Terms & Definitions
This page is a guide to many terms associated with polyamory; some are academic terms used to address multiple partner relationships in academia, some are used seriously to communicate actual concepts, and some are a tongue-in-cheek way to both communicate a concept and to poke fun at ourselves for our penchant for coming up with terms. Some of the definitions given here, particularly colloquialisms, reflect the usage I am most familiar with. Some of the terms contain my personal opinions, experiences, and/or interpretations and follow the word Commentary. Links in the definitions will take you to that word's definition elsewhere on this page and [bracketed links] will open a new page to an outside site. There are a few terms here that cross over into other subcultures, which overlap with the Poly community, such as terms you might hear in reference to Swinging, New Age, or Fetish cultures, but mostly I tried to limit those only to terms that also have strong usage in the poly community, and/or terms that are often confused or misused by those less-informed about Polyamory. For more information about BDSM or the Fetish culture, visit [www.xeromag.com/fvbdsm.html] and [www.symtoys.com]
~ Literally: the literal translation of each of the components of the word.
~ Colloquial: used colloquially or in ordinary conversation, not formal or literary.
~ Sociology: a technical term that originated in sociological academic circles but may occasionally be found used in poly conversations or discussions.
~ Facetious: a tongue-in-cheek term, a term that is used humorously and not seriously even though it legitimately covers a concept that is unique to polyamory or open relationships and that does not have a word outside of the community to cover it.
~ Commentary: the Innkeeper's personal comments or experiences with the term.
~ Usage: common ways the term is most often used.
~ Examples: an example of the term in use or an example of the concept the term is used for.
~ See: a link to a term where the definition will be covered because this term is less commonly used for the same concept as another word.
~ See related: a link to a term that is related, but not necessarily the same or synonymous.
~ See also: a link to a term that is synonymous or used interchangeably.
~ Also: synonymous or interchangeable terms that are not given their own entry in this glossary.
~ Contrast: a link to a term that is an antonym, is the opposite or opposed concept; an example in contrast to.
Most of these terms were provided by [www.morethantwo.com/polyglossary.html], one of the best poly resources available. A few terms come from [www.polymatchmaker.com] and still others come straight from my personal dictionary.
- ABUNDANT MODEL OF LOVE: The belief or philosophy that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time, that love is abundant.
- ADELPHOGAMY: Literally, adelphos = brother + gamos = marriage.
A specific form of polyandry, practiced historically and occasionally still practiced in some portions of Tibet and Nepal, in which a set of brothers is married to the same woman. See also: Leviratic Marriage. Also: FRATERNAL POLYANDRY, LEVIRATIC POLYANDRY.
- AGAMY: Literally, a = no + gamos = marriage.
1. A state or condition of not engaging in marriage, or more generally not engaging in marriage or reproduction.
2. Sociology; of or relating to a society with no recognized rules or prescriptions on marriage, or which does not recognize marriage at all.
- AGREEMENT: A set of statements proclaiming goals or intentions for people towards or regarding each other that two or more people concur on; a course of action approved on; or a set of behaviours for each person or the relationship that they're in, which each person can use to build reasonable expectations of the other's behaviour. Agreements usually involve instructing each other on what each can and can't do to the other, but sometimes include what each can and can't do with others - many times others who did not participate in the discussion or negotiation of said agreement.
Commentary: Often used as a weasel-word to be used in place of the word "rule" to disguise a rule, to avoid the social stigma of having rules, or to take the moral high ground in a disagreement about appropriate behaviour. The use of the word in this context is, in effect, similar or identical in practice to the use of a "rule". When used in this manner, agreements can often be used as a tool for rules-lawyering.
- ANCHOR: A serious, emotionally intimate relationship that one feels is supportive without implying a ranking system and can apply to any relationship including romantic, non-romantic, sexual or non-sexual, platonic, familiar, etc. Coined by [Cunning Minx] in 2010 on her Poly Weekly podcast blog.
"Truly what I want is one person in this world who gets me. An anchor. Two or three people would be great, but really, everything after one gravy. ... I like "anchor" because it implies support without exclusivity (more anchors is better) and a state of connectedness without implying a sexual, live-in or hierarchical arrangement. My anchors could be a long-distance friend and an in-town lover; two live-in partners; a long-distance lover, an in-town friend, a partner and a metamour; or any other combination." Non-hierarchical alternative to the term "primary". See related core, satellite, comet, indoor / outdoor cats.
- BIGAMY: Literally, bi = two + gamos = marriage
1. A relationship in which one person is married to two spouses. Gender of any spouse is not implied by use of this word.
2. Illegal In most Western countries; the crime of entering in one marriage while still legally married to another person; marriage fraud. See related polygamy, polygyny, polyandry. See related Enoch Arden Act.
- BIPOLY: Colloquial; Of or related to a person who is both bisexual and polyamorous.
- BI POLY SWITCH: Colloquial; sometimes humorous; Of or related to a person who is bisexual and polyamorous and who is a BDSM switch, capable of taking on either a dominant or submissive role in sex.
Commentary: There is a popular T-shirt reads "I'm a bi poly switch and I still won't sleep with you" which indicates that being flexible in one's sexual and/or relationship roles does not assume or imply consent to a sexual relationship, nor interest in any given individual. Being available for a relationship does not mean that one is available to just any person. The shirt is also intended to imply that the reason one is not interested is because of personal fault or incompatibility with "you" rather than mere availability conflicts with the wearer. You can find a related shirt that reads [I'm bi, poly, & kinky and I still won't sleep with you].
- BISEXUAL: Of or related to sexual attraction to or sexual activity with both men and women; as, a bisexual person: 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. See also: fluid bonding, condom contract. Usage: Originated in the BDSM community; becoming increasingly common in the BDSM and poly communities.
- BOUNDARY: Boundaries are the edges of where a person ends and the rest of the world begins; The metaphorical lines drawn between what kind of behaviour from others is acceptable and what is off-limits with regards to how that behaviour affects one's physical, emotional or mental well-being; A limitation that a person places on themselves or their own behaviour, but not on other people or other people's behaviour, to protect their own well-being.
Example: A person who prefers to use condoms in all instances of sexuality involving penises. A boundary does not dictate, illustrate, explain, expect, or request any behaviour from another person except as it pertains to how that other person can treat the person with the boundary, and it explains or illustrates a personal limitation on a person's own behaviour. A boundary cannot be something placed on someone else, such as a person who insists one's partner always use condoms with other people.
Other Examples: I do not like to be around cats; I do not like to date smokers; I prefer to not have contact with my partners' other partners; I prefer to get STD test results from my partners before breaking HPV Boundaries with them; I need a certain amount of alone time to feel happy; I prefer to always use latex barriers during sexual activity.
Not Examples: I don't want you having sex with other people without using condoms; I don't like you dating him; I need you to not spend so much time with her; I want you to quit smoking; I want you to get rid of your cat.
- CANDAULISM: Sexual arousal from watching one's spouse have sex with or engage in sexual activity with another person. Similar to voyuerism but reserved specifically for watching sexual activty with one's own spouse, not watching sexual activity in general. See related compersion.
- CHEATING: In a relationship, any activity which 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. Sometimes, in traditional monogamous relationships, any deep emotional bond with anyone outside that relationship of that person's preferred gender orientation is also considered cheating; as in, a heterosexual male/female couple where the female has a deep emotional bond with a heterosexual male who is not her partner is cheating, but a "best friend" who is a heterosexual female is not considered 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, although it can be more complicated based on intentions and whether or not all parties understand that the activity in question falls under the umbrella of "cheating" and whether or not the relationship operates as Rules-Based or Consequence-Based.
- CHOICE FAMILY: See intentional family. Also: CHOSEN FAMILY.
- CIVIL CONTRACT: A legally binding contract enforced under civil law, which are rules of "private law" as opposed to "criminal law". In this sense, civil law covers contracts, ownership of property, and payment for personal injury.
Commentary: A "civil marriage" or "civil contract" with regards to partnership, is a partnership that is governed by a legal set of responsibilities and rights, as opposed to a religious marriage, which is a union sanctioned by or given blessing by a church or religious body with its own set of implied or stated rights and responsibilities. In many countries, the two types of marriage go hand in hand, but a partnership can sometimes have one without the other. Civil Contracts are not directly related to polyamory, however, the concept of marriage and other laws that affect romantic and sexual relationships is very much an issue to poly folk. It is with regards to who is allowed to enter into these contracts, and what the contracts include, that affect poly folk and the LGBTQIA+ community.
- CLOSED MARRIAGE: Any marriage where there is no romantic emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage; monogamous marriage. Contrast: open marriage. Commentary: This is the most popular and desired form of marriage in most Western countries, although statistics suggest that compliance is not as high as the preference for closed marriages. See related Closed Group Marriage.
- CLOSED GROUP MARRIAGE: A polyfidelitous relationship in which all the members consider themselves to be married to each other and there is no romantic emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage. See related closed marriage, group marriage.
- CLOSED RELATIONSHIP: Any romantic relationship, such as a conventional monogamous relationship or a polyfidelitous relationship, which specifically excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.
- CLUSTER MARRIAGE: 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.
- CO-HABITATE: To live together. Cohabiting: the state or practice of living together. Usually used to describe romantic partners who share a dwelling in a "traditional" romantic living-together situation, such as spouses and/or with shared finances, rooms, and assumed divisions of labor; or may also be used to describe arrangements more typical of platonic roommates or housemates or flatmates with separate finances, rooms, and negotiated division of labor, where the cohabitors may or may not also be in a romantic / sexual relationship.
- CO-HUSBAND: 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.
- COMET: Non-hierarchical alternative to the term "tertiary". A romantic and/or sexual partner who is casual, sporadic, or temporary with no ongoing intentions of longevity, although it may end up lasting a long time. Coined by "Dee" as a guest caller on the [Poly Weekly] podcast in 2016, it is described as: "This is someone who passes through your life repeatedly who is intense and awesome and when gone you were still in contact with that person in some way, but they're not a continuous partner". See related anchor, core, satellite, indoor / outdoor cats.
- COMPERSION: A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Commentary: Compersion is often called "the opposite of jealousy;" it is a positive emotional reaction to a loved one's other romantic relationship(s). The term was coined by the Kerista Commune when some of the members used a Ouiji type "alphabet" board and likely a couple of the players (subconsciously) fought over the answer to a question about what to call this feeling and ended up with this unwieldy term.
It differs from candaulism in that compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of someone nor does it require watching any sexual activity, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic and/or sexual partner and can be felt by merely thinking of one's own partner and their other relationships or by observing one's partner in a happy state because of the other relationships without the other partners being present.
It is analagous to the feeling of joy a parent feels when their children marry, or that best friends feel for each other when they are happy in a relationship. See related candaulism, frubble.
- COMPLEX MARRIAGE: A doctrine which holds that all the male members of a particular group or community are, upon joining the group, married to all the female members, and all the female members are, upon joining the group, married to all the male members. This doctrine was established as part of the Oneida Community.
