24 Polyamory and Non-Monogamy Terms and Definitions

Do you feel it would be handy to have a list of polyamory terms, something like a glossary of non-monogamy?

Well, voila!

There are many polyamory terms and definitions used in conversation, on blogs, or on dating sites. You are probably familiar with some non-monogamy terms and not others. Our list will help you sort it all out!

24 Polyamory Terms Defined

1. Compersion

“Compersion” is an important polyamory term because it was literally invented by our community to fill an unfortunate gap. There was no specific word for the opposite of sexual jealousy.

Since a huge part of polyamory is our desire to be happy for the pleasure, fulfillment and complex experiences of our lovers, beyond our own possession, we needed a word for the good feeling that we might have when our lovers found love or pleasure in the arms of someone else.

This non-monogamy term comes from a San Francisco polyamory community in the 90s. Instead of feeling jealous or threatened when our partner is with someone else, we want to feel compersion.

Read: Striving for Compersion: How to Get There

2. Polyamory Cowboy/ Polyamory Cowgirl

This non-monogamy term refers to someone who is monogamous but dates polyamorous people with the underlying intention of trying to get them to cross over to monogamy.

They might even pose as a someone who is curious about polyamory or open to trying it, but they really want to wreak havoc on poly relationships and people in an effort to prove their point, that they believe monogamy is superior.

Read: Polyamory Cowboys: How to Avoid Their Lasso

3. DADT Relationships

DADT stands for don’t ask, don’t tell. The DADT relationship is often viewed with disdain. A common conception is that it’s the go-to relationship style when one partner wants to be polyamorous and the other doesn’t really but goes along with it. It’s also seen as the realm of someone who is ashamed of polyamory and doesn’t want to proclaim it out loud to the world.

Finally, this polyamory term is sometimes considered to be the domain of dishonest partners. After all, polyamory advocates honesty and openness, and question whether true intimacy can exist between couples who can’t handle the information about each other’s lovers.

Read: Honesty Is the Best Poly: Stories from Women Who Practice Polyamory

All of these perspectives have a point, to be sure, but some people in DADT relationships will beg to differ. There is no such thing as a one size fits all relationship style or polyamory. Some couples are indeed caught between conflicting desires. One wants to be poly and the other doesn’t.

While not ideal, the DADT relationship is a consensually made compromise, rather than breaking up an otherwise good partnership. Some couples just prefer discretion. They don’t feel the need to act in the same ways as other couples, and chose non-monogamy. But they don’t necessarily reflect the philosophies of the polyamorous community either.

Read: DADT Relationships and Their Challenges

4. Ethical Non-Monogamy

Ethical non-monogamy is the name of the whole game, so to speak. This polyamory term refers to being in, or being open to being in, multiple relationships, with all partners knowing about and consenting to the situation.

Read: 10 Polyamorous Blogs to Follow for ENM Exploration

5. Fluid Bonding

Fluid bonding is a polyamorous term that refers to a relationship where the partners do not use condoms or practice safe sex, but allow the transmission of bodily fluids.

    A fluid-bonded couple might be the primary partnership, with each one using condoms with other sexual partners. A group of three or more lovers may also practice fluid bonding, and only sex between them takes place without barriers. When they have outside partners they practice safe sex.

    Read: Fluid Bonding Benefits & Considerations

    6. Hierarchical Relationship

    Hierarchical relationship is a non-monogamy term that refers to relationship structures that place more importance on one relationship than others. It is common to have a “main” relationship, such as the person you are married to or live with.

    Often primary relationships begin as monogamous, and then choose to open the marriage after some time. Others have a hierarchical relationship because they choose one relationship as their marriage or emotional involvement, and the others are sexual relationships only.

    Some polyamorous people have primary relationships, then “secondary” and “tertiary” relationships. Others are opposed to hierarchical relationships by principle, and consider all of their partners as equally significant.

    Read: Hierarchical Polyamory vs Non-Hierarchical Polyamory

    7. Kitchen Table Polyamory

    Kitchen table polyamory, or KTP, is a non-monogamy term that refers to a network of polyamorous relationships that becomes part of a group of community with interconnected lives.

    Read: Kitchen Table Polyamory: Making It Work

    8. Metamour

    A metamour is your partner’s lover or partner.

