This is an ever evolving glossary of terms that are used in expansive relationships. This includes conscious monogamy, multigamy (non-monogamy), singledom and other dynamics.
Click on a term to expand and read about it.
If you are looking for a term that you cannot find here, please submit it via the contact form.
A mindset that moves us away from scarcity.
Once we discover that we are capable of self-love, self-confidence and self-regulation, we begin to meet more of our needs by ourselves.
This kind of work often involves a journey of self-discovery and can be greatly helped with therapy or coaching, as well as group work.
When we stop thinking in terms of scarcity and finite love, we find ourselves…
- Saying no and yes to things much more authentically
- Connecting to people who don’t tick all the boxes
- Not having crippling anxiety over the thought of losing ‘the one’, or not finding ‘the one’
- Attracting kindness and goodwill from others
In this video I talk about how to create the abundance mindset.
One of the 5 conflict languages or strategies.
To accommodate in an argument means to give up some of my needs because I am afraid to lose all of them. When I have weak or porous boundaries, or am not sure of my boundaries, I will be more willing to accommodate in order to avoid a conflict. When I accommodate the needs of my partner it can lead to me feeling unsafe or resentful over time.
Acts of Service
One of the 5 Love Languages.
- Preferring actions over words,
- helping with tasks,
- acting spontaneously.
- being ignored,
- not following through,
- only doing fixed tasks.
An agreement is between 2 or more people, that consent on certain actions or inactions that govern their own behaviour in relation to their partner/s. An agreement is entered into consensually and without coercion. When you create an agreement, it is intended to safeguard the boundaries of all involved. It can be amended, expanded or cancelled so long as there is open communication and awareness of any changes. The agreement is only helpful if those involves want it to work. It is different from a rule, which is when one person imposes a specific action or inaction on their partner.
Read more about how agreements work in practice in these blog posts.
Ambiamorous / Ambiamory
Someone who is secure in their emotional place may have no strong preference to the relationship dynamic. It can depend on the partner or the situation they are in. A monoamorous person might accept being in a multigamous relationship with a polyamorous partner, where only the polyamorous partner sees other people. Or an ambiamorous person may willingly accept to be in monogamy if they are in-love with a monoamorous person.
Describes someone who would be equally happy with one exclusive sexual partner, or multiple partners. The addition of more than one sexual partner is relationship/situation dependent.
An anchor partner is someone that provides you with a degree of emotional and/or material support that feels important and is meeting your needs. They may or may not live with you and may or may not also be an anchor partner to someone else.
One of the 5 conflict languages or strategies.
Using anger in the form of aggression, in conflict comes from a deep fear to appear weak. There is a sense that my boundaries are under attack and the only way is to push back. In this conflict language, there is no recognition that my partner also has valid needs.
Anger can be positively channeled, and processed in a way that does not harm anyone else.
Someone that feels little or no romantic feelings, lacks desire to engage romantically with partners. Everyone has a different experience of being aromantic, and this can mean different things to different people.
- You don’t experience feelings of romantic attraction.
- You feel that you do not need a romantic relationship to feel complete or fulfilled.
- You don’t experience “crushes” or being “in love” with someone else.
- You have a hard time relating to romantic stories.
Someone that feels little or no sexual urges, lacks desire to engage in sexual activity. Everyone has a different experience of being asexual, and this can mean different things to different people.
One of the 5 conflict languages or strategies.
Someone who handles conflict with avoidance, is afraid to address issues head-on. There is a part of them that denies reality and believes that ignoring the issue means it will go away over time. This way they can preserve their perceived limits and seemingly not have conflict.
This is a short-lived and ultimately futile strategy if the aim is to have connection and trust in the relationship.
An emotional capacity that is limited to loving only people at the same time. For example, some people who are bisexual or pansexual would truly feel fulfilled only if they were emotionally committed to people of 2 different genders.
Your body communicates with your mind through the nervous system. Polyvagal theory explains how the vagus nerve connects to your entire body and is responsible for your danger alert system and the flight/fight/freeze/fawn response.
Building a good body-mind connection is crucial to having good intuition and knowing to interpret your body sensations correctly. You can get there with having a healthy mind, and doing somatic work that teaches you how to connect with the body.
We have a body, it is our body, and we are not our body. We are not defined by our body.
These are hard limits we have to maintain, to protect our domain, everything that we have a right to, and responsibility for (see – domain).
Having a boundary and defending your boundary are actions that help you meet your own needs and protect your domain. They also create safety for others, when you communicate your boundaries to them and they know they won’t accidentally encroach on them.
As such they can be seen as an invitation to welcome people towards you up to the place where you boundary lies.
A boundary can be physical, social, emotional, sexual, cognitive or material. Everyone needs to uphold personal boundaries, but our upbringing and relationships experience can often warp the way we think about our own boundaries.
There are a few videos on the site that focus on creating healthy boundaries in relationships.
When we cease to uphold social expectations and obligations that do not serve us, we can create bonds that provide our emotional, physical and social needs of a close family. Blood relation does not define these bonds, rather it is the choices we make to be vulnerable and create intimacy with our circle of friends.
When we come to expect our partner to fulfill certain needs for us that we were able to meet ourselves, and in-turn also expect our partner to need us in the same way, it is called a cycle of codependency. We become unable to meet these needs ourselves or turn to others for support.
Codependent people have difficulty
- Experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem
- Setting functional boundaries
- Owning and expressing their own reality
- Taking care of their adult needs and wants
- Experiencing and expressing their reality moderately
The use of manipulation and control through intentionally inducing fear, creating guilt in your partner or applying social/emotional pressure to agree to your wants/demands.
A long distance partner or someone that you see only occasionally.
Some people appear in our lives once a year, or once every few months, bringing with them lots of fun, excitement and strong emotions. This is the limit of the relationship, and it works well for those involved.
Someone who is in a monogamish relationship could be a comet for someone living in a different city. People who have a nomadic lifestyle may be a comet for several people around the world.
Knowing that this is the extent and scope of the relationship, helps let go of needing more out of the relationship emotionally. It is possible to recognize the quality and benefit of spending time together, however infrequently that is.
