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What is Polyamory?

Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships where individuals may have more than one partner, with the knowledge and consent of all partners. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy".  The term should not be confused with polysexuality (attraction towards multiple genders or sexes).

The term "polyamorous" can refer to the nature of a person's relationships at some point in time or to a philosophy or relationship orientation (much like gender or sexual orientation). The word is sometimes used in a broader sense, as an umbrella term that covers various forms of multiple relationships, or forms of sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive. Polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved, though there is disagreement on how broadly the concept of polyamory applies. An emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic. As of July 2009, it was estimated that more than 500,000 polyamorous relationships existed in the United States.


People who identify as polyamorous typically reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships. Those who are open to, or emotionally suited for, polyamory may embark on a polyamorous relationship when single or already in a monogamous or open relationship. Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships, which commonly consist of people seeking to build long-term relationships with more than one person on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationships. In practice, polyamorous relationships are highly varied and individualized according to those participating. For many, such relationships are ideally built upon values of trust, loyalty, the negotiation of boundaries, and compersion, as well as overcoming jealousy, possessiveness, and the rejection of restrictive cultural standards.




Wikipedia: Polyamory

Showtime Series: Polyamory

FAQ: More Than Two

Huffington Post: Spark Chaser or Long Burner

BBC: Polyamorous Relationships May Be the Future of Love

FAQ: Love More

Huff Post: Inside Look at Open Relationships

CNN: When Three Isn't a Crowd

The Atlantic: Multiple Lovers Without Jealousy

If You're Thinking About an Open Marriage, Consider This First

Glossary of Polyamory Terms

Psychology Today: 7 Forms of Non-Monogamy

Polyamory Society

15 Honest Reasons Couples Choose to be Polyamorous


Poly Definitions


According to the Polyamory Society, Polyamory is defined as, "the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultanously. Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time. Polyamory is an umbrella term which integrates traditional mutipartner relationship terms with more evolved egalitarian terms. Polyamory embraces sexual equality and all sexual orientations towards an expanded circle of spousal intimacy and love. Polyamory is from the root words Poly meaning many and Amour meaning love hence "many loves" or Polyamory. Of course, love itself is a rather ambiguous term, but most polys seem to define it as a serious, intimate, romantic, or less stable, affectionate bond which a person has with another person or group of persons. This bond usually, though not necessarily always, involves sex. Sexualove or eromance are other words which have been coined to describe this kind of love. Other terms often used as synonyms for polyamory are responsible, ethical or intentional non-monogamy."


Poly Books


Ethical Slut: Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Advrentures by Dossie Easton

More Than Two: Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory by Franklin Veaux

Opening Up: Guide to Creating & Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino




A polyamorous relationship isn’t about sex; it’s about building a romantic relationship with more than one person at a time.  Some poly relationships, called “polyfidelity” relationships, have rules not much different from a traditional monogamous relationship, only there are more than two people involved. A polyfidelitous triad, for example, may have three people involved, with one person sexually active with the other two, or even with all three people sexually involved with one another. However, nobody in the relationship may take an “outside” lover, just as neither partner in a monogamous relationship is allowed to have an outside lover; if you do, it’s cheating. Cheating, if anything, is a more serious offense in a polyfidelity relationship than in a monogamous relationship—because if you cheat, you are betraying more than one person’s trust.

Other polyamorous relationships may permit the people involved to have “outside” lovers under certain circumstances—often, for example, only if the outside lover is approved beforehand by everyone involved, and only if the outside lover knows the nature of the relationship.

The individual relationships within a polyamorous group may be very complex, as well. In many cases, there may be one “primary” couple—a husband and wife, for example. Either or both of those people may have outside lovers, but those relationships are “secondary” in the sense that they involve less involvement in the partners’ day-to-day lives than, say, a marriage does.


(From More Than Two)


Swinging, Free Love, Cheating, or Polygamy?


So polyamory is like swinging?  Not exactly. Swinging has a different focus. Swingers focus on recreational sex, though friendships and deeper bonds may develop. With polyamory, deep relationships are the focus, though the sex is often fun.

So, you have another partner on the side?  No. That is something different as well. The technical term for that is “cheating.”

The thing that defines a polyamorous relationship is that everyone involved knows about, and agrees to, everyone else’s involvement.

If you are married, and you have a girlfriend that your wife doesn’t know about, or that your wife suspects but isn’t sure about, or that your wife knows about but isn’t happy with, you’re not poly, you’re cheating. Similarly, if you’re banging the milkman while your husband is out of town, you’re not poly, you’re cheating.

Polyamory is defined by informed consent of all the participants. Without it, it ain’t poly. If you can’t invite your lover over to Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of your family because you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing, it probably ain’t poly.


