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Polyamory (from Greek πολύpoly, "many, several", and Latin amor, "love") is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy". People who identify as polyamorous may believe in an open relationship with a conscious management of jealousy and reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships. Others prefer to restrict their sexual activity to only members of the group. The latter type of closed polyamorous relationship is usually referred to as polyfidelity.
Polyamory has come to be an umbrella term for various forms of non-monogamous, multi-partner relationships, or non-exclusive sexual or romantic relationships.Its usage reflects the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved, but with recurring themes or values, such as love, intimacy, honesty, integrity, equality, communication, and commitment.
The word polyamorous first appeared in an article by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, "A Bouquet of Lovers", published in May 1990 in Green Egg Magazine , as "poly-amorous".In May 1992, Jennifer L. Wesp created the Usenet newsgroup alt.polyamory, and the Oxford English Dictionary cites the proposal to create that group as the first verified appearance of the word. In 1999 Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the OED to provide a definition of the term, and had provided it for the UK version as "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." The words polyamory, polyamorous, and polyamorist were added to the OED in 2006.
Although some reference works define "polyamory" as a relational form (whether interpersonal or romantic or sexual) that involves multiple people with the consent of all the people involved,the North American version of the OED declares it a philosophy of life.
Consensual non-monogamy, which polyamory falls under, can take many different forms, depending on the needs and preferences of the individual(s) involved in any specific relationship or set of relationships. As of 2019 fully one fifth of the United States population has, at some point in their lives, engaged in some sort of consensual non-monogamy.
Separate from polyamory as a philosophical basis for relationships are the practical ways in which people who live polyamorously arrange their lives and handle certain issues, as compared to those of a more conventional monogamous arrangement.
Polyamorous communities[ definition needed ] have been booming[ clarification needed ] in countries within Europe, North America, and Oceania. In other parts of the world, such as, South America, Asia, and Africa there is a small[ clarification needed ] growth in polyamory practices. There is not any particular gendered partner choice to polyamorous relationships. People of different sexual preferences are a part of the community.
A large percentage of polyamorists define fidelity not as sexual exclusivity, but as faithfulness to the promises and agreements made about a relationship. [ clarification needed ] of open relationship or multi-partner constellations, which can differ in definition and grades of intensity, closeness and commitment. For some, polyamory functions as an umbrella term for the multiple approaches of 'responsible non-monogamy'. A secret sexual relationship that violates those accords would be seen as a breach of fidelity. Polyamorists generally base definitions of commitment on considerations other than sexual exclusivity, e.g. "trust and honesty" or "growing old together".As a relational practice, polyamory sustains a vast variety
Because there is no "standard model" for polyamorous relationships, and reliance upon common expectations may not be realistic, polyamorists advocate explicitly negotiating with all involved to establish the terms of their relationships, and often emphasize that this should be an ongoing process of honest communication and respect. Polyamorists typically take a pragmatic approach to their relationships; many 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.
Most[ original research? ] polyamorists emphasize respect, trust, and honesty for all partners. Ideally, a partner's partners are accepted as part of that person's life rather than merely tolerated, and usually a relationship that requires deception or a "don't ask don't tell" policy is seen as a less than ideal model.
Many polyamorists[ who? ] view excessive restrictions on other deep relationships as less than desirable, as such restrictions can be used to replace trust with a framework of ownership and control. It is usually preferred or encouraged that a polyamorist strive to view their partners' other significant others, often referred to as metamours or OSOs, in terms of the gain to their partners' lives rather than a threat to their own (see compersion). Therefore, jealousy and possessiveness are generally viewed not so much as something to avoid or structure the relationships around, but as responses that should be explored, understood, and resolved within each individual, with compersion as a goal.
Many things differentiate polyamory from other types of non-monogamous relationships. It is common for swinging and open couples to maintain emotional monogamy while engaging in extra-dyadic sexual relations.
Similarly, the friend/partner boundary in monogamous relationships and other forms of non-monogamy is typically fairly clear. Unlike other forms of non-monogamy, though, "polyamory is notable for privileging emotional intimacy with others."
Michael Shernoff cites two studies in his report on same-sex couples considering non-monogamy.
