Polyamorous Relationship Rules, Types And How It Work

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A polyamorous relationship is one in which the two romantic partners give each other the flexibility to get intimate with other people even while committing to each other. To make such a relationship work, the partners need to follow certain polyamorous relationship rules.

These rules set specific boundaries so that there is honesty, transparency, and trust in the relationship. Also, it ensures that feelings such as jealousy and insecurity do not creep in. Read this post to learn the details of a polyamorous relationship, its types, and how it works.

In This Article

What Is A Polyamory Relationship?

The word ‘polyamory’ is an amalgamation of the Greek word ‘poly’ referring to many and the Latin word ‘amor,’ which means love. Put together, the word polyamory means multiple love. In a polyamory relationship, a couple mutually decides to get involved with other people

Also known as an ‘open relationship,’ a polyamorous relationship is not seen as cheating since both partners know each other’s affairs and consent to it. It is a non-monogamous relationship where neither of the partners is expected to stay loyal in the relationship.

protip_icon Point to consider
Maintaining polyamorous relationships can be tricky as romantic relations often involve people’s emotions. The more people involved in such a setup, the more chances of conflicts arising out of emotional attachment can cause distress and destroy genuine relationships.

Types Of Polyamorous Relationships

Dating two people who are not involved with each other
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There are different polyamorous relationships depending on the number of people involved and the nature of the relationship.

1. Vee

Resembling the shape of the letter ‘V,’ in this type of polyamorous relationship, one person dates two people who are not involved with each other.

2. Triad

In a triad, there are three people involved sexually in a relationship. For instance, a male-female couple can be involved with a male or female.

3. Quad

Quad, Polyamorous relationship rules
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Here there are four people involved sexually with each other. For instance, if two couples get involved with each other, they become a quad.

4. Hierarchical polyamory

Also known as ‘one primary plus,’ one relationship is the primary focus of the two partners, while the other relationship will be secondary. For instance, a married couple lives together, shares finances, and makes joint decisions. Their open marriage will be their priority, while they can also see people outside their marriage.

5. Non-hierarchical polyamory

In this, partners do not prioritize a single relationship. Those involved are more concerned with their needs being fulfilled by the setup they are in. They all get an equal say in the relationship and also make decisions.

6. Kitchen table polyamory

This type of polyamory relationship involves hanging out with each other, which may or may not be romantic. Not all partners may be sexually involved, but they are comfortable enough to have meals together hence the name kitchen table polyamory.

7. Parallel polyamory

This is the opposite of kitchen table polyamory, where the people involved are not friendly with each other. For instance, Allen is married to Margaret, who is involved with Jamie. Allen and Jamie are aware of each other but do not interact. They are only concerned with their relationship with Margaret.

8. Solo-polyamory

Here a person has autonomy and has no priority except themselves. They are involved with several partners and do not have any priority relationship. This person has ‘no-strings attached’ relations and is only concerned with having their needs met, and is not interested in a serious relationship.

9. Mono-poly relationship

Finger art, Polyamorous relationships
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In this relationship, one partner follows monogamy and is loyal to the primary relationship, while the other partner follows a polyamorous relationship and is involved with other partners. This is not cheating because it happens with mutual consent.

protip_icon Point to consider
A polyamorous relationship gets complicated when children are involved. If they are attached to their parents, a breakup would hurt them and even confuse love, attachment, and marriage.

How Do Polyamorous Relationships Work?

A polyamorous relationship is neither common nor a new concept. Non-monogamy has been prevalent in America since the 1800s where the Mormons maintained multiple partner relationships (2).

Polyamorous relationships are mostly adopted by people who choose not to stay loyal to one partner and do not wish to hurt them by cheating. It can work for people in long-distance relationships or those who have to travel frequently for work.

What works for a polyamorous relationship is honest and clear communication between two partners. Such a setup can sustain only if there is openness and understanding between the couple. If both consent to it and are willing to respect each other’s privacy and not cross boundaries, then it can keep them happy.

However, maintaining relationships with multiple partners may not be easy, especially if you have a primary relationship, as there are chances of jealousy, insecurity, suspiciousness, and distrust eventually souring your relationship. You need patience and the ability to compromise to carry on with such a relationship.

For Natalia Loveleen, an author, her husband introduced the idea of polyamory in their relationship. Although her husband was clear about his love for her, she says, “I rationalized that the main reason polyamory didn’t work for me was the inability to balance the need for privacy in each relationship and the depth of a truly meaningful connection. I hate to admit this, but polyamory didn’t work for me, mainly because of jealousy (i).” You need patience and the ability to compromise to carry on with such a relationship.

The success of a polyamory relationship depends entirely on the people involved and how much they are willing to support and trust each other.

Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) can be a form of a polyamorous relationship. In CNM, an individual has multiple relationships, and everyone involved consents to the arrangement. A survey was conducted to understand CNM attitudes and behaviors in people. As the graph indicates, the vast majority of the respondents preferred monogamous relationships, with only a tiny percentage who showed a positive attitude towards CNM.