Didn’t this whole “free love” thing die out in the ’60s?  Many folks remember that movie about free love, "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice."  In truth, "free love" never really existed, even back then.  But that’s irrelevant. Polyamory isn’t free love. All these different flavors of polyamory have their own dynamic, but ultimately, they are all about building relationships, not about sex.

Okay, so they are about sex as well. After all, most romantic relationships do involve sex, and poly is about romantic relationships. (Not for everybody, of course. There are folks who have romantic relationships without sex. But often, for many of us, romance does include some element of sex.) But the point is, it isn’t just the sex.  And the idea of polyamory predates the ’60s, anyway. In fact, it’s at least as old as human history. Examples of non-monogamous relationships can be found in many places at any time throughout history.

Isn’t this all some sexist, misogynistic, male-dominated Fundamentalist Mormon thing?  No. The image that many people have in their heads, of one man with many women (as in the HBO series, "Big Love') is technically “polygyny.” Polygyny (from the Greek poly many + gynos woman) is the form of polygamy where a man can have more than one female partner, but women are not allowed to have more than one male partner.

In societies where polygyny is practiced, women are usually seen as little more than property. Since people have this mistaken notion of polyamory, it’s easy to understand why they think “polyamory” means “disrespect of women.”

But polyamory is not polygyny. Polyamory applies equally to everybody. In an ethical polyamorous relationship, the same opportunities are afforded to everyone, regardless of their sex. Polyamory is not about collecting a bunch of women for your harem. Polyamory is about sharing some part of your life and sharing your love with more than one other person—and your lovers sharing some part of THEIR lives and some part of THEIR love with more than one other person.


(From More Than Two)


Polyamory vs. Polygamy


Think there is no difference between polyamory and polygamy? Think again discover the difference.

In the world of relationships, the terms polyamory and polygamy may sound similar, but in actual fact there are several key differences between the two that people need to be aware of. What follows are some of the main ones and the hope is that by the end of it you will have a far better understanding about not only the terms, but also the lifestyles associated with the terms. Hopefully by the end of it you will see that.

First, the term polygamy basically means "many marriages" but it can also relate to having a number of relationships where there is a sense of having some kind of spousal commitment to a number of people at the one time.

This is a term that is perhaps used most when people are talking about the Mormon faith or Islam where a man is able to have a number of wives at any given time and it is this aspect of a number of marriages that makes it different to polymory. In both of these religions there will, therefore, be religious doctrine that discusses it in detail whereas with polyamory this is certainly not the case.

The term polyamory instead means "many loves" and the relationship aspect in this type of lifestyle does not mean that marriage exists, but instead the person has some form of a serious relationship with a number of people at the one time. This can, therefore, mean that they may date one person whilst living with another, but there is no sense of any formal certificates or paperwork that show they are in some kind of a serious relationship with anybody. It is also worth pointing out that whilst polygamy is often linked to religion, the same cannot be said about polyamory.

Another difference between the two is that polygamy does tend to only refer to the act of a man having more than one wife and it is, therefore, based on gender. Polyamory is open to any mixture of numbers and genders so it is just as common for a man to be in a relationship with several women as it is for a woman to be in love with several men. It should also be pointed out that polymory can of course involve people of the same sex as well whereas this won't be possible with polygamy due to its strong links to religion and culture.

It is also generally true that polygamy has a tendency to last longer like normal marriages, but with polyamory it is more about the moment and living in it and this means it may last for weeks, months or even years depending on the people involved which is similar to swinger couples or open relationships. The term "till death do us part" certainly only applies to one and over a lifetime the person involved in a polyamorous relationship can have a number of partners whereas the polygamist tends to be limited to only a few.

Finally, it has to be said that people do tend to have the point of view that there are cultural differences between the two, but in actual fact this is not actually the case; however, how both approaches are viewed can be different. It is perhaps true that in certain cultures and countries the idea of having more than one wife would not cause a stir and indeed it is common practice, but the idea of having more than one relationship is one that may indeed be frowned upon. There is also the idea that even in countries or cultures where polygamy is not allowed that there is a better understanding of it whereas the same cannot be said about multiple relationships at the one time.

So those are the key differences between polyamory and polygamy and you should know see that they are not as similar as you may have initially thought and indeed those that practice either of them would certainly agree that they have entirely different approaches to life. However, it is fair to say that a number of people will still have the same negative opinion about both lifestyles, but due to now having a better understanding of the two maybe you will be able to accept why some people do indeed wish to live this type of lifestyle.


(From Your Tango)




What's the Difference: Polyamory and Polygamy

Polygamy, Polyamory, Polygyny, Polyandry, and More

Poly Coach: Non-Monogamy and Open Relationships


Relevant Information












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