BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?

BDSM is an alternate lifestyle that has several concepts that has made is quite different from mainstream relationships.

Because of these differences, BDSM is also quite controversial. One of the main controversies facing BDSM is the aspect of polygamy in a BDSM relationship. Polygamy has several ramifications for a person in their personal lives. For one, if a person is married in an alternate relationship, polygamy is illegal in some states of the US and most countries all over the world. In fact, the alternate lifestyle itself may be considered illegal in some countries around the world.

Apart from the legal aspects, polygamy has several mental and physical aspects related to it, which makes it one of the most complicated and crucial concepts in BDSM. Being in a polygamous relationship is never easy, and being in a BDSM relationship with polygamy is almost impossible. Though it might seem that the dominant has it simpler because he or she gets to control two or more submissives, it is not so.
With polygamy, the dominant is responsible for two submissives, and is therefore has to care and maintain for two submissives.

In fact, the relationship psychology between three or more people in a relationship can be so intense and complicated that the entire relationship can be blown out of the water, if the dominant is not careful and mature enough. Jealousy comes naturally to certain individuals, and while overt jealousy is detrimental to the relationship, some amount of jealousy is always needed to keep the relationship growing and ebbing. We should remember that one of the most important aspects of BDSM is a submissive being responsive and pleasing to the dominant.

It goes without saying that a person can be responsive or pleasing to another only if there is a relationship of respect and compassion between them. This respect and compassion can be greatly sabotaged if the person sees that there is someone else who has the same feelings toward the dominant and that these feelings are been replied to by the dominant too.

Polygamy is not a compulsory aspect in the realm of BDSM. There are several BDSM relationships that comprise of only the dominant and the submissive, in fact, the number of polygamous relationships are quite less as compared to the number of monogamous relationships in this realm.

Before you intend to get into any relationship, be it in an alternate lifestyle or the mainstream lifestyle, make sure that you know what you are getting into. It is a very good idea to ask the dominant whether they believe in polygamous or monogamous lifestyles. Also, while you are at it, you can even clarify whether the dominant would ever think of being in a polygamous relationship. If the dominant replies in the affirmative, you should think well and decide whether you would be all right and adjust well in a polygamous relationship.

Article: William Morris

Related On site links: 

Polyamory – The basics of Poly
Polygamy – BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?
poly_relationships – An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships
Poly resources – Want to find out more about polyamory? Links also aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory
Poly bookshelf -what’s on your poly reading list?


Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It is not to be confused with polysexuality, which is attraction towards multiple genders and/or sexes.

Polyamory, often abbreviated as poly, is often described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy. The word is sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an mphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.

The term “polyamorous” can refer to the nature of a relationship at some point in time or to a philosophy or relationship orientation (much like gender or sexual orientation). It is sometimes used as an umbrella term that covers various forms of multiple relationships; polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved.

Polyamory is a less specific term than polygamy, the practice or condition of having more than one spouse. The majority of polygamous cultures are traditionally polygynous, where one husband has multiple wives. Polyandrous societies, in which one wife has multiple husbands, are less common but do exist.[2] Marriage is not a requirement in polyamorous relationships.

The “knowledge and consent of all partners concerned”[3] is a defining characteristic of polyamorous relationships. Distinguishing polyamory from traditional forms of non-monogamy (e.g., “cheating”) is an ideology that openness, goodwill, truthful communication, and ethical behavior should prevail among all the parties involved.[4][5] As of July 2009, it was estimated that more than 500,000 polyamorous relationships existed in the United States.[6][7] People who identify as polyamorous typically reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships. Those who are open to, or emotionally suited for, polyamory may embark on a polyamorous relationship when single or already in a monogamous or open relationship. Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships, which commonly consist of people seeking to build long-term relationships with more than one person on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationships.

In practice, polyamorous relationships are highly varied and individualized according to those participating. For many, such relationships are ideally built upon values of trust, loyalty, the negotiation of boundaries, and compersion, as well as overcoming jealousy, possessiveness, and the rejection of restrictive cultural standards.[8]Powerful intimate bonding among three or more persons may occur. The skills and attitudes needed to manage polyamorous relationships add challenges that are not often found in the traditional “dating-and-marriage” model of long-term relationships. Polyamory may require a more fluid and flexible approach to love relationship, and yet operate on a complex system of boundaries or rules. Additionally, participants in a polyamorous relationship may not have, nor expect their partners to have, preconceptions as to the duration of the relationship, in contrast to monogamous marriages where a life-long union is generally the goal. However, polyamorous relationships can and do last many years.


Polyamory is a hybrid word: poly is Greek for many (or multiple) and amor is Latin for love. The article entitled “A Bouquet of Lovers,” written by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and first published in Green Egg Magazine (Spring 1990), a publication founded by her husband Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, is widely cited as the original source of the word, although “polyamory” does not appear in the article.[9][10] Jennifer L. Wesp created the Usenet newsgroup alt.polyamory in May 1992,[11] and the Oxford English Dictionary cites the proposal to create that group as the first verified appearance of the word.[12] The term polyfidelity, now considered a subset of polyamory, was coined in the 1970s by members of the Kerista commune. Naturally, such relationships existed long before the words for them came into use.

Most definitions center on the concepts of being open to, or engaging in, multiple loving relationships (of whatever form or configuration) wherein all parties are informed and consenting to the arrangement. However, no single definition of “polyamory” has universal acceptance; two areas of difference arise regarding the degree of commitment (such as in the practice of more casual sexual activities rather than long-term, loving partnerships) and whether it represents a viewpoint or a relational status quo (is a person who is open to the idea, but without partners at present, still “polyamorous?”). Similarly, an open relationship in which the committed partners agree to permit romantic or sexual relationships with other people, might be considered “polyamorous” under broader usages of the word, but excluded from some of the narrower usages, since polyamorous relationships can also be conducted as poly-fidelitous (“closed,” or faithful to the participants involved).

Members of the newsgroup alt.polyamory collaborated on a FAQ (frequently asked questions) post that was updated periodically, and included the group’s definition of “polyamory”. The 1997 version,[13] which has been archived online, contains this definition: Polyamory means “loving more than one”. This love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved, but you needn’t wear yourself out trying to figure out ways to fit fondness for apple pie, or filial piety, or a passion for the Saint Paul Saints baseball club into it. “Polyamorous” is also used as a descriptive term by people who are open to more than one relationship even if they are not currently involved in more than one. (Heck, some are involved in less than one.) Some people think the definition is a bit loose, but it’s got to be fairly roomy to fit the wide range of poly arrangements out there.

In 1999, Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of the term (which the dictionary had not yet recognized; the words “polyamory, -ous, and -ist” were added to the OED in 2006[3]). On their website, the Ravenhearts shared their submission to the OED, which follows: The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. The Ravenhearts then further explained their views on the above definition: This term was meant to be inclusive, and in that context, we have never intended to particularly exclude “swinging” per se, if practitioners thereof wished to adopt the term and include themselves. As far as we have understood, swinging specifically does not involve “cheating,” and it certainly does involve having “multiple lovers”! Moreover, we understand from speaking with a few swinging activists that many swingers are closely bonded with their various lovers, as best friends and regular partners.

The two essential ingredients of the concept of “polyamory” are “more than one;” and “loving.” That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other’s lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, “cheating,” serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as “mate-swapping” parties.

Polyamory is about truthful communication with all concerned parties, loving intent, erotic meeting, and inclusivity (as opposed to the exclusivity of monogamy and monamory). On the basis of our own personal friendships with a few participants in the very large, diverse groundswell of human energy sometimes called the “Swinger’s Movement,” many—perhaps most—self-identified “swingers” do seem to fulfill our criteria of being polyamorous. However, Ryam Nearing of Loving More says: “In all my talks with swingers it seems that the traditional (and most widespread) way of swinging is not polyamory as it is primarily sexual and specifically not relationship oriented. Some swingers and some locals allow for/choose more emotional connection, but they are the exception rather than the rule.”—Ravenhearts Facts and answers on Polyamory[14]

The terms primary (or primary relationship(s)) and secondary (or secondary relationship(s)) are often used to indicate a hierarchy of different relationships or the place of each relationship in a person’s life. Thus, a woman with a husband and an additional partner might refer to her husband as her “primary,” and a lover whom she only sees once a week as her “secondary,” in order to differentiate to the listener who is who. Some polyamorous people use such labels as a tool to manage multiple relationships, while others believe that all partners deserve equal standing and consideration and that a hierarchy is insulting to the people involved. Another model, sometimes referred to as an intimate network, includes relationships that are of varying significance to the people involved, but are not explicitly labeled as “primary” or “secondary.” Within this model, a hierarchy may be fluid and vague, or nonexistent.

Symbols of polyamory

Although people who are polyamorous have adopted a number of symbols, none has universal recognition. The most common symbol is the red and white heart (♥) combined with the blue infinity symbol (∞).[1]
The poly pride flag consists of three equal horizontal colored stripes with a symbol in the center of the flag. The colors of the stripes, from top to bottom, are as follows: • Blue – The openness and honesty among all partners. • Red – Love and passion. • Black – Solidarity with those who must hide their relationships due to social pressures. The symbol in the center of the flag is a gold Greek lowercase letter “pi” (π), as the first letter of “polyamory” . The letter’s gold color represents the value that people who are polyamorous place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships.[15]

The symbol of ILIC (Infinite Love in Infinite Combinations) is a reference to the Star Trek kol-ut-shan or symbol of philosophy of Vulcan IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations).[1][16] It is a variation on Pi-and-the-three-colors from the Polyamory Pride Flag by Jim Evans. Like the flag, the colors are: blue, representing the openness and honesty among all partners with which people who are polyamorous conduct their multiple relationships; red, representing love and passion; and black, representing solidarity with those who, though they are open and honest with all participants of their relationships, must hide those relationships from the outside world due to societal pressures. A gold Greek lowercase letter “pi” (π), as the first letter of “polyamory”, represents the value that people who are polyamorous place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships.[15] The most common symbol that people who are polyamorous have adopted is the heart symbol combined with the infinity sign (∞) that the ILIC symbol also uses.[1]


