What Does Polyamorous Dating Mean

Gay Dating

What Does Polyamorous Dating Mean?

Jamie Ballard

Written by: Jamie Ballard

Jamie Ballard

Jamie Ballard (she/her) is a professional writer and editor who covers news, lifestyle, and entertainment topics. She regularly contributes to Cosmopolitan, Allure, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, PEOPLE, and The Hollywood Reporter, among other publications.

Edited by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is a dating and relationship expert who has penned over 1,800 lifestyle articles in the last decade, and she still never tires of interviewing dating professionals and featuring actionable advice for singles. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

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Reviewed by: Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema

Chloë Hylkema loves using her writing skills to tell stories that matter. Her time as an English student at Emory University molded her into a detailed writer with a knack for the relatable. She has previously worked as lead campaign writer for an animal advocacy group and now brings her passion for engaging and actionable content to DatingAdvice.com.

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It’s safe to say that polyamory is having a moment. Wave-making articles in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker have talked about polyamory’s growing popularity.

Plenty of people are exploring polyamory as an alternative to monogamous relationships these days, but it’s hardly a new way of conducting relationships. In fact, there’s evidence suggesting that people have been practicing polyamory as far back as Ancient Mesopotamia.

Polyamorous dating means engaging in multiple romantic and/or sexual relationships simultaneously and with the full consent of everyone involved.

There are a ton of different ways people might go about creating polyamorous relationships, but the idea is always that partners maintain open communication so that everyone can feel fulfilled and happy in the relationships. 

Relationship Dynamics | Types of Arrangements | Pros & Cons

Dynamics of Polyamorous Relationships

The dynamics of a polyamorous relationship are bound to be different than the dynamics of a monogamous relationship. If you’re looking to try out a polyamorous lifestyle, here are a few factors to consider.

There’s No Single Approach to Having Multiple Partners 

Some polyamorous people have a primary partner and one or more non-primary partners. These relationships with non-primary partners may be casual or they may be more serious relationships built with the understanding that this partnership is not the primary relationship for one or more people involved. 

polyamorous relationships don't look one way

There’s also versions of polyamory in which three (or more!) people are all dating one another as a group. Another version of polyamory might involve one person having multiple partners, none of whom are considered a primary partner. These relationships can be strictly sexual, romantic or both—it’s all up to the people involved. 

Communication and Consent Are Key

Regardless of how many people are involved, openness is a key factor in any relationship. It’s especially important for polyamorous relationships. Communicating is how you build intimacy, establish boundaries, and find a version of polyamory that works for everyone involved.

Of course, it’s important to be honest about your own desires and boundaries. It may be tempting to say what you think your partner or partners want to hear. But as with any relationship, it only works when people are honest about their feelings—even when it causes momentary discomfort. 

Consent is another incredibly important part of polyamorous relationships. At a minimum, your partners need to know if you’re involved with anyone else.

If you decide to date or have sex outside a relationship without telling your partner, that’s closer to cheating than polyamory. It also may put your partner at risk of contracting an STD without knowing it.

constant communication for polyamory

That said, once boundaries and expectations have been established, you and your partners can determine how much detail should be shared and what consent looks like going forward.

Maybe your primary partner is excited for you to have sex with other people but doesn’t want to hear any details about it. Or maybe they want to be involved in helping you find new sexual partners. There’s no wrong way about it, but consent is deeply important.

Keep an Eye On Your Emotions and Stay Open to Your Partners’ Feelings

Managing your own feelings and being sensitive to your partners’ feelings can be crucial aspects of polyamory. It’s understandable to experience feelings of jealousy when your partner is excited about a new partner.

But it’s your responsibility to manage these feelings by talking through them and being honest about your boundaries.

manage emotions and practice sensitivity

You’ll want to avoid comparing your relationships if you’re involved with multiple people. Appreciate each person for the unique things they bring to the relationship.

Reddit user MistyKnits shared in a Reddit thread about polyamory, “I’ve found that managing poly partners is much like managing multiple children. In positive parenting, one does not compare the children to each other; one exalts each child’s behavior as it happens.”

Types of Polyamorous Arrangements

As we’ve noted, ethical non-monogamy looks different for each polyamorous individual. That’s the beauty of it. Here are a few common types of polyamorous arrangements.

Hierarchical Polyamory

The blog Ready for Polyamory explains hierarchical polyamory as when a person holds one or more of their relationships as more important than the rest.

“As an example, a couple who came to polyamory together and decided to live together and focus the majority of their time and emotional energy on one another might consider each other as primary partners, while their other polyamorous partners would be secondary.” 

hierarchial polyamory

Another poly organizational format is the Vee relationship. This is when one person is dating or involved with two people, and those two people are not involved with one another. 

Polyfidelity is another type of arrangement in which three or more people are involved in an exclusive relationship. They don’t have sex or date outside the established group. 

Solo Polyamory

When someone is practicing solo polyamory, they can have several relationships with different people. It differs from traditional dating in that the end goal is not dating, living with, combining finances with, or marrying any partner in the future. And unlike most other poly relationships, the person’s partners don’t interact. 

This is ideal for people who are very independent and like the idea of living life completely on their own terms. It doesn’t mean that you can disregard your partners’ emotions, but it does mean that everyone comes in with the expectation that the relationship won’t follow a traditional progression.

Assuming this model works for your partners, you won’t be pressured to give up your living space or propose after a few years. 

Triad

The blog Ready for Polyamory describes the triad relationship style as, “In a triad, there are 4 romantic relationships. The one between Alex and Bob, Bob and Carol, and Carol and Alex, and the one between all three together.”

triad

One of the benefits of triads is that you have a stronger support system. When you’re facing difficulty with work or family, you’ll have two people who are there to listen and help you figure out a path forward.

