So, I’m reading some polyamory writings, including a bunch of definitions, which led me to a thought on the multiple things that people mean when they use the word ‘primary’ for a partner. Here are three that I’ve encountered (note that they are not mutually exclusive, and a lot of people use ‘primary’ to mean more than one of them at the same time):
- Some people use ‘primary’ to mean what I use ‘significant-other relationship’ for. So, a centrally important intimate relationship wherein all the partners have such feelings and have agreed that they have such a relationship status.
- Some people, for instance here, use ‘primary’ to mean ‘building a life together’ and such. I would probably use ‘life partners’ for this.
- Some people use ‘primary’ to mean people with whom you set rules about each other’s other relationships. I don’t have another word for this, but I think it would be good to have one, because it’s a very particular thing that it’s important to be able to talk about. Until I get a better word, I’m going to be using the term ‘bounds-primary’.
Personally, I don’t use the word primary much myself. If someone asked me if I had a primary/ies, I would say yes, meaning my significant others. I think being life partners with someone, for me, would necessarily also mean being significant others with them. And I don’t have a third-type primary/bounds-primary at all, and don’t really forsee having one, because I have a different relationship philosophy from the one that concept is part of.