The ramblings of a 20-something disabled, queer, feminist, Irish kitty

Relationship Labels

So here’s the question; Does anyone ever benefit from labeling their relationships? Or is it only ever for the benefit of others? Because society demands it?


There are so many labels one can put on a relationship;- ‘dating’, ‘in a relationship’, ‘fuck buddies’, ‘friends with benefits’, ‘just friends’, ‘poly’, ‘primary’, ‘secondary’…


But how helpful are they really? How many people have ‘the relationship talk’ just so they know what to say to *other* people when they ask about their relationship? So there isn’t that awkward moment when someone asks; “So are you dating, or what?” or “So is he your primary then?”, or some such personal question. It’s always so awkward when someone asks you that before you’ve had ‘the talk’, and you pause, unsure what to say, because you know how *you* feel… but what if they don’t feel the same way, and oh god what if you say the wrong thing and it all blows up in your face…!!! (Okay so it rarely gets quite that panicky, but you know what I mean).

I’m asking all this because I’m thinking about having ‘the talk’. I’ve been putting it off, as you do. And I’m guessing I’m putting it off for the same reason most people do – fear of rejection. It’s an awkward conversation purely because you’re sitting there waiting for the other person to confirm your worst fears – that they don’t feel the same way.

At first I thought it was a conversation that only had to happen once per relationship. But I’m slowly realising that that is not so. I’m not sure whether that’s just because I’m poly, or if the same is true of monogamous relationships. I don’t suppose it really matters though.

Either way, I’m realising that relationships, like any other organic thing, change over time. Peoples feelings for each other change, which especially when polyamorous, can seriously affect the dynamics of your relationship.

The more I think about it the more I think that it’s a more relevant thing for poly relationships. I know not everyone likes the terms ‘primary’, ‘secondary’, etc. but they make things easier to define on some levels, so I use them, if only some of the time.


Now down to the situation in hand. Because this isn’t just random 3am ponderings, but a question stemming from a current personal situation.

What do you do when you have to finally give in and reevaluate your poly relationships? Who do you talk to first? How do you negotiate, for lack of a better word, swapping the labels of 2 partners?

Situation *was* this; Partner A started off as my ‘primary’, and partner B was my ‘secondary’. Partner A then started seeing a ‘secondary’ and partner B had a ‘primary’. But, as is life, things have changed. Partner A lives in a different country. Partner B broke up with his ‘primary’. Even before that, relationship with Partner B was becoming more serious by the day. Now Partner B and I have moved in together. And Partner A and I talk less and less frequently.

In a way the solution seems simple. Partners A and B have effectively swapped ‘places’ if you like, and therefore so should their labels. Yes?

But how do I go from making my own mind up, to discussing it with each of them? What if one, or both, disagrees?

For the record, I have at least vaguely mentioned the issue to both partners, but with no real agreement made. Partner A seemed okay with it, but may have been lying just to please me. Partner B refused to talk about it. But that was a few months ago.


So, now I’m contemplating bringing it up again. But dreading it.

What do I say?

Who do I talk to first?

Fuck it, maybe I should just make them both read this!!!


But now to the society question…

It’s something I’ve thought about before, in general terms. And now I’m asking myself again: Am I trying to label my relationships for my own sake, or simply because that is what society demands?

I have been asked by others (not very often, but still), what label I put on my relationship with Partners A and B. Not in those exact words, but… Poly people ask “which one is ‘primary’ and which one is ‘secondary’?” Mono people ask “what the fuck?” (not quite, but you know what I mean!)

Then there’s the parents… I could write entire posts about the parent issue (and probably will), so for now I will just give an overview: My parents are Catholic. Therefore inherently disapproving. I hide things like being poly, bi, etc. from them, if for no other reason than because telling them would only hurt them. So I can’t tell them I have two partners. So I have to choose

The choice has already been made, so this isn’t a question, merely a fact that affects the overall question of ‘the talk’. First I told them about Partner A. We were dating, etc, etc. In their eyes it became more serious the longer I stayed with him after moving to a different country. Logically, no one would keep up a long distance relationship if it wasn’t serious. Because they knew about Partner A, and because they knew about Partner B’s fiancee, I couldn’t tell them about my relationship with Partner B, and had to pretend we were just friends. But the more serious my relationship with Partner B, the more I worried about having to tell them. And then the day came. I had to tell them I was moving in with Partner B… By default this will mean I will have to tell them I have broken up with Partner A, but that we are still friends. This really sucks 😦 But I see no alternative. Those of you with Catholic parents will understand.

And on a far less important note, but still there… there’s Facebook…!

Just another societal pressure… At the moment, my relationship status still says I am in a relationship with Partner A. But especially since my parents now think that this is not the case, sooner or later the day will come that I will have to change it to say I am in a relationship with Partner B…

To me, the worst part is how this will affect Partner A. How do I tell him that I will have to do this? I hope it will not hurt him too much.

This probably sounds stupid, worrying about Facebook statuses… But such is the problem with societal norms. People expect things of us. And especially since moving country, Facebook is my main source of interaction with people back home. So no matter how stupid and insignificant it may seem, it still has some impact. It still must be factored in. I must still conform to society’s expectations of me. Or at the very least, my parent’s.

And the Catholic guilt really doesn’t help. But again, I could write entire posts about that, so maybe I shouldn’t expand on it just yet!


So there you have it. These are the reason I feel I must have ‘the talk’.

But no. I stop and ask myself – am I only feeling this need due to society? Or is there another factor?

And the answer is that I think it would be beneficial on a personal level as well. I have been feeling somewhat insecure in my relationship with Partner B ever since his break-up with his ‘primary’. And his refusal to discuss the situation last time I tried to bring it up *really* didn’t help, and does not exactly fill me with confidence for trying again.

But that’s just it. Last time I tried to bring it up it only served to make me more insecure! So how do I find the courage to broach it again? Sure, if he agrees it will make me feel wonderful. But if he disagrees… it will devastate me.


I know I must do it…

But how?

And when?


Comments / advice welcome.


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