9 Types of Polyamorous Relationships, Explained

9 Forms of Polyamorous Relationships, Defined

As soon as thought-about a extra “area of interest” or “various” life-style, polyamory is lastly breaking into mainstream cultural conversations, from Washington Submit recommendation columns to films, TV exhibits, and celeb illustration. And that is nice information! It means extra individuals are recognizing that a few of us can love a couple of individual without delay, and that the various kinds of polyamorous relationships are simply as respectable as monogamous ones.

It’s estimated that 4 to five% of individuals residing in the US are polyamorous—roughly 17 million individuals within the U.S. Nonetheless, these numbers will seemingly improve, as a 2016 YouGov research discovered that solely half of millennials (outlined as individuals below 30 on the time) desire a “utterly monogamous” relationship.

Regardless of extra visibility round polyamory, there’s nonetheless a number of confusion round what precisely polyamory is, and what the various kinds of poly relationships are. Being polyamorous means you’re open to the concept of loving a number of individuals and having a number of romantic relationships concurrently. (The time period “polyamory” comes from the Greek phrase “poly,” which suggests many, and the Latin phrase “amory,” which suggests love.) Word that polyamory merely means you are open to the concept of loving a couple of individual; an individual with one companion can nonetheless be polyamorous. You may even have zero companions and be polyamorous—that is known as “single poly,” and we discuss it shortly!

What are the various kinds of polyamory?

The definition of polyamory is broad, however that’s on objective. There’s no “a technique” to be poly, and there are numerous kinds of relationship constructions and dynamics that fall below the wide-ranging polyamorous umbrella. So, let’s break down a number of the extra frequent kinds of polyamory (and their related phrases).

Hierarchical Polyamory

Instance: John lives together with his spouse, and so they every have a boyfriend they see as soon as per week.

“When somebody is practising hierarchical polyamory, there’s a prioritization of companions,” explains Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist and intercourse educator. Typically, the language related to hierarchical polyamory is “main companion” and “secondary companion.” So, your main companion often is the individual you reside with, share a checking account with, and are even married to. They’re your first precedence. Then you could have a second companion who you see much less usually. You don’t essentially love your secondary companion any much less; it’s extra in regards to the time and vitality you give every companion. That’s partly why some individuals extra lately have opted to make use of the phrase “nesting companion” as an alternative of a main companion. (Additionally, some individuals don’t like being known as a secondary and even tertiary companion.)

Whereas there are clear upsides to hierarchical polyamory, primarily the elevated stage of safety that comes with being somebody’s main companion, there are a few issues to remember in case you’re practising this poly fashion.

“Imposed hierarchies may be poisonous and even abusive in some conditions if not dealt with rigorously,” warns polyamory educator Leanne Yau. “For instance, veto energy, the place you give your main companion the choice to pressure a break up between you and your different companions in the event that they really feel they’re being disruptive to your connection, dislike them, or actually another cause.” So when practising hierarchical poly, it is necessary to have a stage of particular person autonomy when making your personal selections concerning your different companions.

Non-Hierarchical Polyamory

Instance: John has had constant two companions for some time, however he simply hit it off with a brand new companion and has shifted his schedule to make extra time for them.

With non-hierarchical poly, each companion is taken into account in terms of making massive selections, and there is not a rating system the identical means there’s in hierarchical polyamorous dynamics; so there are not any main or secondary companions.

“It doesn’t imply it’s important to deal with everybody equally, however reasonably, every relationship is allowed to develop organically with none guidelines imposed on it by a third-party,” Yau says. “Everybody has equal alternative to barter the phrases of the connection with out exterior affect.”

Kitchen Desk Polyamory

Instance: John, his husband, and their two boyfriends often exit to dinner collectively.

Some polyamorous of us get pleasure from attending to know their companion’s companions (a.ok.a. metamours). They need to be buddies with them, and in some conditions, have an impartial relationship with them (platonic or sexual) that extends past their shared companion. That is also known as “kitchen desk” polyamory.

“Kitchen desk polyamory is the idea that everybody concerned within the polycule (the group of individuals related by romantic relationships) or constellation could be open to and even get pleasure from sitting collectively on the kitchen desk sharing espresso or breaking bread,” Wright says. “Of us who establish with any such polyamory need to know and be buddies with their metamours.”

Parallel Polyamory

Instance: John has a spouse and a girlfriend, however his spouse and GF have by no means met in individual.

Now, some of us have no need to get to know their metamour. Whereas they do not thoughts their companion having one other companion, it nonetheless hurts once they see them work together lovingly with one other individual. When that is the case, individuals could select to interact in parallel polyamory, which falls on the alternative finish of the spectrum as kitchen desk poly. “Much like parallel strains, that is when polyamorous relationships don’t work together,” Wright says.

FYI, parallel polyamory is totally different from the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Inform” coverage that is typically practiced in open relationships, Yau says. In parallel polyamory preparations, all companions are conscious of the opposite companion(s)’ existence; they only haven’t any need to fulfill or hear about each other.

