***This is by no means an exclusive list, but more of an overview of terms you might come across while learning about polyamorous relationships***
The belief or philosophy that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time.
A specific type of group sex in which a group of consenting adults gets together for the purpose of sex, and each person in the group is free to have sex with any of the other members of the group he or she chooses. Usage: Originated with the swinging community; uncommon outside it.
A long-running annual convention of polyamorous people and people interested in polyamory, organized by the members of the UseNet newsgroup alt.polyamory and featuring a series of workshops, lectures, and so forth.
One who has little or no desire for sex or sexuality. Commentary: Asexuality should not be confused with lack of interest in romantic relationships. Asexuals can and do form romantic relationships, though those relationships may include little or no sex.
BIGAMY: (Literally, bi two + gamos marriage)
Relationship in which one person is married to two spouses, regardless of the sex of those spouses.
A person who is both bisexual and polyamorous.
BI POLY SWITCH:
A person who is bisexual and polyamorous and who is a BDSM switch, capable of taking on a dominant or submissive role.
A person who is sexually attracted to or sexually active with partners of both sexes. See related hot bi babe.
BODY FLUID MONOGAMY:
The practice of limiting any activity which involves the exchange of bodily fluids, including such activities as unprotected sexual intercourse, to only one partner.
Sexual arousal from watching one’s spouse have sex with or engage in sexual activity with another person.
A family of three or more adults (and optionally children) who live together or near one another, share responsibility for joint finances and/or domestic responsibilities, and consider themselves to be part of a single family.
In a relationship, any activity that violates the rules or agreements of that relationship, whether tacit or explicit. Commentary: In traditional monogamous relationships, any sexual activity with anyone outside that relationship is generally viewed as cheating. In a polyamorous or swinging relationship, sexual activity with people outside the relationship may or may not be seen as cheating, depending on the context of that sexual activity and whether or not it violates the agreements of the people in that relationship. Even in such relationships, most commonly sexual activity without the knowledge and explicit consent of the other members of the relationship is likely to be viewed as cheating.
Any marriages where there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage; monogamous marriage. Contrast open marriage. Commentary: This is the most common form of marriage in most Western countries.
CLOSED GROUP MARRIAGE:
A polyfidelitous relationship in which all the members consider themselves to be married. See related group marriage.
A form of swinging in which people will have multiple sexual partners within a specific group (as, for example, two couples who will swap partners), but will not have sex with people outside the group. A closed-group swinging relationship can look very similar to a polyfidelitous relationship from the outside; the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. See also friends-first swinging.
Any romantic relationship, such as a conventional monogamous relationship or a polyfidelitous relationship, that specifically excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.
A practice in which a group of swingers will exchange partners and then have sex separately, usually in separate rooms; swinging without group sex. Contrast open swinging. Usage: Common in the swinging community; uncommon outside it.
A polyamorous relationship in which two or more married couples cohabitate and exchange partners. See group marriage; See related intentional family, co-spouse, co-husband, co-wife.
Of or relating to activities between a member of one couple and a member of another couple; as, for example, cross-couple relationship, a relationship between one person who is part a couple and a second person who is part of another couple.
A feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Commentary: Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of “jealousy;” it is a positive emotional reaction to a lover’s other relationship. The term was coined by the Kerista Commune.
CONDOM CONTRACT; also CONDOM COMPACT, CONDOM COMMITMENT:
A formal agreement within a relationship to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free sexual contact to the people in that relationship, each of whom has previously been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom contracts may specify under what conditions a member of that group may exchange body fluids or have sexual contact without barriers with a new partner, or may specify that such contact is not permissible with any new partner.
CO-HABITATE; also, COHABITATE:
To live together. Cohabitating: the state or practice of living together.
A man in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other man in that group marriage. See also co-wife, co-spouse.
A person who is one of two or more primary partners in a polyamorous relationship, as Bob and Joe are my co-primaries. See also primary/secondary; See related secondary, tertiary.
A group marriage whose members register the union as a legal corporation, the terms of which spell out the financial entanglements and obligations of all the members.
A person in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with another person in that group marriage. See also metamour, co-husband, co-wife.
The presumption that the socially sanctioned paired people in the relationship (often long term partners) are inherently more important, "real", and valid. Therefore they get the final say about the particular topic or decision at hand.
A woman in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other woman in that group marriage. See also co-husband, co-spouse.
Legal A marriage which includes a legally-binding clause in the marriage contract specifying that the couple cannot divorce, or cannot divorce easily. Commentary: Only a handful of states in the United States recognize covenant marriage provisions.
Colloquial A monogamous man who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous woman with the intention of separating her from any other partners and bringing her into a monogamous relationship.
