These days people are hearing more and more about multi-partnered romantic and sexual relationship structures (aka non-monogamy). When loving and playing within multi-partnered relationship structures remember to always keep communication open and honest, expressing your boundaries and expectations to all partners. (Communicating openly and honestly, and expressing boundaries and expectations should, of course, be done within monogamous relationships too!). Also integral within multi-partnered relationship structures is that all partners consent to the proposed structure; one person’s desired multi-partnered relationship structure might be completely different to someone else’s. Another thing that is important when considering multi-partnered relationships is being self-aware. Self-awareness is key to creating a personally fulfilling relationship structure that not only works for you, but for your partners as well.
Multi-partnered relationship structures can encompass a variety of different options. There are infinite ways to arrange a multi-partnered relationship structure. Basically, the sky's the limit when it comes to designing your own relationship structure! Please keep reading for some examples of different multi-partnered relationship structures and a brief explanation of what each one entails.
A play on the term ‘monogamy’ (‘mono’ meaning one, thereby having one sexual and/or romantic partner), monogamish is the idea of having one committed or primary partner, yet the relationship structure allows one or each partner to have sexual encounters with others. Your committed or primary partner is perhaps a partner you share your life with, share a home with, someone you love and feel emotionally connected to. The monogamish relationship structure can allow you to continue your committed (mostly) monogamous relationship while allowing space for sexual variety and novelty through having sexual experiences with other people.
Polyamory (often shortened to poly) is a relationship structure which allows those involved to have romantic and/or sexual relationships, as well as being in love, with more than one partner. All partners are aware of and consent to other partners' involvement in the relationship structure. All polyamorous relationships are different. Some may contain primary partners and secondary partners, with primary partners potentially having a more intimate connection with each other or seeing each other more frequently than secondary partners. Other polyamorous relationship structures may have no such ‘hierarchy’ of partners, with all partners considered equally significant as the other. Some may have multiple primary and secondary partners, others may have just one of either or both.
A poly-fidelity relationship structure involves a group of partners having romantic and/or sexual relationships only with each other. The group is not open to having new partners in the mix.
Some who identifies as solo-poly is someone who participates in polyamorous relationships but does not wish to merge their life with other partner’s life. For example, someone who is solo-poly may not adhere to ‘traditional’ lifestyle choices such as living together with a partner(s) or sharing finances with a partner(s). This type of polyamorous relationship structure would best suit those who strongly value their independence and an independent lifestyle.
Swinging is a sexual practice in which individuals or people in committed relationships engage in sexual activities with other people. This multi-partnered sexual practice and is sometimes done in designated swingers clubs or at swingers events. Many people who attend swingers clubs or events may view these spaces as sex-positive places to socialise with likeminded people and freely explore their sexual expression.
Drawing from political anarchy, relationship anarchy rejects traditional relationship structures, rules and hierarchies. Furthermore, relationship anarchists equally value friendships, sexual partners and romantic partners alike. All partners' personal freedom is strongly emphasised.
By Lisa Klicke
Constantinides, D., Sennott, S., Chandler, D. (2019). Sex Therapy with Erotically Marginalized Clients: Nine Principles of Clinical Support (1st ed.). Routledge.