Hierarchical Polyamory is a form of polyamory in which a person has multiple partners, but those partners are not equal in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, and/or power within the relationship. Typically, people in these hierarchical relationships tend to use the terms primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary, to describe the levels of importance and commitment. One may prioritize their primary partner(s) above other relationships in regards to time commitments, vacations and holidays, going to family functions, and other important events as well. Secondary or tertiary partners may not be taken into account when big decisions are being made. Typically, in this type of relationship, the level of commitment is determined by how long one has been in a relationship, so one's primary partner(s) are typically the longest standing relationship. Secondary and tertiary partners have not been in the relationship for as long. Another more specific form of hierarchical polyamory is a competitive relationship.
As with all relationships (polyamorous or not) consent and communication is vital for this to be a healthy relationship type.
In a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, primary refers to the person (or people) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement or entanglement, or sometimes the person considered the most important. Typically this is a couple, though one may have multiple primary partners. It is also commonly the longest standing relationship one has. The partner(s) that one shares finances with, lives with, or co-parents with will commonly be considered the primary partner(s). Primary may be prioritized above other relationships in regards to time commitments, vacations and holidays, going to family functions, and other important events as well.
In a hierarchical polyamorous relationship, secondary refers the person (or people) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship that is given less in terms of time, energy, and priority in a person’s life than a primary relationship, though more than in a tertiary relationship (if tertiary is used in this relationship). Secondary partners may not be taken into account when big decisions are being made. If one has not come out as polyamorous, one may not talk about their secordary relationship(s).
In a hierarchical polyamorous relationship tertiary refers to the person (or people) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship that is given less in terms of time, energy, and priority in a person’s life than a primary or secondary relationship. Generally tertiary relationships quite casual and little is expected in terms of emotional support. They may also be very limited with respect to time, energy, or priority in the lives of the people involved.
It is unknown when the term was coined, however it has been in use amongst the community since December 30, 2015.
The hierarchical polyamory flag was created by NonMonoPrideFlags on DeviantArt on December 30, 2015. The flag used the colors of the polyamory flag but has a different structure to show the difference in power between partners in a hierarchical polyamorous relationship.
The primary, secondary, and tertiary flags were also created by NonMonoPrideFlags on December 30, 2015. They were redesigned by the user Pride-Flags on June 17, 2016. The primary flag uses gold along with the roman numeral for '1' to symbolize being the relationship being "first". It also used red, yellow, and blue- the primary colors. The secondary flag uses silver along with the roman numeral for '2' to symbolize being the relationship being "second". It also used orange, green, and purple- the secondary colors. The tertiary flag uses bronze along with the roman numeral for '3' to symbolize being the relationship being "third". It also used red-orange, blue-violet, and yellow-green- tertiary colors.