    Read: How to Handle a Challenging Metamour

    9. Nesting Partner

    A nesting partner is a polyamory term that refers to the relationship partner who you live with. This can mean sharing a bedroom, sharing finances, sharing a car, children, and responsibilities.

    Read: 6 Tips for Nesting Partners in Polyamorous Relationships

    10. New Relationship Energy

    New relationship energy or NRE refers to the heightened emotional and sexual feelings people experience in the early stages of a relationship. As a polyamory term, it may be used in contrast to the less intense and more familiar or comfortable energy of an ongoing or older relationship.

    One benefit of polyamory is that you don’t have to discard a relationship to experience new relationship energy again. They are different but important parts of our relationship experiences.

    Read: Poly NRE: Avoiding Jealousy

    11. Open Relationship

    An open relationship is a relationship where one or more partners is free to have other relationships or sexual experiences. This non-monogamy term contrasts with traditional, monogamous or “closed” relationships where partners are committed to sexual exclusivity with each other.

    Read: A Guide to Open Relationship Rules

    12. Polyamory

    Polyamory simply means “love of many.” It is a non-monogamy term that expresses an identity or practice of having, or being open to having, more than one romantic relationship at a time with the consent of all involved.

    Read: Want to Try Polyamory? How to Bring It Up with Your Partner

    13. Parallel Polyamory

    This non-monogamy term is in contrast to kitchen table polyamory. Parallel polyamory is when you and your partner have parallel other relationships but don’t have a lot of interaction or social connections with metamours.

    Read: Parallel Polyamory: Don’t Ask and Don’t Tell?

    14. Polycule

    A polycule is when there is a relationship between three or more people, or when three or more people are romantically and sexually connected.

    Read: 4 Benefits of Being in a Polycule

    15. Polyfidelity

    Polyfidelity is a polyamory term describing a polycule that is exclusive sexually to those within that relationship.

    Read: Polyfidelity: FAQ

    16. Polysexual

    This non-monogamy term describes being sexually attracted to more than one gender.

    Read: Polysexual Basics: Learn About Polysexuality

    17. Primary Partner

    In hierarchical polyamory, your primary partner is the one who comes first. For example, many people would value the needs or concerns of their husband of ten years and father of their children over their casual sexual affairs, or prioritize holiday time with their long-term girlfriend and not someone they met for hookups last week.

    Read: How to Find a Primary Partner

    18. Quad

    A quad in polyamory terms is any relationship structure that involves four people.

    Read: Quad Dating and Relationship Tips

    19. Relationship Anarchy

    Relationship anarchy is a non-monogamy term that describes a radical egalitarian philosophy of polyamory where there is no hierarchy. Every individual connected to another holds equal consideration and value.

    An important part of relationship anarchy philosophy is that relationships are designed by the people in them, not by society, church, state, or culture.

    Read: An Introduction to Relationship Anarchy

    20. Romantic Orientation

    Your romantic orientation describes what kind of romantic attractions you are most likely to experience. While this is interchangeable for many with sexual orientation, some people experience romantic attraction separately from sexual attraction, or they don’t’ experience sexual attraction but do experience romantic attraction.

    There are many romantic orientations such as polyromantic, grayromantic, heteromantic, and demiromantic.

    Read: What’s Your Romantic Orientation? 15 Examples and Definitions

    21. Secondary Partner

    In relationship hierarchy, secondary partners generally do not live together or share finances or important decisions, the way primary partners do.

    Read: 4 Tips for Secondary Partners in Poly Relationships

    22. Solo Polyamory

    Solo polyamory is a non-monogamy term that means someone has many relationships but is independent. They usually choose to live alone.

    Read: What Is Solo Polyamory and Is It for You?

    23. Triad or Throuple

    A triad or throuple is a polycule of three.

    Read: Triad Relationships: 4 Problems and Solutions

    24. Unicorn

    The unicorn is a polyamory term describing a rare or mythical creature, usually a bisexual female who enjoys hooking up with a couple for sex but doesn’t have her own relationship needs.

    Read: How to Be a Unicorn for a Poly Couple

    What other terms do you use in your polyamory lifestyle? Please share!

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