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What Does It Mean to Be Polyamorous?

“Poli” means multiplicity, and “amor” means love, which together gives multilove. This is what polyamory is popularly called. Polyamory was officially defined in 1990 as the desire or practice of being in multiple romantic relationships at the same time, with the full knowledge and awareness of all involved, and with honesty and openness. Polylove is classified as one of the forms of ethical, consensual non-monogamy.

Although the concept of polyamory is relatively young, the phenomenon is a return to the roots and forms of relationships that were the basis for functioning in ancient tribal cultures. Proponents of polylove argue that polyamorous relationships are natural and monogamy is contrary to the laws of nature. Their theory is based on the fact that bonding with one partner is a rare phenomenon in the animal world, and in the case of humans, it is a matter of highly accepted social standards.

PolyamoryTrusted Source is the opposite of an open relationship or swinging, where freedom usually concerns only the sexual sphere, and the emotional relationship remains exclusive only to one partner, who always plays the most significant role in a given person's life. The lover and mistress have a lower status regarding privileges in the arrangement. These relationships are often based on a clear separation of the sphere of sexual intercourse from the sphere of love and attachment.

Polyamorous: What Is a Polyamorous Relationship?

Polyamorists emphasize the importance of emotional involvement in creating new relationships. They are also more willing to form longer and lasting relationships with other people. Although non-monogamy is considered controversial due to the monogamous relationship model that dominates in our culture, polyamory is assessed by society much more positively than the above-mentioned open relationships and swinging.

Even though polyamory rejects certain imposed social norms, contrary to appearances, it is based on clearly defined principles. The basis for the existence of a polyamorous relationship is the consent of all people involved in the relationship to this type of bond and lifestyle.

Polyamory is based on specific valuesTrusted Source, including:

People in a polyamorous relationship should be honest with each other and be able to talk openlyTrusted Source about their emotions. There is no place for lies or betrayal. Relationships between related polyamorists are open to all people involved and entirely accepted by them; therefore, hiding closeness or sexual contacts within the group, and even more so outside it, is unacceptable and considered betrayal.

For polyamorists, the most important thing is love based on emotional closenessTrusted Source, which may or may not involve sexual intimacyTrusted Source. Fulfilling sexual needs may be significant, but it is not the basis for polylove functioning.

Polyamorous relationships typically involve the date option of multiple people at the same time. However, polyamory can look different for various individuals, and many structures and boundaries can be employed.

A plural love relationship consists of at least three people, but there are no obstacles to more polyamorists being involved in the relationship. In addition to sharing common values, they have standard plans and may or may not live under one roof. Scientists' research shows that such relationships are more likely to survive when created by open and emotionally mature people. This is also related to age because people over thirty can create more stable and robust bonds than, for example, people in their twenties.

The number of people involved may also influence the durability of a relationship based on plural love. The more people, the less time for individual partners; in polyamorous relationships, everyone should be treated equally, with the same attention.

Polyamory Symbols

The polyamory flag is blue, red, and black. In its center is usually a tiny Greek letter pi, which refers to the Greek particle poly. Moreover, a heart with infinity is one of the most famous symbols of polyamorous people. The infinity sign refers to multiplicity, multitude, and endless love.

The flag and the symbol can be seen during equality parades and marches. It is because polyamory is often associated with queerness – for example, people who form a throuple (i.e., a couple of three people) are often bi- or pansexual. It does not mean, however, that there are not heterosexual and polyamorous people at the same time.

However, it is not only about the sexual orientations of people involved in polyamorous relationships. The very fact that polyamory challenges existing beliefs in societies and goes against long-established norms means that polyamorous people have much in common with the LGBTQ+ communityTrusted Source. Therefore, those individuals often see themselves as part of it.

Polyamory and Polygamy

First of all, it is worth realizing that open relationships, polyamory, and polygamy are three different concepts. Sometimes, they can overlap each other, but not always.

Polyamory is the ability to give affection and build relationships with more than one person at the same time. Polyamorous people can build many relationships in different variants.

PolygamyTrusted Source is a term that describes a situation in which one person has more than one husband or more than one wife. If a man has several wives, it is called polygyny, and if a woman has more than one husband, it is called polyandry.

An open relationshipTrusted Source is how people in a relationship function – whether you are polyamorous or not, you may want to try living in an open relationship.


It should be emphasized that in a polyamorous relationship, it is not the number of people that counts but the quality of the relationship. The basis of functioning is emotional closeness, a sense of connection, and mutual trust. A polyamorous relationship is not the same as an open relationship. Partners establish the rules of operation at the very beginning and follow them. There is no question of jealousy between group members because everyone involved in the relationship has the same rights and is bound by previously established rules. Rapprochement can only occur between members of the relationship.

Polyamorous: What Is a Polyamorous Relationship?