Another is the image of a parrot, since “Polly” is a common name for these birds.[17] PolyOz states in its polyamory glossary that “The parrot is a common poly “mascot” or symbol. Punning on ‘poly wanna X’”.[18] A 2003 article in The Guardian states “Today America has more than 100 poly email lists and support groups. Their emblem, which marks the table when they meet in restaurants, is the parrot (because of their nickname Polly).”[19] Author Mystic Life describes this symbol an ironic reference to parrots’ monogamy.[20][21] The Purple Mobius symbol was created to provide an abstract symbol for the poly community, which had some disagreements over the use of the heart/infinity, the parrot, and the pi-flag. It was intended to be a neutral symbol that referenced all the civil and social rights groups that came before, by alluding to the color and shape of related movements, such as the Gay Rights movement, the lesbian/feminist movement, the bisexual community, and the BDSM community, as well as making a nodding reference to the heart/infinity symbol (the infinity symbol being another example of a Mobius Strip).[22]

Forms of polyamory

Forms of polyamory include:

• Polyfidelity, which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to only specific partners in the group (which may include all members of that group) (e.g. group marriage).
• Sub-relationships, which distinguish between “primary” and “secondary” relationships (e.g. most open marriages).
In 1906 H.G. Wells presented a defense of this sort of polyamory in a utopian novel entitled In the Days of the Comet.
• Three people romantically involved, often called a “triad relationship.” (Commonly initiated by an established couple jointly dating a third person; however, there are many possible configurations.)
• Relationships between a couple and another couple (Quad).
• Polygamy (polygyny and polyandry), in which one person marries several spouses (who may or may not be married to, or have romantic relationships with, one another).
• Group relationships, sometimes referred to as tribes, and group marriage, in which all consider themselves associated to one another, popularized to some extent by Robert A. Heinlein (in novels such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Love, Friday, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress). Also works by Robert Rimmer, and Starhawk in her books The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) and Walking to Mercury (1997). A domestic partnership consisting of four people who are all married to each other features in Vonda N. McIntyre’s Starfarers series.
• Networks of interconnecting relationships, where a particular person may have relationships of varying degrees of importance with various people.
• Mono/poly relationships, where one partner is monogamous but agrees to the other having outside relationships.
• So-called “geometric” arrangements, which are described by the number of people involved and their relationship connections. Examples include “triads” and “quads”, along with “V” (or “Vee”) and “N” geometries. (See:Terminology within polyamory.)

The fringes and outliers of polyamory

The expression open relationship denotes a relationship in which participants may have sexual liaisons with others not within their core group of partners. For example, when a dyad consisting of a married couple makes such an agreement, it may be termed an open marriage. Some open relationships may be open only sexually, while exclusive emotionally. There is broad overlap between open relationships and polyamory.

Another form of polyamory is polyfidelity (often referred to as “poly-fi”). Such polyfidelitous relationships are not “open.” Within such an arrangement, the parties adhere to commitments of sexual and emotional fidelity or exclusivity to the group. Often, those involved in poly-fidelitous relationships will practice fluid-bonding.
It is possible for a person with polyamorous relationships to also engage in casual sex, traditional swinging, and other open relationships. Usually those who take part in such activities see these as separate from the emotional bonds shared with their polyamorous partners. Traditionally there has been a divide between the polyamorous and swinger communities, the former emphasizing the emotional aspects of plural relationships and the latter emphasizing the sexual activities of non-monogamy. Polyamorous people can engage in infidelities or secret affairs,although this is no better accepted in polyamorous communities than in monogamous ones.

Cultural diversity within polyamory

“Polygamy” is more often used to refer to codified forms of multiple marriage (especially those with a traditional/religious basis), while “modern polyamory” or “egalitarian polyamory” implies a relationship defined by negotiation between its members, rather than by cultural norms. Egalitarian polyamory is culturally rooted in such concepts as choice and individuality, rather than in religious traditions.

Egalitarian polyamory is more closely associated with values, subcultures and ideologies that favor individual freedoms and equality in sexual matters – most notably, those reflected by sexual freedom advocacy groups such as Woodhull Freedom Foundation & Federation, National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and American Civil Liberties Union.[23] However, polygamy advocacy groups and activists and egalitarian polyamory advocacy groups and activists can and do work together cooperatively. In addition, the two sub-communities have many common issues (poly parenting, dealing with jealousy, legal and social discrimination, etc.), the discussion and resolution of which are of equal interest to both sub-communities, regardless of any cultural differences that may exist. Moreover, there is considerable cultural diversity within both sub-communities. Religiously motivated polygamy has its Islamic, Mormon fundamentalist, Christian Plural Marriage, Jewish[24] and other varieties; similarly, some egalitarian polyamorists have cultural ties to Naturism, Neo-Pagans,[25] BDSM, Modern Tantra,[26] and other special interest groups. For example, egalitarian polyamory and BDSM often face similar challenges (e.g. negotiating the ground rules for unconventional relationships, or the question of coming out to family and friends), and the cross-pollination of ideas takes place between the two.[27]

Legal status

In most countries, it is legal for three or more people to form and share a sexual relationship (subject sometimes to laws against homosexuality). However, no Western countries permit marriage among more than two people. Nor do they give strong and equal legal protection (e.g., of rights relating to children) to non-married partners – the legal regime is not comparable to that applied to married couples.

Individuals involved in polyamorous relationships are considered by the law to be no different from people who live together, or “date”, under other circumstances. In many jurisdictions where lesbian and gay couples can access civil unions or registered partnerships, these are often intended as parallel institutions to that of heterosexual monogamous marriage. Accordingly, they include parallel entitlements, obligations, and limitations. Amongst the latter, as in the case of the New Zealand Civil Union Act 2005, there are parallel prohibitions on civil unions with more than one partner, which is considered bigamy, or dual marriage/civil union hybrids with more than one person. Both are banned under Sections 205-206 of the Crimes Act 1961. In jurisdictions where same-sex marriage proper exists, bigamous same-sex marriages fall under the same set of legal prohibitions as bigamous heterosexual marriages. As of yet, there is no case law applicable to these issues.[28]

Bigamy is the act of marrying one person while already being married to another, and is legally prohibited in most countries where monogamy is the cultural norm. Some bigamy statutes are broad enough to potentially encompass polyamorous relationships involving cohabitation, even if none of the participants claim marriage to more than one partner. For instance, under Utah Code 76-7-101, “A person is guilty of bigamy when, knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife, the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.” Having multiple non-marital partners, even if married to one, is legal in most U.S. jurisdictions; at most it constitutes grounds for divorce if the spouse is non-consenting, or feels that the interest in a further partner has destabilized the marriage. In jurisdictions where civil unions or registered partnerships are recognized, the same principle applies to divorce in those contexts. There are exceptions to this: in North Carolina, a spouse can sue a third party for causing “loss of affection” in or “criminal conversation” (adultery) with their spouse,[29] and more than twenty states in the US have laws against adultery[30] although they are infrequently enforced. Some states were prompted to review their laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

Some social conservatives hold that the reading of Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Lawrence is that states may not constitutionally burden any private, consensual sexual activity between adults. Such a reading would throw laws against fornication, adultery, and even adult incest into question. New Jersey’s 2004 Domestic Partnership Act could in theory be used to legally connect more than two persons (albeit imperfectly), perhaps using a combination of marriage and domestic partnership. However, no case law in support of this theory yet exists.

At present, the extension to multiple-partner relationships of laws that use a criterion similar to that adopted in the UK, i.e., “married or living together as married” remains largely untested. That is, it is not known whether these laws could treat some trios or larger groups as common-law marriages. If marriage is intended, most countries provide for both a religious marriage and a civil ceremony (sometimes combined). These recognize and formalize the relationship. Few Western countries give either religious or legal recognition – or permission – to marriages with three or more partners. While a recent case in the Netherlands was commonly read as demonstrating that Dutch law permitted multiple-partner civil unions,[31] this belief is mistaken.

The relationship in question was a samenlevingscontract, or “cohabitation contract”, and not a registered partnership or marriage.[32][33] The Netherlands’ law concerning registered partnerships provides that:
1. A person may be involved in one only registered partnership with one other person whether of the same or of opposite sex at any one time.
2. Persons who enter into a registered partnership may not at the same time be married. When a relationship ends, non-consensual infidelity (“cheating”) is often grounds for an unfavorable divorce settlement, and infidelity generally could easily be seized upon as a prejudicial issue by an antagonistic partner. A detailed legal theory of polyamorous marriage is being developed. The “dyadic networks” model[34] calls for the revision of existing laws against bigamy to permit married persons to enter into additional marriages, provided that they have first given legal notice to their existing marital partner(s).

Polyamory as a practice

Separate from polyamory as a philosophical basis for relationship, are the practical ways in which people who live polyamorously arrange their lives and handle certain issues, as compared to those of a generally more socially acceptable monogamous arrangement.

Values within polyamory

• Fidelity and loyalty: Many polyamorists define fidelity not as sexual exclusivity, but as faithfulness to the promises and agreements made about a relationship. A secret sexual relationship that violates those accords would be seen as a breach of fidelity. Polyamorists generally base definitions of commitment on considerations other than sexual exclusivity, e.g. “trust and honesty” or “growing old together”.[35]

• Communication and negotiation: Because there is no “standard model” for polyamorous relationships, and reliance upon common expectations may not be realistic, polyamorists often advocate explicitly negotiating with all involved to establish the terms of their relationships, and often emphasize that this should be an ongoing process of honest communication and respect. Polyamorists will usually take a pragmatic approach to their relationships; many accept that sometimes they and their partners will make mistakes and fail to live up to these ideals, and that communication is important for repairing any breaches.[36][37]

• Trust, honesty, dignity, and respect: Most polyamorists emphasize respect, trust, and honesty for all partners.[36][37] Ideally, a partner’s artners are accepted as part of that person’s life rather than merely tolerated, and usually a relationship that requires deception or a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy is seen as a less than ideal model.

• Boundaries and agreements: Poly relationships often involve negotiating agreements, and establishing specific boundaries, or “ground rules”; such agreements vary widely and may change over time, but could include, for example: consultation about new relationships; devising schedules that work for everyone; limits on physical displays of affection in public or among mixed company; and budgeting the amount of money a partner can spend on additional partners.

