SL Letters of the Day: A Foursome


CAB: using condoms when doing anal is a great way to avoid E-coli and several other types of bacteria that, depending on your urinary tract's sensitivity, can give you sometimes painful infections which, if left untreated, can go all the way up to the prostate and become a more serious problem.

As for Marianne Faithfull, everyone knows she only gives handjobs.
OK, I gotta bite on the Lou and Nico link

Yeah, I've identified myself as "solo poly," "Henry Higgins with a rack and a sex life," and "boyfriends are just FWBs who hang around too damn much and have too many opinions about your Netflix queue."
Did that photo caption really say "Generally solo polys are larger than rodents"?
Someone please explain to me what the "solo" part is supposed to refer to?

If this neologism is meant to be a less embarrassing way of saying "I don't have boyfriend. Or a girlfriend." then hoo boy, does it ever not succeed at that.
There're two kinds of people in the world: those who need spreadsheets to track their attractions, and those who don't. Both are of equal value but the one rarely understands the other.
Actually, Dan, most species on the planet have yet to be formally described by taxonomists. Check out this infographic for a nice visual summary:…

Though that infographic does support your argument that we're making things extinct very quickly.

More likely, taxonomists realize that there's no money in biological taxonomy since scientific funding has dried up in the US since the recession. Perhaps they're shifting to sexual taxonomy to make ends meet.
Solo poly: I call it casually dating. Or friends with benefits for the more meaningful. Some non taxonomical terms for the committed types: Open relationship or monogamish if there's a clear primary. Or poly if there's more than one 'primary', or the agreed potential for more relationships of somewhat equivalent status.
If solo == mono, solopoly == monopoly.

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
I really hate the proliferation of "primary" and "secondary." Yeah, lots of poly people use those labels and structure their relationships hierarchically. But plenty of us don't. Some of us are just each other's partners, period. I guess I just don't like the idea that there is just one way to do poly, where you somehow have to rank your relationships. That works for some people, and they are happy, and that's awesome. But it's not the definition of poly. It's just one way of doing things.
<<< "solopoly," where he doesn't have a monogamous or even a primary relationship, but instead has multiple relationships with varying degrees of physical intimacy>>

In my day, that was just called "the 70s".
I think this is the part where the delusional anal sex enthusiasts claim there's no fecal matter inside your butt if you just go poop beforehand.
@11 If relationships are not important or committed, I use the word casual instead of poly. In the impermanent way more than the unconcerned way; sex is of concern. Friends (with benefits) works for important but not romantic lovers. Primary means most important. I believe you can have more than one most important, committed romantic lover. But I don't think it's as common as open relationships or cheating on an unknowing primary as far as nonmonogamy goes.
Seems to me that if CAB is clueless as he describes then he needs to do more research before he sticks his dick into his wife.

Maybe he should start by sticking something up his own ass - so he has some idea what it feels like.
@5: Solo means you do not have a "primary". You live alone and intend to stay that way. You do not intend for any of your relationships -- enjoyable though they may be -- to "progress" towards cohabitation or marriage. How is solo poly different from casually dating? One way is the longevity of the relationships. I am involved with three people, two of them for 3+ years and one for nearly a year, so there's a level of commitment there, even if I don't want to move in with them or designate one as more important than the others. Basically, you have (or desire to have) more than one partner with whom you share an emotional connection, but you don't have to check in with anyone before making plans for the weekend. That's how I define it, anyway.

The primary/secondary set up seems to have been around a long time. I think it is a default setting for many poly people because they come to poly while in a previously monogamous relationship.

I would say what is proliferating now, is the idea of an "anchor" partner. I know more terminology...

I have a primary (husband) relationship and secondary (boyfriend) relationship.... but lately have been leaning towards the "anchor" idea. To me it feels like a better expression on how I want to structure my relationships. I build my life with my husband, he is my anchor.... but I do not see my boyfriend as expendable, or worthy of less from me. He is not to be discarded at the first sign of whatever issue might come up (a typical complaint of the use of the term secondary). If there are issues with him, he and I work through them. If my husband and I have issues we work through them.

