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Polygamist vs Polyamorous Relationships: What's the Difference?

What's the difference between polygamist vs polyamorous relationships? Do the two words mean the same or vastly different concepts? As it turns out, the two terms have many significant differences. It's essential to clear all the misconceptions around them to understand the unique relationships they represent.

This article will cover the most critical differences between polygamy and polyamory, especially regarding their legality, morality, and levels of social acceptance. For those who want to give polyamory a shot, we’ll also be listing down some of the best free polyamory dating apps and how you can use polyamory dating sites for free. Lastly, we’ll also tackle the broader world of non-monogamy and its different subtypes.

Apps Dating Experts Recommend to Men

Whether the poly lifestyle works out for you or not, there are some tried and tested dating apps that always get results. Here are some of the most popular ones whether you're looking for one partner or ten:

SiteOur ExperienceOur RatingFree Trial Link
Best For Relationships
Experience Highlights
Experience Highlights
  • Easily the best option for long-term relationships
  • 75% of all online marriages start here
  • 70% of users meet their spouse within a year
  • In-depth signup and matching process
Try eHarmony
Best For Casual Fun
Experience Highlights
Experience Highlights
  • The best way to meet women for casual relationships
  • Best results for regular guys
  • Over 60 million active members
  • Not good for long-term relationships
Try AFF For Free
Great If You're Handsome
Tinder Highlights
Tinder Highlights
  • Great if you're pretty good looking
  • Very popular, especially if you're 18-22
  • Really focused on photos
  • Becoming more of a dating than hookup app
Try Tinder

Polygamist vs Polyamorous: The Important Differences

The words "polygamy" and "polyamory" are often used interchangeably in the popular press, but they have many significant differences. Here are the distinctions everyone needs to make about the two terms:

Is the institution of marriage involved?

As it turns out, polygamy and polyamory are not the same regarding marriage. In a polygamist relationship, the institute of marriage is present, with one or both partners having two or more spouses.

The clue is in the word itself. "Polygamy" is the combination of two words: the Greek "poly," for "many," and "gamos," which means "marriage." Polygamy is a marriage involving more than just two partners.

Meanwhile, marriage isn't involved in a polyamorous relationship. Instead, it's a simple romantic and/or sexual relationship between multiple partners, all following mutually agreed-upon rules and responsibilities.

Again the clue is in the word. "Polyamory" is the combination of the Greek "poly," for many," and the Latin "amor," meaning "love." Marriage isn't a factor in polyamory.

While polygamy and polyamory differ, they share the apparent common ground: multiple partners. And if you're a guy, that means you'd be dating multiple women—good luck!

Many people are entering polygamous and polyamorous relationships for various reasons. Later in this article, we'll discuss what it means to be in a non-monogamous relationship and the challenges involved.

Heath Schechinger, PhD, a counseling psychologist, explains that polyamory is "the state, practice, or orientation of having multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously. She goes on to explain that it requires “the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved." This contrasts with polygamy that involves marriage to multiple spouses often prescribed by cultural or religious norms.

For now, let's talk about the second distinction between polygamist vs polyamorous:

The legality of being polygamous

Regarding legality, polygamy can be legal or illegal, depending on the country it's practiced. The World Pop Review website has a great page on countries where polygamy is legal and whether it is acceptable only under certain conditions (such as the partners' religions).

As it turns out, polygamy is either completely legal, illegal but practiced, or allowed only under certain conditions. If you want to know whether it's safe to practice polygamy where you are, check if your country has laws against it.

To date, it seems less than half of the world's countries allow or tolerate people who practice polygamy. Also, it would seem only 2% of the world's population live in polygamous households, meaning the vast majority of people still prefer monogamous relationships.

So we know polygamy can be a touchy subject in many parts of the world. But what about polyamory? Is it also a taboo topic in most countries?

