Polyamory

A lot of the ideas in this blog overlap with those of polyamory, a relatively new term which is derived from ‘many loves’. Open Fidelity and polyamory are variants of one basic idea: honest, responsible non-monogamy. One definition of polyamory is “the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory). Polyamorous relationships can include:

  • a couple in a long-term committed relationship in which one or both of them have ongoing secondary relationships with another partner, with everyone’s knowledge and consent;
  • three people who form a committed relationship between all (I call this a triad);
  • four people in who form a committed relationship between all, or in which all are linked to all the others but aren’t necessarily romantically or sexually involved with everyone else (a quad);
  • larger groups in which each person has a romantic relationship with at least one and mostly more than one other member.

These would probably all be classified as polyamorous relationships by most people familiar with the term (do you disagree? Add a comment!). They all involve romantic relationships and long-term commitment, and generally sex as well, with more than one person.

Polyamory is also often seen as an identity: someone might describe themself as a polyamorous person, that is, someone who is capable of polyamorous relationships and would like to be in such relationships, regardless of whether they have one, two or more or even no partners at the moment.

But there are other types of open, honest, responsible nonmonogamous relationships that some wouldn’t include within the concept of polyamory. For example:

  • couples who otherwise behave monogamously but sometimes go together to sex parties or swingers’ clubs and have sexual encounters with others, in each other’s presence;
  • couples who have agreed that they can each have sexual encounters with other people but don’t want these other encounters to develop into romantic relationships and have agreed rules to keep the relationships with others casual;
  • people who aren’t in a committed relationship at the moment and who date (or plan to date) several people in parallel, explaining to each new date that they are also seeing (and perhaps having sex with) other people.
  • people who would prefer to be monogamous but who are in a relationship with someone who finds this difficult and have therefore agreed to allow them other relationships as long as they are honest ones.

This blog is called Open Fidelity rather than Polyamory because I aim to show that the ideas of polyamory can be useful to anyone, including people who don’t identify as polyamorous themselves. Most people are interested in long-term relationships with only one person at a time, even if they don’t want to be strictly monogamous. So polyamorous relationships are probably always going to be a minority pursuit. I believe everyone can find these ideas useful, even those who fully intend to be monogamous, and even perhaps those who intend to cheat on their partners.

So what is Open Fidelity? It is being open about your attractions to more than one person and how you act on these attractions, and it is being faithful to any promises you have made to your partner. Before explaining this in more detail I will look further into the problems with the currently accepted way of doing things.

5 Responses to “Polyamory”

  1. We have used your term `open fidelity` in our poly-glossary in norwegian and given you credit:

    http://polyamori.blogspot.com/2007/12/ordliste.html

  2. That’s fantastic! Thanks, and also for your blog entry about the Dagbladet article (http://inorden.org/?p=1759&language=no for those who haven’t seen it – it’s in Norwegian).

    Anna

  3. […] Åpen trofasthet *) (Open Fidelity) Ærlig, åpen og ansvarlig ikke-monogami med utgangspunkt i ett primært forhold. Samlivet med primærpartneren har førsteprioritet, og er i utgangspunktet på noen måter unikt, men det er full åpenhet omkring eventuelle forhold til andre partnere. Grensen mellom åpen trofasthet og polyamori kan være noe flytende i de tilfellene der et forhold til en annen partner utvikler seg mot et mer komplett kjærlighetsforhold som består over tid. (Begrepet Open Fidelity av Anna Sharman.) […]

  4. […] Selvmotsigende kjensgjerninger krever kanskje selvmotsigende begreper? Vel, iallfall kan “åpen trofasthet” kanskje være tingen for svært mange av disse i-pose-men-helst-litt-i-sprekk-også-menneskene. Åpen trofasthet? Hva? ENTEN er to (evt flere) partnere trofaste, ELLER de lever i et “åpent” forhold. Det er den vanlige forståelsen ja, men vi kan også beholde alle betydningene av ‘trofast’ utenom den seksuelle,og da får vi med ‘åpen trofasthet’ et samlivsprinsipp som kan passe ganske mange moderne mennesker. Omtrent denne formen for resonnement ligger bak Anna Sharmans introduksjon av begrepet ‘open fidelity’: […]

  5. Nice post. Humans are not a strictly monogamous animals. Evolutionary speaking they are mildly polygynous. Some societies except this and some don’t. Polyamory is a new term to me. You live and learn.