*Below is the script of the narration for episode 1:
Welcome to Poly.Am.I
I am your host, Polyamorous J.
Today’s episode is the 1st in a 3-part series that will discuss the “Forms of Polyamory.”
Last week we talked about the basics of what makes polyamory polyamory. Just to quickly reiterate: Polyamory is about loving more than one person at the same time, and is a consensual form of non-monogamy. Some people identify as polyamorous, where as others choose it as a lifestyle. And it is a common saying among the polyamorous community that “everyone does polyamory differently.” Today, we are going to elaborate on just exactly what that statement means.
When you think about polyamory, what comes to mind? Most people – who don’t know much about polyamory – instantly think of triads (or group relationships), where everyone is involved romantically or sexually with everyone else. This is but one of many, many dynamics within the polyamorous community. Polyamory can take a plethora of different shapes and forms. While, it is true that some polyamorous individuals engage in group relationships (such as triads, quads, and so on), this is far from the only option available to polyamorous people.
So, what are the other options?
It’s actually hard to simply list the different forms of polyamory, because there are so many different things – different aspects – of relationships that go into creating the different ways in which people engage with polyamory. First off you have the basic types of polyamory, and then the kinds of agreements that are formed by the partners involved, and even the different types – or levels – of partnership. Every dynamic involves different people who each have their own wants, their own needs, their own preferences and boundaries. These differences are what help to ultimately create said “form” of polyamory.
If we’re talking about the types. Then we’ve got things like group relationships (which includes triads, quads, etc.), but then also kitchen table polyamory, parallel polyamory, solo-polyamory, mono/poly relationships, and then hierarchical and non-hierarchical polyamory. Even just within that list, these types can sometimes overlap. Hierarchy – for example – can be implemented within just about any type of polyamory, or any dynamic; just as it can be eradicated within those same dynamics. The types of polyamory used come down to the personal preferences of the people involved.
Then, within those dynamics, you get into the agreements that the partners have come to. This can be as simple as deciding whether a relationship is closed or open. Or deciding whether or not to use a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. There are other policies, such as OPP – which means, One Penis (or One Pussy) Policy – which can be seen as toxic, and not always consensual, so it typically isn’t advised within the polyamorous community. Or is often frowned upon. Beyond that, there are just about any number of agreements that could be made within a relationship that help to identify the type of relationship it is.
And lastly, we get to partnership type. This can be related to hierarchy, such as when you label your partners primary/secondary/or tertiary based on either their level of involvement in your life or level of importance. These labels can be prescriptive or descriptive – one being just labeling the relationship what it is, and the other telling a relationship the extent of what it can become. However, there are lots of other types of partnerships that have nothing to directly do with hierarchy (though can be used within hierarchical dynamics). These include things like nesting partner, anchor partner, and comet. As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the final product, or “form” of polyamory.
But…what exactly do all these labels mean? And what are the benefits, or drawbacks, to choosing one over the other?
Let’s start with the most well-known of the bunch: the group relationship. As we discussed, this can be anything from a triad or quad, to a huge house full of 20+ partners. The main benefit of this one is forming that big, loving family ideal. Sometimes this involves everyone getting married, or raising kids together; other times everyone stays pretty independent of each other. Being involved in a group relationship doesn’t even require that you all live in the same home. There are many polyamorous people who choose to engage in group dynamics, but live alone, or live with other partners.
Ideally, everyone involved loves everyone else and the relationship is full of happiness and support. In reality, though the ideal is possible, it is a low percentage that actually works out the way everyone planned. Often times one partner doesn’t like every partner the same amount, or other similar problems arise that cause tension or jealousy. After all, it is hard to try and maintain the same level of love or affection for each and every person you are involved with. Likely, your feelings will differ from those of others. There’s really nothing wrong with this, but it can more commonly cause insecurities to pop up when engaged in a group relationship.
Another big thing to consider is that each grouping of 2 people has its own individual relationship, within the group relationship. The common explanation for this, when referencing triads, is to say that the triad isn’t just 1 relationship, it’s 4 separate relationships. A+B, B+C, A+C, and then also A+B+C. This is hardest for those who are coming from closed couplings, who assume their relationship is 1 relationship, and then their relationship with a third partner is the 2nd and final relationship. Obviously, a couple is not a unit. It is two separate people. Both of those 2 people have to individually form a relationship with the third party.
This can happen, too, without it being a group relationship. A+B can be in a relationship, and B+C can be in a relationship, and A+C can be in a relationship, all without having the 4th relationship of A+B+C all being together. This means that the individuals all are involved with each other, but they don’t form an identity as being a group. Their relationships are all separate from each other, not seen as one. This dynamic, though looking like a triad, most likely would be labeled as something else and not identified as a triad. (Though labeling is at the discretion of those involved.)
