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

January 16, 2019

Polydar: Do polyfolks show certain personality traits?

You know about gaydar: an alleged special ability to spot fellow gays. Although some gay people show their identity pretty clearly, some do so subtly enough that it takes good gaydar to get a hunch, and some don't at all.

People talk of polydar, and I can't say I have it. I sometimes get a hunch if a person seems especially outgoing, interested in other people, secure, brainy, and forthright, especially if they show other alternative interests. But lots of mono people are like that too, and I've given up trying to guess.

Do polyamorous people display certain characteristics often enough to be significant? Jasna of the Redefining Love blog did some online research so you don't have to, and she says maybe yes.

Are there personality traits that are more common among people in polyamorous relationships?

Rawpixel / Unsplash

Lately I’ve been crossing paths with quite a few polyamorous people as more and more friends have been coming out as poly and introducing me to their poly circles. I started to notice that most of [them] share a few personality traits. So I set off to learn the true reason for this — was it just coincidence? Or is there actually any research that would indicate a correlation?

What triggered my curiosity was a conversation with a friend after she came back from a date with a polyamorous person. She asked “Are all poly people that open??” I asked her to elaborate. She said that her date had no reservations about sharing personal life details with her — things she wouldn’t expect to hear from someone she had just met. I then realized that most poly people I’ve met tend to share quite a bit in the first few minutes of conversation. Including myself. I get so excited when I meet like-minded poly people that I often pour my heart out to them in the first half hour of conversation. ...

First of all, let me say this — there is not enough academic research on polyamory v. personality. Most of the data I found appeared in online discussions on Reddit and Quora, random PsychologyToday articles, and blog posts written by poly people sharing their personal experiences. There is one old study [actually 2017] focusing on consensual non-monogamy and its correlation to the Big 5 personality factors among LGBTQ individuals, which found that participants who were in open relationships scored higher on “openness to experience” and lower on “neuroticism” subscales than those in monogamous relationships (according to Elizabeth Retief). And that’s about it for academic research on this topic. ...

Anyways, based on the unofficial interviews of my own poly network, this and this Quora discussion, this subreddit [here's another reddit thread –Ed.], and a whole bunch of other random articles (1, 2, 3, and 4), the top traits that many polyamorous people share are:

Openness and honesty. In polyamory it is very important to be open and honest with ourselves and all our partners about how we are feeling. Openness to new experiences helps quite a bit too!

Flexibility and adaptability. When we have more than one person in our life that we care about, we have to learn to accept them and their needs to make space for them. The “making space” part may require some degree of flexibility.

Non-conformance to tradition. ...We tend to question the norms and not care as much about rules and traditions.

Empathy. Being empathetic to others’ needs is crucial in any relationship. With polyamory, since more people are involved, there are more needs and feelings to consider. Having said that, sense of worth and knowing our own boundaries are also very important, because it’s hard to sustain a relationship while consistently deprioritizing your own needs.

Patience. ...

You have to be an engineer. Just kidding. But according to this article there are significantly more engineers among people that self-identified as poly. I’ve also seen “geekiness” and creativity mentioned....

I feel like another common trait that has not come up in articles is the thirst for self-exploration and growth. I find that I can discuss spirituality and mindfulness with my poly friends more deeply than with my friends who prefer monogamy, for example. But maybe that’s a coincidence.

Read her whole article (January 8, 2019).

She ends with, "Have you seen any other personality traits that are especially important to polyamorous relationships that I haven’t covered?" If so, please go to her article and leave your observations there; I'm just giving it a boost.

P.S.: Word origin. Kamaladevi McClure says here (June 2012) that she believes she invented the word polydar in tweets on April 19, 2012. She certainly promoted its widespread use on and after that date, and she got it into the Urban Dictionary later that year. I find no use before then in Google or Google Books (aside from foreign languages, OCR scan errors, and typos for Polydor Records). However, a Twitter search shows two earlier appearances in tweets; the first is this in 2010. It seems like a word that many people could have come up with independently.


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