Morin (1999) stated that a couple has a very good chance of adjusting to non-exclusivity if at least some of the following conditions exist:
Green and Mitchell (2002) stated that direct discussion of the following issues can provide the basis for honest and important conversations:
According to Shernoff,if the matter is discussed with a third party, such as a therapist, the task of the therapist is to "engage couples in conversations that let them decide for themselves whether sexual exclusivity or non-exclusivity is functional or dysfunctional for the relationship."
Benefits of a polyamorous relationship might include:
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.
Compersion is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy. In the context of polyamorous relationships, it describes positive feelings experienced by an individual when their intimate partner is enjoying another relationship.
The concept of compersion was originally coined by the Kerista Commune in San Francisco.
Bertrand Russell published Marriage and Morals in 1929, questioning contemporary notions of morality regarding monogamy in sex and marriage.This viewpoint was criticized by John Dewey.
A 2003 article in The Guardianproposed six primary reasons for choosing polyamory:
Research into the prevalence of polyamory has been limited. A comprehensive government study of sexual attitudes, behaviors and relationships in Finland in 1992 (age 18–75, around 50% female and male) 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 relationship type "that best suits" at the present stage of life would involve multiple partners. By contrast, when asked about other relationships at the same time as a steady relationship, around 17% stated they had had other partners while in a steady relationship (50% no, 17% yes, 33% refused to answer).
The article What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, based on a paper presented at the 8th Annual Diversity Conference in March 1999 in Albany, New York, states the following:
While openly polyamorous relationships are relatively rare (Rubin, 1982), there are indications that private polyamorous arrangements within relationships are actually quite common. Blumstein and Schwartz (1983, cited in Rubin & Adams, 1986) noted that of 3,574 married couples in their sample, 15–28% had an understanding that allows nonmonogamy under some circumstances. The percentages are higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%) (p. 312).
The Oneida Community in the 1800s in New York (a Christian religious commune) believed strongly in a system of free love known as complex marriage,where any member was free to have sex with any other who consented. Possessiveness and exclusive relationships were frowned upon.
Some people consider themselves Christian and polyamorous, but mainstream Christianity does not accept polyamory.In 2017, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an evangelical Christian organization, released a manifesto on human sexuality known as the "Nashville Statement". The statement was signed by 150 evangelical leaders, and includes 14 points of belief. Among other things, it states, "We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship."
Some Jews are polyamorous, but mainstream Judaism does not accept polyamory. However, in 2010, Rabbi Jacob Levin came out as polyamorous to his synagogue's board in California without losing his job as rabbi.As well, in his book A Guide to Jewish Practice: Volume 1 – Everyday Living (2011), Rabbi David Teutsch wrote, “It is not obvious that monogamy is automatically a morally higher form of relationship than polygamy,” and that if practiced with honesty, flexibility, egalitarian rules, and trust, practitioners may "live enriched lives as a result". In 2013, Sharon Kleinbaum, the senior rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, said that polyamory is a choice that does not preclude a Jewishly observant and socially conscious life. Some polyamorous Jews point to biblical patriarchs having multiple wives and concubines as evidence that polyamorous relationships can be sacred in Judaism. An email list is dedicated to polyamorous Jews; it is called AhavaRaba, which roughly translates to "big love" in Hebrew, and which echoes God's "great" or "abounding" love mentioned in the Ahava rabbah prayer.
LaVeyan Satanism is critical of Abrahamic sexual mores, considering them narrow, restrictive and hypocritical. Satanists are pluralists, accepting polyamorists, bisexuals, lesbians, gays, BDSM, transgender people, and asexuals. Sex is viewed as an indulgence, but one that should only be freely entered into with consent. The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth only give two instructions regarding sex: "Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal" and "Do not harm little children," though the latter is much broader and encompasses physical and other abuse. This has always been consistent part of CoS policy since its inception in 1966, as Peter H. Gillmore wrote in an essay supporting same-sex marriage:
Finally, since certain people try to suggest that our attitude on sexuality is "anything goes" despite our stated base principle of "responsibility to the responsible", we must reiterate another fundamental dictate: The Church of Satan's philosophy strictly forbids sexual activity with children as well as with non-human animals.
Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, founded in 2001, has engaged in ongoing education and advocacy for greater understanding and acceptance of polyamory within the Unitarian Universalist Association.At the 2014 General Assembly, two UUPA members moved to include the category of "family and relationship structures" in the UUA's nondiscrimination rule, along with other amendments; the package of proposed amendments was ratified by the GA delegates.