Polyamory and Marriage

You can have a polyamorous relationship while still married. One does not exclude the other. In polyamorous relationships, great importance is given to values such as:

These values are precious for people who follow the principles of polyamory in their lives. As long as both marriage partners want to enter into a polyamorous relationship, there are no contraindications to this. However, these people must share their life partner on various levels. If you want to live in a polyamorous group, you must be sure of your feelings and beliefs. If we do something by force or out of a desire to please our marriage partner, we will become unhappy and morbidly jealous of our partner. Such actions may ultimately lead to the breakdown of the marriage.

Maintaining a polyamorous relationship is more challenging than building a lasting and strong marriage. Maintaining a solid relationship with several people is difficult because of the time commitment to each group member. Each partner must feel equal, and we must give affection to all group members the same way. It is challenging, given that many married couples have trouble caring for one partner, let alone the entire group.

Advantages of Polyamory

The obvious benefit of sexual non-monogamy is the diversification of intimate life, especially when the sexual needs of one or both partners are specific or significantly different from each other. Other reasons for opening a relationship may be spatial and time barriers between permanent partners, e.g. working in different places – then sexual openness is often treated as a temporary solution. Consensually non-monogamous people emphasize greater satisfaction with their erotic and love life as an advantage of their relationship: responsible non-monogamy not only allows for experiencing passions that fade away relatively quickly in a monogamous relationship but also has a refreshing and exciting effect on the basic relationship.

Instead of a romantic search for “the one” or “the one” who would satisfy all intellectual, emotional, and sexual needs, polyamorists create relationships in which several people meet needs. This relationship is relatively often associated with additional economic and family benefits: group living makes it easier to raise children, share household duties, and reduce the cost of living. The accompanying experience of community – a family of choice – is for some people a very important and desired element of polyamory. Additionally, not only the opportunity to meet your own needs but also the relief of not having to meet all of your partner's needs may be an attractive element of an open relationship for many people.

In successful, consensually open relationships that have been going on for a long time, a natural consequence is the development of communication skills, empathy, and the ability to establish and follow rules. When creating intimate bonds with people outside the relationship, the advantages of better self-knowledge through feedback from several partners and developing social skills in dealing with different requirements and personalities are emphasized.

Disadvantages of Polyamory

However, polyamory also has its disadvantages. For many people, the awareness of “sharing” their partner becomes unbearable after some time, even if sexual intercourse does not occur. That is why polyamory is not for everyone. In the worst-case scenario, a polyamorist who is in love with another person may end the relationship with their current partner, which may result in the complete breakdown of their relationship.

In some countries, the standard of conduct is to enter into a lifelong marriage. The emphasis on this aspect is placed primarily by the Catholic Church, which strongly influences society's views. For many conservative people, polyamory may be unacceptable. Polyamorists may encounter intolerance, ostracism, unpleasantness, and even verbal violence from people who do not understand their likes or preferences.


Polyamory does not require treatment. You can only use the help of a psychologist when there are problems in a relationship or between individual members of a group. Staying in a relationship is always voluntary, and sexual contact is only allowed between the people involved. Sexual contact with a person outside the group will be treated as a betrayal. Although polyamory is sometimes confused by unaware people with an open relationship, it is not. Loving and maintaining solid emotional bonds with several people at the same time is possible, as is building a relationship with several people at the same time.

It is worth consulting a psychologist in case of uncertainty before entering into a polyamorous relationship. For people who have not been in such a relationship before, this may be a new and problematic situation – questions arise as to whether such a relationship is suitable for a given person. The help of a psychologist, honest conversation, and consideration of various aspects can help you look at the situation from a different perspective and make a decision tailored to the needs of the individual. You need to understand your emotions, including those related to love for more than one person. A conversation with a specialist will also help you know precisely what poly love is.

Polyamorous: What Is a Polyamorous Relationship?

Polyamory and The Need for Therapy

Society could learn much about trust and informed consent from non-monogamous people. Polyamory involves respect for each partner. Betrayal is the lack of consent to a given activity from either party. In consensual non-monogamyTrusted Source, partners focus on open communication and acceptance of their boundaries.

Many people who are starting their adventure with non-monogamy or discovering polyamory need help in naming their feelings and discussing the rules of creating a relationship in safe conditions. TherapyTrusted Source is, therefore, a space to open up to discuss your fantasies and boundaries.

Couples therapy in the context of polyamory may focus on unique challenges such as dealing with jealousy, multi-party communication, the monogamous/polyamorous relationship, individual and group decision-making, complicated schedules, and building healthy boundaries.

Non-monogamous and polyamorous people often complain about the lack of appropriate psychological and sexological help. It applies not only to prejudices on the part of those helping but also to their poor knowledge.


February 12, 2024
11 minutes read

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