Literal meaning is to suffer together. To make expansive relationships work, it is vital to hold a great deal of compassion for our partner/s and understand their journey. This can help us relax some of our limits and be less defensive if they make a mistake.
An emotion of sympathetic joy you feel when your partner is happy, when the source of happiness is someone else.
It refers to that warm, uplifting feeling that I get when my partner returns all giddy and relaxed from her date, or is excitedly getting ready to go out on one.
Compersion is not only applicable to polyamory, and can be experienced with friends, colleagues, family and even with strangers. Contrary to popular belief it is not the opposite of jealousy and can be felt alongside jealousy emotions.
This is the most employed conflict strategy where all sides of an argument give up some of their needs to resolve the issue. However when you compromise you accept a solution that is less than desirable which could, over time, lead to resentment.
Knowing what is my default conflict language, which parts of me are activated during conflict and what need to regulate my nervous system before I try to resolve a conflict, are all parts of a constructive and healthy conflict management approach.
There are 5 broad conflict languages that all of us use.
To speak authentically and win trust, my words must be congruent with my thoughts and/or feelings. This means that first, I must know my feelings and be aware of my thoughts; and second, that I am able to clearly express them in words.
CNM – Consensual Non-Monogamy
A term often used to describe the practice of having romantic or/and sexual relations with more than one partner. Calling this practice ‘consensual non-monogamy’ contrasts it with non-consensual non-monogamy (or cheating). It is a problematic term as it assumes a need to qualify non-monogamy since more people would automatically assume non-consent.
Furthermore, consent can sometimes be obtained under duress or emotional manipulation which may be unethical.
Con = with
Sent = feelings
Consent is critical in any relationship and must be freely given and revocable. When you ask for consent, it must be a real choice for the person being asked. When you are asked to give your consent, feel into what your body and gut tell you, not just your mind.
This refers to the inherent and sometimes subtle ways in which a pre-existing couple enjoys certain privileges and power differentials, when compared to new people that they are dating.
If any hierarchy exists that reserves certain times, acts, words or feelings to the couple, this indicates a privilege. This blog post explains more about the impact of couple’s privilege in general and specifically in Polyamory.
See also – Hierarchy
Cowgirl / Cowboy
Someone who dates a polyamorous person with the intention of manipulating them into a monogamous relationship.
Based on the idea that a role of the cowgirl/cowboy is to separate a cow from its herd.
DADT (Don’t ask, Don’t tell)
An agreement between 2 or more people, to practice some form of multigamy while withholding the details of what they do with other people. I won’t ask you where you have been and with whom, and you won’t volunteer the information.
DADT agreements are thought of as a way of avoiding dealing with difficult emotions that jealousy brings up. However, often they can increase anxiety because all a person has to go on is their own imagination. The fears we imagine are often worse than the reality.
Variations of this can be ‘Only tell when asked’; only sharing basic info such as ‘on a date’ or ‘see person x’; and planning set times when relations with other people are discussed.
Someone who only feels a sexual connection with a person that they have an emotional bond with first.
When our mind creates a disconnect from our thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity. It can often feel as if we are leaving our body, external sounds become faint and we lose ability to sense in our body. This is often a reaction to a triggering event. Our mind is acting in self-defence when it senses an emotional overload, to create distance between our cognitive functions and the perceived triggering event.
Do ask – Do tell
An agreement to only share information when it is explicitly being asked for.
You might choose to only know basic information, or have control over when you are comfortable hearing about it. This can mean sharing just basic info such as ‘on a date’ or ‘seeing person x’ and planning a fixed time to discuss relations with other people.
Everything that I have a right to, and responsibility for.
I see my domain like a house. My house holds my physical body, my thoughts, my feelings, my desires, my needs and wants. I have a right to all of these. My domain also includes my right to express myself, to have autonomy and agency, to speak, to make choices, to feel pleasure.
The most widespread and acceptable form of relationship dynamic consists of 2 people.
A dyad relationship can be monogamous or multigamous, in that it can be exclusive, or both people may have other partners outside of this relationship. It contrasts with Triad, Quad or other multi-partner dynamics such as polycules.
A Polyamorous relationship dynamic without hierarchy where no partner is prioritised over another. This dynamic works best if everyone involved lives on their own or if everyone cohabits together. Nesting partners may end up in a descriptive hierarchy but still work to uphold egalitarian principles.
Emotional Connection spectrum
How we emotionally connect with others.
Emotional connection is about your capability/capacity to hold romantic/sexual or other kinds of non-family love and express it. This is different from the relationship model or dynamic that you choose to practice.
The ability to sense how someone else is feeling and imagine how it must feel like for them. Empathetic listening means being fully present, in focus on the other person, being with genuine curiosity about their emotional state.
Empathy may be innately stronger in some people, but can be learned by most. Healthy relationships benefit from practicing empathy whenever possible.
ENM Ethical Non-Monogamy
Adding ‘ethical’ to the term non-monogamy is a way of contrasting it with cheating, or unethical non-monogamy.
It is a common alternative to the term consensual non-monogamy which focuses on acting in an ethical way when managing multiple relationships. Similar to the problems with CNM, using the term ENM may imply that non-monogamy is not usually ethical, so we have to add that in.
The argument made against using ENM, is that cheating is really unethical monogamy. Ethics are not universal and many ethical practices are deeply subjective. This is why I prefer to use the term Multigamy.
Enmeshment / Entanglement
Becoming enmeshed in, or with another person happens when both people have loose or permeable boundaries, or perhaps do not even know that they need to have boundaries.
It represents deep emotional codependency that is often described in extreme terms such as:
losing oneself in the other, becoming one, can’t live without you…
Merely seeking verbal or non-verbal consent from a partner, does not go into the intention or the desire of that partner to engage. Seeking enthusiastic consent means ensuring that the agreement is congruent with their desire, something that they can show with their body language, face, and words.
Envy is when you want what someone else has, sometimes to take it away from them, other times to also have what they have. it is often lumped together with jealousy but it helps to understand if what you are feeling is really envy.
It is need to make up for some lack. You can feel into what that lack is rather than trying to think it, and unlock the insecurity behind it. It could be that you are conflating what your partner does with others with a real need for love, affection or affirmation.
