Primary? Alpha?

So… Primary, secondary, even tertiary are terms that are very commonly used in the world of polyamory. Surf the topic almost anywhere, and they will pop up. A quick check of our glossary here will show that we do not use those terms on This was one of the longest debates that we had over the glossary. In point of fact, we found ourselves revisiting it again, just a few days ago.

We heard a very good presentation on poly by Shanna Katz. I especially liked her personal “relationship map” as a path to self understanding. She defines primary in a bit of a different way. She explained that, to her, there is no ranking implied by the terms as she uses them, no hierarchy, but rather they explain her use of her time and resources in each relationship. Later with PolyAnna, I took the devil’s advocate role, wondering if maybe, defined in these terms, we might put them on the website. It didn’t fly.

PolyAnna and I are just unable to separate ourselves from those ordinal numbers. Primary sounds too much like first place, and anything else is something less than first. Even if it is a way to determine where one should spend their time and resources, we rankle at even the implication that one relationship is above, or better than, the other.

We find the use of alpha and beta, especially as demonstrated in the animal kingdom, such as the dynamic of a wolf pack, or a pride of lions, better than numbers, but only marginally so.

So, I have an idea. This is your chance to try and educate us. We are always open to (and actively seeking for that matter) guest blogger submissions and lively comments.  I would personally welcome submissions on the topic of alternatives to appearing to rank our relationships by numbering them.

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