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This page is a guide to many terms used within the Polyamorous community. Some of the definitions given here, particularly colloquialisms, reflect the usage I am most familiar with. Some of the terms contain my personal opinions, experiences, and/or interpretations and follow the word Commentary. Links in the definitions will take you to that word's definition elsewhere on this page. There are a few terms here that cross over into other subcultures, which overlap with the Poly community, such as terms you might hear in reference to Swinging, New Age, or Fetish cultures, but mostly I tried to limit those only to terms that also have strong usage in the poly community, and/or terms that are often confused or misused by those less-informed about Polyamory. For more information about BDSM or the Fetish culture, visit and

Most of these terms were provided by, one of the best poly resources available. A few terms come from and still others come straight from my personal dictionary.

  • ABUNDANT LOVE: The belief or philosophy that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time.

  • ADELPHOGAMY: Literally, adelphos = brother + gamos = marriage.
    A specific form of
    polyandry, practiced historically and occasionally still practiced in some portions of Tibet and Nepal, in which a set of brothers is married to the same woman. See also Leviratic Marriage. Also, FRATERNAL POLYANDRY, LEVIRATIC POLYANDRY.

  • AGAMY: Literally, a = no + gamos = marriage.
    1. A state or condition of not engaging in marriage, or more generally not engaging in marriage or reproduction.
    2. Sociology; of or relating to a society with no recognized rules or prescriptions on marriage, or which does not recognize marriage at all.

  • AGREEMENT: When two or more people concur on or approve of a course of action or a set of behaviours for each other or the relationship they're in. Agreements usually involve instructing each other on what they can and can't do to each other, but sometimes include what they can and can't do with others. Often used as a weasel-word to be used in place of the word "rule" to disguise a rule, to avoid the social stigma of having rules, or to take the moral high ground in a disagreement about appropriate behaviour. However, the use of the word in this context is, in effect, similar or identical in practice to the use of a "rule". When used in this manner, agreements can often be used as a tool for "rules-lawyering", a term meaning going back over exact words in a previous discussion to find fault in another person's behaviour or to find "loopholes" to excuse fault in one's own behaviour, using the letter of the agreement instead of the spirit of the agreement, or using the agreement to resist any change to the structure of the relationship.

  • BIGAMY: Literally, bi = two + gamos = marriage
    1. A relationship in which one person is
    married to two spouses. Gender of any spouse is not implied by use of this word.
    2. Illegal In most Western countries; the crime of entering in one marriage while still legally married to another person; marriage fraud. See related polygamy, polygyny, polyandry. See related Enoch Arden Act.

  • BIPOLY: Colloquial; Of or related to a person who is both bisexual and polyamorous.

  • BI POLY SWITCH: Colloquial; sometimes humorous; Of or related to a person who is bisexual and polyamorous and who is a BDSM switch, capable of taking on a dominant or submissive role in sex. Commentary: There is a popular T-shirt reads "I'm a bi poly switch and I still won't sleep with you." You can find a related shirt that reads I'm bi, poly, & kinky and I still won't sleep with you.

  • BISEXUAL: Of or related to sexual attraction to or sexual activity with both men and women; as, a bisexual person: a person who is sexually attracted to or sexually active with partners of both sexes. See related hot bi babe.

  • BODY FLUID MONOGAMY: The practice of limiting any activity which involves the exchange of bodily fluids, including such activities as unprotected sexual intercourse, to only one partner. See also fluid bonding, condom contract. Usage: Originated in the BDSM community; becoming increasingly common in the BDSM and Poly communities.

  • BOUNDARY: A limitation that a person places on themselves or their own behaviour, but not on other people or other people's behaviour. Example: A person who prefers to use condoms in all instances of sexuality involving penises. A boundary does not dictate, illustrate, explain, expect, or request any behaviour from another person, it explains or illistrates a personal limitation on a person's own behaviour. A boundary cannot be something placed on someone else, such as a person who insists one's partner always use condoms with other people. Other Examples: I do not like to be around cats; I do not like to date smokers; I prefer to not have contact with my partners' other partners; I prefer to get STD test results from my partners before breaking HPV Boundaries with them; I need a certain amount of alone time to feel happy; I prefer to always use latex barriers during sexual activity. Not Examples: I don't want you having sex with other people without using condoms; I don't like you dating him; I need you to not spend so much time with her; I want you to quit smoking; I want you to get rid of your cat.

  • CANDAULISM: Sexual arousal from watching one's spouse have sex with or engage in sexual activity with another person. See related compersion.

  • CHEATING: In a relationship, any activity which violates the rules or agreements of that relationship, whether tacit or explicit. Commentary: In traditional monogamous relationships, any sexual activity with anyone outside that relationship is generally viewed as cheating. Sometimes, in traditional monogamous relationships, any deep emotional bond with anyone outside that relationship of that person's preferred gender orientation is also considered cheating; as in, a heterosexual male/female couple where the female has a deep emotional bond with a heterosexual male who is not her partner is cheating, but a "best friend" who is a heterosexual female is not considered cheating. In a polyamorous or swinging relationship, sexual activity with people outside the relationship may or may not be seen as cheating, depending on the context of that sexual activity and whether or not it violates the agreements of the people in that relationship. Even in such relationships, most commonly, sexual activity without the knowledge and explicit consent of the other members of the relationship is likely to be viewed as cheating, although it can be more complicated based on intentions and whether or not all parties understand that the activity in question falls under the umbrella of "cheating" and whether or not the relationship operates as Rules-Based or Consequence-Based.

  • CHOICE FAMILY: See intentional family. Also CHOSEN FAMILY.

  • CIVIL CONTRACT: A legally binding contract enforced under "civil law", which are rules of "private law" as opposed to "criminal law". In this sense, civil law covers contracts, ownership of property, and payment for personal injury. Commentary: A "civil marriage" or "civil contract" with regards to partnership,is a partnership that is governed by a legal set of responsibilities and rights, as opposed to a religious marriage, which is a union sanctioned by or given blessing by a church or religious body with its own set of implied or stated rights and responsibilities. In many countries, the two types of marriage go hand in hand, but a partnership can sometimes have one without the other. Civil Contracts are not directly related to polyamory, however, the concept of marriage and other laws that affect romantic and sexual relationships is very much an issue to poly folk. It is with regards to who is allowed to enter into these contracts, and what the contracts include, that affect poly folk and the GLBT community.

  • CLOSED MARRIAGE: Any marriage where there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage; monogamous marriage. Contrast: open marriage. Commentary: This is the most common form of marriage in most Western countries. See related Closed Group Marriage.

  • CLOSED GROUP MARRIAGE: A polyfidelitous relationship in which all the members consider themselves to be married to each other and there is no emotional intimacy or sexuality outside the marriage. See related closed marriage, group marriage.

  • CLOSED RELATIONSHIP: Any romantic relationship, such as a conventional monogamous relationship or a polyfidelitous relationship, which specifically excludes the possibility of sexual or romantic connections outside that relationship.

  • CLUSTER MARRIAGE: A polyamorous relationship in which two or more married couples cohabitate and exchange partners. See group marriage; See related intentional family, co-spouse, co-husband, co-wife.

  • CO-HABITATE: To live together. Cohabitating: the state or practice of living together.

  • CO-HUSBAND: A man in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other man in that group marriage. See also co-wife, co-spouse.

  • COMPERSION: A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. Commentary: Compersion can be thought of as the opposite of "jealousy;" it is a positive emotional reaction to a loved one's romantic relationship(s). The term was coined by the Kerista Commune. It differs from candaulism in that compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of someone, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic and/or sexual partner. It is analagous to the feeling of joy a parent feels when their children marry, or that best friends feel for each other when they are happy in a relationship. See related candaulism, frubble.

  • COMPLEX MARRIAGE: A doctrine which holds that all the male members of a particular group or community are, upon joining the group, married to all the female members, and all the female members are, upon joining the group, married to all the male members. This doctrine was established as part of the Oneida Community.

  • CONDOM CONTRACT: A formal agreement within a relationship to confine exchange of bodily fluids and barrier-free sexual contact to the people in that relationship, each of whom has previously been screened for sexually transmitted diseases. Condom contracts may specify under what conditions a member of that group may exchange body fluids or have sexual contact without barriers with a new partner, or may specify that such contact is not permissible with any new partner. Also CONDOM COMPACT, CONDOM COMMITMENT

  • CONSEQUENCE-BASED RELATIONSHIP: A relationship that structures itself around each individual making informed decisions about their own actions based on the consequences of those actions and usually filtered by compassion and a desire to honor and cherish the relationships that would be affected by the actions; a relationship that does not adhere to the idea of rules where one partner can tell another partner what they are or are not allowed to do. These relationships tend to rely more upon personal boundaries, where each person expresses what they are comfortable with for their own bodies but does not expect or demand or require the ability to dictate what their partners do with their own bodies. These relationships tend to have a great deal of flexibility and fluidity, where one may have partners who may fall somewhat outside of one's comfort zone or boundaries, but one manages the relationship by arranging it or instituting boundaries between one and one's partner to accommodate for the differences.

    Often mistaken for Rules-Based Relationships by people outside of the relationship when outcomes are similar, such as when one partner self-limits behaviour in deference to a partner's preferences. The difference is internal, where these relationships do not have any implied power exchange and neither partner has agreed to accept any degree of power over the other partner. These relationships operate on trust between the partners that each will choose to do things that honor and cherish the relationship, such as either complying with a request or being honest about not complying with a request so that accommodations for not complying can be made. Non-compliance is not viewed as a breach of the relationship or cheating, but a point at which a relationship may need to be adjusted.

