What Is a Polyamorous Relationship?

Reviewed on 11/25/2020

What is a polyamorous relationship?

A polyamorous relationship means being involved in multiple intimate relationships.
A polyamorous relationship means being involved in multiple intimate relationships.

The traditional belief is that every person should seek a single soulmate and commit to that person completely. Some individuals believe that it is unrealistic and unfair to expect the fulfillment of emotional, sexual and financial needs from one person. This thought process is the basis for polyamory. Numerous studies show that around four to eight percent  of the population in the United States is in a polyamorous relationship.

Polyamory, or consensual nonmonogamy, is the practice of having multiple intimate relationships, with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. It is generally not gender specific. Anyone can have multiple partners of any gender. Polyamorous relationships require consent, open-mindedness, immense trust, communication skills, clear boundaries and mutual respect without feelings of jealously.

The studies also show that individuals who are in polyamorous relationships make more efforts to practice safe sex and have a high incidence of blood testing for HIV and STIs.

Polyamory differs from other types of open relationships, such as swinging (couples having casual sex outside of the relationship, without being emotionally attached). Polyamory may often be confused with polygamy. Polygamy is being married to more than one person at the same time. Polygamy involves marriage to multiple people of the opposite gender, whereas polyamory involves both married partners having the freedom to have relationships outside their primary relationship. Polyamorous relationships are not illegal, but polygamy is illegal in many parts of the world, including the United States.

A social stigma is associated with polyamorous relationships. Therefore, it is often practiced privately and may be kept secret even from close friends and family out of fear of being judged. Polyamory is not a sexual orientation, but more of a lifestyle choice.

Some polyamorous people have a primary relationship and engage in casual relationships with others with consent from the other partner. Some may introduce a secondary partner, which requires the primary couple to agree on a set of rules, such as date times and the type of intimacy allowed. Some relationships start out as polyamorous, while others may become polyamorous after being together for a while. Each couple may have their own set of rules. However, if one partner wants a polyamorous relationship and the other doesn’t, then it could be threatening to the relationship.

The reason why polyamorous relationships are not very common is that they do not follow the traditional social, cultural or religious construct of relationships. Polyamorous relationships need a lot of work and may benefit from counseling from time to time. Polyamory is not a personality disorder or a malady. It is simply an alternate way of life.

The concept of “cheating” does not exist in polyamorous relationships because both parties involved in a polyamorous relationship are required to be completely honest about their other relationships.

Ultimately, being in a polyamorous relationship comes down to the people involved in the relationship. It may work for some people, but it requires partners to be open and transparent.

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

Psychology Today


Archives of Sexual Behavior


The Journal of Sexual Medicine


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