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The Language of Polyamory


    At GetLusty, we think monogamy is really sexy. But that's not to say there aren't other relationship options for couples. Take swinging or polyamory for example. But how do you describe polyamory? What is language do we use? Our favorite counseling couple, Chuck and Jo Ann Bird, are back to define some common phrases used to identify polyamorous couples or situations.

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    We often talk about the language of love, and how each couple needs to find their own language, so to speak, to communicate their love and devotion.

    But what if there are more than two people in that relationship? We've been writing blogs about polyamory and the practice of consensual non-monogamy. We’ve been doing it primarily to parallel the debut of a new Showtime docu-series, Polyamory: Married and Dating, which explores alternative relationship structures like poly. Today, we’d like to discuss the language of poly love.

    While it’s difficult to define the poly experience, as there are so many permutations of poly and each poly relationship has a dynamic all its own, we know there are a lot of words and terminologies out there that help frame the general poly experience. So, we thought we might be able to shed a little light on what poly is by explaining some of the words used by those who live it — the language of poly love.

    Let’s start with some of the categories of poly relationships. Please understand that we aren’t trying to define the experience of poly — just provide a basic working knowledge of the basics of poly relationships. Below are just a few of the terms used to describe polyamory:

    Responsible non-monogamy: Any relationship which is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Responsible non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Responsible non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well.

    Triad or vee: Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving three people, in which one person is romantically or sexually involved with two partners who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other.

    Quad: A polyamorous relationship involving four people, each of whom may or may not be sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members.

    Group marriage: A relationship in which three or more people consider themselves married to one another; in the polyamory community, most often a relationship involving more than one man and more than one woman, who may live together, share finances, raise children together, and otherwise share those responsibilities normally associated with marriage. A group marriage is not recognized by and has no legal standing within most Western countries, but may have symbolic or have emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements which specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation which defines the marriage.

    Open marriage/relationship: Any marriage or committed relationship whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. The term open marriage is a catchall for marriages which are not emotionally or sexually monogamous; and may include such activities as polyamory or swinging. The term “open marriage” is sometimes used as a synonym for polyamory, though this is not necessarily the case; some relationships may be open but not polyamorous (as in some swinging relationships which explicitly ban emotional entanglement with anyone outside the relationship), and some relationships may be polyamorous but not open (as in polyfidelitious relationships).

    Polyfamily: Colloquial 1. A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family. 2. A polyamorous group whose members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.

    Polyfidelity: (Literally, poly many + fidelitas faithfulness) A romantic or sexual relationship which involves more than two people, but which does not permit the members of that relationship to seek additional partners outside the relationship, at least without the approval and consent of all the existing members. Some polyfidelitous relationships may have a mechanism which permits adding new members to the relationship with mutual agreement and consent of the existing members; others may not permit any new members under any circumstances.

    These terms make up the basic framework of how many poly couples and moresomes refer to their relationships, but for those who are on the outside looking into poly for the first time, they are a unique window into a different way of thinking about relationships.

    Drs. Chuck and Jo-Ann Bird and are Board Certified Clinical Sexologists and Relationship Counselors. They co-counsel couples together which offers a unique and balanced male/female perspective and a combined therapy/coaching approach to helping their clients with a variety of relationship and sexual issues/concerns. Due to our last name and work they do, they've become known as “The Love Birds”.

    They have 16 + years of personal experience in a healthy, loving and successful relationship. We know how to solve problems and work through difficulties that couples may face on a daily basis. We know ways to keep relationships strong and healthy. We offer you tools and strategies that can make positive changes in your relationship. Find out more about Chuck. Alternatively, find out more about Jo-Ann. Also, follow them on Twitter and 'Like' them on Facebook.
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