Boundary setting instead of rule enforcement is important for this (as it really should be for all relationships, romantic/sexual or not).
So... solopoly is just "dating" right?
I would call bidanfan poly, and narteeag in an open relationship. No solo necessary. Of course casual, less important, or many equally important and long term relationships are to be respected. Sex should be respected but that seems a fem view these days.. Well I have a twat so maybe I'm just being a stereotype when I like my lovers and expect them to treat me well too.

A primary in an open relationship signifies the person that you'd move with, if your lovers had to move out of town. I think that's a good distinction to communicate. I'm not sure why anchor is better. It's cool too but less precise and overly PC IMO. If you wouldn't stay with anyone who moved, I'd call it casual, or poly if the relationships are long term but local.
My first first year in college I couldn't get a date to save my life, so I practiced solofapy.
@5 the "solo" in "solopoly" refers to the fact the person is, while not single in a "don't have any partners" kind of way, independent and that their family is just them.

In other words, solopolys (and I'm sorry, but I've always seen it and used it as a single word, not two) don't have relationships that match the "picket fence" stereotype. Their relationships are with people they do not live with, have children with, get married to, share finances, etc. In other words, they don't have any relationship that are commonly called "primary". However, they have multiple relationships, hence the "poly".

It's not the same as dating around. Dating around has the implication that it's not serious, and that at some point you will become exclusive and "pick one". Solopolys may have long term, committed relationships, they just maintain their independence as well and aren't interested in the relationship escalator.

For what it's worth, I'm pretty much the opposite of a solopoly as far as polyamory goes (multiple primaries, no interest in secondary relationships).

@10 "monopoly" is a different kind of poly relationship (although we usually call it "mono/poly" to prevent a mix-up with the word or game). "Mono/poly" relationships are between a poly person and at least one mono person, and they present their own challenges.

I agree there are tons of terms, and there is no reason to know them all when you're not part of the community (just like you don't know all the technical terms for a job you don't do), but they can be pretty useful within the community and I'm sure that's how they developed to begin with.
@ 19 you can call me what you want, I call myself Poly. I am looking for (and currently have) more than a casual thing with my boyfriend. I guess we could get into what constitutes "casual". For me casual involves less emotional connection (like a FWB situation), not what I want with my boyfriend.

Would we ever move in together (or move away together)? Highly unlikely given our particular circumstances, which include all the wants and desires of ALL involved... My boyfriend has other partners (as well as children), so their wants and desires would matter too.... But I do see significant long term potential. How is that casual?

I feel for me, anchor might be more accurate because it better expresses the structure, feelings and behaviors I have and strive for.
@nartweag, my concern about the term "anchor" is it implies stability and reliability -- but not excitement. It's dangerous to rely on your "anchor" to be there, if it means you don't notice when your long term partner wants to be your yacht or your seagull tonight instead of your anchor.
@23 Ericap, you and I have disagreed greatly on these issues before. And as nartweag's husband I would kindly like you to shut the fuck up.

I am her anchor. And because of that stability and and reliability that is always there we have a wonderful relationship. Excitement and fun is always a part of us made stronger by the stability we have. To borrow more sailing terms: Without that anchor to be a solid base for how we work as a couple (and function with our other partners) we would be rudderless. We would not be able to be in love with each other and have love for others. I am not her ball and chain to weigh her down. I am her steady weight to keep her balanced (and vice versa.)

I hate the primary/secondary terms. To me "secondary" denotes less than. How is that fair to others in a poly relationship? I love my wife. She loves me. She also loves her boyfriend. That in no way threatens her love for me or our relationship. Sure, he isnt my equal in terms of habitation and finances, but other than years of seniority I don't see the love she has for us is any different. An 'open' relationship has its own mental baggage that I would rather not have put on top of how we function.

edit: 3rd paragraph: ...I don't see the love she has for HIM is any different.
Back in the day, I think we just called it "single," or "dating."

These days, you need a magic decoder ring to figure out what all the nuances mean.

Question: after you lock yourself in your little jargon box, are you stuck in it, or is there opportunity for growth, adventure, and change? Can you date outside your particular chosen wavelength of the spectrum, and what happens to your label then?
@ 23/ EricaP isn't that where communication comes in?

