A New Red Flag For Polyamorous Relationships

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

There’s a lot of red flags to look when you’re dating someone new, not limited to but including:

That said, in light of recent events, I think it’s time to add a new flag to the list. This is, admittedly, a very narrow flag, but I think anyone who’s paid attention to current events will agree that this is a danger sign of the highest magnitude:

  • They collect tigers.


  1. Doug S.
    Mar 31, 2020

    What context am I missing?

  2. PDV
    Apr 16, 2020

    > They’re in a “primary” relationship where the other partner has at-will veto power

    This should not be a red flag; it is, in my experience, a green flag. Primary relationships create clarity and make commitment explicit. Everyone I know who is polyamorous and doesn’t practice primary/secondary relationships has had one or more of their relationships explode into an acrimonious drama bomb within two years – and, of course, this drama bomb spread across the entire polycule. Either because a relationship had a severe mismatch in commitment/priority and this created ambient tension which eventually exploded, or because one of the participants changed their priorities and either failed to notice this or failed to communicate it, which eventually exploded when it blindsided their more-commited partner.

    As an example: My girlfriend has spent most of the last year dealing with the fallout of a relationship that was obviously primary but, due to her boyfriend’s issues with promises, never explicitly labeled as such. So when she got into a fight with his other live-in girlfriend, it was a complete mess because they had no clear expectations for which way he’d jump. She’s been silently relegated to secondary, which is most of the trauma of an outright breakup but without the ex-primary admitting he wronged her at all or even acknowledging that she has the right to grieve.

    Marking a relationship primary isn’t a change in rules, it’s an acknowledgment of commitments that already exist. Declining to label those commitments desn’t make them go away. It just lets them go unnoticed. And when some people see the commitment and assume it’s a given of the relationship, and others don’t, they’re living in subtly different worlds which will, eventually, collide.
    It’s not a substitute for communication, but it does reduce both the complexity and quantity of communication necessary, drastically.

    As a side note: Most poly communities have a thing about “no drama” being an unhealthy thing to ask for, incompatible with honest relationships. The community I’m in now, where almost everyone uses primary/secondary, has almost no drama; no one asks for it because they get it without asking. The drama that does crop up comes almost exclusively from the exceptions who refuse to label their relationships or, in one case, breaking the terms a primary partner imposed for her boyfriend’s secondary relationships. Even divorces haven’t ever created nearly the tensions that an everyday breakup in a rules-averse polycule creates. Drama isn’t an inevitable part of healthy polyamory, only of polyamory without relationship importance markers.

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