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Polyamory (from poly=multiple + amor=love) is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Polyamorous perspectives differ from monogamous perspectives, in that they respect a partner's wish to have second or further meaningful relationships and to accommodate these alongside their existing relationships.

The term polyamory is sometimes abbreviated to poly, especially as a form of self-description, and is sometimes described as consensual and/or responsible non-monogamy. Polyamory is usually taken as a description of a lifestyle or relational choice and philosophy, rather than of individuals' actual relationship status at a given moment. There is a certain fluidity in its definition, to accommodate the different shades of meaning which might be covered. Polyamorous relationships are themselves varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals concerned.

Polyamory is distinct from polygamy, being closer to a personal outlook than a predefined bonding system. It is grounded in such concepts as choice, trust, equality of freewill, and the more novel idea of compersion, rather than in cultural or religious tradition.


Start of polyamory contingent at San Francisco Pride 2004.

Because of its fluid nature, polyamory is not clearly defined. Though there is no general agreement on its exact boundaries, people who identify as polyamorous typically reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are always necessary for long-term loving relationships. Those who are open to or emotionally suited for a polyamorous lifestyle may at times be single, or in monogamous relationships, but are more typically involved in multiple long term relationships.

Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships. It is common to find groups of more than two people who are living together, and seeking to build a long-term future together, with sex as only one aspect of their relationship.[unverified]

Polyamorous relationships, in practice, are highly varied and individualized. Ideally they are built upon values of trust, loyalty, negotiation, and compersion, as well as rejection of jealousy, possessiveness, and restrictive cultural standards.[1] Such relationships are often expected to be more fluid and changeable than the traditional "dating and marriage" model of long-term relationships, and the participants in a polyamorous relationship may not have preconceptions as to duration.


Polyamory is a hybrid word: poly is Greek for many (or multiple) and amor is Latin for love. The word has been coined, seemingly independently, by several people, including Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, whose article "A Bouquet of Lovers" (1990) is widely cited as its source [2] (but see below), and Jennifer Wesp who created the Usenet newsgroup alt.polyamory in 1992. [4] However, the term has been reported in occasional use since the 1960s [unverified], and even outside polygamous cultures such relationships existed well before the name was coined; for one example dating from the 1920s, see William Moulton Marston. There are no verifiable sources showing the word "polyamory" in common use until after alt.polyamory was created. The older term polyfidelity, a subset of polyamory, was coined decades earlier at Kerista.

Most definitions center on the concepts of being open to, or engaging in, a lifestyle that potentially encompasses multiple loving relationships (of whatever form), where all parties are informed and consenting to the arrangement. However, no single definition of "polyamory" has universal acceptance; two common areas of difference arise regarding the degree of commitment (when does swinging become polyamory?) and whether it represents a viewpoint or a relational status quo (is a person open to the idea, but without partners at present, still "polyamorous"?). Similarly, an open relationship in which all participants are long-term friends might be considered "polyamorous" under broader usages of the word but excluded from some of the tighter usages, since polyamorous relationships may or may not also be polyfidelitous (non-open, or faithful within the relationship).

In 1999, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition of the term (which the dictionary had not previously recognized). The words 'polyamory/ous/ist' were formally added to the OED in 2006.[3] The Ravenhearts defined and expanded the term as 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.

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... 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.

Ravenhearts FAQ on Polyamory [4]

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 the speaker's life. Thus a woman with a husband and another partner might refer to the husband as her "primary". (Of course, this is in addition to any other term of endearment). Some polyamorous people use this as an explicit hierarchy of relationships, others consider it insulting to the people involved, believing that a person's partners should be considered equally important. Another model, sometimes referred to as intimate network, includes relationships of varying significance to the people involved, but which are not explicitly labeled as primary or secondary. Within this model, any hierarchy may be fluid and vague, or nonexistent.

