still, IMO, very closely tied to core anarchist principles and politics. Although it's become a trendy term that a lot of people flippantly throw around, it's not about treating all your relationships as casual, disposable and commitment-free, nor is it "a pretentious way of saying "I'm single."", as per Chase @90 (although I lol'ed at that).

I had a period of de facto RA in my late 20s and early 30s, and it was a really bright and formative period in my life. My situation is different now, but I'm still in touch with several former partners, and still hold many relationship principles from that time very near and dear to my heart. For me, an important element that distinguishes RA from both egalitarian and solo poly, is the emphasis on community interdependence. In my case, we were a loosely connected group of friends, and some of us fucked and had kink dynamics and romantic relationships, but the main thing that stood out was the generosity and support structures and friendship across that entire network of people. Even when I was dealing with jealousy, or poly drama, or resource scarcity, I never felt disposable in that environment, I felt very loved, supported, and free. Occasionally someone would come in with a more transactional, user mentality, but these people were usually quickly filtered out. My two "anchor relationships" (RA speak for "primary") at the time were more like romantic friendships, and my sexual partners were different people, who had anchor relationships with other people. There wasn't really any clear separation between the categories of "partners", "playpartners", "friends", etc., and that was mostly a good thing, but sometimes communication lines broke down, and there was drama, which suddenly everyone was involved in in some way. Which sometimes helped, and sometimes only added fuel to the fire.

That whole "community" aspect was the best thing about that model, and also it's greatest weakness. Because when core people in the group split up or had beef with each other, it reverberated across the whole network. People took sides, etc. My own group imploded in this way, and I've heard of similar blow-ups in other poly/kinky RA networks. Sometimes these networks survive and evolve, usually when there's enough "core people" on one side of the split, or when the feuding parties manage to reconcile on some level. If not, you just try to save whatever relationships you can from the wreckage, and let go of those you can't. I also think that these set-ups are kinda vulnerable to abusive cult dynamics, and just toxic group dynamics, but to echo curious's point @75, people have the ability to turn any good idea to shit.

And yeah, I haven't met many relationship anarchists over 40. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a sad thing or both.


@81 cbu on prophylactic valacyclovir (Valtrex) to prevent getting HSV at sex parties: interesting idea. I will discuss with my doc.

Truvada is proven effective on the IPERGAY schedule to prevent getting HIV (intermittent PrEP). However on the wrestlers - I'm only finding two studies on preventing herpes gladiatorum (HSV1) and it sounds like a different outcome measure - outbreaks vs. testing for infection.

Aside: herpes gladiatorum what a butch sounding name for wrestling-acquired HSV1! Conjures images of a buff Russell Crowe from 20 years ago in Gladiator battling a virus!

The 2 studies I'm finding either did a blood titer at the start or no blood titer, but outcome was outbreaks during a wrestling camp, no post-potential-exposure blood titers or long term follow-up. So it could be, the prophylactic didn't prevent new infection just reduced outbreaks (as it does with folks who have infections already).

Am I misreading the studies? Any other studies on herpes-serodiscordant couples on preventing new first time infection with prophylactic Valtrex? Here's what I'm finding:


Margarita @97, thanks for your post. Of course the proponents of Relationship Anarchy wouldn't describe it as avoiding commitment, just as the proponents of hierarchical polyamory wouldn't describe it as a way to fuck around without lying to their spouses -- though that may be the way it works in practice, when practiced by those who place little value on the needs of other people! I've heard it described as "letting each relationship find its own level," and who can argue with that? Of course it's positive to have an open mind toward people one may meet and how interactions with those people may develop, rather than trying to shoehorn them into pre-existing roles. As we've discussed regarding hierarchy, it seems to be (certain) people who make it problematic, rather than the philosophy itself.

As to why people age out of RA, that seems fairly obvious -- people reach a certain stage of life and they want to settle down. Settling down need not be marriage, children and monogamy, but most of us do want to establish a permanent home, and you can't really be an anarchist when you have a joint mortgage. When you don't really know where you're going to be living or working in six months' time, RA seems a natural extension of that way of life. Not so for us middle-aged folk! :) I can see that it would be possible to achieve the same communal type polycule you describe in a hierarchical, settled environment. And I can see the same benefits and pitfalls in a hierarchical framework where everyone knows each other -- which I'm getting dangerously close to with the addition of my new relationships -- as opposed to a group of people one has mostly met online and who don't know each other.

These definitions are a good starting point for people to communicate about, but in the end we're all individuals and can't be expected to conform to "rules" -- isn't that what the rejection of monogamy is about, anyway? Be respectful to everyone, be honest about your pre-existing commitments and constraints (including time), and no matter what you call it, if you find the right people you can make it work.


BiDanFan @72
I didn't really reference any specific posts, or in response to specific people, except for you @14, Luluisme @18, and Alison @8 referring to it as "oversharing."

I've had very similar "conversations" on FetLife, at in-person kinky/poly gatherings, etc. I have also discussed my views on disclosure and poly hierarchy in-depth with my submissive, my playpartner, and previous partners.

I know that my need to "overshare" and get reassurance isn't universal poly practice. I think it's more common in the kink community ("scene reports", etc.


Cbu @81 Delta@98
In the US, Valtrex isn't available without a prescription. Abreva OTC is, but I don't know whether there are any studies on whether it prevents seronegative people from getting herpes.


""letting each relationship find its own level," and who can argue with that?"

It sounds both wonderful, and brave.

"when practiced by those who place little value on the needs of other people!"

But it also turns out to be camouflage such people might find attractive. So while everyone needs to be on the lookout for such people, there might be an additional challenge to identify them in polyamory. Thank goodness poly isn't about shrinking from challenges!

'Our relationship has found it's own level' might mean be 'the level it finds when one is with a narcissist'.

Congrats on the lucky number!


@delta, re. Valtrex for herpes prophylaxis, the wrestling studies are pretty much the extent of what I found where prophylactic Valtrex was given to possibly uninfected people. I couldn't find any study where Valtrex was given to the uninfected partner in serodiscordant couples. It seems such an obvious idea that I wonder why no literature seems avaiable on it.

Perhaps daily valtrex forever isn't considered worth the possible side effects in monogamous uninfected people. Occasional hookups and sex parties are a different story though - presumably they would only require some doses around the event. But no studies.


@100 WA-HOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Major congrats to Opalescent on scoring this week's Big Hunsky numeric honors! Savor your envied good fortune and bask in the brilliant glory. :)

    Please wait...

    Comments are closed.

    Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

    Add a comment

    By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.