Healthy Living

What Is Polyamory?

What Is Polyamory?

Key Takeaways

  • Polyamorous people have multiple partners when it comes to sexual and romantic relationships.
  • In a polyamorous relationship, people are open about their lifestyle and partners.
  • There are dating sites for polyamory.

What does "polyamorous" mean?

"Polyamorous" is a neologism derived from the English term "polyamory," and is a word composed of poly (Greek for "many") and amor (Latin for "love"). To mix Greek and Latin roots in one word is considered by some a mistake, but there are a number of common words, including "automobile," "television," and "polyamory," that do the same. You may hear some people in the English language community make jokes such as "polyamory is wrong" in the sense of it being linguistically wrong rather than ethically wrong.

Some people prefer the term "poliamoria," because they find a more correct translation from English. While it is linguistically less correct, it is nonetheless catchier.

The term was coined independently by several people, including Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, who introduced the concept of "polyamorous relationships" in a 1990 article entitled "Bouquet of Lovers" in Green Egg Magazine, a magazine founded by the author together with her husband Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. The two polyamorous neopagans have been married since 1974 and are linked by a relationship that is still open and in progress.

During the same period, in 1992, Jennifer Wesp created the newsgroup alt.polyamory on Usenet. This newsgroup is still considered one of the most important sources of information for the polyamorous community. Similar terms existed already in the sixties, and polyamorous relationships are in some sense descended from the free love and the sexual revolution of those years. The concept of polyamory is to be traced back mainly to the work of Charles Fourier, who, in his book entitled The New Loving World, speaks in detail of relations which resemble the polyamorous relationships of today. Fourier's work was published in the early 60s and greatly influenced the philosophical thought of the time.

The official entry of the word "polyamory" into the English language happened with its inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary in 2006, with the contribution of the Zell-Ravenheart spouses, and two months after it appeared for the first time in a big dictionary, its inclusion in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

The Oxford Dictionary defines polyamory as:

(1) The fact of having close emotional relationships with one or more other individuals simultaneously, intended as an alternative to monogamy, specifically compared with regard to sexual fidelity

(2) The custom or practice of entertaining multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

In the concept of polyamory, two aspects coexist: the shape of the relationship and the values that are at the foundation. For this, you choose to give a clear and precise definition, but this contains within itself many possible interpretations. Depending on the degree of commitment and emotional involvement, you will have differences that we have mentioned above: for example, open relationships that allow casual and recreational sex with other partners, or closed polyamorous relationships of two or more partners, or even the single polyamorous, who is open to the possibility of having more than one partner.

What is "polyamory"?

Wikipedia defines "polyamory" as "a new word that expresses the concept of multiple mating. The ideal of a polyamorous relationship is to have a romantic and/or sexual relationship with more honest sexual partners during the same period." For "polyamory" in fact refers to the practice (or the possibility) of having more intimate relationships effective for a time, with the explicit consent of all existing partners and potentials. A synonym of "polyamory" is "ethical non-monogamy." Under this definition, there are various forms of open relationships, some very different from the others, but where all of which have in common the fundamental element of ethics, namely the commitment to transparency and honesty with your partner or partners. Polyamory refuses the assumption of monogamy that the basic condition for having a relationship is exclusivity. This applies to all kinds of intimate relationships, short-term and long-term, committed or not, having a deep emotional involvement or as friends.

Polyamorous dating

Actually, being polyamorous requires a great deal of effort to be able to work in the long run. It requires commitment to fairness, the adoption of protective measures during sex, the processing of partners' insecurities, respect in a cultural context that society is often hostile to, and the ability to deal with very intense emotions. Most people in the world today carry considerable emotional burdens, and relationships are one of the ways through which we can try to process emotions. When a person chooses to love and engage with more than one person, they also choose to deal with insecurities, to compete with deep emotions, and to keep open the flow of communication. In this sense, therefore, polyamory requires an even greater availability than a monogamous approach to relations, and for this reason, it may be particularly burdensome for those who tend to shun challenging relationships.