Established Relationship Energy
Fully cooked, mature love of a long established romantic relationship, that is full of trust, intimacy and deep knowledge of one another.
New Relationship Energy is often talked about and is driven by a chemical process in the brain. With ERE, there is a deep safety in the nervous system that comes from experience of trust over time.
Relationships that offer space for all involved to grow, change and individuate, allow and facilitate change. Are not frozen in time by fear or anxiety.
The key components of an Expansive Relationship are:
There are only 2 emotions that drive all others: Fear and Love (according to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross). From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety, resentment and guilt.
Most of us have fear of being alone, being unloved. When we base our actions and reactions on fear, we deny ourselves space in our hearts to allow more love in.
Read more about why we often operate from fear and what we can do about it.
Feelings / Emotions
Feelings and Emotions are not the same, but have become synonyms in English. It can help to distinguish them.
We feel things with our hands, in our body – heat, cold, pain, pleasure.
We experience emotions such as fear, love, sadness, joy, loneliness, repulsion, attraction as a response to brain processes – either conscious thoughts, or unconsciously.
Our mind interprets these emotions and this leads to a bodily feeling (hot flushes, sweats, tightness in the chest, or expansion etc.).
While sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by our feeling and emotions, it is important to bring awareness to the fact that we are not our feelings and emotions, and they do not define us. Working to separate what we feel from who we essentially are, helps us to bring an important quality to how we relate with others.
One of our body’s nervous-system auto-response to danger, evolved from our mammalian brain.
A fight response assumes that you are under attack and must defend yourself, coming out with all guns blazing and no regard at all to what the other person is feeling or needing in the moment. It can manifest as extremely anxious attachment behaviour.
Read more in this article.
One of our body’s nervous-system auto-response to danger, evolved from our mammalian brain.
A flight response will see you just giving up, assuming all is doomed and the only way is to flee, leave or check-out emotionally/mentally. It may appear like extremely avoidant behaviour.
Read more in this article.
One of our body’s nervous-system auto-response to danger, evolved from our reptilian brain.
A freeze response can look like paralysis, feeling totally stuck and helpless, unable to move or going on ‘autopilot’. You might feel totally numb to feelings.
Read more in this article.
The practice of not using any barriers with a partner. Being fluid-bonded with one or more partners in multi-relationship dynamic (multigamy) serves to establish a ring of trust to protect each other from sexually transmitted infections.
FWB Friends with Benefits
Maybe better called ‘benefits with friends’ (BWF)… The focus is friendship and that takes priority. Then there are some additional ‘benefits’ to the relationship such as cuddles, sex or kink play, or emotional support.
Normally there isn’t a romantic connection or high commitment levels.
Garden Party Polyamory / Birthday Party Polyamory
Describes a dynamic where people who are connected through shared partners, are aware of each other, and may meet at major life events like birthday parties.
They may not be friends, but treat each other with respect as you would a distant family relative.
A term used to describe the act of someone denying your experienced reality through psychological manipulation, to introduce their preferred version, diminishing your ability to maintain your boundaries in the process.
“it takes the form of frequently disagreeing with someone or refusing to listen to their point of view. Many of us might be guilty of some mild form of gaslighting from time to time – refusing to hear what our partner has to say even if they’re in the right or persistently disagreeing over some minor quibble, even when you aren’t sure of your position. It’s mostly harmless, a form of pettiness – an unwillingness to be proven wrong.”
Being with generosity of spirit allows us to assume good will and good intent from our partner when they act in a way the is not aligned with our expectation of them. When we hold generosity in our heart, we can express our disappointment, anger or sadness towards our partner without feeling defensive or under attack by them.
One of the 5 Love Languages.
When our love language is that of gifts and gifting, we enjoy receiving gifts that represent the care and attention that our partner has for us. As a receiver, you appreciate the thought that your partner has put into the time and effort of selecting the right gift for you. As a giver, you enjoy focusing your time and attention on choosing a gift that is right for your partner.
Largely asexual but with some interest in sexual activity, seldom and only with specific people.
Grief over death, relationship ending, can happen in stages. People talk about stages of grief, which can include:
Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
These stages don’t come in an organised order and can overlap. Not everyone experiences all of the stages. It is important to allow grief the space it needs to pass through you.
Blocking, ignoring, suppressing or medicating to avoid any feelings of grief tends to backfire.
Grounding is an electrical term of connecting a machine with live electric current to the ground (earthing), as a fail-safe in case of a short-circuit.
“If a short circuit did occur, the current would flow through the ground wire, causing a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker – an outcome much more preferable than the fatal shock that could result if the current was not grounded.”
In human emotional terms, grounding is a strategy of calming the nervous system when it becomes activated due to overstimulation. This could be a new provocation or hitting a ‘live-wire’ of an earlier wounding or trauma. Your nervous system is hyperactivated and this can result in dissociation, hyperventilating, panic attack, numbness.
Techniques for grounding involve re-establishing a direct connection to your body and regulating the nervous system. You can read here about some techniques and practices that help.
Hierarchy / Hierarchical Polyamory
Hierarchy is used to describe the ways in which we prioritise one or more partners over others in polyamorous relationships. Hierarchy can show itself in financial arrangements, time spent together, who we go on holiday with or bring to family or work events. Often, it is defined in terms of who we choose to live with (nesting partner). In some hierarchical relationships there is an agreement to allow a partner to have a ‘veto’ power over who they can or cannot date and to put a stop to an existing connection.
While commonly people talk about 2 types of hierarchy that are substantially different, in reality hierarchy as it pertains to the way we treat different partners, is a matter of choice, respect for boundaries and communication.
Descriptive Hierarchy refers to circumstances out of your control, when a specific partner’s needs are prioritised. Reasons can looking after children or being a carer for your partner, legal and residency issues. It can be temporary or permanent.
Prescriptive Hierarchy is said to come from an overt agreement between partners to prioritise each other over others.
Regardless of whether you see it as prescriptive or descriptive, It is worth examining the reasons why one or more people in the relationship want to enshrine hierarchy into their dynamic. The exploration of motivation can bring up deep insights into insecurities and fears you may not have realised you had. Ultimately this is a decision that affects not only those involved, but also anyone else that becomes emotionally involved with one of the partners in the hierarchy.
