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Beginner's Guide to Polyamory

Beginner's Guide to Polyamory

Sara Nowak Sara Nowak
4 minute read

Polyamory has become commonplace in recent years, as dating sites will demonstrate, so we've created a beginner's guide to polyamory. The word Poly-amory is Greek for "many loves." Therefore, a polyamorous person is open to, or has multiple romantic relationships simultaneously. It is crucial for polyamory that all parties have knowledge and have given consent to this lifestyle. Without these ethics, it is just cheating.


Polyamory has become so popular that in 2015, the Polynesian community requested using polya or polyam as an abbreviation to differentiate it from their poly community. If you're thinking of dipping your toes in the polyam pool, maybe use a floatie in the shallow end, first.


What Does Polyam Look Like?


The Ethical Slut should be required reading for polyamory. Other fantastic polyam websites are Loving More and More than Two.


One of the beauties of polyamory is that it can look different in each dynamic. You make it work for you, not the other way around. There’s no one size fits all because it depends on your preferences, communication, and negotiations with partners. Some partners have a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” understanding, while others all live together in a commune type of style. For these reasons, some clarification is crucial.

 polyamory guide polycules relationships

Communication, Rules, and Boundaries


Communication is generally part of consent, and specifically here. Communication is a practice, not a one time deal. To maintain a successful polyam relationship, expect oodles of communication to prevent conflict, and maintain happiness.


One idea you’ll want to discuss is your expectations and even compromises at various times due to fluidity of polyamory. These negotiations also include ground rules or limits, like no play on the first date. You will also need boundaries, like I will not tolerate fluid bonding (unprotected sex) with others for the first three months.


One resource to help with the essential basic of time management, is Google calendar and docs for starting. If you get to a point with a few relationships under one roof or similar, you may want to upgrade to the free app Our Home, a one stop shop.


Common Misconceptions


Now, let’s clear up some differences in terminology.  Polyamory is multiple romantic relationships at a time. An Umbrella term may be ethical non-monogamy, or consensual non-monogamy, abbreviated as ENM. This difference typically, is ENM means stepping outside of a primary relationship occasionally for sex or romance, or a play partner.  Then, an open relationship is a kind of middle ground between polyam and swinging. In other words, sex is on the table but not multiple romantic relationships.


Swinging is when a monogamom-ish couple will share or swap with others for sexual gratification. There is no romance included, and can help uncover hidden jealousies about sharing.

 polyamory guide non monogamous

Terms to Know: Hierarchy or Non


Primary means this person comes first, and is their main partner. While secondary means that person does not have the same status as the primary.


Triad means a configuration of three people. These can be hierarchical or not depending on negotiations.  It is polyamory not just a long term threesome.


Polycule refers to all of the people involved in your polyam circle. Likely, everyone who is dating each other and what to consider for safety and STIs.


Non-hierarchical structures are different. Relationship Anarchy (RA), is based around commitments. If you are poly and have children with a partner, then those obligations are prioritized, rather than interpersonal relationships.


Lastly, Kitchen Table polyamory is when everyone knows each other and even spends time together, much like a meal at the table.

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