Backyard Occasion Polyamory

Instance: John has a birthday dinner arising, and his spouse and girlfriend will each be in attendance.

Some of us don’t need to have a friendship with their metamour. Whereas they’re not searching for kitchen desk polyamory, additionally they acknowledge how difficult parallel polyamory can we be when you’ve got two severe romantic companions. Enter backyard occasion polyamory. The identify comes from the concept you all could possibly be pleasant and social at a bigger backyard occasion. So you do not thoughts seeing them periodically and will not be seeking to preserve all the pieces separate. “This can be a means for all companions to have the ability to attend some sort of essential occasion, like birthdays, graduations, and so on.,” says Zhana Vrangalova, PhD., a intercourse and relationship scientist who teaches an moral non-monogamy course known as Open Smarter.


Instance: John has a spouse and boyfriend who’re additionally in a romantic relationship with each other.

The phrase throuple—a portmanteau of “three-person” and “couple”—s used to explain a relationship dynamic the place you aren’t solely courting two individuals, however these individuals are additionally courting one another.

“Lots of people assume that it’s simply three individuals in a single relationship, however it’s greater than that,” Yau says. “To ensure that the throuple to be sustained long-term, the relationships between every pair inside the throuple additionally must be cultivated and nurtured.”

You may be in an open throuple, which means that along with your two companions, you’ve got different individuals you’re romantically concerned with, or you can be in a closed throuple, the place you’re monogamous together with your two companions. “There’s additionally a four-person equal of this known as a quad,” Yau says.


Instance: John’s spouse and boyfriend aren’t courting anybody else, nor are they searching for another types of sexual/romantic relationships.

A closed throuple is an efficient instance of a polyfidelitous relationship.

As Jessica Fern defines in her e book Polysecure, polyfidelity is “a romantic or sexual relationship that includes greater than two individuals, however these individuals are unique with one another. This might embrace a bunch relationship of three or extra individuals that’s closed to any extra exterior companions, or it could possibly be an individual who has a couple of companion and their companions will not be courting one another, however they’re additionally closed to extra relationship.”

Solo Polyamory

Instance: John has a number of companions who he loves and values, however he lives alone and his greatest focus proper now’s on his profession.

Solo polyamory is outlined in two other ways by the solo polyamorous neighborhood, explains Yau. “Some individuals outline solo polyamory because the observe of residing an impartial, single life whereas having a number of relationships.” So a solo polyamorous individual could select to reside alone or with a buddy as an alternative of with a romantic companion. Whereas they might not get married or co-parent with a romantic companion, they nonetheless type very dedicated relationships.

“Different individuals outline solo polyamory because the life philosophy of prioritizing your self and ‘being your personal main companion, and are much less strict about what it seems like as a life-style,” she says.

Single Polyamory

Instance: John is at the moment single, however is aware of that his most popular relationship dynamic is one that’s polyamorous with a number of companions.

“Single polyamory is solely an individual who’s polyamorous however at the moment has no companions,” Yau says. “They might need to be hierarchical, non-hierarchical, solo, or no matter else; it’s not a relationship construction in the identical means that the opposite [terms] are, only a descriptor for an individual who’s polyamorous however single.”

You is perhaps questioning why somebody could establish as a single polyamorist in the event that they’re not in any relationship. The reason being for example to dates and potential future companions that you’re somebody who’s polyamorous. If that individual is searching for monogamy, you’re not going to be a match as a result of at the same time as you start to fall in love with this individual, you’ll nonetheless date and doubtlessly fall in love with different individuals.

Relationship Anarchy

Instance: John has a number of companions, buddies, and lovers whom he values and loves. He does not deal with one relationship extra critically simply because they’re romantically/sexually concerned.

Final on our record is relationship anarchy (RA), which is kinda an enormous “fuck you” to any relationship construction. “RA is a life philosophy that promotes the concept of no assumed hierarchy amongst not simply your lovers, but additionally your folks and different people who find themselves essential to you,” Yau says. “As an alternative of prioritizing your one monogamous romantic companion on the prime, you may customise your whole connections with individuals individually and construct a life and assist community that works greatest for you.”

Relationship anarchy doesn’t robotically assume that romance is inherently extra worthwhile, essential, and life-affirming than friendships. “It additionally takes away all of the assumptions about what you may and may’t do with sure connections. You would co-parent together with your greatest buddy, reside individually out of your romantic companion, and so forth, so long as it really works for the individuals concerned,” Yau says.

Whereas relationship anarchy and non-hierarchical polyamory sound related, that is a vital distinction: “Nonhierarchical polyamory is a relationship construction, whereas relationship anarchy is a life philosophy,” Yau says. “Relationship anarchy can appear like no matter you need it to.”

Zachary Zane is a Brooklyn-based author, speaker, and activist whose work focuses on life-style, sexuality, tradition, and leisure.

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