Types of Polyamorous Relationships

8 Different Types of Polyamorous Relationships

Monogamous relationships are the most accepted relationship style in the United States and many parts of the world. Many people find the thought of polyamory repulsive or strange because the idea of a non-monogamous relationship isn't normal to them. 

But there's nothing strange about polyamorous relationships when everyone has consented and is happy with their relationship or relationships. Polyamory is gaining popularity and acceptance in the United States. 

But there's more to polyamory than simply having more than one partner. The dynamics are different for everyone who engages in all types of polyamorous relationships.

Polyamorous couples see their relationships as consensual non-monogamous relationships (cnm relationships). Cnm relationships mean that everyone involved is aware of the levels of relationships and has consented to be involved. 

There's more to polyamory than having a simple open relationship, and there are several different types of relationships you can be involved in when in cnm relationships.

Polyamory V. Polygamy

Polyamory is not as prevalent in Western society as it is in other parts of the world. A lot of the backlash for polyamory comes from the vast majority of people thinking polyamory is the same as polygamy. In Western cultures, polygamy is not as widely accepted as in other parts of the world. 

Therefore, when people think polygamy and polyamory are the same things, it's no wonder people aren't as accepting. While both terms start with "poly," meaning multiple, there are significant differences between the two.

Polygamy means that someone has multiple wives or spouses. Polyamory means that someone has numerous intimate relationships, but they're not necessarily married to every person they engage in an intimate relationship with. Here are two of the most significant differences between polygamy and polyamory.

Gender

Gender is by far the most significant difference between polygamy and polyamory. When you look at a polyamorous relationship, people of any gender can have more than one partner. Not only can any gender have multiple partners, but their partners can be of any gender as well. 

Polygamy is almost completely heterosexual traditionally. One person will have multiple spouses of the opposite gender. For example, one man will have multiple wives. 

There are situations where a woman will have multiple husbands, but that's known as polyandry, and it's very uncommon.

Religion

Polygamy is strongly associated with religion throughout the world and even in the United States, where having multiple spouses is illegal. Many religious groups practice polygamy around the world, and it's entirely normal for them. 

While polygamy is illegal in the United States, there are religious groups that practice polygamy here. Polygamy is often associated with the Morman faith in the United States. 

Polyamory is loosely associated with religion, but often it's not associated with a religion at all. Of course, this is different for everyone, and there may be some polyamorous relationships where religion has influence. 

Typically the only polyamorous relationships that are associated with religion are polyamorous families who have children.

Different Types of Polyamorous Relationships

Whether you're interested in pursuing a polyamorous relationship or are just curious about the community, there's a lot of variety. Polyamory is called an umbrella term for other consensual non-monogamous relationships. 

Learning about the different types of polyamorous relationships can lead you to understand the community better and maybe even show you what type you may want to participate in. 

Mono-poly Relationships

Mono-poly relationships are a unique polyamorous relationship type. It's a little different because one person is monogamous, and the other identifies as polyamorous. 

You may be wondering how this dynamic could possibly work, but people manage this type often. Pondering how this dynamic would work is natural when you haven't seen people polyamorous relationships or haven't learned about them. 

Typically, the polyamorous person wants to pursue other relationships outside of the monogamous person. The monogamous partner is only interested in dating and being sexually involved with their polyamorous partner. 

The reasons people find themselves in mono-poly relationships will vary based on the situation, but there are a few top reasons. People find themselves in mono-poly relationships because the partners have mismatched sexual desires or different relationship orientations.

Sometimes people stumble into a mono-poly relationship by accident. Two people meet, find each other attractive, begin seeing one another, and then learn about their relationship orientation. Some people aren't comfortable partnering with a polyamorous individual, but this is how many mono-poly relationships begin. 

Another common way these relationships begin is later on in two people's relationships. Sometimes two people have been monogamous for a while, and one decides to tell their partner they want to pursue a polyamorous relationship. 

When one partner discloses they're interested in polyamory and the other is not, they can either stay together or not. If they stay together and decide that one will be polyamorous, they'll enter a mono-poly relationship. These relationships are beneficial for those who have mismatched sexual desires and are comfortable with the situation. 

Many times the sexual difference is as simple as a difference in libido. If one partner is not as concerned with the physical side of their relationship, but the other is, they may encourage their partner to find someone to fulfill their sexual needs. 

Mono-poly relationships have worked well when an asexual individual is dating someone with a high libido. It can even improve their relationship with one another because the pressure to perform sexually is no longer there. 

Sometimes a couple will enter a mono-poly relationship due to being in a long-distance relationship. Sometimes one partner craves intimacy that they cannot get from their partner who lives far away, and they'll pursue another relationship while the other stays monogamous. 

Of course, this type of polyamorous relationship, like any relationship, only works when all parties are comfortable and work to keep the relationship strong. 

Solo Polyamory

When you look at various polyamorous relationships, you'll notice that sometimes someone will have a primary partner. Someone who practices solo polyamory they're their own primary partner. 

Someone who practices solo polyamory prioritizes themselves over any person they're dating. It may sound harsh, but usually, when exploring relationships, they make it known to whoever they're dating that they're interested in casual relationships. 

A solo polyamorous person isn't interested in searching for a primary partner. Sometimes people think of this situation as the person practicing polyamory having multiple secondary partners. Even though it's standard that they have no primary partner, this relationship type is broad. 

These people aren't interested in giving up their personal time and goals to pursue something serious. They don't want someone else to have to make serious decisions such as housing, financial, and decisions regarding children if they have any. 