    These relationships will tend to address conflict within the relationship solely in terms that exclude other relationships while finding solutions to conflict solely within the relationship, i.e. if one does not feel one is getting enough time with the other, one will take care not to blame the problem on the other's new partner and to request a solution of increasing time together without specifying where that extra time should come from such as expecting the other to reduce time with the new partner. The expectation is that the other will want to honor the relationship and can find the extra time from wherever the other deems appropriate without requiring one to tell the other where it should come from. These relationships are built on a foundation of individuality, personal autonomy, and respect for differences. See related: New Paradigm Relating. Contrast: Rules-Based Relationships.

  • CO-PRIMARY: A person who is one of two or more primary partners in a polyamorous relationship, as in Bob and Joe are my co-primaries. Use of this term does not imply gender or orientation of any individual involved. See also primary/secondary; See related secondary, tertiary.

  • CORPORATE MARRIAGE: A group marriage whose members register the union as a legal corporation, the terms of which spell out the financial entanglements and obligations of all the members.

  • CO-SPOUSE: A person in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with another person in that group marriage. Use of this term does not imply gender or orientation of any individual involved. See also co-husband, co-wife.

  • CO-WIFE: A woman in a group marriage who shares a spouse in common with at least one other woman in that group marriage. See also co-husband, co-spouse.

  • COVENANT MARRIAGE: Legal; A marriage which includes a legally-binding clause in the marriage contract specifying that the couple can not divorce, or can not divorce easily. Commentary: Only a handful of states in the United States recognize covenant marriage provisions.

  • COWBOY: Colloquial; A monogamous person who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention of separating him or her from any other partners and bringing him or her into a monogamous relationship ("roping a filly out of the herd"). This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian. Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage his partner's other relationships identify this person. He may not even be aware of his behaviour, having his intention be subconcious. Some people prefer to use gender-appropriate suffices, such as "cowboy" for men trying to separate someone and "cowgirl" for women trying to separate someone. This should not be confused with a person who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers he is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after his attempt. See also cowgirl. See related Cuckoo.

  • COWGIRL: Colloquial; A monogamous woman who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention of separating him or her from any other partners and bringing him or her into a monogamous relationship ("roping a filly out of the herd"). This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian. Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage her partner's other relationships identify this woman. She may even not be aware of her behaviour, having her intention be subconcious. Cowgirl is rarely used, usually by people who prefer gender-specific descriptions. Often, the term cowboy is used for either gender. This should not be confused with a woman who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers she is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after her attempt. See also cowboy. See related Cuckoo.

  • CROSS-COUPLE: Of or relating to activities between a member of one couple and a member of another couple; as, for example, cross-couple relationship, a relationship between one person who is part of a couple and a second person who is part of another couple. A gender-specific example may be "wife-swapping", which is commonly found in the swingers community.

  • CUCKOO: Colloquial; A monogamous person who engages in a relationship with a polyamorous person with the intention turning the relationship monogamous by making his or her metamours so uncomfortable or unhappy that they just leave. This term can also be applied to individuals seeking to "convert" someone from one gender orientation to another, such as a lesbian trying to "steal" a bisexual woman from her male partner and make her identify as lesbian. The slang word originated because cuckoo birds place their eggs in other birds' nests to make another set of parents raise the chick. Then, when the cuckoo chick is born, it pushes all the other legitimate chicks out of the nest to get all the parents' attention for itself.

    Commentary: Use of passive-aggressive behaviour and other tricks to sabotage her partner's other relationships identify this person. He or she may even not be aware of the behaviour, having the intention be subconcious. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell if someone is a cuckoo or a cowboy, especially if they deny being either. This is a person who claims to be polyamorous or legitimately "trying" but who blames his or her default monogamous status on coincidence. This person can say "of course I'm poly, it's not my fault all your partners dump you!". The difference between a cuckoo and a cowboy is that a cowboy tries to turn her poly partner into a monogamous partner, whereas a cuckoo doesn't try to change the poly partner, she only scares everyone else away so that the relationship is monogamous by default. This should not be confused with a person who historically identified as monogamous, legitimately attempts to engage in a relationship with a polyamorous person, then discovers he or she is unwilling to participate in non-monogamous relationships after the attempt. Related: Cowboy, Cowgirl.

  • CYCLIC MONOGAMY: 1. Colloquial; A relationship in which a person has several partners, and spends a set period of time with each partner, during which time he is sexually involved only with that partner. 2. Sociology - Serial monogamy. Commentary: In the case of Def. 1, there have been several recorded cases in which a person, usually a man, has a job or life which requires regular travel, and maintains romantic partners in separate cities. Generally speaking, these partners do not know about one another, and each believes that the relationship is monogamous, though this is not always so; in some cases, some or all of the partners know of the existence of the other partners.

  • DADT (acronym): See Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

  • DEMOCRATIC FAMILY: Colloquial; A family, typically a family practicing group marriage, in which all the adult partners are considered equal.

  • DOMESTIC GROUP: Sociology; A group of people, often but not always related by birth or marriage, who live together and practice joint control over the household and group property.

  • DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL (DADT): A relationship structure in which a person who is partnered is permitted to have additional sexual or romantic relationships on the condition that his or her partner does not know anything about those additional relationships and does not meet any of those other people. Commentary: Many people in the polyamorous community, including myself, frown on don't ask, don't tell relationships, and choose not to become involved in such relationships. There are many dangers in such relationships, including: the idea that a person who claims to be involved in such a relationship may simply be cheating (as the relationship often provides no mechanism by which that person's partner may be contacted to confirm that the relationship permits other relationships); the fact that many people choose DADT relationships as a way of avoiding and not dealing with emotional issues such as jealousy; and the fact that DADT relationships are built on a foundation of lack of communication within the existing relationship.

  • DYAD: A relationship involving exactly two people. The most accepted form of romantic relationship in most Western countries is a monogamous dyad. A poly family of multiple adults can be considered to be made up of a collection of dyads, as each person in the family may have a partnership with one or more of the others in the family. For example, a poly family with 4 adults, 2 heterosexual males and 2 heterosexual females, may be comprised of 4 dyads (more on that on the Poly Configurations page. Contrast triad, quad; See related serial monogamy.

  • ÉGOTISME À DEUX: Literally, French, egotism for two. A term used by members of the Oneida community for monogamy.

  • ELECTIVE AFFINITY: Sociology; A social system whereby people choose their own mates or spouses, as opposed to a society which practices arranged marriage.

  • EMOTIONAL FIDELITY: A belief or practice that emotional intimacy or love must be kept exclusive to a particular relationship, though sexual activity or other forms of physical intimacy may occur outside that relationship. Commentary: Some swingers practice emotional fidelity. This is often also a rule or practice in prescriptive primary/secondary polyamorous relationships. See related exclusive relationship.

  • ENDOGAMY: A state or practice whereby individuals are permitted to marry only within a specific group, such as a religious or social group.

  • ENOCH ARDEN ACT: Legal; Any law or statute permitting remarriage in a case where a person's spouse is missing and presumed dead, and exempting such a person from charges of bigamy should it later turn out that the missing spouse is still alive. Etymology: Enoch Arden was a character in a poem by Alfred Tennyson. Also, ENOCH ARDEN LAW

  • ENVY: The desire to have, experience or posses that which someone else has, experiences or possesses. Commentary: This can be a very reasonable desire to have or experience something that someone else has or experiences that doesn't necessarily include the wish that the person not also have or experience that something. It can also be an overwhelming feeling of possessiveness or a combination of feeling left out, being alone, or even the desire to take that something from the other person to have it for oneself. More on this subject on the Jealousy page. See related jealousy.

  • ETHICAL SLUT: Colloquial; A person who openly chooses to have multiple simultaneous sexual relationships in an ethical and responsible way, and who openly revels in that decision. See related responsible non-monogamy. Commentary: The term comes from the book The Ethical Slut, which advocates reclaiming the word "slut" from its derogatory meaning of a promiscuous woman.

  • ETHICAL SLUT, THE: A book (Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, Greenery Press, 1998, ISBN 1890159018) which outlines a framework for responsible non-monogamy and champions taking joy in ethical, safe promiscuity. Commentary: The Ethical Slut is not a book about polyamory per se; the primary focus is on creating relationships which are not sexually monogamous and are positive and healthy, but it does not focus exclusively on loving or emotional intimate relationships, and does not create frameworks for managing the emotional or romantic component of such relationships. Nevertheless, it is very popular in the polyamory community, and is very useful to many polyamorous people. The ideas described in The Ethical Slut are pertinent to and are valuable in swinging relationships as well.

  • EXCLUSION JEALOUSY: Psychology; A fear, which may be irrational, of being neglected or abandoned by a lover, particularly if that lover takes another partner or expresses sexual or romantic interest in another. Commentary: The term exclusion jealousy was coined by Ronald Mazer in the book The New Intimacy: Open-Ended Marriage and Alternative Lifestyles (Beacon Press, 1973, ISBN 0595001025).

  • EXCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: 1. A monogamous relationship. 2. Any relationship which does not permit its partners to seek other romantic or sexual partners at will; as, for example, a polyfidelitous relationship.

  • EXOGAMY: Marriage to a partner outside of one's particular group, such as a religious or social group.

  • EXPANDED FAMILY: See intentional family.

  • FF: A dyad where both partners are female.

  • FFF: A triad with three females, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.

  • FFM: A triad of a female, another female, and a male, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.

  • FLUID BONDING: Of or related to practices which involve the exchange of bodily fluids, such as barrier-free sexual intercourse and BDSM. See related condom contract, HPV boundaries, STD boundaries.

