Love-Related Terms that Can Be Disrespectful to Your Poly Partner

I recently wrote a post about how to introduce your new poly partner. I touched on the fact that it can be hard to do it in a clear and sensitive way, given that we live in a society that is so deeply entrenched in monogamous values.

Now I’d like to extend my point by arguing that the way we label partners can impact emotions and feelings of worth in our relationships. Sometimes we use words that belong to the monogamous dictionary without really thinking about what they mean. Here are a few examples to consider.


Not every poly partner likes this designation. If you have a wife, the title of “lover” sounds a lot more frivolous comparatively. It suggests that the relationship is all about sex, which perhaps it is, but does everybody need to know that?

The term “girlfriend” can also sound a bit trite, especially if you’re deeply committed to one another. On the flip side, your wife might not appreciate the suggestion that her role in your life centers on the daily grind, while you go off and get your jollies elsewhere. “This is my wife.” or “This is my lover.” Which relationship sounds more exciting?


This title could be considered offensive for many reasons. It carries similar social baggage to “lover” but with the added suggestion that your relationship is forbidden and somewhat secretive.

Of course, there are a few mistresses throughout history who enjoyed fame and status as a result of their role. To be honest, I don’t mind being called a mistress. I think it sounds kind of cool and exotic. That said, many women hate it, so it’s best to play it safe.

Other Half

A simple understanding of math will tell you why this is a potentially offensive term. In poly relationships, there are always more than two parts that that make up the whole. This expression also suggests that we need one partner to complete us, which pretty much goes against the whole poly philosophy.

I once came across a meme that said, “I’m not searching for my other half because I’m not a half.” I love this quote because it sums up perfectly how I feel about being poly. I guess you could say, “This is my other third.” Then watch as people try to figure it out.


Yes, even a word as commonplace as this could be considered offensive. It all depends on the context. If you’re out for dinner with your secondary partner and you point at a couple sitting a few tables away and say, “Hey, it’s the so-and-so’s. We’ve known them for years.” Your partner might wonder, Who’s WE? I don’t know those people. See what I mean?

In monogamous relationships we can use the term “we” in a totally non-ambiguous way. In the polysphere it’s not that simple. I would suggest that unless you’re referring to your polycule as a whole, try to use specific names.

What do you think? Are there any words that you hate hearing in relation to your poly role?

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