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What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down

Maybe you heard about it over Sunday brunch and want to understand more, or you’re curious about a lifestyle with multiple lovers. Wherever your interest in Polygamy Vs. Polyamory stems from, you’ve probably found yourself thinking about what the difference between the two terms is.

We don’t blame you. It seems like there has been an explosion in interest in polyamory and alternative lifestyles, and it’s almost like it’s everywhere. 

We can only speculate, but the increasing interest in a polyamorous lifestyle could be due to the heightened awareness of the shortfalls of monogamy, awareness of an increasingly agnostic culture, and the emergence of dating sites and hook-up apps.

In short, people are more open to new ideas. Before we learn about the differences between polygamy vs. polyamory, let’s find out what each of these terms means.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down polyamory vs polygamy vs polyandry

Polygamy Vs. Polyamory: What Do They Mean?

Polygamy is when a man marries multiple women (wives) at the same time. When a woman marries more than one man at the same time, it’s known as polyandry. Plural marriage can also be described as polygamy. 

Polyamory is a combination of poly (Greek for many) and amor (Latin for love). Polyamory is defined as the practice of having multiple lovers.

In polyamory, one practices or has the desire for an intimate relationship with multiple partners. All the partners involved in the different relationships have to give consent to be in such a relationship. People that practice polyamory describe it as responsible, ethical, and consensual non-monogamy. 

Polygamy generally has its foundation in religion. However, it is illegal in the United States. While polyamory isn’t a religious construct, some people who practice it feel that it may be spiritual. 

Since polygamy and polyamory both involve multiple partners, it’s essential to note that they aren’t always the same as open relationships.

Open relationships involve partners who are open to having sexual or romantic relationships with other people who don’t belong to the primary relationship. Open relationships aren’t the same and have different expectations and standards. 

A polygamous relationship where the man has more than one wife or partner is not an open relationship.

He typically doesn’t allow his partners or wives to have male or female partners outside the relationship. In the same way, one can be in a polyamorous relationship where four people are dating each other. However, it isn’t an open relationship if none of them are open to relationships with others outside their circle. 

There are different kinds of polyamorous relationships, and none of them are characterized by the same boundaries. Some polyamorous relationships may involve a close-knit circle of only three individuals that cohabit and don’t have relationships with people outside their main circle. Others may be made of many more individuals that allow sexual encounters outside their main circle but have rules around such encounters.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down polyamory vs polygamy vs polyandry

Understanding Polygamy

As we mentioned earlier, polygamy is against the law in the United States. Those who don’t practice it hold different views about those that do. Rather than passing an ignorant judgment about a practice that other people believe in, it’s always best to try and understand it. 

Understand that we aren’t advocating for polygamy, but believe that empathy should be extended to people who grew up in such a setting, or were socialized into it, or practice it. Unless you’re a participant in such a practice, it’s not easy to understand its drawbacks or even benefits.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down polyamory vs polygamy vs polyandry

Polygamy And Religion

Some religious societies and sects, including Muslims and Mormons, believe in having multiple wives. Other people in different parts of the world also participate in polygamy. People who practice polygamy in the United States can only do it while being legally married to only one woman.

They aren’t legally married to the other women they consider their partners. Instead, they see themselves as being married to their other partners in the eyes of their god, families, themselves, and their community.

Why People Practice Polygamy

People practice polygamy for many different reasons. But, the most common one is religion. Some religions present the notion that having more than one wife is one way to get into heaven or that men are entitled to have multiple wives.

Other people believe that having multiple wives is a thing their god wants for them to become ‘better vessels’ for what he says to them. Others think it’s because this is the only way they can become more numerous or that it’s a way to multiply their family dynamics.

Are There Boundaries In Polygamy?

Just like any other relationship or marriage, there are rules within a polygamous marriage that should be followed. Polygamous marriages generally refer to situations where one man is married to more than one woman. It is not a group marriage where multiple women are in a marriage with many men together.

This is one of the first rules anyone that wants to practice polygamy should consider.

In Islam, people need a prophet’s blessing so they can get married because he’s seen as the god’s messenger. Sometimes, a prophet is responsible for arranging marriages between people in the community.

A prophet can refuse to bless the marriage of a man and a woman even if the woman would have been an additional wife to the man. The man must first make a request to the prophet so he can receive god’s word from the prophet concerning his marriage.

Before the man marries, even if it’s his first wife, he has to be thought of as a righteous member of the community. He and the god he worships should be in a good place, and if he’s married, his wives, too, are required to be in the same place with god. If the man or his wives isn’t in good standing, the prophet can refuse to permit the marriage.

Once the man is married to the other wife, all his responsibility to his other wives should continue. He’s required to continue having children with his first wives and cater to their needs. Having more children is usually the most common purpose for polygamy.

In some religions, this is considered a vital element of entering heaven and the rewards the man will get once he’s in heaven.