It is vital to always inform new partners of exactly what agreements you have made with your partner/s and inform existing partners when any agreements that could impact them, change.
If your partner has any kind of veto power, you need to communicate that clearly and early as well as inquiring why this is needed in the first place. If there are certain activities that are reserved to the hierarchical relationship, lead with that as soon as you feel that this new connection has long term potential. If you are only wanting casual, short term connections, lead with that.
Describes a person that has 2 (or more) partners who are not in relationship with each other. The hinge will often be the only person that regularly communicates with their partners. Therefore they are responsible for ensuring that one relationship has no adverse impact on another.
Communicating with your partner in a manner that focuses your experience using statements that begin with ‘I’, instead of ‘you’. This serves to reduce tension and avoid getting into a dynamic of blame and accusations.
Instead of “You made me upset”, consider saying “When you said that thing, I felt upset”.
Instead of “You are a bad communicator”, try “I feel that I don’t fully understand what you are trying to communicate, can we try another way?”
Imagining vrs. Noticing
Whenever we formulate an opinion about something or respond to a stimulus, we create an imagined story that is made up of information our mind collects. This information comes from the observable reality and from our stored memories, beliefs and expectations. This is why we say that anything that is not fully observable as objective reality that everyone can agree on, is an imagined narrative.
“You have long hair” is an imagined story, since not everyone would agree on what constitutes long hair. Similarly, “You are beautiful” or “Your dress is blue” are imaginings as they are not necessarily universally agreed upon.
Anything that is universally agreed upon and can objectively be described in the same way by all people who see it, is something that I can notice. This is in contrast with the imagined story I attach to that thing.
What can be objectively observed are things that we notice. The ‘spin’ we put on it is our imagined story. It is important to be aware of the difference.
In the legal sense, implied consent is contrasted with express consent. It is a situation where one is assumed to have given consent through silence or inaction.
In a social situation, this can work when it is possible to have a good reading of non-verbal communication. If I come in to kiss someone, they see that I am coming for a kiss and they have time to move away should they choose, I can assume implied consent that my kiss is welcome.
This area gets tricky in social context of sex-positive, nude or kink spaces. It is very important to remember that simply being naked, wearing fetish-wear, attending a sex-positive event or even engaging in sexual activities with others, does not give anyone implied consent to engage. This needs reminding because often times, people who are new to these spaces assume there is implied consent by virtue of how they see someone act or engage with another person.
As a pillar of conscious and expansive relationships, acting with integrity means that my actions always mirror my words. When I consistently show integrity, my partner can feel safe and secure and we can build stronger intimacy and trust.
Interdependence involves balancing your own needs with those of your partner/s. It is about recognizing that all partners are upholding their own boundaries and acting within their partners’ boundaries. This is contrasted with codependence, where the need for support can become coercive, desperate or manipulative.
Invitation, Offer, Request, Statement
Being extremely specific about whether you are giving an invitation, making a request, making an offer, or saying a statement helps so much with direct, clear communication and lack of misunderstanding. This helps the other person understand your motivation, something that is very important for making a consensual decision.
- Invitation: I am available for a hug if you like
- Offer: Would you like a hug?
- Request: I would like a hug
- Statement: I enjoy hugs
This is borrowed from the Wheel of Consent training with Betty Martin.
So much has been said about this emotion, and yet it is the most misunderstood of all human emotions…
The heart rate increases, the body feels hotter, sweaty palms, the chest feels constricted. In extreme cases it can lead to panic attacks, uncontrollable sadness, feeling paralysed, or lashing out in anger.
People often describe the expression of jealousy inside them, as a sense of dread, impending doom, feeling out of control.
Simply put, it is the body’s trigger response to sensing danger, even when there is no real danger or if there are other ways of mitigating danger that do not require the body to respond in that way.
Jealousy is not, in fact, an emotion. It is a stand-in for a whole range of feelings, emotions and sensations. It can be an important data-hub for learning and growth. It can be a motivating force for passion and intimacy.
Unpacking jealousy to understand the raw emotion underneath is an important element in healing. It is important that you know to identify and distinguish envy, fear of abandonment, fear of losing control or any other underlying causes.
Kitchen Table Polyamory
Describes a dynamic where multiple people connected through mutual partners feel comfortable spending time in activity together. This may include having dinners with your partners and metamours, playing board games or going out together as a group.
KTP is not more evolved or enlightened than other ways of practicing non-monogamy. It requires a lot of emotional openness and energy, invested in the wider network of lovers and metamours.
For some, this dynamic provides a ‘chosen family’ setting that gives safety and security.
For others, it can be added pressure to engage in performative sociability for the sake of maintaining peace in the polycule.
If your partner insists on KTP as a condition of dating them, this is a red flag. Until you meet their other partners and decide if you enjoy spending time with them, there is no need to agree to this. You may not have the time or energy, or you may carry some insecurities that makes such a dynamic too emotionally demanding. See also, garden party polyamory.
LDR (Long Distance Relationship)
A relationship between 2 or more people, that do not live in the same location and see each other infrequently. It can include commitment, intimacy and mutual emotional support.
Some LDRs are temporary, a phase while the partners focus on other life goals with the intention of eventually being in close physical contact.
Being directed from a place of love means holding abundance in your heart.
Love feels different to different people, and we cannot judge how another person feels love, based on how we feel it.
One thing that is often overlooked, is that love is separate from dependence, meeting needs or having emotional support. Those things often come packaged up in someone you love but are very different.
When I love someone, I want them to be the most authentic, fulfilled, realised version of themselves, whatever that means to them.
I do not want to control them or fit them into a box that I approve of. These things happen because of fear, not love.
The term refers to tactics of emotional manipulation used to influence one’s attachment. In the 1970’s, certain church groups used it to describe their tactics of recruiting new members to the church.
Psychologists see love-bombing in relationships as an intentional and manipulative display of affection and attention, designed to make their target become emotionally dependent on them.
It is a predatory strategy often used by people with strong narcissistic tendencies, as well as by people who study ‘pick-up artistry’ (PUA) as a strategy to ‘win’ someone’s affection.