• Gender equality: Many polyamorists do not believe in different relationship “rules” based on gender, a point of contrast with some forms of religious non-monogamy which are often patriarchically based. Commonly, however, couples first expanding an existing monogamous relationship into a polyamorous one, may adhere to gender-specific boundaries until all parties are comfortable with the new dynamic, such as when a wife agrees not to engage sexually with another male at her husband’s request, but may be allowed to have romantic and sexual relationships with women. Such terms and boundaries are negotiable, and such asymmetric degrees of freedom among the partners (who need not be of different genders) are more often due to individual differences and needs, and are usually understood to be temporary and within a negotiated time frame until further opening up of the relationship becomes practicable or easier for the parties to handle emotionally.

• Non-possessiveness: Many polyamorists view excessive restrictions on other deep relationships as less than desirable, as such restrictions can be used to replace trust with a framework of ownership and control. It is usually preferred or encouraged that a polyamorist strive to view their partners’ other significant others (often referred to as OSOs) in terms of the gain to their partners’ lives rather than a threat to their own (see compersion). Therefore, jealousy and possessiveness are generally viewed not so much as something to avoid or structure the relationships around, but as responses that should be explored, understood, and resolved within each individual, with compersion as a goal.

Sharing of domestic burden

Claimed benefits of a polyamorous relationship include the following:[38]
• The ability of parties to discuss issues with multiple partners has the potential to add mediation and stabilization to a relationship, and to reduce polarization of viewpoints.
• Emotional support and structure provided by other committed adults within the family unit.
• A wider range of experience, skills, resources, and perspectives that multiple adults bring to a family dynamic.
• The ability to share chores and child supervision, reducing domestic and child rearing pressure upon adults’ time without needing to pay for outside child caregivers.
• Greatly reduced per capita cost of living.
• Increased financial stability; the loss of one income is not the entirety of the family income (if only one parent works), or half the family income (if both parents work), but may be far less.

Specific issues affecting polyamorous relationships

Polyamorists cite the human tendency towards jealousy and possessiveness as major hurdles in polyamory, and also as personal limitations to overcome:[8]

Possessiveness can be a major stumbling block, and often it prevents what could be a successful polyamourous relationship from forming. When people are viewed, even inadvertently, as possessions, they become a commodity, a valuable one at that. Just as most people are reluctant to let go of what little money that they have, people are also reluctant to “share” their beloved. After all, what if [their beloved] finds someone else who is more attractive/intelligent/well-liked/successful/etc.. than [themselves], and decides to abandon the relationship in favor of the new lover? These sorts of feelings act as inferiority complexes inside of polyamorous relationships and must be resolved, completely, before a polyamorous relationship can be truly successful.[39]

An editorial article on the polyamory website proposed in 2006 the following issues as being worthy of specific coverage and attention:[40]
• Helping children cope with “being different.”
• “Coming out” as polyamorous (and explaining polyamory) to children.
• Polyamorous parental interactions.
• Polyamory social settings (involving children).
• Legal (parenting) issues.

The author, herself part of a polyamorous relationship with two other adults, comments that:

The kids started realizing that there were three adults in the house that they had to answer to. Big Shock,Then came the onslaught of trying to ‘befriend’ a particular adult and get what they wanted from that one adult. Another big shock when they found that it didn’t work and that we all communicated about wants or needs of any given child. After this was established, we sort of fell into our patterns of school, practices, just normal life in general. The kids all started realizing that there were three of us to care for them when they were sick, three of us to get scolded from, hugs from, tickles from; three of us to feed the small army of mouths and three of us to trust completely in. After trust was established, they asked more questions. Why do we have to live together? Why can’t I have my own room? … Why do you guys love each other? Why do I have to listen to them (non-biological parent)? We answered them as truthfully as we could and as much as was appropriate for their age. I found that it was more unnerving for me to think about how to approach a new kid and their parents than it ever was for the kids.

Polyamory in a same-sex setting

Gay psychotherapist Michael Shernoff wrote that non-monogamy is “a well-accepted part of gay subculture,”although “often viewed by some therapists as problematic,”[41] and that somewhere between 30%[42] and 67%[43] of men in male couples reported being in a sexually non-monogamous relationship. According to Eli Coleman & B. R. Simon Rosser (1996), “although a majority of male couples are not sexually exclusive, they are in fact emotionally monogamous.”[44] Shernoff states that:

One of the biggest differences between male couples and mixed-sex couples is that many, but by no means all, within the gay community have an easier acceptance of sexual nonexclusivity than does heterosexual society in general. … Research confirms that nonmonogamy in and of itself does not create a problem for male couples when it has been openly negotiated.[45]

In practice, most discussion of lesbian and gay polyamory occurs primarily within the context of relationship ethics. It should be noted that there is a broad spectrum of partner numerical and frequency profiles amongst lesbians and gay men, so that polyamorous ethical debates may be undertaken, but most legislative effort is expended on legal recognition of same-sex couples, whether through civil unions, registered partnerships or same-sex marriage proper. As yet, there is no movement for lesbian/gay ‘polyamorists rights’ akin to that for same-sex marriage or alternative forms of legal relationship recognition.[46]

Polyamory and parenting

Many polyamorists have children, either within the relationship(s) or from previous relationships. Like other elements of polyamory, the way in which children are integrated into the family structure varies widely. Some possibilities are:

• Parents are primarily responsible for their own children (biological, adoptive, or step-), but other members of the relationship act as an extended family, providing assistance in child-rearing.
• Adults raise children collectively, all taking equal responsibility for each child regardless of consanguinity.
• Parents are wholly responsible for their own children, with other members of the relationship relating to the children as friends of the parents.
• Children treat parents’ partners as a form of stepparent or are told to think of them as aunts and uncles.

The choice of structures is affected by timing: an adult who has been present throughout a child’s life is likely to have a more parental relationship with that child than one who enters a relationship with people who already have a teenage child. (The issues involved often parallel those of step-parenting.) The degree of logistical and emotional involvement between the members of the relationship is also important: a close-knit triad already living under one roof with shared finances is far more likely to take a collective approach to parenting than would a larger, loose-knit group with separate living arrangements:

Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned. More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and daily issues such as transportation to extracurricular activities. Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are. There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children. If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.[47]

Whether children are fully informed of the nature of their parents’ relationship varies, according to the above considerations and also to whether the parents are “out” to other adults. In one possible case indicative of the law related to parenting and polyamory in the United States, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court in 2006 voted 5-1 that a father in a custody case had the right to teach his child (age 13) about polygamy (and hence possibly by implication about other multiple partner relationships), and that this right “trumped” the anti-bigamy and other laws which might apply and was not deemed inherently harmful to the child. (Note: this decision was made in the context of religious freedom, but religious freedom would not apply if there was harm to the child.)[48]

Custody ramifications

Parents involved in polyamorous relationships often keep it a secret because of the risk that it will be used by an ex-spouse, or other family member, as grounds to deprive them of custody of and/or access to their children. The fear is that it will be used in family disputes much as homosexuality has been used in the past.

In 1998, a Tennessee court granted guardianship of a child to her grandmother and step-grandfather after the child’s mother April Divilbiss and partners outed themselves as polyamorous on MTV. After contesting the decision for two years, Divilbiss eventually agreed to relinquish her daughter, acknowledging that she was unable to adequately care for her child and that this, rather than her polyamory, had been the grandparents’ real otivation in seeking custody.[49] The Tennessee case is not necessarily normative for the entirety of the United States, since family law varies significantly from state to state. US state law is, of course, not normative for laws of other countries.

Geographical and cultural differences

Social views on polyamory vary by country and culture. For example, a 2003 article in The Guardian by Helena Echlin argues that “British people are if anything more tolerant than in America which is perhaps why British polys are less in need of support groups”, and quotes a UK source as stating: “We have a tradition of people minding their own business here. People might disapprove, but they won’t try to mess up your life. In America, they might call social services.”[50]

Philosophical aspects

As with many non-traditional life choices, there is considerable active discussion about philosophical approaches to polyamory.
In 1929, Marriage and Morals, written by the philosopher, mathematician, and Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell, offered a strong precedent to the philosophy of polyamory. At the time of publication, Russell’s questioning of the Victorian notions of morality regarding sex and marriage prompted vigorous protests and denunciations, but several intellectuals, led by John Dewey, spoke out against this treatment.[51][52]

In Echlin’s article in The Guardian, six reasons for choosing polyamory are identified: a drive towards female independence and equality driven by feminism; disillusionment with monogamy; a yearning for community; honesty and realism in respect of relational nature of human beings; human nature; and individual non-matching of the traditional monogamous stereotype. Jim Fleckenstein, director of the Institute for 21st-Century Relationships, is quoted as stating that the polyamory movement has been driven not only by science fiction, but also by feminism:“Increased financial independence means that women can build relationships the way they want to.” The disillusionment with monogamy is said to be “because of widespread cheating and divorce”. The longing for community is associated with a felt need for the richness of “complex and deep relationships through extended networks” in response to the replacement and fragmentation of the extended family by nuclear families. “For many,” Echlin writes, “it is a hankering for community … we have become increasingly alienated, partly because of the 20th century’s replacement of the extended family with the nuclear family. As a result, many of us are striving to create complex and deep relationships through extended networks of multiple lovers and extended families … Polys agree that some people are monogamous by nature. But some of us are not, and more and more are refusing to be shoehorned into monogamy.”[50]

Others speak of creating an “honest responsible and socially acceptable” version of non-monogamy – “since so many people are already non-monogamous, why not develop a non-monogamy that is honest, responsible and socially acceptable? … It seems weird that having affairs is OK but being upfront about it is rocking the boat”.[53]

A sixth reason, a couple’s response to a failure of monogamy, by reaching a consensus to accept the additional relationship, is identified by other authors.[54]


Research into polyamory has been limited. A comprehensive government study of sexual attitudes, behaviors and relationships in Finland in 1992 (age 18-75, around 50% both genders) found that around 200 out of 2250 (8.9%)respondents “agreed or strongly agreed” with the statement “I could maintain several sexual relationships at the same time” and 8.2% indicated a relationship type “that best suits” at the present stage of life would involve multiple partners. By contrast, when asked about other relationships at the same time as a steady relationship, around 17% stated they had had other partners whilst in a steady relationship (50% no, 17% yes, 33% refused to answer). [55] (PDF) British artist Connie Rose was the first to create a film about polyamory consisting of interviews around the world including polamory’s leading academics, authors and sex experts, including Dossie Easton (coauthor of The Ethical Slut) and Christopher Ryan (coauthor of Sex at Dawn). Rose’s film Questioning Monogamy was exhibited in London 2011 as an eight foot installation for 12 people to lay in with ten screens.
The article, What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, based on a paper presented at the 8th Annual Diversity Conference in March 1999 in Albany, New York states the following:

While openly polyamorous relationships are relatively rare (Rubin, 1982), there are indications that private polyamorous arrangements within relationships are actually quite common. Blumstein and Schwartz (1983,cited in Rubin & Adams, 1986) noted that of 3,574 married couples in their sample, 15-28% had an understanding that allows nonmonogamy under some circumstances. The percentages are higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%) (p. 312).[56]

Polyamory in a clinical setting

There is little research at present into the specific needs and requirements for handling polyamory in a clinical context. A notable paper in this regard is Working with polyamorous clients in the clinical setting (Davidson,2002),[57] which addresses the following areas of inquiry: 1. Why is it important that we talk about alternatives to monogamy now?
2. How can therapists prepare to work with people who are exploring polyamory?
3. What basic understandings about polyamory are needed?
4. What key issues do therapists need to watch for in the course of working with polyamorous clients?
Its conclusions, summarized, were that “Sweeping changes are occurring in the sexual and relational landscape” (including “dissatisfaction with limitations of serial monogamy, i.e. exchanging one partner for another in the hope of a better outcome”); that clinicians need to start by recognizing the array of possibilities that ‘polyamory’ encompasses“ and “examine our culturally-based assumption that ‘only monogamy is acceptable’” and how this bias impacts on the practice of therapy; the need for self-education about polyamory, basic understandings about the “rewards of the poly lifestyle” and the common social and relationship challenges faced by those involved, and the “shadow side” of polyamory”, the potential existing for coercion, strong emotions in opposition, and/or jealousy.
The paper also states that the configurations a therapist would be “most likely to see in practice” are individuals involved in primary-plus rrangements, monogamous couples wishing to explore non-monogamy for the first time, and “poly singles.”A manual for psychotherapists who deal with polyamorous clients was published in September, 2009 by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom titled What Psychotherapists Should Know About Polyamory.[58]

The decision to explore polyamory

Morin (1999) states that a couple has a very good chance of adjusting to non exclusivity if at least some of the following conditions exist:[59]
• Both partners want their relationship to remain primary.
• The couple has an established reservoir of good will.
• There is a minimum of lingering resentments from past hurts and betrayals.
• The partners are not polarized over monogamy/nonmonogamy.
• The partners are feeling similarly powerful and autonomous.
Green & Mitchell (2002) state that direct discussion of the following issues can provide the basis for honest and important conversations:[59]
• Openness versus secrecy
• Volition and equality versus coercion and inequality
• Clarity and specificity of agreements versus confusion/vagueness
• Honoring keeping agreements versus violating them
• How each partner views nonmonogamy.
According to Shernoff,[60] if the matter is discussed with a third party, such as a therapist, the task of the therapist is to:

Engage couples in conversations that let them decide for themselves whether sexual exclusivity or nonexclusivity is functional or dysfunctional for the relationship.


Division of love

In The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (writing as ‘Catherine Liszt’) described an argument against polyamory which posits that when one’s love is divided among multiple partners, the love is lessened. They referred to this as a “starvation economy” argument, because it treats love as a scarce commodity (like food or other resources) that can be given to one person only by taking it away from another. This is sometimes called a “Malthusian argument”, after Malthus’ writings on finite resources.
Many polyamorists, including Easton and Hardy, reject the idea that dividing love among multiple partners automatically lessens it. A commonly invoked argument uses an analogy with a parent who has two children—the parent does not love either of them any less because of the existence of the ther.[61] Robert Heinlein expressed this in saying “The more you love, the more you can love – and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.”[62]

Perceived failure rates

Polyamorous relationships are often criticised as “not lasting”, for example, Stanley Kurtz takes this as axiomatic when he says “… legally recognized polyamory [would] be unstable …”[63\\] The problem of confirmation bias makes it impossible to accurately gauge the stability of polyamorous relationships without carefully conducted scientific investigation. The complex nature of polyamory presents difficulties in structuring such research. For instance, polyamorists may be reluctant to disclose their relationship status due to potential negative consequences, and researchers may be unfamiliar with the full range of polyamorous behaviours,leading to poorly framed questions that give misleading results.[64]
While predating the term polyamory, some research has been done on the stability of some forms of what might be considered polyamorous relationships in the Netherlands. Weitzman[65] lists a study by Rubin and Adams in 1986 which found no differences in marital stability based on sexual exclusivity in married relationships.


[1] West, Alex (http:/ / www. hevanet. com/ alexwest/ mail_me. html) (2001-02-06). “A List of Poly Symbols” (http:/ / www. hevanet. com/ alexwest/ parrots/ symbolist. html). . Retrieved 2002-05-11. “variations on Pi-and-the-three-colors the ILIC symbol … The symbol that started this category, Jim Evans’ Poly Pride Flag. He has put this image in the public domain … “ILIC” stands for Infinite Love in Infinite Combinations (a reference to Star Trek’s IDIC credo — the D in the Star Trek version stands for “Diversity”).”

[2] Whittington, Dee (December 12, 1976). “Polyandry Practice Fascinates Prince” (http:/ / news. google. com/ newspapers?id=blc0AAAAIBAJ& sjid=CcwFAAAAIBAJ& pg=2638,6668094& dq=polyandry+ sri+ lanka& hl=en). The Palm Beach Post. . Retrieved October 14, 2010.

[3] “New edition: pleb to Pomak” (http:/ / www. oed. com/ help/ updates/ pleb-Pomak. html). Quarterly updates to OED Online. 2006-09-14. . Retrieved 2007-02-16.

[4] Alan M. “Five Speeches from Poly Pride Weekend” (http:/ / polyinthemedia. blogspot. com/ 2008/ 10/ more-speeches-from-poly-pride-weekend. html), Polyamory in the News, Oct. 20, 2008 (retrieved Feb. 21, 2011)

[5] “Welcome to the Polyamory Leadership Network” (http:/ / www. polyamoryleadershipnetwork. org/ ), Oct. 2010 (retrieved Feb. 21, 2011)

[6] Bennett, Jessica (June 29, 2009). “Polyamory—relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners—has a coming-out party.” (http:/ / www. newsweek. com/ id/ 209164). Newsweek Magazine Online. . Retrieved 2009-09-15. “ Editor’s note in TOC: “Polyamory is a thriving phenomenon in the United States, with over half a million families openly living in relationships that are between multiple consenting partners.” (http:/ / google. com/ search?q=cache:HQ7XSHMfV_0J:www. newsweek. com/ id/ 191012)?reload=true+ polyamory+ site:newsweek. com& cd=5& hl=en& ct=clnk& gl=us)“

[7] George, Robert P.. Gay Marriage, Democracy, and the Courts (http:/ / online. wsj. com/ article/ SB10001424052970204619004574322084279548434. html). . Retrieved 13 September 2009. “This week’s Newsweek reports more than 500,000 polyamorous households in the U.S.”

[8] In When two just won’t do (http:/ / www. guardian. co. uk/ women/ story/ 0,3604,1085003,00. html), The Guardian, November 14, 2003, Helen Echlin states: “For most people, the biggest stumbling block to polyamory is jealousy. But polys try to see jealousy less as a green-eyed monster than as an opportunity for character-building.” Retrieved March 27, 2007.

[9] CAWeb. “Church of All Worlds Clergy” (http:/ / original. caw. org/ clergy/ mg/ index. html). . Retrieved 2006-10-14.

[10] “A Bouquet of Lovers” does use “polyamorous,” but ” the original version (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20030508180124/ http:/ / www. lair. org/ writings/ polyamory/ bouquet. html) introduced the term “poly-amorous” in hyphenated form, which suggests that the author may not have viewed it as a word at the time. Later copies on the Internet were edited to remove the hyphen, after the word had become more well-known and established. The word “polyamory” does not appear in the article, and the predecessor word “polygamy” is used several times.

[11] (http:/ / www. faqs. org/ faqs/ polyamory/ faq/ section-1. html)

[12] “Polyamory” enters the Oxford English Dictionary, and tracking the word’s origins (http:/ / polyinthemedia. blogspot. com/ 2007/ 01/ polyamory-enters-oxford-english. html)

[13] (http:/ / www. faqs. org/ faqs/ polyamory/ faq/ )

[14] The Ravenhearts. “Frequently Asked Questions re: Polyamory” (http:/ / web. archive. org/ web/ 20090225083604/ http:/ / www. mithrilstar. org/ Polyamory-FAQ-Ravenhearts. htm). . Retrieved 2011-07-06.

[15] Evans, Jim (1999-07-06). “Jim Evans’ Polyamory Pride Flag” (http:/ / www. isomedia. com/ homes/ jene/ flag. html). ISOMEDIA – Business Solutions from Internet to eMedia. ISOMEDIA, INC.. pp. 1. . Retrieved 2006-02-08. “The poly pride flag consists of three equal horizontal colored stripes with a symbol in the center of the flag. The colors of the stripes, from top to bottom, are as follows: blue, representing the openness and honesty among all partners with which we conduct our multiple relationships; red, representing love and passion; and black, representing solidarity with those who, though they are open and honest with all participants of their relationships, must hide those relationships from the outside world due to societal pressures. The symbol in the center of the flag is a gold Greek lowercase letter ‘pi’, as the first letter of ‘polyamory’. The letter’s gold color represents the value that we place on the emotional attachment to others, be the relationship friendly or romantic in nature, as opposed to merely primarily physical relationships. This design is in the public domain. If you decide to use it, credit to Jim Evans would be nice, but is not required.”

[16] Terry Windell (Director) Tim Russ (Actor: Tuvok) (1999-02-03). ‘Star Trek: Voyager “Gravity”’ (Television production). Los Angeles, California: Paramount Pictures. “kol-ut-shan”

[17] Dillinger, Ray (1997-06-08). “alt.polyamory home page” (http:/ / www. polyamory. org/ ). . Retrieved 2007-10-09. “Parrot graphic by Ray Dillinger, placed in the public domain for use as a poly mascot.”

