Women's Health mag: "What's the Difference between a Polyamorous and an Open Relationship?"
Women's Health again presents a Poly 101 article, this time about accurate terminology. It gets a thumbs-up from me.
A pressing issue for the polyamory awareness movement, as I've long said, is to keep our defining word — the one that identifies who we are and lets people google us! — from becoming watered down and meaningless as it moves into mainstream use.
What's The Difference Between A Polyamorous And An Open Relationship?
For once, the ambiguity of this stock photo is relevant to the story.
By Kristin Canning
Being in an open relationship is totally the same thing as being polyamorous, right? (Asking for a friend...)
Actually, while the two share some similar characteristics, they’re very different. “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people,” says Renee Divine, L.M.F.T., a sex and relationships therapist in Minneapolis, MN. [And more than that, "polyamory" implies an ethic of mutual support and good will all around, even where there aren't romantic connections. –Ed.]
Both open and poly relationships are forms of consensual non-monogamy, and technically, polyamory can be a type of open relationship, but expectations tend to be different when it comes to these relationship styles.
Are you looking for more love or more sex?
Open relationships typically start with one partner or both wanting to be able to seek outside sexual relationships and satisfaction, while still having sex with and sharing an emotional connection with their partner.
“People are looking for different experiences and want to meet the needs that aren’t being met in the relationship,” says Divine. But there’s never an intention for feelings to get involved.
In polyamory, the whole point is to fall in love with multiple people, and there’s not necessarily any relationship hierarchy, says Divine. For example, someone could be solo poly (meaning they want and seek poly relationships whether or not they’re dating anyone), and they may enter into two separate relationships at the same time and view each as equal.
In their nature, poly relationships are open, since they involve more than two people. But not all poly groups are looking to add more people to the dynamic, and aren’t always actively dating. This is called closed poly, meaning the group includes multiple relationships, but there’s an expectation that no one involved is expanding the group.
What kind of boundaries do you want to set?
In open relationships, couples may talk with their primary partner about their outside relationships, or they might decide together that it’s best to keep those exploits to themselves, says Divine. They may have sexual encounters together, in the instance of swinging, or they may go out with other people on their own.
In polyamory, there tends to be more sharing between partners about other relationships as there are emotions involved. A poly group might consider themselves “kitchen-table poly,” which means the whole group could hang out together comfortably. Two poly people might also date the same person, or have a triad-style relationship, and that typically doesn’t happen in open relationships, says Divine.
...Which path you follow depends on what you want out of the additional relationships. ...
The Most Common Misconceptions About Polyamory
...People who want to be poly “believe you can love multiple people,” says Divine. “They’re open to additional people in that way, and they want that emotional attachment. Plural love is the main focus.”
In either case, expectations need to be clear with any partners who are making a change with you. “In some couples, one wants to try something new, and the other is okay with that, without participating themselves,” says Divine. “The key is communication. These relationships styles are all about being upfront and honest about what you want and what your needs and boundaries are. The most successful ones are those where people are on the same page.”
The original (online April 2, 2018).
Labels: open marriage