Love-bombing cannot last long, and so the contrast between the initial ‘honeymoon phase’ and the person’s normal way of relating is extremely stark. There can be a repeat of the phases in toxic relationships between extreme love-bombing and extreme avoidance or abuse.
In polyamory, love-bombing can look like someone paying a lot of attention to you in a manner that is unsustainable when someone has multiple partners, thus creating unrealistic expectations. It is important to be aware of red-flags associated with love-bombing at the very start of a relationship:
- Multiple texts/calls per day
- Showering you with compliments, buying gifts and wanting to spend all their time with you
- Talking about a future together before they really know you
- In your gut, things feel like they are moving too fast
- They don’t seem to listen or respect boundaries that you set
- They will confess their love very early on
- Their interests and passions somehow completely mirror your own
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote ‘The Five Love Languages‘ as a guide for couples who struggles to communicate their affection in a manner that their partner will fully receive. Each of us have a different way of feeling and expressing love, and knowledge of that makes communication in relationships much better.
Love languages are intentionally limited in scope. They were originally aimed at a Christian monogamous and neurotypical audience and I feel they encourage complacency in some respects. The stress is on understanding and accepting your partner’s love language even if it isn’t compatible with yours. There are many other love languages that aren’t covered, and apply to those who are neurodiverse or in alternative relationship dynamics.
For someone with ASD, it can be showing an active interest in their specialist knowledge subject. For someone with ADHD, it can be showing acceptance and grace if they are often late or disorganised.
In polyamory practice, different partners might elicit and stimulate different ways of showing love. It can also change over time. I find that it’s good to understand my primary love language but also to remain flexible and open to this changing or showing up differently with different partners.
The 5 love languages are:
When a sexual connection comes before emotional connection, and often is needed in order to have an emotional bond. The path to building emotional intimacy often starts with a sexual attraction and connection.
The partner of my partner. Someone that I am not in direct relationship but is romantically and/or sexually relating to my partner.
A metamour is not someone that you are expected to be in any connection with. You can choose to not have any contact with your metamour, you can have a cordial connection or you could become great friends. All options are possible and the only people that get to decide that, are you and them.
Red flags to watch for:
- Your partner tries to convince you to be friends with your metamour
- Your partner refuses to let you meet your metamour
- Your partner shares information about your metamour that you wish to know and that they are happy to be shared, for you to make your own decision on whether to meet them.
We have a mind, and we are not our mind. We have thoughts that happen to us, we can’t control the thoughts and we are not defined by these thoughts.
We do have control over the attention we give to some thoughts over others. We also are able to introduce new thoughts.
Mono-normative / Mono-normativity
A narrow, and arguably extremist mindset that believes Monogamy is the only true path of relationships.
This scarcity led mindset comes with a set of core beliefs:
- Love is a scarce resource and there are a finite number of people who we can romantically and sexually connect with.
- The ideal social and economic unit for a stable and functioning society is a dyad.
- Relationships must follow a specific path, called the ‘Relationship Escalator‘
- Finding romance requires investment and expenditure.
- We must expect constant growth in our romantic connection.
Having capacity and capability of holding love to one person at a time.
A monoamorous person may choose a monogamous dynamic, or a multigamous dynamic with a polyamorous person where they choose to not date anyone else.
In it’s healthy form, it is a conscious choice to maintain exclusive sexual and romantic relations with one other person. People who identify as monoamorous find this dynamic best suited to their needs.
When monogamy is the default choice for most people, and they enter into it unconsciously, it can become a toxic force.
Monogamy is a relationship dynamic, not an identity.
There is sometimes a blurred line between monogamy and Multigamy for people who are not actually monoamorous, but have struggled to communicate their needs to themselves and their partner. This might look like drunkenly kissing others at a party, struggling to align their deep emotional bonds to close friends with the emotional exclusivity needs of their partner, or concealing their affairs and pretending they are happy with monogamy.
Cheating is not necessarily about the dissonance between relationship dynamic and connection style, and is often to do with a need for power and control. If the cheating partner does so because they cannot handle their partner acting as they do, then it is a toxic dynamic.
Coined by Dan Savage, it means that a couple is largely monogamous (exclusive in romantic and sexual interactions) but has a certain degree of freedom to explore connections with other people, either together or separately.
This can include
- giving a ‘hall-pass’ to have casual,
- one-off flings;
- inviting a 3rd person to join for threesomes occasionally;
- one or both people may have a ‘friend with benefit‘ that they see infrequently;
- the couple might frequent swinger or kink parties from time to time.
Someone who is only interested to have at most, one sexual partner at any given time.
Multigamy is an umbrella term describing all multiple-relationship dynamics. Unlike non-monogamy, It has no negative implications.
Ethics and consent are a given, as just like in monogamy, some people behaving unethically do not represent the entire community.
Multigamy can look like many things. It doesn’t mean those involved are polyamorous. They may be monoamorous & multisexual for example.
ex. “I identify as multigamous, and maintain several committed and casual relationships”
Someone who is interested to explore sexual activity with multiple partners.
What we require for our survival, such as food, water, shelter, air are needs. So is what we require for emotional wellbeing, such as safety, stability, touch, emotional support etc.
Our emotional needs will change over time as we gain experience, confidence and skills that help us become emotionally more self-sufficient.
A partner we cohabitate with, sharing a house and possibly finances. It is a degree of closeness that often indicates a primary relationship, though not necessarily. You can practice solo-polyamory and have a nesting partner for practical reasons, yet still not have broad hierarchy in your relationships.
NVC – Non-Violent Communication
Developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg and used widely for conflict resolution. This communications tool has 4 components.
State a fact that you’ve noticed, using an “I” sentence. Avoid accusing the other person of anything, voicing an opinion, or mentioning any emotions at this stage. The aim is to state something as neutrally as possible that the other person can agree with.
“I notice that I initiate most of our plans for seeing each other.”
How does this make you feel? Try to stick only to emotions here, rather than getting caught in stories, and again focus on your own experience only.
“I feel insecure and sad about this.”
State the need you have in this situation. What’s your boundary?
“I have a need for reciprocity and reassurance that you want to see me as much as I want to see you.”
Ask your partner for what you need in this situation. Be as specific as possible; avoid asking them to make you feel a particular emotion, and instead ask them to take specific actions that would have the same effect.