Symbols of polyamory[edit]

A heart interlaced with an infinity sign is one symbol of polyamory.
Jim Evans designed the poly pride flag, consisting of three equal horizontal colored stripes, blue, red, and black, with a gold π in the center. This design is in the public domain.[5]

Although a number of symbols have been adopted by polyamorous people, none has universal recognition. The most common symbol is the heart combined with the infinity sign. 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 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. The symbol in the center of the flag is a gold Greek lowercase letter "pi" (Ï€), 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.[5] Another is the image of a parrot, since "Polly" is a common name for these birds.[6][7][8]

Forms of polyamory[edit]

Forms of polyamory include:

  • Polyfidelity, which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to specific partners in a group (which may include all members of that group).
  • Sub-relationships, which distinguish between "primary" and "secondary" relationships (e.g. most open marriages).
  • 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 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), by Robert Rimmer, and also by the author Starhawk in her books The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) and Walking to Mercury (1997).
  • 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" and "N" geometries. A triad could be either a V or a triangle. (See: Terminology within polyamory).

Open relationships v. polyamory[edit]

The expression open relationship denotes a relationship (usually between two people) in which participants are free to take other partners; where the couple making this agreement are married, it is an open marriage. "Open relationship" and "polyamorous" are not identical in meaning. Broadly, "open" usually refers to the sexual aspect of a non-closed relationship, whereas polyamory involves the extension of a relationship by allowing bonds to form as additional long term relationships (sexual or otherwise).

The terms are capable of independent usage. People may be in sexually exclusive relationships and yet still self-describe as polyamorous, if they have significant emotional ties to more than one other person. Conversely, people who self-describe as polyamorous may accept monogamous relationships with given partners, either through negotiated agreement and respect for that given partner's choices, or because with that partner monogamy feels "right" (whereas for a different partner perhaps it would not be as appropriate).

See also forms of nonmonogamy for other types of nonmonogamous relationship.

Related groups, and concepts[edit]

The definitions of polygamy and polyamory allow a great deal of overlap: any loving polygamous relationship could also be considered polyamorous, and many polyamorists consider themselves to be married to more than one person. In practice, however, usage separates the words: "polygamy" is more often used to refer to codified forms of multiple marriage (especially those with a traditional/religious basis), while "polyamory" implies a relationship defined by negotiation between its members, rather than by cultural norms. Polyamory is rooted in such concepts as choice and individuality, rather than in religious traditions; in practice the ideas of polyamory and polygamy have little or no overlap.[9]

Thus, although polygamy and polyamory are often treated by outsiders as similar concepts, the two groups are based on very different philosophies and ideals, and little interaction occurs between self-described "polygamists" and "polyamorists".[9] Instead, polyamory is more closely associated with values, subcultures and ideologies that favor individual freedoms and equality in sexual matters — most notably, Anarchism, Libertarianism, Neo-Pagans,[10], Sexual Freedom Advocates,[unverified] and Raelism.

A significant degree of overlap exists between practitioners/advocates of polyamory and those of BDSM. The two groups often face similar challenges (e.g. negotiating the ground rules for unconventional relationships, or the question of coming out to family and friends) and cross-pollination of ideas takes place between the two. [11]

Legal status[edit]

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, most jurisdictions do not 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 applying 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. Usually one couple, at most, can elect to be treated as "married".

Bigamy is the act of marrying one person while already being married to another, and is legally prohibited in most jurisdictions. 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 jurisdictions; at most it constitutes grounds for divorce if the spouse is non-consenting (or claims to be), or feels that the interest in a further partner has destabilized the marriage. 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 [5], and more than twenty states in the US have laws against adultery [6] although they are infrequently enforced.

New Jersey's 2004 Domestic Partnership Act can be combined with marriage in order to legally connect any number of persons (albeit imperfectly) using a combination of marriage and domestic partnership, provided that any of the following is true: (a) the number of males and the number of females are equal; (b) the number of males and the number of females differ by one; (c) the number of males and the number of females differ by two and both numbers are even.[unverified] For example, 8 females and 6 males would work, but 8 females and 5 males would not. Nor would 5 females and 3 males, or a single-sex community of more than two people.