I discuss wants/ needs/ etc. with all my partners.... But each individual is responsible for bringing such things to the table, for discussion (not that I don't ask as well). Again empathy and connection are of utmost importance to me.

But yes, stability in this turbulent world is what many/most people want in some way. That in no way negates doing fun new exciting things with long term (anchor or primary) partners.
@24, ah, you're not the ball-and-chain kind of anchor; you're more the rudder kind of anchor.
@27 Glad you have a system that works well for you and yours. My husband and I try hard not to take each other for granted -- planning fun adventures with each other is part of that.
"Question: after you lock yourself in your little jargon box, are you stuck in it, or is there opportunity for growth, adventure, and change? Can you date outside your particular chosen wavelength of the spectrum, and what happens to your label then?"

Yes, Yes you can.... the beauty of defining yourself/ your relationships how you want (while being open about what that means with your partners) is you can ever change and evolve how you chose! And guess what? So can your partners. Relationships all evolve and change over time, just the nature of people being people.

What happens to the label then? Well you get to chose to change it or yourself, or really whatever you want to do with it. Since when are people stuck being just one thing forever and ever?
@16 You don't have to live with a primary. It just means most important long term romantic relationship(s). More than one is poly. When one is most important but others are long term too, primary/secondary is useful.

@22 Casual relationships have always meant 'temporary', 'less permanent' and most definitely not 'unimportant', to me. But my view of all relationships as being important and sex as being important, by default, may be old fashioned. I'm more hesitant about dating now.

I also think a poly marriage doesn't make much sense in the US without using a hierarchy, as you can't have more than one relationship of the spouse type, and it's legally the closest relationship. So I call those open relationships whether the new lovers are casual or not. I wouldn't call the spouse in a poly, non hierarchical marriage a spouse in conversation, just one of your partners, or it produces a hierarchy.

Poly is the only word I know for multiple permanent relationships that are not hierarchical, and I think it's confusing to use variants of this word for all nonmonogamy. To summarize:
If it's not long term, it's casual. Or just dating.
If it's long term but not monogamous, it's an open relationship. Monogamish if other relationships are assumed to be temporary.
If you have multiple long term relationships with somewhat equivalent privileges and responsibilities, the only word for that is poly. Maybe solo poly is living alone and being poly?
The norm is still casually dating until you find a life partner I believe.
Ah I just read through the rest of the comments. I vote for rudder over anchor. I think rudder is an awesome word for primary; the committed relationships in my life really steer me. I don't like when they weigh me down. But to each their own with nicknames.

And sorry Mr Nartweag if open relationship is a trigger word. That is weird. Since your current anchor and presumably yourself are open to other lovers. I hope you are doing what makes you happy; I'm not sure why you're unhappy with this description. And back the fuck off of EricaP she's very reasonable and polite.
@18: "Just dating" could be just dating one person, then it wouldn't be poly.

@19: The reason why the "solo" is necessary is because when you say you're poly, people assume that means you're in one primary relationship with other partners "on the side." Until people get that there are more than one form of poly, it helps to have a term that clarifies the situation.
@32 Its not a trigger word for me (trigger words are a whole different subject on which I have loads of opinions on) I just think 'open relationship' has a lot of societal baggage on it. A cheater can easily say "im in an open relationship" and get away with it. Others may view open relationships being akin to swingers. A poly relationship ads in love, respect and actual relations for your partners that an open relationship tends to lean more to the just sex side. For me at least.

And no, I have no plans on ever backing down on EricaP. She is rarely reasonable nor polite. She is very set in her opinions and thinks they are facts and talks down to anyone she feels disagrees with her.
@31: I didn't mean to imply you had to be living with someone in order for that person to be a primary. If you live with them, then they're definitely a primary; but it's not necessary. To me, a primary is the partner you check with before you make plans with others.
And how long is "long term"? Some marriages end after six months, after all.

