Some thoughts on Polyamory  

2cuteinSantaCruz 47M/39F   
73 posts
2/6/2006 12:49 pm

Last Read:
11/11/2008 11:15 am

Some thoughts on Polyamory

I was bantering about between e-mails, the other day, the differences between Polyamory, Open Relationships, and being a “Swinger”, and I started wondering how many other people are confused about the definitions and differences between the three, or what polyamory is, for that matter. I have actually had this very conversation with a few other people, and it really got me to thinking that, maybe, someone should spell it out a little bit better than it really seems to be, currently. But since I’m only one person (true, my husband and I share the same opinion on this subject), I can only speak from a first person point of view, as that’s the only one I have. I did borrow some ideas, rather liberally, from the book "The Ethical Slut", so if you've read the book and are start thinking, "hey, I've read this somewhere before," you'll know you aren't going crazy. Please feel free to let me know what your definitions are, as I love hearing what other people think. After all, how else are we to learn unless we open our ears and close our mouths for a little while?

“All right, so what is ‘polyamory’?”

The word "polyamory" is based on the Greek and Latin for "many loves." A polyamorous relationship is a romantic relationship that involves more than two people. It has nothing to do with being married. Being married to multiple people is “polygamy”. One is not the other. We already have our primaries, where as a lot of poly people are still seeking for theirs. But we do have a secondary in the relationship, and once had a well-formed triad for three years, with the occasional other lover thrown in every great once in a while, and it served us well. We had no secrets between us, and we all played together.

“You mean, like swinging?”

Not exactly. Swinging has a different focus. Swingers focus on recreational sex, though friendships and deeper bonds may develop. With polyamory, deep relationships are the focus, though the sex is often fun.

You can be a single and still be a swinger, but frankly, we despite that term as it has a great deal of negative connotations associated with it. I associate the term “swinger” with people that go to the parties and screw anything and anyone, with little caution for health and safety . . . like one of the couples in the NorCal chat room that is somehow convinced that only homeless drug users contract AIDS and other STDs. I’m not a fan of people like that, as they give others in the lifestyle, that are more conscious about their welfare, a really bad name.

“Oh, I gotcha. So, like, you have a girlfriend on the side.”

No. That is something different as well. The technical term for that is "cheating."

“Six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

No. The thing that defines a polyamorous relationship is that everyone involved knows about, and agrees to, everyone else's involvement.
If you are married, and you have a girlfriend that your wife doesn't know about, or that your wife suspects but isn't sure about, or that your wife knows about but isn't happy with, you're not poly, you're cheating. Similarly, if you're banging the milkman while your husband is out of town, you're not poly, you're cheating.
Polyamory is defined by informed consent of all the participants. Without it, it ain't poly. If you can't invite your lover over to Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of your family because you don't want anyone to know what you're doing, it probably ain't poly.

“Poly, schmolly. It's just a polite way of saying your partner lets you cheat.”

No. Cheating is breaking the rules. If you aren't breaking the rules of your relationship, you are not cheating, by definition.

The rules need not be explicit; even breaking the tacit rules of a relationship is cheating. If you do anything you cannot feel comfortable telling your mate about, or if you do anything which you know would make your mate unhappy if he or she knew about it, you are cheating, plain and simple.

Polyamory is a completely different way to define your relationship. Polyamory is an acknowledgment of the simple fact that relationships do not come in "one size fits all." In a poly relationship, you and your partner are . . .

“Okay, okay, I understand. Poly is for people who can't commit!”

No, no, no. Just the opposite, in fact; people who can't commit to one person sure as hell can't make a lasting commitment to two!
It's been my experience that many monogamous people actually practice "serial monogamy" -jumping from lover to lover to lover, while claiming to be "monogamous" with each one. While no reasonable person expects every relationship to last, it seems that many "serial monogamists" see their partners as expendable, or stay with one partner only until someone better comes along. Polyamory is more ethical than serial monogamy as it is sometimes practiced; polyamorists do not discard their lovers when the next interesting person walks down the road. This flavor of serial monogamy is, I think, the essence of people who can't commit!

“But if you love someone, you shouldn't want anyone else.”

That's a common idea, but it doesn't really hold up in practice.

Many people believe that a person who has multiple loves can't give their "whole heart" to any person. The belief goes that if you love one person, you can express your love wholeheartedly, but if you love multiple people, your love is divided up and is therefore not as deep. This is based on the "starvation model" of love--that is, you only have a limited amount of love, and if you give your love to one person, there is none left to give to anyone else--so if you fall in love with another person, you have to "pay" for it by withdrawing your love from the first person.