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 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 the Netherlands permitted multiple-partner civil unions, [7], this belief is mistaken. The relationship in question was a samenlevingscontract, or "cohabitation contract," and not a registered partnership or marriage (Dutch-language source, English-language source). 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 couple split up, non-consensual non-fidelity ("cheating") is often grounds for an unfavorable divorce settlement, and non-fidelity generally could easily be seized upon as a prejudicial issue by an antagonistic partner. Married people with partners external to their marriage might need to consider carefully the laws in their jurisdiction, to ensure that they are complied with, and consider how to ensure that the mutuality of their decision within their marriage is clear.

Polyamory as a lifestyle[edit]

Separate from polyamory as a philosophical basis for relationship, are the practical ways in which people who live a polyamorous lifestyle arrange their lives, the issues they see, and how these compare to those living a traditional monogamous lifestyle.

Values within polyamory[edit]

Unlike many other forms of open relationship, relationships classed as polyamorous involve an emotional bond and often a longer term intent, though these distinctions are a topic open to debate and interpretation. Many people in the swinging and polyamory communities see both practices as part of a continuum of open intimacy and sexuality.

Also note that the values discussed here are ideals. As with any ideals, their adherents sometimes fall short of the mark — but major breaches of a polyamorous relationship's ideals are taken as seriously as such breaches would be in any other relationship. Common values cited within such relationships include:[unverified]

  • Fidelity and loyalty: Most monogamists define fidelity as committing to only one partner (at a time), and having no other sexual or relational partners during such commitment. The poly version of this is polyfidelity, a specific form of polyamory defined by a lasting, sexually exclusive commitment to multiple partners. Polyamorists generally base definitions of commitment on considerations other than sexual exclusivity, e.g. "trust and honesty" or "growing old together".[12]
  • Trust, honesty, dignity and respect: Most polyamorists emphasize respect, trust and honesty for all partners.[13][14] A partner's partners should be accepted as part of that person's life rather than merely tolerated, and a relationship that requires deception, or where partners are not allowed to express their individual lives, is often seen as a poor model.
  • Mutual support: This requires that each partner will support, and not undermine, the other, and will not deliberately use a secondary relationship to harm another party or relationship.
  • 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 deciding the ground rules of their relationships with all concerned, and often emphasize that this should be an ongoing process of communication and respect. Polyamorists usually take a pragmatic approach to their relationships; they 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.[13][14]
  • Non-possessiveness: Polyamorists believe that restrictions on other deep relationships are not for the best, as they tend to replace trust with a framework of ownership and control. They tend to see their partner's partners in terms of the gain to their partner's life rather than the threat to their own (see compersion). Poly relationships do vary and some can be possessive or provide for the primary partner's veto or approval, whilst others are assymmetrical—possessive one way, but not the other.

Sharing of domestic burden[edit]

Claimed benefits of a polyamorous lifestyle include the following:[15]

  • The ability for parties to discuss issues with a (separate) partner within the relationship itself, tending to add mediation and stabilization to a relationship, and reduce polarization of viewpoints.
  • Emotional and similar support 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 relationship.
  • The ability to share chores and child supervision, reducing domestic and child rearing pressure upon adults' time without needing to pay for outside child carers.
  • 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[edit]

Polyamorists cite the human tendency towards jealousy and possessiveness as major hurdles in polyamory, and also as personal limitations to overcome:[1]

"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 [someone] 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 inferiority complexes must be resolved, completely, before a polyamorous relationship can be truly successful" [8]

An editorial article on the polyamory website as at 2006 proposes the following issues as being worthy of specific coverage and attention: [9]

  • 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 in a polyamorous relationship of three 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 and parenting[edit]

Many polyamorists have children, either within the relationship(s) or from a previous relationship. 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 step-parent.

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."[16]

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.[unverified]

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.)[17]

Custody ramifications[edit]

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 motivation in seeking custody.[18] The Tennessee case is not necessarily normative for the entirety of the United States, since family law varies significantly from state to state, and sometimes even within a state. US state law is, of course, not normative for laws of other countries.