Fortunately, most countries have no laws banning dating multiple partners. There may be places where it's discouraged, but as it's not illegal, it can still be practiced.

And while polyamorous relationships are an overwhelming minority, it's still on the rise. And it's easy to see why.

Are polyamory and polygamy legal or socially accepted in your culture? Let us know all about it in the comments below!

Best Dating Sites for Open Relationships

Navigating the world of polyamory dating sites for free can be challenging, but there are several apps that cater to open relationships, providing various options for those looking to explore non-monogamous connections.

Adult FriendFinder

While not free, Adult FriendFinder offers unmatched opportunities for those interested in polyamorous relationships. It is often praised for providing better results than other polyamory dating sites for free, thanks to its vast user base and focus on facilitating no-strings-attached connections and open relationship configurations. Adult FriendFinder is ideal for those looking for a more expansive, less traditional dating experience.

What people think of using Adult FriendFinder for polyamory:

Kitty_Kat52 - Reddit

So, my husband is off to meet someone from Adult friend finder. For as insecure and down I have been today I am surprisingly doing fine. No expectations for how things will go and where they will go. Going to pour myself a nice burbon and watch the Doctor to take my mind away. Hoping I don't melt down later. I CAN DO THIS!!!


OkCupid is renowned for its inclusive approach and is considered one of the best free polyamory dating apps. It allows users to indicate their relationship styles and preferences clearly, making it easier to find matches who are open to polyamory. The app’s extensive questions enable users to match based on specific interests and values, essential for polyamorous relationships.

What people think of using OkCupid for polyamory:

The_red_scimitar - Reddit

I met a former primary from OKC. Actually, twice. I met my current one 14 months ago there (although we're both solo poly, there is primacy acknowledged).

But, as OKC has added non-monogamy as settings in one's profile, I've not found that THAT matters very much. It was always, to me, pretty clear who was non-mono. I stated it very clearly in my profile long before OKC had a way to specify it, as did others.


Feeld is specifically designed for those interested in polyamory and other non-traditional relationship structures. As one of the free polyamory dating apps, it offers basic features at no cost, with an option to upgrade to a premium version for enhanced functionalities like advanced privacy options.

What people think of using Feeld for polyamory:

Katurdai - Reddit

Feeld is good for hooking up. Especially with people who are interested in things like threesomes. I got my first threesome with a couple on there last year.

But yeah, the mentality is more hookup/experimentation on there rather than dating/seeking relationships. So it really depends on what you're looking for.

OkCupid is much better for seeking deeper relationships. Feeld is basically like Tinder, except for those who are looking for something more kinky and alternative than standard one on one hookups.


#Open is a newer app on the scene and positions itself as one of the best dating sites for open relationships. It is designed to cater to both singles and couples exploring non-monogamous relationships. Its user interface encourages transparency and openness, allowing users to share their relationship desires and preferences freely.

What people think of using #Open for polyamory:

Metalpines - Reddit

Tinder has recently introduced non-mono relationship tags, which is very helpful, but is not yet a filter option. OkCupid, Feeld and Her (if you're queer) have non-monogamy filters, although the poly tag seems to be used very loosely on Feeld. #Open has the best filters by far, but the userbase in my neck of the woods is far too small to make it useful.

These apps represent a spectrum of options for those interested in exploring non-monogamy, each providing unique features that cater to different preferences and relationship goals. Whether you're looking for a free ride through polyamory dating sites or a more invested experience through a paid subscription, these platforms offer gateways to varied relationship landscapes.

Have you tried any of these polyamory dating apps? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

The World of Dating Multiple Partners

If you're used to monogamous relationships being the "normal" kind of relationship, then the idea of polyamory may make you uneasy, and that's understandable. Despite the unease, its growing popularity means people are beginning to see its advantages:

The advantages and prevalence of polyamorous relationships

Recent studies provide interesting insights into the prevalence of polyamorous relationships in the U.S. Amy Moors and her colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of 3,438 single Americans. They found that approximately 11% of respondents had previously engaged in polyamorous relationships, and about 17% expressed a desire to be in one. Notably, 30% of those who had experienced polyamory were open to engaging in such relationships again. These statistics suggest a notable presence of polyamory among various demographic backgrounds, reflecting a wider societal acceptance and curiosity about non-monogamous relationships.

