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What Does Polyamorous Mean?

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Updated July 06, 2011

Definition:

To be polyamorous means to have open sexual or romantic relationships with more than one person at a time.

People who are polyamorous can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and relationships between polyamourous people can include combinations of people of different sexual orientations. People in polyamorous relationships may or may not be married, although people who identify as polyamorous tend to be rejecting of the restrictions of the social convention of marriage, and particularly, the limitation to one partner.

Sex addiction is not a defining characteristic of polyamory, and polyamorous people may not engage in excessive sexual activity. However, people with sex addictions based on the desire for multiple partners may be particularly drawn to the polyamorous community. While some polyamorous individuals emphasize the need for clear communication and boundaries among all concerned, clearly the complexity of interrelationships between polyamorous partnerships leave some individuals vulnerable to exploitation.

Polyamory should not be confused with bigomy, which is marriage to more than one person, and which is illegal. Nor should it be confused with "wife-swapping," or "swinging" in which couples in established relationships have pre-arranged casual relationships with the opposite sex partners of other couples. These arrangements both involve sex outside of a commited, legally recognized relationship, which polyamory may not.

Polyamory is not the same as an "open" relationship, which involves a commited couple agreeing that one or both partners are permitted to have sex with other people, without necessarily sharing information on the other partners, although polyamorous couples may also have open relationships.

Pronunciation: polly-am-or-us
Also Known As: poly
Examples:
Diane was polyamorous, and had long-term sexual relationships with a man and another woman, who were also friends with each other.
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