Living as a Single Secondary: What’s a primary, anyways?

According to the often-used definitions, I don’t have a “primary” partner. I am in a long term, committed relationship with a married man, and we are pretty firmly off the “relationship escalator”. Our dynamic will not progress in more traditional ways – marriage, living together, etc. – because that’s not the way this relationship works for us. And that’s okay.

My life as a single secondary has been a bit of a struggle, to be honest. I’ve spent many years feeling adrift and impermanent, and the lack of that more stable connection gets stronger every year.

What am I really looking for, though? Do I need that “primary partner” to satisfy my needs? I don’t actually think so.

This topic has been on my mind quite a bit of late, and I’ve come to a few conclusions. It’s not the romantic connection that I miss. It’s the knowledge that I’m in relationships that are actively, willfully planning for me to be around and part of them indefinitely. Finding a job that I enjoy and will stick with for more than a year or two, finding a place to live for the forseeable future instead of always looking for something newer and better, creating dynamics with friends and lovers who will consistently plan for me to be a part of their lives years down the road – these are the things I’m looking for.

My life is full of impermanence. I’m currently working for a temp agency, I’ve only been in my current living situation for about 3 months, and I sent my cat – my sole source of constant companionship throughout my life in Cleveland – to live with my mother because the new house couldn’t have her. This all boils down to a lonely sense of being set adrift on a somewhat regular basis.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my current situation! My job is fun and exciting, and they’re looking to hire me on permanently within the next month or so. My housemates are comfortable with my lifestyle and incredibly friendly. I’m meeting new people, making new friends, starting new relationships – but because all of it is still fresh I still feel quite alone sometimes.

My current partner is incredibly supportive and loving, and I am so grateful for the time, energy, and money he puts into supporting me when I need it. I’m just one part of the incredible plate of responsibilities he balances, though, and sometimes I need more than he has the bandwidth to provide. This is when I realize that my network of close, intimate friends isn’t actually all that close. The other people I rely upon for emotional support and energy tend to be scattered all over the country – and some even overseas. I’m grateful for their love and friendship, but there’s a definite lack of physical comfort in these dynamics, which contributes to the sense of isolation.

So what do I need here? What kind of dynamic am I truly seeking to meet these needs?

Surprisingly enough, I don’t think it’s necessarily a romantic one. I’m looking for permanence, not a husband, and that opens the doors wide for all kinds of options. Perhaps a more permanent roommate situation – something that is approached with due intention and respect and with the intent to be long-term. Likely the best option for such a thing would be someone whose chosen lifestyle is similar to mine. There is still the option of gaining a “primary” partner, someone willing and eager to mesh our lives together in that way. And then there’s the idea that several of my poly friends have brought up – the poly community co-op idea, where each person has their own space, but there’s a communal kitchen/living area for all to share. One friend suggested an apartment building in Chicago, another suggested a sprawling country-ish property full of tiny houses/living spaces around a main shared space – a poly compound, if you will. This idea appeals the most strongly to me, I think, because of the inherent sense of community that comes from being surrounded by people who inherently understand the way I live my life a little better while still allowing for personal, intimate space. Also, tiny houses are my favorites. 😀

I’m becoming more articulate about what the needs are that I’m trying to fill. Now I just need to find a way to do so, and find the right people to share it with.

Solo time: Why is it so hard?

Hi. I’m poly, and I like to be alone. I don’t like to do things alone, though, for some odd reason. It’s so hard to work up the motivation to go take myself to dinner, or go see a movie or anything at all without a companion. Why?

I ALWAYS enjoy it when it happens. I love the way it feels to be solo, to be independent. I love the feeling of being unhindered by someone else’s preferences, even though I rarely have strong preferences of my own anymore. I take enjoyment out of my company instead of the activity, and this means that I’ve had to get comfortable in the company of myself.

This isn’t a thing we’re socialized to do. We’re bred to be social creatures, and it’s in our DNA to seek the companionship and security of a tribe. It’s an active struggle sometimes to cope with the thought of being solo, though some of us take to it more quickly and easily than others.

I find that when I crave solo time, I tend to want to be completely alone in a room. I want quiet, Netflix, and maybe a cat. Part of it is a desire to shut off my brain with escapism, and part of it is that I actively need to not deal with people when I’m replenishing my spoons.

And yet, there’s a different kind of recharge that comes with doing things on my own. I feel more confident, more interesting because I’ve experienced things alone. I have more to talk about, more dimension because I can face the world by myself. I don’t need a posse to make things possible – I can do that on my own.

