An introduction to what it means to be polyamorous in 2017

“Open relationship”

I can remember the feeling that those words, that label, used to bring forth when I heard them in my late teens and early twenties.

When hearing that someone was in an open relationship, I automatically assumed that his or her relationship was not actually real. I didn’t consider it to be a bona fide relationship. I imagined that people in open relationships were not actually committed to one another. I figured that “open relationship” was just a cover-up term. Some part of me was sure that those people wanted to create the appearance of a relationship when in reality, they just wanted to fuck around. I never thought that an open relationship was something that could be taken seriously.

The other term that was whispered and giggled about was “swinging”. Couples who sexually swapped with other couples were often the talk of the town. Those acts were either frowned upon or fantasized about (or both… often by the same people). Swinging and open relationships have always had a bad rep, at least until recently. Now, people look at the terms with more open-minded curiosity than before. We also understand that there’s definitely more to this story.

After two separate, failed, back-to-back, four-year relationships, I began to question EVERYTHING I ever considered a relationship to be. On top of that, I questioned everything I understood about my sexuality as a whole. Through a lot of soul-searching and personal development, I figured out a few things about sex, love and relationships in general that most people don’t figure out until much later in life – if at all. I also discovered that there is a spectrum to everything.

That gray area exists, and is becoming a more legitimate way of living and loving for many people today.

Interestingly, this spectrum has always existed, but not only are we not taught about it in our formative years, but it’s been kept pretty “hush-hush”, much like being LGBTQ once was.

I have a theory that more people are now “coming out” as living and loving in alternative fashions due to the progress within LGBTQ rights. Now more than ever, it is acceptable to be open about your non-normalcy. In fact, we are in a time that celebrates these differences. We have come to realize that being different is actually pretty normal to begin with. The more people who come out and embrace their differences openly, the more we realize that we were always – and always will be – one and the same.

The next part of my theory is that since sexual identity is now being accepted and widely described as fluid, it is creating space for people who resonate with having relationships in ways that are different than “normal” to be more honest and discuss what works for them as well.

A little over two years ago, when I was mending a broken heart, bouncing back from the financial devastation of that relationship, and lost in the thrall of “finding myself”, I was given a book recommendation that completely changed my life.

It was the catalyst for much of my work today.

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha could not have come into my life at a better time.

It is made very clear at the beginning of the book that the authors had no intention for what their research was supposed to inspire in the reader. They said that they were just delivering what they found and the reader could do with it what they may.

The amount of “what the fuck” moments I had while absorbing the information in that book still blows my mind today.

It made me question everything that I had ever been taught. I questioned my faith. I questioned my family’s influence. I questioned cultural traditions.

And, the hardest and most significant interrogation of them all, I questioned my own ego.

Once I got over the initial shock, I found myself staring at a blank slate.

I decided that it was time to change.

It was my chance to reconstruct the foundation in all areas surrounding my sexuality and relationships.

I followed Sex at Dawn with Audible’s next recommendation on the reading list because I wasn’t sure what to do next, but I was hungry to keep expanding my mind.

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy cracked things wide open for me on a whole different level. I was introduced to terms and scenarios that I had never considered for myself.

One of those terms was POLYAMORY – the idea that one can love many.

I had needed to digest Sex at Dawn first and excuse monogamy from my relationship table, then learning this term became such a profound concept for me.

I had always been under the assumption that when you find your partner, soul mate or twin flame (or whatever you claim to have found), if you desire – let alone love – another person aside from your beloved, then you never really loved them in the first place. It meant that you were broken, and likely incapable of succeeding in a relationship altogether.

I understood that you should proclaim yourself – heart, mind, and body – to one other person and that is that. You don’t even consider acknowledging lust or a feeling of connection with another soul. If you do, then the relationship and all that you have built is already doomed.

However, The Ethical Slut tells a completely different story. It shows readers a picture of what various relationship structures look like.

