LGBTQ+ / Lifestyle

Polyamory: Explained

What is polyamory?

Many people think of polygamy when they hear polyamory. The truth is that those terms are different and independent of each other.

Polygamy is the practice of having multiple spouses (two branches are polygyny and polyandry).

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Polygyny: One male with multiple wives.

Polyandry: One female with multiple husbands.

This is usually when one individual has multiple spouses rather than everyone being married to each other. The spouses don’t have to be romantically involved with each other nor do they have to get along. 

But this isn’t about polygamy, this is about polyamory.

Polyamory, in contrast to the broader term of polygamy, is rooted in mutual love, trust, and consent.

Polyamory: When a person is romantically involved in multiple partners in which everyone consents.

The key difference between polyamory and polygamy is marriage. In a polygamous situation the individuals are bonded by marriage, although this marriage may not be legally recognized. In a polyamorous situation, there may not be marriage involved, but there is love and it is very much about open communication.

Each polyamorous situation varies as not everyone wants the same arrangement. Sometimes an individual may have two separate partners that are not seeing one another; however, they both consent to the arrangement. In other situations, everyone is dating one another.


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Polyamory is often misunderstood and misrepresented as a promiscuous thing to be. To clarify this, polyamory is not based on sexual grounds. Like any relationship, the foundation must be on emotional bonds and trust in order to be successful. Just because some people are engaged in more than one relationship does not mean that they’re promiscuous individuals. In fact, there are asexuals in the polyamorous community as well; polyamory literally means many-love and love is not always based upon sex.

Being involved in a polyamorous relationship does not mean that an individual is any less committed nor does this automatically mean that the arrangement is an open one. A polyamorous individual with two partners may be fully committed and devoted to them.

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An open relationship is where the dating floor is open to where one individual, with their partner’s consent, may see other partners on the side (perhaps for casual hook-up).

You might be wondering how this is different from polyamory since it involves multiple partners—well, it’s all about how the arrangement is set up. In a polyamorous situation the individuals are all committed to one or more of the people involved. In an open relationship there is an initial couple in which one individual also finds company in others—but does not consider the others to be anything special or of importance.

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Not everyone engages in the same types of dating practices that are considered monogamous. Just because something does not fit into a monogamous category does not make it any less valid or unacceptable. Polyamory, with the proper communication, consent and love, is a valid form of relationship that many engage in.  

Photos: Cover, 1, 23, 4

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