Colloquial A gathering, usually involving only women and most often in a private residence, in which a group of people gather to explore their sexuality, discuss sex, experiment with sex toys, and so on. Etymology: The hostess of a cupcake party often provides refreshments, hence the name.
CYCLIC MONOGAMY: 1
A relationship in which a person has several partners, and spends a set period of time with each partner, during which time he is sexually involved only with that partner. Generally speaking, these partners do not know about one another, and each believes that the relationship is monogamous, though this is not always so; in some cases, some or all of the partners know of the existence of the other partners.
See don’t ask, don’t tell.
A triad, relationship, specifically a triad in which each person is sexually and/or emotionally involved with all the other people. .
A family, typically a family practicing group marriage, in which all the adult partners are considered equal.
A group of people, often but not always related by birth or marriage, who live together and practice joint control over the household and group property.
DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL (DADT):
A relationship structure in which a person who is partnered is permitted to have additional sexual or romantic relationships on the condition that his or her partner does not know anything about those additional relationships and does not meet any of those other people. Commentary: Many people in the polyamorous community frown on don’t ask, don’t tell relationships, and choose not to become involved in such relationships. There are many dangers in such relationships, including the idea that a person who claims to be involved in such a relationship may simply be cheating (as the relationship often provides no mechanism by which that person’s partner may be contacted to confirm that the relationship permits other relationships); the fact that many people choose DADT relationships as a way of avoiding and not dealing with emotional issues such as jealousy; and the fact that DADT relationships are built on a foundation of lack of communication within the existing relationship.
A relationship involving exactly two people. ..
A person who openly chooses to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way, and who openly revels in that decision.
A fear, which may be irrational, of being neglected or abandoned by a lover, particularly if that lover takes another partner or expresses sexual or romantic interest in another.
Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will; as, for example, a polyfidelitous relationship or a monogamous relationship.
See intentional family.
Of or related to practices which involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as barrier-free sexual intercourse. See related condom contract.
A group marriage with exactly four adult members; usually but not always a group marriage with two men and two women. See related quad. Etymology: The term “four-cornered marriage” is often attributed to Robert Heinlein.
A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents himself or herself as “single” or behaves in ways that are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when he or she has romantic partners, and often does not consider the potential impact of new relationships upon existing relationships when deciding whether or not to pursue those new relationships.
A non-married partner in a group relationship.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB):
A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship that includes sex or sexual activity, but without romantic love and typically without the same type or degree of expectations or other practical or emotional entanglements that typically accompany romantic relationships.
See friends with benefits.
See friends with benefits.
Any relationship or arrangement whose partners permit one another to have other sexual partners while they are physically apart, as for example a relationship in which one person takes a temporary position in another town or is assigned overseas for a time. Usually carries an implicit understanding that when the couple is physically together again, the relationship will become monogamous. See related hundred-mile rule.
A relationship in which three or more people consider themselves married to one another; in the polyamory community, most often a relationship involving more than one man and more than one woman, who may live together, share finances, raise children together, and otherwise share those responsibilities normally associated with marriage. A group marriage is not recognized by and has no legal standing within most Western countries, but may have symbolic or emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements that specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation that defines the marriage. See related corporate marriage, cluster marriage, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, troika.
A Pagan or Wiccan ceremony similar to marriage in the sense that it unites two people in a common bond, but dissimilar to a traditional Western marriage in that it does not necessarily convey sexual exclusivity and may not be intended to be permanent (some handfasting ceremonies last “for a year and a day,” others for “as long as the love shall last”). A handfasting is not legally recognized as a marriage unless the person performing the handfasting is authorized to perform marriages in a particular jurisdiction (requirements for such authorization vary from place to place) and the other legal requirements of marriage are met. Commentary: Handfasting ceremonies are not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with Wiccan or neo-Pagan spirituality or beliefs, may combine the two. While not all Pagans are polyamorous and not all polyamorous people are Pagan, there is enough overlap between the communities that some polyamorous people practice handfasting as an emotional or spiritual symbol of their relationships and commitment.
A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity with other swingers outside of his or her existing relationship. Usage: Common in the swinging community, but uncommon in the polyamorous community. Contrast soft swinger.
Colloquial; see hot bi babe.
Colloquial; see pivot.
HOT BI BABE (HBB):
A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous, as They’re just looking for a hot bi babe. More often referred to as a unicorn.
HOTWIFE; also, HOT WIFE:
A married woman who takes male lovers outside the marriage, often in the context of swinging.
An arrangement within a nominally monogamous marriage or relationship, particularly a marriage in which one of the partners travels a great deal or is often away from home for extended periods of time, which says that sexual dalliances that occur during the course of these travels or over a certain distance from the home don’t “really” count and hence aren’t cheating. See related don’t ask, don’t tell.
