Glossary

Words you may hear at BPP

Abuse – Behaviour that harms another person – whether physically, sexually, emotionally, socially, financially or otherwise. Agency/Autonomy – A person’s rights to make decisions about their own lives and decide what is in their own best interests.
Agreements – When all relevant parties consent to behave in specified ways to respect the needs and boundaries of all other parties. Agreements can be renegotiated when one or more parties feels the current agreements are no longer meeting their needs.
Aromantic – A person who does not (usually or at all) experience romantic feelings or does not desire romantic relationships. They may still want other types of intimate relationships.
Asexual/Ace – A person who does not (usually or at all) experience sexual feelings or does not desire sexual relationships. They may still want other types of intimate relationships.
Bisexual – The potential to be attracted (romantically and/or sexually) to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.
Boundary/ies – Your own personal limits of what you are and are not prepared to do/tolerate and how you will choose to respond if someone oversteps your limits.
Casual/Tertiary – Relationships (often sexual, but sometimes also emotional) with little ongoing involvement or expectation.
Cheating – Breaking the agreements of a relationship. In monogamous relationships this is considered synonymous with having sex outside of the relationship, but it is still possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship.
Cisgender/Cis – When a person’s personal sense of gender matches the sex assigned to them at birth (in contrast with transgender).
Closed/Exclusive – A relationship is closed if there is an agreement among the members not to get sexually and/or romantically involved with anyone outside the relationship or group. A monogamous relationship is a closed two-person relationship.
Coersion – When a person abuses their power to control another’s behaviour, causing them to act differently to how they would if freely able to consent. Coersion can be explicit or subtle.
Comet partner – A partner who is seen infrequently such as in a long distance relationship (LDR).
Committed – Dedicated to continuing in a significant relationship for the foreseeable future.
Compersion – Feeling of joy when seeing a partner happy with another partner.
Consent – Freely-entered agreement to do something. Related terms are Informed Consent (with all relevant information) and Enthusiastic Consent (clearly and eagerly communicated, not just the absence of ‘no’).
Couple privilege – The benefits that come from being in a socially-sanctioned partnership such as marriage. Also the increased power from being in an established partnership compared with someone newly entering a partnership with one or more of the partners.
Cowboy/Cowgirl – A person who enters into a relationship with a polyamorous person then attempts to change the relationship to monogamy after the polyamorous person is committed.
Demisexual – A person who does not (usually or at all) experience sexual feelings unless they have a deep emotional connection with a partner.
Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) – Where members of a couple may agree to have other sexual partners, but do not want to know details or whether their partner is acting on the agreement. Potential partners may find it difficult to verify whether the person’s partner has consented to (or is aware of) a DADT ‘agreement’.
Emotional literacy – Skills in awareness of one’s own emotions and the ability to communicate them respectfully and responsibly.
Ethics/Ethical – Behaviour that does not cause harm to others. In polyamory, ethics involve consent, honesty, and open communication; and are inconsistent with dishonest, coercive, manipulative or abusive behaviour.
Fluid-bonding – An agreement between sexual partners not to use barriers (such as condoms) during sex.
Friends with Benefits (FWB) – Usually refers to a casual partner where there may be genuine friendship, but no feelings of romantic love or expectation of other elements usually associated with committed partnerships. This is in contrast to a ‘fuckbuddy’ where there is usually no pretence of friendship, romance, or commitment, and the relationship is primarily about meeting for sexual activity.
Gay – A person (usually male) who is predominantly or exclusively sexually/romantically attracted to others of the same sex/gender and who identifies as gay.
Group marriage – A marriage or group of marriages involving more than two people (not legally recognised in Australia).
Heterosexual – A person of any sex/gender who is predominantly or exclusively sexually/romantically attracted to others of a different sex/gender and who identifies as heterosexual or ‘straight’.
Heteronormative/Heterosexism – The belief that heterosexual people and ‘opposite sex’ relationships are ‘normal’ or superior to other forms of relationships, leading to privileges for people perceived as ‘straight’ and discrimination against those who are not. (These terms specifically describe problematic beliefs and behaviour and are not describing heterosexual people in general, many of whom are good allies for LGBTIQAP+ people.)