- CONDOM CONTRACT: 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. Also CONDOM COMPACT, CONDOM COMMITMENT
- CONSEQUENCE-BASED RELATIONSHIP: A relationship that structures itself around each individual making informed decisions about their own actions based on the consequences of those actions and usually filtered by compassion and a desire to honor and cherish the relationships that would be affected by the actions; a relationship that does not adhere to the idea of rules where one partner can tell another partner what they are or are not allowed to do.
These relationships tend to rely more upon personal boundaries, where each person expresses what they are comfortable with for their own bodies but does not expect or demand or require the ability to dictate what their partners do with their own bodies. These relationships tend to have a great deal of flexibility and fluidity, where one may have partners who may fall somewhat outside of one's comfort zone or boundaries, but one manages the relationship by arranging it or instituting boundaries between one and one's partner to accommodate for the differences.
Often mistaken for Rules-Based Relationships by people outside of the relationship when outcomes are similar, such as when one partner self-limits behaviour in deference to a partner's preferences. The difference is internal, where these relationships do not have any implied power exchange and neither partner has agreed to accept any degree of power over the other partner.
These relationships operate on trust between the partners that each will choose to do things that honor and cherish the relationship, such as either complying with a request or being honest about not complying with a request so that accommodations for not complying can be made. Non-compliance is not viewed as a breach of the relationship or cheating, but a point at which a relationship may need to be adjusted.
These relationships will tend to address conflict within the relationship solely in terms that exclude other relationships while finding solutions to conflict solely within the relationship, i.e. if one does not feel one is getting enough time with the other, one will take care not to blame the problem on the other's new partner and to request a solution of increasing time together without specifying where that extra time should come from such as expecting the other to reduce time with the new partner. The expectation is that the other will want to honor the relationship and can find the extra time from wherever the other deems appropriate without requiring one to tell the other where it should come from.
These relationships are built on a foundation of individuality, personal autonomy, and respect for differences. See related: New Paradigm Relating. Contrast: Rules-Based Relationships.
- CO-PRIMARY: A person who is one of two or more primary partners in a polyamorous relationship, as in Bob and Joe are my co-primaries. Use of this term does not imply gender or orientation of any individual involved. See also: primary/secondary; See related secondary, tertiary.
- CORE RELATIONSHIP: Non-hierarchical alternative to the term "primary". A relationship that is emotionally intimate and significant in one's life and may or may not contain recognized "relationship markers", such as a romantic and/or sexual connection, fluid-bonding, cohabitation, legal marriage, relationship symbolism like exchanged rings, legal or financial entanglement, co-parenting, etc. A term intended to deliberately imply significance and to deliberately avoid implying ranking above or below other partners, either theoretical or practical. There may be more than one core partner.
Commentary: Joreth Innkeeper originally coined this term to describe a partnership that felt, for all intents and purposes, like a "primary", emotionally speaking, but that was not a live-in partnership, had no intention of becoming a live-in partnership, and the partner was not ranked "above" any other partner in terms of power or priority-by-default because priority was assigned on a situational basis. But the emotions felt towards this partner and relationship felt as strong as any tradtional life partner, so another term that implied the strength of the emotions without the ranking was needed. See related anchor, satellite, comet, indoor / outdoor cats.
- CORPORATE MARRIAGE: 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.
- CO-SPOUSE: A person in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with another person in that group marriage. Use of this term does not imply gender or orientation of any individual involved. See also: co-husband, co-wife.
- COUPLE PRIVILEGE: A complex and often invisble set of social expectations and benefits for people in an established and accepted romantic couple that people who are not part of the couple or people who are in alternative relationship structures do not receive and who, instead, feel the brunt of certain obligations or discriminations for not being part of an established and accepted romantic couple.
Some benefits may include, but are not limited to: Being a partner in an established couple is assumed to be invited to social gatherings; Hotel and travel arrangements accommodate two adults but not one or more than two; The ability to get legally married; The assumption that a pre-established dyad needs to be "protected" but a new or more recent relationship does not deserve the same amount of "protection"; automatic priority or deference given to the partner in the established couple, etc.
- COVENANT MARRIAGE: Legal; A marriage which includes a legally-binding clause in the marriage contract specifying that the couple can not divorce, or can not divorce easily. Commentary: Only a handful of states in the United States recognize covenant marriage provisions.
- COWBOY: Colloquial; A monogamous person who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention of separating him or her from any other partners and bringing him or her into a monogamous relationship ("roping a filly out of the herd" or "taming a wild poly"). This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian.
Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage his partner's other relationships identify this person. He may not even be aware of his behaviour, having his intention be subconcious. Some people prefer to use gender-appropriate suffices, such as "cowboy" for men trying to separate someone and "cowgirl" for women trying to separate someone, although others use "cowboy" for any gender, or as a gender-neutral term. This should not be confused with a person who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers he is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after his attempt. See also: cowgirl. See related Cuckoo.
- COWGIRL: Colloquial; A monogamous woman who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention of separating him or her from any other partners and bringing him or her into a monogamous relationship ("roping a filly out of the herd" or "taming a wild poly"). This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian.
Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage her partner's other relationships identify this woman. She may even not be aware of her behaviour, having her intention be subconcious. Cowgirl is rarely used, usually by people who prefer gender-specific descriptions. Often, the term cowboy is used for any gender or as a gender-neutral term, but "cowgirl" is not applied to male-identified people. This should not be confused with a woman who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers she is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after her attempt. See also: cowboy. See related: Cuckoo.
- CO-WIFE: 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.
- CROSS-COUPLE: 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 of a couple and a second person who is part of another couple. A gender-specific example may be "wife-swapping", which is commonly found in the swingers community.
- CUCKOO: Colloquial; A monogamous person who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention turning the relationship monogamous by making his or her metamours so uncomfortable or unhappy that they just leave, making the relationship monogamous by default. This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian. The slang word originated because cuckoo birds place their eggs in other birds' nests to make another set of parents raise the chick. Then, when the cuckoo chick is born, it pushes all the other legitimate chicks out of the nest to get all the parents' attention for itself.
Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage her partner's other relationships identify this person. He or she may even not be aware of the behaviour, having the intention be subconcious. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell if someone is a cuckoo or a cowboy, especially if they deny being either. This is a person who claims to be polyamorous or legitimately "trying" but who blames his or her default monogamous status on coincidence. This person can say "of course I'm poly, it's not my fault all your partners dump you!"
The difference between a cuckoo and a cowboy is that a cowboy tries to turn her poly partner into a monogamous partner, whereas a cuckoo doesn't try to change the poly partner, she only scares everyone else away so that the relationship is monogamous by default. This should not be confused with a person who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers he or she is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after the attempt. See related: Cowboy, Cowgirl.
- CYCLIC MONOGAMY: 1. Colloquial; 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. 2. Sociology - Serial monogamy. Commentary: In the case of Def. 1, there have been several recorded cases in which a person, usually a man, has a job or life which requires regular travel, and maintains romantic partners in separate cities, which technically makes it bigamy. 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.
- DADT (acronym): See Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
- DEMOCRATIC FAMILY: Colloquial; A family, typically a family practicing group marriage, in which all the adult partners are considered equal.
- DOMESTIC GROUP: Sociology; 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, including the Innkeeper, 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.
- DYAD: A relationship involving exactly two people. The most accepted form of romantic relationship in most Western countries is a monogamous dyad. A poly family of multiple adults can be considered to be made up of a collection of dyads, as each person in the family may have a partnership with one or more of the others in the family. For example, a poly family with 4 adults, 2 heterosexual males and 2 heterosexual females, may be comprised of 4 dyads (more on that on the Poly Configurations page. Contrast: triad, quad; See related serial monogamy.
- EGALITARIAN POLYAMORY: A relationship structure where each person in any given relationship is equal in power to the other person in that relationship to shape and control that specific relationship and no one outside of that relationship has any more power over that relationship than the people in the relationship.
Commentary: This is one of the most misunderstood terms in polyamory. People seem to think that it means making one person's partner "equal" to that person's other partner in that person's life. But it doesn't. It means making one person "equal" to their partner, not their metamour.
Example: Quinn is in a relationship with Jordan. Quinn and Jordan have equal power to negotiate with each other regarding what their relationship looks like and nobody has more power than Quinn and Jordan to determine what the relationship between Quinn and Jordan looks like. Quinn is also in a relationship with Charlie. Quinn and Charlie have equal power to negotiate with each other regarding what their relationship looks like. Jordan does not have a say in the relationship between Quinn and Charlie, and Charlie does not have a say in the relationship between Quinn and Jordan. However, because Quinn loves both Charlie and Jordan, Quinn takes into consideration the feelings of both Charlie and Jordan when making important life decisions that primarily affect Quinn.
When decisions primarily affect Quinn and one of Quinn's partners jointly, then Quinn and that partner make joint decisions while the other person does not get to have equal or greater power to affect those decisions that do not primarily affect that other person. If the decision affects Quinn and one partner primarly but also affects the other partner partly, then Quinn and the first partner make the joint decision but the other partner gets to participate in the discussion because the other partner is partly affected by the decision.
Quinn may have more responsibilities with Jordan than Quinn has with Charlie because Quinn lives with Jordan, but Charlie and Quinn have equal decision-making power about their relationship and Jordan does not have equal decision-making power about Charlie's and Quinn's relationship, whereas Charlie and Jordan have equal decision-making power about their relationship and Charlie does not have equal decision-making power about Quinn's and Jordan's relationship. Each person has equal partner to their partner in the relationship, not to their metamour. This is what makes it "egalitarian". See also: Non-Hierarchical Polyamory. Contrast: Hierarchy, Rules Based Relationships
- ÉGOTISME À DEUX: Literally, French, egotism for two. A term used by members of the Oneida community for monogamy.
- ELECTIVE AFFINITY: Sociology; A social system whereby people choose their own mates or spouses, as opposed to a society which practices arranged marriage.
- EMOTIONAL FIDELITY: A belief or practice that emotional intimacy or love must be kept exclusive to a particular relationship, though sexual activity or other forms of physical intimacy may occur outside that relationship. Commentary: Some swingers practice emotional fidelity. This is often also a rule or practice in prescriptive primary/secondary polyamorous relationships. See related exclusive relationship.
- ENDOGAMY: A state or practice whereby individuals are permitted to marry only within a specific group, such as a religious or social group.
- ENOCH ARDEN ACT: Legal; Any law or statute permitting remarriage in a case where a person's spouse is missing and presumed dead, and exempting such a person from charges of bigamy should it later turn out that the missing spouse is still alive. Etymology: Enoch Arden was a character in a poem by Alfred Tennyson. Also: ENOCH ARDEN LAW
- ENVY: The desire to have, experience or posses that which someone else has, experiences or possesses; covetousness, a feeling of coveting a person, thing, or experience that another has. Commentary: This can be a very reasonable desire to have or experience something that someone else has or experiences that doesn't necessarily include the wish that the person not also have or experience that something. It can also be an overwhelming feeling of possessiveness or a combination of feeling left out, being alone, or even the desire to take that something from the other person to have it for oneself. More on this subject on the [Jealousy page]. See related jealousy.