Moving on, let’s talk about kitchen table polyamory and parallel polyamory. Kitchen table, as the name suggests, is the idea of all partners being friendly enough with each other to be able to sit around the kitchen table together. This doesn’t mean that they all necessarily live together, or that they all spend tons of time together; but they typically all know each other well and like each other. So, whether you’re with your partner, or your partner’s partner (which would be your metamour), or your partner’s partner’s partner, etc. you feel comfortable around them and it’s more like a loving family dynamic. People using this type of polyamory are more likely to refer to their dynamic as a polycule (a word mixing both polyamory and molecule) – as it identifies all those involved as being linked in some way.
The upside to this is being able to go out with multiple partners, or with your partners and metamours, or even just your metamours, and all hangout together. If you’re friendly with everyone in your polycule, then you feel like their just friends or family members. Some people say it allows for more openness and communication. It also has the potential to make going out on dates more fun, because more people are involved. And it allows for their to be more people for you to fall back on when you need support. This definitely helps if you have children, because there are more adults there to help out. Those in group relationships, typically also have a kitchen table situation.
The downside is things are all mixed together. If one relationship goes south it has a greater ability to affect another relationship. When you’re close-knit there’s more cause for drama, too. Things are more likely to rub people the wrong way when they’re regularly faced with them. And when you push people together who have conflicting personalities, it can get messy. It definitely isn’t for everyone.
On the other hand, you have parallel polyamory. This is when you have multiple relationships, but they do not intersect with each other. Sometimes this means your partners simply do not hangout together, and other times this means that they don’t even know each other. (Remember, that as long as all your partners consent to being with someone who is non-monogamous and dating others, that they do not actually have to engage with each other – unless that is something everyone wants. But it is still polyamory, nonetheless.)
A great part about parallel polyamory is that you retain a lot more of your autonomy. You get to decide the level of engagement each individual relationship is involved in other aspects of your life. You can keep dating separate from friendships, or home life. And you typically have less drama between partners, because they never (or rarely) see their metamours. This can be great for someone who is looking for a little more freedom in their dynamics.
Downfalls are that sometimes it’s more lonely. Sometimes it’s just more work to keep different relationships in your life separate from each other. Some people may feel it causes more secretive behavior, or at least that it feels more secretive in nature. (Though that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.) Just generally you can encounter problems around trying to separate your life into factions, but it isn’t an issue for everyone. Parallel works better for some people and kitchen table works better for others. You can even be dating someone who engages with their partners in a different way than you engage with yours, or you can do one style with some partners and another style with others. It all depends, and you have to figure out what works best for you.
The last type of polyamory we will discuss today is solo-polyamory. Solo-polyamory (also referred to as sopo) is a type of polyamory that is often explained as having a primary relationship with yourself, though not everyone describes it this way. Often solo-polyamorous individuals will choose to not live with partners, or refrain from getting married or having children, or otherwise entangling themselves with their partners. This isn’t always the case, as there are many solo-polyamorous individuals who may engage in some or all of the above. Some may live with their partner or partners, but simply stay financially disentangled and place high priority on their autonomy. Others may get married, but choose to continue living separately. And some with children choose to be solo-polyamorous specifically to keep their dating life from drastically affecting their home life with their kids.
Essentially, the main part here, is that autonomy – and often a high focus on self-care or self-love or your own goals and aspirations – is key. Dating often comes second to, or is seen as the same level of importance as, friendships and family. The relationship escalator may not be a priority, or even of interest. And your needs typically come first. This can be very similar to the idea of parallel polyamory, but is traditionally more autonomy focused and often more likely to be an “off the relationship escalator” style.
A plus is that you can focus on your goals, or spend more time with friends and family. Also that your mental and physical health is top priority, always. Obviously, that you have endless autonomy. A negative side, though, is that often you can be seen by the polyamorous community as not-looking-for-a-real-commitment. Others may misinterpret solo to mean single, which it doesn’t (though a solo-polyamorous individual CAN be single). The same downsides of parallel polyamory also apply solo-polyamory.
That brings us to the end of Part 1. If you have any questions you’d like us to answer on our podcast, please e-mail them to Jauni@PolyamorousLiving.com that’s J-A-U-N-I @ Polyamorous Living .com OR you can always just leave us a Voice Message.
For our next episode we will be continuing our discussion about the different forms of polyamory – starting with mono/poly relationships and hierarchy.
Til next time, this has been Polyamorous J on Poly.Am.I discussing the “Forms of Polyamory.” Have a gay day! Ciao