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About Polyamory

An insight into the lifestyle

originally published by Serolynne, March 21, 2005

The concept behind polyamory, or the lifestyle of openly and honestly loving more than one person at a time, has been around for much longer than the word itself.  But with the advent of the internet and a term to draw people together, polyamory has become a movement of its own. The Ravenheart family, who formed a ‘nest’ and a church based on the writings of Robert A. Heinlein, are frequently credited with coining the term ‘polyamorous’. Because a word was created, people of like minds are now able to partake in a community that has resulted from the polyamory movement. Even today, more than 40 years after the influential works of Heinlein were published, people still point to reading Heinlein’s science fiction writings as the catalyst that brought them to exploring polyamorous lifestyles.

Robert A. Heinlein is a recognized science fiction writer, who wrote short stories, novellas and novels from 1939 until 1987 . His writings often questioned various social and political norms.

In 1961, Heinlein published Stranger in a Strange Land, about a human raised on Mars who returns to Earth, bringing along some alternative views on sexuality, relationships and spirituality.  “Robert Heinlein depicts a group where bacchanalia, mate-swapping, and communal living are wholly moral”. The fictional Martian, Valentine Michael Smith, formed the Church of All Worlds for his followers who subscribed to his theories on spirituality and relationships. Nesting, or forming intricate webs of intimate connections in a group of church members, was presented as a valid social structure in the book.


Suggested publications: Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Cleo

Angie* was introduced to Ray* by a co-worker. She didn’t know much about him at all, but sometimes when she was waiting to cross the road in the mornings on her way to work she would see him kiss a woman goodbye at the front of their workplace. Angie just assumed that the woman was his girlfriend, and thought no more of it.

At work their paths crossed more often, and their conversations were quite professional until one day Ray cracked a joke and made Angie laugh. Their friendship developed and she found herself talking about her own relationship problems when they’d go for walks in their lunch hour. One day, Ray said, “You do know that I’ve got a girlfriend, don’t you?” He went on to say that he was still married and living together with his wife and children, and that his wife knew about his girlfriend. Ray explained that they were in an open, polyamorous relationship.

When Ray got a message from his wife, Liz*, saying that she had arrived at her lover’s house to engage in some afternoon delight, Angie finally understood. She found this confronting, but also liberating. Hearing that two adults could have an honest and open relationship with such a high level of communication was astounding to her.

Angie and Ray’s relationship became closer and eventually they found themselves in a physical relationship. Ray told her that he openly discussed their relationship with his wife, and of Liz’s positive reaction to the events. A week later, Angie met Liz.

*Names have been changed to protect identities


Free love might sound like a euphemism for group sex, but to Boston's polyamory community, it's just like marriage -- only bigger

by Alicia Potter

Originally published -The Boston Phoenix Oct 15, 1998

© Alicia Potter / Boston Phoenix

On a crooked street in Somerville is a purple house that no doubt raises eyebrows every few Thursdays. That's when it becomes a meeting site for Love Without Bounds, a local organization for young believers in free love.

On a recent evening, members of the group arrive in boisterous trios and hand-holding twosomes. They greet each other with deep, lingering embraces -- no air kisses here -- before plunking onto pillows or curling up together in corners. If ever a crowd spelled "orgy," it's this one.

But two hours pass, and the gathering fails to erupt into any sort of carnal acrobatics. At least the conversation is provocative, but again, not in the way you might think.

"Sex is cheap," says a black-clad man, to nods of agreement. "I want relationships."

It feels like a big book club, with slightly different topics of conversation. The members talk about how to ask someone out if you're married. How to fend off jealousy if you're living with your lover and his lover. How to deal with a world of pairs when you're part of a trio. In short, they talk about what it's like to be polyamorous.


Swinging is not polyamory, and the difference is often a sore spot when poly people are speaking with non-polys about what polyamory is. Swinging is generally recreational sex with little emotional involvement. Swinging is typically done by couples attending special swing venues or parties together. Swinging communities often have rules, explicit or implied, against falling in love with others in your swing group.

Sometimes people who swing tire of sex for its own sake and wish for more personal and intimate connections. Two or more couples who swing together frequently may simply grow to become close life friends and/or desire more. In either case, people may find themselves drifting away from swinging and into the wonderful and challenging world of polyamory.

Conversely, polyamorists can be swingers too, happy to enjoy an occasional no-strings fling at a party or sex club. But the two circles tend to be different in terms of sociology, class, philosophy, and intellectual background. Many polys shun swinging because of negative connotation associated with it. The mainstream attitude is that swinging is wrong and immoral; the mainstream attitude toward polyamory is similar, but polys usually resist being stigmatized as caring only about sex.

A group could be an open triad with a relationship agreement stating that swinging is OK, and one or more of the participants engages in swinging. The triad relationship would still be polyamorous, but the relationship with the outside swinging partners would not necessarily be.

originally published ©


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