I Suggest You Mate

I’ve been trying to come up with another name for inner circle big L, life partner committed type lovers. I don’t like “primary”. I don’t like primary for a bunch of reasons.

Life partner is just too damn long and kind googly.

Partner in general doesn’t work because a partner could be any kind of relationship. It doesn’t imply any commitment.

Sweetie or Honey could be someone you’ve dated a week or a lifetime and also doesn’t really replace primary because they can refer to people you have sex and friendship with, or are deeply bonded to. These would be more synonymous with “partners”.


Primary as a term is problematic because it implies the existence of secondaries. Then you have to have discussions about if you can have more than one primary because primary kinda hints at top or first and one and only, even if many believe you can have more than one primary. There’s hierarchy and veto power and the implication that primary means singular or at least better. Primary seems to say “I will hold this person, my primary, my number one, above all others. If I have a primary and you date me, you will always be second to them, whether I call you secondary or not. Primary seems to say that others will be treated less well or some people rank lower. It’s too.. numerical. It’s too.. ranking.

I like the idea that relationships are fluid and that connections aren’t really ranked, but that there are some connections that have weight. There are some special people in life that we commit to or deeply bond with. I’d like to have the good stuff of primaries without the crap. I’d like to give the primary commitment without the primary term price tag.

matesMy husband is and always will be special to me. If we make it, and it looks like we may.. ahhhh.. counseling and working it out. 🙂 If we make it, I’d like to have him always as my primary, in the way that I mean primary. We have a history and a commitment. We have memories and love and shared life, years of experience bonding, time we’ve put in, property, daughters we’ve raised, investments, years of friendship and love. He is an inner circle big LOVE connection. If I date 100 people over the next million years, I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t ever want to replace or get rid of him. If I alone designed our future it would transform from Hubby and SeattlePolyChick against the world to Hubby and SeattlePolyChick and Roller Girl and Great Date and… against the world. I don’t want to be Hubby’s one and only or have him as mine, but I do want us to stay committed, loving, and dedicated and I’d like maybe a few others to be in that inner circle too. I’d also like to continue to date and sexual variety and a variety of connections. I’d like a term that is better than primary to refer to those people I am bonded with and committed to and with whom I spend my life.

I propose the term “mate”. Below are some of the meanings of the term mate according to Freed Dictionary by Princeton. I made ones specific to my use RED.

I know.. I know. Mate means more than one thing. But here’s the deal.. one of those things it means is exactly what I am talking about. Mate can be a friend (British) or a Naval ship member, but it also means the sexual partner or sexual bond of an animal.

mates4I like that mate is a scientific term to refer to a kind of relationship that I am talking about when I personally talk about primaries.

To me a primary isn’t someone that I hold above all others necessarily. They do however mean a lot to me. It’s a member of my inner circle of trust. I may or may not marry or live with or have a family with these people, but they are loving dedicated, committed relationships. They are people I’d take care of if they were sick and I’d hope they’d help me. I wouldn’t screw people over for them, but I would invest a lot in them. These are my high investment relationships.

So, this is how I would use the term “mate” as a noun. I like mate because it’s a scientific word for what I’m talking about. I like it because it’s also gender neutral and can be any kind of relationship.. husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend whatever. People can refer to their gender queer homosexual switch they share their life with as their mate just as can someone who is religiously married to someone or somebodies.

It’s slightly problematic because of the alternative meanings of the word to, at the very least, the British people and their surrounding countries and the American sailors. I get that.. and then there is the idea of mating as just sex, which is not really the meaning of primary or primaries, but it would stick in some people’s heads that way.

So.. I love the term mate but am open to other terms that would replace the term primary.

mates3Any thoughts?

Noun 1. mate - the officer below the master on a commercial shipmate – the officer below the master on a commercial ship

ship’s officer, officer – a person authorized to serve in a position of authority on a vessel; “he is the officer in charge of the ship’s engines”
2. mate - a fellow member of a teammate – a fellow member of a team; “it was his first start against his former teammates”

associatea person who joins with others in some activity or endeavor; “he had to consult his associate before continuing”
3. mate - the partner of an animal (especially a sexual partner)mate the partner of an animal (especially a sexual partner); “he loved the mare and all her mates”; “camels hate leaving their mates”

animal, animate being, beast, creature, fauna, brute – a living organism characterized by voluntary movement
4. mate - a person's partner in marriagemate – a person’s partner in marriage

better half, married person, spouse, marriage – people who are married to each other; “his second marriage was happier than the first”
consort – the husband or wife of a reigning monarch
domestic partner, significant other, spousal equivalent, spouse equivalent a person (not necessarily a spouse) with whom you cohabit and share a long-term sexual relationship
helpmate, helpmeet a helpful partner
honeymooner, newlywed – someone recently married
5. mate - an exact duplicatemate – an exact duplicate; “when a match is found an entry is made in the notebook”