“I’d like to request that you take the lead in organising more of our dates, and ask me more often when we can see each other next.”
Finally, ask how this landed for them. Give them your full attention as they respond to your request.
“How does that sound to you?”
When discussing boundary issues it can also be helpful to focus on the positive result of having your boundaries respected. Hopefully, both you and your partner want the same thing – a close, intimate relationship built on love and trust. Framing the discussion with this perspective can help to remind you both that you’re on the same side, and avoid the conversation becoming an argument.
N.R.E – New Relationship Energy
At the beginning of a relationship, our brains release chemicals that bond us to our partner and leave us feeling buzzing, almost like a high from drugs. During the NRE (new relationship energy) stage of the relationship, it is very easy to have hazy, blurry boundaries as we want to impress and court our partner/s and to live up to the fantasy that they of us.
In the practice of polyamory, experiencing NRE while already in an established relationship can be immensely confusing. Knowing that this is a chemical process that wears off, is helpful in managing expectations and ensuring that your established partner does not feel ignored or unappreciated.
Also look up – ERE (Established Relationship Energy)
Numb / Numbness
Open Relating is the path of creating and maintaining conscious, connected, autonomous and expansive relationships, regardless of their dynamic and how many people are involved.
Doing so requires first an honest unflinching look at our own vulnerabilities, fears, needs, wants and desires. This helps us gain the courage to be open in our communication about our boundaries, needs and wants.
When you are open-relating, your authentic Self is in connection with your partner’s authentic Self.
Describes a style of relationship with a degree of non-exclusivity, typically when it comes to sexual contact with other people.
When someone says they are in an open relationship, it usually indicates they are open to casual and physical connections, but have a limitation on how emotionally bonded they want to be with people other than their primary partner.
A one penis/vagina policy refers to when one or both people in a couple insist on an agreement that limits their partner in who they could have sex with.
In heterosexual couples, it means my partner cannot have sex with anyone that is the same gender as me (crudely identifying genitals with gender).
In a same-sex couple, it could mean the agreement is to only have sex with people of a different gender.
The most frequent application of this, is when a man expects his woman partner to engage physically only with non-men. Reasons for doing so often involve unconscious insecurity,bias and misunderstanding of same-sex connections.
Managing multiple loving and committed relationships separately from each other.
When your partners are not involved with each other and each relationship operates independently of the others with little interaction.
Generally refers to non-sexual and non-romantic relationship, but can vary in how it is defined by different people. A Platonic relationship can be emotionally close and intimate as much as a sexual or romantic one.
Refers to casual, less emotionally involved relationships that focus on having fun together with little commitment. Play can be kinky, sexual or both.
See also F.W.B which is similar. However play partners are not necessarily friends who hang out outside of their specific version of ‘play’.
Poly=Many / Amory=Loves
Being Polyamorous: Having the emotional capacity and capability to hold love for multiple people, at the same time. The love for one person does not detract from the love for another.
Practicing Polyamory: Living out your orientation by maintaining multiple loving relationships (multigamy).
Many definitions tend to confound the two things which can confuse some people. You can be polyamorous and single, or in one relationship.
Describing the special kind of pain and hurt arising from the difficulties of managing polyamorous relationships.
This term was coined by Jillian Deri and expanded upon by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff in this article. She’s found 5 elements that contribute to pain in Polyamory: Difficulty Finding Honest Partners, Mis-Match of Desire for Polyamory, Jealousy, Stigma, Discrimination.
This is a term often used by monogamous people to describe the shock they feel when their partner brings up the topic of wanting to explore Polyamory. In some cases, this happens after a very long monogamous relationship and may be presented by the partner as a huge realisation that this is who they now are. Their partner must either accept the new reality, or separate.
Dan Savage coined the term ‘PUD’ (Polyamorous under duress) to describe monogamous people who reluctantly agree to practice Polyamory for fear of losing their partner.
It is difficult, but certainly possible to bring up the subject compassionately, and design a relationship dynamic that will work for both partners.
A network of people who practice various forms of multigamy, connected to each other through their romantic and sexual relationships. It is a useful term as often these social ties become the foundation of people’s social circles, support network, party scene or board-game nights.
Some people use the term in reference to their direct romantic or sexual connections and others have a broader definition that encompasses metamours (partner of my partner) and telemours (the partner of my partner’s partner).
An agreement made by all members of a polyamorous network, also known as a polycule, to be exclusive either romantically, sexually or both.
Polyfidelity is often practiced as a measure of safer sex or when the members of the polycule feel saturated.
Often confused with polyamory but is in fact very different, polygamy is the practice of one person having multiple partners that they are married to. This is a one-sided dynamic.
Polygyny means a man who has multiple wives.
Polyandry means a woman who has multiple husbands.
The state of emotional fullness in the existing polyamorous relationships you have, or of having no more time/energy for additional relationships.
ex. “While I would love to go on a date with you, as I have 3 partners, it leaves me no emotional bandwidth to start a new relationship; I am totally polysaturated at the moment.”
A partner that is ranked as a priority over other partners. Having a primary partner is the polyamorous dynamic that most resembles traditional monogamy. Your primary partner may also be your nesting partner and will usually default as the partner that accompanies you to family and work functions, holidays etc. When you have a primary partner, you might refer to other partners as secondaries in an established hierarchy.
P.U.D (Polyamory Under Duress)
Polyamory Under Duress
A term coined by Dan Savage to describe the situation where someone reluctantly accepts to practice polyamory as a result of their partner wanting this dynamic and this becoming an ultimatum for maintaining the relationship.
One of the 5 Love Languages.
- Making plans together
- Being fully in the moment
- Engaging in deep and meaningful conversations
- Feeling de-prioritised
- Being told I am needy or anxious
- When my partner is distracted (with their phone, TV, other friends etc.)
Being fully honest in your relating with a partner is critical for establishing the trust that is needed to allow for Expansive Relationships. It means you are honest with yourself and are open to hear your partner’s honesty. It does not mean saying anything you think of with no regard to the consequences. Being radically honest with someone, requires that they are ready and open to hear what you have to say.
