Glossary Alternative relationship polyamory

Alternative Relationships Glossary: From A To V

You have already heard about polyamory or at least have a vague idea about the difference between polyamorists and swingers? Or maybe you even practice open relationships yet want to learn the details of the ABC and get into specifics of the terms that polyamorists and other open relationships adherents use? This glossary shall provide you with frequently used terms and expressions that describe the world of non-monogamous relationships.

Having nothing but monogamy on your mind doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to derive from the experience of polyamorists and the language of their subculture. So find out who’s hiding behind the “Cowboys” or “Unicorns”, would you?


Alternative Sexuality: a broad term that encompasses non-traditional gender identity and sexual orientation as well as the issues that deal with crossover of gender and sexual expression, unusual sexual practices (BDSM, other kinks) and non-monogamous forms of relationship.    


Cellular Family: A family of three or more adults (eventually with children) that live together or next to each other sharing household liabilities and common budget and considering themselves to be a part of one single family.

Cowboy: A monogamous male who starts a relationship with polyamorous woman aiming to separate her from other partners and imposing the ideas of monogamy.

Compersion: opposite to jealousy. The feeling of joy one takes from the pleasure that one’s loved gives to or gets from other romantic or sexual relation. Read our article to learn more about what compersion is and how this feeling can be developed.

Condom Commitment/Contract: a treaty on limiting the exchange of bodily fluids and permitting sex without condom only within a closed group in which every member has been previously screened for STIs.

Consensual Nonmonogamy: a generalized term used to denote polyamory and open relationships, swinging and other alternatives to traditional monogamous relationships started by mutual consent of all members.

Cross-couple: stands for relationship or intimacy between a partner from one couple and a partner from another couple.


Don`t Ask, Don`t Tell (DADT): the type of relationship that involves an explicit agreement between the partners: telling nothing about one’s amours and never interrogating a partner about his or her love affairs with other people in return. The relationship that polyamorous community usually frowns on.


Intentional Family: the relationships in that three or more partners have intentionally chosen each other and decided to start a family in which partners may either live or not live together, in consideration of sexuality development possibility (i.e. they can keep sexual contact) for all family members by mutual consent and agreement. Sexual activity with all family members is not mandatory.

Intimate Network: people who want to be in friendly and/or sexual relations with their partners’ or friends’ friends, setting a network of various contacts within their social community.


Love Outside The Box: one of the key symbols of sex positivism and polyamory. It represents sexual relations beyond context, time, culture and sexual orientation.




Monogamisha word meaning “something like monogamy”. Monogamish stands for couples in intimate relationships in that both partners have admitted they cannot live by the rules of strict monogamy but have so far not joined any other type of relationships. These couples are transiting from monogamy to alternative relationships, and this transitional period may never end.


New Relationship Energy (NRE): the energy emerging between partners in “new” relationship; the thrill and discovery of new vigor and attraction arising in respect of other person. It may also occur simultaneously to and in parallel with well-established and stable relations.

Non-monogamy: the relationship that admits one may have more than one sexual partner at the same time.

Nonconsensual Non-monogamy: the type of relationship when partners have sexual and/or romantic liaisons with other people without consenting on these intercourses and without discussing them. The term that we use to refer to as cheating or adultery.

New Paradigm Relating: the philosophy of relationships that helps enhance psychic and spiritual growth of the partners. The new paradigm is characterized by staying in the present moment, by significance of individual autonomy, equality, honesty and personal liability of every partner


One Penis Policy: The arrangement in terms of polyamorous relationship letting a man to have many sexual female partners, each of them allowed to have sex with other women but forbidden to do this with men.

One Vagina Policy: The same One Penis Policy applied to male: one cannot have sex with other women, but with men only.

Open Marriage:  is a marriage in which a couple agrees not to confine their relations to the two of them only. The primary couple is made of two while some “minor” love affairs and sex are also admitted. The rest of the rules are very much individual in view of partners desires: some want to meet the partner’s lovers and beloved, others don’t.

Open Group Marriage: The difference between such marriage and polyamory is not very clear by intuition. Open group marriage is probably a name that’s been circulating along with polyamory. They are in fact relations that involve more than two. Yet they are not between a couple but a group of people that have consented on having eventual lovers and love affairs beyond their open marriage.

Open Relationship: is a type of relationship which members want to be together but at the same time agree to having non-monogamous relationship apart from each other.


Poly: is a short form of polyamory or polyamorist.

