What is polyamory to me

When friends and acquaintances ask me what is polyamory, my usual reply is that it is

being able to love romantically more than one person at a time, with full and informed consent of everyone involved.

A heart interwoven with infinity. The symbol of polyamory

Another definition of polyamory:

the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved. Wikipedia

Yet another:

The fact of having simultaneous close romantic relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned. Oxford English Dictionary, 2006 and More than Two website

Consenting means agreeing to what’s about to happen / what is happening, with a few necessary characteristics.

  1. Consent is informed

    Consent isn’t full unless everyone consenting has full information on what’s about to happen, or is happening.

  2. Consent is affirmative

    Many times we assume consent just because a situation is happening (ex. kissing) and it is bilateral. This is implied consent. Affirmative means that we make clear, verbally, or not verbally but with very clear body language or gestures, that we actually want to kiss. This is important for a few reasons: it clears the field for possible half-consents, something that is happening but in which participants are not fully engaged, and also because when establishing prior affirmative consent, one has the possibility to express some limitations (e.g. kissing but no biting, for instance).

  3. Consent is enthusiastic

    Nobody should be pressured into giving consent. This can happen to everyone, in different ways. A female could feel pressure into kissing, for instance, because she doesn’t want to be accused of “leading on” her partner. Or a male could feel he has to kiss his partner to avoid offending them with rejection. So, every effort should be made to seek enthusiastic consent and to provide it when that’s what we actually want.

  4. Consent is free

    Of course, true consent is when we are free to accept or refuse the activity, to seek it or to deny it. There should be no negative consequences as a result of our choice.

    E.g.: if our boss tells us that we either have sex with her or we lose our job, that’s a twist of consent and even if given, the following sex act should not be considered truly free.

    Also this means that we are free to change our mind about consent at any point during the activity. When we are ok with something doesn’t mean we sign ourselves into service where we must keep consenting forever and ever.

Here’s a beautiful video about consent and tea.

There is no one way to be poly

There’s lots of styles of relationships that could fall into the poly umbrella, but that doesn’t mean that we should conform to what we see in relationships around us. We should only do what feels right, what we and every participant want!

A couple poly styles worthy of note are:

The triad

This is the poly style most frequently represented in media and may be the first thing we think to when we hear “poly”: a central partner with two other partners, all exclusive with each other. To my reckoning, even though this is the most frequently represented style, it is not the most frequently practiced!

The relational anarchy

some rights reserved on the image

This style aims to deconstruct all vestiges of a traditional relationship and to put everything in question. From the decision to define oneselves as a couple, to the decision to go live together or even that there should be love or sex in a relationship. I admit I don’t know a lot about this, I do respect it though!


It’s the standard that society imposes on itself, a standard that everyone should follow when they engage in a relationship. Fall in love, have sex, move in, get married, have kids. All this, clearly, between two partners and only two.

A relationship ladder

Relationship ladder graph

We aim to question the standards society tries to impose. A relationship is not only between two people. It can be as loving as we both are comfortable with. It may mean living together or not. It may mean kids, but it doesn’t have to.


It’s the feeling of deep love and satisfaction that we experience when we first step into the poly world: we see our loved partner being loved and loving someone else, and we feel joy for them. It’s not necessarily the opposite of jealousy, but it surely is a fantastic feeling once you have it. It is in fact a common poly saying that love is not divided, but multiplied.


I hope you enjoyed this brief discussion of what means polyamory to me. Please let me know your thoughts, suggestions or critiques!

New Poly Flag

originally published on fabiorusso.net/posts/polyamory on 27 May 2019.


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