What is Polyamory?

What is polyamory? In short, polyamory is a practice that accepts the ability to love several people at the same time without lying or cheating. Learn more in this article.
What is Polyamory?
Montse Armero

Written and verified by the psychologist Montse Armero.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Polyamory is a concept that’s been present in our society for decades, but its practice is as old as human beings themselves. In a polyamorous relationship, each member maintains a loving and – in many cases – sexual bond with different people. 

Unlike other non-monogamous relationships, which are based mainly on sex, in polyamory, the emotional connection is the central axis of the relationship. As a result of this bond, members can agree on different levels of commitment: from a platonic relationship to a solid and stable relationship.

Another distinctive feature of polyamory is that everyone involved is usually aware of the situation and they have given their explicit consent. Therefore, there’s no cheating involved. In fact, polyamorous people argue that their relationships are founded on loyalty and based on deep sincerity.

What is polyamory? Characteristics

friends talking

1. Polyamory: open-mindedness

Polyamory can only happen if people are willing to challenge and tear down certain deeply ingrained societal conventions. Monogamy, romantic love or the idea that we can only feel love towards a single person are all concepts that polyamorous people question and often transcend. 

2. Self-awareness and personal development

Knowing oneself better is beneficial for all types of human relationships. That’s because it helps us to act more mature and responsible. Polyamorous people tend to be conscious people with a high degree of emotional intelligence.

Therefore, they are better able to manage new emotions and situations they have not experienced before.

3. Respect for others’ freedom

Freedom isn’t an exclusive component of polyamorous relationships, but it does carry a lot of weight in them. This is because polyamorous people don’t want to interfere with their partners’ freedom to be themselves.

Instead, they aspire to love the other person, and all their strengths and weaknesses, unconditionally.

4. There’s no room for possessiveness

One of the great differences between polyamory and monogamous relationships is exclusivity. When it comes to polyamory, your partners don’t belong to anyone and are free to act however they feel is best for them.

Therefore, any feelings of jealousy— which can still show up— are faced right away for the well-being of the relationship.

5. Active communication

The different polyamorous experiences that can occur throughout the relationship require new readjustments and agreements between members.

Therefore, deep and active communication between those involved is essential.

Different forms of polyamory

people gardening

Hierarchical relationships

In this form of polyamory, there’s a primary relationship, which is the one that would be equivalent to a monogamous couple. Two people share resources and usually live in the same home, with or without children.

Then, the possibility of maintaining relationships with other people is also added to that relationship. Those are known as secondary relationships if they are more durable, or even tertiary relationships if they’re more casual interactions.

Egalitarian relationships

In this type of relationship, every member is on the same level and there’s no hierarchy. In some cases, this type of relationship occurs between three individuals. It’s what some people may refer to as a “triangular relationship.”

However, there’s no limit to the number of people who could be involved. In fact, some people participate in loving communities in which all members are committed to the rest of the group.

Other non-monogamous types of relationships

In addition to polyamorous relationships, there are other very varied ways of being in a non-monogamous relationship. For example:

  • Relational anarchists. They prefer to not label their relationships.
  • Hybrids. In this relationship, one member of the couple is monogamous and the other is not.
  • Swingers. They will have sex with people who are not their partners, usually in front of their partner.

In fact, any relationship where emotional or sexual exclusivity isn’t practiced would be classified as a non-monogamous relationship.

Also read: Advice for Couples with Sexual Frustration

Possible downsides to polyamory

  • Jealousy. Polyamorous people also get jealous and insecure, possibly even more than monogamous people. This is because they’re more exposed to situations that would make them jealous. Because of that, they have to learn to recognize, analyze and relativize those situations and feelings.
  • Acceptance of others. People who practice polyamory often face rejection from society, especially from friends and family. This can cause a lot of discomfort for them and, as a result, hurt their self-confidence.
  • Breakups. Being a part of more relationships can lead to feeling more fulfilled and supported. However, it can also result in more breakups and fights. For that reason, you have to understand that you’ll possibly face a lot of pain in these types of relationships.
  • Logistics. From a pragmatic point of view, polyamory can be difficult to manage if you don’t know how to organize yourself well. Work, taking care of the house, caring for your family, and ensuring you have time for yourself leaves little room for different deep bonds with other people.

Polyamory isn’t for everyone

Polyamory isn’t a relationship model for everyone. In fact, many people have never been attracted to more than one person at a time, or who have never loved two people at the same time.

On the other hand, some people have experienced polyamory for as long as they can remember. Each person feels differently and lives their life in the way that’s best for them.

A mature society should be characterized by tolerance and acceptance of the ways its members choose to bond, as long as they are based on freedom of choice. After all, the only thing that should matter when it comes to love is love itself and not its form. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Anapol, Deborah. Polyamory: the new love without limits. IntiNet Resource Center, 1997.
  • Easton, Dossey, Hardy, Janet W. Ética promiscua: una guía práctica para el poliamor, las relaciones abiertas y otras libertades en el sexo y en el amor. Editorial Melusina, 2018.
  • Rogers, Carl. El matrimonio y sus alternativas. Kairós, 2005.
  • Thalmann, Yves-Alexandre. Las virtudes del poliamor: la magia de los amores múltiples. Plataforma, 2008.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.