What is Polyamory? Understanding How Polyamorous Relationships Work

What is Polyamory? Understanding How Polyamorous Relationships Work
Written by The X Cube

What is Polyamory? Polyamory is the philosophy and practice of loving multiple people at the same time in an open and honest way. It emphasizes choosing the number of partners a person wants to have rather than adhering to the most acceptable social norms.

Being polyamorous means having intimate or open romantic relationships with more than one person at the same time. Polyamorous people can have any sexual orientation, and polyamorous relationships can include people of different sexual orientations.
Unlike open relationships, polyamory is characterized by emotional, sexual, or romantic intimacy between spouses. Unlike infidelity, adultery, or extramarital sexual relations, polygamy is consensual and is disclosed to all involved.

Sometimes polyamorous relationships are hierarchical (one relationship has priority over others) and other times they are egalitarian. In a pyramid scenario, a person can have primary and secondary partners.

  • Primary: The primary partner is at the top of the hierarchy; This person could be someone you live with, have children, or even marry. They don’t normally accept polyamorous relationships.
  • Secondary: Secondary partners may not be as intertwined in your life as the primary partner; For example, you may not share housing or finances, but you can still be fully committed to each other.
    The aspects that define polyamorous relationships over other types of non-monogamous relationships are consent and communication.

What polygamy is not

While the boundaries in polyamorous relationships are very different from those in monogamous relationships, they still exist.

People in this relationship normally do not get married, although they normally reject the restrictions from societal norms, in particular, the restrictions imposed on one partner.

Polygamy should not be confused with bigamy or polygamy, which involves marrying more than one person and is illegal in the United States.

It should also not be confused with “swinging” or “pair swapping”. Where couples in established relationships have casual intercourse with people from other couples.

Polyamory is also not the same as an “open” relationship, which involves a committed couple agreeing that one or both partners can have sexual relations with other people, without the need to share information with others. However, polyamorous couples can also have open relationships.

“Consensual non-monogamy” is a general term used by psychologists to describe open, swinging, and polyamorous relationships. Research shows that more than 20% of Americans have been involved in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship at some point in their lives.

Polyamory is also not a form of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, people of all orientations and identities can participate in polyamorous relationships, including those who are heterosexual, gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, non-binary, or pansexual.

Talk about polygamy

If you’re trying to raise the issue of polyamory with a potential new partner, consider starting a conversation like:

What type of relationship are you looking for – exclusive or non-exclusive?

Before we get serious, I should tell you that I’m not looking for a monogamous relationship.
What do you think about communicating with several people at the same time?
Have you ever heard of polygamy? Are you thinking about trying it?

Types of polyamorous relationships

Unlike monogamous relationships, which by definition are limited to one partner, polyamory comes in many forms and can change over time depending on the people involved.

While many polyamorous relationships feature couples who openly and consensually pursue independent or shared relationships outside of their primary relationship, others practice polyamory through multiple independent or separate relationships or even three or more relationships.

Polyamorous relationships can also be closed relationships. In a closed polyamorous relationship, individuals who are part of a polyamorous group agree not to see other people or bring more people into the relationship.

of the Trinity

The triad is also known as the “trinity” and refers to the relationship of three people. However, the three people do not necessarily date each other. One person can date two different people.


As the name suggests, foursome refers to a relationship with four people. This type of polyamorous relationship often occurs when a polyamorous couple meets and starts dating one person from the other couple. You can also have a total of four members, and all four members are romantically or sexually involved with each other.


This term refers to an entire network of emotionally connected people. For example, this could include you and your primary partner, your secondary partner, your primary partner’s secondary partner, your primary partner’s primary partner, and so on.

Polyamory kitchen table

This term refers to a family-like network made up of people who know each other. The name was purposely coined by the people who normally sit together to have meals at one table.

Parallel polygamy

Parallel polyamory refers to relationships where you know each other’s partners but have little contact with those partners.

Single polyamory

Individuals in monogamous polyamorous relationships do not intend to merge their identities or the infrastructure of their lives with their partners. For example, they don’t want to get married or share a house or finances with any of their partners.

Avoid relationship problems

A key aspect of the multifaceted philosophy is the need for clear communication and boundaries between all involved. The complexity of relationships can put some people at risk of exploitation.

However, research shows that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships have similar levels of psychological well-being and relationship quality to those in monogamous relationships.

Set rules and boundaries

A big part of polyamory is making sure all partners are on the same page about emotional and physical boundaries, including:

When and whether to disclose details about your relationships or polygamy status with others
How often do you spend time with each other and other people?
What sexual acts are acceptable and what are not

What safety practices will everyone follow?

Definitions of what constitutes cheating or infidelity in a polygamous relationship depend on the rules set by the people in the relationship. In a polyamorous relationship, ignoring the boundaries and rules agreed upon by the people in the relationship is often considered cheating.

Support each other

As in a monogamous relationship, it’s important to support your partners and show respect and courtesy, even if you don’t like your partner’s metamorphosis (your partner’s partner is not romantically or sexually involved with you).

Avoid comparisons

Although it’s human nature, try your best to avoid the comparison game. For example, don’t go out and book a luxury trip for two just because your partner spent the weekend with one of their other partners.

Communicate your feelings and needs

Jealousy is a common emotion that can surface in a polyamorous relationship. It is vital to express these feelings, rather than let them consume you.

In fact, a common term used in polyamory is stress or the feeling of joy in seeing your partner happy with another partner. This is the opposite of jealousy.

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The X Cube

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