Happy Polyamory Day!
Though many people across the world are thriving in consensual polyamorous relationships, this relationship style is still surrounded by myths and misconceptions.
To celebrate Polyamory Day (23rd November), we want to use our voice to educate our readers about what it means to be polyamorous, the different relationship styles, and how to keep yourself safe in a polyamorous dynamic.
- What does polyamory mean?
- The different types of polyamorous relationship types
- The difference between polyamory and polygamy
- Healthy boundaries and consent in polyamorous relationships
- Tips for navigating a polyamorous relationship
- The takeaway
So, keep reading to learn more about polyamory so you can explore it yourself or help to uplift the community.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive into it!
What does polyamory mean?
Simply put, polyamory is a non-monogamous relationship style in which people mutually agree to have multiple romantic or sexual relationships. Unlike monogamy (where you have one partner), polyamory allows you to explore connections with more than one person at a time.
Typically (but not always), those in polyamorous relationships engage with their partners both romantically and sexually while knowing that they may have other partner(s).
Each partner consents to the possibility of other partners when they enter into the relationship. Consent and clear communication are integral to a polyamorous relationship, as everyone involved must be aware that it isn’t a monogamous dynamic.
Fun fact: Polyamory is also referred to as consensual non-monogamy or an open relationship.
The different types of polyamorous relationship types
Like all monogamous relationships, every polyamorous relationship is different and valid. However, there are some definitive types of polyamorous relationships. Here are the most common dynamics you can explore:
A hierarchical polyamorous relationship involves primary and secondary partners. The primary partners always take priority over the secondary ones.
This dynamic is most common for partners who live together, are married, or have families. With a hierarchical relationship, they can connect with partners in secondary relationships, but these partners won’t have the same priority as the primary person.
In contrast, a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship doesn’t have a ranking of partners whatsoever. Each partner is viewed equally, regardless of how long they’ve known each other and whether they have families or are married.
Solo-poly is a newer term and doesn’t have a set definition. However, it’s a very popular label, and it describes polyamorous people who:
- Are single but identify as polyamorous
- Those who are in polyamorous relationships and prioritise their own needs
- Those who are in polyamorous relationships and choose to live alone
The main takeaway of being solo-poly is your primary focus is on you rather than your partner(s).
A Vee relationship is where one person has two separate sexual or romantic partners. The name of this dynamic comes from the letter “V”, as it mimics one person and the two partners branching out from them.
This differs from the Triad dynamic, as the three individuals are not in a relationship. Instead, one person is separately involved with the two individuals.
Polyfidelity technically comes under the non-hierarchical relationship type. What separates this from classic non-hierarchical relationships is that all involved partners are exclusive. Once in a polyfidelity relationship, you shouldn’t be seeking new partners outside of your dynamic.
The main types of polyfidelity include:
- Triad – A relationship with three people (can be romantic, sexual, or both)
- Quad – A relationship with four people (can be romantic, sexual, or both)
Monogamous and polyamorous people don’t have to avoid each other! Mono-poly describes a relationship dynamic where a polyamorous person dates a monogamous person. This can also be called a hybrid relationship.
The polyamorous partner will engage in a poly lifestyle, but their partner won’t. Transparent communication is critical in a mono-poly relationship, as both partners need to meet their needs while respecting the other’s relationship style.
Finally, poly webs (aka polycules or poly families) refer to a group of people who are connected through polyamorous lifestyle choices. People in a poly web aren’t necessarily romantically involved with each other. They can simply be connected through mutual partners.
A poly web doesn’t have to live together. They may also live near each other and share date nights or household duties.
Poly webs and polycules are popular within the queer community, as they act as a “chosen family.”
The difference between polyamory and polygamy
Unsure about the differences between polyamory and polygamy? These terms sound similar and are often mixed up. However, they’re very different, and those who identify as polyamorous don’t always identify as polygamists.
Polyamory is the practice of consenting to multiple relationships and partners. These relationships are navigated with consent, and an ethical mindset, and the polyamorous community is made up of a diverse group of people.
Contrastingly, polygamy refers to one person who has multiple spouses. Unlike polyamory, polygamy isn’t an equitable form of nonmonogamy. Cultural or religious motivations often drive polygamy.
The most common example of polygamy is one man having multiple wives. This dynamic is usually unfair, as the wives aren’t allowed to take on other partners.
Not all polygamous scenarios are unequal. However, it’s important not to mix up polyamory and polygamy, as, on the whole, they’re very different lifestyles.
Healthy boundaries and consent in polyamorous relationships
Polyamorous relationships are fulfilling when everyone has the platform to express their feelings and boundaries. Honest and open discussions between all partners are vital.
Make sure you explore each other’s thoughts, values, and feelings. Everyone must feel comfortable and heard. You should also ensure that you’ve created a judgement-free atmosphere. Talking about boundaries and consent is a vulnerable topic for some, and it’s imperative that no one feels dismissed or criticised.
How can a poly-friendly therapist help?
Some polyamorous folk prefer to work with a poly-friendly therapist to establish relationship dynamics or work through issues with their partners. These coaches and therapists are specialised in the topic and can provide an unbiased and professional approach to help you discover what’s best for you and your needs.
Tips for navigating a polyamorous relationship
Are you interested in embracing polyamory? Here are some practical tips to help you navigate life with different partners:
- Be active about scheduling. Use a shared calendar (like TimeTree) to track each other’s schedules
- Work on jealousy and insecurity. It’s natural to feel these feelings, but you must work through them or find a healthy outlet
- Embrace the community. The online polyamory community shares tips and lifestyle advice, and you can learn a thing or two from these pros. r/Polyamory is a great place to start
- Reflect on what kind of connection you want. You might want casual partners. You may desire deep connections. All desires are valid – but you have to understand them first
- If it feels wrong, back out. Finally, you don’t have to be involved with any connection that doesn’t resonate with you. You don’t have to stick it out if you get a bad gut feeling
As we celebrate the beauty of polyamory and the vibrant relationships within the community, it’s essential to challenge the misconceptions about being polyamorous and these ethical relationships. Part of uplifting the polyamorous community is raising awareness and educating others. Share this blog with your friends and family to keep the ball rolling.
Want to continue your learning? Learn more about sex and relationships on the Vivastreet blog.