Oh, how I love words.
Words hold power. A word can instantly represent a thought, an idea, a concept. I find language fascinating and beautiful. All at once, a word can mean different things to different people, and there is no better example of this than when learning the language of PolyLand.
Let’s look at the word Secondary.
I have never had so many conversations about an individual term, it’s meaning, it’s implications, or it’s effects on a community, as I have with this single word in the last two years. I came into the Poly world, bright eyed and idealistic. I didn’t particularly love the word secondary, but it didn’t bother me either. After all, I thought, that’s what I was. Not first. Secondary.
As I slowly got my footing in the poly community, both locally and online, I became more aware of the baggage and assumptions tied to this word, especially from couples in a primary committed relationship. Ironic, but this is the power of language. It can be subjective. It can be limiting, and it can be misleading. If my partner were to say, “I have a primary, and I have a secondary,” there is a myriad of meaning behind those words. Some of it may be accurate, depending on who you are and what your experience and interpretation of those roles is. Much of it will be inaccurate.
This is especially damaging, when an established couple sees the Secondary role, as disposable in the big scheme of things. (The big scheme of things being that their “Primary” bond is always, always the priority, and must be protected at all costs, even at the cost of the secondary. Because secondary is not as important as primary.) There may be rules and mandates placed on the secondary relationship in an attempt to clearly delineate boundaries, and regulate feelings. The secondary is seen as temporary,or transient. Disposable.
I am secondary. But I am not second. I am not “less than”. I am cherished and important, and I am a priority. There came a day when Special Man Friend turned to me and said, “You really are my Other Significant Other. Don’t forget it.”
The power of those words hit me hard. I had bought into the Secondary terminology, and all the expectations, no, all the limitations, that came along with it. On that day, in that moment, I released the labels, and all the definitions that I had allowed other people to put on me. I may still use the word here and there, but I use it without judgement. In fact, one of my most popular posts uses this term. But my relationship is mine, and it stands alone, it is not defined by you, or by your words, and it is not less than simply because I got here last.