Polyamory is a relationship philosophy and model where intimate, committed relationships are formed with more than one partner at a time. The word “polyamory” is derived from a combination of the Greek poly, which means “many” and Latin amor, which means “love”.
Polyamory is a common form of ethical non-monogamy where multiple sexual or romantic relationships are pursued and maintained, often simultaneously. It continues to gain in popularity as mainstream discussions of this relationship model increase. As an umbrella term, it can include other forms of multi-partner relationships, though it tends to be distinguished by committed relationships over fleeting or merely sexual affairs.
The greater network of interweaving and overlapping partnerships is referred to as a polycule. When members of the group restrict their intimate activity exclusively to their accepted group, this is often referred to as polyfidelity.
Types of Polyamory
Hierarchical polyamory: When someone has a main partnership who receives the majority of their attention. Their primary partner likely has more influence over important decisions. They may live together, be legally married, and/or have and raise children together.
Non-hierarchical polyamory: When someone’s partners do not take obvious priority over one another, receive equal amounts of attention, and share equal influence in important decisions.
Solo polyamory: When someone does not have a primary partnership but pursues or maintains relationships with multiple people. They may consider themselves their primary partner and maintain their independence.
Polyfidelity: When a group of people (3 or more) are in a committed relationship to the others within the group. Their intimate energy and activities are reserved exclusively for the members of the group.
Hierarchical and Non-Hierarchical Models
Polyamory can be hierarchical in nature or not. Some people approach it from the foundation of a main dyadic (two-person) relationship, where a two-person partnership opens itself up to include other simultaneous relationships. Where a main partnership exists, one may refer to that partner as their primary partner under a hierarchical structure. Other descriptions include nesting partner (i.e. a partner with whom you choose to live and create a home with) and anchor partner.
In non-hierarchical structures, like under the umbrella of relationship anarchy, anchor partner is commonly used as the equivalent to primary partner. This name is given to a partner deemed a prominent or central figure in one’s life, but without assigning it a hierarchical classification to prioritize them over the other important intimate relationships and friendships.
Polyamory and Cheating
Relationship infidelity, or cheating, is the breach of boundaries and terms of a given relationship. As such, cheating can happen in any relationship structure. However, polyamory is not synonymous with cheating. Healthy polyamorous relationships stress that all partners involved be informed of and consenting to the arrangement.
Polyamory emphasizes communication practices like negotiating terms and regular check-ins to assure the wellbeing of everyone involved is being respected and to manage any concerns or jealousy that may arise.