Seriously people, what's with taking other people's few-sentence descriptions of their relationships and saying "I have a better term for your relationship than you, the person in it"? Sheesh. If I define as solo poly, then I'm solo poly. If someone else says they're in an open relationship, then what's with the Poly Police telling them they're something else? Every relationship or set of relationships is unique. One person might not consider someone a "primary" until they move in together, but someone else, who doesn't intend to cohabit, has a different definition. Okay, if you're seriously involved with several people but calling yourself "single" on dating sites, there may be a problem, but otherwise, let people pick their own labels. They're only useful when self-selected.
@34: A cheater who says "I'm in an open relationship" is lying. Never mind what I just said about picking your own definitions, this is an exception! But a cheater who says "I'm not married" is also lying, so does that mean the term "married" needs to go?
@32/34, I'm with Akbar on this issue. See @28.
I can't imagine why FUCK are so despised by their peers, but whatever the answer, maybe that's why their hit rate on OKStupid and Tinder is so much lower than it should be?


the philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time (from first definition that came up when googled)

Wikipedia has great articles on the definition/ difference between polyamory and open relationship.

@philophile, I would suggest you take a look at how those word are generally used.

I love my husband and I love my boyfriend (in an ethical, everybody knows way), thus I am poly. And before I met/fell in love with my boyfriend that is what I was looking for....

I think anchor is being used by people that want others to know that they may have a "primary" type relationship but that does not mean that it comes before everything else, at all costs, including disregard for the feelings/ thoughts/ needs/ etc. of other people involved. That is where communication and boundaries come in, as I've stated before.

And thank you #35!
Is there a zero-poly category as well?
Gee, we got anchor wars now?
@40 Isn't Zero-poly when you love both of your hands equally?
Well that's confusing, EricaP. You're with Akbar in saying you are not often reasonable or polite?
Touché @ 42.
@43 I guess she is with me on my stance that 'open relationship' as a defining term has too much societal baggage to be accurate and useable. How she can ignore that I can't stand her and find her to be condescending and arrogant I am not sure.
@43, Yes, I agree that I'm frequently not reasonable or polite. See, for example, my post @28.

@45 lol.
@46 admitting to yourself there is a problem is the first step to recovery. Best of luck on that.
You guys are funny. What isn't funny is I'm looking at a day of 36degree heat..
@47 thanks for the kind wishes!
@48 sending you cooling thoughts...
FWIW, I use "solo poly" or similar instead of "dating" because, in my circles, "dating" implies that you're looking for or at least open to taking one or more of the relationships to a toothbrush-sharing level.

(Thinking about the new taxonomies, I do wonder how many of them come from the fact that, as observed by every college ever, no five people agree on what "dating" or "hooking up" means.)
I think the "More Than Two" guy did some great essays on the bad emotional baggage of 'primary'/'secondary'. I've been known to use the terms, largely while I was negotiating polyamory in a previously monogamous relationship, but I'm trying to phase them out in favor of relationship-specific ones (husband vs. boyfriend is pretty clear, for ex).

I feel like if you're in a relationship and you feel repeatedly and vividly 'secondary', something's probably wrong. Everyone has other priorities -- if your grandpa takes a bad fall, your work catches fire, your kid breaks a tooth, then a date gets cancelled, no matter whose date it is. And obviously if you're happy with being 'secondary' then this criticism doesn't apply to you! But it does definitely carry a bit of stigma, repeatedly labeling the relationship as unimportant and less-than, and I'd be happy if it didn't get printed on the banners of the evangelizing poly horde. (now I'm imagining the banners are polyester.)
@17: By proliferating, I meant in the strict definition of the word - "increasing rapidly." I see the primary/secondary language getting tossed around more and more in writing and talk about poly relationships, and in particular from Dan. I think it's troublesome, because it operates from the assumption that that's what poly "is." I'm in a poly relationship, and have several friends who are as well. Fewer of them label their relationships as "primary" or secondary" than who simply refer to their partners as partners, husbands/wives, girl/boyfriends, etc.

@Akbar and @Cat in fez: I have the same issue. I would never want to refer to a partner as "secondary" or be referred to that way because it implies "less than."

Also, there does seem to be a correlation between using those terms and having come into poly from a preexisting mono relationship. In some cases, maybe the terms don't really define the relationships in terms of rank, but came into play because they provided emotional comfort to the original partner who agreed to open things up.

