By the numbers

When I talk about my partners, and my partners’ partners, I use numbers. This is purely for anonymity’s sake, and should not be confused as any sort of hierarchy within the family. I’ve been meaning to say this for a while for the sake of clarifying, but it suddenly became a whole lot more relevant.

I had a major conflict with #2 this weekend, and it all seems to stem from the idea that #3 is more important to me that she is. This perception stems from the very real fact that I hold the two of them in equal status in my heart, and #2 was expecting that she should hold a higher position because we have been together longer, and live together. Yes, from a practical standpoint, she does hold a position of more importance because we share a house and expenses, but from an emotional vantage point I do not hold her any higher or lower than the others. This displeases her. 😦

In fact, all three of the ladies feel that I should hold #1 highest in my heart. I feel bad for disagreeing, but I do. Would you ask any parent to love the oldest child more than the youngest? Why am I being asked or expected to love one mate more than another based purely on amount of time spent together? I do not understand this.

The same holds true when I refer to #3’s #2. I refer to him as such because I was involved with #3 before him (from my perspective… he is actually an ex of hers from years ago). I do not expect her to accord him a lesser status. Indeed, I suspect he holds a higher status, though that could just be NRE, coupled with the fact that he’s rarely in town, and so when he is in town, his immediate needs outrank most of mine, which can wait until he is gone again.

I just wish I could figure a way to resolve this issue with #2. Her perception that I love #3 more may not be real, but her hurt is. And I cannot fix it by proving she is an equal, she wants to rank higher, and my heart does not work that way. I’ve told #3 I need some time to work on this (without explaining what “this” is, which I think would damage things further), and so I will not see her this week. She was understanding and more than willing to help in any way that I ask. I’m hoping that my doing this helps #2’s peace of mind in some small way. I’m not sure what more I can do.


~ by polywolf on 2009/11/09.

4 Responses to “By the numbers”

  1. Do be a little careful leaving the “this” hanging out there as an unknown. Humans have a propensity in our minds to fixate on the worst possible scenario. While you mean that you need to work on how to help her feel more loved, and understand the way that you love, and how that doesn’t diminish the love you feel for her in any way, she might think “this” is actually the relationship as a whole and that you’re considering if you want to keep things going in the same way or possibly not at all.

    I know it’s a considerable leap and certainly you might have made the situation more clear in your conversation than here, but I only mention it because “better safe than sorry”. And I’d hate for there to be much greater stress going on than is true in the situation. 🙂

    Best wishes on working through it all.


  2. Thanks for the feedback and well-wishes, Holden. Yes, I think I communicated pretty clearly with #3 that it just issues with #1 and #2 that I’m working through. I’m not sure how much clearer I can make it anyway, without letting her know that the issue #2 has is concerning her presence/place in my heart. I think letting that out would cause a whole lot more hurt feelings and possibly irreparable damage to the relationship as a whole. Definitely not the path I want to take, as I still have some hope that things can be salvaged at this point. (I’m such an optimist…)

  3. I have found that understanding that I am a completely unique individual that can’t possibly “compare” to anyone else is what removes the need for “ranking” in my relationships. I’m never afraid that someone loves her more than me because he loves us both DIFFERENTLY because we’re different people. I can never take her place, she can never take mine.

    It would be like asking him to decide what he loves more, apples or LAN parties. Huh? They’re 2 different things. How can he love one more than the other? He loves them both DIFFERENTLY and therefore can’t rank one as higher than the other. They hold different positions in his life, different needs, different functions. And it doesn’t matter that he tasted apples years before he ever played at a LAN party.

    My partner does not love his wife “more than” he loves me, simply because he’s been with her for longer. He loves her as he loves HER and he loves me as he loves ME. It’s not a question of “more” or “less”. There are different practical priorities, but that has nothing to do with the amount of “love”.

    For instance, naturally when making decisions based on money, he considers the impact on her first, because they have entangled finances. That has nothing to do with how much he loves either of us.

    He loves her as he loves his life-partner, the woman he decided 20 years ago he would grow old with, the woman he has 20 years of shared experiences with. He loves me as he loves a good friend whose friendship has deepened into a romantic relationship and is building a completely different set of shared experiences with, filled with activities and conversations and viewpoints that are unique to me and to our connection.

    There is no comparison. I will never be her and she will never be me. And that’s the beauty of polyamory, that we can have these multi-layered and complex relationships with people, all of whom enrich our lives in their own, unique, way.

    This kind of conflict, btw, is one of the reasons I refuse to use anything even resembling numerical value or ranking or hierarchy. Even if I don’t *mean* it like that, it’s too easy to associate numbers with rank in one’s mind. If I need anonymity, I use online names, initials, or descriptors of the relationship, like “my LD partner” or “my live-in sweetie”. Online nicknames are easiest for me, but initials suffice when even that is too much publicity for the situation.

    I also recommend suggesting that each person (including yourself) go read all of Tacit’s writings on Specialness (most are located on and some are on

  4. One further point of clarification. I only use the numbers here, and none of my partners is aware of the existence of this blog. Otherwise, I would not feel able to speak so candidly.

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