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Polygamy vs. Polyamory: Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Polygamy vs. Polyamory: Understanding the Differences and Similarities

Polygamy vs. Polyamory
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With the world changing, the definition of relationships is changing as well. Things are becoming more and more open with time. So as citizens of the new world, it is essential that we know these terminologies in order to understand the key points of polygamy vs polyamory debate. So without further ado. Let’s dive right in.

What are Polyamory and Polygamy?  

A polyamorous relationship refers to two systems of relationships where the involved partners do not agree to the societal norms of having a single partner.

polyamorous relationship

So the act of polyamory refers to having intimate relationships with more than one individual. The system keeps the space open for having more than one romantic partner, unlike conventional monogamy.


Meanwhile, polygamy refers to the same thing in the gist. However, it involves marriage or an equivalent social contract. In other words, being married to multiple partners.

Now some polyamorous people can have a stable marriage while having multiple intimate partners where each and every partner has an idea about each other. Meanwhile, polygamy is exclusively about being married to multiple partners.

Polygamy can be further divided up into two forms, namely polyandry and polygyny. Polyandry is where a man has multiple wives. Subsequently, Polyandry is when a woman has multiple husbands. Since we have seen what polyamory and polygamy are, let us dive right into the “What is polyamorous vs polygamy” discussion.


As it is apparent from the previous section, both polyamory and polygamy share some stark similarities. These similarities do make them closely related. However, they are not similar. But that is for the next section. Let us now see some of the key polygamy vs polyamory

what is polygamy vs polyamory

similarities that are present in both these forms of relationship.

  • In both formats of relationships, you are given a space for having multiple partners. Keeping in mind the ethics of transparency and honesty.
  • This probably holds true for all forms of relationships, but both polyamory and polygamy need an open line of communication. Without this, things can become complicated and toxic.
  • You need to have the emotional capability and time to tend to all relationships that you formulate. And this can be quite challenging initially. However, with more practice, things would become easier.
  • Social stigma is an ever-present factor in both the form of relationships. Therefore be prepared for this.


Just because these two forms of relationships are similar in certain aspects does not mean that they are the same. Polyamory and polygamy are two very different concepts and are by no means similar. Therefore, to understand how polyamory differs from polygamy, let us look at polygamy vs polyamory differences to understand where they differ.

Polyamory and polygamy differences
  • Marriage is the key difference between polygamy and polyamory. While polyamory is a flexible term where it encompasses both dating ad marriage, polygamy specifically involves marriage.
  • Unlike polyamory, polygamy is recognized by some religions. In Islam, a man is allowed to have more than one wife. However, this recognition is only restricted to polyandry, and polygyny is seen as sacrilegious.
  • While polyamory is a gender-neutral term, polygamy has set gendered connotations. When a man has more than one wife, it is polyandry. Meanwhile, when a woman has more than one husband, the engagement is known as polygamy.


Q, Is Polyamory cheating?

Ans: So, to put it simply, then no. Polyamory is not cheating in any shape or form. The word cheating means that the ulterior motives of an individual are not transparent. It also means that there is a breach of an agreement between two people.

Polyamory, on the other hand, is all about openness or transparency. A polyamory agreement is based on honesty. Polyamorous partners expect that they are open about each other’s engagements with other individuals.

So, to simplify it further, in a polyamorous relationship, none of the partners are exclusive and are free to explore other individuals if they feel so. However, there is a primary partner who should know about those other engagements.  

Q. Is polygamy or polyamory illegal in the United States of America?

Ans: Polygamy is illegal in the United States. The cause of this illegality is that the constitution of the US feels that a polygamous relationship is based on coercion and unequal power dynamics. In other words, the court feels that such an engagement can lead to mental health issues in the husband or the wife.

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Meanwhile, polyamory does not share the same restrictions as the former since there is no question of marriage or any other legal contract. Still, it is a highly criticized format of relationships as reality TV, societal norms, etc., have depicted it as an overly sexualized form of engagement.

Q. Is it for me?

Ans: Now, this is a question that you could answer best. However, before taking any sort of decision. You need to have a fair idea about what you are getting into. The former article can help you with that. Still, you could ask some questions to yourself to know your preference better. Like for example:

  • Am I comfortable sharing my partner with somebody else?
  • Can I keep an open and transparent line of communication between all the partners?
  • Do I have the time or the emotional bandwidth to get into such an arrangement?
  • Can I take on the social stigma that would come with the package?

Answering these questions honestly would give you an idea of whether you are suitable for polyamory or polygamy.

Q. Will it affect the children, if any?

Ans. So, this mostly applies to polygamy. You are free to go your own way. However, if you take our advice, we believe that you should try to let your child know as soon as possible. Children are more perceptive than you know. So keeping things hidden from them can fuel anger and insecurity stemming from unanswered questions. Therefore, we would suggest that you and your partner sit with your child/children and answer whatever questions they might have. This would work out positively for you and your family.

Final thought

So, on a final thought. It does not matter where you are in the polygamous vs polyamorous debate. The final takeaway should be that none of these forms of relationships are glorified cheating. However, there are certain aspects that you need to deal with if you want to try any of the two. This article about polygamy vs polyamory was meant to educate you on those aspects. So that you take a more educated decision.

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