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Polyamory: Definition And Differences To Monogamy

Discover the main premises of polyamory and the differences to other emotional and sexual bonds.
Polyamory introduces emotional and sexual relationships with more than one person.

 

In a world where monogamy has become slightly obsolete, the definition of polyamory introduces a new and exciting alternative to broadening our emotional horizons without having to partake in bisexual orgies, as one might be inclined to believe. 

The following article aims to explain polyamorous relationships, the difference to monogamy and the types of bonds possible within polyamory. We will also try to answer the million dollar question: "Can we fall in love with more than one person at the same time?". 

What is polyamory?

Polyamory corresponds to a neologism that references a type of emotional relationship. In effect, polyamory is the practice of intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. 

Polyamorous relationships are only possible when honesty and effective communication are deployed by all those involved. 

People who identify with this type of emotional relationship argue that polyamory is a natural type of bond that can be viewed as a philosophy or a kind of relationship guide that stands out due to its unique identity. 

The archaic concept of monogamy is recycled into a new reality where the ideas of infidelity and commitment are slightly different to what we know them, but they are still present nonetheless. 

What polyamory is NOT

Although the basic concepts of polyamory dictate the involvement of "more than two people" and the notion of "love"; this type of emotional relationship does not limit itself here. 

The term does not apply to carefree sexual encounters, bisexual orgies, serial monogamy, or partner swapping.  It does, however, include all types of sexualities, from bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, and transsexual. 

Polyamory suggests romantic relationships that evolve past the sexual side; a bond where all partners respect each other and are actively involved in the relationship to certain degrees. 

Differences to monogamy

The main differences between polyamory and monogamy lay in the structure of the two concepts. Firstly, monogamy references a type of romantic relationship where the partners are sexually and emotionally exclusive to each other for an indeterminate period. 

As mentioned above, certain key aspects of polyamory refer to: 

  • The notion of infidelity

  • The relationship ground rules

When one of the partners involved in a monogamous relationship breaks the cycle of exclusivity, cheating becomes an issue. 

On the other hand, when discussing relationship ground rules, poly relationships (as some call them) tend to have a broader variety of regulations. 

We must keep in mind, however, that polyamory is different to relationship anarchy in that it does hold some regard for rules and structure.

Commitment is also an essential factor in the life of polyamorous people, and while it's different than what monogamy understands by it, commitment is definitely a key component in a poly relationship. 

There are different types of polyamory depending on the kind of agreement reached between partners.

 

Types of polyamory 

Although covert, polyamory is a type of romantic relationship that has risen in the ranks of preferred styles of interaction and currently accommodates various interpretations of the concept.   

We will examine a few of these variations as well as introduce similar but not identical concepts. 

1. Hierarchical polyamory 

Hierarchical polyamory is a type of emotional bond whereby a main or primary relationship is separated, hierarchically speaking, from the rest of the existent relationships. These secondary relationships are considered to be inferior from an emotional standpoint. 

2. Non-hierarchical polyamory 

Non-hierarchical polyamory, however, creates egalitarian relationships without the need to categorize them. No one is above anyone else, and there is no primary bond. 

3. Polyfidelity

Polyfidelity, also known as polyexclusivity, is a type of polyamorous relationship where all members involved are considered equal partners and agree to restrict sexual activity to only other members of the group.

4. Hybrid polyamory 

This is a mixture of different types of romantic relationships. One of the members of this bond is monogamous and does not engage in other relationships while the other partner is poly. These type of bonds are also called "mono/non-mono" relationships. 

5. Relationship anarchy

It is remarkably similar to non-hierarchical polyamory, in that relationship anarchy places all members of a relationship on the same level. Friendships and intimate relationships are perceived the same, both having equal importance. 

Relationship anarchy also suggests rebelling against any norm or rule. Social constructs are torn down, and each bond is viewed as a stand-alone relationship. 

6. Swinging (partner swapping)

Those known as swingers are usually part of what appears to be a monogamous relationship, with the added twist of swapping partners with the sole intention of getting sexual satisfaction. Partner swapping usually takes place in specially designated locations. 

The majority of swingers have well-defined rules. They can also get involved in threesomes and orgies, but it's usually when their spouse is present. 

7. Open relationships

As opposed to polyamory, in open relationships, the partners are not necessarily informed of their significant other's sexual encounters with third parties, and primary or secondary bonds do exist. 

Partner swapping or threesomes are also possible in the case of open relationships while effective communication remains the critical ingredient of this type of bond. 

Despite all this, the connections that are formed outside of the main relationship are exclusively sexual and devoid of romantic feelings. 

Polyamory is extremely popular among people nowadays. 

Can we fall in love with more than one person at the same time?

Science has confirmed that we can, in fact, fall in love with more than one person at the same time, both biologically as well as emotionally. It's important to remember, however, that the type of love and the way of displaying it toward each person is entirely different. 

The emotional bond forged with each person may vary as well; we might feel intense passion for one partner and tender love for another. 

There should be no need for suffering or jealousy if the person experiencing this type of bond is polyamorous. Experienced polys react to jealousy with compersion which is the feeling of joy one has experiencing another's joy. 

Problems start rearing their ugly heads when the person in question is monogamous, and according to monogamous rules, they must choose between one of the partners. The flip side of this would be infidelity and engaging in an illicit relationship, which is unknown to the primary partner. 

Anyone can become involved in a polyamorous relationship as long as the knowledge of what doing so entails is understood.

While polyamorous people do tend to be more open, it does not mean that they are automatically involved in sex with multiple people, or that their sexual preferences are fluid.

 

References:

Haritaworn, J., Lin, C. J., & Klesse, C. (2006). Poly/logue: A critical introduction to polyamory. Sexualities, 9(5): 515-529.

Klesse, C. (2006). Polyamory and its ‘others’: Contesting the terms of non-monogamy. Sexualities, 9(5): 565-583.

Noël, M. J. (2006). Progressive polyamory: Considering issues of diversity. Sexualities, 9(5): 602-620.

 

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