Love is not the same thing as money. With money, you have only a limited amount to spend, and when you give it to one person you have less left to give to another. But love behaves in wonderful and unpredictable and counterintuitive ways. When you love more than one person, you soon realize that the more love you give away, the more love you have to give. Yes, you CAN give your whole heart to more than one person, and when you do, you realize it's the most beautiful feeling in all the world.

Don't think of the contents of your heart the way you think of the contents of your wallet; it doesn't work like that.

Anyway, as I was saying, in a poly relationship, it is vital--perhaps even more vital than in a monogamous relationship--for everyone involved to know and understand the rules of the relationship that have been set up by all participants, and abide by them. A successful poly relationship absolutely requires trust and security from everyone involved. If you cannot abide by the relationship's rules, you cannot expect to make a polyamorous relationship work.

Poly isn’t for everyone, but for those that can make it work, the results are amazing, and the feeling of having so much love to give and being able to share it is so wonderful!

Now, the differences between being poly and being in an open relationship . . .

Open relationships are, to me, what I consider to be more like consenting infidelity. They both know that they’re playing around, but don’t always have to know what’s going on, otherwise. My belief is that, if you’re going to be a couple in a situation like this, both parties should know what’s happening, who their partner is playing with, and hopefully, they don’t get into that “it’s better that they not know, because it would just hurt their feelings” kind of thing.

Being poly, in my mind, is nothing like an open relationship. It’s a loving situation where you don’t even have to be married or in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, just of the inclination to love your partners as much as they probably love you. It’s a mutual respect for your partner that allows you to love more than one person, but in a fashion that you feel compelled to let them know everything about your liaisons, have the want to have your lovers play together . . . it’s more like an extended family relationship.

So, there you have my definitions. Being poly, to me, is just as healthy as being monogamous, so long as all parties are in agreement with the situation. If my husband weren’t of the inclination, I’d have no problems being a monogamist, because I love him enough to abide by his wishes, if he wanted to keep me all to himself. But that isn’t the case, and he loves sharing me with others, as I love sharing him.

So, I’d love to hear other’s feelings on the subjects.

rm_Bladesong 41F
476 posts
2/9/2006 6:45 pm

Here here girl. I will comment more when I have time but just wanted to say you got most of it. Good job hon and thanks for posting for us.

~It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved!

Be Good to those around you!


chiparoux 50M
30 posts
2/25/2006 6:02 am

Easily the best articulation of the nuances of each term that I've seen, with judgement reserved for only those forms where abuse is inherent {"cheating"} ~ nice work, and thank you.

Will you marry me for a year and a day?

bipolybabe 56F

2/27/2006 7:37 pm

Just wanted to say "thanks" for the treatise on poly. I have been looking for poly friends, which, as we know, is different than looking for swingers. I don't visit SC often and understand your reservation about stop-overs. I don't encourage them either...and I've only been on the site a couple months! Nonetheless, I'm real, able to love and a p-t parent so understand your concerns. Let me know if you're heading down this way.



Check out my blog Bi-Poly-Babe for more sensual, sexual pleasure!

sensually_4ever 43M/F

3/22/2006 9:03 pm


we ar e alonnnnnnnngggggggggggggg ways away.. but.. I liked reading your blog about polyamory..

you actually commented on my husband's blog recently and that is how we got around to reading yours.. TY. so much for clarifying those points as we had very little or almost no understanding of it.. I think we may be entering into a poly amorous relationship.. but it is still very new and raw.. so time will tell and if all the stars are in alignment it may work out...

I am gonna watch your post, and make comments in the future .. hope it tis ok?

Aka sens

2cuteinSantaCruz replies on 3/22/2006 9:57 pm:
Aw cool Yah, new comments are always welcome!

vidi_vici_biveni 110M
2134 posts
12/4/2006 1:56 pm

I have a long story that I'd like to make much shorter... It's basically this, though:

There's a woman in Seattle and we are deeply/madly in love with each other. And yet, we don't see each other, we don't meet and we intend to keep this type of relationship for years and years.

And she has a boyfriend that she sees and they have a wonderful, loving friendship. She and I talk daily about her life and even the parts that involve him. And yes, she not only hangs out with him but they do even sleep together.

I know this is a bit unorthodox but that's our relationship. The three of us are tied together in an interesting and yet very satisfying way. One would hope that society could be understanding to these slightly-different arrangements. I'd guess that this might qualify for your definition of polygamory.

2cuteinSantaCruz replies on 12/4/2006 3:05 pm:
Polyamory . . .not polygamy But yes, it would be really nice society could understand "unorthodox" relationships such as ours. To each their own.

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