Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Something has been making its way into my consciousness over the past several months. As we've been discussing the concept of hierarchical or organic poly with various people, it's become rather apparent that even within the organic poly segment of the community, where there are no overt rankings used (like primary, secondary etc), there is indeed an ordinal system in place. The difference is that the ranking is emotional rather than practical.

When speaking with someone who is more organically poly, it is pretty common to hear the idea of having "each relationship progress to the level it is capable of reaching" being a motivating factor. There are, ostensibly, no limitations on how deep and full a connection can become, because there is no system in place to define what relationships are prioritized. Each can then achieve it's full potential in a unlimited landscape. Makes sense, yes? After all, it's not like you can choose what your emotional connection with a given person is going to look like in advance, right?

What I'm seeing more and more is that organic poly operates on more of an emotional ranking system, than a practical one. "This relationship is most intense for me right now. I feel the most connection with this person, therefore, I am choosing to spend more time and energy on this relationship currently." On many levels, that seems like a good plan. You spend your resources where you feel most pulled to be. On the other hand, the idea that you aren't ranking your relationships at that point is silly. You might not be putting words to it, or having an implicit agreement about it with anyone else, but you are definitely attaching emotional "numbers" to the relationships you have. It's just happening in your heart and mind, not verbally.

Theoretically, this may spare someones feelings. If you never actually say it out loud, it isn't as real, and, after all, next month, you may very well feel differently and have a shift in your priorities, so no one feels less valued. This isn't about how much you value a relationship though, it's about where you are feeling compelled to put your resources in what proportions.

There's also the concept that each relationship is just "different", rather than applying a priority to one over another. This can be very true, depending on how you process emotions. I tend to work a bit more on this level. PG and S are different people, and I feel differently about each connection. The intensity is pretty equivalent, on completely different wavelengths. I tend to approach prioritization on a "need" basis. If I, or they, have a particular need for something, that takes a higher priority than a want, or a routine.

People prioritize tasks for a reason: to accomplish key things in life with the time and energy available. There is nothing wrong with this. It's an important skill to avoid becoming swamped. Why not be genuine with that? I'm sure that many organic poly's already do this, but in the event that it's been an unconscious system to this point, this could be an opportunity to take a look at how your relationships are feeling, and what your responses are to that, and share that information with those that would benefit from being enlightened about what is going on in your head and heart.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say that I have a ranking system, emotional or otherwise. Priorities are assigned on a case by case basis, not a person by person basis. If #1 wants help with a project, and #3 calls to say she's stranded on the interstate and needs assistance, #1's project can wait... #3 doesn't outrank #1, but her immediate need outranks #1's immediate need.

polyfulcrum said...

This is a great point! Yes, that resonates with me as well. Whoever has the highest need at a given point generally gets the time and energy. It's really helpful when they ask for it though. ;)

Where I've found some dissonance with dating partners has been with ones that are child-free not being as understanding about sick kids, or rearranged babysitting, and how that might impact a pre-arranged date. Sometimes that means we can't go to the kinky sex party, but you are welcome to come over and spend some time with me after bedtime.

Plan B might not be as fun or flashy as Plan A, but the kids come first, not because I wouldn't rather be fully engaged in Plan A, but because they can't take care of themselves solo yet.