  • FMF: A triad of a female, a male, and another female, possibly a vee with the male as the pivot.

  • FMM: A triad of a female, a male, and another male, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.

  • FOUR-CORNERED MARRIAGE: A group marriage with exactly four adult members; usually but not always a group marriage with two men and two women. See related quad. Etymology: The term "four-cornered marriage" is often attributed to Robert Heinlein.

  • FRATERNAL POLYANDRY: See adelphogamy.

  • FREE AGENT: Colloquial; A person who practices polyamory in a way that tends to separate, compartmentalize, or isolate all of his or her romantic relationships from one another, treating each as a separate entity. A free agent often presents himself or herself as "single" or behaves in ways which are typically associated with the behavior of a single person even when he or she has romantic partners, and often does not consider the potential impact of new relationships upon existing relationships when deciding whether or not to pursue those new relationships. Contrast: Family-Oriented Polyamory.

    Commentary: Some believe there are not necessarily two distinct styles of polyamory, those of Free Agent and Family-Oriented. But rather there is a continuum with Free Agent on one end and Family-Oriented on the other. Most people fall somewhere in the middle to one side or the other, with extreme examples of Free Agent resembling casual sex partners or friends with benefits where the partners have no contact and possibly even no knowledge of each other (but an acknowledgement of an open relationship or no sexual committment); and extreme examples of Family-Oriented resembling Polyfidelitous relationships where any new partner of anyone in the Polyfidelitous group automatically has an equal relationship with all other members of the group. Some people are capable of having relationships of varying degrees of emotional intimacy and may slide along the continuum at different times with different relationships.

  • FREE LOVE: The belief that sexual relationships should be unrestricted and disassociated from ideas of love, commitment, marriage, or obligation. Commentary: Many advocates of free love object to the concept of marriage altogether, as they see it as a way to impose constraints and obligation on sexuality. Etymology: The term "free love" is generally attributed to John Humphrey Noyes, founder of the Oneida Community, who later abandoned it in favor of complex marriage.

  • FREEMATE: A non-married partner in a group relationship. See related metamour, group marriage, other significant other (oso).

  • FRENCH-KISS: Colloquial; A group of polyamorists, specifically a group who are all romantically connected to each other, i.e. gaggle of geese, flock of birds, kiss of polyamorists. Example: "I was out at the pub with my french-kiss this evening." or "I went to a party with a french-kiss of polyamorists last weekend. See related: intentional family, intentional community, kiss, polyfamily, tribe.

  • FRIENDS-FIRST SWINGING: A form of swinging in which the people involved do not engage in sexual activities with anonymous or random partners, but instead have sex outside an existing relationship only with other people who are already close friends. In this form of swinging, emotionally intimate bonds can and often do form between all the people involved; this kind of swinging can often look very similar to polyamory, the primary difference between them often being the focus of the relationship (sexual vs. romantic) rather than the form of the relationship. Commentary: Hollywood images of swing clubs and anonymous sex aside, friends-first swinging is arguably one of the most common forms of swinging.

  • FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (FWB): A relationship in which two (or more) people establish a friendship which includes sex or sexual activity, but without romantic love and typically without the same type or degree of expectations or other practical or emotional entanglements that typically accompany romantic relationships.

  • FRUBBLE: A pleasant emotion of happiness arising from seeing one's partner with another partner. Contrast wibble; See also compersion. Usage: Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.

  • FUCKBUDDY: Colloquial; vulgar See friends with benefits.

  • FWB (acroynym): See Friends With Benefits.

  • GROUP MARRIAGE: A relationship in which three or more people consider themselves married to one another; in the polyamory community, most often a relationship involving more than one man and more than one woman, who may live together, share finances, raise children together, and otherwise share those responsibilities normally associated with marriage. A group marriage is not recognized by and has no legal standing within most Western countries, but may have symbolic or have emotional value to the people involved. Many people who believe in group marriage may create civil contracts and other legally binding business arrangements which specify the type and extent of financial commitments within the marriage, or even form a legal corporation which defines the marriage. See related corporate marriage, cluster marriage, polygamy, polyandry, polygyny, troika.
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  • HANDFASTING: A Pagan or Wiccan ceremony similar to marriage in the sense that it unites two people in a common bond, but dissimilar to a traditional Western marriage in that it does not necessarily convey sexual exclusivity and may not be intended to be permanent (some handfasting ceremonies last "for a year and a day," others for "as long as the love shall last"). A handfasting is not legally recognized as a marriage unless the person performing the handfasting is authorized to perform marriages in a particular jurisdiction (requirements for such authorization vary from place to place) and the other legal requirements of marriage are met. Commentary: Handfasting ceremonies are not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with Wiccan or neo-Pagan spirituality or beliefs, may combine the two. While not all Pagans are polyamorous and not all polyamorous people are Pagan, there is enough overlap between the communities that some polyamorous people practice handfasting as an emotional or spiritual symbol of their relationships and commitment.

  • HBB (acronym): Colloquial; see Hot Bi Babe, unicorn.

  • HEINLEIN, ROBERT A. (1907-1988): An American science fiction author well-known in the polyamory community as an early advocate and outspoken champion of polyamorous-like relationships, but who died before the term was ever coined and so probably would not have used the term "polyamory" or its derivatives. Many of his novels, most notably the Hugo-award-winning Stranger in a Strange Land (Ace, 1961, ISBN 0441790348), feature polyamorous characters and relationships.

  • HINGE: Colloquial; see pivot.

  • HOT BI BABE (HBB): Colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous, as in "They're just looking for a hot bi babe". Such a person may be referred to as a "mythical hot bi babe" or "unicorn". Some members of the polyamory community self-identify as hot bi babes as a form of tongue-in-cheek intentional irony.

  • HPV BOUNDARIES: Limitations imposed by oneself, one's partner, or by group agreement that dictate what sexual activities are permissable with whom and when changes to those limitations can be made, the purpose of which is to limit exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus and other STDs. For more information about HPV and how it relates to poly relationships, see the Safe Sex Issues page and visit The InnKeeper's STI Journal for the latest in sexual safety. See also std boundaries

  • HUNDRED-MILE RULE: Colloquial; An arrangement within a nominally monogamous marriage or relationship, particularly a marriage in which one of the partners travels a great deal or is often away from home for extended periods of time, which says that sexual dalliances which occur during the course of these travels or over a certain distance from the home don't "really" count and hence aren't cheating. See related don't ask, don't tell.

  • INCLUSION-MODEL: Of or relating to a preference or a structure of polyamorous relationships that form an emotionally supportive framework or support structure between the various partners and metamours. A polyamorous relationship whose participants see all relationships as interconnected and seek to build relationships that are mutually compatible and supporting, who don't view the other partners as competition, and who seek to find relationships in which everyone involved is comfortable with everyone else involved. Any relationship configuration including intimate network may be inclusion-model. Also FAMILY-BASED POLYAMORY, FAMILY-ORIENTED POLYAMORY. Commentary: People who participate in "inclusion-model" polyamory or who consider themselves "family-oriented" like to form independent friendships and relationships with their partners' other partners, regardless of sexual orientation. They tend to be aware of and consider very strongly how their actions and behaviours affect not only all of their partners, but their partners' other partners, when making decisions such as adding new romantic partners, moving, career changes, and social plans. See related intimate network, intentional family, co-husband, co-primary, co-spouse, co-wife, democratic family, domestic group, freemate, inclusive relationship, lover-in-law, metamour, platonic relationship, poly family, tocotox, tribe, Contrast: free agent, Don't Ask Don't Tell.

  • INCLUSIVE RELATIONSHIP: Any relationship whose participants see all relationships as interconnected and seek to build relationships that are mutually compatible and supporting. People who prefer inclusive relationships seek to find partners who will respect the existing relationships, who can spend time together, and who don't view each other as competition. They seek to find relationships in which everyone involved feels comfortable with everyone else involved, and tend to be aware of the effects of each of their relationships on all the others. See related inclusion-model polyamory. Contrast: exclusive relationship.

  • INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY: A residential community made up of people who share a common set of ideas, principles, or goals, and deliberately set out to create a planned community which reflects those ideas and goals. Intentional communities need not be polyamorous; there are intentional communities built around common religious, philosophical, or economic ideas, for example. Some polyamorous families create intentional communities with the idea of deliberately constructing a community built around non-monogamous relationship structures.

  • INTENTIONAL FAMILY: A family made up of people who have consciously and deliberately chosen to consider one another as a single family, as opposed to family that is the result of birth or marriage (i.e., family in law). See related cluster marriage, polyamory, group marriage. Usage: Most often used to describe a family of three or more adults.

  • INTIMATE NETWORK: Colloquial; The sum total of a person's partners, those partners' partners, and so on. Usage: The term "intimate network" is most often used to describe the set of romantic and sexual relationships and friendships involved in a polyamorous relationship structure that is not closed; that is, the term intimate network is not often used to describe a polyfidelitous relationship or a closed group marriage, though it can be. The term is also sometimes used in a way that includes people who are close friends, but are not necessarily romantically or sexually involved, with a person or that person's partners. Also NETWORK.

  • JEALOUSY: The fear of losing something you already have. Jealousy is a composite emotion, that is based on other emotions. Its complexity causes much confusion and current Western societies not only forgive jealousy, but expect it within the context of romantic relationships. More on this subject on the Jealousy page. See related envy.

