What Does it Mean to be Polyamorous?

What It's Like To Be Polyamorous
What It's Like To Be Polyamorous

An overview of the types of polyamorous relationships and how to navigate polyamory

Polyamorous is not a one-size-fits-all relationship style- it’s more of a mentality—a rejection of the assumption that relationships have to be monogamous to work. There are many ways to have romantic and sexual relationships, with pros and cons for each. It all depends on what’s best for you.

Polyamory particularly refers to people who have multiple romantic relations at the same time. It does not mean any kind of open relationship that may include more casual sexual partners. In several polyamorous relationships, each partner is aware of the other ones. Partners may also have relationships or friendships with several others.

Monogamy is Choice- Sometimes a Good One, Sometimes Not

Most modern relationships are monogamous, and that’s great! Choosing to have a romantic and sexual relationship with only one person is the best option for a lot of people. It means not having to feel jealous when your partner is with someone else, or worrying about getting enough of their attention to satisfy your own needs.

But this doesn’t mean monogamy has to be the default, or that wanting to have relationships with more than one person is unhealthy. Forcing yourself to be monogamous just because it’s the “norm” could lead to cheating, mistrust, shame, and guilt, or giving up on good relationships because it just didn’t feel like everything you wanted.

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Types of Poly Relationships

Being polyamorous sounds like relationship anarchy! But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be that way- unless you want it to. There’s an infinite array of what polyamory could mean to you and your partners, but here’s a small sample:

Open relationship: A lot of polyamorous people have one main partner, or “primary.” This is the person you spend most of your time with, live with, and marry! But sometimes, the perfect life partner for you doesn’t meet all of the needs you have in bed. In an open relationship, you can have sex with other people, but only have a romantic relationship with your true love.

Parallel relationships: On Tuesday, you’re over at Jeff’s house, and on Wednesday, you’re snuggling with Maurice and her cats. Jeff and Maurice might know about each other but aren’t necessarily close. These are two relationships running in parallel with each other.

Kitchen table poly: This is where you, Jeff, Maurice, and Maurice’s cats are all close with each other and eat together at the kitchen table- hence the name. Sometimes a kitchen table poly relationship is called a “throuple,” but it isn’t limited to three partners.

Is polyamory a sexual orientation?

Rightfully, polyamory is not acknowledged as an orientation. But the question of whether it should be is a subject of much debate, even among functioning polyamorists. For sure, many people in consensually nonmonogamous relationships believe it is their orientation, and core to who they are — such people often report struggling to find satisfaction in monogamous relationships before “coming out” as poly — but other partners, even those in long-term polyamorous relationships, still see it as a personal choice or lifestyle.

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Communicate, Experiment, Rinse and Repeat

How do you bring up the question of polyamory with your partner? Start by talking about what your needs are and asking them about theirs. How would it make you feel if your spouse had sex with another person? How would your partner feel if you went on a date with someone else? Would you both enjoy bringing another person into your existing relationship?

Feelings are complicated and change over time, so it takes a lot of communication and experimentation to figure out what works and what doesn’t. The first step is to ask yourself what your own needs are and if those are getting met. Relationships aren’t easy but staying dedicated to caring for yourself and others is a step towards figuring out what your ideal romantic life looks like.

Talking About Polyamory

If you’re trying to bring up polyamory with a possible new partner, here are a few key discussion starters to keep in thought:

Types of Polyamorous Relationships

Check out LGBTA Wiki

  • Open relationship: A relationship or marriage in which two partners are dedicated, but allow each other to have partners outside of their partnership. This would also include DADT polyamory and Geographical Non-Monogamy.
  • Pluriad: Also known as plurad. A polyamorous relationship where each person is in a relationship with all the other people.
  • Triad: Also known as triangle or delta. A relationship involving three people where each person is in a relationship with all the other people.
  • V Polyamory: A relationship involving three people in which one person is in a relationship with two partners who are not in a relationship with each other. Example: A is dating B and C, but B and C are not dating each other.)
  • T Polyamory: A relationship involving three people where the third person’s involvement causes the other two to be involved with each other. Example: B and C are both dating A. A’s involvement requires B and C to also date each other. Without A’s involvement, B and C would no longer date.
  • Quad Polyamory: Any polyamorous relationship involving four people.
  • N Polyamory: A relationship involving four people, generally two couples, where one member of one couple is also involved with one member of the other couple. Example: A and B are dating. C and D are dating. B and C are also dating, but A and D are not dating.
  • Full Quad: A relationship with four people, all of whom are involved with all of the other members.
  • Polycule: A very complex polyamorous relationship, usually with five or more people involved. The term is a portmanteau of poly- and molecule, referencing the complex shapes of some molecules.

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