Consensual non-monogamy behaviors and attitudes

Source: National survey reveals generational differences in consensual non-monogamy; iFidelity survey, The Wheatley Institution

9 Most Important Polyamorous Relationship Rules To Follow

Partner should approve of this setup
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Even polyamorous relationships have rules and restrictions to follow. However, rules vary for couples. Here are some of the common rules observed by polyamorous couples.

1. Consent of partner

Acceptance by both partners is extremely important for a polyamorous relationship. Such a relationship cannot be successful without your partner’s consent and agreement. Your partner has to approve of this setup. Doing anything without their consent is considered cheating.

2. Be clear of what you want

Before experimenting with polyamory, you and your partner need to be clear about what you want from the relationship and how much you are willing to give. Are your other relations limited to only the physical aspect, or will it involve more? You and your partner have to be clear with your needs and expectations of the relationship. Negotiation of terms and rules should be allowed before agreeing to the relationship.

3. Always use protection

When you maintain sexual relations with multiple partners, you put yourself and your partner at risk of STDs. It also risks unplanned pregnancy. Hence, using protection is an absolute must, no matter whom you are getting intimate with.

4. Establish clear boundaries

Having two or more partners can be a cause of jealousy for you and your partner. To avoid this, make it clear how much information you and your partner are interested in. You can give a code word to indicate your meeting with the other person. There is no need to get into details of your experience with the secondary partner as it can give rise to insecurity.

5. Pay attention to your partner

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Getting involved with other people does not mean you can neglect your partner. Honoring and maintaining your relationship with your partner is also important. You must make time for them and make them feel loved as you would in a normal relationship, ensuring equality among all partners involved.

6. Keep distance from each other’s partners

There will be instances when you will be curious about who your partner is with. Even if you learn about them, it is best to refrain from judging them or passing any unwanted comments. Maintaining distance from your partner’s personal affairs is of utmost importance in a polyamory setup.

7. Do not force yourself to see someone else

You may be fine with your partner having other intimate partners, but that does not mean you must have your share of experiments with others too. Do not try to compete with your partner. If you do not want this for yourself, then stay away from it.

8. Have clear communication

If at any moment you are not comfortable or unhappy with the polyamorous relationship, you need to convey the same to your partner. Ensure that communication between your partner and you is open and honest. There should be no hesitation when expressing your feelings for each other.

9. Do not take things personally

You may have consented to polyamory to make your partner happy but do not think they are in this because you lack in any way. In fact, most of the time, it has nothing to do with you but your partner’s personal choice of living their life. So, do not feel bad if your partner does not believe in monogamy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do polyamorous relationships last?

Polyamorous relationships may work if both the partners are on the same page and set and follow mutually-agreed boundaries. Honest communication, mutual trust, and transparency are the key to a successful polyamorous relationship.

2. What does commitment look like in a polyamorous relationship?

The extent of commitment might vary in each couple in a polyamorous relationship. Polyamorous is a committed relationship, and the couples might agree to be there for each other in times of need. They may or may not include physical intimacy under the commitment radar. Obeying through the set relationship rules indicates their level of commitment.

3. Why do poly relationships fail?

Lack of communication and trust could be the reasons for a polyamorous relationship to fail. Jealousy, insecurity, and emotional instability may cause rifts in the relationship. These might lead to several other issues affecting the relationship.

Polyamory relationships are a form of ethical non-monogamy that works when partners set boundaries. The partners can decide the polyamorous relationship rules; hence, they vary for every couple. Perhaps that’s why polyamorous relationships aren’t considered the right choice for everyone. Ideally, a polyamorous relationship can be the best bet for people who don’t believe in committing to a single partner. For them, living in a polyamorous relationship is the best way to have a happy relationship with multiple partners without any strings attached.

Infographic: Things To Consider Before Going Into A Polyamorous Relationship

If you and your partner are exploring ways to bring something new into the relationship and polyamory is your pick, you may need this infographic as your checklist before stepping into this unique lifestyle. Don’t just dive in for the thrill of it; learn what this type of relationship entails before making the transition.

is polyamory the right choice for you (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

Key Pointers

  • A polyamorous relationship differs from monogamy, wherein you could be romantically involved with more than one partner with the consent of each of your partners.
  • With the complexities of this relationship, you have to follow certain rules like maintaining clear boundaries to make it work.
  • Besides, knowing the basics will help you maintain a healthy, long-lasting polyamorous relationship.
Polyamorous relationship rules_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Explore the complexities of polyamory and learn how to create healthy boundaries, rules, and agreements to make it work.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. E Cook; Commitment in Polyamorous Relationships; (2005); Regis University
  2. Polygamy; American Law and Legal Information Free Legal Encyclopedia
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