Geographical and cultural differences[edit]

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."[19]

Philosophical aspects[edit]

As with many lifestyles, there is considerable active discussion about philosophical approaches to polyamory.

In Echlin's article in The Guardian, five 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". 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." "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."[19]

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.[20]

One way of studying the presumptions behind relationships is in the escalation of values known as Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. In this schema, which examines the assumptions and presuppositions of relationships, the presumption that monogamy is the only acceptable form of long term relationships is an example of stage four. Polyamory is a common structure of relationships in stage five or six.

A similar approach involves consideration of Ken Wilber's stages of personal and spiritual development, Abraham Maslow's self-needs, and Jane Loevinger's "self-sense". These are similar schemata that are based upon the findings of many researchers in human development[21]:

  • Each recognizes that there is a classic stage in personal development, which is conventional and based upon approval and laws (Kohlberg), conformist or conscientious-conformist (Loevinger), based upon belongingness and safety (Maslow), and whose structure is based upon "rules and roles" (Wilber).
  • Each also recognizes a more developed post-conventional stage, based upon individual principles of conscience (Kohlberg), conscientious-individualistic or autonomous (Loevinger), based upon self-esteem and self-actualization (Maslow) and whose structure is formal-reflexive (Wilber), allowing the possibility to think about, judge, and critique ones own previous ways of thinking and those of one's society.

Because of the heightened trust and self-determination required for a polyamorous relationship, some who practice polyamory consider it a superior form of relating to people. Monogamist opponents of polyamory often claim that it weakens, or is a failure to adhere to, the values that others in society uphold. Realistically, many who practice polyamory do not philosophize; instead, they simply suggest that it is the right way for them.


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 "lifestyle that best suits" at the present stage of life would involve more than one steady partner. 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). [10] (PDF)

There is little scientific research into the durability of polyamorous relationships, though durable partnerships are not uncommon.[22]


Religious objections[edit]

Many religions discourage sex outside marriage (or, in some cases, a committed relationship closely resembling marriage). As a consequence, those religions effectively prohibit or permit polyamory to the same degree that they prohibit or permit polygamy. Even where polygamy is permitted, it is often limited to a rigidly-defined form of plural marriage — most commonly polygyny.

At the beginning of the 21st century, polygyny remained common in some parts of the Islamic world but was not recognized by most branches of Christianity and Judaism. There are many scriptural references in the Original Testament to polygyny, such as the story of King Solomon, an important figure to all three major Abrahamic religions. Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism do not take a stance for or against, but are filled with many people who participate in it. For further discussion and some exceptions see Polygamy and religion.

While most religions offer guidance about sex and family, religious leaders have said relatively little about polyamory, possibly due to its low public profile compared to other relational/ethical issues such as homosexuality.

Moral objections[edit]

In a 2007 editorial by the Chinese newspaper the Shanghai Daily, the moralistic argument was advanced that marriage, a vehicle for true love, should engender the "obligation to give themselves totally and exclusively, to this one person" in order to have meaning, and in consequence of this, all extra-marital activity was "worse than immoral. It's unashamed… Mutual conspiracy", and that the concept of mutual consent was "not worth refutation". Even if the partners were honest and supportive of each other, the writer stated that "marriage is considered the consecration of true love", and there was a spirit of marriage which had been betrayed.

The editorial was in response to the case of a Chinese female ex-police officer who ran a swingers website, and discussed various forms of open marriage:

"Then what about polyamory—a lifestyle of having more than one love/sex partner? If it is understood as an alternative to monogamous marriage, it is of the same ilk as swinging. It could be the case that sexual fun and passion are shared by more than two people. But true love and marriage require exclusive mutual fidelity in one couple."[23]

Division of love[edit]

In The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (writing as 'Catherine Liszt') described an argument against polyamory to the effect 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 other.[24]

Perceived failure rates[edit]

Polyamorous relationships are often criticised as "not lasting", for example, Stanley Kurtz takes this as axiomatic when he says "Not only would legally recognized polyamory be unstable…"[25]