  • KERISTA COMMUNE: An experiment in polyamorous living in San Francisco, which was founded in 1971 and broke up in 1991. The Kerista Commune was founded on the ideas of group marriage, shared economic resources, and intentional community. The commune was organized into "clusters," each of which was typically made up of between four and fifteen people and each of which functioned as a single polyfidelitous group. The Kerista Commune championed group control of individual responsibility, even going so far in some cases as to make group decisions about individual members' vocations, and assigning members to sleeping partners on a rotating schedule. The commune disbanded following very serious internal rifts in the early 1990s. Commentary: The Kerista Commune was an early advocate of polyamory, coining terms now common in the polyamorous community such as compersion and polyfidelity. The group eventually failed for a number of reasons, among them personality conflicts within the group, problems with financial management, an emphasis on fixed and inflexible sleeping schedules, and hostile attitudes toward bisexuality and homosexuality on the part of some members.

  • KISS: Colloquial; A group of polyamorists, i.e. gaggle of geese, flock of birds, kiss of polyamorists. Example: "I was out at the pub with my kiss this evening." or "I went to a party with a kiss of polyamorists last weekend." May not necessarily imply that all members are romantically related to each other, only that everyone in the group be polyamorous. See related: intentional family, intentional community, french kiss, polyfamily, tribe.

  • LANGDON CHART: A chart which indicates a person's current and past sexual partners, and all their current and past sexual partners, and so on. Etymology: Coined by Kevin Langdon in the mid-1960s.

  • LDR (acronym): See Long-Distance Relationship.

  • LEVIRATIC MARRIAGE: Sociology; A system by which when a man dies, his brother marries his widow.

  • LEVIRATIC POLYANDRY: Sociology; see Adelphogamy.

  • LIFE PARTNER: A partner, usually a romantic and sexual partner, with whom one has the intent of a long-lasted and intertwined committed relationship. Commentary: A life partner need not necessarily be a spouse, though most often a spouse is a life partner. In some cases, someone may consider a partner's partner to be a life partner even though there is no direct sexual or romantic relationship with that person.

  • LIMERENCE: A strong desire for, longing for, or preoccupation with another person, accompanied by a sometimes overwhelming desire for reciprocation. Limerence may be accompanied by idealization of the person so desired. Etymology: The term limerence was coined by Dr. Dorothy Tennov, who described it in her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love (Scarborough House, 1979, ISBN 0812862864). Commentary: Limerence is distinct from new relationship energy in that it is more akin to what people commonly call a "crush," and may not be associated with a relationship at all. Some researchers have linked limerence to quantifiable physiological processes in the brain, particularly to depressed levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Some people in the polyamory community use the word limerence as a synonym for new relationship energy, though this usage is not technically correct.

  • LINE MARRIAGE: A specific form of group marriage in which younger partners are added to the relationship as older partners age; in theory, such a relationship would eventually reach equilibrium, adding new partners as existing partners die. Etymology: The term (and the idea behind it) was coined by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein.

  • LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP (LDR): A relationship in which the people involved do not live together, and are separated by great distances; as, for example partners who live in different cities, in different states, or even in different countries.

  • LOVER-IN-LAW: Colloquial; 1. A partner of one's partner; metamour, other significant other (oso). 2. The biological family of one's partner. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 1, most often applied to a metamour with whom one has a close relationship.

  • LOVE TRIANGLE: 1. See triad. 2. In contemporary American vernacular outside of the poly community, a relationship in which two people both love a third; in this usage, the assumption is that each of the two is competing for the undivided affections of the third, and that the third is being placed in a position where he or she is expected to choose one of the two competing partners.

  • LOVE QUADRANGLE: See quad.

  • LOVESTYLE: A consciously thought-out and chosen type of sexual/love relationship, or a preferred style of romantic relationships, or a style of romantic relationships that an individual believes is "natural" to ones inclination. See relationship orientation. Usage: Most common in New Age or tantra communities.

  • LOVING MORE: A magazine (PEP Publishing; ISSN 1523-5858) and organization dedicated to polyamory. The organization which publishes Loving More also sponsors a series of annual conventions by the same name.

  • MARIAGE Á TROIS: Literally, French, marriage of three. A marriage involving exactly three people, in which one person is married to two partners. See related triad, vee. Usage: Most commonly used of situations in which one man is married to two women.

  • MARRIAGE: A relationship, most commonly between one man and one woman in Western countries, which is sanctioned by the State and/or by a religious institution and which confers upon its members certain social and economic conditions, typically including rights of joint property ownership, rights of inheritance and of decision-making in legal and medical matters, and certain legal rights and responsibilities concerning mutual child rearing. These rights and responsibilities have varied over time and today vary from place to place, but common to all of them is the expectation that people who are married are in a legally recognized, financially entwined, committed relationship which is not trivial to separate. Traditionally, marriages in most Western countries carry with them expectations of sexual and emotional monogamy. See related closed marriage, open marriage, group marriage, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry.

    Commentary: Increasingly, Western countries are being forced to deal with the issue of same-sex partnerships being officially recognized as "marriages" so that the homosexual partnerships can take advantage of the social status conferred by marriage and the legal rights afforded to heterosexual married partners, such as inheritance rights, joint property ownership, insurance, child rearing, medical decisions, etc. There is huge debate on the differences and similarities between the word "marriage" and the phrase "civil union" and what each means legally, religiously and socially. The definitions and possible changes in these definitions also open the debate up to social and legal ramifications regarding multi-partner relationships being entitled to equal treatment under the law as well. See related civil contract.

  • MÈNAGE Á TROIS: Literally, French, house of three. 1. Sexual activity involving three people. 2. See triad. Commentary: In the sense of Def. 2, usually applied to a triad in which all three people involved live together.

  • METAMOUR: Literally, meta = with; about + amor = love. The partner of one's partner, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or romantic relationship. When there is a direct sexual or romantic relationship, that person is merely one's partner, although, when attempting to explain how one is connected to people, one may wish to say "he is my partner & my metamour, because he is also involved with my other partner". But usually that is made clear when one is making the explanation in the first place, and using "metamour" to describe a partner can be confusing to people who are most likely to need that sort of explanation. See related other significant other (oso), vee.

  • METAMETAMOUR: Colloquial; One's partner's other partner's other partner, or one's metamour, once removed, with whom one does not share a direct sexual or loving relationship. Commentary: A tongue-in-cheek term meant to simultaneously identify something unique to polyamorous relationships and to poke fun at the poly community's habit of creating proprietary terms. Example: Jack and Susan are dating. This makes them partners. Jack is also dating Mary. This makes Mary his OSO, and also Susan's metamour. Mary is also dating John. John is the metamour to Jack, but the metametamour to Susan, because Jack is Susan's partner's (John) other partner's (Mary) other partner: Susan > Jack > Mary > John = Susan & John are metametamours.

  • MFF: A triad with a male, female, and another female, possibly a vee with one of the females as the pivot.

  • MFM: A triad with a male, female, and another male. Possibly a vee with the female as the pivot.

  • MMF: A triad with a male, another male, and a female, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.

  • MMM: A triad with three males, possibly a vee with one of the males as the pivot.

  • MONOAMORY: Literally, mono = one + amor = love. The state or practice of loving only one person at a time. Contrast polyamory; also MONAMORY. See also monogamy. Commentary: The word monoamory was coined as a response to the fact that the word monogamy literally means "one marriage;" technically speaking, a monogamous person, according to the word's roots, should be a person with only one spouse, regardless of the number of other romantic or sexual partners that person has. In practice, it means essentially the same thing as monogamy, though it is sometimes applied to a person who self-identifies as monogamous but is involved in a romantic relationship with a person who self-defines as polyamorous.

  • MONOGAMY: Literally, mono = one + gamos = marriage. Formally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse. Informally, the state or practice of having only one wedded spouse at a time, or more generally, having only one sexual partner or only one romantic relationship at a time. Monogamous: of or related to the practice of monogamy, as in monogamous relationship; a relationship permitting one and only one romantic or sexual partner. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry; See related closed marriage, serial monogamy.

  • MONO/POLY: Colloquial; see poly/mono.

  • MULTILATERAL MARRIAGE: See group marriage.

  • MULTILATERAL SEXUALITY: See responsible non-monogamy. Usage: Most common in the swinging community.

  • N: Colloquial; A polyamorous relationship involving four people, generally two couples where one member of one couple is also involved sexually and/or romantically with one member of the other couple. See also quad; See related triad, vee.

  • NETWORK: See intimate network.

  • NEW PARADIGM RELATING: A term most notably used by Deborah Anapol. A philosophy of relationship which emphasizes using the relationship consciously to enhance the psychological and spiritual development of the partners. Individuals in New Paradigm Relationships characterize themselves as being committed to honesty and authenticity in their relationships. The relationship explicitly allows for and encourages change and growth within the relationship. Contrast: see old paradigm relating

  • NEW RELATIONSHIP CHEMISTRY (NRC): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship chemistry is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast Old Relationship Chemistry. Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship chemistry is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth, and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship. Because of the biochemical response, some prefer this variation to the less scientifically accurate New Relationship Energy, but it is not as popular.

  • NEW RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (NRE): A strong, almost giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation common in the beginning of any new romantic relationship. While similar in some ways to limerence, new relationship energy is distinct in that it often follows the beginning of a relationship (as opposed to desire for a relationship), and can last as long as several years. Contrast old relationship energy. Commentary: Some researchers believe that new relationship energy is the result of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which are released by the brain during the start of a new relationship and after a mother gives birth, and are believed to have a role in emotional bonding and in the feelings of happiness and well-being that often accompany the start of a new relationship. Because of the biochemical response, some prefer the more scientifically accurate New Relationship Chemistry, although it's not as popular as this original version.

