It’s a term I coined to replace ‘non-monogamy’ as the blanket category of all non-exclusive, multi-partner relationships.
Play to hear the pronunciation
Over time, as I keep hearing and reading about ‘non-monogamy’, I have become annoyed with people using the term (with the implied ethics and consent consideration that adds a prefix to it). Describing an active practice which is positive and healthy, as the opposite of something else, is problematic, in my view.
Consider what it would feel like to call monoamory, non-polyamory?
What if we called all heterosexual people, non-queer?
Words have impact, and othering a group often starts with the way we use language.
I believe it’s time to upend this narrative, redefine the norm and see relationship dynamics as existing on a spectrum that includes single (by choice), monogamy, monogamish, mono-poly, open relationships, triads, quads, polycules, parallel poly, kitchen table poly, hierarchical and non-hierarchical poly, etc. etc.
Calling the practice of seeing multiple people in parallel, in whatever configuration, ethical non-monogamy, effectively implies that non-monogamy is normally unethical and therefore requires a qualifier. Ethics are subjective and not universal, so this is not a very helpful qualifier.
When most people only know of 2 dynamics (monogamy and cheating), it would make sense that you have to specify that an honest, transparent and consensual practice of non-monogamy is in fact ethical. However as the spectrum of relationship dynamics becomes more accessible and well known, I feel that speaking openly about dating multiple people, already implies both ethics and consent.
A step further would be to avoid defining the practice as what it is not (‘non-‘) and instead give it a neutral identifier such as ‘Multigamy‘. If ‘mono’ means 1 partner, ‘multi’ means multiple partners.
I would rather be defined by what I am, than by what I am not.
Designer relationships can work for the people involved, and not need critique or opinion from those not involved.
Mono = one | Multi = many | Gamy = relationship (marriage, originally)
Multigamy is a positive term describing all multiple-relationship dynamics. It has no negative implication like ‘non-monogamy’. 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 even mean those involved are polyamorous. They may be monoamorous & polysexual for example.
Here are some more common dynamics that fall under the umbrella of Multigamy:
- Hierarchical polyamory
- Triad (or thrupple)
- Open relationship
- Egalitarian polyamory
- Quad and larger polycules
If someone asks if you practice ethical or consensual non-monogamy, you can ask them if they practice ethical-monogamy. They might rethink their assumptions.
I was interviewed on a podcast called Practicing Polyamory where I explain in more detail why I use Multigamy instead of non-monogamy.
I also discuss this topic at length with Leanne of Polyphiliablog in this video.