Polyamory combinations can vary. They can be as simple as three people to as complex as a group marriage with secondary partners that exist outside the marriage. Knowing what kind of polyamory you are open to can be very important.
You need to decide what you want and share this with your partners. It’s important to be honest. If you’re looking for a long term relationship and your partner(s) are looking for something casual, conflict will arise. Everyone should be on the same page. If everyone is in agreement, you are off to a good start. It not, you should not continue. In polyamory everyone is aware and in agreement. If your partner(s) doesn’t know or agree to you having another partner, it isn’t polyamory- it’s cheating.
There are slight variations of these polyamory combinations but the core type relationships are listed below. We use poly relationships of three and four to easily demonstrate these relationships. In reality, polyamorous relationships can be varied and complex. They can involve multiple partners, both married and unmarried. It is by no means limited to married couples or boyfriends and girlfriends. (Note: Primary relationships are indicated by double arrows. Secondary relationships are indicated by single arrows. Red arrows indicate casual partners. Don’t be afraid to check the Glossary for words you don’t know.)
“V”- One person is the focal point of the relationship. Two people have a romantic relationship with a third but don’t have an romantic relationship with each other. Can be either open or closed. Ex: Jane is dating Jack. Jack also dates Jill. Jane and Jill do not date each other. Jack is the focal point of the relationship.
Triad- Three people are in a relationship with each other. Can be either open or closed. Ex: Jane is dating Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill are also dating. A triangle is formed by the three partners together.
Quad- Four partners are in a romantic relationship together. Partners can be married or dating. Partners may or may not be bisexual so not all will be sexually involved with each other. Can be either open or close. Ex: John and Jane are married. They date Bill and Betty who are also married. Betty and Jane are bisexual but Bill and John are not though they may participate in group sex.
Full Quad- Four people are in a romantic relationship together. Everyone is dating or married to everyone within the group. Can be either open or closed. Ex: John and Jane are married. They date Bill and Betty who are also married. All four are bisexual and may pair off or participate in group sex.
Group marriage- Any polyamory combination of men and/or women in a life commitment to each other. Partners are all considered primaries. Can be either open or closed. Note: though the example shows four people, a group marriage can involve as many as the people involved want. Ex: John, Jane, Bill and Betty are married. All four are bisexual and may pair off or participate in group sex.
Polycule- Complex inter-connected polyamory relationships involving primaries and secondaries. The relationships may or may not link through different people. Polycules can be group marriages linked to to secondary partners who may be involved in another polyamory relationship. It can be as large and as varied as the partners involved. Ex: Betty is in a committed relationship with Jane and John. Jane and John are married. Jane also has a boyfriend named Bill while John has a boyfriend named Jack.
Swinging (Key Party, Swapping)- Romantic partners who switch partners with another couple or group for casual sex. Emotional connections are avoided with sex partners though they may be friends. Ex: Bill and Betty meet with Jane and John at a motel for a swing party. JBill has sex with Jane while Betty has sex with John. At one point they engage in multiple group sex activities. Then Jane and John go home.