Prisoner's Dilemma and Primacy

Date: 2003-06-11 06:33 pm (UTC)
Poly relationships are not zero-sum games, so Prisoner's Dilemma doesn't work well with it. In poly, everyone can win if everyone takes extra care to guard everyone else's feelings. Of course, people can lose, too, despite everyone's best intentions. Relationships are complicated and are not easily quantified or optimized.

Prisoner's Dilemma does not apply to poly relationships because it assumes that the various people care only about themselves. That's not true in poly. You're looking out for the other person's safety, too.

The optimal solution, in my very educated opinion, involves one couple designating each other as "primary" and then all other partners take a secondary role. Any other solution sets up a potential for very painful situations when someone has to choose one partner's feelings over another's -- and thus choose a primary for that situation. If you set up the expectation of primary before-hand, then it's an easier pill to swallow for the partner that gets left without primary support.

My typical example is this: By some strange and evil coincidence, within the same hour in different states far apart, each of your partners gets hit by a car. Both of them need you badly. Who do you go take care of?

You cannot have two primaries. You can only have two secondaries. If you choose no primary, than neither partner gets the emotional safety net of knowing that there is someone in their life that puts them before all others. Meanwhile, you have two partners who put you before all others. It's a bit greedy, really.
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