Hierarchies

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Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

Every month the Poly Means Many bloggers choose a topic to write about. Some months I find it easy, some months I find it more difficult. Whilst I’ve now identified as non-monogamous/poly for a couple of years now, I’m lucky that my relationships haven’t massively changed in that time.

When we started out exploring this lifestyle we eschewed the idea of hierarchies largely because they just felt wrong to us, it didn’t feel right to start out with a set of rules that could limit how things progressed in the future. From day one we’ve understood that this lifestyle allows our relationships to grow and morph into new things, and that means accepting they may also shrink or come to a natural end.

So, other than the element of time, we don’t have any agreed hierarchies in place in our set of relationships.

In practice, however, it’s not that easy. I think it’s human nature to look for structures and a way to understand something new and there is still one element which will, whether we realise it or not, give some guidance that forms the early parts of a multi-relationship dynamic; time.

It’s not something we can control; the facts are that Kirsty and I have been seeing each other for several years, whereas Clare and I, and Kirsty and Mark, have only recently passed the two year stage. For Clare and Mark, both entering new relationships that is something they’ve had to contend with and it’s natural to presume that the longer standing relationship holds more sway, weight and power.

Counteracting that requires a lot of clear communication that there isn’t a hierarchy at play and reassurance that each relationship holds the same weight as the other.

I know that some polyamorous and open relationships work within an agreed hierarchy, from what I’ve read it helps the people involved understand where they fit and allows for some relationship decisions to be made without involving each person (with clear communication around the decision of course).

For some people, the need for structures and clear rules around their relationships helps set and manage expectations, it can be helpful if there is a differing need within each set of relationships, and equally I have read that the primary/secondary style hierarchy offers the primary relationship some protection.

Equally I’ve read that the lifestyle I’ve chosen to be a part of being described as relationship anarchy but at that point we are veering into the deeper waters of the poly community to a place where each style, construct and format of relationship must have a label.

I’ve never been a big fan of labels, I’ve also never been a big fan of rules, even though I fully bought into the most accepted rule based relationship we know; monogamy and marriage.

Maybe I was lucky that during early chats about how we might approach being non-monogamous both my partner and I quickly dismissed the idea of a hierarchy. For me that allowed us the space for our other relationships to grow into whatever they needed to be, after all, how can you rule out falling in love with someone else?

Hierarchies may be right for you, and I know a lot of poly literature suggests it is something to look at but hopefully if you are open-minded enough to be looking at moving to a non-monogamous set of relationships, you’ll be open-minded enough to treat hierarchies as what they are, only one suggestion of how you could live your life.