Table of Contents
In the realm of ethically non-monogamous relationships, a universal, standardized dictionary is hard to nail down, leaving room for individual interpretations of most used terms and definitions. Often, disagreements arise within couples, online communities, and social groups due to these varying interpretations.
This glossary aims to establish clear definitions for terms commonly used in my writings and how the terms will be used here at ENM Forum. While these definitions may not align with some Ethically non monogamous and polyamorous individuals, they provide a useful reference point for navigating our content.
Ethical Non-Monogamy and Consensual Non-Monogamy
This broad umbrella term encompasses any situation where someone engages in sexual or romantic relationships with multiple partners without secrecy. The level of disclosure regarding details such as partner identities, genders, sexual activities, or relationship durations may not be the primary concern. The key is that all partners consent to a non-exclusive relationship.
Another umbrella term, it includes any relationship that doesn’t restrict participants from seeking or forming other emotional, sexual, or romantic connections. In contrast, a “Closed” relationship implies agreement among all participants that no additional partners will be added.
This term signifies the presence or potential of multiple committed relationships. While some individuals associate polyamory with both emotional and sexual connections, others may consider it to involve either emotional or sexual connections. While we personally lean toward defining polyamory as having multiple “more than casual” relationships, it’s important to acknowledge that some people identify as polyamorous even if they have one “primary” partner and multiple casual “friends with benefits.”
Monogamy / Monoamory / Monogamish
These terms are not used interchangeably. Monogamy refers to individuals who desire a romantic, emotional, and/or sexual relationship with only one person, often with the goal of marriage. Monoamory is similar but without the implication of marriage as a goal. Monogamish describes individuals who perceive some flexibility in their relationship boundaries, such as occasionally engaging with other sexual partners or participating in group activities like BDSM.
Swingers / Swinging
Swinging falls under the ethical non-monogamy umbrella and involves couples engaging in sexual relationships with other people purely for exploration and variety. While swingers may form emotional bonds, they typically prioritize sexual experiences. Individuals who identify as swingers outside established couples or groups can be referred to as “unpartnered.”
Also known as “poly-family,” “poly group,” “constellation,” or “my people,” this term describes the network of people involved in a polyamorous relationship. For example, my partner, his three regular partners, and I constitute a polycule.
This refers to my partner’s other partner concerning my relationship with them.
Synonymous with partner or, in my partner’s context, their other partner.
A partner with whom one has limited regular communication, often due to distance or other priorities. When they enter your life’s orbit, you make time to connect.
Individuals who willingly enter a polyamorous relationship but subtly attempt to steer their partner toward monogamy. This behavior is often seen as manipulative and demanding. An ungendered term for this concept is yet to be established to our knowledge.
Implies hierarchy, indicating that a person holds a higher rank or status and priority in a relationship compared to secondary or tertiary partners. It’s important to note that not everyone agrees that “primary” implies hierarchy; however, when we use the term, it is meant to convey hierarchy.
Nesting or Anchor Partner
This term denotes a situation in which one partner shares a home or bank accounts with another without implying hierarchy or priority over other relationships.
Individuals who identify as polyamorous but do not live with or commingle finances with any of their partners. They act as their own “primary” partner.
Individuals who defy traditional relationship labels and societal constructs. They avoid imposing or accepting “rules,” “agreements,” or hierarchy in any particular partnership, whether romantic or platonic.
An established and defined ranking of partners where one holds priority or primary status over others. This can be descriptive (using terms like “primary” and “secondary”) or prescriptive (intentionally enforced ranking).
When an established or nesting couple (often with hierarchy) assumes privileges over other relationships. This can be intentional or subconscious, such as assuming holidays will be spent with the “primary” partner or being the default +1 at family events.
This is a relationship involving three people who all share emotional feelings and sexual encounters.
Involves four people where each member loves one another independently or as two couples.
Typically, a bisexual cis woman open to simultaneous relationships with a cis-gendered heterosexual couple. The concept of unicorn hunting, where a couple seeks a “third,” often raises concerns within the polyamorous community.
An individual who is monogamous or monoamorous but comfortable in a relationship with an ethically non-monogamous person.
OPP (One Penis Policy)
Often found in relationships involving a cis-gendered heterosexual man and a cis-gendered bisexual woman, this policy permits the woman to date other “women” but insists on exclusivity when it comes to male partners. This policy is frequently criticized within the polyamorous community for being transphobic, misogynistic, controlling, and unfair.
Someone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Someone who identifies as a different gender than the one assigned at birth, including non-binary and gender-fluid individuals.
An individual who does not identify as either “man” or “woman.”
Gender Fluid / Gender Nonconforming
Someone whose gender identity falls along the spectrum from man to non-binary to woman or anywhere in between.
Again, this glossary is far from complete and will be forever changing. If our readers ever have any suggested additions or alterations to the glossary, please help us and shoot a quick email.