Some people think of polyamory as being about people who have many lovers or date many people without “settling down.” It is about people who don’t limit their love lives to one person.
Polyamory, after all, means “many loves.”
This isn’t wrong—there are many expressions of polyamory. But poly relationships don’t always take a back seat or lack priority.
Indeed, polyamory often juggles several relationships rather than no relationships. In a polyamory marriage there is a very central relationship, sometimes called a “primary relationship.”
Polyamorous Marriage & Primary Relationships
A poly marriage can be between two people who also date outside of it, or it can be a relationship between three or more people, with a variety of different terms negotiated for sexual connection between them.
Polyamory is really an umbrella term for many different kinds of sexual expression and relationship preferences, rather than its own strict definition. It is more easily defined by “nonmonogamy” than by any specific thing.
Polyamorous relationship dynamics include casual, open or closed, serious and committed, poly-mono, and marriage.
8 Common Questions about Polyamory Marriage
Here are some of the questions people often ask about polyamorous marriage.
1. What is polyamorous marriage?
Polyamorous marriage is the marriage of two people who are polyamorous, or the marriage of more people, often a “threesome” or “throuple” and sometimes four or more. Marriages between throuples and moresomes are sometimes called “polycules.”
2. Is polyamorous marriage always heterosexual, with a husband and wife? What does poly marriage look like?
Marriage can be between two men, two women, two nonbinary people, three people of any gender, or more people. It can between a man and many wives or a woman and many husbands.
3. Are married polyamorous people less committed than monogamous?
No. But “commitment” may not be defined as “sex only with each other,” and sex with others may not be a breach of commitment.
4. Are polyamorous marriages open or closed?
That depends. The rules and boundaries are usually negotiated in advance, but they may also change along the way. Some marriages are between several people, and may be called a “polycule.” A polycule may be open to partners having other lovers, or they may be closed, or some may have outside lovers and not others. If the group marriage is closed to outside lovers, it might be called “polyfidelity.”
5. Is polyamorous marriage legal?
Seldom, except under patriarchal regimes, and then, only for the men, of course.
Polyamory is legally recognized in Canada, and a child can have three parents, for example, or someone can have several partners. But marriage is not yet officially allowed with more than one partner.
In the States, there have been recent moves by progressive cities and states to legally recognize polyamorous relationships, and this will continue, albeit slowly. However, polygamy is illegal in all states. Some states have reduced punishment to protest these archaic laws.
Europe and Australia fail to recognize polyamorous marriages. Indigenous cultures in Australia commonly have polyamorous marriages, but they are not legally recognized.
Some nations recognize polygamous marriages, but only if they happened elsewhere. For example, an immigrant who has several wives does not have to reduce one or leave her behind.
Polygamy is legally recognized in approximately a quarter of the world’s nations, including Iran, Jordan, Libya, Sudan, and Egypt. In all of these countries, it is only recognized with a male having numerous wives, and never the other way around. Polyamorous marriages where the woman is free to enjoy other lovers are not recognized.
6. What is the difference between polyamory and polygamy?
Polyamory is simply the practice or preference of loving more than one at once. Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses.
The most typical forms of polygamy have been polygyny, in which co-wives share a husband, or polyandry, in which co-husbands share a wife.
7. Does religion forbid polyamorous marriage?
Depends what religion you’re talking about. Judeo-Christianity has long had strict rules about sexual fidelity, adultery, and marriage. Hence the oft repeated “marriage is one man one woman” thing. And yet, cultural mores in the Old Testament were different from religious objectives, and many of the characters in the stories had multiple wives and relationships. When a rich and powerful man like King Solomon had many wives, they were called “concubines.”
Some Christian sects or offshoots of the religion that have formed new religions, like Mormonism, famously had polygamous marriages. Some extremists still do, although the official dictate of the Mormon Church has had to change to match with the laws of America, where it was born.
Other ancient cultures and traditional Indigenous cultures also had many variations on what marriage meant. In Islam, from early days to modern day, men can have four wives—IF they are able to support them and any children, and give them fair attention. Men with several wives has also been a solution to caring for women and children when men were in short supply, such as the results from war or famine. Some religions have special exceptions for this kind of special necessity.
Hinduism recognizes polygamy under unique circumstances. If a first marriage does not give a man a son, he can take a second wife. However, India and several other countries only recognize polygamy for Muslim citizens and not others.
8. Can polyamory fix a marriage?
Polyamory CAN fix a marriage. But it can’t be relied upon to fix a marriage. Many couples have found it as a valuable solution and an amazing alternative to breaking up. Too many people don’t understand there is even an option when a problem arises, such as one partner falling in love with an outside party. Polyamory can help couples see that such natural occurrences do not have to spell the end of a relationship.
Monogamous people may have difficulty transitioning to polyamory or accepting it, since it was not their intention initially, but many have found rising to the challenge has helped liberate them and provided different paths and solutions.
Are you in a polyamorous marriage? Please share your experience!