match, duplication, duplicate – a copy that corresponds to an original exactly; “he made a duplicate for the files”
6. mateone of a pair or set; “he lost the mate to his shoe”; “one eye was blue but its fellow was brown”

singleton – a single object (as distinguished from a pair)
couplet, distich, duad, duet, duo, dyad, twain, twosome, brace, pair, span, yoke, couple – two items of the same kind
7. mate - South American hollymate – South American holly; leaves used in making a drink like tea

holly – any tree or shrub of the genus Ilex having red berries and shiny evergreen leaves with prickly edges
8. mate - informal term for a friend of the same sexmate – informal term for a friend of the same sex

frienda person you know well and regard with affection and trust; “he was my best friend at the university”
9. mate – South American tea-like drink made from leaves of a South American holly called mate
10. mate - a chess move constituting an inescapable and indefensible attack on the opponent's kingmate – a chess move constituting an inescapable and indefensible attack on the opponent’s king

Verb 1. mate – engage in sexual intercourse; “Birds mate in the Spring”

nick – mate successfully; of livestock
conjoin, join – make contact or come together; “The two roads join here”
bonk, do it, eff, fuck, get it on, get laid, have a go at it, have intercourse, have it away, have it off, have sex, be intimate, lie with, roll in the hay, screw, sleep together, sleep with, make love, hump, jazz, love, bed, bang, make out, know – have sexual intercourse with; “This student sleeps with everyone in her dorm”; “Adam knew Eve”; “Were you ever intimate with this man?”
tread – mate with; “male birds tread the females”
service, serve – mate with; “male animals serve the females for breeding purposes
breed, cover – copulate with a female, used especially of horses; “The horse covers the mare”
2. matebring objects, ideas, or people together; “This fact is coupled to the other one”; “Matchmaker, can you match my daughter with a nice young man?”; “The student was paired with a partner for collaboration on the project”

bring together, joincause to become joined or linked; “join these two parts so that they fit together”
3. mate – place an opponent’s king under an attack from which it cannot escape and thus ending the game; “Kasparov checkmated his opponent after only a few moves”


  1. i can think of several possibilities, but all of them have their own issues. I tend to just use ‘partner’ for everyone I’m involved with, with the occasional ‘boyfriend’ ‘spouse’ whatever when it feels right. I figure my partners and I understand our relationship and it really isn’t anyone elses business unless we are talking about starting a relationship, in which case I’d better be willing to take the time to make sure we are on the same page anyway!


  2. We three use “spouse” for each other, and “lover,” “sweetie,” for folks who are not (yet?) in the “marital-type relation” category. However, I do use the term “primary” as a shorthand in conversations. I don’t always want to have to explain everything, even to other polyamorists.


  3. We three use “spouse” for each other, and “lover,” “sweetie,” for folks who are not (yet?) in the “marital-type relation” category. However, I do use the term “primary” as a shorthand in conversations. I don’t always want to have to explain everything, even to other polyamorists.

    That said, I’ve BEEN a “secondary” on numerous occasions, and seem to be (recently) one of the few who has never gotten upset at the term—probably because I WANTED to have a less-entangled, “secondary type” relationship with those folks, and they with me. 🙂


  4. I agree that this is a conundrum. Even in a monogamous relationship, I feel weird saying “boyfriend” at the age of 30. Also, partner is frequently assumed to be of the same sex variety. Besides the fact that the English language simply fails at providing the perfect word to describe a deep romantic connection. Perhaps a new (invented) word is in order?? 🙂


  5. I totally relate to this dilemma. I don’t ever use “primary” (or “secondary”), and generally refer to both of the men I’m committed to for life as my partners. But when I talk about them individually, I still tend to say “husband” or “boyfriend,” which is starting to feel not quite right to me partially because I feel it implies a hierarchy between them (when the reality is I’d marry both if I could), and also because the term “boyfriend” itself is starting to feel not exactly appropriate for someone I’m sharing my life and home with. I think lately I’ve just been referring to them each as a partner more often than the separate “husband” and “boyfriend.” I think, personally, I’ll reserve “partners” to refer to these two… but then I don’t know how to refer to less deeply committed relationships.

    Language…it’s inadequate!


  6. I like the term Dear One to describe someone that I’m dating, that I have a good amount of connexion & herstory with & that I anticipate I will continue to have in my life. I don’t use the term loosely. For others that I’m still getting to know better, with whom I’m building connexion & herstory, I use Lover. I have used the term girlfriend too. Usually the choice of pronoun I use is selected in conversation with the target of my affections. She needs to be comfortable with it too. Nicknames aside, many words are charged with expectation, especially from people outside of the relationship. So how we choose to refer to each other in public spaces can require some negotiation.


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