Love and Fairness

April 10th, 2016

Recently, a friend posted about how all love is different. For instance, you love your mother differently than you love your child. Or you love your first boyfriend differently than you love your best friend. More specifically, she was addressing that in poly relationships (or any relationships, really), that you love each person you are involved with differently, because each person and each relationship is different. This post led to discussion from other posters about fairness, priorities, and value.

Whenever I hear the phrase “X is not fair,” I instinctively respond with Westley’s quote from The Princess Bride: “Life is not fair, Highness, anyone that tells you differently is selling something.” On the stage show, we often refer to “fair” as a dirty four-letter word. Life, love, work, play, nothing is “fair” for everyone, because resources are not infinite.

Love is love, it cannot be measured, weighed, or examined, it simply is, so I do not believe it can be judged “fair” or “unfair.” Actions may seem fair or unfair, and certain people may judge these actions and say that one would not act that way if they “really loved them.” Or others, I have seen, say it’s “unfair” that a person won’t give them a chance to love them. Let me state right up front here, I don’t believe anyone is ever obligated to “try to love” someone that do not wish to. Nor do I think that a person should be asked to “prove their love” in a way that harms another. So, I am proceeding with the understanding that “fair” does not apply to love, and that people have free choice.

So, let’s talk about priorities and value. People have priorities in life, and they place value upon a wide variety of things. Some poly relationships are described as Primary, Secondary, etc. and it seems to be understood that the Primary has top priority, Secondary next, and so on down the line. These designations do not mean that the secondary is loved less, or even valued less than the primary. It can just mean that the primary has priority.

I typically see this in that the Primary are the couple who live together, and so they are financially, socially, legally, and familially obligatied to one another, and so their stability, and needs must take priority to preserve that household. Often, because if there is catastrophe in that household, no other relationships could exist. This does not mean the primary can preempt plans of the secondary on a meaningless whim, this is disrespectful to all parties. However, if there is an emergency, this could mean the secondary’s plans may get cancelled. One would hope, however, that if the secondary had an emergency, the primary would give over priority to them, as well.

I’ve heard in some cases, where a secondary feels it is “unfair” that the primary gets to spend more time than them with their mutual partner, that it must mean they are worth less to that partner, that they must love them less than the primary. Once again, I would state that priorities are not a measure of love, just a measure of resource distribution in a world that is full of obligations and short on time.

Let us also not forget, that a person sometimes has to hold themselves as a priority over their partners’ wants. If an individual is not taking care of their own needs, they cannot be a good partner. It may seem “unfair” of a partner to cancel on you because they need to go to bed early, but it can also be “unfair” to insist they come over when they are too tired to drive. It does not mean they love you less than their bed, it just means that bed is their priority in the moment.

Other comments I have heard are about the “unfairness” of mutual partner doing X or Y for partner A, but not for partner B. I feel that this has more to do with communication. If there is something you want and are not getting, you need to ask for it. If mutual partner does not want to do it with or for you, talk about why and see if there is a compromise to be reached. It may be that they did not know you wanted it, or it may be that it is a special thing, reserved for partner A, but there is something else available to partner B that will work just as well. Or, it could be that it is not something that person wants to do with partner B, in which case, partner B will have to decide if they can do without it from that partner or if there needs to be a change in the relationship.

Remember, every person, relationship, and love is different. Trying to make them “equal” or “fair” will typically only bring heartache to all. Revel in the differences and explore what they mean to you.

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12 Responses to “Love and Fairness”

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