[18] PolyOz states in its polyamory glossary (http:/ / polyoz. scm-rpg. com. au/ postnuke2/ index. php?module=ContentExpress& func=display& ceid=8& meid=-1) that “The parrot is a common poly “mascot” or symbol. Punning on ‘poly wanna X’”.

[19] A 2003 article (http:/ / www. guardian. co. uk/ women/ story/ 0,3604,1085003,00. html) in The Guardian states “Today America has more than 100 poly email lists and support groups. Their emblem, which marks the table when they meet in restaurants, is the parrot (because of their nickname Polly).”

[20] Mystic Life (December 2003) in “Spiritual Polyamory” (http:/ / www. spiritualpolyamory. com/ ) ISBN 978-0595305414
[21] Rowley I(1997) “Family Cacatuidae (Cockatoos)” in Handbook of the Birds of the World Volume 4; Sandgrouse to Cuckoos (eds del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Sargatal J) Lynx Edicions:Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-22-9

[22] “OrlandoPoly What Is That Weird Purple Thing?” (http:/ / sites. google. com/ site/ orlandopoly/ symbol). . “Purple Mobius symbol placed in the public domain for an abstract symbol for polyamory”

[23] (http:/ / www. acluutah. org/ pluralmarriage. htm)

[24] Broward County Jewish Journal, Thursday, May 29, 2008, p. 16, Polygamy and the Right of Privacy, Rabbi Bruce S. Warshal, Publisher Emeritus: “polygamy […] happens to be legal under halachic rabbinic Judaism and appears throughout the bible”

[25] From PolyOz glossary on the book Stranger in a Strange Land which “served as an inspiration to many poly folks before the term “polyamory” was even invented … also inspired the Neopagan Church of All Worlds, which has been a long-term poly hotbed” (http:/ / polyoz. scm-rpg. com. au/ postnuke2/ index. php?module=ContentExpress& func=display& ceid=8& meid=-1)

[26] OneTaste

[27] For instance, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, co-authors of The Ethical Slut, are equally well-known as authors on BDSM; in the introduction to The New Bottoming Book, Hardy describes herself as “a standard-issue Northern California bisexual polyamorous switch”

[28] Andrew Webb et al. (eds) Butterworths Guide to Family Law in New Zealand: (13th Edition): Wellington: Lexis/Nexis: 2007

[29] RUBY DEATON PHARR, Plaintiff, v. JOYCE W. BECK, Defendant (http:/ / www. aoc. state. nc. us/ www/ public/ coa/ opinions/ 2001/ 010003-1. htm)

[30] Punishing Adultery in Virginia (http:/ / writ. news. findlaw. com/ grossman/ 20031216. html) by Joanna Grossman

[31] First Trio “Married” in The Netherlands (http:/ / www. brusselsjournal. com/ node/ 301) by Paul Belien, Brussels Journal Online

[32] Dutch-language source (http:/ / www. refdag. nl/ artikel/ 1230743/ & bdquo;Huwelijk+ wordt+ steeds+ verder+ opgerekt& rdquo;. html)

[33] English-language source (http:/ / www. weeklystandard. com/ Content/ Public/ Articles/ 000/ 000/ 006/ 494pqobc. asp?pg=2)

[34] Polyamory in the twenty-first century: love and intimacy with multiple partners (Google eBook) by Deborah Anapol, pp. 181-182 http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=BkhLnjvweL8C& pg=PA181& lpg=PA181& dq=%22dyadic+ networks

[35] Cook, Elaine (2005). “Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships” (http:/ / www. aphroweb. net/ papers/ thesis/ index. htm). . Retrieved 2006-07-10.

[36] From PolyOz glossary: “Not in the [linguistic roots of the term] but very important is the commitment to honesty with all partners, and openly negotiated ground rules.” (http:/ / polyoz. scm-rpg. com. au/ postnuke2/ index. php?module=ContentExpress& func=display& ceid=8& meid=-1)

[37] From (http:/ / www. sexuality. org/ book/ ): “Two of the cultural cornerstones of the polyamory community are honesty and communication: it’s expected that you and your existing long-term partner(s) will have talked over what you’re comfortable with and what you aren’t comfortable with, and that nobody is going around behind anyone else’s back.”

[38] PolyamoryOnline Polyamory 101 (http:/ / www. polyamoryonline. org/ articles/ polyamoury_101. html): Consensual Non-Monogamy for the 21st Century “In a polyamourous relationship, this [‘A burden shared is a burden lessened’] is doubly true. If you are having problems with one of the people in the relationship, often you can talk to another participant about it, with the added advantage of having a confidant with a good perspective on the relationship. When one person has problems, everyone else is there to help them through it. Child rearing benefits greatly in a polyamourous setting as well. Children are exposed to a wide range of viewpoints and experiences. To use a personal example, children raised in my Family … are exposed to my experiences growing up in rural Illinois, two of our Family’s childhoods in the city of Chicago, and my fiancee’s childhood in South Carolina. Perhaps one day we will have a Family member from outside the United States, offering an entirely different perspective. This also makes it easier to supervise a child. When many people live in the same household, they can take turns supervising the children, offering the rest of the members of the household a chance to catch up on chores, do homework, or simply go out for a while. Try doing that in a two-parent household without paying for a babysitter. On a purely practical note, having ten incomes in a household is much more flexible than just two. If one of the family suffers a loss of income, the others can help to make up for it. It is much easier to get by after losing one tenth of household income than it is after losing one half. Expenses are also significantly reduced in a polyamourous household, as they are in any situation when multiple adults occupy the same house.”

[39] Poly 101 (http:/ / www. polyamoryonline. org/ poly101. html)

[40] A few insights (FAQ) (http:/ / www. polyamoryonline. org/ ready. html)

[41] Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006 (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf))

[42] “70% of men in male couples reported being in a monogamous relationship” – Campbell, 2000 (cited by Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006 (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf))

[43] and that “approximately one third of male couples are sexually exclusive” – Bryant & Demian, 1994; Wagner et al., 2000; Advocate Sex Poll, 2002; LaSala, 2004 (cited by Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006 (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf))

[44] Cited by Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006 (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf))

[45] Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006 (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf))

[46] See, for example Marcia Munson and Judith Kiernan (eds) A Lesbian Polyamory Reader: New York: Haworth Press: 1999: ISBN 1560231203

[47] Polyamory Online (http:/ / www. polyamoryonline. org/ ready. html).

[48] Shepp v. Shepp, J-97-2004 (http:/ / caselaw. lp. findlaw. com/ data2/ pennsylvaniastatecases/ supreme/ j-97-2004mo. pdf), 2006, PA supreme court. The opinion stated that: the state’s interest in enforcing the anti-bigamy law “is not an interest of the ‘highest order”’ that would trump a parent’s right to tell a child about deeply held religious beliefs, and that a court may prohibit a parent from advocating religious beliefs that amount to a crime if doing so jeopardizes the child’s physical or mental health or safety, or potentially creates significant social burdens, but that in this case it was not felt that discussing multiple partner relationships as a parents’ preference or presenting or advocating them as desirable to the parent, was harmful.

[49] Divilbiss Families Case Ends (http:/ / www. polyamorysociety. org/ Divilbiss_Families_Case_Ends. html), Polyamory Society].

[50] ECHLIN, Helena. Women (http:/ / www. guardian. co. uk/ women/ story/ 0,3604,1085003,00. html), The Guardian, 2003.

[51] Haeberle, Erwin J. (1983). “Pioneers of Sex Education” (http:/ / www2. hu-berlin. de/ sexology/ ATLAS_EN/ html/ pioneers_of_sex_education. html). The Continuum Publishing Company. . Retrieved 2008-02-17.

[52] Leberstein, Stephen (November/December 2001). “Appointment Denied: The Inquisition of Bertrand Russell” (http:/ / findarticles. com/ p/ articles/ mi_qa3860/ is_200111/ ai_n9008065). Academe. . Retrieved 2008-02-17.

[53] Women’s Infidelity by Michelle Langley (ISBN 0-9767726-0-4) Straight talk about why women choose non-monogamy, 2005 (http:/ / womensinfidelity. com)

[54] Polyamory The New Love without Limits by Dr Deborah Anapol (ISBN 1-880789-08-6) has a chapter called “Making the transition to polyamorous relating”, which deals with broken monogamous commitments from both perspectives.

[55] http:/ / www. fsd. uta. fi/ english/ data/ catalogue/ FSD1243/ cbF1243e. pdf

[56] What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory (http:/ / www. polyamory. org/ ~joe/ polypaper. htm#Demographic)

[57] Paper delivered to the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Regional Conference, April 2002, and available online: Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 5, April 16, 2002 (http:/ / www. ejhs. org/ volume5/ polyoutline. html)

[58] 2010_poly_web.pdf What Psychotherapists Should Know About Polyamory (https:/ / ncsfreedom. org/ images/ stories/ pdfs/ KAP/ 2010_poly_web. pdf)

[59] Cited by Michael Shernoff, Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006, in the context of same-sex relationships (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf)

[60] Family Process, Vol.45 No.4, 2006, in the context of same-sex relationships (http:/ / www. familyprocess. org/ Data/ featured_articles/ 65_shernoff. pdf)

[61] McCullough, Derek; Hall, David S. (February 27, 2003). “Polyamory: What it is and what it isn’t” (http:/ / www. ejhs. org/ volume6/ polyamory. htm). Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality (Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality) 6. . Retrieved 2006-07-10.

[62] Heinlein, Robert. “Intermission: Excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long.” in Time Enough For Love. New York: Penguin, 1987.

[63] Kurtz, Stanley (June 5, 2006). “Polygamy Versus Democracy: You can’t have both” (http:/ / www. weeklystandard. com/ Utilities/ printer_preview. asp?idArticle=12266). Weekly Standard. . Retrieved 006-07-10.

[64] Herek, Gregory M.; Douglas C. Kimmel, Hortensia Amaro, Gary B. Melton (September 1991). “Avoiding Heterosexual Bias in Psychological Research” (http:/ / www. apa. org/ pi/ lgbc/ publications/ research. html). American Psychological Association. . Retrieved 2006-08-15.

