Open Relationship Vs Polyamory: Are They Really Any Different?

We’re no longer living in a world where monogamy is the only accepted form of relationship. In fact, even within non-monogamous relationships, there are different relationship styles and dynamics that are becoming more open and accepted.

According to a study by Lovehoney, “over a quarter of people would consider an open relationship (27%)”, so it’s definitely a topic worth discussing.

Open relationships and polyamory are something that people often get confused, as they are both a form of non-monogamy.

However, open relationships are quite different to polyamory in a number of different ways, which we will explore further down in this article. If you are interested in non-monogamy and want to find out a bit more about the different types of relationships, follow along to find out!

What is an Open Relationship?

It is important to preface this by saying that all open relationships will be different, as every couple will have different boundaries and rules. However, for the purpose of this article, we will be using some generalisations.

Open relationships usually involve two people who are in a relationship together but want to explore sex and dating with other people as well.

During an open relationship, both partners’ dating lives are usually kept separate, and there are not any crossovers or throuples. Open relationships allow couples to explore sexual or romantic fantasies with other sexual partners while also remaining in a committed relationship with their primary partner.  

What is a Polyamorous Relationship?

A polyamorous relationship is when one person has multiple different partners and romantic relationships. There are a few different types of poly relationships: triads, polycules, solo polyamory, and quads.

In some cases, there is a hierarchy within polyamory, so you may have a primary partner but have other relationships too. Just like monogamous relationships, polyamory can only happen when there is open and honest communication, as this is the only way to prevent people from getting hurt.

Each polyamorous relationship will be different, but the general idea is that you are free to have multiple relationships

Open Relationship Vs Polyamory: What are the Differences?

On the outside, it may appear as if open relationships and polyamory are very similar, as both falls under the umbrella of non-monogamy.

However, there are, in fact, some stark differences between being in an open relationship and being in a polyamorous relationship. Let’s explore some of those differences.

Love vs Sex

When someone is looking for an open relationship, most of the time, they mean they want to have sex with other people. While they may enjoy the romance and affection that comes from a meaningful romantic relationship, they can sometimes feel restricted just having sex with one person.

This is when an open relationship can be effective, as it means you can still keep your romantic partner but explore a sexual relationship with someone else.

There is a bigger emphasis on casual flings within an open relationship as you are not looking to meet the love of your life; you simply want some casual fun

Meaningful Relationships

If someone is polyamorous, it means that they experience love for multiple people at once. There is a desire to have multiple, meaningful relationships with more than one person instead of just having one monogamous partner.

Polyamory allows people to explore and share their love with multiple people at once, and it can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. This differs from an open relationship, as someone who is polyamorous is seeking love and a relationship as opposed to a casual fling.

However, that isn’t to say that polyamorous people do not have one-night stands, they can absolutely still enjoy casual fun, but that isn’t really the main focus. 

Prioritising One Person

Despite the fact that you are sleeping with multiple people, your main priority in an open relationship is your partner.

In an open relationship, you do not really commit to having a relationship with anyone else, as your primary partner is meeting your emotional needs.

The only way for an open relationship to be successful is if you communicate with your partner and establish boundaries early on.

If you find that you start to develop feelings for your casual fling, then perhaps you are more aligned with polyamory than an open relationship. This is more focused on having multiple romantic relationships simultaneously that aren’t just focused on sex but also on the development of meaningful relationships.

Different Forms Of Relationships

While people in open relationships may have different rules at boundaries, the general principle is still the same – you have one committed partner, but your sex life is open to other people.

However, within polyamory, there are multiple different types of relationships, which all work in a very different way. Some polyamorous people experience life as a throuple, meaning there are three people all in an equal relationship.

Alternatively, there is someone called solo polyamory, which essentially means that one person has multiple relationships but lives alone and operates independently.

It can seem a little confusing to the outside world, but it gets easier to understand the more you research into it. 

Polyamory Is Long-Term

Because polyamory is all about finding loving and meaningful relationships, there is more emphasis on making things last long-term.

When you enter a monogamous relationship, you expect the relationship to be long-term; therefore you put in a lot of work in order to keep the relationship alive.

The same goes for polyamory, when someone meets a new partner, they will give that partner the same time and level of respect as they would any of their other partners. The focus is on maintaining that love instead of just finding someone to hook up with

Open Relationship Is Short-Term

When we say that an open relationship is short-term, we don’t mean that open relationships can’t last; it is more about the fact that the activities outside of the relationship are far more casual, meaning they often do not last long-term.

Anyone who is in an open relationship is not looking for another long-term partner, often, they just want some casual fun or steamy encounters outside of their committed relationship.

This is really the main difference between open relationships and polyamory- one emphasises sex and exploring your sexual boundaries, and the other prioritises love and meaningful relationships. 

How Can You Tell Which Type of Relationship You’re Most Suited to?

In order to find out which relationship you are most suited to, you should have a think about what your priorities are. If you find that you have a lot of love to give and you can experience love for multiple people at once, then polyamory would be the best type of relationship for you.

However, if you are someone who wants one partner, but wants to experience non-monogamy in their sex life, then an open relationship would be better suited to you.

Ultimately, it comes down to what your main focus is in life – do you want to have lots of meaningful relationships, or are you perfectly comfortable with just one partner?

If you find yourself pining after multiple people and you want to explore your sexual boundaries, you could find your perfect partner here at Illicit Encounters! There are over 1.5 million members looking for people just like you, so why not give it a go


Is a polyamorous relationship the same as an open relationship?

No, polyamorous relationships are not the same as an open relationship as polyamory is about having multiple partners, whereas open relationships usually just have one.

It can be easy to assume that they are the same, as they both fall under the definition of ‘non-monogamy’, but there are actually many differences between the two types of relationships.

What’s the difference between polygamy and an open relationship?

Within an open relationship, there is two people who are committed to each other, but they both explore sex and casual fun with other people. There is not much crossover or intertwining within an open relationship as the focus is just on having friends with benefits.

However, polyamory is about having multiple, loving relationships instead. The focus is on maintaining those relationships and building trust and respect for your partner and their partners.

Are open relationships healthy?

Open relationships can be healthy, so long as there is open and honest communication. Boundaries and rules need to be set straight away, in order to protect anyone from getting hurt.
It is crucial that both of you always ensure that you adhere to the rules set, as if you don’t, it could lead to a breakdown of trust.

What is the downside of polyamory?

The only downside of polyamory is that it can be difficult to balance multiple relationships at once. If you have five committed relationships, it can be tricky to find the time to spend together, which could lead to people feeling left out or even jealous.

This is why it’s a good idea to schedule dates in advance and to always communicate your feelings.

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