The Difference Between Polyamory & Open Relationships

What’s The Difference Between Polyamory, Open Relationships, And Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Questions, questions, questions.  We all have questions (and opinions) about polyamory, open relationship and ethical non-monogamy.

I have learned that there is no one specific definition of polyamory that will satisfy everyone.  Just as we are unique in how we live and the choices we make, 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 provide a context for understanding.  All of which can be very useful.  My struggle isn’t so much with the intention behind a label, it’s what we do with that label.  Are we using labels as a crutch for our behavior?  Is the label just another way of 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 as polyamorous.  I felt a sense of freedom with the notion that there was a way to be in a relationship that allowed me to be me.  I deeply resonated with this idea and I 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, poly, open relationship, ethical non-monogamy, and monogamish, to name a few.  I related to each term in a unique way and I liked that.  I saw that I was in charge of my experience and I was in charge of my relationship with my relationships.  This included 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 liberated.  I had discovered I could live a life created by my own design. Yay!!!

So, when people ask me the difference between polyamory and open relationships, I tell them that I don’t really know.  That’s something that they get to decide.  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 the terms, I prefer to put my energy towards what makes these kinds of relationships work.  And, I enjoy supporting others in doing the same.

To learn more about my poly friendly therapy approach and to see if working together is the best fit for you, contact me and schedule a Poly-Coach Session today!

About the Author

Laurie Ellington

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.