As our society evolves and understands that behind the concept of awakening hides, in fact, our truth and the only path to mental health, more and more people dare to share their stories. Stories that shatter prejudice and stomp over social constructs meant to imprison them. Stories that enlighten and open minds. Stories that start conversations!

One of the most recent conversations that may have raised some eyebrows but allowed individuals to share their truth is about polyamory. Polyamorous individuals have pleaded for their right to live outside the norms of monogamy and find happiness in their own way, even if this means going against traditional beliefs and a rigid view of love.

Social constructs like monogamy and marriage, deeply rooted in our culture and mentality, should no longer be universally accepted truths. They are not and never have been the only way to achieve emotional fulfillment and sexual satisfaction. They are just two choices on the vast spectrum of types of relationships. Polyamory is simply another choice, not an exception from the rule. Polyamory is another possible path individuals can choose in their journey to find themselves and experience a fulfilling union with other people.

holding hands

What is polyamory?

Polyamory comes from the Greek word “poly” which means “many or several” and the Latin word “amor” which means “love”. Included under the umbrella term of “consensual non monogamy,” polyamory is a type of relationship that involves loving more than one person at a time. A polyamorous person is in consenting relationships with multiple people with the full knowledge of all parties involved.

Polyamorous individuals can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Polyamorous relationships can include combinations of married and non-married couples, as well as people of different sexual orientations. While polyamory is not considered to be a sexual orientation per se, thus polyamorous families can’t benefit from the protected statute provided to protect against employment and housing discrimination, some polyamorous individuals claim they identify polyamory as their sexual orientation.

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Seen as a lifestyle choice by many polyamorous couples, polyamory should not be confused with polygamy, which means having more than one spouse, nor with swinging in which monogamous couples have casual sexual experiences with people in other couples. Furthermore, polyamory is not an “open relationship” where partners are allowed to have other sexual partners without necessarily disclosing information regarding their sexual activity outside the couple.

women smiling

What are the rules of polyamory?

Since polyamory is a form of expression of one’s true self and a way to establish a rewarding and fulfilling emotional connection with other individuals, there are no set rules for polyamory, just like there are no rules on how to love someone. While monogamy is fulfilling for a lot of people and marriage perfectly encapsulates their idea of love, these constructs may seem daunting, boring, or unattainable to others, simply because some persons need more than one sexual and/or romantic partner to feel fulfillment.

If there would be one rule polyamorous people should follow, it is the absolute need for honesty. Polyamory does not base itself on cheating, infidelity, adultery, or deception. It is a form of ethical non-monogamy founded on love, respect, and honesty. Polyamorous relationships can be as unique as the parties involved are, and every polyamorous relationship can have its own approach.

With more than 21 percent of people in the United States reporting they have engaged in consensual nonmonogamy at some point, it is fair to say that polyamory is not an extravagance or whim. Nevertheless, although it may be a life choice for some, for others it may be just a phase that allows them to better know themselves, understand their needs and expectations from their partners, and improve their monogamous relationships.

couple who love each other

Types of polyamory relationships

Since polyamory is a concept meant to allow individuals to go beyond the misconceptions of love’s “best practices”, polyamorous partners can shape their relationships as they wish. The polyamorous community has no models of what the perfect polyamorous partnership should look like. Polyamorous individuals can shape their romantic relationships to echo their needs and psychological well-being, as long as their partnership is based on honest communication and the relationship agreement is clear for all parties involved.

That said, polyamory can take various forms that may change in time as individuals evolve and want to readjust their relationship style. While most poly relationships involve a married couple who openly and consensually start independent or joint relationships outside their primary relationship, some polyamorous individuals have independent, separate relationships. Below you’ll find some of the most common types of polyamory:

Hierarchical poly – a hierarchical polyamorous relationship between a “primary” couple and “secondary” partners.

Triad – a relationship with three people where two people are dating a third one or just one of the people is dating two different people.

Throuple – a form of a triad where all the three people are involved with each other intimately; they may or may not live together, but they are committed to each other.

Quad – a relationship with four people that may involve two polyamorous couples or simply four individuals having romantic or intimate relationships with one another.

relationship of four

Kitchen table polyamory – all parties are emotionally connected in a family-like network without all being necessarily romantically involved.

Polycule – a network of people who are romantically connected – different combinations between primary and secondary partners.

Solo polyamory – an individual who has multiple emotional connections and/or sexual relationships with multiple partners but wants to keep their single lifestyle and prefers not to have a primary partner.

What challenges lie ahead for polyamorous individuals?

The reasons people abandon monogamous relationships and explore the world of polyamory are varied. Some may choose consensual non-monogamous relationships as a way to grow and find their voice. Some may feel fulfilled only when involved with multiple partners. Regardless of the reason, polyamorous relationships just like monogamous relationships come with their own shares of challenges.

relationship of three

There is no correct way of being in a polyamorous relationship, as there is no right way to be a polyamorous person to achieve the desired emotional intimacy and sexual connections you are longing for. However, the need for clear boundaries and open communication for all parties involved has proved to be essential for both the individuals’ well-being and the success of relationships.

Nonmonogamous and polyamorous relationships may prove to be more complex than expected, and some individuals may struggle and experience emotional challenges. To ensure a healthy polyamorous relationship and promote an emotionally-balanced environment for all parties involved to find happiness inside the relationship, polyamorous individuals would benefit from:

Setting boundaries

Emotional and physical boundaries help shape the dynamic of the relationship(s). The parties involved should establish their polyamorous status with others, decide on the amount of time they spend with each other, and agree on what they divulge about their relationship with the outside world. Furthermore, boundaries should address the type of intimacy allowed, as well as the limits of each partner’s sexual freedom.

Communicating effectively

Communication is key for polyamorous people looking to get the most out of their emotional relationship with their partners. Any relationship expert will insist on the importance of communicating your needs, feelings, and expectations to your partner, and this applies to all types of romantic relationships. Jealousy is a real feeling, and it will, at times, appear in a poly relationship. Instead of hiding it and allowing it to turn into resentment, you need to express it and manage it in a healthy way. If this can’t be achieved on your own, a relationship therapist may provide the right tools to channel it into more productive thoughts.

happy relationship

Supporting each other

People who enter polyamorous relationships should do so with an open heart and mind. Their relationship will benefit greatly from learning how to support one another and showing respect and courtesy. Talk openly and honestly with each of your partners. This will allot for vulnerability and greater connection.