- ETHICAL SLUT: Colloquial; A person who openly chooses to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way, and who openly revels in that decision. See related responsible non-monogamy. Commentary: The term comes from the book The Ethical Slut, which advocates reclaiming the word "slut" from its derogatory meaning of a promiscuous woman.
- ETHICAL SLUT, THE: A book (Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press, 1998, ISBN 1890159018) which outlines a framework for responsible non-monogamy and champions taking joy in ethical, safe promiscuity. Commentary: The Ethical Slut is not a book about polyamory per se; the primary focus is on creating relationships which are not sexually monogamous and are positive and healthy, but it does not focus exclusively on loving or emotional intimate relationships, and does not create frameworks for managing the emotional or romantic component of such relationships. Nevertheless, it is very popular in the polyamory community, and is very useful to many polyamorous people. The ideas described in The Ethical Slut are pertinent to and are valuable in swinging relationships as well.
- EXCLUSION JEALOUSY: Psychology; A fear, which may or may not 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. Commentary: The term exclusion jealousy was coined by Ronald Mazer in the book The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles (Beacon Press, 1973, ISBN 0595001025).
- EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: 1. A monogamous relationship. 2. Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will; as, for example, a polyfidelitous relationship.
- EXOGAMY: Marriage to a partner outside of one's particular group, such as a religious or social group.
- EXPANDED FAMILY: See intentional family.
- FF: A dyad where both partners are female.
- FFF: A triad with three females, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.
- FFM: A triad of a female, another female, and a male, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.
- FLUID-BONDING: Of or related to practices which involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as barrier-free sexual intercourse and BDSM. Some people use the term "fluid-bond" to refer to an agreement between two or more people regarding fluid exchanges among those people. Some people put more emphasis on the "fluid" part of the fluid-bond by using it to discuss sexual safety and disease management and is a purely practical agreement or set of boundaries. Other people place the emphasis on the "bond" part of the term and use it to describe or prescribe emotional boundaries that the fluid exchange represents. See related condom contract, HPV boundaries, STD boundaries.
- FMF: A triad of a female, a male, and another female, possibly a vee with the male as the pivot.
- FMM: A triad of a female, a male, and another male, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.
- FOUR-CORNERED MARRIAGE: 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.
- FRATERNAL POLYANDRY: See adelphogamy.
- FREE AGENT: Colloquial; A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate, compartmentalize, or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents themself as "single" or behaves in ways which are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when they have 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 Free Agent prioritizes individuality and personal freedom over group agreements, dynamics, or concerns. This does not mean that a Free Agent cannot have deeply intimate relationship or is necessarily callous or selfish with regards to their actions that affect their partners. Consideration for others may still heavily influence that decision-making process. A Free Agent just believes that their preference is the final or most heavily weighed element in the decision-making process, above and beyond the preferences of others. Contrast: Inclusion-Model, Inclusive Relationship.
Commentary: Some believe there are not necessarily two distinct styles of polyamory, those of Free Agent and Family-Oriented, but rather there is a continuum with Free Agent on one end and Family-Oriented on the other. Most people fall somewhere in the middle to one side or the other, with extreme examples of Free Agent resembling casual sex partners or friends with benefits where the partners have no contact and possibly even no first-hand knowledge of each other and no say or influence on the Free Agent's daily life or important life decisions; and extreme examples of Family-Oriented resembling Polyfidelitous relationships where any new partner of anyone in the Polyfidelitous group automatically has an equal relationship with all other members of the group and the word or preference of someone within the group carries equal or greater weight on an individual's decisions than the individual's preferences themselves. Some people are capable of having relationships of varying degrees of emotional intimacy and may slide along the continuum at different times with different relationships.
As of the turn of the millenia, "Free Agent" is gradually losing common usage among poly circles and being replaced by "Solo Poly". See related: relationship anarchy.
- FREE LOVE: The belief that sexual relationships should be unrestricted and disassociated from ideas of love, commitment, marriage, or obligation. Commentary: Many advocates of free love object to the concept of marriage altogether, as they see it as a way to impose constraints and obligation on sexuality. Etymology: The term "free love" is generally attributed to John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, who later abandoned it in favor of complex marriage.
- FREEMATE: A non-married partner in a group relationship. See related metamour, group marriage, other significant other (oso).
- FRENCH-KISS: Colloquial, facetious; A group of polyamorists, specifically a group who are all romantically connected to each other, i.e. gaggle of geese, flock of birds, kiss of polyamorists. Example: "I was out at the pub with my french-kiss this evening." or "I went to a party with a french-kiss of polyamorists last weekend. See also: intentional family, intentional community, kiss, polyfamily, tribe, network, .<.p>
- FRIENDS-FIRST SWINGING: A form of swinging in which the people involved do not engage in sexual activities with anonymous or random partners, but instead have sex outside an existing relationship only with other people who are already close friends. In this form of swinging, emotionally intimate bonds can and often do form between all the people involved; this kind of swinging can often look very similar to polyamory, the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. Commentary: Hollywood images of swing clubs and anonymous sex aside, friends-first swinging is arguably one of the most common forms of swinging.
- FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB): A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship which includes sex or sexual activity, but without romantic love and usually without the same type or degree of expectations or other practical or emotional entanglements that typically accompany romantic relationships. Generally indistinguishable from a platonic friendship in all areas, such as how it looks to people outside and how it feels to the participants emotionally, except that there is also sexual activity.
FWB is not limited to the poly community. Monogamous people and those of other relationship styles may also engage in FWB relationships for the convenience of sexual activity without the obligations or emotional entanglement of more traditionally structured romantic relationships. Monogamous people in particular find FWB relationships very convenient when one has other time or attention obligations, such as a very busy work schedule, where they may want physical or sexual contact with another person but not have the time or emotional energy to devote to a more emotionally intimate relationship, or when they are not currently involved with anyone they consider to be The One but would like to maintain an active sex life in the meantime while they continue to search or wait for The One.
- FRUBBLE: A pleasant emotion of happiness arising from seeing one's partner with another partner. Contrast: wibble; See also: compersion. Usage: Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.
- FUCKBUDDY: Colloquial; vulgar. See friends with benefits.
- FWB (acroynym): See Friends With Benefits.
- GROUP MARRIAGE: 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 have emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements which specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation which defines the marriage. See related corporate marriage, cluster marriage, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, troika.
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- HANDFASTING: 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 New Age, 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.
- HBB (acronym): Colloquial; see Hot Bi Babe, unicorn.
- HEINLEIN, ROBERT A. (1907-1988): An American science fiction author well-known in the polyamory community as an early advocate and outspoken champion of polyamorous-like relationships, but who died before the term was ever coined and so probably would not have used the term "polyamory" or its derivatives. Many of his novels, most notably the Hugo-award-winning Stranger in a Strange Land (Ace, 1961, ISBN 0441790348), feature polyamorous characters and relationships.
- HIERARCHY: A term used to denote an unequal power structure among participants in any kind of non-monogamous relationship or group. Commentary: This term is often used incorrectly to describe uneven priorities among poly groups, where a legally married couple with children will often claim that, because they share mingled finances and co-parenting duties, they prioritize their dyad over the relationships they have with other people. They think that because they do not give the person they're dating-but-not-living-with keys to the house or put the name on the mortgage or parental responsibilities, that this makes the relationship "hierarchical".
Using the term in this way has caused a lot of problems in the poly community because it makes it too confusing to distinguish between normal, healthy priorities and responsibilities vs. disempowering people in their relationships. In all other areas of society where the term "hierarchy" is used, it is intended to describe some kind of power or ranking structure, not merely a difference in structure without ranking. It has been [suggested] on many occasions that the term be reserved for discussions of empowerment and disempowerment as intended while keeping "priority" separate, to better address abuse and unhealthy dynamics in the community and in relationships. Whenever The Innkeeper speaks of hierarchy, she is speaking of unequal distributions of power.
Contrast: Non-Hierarchical. See related: Rules-Based Relationships, Veto Power, Relationship Escalator, Indoor / Outdoor Cats, Primary, Secondary.
- HINGE: Colloquial; see pivot.
- HOT BI BABE (HBB): Colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. 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 in "They're just looking for a hot bi babe". Such a person may be referred to as a "mythical hot bi babe" or "unicorn". Some members of the polyamory community self-identify as hot bi babes as a form of tongue-in-cheek intentional irony.
- HPV BOUNDARIES: Limitations imposed by oneself, one's partner, or by group agreement that dictate what sexual activities are permissable with whom and when changes to those limitations can be made, the purpose of which is to limit exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus and other STDs. For more information about HPV and how it relates to poly relationships, see the Safer Sex Issues page and visit [The InnKeeper's STI Journal] for the latest in sexual safety. See also: std boundaries
- HUNDRED-MILE RULE: Colloquial; 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 which 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.
- INCLUSION-MODEL: Of or relating to a preference or a structure of polyamorous relationships that form an emotionally supportive framework or support structure between the various partners and metamours. A polyamorous relationship whose participants see all relationships as interconnected and seek to build relationships that are mutually compatible and supporting, who don't view the other partners as competition, and who seek to find relationships in which everyone involved is comfortable with everyone else involved. Any relationship configuration including intimate network may be inclusion-model. Also FAMILY-BASED POLYAMORY, FAMILY-ORIENTED POLYAMORY.
Commentary: People who participate in "inclusion-model" polyamory or who consider themselves "family-oriented" like to form independent friendships and relationships with their partners' other partners, regardless of sexual orientation. They tend to be aware of and consider very strongly how their actions and behaviours affect not only all of their partners, but their partners' other partners, when making decisions such as adding new romantic partners, moving, career changes, and social plans.
See related intimate network, intentional family, co-husband, co-primary, co-spouse, co-wife, democratic family, domestic group, freemate, inclusive relationship, lover-in-law, metamour, platonic relationship, poly family, tocotox, tribe, Contrast: free agent, Don't Ask Don't Tell.
- INCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: Any relationship whose participants see all relationships as interconnected and seek to build relationships that are mutually compatible and supporting. People who prefer inclusive relationships seek to find partners who will respect the existing relationships, who can spend time together, and who don't view each other as competition. They seek to find relationships in which everyone involved feels comfortable with everyone else involved, and tend to be aware of the effects of each of their relationships on all the others. See related inclusion-model polyamory. Contrast: exclusive relationship.
- INDOOR / OUTDOOR CATS: Non-hierarchical alternative relationship labels like primary and secondary without the implied ranking or even value judgement of "less" or "more" than. "Indoor cats" are those relationships that take more care and are more entangled while "outdoor cats" take less care and are less entangled. Commentary: This term was originally coined by Poly-Anna to describe the differences she sees between ex-partners and current partners. This analogy was further expanded by [Emanix] on her blog to differentiate between types of active relationships. She says,
Some cats really don't like living indoors and want more freedom, or are suited to a different style of household. Some cats like to live indoors most of the time, but occasionally go off a-wandering. Some cats have two households. Some cats may bring other cats home with them, or the occasional small animal to play with, and it is quite possible to have more than one Indoor Cat as long as they get on well together, or have enough space. These labels can still be descriptive or prescriptive ... but I really like that there is no implied value judgement. Something that's ever so hard to avoid with language like primary/secondary or anchor/satellite or most of the terms I've come across in poly circles. The Outdoor Cat is not automatically less important than the Indoor Cat, is not due any less love, respect or consideration, the Outdoor Cat is still very much a cat in its own right, it's just a different living situation.See related anchor, core, satellite, comet.
- INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY: A residential community made up of people who share a common set of ideas, principles, or goals, and deliberately set out to create a planned community which reflects those ideas and goals. Intentional communities need not be polyamorous; there are intentional communities built around common religious, philosophical, or economic ideas, for example. Some polyamorous families create intentional communities with the idea of deliberately constructing a community built around non-monogamous relationship structures.
- INTENTIONAL FAMILY: 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.
- INTIMATE NETWORK: Colloquial; 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. Also: NETWORK.
- JEALOUSY: TThe fear of losing something one already has; a resentment of another person who wants or has a relationship or experience that one currently has, often coupled with a belief that another has the ability to take away that relationship or experience from oneself. Jealousy is a composite emotion, meaning that it is made up of other emotions, usually fear-based emotions such as the fear of inadequacy or the fear of being alone. Its complexity causes much confusion and current Western societies not only forgive jealousy, but expect it within the context of romantic relationships. More on this subject on the [Jealousy page]. See related envy.
- KERISTA COMMUNE: An experiment in polyamorous living in San Francisco, which was founded in 1971 and broke up in 1991. The Kerista Commune was founded on the ideas of group marriage, shared economic resources, and intentional community. The commune was organized into "clusters," each of which was typically made up of between four and fifteen people and each of which functioned as a single polyfidelitous group. The Kerista Commune championed group control of individual responsibility, even going so far in some cases as to make group decisions about individual members' vocations, and assigning members to sleeping partners on a rotating schedule. The commune disbanded following very serious internal rifts in the early 1990s.
Commentary: The Kerista Commune was an early advocate of polyamory, coining terms now common in the polyamorous community such as compersion and polyfidelity. The group eventually failed for a number of reasons, among them personality conflicts within the group, problems with financial management, an emphasis on fixed and inflexible sleeping schedules, and hostile attitudes toward bisexuality and homosexuality on the part of some members. This would be an extreme example of the inclusion model or family-oriented polyamory.
- KISS: Colloquial, facetious; A group of polyamorists, i.e. gaggle of geese, flock of birds, kiss of polyamorists. Example: "I was out at the pub with my kiss this evening." or "I went to a party with a kiss of polyamorists last weekend." May not necessarily imply that all members are romantically related to each other, only that everyone in the group be polyamorous. See related: intentional family, intentional community, french kiss, polyfamily, tribe.
- KITICHEN TABLE POLYAMORY: Colloquial; A poly network or family or intentional family or intentional community that encourages everyone in the group to develop independent friendships with each other such that everyone or most people in the polycule is comfortable "sitting around the kitchen table in their PJs having coffee. It could include polyfidelity but it isn't necessarily exclusive." Credited to the poly webcomic [Kimchi Cuddles]. See also: inclusion model. See related: intentional family, intentional community, french kiss, polyfamily, tribe.
- LANGDON CHART: A chart which indicates a person's current and past sexual partners, and all their current and past sexual partners, and so on. Etymology: Coined by Kevin Langdon in the mid-1960s.
- LDR (acronym): See Long-Distance Relationship.
- LEVIRATIC MARRIAGE: Sociology; A system by which when a man dies, his brother marries his widow.
- LEVIRATIC POLYANDRY: Sociology; see Adelphogamy.
- LIFE PARTNER: A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship. Commentary: A life partner need not necessarily be a spouse, though most often a spouse is a life partner. In some cases, someone may consider a partner's partner to be a life partner even though there is no direct sexual or romantic relationship with that person. See related: Nesting Partner, Core Partner, Satellite Partner.
- LIMERENCE: A strong desire for, longing for, or preoccupation with another person, accompanied by a sometimes overwhelming desire for reciprocation. Limerence may be accompanied by idealization of the person so desired. Etymology: The term limerence was coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who described it in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (Scarborough House, 1979, ISBN 0812862864).
Commentary: Limerence is distinct from new relationship excitement in that it is more akin to what people commonly call a "crush," and may not be associated with a relationship at all. Some researchers have linked limerence to quantifiable physiological processes in the brain, particularly to depressed levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Some people in the polyamory community use the word limerence as a synonym for NRE, though this usage is not technically correct.
- LINE MARRIAGE: A specific form of group marriage in which younger partners are added to the relationship as older partners age; hypothetically, such a relationship would eventually reach equilibrium, adding new partners as existing partners die. Etymology: The term (and the idea behind it) was coined by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.
- LOLOMYLO: Colloquial. Short for "lover's lover who is also my lover". Commentary: One's partner's other partner is called one's metamour. Usually when a metamour is also a partner, they are simply referred to as a partner as well. But sometimes people feel the need to identify both the partner and the metamour connection simultaneously and occasionally people will come up with unique terms to represent both concepts at the same time. Etymology: The term was coined by Maxine Green when she realized that she had so many folks in her network who were metamours and also partners at the same time that she needed a word for it.
See related intimate network, intentional family, co-husband, co-primary, co-spouse, co-wife, democratic family, domestic group, freemate, inclusive relationship, lover-in-law, metamour, metametamour, other significant other (oso), parallelamour (def. 1), poly family, tocotox, triad, tribe, Contrast: free agent, Don't Ask Don't Tell, parallelamour (def. 2), platonic 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.
- LOVER-IN-LAW: Colloquial; 1. A partner of one's partner; metamour, other significant other (oso). 2. The biological family of one's partner. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 1, most often applied to a metamour with whom one has a close relationship. Rarely, if ever, used for biological family of one's lover (see outlaw).
- LOVE TRIANGLE: 1. See triad. 2. In contemporary American vernacular outside of the poly community, a relationship in which two people both love a third; in this usage, the assumption is that each of the two is competing for the undivided affections of the third, and that the third is being placed in a position where he or she is expected to choose one of the two competing partners.
- LOVE QUADRANGLE: See quad.
- LOVESTYLE: A consciously thought-out and chosen type of sexual/love relationship, or a preferred style of romantic relationships, or a style of romantic relationships that an individual believes is "natural" to ones inclination. See relationship orientation. Usage: Most common in New Age or tantra communities.
- LOVING MORE: A magazine (PEP Publishing; ISSN 1523-5858) and organization dedicated to polyamory. The organization which publishes Loving More also sponsors a series of annual conventions by the same name.
- 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 of situations in which one man is married to two women.
- MARRIAGE: A relationship, most commonly between one man and one woman in Western countries, which is sanctioned by the State and/or by a religious institution and which confers upon its members certain social and economic conditions, typically including rights of joint property ownership, rights of inheritance and of decision-making in legal and medical matters, and certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning mutual child rearing. These rights and responsibilities have varied over time and today vary from place to place, but common to all of them is the expectation that people who are married are in a legally recognized, financially entwined, committed relationship which is not trivial to separate. Traditionally, marriages in most Western countries carry with them expectations of sexual and emotional monogamy. See related closed marriage, open marriage, group marriage, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry.
Commentary: Increasingly, Western countries are being forced to deal with the issue of same-sex partnerships being officially recognized as "marriages" so that the homosexual partnerships can take advantage of the social status conferred by marriage and the legal rights afforded to heterosexual married partners, such as inheritance rights, joint property ownership, insurance, child rearing, medical decisions, etc. There is huge debate on the differences and similarities between the word "marriage" and the phrase "civil union" and what each means legally, religiously and socially. The definitions and possible changes in these definitions also open the debate up to social and legal ramifications regarding multi-partner relationships being entitled to equal treatment under the law as well. See related civil contract.
- MÈNAGE Á TROIS: Literally, French, house of three. 1. Sexual activity involving three people. 2. See triad. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 2, usually applied to a triad in which all three people involved live together.
- METAFORE: Colloquial; "Metamour from before"; Portmanteau of "metamour" and "before". The word for someone who used to be a metamour but one or both have ended their romantic connection to the mutual partner and yet still feel emotionally close enough to their former metamour to want to continue calling them a metamour even though it is no longer technically accurate. "It's odd. I still want to call you my metamour, because you still feel so important to my life - but that term really is no longer accurate, you know?" And to that she replied, "You, my dear, are my metamour from before - so, that makes you my metafore!". [Coined in May, 2016] by a former metamour, named Cordelia, of [Anya Trahan], a poly activist.
- METAMOUR: Literally, meta = with; about + amor = love. The partner of one's partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or romantic relationship. When there is a direct sexual or romantic relationship, that person is merely one's partner, although, when attempting to explain how one is connected to people, one may wish to say "he is my partner & my metamour, because he is also involved with my other partner". But usually that is made clear when one is making the explanation in the first place, and using "metamour" to describe a partner can be confusing to people who are most likely to need that sort of explanation. See related other significant other (oso), vee.
- METAMETAMOUR: Colloquial; One's partner's other partner's other partner, or one's metamour, once removed, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. Commentary: A tongue-in-cheek term meant to simultaneously identify something unique to polyamorous relationships and to poke fun at the poly community's habit of creating proprietary terms. Example: Jack and Susan are dating. This makes them partners. Jack is also dating Mary. This makes Mary his OSO, and also Susan's metamour. Mary is also dating John. John is the metamour to Jack, but the metametamour to Susan, because Jack is Susan's partner's (John) other partner's (Mary) other partner: Susan > Jack > Mary > John = Susan & John are metametamours.
- MFF: A triad with a male, female, and another female, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.
- MFM: A triad with a male, female, and another male. Possibly a vee with the female as the pivot.
- MMF: A triad with a male, another male, and a female, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.
- MMM: A triad with three males, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.
- MONOAMORY: Literally, mono = one + amor = love. The state or practice of loving
only one person at a time. Contrast: polyamory. Also: MONAMORY. See also: monogamy. Commentary: The word monoamory was coined as a response to the fact that the word monogamy literally means "one marriage;" technically speaking, a monogamous person, according to the word's roots, should be a person with only one spouse, regardless of the number of other romantic or sexual partners that person has. In practice, it means essentially the same thing as monogamy, though it is sometimes applied to a person who self-identifies as monogamous but is involved in a romantic relationship with a person who self-defines as polyamorous.
- MONOGAMY: Literally, mono = one + gamos = marriage. Formally, the state or
practice of having only one wedded spouse. Informally, 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. Monogamous: of or related to the
practice of monogamy, as in monogamous relationship; a relationship permitting one and only one romantic or sexual partner.
Contrast: polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry; See related closed marriage, serial
- MONO/POLY: Colloquial; see poly/mono.
- MULTILATERAL MARRIAGE: See group marriage.
- MULTILATERAL SEXUALITY: See responsible non-monogamy. Usage: Most common in the swinging community.
- N: 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 related quad.
