Poly-Pedia: What is Couple Privilege?

In a broad sense, privilege can be defined as an advantage that one person has over another person that isn’t specifically earned. Within the context of polyamory, couple privilege can be defined as any unfair, non-consensual or non-negotiable advantage that an established couple enjoys over a new partner who has been added to the pre-existing polycule.

This can include the creation of unilateral rules or ultimatums which restrict the new partners autonomy or freedom in their relationship, invade their privacy, or essentially deny them equal footing in the polycule.

What’s the difference between couple privilege and ERE?

Couple privilege is not to be confused with ERE (established relationship energy), which is a heightened level of trust, communication and intimacy between an established couple which is a normal and healthy product of long-term committed relationships.

By contrast, couple privilege is what happens when that heightened position in the polycule is used to abuse or restrict any newer members.

How can couple privilege be avoided / mitigated?

It is important to note that when couple privilege is abused, it often results in unilateral and non-negotiable rules that secondary partners have no choice but to abide by. However, if a new poly couple agrees on a boundary, and this boundary is communicated to all new partners early in the relationship and agreed upon, this does not qualify as an unfair advantage.

Consent, negotiating power and open communication are key to avoiding couple privilege.