Practicing safe and responsible relationships

Sex with more than two partners is not necessary to being considered polyamorous. There are polyamorous singles as well as asexual polyamorous people. The important thing is to not completely restrict the sexuality of partners and to not lie to your partners. Even those who are not actively looking for new partners can be polyamorous. The main feature of polyamorous relations is the informed consent of all partners involved. For there to be consent, there must necessarily be open information on what one is saying. It is therefore important that in relationships, there is open and honest communication and a focus on respect for the feelings and needs of each partner.

This element puts polyamory in open contrast with classic betrayal, in which there is an official report of being monogamous (such as in a marriage), and one or more secret relationship occurs.

As we have already mentioned, there are different forms of polyamorous relationships, depending on the needs of the people involved. They include, among others, polyfidelity, relationship anarchy, polyamorous individuals, the polyamorous triad, the You and I, hierarchical relationships with primary and secondary partners, "the intimate network," and "tribes," or an extended polyamory family with more than two parents, and many more.

Polyamory involves a certain relational flexibility and skill set, including good communication skills, negotiation, mastery of emotions, the ability to manage jealousy, an open mind, the ability to actively listen, and a high degree of lack of judgment.

Just as there is no obligation to emotional or sexual exclusivity of any kind, in a polyamorous relationship, there is no agreement between the partners that they must stay together for life, especially since those who practice this lifestyle are convinced that relations exist in a continuum and are constantly changing. As in any relationship, the duration should never be considered an indicator of the quality of the relationship itself, at the expense of other more important indicators such as the satisfaction, happiness, and well-being of the people involved.

This does not mean that polyamorous relations should necessarily be less involved or lasting than monogamous relationships. There are, in fact, many polyamorous people living together for years, and who build families. In an article by Newsweek Magazine Online in July 2009, it was estimated that the number of existing polyamorous relations in the United States is around five hundred thousand.

A further definition of being polyamorous

Being polyamorous also means living in an open and sincere relationship with someone who can be tied emotionally and/or sexually to other people, without adopting a prior model of monogamous exclusive relationship with a single partner.

There are many people who, while calling themselves monogamous, have, in fact, relationships with others, with their partner unaware of the existence of the other relationships. These people could be called polyamorous if they chose to live all their relationships consciously and with the consent of each of the people involved.

Most polyamorous people choose together to comply with certain restrictions—as to what is lawful or unlawful to do—and in any case, honestly communicate their involvement with regard to other people. Openness, trust, and respect are put in first place. When there is a betrayal in a polyamorous relationship—and this can happen—it implies the same violations of trust and agreements, and the same painful consequences of betrayal in a monogamous relationship.

Polyamorous dating sites

The most famous polyamorous dating sites are the following:

  • OkCupid offers a curious and fun mix of singles looking for all sorts of partnerships, and for whatever reason, it has attracted a significant number of polyamorous singles and couples who are looking for other people to share their love with.
  • With 27,000 members on the site, PolyMatchMaker.com has a clean and fresh layout, and the options to self-designate are as vast as your ability to create them. Signing up, creating a profile, and checking out who else is on the site costs nothing. However, if you'd like to contact others or reply to anything other than the first message a paying member sends you, you'll want to fork out the $8.99/month fee to make contact.
  • MyPolyamory.com charges $30/month to gain full access to the site and contact other members.
  • LoveMany.com says they cater to "polyamorous families" looking for love. However, there are also groups, families, triads, or couples with profiles listed on this site.

Polyamorous relationships

Some polyamorous people prefer to act as a couple, or triad group, and are seeking a sexual and emotional compatibility between everyone involved. Others prefer to maintain relationships with each of the two partners, though often, different partners meet and become friends.

Polyamory can take many different forms, for example:

  • Polyamory open (open or committed relationships and open marriage), in which the involved partners remain open to the possibility of more love and relationships.
  • Polyfidelity, in which three or more people engage in a relationship that is closed between them, which does not include people outside of the relationship.
  • Polyamorous singles, the people who can entertain more loving relationships without a primary commitment to a specific person, and these people may or may not be looking for a long-term relationship.