- NETWORK: See intimate network.
- NESTING PARTNERS: A non-hierarchical alternative for "primary". It was not intended as a substitute, but term to describe distinct relationship structure for people who did not want a "primary" partner, who wanted an alternative option. A "nesting partner" is someone who cohabits intimately with, but who does not engage in common "relationship escalator" behaviors (progression to marriage, blending finances, identifying as a couple, shared-bedroom cohabitation, etc.), poly-hierarchy or couple-centrism, with another person. It's a way of indicating a cohabiting partnership, while also indicating you do not engage in constructs that are often assumed of cohabiting lovers.
Commentary: The big communication divide in the debate between hierarchy vs. non-hierarchy is about [power
distribution vs. priority]. Many people confusingly use hierarchical language to describe emotional connection and priority in
their relationships, confusing the dialog around power distribution. This led to the development of non-ranking terms to describe similar (but distinct) concepts, such as the idea of a relationship that superficially resembles a "primary" relationship in logistics and priority but does not include the power differential
inherent in numeric-based ranking. The term was deliberately coined for this purpose by a group of polys who had been engaged in the larger poly community from the beginning and did not like seeing the gradual shift in the community towards more acceptance of couple-centrism and hierarchy.
- NEW PARADIGM RELATING: A term most notably used by Deborah Anapol. A philosophy of relationship which emphasizes using the relationship consciously to enhance the psychological and spiritual development of the partners. Individuals in New Paradigm Relationships characterize themselves as being committed to honesty and authenticity in their relationships. The relationship explicitly allows for and encourages change and growth within the relationship. Contrast: see old paradigm relating
- NEW RELATIONSHIP CHEMISTRY (NRC): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship chemistry is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast: Old Relationship Chemistry.
Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship chemistry is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new
relationship and after a mother gives birth, and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness
and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship. Because of the biochemical response, some prefer this variation to the less scientifically accurate New Relationship Energy, but it is not as popular.
- NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship energy is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast: old relationship energy.
Some researchers believe that new relationship energy is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth, and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship. Because of the biochemical response, some prefer the more scientifically accurate New Relationship Chemistry or the acronym-sharing New
Relationship Excitement, although neither are as popular as this original version.
- NEW RELATIONSHIP EXCITEMENT (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship excitement is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship
(as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast: old relationship excitement.
Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship chemistry is the result of the
hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the
start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth, and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelingss of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship. Because of the biochemical response, some prefer this variation to the less scientifically accurate New Relationship Energy but it's not as popular, and also over the more scientifically-oriented New Relationship Chemistry because it has the benefit of using the original acronym.
- NONEXCLUSIVE MONOGAMY: Of or related to any marriage involving exactly two people, whereby each of the two is permitted to have sex with others outside the relationship but may not marry (or in some cases conduct emotionally intimate relationships) outside the relationship. Contrast: group marriage. Commentary: The word monogamy in nonexclusive monogamy is used in the formal sense of "one marriage," rather than in the general sense of "one sexual partner."
- NON-HIERARCHICAL POLYAMORY: Multiperson relationship that does not use a ranking system to differentiate between the various partners. As in, a relationship that does not call any partners by terms like primary, secondary, and tertiary. See also: Egalitarian Polyamory.
- NON-MONOGAMY: The practice of creating romantic relationships which do not require emotional and/or sexual exclusivity, or relationships that do not include marriage between only 2 people. See related polyamory, swinging, responsible non-monogamy, cyclic monogamy
- NON-SEXUAL SIGNIFICANT OTHER (NSSO): Someone who fulfills the role of a Significant Other or a romantic partner, but does not include a sexual relationship. Usage: This is not a very common term because many people view a relationship without a sexual content to be "just friends" even within the poly community. However, some people do separate different forms of love and emotional connections from sexual relationships, and often believe they have a "romantic" or intimate relationship with another person that, for whatever reason, does not include sex. This may include a relationship that resembles a romantic relationship in all ways except, for medical reasons, those involved are not capable of having or choose not to have a sexual relationship.
- NRC (acronym): See New Relationship Chemistry.
- NRE (acronym): See New Relationship Energy or New Relationship Excitement.
- NRE JUNKIE: Colloquial; usually derogatory; 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. Commentary: Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the intensity and euphoria associated with new relationship energy can be psychologically addictive; in the psychiatric community, the term "love addiction" is sometimes used to describe this behavior.
- NSSO (acronym): See Non-Sexual Significant Other.
- NUCLEAR FAMILY: A family consisting of one man and one woman who are married to one another, and their children. In some religious and social groups, this structure is idealized as the only "right" form of family, though historically it has never been the dominant family structure in Western history.
- OLD PARADIGM RELATING: a philosophy of relationship which emphasizes well defined rules, extensive agreements, ironclad conditions and the importance of the group over the individual, usually involves a hierarchical power structure. Contrast: see new paradigm relating. Commentary: So-called "Traditional Monogamy" is an example of OPR, in which there are sets of rules that each person must follow and the relationship does not allow for renegotiation of the rules. If any member of the relationship changes or wants different things, the relationship does not flex and change to accomodate, the relationship ends and is usually seen as a failure. American monogamy is so structured that it has been codefied by an entire infrastructure of religious and secular laws, reinforced by societal assumptions. This structure is so inflexible that the society considers existing relationships who choose that structure to be threatened, not just when a member of that relationship tries to break or change the rules, but when other people choose relationships with a different set of rules.
- OLD RELATIONSHIP CHEMISTRY (ORC): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Commentary: Some people prefer this more scientifically accurate term to describe this phenomenon, although the original is more popular. Contrast: new relationship chemistry.
- OLD RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (ORE): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Commentary: Some people prefer the more scientifically accurate Old Relationship Chemistry to describe this phenomenon, although this is more popular. Contrast: new relationship energy.
- OLD RELATIONSHIP EXCITEMENT (ORE): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Commentary: Some people prefer this term to describe this phenomenon in opposition to the non-scientific use of the term "energy" in the original and has the benefit of using the same acronym, although the original is more popular. Contrast: new relationship excitement.
- OMNIGAMY: 1. Group marriage. 2. Of or relating to having multiple spouses of both sexes. 3. Complex marriage. In the sense of Def. 2, See related bisexual.
- OMNISEXUAL: Literally, all sexes; bisexual. Usage: In some communities, particularly some parts of the lesbian and gay community, antipathy toward or hostility to people who self-identify as bisexual has become common. The term omnisexual was briefly popular as a synonym for bisexual but without the negative connotations of the word, and was replaced by the term pansexual. Also used to acknowledge the existance of a non-binary sexual continuum or to consciously reject the binary options presented by society.
- ONE PENIS POLICY: Colloquial; An explicit policy in which either member of an existing male-female couple can engage in relationships with other women outside of the original dyad, but neither can have a male partner. This fear-based rule is designed to protect insecurities, usually of the existing male in the relationship, and prevent anyone from challenging their fears. It allows a heterosexual man the freedom to pursue partners of the gender of his preference, but restricts the woman to only a single gender, her own, regardless of her own orientation, preferences, or any future circumstances.
When a relationship group just happens to include one male and multiple females by coincidence, not design, this is not a One Penis Policy. Rarely, the female in a multi-person relationship can be the instigator of the OPP, restricting herself and all the other women from engaging in relationships with men other than the existing man. Even more rarely, the female in the dyad can institute the OPP to prevent the male from having any other male partners, usually out of homophobia, where male homosexuality is unacceptable but female homosexuality is acceptable. The motivations for this policy tend also to be based on flawed logic or incorrect assumptions.
Reasons given for instituting this rule include but are not limited to:
- Competition for status and dominance is biologically inherent to men (which is not true), so the man in the relationship must restrict other male's access to the women (who are then objects or property that a man can lay claim to and restrict access to);
- Women are less likely to get an STD from another woman, so men are off-limits for safety (ignores biological facts about STDs, ignores that the man could bring home an STD from his other female partners, thereby elevating the male's safety above that of the females' in the group, and also ignores all the reduced risk with proper STD protection methods);
- If the woman has another male partner who can provide her with the same things the existing male can, she is at risk of being "stolen" away / finding something better / not needing the existing male anymore (assumes that all men are interchangable and only useful for their penises);
- Lesbian sex doesn't "count" as "real" sex because without a penis it's just foreplay to a man, therefore sex with another woman does not threaten the primacy of the original relationship (devalues female relationships and assumes partners are interchangable as long as they have similar genitals);
- Men with multiple female partners are high-status (studs) but women with multiple male partners are low status (whores) so to protect the woman's integrity and the man's reputation by association, male partners must be limited (double-
standard that places different values on the sexuality of each gender);
- The woman in the existing dyad is only interested in other women anyway so having an OPP is a natural agreement to make (if everyone wants it this way, there's no need to make it a rule).
- ONEIDA COMMUNITY: A religious intentional community
founded in New York in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes. Noyes founded a branch of Christianity called "Christian Perfectionism," a doctrine which holds that it is possible for a Christian to reach a state of sinlessness and moral perfection before God. The Oneida Community was created as a deliberately and intentionally Christian group, led by Noyes and championing this doctrine of Christian Perfectionism. One of the more notable features of the Oneida Community was the idea that all male members of the community were married to all female members of the community, and vice-versa, an arrangement Noyes termed complex marriage. Another interesting feature of the Oneida Community was its belief that men should learn to control the process of ejaculation during sexual intercourse; this practice was used as a method of birth control within the community. The Oneida Community disbanded in 1881, by which time it had grown to 306 members.
- OPEN MARRIAGE: Any marriage whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. The term open marriage is a catchall for marriages which are not emotionally or sexually monogamous; and may include such activities as polyamory or swinging. Contrast: closed marriage; See related group marriage. Commentary: The term "open marriage" is sometimes used as a synonym for polyamory, though this is not necessarily the case; some relationships may be open but not polyamorous (as in some swinging relationships which explicitly ban emotional entanglement with anyone outside the relationship), and some relationships may be polyamorous but not open (as in polyfidelitious relationships).
- OPP (acronym): See One Penis Policy
- ORC (acronym): See Old Relationship
- ORE (acronym): See Old Relationship Energy and Old Relationship Excitement.
- 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; as, Bob is my husband, and Joe is my other significant other.
- OSO (acronym): See Other Significant Other.
- OXYTOCIN: A naturally-occuring hormone produced in the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is produced both by men and women, and in women is known to play a role in uterine contraction during childbirth and in milk production. Production of this hormone increases during the early stages of a new relationship and during sex, and it is believed to be partly responsible for mediating the processes involved in emotional intimacy. New Relationship Energy or New Relationship Chemistry or New Relationship Excitement is thought to be a result in part of oxytocin production. See related vasopressin.
- PANAMOROY: Of or relating to romantic or sexual love with partners of many sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and/or relationship orientations. Panamorous, of or relating to one who identifies as a person capable of romantic or sexual love with many kinds of partners regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
- PANSEXUAL: A term some people use to describe sexual attraction to all gender/sexual orientation states such as male, female, transgender, bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, etc.