It also can reduce pressure to split your time and energy between Partner A and Partner B if they’re involved with each other. Instead of choosing who you’ll spend the night with tonight, you all get to spend the night together. 

Quad 

Quad polyamory refers to any relationship in which there are four people involved. This could be two couples who decide to date each other as a group, one person who dates three people who are not involved with each other, a triad where one member has an additional partner, or basically any other configuration of four consenting people. 

The influencer family, who go by Polyfamory, is one example of how this relationship model can be beneficial. Their quad involves two married couples who realized that their friendships were developing into attraction.

They started a quad relationship and eventually moved in together. One of the couples already had two children; in 2021, the family welcomed two new children, making them a family of eight. Parenting responsibilities are shared between all of the adults, allowing for more support for everyone involved. 

Kitchen Table vs. Parallel Polyamory 

Kitchen Table polyamory is where everyone involved in the relationship knows one another and has a friendly dynamic. 

“The name kitchen table polyamory came from the idea that you get along with your partners and their partners so well that all of you can sit around a kitchen table and comfortably have a chat together,” polyamory educator Leanne Yau explained to Men’s Health

parallel polyamory

Parallel polyamory is a structure in which each relationship is seen as separate. They all run their own independent course and only involve the people who are directly part of the relationship. There’s no expectation for your partners to know each other. This type of structure is likely worth exploring for people who practice solo polyamory.    

Pros & Cons of Non-Monogamous Dating

As with all relationship models, there are pros and cons to non-monogamous dating. 

Pro: Freedom to Explore

Monogamous relationships and traditional dating simply don’t work for everyone. Non-monogamy can feel like a breath of fresh air for poly people. Some find that they’re happiest when they don’t rely on one person to meet all of their romantic or sexual needs.

With polyamorous relationships, you can have different partners to explore different parts of yourself. One partner could allow you to explore certain kinks, another could provide the support you need to make a big career change, and another could help you explore your love of travel. 

Con: Social Stigma & Misconceptions

Despite growing acceptance, polyamory is still stigmatized in a lot of ways. People often have a traditional view of relationships that involves monogamy between two people and may struggle to accept a different arrangement.

If you’re newly polyamorous, you may find yourself doing a lot of explaining to friends and family about what this means. People may have misconceptions like “you’re cheating” or “it’s about having a lot of sex” that just aren’t true. 

stigmas and misconceptions around polyamory

You may have to talk to friends and family about treating each of your partners equally. If they’re used to you being in a monogamous relationship with one person, they may be a bit awkward when you bring a new partner around. Don’t be afraid to have some open discussions with your friends and family about what this new person means to you. Ideally, if they love you, they’ll get on board. 

Pro: Joining Poly Groups and Swinger Communities 

A fun part of polyamory is connecting with other people in the lifestyle for romantic and sexual connections as well as friendships. If you’re new to being poly, having a supportive, non-judgemental community of people to talk about things with is invaluable.

You can ask questions about how to manage your time between partners, how to have difficult conversations, and anything else you’re wondering about the lifestyle. 

It’s naturally easier to find poly friends, dates, and hookups if you search on platforms and communities oriented toward polyamory. Feeld is a popular dating app that’s largely used by couples and singles interested in non-monogamous dating or hookups.

Bloom, a dating app and social platform designed for ethically non-monogamous and queer folks, is another great option for polyamorous daters. 3Fun is another poly dating site that’s designed specifically to connect people interested in threesomes. 

Con: Navigating Issues of Jealousy 

Here’s the deal: Even polyamorous people get jealous. It’s easy to feel that being evolved and “good” at poly means you have to be excited when your partners are dating someone else. But jealousy is pretty normal, even for poly people.

In an article about advice for newly polyamorous people, the Ready for Polyamory blog suggests that you look at jealousy as a check engine light: “We have to figure out what it’s reflecting before we can do anything about it, and also, it’s not something we should beat ourselves up for feeling.”

Pro: Starting Healthy Dialogue About Your Needs

Jealousy can be a great conversation starter. It can indicate that you need to boost your self-esteem or address an underlying issue with one of your partners. A recent column in The Cut gave advice to a woman who was dating someone polyamorous and found herself feeling jealous when he spoke about his other partners. 

“Everyone I spoke to said you should be transparent with Greg about your jealousy,” wrote columnist Randa Sakallah. “You could ask him to stop talking about his partner, but he may not be comfortable with that request. But even if he is, since he’s already explained that he’s looking for something casual, he’s probably not going to be the person to give you the emotional certainty you’re looking for.”

communication and honesty for polyamory

In other words, talking about your jealousy and other feelings may be difficult, but it’s the only way to get your needs met. Either your partner(s) will be able to meet them, or they’ll tell you they can’t, and you can consider going your separate ways.

Con: Difficulty Finding Partners

It’s called a unicorn for a reason! It can be very hard to find partners who are open to polyamorous dating. Many people prefer monogamy or simply aren’t familiar with polyamory as a concept and therefore aren’t into it.

If you’re having trouble finding polyamorous people to date, it’s worth checking out some of the dating apps or websites mentioned above, which cater to ethically non-monogamous and polyamorous people. 

Choose the Relationship Structure That Works For You

There’s no right or wrong way to date, as long as you’re honest and communicative. If polyamorous dating piques your interest, give it a try! Talk to other poly people and take some time to sit with your feelings about what it would be like to try ethical non-monogamy.

But if you decide it’s not for you, that doesn’t mean you’re not open-minded. The more we can all learn about different ways people create happy relationships, the better off everyone is.