  • NONEXCLUSIVE MONOGAMY: Of or related to any marriage involving exactly two people, whereby each of the two is permitted to have sex with others outside the relationship but may not marry (or in some cases conduct emotionally intimate relationships) outside the relationship. Contrast group marriage. Commentary: The word monogamy in nonexclusive monogamy is used in the formal sense of "one marriage," rather than in the general sense of "one sexual partner."

  • NON-HIERARCHICAL POLYAMORY: Multiperson relationship that does not use a ranking system to differentiate between the various partners. As in, a relationship that does not call any partners by terms like primary, secondary, and tertiary.

  • NON-MONOGAMY: The practice of creating romantic relationships which do not require emotional and/or sexual exclusivity, or relationships that do not include marriage between only 2 people. See related polyamory, swinging, responsible non-monogamy, cyclic monogamy

  • NON-SEXUAL SIGNIFICANT OTHER (NSSO): Someone who fulfills the role of a Significant Other or a romantic partner, but does not include a sexual relationship. Usage: This is not a very common term because many people view a relationship without a sexual content to be "just friends" even within the poly community. However, some people do seperate different forms of love and emotional connections from sexual relationships, and often believe they have a "romantic" or intimate relationship with another person that, for whatever reason, does not include sex. This may include a relationship that resembles a romantic relationship in all ways except, for medical reasons, those involved are not capable of having or choose not to have a sexual relationship.

  • NRC (acronym): See New Relationship Chemistry.

  • NRE (acronym): See New Relationship Energy.

  • NRE JUNKIE: Colloquial; usually derogatory; A term sometimes applied, often dismissively, to a person who starts many new relationships in rapid succession but does not seem to maintain relationships for very long. Such a person may appear to seek out the euphoria and intense emotion associated with new relationship energy over the maintenance of a long-term relationship. Commentary: Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that the intensity and euphoria associated with new relationship energy can be psychologically addictive; in the psychiatric community, the term "love addiction" is sometimes used to describe this behavior.

  • NSSO (acronym): See Non-Sexual Significant Other.

  • NUCLEAR FAMILY: A family consisting of one man and one woman who are married to one another, and their children. In some religious and social groups, this structure is idealized as the only "right" form of family, though historically it has never been the dominant family structure in Western history.

  • OLD PARADIGM RELATING: a philosophy of relationship which emphasizes well defined rules, extensive agreements, ironclad conditions and the importance of the group over the individual, usually involves a hierarchical power structure. Contrast: see new paradigm relating. Commentary: So-called "Traditional Monogamy" is an example of OPR, in which there are sets of rules that each person must follow and the relationship does not allow for renegotiation of the rules. If any member of the relationship changes or wants different things, the relationship does not flex and change to accomodate, the relationship ends and is usually seen as a failure. American monogamy is so structured that it has been codefied by an entire infrastructure of religious and secular laws, reinforced by societal assumptions. This structure is so inflexible that the society considers existing relationships who choose that structure to be threatened, not just when a member of that relationship tries to break or change the rules, but when other people choose relationships with a different set of rules.

  • OLD RELATIONSHIP CHEMISTRY (ORC): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Commentary: Some people prefer this more scientifically accurate term to describe this phenomenon, although the original is more popular. Contrast new relationship chemistry.

  • OLD RELATIONSHIP ENERGY (ORE): The feeling of comfort, security, and stability often associated with a long-standing romantic relationship. Commentary: Some people prefer the more scientifically accurate Old Relationship Chemistry to describe this phenomenon, although this is more popular. Contrast new relationship energy.

  • OMNIGAMY: 1. Group marriage. 2. Of or relating to having multiple spouses of both sexes. 3. Complex marriage. In the sense of Def. 2, See related bisexual.

  • OMNISEXUAL: Literally, all sexes; bisexual. Usage: In some communities, particularly some parts of the lesbian and gay community, antipathy toward or hostility to people who self-identify as bisexual has become common. The term omnisexual has started to become popular as a synonym for bisexual but without the negative connotations of the word. Also used to acknowledge the existance of a non-binary sexual continuum or to consciously reject the binary options presented by society.

  • ONE PENIS POLICY: Colloquial; An explicit policy in which either member of an existing male-female couple can engage in relationships with other women outside of the original dyad, but neither can have a male partner. This fear-based rule is designed to protect insecurities, usually of the existing male in the relationship, and prevent anyone from challenging their fears. It allows a heterosexual man the freedom to pursue partners of the gender of his preference, but restricts the woman to only a single gender, her own, regardless of her own orientation, preferences, or any future circumstances.

    When a relationship group just happens to include one male and multiple females by coincidence, not design, this is not a One Penis Policy. Rarely, the female in a multi-person relationship can be the instigator of the OPP, restricting herself and all the other women from engaging in relationships with men other than the existing man. Even more rarely, the female in the dyad can institute the OPP to prevent the male from having any other male partners, usually out of homophobia, where male homosexuality is unacceptable but female homosexuality is acceptable. The motivations for this policy tend also to be based on flawed logic or incorrect assumptions.

    Reasons for instituting this rule include:
    • Competition for status and dominance is biologically inherent to men (which is not true), so the man in the relationship must restrict other male's access to the women (who are then objects or property that a man can lay claim to and restrict access to);
    • Women are less likely to get an STD from another woman, so men are off-limits for safety (ignores that the man could bring home an STD from his other female partners, thereby elevating the male's safety above that of the females' in the group, and also ignores all the reduced risk with proper STD protection methods);
    • If the woman has another male partner who can provide her with the same things the existing male can, she is at risk of being "stolen" away / finding something better / not needing the existing male anymore (assumes that all men are interchangable and only useful for their penises);
    • Lesbian sex doesn't "count" as "real" sex because without a penis it's just foreplay to a man, therefore sex with another woman does not threaten the primacy of the original relationship (devalues female relationships and assumes partners are interchangable as long as they have similar genitals);
    • Men with multiple female partners are high-status (studs) but women with multiple male partners are low status (whores) so to protect the woman's integrity and the man's reputation by association, male partners must be limited (double-standard that places different values on the sexuality of each gender);
    • The woman in the existing dyad is only interested in other women anyway so having an OPP is a natural agreement to make (if everyone wants it this way, there's no need to make it a rule).

  • ONEIDA COMMUNITY: A religious intentional community founded in New York in 1848 by John Humphrey Noyes. Noyes founded a branch of Christianity called "Christian Perfectionism," a doctrine which holds that it is possible for a Christian to reach a state of sinlessness and moral perfection before God. The Oneida Community was created as a deliberately and intentionally Christian group, led by Noyes and championing this doctrine of Christian Perfectionism. One of the more notable features of the Oneida Community was the idea that all male members of the community were married to all female members of the community, and vice-versa, an arrangement Noyes termed complex marriage. Another interesting feature of the Oneida Community was its belief that men should learn to control the process of ejaculation during sexual intercourse; this practice was used as a method of birth control within the community. The Oneida Community disbanded in 1881, by which time it had grown to 306 members.

  • OPEN MARRIAGE: Any marriage whose structures or arrangements permit one or both of the members involved to have outside sexual relationships, outside romantic relationships, or both. The term open marriage is a catchall for marriages which are not emotionally or sexually monogamous; and may include such activities as polyamory or swinging. Contrast closed marriage; See related group marriage. Commentary: The term "open marriage" is sometimes used as a synonym for polyamory, though this is not necessarily the case; some relationships may be open but not polyamorous (as in some swinging relationships which explicitly ban emotional entanglement with anyone outside the relationship), and some relationships may be polyamorous but not open (as in polyfidelitious relationships).

  • OPP (acronym): See One Penis Policy

  • ORC (acronym): See Old Relationship Chemistry.

  • ORE (acronym): See Old Relationship Energy.

  • OTHER SIGNIFICANT OTHER (OSO): 1. A partner's other partner; metamour. 2. A person's partner, sometimes but not always a non-primary or non-spouse partner; as, Bob is my husband, and Joe is my other significant other.

  • OSO (acronym): See Other Significant Other.

  • OXYTOCIN: A naturally-occuring hormone produced in the hypothalamus and secreted from the pituitary gland. Oxytocin is produced both by men and women, and in women is known to play a role in uterine contraction during childbirth and in milk production. Production of this hormone increases during the early stages of a new relationship and during sex, and it is believed to be partly responsible for mediating the processes involved in emotional intimacy. New Relationship Energy or New Relationship Chemistry is thought to be a result in part of oxytocin production. See related vasopressin.

  • PANAMOROY: Of or relating to romantic or sexual love with partners of many sexes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and/or relationship orientations. Panamorous, of or relating to one who identifies as a person capable of romantic or sexual love with many kinds of partners regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

  • PANSEXUAL: A term some people use to describe sexual attraction to all gender/sexual orientation states such as male, female, transgendered, transexual, bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, etc.

  • PARAMOUR: Literally, par = way + amor = love; by way of love. 1. A married person's outside lover. 2. A mistress--the unmarried female lover of a married man. 3. A nonmarried member of a polyamorous relationship. See related other significant other.

  • PARTNER: Specifically a romantic partner, someone who has a romantic relationship with someone else. There may or may not be a sexual relationship, depending upon whether the partners define "romantic" as requiring a sexual component (see Non-Sexual Significant Other). Commentary: "Partner" may be used interchangeably with "boyfriend/girlfriend", "spouse", "lover", "sweetie", etc. or the participants may reserve the use of the term to refer to a narrowly-defined type of partner only, such as "Jack is my husband, and John is my partner". Also often used in the gay/queer communities to avoid using gender-specific pronouns.