- PARALLELOMOUR: 1. Colloquial, facetious; The term for a metamour with whom one has three or more mutual partners in common. When one person is in a poly relationship with at least three partners, and at least three of those partners are also in a poly relationship with the same other person. Example: Quinn is in a relationship with Sam, Alex, Finn, and Taylor. Sam was already married to Jordan when Quinn began dating Sam. Jordan began dating Alex and Taylor after meeting them through Quinn. Jordan and Quinn are metamours who have three mutual partners in common because Jordan and Quinn are both romantically involved with Sam, Alex, and Taylor. Jordan and Quinn are parallelomours. Coined by Ginny Brown in a [Facebook post on April 20, 2015]. 2. A metamour in a parallel style poly relationship.
- PARALLEL POLYAMORY: An alternative to a variant of solo poly or free agent poly where one has multiple romantic and/or sexual partners that run parallel to each other and do not interact at all. Credited to the poly webcomic [Kimchi Cuddles. See related: kitchen table poly]. See also: don't ask don't tell.
- PARAMOUR: 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.
- PARTNER: Specifically a romantic partner, someone who has a romantic relationship with someone else. There may or may not be a sexual relationship, depending upon whether the partners define "romantic" as requiring a sexual component (see Non-Sexual Significant Other). Commentary: "Partner" may be used interchangeably with "boyfriend/girlfriend", "spouse", "lover", "sweetie", etc. or the participants may reserve the use of the term to refer to a narrowly-defined type of partner only, such as "Jack is my husband, and John is my partner". Also often used in the gay/queer communities to avoid using gender-specific pronouns.
- PDP (acronym): Colloquial; Public Displays of Polyamory. Commentary: there is a lot of discussion within the poly community about how much PDA, or Public Displays of Affection, is appropriate, and all the issues surrounding being publicly affectionate - either being affectionate in public in general, or being affectionate with one partner in front of another partner. PDP came about to describe displays of affection that are explicitly polyamorous, such as holding hands with two partners at the same time while in public, or kissing multiple partners goodbye at the airport, etc.
- PERCIVALIAN: Taken from the tales of King Aurther and his knight, Percival, this refers to a person or couple who is searching for the "holy grail", the "unicorn", the HBB. Percival did locate the Grail at one time, but, being too immature and failing to ask the proper question, he failed in attaining the Grail and he must grow spiritually and mentally before he could locate it again. Percival is described in some places as "the least worldly and the least groomed of all the knights", having been raised in the woods away from society, and "extremely pious but somewhat naive".
This is analogous to a couple who is new to polyamory and, lacking sufficient role models in alternative relationships and lacking the experience themselves to understand the complex nature of multi-partner relationships, the couple believes, rather naively, that the way to circumvent jealousy, possession, or feeling "left out", is to find one person to share equally. The rationale is that one partner cannot get jealous if he or she gets to do all the same things at the same time with the new partner as the existing partner. This does not refer to triads that just happen to spring up because the relationship between all involved was most compatible in a triad relationship. This is specifically for existing dyads seeking the Hot Bi Babe to "complete" their family and perhaps solve any underlying issues along the way. See also: unicorn hunters.
- PIVOT: Colloquial; In a vee relationship, the person who has two partners. Those partners may or may not have any contact with each other, but who are generally not in a romantic or sexual relationship with each other. Also: HINGE
- PLATONIC RELATIONSHIP: A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy. See related metamour, other significant other - def. #1, non-sexual significant other, lover-in-law co-spouse.
- PLURAL MARRIAGE: See polygamy.
- POLY: Colloquial; Of or related to polyamory; as, a poly relationship, a poly person.
1. A person who involves themselves politically and/or socially for the purpose of promoting greater awareness of polyamory as a
legitimate relationship choice.
2. Someone who considers themselves a defender for justice and civil rights, specifically those rights denied by polyamorous choices or beliefs.
- POLYAMORY: Literally, poly = many + amor = love. The state, practice, or intention of maintaining multiple 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. Contrast: monogamy; See related polyfidelity, triad, quad, vee, N, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, swinging, responsible non-monogamy.
Polyamorous = of or pertaining to polyamory (Jane is polyamorous; Bob, Carol, and Sally are in a polyamorous relationship); Polyamorist = a polyamorous person; Polyamorists = plural form of polyamorist; Polys = short plural form for more than one polyamorous person (Sam, Janet, and Steve are polys).
Commentary: The term polyamory is often attributed to Morning Glory Zell, who used "poly-amorous" to describe situations in which a person engages in multiple loving, committed relationships simultaneously and published in 1990. Jennifer Wasp then created an internet newsgroup at alt.polyamory.com two years later, and who claims to have come up with the word independent of Morning Glory Zell although Morning Glory's partner, Oberon, talks of having met Jennifer at an early non-monogamy gathering or conference prior to her newsgroup.
Polyamory is not necessarily related directly to marriage or to polygamy; a person may have no spouse or only one spouse and still be polyamorous. A person may participate in polygamy and not consider themselves "polyamorous", particularly those who marry for religious reasons. Many people use the term "polyamory" to describe only those relationships in which a person has multiple loving partners; some people have extended the term to include relationships in which a person has multiple sexual partners regardless of the emotional component or degree of commitment between them, though this meaning was not a part of Morning Glory's original intent for the word. There are many different personal definitions of the word, and the only thing they all seem to have in common is "multiple", "partners", and "honest" where love, degree of comittment, level of honesty and disclosure, and sexual component all vary from individual to individual.
When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary contacted Morning Glory to ask for a formal definition and background of the word, part of her response was:
The two essential ingredients of the concept of "polyamory" are "more than one" and "loving." That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating", serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties.
- POLYANDRY: Literally, poly = many + andros = man. The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time. Contrast: monogamy; see related polygamy, polygyny, bigamy.
- POLYCULE: Colloquial; a group of people related by polyamorous romantic and/or sexual connections. See also: intimate network, polyfamily.
- POLYFAMILY: Colloquial; 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.
- POLYFI: Colloquial; see polyfidelity.
- 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. Some polyfidelitous relationships may have a mechanism which permits adding new members to the relationship with mutual agreement and consent of the existing members; others may not permit any new members under any circumstances. Etymology: The term polyfidelity was coined by the Kerista Commune.
- POLYFUCKERY: Colloquial; vulgar; often derogatory; 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; as Bob practices polyfuckery. Almost always indicates derision of the activity or person so named. Usage: Almost always used only about people who self-describe as polyamorous; not used to describe, for example, people who identify as swingers. See related polysexual.
- POLYGAMY: Literally, poly = many + gamos = marriage. The state or practice of having multiple wedded spouses at the same time. This term does not imply the gender of any individual within the relationship. Contrast: monogamy; See related polyandry, polygyny, bigamy. Commentary: Many people confuse polygamy with the most common form of polgyamy practiced in most socities that allow mutliple spouses; polygyny. Some objections to the practice of polyamory stem from the misperception that polyamory or polygamy is the same thing as polygyny, which is often viewed as being harmful or disempowering to women.
- POLYGYNY: Literally, poly = many + gynos = woman. The state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time. Contrast: monogamy; See related polygamy, polyandry, bigamy. Commentary: According to some sociologists, polygynous societies represent the most common form of society, with 850 of the 1170 societies recorded in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas being polygynous. Modern Muslim societies are polygynous, and certain religious traditions, including Fundamentalist Mormonism (FLDS) in the United States, advocate polygyny.
Many examples of polygyny that make widespread news coverage include relationships that are harmful or disempowering to women, including older men marrying young, sometimes underage girls, patriarchal societies that do not consider the needs of the women within that group, and spousal abuse. Because of this, and because this is the most common form of polygamy practiced, many non-polygamy supporters misperceive other forms of multiple or open relationships to be inherently negative or harmful.
- POLYKOITY: Literally, poly = many + koitus, coitus = sex. Anthropology; The state or practice of having more than one sexual partner, either at the same time or over the course of one's lifetime, without regard to the relationship with those partners or their relationships with each other.
- POLY MIXED RELATIONSHIP: Colloquial; A poly/mono relationship.
- POLY/MONO: Colloquial; Of or relating to a relationship between a person who self-identifies as polyamorous and a person who self-identifies as monogamous. See also: MONO/POLY.
- POLYNATE: Colloquial; (v) to disseminate the concepts of polyamory to non-polyamorists. Commentary: There is no record of the first use of this term, however, hosts of the podcast [Pedestrian Polyamory], known for their penchant for puns, broadcast the term while one host, Shira, talked about being the first exposure to polyamory to many people, primarily because of how "out" she is about being polyamorous, and how this exposure to the concepts often led to other people making changes in their own relationships as a result of learning that they have options. Also: POLYNATION, POLYNATOR.
- POLYSATURATED: Colloquial; Polyamorous, but not currenlty open to new relationships or new partners because of the number of existing partners, or because of time constraints which might make new relationships difficult. Contrast: polyunsaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.
- POLYSEXUAL: Colloquial; Of or related to relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which are not emotionally intimate. Usage: Sometimes condescending or derogatory; as Bill is not really polyamorous, but only polysexual. May indicate dismissal or derision of the relationship so named. See related swinging, polyfuckery.
- POLYUNSATURATED: Colloquial; Polyamorous, and currently seeking or open to new partners. Contrast: polysaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.
- POLYWOG: Colloquial: Children of poly situations. Coined by Alan Wexelblat on his website [The Poly Bureau]. Not well known or often used.
- PRESCRIPTIVE VS. DESCRIPTIVE: Prescriptive comes from Prescribe: Latin, praescribere = 1. to write at the beginning, dictate, order; 2. to lay down a rule : DICTATE; 3. to lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action : ORDAIN; 4. to specify with authority. A prescriptive relationship, then, is a relationship in which a person or people create a set of rules governing the relationship before the people involved ever get into said relationship. Descriptive: 1. referring to, constituting, or grounded in matters of observation or experience; 2. factually grounded or informative rather than normative, prescriptive, or emotive. A descriptive relationships in this sense is a relationship in which those involved use terms that emerge from the nature and the situation of the relationship.
Commentary: These adjectives are mainly used to describe the nature of primary/secondary
relationships, but can also be used for any relationship configuration. When polyamorous people use the primary and secondary titles for their various partners, they do so in either
prescriptive or descriptive ways. A primary couple can engage in prescriptive primary/secondary relationships, in which they
consciously and deliberately create 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 they can engage in a descriptive primary/secondary relationship in which they are involved for a while, and then choose titles that result from the natural circumstances of the relationship.
In practice, prescriptive primary/secondary relationships may create an environment where the people in those additional relationships feel unappreciated or insignificant, which is why some experienced polyamorous people do not construct their relationships along enforced primary/secondary lines. Descriptive relationships do not create this same environment, and the titles "primary" and "secondary" are fluid and more likely to change as circumstances within each relationship change.
