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28 Aug 2020 (Last updated 26 Jun 2023)

Different forms of non-monogamous relationships

Sexual Journey 5 min read
type of non-monogamous relationships

As we continue to disband our assumptions about gender and life milestones (the school, career, house, family trope), for some this questioning has rippled into their relationships too. Increasingly people are questioning how necessary monogamy - to be romantically and sexually involved with one person at a time - is for them.

More women than ever are demanding places in leadership and waiting much later in life to have children, if at all. It could also be that visibility of LGBTQIA+ issues beyond Pride month liberates us to enjoy relationships that make sense for us and not for what we were taught is expected.

One thing is for sure that the internet has allowed curious minds to connect, share advice and build a community for those who reject traditional relationships. So, we took to Instagram to see what our own community’s thoughts were on polyamorous relationships.

Of 357 respondents, 46% of people said they have considered a non-monogamous relationship. When asked what is it that appeals to them, many cite in ways that monogamy is a ‘default setting’ and ‘marriage a social construct’. Breaking down societal norms is high on the priority list for many of us, as we strive to remove expectations of how we should behave or lead our lives.

Further motivations are a matter of the heart and mind, as the chance to fill our lives with more than just one special person is super appealing. Warming words like ‘caring’, ‘love and adore’, ‘sharing’ and ‘connection’ accentuate an emotional fulfilment that can come from taking a non-monogamous approach.

Pleasure-positive purposes also play a huge role in considerations! From workarounds of sex during long-distance relationships to allowing more variety in a couple’s sex life; some of us see it as an opportunity to ensure our sexual needs and desires aren’t suppressed. Likewise, the excitement and possibility of learning something new – about ourselves or different techniques – is enticing.

We also asked the remaining 54% of participants what it is that puts them off the idea of polyamory. Almost 40% mention ‘jealousy’. This is a common thread throughout, with feelings of insecurity and doubt a main concern. ‘Fear of being hurt’ and ‘fear of feeling inadequate’ resonate.

It seems this emphasis on the emotional ties is so powerful that pleasure considerations don’t come into play really, though some state logistics as reasoning for sticking to monogamy, too. Some members of our community share that their ‘partner is monogamous’ or they have children, suggesting that polyamorous dynamic wouldn’t work right now for them.

One participant raises a fair point, ‘how do you bring it up?’. Talking about sex with our partners can be hard, but through good communication we can open up the discussion. Be curious, ask questions, speak assertively and have conversations out of the bedroom.

Being armed with knowledge helps us feel more comfortable and empowered. So, below are a few handy though not extensive terms for non-monogamous relationships where all parties are consensually aware of the dynamic (i.e not infidelity/cheating). Perhaps you will spot something that appeals to you?


This is when someone is married to multiple people. The most common representation of this seen in the media will be of a man who may marry several women. While illegal in most places; fundamentalist Mormons are most referenced for practising polygamy as a cornerstone of their faith. It is generally considered a taboo in most societies.

Polyamory (also known as poly or polyam)

This term refers to ethical relationships that involve more than two romantic and sexual partners. There are many forms of polyamory. For example, Lisa may be in a relationship when Gemma and Terry however Terry and Gemma may not be in a relationship with each other; they themselves may even be monogamous to Lisa or have other partners. This dynamic may be considered an anarchamory as everyone is “equal partners” but not all are connected.

In non-hierarchy dynamics the partners will manage their relationship so that everyone is prioritised.

In primary/secondary polyam dynamics there is an agreement that one relationship may be prioritised, perhaps because they have children together or were together first. This creates a hierarchy dynamic.


A term for the romantic network of non-monogamous people.


Possibly the most commonly used phrase as more people embrace this approach to dating. It can also apply to marriages/ relationships where one or both partners engage in intimacy outside of their relationship. Some couples may begin this way or decide to later “open up” their relationship.


It’s exactly what it sounds like! This is when a couple is usually monogamous but there may be some levels of sexual intimacy outside of their relationship that is acceptable on occasion. This could be while traveling, at parties or as a special occasion.

Curious about exploring non-monogamy?

A good test is to ask yourself how you would feel if you saw your partner giddy with the flush of that honeymoon phase you once had together. Would it make you feel uncomfortable, jealous or content and excited for them? The latter is a good indication that you may have what it takes.

That is not to say that jealousy won't ever happen. It is a human emotion after all, however communication; regular check-ins and boundary setting are very important. What might work for you may change while your partner may want to explore further. This is a risk that should also be discussed prior and it could be useful to find someone more experienced or a relationship counsellor to help you create a plan together.

Single or dating? Have these conversations early on to avoid hurt feelings; research local communities and groups. There may be meetups where people can share advice and offer support for newbies without the expectations of hooking up. There may also be groups designed for the possibility of hooking up too!

Only time can really tell us if non-monogamous relationships are really the “the future of love” but it is important to remember that they have existed possibly even longer than monogamy and this could in fact be a returning to rather than a trend.

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