A family made up of people who have consciously and deliberately chosen to consider one another as a single family, as opposed to family that is the result of birth or marriage (i.e., family in law). See related cluster marriage, polyamory, group marriage. Usage: Most often used to describe a family of three or more adults.
The sum total of a person’s partners, those partners’ partners, and so on. Usage: The term “intimate network” is most often used to describe the set of romantic and sexual relationships and friendships involved in a polyamorous relationship structure that is not closed; that is, the term intimate network is not often used to describe a polyfidelitous relationship or a closed group marriage, though it can be. The term is also sometimes used in a way that includes people who are close friends, but are not necessarily romantically or sexually involved, with a person or that person’s partners.
A specific type of play party (Def. 1), usually attended by couples, in which each male deposits his keys into a container as he arrives. As the guests leave, each female draws a set of keys at random from the container, then goes home with the male to which they belong that night. Usage: A key party is typically a swinger event.
See long-distance relationship.
A term used to describe a situation where one person has a romantic or sexual interest in another person, which may be reciprocated, but neither of them indicates this interest or makes the first move.
A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship.
LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP (LDR):
A relationship in which the people involved do not live together, and are separated by great distances; as, for example, partners who live in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries.
1. A partner of one’s partner; metamour. 2. The biological family of one’s partner.
1. See triad.
See relationship orientation.
MARIAGE Á TROIS:
(Literally, French, marriage of three) A marriage involving exactly three people, in which one person is married to two partners. See related triad, vee. Usage: Most commonly used in situations in which one man is married to two women.
MENAGE Á TROIS:
(Literally, French, house of three) 1. Sexual activity involving three people. see triad
(Literally, meta with; about + amor love): The partner of one’s partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. See related vee.
Used to describe a set or subset of polyamorous relationships, such as a triad, vee or quad, or a complete romantic network. See also polycule.
The state or practice of having only one wedded spouse at a time, or more generally, having only one sexual partner or only one romantic relationship at a time.
Colloquial; see poly/mono.
See group marriage.
MOST SIGNIFICANT OTHER (MSO):
A person’s primary partner in a hierarchical primary/secondary relationship.
See most significant other.
Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving four people, generally two couples where one member of one couple is also involved sexually and/or romantically with one member of the other couple. See also quad; See related triad, vee.
NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE):
A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship.
See new relationship energy.
A term sometimes applied, often dismissively, to a person who starts many new relationships in rapid succession but does not seem to maintain relationships for very long. Such a person may appear to seek out the euphoria and intense emotion associated with new relationship energy over the maintenance of a long-term relationship.
OLD RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (ORE):
The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Contrast new relationship energy.
ONE PENIS POLICY:
An arrangement within a polyamorous relationship in which a man is allowed to have multiple female partners, each of whom is allowed to have sex with other women but forbidden to have any other male partners.
ONE VAGINA POLICY:
An arrangement within a polyamorous relationship in which a woman is allowed to have multiple male partners, each of whom is allowed to have sex with other men but forbidden to have any other female partners.
Any marriage whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both.
A relationship structure in which the people involved are free to add new partners as they choose
1. Any relationship that is not sexually monogamous. 2. Any relationship that permits “outside” sexual entanglements, but not loving or romantic relationships.
A practice in which a group of swingers will exchange partners and then have sex together in the same room; sometimes but not always assumes group sex.
See old relationship energy.
OTHER SIGNIFICANT OTHER (OSO):
1. A partner’s other partner; metamour. 2. A person’s partner, sometimes but not always a non-primary or non-spouse partner
See one penis policy.
See one vagina policy.
1. Of or relating to all sexual orientations, sexes, and gender identities. 2. One who engages in sexual or erotic activities with partners of all sexes and orientations.
(literally, par way + amor love; by way of love) 1. A married person’s outside lover. 2. A mistress—the unmarried female lover of a married man. 3. A nonmarried member of a polyamorous relationship. See related other significant other.
In a vee relationship, the person who has two partners.
A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy.
Of or related to polyamory; as, a poly relationship, a poly person.
(Literally, poly many + amor love) The state or practice of maintaining multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all the people involved. Polyamorous: of or related to the practice of polyamory, as in polyamorous relationship: a relationship involving more than two people, or open to involvement by more than two people; polyamorous person: a person who prefers or is open to romantic relationships with more than one partner simultaneously.
(Literally, poly many + andros man) The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time.
A romantic network, or a particular subset of relationships within a romantic network, whose members are closely connected. Also used to describe a sketch or visualization of a romantic network, as these drawings often resemble the depiction of molecules used in organic chemistry.
1. A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family. 2. A polyamorous group whose members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.
Colloquial; see polyfidelity.
(Literally, poly many + fidelitas faithfulness) A romantic or sexual relationship which involves more than two people, but which does not permit the members of that relationship to seek additional partners outside the relationship, at least without the approval and consent of all the existing members.
