I’ve always loved labels. Ever since I was little, I loved to organize, and labeling was fun. It did upset me a bit, that though I was for the most part fully content with my past relationships, few if any really actually accepted the terms “boyfriend/girlfriend.”
It wasn’t until I really got into polyamory did I date a guy who actually called me his girlfriend. That was awesome, for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I do love being his girlfriend…the excitement of the term just started to wear off. What about the other relationships? What are they called?
Many poly people use the terms “primary” and “secondary.” Ethical Slut defines these terms:
- The people they live with in a marriage-like arrangement are “primaries,” the people they love but don’t live with are “secondaries,” the people they enjoy spending (often sexual) time with, but aren’t necessarily in love with, are “tertiaries”
I just don’t really like that though. I live alone. Does that make any of my relationships really less valid? Are all of my relationships “secondary” or “tertiary”? Many may say so…but now that I actually think about it…I hate that label. Just because I live alone, I can’t be in a “primary” relationship?
One of my “guys” asked me something along the lines of what my different relationships are like, or how he compares. I just stumbled…”each of you is unique, in your own way.” I didn’t really know how to describe it…I didn’t really want to describe it. They’re all special, in their own way.
A friend referred to one of them as my “FWB.” Well, what exactly is a “friend with benefits”? Where is the line? To me, an FWB is like a “fuck buddy,” someone you don’t really necessarily even care about.
To me, there are two different kinds of love that I feel for someone. I generally only feel one at a time, though over an extended time, the type can switch back and forth. There’s a more sort of “romantic love” that feels sort of extra special, and what I think of a “friend love” that is not necessarily any less strong, but perhaps a bit less mind-consuming. This is similar to some things I’ve heard about old married couples becoming less romantic, but still BFFs.
It’s because of this, that I was a bit taken aback by the use of “FWB.” Whether or not I’m “in love” with a partner doesn’t automatically reduce them to a FWB…it’s just different…somewhere between boyfriend and FWB.
For a while, I did embrace the terms “primary” and “secondary.” I considered one most special. However, after thinking about it some more, I really dislike these terms. I dislike the term boyfriend (ok, not really), I dislike the term FWB (except when it truly is more of a sex-only fling). Some polyamorists use the term “sweeties” to avoid the hierarchical labels…but that feels a little too mushy for me. Should I go back to the term I used before I embraced polyamory, and juggled various casual open relationships and call them “my guys” or “my boys”? Should I use the term some of my friends jokingly use: my “harem”?
Labels aren’t important, but words are useful. Everyone has their own preferences, and I guess I’m still working on figuring out mine.