I agree with @51 - use the terms if they work for you, but for the love of God let's keep them off of our beautiful polyester banners. You're not "doing it wrong" if none of your partners is "primary" or "secondary." You're just doing it the way you do it.
@52: As I tip-toe around the shores of polyamory, I find it a bit more humanizing to think and feel in terms of "spouse," "lover/GF/BF," and "FWB," rather than primary/secondary/tertiary -- which sound like parts of a machine. Maybe it's just a word-game -- some degree of hierarchy is natural and evident to all involved (in my experience, anyways) and map to family commitment, emotional connection, and longevity.

Yes, I am a mono-to-poly convert, but no, the hierarchy hasn't arise from insecurity or apprehension from my wife or from me -- it simply emerged as the natural arrangement for us, and according to our personalities.
@34 Fucking idiocy. I don't assume that people describing themselves 'in open relationships' are cheating assholes unless they've already displayed asshole behavior. And I'm not prejudiced against swingers, I think they can be awesome, very moral people and swing at the same time. I hate that some people can withhold "love, respect and actual relations" from their lovers. Personally I can "love, respect, and have actual relations" with lovers even if it's for only one night and I wouldn't need to deal with the effects of, say, poking fun at their small penis mid coitus.

@35 Interesting. I wrote a book in response but I'm not sure if I should post it. About long term being a behavioral description. When you habitually plan for your partner's needs to be met while you make life plans. It involves discovering your partners needs and wanting to keep seeing them regularly before you can feel it or act like it I think. And it's helpful to have terms that accurately describe different relationships so that you can respect those relationships, and interpret what a potential lover is looking for. I like it when words carry useful information.

@51 Fez - "I feel like if you're in a relationship and you feel repeatedly and vividly 'secondary', something's probably wrong."
I think any type of relationship can have a healthy hierarchy. If I live with one grandparent and only see the other monthly, then the second can learn to live happily with lesser privileges and responsibilities. In an open relationship, pretending that a hierarchy doesn't exist when you choose to live with one person over the other is disingenuous.
I do agree that if a secondary role starts to bother you, you should negotiate a change or start looking elsewhere to fulfill your need for a closer relationship.

When I think about 'poly', I think about more than 2 people are close enough to want to live together - currently and strongly both polyamorous and polygamous. If there's a hierarchy, I've always seen it with a clear primary relationship and call that an open relationship to distinguish. Casual dating is pretty normal, but most of the time people find someone they want to keep around, or start to want a family, maybe when they're 40. Declaring a commitment to uncommitted relationships, basing your identity on that, seems immature or misanthropic/damaged to me. If you never find anyone you'd like to both sleep with and keep sleeping with it's fine, but it seems like a tough life.

I can see the need for a word for non hierarchical poly but not wanting to live together. Also for monogamous and not wanting to live together. Solo poly and solo mono :)
I miss Alison's ideas.

"solo poly" ? Isn't that what we used to call "single"?
Philo, Yeah; Hello Alison. Hello Sissoucat.
When I think about 'poly', I think about more than 2 people are close enough to want to live together - currently and strongly both polyamorous and polygamous. If there's a hierarchy, I've always seen it with a clear primary relationship and call that an open relationship to distinguish.

Whoa, this must be that getting irritated because other people question what I label my relationships thing that was talked about upthread. I'm polyamorous. I love more than one person. I am really serious about more than one person. I only live with one. It's pretty rare to find a group that all wants to live together, and to say I should call myself 'in an open relationship' (which I'm not -- not dating, not looking, closed to further applicants) because my partners don't all share a roof is pretty weird and presumptuous.

One of the strengths of polyamory is its flexibility. You can have a LDR and two local relationships. You can have lots of different configurations, whatever works for you and your partners and their partners right now.

The chances that you'll make polyamory work, find people you love, and alllll those people, regardless of whether they want to have sex with each other, will want to share dishwashing duties? Pretty small.
@58 I didn't say that you had to label yourself as in an open relationship. You seem to be reading a lot into my words that isn't there. You could call that weird and presumptuous too.
@59, I read your words the same way Cat in fez did: that you were saying poly means "more than 2 people are close enough to want to live together."

That's an unusual use of the term, in my experience, but it sounded like you thought it was the normal meaning of the term "poly."

