Polyamorous relationships — sexual or romantic relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of everyone involved — are becoming more popular and more visible.
If you’re learning more about polyamory, you’re probably hearing some polyamory terms you don’t recognize, we put together this glossary so you look like you don’t have to just nod and smile when someone refers to a triad.
Poly or Polyam: Short for polyamorous. “Polyam” is gaining popularity since “poly” can also be used to describe members of the Polynesian community.
Polycule: A group of people connected by polyamourous relationships. If Ariel is in a vee with Ben and Corinne, but Corinne is in a triad with Dante and Ellie, all five of them make up a polycule. Remember in chemistry class when you had to draw the connections between atoms in a molecule? That’s what the map of relationships in a polycule looks like. If you don’t remember because you weren’t paying attention during chemistry class, that’s too bad. It’s time for a pop quiz!
Compersion: “Compersion, often described as the opposite of jealousy, is a wonderful feeling of feeling joy from seeing your partner’s happiness with their other partners,” says Travis Rosemarie, a polyamorous theater artist.
“Polyamory does not eliminate jealousy. But if you dissect that feeling when it comes up, you can learn more about yourself and form stronger communicative bonds.” See, Nick Jonas? You don’t have to be hellish because you get jealous.
Ethical Non-monogamy or ENM: Non-monogamy that everyone involved agreed to, so it’s not cheating. This includes polyamory, open relationships, swinging, any relationship model that’s not “we’re two people who only have sex with each other.”
Being polyamorous “does not eliminate the ability of partners to cheat,” say Rosemarie. “Breaking a boundary is breaking a boundary!” Ethical non-monogamy isn’t a magic word to make cheating ok, the real magic word is consent.
Nesting Partner: A partner you live with, in a house or in a pile of sticks and leaves you constructed into a home. It does not necessarily imply that there is a hierarchy in the relationship with them, just that you’re living together. Rosemarie and partner Linden Curhart are nesting partners, meaning they live together and have other partners that don’t share the home.
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Partner: Terms used to describe the level of partnerships in a hierarchical relationship. A primary partner may be a spouse or a nesting partner. If you end up with more than three, you may have to make your own organizational chart and figure out who is the VP of Snuggling and Snacks.
Metamour: The person with whom you share a partner. This is your partner’s partner. Metamours may or may not interact with each other, depending on the structure of the relationship.
Paramour: A romantic or sexual partner outside of a marriage. A metamour, but specifically related to a marriage. Not to be confused with our one-sided love interest in Hayley Williams.
Polyfidelity: A closed polyamorous relationship where all partners restrict sexual activity to members of the relationship. Sort of like monogamy, but more than two people are in the relationship. As in, “Please don’t talk to me or my girlfriend or my boyfriend ever again; we practice polyfidelity.”
Relationship Anarchy: A relationship philosophy in which no one is obligated to each other and there is no hierarchy between partners. This philosophy values autonomy in relationships over hierarchy or structure.
Polysatured: When a person is polyamorous but not currently open to new partners or relationships. You love polyamory, but you couldn’t possibly have another bite.