Love free


The hardest thing about trying to figure out your shit, is that it comes in waves. You can spend a ton of time thinking through one issue, and land somewhere you think makes sense, only to realize later that you need to give it a second look.

Things with Papa Bear and I have been going better. We aren’t being interrupted during our time together, and if someone requests an interruption, they are told no. Yet something about it has still felt “off.” We have been trying out a new schedule where we only see each other once a week, for a solid block of time on Saturday or else a sleepover from Friday evening to late-morning Saturday, and while this has been better than what we had before, it isn’t perfect.

I realized some things about myself that I shared with Papa Bear, and he also had realizations that he shared with me. My realization came first. It was triggered by something so petty I’m embarrassed to even mention it. Every Sunday Papa Bear is incommunicado from breakfast until dinner. This is the time that The Wifey had decided should be “their” time. Generally they go to the same heritage park and spend a few hours there, and then they come home and hang out together and maybe have company later in the day. They also post pictures of them kissing every Sunday, pretty much without fail.

Now I’ll admit I’m biased, because I hate gratuitous Facebook bragging. I think its weird and self-absorbed at best, and insensitive and crass at worst. I do not do it. I don’t know if their posting pictures of their from-scratch breakfast and of themselves kissing on the ferris wheel in all their smug couply-ness constitutes bragging. Maybe it doesn’t, but I think it might.

So anyway, having to see this week after week for months on end has just kind of grated on me. It’s not just the couple bragging, obviously. It’s me seeing my boyfriend and his wife during a time that I am banned from. As a rule. I know its petty, but it has started to bother me to the point that every time I see it I immediately hide it from my feed so that it’s not there staring me in the face every week. Call me petty, immature, insecure, whatever–I do what I need to.

I Googled “feeling left out” and “polyamory” and I didn’t find a lot for “Secondaries”. Everything was about the jealousy that a “Primary” partner feels, and nothing much addressed the feelings of the non-primary partner. This bothered me too, and I kept thinking back to all the times we’ve talked about me being “secondary,” and my issues with it. Something clicked, and in frustration I Googled, “I am not a secondary.” Jackpot.

Every time I hear the term secondary used, especially in regards to myself and my relationships, I inwardly recoil. I read a few articles about why some people, even if they are the second, non-live in partner, refuse to consider themselves secondaries. I identified with them strongly.

Being secondary implies that at all times, in all things, someone’s needs come after those of another person. That just isn’t okay, and its not a healthy way to have a relationship. If one of your lovers can never be a priority, then why are you with them? It might be fine for people who are just casually dating, but that isn’t the case for Papa Bear and I, and it isn’t okay for me.

The other issue is that it means you are defining one relationship in terms of another relationship. That, again, isn’t okay with me. Each relationship needs to be able to be what it is. My relationships are separate–my love for my husband doesn’t define how much I can love my boyfriend, and vice versa. No one is primary to me. Each relationship is its own thing, with its own needs, and has to be treated as such.

When I realized this, I told Papa Bear that I am not okay with hierarchical poly. I am not okay with the way he relates to me having to be first filtered through and compared with how he relates to The Wifey. I am not a secondary. I am not a relationship status or position, I am a person.

Now, to be fair, aside from the rules (which mostly center around ensuring that Papa Bear is with the Wifey at certain times on certain days for certain activties, each week), I do not feel like a secondary. Not really. If I need to be with Papa Bear, he will do his best to be there for me. He has taken an emergency day from work when I was having a personal crisis. He has picked me up from work when I have late meetings so I don’t have to walk in the dark, even if I am going home instead of out with him. He has paid for medication and medical procedures. He loves me, and I know that in his heart, I am not a secondary.

However. When issues come up where The Wifey and I are in conflict, I feel like the labels of secondary and primary give her the upper hand. I feel that she believes that since she was there first, she has a say in any and all changes that are made to their relationship due to my relationship with Papa Bear. And while that might make sense from her perspective, I believe that polyamory is all about freedom. Not the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want to, regardless of who it hurts. But the freedom to define, and re-define, all of your relationships and how you conduct yourselves in those relationships.

It is a chance to escape mono-normativity, and it requires getting rid of mono-normativity. If a person truly believes that they need to run everything they do with their girlfriend or boyfriend by their spouse, then that person should not be poly. If someone truly believes that they should be able to control the relationship their spouse has with their boyfriend or girlfriend, then that person should not be poly. It is one thing to express what you need from a relationship. It is another to have those needs impact the rights of the person you are with, to be free.

When we were having this talk, Papa Bear said that sometimes, when he and The Wifey are out on Sunday morning, she says that she’s a little upset because she knows that he would rather be with me. And that sometimes, he is thinking that he would rather be with me. Because The Wifey is absolutely free to express her needs and desires in a relationship. She is free to set boundaries around herself. But she doesn’t have the right to tell another fully-functioning, adult human being how he has to spend every Sunday morning for the rest of his life until the day he dies. She is only free to decide how she wants to spend her Sunday mornings.

