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What is Polyamory and How Do Polyamorous Relationships Work?

What does it mean to be Polyamorous?

When it comes to relationships, loving more than one partner like that of a polyamorous relationship has been considered taboo by recent society. Although it is considered taboo in today’s society, polyamory does have ancient roots. Humans have craved connection with multiple partners since antiquity. Non-monogamy has been around for as long as humans have been living together in civilizations. The narrative that monogamous relationships have always been so is simply not true, the “nuclear family” is a relatively new occurrence of the last century. Nuclear families consist of monogamous parents and their children. This style of the family structure became popular with the rise of capitalism. With all this in mind, people who are polyamorous deal with a stigma surrounded by loving more than one partner. 

I found this interesting quote by Ernest Callenbach in his book The Ecotopian Encyclopedia.

“In the long sweep of human history, the nuclear family will probably be seen as a very brief aberration, brought about by the special needs of industrial capitalism and the isolated suburban living made possible by cars, but insufficient for nurturing and supporting human beings. In [communes and extended families] we will approximate the ancient groupings our species has relied on for survival: small bands whose variety of strengths and talents give great resilience against outside threats, and whose interior psychological life is rich and complicated enough to challenge its members’ developmental potentials.” –Ernet Callenbach, The Ecotopian Encoclopedia.


The word polyamorous has Greek origins, Poly meaning many, and amor meaning love. It is the practice and desire to have intimate relationships with more than one partner at a time. The important aspect of a healthy polyamorous relationship is having the consent of all partners involved in sexual or romantic relationships. In this way, polyamory can be described as ethical non-monogamy. With that said, not all partners need to be “shared” so to speak in a polyamorous relationship but they should all be aware of each other and consenting which can be the difference in an open relationship. 

Some people have a “main relationship” when polyamorous, and some people split up their relationships evenly or as separate relationships.

We have made a lot of strides as a society in accepting more communities such as same-sex marriages, but the polyamorous community has remained misunderstood. This is interesting because many Americans state they have been in consensually non-monogamous relationships. 21% of Americans (about 1/5) have engaged in consensual non-monogamy in their lifetime according to this study.


Polyamory is very different from a monogamous relationship where both partners are committed to only each other. Generally, these relationships are what nuclear families consist of.

Open Relationships

Polyamorous is different than an open relationship. In an open relationship, the couple agrees to only love one another but still have sex with other partners. Most open relationships consist of hookups and are focused around sex, not connection or love (as that would be considered cheating on the main partner). To my understanding, in an open relationship someone doesn’t have to get the consent and approval of their partners. In an open relationship, all partners may not know about each other. This is from what I have read and other peoples experiences I know, I have never been in an open relationship. 


Ask a polyamorous person

Is it always an orgy? No. So I suppose I should start with the fact that I have been in a relationship going on 8 years with my partner, and the first 6 years or so were monogamous. When we first got together we knew that we both were pretty freaky, and we both were into chicks. I think being young, we didn’t understand yet how to explore that together, and what that would mean for our relationship. I think this is because we are intensely in love and we didn’t want to overstep boundaries for one another while we learned more about ourselves. It started as we would flirt about girls we saw in person together (like do you think she’s hot?) long before we officially decided to share our relationship with another person.

Fast forward to now, we have only shared one chick that we dated when we first became poly in 2018. We both have the freedom to flirt with our friends but we ALWAYS have to stay in communication with each other, especially if our feelings get more serious and turn into a crush. If we have feelings for someone we generally talk to each about it, and that has only happened once for us since the chick we dated together. We like to have fun with it, and not take things too seriously. We are not currently looking for a third to our relationship, but we are also open to dating a woman. 

friends polyamory relationship

Do you set boundaries?

Yes. Clear communication is key. So part of what I touched on earlier, boundaries are essential to making a polyamorous relationship work. You have to discover with your partners what makes them comfortable and what does not. Respect is another key aspect of being polyamorous.

Can someone poly date someone that is monogamous? Well, that’s a tough one, I would say that it would depend on the two people and how much they care for one another. I would say it’s possible, but it may be difficult unless the communication is in place.

How do you make sure everyone gets the same amount of love and attention without jealousy? Well if you tend to be a jealous type, be honest and open about it with your partners so they can make accommodations for you. Being jealous is more about your internal feelings than about what your partner may be doing. It’s important to be clear about your intentions. If you struggle with jealousy but would like to be poly, perhaps reflect on your jealousy to learn more about yourself before involving partners. Communication and sharing your personal goals, both long and short term, can be invaluable to a polyamorous relationship dynamic.

Thanks for reading!~

I will be updating this post with more questions and tips regarding polyamory, and I will also be updating my blog with more polyamory and relationship content. I love hanging out with other polyamorous people, and learning more about their lived experience. Let me know about your personal experiences with polyamory and polyamorous relationships down in the comments! 


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