Polyamory is more common than one may think: according to recent studies, approximately 4–5% of all adults in the United States have consensual nonmonogamous relationships. In most societies around the world, people dream of finding “the one” and forming a committed relationship with that one person — for life.

Yet, over the past few decades, more and more people have been speaking out, saying that monogamy is not for them, and have turned to polyamory. People express love in different ways and no relationship is the same, which is why polyamory and the ability to have a relationship with more than one person has become an increasingly common topic of discussion. However, even if many people have heard the term polyamory, not everyone is clear on the meaning or the logistics of how these relationships work.

Polyamory is often mistakenly considered the same as an open relationship – which is not always the case.

What is a polyamory and is it the right choice for you?


There are different types of polyamory

Polyamory, or a polyamorous relationship, is a type of non-monogamous relationship that differs from other relationships in that multiple people are involved – not just two, even if also this definition differs by couples. For some people, a polyamorous relationship involves being in a relationship with multiple people, but having one main partner. For others, polyamory is the possibility of being in two completely separate relationships. The fundamental philosophy of polyamory is that sexual love shouldn’t be confined to the strictures of monogamy, but expressed freely and fully.

Polyamory is not just about sex

There are a couple of common misconceptions about polyamory – the first one being that it’s just about sex, when it’s actually not. For some people, sex can indeed be the primary motivator for opening their relationship: the idea of sex with one person for the rest of their life seems limiting. But the word polyamorous isn’t about sex – its translation is literally “multiple loves”.

In polyamory, you find yourself in love more often and feeling love from others regularly. It can be intoxicating to be loved by more than one person in such an intimate way and it’s a major reason the polyamorous lifestyle is attractive to many. Who doesn’t like falling in love?

Doesn’t mean you are unable to commit

People aren’t polyamorous because they’re unhappy about committing to a relationship. Commitment for monogamous people can mean expressing love by putting time, trust, and respect for shared agreements into a relationship with another person. Commitment for a polyamorous relationship could mean the same — just with a different set of agreements. Dating as a polyamorous person means you’re not looking for just one person to share a romantic or sexual committment with.

Jealousy and time management

Healthy polyamorous relationships are based on good time management skills and great communication. The partners in a polyamorous relationship have to be great at explaining what their expectations, needs, and limits are and at checking in emotionally with their partners at every step of the way. Communicating, of course, involves setting boundaries for a polyamorous relationship, as well as talking about your feelings, desires, and concerns. Jealosy, for instance, is a subject that needs to be discussed and faced in any polyamorous relationship.

Jealousy triggers fear, anger, and insecurity. It can be painful, but understanding it as a morally neutral emotion is critical, no matter if you’re monogamous or not. For a polyamorous relationship to be successful, everyone involved must be open and honest about what they want and need out of the union. Polyamory can work if both individuals are completely emotionally and philosophically on board with the concept, but even so, it’s challenging to eradicate the insecurity that sparks jealousy.

Is different from an open relationship

Even though both are considered non-monogamous relationships, polyamory is way different from an open relationship. In polyamorous relationships, it is not completely about sex, whereas an open relationship is typically defined as having outside sexual relationships that do not form into relationships. With polyamory, the point is to have multiple relationships – as love and emotional connections are the driving forces.

The struggles

Polyamorous relationships are highly challenging to construct and maintain. Simply finding a partner willing to enter a relationship with the same honesty and ground rules is difficult, especially in a culture that favors serial monogamy. For this reason, communities arise in which those who are “poly” can meet, often initially online. Moreover, while polyamory is legal, polygamy is not. Therefore, people in nonmonogamous relationships may face legal hurdles including child-custody disputes, “morality clauses” in the employment contracts of certain companies, housing discrimination, and charges of adultery or bigamy.