What does polyamorous mean? Should you give polyamory a go?

Couples have always coupled up in pairs, and spent their lives together – or at least portions of their lives together – as duos.

Why? Because… erm… we don’t know, and we’ve not got enough time to research how that societal norm came about.

What we do know is that some people aren’t into the twosome thing. Some people are polyamorous…

Which means, simply, a person who has open sexual or romantic relationships with more than one person at a time.

A very brief history of polyamory

Alejandro Rodriguez (L), Victor Prada (C) and Manuel Bermudez pose for a photo at their home in Medellin, Colombia on June 17, 2017. The three men have gained legal recognition as the first "polyamorous family" in the country , where same-sex marriages were legalized last year. / AFP PHOTO / JOAQUIN SARMIENTO (Photo credit should read JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Image: Getty

Related: Three gay men marry as Colombia gets its first recognised polyamorous family

The term comes from the Greek word ‘poly’, which means “many, several”, and the Latin word ‘amor’, which means “love”.

LGBT communities have a long history of polyamory – one dating all the way back to Lord Byron and the Shelleys, continuing through to Harvey Milk and the Radical Faeries. A 2006 study showed that 28 percent of lesbians, a third of bisexuals, and almost two thirds of gay men are open to non-monogamous relationships.

The first usage of the word polyamory is credited to pagan priestess Morning Glory Ravenheart Zell in 1990. It first appeared as “poly-amorous” in her article ‘A Bouquet of Lovers’, published in Green Egg Magazine.

The words polyamory, polyamorous, and polyamorist were added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006.

Polyamory: ethical non-monogamy

James Franco, Zachary Quinto and Charlie Carver in I Am Michael

Polyamory is described as ethical, consensual non-monogamy. All parties – whether three, four, five, or eighteen of them – are open and honest, and reject the view that sexual and/or loving relationships are exclusively between two people.

Polyamorous arrangements are – of course – varied, and depend on the people involved, and their interpretations of ethics.

It’s not always easy to define polyamory, though it’s easy to say what it’s not…

Polyamory does not involve adultery, cheating or lying.

Polyamorous Flags and symbols

Designed by Jim Evans, the Polyamory Pride Flag is made up of blue stripes (to represent openness and honesty among all partners), red (for love and passion), and black (signifying solidarity with those who are forced to hide their polyamorous relationships).

Related: Comment – Why polyamorous marriages are the next step to equality

In some flags, polyamory symbols feature – either the gold Greek ‘pi’ symbol, or the infinity sign within a heart. Another polyamory symbol is a multicoloured parrot because parrots are often called ‘Polly’, and that sounds a lot like ‘poly’.

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