Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
Polyamory, often abbreviated to poly, is sometimes described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy. The word is occasionally used more broadly to refer to any sexual or romantic relationships that are not sexually exclusive, though there is disagreement on how broadly it applies; an emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.
"Polyamorous" can refer to the nature of a relationship at a given time, or be used as a description of a philosophy or relationship orientation (much like gender orientation), rather than a person's actual relationship status at a given moment. It is an umbrella term that covers various forms of multiple relationships; polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved.
Polyamory differs from polygamy meaning to have multiple spouses. Traditional polygamy is usually patriarchal and polygynous and may be practised in accordance with religious beliefs and there are also traditional polyandrous societies which may be matriarchal. Polyamory, on the other hand, is a different outlook grounded in such concepts as gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, equal respect among partners, the intrinsic value of love, the ideal of compersion, and other mostly secular ideals. As of July 2009, there were estimated to be more than 500,000 polyamorous relationships in the United States.
The defining characteristic of polyamory is belief in the possibility of, and value of, multiple romantic loving relationships carried out "with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned." What distinguishes polyamory from traditional forms of non-monogamy (i.e. "cheating") is an ideology that openness, goodwill, intense communication, and ethical behavior should prevail among all the parties involved. Powerful intimate bonding among three or more persons may occur. Some consider polyamory to be, at its root, the generalization of romantic couple-love beyond two people into something larger and more fundamental.
People who identify as polyamorous typically reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed long-term loving relationships. Those who are open to, or emotionally suited for, a polyamorous lifestyle may be single or in monogamous relationships, but are often involved in multiple long term relationships such as a triad, quad, or intimate network.
In practice, polyamorous relationships are highly varied and individualized. Ideally they are built upon values of trust, loyalty, negotiation, and compersion, as well as rejection of jealousy, possessiveness, and restrictive cultural standards. Such relationships are often more fluid than the traditional "dating-and-marriage" model of long-term relationships, and the participants in a polyamorous relationship may not have preconceptions as to its duration. However, there are polyamorous relationships that last many years and some decades.
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