What is polyamory? 

Tricia Reid-Moore

This blog is written by Tricia Reid-Moore. Tricia is a Sexology Masters student who I have been, mentoring this year. She has a psychology degree and now is nearly finished a Masters in Sexology. Some of you may have met her when you attended the clinic.  

As part of her studies, she was required to write an educational article and this is it. Many of us hear words such as polyamory, swingers, threesomes etc bandied about but don’t really know what they mean so I though it would be good opportunity to share this with you. I hope you enjoy it or at the very least learn something new. 

What is Polyamory?

Many of us have been taught that relationships are meant to be monogamous – two partners that commit to each other and no-one else. However, this relationship style doesn’t work for everyone. Polyamory is one alternative to monogamy.  

Polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy (also known as ‘consensual non-monogamy’) which means having multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships at the same time. The consent and knowledge of everyone involved is the key to a polyamorous relationship.  

There are other forms of ethical non-monogamy, and while they are similar to polyamory, they are not the same and the terms should not be used synonymously. One such form of ethical non-monogamy is swinging. This is when a committed couple has casual sexual encounters with other couples or individuals. This is purely sexual – emotional relationships are not formed. Another type is the open relationship, which involves a committed couple who are free to have sexual relationships with others. 

Polyamory is often confused with the term polygamy. Polygamy is being married to more than one person, while polyamory is more about the relationship.

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What are the types of polyamorous relationship?

There are many different types of polyamorous relationships. The most popular type of polyamorous relationship is the triad. Also known as a ‘throuple’, the triad is three people who are involved in a relationship with each other. For example, John, Mary, and Bill are a throuple. Mary has a romantic and sexual relationship with both John and Bill, and John and Bill also have a romantic and sexual relationship with each other.  

Another type of relationship is the quad. This involves four people in a relationship and often occurs when two couples become involved with each other. Like the triad, everyone in the quad has a relationship with each other. 

The third type of relationship is the ‘Vee’ which is so named as it resembles the letter V. This is where one person has a relationship with two others who are not involved with each other. For example, Mary has a relationship with both John and Bill, but Bill and John are not in a relationship. 

Polyamorous relationships can be hierarchical or non-hierarchical. A hierarchical relationship is where one of the relationships takes precedence over the others. For example, John and Mary are the primary relationship. They could be married, share finances, and so on. Their relationship takes priority even though they have a relationship with Bill. Non-hierarchical relationships are where none of the relationships are prioritised. Everyone has equal part in the relationships and each person is responsible for themselves. 

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What makes a successful polyamorous relationship?

There are several factors that are required for a successful polyamorous relationship. They are: 

  • Openness 
  • Consent 
  • Trust
  • Communication 
  • Clear boundaries 
  • Mutual respect 
Who is likely to be polyamorous?

Polyamory is becoming much more acceptable in today’s culture. A 2016 study among millennials showed that only half of them wanted to be in a traditionally monogamous relationship. Polyamory is particularly popular among people who identify as bisexual, as well as people in long distance relationships or who travel frequently for work. It is also popular among people who feel that one partner is not enough to satisfy them and rather than staying single and playing the field, or cheating on their partner, they choose to have a polyamorous relationship. 

While some of us might not understand or even agree with the idea of polyamory, it is important to remember that for many people, it is a valid lifestyle choice that works for them.  

Sources:
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/basics/polyamory 

  • https://psychcentral.com/health/polyamorous-relationship#takeaway 

  • https://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/a39412505/types-of-polyamory/ 

  • https://medium.com/@bluehills1965/the-difference-between-open-relationships-polyamory-and-swinging-relationships 

  • https://www.webmd.com/sex/what-is-polyamory#:~:text=Polyamorous%20people%20have%20multiple%20loving,relationships%20at%20the%20same%20time. 

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