Let's Discuss the Difference Between Polygamy and Polyamory, Shall We?

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Let's Discuss the Difference Between Polygamy and Polyamory, Shall We?

Gone are the days of one man and one woman being the only definition of what a relationship can look like. Which is great, of course, because as we know, there are a whole lot of ways to show and experience love, most of which transcend traditional (and outdated, tbh) views on gender and sexuality. And while the ever-evolving landscape of relationships is v exciting, it can also get a little confusing, especially since a lot of terms sound similar. Take polygamy vs. polyamory, for example. The romantic labels may look almost identical, but they mean two very different things.

Since polyamory and polygamy look very similar on paper, it can be hard to remember what they each mean, but the distinction is important because they’re “culturally quite different,” says Schechinger. Essentially:

Polyamory = having multiple *consensual* romantic/intimate relationships at once. It’s an intentional type of non-monogamy conducted in a “loving, considerate, mature, and respectful container with guidelines that all parties involved agree upon and communicate clearly about,” says Graf. The genders and sexual orientations of partners aren’t prescribed.

Polygamy = another form of non-monogamy where one person has multiple spouses. “Polygyny describes when a man has multiple wedded wives, and polyandry refers to a woman having wedded husbands,” explains Schechinger. Typically, polygamy refers to cisgender heterosexual men being married to multiple cisgender women.


Polyamory has no historical ties to religion.


“Polyamory is rooted in feminism, gender equity, and flat power structures, while polygamy is rooted in religious fundamentalism and complementarianism where men and women are prescribed different but complementary roles and responsibilities in the marriage, family, and religious leadership,” Schechinger explains.


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