Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



April 5, 2018

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. ...

RELATED STORY:
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).

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8 Comments:

Blogger Bhramari Devi Dasi said...

Actually, they got it totally wrong. For many of us "Open Relationship" was the only term we had to refer to behaviors and dynamics that are now called "polyamory". They are equally interchangeable ways to refer to the same relationship approach.

April 05, 2018 3:55 PM  
Blogger Saga said...

But what they write about solo poly is completely wrong. Solo poly is not single poly, but "not desiring to entwine lives" poly.

April 05, 2018 4:02 PM  
Blogger Bhramari Devi Dasi said...

Yeah....totally agree there, Saga....it's a really messed up article all the way around. Tons of assumption or sweeping generalizations.

And.... "open relationship" is neither a defining term nor an identity. It's just another way to say "non-monogamous".

April 05, 2018 4:15 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

"In an open relationship" is not an identity, but the narrower category "polyamorous" definitely is, for many people.

April 05, 2018 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with "very clear differences." We've been doing this long enough that I am aware of the lines frequently blur. And I worry when we pigeonhole relationships into very black & white you're THIS or THIS but NOT BOTH! Which is why I've started saying we're "ethically non monogamous" rather than attaching any specific terminology.

In the 3.5 years we've been open, we have always identified as poly - but we've also realized that many people who identify as "poly" are not always looking for deep, emotional connection and LOVE (as is the case with us) and others are ONLY looking for that deep connection. I am not closed-off to love by any means, I'm not LOOKING for it though. I am also keenly aware, that it's hard enough to find a real love-match in mono life; adding non mono to the mix, narrows that dating field down to such a small percentage, it's even harder. Which is why a lot of people wind-up dating mono but open-minded folks (and usually regret it).

I personally would like to have additional partners - but I'm not in search of love specifically. I think both my nesting partner and myself, would each like someone we connect with on multiple levels, someone we enjoy spending time with, and have sexual chemistry with.... but love isn't a pre-req. It's more of a "if it happens" scenario.

We practice "Kitchen table Poly" I want to know my metas as does my partner of his. I would prefer to be friendly, if not *actual friends, and I have to know that we (my meta amd myself) both have our shared partner's best interest in mind. A mutual respect and some agreements are manditory for all. We are both very up-front with this. While we are hierarchical, I am also very big on additional partner's rights. I cannot dictate everything just because. I have learned that I need to be respectful of additional partner's needs as well.

I know there are folks who will adamantly oppose this opinion. And that's totally fine. We don't have to agree, just respect each other's differences.

April 05, 2018 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your point of view. Agree 100%. We're from Redmond,WA. Wish we could find a partner/couple with this same exact frame of mind.

April 07, 2018 11:11 AM  
Blogger Bhramari Devi Dasi said...

Alan....how they describe polyamory and solo-poly are also rather presumptive and "off"....and in regard to solo polyamory they are way off.

Anonymous (and...are there 2 different anonymous people?).....I agree with you....there is no real "very clear difference". I also agree with everything else that you've said. I love a lot of people including my friends, but "romantic love"?.....I'm not even sure what that is actually. Loving friendships that involve sex are also an expression of polyamory and/or open relationship. Things are much more flexible and fluid than the article quoted conveys. I think that article just does more damage actually to helping people see the reality.

Anonymous #2 Who are you speaking to?

April 08, 2018 9:49 AM  
Anonymous HarleyQ75 said...

So I have been poly since before the word existed. The article describes things well, however as mentioned above, poly is not one size fits all. I have known swingers that are also poly. Since I have been single for many years and I am bisexual I have often practiced ethical non-monogamy in less polyamorous ways and as more of an open or swinging relationship. For me polyamory is often fluid and how it looks at any point in time depends on the comfort of those involved. Sometimes that means that I am a polyamorous person involved in a monogamous relationship and have made a decision to be monogamous for my partners comfort. I do not believe that I stop being polyamorous simply because I am not currently in a polyamorous relationship, anymore than I am straight simply because I currently don't have a girlfriend.

April 09, 2018 2:55 AM  

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