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Bigamy is the act of marrying one person while already being married to another, and is legally prohibited in most countries in which monogamy is the cultural norm. 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.
In most countries, it is legal for three or more people to form and share a sexual relationship (subject sometimes to laws against homosexuality or adultery if two of the three are married). With only minor exceptions no developed countries permit marriage among more than two people, nor do the majority of countries give legal protection (e.g., of rights relating to children) to non-married partners. Individuals involved in polyamorous relationships are generally considered by the law to be no different from people who live together, or "date", under other circumstances. In 2017 John Alejandro Rodriguez, Victor Hugo Prada, and Manuel Jose Bermudez became Colombia's first polyamorous family to have a legally recognized relationship,though not a marriage: "By Colombian law a marriage is between two people, so we had to come up with a new word: a special patrimonial union."
In many jurisdictions where same-sex couples can access civil unions or registered partnerships, these are often intended as parallel institutions to that of heterosexual monogamous marriage. Accordingly, they include parallel entitlements, obligations, and limitations. Among the latter, as in the case of the New Zealand Civil Union Act 2005, there are parallel prohibitions on civil unions with more than one partner, which is considered bigamy, or dual marriage/civil union hybrids with more than one person. Both are banned under Sections 205–206 of the Crimes Act 1961. In jurisdictions where same-sex marriage proper exists, bigamous same-sex marriages fall under the same set of legal prohibitions as bigamous heterosexual marriages. As yet, there is no case law applicable to these issues.
Having multiple non-marital partners, even if married to one, is legal in most U.S. jurisdictions; at most it constitutes grounds for divorce if the spouse is non-consenting, or feels that the interest in a further partner has destabilized the marriage. In jurisdictions where civil unions or registered partnerships are recognized, the same principle applies to divorce in those contexts. 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,and more than twenty states in the US have laws against adultery although they are infrequently enforced. Some states were prompted to review their laws criminalizing consensual sexual activity in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in Lawrence v. Texas .
If marriage is intended, some countries provide for both a religious marriage and a civil ceremony (sometimes combined). These recognize and formalize the relationship. Few countries outside of Africa or Asia give legal recognition to marriages with three or more partners. While a relationship of three people being formalized in the Netherlands in 2005 was commonly read as demonstrating that Dutch law permitted multiple-partner civil unions,the relationship in question was a samenlevingscontract , or "cohabitation contract", and not a registered partnership or marriage. The Netherlands' law concerning registered partnerships provides that
Authors have explored legalistic ramifications of polyamorous marriage.
In June 2020, the city council of Somerville, Massachusetts voted to recognize polyamorous domestic partnerships in the city, becoming the first American city to do so. This measure was passed so that those in a polyamorous relationship would have access to their partners' health insurance, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2002, a paper titled Working with polyamorous clients in the clinical setting (by Joy Davidson)addressed the following areas of inquiry:
Its conclusions were that "Sweeping changes are occurring in the sexual and relational landscape" (including "dissatisfaction with limitations of serial monogamy, i.e. exchanging one partner for another in the hope of a better outcome"); that clinicians need to start by "recognizing the array of possibilities that 'polyamory' encompasses" and "examine our culturally-based assumption that 'only monogamy is acceptable'" and how this bias impacts on the practice of therapy; the need for self-education about polyamory, basic understandings about the "rewards of the poly lifestyle" and the common social and relationship challenges faced by those involved, and the "shadow side" of polyamory, the potential existing for coercion, strong emotions in opposition, and jealousy.
The paper also states that the configurations a therapist would be "most likely to see in practice" are individuals involved in primary-plus arrangements, monogamous couples wishing to explore non-monogamy for the first time, and "poly singles".
A manual for psychotherapists who deal with polyamorous clients was published in September 2009 by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, called What Psychotherapists Should Know About Polyamory.
In 2009 Graham Nicholls founded www.polyamory.org.uk, the United Kingdom's first website about polyamory.
Polyamory: Married & Dating was an American reality television series on the American pay television network Showtime. The series followed polyamorous families as they navigated the challenges presented by polyamory. The series ran in 2012 and 2013.
