Hierarchy in Relationships

Time to roll the dices?

written by
last updated
April 8, 2021
mins read

You’re serious about exploring ethical non-monogamy, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory or however you call navigating multiple intimate relationships in a way that doesn’t make anyone involved feel “it’s cheating”.

You’ve done the homework: read a few books (hello Ethical Slut, More Than Two, ouch! Check out the backstory and drop it for Rewriting the Rules), sifted through subreddits and even attended a few sharing circles.

You’ve had the uncomfortable conversations with your partner, the one your friends and family see as your personal “The One”, you’ve gone through the what ifs, the we shoulds, the but thens, the what abouts.

You’ve (re)discovered online dating and it’s enhanced awkwardness now that you‘re part of a unit that shouldn’t be here, you’ve tried different setups, approaches and their respective combinations.

Out of nowhere a poly person match pops up. At last! You won’t have to explain what you’re looking for to someone who will 1/ ask voyeuristic questions 2/ judge you and 3/ unmatch you.

“Do you practice hierarchical poly?”

Is this judgment material? Are you about to be unmatched? You try to think about what you’ve read, discussed but have yet to practice and sense it’s a loaded question: part of you wants to say no, part of you is scared to say yes.

Yesterday, with a few members of LVRSNFRNDS, we had a conversation where everyone was invited to say anything coming up to their mind when hearing that prompt word: “hierarchy”.

Overall feeling: hierarchical doesn’t do well with ethical. Especially the practice of veto power given to primary partners who could technically put an end to relationships where they are nothing but a metamour. Unfair much.

Can alternative relationship dynamics do well without rewriting each and every rule engrained in us by society? Starting with the idea that someone, “the one”, should be above everyone else.

Considering partners as unique and plural folks as we are, co-creating unique relationships complementing each other, there should be no need for practising hierarchy but than in occasions when you need to pick someone.

Say you’re invited to a wedding ceremony with a plus one, who do you bring? How do you choose? Given that in an ideal world, you don’t have to care about your friends and family judgement, this can go two ways.

Best case scenario, only one of your partners is actually interested in attending this ceremony with you. Easy! Not so good case scenario, more than one of your partners want to be your plus one.

You can go solo but let’s say you don’t want to. What’s giving you a headache is how to be fair, you want to be ethical. What if you cannot manage to find a way to define what is fair?

Like in this example, you’ll find yourself in situations where striving to be fair won’t do much but give you headaches and probably get you into complicated paths where you’ll find it hard to deliver in a consistent way.

I am not saying you should not strive to be fair. My two cents: in situations where you find it difficult to figure out what’s fair, ask yourself if delegating the decision-making process to a third-party would not make things easier.

How? A pair of dice should be just what you need. Thoughts?

our take.