I find that sometimes I fall into the shadow of my partner and his wife. We do a lot together, and I sometimes hesitate to find my own way. They’re comfortable and safe, and the world outside is sometimes so cold and unwelcoming. As with all things in my world, though, when I change the conversation a bit it becomes much easier. The world isn’t scary – it’s new every day, with fresh things to explore. It’s not cold – it’s a puzzle to be cracked, a 3-D picture to be seen.

Why, then, is this so hard to remember? Why can’t I just internalize this thought process and keep this momentum going? Perhaps I just need to do it more often. Maybe I need to schedule date nights with myself to make sure I have the time and space for it. Maybe I need to take myself out to brunch and a matinee some weekend. Maybe, just maybe, I need to fall in love with myself again, and ride that NRE into habit.

Sixteen Again

I’ve recently made a conscious decision to fall in love with the world without reservation, without hesitation. I’m letting the feelings grow as they will without trying to guide them. I feel like I’m in high school all over again, but with the self-awareness to not be an utter fuckhead about life.

We all had the same overwhelming feelings growing up: the bone-deep ache of fresh attraction, the giddiness when flirtation is reciprocated, the way the world falls away at that first kiss. I’m feeling them all over again, but this time I’m not tumbling around lost in the current. I’m smooth, solid, letting them roll over me, feeling them deeply and completely, and then letting them wash away.

It’s absolutely heaven here in my inner universe, and I feel like it’s expanding at an amazing rate.

There is no pressure here. No agenda. I’m letting myself fall in love with new people, new places, the world around me. It gets easier every time, and soon I hope it becomes second nature.

The difference here is that I know what’s happening and I’m not being driven by imbalanced, raging hormones. I’m an adult, with a settled core personality, and I have the ability to separate the joy of loving someone from the relationship and agreements I have with them. I can revel in the feelings without holding that person responsible for maintaining anything for me, because expectations and relationships are agreed upon by all parties involved. My feelings, when experienced this way, are entirely internal. Sure, they inform my interactions with those around me – but loving someone doesn’t mean that being with them is a good idea, and I can separate those two things. I can love them without needing to be with them.

It’s an amazing study in loving without attachment. I’m definitely growing invested in people, and I utterly adore the thought of keeping these new people in my life for years and years to come. That’s not a requirement, though. I can experience this world of emotion inside me, inspired by these lovely people, without expecting a damn thing from anyone.

What happens when I WANT attachment, though? How do I navigate the changed landscape of a new relationship with this approach?

Consciously, intentionally, and with compassion. I know that most of the world won’t meet me on my emotional playing field, so I have to be prepared to translate the rules of my world into something compatible.  My investment grows amazingly quickly, and I have to accept that it’s incredibly unlikely that a new partner is going to get attached as quickly as I have. That’s okay! I don’t mind that, because that’s when we talk about what we want from each other – what we can provide, what we crave, what we need, and where our needs and desires intersect. Setting realistic expectations allows me the freedom to experience love freely within that framework of behavior, and I can present my love and affection in ways that my partner(s) find appropriate and meaningful.

My inner universe heavily informs my world, but it doesn’t dictate my behavior. Sixteen year old me didn’t understand the difference, but thirty year old me definitely does.

Neapolitan Romance Topic of the Month: I discovered poly…

…later than was really ideal. My relationships up to that point were generally rocky, because being monogamous felt disingenuous to me, and yet I knew of no other real options. I spent years trying to shoehorn my wants and needs into a relationship structure that just didn’t work for me. I cheated a few times, and I’m not at all proud of it.

Then I packed up my world on a whim, moved to Cleveland, and met N. He changed all my definitions for the better.

He introduced me to the concept of polyamory and why it worked for him, and suddenly the universe made sense to me. I discovered that it was actually okay for me to love more than one person at a time, and I didn’t have to make grandiose promises of eternal fidelity to make a partner happy. I could let life happen, explore what was amazing right in front of me, and make plans accordingly.

It was heaven.

My first poly experience was ideal, really, at least for a while. I started dating N, fell madly in love almost straight away, and then he introduced me to H. H was gorgeous and wickedly smart, and I fell for her in short order as well. When I wasn’t crashing with N, I was crashing with H, whose wife L was about as generous with her time and effort as I could have ever asked for in a metamour. It was an absolutely incredible introduction to the lifestyle.

These people taught me how to balance dynamics, how to talk to metamours, how to approach new relationships with openness and love, and how to truly follow my instincts for the first time in my life.

Though those relationships didn’t last, I am forever grateful for the lasting impact they had on me. The incredible warmth and openness that I experienced in my first poly relationships has helped to shape the way I approach my dynamics.