A Guide to Non-Monogamous Relationship Types

August 31, 2018 4 min read

A Guide to Non-Monogamous Relationship Types

Monogamy is generally pretty straightforward – two people in a relationship, exclusive to each other. Non-monogamy, on the other hand, encompasses a whole world of having multiple partners that can seem impossible to navigate. 

There are an infinite amount of ways to be non-monogamous, but most relationships of this style fall into certain definable categories. It’s important to note that all of the categories we’re going to talk about today fall under consensual non monogamy, which means all parties are aware of and in agreement of the relationship style.

The Open Relationship

Different couples have different definitions for what “open” means to them, but the most common definition is that the partners are romantically monogamous, but sexually non-monogamous. Couples who are open might sleep only with certain friends, exclusively on vacations, or with whoever they want, but at the end of the day, there is only one person they say “I love you” to. This relationship style is great for those who want to have new sexual experiences and multiple sexual partners, while still having only one person they dedicate their romantic feelings towards.

The Hierarchical Poly

Poly, short for polyamory, is the practice of being in (or being open to) more than one romantic relationship at a time. People who practice hierarchical poly keep their partners in a hierarchy, so they are “ranked” by emotional priority and importance. There is usually one “primary” partner, who is often a spouse and often has veto power over other relationships, and other relationships are considered “secondary”. This is, in many ways, one step beyond an open relationship. Hierarchical poly is common with people who have a spouse, life partner, or partner they have children with, that they want to keep as a priority, while still exploring emotional connections with others.

The Egalitarian Poly

The other main type of polyamory is egalitarian, in which there are no prescribed hierarchies. People who practice this often have two or more partners that are of equal importance to them. Partners can also be of varying importance, due to circumstances like length of relationship and living situations, but there is no rigid hierarchy and all partners have equal opportunities to develop their relationships. Egalitarian poly has more freedom and flexibility than hierarchical poly, while still allowing for deep and lifelong relationships. Many people who practice this type of polyamory do so because they don’t feel comfortable labelling one person they love as more important than another.

The Triad

This is a slightly different type of category, as it is a specific relationship structure as opposed to a style, but triads are so popular that they deserve a mention. Also sometimes referred to as a “throuple,” a triad is a group of 3 partners who all have emotional and sexual connections with each other. Triads can be egalitarian, with all partners having equal connections with each other, or hierarchical, with one main couple and a secondary third. Triads can also be “closed,” meaning each partner is monogamous to their two partners, and no one dates people outside of the triad. Triads often occur when an existing couple meets someone that they both want to develop an emotional relationship with.

The Solo Poly

Solo Polyamory might seem like a bit of a paradox, as polyamory is about relationships, and therefore not something done alone. However, solo poly is a rapidly growing relationship style. Solo polyamorists have multiple partners, but at the end of the day their most important connection is the one they have with themselves. They do not have life partners, spouses, partners they live with, or partners they have children with. They have the freedom and independence of someone who is single, while still having meaningful, exciting, emotional, as well as long term connections with multiple people. For some people solo poly is a short term choice, while they focus on school, work, travel, or simply gaining their independence. For others, it is something that works for them long term.

Lucy Huxley
« Lucy Huxley is a polyamorous porn performer and creator based in Berlin. She is passionate about sex education, BDSM, and creating art in all forms. » All posts →