Furthermore, another study discussed by Amy C. Moors on the Public Health Post reveals that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. would consider engaging in polyamory, and 1 in 9 have already participated in such relationships at some point. This research is the first of its kind to measure the prevalence of polyamory across the nation, underscoring the shifting dynamics of romantic and sexual relationships in contemporary society.

Polyamorous partners and their supporters cite their relationship models' advantages over the standard "one partner for life" model. Here are some of those advantages:

  • More social interaction. If you find yourself loving more than one person at a time, and if they all consent to the lifestyle, then polyamory will be a much more satisfying choice for everyone concerned.
  • More sexual satisfaction. According to polyamorists, one of the main drawbacks of monogamous relationships is sexual boredom. With multiple partners, there's much less chance of it becoming a problem.
  • More support. This could be emotional, financial, and childcare support. Having a more extensive network—such as the one a polyamorous relationship gets you—means you'll get more help when needed.

Of course, as with everything else, non-monogamous relationships have pros and cons. We'll discuss the cons and challenges later in this article. For now, let's get familiar with the wide variety of polyamorous relationships out there…

The Different types of consensual non-monogamy

The prevalence of polyamorous relationships is difficult to accurately judge because, technically, "polyamory" is just one of the many subtypes. The proper umbrella term is "consensual non-monogamy" or "CNM." Here are some of the more common subtypes:

  • Polygamy is when a man takes multiple women for his wives (polygyny) or when a woman takes multiple husbands (polyandry). Most of the world's polygamous relationships are of men taking multiple wives.
  • Polyamory is when people can openly have more than one sexual or romantic relationship at the same time. Ideally, the relationship has the consent of everyone involved. An emerging variation of polyamory is "polyfidelity," where the relationship is closed to outside partners.
  • Open relationships are relationships between a primary couple who are "open" to having sex with other partners. As such, many other subtypes of CNM relationships fall under this description. The most common form of open relationship is when a married or long-term couple takes on a new secondary partner (or partners).
  • Group marriage is when several individuals marry each other. Compared to the other types of consensual non-monogamous relationships on this list, group marriage arrangements are relatively rare.
  • Monogamish is a recently popularized kind of CNM where couples in monogamous relationships allow each other varying levels of freedom regarding sex with others. For instance, some monogamish couples may only allow one-night stands, while others may limit the amount of contact with outside partners.
  • Swinging is one of the more recognized kinds of polyamory these days. Sometimes called "wife-swapping," swinging is when multiple committed couples exchange partners for sex. Thanks to the Internet, it's becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide.
  • Relationship anarchy is difficult to define because it tries to defy conventional standards, focusing instead on doing away with any hierarchies in relationships. In relationship anarchy, romantic relationships are no more valuable than sex-only relationships and vice-versa. Likewise, love-based relationships are no more valuable than friendships. Relationship anarchy aims to define each relationship as unique and, therefore, free to make its own rules as it sees fit.

The growing number of consensual non-monogamy subtypes can make defining each type difficult. Still, they all share one condition: the relationship and its rules must be consensually agreed-upon by all partners involved.

For instance, if something is done without the consensus of others, it's considered cheating and a breach of trust. It will wholly depend on the rules set when the relationship starts.

And that brings us to the following important distinction to make:

Polygamy vs. bigamy

A group of attractive people in bed

Polygamy is generally imagined as a marriage involving at least three people. The most basic example is a relationship where one person is married to two partners. This type of marriage is legal in many parts of the world.

