There is no single definition for polyamory. It doesn’t mean the same to everyone and there are many different forms in which polyamorous relationships are understood. It’s important to know that polyamory doesn’t mean having sex with anyone or anywhere.
There are usually very clear and strict rules and agreements between you and your partners. The relationships can be romantic, sexual or both. They can be open (with anyone) or closed (only with certain people).
Some people will define their partners as primary (their main partner) and secondary. Others might think it’s unfair to put your partners in categories like that. You don’t have to be in relationships at all times to be a polyamorist. Essentially, it’s up to the people involved to decide what they want and need out of their relationships.
Polygamy means to be married to more than one person. It’s illegal in many countries, and often only applies to men, which is also called polygyny. However, women can also choose polygamy. Polygamy isn’t always consensual.
Being in an open relationship means having relationships with people other than one partner to whom you stay committed. Both polyamory and open relationships are examples of ‘CNM’ (consensual non-monogamy).
Cheating, on the other hand, usually means that your partner doesn’t know you are seeing someone else. Cheating has nothing to do with polyamory.
Read more about cheating and how to deal with it here!
There is still very little research on polyamory and polyamorists, but we do know a little bit. Most research is done in the US, where it’s estimated that 5 per cent of the population are polyamorists. They are often well-educated.
People who are gay, lesbian or bisexual are slightly more likely to be polyamorists. And they tend to be very curious and open to new experiences.
Consent is one of the most important factors in polyamory. All people involved should know what is going on and agree to it. Setting clear boundaries and coming to mutual agreements is an essential part of polyamory. But this requires open communication as well as trust and respect for everyone involved.
Many of us may think polyamorists are sex-crazed people who can’t choose. However, values are actually important with these kinds of relationships. For example, being open and honest about what you are doing and who you are with. Also, making sure that your partners are okay with it. Polyamorists believe that you can love or be affectionate with more than one person at a time, honestly, responsibly and with integrity.
‘Don’t you get jealous?’ is probably one of the most frequent questions polyamorists get asked. The answer is, sure, but it’s all about the way you handle it.
Psychologist Bjarne Holmes who studied 5,000 polyamorous individuals says they will try their best to analyse where the feeling is coming from. They will make sure to start solving the issue with their partner, instead of blaming them for a certain behaviour.
Also, polyamorists try to see their partners’ other partners as valuable additions to their lives, rather than threats to their relationship.
While some people assume that polyamorous relationships can’t be loving and trusting, those having polyamorous relationships actually say the opposite is true. They do not report lack of trusting relationships or lack of intimacy and sexual satisfaction.
A recent study compared people who cheated to polyamorists and concluded that polyamorists use condoms more frequently, reducing their risks of STDs.