Polyactivist: is a polyamory evangelist, a person active in withstanding political, social and religious pressing of monogamy. Polyactivist fosters a more profound comprehension and dissemination of polyamory values as a conscious choice of a mature person.

Polyamory: the relationship ethics that implies partner’s simultaneously having romantic feelings and/or keeping sexual contacts with more than one partner by consent of all relationship members. Here you shall find more details about polyamory.

In 1992 the editorial board of Oxford English Dictionary asked one of the “polyamory” term authors to specify the definition  - namely, they contacted  Morning Glory Zell who was one of the first to use it in her essay “A Boquet of Lovers”. She answered by naming essential ingredients of polyamory: ‘loving’ and ‘more than one’, and explained that the partners in such relationships are united by a loving emotional bond: they care for each other and for every aspect of each other’s lives. She also added that the term was not supposed to apply to casual sex, anonymous orgies, pick-ups, on-night stands, adultery, prostitution, ‘serial monogamy’ or any types of swinging practices.

Polyfidelity: stands for a group loyalty. It is a kind of polyamorous relationship where they obey the rule of “having sex within your polyamorous group only”. Adding other partners to such a group is done only by consent of every partner involved. The term was coined by Kerista Commune whose adherents are also considered to author the term “compersion”.

Polyfriendly: a person who supports the polyamorists’ movement and/or shares their principles of relationship arrangement.

Polygamy: a form of marriage that allows a partner to have several husbands/wives at the same time.

Polygyny: a specific form of polygamous marriage implying a man to be in marital union with several wives at the same time.

Primary Relationship: is a type of romantic and/or sexual affair known by the highest rate of intimacy between partners. A partner in primary relationship receives most of another one’s time, energy and priorities; includes high degree of intimacy and liabilities, just like in marriage (i.e., common life journey, objectives, parenting, budget, housing, common values, permanent emotional support and so on), and usually implies aiming at common future: together for the rest of the life.


Quad: a type of polyamorous relationship with four persons involved. The most popular format of quad features 2 polyamorous couples.


Significant Other (SO): Another partner of one’s partner (metamour).

Secondary Relationship: the relationship that a partner pays less time, energy and priorities than he/she does in primary relationship. Some aspects of primary relationship dealing with, for instance, sexuality and emotional support are present yet liabilities age not that big.

Sex Positive: A person who not only abstains from any criticism in respect of others’ sexual preferences is actively interested in his/her own sexual development and development of his/her partner turning this into practice and experience (reading of historical or scientific books about sex, sexual communication, sexual experiments, visiting sex-related events and kinky parties).

Sex Positivism: is positive attitude to sex on the part of society, a group of people or even a state. Such attitude involves lobbying of sexual education and encouraging of adult society members’ sexual development. The term was proposed by Wilhelm Reich in his 1930-ies’ book The Mass Psychology of Fascism. He also determined negative attitude to sex to be a symptom of totalitarian society

Swinging: in this case a literal “swing” stands for a partner in a swinger couple while the swing equilibrium point means two partners at home together. Swinging as a type of relationship involves partners’ visiting other couples or dating new people for having sex without commitment; these visits are short-lived and the swing always comes back to its point of equilibrium.

Swinging traditionally does not imply emotional bonds outside the primary family.


Triad: any form of romantic relationship that involves three persons. Romantic affair between three people, each of them sharing intimate emotional and/or sexual contact with other members of the triad. Triad participants usually practice polyfidelity. In some USA states they also use the term Delta that stands for a triad every member of which has sexual and/or emotional intercourse with other partners. Originates from ‘delta’ letter of the Greek alphabet that resembles a triangle.


Unicorn: a hot bi (usually a girl) ready to join a couple for living out erotic fantasies and kinks without breaking the two and asking for nothing in return. For more details about unicorns read our article.

There is a principle followed by London unicorns that goes as follows: “We live free and we never age, so be fabulous, have fun and play”.


Vee: the relationship between three partners in which one member takes “the center stage” while the relations between remaining two partners are usually not that intimate as that each of them has with the “common” one. The central partner can be referred to as hinge making the other two his or her arms.

Veto: Partners consent to open relationship yet a primary partner is entitled to approve new partners involvement. If the primary partner disagrees on letting a new partner in (the right of “imposing a veto”) the new relationship shall not be allowed.

The glossary is a core language of non-monogamous relationships subculture and a guide to the different realm of new relations. Mastery of language helps get the bearings within the new culture and find respective cross points. The terms used by this community members not only let one talk the same language but facilitate understanding of the issues they were considering in the process of their culture setting up and development.