Meanwhile, polygamy is sometimes confused with bigamy. This is when, for instance, an already-married man marries a woman who isn't aware he's already married. This type of marriage isn't legal, underscoring the importance of honesty and full disclosure in a CNM relationship.

The risks and responsibilities of polyamory

As tempting as the idea might be, being in a consensual non-monogamous relationship has drawbacks. Contrary to what some people may think, polyamorous relationships aren't free-for-all.

Here are some of the risks and responsibilities that being in a CNM relationship brings:

  • Some forms of consensual non-monogamy are less accepted than polyamory. For instance, open relationships are considered less moral than other types of CNM relationships. Also, swingers are seen as being less responsible with each other. Being in a CNM relationship carries a stigma that's hard to shake once in the open. In the cited study by Matsick, et. al., they found that “swingers were overwhelmingly perceived more negatively (e.g. less responsible) than individuals in polyamorous relationships and that people in open relationships were sometimes perceived more negatively (e.g. less moral) than people in polyamorous relationships”
  • Full disclosure is required. Most types of consensual non-monogamy require their partners, to be honest, and upfront, to the point of divulging one's sexual partners to the others. This may be uncomfortable for those who value their privacy and independence.
  • Expect some social confusion. While consensual non-monogamous relationships are becoming more and more commonplace, partners can still encounter some social confusion. For instance, introducing yourselves to strangers can be a challenge. In the same study, writer Meg Barker writes, “very little has been written academically on the topic, despite its fascinating potential to challenge mainstream discourses of monogamy and infidelity and to reveal the constructed nature of “compulsory heterosexuality”.
  • You might encounter rejection, especially if your family and friends don't agree with the idea of non-monogamy. If you're used to being seen positively by others, living with the stigma can be a deal-breaker.
  • It can lock you out of a popularity-based career. If your career success requires the approval of many people—such as in politics or leadership—then being in a polyamorous relationship might be detrimental to it. This is especially true in parts of the world where people are overwhelmingly monogamous.
  • There's the ever-present risk of jealousy. No matter how well-structured and consensual your polyamorous relationship is, there's always a risk you or one of your partners won't take kindly to a new addition to the group. Also, as the relationship continues, feelings may grow to the point of wanting exclusivity and monogamy, throwing another wrench in the works. Kathy Labriola, a counselor and nurse specializing in polyamorous support, observes, "Jealousy is perfectly natural and a completely normal reaction to your precious beloved being intimate with someone else." This perspective is echoed by experts Jessica Fern and KamalaDevi McClure who recommend handling jealousy by "practicing self-awareness, fostering open communication, setting boundaries, seeking support from a network of friends or other nonmonogamous individuals, and expressing gratitude for the love and connection within the relationship."
  • Time management can be a challenge. You'll need to manage your time and energy between your multiple partners. Also, when you get invited to an event and are asked to "bring your partner," which partner do you bring? This "pick one" dilemma tends to crop up at the most inconvenient times in a CNM relationship.
  • If you're a woman, it can be less satisfying in the long run. Some studies have shown that women in polygynous relationships (where one man takes multiple wives) are more prone to anxiety, depression, and lower life satisfaction.

So, as exciting as the thought of having multiple partners might be, polyamory can be messy if you're not careful. Talking things over with your partners and setting mutually agreed-upon rules will make things go more smoothly.

Safety in Polyamory and Polygamy

Safety within polyamorous and polygamous relationships often hinges on the principles of communication and consent, which are crucial for managing not just the relationships but also the potential complexities involved in them.

Communication and Consent

Polyamory relies heavily on maintaining clear and open lines of communication among all parties involved. This form of relationship is defined by the consent and knowledge of all participants, which is crucial for ensuring that everyone's needs and boundaries are respected. This ongoing communication helps manage feelings like jealousy and ensures that relationships are conducted in a healthy and ethical manner. Freya Graf, a holistic sex educator, emphasizes that polyamory should be practiced within "a loving, considerate, mature, and respectful container with guidelines that all parties involved agree upon and communicate clearly about."​

Cultural and Legal Considerations

Polygamy, unlike polyamory, often comes with more structured, sometimes culturally and legally embedded practices which can have significant implications on the safety and autonomy of the individuals involved, particularly women. In many regions where polygamy is practiced, such as parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, it is intertwined with cultural and religious norms that may limit women's rights and public participation​.

