There are so many unjustified assumptions about polyamory that come from a place of misunderstanding and cultural conditioning. In the United States, monogamy is upheld as the perfect norm, as having more than one partner is often met with negative commentary, slut shaming, and the label of promiscuity. It is through this lens that the idea of one partner being able to fulfill all your needs is spread amongst children, youth, and adults. And though there are couples that have successfully practiced monogamy, polyamorous couples have also experienced success and longevity in both emotional fulfillment and sexual health.

Contrary to popular belief, it is rare for any relationship to be completely monogamous. The rates of cheating amongst “monogamists” continue to skyrocket, and it seems that people are running from the idea that polyamory is also a productive alternative for love. But non-monogamy and polyamory are not one in the same, as polyamory is rooted in the philosophy of honesty and transparency in all acts of love, sex included. It is not free love without rules. It’s a system in which people make agreements to accommodate loving more than one person to keep everyone safe and happy.

There are various classifications that describe the many types of relationships practiced by polyamorists. There are primary relationships, which include people that you live with in marriage-like arrangements. There are secondary relationships, which include people that you love but with whom you don’t live. And there are tertiary relationships, which include people with whom you enjoy sex but don’t necessarily love.

In each of these relationships, there are sexual health rules that are applied to keep all of your partners safe. For example, many people in long-term primary and secondary relationships will agree to practice safe oral sex and sexual intercourse with any tertiary partners. Or people in long-term primary relationships may apply those same rules to secondary relationships. Whatever the agreement, it is upheld by all partners, as preventing disease-spread is always a high priority for polyamorists and the ethics that they apply to non-monogamy.

In contrast, non-monogamy is a lifestyle enjoyed by many that doesn’t have set rules or ethical requirements. Cheaters are welcome, and any other individuals who are practicing love and sex in deceit. It shelters people from acknowledging that monogamy isn’t working for them, and often prevents the individual from experiencing meaningful relationships with other people who feel the same way. When there isn’t transparency, honesty, or ethical standards, many partners are left in the dark about what their partners are doing and thus making decisions regarding their hearts, bodies, and health with incomplete information.

The key to preserving healthy hearts, minds, and bodies is honesty and open communication. Polyamory offers ethical paths for non-monogamists who are willing to recognize that loving or desiring more than one person doesn’t have to be done in the dark. When it comes to the sexual health of you and your partner(s), it is better to share love and enjoy sex in transparency, rather than jeopardize everyone´s health and live in deceit.

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9 Comments

  1. It is implied that cheating, lying, etc does not exist in such relationships. I wonder is cheating, lying, deception a result of forced monogamy or a character flaw, no matter how many men/women you’re “allowed” to have. .

  2. Excellent article. I agree, communication and honesty are key – as they should be in monogamous relationships, as well. It’s so important for all parties involved to be clear about what they want, what they intend, and what they are and are not committed to.

  3. “In contrast, non-monogamy is a lifestyle enjoyed by many that doesn’t have set rules or ethical requirements. Cheaters are welcome, and any other individuals who are practicing love and sex in deceit. It shelters people from acknowledging that monogamy isn’t working for them, and often prevents the individual from experiencing meaningful relationships with other people who feel the same way. ”

    I’m sorry, WHAT? I disagree. Whereas this might be true for some people, to label polaymory as the ‘good’ form and nonmonogamy as the ‘bad’ form is inaccurate. Polyamory is a FORM of nonmonogamy, the latter is just a more umbrella term that includes all forms of relationships that are, as the name suggests, not monogamous. Polygamy. Polyandry. Triads. Polyfidelity. Swingers. Open marriages.

    Seriously?? The information given in this article is just blatantly wrong.

    There as liars and cheaters in polyamory just as they exist in monogamy. Please get details of what nonmonogamy and polyamory mean before saying that nonmonogamy is all ‘welcoming’ of cheaters and all kinds of deceit.

    Damn.

  4. Thanks, Z for pointing that out 🙂

  5. Dis is a very intrestin concept…most ppl dnt evn knw dat dis is wht they arrangmnts is calld bt they du practice dis….thnx 4 enlytening Me…

  6. Z, thanks for making your comment. I agree with you. It really is based on the individual. There are cheaters in every sector. It is absurd To say that people who practice polyamory are safer bc the follow certain rules. That’s like saying everyone who practices Christianity is a “good” person! Come on!

    When it comes down to it, only You can guarantee your sexual safety!

  7. Hi Arielle! Thanks for a pretty good article on polyamory. I definitely agree that the structure of polyamory, as well as the emphasis on values such as Honesty and Transparency and Good Communication, tends to create healthier, happier relationships, as opposed to ones where the partners are engaging in dishonesty, hiding, lying, cheating, etc. Poly isn’t for everyone, but for some of us, it provides a great path toward whole and healthy relationships, and a lot of love in our lives.

    Regarding it being a SAFER option than cheating, that is absolutely true. As it happens, I just reposted an abstract in my own journal with actual DATA on that topic! You can find the abstract here: http://blog.unchartedlove.com/?p=1542. The title of the research article is “Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals,” and it was published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 6, pages 1559–1565, June 2012.

    Last but not least, I got here by searching images of polyamory, and was surprised to see my own personal Livejournal icon show up here. I drew it myself, and it is copyrighted, as well as containing my business logo, “Love Outside The Box,” so it would be great if you could add that information to the image in a title: Polyamory: Love outside the box (copyright 2009, Dawn Davidson of LoveOutsideTheBox.com). I’m glad you liked it enough to use it here! 🙂

    (And in full disclosure, the “opening up box” portion of the drawing was created based on the image registered with Creative Commons by Danny Picarillo, which in turn was inspired by an earlier version I drew. Even drawings in polyamory sometimes involve many people. ;^)

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