We are not alone, but are biologically wired and evolutionarily designed to be deeply connected to one another.
I’ve never been able to stop love once it starts. I grow things to their limit. Like an overzealous plant sending out runners in every direction. Choking the garden with roots.
I don’t hold back. Because I don’t know how. I love a truly irresponsible amount.
And that’s how, in 2011, I wound up as a girl with not one, not two, but three primaries.
“That’s not how the whole primary partner thing is supposed to work,” Megan said.
“You have one primary. And the rest are secondaries or tertiaries.”
“I know that’s what you believe,” I said.
“One of them is actually primary,” she said. “The others are more aspirational. I get it. You don’t want anybody to feel inferior or left out. It’s because you care about people. It’s sweet.”
But I didn’t feel like I was being sweet. Or charitable. Or trying to be fair. I genuinely felt as though each of them owned my entire emotional inner life. It was crowded in there but exciting. On most days, the pressure was welcome, like a full body hug.
And later when the metamour from Hell and untreated depression wreaked havoc on two of those relationships, I felt devastated.
Like two-thirds of my heart had been amputated.
What We Whisper and What We Don’t
As Leslie Becker-Phelps writes:
Not all humans are monogamous, of course, but even open marriages tend to depend on a central, primary bond: We need to work together to survive. We’re a social species because nothing but a deep bond of love keeps us together when we need it most — back in our own infancy, and way back in the infancy of the human species.
It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times, even in non-monogamous circles: You get one really deep emotional connection; the rest are ancillary. Subordinate. And eschewing the use of hierarchical language (primary, secondary, tertiary, etc) is more of a courtesy than anything else. Even some relationship anarchists openly denounce hierarchy as a system (and sometimes completely opt out of labeling relationships altogether) while quietly subscribing to that same ideal: There is a certain level of connection where you can treat everyone as equals, but past that point? You end up with a favorite.
Not shouted loudly, mind you.
Instead, it’s whispered in confidence. Around a trusted few. Met with knowing nods, everyone acknowledging secret preferences.
Walking it back with: “Time and attention are finite. It rarely comes up exactly even. And pushing it to be that way is a waste of energy.” An addition that brings it up to the mouth of respectability. So that everyone can be comfortable once again.
But I can’t forget I heard it.
And for me, it’s never been true. I believe in co-primacy. In simultaneous deep bonds.
I wonder about that sometimes, why that is. Do I have more space for things to grow because my early life was such a desert? A stray kid looking for someplace to belong, welcome many places, but always standing at the periphery of someone else’s life.
Is there more room in my heart because I grew up emptier than most?
And if so, will I ever be full?