What Does it Mean to be Polyamorous

Identity is ever-changing, it may be difficult to understand where you stand and that is totally okay! Sexuality and identity is fluid, the most important part is letting yourself explore and learn what you feel the most comfortable with. 

In this article, we’ll tackle what it means to be polyamorous and what it entails to be a part of this community. 

What does being polyamorous mean?

Polyamorous people have multiple romantic relationships at once. The identity is synonymous with non-monogamy. Polyamory does not however refer to having multiple sex partners, instead it refers to fostering multiple romantic and intimate relationships with more than one partner. There are many layers to this identity such as hierarchical and non-hierarchical polyamory which we will discuss in more depth later in the article. It is important to note that Polyamory is not the same as polygamy which means you are married to multiple people at once, polyamory does not always need to involve marriage. 

Learning that you might be a part of the polyamorous community might be scary at first, but there are many ways to plug yourself into the community and learn to be comfortable with yourself.

if you’re curious about how you might identify, here’s what you should know about what being polyamorous means:

History of the word polyamorous 

The word polyamory comes from the Greek word for many, “poly” and the Latin word for love, “amor.” The first traces of the definition we know today is the appearance of the word “poly-amorous” in an article titled “A Bouquet of Lovers” written by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart which was first published in Green Egg Magazine in 1990. 

Although the word came into social conversations relatively not that long ago, there is evidence that the idea of polygamy has been around as early as the 1960s, but there was not a word yet created to define the concept. It wasn’t until 2006 after 7 years of consideration that the Oxford English Dictionary added the word polyamory to their list of canon English words. 

The popularity of the word polyamorous that we see today is mainly due to its increase of usage on social media and celebrity conversations. For example Bella Thorne, Willow Smith, and Shailene Woodley have all spoken up about their polyamorous identities further helping the word and definition take flight. 

Alternatives to the word polyamorous

Because identity is personal and different people are comfortable using different terms there are a variety of ways to say the word polyamorous, including: 

  • Poly
  • Non-monogamous
  • Open

Over time language evolves and this creates new words derived from a multitude of historical nuances. Labels and terms can also carry connotations, bad or good, which is why one might identify more with one term over the other despite them meaning the same thing. It is also important to note that the identity of polyamory can encompass homosexual, nonbinary, and transgender individuals, and so much more. 

Types of Polyamory 

As mentioned before, there are a variety of approaches to polyamory. There is no right or wrong way to be polyamorous. It is important to understand that there are primary and secondary partners within polyamorous relationships. Primary partners might be the partner you live with or even sometimes are married to, the secondary partner or partners are individuals that are still in a committed relationship with you but may not live in your house, share your finances, or interlace with your at home life. Below are some of the ways in which your relationship might fit into the polyamorous world.

Polyfidelity: Three or more individuals in a committed relationship who do not date outside of their group. 

Solo Polyamory: In this situation there are no primary partners. They have individualistic personal lives and date multiple people. 

Triad Polyamory: Also known as a throuple, this situation involves three people dating each other. 

Quad Polyamory: This kind of relationship consists of four individuals in a relationship. Oftentimes quads start with two polyamorous couples who conjoin relationships. 

Vee Polyamory: This refers to an individual who is dating two separate people, but those individuals are not dating each other. 

Hierarchical Polyamory: In this situation the primary partner is given more attention and has a bigger role in relationship decisions. The secondary partner in this relationship style doesn’t have these priorities. 

Non-hierarchical Polyamory: As the name says this relationship style does not have a hierarchy of partners. Time, attention, and decision making is evenly distributed between all partners involved. 

What makes someone polyamorous?

If you think you might identify as polyamorous try asking yourself these questions: Do you feel trapped or claustrophobic in a monogamous relationship? Are you confident in the idea that you wouldn’t mind your partner being with other people? Do you often feel attracted to more than one person at the same time? If you answer yes to those questions you might be polyamorous. 

Because there are so many approaches to polyamory you might have ruled out the idea of being polyamorous because you don’t fit in with the definition you saw. It is critical to understand that the structures of polyamorous relationships change according to each person’s needs and wants. Just because polyamorous individuals have multiple partners it does not mean that boundaries don’t exist. Rules such as every partner being on birth control or open communication being a norm are all ways in which polyamorous relationships can be tailored to every individual’s desires and goals. 

It’s always a great idea to trust that members of the community know more about their identity than you do. Listen to polyamorous people when they speak about their identities. 

Perspectives on being polyamorous

Being polyamorous sometimes comes with the unsolicited opinions of those who don’t understand the concept of this relationship style. To better understand the perspective of a polyamorous people it is important to keep up to date on news and policies regarding polyamory as well as dismantling the negative stereotypes that might still linger. 

One of the biggest misconceptions regarding polyamory is that it is just an excuse for cheating. This false notion could not be further from the truth. A successful polyamorous relationship does not waver far from the expectations that you would find in a monogamous relationship, things such as trust, communication, and honesty are still expected. Not to mention cheating can still occur within polyamorous relationships if boundaries that were agreed upon are crossed. 

Another myth people often tell about polyamorous people is that they are just people afraid of commitment and no intimacy is involved. Again, commitment can still be expected in non-monogamous relationships. The idea that intimacy can’t be achieved because polyamorous people have “too much sex” or have “too many partners” does not make sense. Intimacy can of course be achieved through sex, but this does not encompass all the shared moments and experiences a polyamorous person can have with their partners. It is better to think of polyamory as just a new approach to dating, not as an “excuse” to do things outside of a monogamous relationship. After all, polyamory is naturally non-monogamous. 

The polyamorous flag

The polyamorous flag was just recently designed in November of 2022. This newer version was designed by Red Howell and was voted to be the new flag by 30,827 people. Many polyamorous people felt they needed a newer version of the flag to better represent them and this is how the current version was born. 

So what does this flag represent? As a whole, the unification of polyamorous individuals and the non-monogamous community. Below is a breakdown of what the colors and symbols of this flag represent. 

  • White Chevron: The pointed chevron represents a symbol of growth and progress and is purposefully asymmetrical to symbolize the non-traditional style of polyamorous relationships. The white coloring is representative of possibility and hope. 
  • Heart: A reminder that love, in all its variations, is the core of polyamory. 
  • Magenta: Stands for desire, love, and attraction. 
  • Blue: Represents openness and honesty. 
  • Gold: Symbolizes energy and perseverance of those in non-monogamous relationships.
  • Purple: Represents a united non-monogamous community.   

Bottom Line 

Polyamory is slowly on the rise to becoming “socially acceptable.” Although there are many who don’t understand the nuances and layers that come with this multifaceted identity, there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous. Always remember that there is no right or wrong way to be polyamorous and that you are the only person who can determine your identity.

If some of the ideas above resonate with you and you’re thinking of coming out, make sure the conditions are safe and have a plan of action regarding housing and food if things don’t go as planned. 

In addition, be sure to learn about the other identities that make up the LGBTQ+ community on our website or subscribe to the INTO newsletter to learn more.  

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