“Radical Honesty(tm) is a way to create connections and to stay present to our experience and bodily sensations. Radical Honesty is direct communication that leads to intimacy. It is the difference between making a performance and laughing and playing with friends. Honesty is kind of scary fun that turns out better than you thought it would. Lying is work and a pain in the ass and makes you lonesome as hell.
We claim that lying is the major source of all human stress. It wears us out and eventually kills us. When people engage honestly, energy that was wasted maintaining a performance to make an impression is suddenly available for real creativity in playing together. When we admit our pretenses we can refresh our relationships and powerfully create new ways of living together. That is the not-so-secret secret of Radical Honesty.”
Regulating the nervous system is an aspect of self-care. When our system is activated because of a perceived danger, the body enters survival mode, meaning entering the flight/fight/freeze zone and shutting down our higher functions of cognitive abilities.
In order to regain those functions, we need to first regulate the nervous system – in short, tell our body that it is not in danger. As social creatures, humans evolved the capability of regulating with others, and we are also capable of self-regulation.
Self-regulation can involve focusing on deep, intentional breaths; or creating a direct connection with the body through touch, laying on the ground or shaking it. There are all kinds of somatic practices that can help with regulation.
Co-regulation can involve having a hug, holding hands with a trusted person or eye-gazing, for example.
Relational Dynamic spectrum
The kind of relationship format that best suits us.
The way a relationship with others is structured falls along a spectrum. Knowing that all options are equally valid means you can design a relationship that matches your emotional and sexual connection style. However, other factors go into this selection, not all of them conscious. These include:
The dynamic that your parents modelled for you (positively or negatively); popular media impressions; time constraints due to family or work responsibilities; past traumatic relationships; anxious or avoidant styles of connecting with intimate partners; your love languages and more.
The Relationship Anarchy Manifesto was written by Andie Nordgren in 2006. It is a short document that offers an alternative to traditional relationship expectations with fixed rules and expected outcomes.
You get to create uniquely designed relationships that match your values, needs and wants, irrespective of what anyone else’s opinion is. There is no inherent hierarchy because of what you do with a partner, ie. having sex with someone does not make them more important in your life; living together does not confer privileges automatically; platonic friends can be prioritised for emotional care over sexual partners, etc.
You are responsible for your own feelings, words and actions.
You are responsible for any agreements you make.
You are not responsible for your partner’s feelings, words or actions.
You are not responsible to take away their suffering, though you may want to help them because of the love and connection you have.
Wanting to do something, is very different to feeling responsibility or obligation to it.
A term coined by Amy Gahran in their book, Stepping off the Relationship Escalator, to explain the way that a mono-normative mindset leads us to believe in a very specific path towards relationship bliss that is expected to last our entire life-time. The progression of the escalator is pre-determined and becomes an expectation, that can look like:
- Dating only until we meet ‘the one’
- Deciding to become exclusive
- Planning a future together and becoming a social unit (‘We’)
- Moving in together, and becoming an economic unit
- Formalising the relationship through a legal contract with the State
- Merging finances
- Buying a house together
- Having children
- Prioritising ‘the family’ above all other social connections
- Making joint plans for retirement
- Growing old together
- Being buried in a joint plot
Wanting to have a rule essentially outsources your feeling of safety and security to the other person.
We have inherited a scarcity focused culture that values dominance, competitiveness, capitalism, accumulation of wealth and resources. No matter the political ideology, scarcity is at the root of so many problems that humanity must tackle if we are to thrive as a species. The compounded tragedy is that we also inherited fixed ways of thinking and analysing these issues that limit us, as they are borne of the same value system.
If you have a family background that is resource poor, it will be difficult to conceive a reality where you are not actively struggling to meet your basic survival needs. From this perspective, scarcity is what you have always known and wanting to protect what you have worked for and earned, makes sense.
If you have a resource-rich family background, you may have been brought up to believe that your privilege is well deserved and it is vital to preserve and protect it at all costs. From this mindset, a choice to not hold on to your privilege is seen as a radical and subversive act.
How some people refer to a partner that is not their primary partner and receives less of a priority in their life. The labeling of someone as secondary does not mean that there is less emotional connection and love. However it explicitly implies that there is a hierarchy which is worth unpacking and discussing.
For some, this label can feel demeaning, as if they are ‘less than’. For others, it is a convenient distinction that they are not expected to provide their partner with emotional anchoring and support, as they are getting that from their primary partner.
Sexual Expression spectrum
How we tend to connect sexually (if at all) with others.
How people express their sexuality and connect sexually to others can vary greatly along the spectrum. This can come from innate personality, prior experience as well as from trauma.
Your life experience, way of creating bonds etc. will all have an impact. You may also find that with some people, your sexual expression can be different than with others.
Sexual Proclivity spectrum
The variety of sexual partners that we enjoy connecting with.
There isn’t a ‘natural’ or ‘default’ way of expressing sexual interest. It varies according to both biological and learned needs and wants. Some find that focusing on one sexual partner is more than enough while others enjoy and find pleasure in variety and diversity with multiple sexual partners.
While this is not true for all, some feel that having a label that defines proclivity for sexual partners is helpful to accept who they are and to explain it to others. This can be permanent or may shift, change, ebb and flow over time, depending on the phase of life, mood or health, and the relationship dynamic. This spectrum may not fit your view of yourself, which is totally fine.
A conscious choice to only be in a relationship with self.
Many people think of being single as something to avoid at all costs, or temporary phase until you find a partner.
At some phases of our lives, staying single is helpful and empowering. Some choose it to keep their lives simple and only be responsible for their own needs. People who choose to be single can still experience emotional and sexual connections that do not need to be defined as being in relationship.
Each person may practice solo-polyamory differently and the only constant is that you have a primary relationship with self.
Materially, I am self-sufficient and choose to live alone. I make time for myself, my family and friends as well as to my romantic and sexual relationships. I do not seek hierarchy and do not elevate some relationships over others based on whether they are romantic or involving sex. There can be a natural preference emerging based on who I enjoy spending time with, the quality of the activities we enjoy and the time that we have available to spend together.
Somatic = in the body
When we have trauma that is stored in the body, it is harder to process and heal through self-work. It can be helpful to seek professional help to process deep-seated trauma that is triggered from strong feelings. If you see a counsellor or therapist, ask if they are trauma-informed.