A coarse term sometimes used to describe people who call themselves “polyamorous” while engaging in a large number of sexual relationships which are short-lived or not emotionally intimate;
POLY/MONO; also, MONO/POLY:
Of or relating to a relationship between a person who self-identifies as polyamorous and a person who self-identifies as monogamous.
A person who is polyamorous, but not currently open to new relationships or new partners because of the number of existing partners, or because of time constraints that might make new relationships difficult.
Of or related to relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which are not emotionally intimate.
A polyamorous person who is currently seeking or open to new partners.
A child in a polyamororous household, often used as a humorous term.
A polyamorous relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, intertwinement in practical or financial matters, or power within the relationship. A person in a primary/secondary relationship may have one (or occasionally, more than one) primary partner and one or more additional secondary or tertiary partners. A primary/secondary relationship may be “prescriptive” (that is, a primary couple consciously and deliberately creates a set of rules whereby any additional partners are secondary, often because this is seen as a mechanism which will protect the existing relationship from harm caused by additional relationships) or it may be “descriptive,” and emerge from the nature and the situation of the relationship.See related tertiary, veto.
In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement or entanglement, or sometimes the person accorded the most importance.
Polyamorous relationships in which all the people involved are to some degree physically and/or romantically involved with one another, with the implication that the people involved may share sex and/or sleeping space (hence, “all in one puppy pile”).
A polyamorous relationship involving four people, each of whom may or may not be sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members. See related N.
A philosophy or practice in which people are seen as free to engage in any relationships they choose, spontaneity and freedom are desirable and necessary traits in healthy relationships, no relationship should be entered into or restricted from a sense of duty or obligation, any relationship choice is (or should be) allowable, and in which there is not necessarily a clear distinction between “partner” and “non-partner.”
A preference for sexual or loving relationships of a particular form
Any relationship that is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Responsible non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Responsible non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well.
See condom contract.
In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship that is given less in terms of time, energy, and priority in a person’s life than a primary relationship, and usually involves fewer ongoing commitments such as plans or financial/legal involvements. A secondary relationship may be secondary as a result of a conscious decision on the part of the primary partners, or simply as a result of circumstance or the natural development of the relationship. See related tertiary.
Of or related to sexual attraction to people based on their intelligence.
SECONDARY SIGNIFICANT OTHER:
A romantic partner other than one’s primary partner or spouse. Usage: Used almost completely within the context of primary/secondary relationships.
A relationship pattern in which a person has only one sexual or romantic partner at a time, but has multiple sexual or romantic partners in a lifetime, and may change partners frequently.
A romantic partner.
A swinger who has sexual intercourse or engages in other sexual activity only with his or her partner, but may do so at a swing club, or in the presence of other swingers. Occasionally, soft swingers may engage in some limited form of sexual activities, often stopping short of sexual intercourse, with partners outside the existing relationship.
The plural of spouse, often considered humorous.
A person’s husband or wife.
See secondary significant other.
1. A place where swingers meet to socialize or engage in recreational sex. 2. A social organization for swingers. See related friends-first swinging, closed-group swinging.
A person who engages in swinging.
The practice of having multiple sexual partners outside of an existing romantic relationship, most often with the understanding that the focus of those relationships is primarily sexual rather than romantic or emotionally intimate.
A person capable of being happy in either a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship.
A person who identifies as both polyamorous and also as a swinger.
A person (or persons) in a relationship that is generally quite casual, expects little in the way of emotional or practical support, or is very limited with respect to time, energy, or priority in the lives of the people involved.
Too Complicated To Explain. Often used as a form of shorthand, particularly in online conversations, when the various interrelationships between the people in a polyamorous relationship can’t be described easily.
1. A polyamorous relationship composed of three people. 2. A union or group of three. .
Sexual activity involving exactly three people; either in the form of three people simultaneously engaging in sexual activity, or in the form of one person watching while two others have sex. See related ménage à trois
see hot bi babe. Usage: Almost always used of a hypothetical woman who is willing to date both members of an existing couple, agree not to have any relationships other than the ones with the couple, agree not to be sexually involved with one member of the couple unless the other member of the couple is also there, and/or agree to move in with the couple. So named because people willing to agree to such arrangements are vanishingly rare, whereas couples looking for a woman who will agree to these terms are incredibly common.
Colloquial A polyamorous relationship involving three people, in which one person is romantically or sexually involved with two partners who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other. See also triad, pivot; See related quad, N.
A relationship agreement, most common in prescriptive primary/secondaryrelationships, which gives one person the power to end another person’s additional relationships, or in some cases to disallow some specific activity.
A feeling of insecurity, typically temporary or fleeting, when seeing a partner being affectionate with someone else.