Depending on the religion or where the man comes from, specifics may vary. Keep in mind that polygamy has been around for centuries and is highly dependent on regional, cultural, and religious practices. In some polygamous relationships, the husband may keep a different home for all his wives, and in some, all the wives share one home.

Equal time and affection are required for all women and any children they have. The women are also required to work together to ensure their ‘household’ as a whole continues to improve and develop.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down define polyamory vs polygamy

Understanding Polyamory

Think about all the different relationships you’ve had or how differently you express the love you have for different people. No two relationships are ever the same, which is one reason why polyamory as a lifestyle has gained traction in recent years. 

A polyamorous relationship differs from other relationships in two ways. For one, it’s non-monogamous, and two, there are multiple people involved in the circle. Characteristically, polyamorous relationships are made of the primary couple that engages with other romantic or sexual partners openly and with consent. Partners in the relationship may pursue sexual liaisons as a couple or independently.

Polyamory can be different for different couples. Some couples prefer to have multiple people in their circle and one main partner. Others prefer being in two different relationships. Polyamory is based on the belief that love shouldn’t be held within the constraints of monogamy. Instead, people should express it fully and freely.

However, individuals in the main relationship should always be aware of the presence of their partner’s lovers.

How Polyamorous Relationships Work

People who don’t practice polyamory are often left confused about it since it doesn’t follow the societal constructs of a relationship. The success of a polyamorous relationship relies a lot on the honesty and openness of the individuals involved.

Couples must be ready to tell each other what they need and expect from their union.

Even though polyamorous relationships are very different from monogamous relationships, they still have boundaries. And, boundaries are different within every polyamorous relationship. Some boundaries include how much time a couple can spend with their other partners, what actions they undertake with other people, and even who they let into their circle.

The best way to prevent any issues in a polyamorous relationship is to ensure there’s open communication. However, even if you maintain honesty and openness with your partner, there’s a possibility of jealousy coming up within the circle.

Being in a relationship with one person isn’t easy; having more frequently makes the dynamics even more difficult to navigate. When more people are involved in a relationship, the emotional burden has to be borne by all of them.

While there are some downsides to polyamory, it’s important to understand the advantages. It removes the betrayal of trust and secrecy that comes with an affair. If both people in the relationship are emotionally mature and philosophically and emotionally in agreement with the concept, polyamory can work.

Even then, however, removing all the jealousy and insecurity that may crop up in a polyamorous relationship is challenging.

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Who Can Enter A Polyamorous Relationship?

As long as the implications of getting into a polyamorous relationship are understood, anyone can be in it. One of the most important things to understand about polyamorous relationships is that while multiple people are involved in the relationship, that doesn’t mean there’s always sex with everyone or that they’ve all got sexually fluid preferences.

To enter a polyamorous relationship, one must have clarity and understand what communication and trust mean to the relationship.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down define polyamory vs polygamy

The Values of a Polyamorous Relationship

All polyamorous relationships are different and each is anomalous in its own way. However, there’s a set of unique values that healthy polyamorous relationships subscribe to. Here are some of them:

  • Trust

Trust is an essential aspect of every polyamorous relationship. One of the best ways to build trust in a relationship is to include communication. And that goes for polyamorous relationships too. Partners should communicate about safe sex and the promises they make to each other.

  • Communication

Contrary to popular belief, polyamory isn’t all about sex. Polyamorous couples and their partners talk a lot, which is why open communication is vital. Maintaining multiple relationships isn’t a walk in the park, so frequent communication is essential to maintaining the different bonds.

  • Consent

Consent is the fundamental element of consensual non-monogamy. Just because your relationship is polyamorous doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want. You have to get the consent of everyone you’re involved with to introduce new sex acts or start new commitments.

  • Mutual Respect

Both a monogamous and polyamorous relationship requires mutual respect for them to work. A polyamorous relationship is not only about respecting your partner. It’s about respecting all the people involved, and that means your partners’ partners too.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down define polyamory vs polygamy

Before you get into a polyamorous relationship, you have to find out whether you’re making the right decision for yourself. Here are some essential questions you can ask yourself when figuring out if the polyamorous lifestyle is right for you:

– How do you handle jealousy, whether it’s you or your partner showing it?

– Are you ready for variety in your sex life?

– Can you enjoy deep, emotional connections with multiple partners?

– What are your reasons for choosing polyamory?

There’s no one way to describe relationships. And, we’ve seen that with the polygamous and polyamorous relationships we’ve just discussed. Society is now more open to having open conversations about non-monogamy, and the queer community has embraced numerous distinctions to sexuality.

Always remember that you’re the only one with the power to determine what kind of relationship you want to be in. Even though people practice polygamy and polyamory, they might not be for you.

If you feel like you might want to explore non-monogamy by entering such relationships, take the initiative and research yourself, and see if they fit your values and needs. The more information you have, the more power you have to make informed decisions.

What Is Polygamy Vs. Polyamory? Let’s Break It Down