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. (Note that the American Psychological Association has identified these same issues as potential causes of error in the context of gay/lesbian/bisexual populations.[26])

While predating the term polyamory, some research has been done on the stability of some forms of what might be considered polyamorous relationships. Weitzman[27] lists a study by Rubin and Adams in 1986 which found no differences in marital stability based on sexual exclusivity in married relationships.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 For example: When two just won't do, Helen Echlin, The Guardian, November 14 2003: "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.
  2. CAWeb. Church of All Worlds Clergy. URL accessed on 2006-10-14.
  3. New edition: pleb to Pomak. Quarterly updates to OED Online. URL accessed on 2007-02-16.
  4. The Ravenhearts. Frequently-Asked Questions re: Polyamory. URL accessed on 2006-07-18.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Evans, Jim Jim Evans' Polyamory Pride Flag. ISOMEDIA - Business Solutions from Internet to eMedia. ISOMEDIA, INC.. URL accessed on 2006-02-08.
  6. has a picture of a parrot with the description lower down "Parrot graphic by Ray Dillinger, placed in the public domain for use as a poly mascot".
  7. PolyOz states in its polyamory glossary that "The parrot is a common poly "mascot" or symbol. Punning on 'poly wanna X'".
  8. 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)."
  9. 9.0 9.1 From PolyOz glossary on polygamy, polygyny, polyandry and latter day saints: - "The Mormons originally practiced a form of polygamy (specifically polygyny - multiple husbands was not OK, only multiple wives). A few renegades still do. This is culturally not part of the polyamorous movement; it's yet anther alternative to monogamy." Also "These are anthropological terms, not much used within the poly movement." [1]
  10. 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...[and] ... also inspired the Neopagan Church of All Worlds, which has been a long term poly hotbed" [2]
  11. 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".
  12. Cook, Elaine Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships. URL accessed on 2006-07-10.
  13. 13.0 13.1 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." [3]
  14. 14.0 14.1 From "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."
  15. PolyamoryOnline Polyamory 101: 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."
  16. Polyamory Online.
  17. Shepp, 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.
  18. Divilbiss Families Case Ends, Polyamory Society].
  19. 19.0 19.1 ECHLIN, Helena. Women, The Guardian, 2003.
  20. 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.
  21. Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything, table 9–3 p. 146, and discussion of "fulcrum 5" p. 186 for sources and citations. On page 145, "This model of consciousness development is based on the work of perhaps 60 or 70 theorists, East and West." He goes on to say, "All developmentalists, with virtually no exceptions, have a stage-like or even a ladder-list list… of growth and development - Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Heinz Werner, Jean Piaget, R. Peck, Habermas, Robert Selman, Erik Erikson, J. M. Baldwin, Silvano Arieti, even the contemplative traditions from Plotinus to Padmasambhava to Chih-i and Fa-tsang. And they have this ladder-like holarchy because that is what fits their data. These stages are the result of empirical, phenomenological, and interpretive evidence and massive amounts of research data. These folks are not making this stuff up because they like ladders." (pp. 147–8)
  22. Cook, Cascade Polyamorous perspectives on love, sex, and relationships. URL accessed on 2007-03-12.
  23. Shanghai Daily.
  24. Derek, ({{{year}}}). "Polyamory: What it is and what it isn't," Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 6, .
  25. Kurtz, Stanley Polygamy Versus Democracy: You can't have both. Weekly Standard. URL accessed on 006-07-10.
  26. Herek, Gregory M. Avoiding Heterosexual Bias in Psychological Research. American Psychological Association. URL accessed on 2006-08-15.
  27. Weitzman, Geri D. What is known about the psychological and social functioning of polyamorous individuals?. What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory. URL accessed on 2006-07-10.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Informational Websites[edit]

Online Communities[edit]

Polyamory Related Media[edit]

Research and Articles[edit]

Advocacy and awareness[edit]

Forms of sexual and romantic relationships
monogamy | serial monogamy | polygamy (polygyny and polyandry) | polyfidelity | polyamory | open marriage (swinging)
Related topics compersion, limerence, free love, polytrothism

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