The single defining characteristic of polyamory as I understand and experience it is independence. Most of the other poly people that I know feel the same way, and not all of them came to poly via opening up existing relationships. That doesn’t mean that you don’t do things to support and help each other, but rather than being focused on structural support, which feels more like multi-marriage or polygamy to me, poly is understanding that not all of your needs can or should be met by one person and allowing for that — whether those needs are emotional, sexual, both or other.

I’ve even heard you talk about the independence factor in your relationship. What you are describing is building a home and a long-term life together, and those are great, but I don’t feel those are necessarily important or central to polyamory. That feels very much like traditional thinking, to me. If that suits your particular needs and wants, great, but the whole deal with poly is that every relationship is potentially unique and co-created by the people involved in it to meet their particular needs. If you say poly must only fit these rather strict and limited parameters, that doesn’t feel like the expansive relationship style that I know.

In her book Recreational Sex, Patti Thomas, editor of several popular swingers’ magazines, writes: To swingers, physical acts of sexual pleasure with someone you respect, just for pleasure, and making love to one’s lifetime partner, are two distinctly different things.

Taormino, Tristan. Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships . Cleis Press Start. Kindle Edition.

And conversely

TO DISTINGUISH POLYAMORY from swinging and partnered non-monogamy, poly relationships are usually characterized as “sexual and loving,” a shorthand way of saying that polyamory involves not just sex, but emotional relationships. But based on my research, “sexual and loving” doesn’t capture the nuances and complexities of polyamorous relationships, or the way in which polyamory not only rejects mainstream models but expands our ideas about what constitutes a relationship.(emphasis mine) I would define polyamory as the desire for or the practice of maintaining multiple significant, intimate relationships simultaneously. These relationships may encompass many elements, including love, friendship, closeness, emotional intimacy, recurring contact, commitment, affection, flirting, romance, desire, erotic contact, sex, and a spiritual connection.

Taormino, Tristan. Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships . Cleis Press Start. Kindle Edition.

By your metric, solo poly wouldn’t count, although in every single thing I’ve ever seen to describe types of polyamory, solo poly is listed. I think that it makes more sense to talk about ways of interacting with each other that characterize poly (such as integrity, honesty, taking responsibility for your own emotions rather than blaming someone else for “making you jealous” or what have you) and drawing distinctions in that way from what is not true poly than trying to build a box of parameters that is external. There are just too many variables and nuances.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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