Polyamorous relationships – what you need to know


As society becomes more accepting of diverse relationship structures, more people within the LGBTQI+ community are exploring polyamory as a way to express their sexuality and emotions – here’s a breakdown of what that entails.

I know this couple. Realistically, they are more than a couple. They have a primary relationship with each other and one other person, who has moved into their home. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster in conventional societal norms, it’s a paradigm that works exquisitely well for them. Remarkably, all parties are happy and fulfilled.

Technically, this group of people, who are all romantically and sexually involved with each other, would by called a “triad” or “throuple”. They practice polyfidelity in a non-hierarchical, kitchen-table polyamorous relationship.

Confused? Don’t be. We’ll break that all down in a minute.

First, let’s take a look at what polyamory is. It is not polygamy or polyandry, which is having more than one wife or husband at a time and is strongly associated with heteronormative relationships. Polyamory steps away from the monogamous heteronormative relationship that is prevalent in society. It is the practice of being in a romantic or sexual relationship with more than one person simultaneously, with – and this is important – the informed consent of all parties involved.

In some polyamorous arrangements, gender, sexual orientation and depth of involvement are fluid, incorporating any letter in the L, G, B, T, Q or I (and beyond). There are also poly relationships that are strictly homosexual or heterosexual. How the relationship dynamic is set up is really down to the people involved. And no, this isn’t cheating, because everyone in the poly relationship knows about everyone else in it (see: informed consent).

While some people may roll their eyes, imagining a group of sex-crazed people at a 1970s-style key party, that’s decidedly not how all this works. Polyamory is not swinging. Polyamorous relationships are loving, meaningful relationships between several people – not a night of going home with your best friend’s girlfriend for a bit of something-something and doing the walk of shame the next morning.

On the plus side, there is an opportunity for greater communication and emotional and sexual needs being distributed among several people instead of just one. On the downside, the green-eyed monster, jealousy, can easily rear its head. There may be some scheduling involved as far as who gets to see whom and when, unless all parties live in the same home.

Polyamorous relationships are sometimes labelled as “queer” because they exist outside the heteronormative society.

There are several different types of polyamorous relationships, and the form your poly relationship takes relies on the needs or desires of the people involved and the organic growth of these relationships.

Kitchen Table Polyamory is when all parties are comfortable sitting around a table, getting to know each other and can discuss relationship issues openly as a group. This is not to be mistaken for Garden Party or Birthday Party Polyamory. This is where one’s metamours (or partners) know each other on a superficial level and wish to keep it that way.

A relationship involving three people who are partners to each person in the group is often called a “triad” or “throuple”. Couples who are in a relationship with another couple are known as a “quad”. The partners may or may not necessarily be sexually involved with each other, however, there is a romantic, committed relationship between those involved.

In a Vee, one person has two metamours. The metamours know about each other but are not involved with each other romantically. Solo polyamory sees one person living on their own, but engaging in multiple relationships.

Most polyamorous set-ups have set boundaries and rules that help metamours navigate their relationships. For example, there may be a restriction on certain sexual activities, number of metamours or scenarios that either party will be happy with their primary partner engaging in. Relationship Anarchy is a polyamorous relationship in which there are absolutely no rules or restrictions and each party is free to engage with metamours as they please.

Polyamory is sometimes labelled as “queer” simply because it exists outside the heteronormative society. It is also not a surprise then, that some queer people seek out polyamorous relationships in order to fully express their sexuality. It is also a practice that is starting to gain more traction, although according to research, there are fewer “out” poly relationships than there are “private” poly relationships. This may be due to societal pressures or fear of religious judgment. Or even, the old classic, “What will my friends think of me”?

My friends in their triad don’t care what others think, which is a rarity. They happily outed their relationship on Facebook and continue to live in joy. While some people may not understand how this works, it really shouldn’t matter at all. Love is, after all, love, and who says we need to love only one person at any given time?

Poly Terms

Polyfidelity – a closed poly relationship in which all individuals remain faithful to each other and no longer seek metamours to add to their relationship.

Parallel Poly – when metamours do not interact with each other.

Anchor Partners – formerly known as primary partners, anchor partners are often a couple who is married, possibly have children and live together.

Hierarchical Poly – often in anchor partners where an individual or couple are in charge of vetoing certain relationship choices outside of the anchor relationship.

Polycule – refers to all persons involved in the poly relationship.

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