If you are considering a polyamorous relationship, it can be useful to understand some of the terminology and characteristics of said relationships.
What is a polyamorous relationship?
We can start with the basics. What does polyamorous mean? The word comes from the Greek Poly, meaning “many, several”, and Latin amor, “love”.
What is a polyamorous approach?
A polyamorous relationship is the practice of relationships with more than one partner where all parties involved are informed and have consented to the polyamorous relationship.
Unlike monogamous relationships in which a person only has one partner, polyamory has many forms and no limit to the number of partners. A polyamorous relationship can evolve with the individual’s needs and change many forms through a person’s love life.
Whether we are talking about polyamorous dating or polyamorous marriage, people in a polyamorous relationship can be of any sexual orientation (heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc.).
Let’s look into some of the main differences between this and other types of relationships before we move on to the main types of polyamorous relationships.
You can also watch this TEDx talk about polyamory:
Polyamorous relationship and other types of relationships
Under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamous relationships, we can find open relationships, swinging and polyamorous relationships.
Interestingly, a study showed that more than 20% of Americans have engaged at some moment in some form of consensual non-monogamous relationships.
A polyamorous relationship is considered a type of ethical non-monogamy relationship. Compared to unethical relationships, also known as adultery or cheating, polyamorous relationships are characterized by the informed consent of all parties involved.
There is no betrayal or deception since there is no promise-breaking. Therefore, you can’t say that people in polyamorous relationships are cheating their partners since being with multiple people is an arrangement communicated and agreed upon.
In the same category of consensually non-monogamous relationships, alongside polyamorous relationships, we find open relationships.
In open relationships, one or more partners are free to pursue sex with others they are attracted to. They can fall in love with them, but the focus tends to be on the sexual connection.
In contrast, polyamorous relationships are more about having multiple, committed partners. If you are trying to simplify it, you might say open relationships are casual ones revolving around sex, while polyamorous are more committed, romantic ones.
Open relationships are somewhere in the middle, between polyamorous relationships and swinging.
Swinging means that couples in committed one-on-one relationships enter occasional sexual encounters with other couples. Compared to polyamory, the focus is on sexual exploration as a couple, rather than building a connection and commitment with other people.
Finally, a poly relationship should not be confused with polygamy, which is the practice of having multiple spouses.
Polygamy can be tied to religion and can be legal. However, it can also resemble adultery when there is no informed consent about illegally entering multiple matrimonies.
It is interesting to note that a study found that individuals in consensual non-monogamy relationships report similar levels of relationship satisfaction to individuals in monogamous relationships.
Furthermore, they suggest that they share similar mechanisms that affect relational and sexual satisfaction.
Polyamorous relationship types
Hierarchical Poly means there is a primary partner that takes the central role while having additional relationships with others.
The primary partner can be a person you live with, spend holidays with, have children, or marry. Any other partners are viewed as non-primary and receive less intimacy and involvement.
Non-hierarchical relationships are ones characterized by not having a central partner, meaning all partnerships are equal. Although they may vary in the commitment and time devoted, there is no preferred primary partnership.
Having all partners equally important in a non-hierarchical relationship means the focus is on having the needs of all partners met. Although there might be children involved or cohabitation, all partners are ranked evenly.
A group relationship
A lot of the time, when people hear about polyamory, they think of this type of group relationship. They can come in various forms, for example, a triad where there are 3 people or quariad where there are 4 people involved.
In this type of polyamory, each person is in a relationship with each other. Often, they form a commune where they cohabit together and form committed relationships.
Parallel Polyamory or Egalitarian network approach
In parallel polyamory, people have varying preferences for commitment and involvement with each other. While individuals are aware their partner has other partners, they usually have no emotional involvement with them.
There is no central relationship in this approach. It doesn’t mean that the relationships can’t have the level of intimacy of the primary-like relationship.
Rather it means all relationships are of equal rank and with the level of commitment that partners decide to have. That is why parallel polyamory can have so many different variations to it.
On the surface, it looks a lot like parallel polyamory in the sense that each individual person decides how to engage in their relationships. Also, there is no central relationship that determines how other relationships are shaped.
Most people who opt for solo polyamory never couple up with one or more central relationships. They are in relationships, all the while keeping the identity of a solo person.
That may mean they define their status as single, although they have many different relationships.
Relationships come in many shapes and forms. They can exist between polyamorous and monogamous people.
A mono-poly relationship is a type of relationship between a polyamorous partner and one that identifies as monogamous.
This can be a challenging relationship to keep due to the difference in lifestyle and choices. However, no relationship is easy, and there are no formulas for success.
Find your own style
There are at least as many ways to define and build relationships as there are people in them. There is no single approach that is recommended, only a recommendation to explore what works for you.
Over the course of life, many people go through different types of polyamorous relationships.
Understanding what polyamorous relationship rules work for them is not easy, but it is important. It provides clarity and better communication that can improve their choices of potential partners and their relationships.
If you are considering polyamory or already involved in some form of it, remember that the best approach to relationships is the one that leads to happiness for everyone involved.
It might not have a term yet, but if it works for you, it doesn’t have to have a name as long as it leads to the well-being of people involved.
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