What is Polyamory?


What is polyamory?

Polyamory is a philosophy and lifestyle based around the forming and sustaining of relationships with multiple partners in an open, honest and non-possessive way. This means that polyamorous people find emotional fulfillment by not limiting themselves or their partners to one significant other. The term came into common usage in the early 1990’s inspired by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, who first used the term ‘polyamorous’ and Jennifer L. Wesp, who founded the alt.polyamory usenet group.

For the purposes of this website we also use a wider definition of polyamory, which is simply the idea of ‘many loves’ approached in a responsible way. In this context our site includes ethical non-monogamy, relationship anarchy and open relationships.


Is polyamory for me?

Many people know intuitively that polyamory is the right path for them. They feel that it is a part of their makeup in a similar way to being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Polyamory is far from the norm in our current society; however, there is growing support for those who choose to live a non-monogamous life. There are meetup groups, online forums, chat rooms and resources (see our links page). There are also events like Poly Day in London and many smaller events friendly to polyamorous people. Although there are a growing number of ways to learn more and meet like minded people there are of course still many factors to consider when deciding whether to explore polyamory. The most important of these is your own emotional needs. For some polyamory allows a greater sense of freedom and love. For others jealousy and fear are too much for them to deal with. For more on these issues see our Polyamory Practical Guide.


Does jealousy exist in polyamorous relationships?

Yes, jealousy does arise in polyamorous relationships. Most, however try to cultivate at state of ‘compersion’, which is a state in which you derive pleasure from seeing your partner with their other lover(s). It can still contain grains of jealousy but it is almost the opposite state. When jealously arises polyamorous people try to understand it for what it is and will usually try to communicate their feelings to the partner the jealousy is focused on. As with any relationship this is a process that works differently for different people, but the real focus on openness and communication within polyamorous relationships allows for jealousy to be addressed.


How does conflict get worked out with polyamorous relationships?

Conflict obviously does exist in poly relationships. The difference is that most poly relationships focus on a high level of openness in every area of the relationship, this would be less important in a monogamous relationship as certain aspects, such as dating and scheduling would not be an issue in a monogamous situation. Some also report that the dynamic of having more than just one other person involved can defuse the tension, as a third person can mediate the problem. this is not always the case and depends on the type of relationship. Communication with a focus on understanding each partners needs and meetings those needs is a powerful tool to avoid conflict and grow within a relationship. Polyamorous people usually care deeply about a partners feelings and will involve his or her other partners in every stage of their involvement with other partners, time management, sexual conduct and alone time.


How do you define commitment to your partners?

Commitment is defined differently for different people. Some it would be by the creation of family bonds. Others through marriage and others still simply through the depth of trust and love between those involved. Generally commitment is no different in a poly relationship than a mono one, there is just a wider understanding of love and openness.


How do you deal with the threat of sexually transmitted infections?

Normally this is via the practice of safe sex with anyone outside of the primary relationship. This is an important ethical consideration and members of a polyamorous relationship should be very clear on it. At a later stage if someone is entering the relationship you should have an STI test before any unprotected sex. In the modern climate it is part of the communication and respect needed. Many polyamorous people have regular tests, which also normalises the process, just like having a normal check-up.


Do you ever fear losing your primary partner to one of his or her lovers?

It is best that all partners be polyamorous or at least non-monogamous, otherwise this sort of issue can arise. From a polyamorous perspective I would look at it like this: I’m not going to live in fear of what might happen. If one of my partners did leave to be monogamous with someone else, I would accept it, it was what they needed at that time. In polyamory you would not aim to possess someone ‘just in case’ they wish to become monogamous with someone else. if this kind of fear is present before becoming polyamorous it is worth considering where these insecurities are coming from, does one member of the current relationship want to become polyamorous more than another? It is important to be aware of everyone’s level of commitment to the polyamorous lifestyle.

“The real power of the polyamorous experience for me, is the way that it has developed my ability to see people not just in terms of my needs, but in terms of what makes them happy. I had to ask myself why my partner being with someone else made me unhappy sometimes, and the only answer was either I wasn’t doing something that made me happy, so I was jealous, or I feared losing them. I suppose when we fear losing someone we can hold on tighter or setup rules etc. That is the normal monogamous approach I suppose and it can work, but it doesn’t allow for genuine growth. Setting controlling rules around my partners just seemed to lead me away from trust, communication and having my needs ‘really’ met. I feel if there is genuine communication then there is no need for rules like this. Real love and consideration from your partner will mean that they won’t just do things without considering you.” – Graham Nicholls

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