Some of the therapies and practices that have helped people regain control over their emotions so they can begin to process and heal the causes, include (this is not an exhaustive list):
- TRE – Trauma Response Exercises
- EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Breathwork – There are several techniques available based on Buddhist, Daoist, Tantric practices
- Yoga – Especially slow, grounding yoga such as Hatha
- Taichi – Chinese practice that combines martial arts with meditation
- Qigong – Chinese practice combining breath, meditation and body movement
- Meditation – Disidentification from our mind, feelings and body so we bear witness to what is happening inside
- Physical exercise – Practicing being in your body and regaining control, working with the breath
A type of multigamous (non-monogamous) relationship dynamic which became popular in the 70s. Someone who refers to themself as a swinger, typically engages in casual sexual activities outside of their core romantic relationship. They tend to do so with their partner, often by swapping partners or attending swinger parties.
It is possible to be a single person in the swinger scene, but this tends to be mostly a bi- or pansexual woman who would play with a hetero-couple.
While a metamour is defined as the partner of my partner, a telemour is the partner of my Metamour.
One of the 5 Love Languages.
- Receiving massages
- Long hugs and physical intimacy
- Lots of physical contact
- When touch is not intentional
- Having to constantly initiate
- Going long periods without physical attention
Triad (or Thrupple)
A relationship dynamic with 3 people – a form of Multigamy that involves 3 people who are connected romantically and/or sexually with each other in a committed relationship.
The Triad dynamic is one of the most complex and challenging forms of multigamy. When couples decide to open up a previously monogamous relationship, they often do it by considering to add a ‘third’ to their dynamic as the most obvious and ‘safe’ option. They assume that bringing in a new person into their existing relationship will preserve what they have already created between them, while adding a layer of sexual exploration and emotional expansion.
The reality is far from this ideal however. There is a significant amount of couples’ privilege inherent in this mindset. The person who joins this couple is not a prop, and will have their own wants and needs. They may not be attracted to both people in the same way or to the same extent. Any tension and cracks that may have existed in their relationship will become apparent.
It therefore becomes crucial to examine the couples’ privilege and recognising that each person in the couple needs to develop their own 1:1 relationship with the new person. Agreements must be made between all 3 people and not be rules that are handed down to the person joining.
A ‘unicorn’ is mostly thought of as a bisexual person who joins an established hetero couple and is equally into both of them, for sex or romance, depending on the needs and desires of the couple.
For couples, this often tends to be the first step in their opening up process. It serves to spice up their sex life, and inject excitement and variety while retaining the basic safety mechanism of their dyad. It seems as less of a threat than dating separately.
For the single person, becoming a unicorn can be appealing, especially if they are exploring their bisexuality. They get ample attention from 2 people, and do not have the responsibilities and pressures of a full relationship.
The most important reason that this is inherently an unethical practice is due to the outsized influence and power that the couple hold. This is called couple’s privilege. Couples who use this as their opening up strategy, are literally looking for a ‘third’. They have a checklist of what that person should be in order to fit in with their existing relationship dynamic. Expecting the 3rd person to be attracted to and remain interested in both people, is expecting a lot.
While this could definitely happen, there are high chances that over time, the connection with the couple may not survive. If the couple agree among themselves that this dynamic is only valid as long as it is fully three-way, then this means each hold a veto power over the entire dynamic, while the ‘unicorn’ has no say other than leaving the entire relationship. If the couple encounter issues in their own relationship, they are likely to close back up, something that the unicorn has no say in.
The practice of Unicorn Hunting has different connotations depending on the scene. In swinging, it refers to a couple seeking out a 3rd person, usually a bisexual woman, for casual sex play.
In polyamory, there is intention to find a 3rd person that will join the couple’s existing dynamic to enhance and improve it. This is a problematic practice because usually, the couple think of themselves as a single unit, and this likely will clash with the perspective of the 3rd person that sees each person in the couple as an individual.
This mismatch often leads to drama. Any existing co-dependency issues in the couple are very likely to emerge and interfere. To try and find another person in an ethical way, the established couple must do the home-work to accept that they are both individuals with a direct connection to the 3rd person.
They know that each separate connection has a life of its own and may continue even if the other strands do not. A triad relationship contains multiple separate relationships within. Each person is an individual with a relationship to Self. There are 3 dyadic relationships that exist, plus a 3-way one. The 3rd person joining a couple needs to feel empowered and be part of any agreement that is formed, that affects everyone in the dynamic. Rules cannot be ‘handed down’ to them, and couple’s privilege needs to be explicitly acknowledged and mitigated as much as possible.
The ‘V’ designation is a graphic description of a relationship dynamic involving 3 people. A triad can be graphically presented as a triangle. A ‘V’ describes a person who has 2 partners that are not in a relationship with one another. The bottom of the ‘V’ is the ‘hinge‘ and at each extremity is one of the partners. Typically, these relationships run in parallel and the 2 metamours may or may not have any contact.
In a ‘V’ dynamic, the hinge partner bears a lot of responsibility to ensure clear and smooth communication between all concerned.
Refers to allowing your partner to make certain decisions on your behalf. Having veto power means, for example, that I can tell my partner they cannot date someone they want if it makes me feel unsafe.
Making an agreement that includes uni- or bi-directional veto power, means you give up your agency and hand power over your actions to your partner. The usual reason for wanting this agreement is to avoid feeling unsafe, of feeling pain.
Having veto power in your relationship is a clear sign of hierarchy.
Wheel of Connection
The virtuous cycle of relationship communication and conscious connection. The building blocks of an autonomous, conscious and connected relationship contribute to creating a healthy connection. This is important for any romantic relationship, and especially critical in multi-partnered (non-monogamous) relationships.
Establishing trust is important but this is impacted by what the people involved have experienced in their past. We cannot take things for granted, we need to be precise and comprehensive in how we communicate, to avoid future misunderstandings.
Words of Affirmation
One of the 5 Love Languages.
- Being complimented verbally
- Receiving notes of affection
- Being encouraged in my work
- Not being recognised for my efforts
- Hearing harsh words
- When people assume things about me rather than confirming with words