Some people follow this lifestyle throughout their life because it works for them and they're happy. Sometimes you'll see someone practicing solo polyamory for years. 

Then, when they feel content with their careers goals or meet the right person, they'll move to a monogamous relationship or a different polyamorous relationship where they have a primary partner. 

Vee

When one person is in a relationship or dating two people who are not involved with each other, that's a vee polyamorous relationship. The easiest way to understand this type of polyamory is to think of the letter V. 

There are three points on the letter V. One point is connected to both, and the other two are only connected to the center point.

To give you an example, Brad is dating both Sarah and Sally. But Sarah and Sally are not dating or sexually involved with each other, only Brad. 

Triad

You may have heard of a triad polyamorous relationship before. Instead of calling it a triad, many refer to this relationship as a throuple. It's similar to a vee relationship because three people are involved, but it's slightly different in dynamics.

Instead of Brad dating both Sarah and Sally independently of the other, all three of them are involved romantically or sexually. So instead of a V shape, it's now a triangle. 

Unlike classic love triangles, which most people dislike, they enjoy the dynamic in this type of polyamorous relationship.

Quad

A quad relationship involves four people who are all connected. All four people who participate in a quad polyamorous relationship are dating each other. All four individuals are all romantically tied to one another. 

There are a couple of different dynamics a quad relationship can have. One dynamic could be that a triad relationship found a fourth partner to join the relationship. For example, if Brad, Sarah, and Sally brought Brian into their relationship. Instead of a triad, it's now a quad relationship.

Another typical quad polyamorous relationship is when a primary couple adds two new people to their relationship or finds another couple to date. Sometimes the couples are married and have an open marriage and sometimes they're seriously seeing each other. 

When two couples engage in a quad relationship, each partner has a primary partner and secondary partners.

Hierarchical Polyamory

A hierarchical poly relationship typically has three people involved emotionally and sexually. The structure of this type of relationship consists of one primary partner and then a secondary relationship. 

In hierarchical relationships, one relationship has more importance over other relationships in the group. Typically, two people are married or have been together long, and they work with each other on financial and vital life decisions. They prioritize each other over their additional partner. 

The primary partners typically live together, share a property, and may even have children together. These two have more power in the relationship because of these reasons. The additional partner in a hierarchical relationship is sometimes called the secondary partner, tertiary partner, or non-primary. 

An example of a hierarchical polyamorous relationship would be if Brad and Sarah are married, but they're both dating Sally. 

Brad and Sarah will rely on each other more when it comes to important decisions regarding their life, children, and finances than they will Sally. They will still care for Sally, but they prioritize themselves over her.

Non-Hierarchical Polyamory

A non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship is the opposite of a hierarchical polyamorous relationship. Instead of having a primary partner as you would in a hierarchical relationship, there is no primary partner. 

The three people involved in a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship are all equally involved in major decisions. As with any relationship, everyone's relationship with each person will be unique, but not one relationship is more important than another. 

An example of a non-hierarchical polyamorous relationship will be if Brad, Sarah, and Sally are all dating. But instead of two people making the most important decisions, all three partners focus on meeting the needs of everyone. 

Even if Brad and Sarah have been together for five years and Sally came into the relationship a year ago, she is still considered just as important as the five-year relationship.  

Kitchen Table Polyamory

A kitchen table polyamorous relationship puts a lot of emphasis on everyone being a family unit. Everyone involved in the relationship is emotionally connected, even if they're not all romantically involved.

Everyone who is involved in a kitchen table type of relationship will gather together for family events. Being comfortable gathering for meals and other events is where this type of relationship got its name. This type of relationship allows everyone involved to give family support to whoever else is also in the group. 

To better understand a kitchen table polyamorous relationship, you can think of our people from previous examples. Brad could be romantically involved with Sarah and Sally while Sarah and Sally aren't dating each other. Sarah and Sally don't have any interest in pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship with each other. 

While they aren't dating each other, they still have an emotional relationship. Sarah and Sally's emotional connection means they will hang out with each other to provide any support they need throughout their lives. The three will have regular meals together and participate in activities. 

If Sarah and Sally weren't interested in being emotionally involved with one another and just with Brad, this would change the relationship type to parallel polyamory. 

Both Sarah and Sally are fully aware of the relationship Brad has with both of them, but that family unit is lost, and they all live lives independently. They won't gather for joint events or provide any emotional support to each other. 

Relationship Anarchy

Relationship anarchy is not an official type of polyamorous relationship. Still, you may hear this term floating around when speaking about the world of polyamory or when doing research into the lifestyle.

Relationship anarchy is a philosophy within the polyamorous community. Essentially relationship anarchy is when every person in a polyamorous relationship can engage in any relationships they choose. They can do this without feeling obligated to discuss it with their partner or partners beforehand.

This term also means they can engage in relationships without the fear of labels or feeling like they have to put a label on anything. 

The core idea behind relationship anarchy is that each individual has the freedom to do what they please. There's often no distinction between non-partners and partners. 

Final Thoughts

Polyamory isn't black and white. Several dynamics can be working together in a polyamorous relationship. If you've stumbled into a polyamorous relationship, are interested in pursuing one, or are just curious, there's a lot of variety. 

From one person staying monogamous and dating a polyamorous person to an entire polyamorous family unit, different types of polyamorous relationships will work differently for everyone. 

Feeling comfortable with your partner or partners and ensuring the dynamics continue to work for you and everyone will lead to a happy polyamorous relationship.

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