What is Polyamory?In the broadest sense, polyamory is the philosophy and practice of loving more than one other person at a time. Of course, love itself is a rather ambiguous term, but most polys seem to define it as a serious, intimate, romantic, or less stable, affectionate bond which a person has with another person or group of persons. This bond usually, though not necessarily always, involves sex. Sexualove or eromance are other words which have been coined to describe this kind of love. Other terms often used as synonyms for polyamory are responsible, ethical or intentional non-monogamy.
How many styles of polyamory are there?Many. One of the most popular styles of polyamory is polyfidelity, sometimes also called closed group marriage. In polyfidelity, groups of three or more lovers consider themselves essentially married to each other.
They usually live together in a single home and share their life and resources such as married couples do. There may be any combination of males, females and sexual orientations. Polygamy, as it was practiced by the original Mormon, was just one example of polyfidelity. Classically, polyfidelity groups are sexually exclusive and do not engage in sexual relations outside the group. However, there are some group marriages which are "open," and which do allow for outside romances.
Another style is that of the open marriage, or open couple. In this arrangement, a couple who consider themselves committed life partners nonetheless permit outside, sexual, romantic and loving relationships outside the marriage in a way that is agreed upon by the marital partners.
Some, but by no means all, "intentional communities" follow Polyamorous principles. The residents of the community may think of themselves as all "married" to each other (like the Oneida community in nineteenth century New York State) or not, but all members of the community may be viewed as legitimately available to each other as sexual and/or romantic partners (like the ZEGG community in present-day Germany or Windward in Washington state).
At the less structured end of the spectrum are intimate networks--rather informal webs of people with varying levels of interpersonal bonding and commitment who share a belief in open multilateral relationships. People in intimate networks sometimes refer to their relationships as "Primary" "secondary", or "tertiary", to describe the varying levels of commitment involved. Intimate networks often develop around or among open marriages or open couples.
Are polys "swingers"?Polys vary a good deal in their attitudes toward casual or recreational sex. Some approve; some (particularly polyfides) don't. In any case, polyamory as such is about stable intimate personal relationships rather than casual sex. Swingers have their own organizations, newsletters, and contact networks. They are not likely to find much of interest in polyamory except by coincidence.
How do polys feel about monogamy?Most polys have a "live and let live" attitude. They are happy for those people who have found happiness in monogamous relationships. However, most polys are impressed by the fact that the divorce and adultery statistics indicate that monogamy fails a good deal more than it succeeds. Polys tend to see the modern American nuclear family as an aberration in the course of human history and believe that larger, more complex extended families or tribes have been the natural human family structure. Children are seen as being better off when they have a broad range of adult role models to relate to, instead of a single, monogamously married couple. Polys do tend to object to our culture's idealization of monogamy and suppression of alternative lifestyles.
Do polys believe in "free love"?Polys believe in freedom of choice. They acknowledge that real love is in no way free. Intimate love relationships, whether monogamous or polyamorous, are complex and challenging, and success requires maturity and hard work. Polys, being outside the mainstream of our society, are taking on the extra challenge of trying to do something which is unpopular amongst their peers and has no established guidelines or rules.
How do you become poly?It's a matter of personal choice what lifestyle you are going to adopt. Some people learn about polyamory from friends or loved ones or by reading books, either fiction or non-fiction, on polyamorous themes. Some people belong to religious groups which allow and/or encourage polyamory. Some come in contact with national or local secular polyamory organizations. Of course, many people create polyamory out of their own thoughts and feelings when they spontaneously discover their own capacity to love multiply.
What kind of people are polys?That's a tough one. Although non-monogamous behavior is fairly common in our society (singles playing the field, adulterous spouses, remarried divorcees), declared polyamorists are rather few in number, and they haven't been studied very much. Very unscientific impressions would suggest that polys tend to be professionals, artists, academics, and other fairly highly educated people, with a rather strong showing from amongst computer professional or others with computer interests. Interest in science fiction is common among polys, many of when say they discovered polyamory through the writings of authors like Robert Heinlein and Marian Zimmer Bradley. Polys range through all age groups, genders, and sexual orientations. Religiously there is considerable variety--atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews and a fairly strong showing from Unitarians and Neo-Pagans. Fundamentalists of the "moral majority" sort, of course, are unlikely to see. Politically, there are conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. Some people couple their polyamory with the study of sacred or spiritual sexuality--disciplines like tantra or sex magick--while others are impatient with such "New Age claptrap" and see their polyness as a strictly pragmatic, secular matter. Nudism, vegetarianism, ecology, holistic health, and so on are other common, though not universal, interests among polys.
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