  • PDP (acronym): Colloquial; Public Displays of Polyamory. Commentary: there is a lot of discussion within the poly community about how much PDA, or Public Displays of Affection, is appropriate, and all the issues surrounding being publicly affectionate - either being affectionate in public in general, or being affectionate with one partner in front of another partner. PDP came about to describe displays of affection that are explicitly polyamorous, such as holding hands with two partners at the same time while in public, or kissing multiple partners goodbye at the airport, etc.

  • PERCIVALIAN: Taken from the tales of King Aurther and his knight, Percival, this refers to a person or couple who is searching for the "holy grail", the "unicorn", the HBB. Percival did locate the Grail at one time, but, being too immature and failing to ask the proper question, he failed in attaining the Grail and he must grow spiritually and mentally before he could locate it again. Percival is described in some places as "the least worldly and the least groomed of all the knights", having been raised in the woods away from society, and "extremely pious but somewhat naive". This is analogous to a couple who is new to polyamory and, lacking sufficient role models in alternative relationships and lacking the experience themselves to understand the complex nature of multi-partner relationships, the couple believes, rather naively, that the way to circumvent jealousy, possession, or feeling "left out", is to find one person to share equally. The rationale is that one partner cannot get jealous if he or she gets to do all the same things at the same time with the new partner as the existing partner. This does not refer to triads that just happen to spring up because the relationship between all involved was most compatible in a triad relationship. This is specifically for existing dyads seeking the Hot Bi Babe to "complete" their family and perhaps solve any underlying issues along the way. See also unicorn hunters.

  • PIVOT: Colloquial; In a vee relationship, the person who has two partners. Those partners may or may not have any contact with each other, but who are generally not in a romantic or sexual relationship with each other.

  • PLATONIC RELATIONSHIP: A close, emotionally intimate relationship in which there is no sex or physical intimacy. See related metamour, other significant other - def. #1, non-sexual significant other, lover-in-law co-spouse.

  • PLURAL MARRIAGE: See polygamy.

  • POLY: Colloquial; Of or related to polyamory; as, a poly relationship, a poly person.

    1. A person who involves themselves politically and/or socially for the purpose of promoting greater awareness of polyamory as a legitimate relationship choice.
    2. Someone who considers themselves a defender for justice and civil rights, specifically those rights denied by polyamorous choices or beliefs.

  • POLYAMORY: Literally, poly = many + amor = love. The state, practice, or intention of maintaining multiple romantic relationships simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all the people involved. Polyamorous: of or related to the practice of polyamory, as in polyamorous relationship: a relationship involving more than two people, or open to involvement by more than two people; polyamorous person: a person who prefers or is open to romantic relationships with more than one partner simultaneously. Contrast monogamy; See related polyfidelity, triad, quad, vee, N, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, swinging, responsible non-monogamy.

    Polyamorous = of or pertaining to polyamory (Jane is polyamorous; Bob, Carol, and Sally are in a polyamorous relationship); Polyamorist = a polyamorous person; Polyamorists = plural form of polyamorist; Polys = short plural form for more than one polyamorous person (Sam, Janet, and Steve are polys).

    Commentary: The term polyamory is often attributed to Morning Glory Zell, who used "poly-amorous" to describe situations in which a person engages in multiple loving, committed relationships simultaneously and published in 1990. Jennifer Wasp then created an internet newsgroup at two years later, and who claims to have come up with the word independent of Morning Glory Zell. Polyamory is not necessarily related directly to marriage or to polygamy; a person may have no spouse or only one spouse and still be polyamorous. A person may participate in polygamy and not consider themselves "polyamorous", particularly those who marry for religious reasons. Many people use the term "polyamory" to describe only those relationships in which a person has multiple loving partners; some people have extended the term to include relationships in which a person has multiple sexual partners regardless of the emotional component or degree of commitment between them, though this meaning was not a part of Morning Glory Zell's original intent for the word. There are many different personal definitions of the word, and the only thing they all seem to have in common is "multiple", "partners", and "honest" where love, degree of comittment, level of honesty and disclosure, and sexual component all vary from individual to individual.

    When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary contacted Morning Glory Zell to ask for a formal definition and background of the word, part of her response was:

    The two essential ingredients of the concept of "polyamory" are "more than one" and "loving." That is, it is expected that the people in such relationships have a loving emotional bond, are involved in each other's lives multi-dimensionally, and care for each other. This term is not intended to apply to merely casual recreational sex, anonymous orgies, one-night stands, pick-ups, prostitution, "cheating", serial monogamy, or the popular definition of swinging as "mate-swapping" parties.

  • POLYANDRY: Literally, poly = many + andros = man. The state or practice of having multiple wedded husbands at the same time. Contrast monogamy; see related polygamy, polygyny, bigamy.

  • POLYFAMILY: Colloquial; 1. A set of polyamorous people who live together and identify as part of the same family. 2. A polyamorous group whose members consider one another to be family, regardless of whether or not they share a home.

  • POLYFI: Colloquial; see polyfidelity.

  • POLYFIDELITY: Literally, poly = many + fidelitas = faithfulness. A romantic or sexual relationship which involves more than two people, but which does not permit the members of that relationship to seek additional partners outside the relationship, at least without the approval and consent of all the existing members. Some polyfidelitous relationships may have a mechanism which permits adding new members to the relationship with mutual agreement and consent of the existing members; others may not permit any new members under any circumstances. Etymology: The term polyfidelity was coined by the Kerista Commune.

  • POLYFUCKERY: Colloquial; vulgar; often derogatory; A coarse term sometimes used to describe people who call themselves "polyamorous" while engaging in a large number of sexual relationships which are short-lived or not emotionally intimate; as Bob practices polyfuckery. Almost always indicates derision of the activity or person so named. Usage: Almost always used only about people who self-describe as polyamorous; not used to describe, for example, people who identify as swingers. See related polysexual.

  • POLYGAMY: Literally, poly = many + gamos = marriage. The state or practice of having multiple wedded spouses at the same time. This term does not imply the gender of any individual within the relationship. Contrast monogamy; See related polyandry, polygyny, bigamy. Commentary: Many people confuse polygamy with the most common form of polgyamy practiced in most socities that allow mutliple spouses; polygyny. Some objections to the practice of polyamory stem from the misperception that polyamory or polygamy is the same thing as polygyny, which is often viewed as being harmful or disempowering to women.

  • POLYGYNY: Literally, poly = many + gynos = woman. The state or practice of having multiple wedded wives at the same time. Contrast monogamy; See related polygamy, polyandry, bigamy. Commentary: According to some sociologists, polygynous societies represent the most common form of society, with 850 of the 1170 societies recorded in Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas being polygynous. Modern Muslim societies are polygynous, and certain religious traditions, including Fundamentalist Mormonism (FLDS) in the United States, advocate polygyny. Many examples of polygyny that make widespread news coverage include relationships that are harmful or disempowering to women, including older men marrying young, sometimes underage girls, patriarchal societies that do not consider the needs of the women within that group, and spousal abuse. Because of this, and because this is the most common form of polygamy practiced, many non-polygamy supporters misperceive other forms of multiple or open relationships to be inherently negative or harmful.

  • POLYKOITY: Literally, poly = many + koitus, coitus = sex. Anthropology; The state or practice of having more than one sexual partner, either at the same time or over the course of one's lifetime, without regard to the relationship with those partners or their relationships with each other.

  • POLY MIXED RELATIONSHIP: Colloquial; A poly/mono relationship.

  • POLY/MONO: Colloquial; Of or relating to a relationship between a person who self-identifies as polyamorous and a person who self-identifies as monogamous. Also MONO/POLY.

  • POLYNATE: Colloquial; (v) to disseminate the concepts of polyamory to non-polyamorists. Commentary: There is no record of the first use of this term, however, hosts of the podcast Pedestrian Polyamory, known for their penchant for puns, broadcast the term while one host, Shira, talked about being the first exposure to polyamory to many people, primarily because of how "out" she is about being polyamorous, and how this exposure to the concepts often led to other people making changes in their own relationships as a result of learning that they have options. Also POLYNATION, POLYNATOR.

  • POLYSATURATED: Colloquial; Polyamorous, but not currenlty open to new relationships or new partners because of the number of existing partners, or because of time constraints which might make new relationships difficult. Contrast polyunsaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.

  • POLYSEXUAL: Colloquial; Of or related to relationships which are sexually non-monogamous but which are not emotionally intimate. Usage: Sometimes condescending or derogatory; as Bill is not really polyamorous, but only polysexual. May indicate dismissal or derision of the relationship so named. See related swinging, polyfuckery.

  • POLYUNSATURATED: Colloquial; Polyamorous, and currently seeking or open to new partners. Contrast polysaturated. Usage: Often considered humorous or slightly silly. Seems to be most common primarily in the western United States.

  • POLYWOG: Colloquial: Children of poly situations. Coined by Alan Wexelblat on his website The Poly Bureau. Not well known or often used.

  • PRESCRIPTIVE VS. DESCRIPTIVE: Prescriptive comes from Prescribe: Latin, praescribere = 1. to write at the beginning, dictate, order; 2. to lay down a rule : DICTATE; 3. to lay down as a guide, direction, or rule of action : ORDAIN; 4. to specify with authority. A prescriptive relationship, then, is a relationship in which a person or people create a set of rules governing the relationship before the people involved ever get into said relationship. Descriptive: 1. referring to, constituting, or grounded in matters of observation or experience; 2. factually grounded or informative rather than normative, prescriptive, or emotive. A descriptive relationships in this sense is a relationship in which those involved use terms that emerge from the nature and the situation of the relationship.

