Inquiring minds want to know!
Humans, like cats, are curious creatures. We’ve all been asked by monogamous people how many partners polyamorous people have.
And poly people, too, ask or wonder. We may want to confirm that we are “normal,” or size each other up, or just see where we fit in by contrasting our experience with that of others.
Of course, we all know the answer to the question is “it depends” and that it’s different for everyone, and changes during different parts of life.
Some polyamorous people got there because they were in love with two people at the same time. They found a way to make that work, and still date those two lovers exclusively ten years later.
Others want open relationships because they value freedom and independence, and how many partners they are sleeping with ranges according to how many people they meet where they experience mutual attraction.
How Many Partners is “Normal”?
There is no blanket answer and no right or wrong answer. So no matter how many times someone answers the question regarding number of partners, someone else will ask it.
Another challenge with this line of questioning is that it depends on how someone defines “partner.” If the question is referencing the tally for sex, it isn’t very different from asking a serial monogamist or a player for their bed count. But a sexual dalliance isn’t necessarily a “partner.” Many poly people don’t keep track or count of casual affairs that come and go in the moment, and framing a question that way feels misleading.
Indeed, others don’t like to think in terms of “partners” because they reject sexual hierarchies. Dismissing a one night stand feels dehumanizing, and elevating someone to “primary” status just because they are married seems like a false pedestal.
But all of these technicalities aside, inquiring minds still want to know how many partners people have. We are nosy by nature, and it is a human trait to wonder how our own behaviors and norms compare with those around us.
Here are some poly people answering the question as best they can.
How Many Poly Partners Do You Have?
“I see polyamory as an energy flow, not as a tally. I can’t say whether someone I sleep with is a long-term lover or a one night affair, because I don’t know whether the circumstances will bring her back into my life. I recently started dating a woman seriously who I’d had a casual affair with many years ago; we had reuniting through a work project. I’m married to a man who is monogamous with me, and our arrangement has always been that way—I date women, but our marriage is its own thing. So, right now, I have my husband and three women I see somewhat regularly. There are times when it’s just the two of us, and other times, I pursue women for sex.” – Tracy, 47
“I live with my wife, her boyfriend, and his girlfriend. Some people would call this a polycule. For us, it’s just how it emerged. We didn’t really identify as polyamorous at first, we had a problem to solve when she fell for a man she met at a conference. I read about polyamory and chose to give it a try rather than breaking up and feeling betrayed. It turned out that he was involved with another woman, too, and they’d been talking about going poly so we talked it out and decided to give it a try. Here we are a few years later and it is working great. We don’t date outside our foursome and aren’t planning to at the moment.” – Daniel, 27
“Right now I’m in three relationships. I’m open to having more partners, but it’s very time consuming already. It’s not just about sex. The misconception is that polyamory is just a sex free for all, but that discredits the relationships we have. Each of these women is incredibly important to me.” – Barry, 30
“I have as much sex as I want, when I want it, with whoever I want. That means there are times when I’ve had a different guy almost every day of the week. Right now it means one person.” – Stephanie, 24
“I’m juggling two major relationships at this time. I had a hot summer fling with a tourist last month.” – Brandon, 29
“I got married four years ago to the love of my life. We met in poly circles and were both polyamorous and still are. But something strange happened naturally—neither of us have pursued another relationship or sexual encounter since. Technically we can and maybe we will—we are ‘allowed’ to and we haven’t closed off that side of ourselves, but we have really settled into something satisfying and unexpected so far.” – Kirk, 35
“I had a kinky threesome on Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening had a quickie with the mother of my son. On Monday I saw a sex worker who I see a few times a month because she understands a peculiar fetish I have and is happy to indulge me. On Thursday, I met with a new girl from a dating site, and we fooled around but didn’t go all the way. This is a typical week for me. I’m living my best life while I’m young, and maybe for always. I’m a horny guy and keeping my relationships open and honest is much more fulfilling than sneaking around or expecting a girl to be faithful while I philander. Most guys want to be poly but are jealous of women having the same freedom. Not me. I want more for everyone.” – Paul, 25
How many poly lovers do you have? Can someone have too many partners?