Managing Jealousy and Other Challenges

Both polyamorous and polygamous relationships can face emotional challenges, including jealousy. Effective management of such feelings is key to maintaining relationship health. Resources like books, podcasts, and counseling can offer valuable strategies for individuals in consensually non-monogamous relationships to handle these emotions constructively​.

Choosing Safe Platforms

When engaging with polyamory dating sites for free, it's crucial to select platforms that prioritize user safety and privacy. Free polyamory dating apps may not always offer comprehensive security measures, so it's important to research and choose services that have good reputations and robust protective features. Users should look for platforms that provide clear security guidelines, encryption, and options to report or block unwanted interactions. Engaging only on the best dating sites for open relationships that are known for their integrity and user care can significantly decrease the risks associated with online dating.

Privacy in Online Interactions

Users of polyamory dating sites for free should be particularly cautious about the personal information they share. Starting interactions on platforms that do not require excessive personal details can help maintain privacy and security. It’s beneficial to use a dedicated email address and avoid sharing identifiable details until a trustworthy relationship is established. Moreover, the best dating sites for open relationships typically offer privacy settings that allow users to control who can see their profiles and interact with them, enhancing safety and providing a more secure dating experience.

Understanding and navigating the safety concerns in polyamorous and polygamous relationships requires a deep commitment to ethics, communication, and respect for all involved. It's also important for individuals to be aware of the legal and social contexts of their relationships, which can significantly affect their practices and experiences.

Tips and Takeaways

A throuple

This article just covered the differences between polygamist vs polyamorous relationships. While the two words refer to relationships with multiple partners, only one—polygamy—has marriage as an ingredient.

What's more, polyamory turns out to be only one subtype of consensual non-monogamy. Other types—such as swinging, monogamish, and group marriage—have their own unique aspects. Moreover, each polyamorous relationship tends to set its own rules for the partners.

Knowing these small but essential distinctions is necessary for a productive conversation about polyamory. It's even more critical when you plan to start romantic and/or sexual relationships with more than one person.

Setting good rules involves the following:

  • Knowing each partner's thoughts, feelings, values, and expectations for the relationship
  • Encouraging the willingness to communicate absolutely anything—no matter how uncomfortable or controversial it might be
  • Having the ability to communicate these feelings with each and every partner
  • Having the ability to put your heads together and agree on a set of rules that considers everyone's concerns

To find potential partners and supportive groups, you can do the following:

  • Meet people for casual relationships first, but remember to do it right. For instance: don't kiss and tell, don't feel guilty, and practice safe sex.
  • Find online support groups—see if any of them hold regular parties and meet-ups. It's a fast way to meet like-minded people without too much trouble.
  • Use the right dating apps—especially ones that cater to unique tastes. You'll be surprised at how many apps help people find unconventional relationships.

FAQ about Polyamory and Polygamy

How do cultural and religious contexts influence polyamory?

"Polyamory varies greatly across different cultures and religions. What might be accepted or even celebrated in one context could be considered taboo or unacceptable in another," explains an article on FindPoly, highlighting the diverse acceptance levels of polyamory worldwide. This variation underscores the significant role cultural and religious backgrounds play in shaping personal relationships.

How does polyamory address personal and emotional growth?