    Commentary: These adjectives are mainly used to describe the nature of
    primary/secondary relationships, but can also be used for any relationship configuration. When polyamorous people use the primary and secondary titles for their various partners, they do so in either prescriptive or descriptive ways. A primary couple can engage in prescriptive primary/secondary relationships, in which they consciously and deliberately create a set of rules whereby any additional partners are secondary, often because this is seen as a mechanism which will protect the existing relationship from harm caused by additional relationships. Or they can engage in a descriptive primary/secondary relationship in which they are involved for a while, and then choose titles that result from the natural circumstances of the relationship. In practice, prescriptive primary/secondary relationships may create an environment where the people in those additional relationships feel unappreciated or insignificant, which is why some experienced polyamorous people do not construct their relationships along enforced primary/secondary lines. Descriptive relationships do not create this same environment, and the titles "primary" and "secondary" are fluid and more likely to change as circumstances within each relationship change. More on this in Poly Configurations. See related veto

  • PRIMARY/SECONDARY: A polyamorous relationship structure in which a person has multiple partners who are not equal to one another in terms of interconnection, emotional intensity, entanglement in practical or financial matters, or power within the relationship. A person in a primary/secondary relationship may have one (or occasionally, more than one) primary partner and one or more additional secondary or tertiary partners. A primary/secondary relationship may be "prescriptive" or it may be "descriptive". See related veto.

  • PRIMARY: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship with the highest degree of involvement or entanglement, or sometimes the person accorded the most importance. A person may be primary either as a natural consequence of the circumstance and nature of the relationship (because that person has the greatest degree of financial entanglement, for example), or as a deliberate consequence of the relationship structure and agreements (as in the case of an existing couple who set out to add additional partners only on the condition that those existing partners are seen as "less important" than the couple). See also co-primary and prescriptive vs. descriptive; Contrast secondary, tertiary. Commentary: People who deliberately seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines typically designate one and only one relationship as the primary relationship. People who do not seek to construct a relationship along prescriptive primary/secondary lines may have more than one primary relationship; a relationship becomes primary when it reaches a certain point of emotional commitment, practical entanglement, or both.

  • QUAD: A polyamorous relationship involving four people, each of whom may or may not be sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members. See related N. Commentary: One of the most common ways for a quad to form is when two polyamorous couples begin romantic relationships cross-couple.

  • RBAMP (acronym): colloquial; often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. Relationship Broken Add More People. The idea that an existing relationship is not working somehow and the "fix" would be to add another person to the mix in some romantic or sexual manner. Usually said in a derogatory fashion, this concept is assumed to do the opposite, which is not fix the relationship but further its demise in a most spectacular way. This can also apply to having babies as a way to "fix" a relationship, and is found in all manner of relationships, poly and non-poly. The idea of having a baby to "fix" a relationship is actually quite common among monogamous couples, but the acronym and phrase are not generally used outside of poly circles, even when it applies to non-poly people.

  • RELATIONSHIP ORIENTATION: A preference for sexual or romantic or loving relationships of a particular form; as, for example, a preference for relationships which are monogamous, for relationships which are polyfidelitous, for relationships which are polyamorous, and so forth. See related switch (Def. 1). Commentary: Just as some people feel that their sexual orientation is fluid and a matter of choice where other people feel that their sexual orientation is fixed and not subject to choice, so do some people feel that their relationship orientation is subject to choice whereas others feel their relationship orientation is not a matter of choice. It has been my observation that some people seem to be inherently monogamous, and can't be happy any other way; some people seem to be inherently polyamorous, and can't be happy any other way; and some people seem to be able, under the right circumstances and with the right partners, to be happy in a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship.

  • RESPONSIBLE NON-MONOGAMY: Any relationship which is not sexually and/or emotionally exclusive by the explicit agreement and with the full knowledge of all the parties involved. Responsible non-monogamy can take several forms, the two most common of which are polyamory and swinging, and is distinct from cheating in that everyone involved knows about and agrees to the activity. Responsible non-monogamy often explicitly spells out the conditions under which it is permissible for one person to take on additional partners, and often includes some form of safer-sex agreement such as a condom contract as well. Contrast monogamy, closed marriage.

  • RULES-BASED RELATIONSHIPS: A relationship in which the participants agree to adhere to certain codes of behaviour dictated (or requested) by another person. Relationships in which one person can tell another person what to do or how to behave and expect the other person to comply as part of the relationship contract. These relationships rely upon a power exchange, where one partner gives a degree of power to another to direct their actions or behaviour within context and tend to view outside relationships as being a direct statement or reflection of this relationship. These relationships will therefore tend to address conflict within the relationship as being a result or cause of something that occurred in an outside relationship while finding solutions to conflict within the relationship being actions that must be taken outside the relationship, i.e. if one does not feel one is getting enough time with the other, one may blame this problem on the other's new partner and claim the solution is to reduce the other's time with the new partner.

    These relationships operate on fear of penalties, the belief that one's partners will misbehave if given enough liberty to do so without structure or consequences keeping them in line, and/or a belief that a framework of certain rules can protect a relationship from harm. These relationships tend to be somewhat rigid, where non-complaince with a request, demand, rule, or agreement is viewed as a breach of the relationship or
    cheating, and serious damage to the relationship will occur that may result in the dissolution of the relationship. Often, these relationships may try to avoid the stigma of being "rules-based" by not using the word "rule", and will try to substitute other words, such as "agreements", but the underlying motivation of fear, considering behaviour outside of the relationship to be breaches within the relationship, rigidity, and the ability or belief to control other people's behaviour make a relationship Rules-Based even if they never use the word "rule". These relationships are often built on a foundation of conformity, a blending of identity, and placing greater value on the relationship as its own entity than on the individuality or autonomy of the participants.

    These relationships tend to be infused with Couples Privilege to some degree. For a closer look at Couples Privilege and the differences that underly these relationships, visit See related: Old Paradigm Relating. Contrast: Consequence-Based Relationships

  • SACRED SEXUALITY: See tantra.

  • SAFE SEX; SAFER SEX: The policy and/or philosophy of using methods and barriers during sexual activity that are designed to limit or prohibit transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnancy. Methods and policies can include (but not be limited to) condom contracts, HPV boundaries, latex condoms and dental dams, fluid bonding, STD boundaries, and limitations of sexual behaviour such as engaging in BDSM play but not intercourse, etc. More on this in the Safer Sex page.

  • SAFE-SEX CIRCLE: See condom contract.

  • SECONDARY: In a primary/secondary relationship, the person (or persons) in the relationship who, either by intent or by circumstance, have a relationship which is given less in terms of time, energy and priority in a person's life than a primary relationship, and usually involves fewer ongoing commitments such as plans or financial/legal involvements. A secondary relationship may be secondary as a result of a conscious decision on the part of the primary partners, or simply as a result of circumstance or the natural development of the relationship. See related secondary significant other, tertiary.

  • SECONDARY SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Colloquial; A romantic partner other than one's primary partner or spouse. Usage: Used almost completely within the context of primary/secondary relationships.

  • SERIAL MONOGAMY: A relationship pattern in which a person has only one sexual or romantic partner at a time, but has multiple sexual or romantic partners in a lifetime, and may change partners frequently. Arguably the most common form of relationship in the United States, serial monogamy is predicated on the idea that a person can love more than one other person romantically in a lifetime, but not at the same time. Contrast polyamory, polygamy, swinging; See related monogamy.

  • SIGNIFICANT OTHER: Colloquial; A romantic partner. Usage: The term significant other is intended to be free of assumptions about the gender of that partner. See related other significant other.

  • SO: see significant other.

  • SPICE: Colloquial; The plural of spouse. Usage: often considered humorous.

  • SPOUSE: A person's husband or wife.

  • SPORT SEX: 1. Sexual activity without an emotional connection or intimate relationship between the participants. 2. Casual sex. 3. Sexual activity with strangers. 4. Sexual activity with friends where the sexual activity is not related or connected to the friendship. 5. The kind of sexual activity experienced at swing clubs or between swingers, or among people in the monogamous culture when they have no intention of maintaining a romantic relationship in addition to the sex, i.e. Friends With Benefits.

  • SQUIGGLE: Colloquial; The name of a polyamorous network that was formed in the 1990s. The word is based on the mathmatical term Amorphous Squiggle, which means an ever-changing, random shape. Since the initial relationship was formed on the assumption that the configuration would change over time as partners came and went and individual relationships would undergoe evolutions (not to mention individual definitions of what constitutes a "relationship"), the group chose to avoid giving themselves a "family name", such as the Kerista Commune or Oneida Community, which could have unintentional consequences of tacit exclusivity or prescriptiveness. They chose instead a name that accomodated for inveitable changing arrangements. Since the InnKeeper is a member, and is also a poly-activist, usage of the name in semi-public venues has caused the word "Squiggle" to become somewhat synonymous with the phrase "Intimate Network". Some poly individuals have begun to use this name as a generic term to identify an open network relationship configuration, but it is, in fact, the name of a specific poly group with not-so-specific borders.

  • SORORAL POLYGYNY: A form of polygyny where a man marries two or more women who are sisters.

  • SORTAMOUR: Colloquial; When you're not sure about the relationship, & by extention, if metamour applies. Example: "This is Bob, my umfriend and my sortamour Jane, his wife." See related Metamour, Metametamour, Other Significant Other, umfriend (def. #3), vee.

  • SSO (acronym): See Secondary Significant Other.

  • STD BOUNDARIES: Limitations imposed by oneself or by one's partner, or even by group agreement, that dictate what sexual activities are permisable with whom and when changes to those limitations can be made, the purpose of which is to limit exposure to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (also called STIs: Sexually Transmitted Infections). More on this in the Safer Sex Issues page. See also hpv boundaries.