It is Papa Bear who linked the idea of me being secondary–which he says is something he does not consider me to be–with the rules. He does not view me as his secondary, but because of The Wifey’s difficulties in thinking differently about marriage, that is the role I have been pushed into. There is no other way for me to be, and no other space for me to occupy, if she feels that she must always come first.

Meanwhile, Papa Bear has been thinking about his needs and boundaries. As someone who has never put himself first, in his marriage or in his life, this is honestly the first time that he has given his own boundaries any thought. And he said he realized that a major boundary for him, is having his time scheduled.

This surprised me, because when I broached the subject with him in the past, he became very defensive. And for awhile, he tried to get me to agree to have a schedule–he said it would be easier. I declined, because I need more freedom in my own life and more spontaneity in my relationships than that. But recently, when it seemed like we were on the verge of collapse, I conceded that a schedule might be the only way to ensure that our time is not interrupted, because the Wifey would know ahead of time that this is “our” time. It worked, to an extent. But in our recent discussion, Papa Bear told me that it is not working for him. At all.

He feels trapped. He feels resentful. He does not want to feel like he has no choice in what he does on a Sunday morning. He wants to take his wife to breakfast on Saturday before she works, because he wants to, not because he has to. He wants to be able to decide to hang out with me on a Sunday before 5 PM, if that’s what he feels like that day. He says he feels like he is just putting in time when it comes to “their” time–and who can blame him? How does he even know he wants to spend Sunday mornings or date night or Saturday breakfast with his wife, if he has no other option?

I thought he was just exploring the idea, but it turns out he is pretty serious about it. He says he cannot continue this way. I, of course, support him. I hate the schedules and I hate the rules–they are disingenuous and inorganic and controlling. He says he is done with them, and I want to believe him.

While we talked about it, he held me for a long time. We were doing our weirdo thing where we park in the middle of nowhere and snuggle in the back seat. We saw a rainbow. We saw a deer. I don’t believe in omens, but if I did…

Oh, and then we had crazy hot sex in the backseat!

Tonight is his date night with his wife. He says he is going to tell her that he does not want his life scheduled for him anymore. I was worried about it. I was terribly anxious that it was going to cause a huge fight. I was afraid that she was just going to say “No,” and things would just stay the same. And that’s still possible I suppose.

Today, though, she sent him a link to an article about Polyamory Without Rules. The article explains that rules are just a way of getting your needs met by controlling another person, and that the best way to get your needs met isn’t to tell your partner what to do, but instead what you need to feel and experience. Maybe this all came together at the right time. Maybe she is starting to realize that her way isn’t working. One can hope.

9 Comments on “Love free”

  1. masterandbabydoll says:

    That’s a part of why poly didn’t end up working for us. The schedules. We were scheduled all the time. And it ended up that we all dreaded the “spouse nights” when they were coming around. We didn’t want the “swap” nights to stop. That’s when the trouble starts. Papa Bear has to be free to want to spend time with each of you, to enjoy that time. Not be scheduled. To not be forced. It’s an emotional prison once you’re forced to stay with someone you’re not sure you want to be with that night. I’m hoping for the best for you!! Hugs, kisses and best wishes!! ~Baby Doll~

  2. lizeden says:

    Have you read More Than Two’s Secondaries Bill of Rights? I think you’d like it:

    While I don’t practice heirarchal poly, per se, I aknowledge that there is a sort of “priority list” in my life, as to who I’d attend to first, if multiple lovers of mine were having a crisis. Jon, being the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with, *is* at the top of my list. But if say, Issi was in a car accident and had multiple serious injuries and Jon broke his arm at the same time, I’d definitely go to Issi first if Jon was overall fine & able to handle things himself.

    I had been around some poly people who I swear, if their primary had a hangnail and their secondary had cancer, they’d rush off to help the primary first. That is a pretty disgusting and egregious way to treat people.

    The scheduling thing is interesting, and brings up all kinds of valuable discussion. One thing I’d ask PapaBear if I was you, is if it is *actually* the scheduling itself thati’s a problem, or if it’s that he is participating passively. If Wifey is making the schedule herself and he’s only “participation” is to agree to it, that is a VERY different dynamic than if he was actively working on a schedule and saying that he wants to see YOU on X day and Wifey on Y day at times.

    I’ve noticed that Jon, Lora, and I take turns working on scheduling and that we*** focus more on making sure that the time Lora and I spend with Jon is roughly equal, rather than always making the schedule be *exactly* the same. One thing that is helpful for us is that Lora’s “weekend” (her days off from work) are Thursday & Friday, whereas I have the traditional Saturday-Sunday weekend most of the time. So we do schedule around that. BUT, it’s flexible. There have been times when I needed to work Sunday, and she decided to take Sunday off, so we swapped our days around a bit.