Polyamory encourages significant personal and emotional growth by allowing individuals to engage in multiple supportive relationships. Emmanuella Ruiz, a participant in a study on polyamory, highlighted, "It gives my children a sense of community... They don’t have cousins or the typical biological extended family. But they have a big, happy, productive, healthy family nonetheless, and it is a chosen family." This exemplifies the extended support systems that polyamory can foster, facilitating a nurturing environment that promotes growth and community

What challenges do LGBTQ+ individuals face in polyamorous relationships within conservative religious contexts?

LGBTQ+ individuals in conservative religious contexts often face significant challenges. These include reconciling their identities with their faith and facing ostracization or exclusion from religious communities. "Polyamorous individuals from these backgrounds must navigate the tension between personal desires and cultural expectations," states a discussion on polyamory within various cultural settings.

Are there any psychological benefits or drawbacks to engaging in polyamorous relationships?

Polyamorous relationships offer a range of psychological benefits, including the potential to fulfill a wider variety of personal and emotional needs. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, an expert in polyamory, emphasizes this point by stating, "Having all of your needs met by one partner puts a lot of stress and strain on that one partner and maybe they’re needs that they can't or don't want to meet. Being able to spread those out among multiple people actually means more people are getting more needs met in polyamorous relationships." This distribution of emotional and practical demands can lead to increased satisfaction and less pressure on any single relationship.

However, managing these multiple relationships requires strong communication skills and emotional literacy, which can be demanding. The need for honesty and clear boundaries is crucial to maintaining trust and respect among all partners. The emotional labor involved in these dynamics, while potentially rewarding, can also present significant challenges and is not suitable for everyone.

Remember: in a polyamorous relationship, the keyword is consensual. Make sure everyone discusses and agrees on your relationship rules, and you should avoid most of the polyamory's pitfalls. Good luck!

Methodology for Evaluating Polygamist and Polyamorous Relationships

Our exploration into the complexities of polygamist and polyamorous relationships is built upon a rigorous methodology that encompasses extensive research and community engagement. We conducted detailed reviews of academic literature and legal documents to understand the historical and cultural contexts of these relationships. We also interviewed experts, including sociologists, therapists, and legal professionals, to gain insights into the contemporary implications and personal experiences within these communities.

To ensure a broad perspective, we collected testimonials from individuals engaged in polygamist and polyamorous relationships. These firsthand accounts are pivotal in providing a real-world understanding of the challenges and benefits faced by participants.

We actively monitor and incorporate the latest studies and surveys to keep our content current and relevant. Each claim or statistic is carefully checked against high-quality sources and updated regularly to reflect new insights and changes in societal attitudes or legal statuses.

Through this comprehensive approach, we aim to provide our readers with a well-rounded, informed, and empathetic view of polygamist and polyamorous relationships.


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Bastian, J. (2021) What’s behind the desire for a polyamorous relationship? KCRW.

Kauppi, M. (2021) Why good manners are key to successful polyamory. Psychology Today.

Matsick, J. L., Conley, T. D., Ziegler, A., Moors, A. C., & Rubin, J. D. (2014). Love and sex: polyamorous relationships are perceived more favourably than swinging and open relationships. Psychology & Sexuality, 5(4), 339–348.

Moors, A. (2021) Polyamory is more common than you think. Public Health Post.

Moors, A. C., Gesselman, A. N., & Garcia, J. R. (2021). Desire, Familiarity, and Engagement in Polyamory: Results From a National Sample of Single Adults in the United States. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 619640. 

Moors, A., Schechinger, H., Balzarini, R. et al. (2021) Internalized Consensual Non-Monogamy Negativity and Relationship Quality Among People Engaged in Polyamory, Swinging, and Open Relationships. Arch Sex Behav 50, 1389–1400. 

PolyAuthor (2023) Unpacking polyamory within different cultural and religious contexts. FindPoly.

PolyAuthor (2024) Managing jealousy in polyamorous relationships. Find Poly.

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Sheff, E. A. (2016) Confronting jealousy. Psychology Today.

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Walker, W. (2024) How to succeed in dating multiple women in 2024. Beyond Ages.

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