[65] Weitzman, Geri D. (March 12, 1999). “What is known about the psychological and social functioning of polyamorous individuals?” (http:/ / www. polyamoryonline. org/ articles/ psychological. html#top). What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory. . Retrieved 2010-03-05.

Further reading

• Bennett, Jessica. “Only You. And You. And You” (http:/ / www. newsweek. com/ id/ 209164), Newsweek, July 29, 2009.

• Cook, Elaine. “Commitment in Polyamory” (http:/ / www. ejhs. org/ volume8/ cook1. htm), Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 8, December 12, 2005.

• Davidson, Joy. “Working with Polyamorous Clients in the Clinical Setting” (http:/ / www. ejhs. org/ volume5/polyoutline. html), Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 5, April 16, 2002. Also delivered to the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Regional Conference, April 2002.

• Emens, Elizabeth F. “Monogamy’s Law: Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence” (http:/ / papers. ssrn. com/ sol3/ papers. cfm?abstract_id=506242), New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Vol.29, p. 277, 2004. Analyzes social and legal perspectives on polyamory.

• McCullough, Derek; Hall, David S. “Polyamory – What it is and what it isn’t” (http:/ / www. ejhs. org/ volume6/polyamory. htm), Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 6, February 27, 2003. Reviews some of the core beliefs, perspectives, practicalities, and references in polyamory.

• Newitz, Annalee. “Love Unlimited: The Polyamorists” (http:/ / www. newscientist. com/ article/ mg19125591.800), New Scientist, 7 July 2006.

• Strassberg, Maura I. “The Challenge Of Post-Modern Polygamy: Considering Polyamory” (https:/ / culsnet. edu/ LawReview/ BackIssues/ 31-3/ Strassberg14. pdf) PDF (541 KB). Research analyzing monogamy,polygamy, polyfidelity and polyparenting and considers how polyfidelitous marriage might fit into Western culture within a Hegelian framework.

• Weitzman, Geri. “Therapy with Clients Who Are Bisexual and Polyamorous” (http:/ / www. numenor. org/ ~gdw/psychologist/ bipolycounseling. html), Journal of Bisexuality, Volume 6, Issue 1/2, pp. 137–64.

External links:

Polyamory-related media

• Polyamory (http: / /www. dmoz. org/ Society/ Relationships/ Alternative_Lifestyles/ Polyamory/ / ) at the Open Directory Project Polyamory-related media coverage

• Polyamory in the News (http:/ / polyinthemedia. blogspot. com/ ) (2005–present)

Research and articles

• National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Polyamory Sound Bites (http:/ / www. ncsfreedom. org/ library/ polysoundbites. htm) Includes some data on frequfrequency of nonmonogamy and psychiatric health of the polyamorous.

• The Kenneth R. Haslam Collection on Polyamory (http:/ / www. kinseyinstitute. org/ library/ haslam. html)hosted at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction includes a wide variety of materials related to polyamory, along with research data.

• Polyamory Bibliography (http:/ / www. kinseyinstitute. org/ library/ Pdf/ Polyamory Bibliography. pdf) from the Kinsey Institute.

Polyamory Source Contributors:License Ria777,, 0XQ, A Man In Black, AMProSoft, Aaronbrick, Acanon, Acctorp, Achero,Achilles, Adashiel, Adi4094, Adys, Afasmit, Agahran, Agirlwithaguy, Agr3.14, Alan7388, Alansohn, Alexius08, All Is One, Ambarish, Anclation, Angr, Anonymous Dissident, Arichnad, Atlant,Atomaton, Attilios, Authorsimms, BMF81, Balin42632003, Barticus88, Baylink, Becritical, Beland, Bendigoguy, Benjiboi, Benosaurus, Beyond My Ken, Bhadani, Big Brother 1984,BillWSmithJr, Blankfaze, BoD, Bradleeedwards, Brian Kendig, Brinerustle, BrokenSphere, Brusegadi, CRGreathouse, Calair, Calamari, Calibanu, Calieber, Careless hx, CaroleHenson,Carolfrog, CaseyPenk, Celithemis, Cews, ChristianEdwardGruber, Chs2048, Chzz, Ciaran H, Cmashend, Coasterlover1994, Colonies Chris, Common Man, Connie23rose, Conversion script, Cos,Creative handle, Cybermud, Cyde, Cymru.lass, Cynocephaly, D. Recorder, DGoncz, DPic, DVD R W, Darimoma, Darklilac, David Eppstein, Delldot, Diderot’s Ghost, Digerateur, Dittaeva,Docburkhart, Dodi.Blow, Dogface, Doug, Dr. Universe, Dramatic, EagleFan, Eclecticology, Eco-climber, Ejosse1, Elindstr, Elmarco, Emx, Eric.J.Hebert, Erudy, Estel, Evolauxia, F W Nietzsche, FT2, Filelakeshoe, Flyingricepaddy, Frecklefoot, Fæ, Gaius Cornelius, Gidonb, Gilliam, Glennwells, Grayshi, GregLindahl, Grendelkhan, Ground Zero, Grubber, Gwarfan, Hadal, Harry the Dirty Dog, HealthyBreeze, Hede2000, Hu, Hu12, Hucklesberries, Ian Maxwell, Icelazer3, Imapolygirl, Indon, Infinity 8p, Inky, Iridescent, IronChris, J.delanoy, Jadowns79, JanetKiraLessin, Jayunderscorezero, JensAlfke, Jessicanr, JimD, Jj137, Jmsanta, Joe Decker, Joel7687, Johayek, John254, Johnwcowan, JonMoore, Jonathan.s.kt, JonathanDLehman, JonathanNil, Jonkerz,Jordanblue, Joreth, Joriki, Jossi, Jsj70, Julesd, Juliand, JustADuck, Jvgarcia723, Jvol, Ka-Ping Yee, Kala, Kanonkas, Kc62301, Kelovy, Kikodawgzzz, Kilo-Lima, Kintetsubuffalo, Kmsiever,Kozuch, Krich, Kurag, L33tminion, Lawrence King, LeaHazel, Leandrod, Legitimus, Leonard Vertighel, Leyo, Lightmouse, Lilithdreams, Lirgic, LizardJr8, Lotje, Lotusduck, Lucy-marie, Lulu of the Lotus-Eaters, MCBookman, MJBurrage, Magicalspirits, Magiclite, Mailroute, Mairi, Malkin, Mandarax, Margareta, Mark K. Jensen, Marta.Paczynska, MartinHarper, Master Deusoma, Matt Gies, Mdem, Mdwh,Meervoudigeliefde, Megbarker, Metamagician3000, Michael Hardy, Michael Keenan, Michael614, Mike Rosoft, Mindmatrix, Missmimi, Mkbnett, Modulatum,Montrealais, Mophead127, Mysteronald, NPOVenforcer, Nachtrabe, Nandesuka, Natinia, Neon white, NerdyScienceDude, NicoDetourn, Nifky?, Nihil novi, Njeznirevolucionar, Nlu,Nycdi, Obaeyens, Ocicat, Ohnoitsjamie, Olivier, Onemoreoption, Orlady, OwenBlacker, Pakaran, Patriceaj, Patrick, Paxuscalta, Pearle, Peoplesunionpro, Philip Trueman, Phoenixxg, Piano non troppo,PoccilScript, Polyconference, Polygeezer, Polyoz, Polypercs, Pretzelpaws, PunkUtah, Qrc2006, Qworty, RHaworth, Ragazz, Rama, Raul pimentel, RecognitionMark, RedHillian, Rfc1394,Rgamble, Rich Farmbrough, Rjwilmsi, Roberto7778899, RobinHood70, Roman zyborra,RoyBoy, Rusmeister, SJP, SP-KP, Sabre ball, SarahRuth, SarahStierch, Sardanaphalus,SarekOfVulcan, Saxifrage, Schneelocke, Sensualstudios, Septegram, Seraphimblade, Sethie, Sexperts, Shadowmage13, Sherurcij, Silpol, SiobhanHansa, Skylark42, Slimey01, Slysplace,SocratesJedi, Solar, Someoneinamerica, Sonjaaa, SparsityProblem, SpectrumDT, Spellmaster, Spliffy, Stambouliote, Steadfastlove, Steel,SteveChervitzTrutane,StewartNetAddict, SummerWithMorons, SuperOrnito, Surv1v4l1st, Switchercat, Symennerren, Taranet, Taric25, Tarsie, Tassedethe, Thaurisil, The Anome, The Wednesday Island, Thiseye, Thylacine 1957, Tiddly Tom, Tocityguy, Todfox, Tommy Kronkvist, Tosus, Toussaint, Trade2tradewell, Tragen, Triacylglyceride, True Pagan Warrior, Ttelis, Tunia2, Uggouggo, Useight, User0529, UtherSRG,VampWillow, Vary, Vicki Rosenzweig, Vidkun, Viriditas, Waggers, Walkingbird, Wereon, Weyes, Whatever404, Whereismycatt2, WhisperToMe, WikHead, Wikignome0529, Wingsandsword,WooohTom, Wwoods, YamiryuuTenshi, Yawaraey, Yo6ial, Youngdrug, Yworo, Zazaban, ZeldaKarma, Zeph99, ZooFari, Zotdragon, Zujine, Δ, 540 ,ماني,MissBonnie,si(mon)

Related On site links:**
Polyamory – The basics of Poly
Polygamy – BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?
poly_relationships – An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships
Poly resources – Want to find out more about polyamory? Links also aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory
Poly bookshelf -what’s on your poly reading list?

Want to find out more about polyamory?

Links aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory are at the bottom of the list. You can find an additional on site list of books to read on the  Poly bookshelf

Polyamory Weekly
Headquarters for the Polyamory Weekly Podcast, a weekly talk show on all things poly. Includes listener call-ins and interviews with many people in the poly community.

Alan’s List of Polyamory Events
Compiled by the same person who does Polyamory in the Media below, this is an often-updated list of polyamory-related conferences, workshops, and events going on all over the globe.

The Inn Between: Polyamory Pages
Essays, safe-sex articles, advice on “coming out” poly, and other resources for polyamorous people, written by a partner of mine.

Poly Group Registry A user-updated list of local polyamory social and support groups throughout the the world. If you’re looking for a local poly group, this is a good place to start!