I remember thinking, “Damn, I had a choice all along? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

Since my initial consciousness evolution surrounding sex and relationships, learning more has been a slight obsession of mine. I can’t seem to absorb enough information or literature on the psychology, biology, anthropology or sociology surrounding sex. I have even considered going back to school for a Master’s degree that would allow me to call myself a sexologist.

Something that I have found myself pondering and in conversation about recently is the idea that consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is a spectrum, and polyamory is just one portion.

When I babble incessantly to many of my friends, especially those who are following a more traditional lifestyle, I realize that many of them initially mistake polyamory for polygamy.

  • Polygamy – the state or practice of being married to more than one person at the same time.
  • Polygyny – having many wives.
  • Polyandry – having many husbands.

Polygamy as a whole, and as we know it today, outside of textbook definitions, has primarily favored the man. It has less to do with equality or consent and is often directly associated with Mormon faith practices.

There are many stigmas and negative connotations surrounding the term/act of polygamy for a variety of reasons. With knowledge comes understanding and compassion. Should you want more of the backstory, read up on it here – http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Polygamy

Polyamory, on the other hand, comes in many shapes and sizes, so I believe it is best described as a spectrum.

Being “poly” can include swinging, as well as committed relationships that play together, or other types of open relationships, like those with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. There are so many varying degrees and ways to love more than one person.

Here are just a few. . .

  • “V”

One man/woman with two partners. The partners are not in a relationship with each other.

Ex: A woman spends half her year in the US and half in Europe. She is in a committed relationship in each location. The people she is committed to are not in a romantic relationship with each other, although they know about each other.

  • Triad

Three people in a committed relationship with each other.

Ex: A husband and a wife have a sexually exclusive girlfriend.

  • The “Quad”

Four people in a committed relationship with each other. Can be any male to female ratio. Ex: two couples who met while swinging and each member formed a bond with the others within the dynamic. They decide to enter a committed relationship between couples.

  • Tribal Polyamory

A group of individuals maintain a communal relationship. There can be any male to female ratio. Typically, children are raised by all members of the “tribe”.

Ex: Two men and three women live in a ranch-style home with a large property. They have four children between them. They are all sexually exclusive with each other, and there is no paternity certainty. Each family member takes responsibility for the rearing of offspring.


Something else I would like to mention is that polyamory means “many loves”, which does not always have to involve sexual activity or intercourse. Polyamorous relationships can include a variety of individuals all providing romantic love to each other in whatever way is communicated and consented upon – with or without sex.

What I hope to inspire with this share is for people to realize that they aren’t necessarily broken in terms of having a successful relationship. Perhaps they’re just trying to operate in a system that they don’t belong in. Maybe what they are attempting to achieve is not what comes easiest or most natural, if given the chance to explore different modalities. If they allowed themselves to try out structures outside the “norm”, they might actually adventure into something that feels “right”.

I hope to educate those who have been left in the dark when it comes to polyamory and CNM. I want to spark interest in some couples by shedding light on areas that – should they explore further as a union – may strengthen their bond and keep their relationship intact for the long haul, as well as keep it fun, interesting and far from sexless.

I want people to know that it is okay to want something different… something more. It is just as natural to love many people as it is to choose only one.

I want to spark a few Aha moments. I hope that those who read and follow me get one step closer to freedom in this critical area of their lives.

That being said, what works for me may not work for you. What works for Bob and Joan down the road may not work for me or any other soul on the planet. However, do you know what deserves massive respect? That they, you, I and whoever else did the work. We took the time to discover ourselves. We figured out what turns us on, realized that there aren’t limits to love, that jealousy in relationships stems from constructs, and that the possibilities in love, sex and relationships are endless.

Infinitely yours,




“Why do you think we don’t tell kids that sex is pleasurable and feels good? Why do you think we only tell and teach them the consequences? Why do you think we only tell them about the less than 1% of sex we have as adults and not the 99%+ we actually have throughout our lives? Why don’t we teach them how to love? That sex and intimacy do not always go hand in hand?


Kevin Allison

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