    It’s also nice because it feels shitty to never have to say something like “Jon and I can’t go to this event that we really want to go to, but it’s on the “wrong” day for us to be together”. KWIM? I don’t want me or Lora to ever say, “Well, here’s an event I want to go do with Jon, but I can’t, because it’s the other person’s “day” and that is engraved in stone”.

    Overall, I do like doing some scheduling because having my own me time is really important to me, so seeing how the week will go, so that I know when I’m going to do my me time and what nights I can work late, if I need to. But I think being flexible about the days that we do things is really important, as is having each person be in charge at times. We don’t have a strict rotation for that; for us, it’s more “the person who feels the strongest gets to do the scheduling”. Maybe if the three of you started rotating who scheduled things, that might help? At the least, I hope it’s food for thought.

    ***because of the repeated problems with Lora definitely being selfish, I feel uncomfortable saying "Lora definitely makes sure that she and I spend the same amount of time with Jon" so the "we" there is more Jon and me. Lora still definitely looks out for herself and her time with Jon first the majority of the time, but with Jon and I both looking for it to be more equal, it is more-or-less equal most of the time.

    • The problem isn’t scheduling. Scheduling is necessary to make plans, and something we will still do. It isn’t something we’ve ever really done together, though. It’s up to Papa Bear to make plans with each of us. By that I mean, I can make plans with him and say when I want to do something, but it isn’t something I talk to his wife about.

      But yes, like you said, the issue is that his wife just told him what days at times each and every week she wants to be “their” time, and he doesn’t want to be trapped into a rigid schedule or forced to ask her opinion or give her two weeks notice if he wants to do something with me on “her” day. It just sucks for him to feel that he doesn’t get to make his own choices about how he spends his time, and it has really sucked for me too.

      • lizeden says:

        That would drive me crazy too. As would an absolute claim of “This is MY day, and nobody else can ever have it without my permission”. That seems to go beyond reasonable scheduling and into a really strong-armed level of control. : (

        I hope his talk with her goes really well and she understands that always scheduling his life around her needs and desires isn’t OK and isn’t going to work anymore for him. I also really hope that she understands that it is really coming from HIM. Not that you’re not unhappy about it too, but it sounds like he’s hit the point where he doesn’t want it like that anymore for him, himself. It just has the additional benefit of being something really important to you too. 🙂

  3. gibbylet says:

    Devil’s advocate here – I wonder if you are aware that you are banning HER from a shared partner for a set period of time too every week now too? My point in saying this is that maybe shifting focus from a feeling of being banned you see the bigger picture and change the perspective to that she, like you, wants a period of time where her partner is focused on her. I just don’t see how it’s different when you do it? Neither of you are wrong for wanting that.

    To be clear, I see you’ve posted a lot of bleh behavior from him and her, but maybe this is one issue that can be separated out from the not so healthy stuff going on diffused so you don’t hold it against her.

    • Thank you for your thoughts 🙂

      The difference, as I see it, is that she wants that focused time and attention at the SAME TIME every week without fail. I do not want to have a schedule. I want us to see each other when we want to and it works for us, not to claim any of his time as my own as a matter of course every single week.

      The Saturday thing that we have been trying isn’t something we are doing anymore. He doesn’t want to have schedules at all like that, and I don’t either. Sometimes I want to do something else on a Saturday night, and sometimes he does, too. So we are getting rid of “our” days altogether.

      The other issue with it, is that those times aren’t something they decided together that they both want and need. She basically just told him “these are the times I want from you every week. Sundays are sacred, Saturday mornings are sacred, date night is sacred, and if you want to deviate from that you need my permission.” It’s not fair to him to have that imposed on him that way.

      When we talked about Saturdays as “our” day, it was something we felt we needed to do in response to our date time being overwhelmed by other demands–not because I felt he “owed” me every Saturday until the end of time and that that time needs to be “mine.”

    • So to sum up, I’m fine with her having focused attention when they want to spend time together. I’m not fine with the fact that it HAD to be both weekend mornings and all day Sunday forever.

      • gibbylet says:

        That makes a lot of sense, though then I’d just say it’s easier for her if she has that time with him on a schedule, and easier for you if you have it when you plan a date. I do think you both have the right to private time when you’re with him (if he’s agreeing to give it).

        I think for me it comes down to it being HIS job to set boundaries with her and it seems he is finally getting around thank goodness. A good chunk of the stuff that you’ve dealt with seems to be totally under his control to keep out of your relationship. I’ve found myself frustrated on your behalf that he wont 🙂

        So often that metas get blamed for things that are really the responsibility of the shared partner, it’s hard to point at a partner you love and tell them that it’s THEIR job to advocate for the relationship, and to not allow a partner to shift the blame onto what their other partner wants or “tells” them to do. It muddies the ability to be clear when a meta actually is being a dick and needs to be called out on it.

        I’m just glad he seems to be learning how to treat partners better, however it turns out. Standing up for what you want is a pretty useful skill!

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