Poly or Player: What’s the Difference?

Polyamory has garnered a lot of attention in the media as of late. A few years back, it was considered an underground lifestyle that only hippies and degenerates enjoyed. Now that polyamory has made its way into The New York Times, all the cool kids are quick to say that they are in open relationships.

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I would be perfectly fine with this, so long as everyone who called themselves “poly” was actually poly and not simply d-bag opportunists grasping at any excuse they can find to disengage from their current partner and fuck a shit-ton of people—all the while maintaining the mono-inspired perks of their existing relationship status.

“It’s cool. We’re poly,” you tell your hot hookup. Meanwhile your girlfriend is crying at home because she never really signed off on it; she just didn’t want to lose you.

That’s not polyamory!

Here’s a very condensed breakdown of what poly actually is compared to the player attitude I just described.

Polyamory is…

Total Transparency

There is no sneaking around. Even though you and your partner have granted each other the right to sleep with other people, it’s not a sexual free-for-all. You still need to be up front about who you’re seeing and when.

Some poly couples share more details about their dating lives than others, but always at the heart of it is an agreed-upon set of rules that don’t get cast aside for the sake of one’s own selfish desires.

Players don’t understand this. They just do what they want when they want, then minimize their partner’s feelings by saying something douchey like, “You know what you signed on for.”

Equal Opportunity

In a true poly relationship, everyone has an equal right and an equal opportunity to have more than one partner. There are no sexist or power-fuelled restrictions about who can and cannot engage in outside intimate relationships.

If your partner upholds a double standard, insisting that you shouldn’t enjoy all the freedoms that he or she does, you are not in a poly relationship.

Group Consensus

Before any changes are made within a poly relationship, everyone sits down and hashes it out. Depending on the structure of the relationship and the agreed upon rules, some partners might wish to be more or less involved in the conversation. The point is, everyone has signed off on this particular dynamic ahead of time and there are no surprises.

Decisions made unilaterally or between only some of the people who expect to be consulted are not above board.

Being poly can take a lot of forms, but one thing each of these forms shares is an ethical, respect-driven foundation. Otherwise it’s just your run-of-the-mill cheatfest.

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