During a PinkNews question-and-answer session in May 2015, Redfern Jon Barrett questioned Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, about her party's stance towards polyamorous marriage rights. Bennett responded by saying that her party is "open" to discussion on the idea of civil partnership or marriages between three people.Bennett's announcement aroused media controversy on the topic and led to major international news outlets covering her answer. A follow-up article written by Barrett was published by PinkNews on May 4, 2015, further exploring the topic. You Me Her is an American-Canadian comedy-drama television series that revolves around a suburban married couple who is entering a three-way romantic relationship.
On May 29, 2017, in the last season of Steven Universe, Fluorite, a member of the Off Colors, a fusion of six different gems into one being, with fusion as the physical manifestation of a relationship, was introduced. This character reappeared in various episodes in the show's fifth season ("Lars Head", "Lars of the Stars", "Your Mother and Mine"), the season 5 finale, "Change Your Mind," along with one in Steven Universe Future ("Little Graduation") and in Steven Universe: The Movie,with the latter two as non-speaking appearances. The series creator, Rebecca Sugar, confirmed that Fluorite is a representation of a polyamorous relationship at the show's Comic Con panel in San Diego. Sugar said at the panel, and at another conference, that she was inspired after talking with children at an LBGTQ+ center in Long Beach, California, who wanted a polyamorous character in the show.
Polyamory was the subject of the 2018 Louis Theroux documentary Love Without Limits, where Theroux travels to Portland, Oregon to meet a number of people engaged in polyamorous relationships.
Also in 2018, "195 Lewis," a web series about a black lesbian couple dealing with their relationship being newly polyamorous, received the Breakthrough Series – Short Form award from the Gotham Awards.The series premiered in 2017 and ran for five episodes.
In 2019, Simpsons showrunner Al Jean said he saw Lisa Simpson as being "possibly polyamorous" in the future.
Trigonometry is an eight-part BBC TV drama series which started on 15 March 2020 and is about an existing couple being joined by a third person and forming a polyamorous relationship. The BBC said that Trigonometry is "A love story about three people who are made for each other."IMDB summarises its start point as "A London couple struggling with an expensive apartment agree to take on a roommate."
Polyamory, along with other forms of consensual non-monogamy, is not without drawbacks. Morin (1999) and Fleckenstein (2014) noted that certain conditions are favorable to good experiences with polyamory, but that these differ from the general population.Heavy public promotion of polyamory can have the unintended effect of attracting people to it for whom it is not well-suited. Unequal power dynamics, such as financial dependence, can also inappropriately influence a person to agree to a polyamorous relationship against their true desires. Even in more equal power dynamic relationships, the reluctant partner may feel coerced into a proposed non-monogamous arrangement due to the implication that if they refuse, the proposer will pursue other partners anyway, will break off the relationship, or that the one refusing will be accused of intolerance.
To date, scientific study of polyamory has run into bias and methodological issues.
Polyamorous relationships present practical pitfalls.
In 2001 Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness‘s first official membership meeting was held.
In 2002 the rights of polyamorous people were added to the mission of the [American] National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.
In 2010 the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association was founded.
Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures are subcultures and communities composed of people who have shared experiences, backgrounds, or interests due to common sexual or gender identities. Among the first to argue that members of sexual minorities can also constitute cultural minorities were Adolf Brand, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Leontine Sagan in Germany. These pioneers were later followed by the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis in the United States.
Swinging, sometimes called wife swapping, husband swapping or partner swapping, is a sexual activity in which both singles and partners in a committed relationship sexually engage with others for recreational purposes. Swinging is a form of non-monogamy and is an open relationship. People may choose a swinging lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Many cite an increased quality and quantity of sex. Some people may engage in swinging to add variety into their otherwise conventional sex lives or due to their curiosity. Some couples see swinging as a healthy outlet and means to strengthen their relationship.
Open marriage is a form of non-monogamy in which the partners of a dyadic marriage agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without this being regarded by them as infidelity, and consider or establish an open relationship despite the implied monogamy of marriage. There are variant forms of open marriage such as swinging and polyamory, each with the partners having varying levels of input on their spouse's activities.
Polyfidelity is a form of non-monogamy, an intimate relationship structure where all members are considered equal partners and agree to restrict sexual activity to only other members of the group.
An open relationship, also known as non-exclusive relationship, is an intimate relationship that is sexually non-monogamous. The term may refer to polyamory, but generally indicates a relationship where there is a primary emotional and intimate relationship between two partners, who agree to at least the possibility of intimacy with other people.
