Are you confused about the difference between the terms ‘polyamory’, ‘non-monogamy’, ‘ethical non-monogamy’, ‘open relationship’, and ‘swinging’? In our experience there are few clear agreed definitions for these terms. There seem to be almost as many definitions as there are practitioners, and the best way of understanding what any individual means by any term is to ask them.

Here’s what we mean when we use these terms:

Non-monogamy Anything other than accepted traditional monogamy. This can include sexual and/or emotional infidelity (cheating), swinging, polyamory, and any other type of non-monogamous relationship out there.

Ethical non-monogamy All participants are willing, and honest with each other about their non-monogamy.

Swinging Frequently couples-based, and focused on recreational sex. All parties are aware of each other. Some couples may set limits on developing emotional bonds outside the primary relationship.

Open relationship A fluid term that most commonly refers to couple-centric relationships which are honest and non-exclusive both sexually and emotionally.

Polyamory Multiple intimate relationships which emphasize loving emotional connection, and open communication. They may or may not be sexual, and the structure is as individual as the participants.

On this site we use some of these terms apparently interchangeably. The skills developed through courses offered by Your Relationship Toolbelt  are applicable across most forms of open honest non-monogamy (and hey, pretty much any relationship.)

Our emphasis is on the emotional aspect of all relationships. Your Relationship Toolbelt will not, for example, assist you to navigate the swinging party scene or teach you how to pick up non-monogamous people for recreational sex. (It may however make you much more attractive by enhancing your relationship skills!  ) For swinging-specific support we highly recommend chantelleaustin.com.

Relationship Anarchy The practice of forming relationships which are not bound by rules aside from what the people involved mutually agree on. It can be considered as one form of polyamory, but distinguishes itself by postulating that there need not be a formal distinction between different types of sexual, romantic or platonic relationships. (from the Wikipedia entry)

Solo Polyamory A form of polyamory in which autonomy and independence is highly valued. “The primary relationship is with oneself” is one understanding of solo polyamory. It most commonly denotes individuals who are not coupled up or enmeshed in their partners’ lives.

Other useful terms

V One person in relationship with two others who are not in an intimate relationships with each other.

W A series of ‘V’s.

Hinge The person in the middle of a ‘V’.

Triad Three people all in relationship with each other.

Quad Four people all in relationship with each other.

Polyfidelity A closed group of three or more people who are all intimate with each other and all agree not to engage with people outside the group. Sometimes called ‘group marriage‘.

Metamour Partner’s partner/intimate. Sometimes referred to as ‘paramour‘.

Compersion The feeling of joy at watching a beloved be loved by another.



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