>> I can see the need for a word for non hierarchical poly but not wanting to live together...Solo poly >>

Do you see how that's dismissive of people who practice non hierarchical poly but live with some (but not all) of their partners?
@60 I see. Yeah I didn't mean normal, I literally meant that's what I think of when I hear someone is 'poly'; the extreme. That's my platonic ideal of poly. The further you are from that extreme, like casual dating, the less the identity poly would make sense. And we have some decent non taxonomical terms to describe common variants of poly already, like open relationships/primary/secondary for most hierarchical poly, while non hierarchical poly is usually described as just 'poly'. I don't see where solo poly fits in, except as a poly who needs to live alone. And solo mono, or monogamous relationships committed to keeping different households, seems even more common.
I forgot to answer the question:
>> I can see the need for a word for non hierarchical poly but not wanting to live together...Solo poly >>

Do you see how that's dismissive of people who practice non hierarchical poly but live with some (but not all) of their partners?

No cause they seem to have nothing to do with solo poly and little with this thread. If they are not interested in new people, poly and stable, or poly but not looking around, should work. They could call themselves lopsided poly or whatever they want I don't care. If I had to think of how Fez would describe herself to potentials, then I'd probably say 'in a couple open relationships'. But this all seems besides the solo poly point.
I think there's a lot of wiggle around intent and what people call themselves, and Philophile gets at something when they talk about how you'd describe yourself to potentials*. Like, I know someone who, if you made a graph of his relationships, looks 'solo poly'. Lives in his own house, has this long-term relationship and that long-term relationship and is actively dating. However, he has lived with one of his girlfriends and her husband in the past and would consider doing so in future, and he'd like to have a partner who would share finances and have children with him someday. Everyone I've ever heard of describing themselves as solo-poly hasn't currently wanted that. So it's about intent, and 'advertising'. He'd be shooting himself in the foot if he said he was 'solo poly' to people who had the associations and understanding I do. So it's not just taxonomic, not just a description of the current facts on the ground.

*FWIW, I wouldn't describe myself as "in a couple open relationships". Generally speaking, the open relationship bubble contains the polyamory bubble (I guess with the exception of some romantic but asexual polys or something -- you can see what a more thoughtful consideration decides on the overlap in this keen infographic) but there's enough difference between what I'm doing and the basic definition of open relationship that it would be meaningless, and misleading, and get me what I do not want (to start out with, 'potentials'.) I'm in one poly/mono relationship, and one poly relationship, and neither I nor my husband nor my married boyfriend is seeking more relationships (although I am perfectly okay with my husband seeking more relationships if he wishes, the '/mono' is his decision, and his label.) I go with 'poly'. There isn't a label that describes my specific amount of closedness ('polyfidelitous' means something else) and I don't need one, I'm fine explaining if I have to.

It may technically be accurate to say I'm in open relationships, but it would be about as useful as saying I'm a mammal. "Wait, who is Cat in Fez again? Is that a female commenter? Is she a third-wave feminist who loves anal, or am I thinking of someone else?" "Oh, Cat in Fez is a mammal."
@54: "Casual dating is pretty normal, but most of the time people find someone they want to keep around, or start to want a family, maybe when they're 40. Declaring a commitment to uncommitted relationships, basing your identity on that, seems immature or misanthropic/damaged to me. If you never find anyone you'd like to both sleep with and keep sleeping with it's fine, but it seems like a tough life."

Wow. That's a pretty inflexible timeline for when things "should" happen relationship wise. And 40 is kind of too old to be "starting" a family, isn't it? Fertility doctors would say so.

What if, at 40, you're post-serious relationship, post-marriage, post-family (or you've decided kids are not in the cards)? You own your own home, which is just big enough for you; you've realised happily ever after isn't going to happen, that there's no "The One"; that you're happy in your own space. You've been there and done that on the Serious Relationships front. Maybe 40 is the right age to BEGIN solo poly, after more traditional relationship models proved not to be all they were hyped up to be.

@58: Agree with your point, which perhaps needed making, that "poly" and "open relationship" aren't equivalent. You could have a closed poly relationship. That often happens when you just don't have time to date anyone new without neglecting the existing partners.
@51: From experience, I agree that being a "secondary" is not so great when they have a primary but you don't.