Poly Events All Over
A user-updated list of polyamory-related conventions and events worldwide.

Love Is Infinite
Frank, open, personal blog about polyamory and poly-related experiences from the inside.

Polyamory Practically
Pragmatic, hands-on blog of poly-related information, such as polyamory and religion, polyamory and the law, and polyamory and children.

Dear Polly Amorie
Blog of a poly woman in Canada, covering everything from advice to legal matters affecting Canadian polyamorists.

Poly in Pictures
A polyamory-themed Web comic and blog, following the adventures of a poly stick figure.

Web site for the Tampa, Florida-based poly group.

Polyamorous Percolations
An extensive “portal site” containing articles, links, a poly message board, forums, and so on.

The Ordinary Extraordinary
A Weblog and journal of a polyamorous couple and their lives.

Poly Friend Finder
A dating and matchmaking Web site for people seeking honest, ethical non-monogamous relationships.

Polyamory Chat
Web-based chatroom for polyamory discussion.

Poly in the Media
This blog tracks references to polyamory and articles about polyamory in news media.

The Polyamorous Misanthrope
Rants, Raves and Polyamorous Edification for the Whole Family. An often-updated collection of essays on practical, no-nonsense, hands-on polyamory.
Loving More
The only nationwide magazine dedicated to polyamory, Loving More also hosts conferences and poly retreats throughout the country.

Polyamory for the Practical
Large and frequently-updated site maintained by the members of a long-term poly family. Includes a poly Web comic, and RSS feeds. Note: Still available but no longer updated.

Unitarian Universalists for Poly Awareness
A Web site an organization for Unitarian Universalists interested in polyamory; the UUPA also runs an email list.

Musings on Bisexuality, Polyamory, Jealousy, ActivismSome
clear, intelligent thoughts on polyamory, jealousy, and related issues.

Polyamory Index
The polyamory sextion of Resources, writings, and so on.

Some Thoughts on Polyamory
A balanced, well-reasoned rant on the subject–if “balanced” and “well-reasoned” can be said to go along with a rant. Includes a bit of ranting on the subject of some people who claim to be poly but shouldn’t.

poly southeast
A Web site designed to foster increased communication, networking and support between polyamorous folks in the southeastern US.

Polyamory Society
News, information, discussion, and resources, particularly for people who aren’t necessarily poly but know people who are. Forums
A large, international online forum for people interested in polyamory.

Poly Meaning
A personal essay on what polyamory means, and the distinction between polyamory and swinging.

A poly-focused dating and forum site.

Site for PolyCamp NW, a large annual poly get-together.

Creating a Line-Family A site with information for folks interested in multigenerational line families.

Links of interest to therapists and other professionals

How to Educate your Therapist About Polyamory
Guidelines for talking to a counsellor or therapist about poly-related issues.

What Psychology Professionals should Know about Polyamory
PDF file put together by the NCSF to educate psychology professionals about polyamory.

Therapy with Clients who are Bisexual and Polyamorous
Written for therapists, this page discusses therapy in a bisexual and poly context.

Legitimizing Alternative Sexualities in Psychology
A short overview of the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and its role in helping therapists deal with non-traditional relationships.

Poly-Friendly Professionals
A searchable database of poly-friendly professionals of all sorts, from medical to legal to clergy.

Working with polyamorous clients in the clinical setting
Article published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality about therapy involving clients who are in ethical non-monogamous relationships.

Many thank you’s for the links © Franklin Veaux – All Rights Reserved. More than two: Polyamory from a Practical Perspective

Related On site links: 

Polyamory – The basics of Poly
Polygamy – BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?
poly_relationships – An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships
Poly resources – Want to find out more about polyamory? Links also aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory
Poly bookshelf  -what’s on your poly reading list?

An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships:

Terms and Concepts

Polyamory, from Greek (poly) and Latin (amor) root words for “many loves,” is an approach to romantic and/or sexual relationships that does not emphasize sexual or romantic fidelity to only one partner at a time (sometimes called monogamy or serial monogamy), but that does emphasize consent and communication between all involved parties. It is often shortened to “poly” within poly communities, and it should not necessarily be equated with polyandry, polygyny, or polygamy. Many monogamous people find non-monogamy to be confusing, complicated, and even threatening.

On the other hand, many poly folk believe that non-monogamy is a normal behavior for human beings (whether due to socialization or biological/evolutionary factors). They argue that it is unreasonable to expect one person to fulfill all of an individual’s social, emotional, and sexual needs throughout the entire course of one’s life. In traditionally monogamous relationships, when an individual senses that her or his partner is not fulfilling her or his every need, there is a tendency to pursue outside relationships covertly or to break up or divorce. The poly perspective instead suggests that we should continue to value those things that each individual brings to our life. This does not mean that poly folk do not also believe that jealousy and possessiveness are not also normal human behaviors. Poly relationships are not free from the normal conflict and insecurity that other relationships can have. However, poly individuals also point out that one person cannot and should not possess another person (despite any tendency to want to do otherwise) and expect fidelity that the other individual is unwilling or unable to offer. Ergo, they purport that consensual non-monogamy can be a more appropriate and healthy approach to personal relationships, even if it is against the values and norms of many societies.

This brief guide is intended to give readers an overview of different types of poly relationships and to define some of the terms that are commonly used in poly communities. It is my hope that readers will realize that there is as much variation in non-monogamous relationship styles as there is in monogamous relationship styles, and that any type of relationship has the potential to function well and make people happy and healthy, as long as everyone involved is honest and willing to communicate

Terms and Concepts about Polygamy/Monogamy

Closed Marriage:

A relationship in which outside sexual and/or romantic relationships are forbidden. Has been proposed as an alternative to “open marriage,” in part to emphasize that both types of marriage require active decisions about external relationships and fidelity.


Compersion is a concept somewhat unique to poly relationships. It means a person is able to delight and find joy in the love that his or her non-monogamous partner(s) feel(s) for others. This is not always an easy emotion to discover and maintain, as people in poly relationships must deal with conflict and jealousy just as people in monogamous relationships do. However, for those who have experienced compersion, they say it can be overwhelming, beautiful, and transformative.


A pair of individuals in a relationship. Single and poly folks have argued that the U.S. culture is couple-centric, meaning that there is an expectation that every adult should be a member of a couple (and ONLY a couple).

Fluid Bonding/Fluid Monogamy:

People in the poly community must be very mindful about the possibility of STD/STI transmissions. They are therefore often very careful about using condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods of contraception and disease prevention. When a couple (or group) is “fluid bonded,” it means that they have undergone STD/STI testing and have agreed to participate in sex acts without barrier methods only with one another (hence the phrase “fluid monogamy”). This is considered an important step in many poly relationships because it means that those individuals must have a great deal of trust in and concern for their partners. They have an even greater responsibility to make certain that no STDs/STIs are transmitted through accidental sharing of fluids with outside (i.e., non-fluid bonded) partners.

Free Love:

Although this term is associated with the sexual revolution and hippies of the 1960s-70s, it has a much older history and does not necessarily refer to radical promiscuity. Historically, it is a philosophy that the state should not regulate or interfere in personal relationships, whether monogamous or polyamorous. A more modern form of this philosophy can be seen in queer theorists (e.g., Michael Warner’s book The Trouble with Normal) who argue that gay and lesbian individuals should not seek freedom to marry, but should instead embrace freedom from marriage.


In closed marriages, outside sexual and/or romantic relationships are referred to as affairs, infidelity, or adultery. Outside relationships with strong emotional bonds but no sexual behavior can even be referred to as “emotional infidelity.” In non-monogamous relationships, such external relationships are not necessarily seen as negative, even though such relationships still may require the negotiation of ground rules. This is important to mention because it demonstrates that even in supposedly monogamous relationships, non-monogamy occurs.

Serial Monogamy:

The process of having multiple monogamous relationships one after another. Again, poly folk sometimes point to this practice as evidence that human beings are not inherently monogamous, and that the societal ideal of strict monogamy is not upheld in the actual behavior of monogamous individuals.

Variations in Poly Relationships

The easiest way for me to explain typ es of poly relationships is to ask a series of questions that demonstrate the various approaches that people in poly relationships take to conflict, exclusivity, commitment, and so on. This will help to illustrate the types of relationships I want to discuss. Note that members of poly relationships can be men, women, transgender or intersexed, and gay, straight, bisexual or otherwise queer. Individuals in poly relationships don’t necessarily expect their partners to be attracted to the same types of people they are, so combinations of partners can be of any variety. I want to point that out so that the reader does not walk away with the impression that all the relationships I am describing are heterosexual.

1) How much commitment/involvement is expected from each individual?

  • In a relationship model with primary, secondary, and (sometimes) tertiary relationships, each level of relationship is given a different amount of priority. Everyone participating in a poly relationship should be aware of the primary relationship(s) involved in the group. Primary relationships are those that take precedence over others in instances where differences of opinion might arise (sometimes they are distinguished by legal marriage or cohabitation, but not always). Secondary relationships still involve some level of commitment, while tertiary relationships may be casual or short-term in nature. Sometimes, individuals prefer to only have secondary relationships: in a sense, this is like remaining single while having multiple long-term dating partners. On the other hand, some poly folk do not like the idea of designating primary, secondary, or tertiary relationships and prefer instead to think of each relationship as special, unique, and in need of its own contextual understanding.

2) Is the group open or closed?

  • A traditional monogamous marriage is a closed relationship, meaning no one else is permitted to participate in romantic/sexual encounters. There are similar closed models in poly relationships, often called polyfidelity or closed group marriage. In these models, everyone involved is equally committed and faithful to everyone else. In open relationships/group marriages, the individuals involved are free to continue to have sexual or romantic relationships with others outside of that group, although there may be other conditions about these secondary relationships, such as that the primary group approves of the secondary partner.

3) Is one person in the relationship romantically/sexually involved in a relationship with everyone else?

  • Sometimes poly relationships are defined geometrically. For example, imagine a triad (a relationship involving three people). Person A has a relationship with person B and person C. If person B and person C also have a relationship, the three individuals have formed a triangle. If person B and person C only have sexual or romantic relationships with person A, the three individuals have formed a V with person A as the “hinge.”

4) Is recreational/casual sex seen as acceptable?

