Polyamory: What is it and what types of polyamorous relationships are there?

Until a few years ago, relationships were dominated by a very specific conception of what love is: romantic love.

This idea of ​​affectivity turns love into something that is shared exclusively by two people., Who have an intimate relationship between them that they do not use with others, and which is also linked to the modern conception of Platonic love in which the couple is idealized. However, in Western countries, another way of understanding romantic relationships is taking root: polyamory.

What is polyamory?

The term polyamory was coined by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart in 1990 and has since gained popularity, both as an idea and as a philosophy of life, in many Western countries.

In general, polyamory is the tendency, preference or habit to have romantic relationships with more than one person at a time and in a context where everyone involved is aware of this situation. Polyamory therefore does not have the couple as the fundamental unit in which people exchange emotional and intimate behaviors, and this does not mean that infidelities are committed.

On the other hand, there are many ways to experience polyamory, and the fact that more than two people can participate in a polyamorous relationship only increases the number of possibilities.In fact, polyamory is a way to deal with it. affectivity and not necessarily gender, it may happen that all the people who participate in a polyamory group have different sexual orientations or simply do not have sex; and it may also happen that some have such intimate relationships and others do not.

In addition, polyamory is a mode of relationship that is maintained over time and that is not limited to a short period, a few minutes or hours, as could happen in sporadic couple exchanges or swingers. Polyamorous relationships are because, in themselves, they tell us about the nature of the emotional relationship that several people have with each other.

Related article: “Types of Love: What Types of Love Are There?”

Polyamory is not polygamy

At the same time, polyamory should not be based on formalized relationships as is the case in marriages. It differs from polygamy in which the latter, in addition to sticking only to cases where the marriage has taken place, consists of the union between a man and many women or a woman and many men.

Types of polyamory

The existence of blurred boundaries in the boundaries of what can and cannot be done in a polyamorous relationship has led to this type of affectivity sometimes being simply known as non-monogamy. This makes it possible to cover a very wide range of types of relationships, which does not limit the different ways of experiencing polyamory.

Although the way these types of polyamory are classified can vary depending on the type of criteria used to distinguish the categories, yes the main forms of polyamorous relationships can be highlighted. They are as follows.

1. Hierarchical polyamory

In this type of polyamory there is a nuclear group in which the relationship is more intense and a periphery in which the established relationships are secondary. Normally, each person has one primary relationship and others of lesser importance, which means that people involved in a primary relationship can veto the other, preventing them from engaging in a romantic relationship with certain people.

Among the different types of polyamory, this is the one that most closely resembles traditional couple relationships in Western countries.

2. Polyfidelity

Towards poly-fidelity intimate relationships are limited to a certain group of people and with very limited limits. Outside of this circle of members, sexual contact is not permitted.

3. Relational anarchy or free love

Relationship anarchy is the type of polyamory least similar to monogamous couple relationships. In it, thepeople involved in relationships do not have any kind of a priori restriction, And have complete freedom to choose how you relate to each particular person. Therefore, in relational anarchy there is no pressure for established relationships with others to fit into a set of stereotypical norms and there is no need to place labels that define them.

In short, relationship anarchy differs from other forms of polyamory by being much more unstructured. While it’s always consensus-based and requires some commitment, it’s built from the ground up when the relationship begins and is not based on expectations based on gender roles or traditions.

What kind of people practice polyamory?

Identifying the number of people who practice polyamory is extremely complicated, on the one hand because in many countries their presence is so small that it is difficult to study them, and on the other hand because it is so difficult to define what it is and what is not a polyamorous relationship. It is difficult not to fall into the bias when quantifying them. However, The number of Americans who practice some form of polyamory is estimated to be around 4 or 5% of the population., While in Spain, the percentage would be between 5 and 8%.

Regarding the profile of people who opt more for polyamorous relationships, a study by Loving More (a free love support organization) in which more than 4,000 polyamorous practitioners participated showed that 49.5% of participants were female, 35.4% were male, and 15.1% were people identified as non-binary or genderqueer.

Outraged, almost half of women and about 18% of men said they had had sex with people of the same sex in the past 12 months, Thus showing a tendency to active bisexuality significantly greater than the general population. These results align well with other studies in which it has been shown that among homosexuals and bisexuals, the number of polyamorous people is very large.

In contrast, the education level of polyamorous people was significantly higher than the average for the general population, and they showed a tendency to live with fewer children and adolescents at home.

Problems associated with this type of love

While it is difficult to quantify the number of polyamory practitioners, knowing how most of these people feel is no less difficult. For this it is necessary to carry out very expensive qualitative studies based on interviews, and data in this regard is very scarce.

However, for the available data there is no reason to think that the problems experienced by couples and traditional marriages go away in polyamorous relationships. While the different types of polyamory are very well defined on paper, it is often difficult to see the nature of the relationships they are meant to have reflected in reality.

For example, despite a preference for polyamory, jealousy or fear of being excluded from the relationship may arise, and sharing a network of emotional relationships with more than one person makes particularly effective management very necessary. sharing. Many common problems in the daily life of traditional couples are also present in people who practice polyamory.

On the other hand, there is no evidence that families formed around polyamorous relationships have more difficulty raising and educating boys and girls well. Elisabeth Sheff, in particular, conducted a longitudinal study for 15 years which found that parenting in polyamorous families proceeds normally, which is not surprising considering the typical profile and level of studies of people involved in polyamory.

There is still a lot to discuss

Polyamory can be many things, from a series of superficial changes applied to habitual couple relationships to a profound questioning of social conventions, marriage and the way in which the states of the world relate to it.

From gender studies related to the concept of patriarchy, for example, the existence of polyamory is highly relevant, as viewing it as an alternative to traditional romantic love makes it easier to argue than marriage and relationships. reasons, rather than being a reflection of how human biology predisposes us to relate.

The controversy is served

This generates a lot of discussion in sociology, anthropology and, of course, psychology, and as we delve deeper into the study of this phenomenon, opposing positions and different theories about what polyamory is will become apparent.

Researchers and academics who stress the role of genes, like most neuroscientists and evolutionary psychologists, are likely to tend to point out the difficulties of free love and to point out that the most devoid of standards types of polyamory are relatively not many.

On the contrary, supporters of the role of environment and learning will continue to defend the idea that polyamory is further proof of our virtually endless ability to invent new ways of connecting and reinventing affectivity without being limited. through our evolutionary past. Which of these two stories will have the most ability to explain what polyamory is is something that, at the moment and in the absence of more data, we cannot consider.

Bibliographical references:

  • Barker, M. and Langdridge, D. (2010). What happened to non-monogamies? Critical reflections on recent research and theory. Sexualities, 13, pages 748 – 772.
  • Díaz Morfa, J. quoted in Barbancho, J. Polyamory comes out of the closet, consulted on 07/25/2016 at 4:45 p.m.
  • Graham, N. (2014). Polyamour: A call to educate mental health professionals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43 (6), pages 1031-1034.
  • Sheff, E. (2013). Polyamorists on the side: within relationships and families of different partners. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
  • What Want Polys Want ?: An overview of the 2012 Loving More survey, accessed 07/25/2016 at 5.15 p.m.
  • Williams, DJ and Prior, EE (2015). Contemporary polyamory: a call for awareness and sensitivity in social work. Social work, 60 (3), p. 268 – 270.

Leave a Comment