For some people, relationships work one way. You meet someone, you date them, you decide they’re the one, and you stay with them. That’s monogamy.
But monogamy isn’t for everyone. Some people identify as polyamorous. What does that mean? Well, it means a lot of different things because not everyone who identifies as polyamorous has relationships the same way. Because of that, it’s hard to find just one definition. The dictionary defines it as ,“the philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time.” But, as with all matters of the heart, a dictionary definition can’t quite capture what it means and how it feels.
Let’s break down what this mysterious term means, starting with some common misconceptions.
What It Isn’t
Polyamory and open relationships are not the same thing.
Polyamory and open relationships are two separate concepts that can go hand in hand. You can be polyamorous and in an open relationship, but you can also be monoamorous and in an open relationship. Polyamorous people love multiple people, but monoamorous people can love only one person but have causal and often sexual relationships outside of their primary relationship.
Polyamory is not cheating.
It’s unfortunate but there are people who believe that polyamory is an excuse to cheat on their primary partner. The thing is that, when you’re polyamorous, you have no primary partner. Polyamorous relationships fall under the category of ethical nonmonogamy. That means that every person involved in this form of a relationship is aware that the others exist and they consent to this form of a relationship. If you’re in a relationship and your partner doesn’t know you’re seeing other people, yes, then you are cheating.
Polyamorous people aren’t just looking for sex.
To be honest with you, I’ve met people who say that they are polyamorous and I’ve later found out that they’re just looking for casual sex. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what polyamory is really about. Polyamorous people often have multiple partners at once, but they can develop feelings for those partners. There is often an emotional connection that can turn into a very long term relationship. In fact, plenty of poly people are also asexual, meaning they’re only looking for that emotional connection, not a sexual connection.
Polyamorous people aren’t afraid of commitment.
Commitment can be scary, whether you’re monogamous or polyamorous. But people don’t become polyamorous to avoid commitment. In fact, poly people are often committed to multiple people at once. Not all polyamorous relationships are open. Many are closed and the people in those relationships commit to not dating outside of their relationship. Those relationships are often called thruples or triads, but there can be more than three people in these relationships.
Polyamory and polygamy aren’t the same thing.
These words may sound alike but they are very different things. For the record, polygamy is illegal. Polyamory is not. Polyamory is loving multiple people. Polygamy is marrying multiple people. A lot of polyamorous people never get married or they marry one of their partners even though they have multiple other partners. But they don’t marry all their partners.
What It Is
Polyamory is real.
I want to start with this fact because it’s very important to understand. There are people who think that polyamory is an excuse to sleep around or just get a lot of sex or even cheat on a partner. It’s important to understand that none of that is what polyamory is about. Polyamory is about loving and feeling an emotional connection with multiple people. Some people just feel unhappy in monogamous and monoamorous relationships.
Polyamory comes in multiple forms.
And one form is not better than any other form. Some people enter triads. Maybe is a triad of all women, maybe of all men, maybe of two girls and one guys, maybe of two guys and one girl, or many different combinations. Maybe they are asexual, maybe bisexual, maybe pansexual. (This would be a closed, polyamorous relationship.)
Other people have multiple relationships, of equal love and importance to them. Sometimes it’s a triad who also date other people outside of this relationship. These would be an open, polyamorous relationship.
Polyamory can work, even if it can’t work for everyone.
Some people just weren’t made for polyamory. They might feel protective over their partners or feel jealousy when knowing that their partners are with other people. If you’re in a relationship and your partner is polyamorous and you’re unhappy with the situation, talk it out. You might not be compatible if one is poly and the other is not. It’s better to get it all out on the table and talk it out. It’s always better to know.
All these facts barely scratch the surface. Polyamory is a beautiful thing but it takes respect, consent, and trust. There’s a learning curve, especially when you’re used to monogamous relationships, but it’s worth giving it a try, especially if you were never happy in those monogamous relationships.