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.

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