There are amazing discussions about couple privilege that take place here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I direct you there to essentially learn about couple privilege before you read this post because I try not to restate things but to add to the dialogue on this subject.

As a brief recap: what we know is that coupled privilege is the benefits conferred to people on the basis of their partnership in a couple. Where this extends to polyamory is the position of privilege within an established primary relationship when viewed from an outside non-primary subject’s vantage.

Our society confers a number of benefits onto couples and there is a clear benefit to the institution of marriage such that it is sought by individuals that have been previously denied the right to marry. The benefits of joint taxes, finances, living arrangements, and a ‘family’ that conforms to societal expectations are as vast as the variety of ways humans who are not cohabitating with a partner that conforms to societal expectations can be penalized.

To a large degree. You only get the benefits of being in a heterosexual monogamous couple if you look like you belong to a heterosexually bonded monogamous couple. Even if you *are* in a heterosexual monogamous coupling… if you don’t look like it you will not confer these benefits and possibly face push back for assuming they might be conferred to you simply because you ARE what you are whilst failing to look it.

No human is at fault for the privileges that they have been awarded by society (unasked for) but the benefits of couple privilege often come at a price that is sometimes very high.

In abusive situations, the most common thing behind presence of children or pets that keeps an abused party with their abuser is the risk of homelessness and having nowhere else to go. Even if the abused party is responsible for their side of the finances and has those resources to draw on for themselves: couple privilege almost always affords us a better, more spacious, or more private living situation than we would have access to on our own. Feeling that we are sacrificing not just our relationship, pets or children when we leave but our way of life as we know it is part of the toxic gambit that couple privilege lays on us. Women are routinely affected by this but this power dynamic is not gender prohibitive, the roles can be fulfilled by anyone.

The idea of couple privilege in a non abusive sense, but rather an unintentional partaking of general harm within poly would be the alienation of a ‘secondary’ relationship  within the polyamorous doctrine where an established couple either seeks a partner for one or both members. Perceived threats from the non-primary relationship to the primary relationship or even just discomfort or inconvenience are viewed poorly within a view point that is saturated with couple privilege. But they operate on the assumption that a non-primary relationship COULD threaten a primary relationship. I believe people who are saturated with a fear of losing their specific privileges within a coupled sense are probably operating on a scarcity of love paradigm.

I sure as hell can’t find a source that discusses scarcity versus abundance the way I want to find a source that considers it. But lets let Brene Brown have a go at it. I *know* that there’s a discussion on it that comes from a polyamorous point of view but fuck me if I can find it.

Couple privilege comes with a price, that price is it’s fragility. The idea that a non-primary partner COULD threaten your existing relationship if they managed to take enough of it’s time and attention. The idea that your living situation is forever predicated upon your continued membership within the couple. The idea that your social standing as a person with a ‘successful relationship’ is predicated upon your membership in the couple. All these things combine to create a situation that can trap us in situations we aren’t well served by.

Couple privilege is a double edged sword that will cut you as easily as it cuts the path before you.

This is why I identify as a relationship anarchist. I’d be happy to enter into a non-primary relationship with someone that we negotiate what will constitute us each feeling loved by the other, and if my partner is unable to fulfill their obligations to me because of obligations to their primary partner there’s going to be as much of a problem as if my partner spends too much time fulfilling their obligations to me and drops the ball on their primary or other non-primary. It’s up to them to decide if they have room for another intimate connection in their life and communicate how I can fit with them to me.

I am a relationship anarchist because I reject a society where to get by and be ‘successful’ you must couple.

 

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