What is polyamory?

We’re all sexually liberated now, right? We can do whatever we want, like have orgies? Thing is, while sex with no strings attached is the dream for some people, a lot of young people are combining physical pleasures with actual relationships. Read on as The Mix explains polyamory.

A group of young people are sitting together. They are talking about polyamory.

Define polyamorous

We’ll begin by defining polyamorous, as a good starting point. 

A polyamorous relationship is a relationship that involves more than two romantic partners. In other words, having multiple intimate relationships at once without it being considered cheating. These relationships can involve any combination of gender identities and sexual orientations. And there are many different ways to be polyamorous (more on that below).

Fun fact of the day: the word polyamory comes from ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and ‘amor’, which is French for love.

How does polyamory work?

After learning about what polyamory is, you may be sat in front of your screen right now thinking, ‘Hey, this is basically just an open relationship. What’s new about poly?’. Hold your horses, we’re getting there

In polyamorous relationships there’s no hierarchy with secondary partners or primary partner. Instead of having your partner and your fling on the side like in an open relationship, no one is on top of one another (okay, maybe physically but NOT metaphorically). Everyone loves each other equally. 

Plus, in a polyamorous relationship you can have throuples or quads – essentially three/four people all dating each other. Or you can have two separate relationships with two different people. And even solo polyamory – where you’re a polyamorous person with multiple partners but lead a single lifestyle. It’s totally up to you and your partners. 

What are the benefits of polyamory?

There are defo some major positives to adopting this lifestyle. These include: 

  • The ability to have more creative/exciting sexual experiences with a number of different partners
  • Not being tied to one person
  • Widening your social circles with your multiple partners, aka your poly family 
  • Polyamory relies on complete honesty to work. So if you don’t like lying then it could be for you

What are the downsides of being polyamorous?

Believe it or not, there are some issues you could encounter if you’re trying to be polyamorous. For example: 

  • While it may seem like you’ve hit jackpot at first, it can be stressful to have multiple relationships to manage
  • Arguments and tension can arise if your partners don’t feel their needs are being met. Or that another partner or other partners are being favourited
  • It can be incredibly time consuming and restrictive to date multiple different people
  • Get ready for the tears. It’s an emotional rollercoaster

Can you cheat if you’re in a polyamorous relationship?

Regardless of what type of relationship you’re in, there’s always a boundary that can be crossed which is considered cheating. As mentioned previously, polyamorous relationships revolve around honesty. So if you’re lying about who you’re seeing then it’s not an open and honest polyamorous relationship. And that could well be considered cheating. Basically, if you’re only interest in polyamory stems from thinking they can’t tell you you’re cheating, then it’s definitely not for you.

How complicated is polyamory?

It depends from relationship to relationship. And it’s also impossible to predict how every group will work. Being involved with more than one person at a time can be tricky but a lot of people find a way, and manage to have successful and healthy relationships. 

If monogamous people become involved in a polyamorous relationship there may be a period of adjustment. Remember, they’ll most likely have to completely shift their boundaries of what they consider ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in a relationship. In any case, good communication can smooth out any complications that arise.

Jealousy in polyamorous relationships

Whether you’ll get jealous in a polyamorous relationship is not something that we can tell you. It totally depends on who you are as a person and how you react to things. Some people believe that there’ll always be a slight tinge of jealousy in every relationship. Others think that you can love multiple people without any jealous feelings whatsoever. Whichever way you lean on the jealousy spectrum, keep in mind that your partners may feel completely different. So make sure you’re communicating at all times.

How do I find other people to join my polyamory family?

The perfect person could be around the corner. You’ve just gotta look for them. If you’re already in a monogamous relationship and want to open it up, give your partner the brief answer to ‘what is polyamory’ and see if they’re game too. If you’re single then get out there and find new partners who are looking for something different. We’d recommend using dating sites. That way you can filter for people looking for poly relationships. 

My partner doesn’t want to be poly but I do

Some people’s attitudes to polyamory may change over time. But that doesn’t mean you should hold your breath. If your partner won’t even consider talking about polyamory, there’s not much you can do. And even if they change their mind to make you happy, it’s likely to cause some resentment down the line. It’s important to note that polyamory takes a lot of dedication and if you’re not on the same page then it may be difficult to work through. 

If you want some more support, check out The Mix’s sex and relationships resources here. You’ll find tons of useful info on a whole range of subjects.

Next Steps

  • Read articles on a range of relationship topics on The Mix's Relationship Support Page in partnership with Click.
  • Brook provides free sexual health and wellbeing services for young people in the UK. Brook's services include local clinics and online digital sex and relationships tool.
  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 22-Jun-2022