However, as the terms "prescriptive" and "descriptive" became more common in the poly community, some people have began referring to their relationships as "descriptive", intending to deflect the criticism aimed at hierarchical relationships and their inherent power imbalance, even though these relationships were deliberately set up to be hierarchical in nature, often using more and more subtle forms of power redistribution. This makes it difficult to tell from the outside which relationships are designed to be a particular configuration and which relationships just happened to evolve into that configuration naturally, resulting in some people dropping the primary/secondary and other hierarchical language entirely and opting for more accurately descriptive non-hierarchical labels and terms. More on this in Poly Configurations. See related veto
- PRIMARY/SECONDARY: A polyamorous relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, entanglement 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" or it may be "descriptive". See related veto.
- PRIMARY: 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. A person may be primary either as a natural consequence of the circumstance and nature of the relationship (because that person has the greatest degree of financial entanglement, for example), or as a deliberate consequence of the relationship structure and agreements (as in the case of an existing couple who set out to add additional partners only on the condition that those existing partners are seen as "less important" than the couple). See also: co-primary and prescriptive vs. descriptive; Contrast: secondary, tertiary.
Commentary: People who deliberately seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines typically designate one and only one relationship as the primary relationship. People who do not seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines may have more than one primary relationship; a relationship becomes primary when it reaches a certain point of emotional commitment, practical entanglement, or both.
- PUPPY-PILE POLY: Colloquial; Poly relationships or poly family or network or intentional family or intentional community or french kiss or tribe or a polyfidelity.
- QUAD: 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. Commentary: One of the most common ways for a quad to form is when two polyamorous couples begin romantic relationships cross-couple.
- RBAMP (acronym): colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. Relationship Broken Add More People. The idea that an existing relationship is not working somehow and the "fix" would be to add another person to the mix in some romantic or sexual manner. Usually said in a derogatory fashion, this concept is assumed to do the opposite, which is not fix the relationship but further its demise in a most spectacular way. This can also apply to having babies as a way to "fix" a relationship, and is found in all manner of relationships, poly and non-poly. The idea of having a baby to "fix" a relationship is
actually quite common among monogamous couples, but the acronym and phrase are not generally used outside of poly circles, even when it applies to non-poly people.
- RELATIONSHIP ANARCHY (RA): The practice or philosophy of not ranking partners according to type of relationship and sometimes refusing to label relationships at all to avoid the sorts of priority or ranking assumptions that accompany certain labels. Often there is no distinction between romantic and non-romantic relationships and platonic relationships can be held in as much importance as romantic or sexual relationships. Outside of the RA community, typically romantic relationships take precedence over non-romantic relationships exempting nuclear family relationships which might be equal to or outrank a romantic relationship. Within the RA community, this ranking is not a given.
- RELATIONSHIP ORIENTATION: A preference for sexual or romantic or loving relationships of a particular form; as, for example, a preference for relationships which are monogamous, for relationships which are polyfidelitous, for relationships which are polyamorous, and so forth. See related switch (Def. 1).
Commentary: Just as some people feel that their sexual orientation is fluid and a matter of choice where other people feel that their sexual orientation is fixed and not subject to choice, so do some people feel that their relationship orientation is subject to choice whereas others feel their relationship orientation is not a matter of choice. It has been my observation that some people seem to be inherently monogamous, and can't be happy any other way; some people seem to be inherently polyamorous, and can't be happy any other way; and some people seem to be able, under the right circumstances and with the right partners, to be happy in a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship.
- RELATIONSHIP ESCALATOR: The presumptive path that romantic relationships are expected to take with an order to events or milestones and a pace that is assumed and imposed by society. The children's song "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage" is a simplified example of the Relationship Escalator. The term was coined in protest of the concept, with many polys rejecting the prescripted path and pace imposed by society and instead choosing to accept and even revel in relationships that do not have socially accepted expectations of cohabitation, children, marriage, or even monogamy by declaring oneself "off the Escalator".
- RESPONSIBLE NON-MONOGAMY: Any relationship which 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. Contrast: monogamy, closed marriage.
- RULES-BASED RELATIONSHIPS: A relationship in which the participants agree to adhere to certain codes of behaviour dictated (or requested) by another person. Relationships in which one person can tell another person what to do or how to behave and expect the other person to comply as part of the relationship contract. These relationships rely upon a power exchange, where one partner gives a degree of power to another to direct their actions or behaviour within context and tend to view outside relationships as being a direct statement or reflection of this relationship.
These relationships will therefore tend to address conflict within the relationship as being a result or cause of something that occurred in an outside relationship while finding solutions to conflict within the relationship being actions that must be taken outside the relationship, i.e. if one does not feel one is getting enough time with the other, one may blame this problem on the other's new partner and claim the solution is to reduce the other's time with the new partner.
These relationships operate on fear of penalties, the belief that one's partners will misbehave if given enough liberty to do so without structure or consequences keeping them in line, and/or a belief that a framework of certain rules can protect a relationship from harm. These relationships tend to be somewhat rigid, where non-complaince with a request, demand, rule, or agreement is viewed as a breach of the relationship or cheating, and serious damage to the relationship will occur that may result in the dissolution of the relationship.
Often, these relationships may try to avoid the stigma of being "rules-based" by not using the word "rule", and will try to substitute other words, such as "agreements", but the underlying motivation of fear, considering behaviour outside of the relationship to be breaches within the relationship, rigidity, and the ability or belief to control other people's behaviour make a relationship Rules-Based even if they never use the word "rule". These relationships are often built on a foundation of conformity, a blending of identity, and placing greater value on the relationship as its own entity than on the individuality or autonomy of the participants.
These relationships tend to be infused with Couple Privilege to some degree. For a closer look at Couples Privilege and the differences that underly these relationships, visit [http://blog.franklinveaux.com/2013/04/polyamory-so-what-is-couple-privilege-anyway/]. See related: Old Paradigm Relating. Contrast: Consequence-Based Relationships
- RULES-LAWYERING: The practice of an individual referring back to exact words in a previous discussion to find fault in another person's behaviour or to find "loopholes" to excuse fault in one's own behaviour, using the letter of the agreement instead of the spirit of the agreement, or using the agreement to resist any change to the structure of the relationship. The term comes from the semantic and rhetorical tricks used in legal scenarios where each person is out to find exactly the right words to benefit themselves or their clients and to cover themselves / their clients in case of any liability.
Commentary: This often takes the form of semantics debates in interpersonal arguments, and can even include referencing
text-based communications such as IM chats, emails, or written contracts and agreements. The idea is to use the literal or semantic argument to place blame or fault, or to excuse blame or fault, rather than two or more people using a conversation to foster understanding. Example: "In this chat conversation, you said that I was to call if I knew that I would be staying out past midnight. I didn't know that I would be staying out past midnight, therefore I didn't break any agreements and you shouldn't be upset with me for staying out until sunrise without calling you!"
- SACRED SEXUALITY: See tantra.
- SAFE SEX; SAFER SEX: The policy and/or philosophy of using methods and barriers during sexual activity that are designed to limit or prohibit transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnancy. Methods and policies can include (but not be limited to) condom contracts, HPV boundaries, latex condoms and dental dams, fluid bonding, STD boundaries, and limitations of sexual behaviour such as engaging in BDSM play but not intercourse, etc. More on this in the [Safer Sex page].
- SAFE-SEX CIRCLE: See condom contract.
- SATELLITE: Non-hierarchical alternative to secondary. A relationship that may be less entangled than a primary relationship or less emotionally significant but still important. Commentary: This term was coined by Joreth Innkeeper to describe a relationship that appeared, for all intents and purposes, like a "secondary" relationship yet was not ranked above or below any other relationship in terms of power, nor in terms of priority-by-default because priority is assigned on a situational basis.
The emotions experienced in this sort of relationship felt similarly to the sort of relationship commonly described as "boyfriend / girlfriend" or "just dating", often in the in-between stage of important and "serious" but not yet considered "life partner" or entangled financially or legally and may remain in that stage permanently or be a jumping-off point for another evolution later down the line, and another term that implied the strength of the emotions without the ranking was needed. See related anchor, core, comet, indoor / outdoor cats.
- SCARICTY MODEL OF LOVE: An internal worldview that a given person may have that love is scarce, hard to find, or difficult to maintain. This is a perspective based in fear and often results in unhealthy behaviours intended to obtain or maintain relationships in the belief that obtaining or maintaining this relationship is better or easier than obtaining or maintaining another. This belief underlies popular mythologies such as the One True Love and Plato's two-halves-make-a-whole Soulmate parable. Contrast: Abundant Model Of Love.
- SECONDARY: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship which 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 and is usually disempowered to negotiate their ranking or to advocate for their needs outside of any standing rules or agreements which are often created without the secondary's input. See related secondary significant other, tertiary.
- SECONDARY SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Colloquial; A romantic partner other than one's primary partner or spouse. Usage: Used almost completely within the context of primary/secondary relationships.
- SERIAL MONOGAMY: 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. Arguably the most common form of relationship in the United States, serial monogamy is predicated on the idea that a person can love more than one other person romantically in a lifetime, but not at the same time. Contrast: polyamory, polygamy, swinging; See related monogamy.
- SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Colloquial; A romantic partner. Usage: The term significant other is intended to be free of assumptions about the gender of that partner. See related other significant other.
- SO: see significant other.
- SOLO POLY: The practice or philosophy of engaging in polyamorous relationships as an individual person and prioritizing the autonomy and agency of everyone involved over the group as a unit, regardless of how emotionally intimate or even logistically entwined each of the relationships are. This term has generally replaced the usage of Free Agent although it is associated with more compassion than Free Agent was by poly groups in the past. Solo polys often see themselves as independent and sometimes as "single" even if they maintain ongoing romantic or sexual partnerships. Contrast: Closed Group Marriage, Relationship Escalator, See related: Indoor / Outdoor Cats, Comet, Satellite
Commentary: There are [3 or 4 general criteria] that most solo polys use to identify themselves as solo poly: 1) Single living & being "off the Relationship Escalator"; 2) Considering themselves as their own "primaries"; 3) Prioritizing personal autonomy, agency, and independence over that of the group relationship unit; 4) Valuing privacy and / or being introverted. A solo poly person may use any combination, in any amount, of these criteria to identify as solo poly. Many people do not realize there are multiple criteria in use, so there is often confusion in discussions about what solo poly is when people declare only certain criteria and not the others as "definitive" of the term. But, in reality, there are at least these criteria that people use to self-identify and every individual has their own unique mix.
- SORORAL POLYGYNY: A form of polygyny where a man marries two or more women who are sisters.
- SORTAMOUR: Colloquial; Portmanteau of "sort of" and "metamour". When you're not sure about the relationship, & by extention, if metamour applies. Example: "This is Bob, my umfriend and my sortamour Jane, his wife." See related Metamour, Metametamour, Other Significant Other, Umfriend (def. #3), vee.
- SPICE: Colloquial; The plural of spouse. Usage: often considered humorous.
- SPOUSE: A person's husband or wife.
- SPORT SEX: 1. Sexual activity without an emotional connection or intimate relationship between the participants. 2. Casual sex. 3. Sexual activity with strangers. 4. Sexual activity with friends where the sexual activity is not related or connected to the friendship. 5. The kind of sexual activity experienced at swing clubs or between swingers, or among people in the monogamous culture when they have no intention of maintaining a romantic relationship in addition to the sex, i.e. Friends With Benefits.
