I’ve read a lot about “couple privilege” lately. After Jeannie posted Poly-Anna has left the building a lot of emotions were stirred up for several people. My initial reaction was, “What has she done?!?” But then, as with a lot of poly-life, I learned a bunch of new things. Despite the emotional roller coaster, I’m happy this all happened, and I’m better for it in the end.
See, here’s the problem with any “privilege” – it’s invisible to those that have it. I didn’t know from white privilege till the political world was turned on its head and racism came into the spotlight rather than lurking in the shadows. And the first time I heard the term “couple privilege” I probably rolled my eyes. Well, I’m definitely not rolling my eyes now. And if I weren’t mature enough to grow with my new knowledge, I’d be ashamed of my initial reaction.
Jeannie and I are a married couple. Because we’re married, and we are primary partners, there is a hierarchy (implied or stated) that any other partners of ours need to respect and follow. Oversimplified, this is couple privilege. It’s the fact that other partners are always at a “disadvantage” to the primaries.
Without knowing it, Jeannie and I were forcing our hierarchy onto others. Don’t get me wrong, having the hierarchy isn’t the problem, it’s how we might have been treating it (invisibly) that could be disingenuous. Thankfully for me, Justina is a relationship anarchist and is fine honoring our hierarchy as much as she doesn’t want one of her own. But she also expects to be respected as a decent and loving human being. Hardly too much to ask.
Meanwhile, I was totally blind to how other partners could end up getting really hurt while Jeannie and I would be making very reasonable choices for ourselves. Happily, this hasn’t happened (although we may have wandered dangerously close to that cliff by mistake.)
After reading two essays on the topic (here and here) I had some terrific conversations with Jeannie, Justina, and other friends in the poly world. The other thing about privilege is that once you know you have it, you truly can never forget it. I’m OK with this – I like to be kept in check!
Lastly and most importantly to me, Justina shared this long essay on the topic. It’s not totally on point for us (we’re not Unicorn Hunters) but it uses that modal to tell a story that is easily relatable. And then the key points are more easily identified. Even if you jump right to the last to sections, “Okay, how do you do this right?” and “Conclusion” there’s a lot to be taken from this essay.
The bottom line is that I think more about the humans in my orbit and about being honest with them. And being very honest very early. Jeannie will always be my first priority and I will always be very clear about this. At the same time, I’m not telling others “take it or leave it” and, instead, very interested in having a real discussion about what this means to all involved. After all, we don’t all need to be equals, but we all need to be clear on our needs. And need be treated with equal love and respect.