Poly Terms You Should Know

We all know or can figure out basic terms

Such as a fuck buddy, Friends with Benefits, Co-Habitate, Life Partner etc but there are a few specific terms that confuse most of the newer folks to Poly Relationships so we explain below

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Poly – Polyamory – Polyamorous

The practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships

The practice of engaging in multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously with the consent and knowledge of all parties, as opposed to unethical non-monogamy, aka cheating. This is generally regarded as an umbrella term that includes polyamory, open relationships, swinging, solo poly, relationship anarchy, and poly-fi relationships, similar to how queer is the umbrella term that covers gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, etc. Sometimes also called “consensual” or “responsible” non-monogamy.

Ethical Non-Monogamy

An agreement between all parties to engage in multiple sexual partners & relationships

The opposite of this is the Non Ethical which is basically cheating! In an Ethical scenario everyone is on board to sexual and romantic relationships and this is often used as an umbrella term for many dynamics which can include polyamory, open relationships, swinging, solo poly, relationship anarchy, and poly-fi relationships, similar to how queer is the umbrella term that covers gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, etc. Sometimes also called “consensual” or “responsible” non-monogamy.

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Considered the opposite of jealous or insecure

Compersion is the feeling of experiencing joy because another is experiencing joy. While we usually use it in reference to feeling joy when a partner is happy about their partner(s) joy, compersion is really the absolute opposite of jealousy, it is  more the excitement/turn on you feel when you watch your partner pleasured in every way and it gives you a feeling of happiness knowing they are in their happy place.

Fluid Bonding

The practice of unprotected sex

We all know most hate condoms but they are important in the lifestyle for safe sex more than ever. However when many poly dynamics are long term and there are only a few partners involved many chose to go without barrier protection because they feel it bonds them way more. While we all love the skin on skin feel please take care to protect yourselves especially if you are swapping partners or adding additional ones, and if you are make sure to have tests regularly.

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Primary & Secondary Partners

Primary/Secondary Partner(s) Versus Nesting Partner(s)

Hierarchical relationships tend to use the terms primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary, describing various levels of importance and commitment. Again, these terms can be either prescriptive (“she is my primary partner, so she will always come before my secondary partner”) or descriptive (“I raise children and share finances with my wife, so she is my primary partner, and my girlfriend and I don’t have those entanglements, so she is my secondary partner”). Primary partners may or may not co-habitate.

A nesting partner, on the other hand, is a live-in partner (or partners). This person may or may not be a primary partner, as well, but nesting partner is often used to replace the term primary partner while still describing a higher level of entanglement in order to avoid hierarchical language.

Hierarchical Relationships

Hierarchical Versus Non-Hierarchical Relationships

Hierarchical relationships usually refers to when some relationships are considered more important than others (ex: “my husband will always come before anyone else”), although in some cases it’s more of a descriptor, used to describe levels of commitments (ex: “my husband gets a majority of my resources because we live and are raising children together, but that doesn’t mean I love or consider him more important than my other partners”). Prescriptive hierarchical relationships are controversial in the poly community, seen by many as inherently unethical.

Non-hierarchical relationships come in various forms, but the factor that ties them together is that no one relationship holds more power than others by default.

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Polyamorous vs Open relationships

An open relationship generally relates to a relationship (usually between two people, but sometimes among larger groups) in which participants may have sexual involvement with other people, with the consent of their partner(s). Where a couple making this agreement are married, it is an open marriage. “Open relationship” and “polyamorous” are overlapping rather than identical terms; people may use either or both terms in describing their relationship. Broadly, “open” usually refers to the sexual aspect of a non-closed relationship, whereas polyamory involves the extension of a relationship by allowing bonds to form (which may be sexual or otherwise) as additional long term relationships:

  • Some non-monogamous relationships place sexual restrictions on partners (e.g. polyfidelity); such relationships may be polyamorous, but not open.
  • Some relationships permit sex outside the primary relationship, but not love (cf. swinging); such relationships are open, but not polyamorous.
  • Some polyamorists do not accept the dichotomies of “in a relationship/not in a relationship” and “partners/not partners”; without these divisions, it is meaningless to class a relationship as “open” and “closed”.
  • Many polyamorists consider “polyamorous” to be their (emotional/philosophical) relationship orientation (just as “gay” and “straight” are sexual orientations) – they identify as poly (one capable and desirous of multiple loves) – whereas “open relationship” is used as a logistical description: that is, it describes a particular form of relationship, sometimes employed by polys. They might say of themselves, for instance, “I am polyamorous (or “I’m poly”); my primary partner and I have an open relationship…”

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