  • SWINGER: A person who engages in swinging.

  • SWINGING: The practice of having multiple sexual partners outside of an existing romantic relationship, most often with the understanding that the focus of those relationships is primarily sexual rather than romantic or emotionally intimate. See also friends-first swinging. Commentary: The common perception of swinging is that those who engage in this behavior have sex outside of their existing relationship purely for recreation, and that emotional bonds or emotional intimacy are specifically excluded. This is true in some cases, and in fact some swing clubs specifically prohibit people from carrying on friendships or relationships outside the club. However, in practice swinging is much more nuanced, and people who self-identify as swingers can and sometimes do form close emotional relationships with their partners. Many people in both the swinging and polyamorous communities, though not all, see swinging and polyamory as two ends of a continuum. The main difference is the focus. A swinging relationship focuses on outside sexual partners, whether they include emotional intimacy or not; whereas a poly relationship focuses on romantic partners, whether they include sexual intimacy or not ... although many people can enjoy both types, sometimes simultaneously (see swolly).

  • SWITCH: 1. Colloquial; A person capable of being happy in either a monogamous or a polyamorous relationship. 2. A term used in the fetish and BDSM communities as a person who can perform both dominant roles and submissive roles in sex play or sex games or intimate role playing. See Tacit's BDSM page for more information about fetish and BDSM.

  • SWOLLY: 1. Colloquial; a person who engages in polyamorous relationships, and also occasionally engages in swinging relationships. 2. A cross between polyamory and swinging. Commentary: Coined by Ken Haslam, founder of the Polyamory Collection housed at the Kinsey Institute, as tongue-in-cheek during one of the internet swing/poly wars, to address the fact that many poly people come from the swing world when they tire of sport sex and begin to feel the need for more emotional closeness with their sex partners, but, being comfortable in the swing world, will occasionally continue to go back for an evening of hot sex. The intention for coining the word was to provide a label, and therefore a guilt-free outlet, for those people who enjoy sport sex. Many in the poly community look down on any sexual activity outside of a committed partnership, much like the monogamous society, but the swinging community can often look down on people who form emotional attachments with their sexual partners. There are many people who enjoy both, but who were finding lack of support or outright ostracism from the existing alternative sex communities without a label and prominent supporters of the label.

  • TANTRA: Literally, Sanskrit thread; loom; to weave. A form of sexual expression or activity which emphasizes spiritual connection, and holds that sex is a sacred act which can bring those who engage in it to a higher spiritual plane. Commentary: Tantra is not directly related to polyamory; however, some people, particularly those involved with New Age spirituality, often combine the two. The original practice of tantra stems from several Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions which emphasize rituals (including ritualized meditation and mantra) and mysticism, but do not necessarily teach or require sexual ritual. The New Age practice has discarded much of the original teaching, choosing instead to emphasize sexual ritual as a spiritual act.

  • TERTIARY: A person (or persons) in a relationship which is generally quite casual, expects little in the way of emotional or practical support, or is very limited with respect to time, energy, or priority in the lives of the people involved. Contrast primary; See related primary/secondary, secondary. Commentary: A tertiary relationship may be very limited in scope or priority for many reasons, one of the most common of which is often distance.

  • TOCOTOX (acronym): Colloquial; TOo COmplicated TO eXplain. Often used as a form of shorthand, particularly in online conversations, when the various interrelationships between the people in a polyamorous relationship can't be described easily.

  • TRIAD: 1. A polyamorous relationship composed of three people. 2. A union or group of three. Usage: In the sense of Def. 1, generally, the word triad is most often applied to a relationship in which each of the three people is sexually and emotionally involved with all the other members of the triad, as may be the case in a triad consisting of one man and two bisexual women or one woman and two bisexual men; however, it is sometimes also applied to vee relationships, particularly when the two non-sexual partners of the pivot person have developed an independent, emotionally intimate relationship and consider themselves to be all part of one family. See related polyfamily, metamour, freemate, non-sexual significant other, paramour, lover-in-law, co-spouse.

  • TRIBE: A social group that has a strong sense of identity and may have a family arrangement as its core. See related intimate network, polyfamily.

  • TROIKA: A group marriage involving exactly three people. See related triad.

  • TROILISM: Sexual activity involving exactly three people; either in the form of three people simultaneously engaging in sexual activity, or in the form of one person watching while two others have sex. See related mènage á trois - (Def. 1).

  • UMFRIEND: Colloquial; 1) Synonym for fuckbuddy or friends with benefits; i.e. a casual partner. 2) What a polyamorous person calls a lover when introducing him or her to someone who doesn't know they are polyamorous or in a poly relationship and they want to keep it that way. 3) A romantic and/or sexual relationship that is undefined, ambigious, or otherwise not labeled and is usually not quite "serious" or entangled enough to justify the use of other relationship terms like "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" or "lover" or "partner". Usage: Most common in the United Kingdom, with a smattering of use in the United States, due to a common linguistic habit of adding "um" in pauses of sentences when one is thinking of the right thing to say. Example: "Oh, hi Mary, fancy running into you here! This is my um, friend, Bob. My husband is taking the kids to soccer practice while I get some shopping done."

  • UNICORN: Colloquial; Synonym for hot bi babe or HBB, often derogatory, condescending, or ironic. A bisexual person, usually though not always female, who is willing to join an existing couple, often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple, and not demand anything or do anything which might cause problems or inconvenience to that couple. The term is often used to be dismissive of a couple seen to be only superficially polyamorous. Because of the demands that this type of couple places on the woman (that she be single and not take on any additional partners, and become involved with both members of the couple equally, and often "complete" their family as a surrogate mother and housekeeper and/or breadwinner and not do anything that may threaten or disrupt the existing couple), many in the poly community call this type of woman a "unicorn", as in mythical and not likely to be found, even though there are plenty of bipoly women around. Sometimes the unicorn is expected to not develop any emotional attachment and is strictly there for a sexual relationship (equally distributed to both members of the dyad) and/or is prescripted as a secondary. This term is used as a reminder that bipoly women are people with their own desires, needs, and pre-existing lives, and not fantasy figures or pets. See related prescriptive vs. descriptive.

  • UNICORN HUNTER: Colloquial; derogatory, condescending, or ironic. An individual or couple seeking a unicorn. Different from a person who is merely attracted to bisexual poly people, this refers specifically to the type of individual or couple who is seeking "that special third to complete" their family. They often believe a bisexual third partner will prevent jealous feelings on the part of either of the original members of the dyad because of the mistaken assumption that one will not get jealous if one gets to do all the same things as the other and no one ever experiences anything apart from the other half of the primary couple. This type of couple expects their hypothetical future partner to be single or willing to give up any existing and future partners, to love and have sex with both members of the original dyad equally (and usually this implies at the same time with no independent dyadic relationships between the new person and each existing partner), and for each member of the existing dyad to reciprocate exactly an equal level of love and sexual attraction for the new person. This type of couple will not consider any kind of relationship with a male, with someone who is only sexually attracted to one of the original dyad members, with someone who is already partnered, with someone who develops an emotional attachment to each of the original dyad members at different rates, and usually promises to break up with the new person for the sake of "protecting" the existing dyad, leaving the unfortunate third partner feeling disposable and not ever really able to obtain that "equal status" that is desired by all involved. Sometimes the unicorn is expected to not develop any emotional attachment and is strictly there for a sexual relationship (equally distributed to both members of the dyad) and/or is prescripted as a secondary. See also Percivalian.

  • VASOPRESSIN: A hormone produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Vasopressin is known to be involved in the regulation of blood pressure and the uptake of water by the kidneys, and is also believed to be involved in mediating such responses as aggression and mating. Levels of vasopressin in the body rise sharply immediately after sex; it is believed that this may play a role in new relationship energy. See related oxytocin.

  • VEE: Colloquial; A polyamorous relationship involving three people, in which one person is romantically or sexually involved with two partners who are not romantically or sexually involved with each other. See also triad, pivot; See related quad, N.

  • VETO: A relationship agreement, most common in prescriptive primary/secondary relationships, which gives one person the power to end another person's additional relationships, or in some cases to disallow some specific activity, such as some specific sexual or BDSM-related activity. A veto is technically absolute, although in practice, issuing a veto may result in a conversation or argument and not immediate compliance or unquestioning obedience. But the purpose of a veto is to end a relationship or activity, not to start a discussion. Commentary: Not all polyamorous people or relationships recognize or permit veto power. Veto is most common in primary/secondary relationship configurations, particularly in relationship configurations where an established couple is seeking additional partners. Veto is typically limited only to the primary partners, and a relationship which grants a veto power to a secondary partner is rare in the extreme. Many people use the word "veto" to refer to the point at which one partner can express discomfort with something the other partner is doing and a conversation involving what to do about it then ensues. This is incorrect use of the term "veto" and is better termed "communication". Some people have agreements where one person can tell the other person to stop doing something or to end another relationship and expect the other person to comply without argument or discussion, but they will call these "agreements" and refuse to use the word "veto", even though "veto" is, in effect, what they have agreed to.

  • WIBBLE: A feeling of insecurity, typically temporary or fleeting, when seeing a partner being affectionate with someone else. Wibbley: of or related to wibble, as "Seeing those two together makes me feel wibbley". Contrast compersion, frubble. Usage: Primarily British; less common outside the United Kingdom.

  • ZIE: Colloquial; A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "he" or "she."

  • ZIR: Colloquial; A proposed gender-neutral pronoun meaning "him" or "her."
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