- SQUIGGLE: Colloquial; The name of a polyamorous network that was formed in the 1990s. The word is based on the mathmatical term Amorphous Squiggle, which means an ever-changing, random shape. Since the initial relationship was formed on the assumption that the configuration would change over time as partners came and went and individual relationships would undergo metamorphoses (not to mention individual definitions of what constitutes a "relationship"), the group chose to avoid giving themselves a "family name", such as the Kerista Commune or Oneida Community, which could have unintentional consequences of tacit exclusivity or prescriptiveness.
The group chose instead a name that accomodated for inveitable changing arrangements. Since the InnKeeper is a member, and is also a poly-activist, usage of the name in semi-public venues has caused the word "Squiggle" to become somewhat synonymous with the phrase "Intimate Network". Some poly individuals have begun to use this name as a generic term to identify an open network relationship configuration, but it is, in fact, the name of a specific poly group with not-so-specific borders.
- SSO (acronym): See Secondary Significant Other.
- STD BOUNDARIES: Limitations imposed by oneself or by one's partner, or even by group agreement, that dictate what sexual activities are permisable with whom and when changes to those limitations can be made, the purpose of which is to limit exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (also called STIs: Sexually Transmitted Infections). More on this in the [Safer Sex Issues] page. See also: hpv boundaries.
- SWINGER: A person who engages in swinging.
- 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. See also: friends-first swinging. Commentary: The common perception of swinging is that those who engage in this behavior have sex outside of their existing relationship purely for recreation, and that emotional bonds or emotional intimacy are specifically excluded or limited. This is true in some cases, and in fact some swing clubs specifically prohibit people from carrying on friendships or relationships outside the club.
However, in practice swinging is much more nuanced, and people who self-identify as swingers can and sometimes do form close emotional relationships with their partners. Many people in both the swinging and polyamorous communities, though not all, see swinging and polyamory as two ends of a continuum. The main difference is the focus. A swinging relationship focuses on outside sexual partners, whether they include emotional intimacy or not; whereas a poly relationship focuses on romantic partners, whether they include sexual intimacy or not ... although many people can enjoy both types, sometimes simultaneously (see swolly).
- SWITCH: 1. Colloquial; A person capable of being happy in either a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship. 2. A term used in the fetish and BDSM communities as a person who can perform both dominant roles and submissive roles in sex play or sex games or intimate role playing. See Franklin's [BDSM page] for more information about fetish and BDSM.
- SWOLLY: 1. Colloquial; a person who engages in polyamorous relationships, and also occasionally engages in swinging relationships. 2. A cross between polyamory and swinging. Commentary: Coined by Ken Haslam, founder of the Polyamory Collection housed at the Kinsey Institute, as tongue-in-cheek during one of the internet swing/poly wars, to address the fact that many poly people come from the swing world when they tire of sport sex and begin to feel the need for more emotional closeness with their sex partners, but, being comfortable in the swing world, will occasionally continue to go back for an evening of hot sex.
The intention for coining the word was to provide a label, and therefore a guilt-free outlet, for those people who enjoy sport sex. Many in the poly community look down on any sexual activity outside of a committed partnership, much like the monogamous society, but the swinging community can often look down on people who form emotional attachments with their sexual partners. There are many people who enjoy both, but who were finding lack of support or outright ostracism from the existing alternative sex communities without a label and prominent supporters of the label.
- TANTRA: Literally, Sanskrit thread; loom; to weave. A form of sexual expression or activity which emphasizes spiritual connection, and holds that sex is a sacred act which can bring those who engage in it to a higher spiritual plane. Commentary: Tantra is not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with New Age spirituality, often combine the two. The original practice of tantra stems from several Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions which emphasize rituals (including ritualized meditation and mantra) and mysticism, but do not necessarily teach or require sexual ritual. The New Age practice has discarded much of the original teaching, choosing instead to emphasize sexual ritual as a spiritual act.
- TERTIARY: A person (or persons) in a relationship which 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. Contrast: primary; See related primary/secondary, secondary. Commentary: A tertiary relationship may be very limited in scope or priority for many reasons, one of the most common of which is often distance.
- TOCOTOX (acronym): Colloquial; 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.
- TRIAD: 1. A polyamorous relationship composed of three people. 2. A union or group of three. Usage: In the sense of Def. 1, generally, the word triad is most often applied to a relationship in which each of the three people is sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members of the triad, as may be the case in a triad consisting of one man and two bisexual women or one woman and two bisexual men; however, it is sometimes also applied to vee relationships, particularly when the two non-sexual partners of the pivot person have developed an independent, emotionally intimate relationship and consider themselves to be all part of one family. See related polyfamily, metamour, freemate, non-sexual significant other, paramour, lover-in-law, co-spouse.
- TRIBE: A social group that has a strong sense of identity and may have a family arrangement as its core. See related intimate network, polyfamily.
- TROIKA: A group marriage involving exactly three people. See related triad.
- TROILISM: 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 mènage á trois - (Def. 1).
- UMFRIEND: Colloquial; 1) Synonym for fuckbuddy or friends with benefits; i.e. a casual partner. 2) What a polyamorous person calls a lover when introducing him or her to someone who doesn't know they are polyamorous or in a poly relationship and they want to keep it that way. 3) A romantic and/or sexual relationship that is undefined, ambigious, or otherwise not labeled and is usually not quite "serious" or entangled enough to justify the use of other relationship terms like "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" or "lover" or "partner".
Usage: Most common in the United Kingdom, with a smattering of use in the United States, due to a common linguistic habit of adding "um" in pauses of sentences when one is thinking of the right thing to say. Example: "Oh, hi Mary, fancy running into you here! This is my um, friend, Bob. My husband is taking the kids to soccer practice while I get some shopping done."
- UNICORN: Colloquial; Synonym for hot bi babe or HBB, often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. 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.
Because of the demands that this type of couple places on the woman (that she be single and not take on any additional partners, and become involved with both members of the couple equally, and often "complete" their family as a surrogate mother and housekeeper and/or breadwinner and not do anything that may threaten or disrupt the existing couple), many in the poly community call this type of woman a "unicorn", as in mythical and not likely to be found, even though there are plenty of bipoly women around. Sometimes the unicorn is expected to not develop any emotional attachment and is strictly there for a sexual relationship (equally distributed to both members of the dyad) and/or is prescripted as a secondary. This term is used as a reminder that bipoly women are people with their own desires, needs, and pre-existing lives, and not fantasy figures or pets.
What makes one a "unicorn" is less about the specific criteria, such as listed above, and more about the fact that the couple has created and scripted a role for their "unicorn" ahead of time and is now looking for someone to fill a particular role. The qualifications that she must have and/or the reasons that the couple gives for wanting her do not need to match exactly the qualifications listed here; the important part of the definition of a "unicorn" is that someone else has designed, created, or dreamed her up and is attempting to now find her in real life to fulfill the fantasy or role that they believe will bring them happiness.
See related prescriptive vs. descriptive, couple privilege.
- UNICORN HUNTER: Colloquial; derogatory, condescending, or ironic. An individual or couple seeking a unicorn. Different from a person who is merely attracted to bisexual poly people, this refers specifically to the type of individual or couple who is seeking "that special third to complete" their family. They often believe a bisexual third partner will prevent jealous feelings on the part of either of the original members of the dyad because of the mistaken assumption that one will not get jealous if one gets to do all the same things as the other and no one ever experiences anything apart from the other half of the primary couple.
This type of couple expects their hypothetical future partner to be single or willing to give up any existing and future partners, to love and have sex with both members of the original dyad equally (and usually this implies at the same time with no independent dyadic relationships between the new person and each existing partner), and for each member of the existing dyad to reciprocate exactly an equal level of love and sexual attraction for the new person.
This type of couple will (usually) not consider any kind of relationship with a male (or person with traditionally male genitalia), with someone who is only sexually attracted to one of the original dyad members, with someone who is already partnered, with someone who develops an emotional attachment to each of the original dyad members at different rates, and usually promises to break up with the new person for the sake of "protecting" the existing dyad, leaving the unfortunate third partner feeling disposable and not ever really able to obtain that "equal status" that is desired by all involved. Sometimes the unicorn is expected to not develop any emotional attachment and is strictly there for a sexual relationship (equally distributed to both members of the dyad) and/or is prescripted as a secondary.
What makes one a "unicorn hunter" is less about the specific criteria, such as listed above, and more about the fact that the couple has created and scripted a role for their "unicorn" ahead of time and is now looking for someone to fill a particular role. The qualifications that she must have and/or the reasons that the couple gives for wanting her do not need to match exactly the qualifications listed here; the important part of the definition of a "unicorn hunter" is that someone (or some couple) has designed, created, or dreamed her up and is attempting to now find her in real life to fulfill the fantasy or role that they believe will bring them happiness.
See also: Percivalian, couple privilege.
- VASOPRESSIN: A hormone produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Vasopressin is known to be involved in the regulation of blood pressure and the uptake of water by the kidneys, and is also believed to be involved in mediating such responses as aggression and mating. Levels of vasopressin in the body rise sharply immediately after sex; it is believed that this may play a role in new relationship energy. See related oxytocin.
- VEE: 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.
- VETO: A relationship agreement, most common in prescriptive primary/secondary relationships, which gives one person the power to end another person's additional relationships, or in some cases to disallow some specific activity, such as some specific sexual or BDSM-related activity. A veto is technically absolute, although in practice, issuing a veto may result in a conversation or argument and not immediate compliance or unquestioning obedience. But the purpose of a veto is to end a relationship or activity, not to start a discussion.
Commentary: Not all polyamorous people or relationships recognize or permit veto power. Veto is most common in primary/secondary relationship configurations, particularly in relationship configurations where an established couple is seeking additional partners. Veto is typically limited only to the primary partners, and a relationship which grants a veto power to a secondary partner is rare in the extreme.
Many people use the word "veto" to refer to the point at which one partner can express discomfort with something the other partner is doing and a conversation involving what to do about it then ensues. This is incorrect use of the term "veto" and is better termed "communication". Some people have agreements where one person can tell the other person to stop doing something or to end another relationship and expect the other person to comply without argument or discussion, but they will call these "agreements" and refuse to use the word "veto", even though "veto" is, in effect, what they have agreed to. See related: Couple Privilege
- WIBBLE: A feeling of insecurity, typically temporary or fleeting, when seeing a partner being affectionate with someone else. Wibbley: of or related to wibble, as "Seeing those two together makes me feel wibbley". Contrast: compersion, frubble. Usage: Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.
- ZIE: Colloquial; A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "he" or "she." Not directly related to polyamory, but there is a strong overlap between the poly community and those with alternative identities, including some who use gender neutral pronouns.
- ZIR: Colloquial; A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "him" or "her." Not directly related to polyamory, but there is a strong overlap between the poly community and those with alternative identities, including some who use gender neutral pronouns.