Dorothy "Dossie" Easton is an author and family therapist based in San Francisco, California. She is polyamorous, and lives in West Marin, California.
The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities is an English non-fiction book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy.
Non-monogamy is an umbrella term for every practice or philosophy of non-dyadic intimate relationship that does not strictly hew to the standards of monogamy, particularly that of having only one person with whom to exchange sex, love, and/or affection. In that sense, "nonmonogamy" may be accurately applied to extramarital sex, group marriage, or polyamory. It is not synonymous with infidelity, since all parties are consenting to the relationship structure, partners are often committed to each other as well as to their other partners and cheating is still considered problematic behavior with many non-monogamous relationships.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to interpersonal relationships.
Polyamory, the lifestyle or choice of having multiple mutually aware and consenting loving relationships, often requires a degree of negotiation and individual choice to reach a solid basis for relationships. In negotiating the terms of polyamorous relationships, practitioners emphasize values within polyamory, as opposed to referring to predetermined rules and roles.
Terminology within polyamory looks at the evolution and meaning of the word "polyamory" itself, as well as alternative definitions and concepts which closely relate to it.
A committed relationship is an interpersonal relationship based upon agreed-upon commitment to one another involving love, trust, honesty, openness, or some other behavior. Forms of committed relationships include close friendship, long-term relationships, engagement, marriage, and civil unions.
Monogamy is a form of dyadic relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their lifetime—alternately, only one partner at any one time —as compared to non-monogamy. The term is also applied to the social behavior of some animals, referring to the state of having only one mate at any one time.
Polygamy is not legally recognised in Australia. Legally recognised polygamous marriages may not be performed in Australia, and a person who marries another person, knowing that the previous marriage is still subsisting, commits an offence of bigamy under section 94 of the Marriage Act 1961, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. However, the offence of bigamy only applies to attempts to contract a legally recognised marriage; it does not apply to polygamous marriages where there is no attempt to gain recognition for the marriage under Australian law. Whether or not either or both partners were aware of the previous subsisting marriage, the second marriage is void. Foreign polygamous marriages are not recognized in Australia. However, a foreign marriage that is not polygamous but could potentially become polygamous at a later date under the law of the country where the marriage took place is recognized in Australia while any subsequent polygamous marriage is not. While under Australian law a person can be in at most one legally valid marriage at a time, Australian law does recognise that a person can be in multiple de facto relationships concurrently, and as such entitled to the legal rights extended to members of de facto relationships.
Deborah Taj Anapol (1951–2015) was an American clinical psychologist and one of the founders of the polyamory movement, which started in the 1980s. Known for her work in erotic spirituality, ecosex, neotantra and Pelvic-Heart Integration, she was an advocate for multiple love and sacred sexuality. Her work made early use of the Internet to gather and organize like-minded people. She was also the co-founder of the magazine Loving More and its conferences. She wrote one of the first books on polyamory, Love Without Limits (1992); which was expanded and reissued as Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits, in 1997. An expert columnist for Psychology Today, she blogged at "Love Without Limits, Reports from the relationship frontier."
Meg-John Barker is a writer, writing mentor, creative consultant, speaker, and independent scholar. They have written a number of anti self-help books on the topics of relationships, sex, and gender, as well as the graphic non-fiction books, Queer: A Graphic History and Gender: A Graphic Guide, and the book The Psychology of Sex. They are the writer of the relationships book and blog Rewriting the Rules, and they have a podcast with sex educator Justin Hancock.
Terri Conley is an American social psychologist who studies gender differences in sexuality, consequences of departures from monogamy, and the consequences of masculinity threat. She is currently an associate professor of psychology and women's and gender studies at the University of Michigan, where she leads the Stigmatized Sexualities research lab.
Justin J. Lehmiller is an American social psychologist and author. Lehmiller is a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.
Regression analyses suggest that the factors which predict better health and happiness differ between the general population and those who participate in consensually non-exclusive sexual relationships
The final reason given by those in the 'Willing' group was that their engagement in CNM would be a sacrifice for their partner or for their relationship. This group of participants indicated that despite their own lack of desire to engage in CNM, they would be willing to try CNM for their partner or their relationship.
Polyamory-related media coverage
Research and articles