Dumping Hierarchy in Poly Relationships: I Very Much Disagree

Just in case you think I’m just a hater, I have been Polyamorous for 47 years. (i.e. my whole life) I have worked primarily as a psychotherapist for the Gay, Lesbian, Trans, Queer, Poly, Kink, and Alternative community for my whole 25 year professional career. I am also Queer with a capital Q.

However, I very much disagree with the Poly community members that do not have this depth of experience that are calling for a non hierarchical Poly being the “only Poly”.

Folks, we ain’t ready.

Many of the Poly folks I know and work with are still figuring out how to successfully relate with others. Period. (Me too at times.) To take having access to hierarchical language to describe and define our relationships taken away from us and non-hierarchy being the “only true Poly” I think is a problem – and here is why.

Hierarchy is not inherently evil. There I've said it. And I am a woman that grew up up on that evil hierarchy equals Patriarchy stuff. However I do not see any interpersonal evil in being clear about the depth and level of one's commitments with others. Confusing that with patriarchal hierarchy is not useful and wrong.

To move from a standard such as Monogamy to a totally new system for most of us requires bridges to our “old” thinking. The majority of folks I meet just considering or trying a Poly structure are still reeling with the social and personal issues that emerge when considering this kind of sea change. To then tell them one of the only ways they can make sense of how they are relating to long term partners versus new partners is to have everyone totally equal is too much, too soon and is not helpful.

Not only that, we humans need structure. Structure is not bad. It can keep us sane. To tell a newly Poly person – or even imply – that unless they see all their relationships as equal is against how many if not most of us work. We all need structure.

In addition, it is not realistic. My main partner and I have been together 25 years. Twenty Five Years! Can I get an amen here? Who these days is happily married and raising kids for 25 years straight and still loves each other madly? Yet, non-hierarchical Poly would tell me I have to treat my new part time lover I have known for 15 days the same as my main man or woman. That is not only realistic but wrong!

So, yes, I very much disagree.

Tracy Deagan LPC-S, LCSW-S