Your Ultimate Guide To The Differences Between Open Relationships & Polyamory

Sometimes I sit and ponder how monogamy is a social construct just like the rest of those fun, ~so random~ things such as marriage, gender, masculinity, etc. It's probably a good idea to think about other ways in which relationships work beyond exclusivity between two people based on eternal love. Since it was, you know, a recent development. Beyond the idea of monogamy – there are other ways to engage in relationships, like an open relationship, and polyamory. I sought out to find the difference between an open relationship and polyamory, because my personal experiences only involve monogamy.

I chatted with Aida Manduley, sexuality educator and social worker (who uses they/them pronouns), about the differences between the two. Firstly, Manduley differentiated between monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

"Polyamory is a type of non-monogamy identified by its focus on having multiple relationships with the consent of all people involved, and by its not shying away from emotional/romantic involvement," Manduley tells Elite Daily.

Manduley says that polyamory can be something someone practices, as well as a personal identifier, similar the way you might strongly identify with your gender or sexual orientation.

"For some people, it feels like a way they can organize their relationships and a flexible capacity they have to be partnered with more than one person at a time, but it's not integral to their wellbeing," they say. "For others, being polyamorous feels hard-wired and/or crucial to their love-lives; they're not interested in monogamy pretty much at all."


People who are in polyamorous relationships, or identify as polyamorous don't necessarily seek out that one person to stay with forever. That practice is usually reserved, generally speaking, for people who gravitate toward monogamy.

But that doesn't mean poly relationships don't look similar to monogamous ones – it's just that they have multiple.

"For example, someone who's polyamorous may have an anchor family they live with, a steady sweetie in another state, casual hookup buddies in their town, and friends they 'swing' with," Manduley says.

A positive to entering the world of non-monogamy, Manuley explains, is perhaps exploring relationships that don't feel restricted by a timeline of marriage, living together, and having kids. Also, if you have multiple partners, certain things that may drive a wedge between monogamous couple –such as financial concerns or religious differences – may not even be a blip in each other's radar.

Jovana Rikalo/Stocksy

In open relationships, they explain that it's "a relationship where there's a primary partnership of two individuals and they can both have adventures, usually just sexual, outside that 'main' relationship."

"Sometimes that means hooking up with friends is within bounds, sometimes it's just about having sex with strangers, sometimes it's about having group sex with a partner and other people, sometimes it's about having kink and/or sex play at parties, and sometimes it's a mix of all of the above," they say.

It's definitely important, no matter your preferences for dating – monogamous, non-monogamous, open, poly, or anything else – you are crystal-clear about your preferences with your partner, or the person you're dating. Remember that in navigating dating, you have the total right to your own personal dating preference, but you need to be sure you're ethical – honest and careful with peoples' feelings – along the way.