  • With any of the above types of relationships (except closed relationships), casual sex with outside partners may be permissible if it has been agreed upon. However, in the case of swingers, it is usually the ONLY kind of sex that partners (generally a couple) have with outsiders. If the couple involves one other person, it is called a threesome. If more than one other person are involved, it might be called group sex or an orgy. Some poly folk are offended by comparisons to swingers, seeing it as more of a pastime than a lifelong commitment, and devoid of any emotional connection. (Polyamory does mean many loves, after all, not many sex partners!) Some poly folk also dislike the sexism and homophobia inherent in some swinging communities (for example, when bisexuality is encouraged in women but not in men). However, I wanted to include the practice in this list of concepts because non-polys often confuse poly relationships and swinging as the same practice.

Finally, I want to address four terms that you may have seen used to reference multiple or group marriages: polygamy, bigamy, polygyny, and (rarely) polyandry. Although the terms beginning with poly- share the same root as polyamory, the poly community does generally not use them. The term polygamy refers to the practice of having multiple spouses (with bigamy a specific example of having two spouses), but it is usually used in a legal sense (because polygamy is technically illegal in many places) or in an anthropological sense (from documentations of other cultures’ kinship systems and structures). Polygyny is the form of polygamy in which one man has multiple wives, and polyandry (a much less common practice worldwide) is the form of polygamy in which one woman has multiple husbands. While some poly folk might use these terms, polyamory, with its focus on love, is usually the preferred term.

I hope that this description has demonstrated that there are many types and forms of poly relationships. Given that the variables I discussed in the above questions are not mutually exclusive, the combinations of different types of relationships and the agreements formed by the people involved means there are almost unlimited ways for consensual adults to have relationships with one another. The most important thing for many poly folk is that everyone involved is aware of the situation and the guidelines by which the relationship(s) will operate, respectful and caring toward one another, and open and honest about their feelings. These practices and principles allow people to be, as Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt put it, ethical sluts.

For More Information:


The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt

Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful by Anthony D. Ravenscroft

Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits by Deborah M. Anapol

The Lesbian Polyamory Reader: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Casual Sex by Marcia Munson and Judith P. Stelboum

The Spectre of Promiscuity: Gay Male and Bisexual Non-monogamies and Polyamories by Christian Klesse


About the Author:

Blaise Astra Parker (M.S., Ph.D., University of Georgia) recently completed her Ph.D. in the lifespan developmental psychology program at the University of Georgia. Her research integrates three broad areas of psychology: identity theory, sexual orientation, and the psychology of the Internet. She is a qualitative researcher, interested primarily in how individuals come to understand themselves sexually. Her master’s thesis examined how bisexual people might use the Internet as a location to explore and enact their sexual identity.

Please note that although Blaise is a student of psychology, she is not trained in therapy or counseling. Therefore, her information or advice should be combined with input from a professional therapist or support group.

Blaise has given presentations at the 2001 Eastern Regional Meeting for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and at the First Annual North American Conference on Bisexuality, Gender, and Sexual Diversity, as well as at a number of smaller conferences. She has published a book review in the International Womens Studies Forum and has one forthcoming in the Journal of Sex Research. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. She lives with her life partner and their four cats and likes queer theory very much.

Article: Blaise Astra Parker (M.S., Ph.D., University of Georgia) ©

Related On site links:
Polyamory – The basics of Poly
Polygamy – BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?
poly_relationships – An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships
Poly resources – Want to find out more about polyamory? Links also aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory
Poly bookshelf -what’s on your poly reading list?

Whats On The Book shelf

The Ethical Slut
by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

ethical-slut-Janet easton
 Often known as the poly bible, The Ethical Slut is possibly the biggest selling poly book ever. Wittily written and extensively researched by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy, this new edition of a classic which has been around for over a decade is full of wise tips for new players, and is a very useful introduction to polyamory. As you have probably guessed from the title, Easton and Liszt do not shy away from saying what they want. And in the world of polyamory, that skill is invaluable.
The authors cover a large number of topics involved in having multiple sexual relationships, looking at everything from STDs and dealing with the societal pressures against polysexuality to negotiation and relationship skills.
One of the many strengths of this book for many readers is its very direct, step-by-step explanations of (for example) negotiating types of sexual behavior. There’s also some very interesting material about jealousy, insecurity, and some interesting thoughts about where those feelings come from.
Another strength of this book is the direct, friendly tone of the authors. They make this book a great deal of fun to read.

Opening Up
by Tristram Taormino

book called opening up
 “Bold advice for explorers of open relationships. Comprehensive, clear, and grounded in practical realities, this book is one of the best to come along in a long time!” – Deborah Anapol, Ph.D., author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits

Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits
by Deborah Anapol

love unlimited
 “This book is a valuable guide for the establishing and nurturing of healthy intimate relationships that are responsibly nonmonogamous, and a valuable resource for educators and counsellors working in the fields of sexual, mental and emotional health.” – Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Australian education, health and diversity researcher. Unlike The Ethical Slut, this book is structured more like a classic self-help book . Although it enthusiastically embraces diversity, some may find it more “straight-friendly”. Another foundation work in the polyamory bookshelf, Anapol’s book has been progressively revised over many years. Anapol is one of the best-known faces of polyamory in the US.

Love you two
by Maria Palotta-Chiarolli

love you two
 This intense and engaged story of an Adelaide teenager struggling with the discovery that her family isn’t as it seems is a superb read for teenagers, young adult and adults alike. Australian author Maria Palotta-Chiarolli somehow manages to cover an enormous number of issues of lifestyle, sexual and ethnic diversity without becoming bogged down or over-complicating things. A superb writer of academic, educational and auto-biographical works, this is Palotta-Chiarolli’s first foray into fiction, and it is a truly stunning debut.

Sex At Dawn:
by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

sex at dawn
 How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships. This is not, strictly speaking, a book about polyamory. Instead, it’s a wildly entertaining, meticulously researched tretise on the origins of human sexuality and the things that make us relate the way we do. The authors challenge the assumptions of monogamy as a norm for human relationships, in a provocative and fun-to-read way.

Open All the Way: Confessions From My Open Marriage
by Sadie Smythe (Kindle only)

open all the way
 Sadie Smythe is a well-known blogger who writes openly, frankly, and compellingly about her experiences in opening her long-term marriage. In this book, she documents the ups and downs, the lessons, the pitfalls, and the happiness of her own journey from monogamy to non-monogamy. This intertaining book is good reading for anyone seeking to open their own marriage.

Love in Abundance: A Counselor’s Advice on Open Relationships
by Kathy Labriola

love in a abundance
 Written by a professional relationship counselor, this book focuses on strategies for communication, negotiation, partner selection, and conflict resolution in polyamorous relationships. Written for people in non-monogamous relationships, but also likely to be useful to other counselors and therapists who want to learn more about non-monogamy.

The Art and Etiquette of Polyamory: A Hands-on Guide to Open Sexual Relationships
by Françoise Simpère

the new intimacy
 Another personal narrative, this book describes the author’s process to coming to her own polyamorous arrangement, and talks about the rules and ideas that keep her relationships healthy and happy. It’s written from a very specific perspective (long-term couples who want lovers on the side), and as such describes only one particular kind of polyamory. It offers practical suggestions and how-tos for couples looking to arrange non-monogamous relationships.

The Polyamory Handbook: A User’s Guide
by by Peter Bensen

The poly handbook
 This book is intended as a pragmatic approach to polyamory, covering topics like communication, emotional growth, sexual health, raising a poly family with children, and legal issues such as wills. Written mostly from a perspective of an established couple adding partners. Part anecdote, part interviews with poly couples, part advice, this wonderful book is an outstanding answer to the question “So how do you make non-monogamy work, anyway?” Through interviews with folks practicing a wide variety of different forms of non-monogamy, this book covers several styles of polyamory, swinging, and even polyamory for single people. There’s a companion blog as well.

Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful
by Anthony Ravenscroft

road maps poly book
 Written with humor, wit, and style by a person with twenty years’ experience in polyamorous relationships, this book is a guidebook to the benefits, pitfalls, mistakes, and rewards of a poly life. Covers many of the mistakes the author has made without flinching, and lays out a roadmap for successful polyamorous relationships.

The Sex And Love Handbook:
by Kris A. Heinlein and Rozz M. Heinlein

sex love handbook
 Polyamory! Bisexuality! Swingers! Spirituality! & Even Monogamy! A Practical Optimistic Relationship Guide. This book, an overview of many relationship styles and sexual practices, explores the emotions, philosophies, risks and rewards of non-traditional sexual and romantic relationships. Written in an optimistic, enthusiastic style, it presents a wide range of relationship models engagingly and honestly.

The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infedelity in Animals and People
by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton

 Written by a husband and wife team of behavioral scientists, this book explores non-monogamy from a behavioral, genetic, and moral standpoint. The book is not hostile to monogamy, but it makes the statement that in humans, relationship model is a matter of both biology and choice, and that monogamy is not more inherently “natural” than non-monogamy.

The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles
by Rev.Ronald M. Mazur

 This book advertises itself as “for non-traditionalists, those ready for new life and love affirmations.” The Rev. Dr. Ron Mazur has been an ordained minister, a university health educator, a clinical sexologist in private practice, and a pioneer in computer on-line networks.


The Lesbian Polyamory Reader
by Marcia Munson and Judith P. Stelboum (Editors)

A collection of stories, poetry, and essays on non-monogamous lesbian relationships, together with descriptions of solid frameworks for ethical non-monogamy.

Lesbian Polyfidelity: A Pleasure Guide for all Women Whose Hearts are Open to Multiple Sexual Loves
by Celeste West

Recommended by an online visitor; I don’t know much about this book personally, but it’s received excellent reviews.

List of books with polyamory, polyamorous themes, open-relationship themes, or relationship skills that apply to poly relationships. I have not read all of these books, so I don’t vouch for their quality: MissB.


Related On site links: 

Polyamory – The basics of Poly
Polygamy – BDSM Relationships: Is Polygamy Compulsory?
poly_relationships – An Introduction to Polyamorous Relationships
Poly resources – Want to find out more about polyamory? Links also aimed at therapists and health-care professionals who want to learn more about polyamory
Poly bookshelf -what’s on your poly reading list?

poly_bookshelf.txt · L

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