Primary/Secondary? Open/Closed? Some Polyamory Terms?

When talking about relationships in polyamory, you will probably hear some words you know but are used in a context your not familiar with. Let’s look at four of these terms and their meanings.

Primary Partner- the partner(s) given priority in time and energy in a relationship. Includes sex and emotional support and may include long term commitments and plans. Most time and energy is spent on this relationship.

Secondary Partner- a partner that is secondary in terms of time and energy in a person’s life in comparison to the primary relationship. Can include emotional support and sex but may or may not include long term commitments or plans. Less time and energy is spent on relationship.

Open Marriage (Relationship)- Partners allow their (primary) partners to have boyfriends or girlfriends (secondary partners). They may or may not interact with their secondary partner. Partners may allow veto power to their primary partner. Ex: Eddie allows Jill to date. She dates Phil but her primary relationship is with Eddie.

Closed Marriage (Relationship)- Partners do not allow their (primary) partner(s) to have boyfriends or girlfriends (secondary partners). They only interact their primary partner(s). New partners may only be added with the approval of everyone or not at all. Ex: Eddie, Jill, John and Sarah are in a closed relationship. They do not date anyone outside their group. Eddie grows closers to a co-worker and approaches the group about possibly dating her. The group votes no.

Polycule- Complex inter-connected polyamory relationships involving primaries and secondaries. The relationships may or may not link through different people. Ex: Jill is dating Frank and Lisa. Lisa is married to Eddie. Frank is in a “V” with Jessie and Juliet.

The type of polyamory combinations can vary from relationship to relationship.  Check out Polyamory Combinations for different types of polyamory relationships.

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