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Polyamory: what is it? Many people are familiar with the term “polygamy” and wrongly assume that both words mean the same thing. However, this is a common misconception: polyamory and polygamy are two entirely different things! “Polyamory” is when a person engages “in romantic and/or sexual relationships with multiple partners.“Polygamy”, on the other hand, is the practice of being married to multiple companions. While polygamy is illegal in the United States and many other countries, the same is not true for polyamory. Let’s take a closer look at polyamory to see exactly what it is, how it’s practiced, and what issues may result from the practice itself.


Since the majority of people are in monogamous (single companion) relationships, they often struggle to understand how polyamorous people can manage the needs of multiple partners. While it’s obvious that having multiple partners increases the needs of the relationship(s), the key point of polyamory is communication. All partners are aware of the other partners; as such, there is no need to hide one’s companion from their other partners, and different partners may serve different purposes (and thus, have different levels of attachment) in a polyamorous relationship. While some partners may be romantically attached, others may only contribute sexually to the relationship, not romantically. Like monogamous people, polyamorous people find like-minded singles through day-to-day interactions, in-person meetups, or by choosing the best poly dating site in their area, thanks to multiple reviews that can be found online. 


As mentioned above, consent and communication are key to a successful polyamorous relationship. While many people think that polyamory is simply cheating under a different name, this actually isn’t the case. “Cheating” implies that a partner is unaware that their companion has additional partners; in a polyamorous relationship, a partner is well aware that their partner(s) have other dating partner(s), and often has a relationship with the additional parties as well. However, it’s important to note that one partner does not have to have a relationship with all of their partner’s additional partners; in fact, a monogamous person could be in a relationship with a polyamorous person if they wished! But what is often called a “unicorn” arrangement is when a couple seeks a third person to be their polyamorous romantic partner – one of the most frequent occurrences at polyamorous online dating sites.


There are a variety of reasons why people in the polyamorous relationship may experience discrimination. They have often come under fire from religious groups as well as the general public. Unfortunately, the “cheating under a different name” viewpoint is very common, although it’s ultimately a gross misunderstanding of the relationship type. As such, many young people who are polyamorous often keep their romantic and/or sexual tendencies behind closed doors. If they let these preferences be known to the general public, they may be ridiculed, harassed, and excluded from events, social gatherings, or social circles. This is likely to change in the distant future because America as a whole is becoming more progressive, but very unlikely to happen anytime soon. Although an estimated 70 million citizens in the States have practiced polyamory at one time or another, they only make up approximately 4-5% of the population, leaving them at a disadvantage.


Jealousy happens in monogamous relationships, but does it happen in polyamorous ones? Yes, it does! However, the polyamorous community as a whole takes a far different approach to jealousy than their monogamous counterparts. In monogamous relationships, jealously is generally expected to be suppressed; jealous outbursts or actions are seen as a catalyst for the end of a relationship. However, in polyamorous relationships, jealousy is seen as a normal part of a relationship and expressing it is encouraged. Setting clear boundaries, such as telling your current companion before engaging with a new sexual partner or looking for him or her at online dating sites, is commonplace, as is sharing any feelings of jealousy with your current partner(s). Many polyamorous people take jealousy as an opportunity to self-evaluate, looking at the reasons that initially caused the jealousy & using them as a chance to improve both their relationship(s) and sense of self-worth.


Polyamory itself is not considered a sexuality. A polyamorous person could be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or of any other sexual orientation. The only defining characteristic of a polyamorous person is their preference for multiple partners rather than a single companion. In fact, even though a polyamorous person may have multiple partners, this doesn’t automatically mean that they engage in sexual activity with all partners. Some partners may be specifically romantic/emotional partners, whereas others may be strictly sexual; some might be a mix of both!


As you can see, the world of polyamorous relationships is far different than the monogamous standards that most people follow. Nonetheless, there is nothing inherently wrong with this lifestyle, as it’s built on communication, trust, and consent between all partners involved. Truthfully, these traits are often lacking in many monogamous relationships! Of course, you do not need to practice polyamory yourself to learn from their experiences. Perhaps instead of judging these people for their companion selections, we should instead seek to learn from their choices.