“I’m not asking to be the center of everyone’s attention,” you say. “That’s not it at all. We’re all grownups. We have lives. I have several major priorities myself. I get that I’m not always going to be top of mind or put ahead of things. Especially Great Big Survival Things. But…”
I wait through the but.
“I don’t want to feel like the lowest one, I guess,” you say. “And he’s always treating me like I am. It would be okay if it were just the one time that I came last. I can think of situations where I did that to someone else. I think everyone can think of a situation like that if they think hard enough. They can think of a time that they didn’t prioritize someone who is generally important to them.”
I nod. I sure can.
“But the trouble is that I’m always the lowest priority. Consistently. In every situation,” you say.
“That’s rough,” I say. “That has to be so hard.”
“And it’s especially hard because the words and actions don’t match,” you say. “It reminds me of that article you wrote on sneakiarchy.”
Sneakiarchy (alternative spelling: Sneakyarchy) is basically a portmanteau of sneaky and hierarchy. And that’s exactly what it is, sneaky hierarchy. Sneakiarchy is hierarchy that isn’t presented honestly but is secret, sneakily implemented, and not expressed or acknowledged.
In fact, the sneakiarchy is instead usually explicitly denied.
The person who engages in sneakiarchy says to their partners, “I don’t believe in hierarchy. I treat all of my partners equally.” And yet, if an unbiased third party were to survey the situation, it would become clear that some partners are definitely consistently prioritized over others. There’s at least descriptive hierarchy going on (and possibly even a prescriptive one, depending on the particular case).
Sneakiarchy can be particularly emotionally damaging. The dishonesty involved can easily erode the trust to a point where the relationship completely fails. And being continually told one thing but being shown another can exacerbate a person’s underlying insecurities to the point where they constantly doubt themselves and are suspended in a state of limbo and emotional anguish.
And I can see my friend’s anguish that words and actions not only don’t match — but haven’t matched in a very long time.