You and your girlfriend have an open relationship—you live together, you’re committed to each other, but you’re both free to explore your sexuality with other partners, so long as you come home to each other.
But now you’re reading about a polyamorous commune where three guys and eight wives live together on a farm with twenty children.
And when you went for a hookup with another poly, she brought her husband and told you they do everything together. She thought you knew.
Don’t sweat it—there’s no one way that polyamory is supposed to be.
The only thing you need to remember is that there are as many kinds of arrangements as there are people. Just as with traditional couples, in navigating poly relationships, communication is key!
Types of Polyamory Relationships
The Open Relationship
Like you and your girlfriend, many couples have an open-door policy. You’re committed to a life together, but both of you are free to enjoy casual sex with other people.
Some couples have a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy, while others turn each other on with detailed stories of their hot hookups. As long as it’s “just sex” it’s okay.
If the extracurricular sex turns into love, some couples break up. Others change the rules, deciding to allow each other intimate emotional bonds with others too.
The heterofaithful relationship is when a couple decides they won’t seek other sexual partners of the opposite sex, but allow same sex flings.
This is a common arrangement when a wife is bisexual. She is free to hookup with other women but committed to one man.
This arrangement is often successful because it’s not as one sided as it seems: hubby gets something out of the deal. For many men, knowing his wife is fooling around with other hot women is a huge turn on.
For some couples, the best arrangement is where one partner seeks sex outside the main bond, but the other is monogamous.
There are different reasons why this unique set-up works.
When one partner suffers a chronic illness or disability, he or she may give the spouse a satisfying sex life by opening the door.
There may be kinky dynamics like a cuckolding fetish or a master-slave relationship.
One partner may have a very high sex drive that isn’t shared by the other, or one partner may be uninterested in sex that isn’t based on love or emotion, while the other is.
Many polyamorous traditions are based around ideals of communal living, where economizing or sharing labor or food or parenting are all central ideals. It is only natural in these communities that sex is also shared.
Swinging and Swapping
Many polyamorous people are simply into group sex.
It’s not so much about sexual freedom outside the relationship but with one’s partners. Folks who like to share everything!
Polygamous marriages where a man has more than one wife are common in many cultures.
While critics say this is inherently misogynist, this is not true. In eras or regions of war, there were tragically few men to go around. In other scenarios, women didn’t work, so this kind of marriage guaranteed she be sheltered and fed.
Many women around the world can’t imagine living without other women or sisters, or being home alone when the husband is away.
A very common polyamorous arrangement is a closed door but with more than two in the relationship. Three is a very common number for different reasons.
This often evolves from a situation where a person is in love with two people, and instead of making a painful choice, all three decide to stay together. Or two people are in love with one man, and realize instead of hating each other as rivals, they can all benefit.