Monogamy has been part of human culture since humans began to farm the land and settle in family tribal villages. Prior to this, polygyny was typical. Meaning one male, or a group of males, mated within their harem of females and produced offspring in a pack-like setting, and raised the offspring in a communal manner. There is genetic evidence to back this up. But it isn't overly surprising. Just look at other primates and examine their family structures.
Monogamy has continued to evolve into human society and in most cultures it is the expected and enforced norm. Several cultures, however, have maintained or have begun to revert back to a polygamy-based system. But generally the expectation is for humans to pick a partner, and stay with that partner for life. Who here, reading this blog, has been capable of doing this? ~looks around~.
Indeed, humans are very sexual and emotional creatures. Most of us see sex as something that can be used for fun and play, as well as breeding. I would guess that almost 100% of humans who engage in sexual play with another partner, have done so with more than one other human being.
Through my process of maturing and learning about myself, I have experienced many types of non-monogamy. I wanted to write this article to help define the different types. I will list the following in an order of popularity in society. Note: I have for a while now, been of the opinion that monogamy is the way I wish to go in terms of a relationship for myself.
Dishonest Monogamy / Infidelity
I think the most common type of non-monogamy is the kind which most people have been exposed to. The typical 'cheating' which plagues society and causes a good amount of the drama, both real and fictional, in modern society. Many think they can play around with someone whom is not their accepted monogamous partner. And indeed, many can pull this off, sometimes for years without being caught. But the truth always wants to come out, and the guilt eventually burdens those involved. Often if more communication was introduced before suspicions begin to rise, there is a chance that honesty can prevail, and that a formerly monogamous couple can agree on becoming non-monogamous on an official basis. Usually this will involve rules and compromise. Chances are the other partner also has non-monogamous desires too! However if left unchecked for too long, often such things are hard to hide, and most people will eventually catch on that something isn't right.
No Strings Attached / Casual
I imagine the second most popular type of non-monogamy would be the no strings attached status. Typically used when single, this status implies friendship, and sexual relations, often with many partners, without emotional bonds or any declaration of monogamy or commitment. It is a very casual form of non-monogamy, which typically implies honesty and communication to some extent. But it does not require the acceptance of a partner by anyone else other than yourself and you aren't accountable to anyone else. I have participated in this for many years prior to getting married.
Swingers are usually couples, who will openly participate in sexual acts with other people. Typically this is done as part of a social gathering where both people are present. The other partners are typically strangers, or members in a swinging social club, but otherwise maintain no formal contact with each other outside of these events. There are exceptions of course, but generally swingers indicate a mutual sexual play time where you can openly play with anyone. Typically there will be rules such as no cumming inside females, and other SSC (safe, sane and consensual) type rules. Swinging is often an offshoot lifestyle of the BDSM community.
Open Relationship / Marriage
An open relationship is a broad term which generally implies that there is an agreement between a couple, where both of them are free to engage in either romantic or sexual relations with others. Typically this status would imply that one partner, would not need to seek approval or consent from the other partner to engage in a new sexual relationship with someone. Communication varies in such relationships depending upon what the couple deems to be comfortable. As such, typically these relationships are handled in a way to not take away from the time spent with either partner. So, for example, while the husband is at work, the wife may see someone else on the side. But when the husband comes home, they spend that time together. If that isn't possible then usually schedules are planned.
Cuckoldry is generally a lifestyle where a husband will allow his wife to sleep with others. Typically he will enjoy watching, but often just hearing about it is enough to satisfy his fetish. This term can also be used the other way around as well, where a female will enjoy watching or hearing about their male partner being with someone else. Often homosexual or interracial aspects come into play in this lifestyle, where the spouse encourages experimentation of his loved one, and enjoys watching them explore new things.
Polyamory technically means "Many Loves". From wikipedia, it is defined as "the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy", and may or may not include polysexuality (attraction towards multiple genders or sexes)."
The definition is alright but a little vague and very broad. The key here is intimate relationships. Love, respect, knowledge, consent. Honesty should be key here, and communication should always be encouraged. In polyamory, every partner must be aware of the relationships involved, and must consent to it. I, myself, have dated women who claimed to be polyamorous. But then have found out that their boyfriends didn't know of our relationship.
Polyamory allows for chains of relationships to occur. Where one spouse is allowed to have a romantic relationship with another person, who is also married and allowed to engage in a romantic relationship. But their spouse is also in another relationship with someone else, and so on and so forth. Safety should thus always be a concern. These relationships are often focused on long term relationships.
Polyamory typically will employ Primary and Secondary partners. A Primary partner, such as a spouse, will have a higher level of pull in the choices and consent to relationships than the secondary partner. Typically if a primary partner gets uncomfortable about something, they can request their partner to drop all ties with a Secondary, and the partner will comply.
Polyamory is often an umbrella term often used to define statuses such as swinging and open relationships, but by definition it should not be used as such. As such, it is often difficult finding truly polyamorous partners - this coming from someone who has been polyamorous for several years.
Polyfidelity / Polyfaithful
Polyfaithful allows for a closed family oriented, intimate relationship between multiple partners. Polyfaithful situations may include a Lifestyle themed BDSM household where a Master / Mistress is the head of an exclusive household with many subs under them. So long as they are faithful within the household, they are following the rules.
Polyfidelity usually refers to the allowance of relations between members of a larger private or exclusive group.
Generally in such a setting, all members of the family are consulted and must agree upon any new members being brought into the group. Once in, all members are expected to be faithful within the group, unless it is agreed upon that there are allowances with rules and provisions.
Polyfaithful is something I have explored, and I do enjoy how exclusive it can be. But I also know that it is tough to find someone willing to commit to being faithful to a specific group, let alone a specific person.
Polygamy is where one man, or woman, marries many others. This is generally illegal, mostly under the grounds that it makes divorces, wills, and other financial matters very difficult to settle. However it can usually form very strong and loyal households. I haven't dabbled in it myself, but from what I have observed it seems like it may be a more natural way to build a family or tribe, and is likely more of a throwback to how humans lived in tribal times. In a BDSM sense, this would be like a Dom collaring and keeping many subs.
Relationship Anarchy was recently defined as having no specific definitions for what status anyone is. Someone who claims this as a status, may do what they like, and form whatever bonds they like, with whoever they like, with no real consent or rules to bound them to anyone specifically. I would kind of lump this in under No Strings Attached, but it seems that it does allow more intimate relationships, so I suppose it is unique.
The above serves as a mostly subjective viewpoint on what the different types of non-monogamy imply. I would like to claim this as objective, but there may be variations within each relationship. Be sure that you take the time to outline and discuss your viewpoints with someone you are looking to include in your situation. Communication is always key! I encourage comments and other peoples personal viewpoints, as many seem to have a slightly different view. So please, feel free to sign up to the blog, and post a comment!
Personally, as I get older, I am finding that I just want to focus my efforts on one woman, and for her to focus her efforts on me. So I am now fully monogamous.