What Exactly is Polyamory and What’s the Difference Between Polyamory, Open Relationships and Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Laurie Ellington, Poly-Coach, Offers Coaching Tips for Open Relationships, Polyamorous Relationships, Poly Dating, and Ethical Non-Monogamy.


Questions, questions, questions.  We all have questions (and opinions) about polyamory.  People want to know what it is, what it isn’t, how to do it, and how not too.  The same goes for the practice of being in an open relationship and practicing ethical non-monogamy.

What I have discovered on my polyamory and polyamorous relationship journey, is that there is no one specific definition of polyamory that will satisfy everyone.  Just as we are unique in being human, how we live, the choices we make, etc., we are also unique in our identification with and beliefs about relationships.

Personally, I dislike labels.  They’re a little too boxy for me.   Yes, they can help define something.  They can offer an explanation of what something is.  They can provide a context for understanding.  All of which can be very useful.  My struggle isn’t so much with the intention behind a label, such as polyamory or “being poly,”  My challenge lies in what we do with that label.  Are we using it as a crutch for our behavior or as an identity that we become?  If we become that “thing” or become so identified with the label, do we limit ourselves to other options, other ways of being in the world and other ways of being in relationship with others?  When we label ourselves as something, are we just programming or reprogramming ourselves all over again?  I’m not entirely sure.  I’m curious though.

When I was first introduced to polyamory, it was presented to me in two ways…

  1. Polyamory is the practice of having many loves.
  2. Polyamory is the practice of loving many ways.

It seemed to me that there was a lot of wiggle room in being poly, and identifying myself as polyamorous.  I felt a sense of freedom at the notion that there was a way to be in a relationship that allowed me to be me.  I deeply resonated this idea and found myself diving into what one might call a polyamorous lifestyle.

Over the course of time, I realized that there were other terms being used that also made sense to me.  Polyamory, polyamorous, being in an open relationship, practicing ethical non-monogamy, and being monogamish, to name a few.  I soon realized that there was no one term that completely described what I was doing, or how I wanted to be in relationship.  I related to each term in a unique way and I liked that.  I saw that I was in charge of my experience, of my relationship with relationship, including my relationship with myself, my relationship with my primary partner, my relationship with others, and my relationship with the world.  It was such an empowering moment to feel so free, so liberated, so in charge, so empowered with SO MANY possibilities.  I had discovered I could live a life created by my own design. Yay!!!

And so, to answer the question, “What Exactly is Polyamory and What’s the Difference Between Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Ethical Non-Monogamy?”  I’d have to say I don’t really know.  That’s something that you get to decide for yourself, and here’s what I have come to understand:

Polyamory is the practice of having many loves and/or loving many ways.  This may or may not involve sexual partners.  At its core polyamory supports the health and well-being of all parties.  Communication and transparency are of utmost importance.

The practice of being in an open relationship and practicing ethical non-monogamy are very similar to polyamory in that they do not follow the traditional template of monogamy.  I think where polyamory may differ is that in the polyamorous way of thinking there may or may not be a primary partner, meaning all parties may love each other equally.

Again, I don’t think there is one solid way to define these non-traditional ways of relationship.  By nature they are unique.

Personally, rather than get stuck on the definition of polyamory and figuring out the difference between polyamory, polyamorous, open relationships and ethical non-monogamy, I prefer to put my energy towards what makes this kind of relationship work.  I feel much more alive in the being of it rather than the figuring out of it and I enjoy supporting others in doing the same.

For more information about open relationship coaching and polyamory coaching services, and to schedule a Free Exploratory Poly-Coach Session, contact Laurie Ellington, Poly-Coach, today.

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Laurie Ellington

Polyamorous Coach at Poly-Coach
I teach people how to break through false beliefs and negative behavior patterns. I offer my clients tools that empower their life and their relationships.
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