Hierarchy – When one or more partners’ relationship needs are considered more important than others’. Hierarchies can be descriptive (e.g. describing the current nature of the relationship, which may have a lot of history and joint commitments and a new partner may be happy with a casual relationship), or prescriptive (e.g. the ‘primary couple’ deciding that a ‘secondary’ partner’s needs will never be as important, or are never allowed to progress to ‘primary’ status.)
Intersex – A person born with one of numerous conditions whereby their genitals, hormones, reproductive system or chromosomes do not fit those usually expected in male or female bodies.
Intimacy – While often used as a euphemism for sex, intimacy describes interpersonal closeness or connection which may be emotional, physical, sexual or a combination of these.
Jealousy – Unpleasant feelings that can range from discomfort to distress, resulting from fear of loss, insecurity, envy, possessiveness, disappointment, etc. While they may be triggered by a partner doing something with another person, the partner’s behaviour is not the cause of jealousy.
Kitchen Table Polyamory (KTP) – A form of polyamory whereby partners and metamours know each other, feel comfortable spending time together and often develop friendship or kinship relationships with each other.
Lesbian – A woman or girl who is predominantly or exclusively sexually/romantically attracted to others of the same sex/gender and who identifies as lesbian.
LGBTIQAP+ – An inclusive term for people of diverse sexual orientation and/or gender. There is some variation in what letters are included and what they stand for, but generally are agreed to mean Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer/Questioning, Asexual/Ally, Pansexual/Polysexual (and sometimes Polyamorous). The ‘+’ is to include other related identities that are not specifically included in the acronym.
Metamour – The partner of a partner, with whom one does not have a direct romantic/sexual relationship. (Also see Vee).
Monogamy – A sexually and romantically exclusive relationship involving two people. Often assumed by society to be the default relationship model.
Monogamish – A mostly monogamous couple who may agree to limited sexual or romantic activity outside of the relationship.
Mono-Poly – A sexual/romantic relationship between a monogamous person and a polyamorous person.
Monosexism – The belief that monogamous people and relationships are ‘normal’ or superior to other forms of relationships, leading to privileges for people perceived as ‘monogamous’ and discrimination against those who are not. (This term specifically describes problematic beliefs and behaviour and is not describing monogamous people in general, many of whom are good allies for polyamorous people.)
New Relationship Energy (NRE/Liminence) – Intense/intoxicating feelings associated with infatuation/falling in love with a new person.
Nesting Partner (NP) – A live-in partner with whom one usually shares domestic, financial and/or parenting responsibilities.
Non-binary/Enby – A person whose personal sense of gender is neither exclusively male nor female.
One Penis Policy (OPP) – A rule or agreement, usually between an ‘opposite sex’ couple whereby the male partner can have sexual/romantic relationships with other women, but the female partner is not allowed to have sexual/romantic relationships with other men. Sometimes the female partner can have sexual or romantic relationships with other women. (Recognising gender is not always binary.)
Open – A relationship is open if the people involved agree it is acceptable to become sexually/romantically involved with others outside of the relationship. The permitted intimacy may be conditional on adherence to rules.
Pansexual – A person of any gender who has the potential to be sexually/romantically attracted to others regardless of gender.
Parallel Polyamory – A form of polyamory whereby partners and metamours know of each other, and may occasionally meet (e.g. for special occasions or emergencies), but prefer to keep their relationships separate.
Partner – A short hand term which is gender-free and may be used to describe a ‘life partner’, a ‘person I am dating’, a ‘sexual partner’, etc.
Platonic – A non-sexual relationship/friendship.
Poly – Short for ‘polyamorous’.
Polya/Polyam – An alternative abbreviation for polyamory which has emerged in recent years out of respect for some Polynesian people (predominantly in the US), requesting Polyamorous people stop using the term ‘poly’.
Polyandry – Having more than one husband.
Polycule – The network of a person’s partners, metamours, their partners, etc.
Polyfidelity – Closed relationship/s involving more than two people. Polygamy – Having more than one spouse. (Not generally used in polyamorous circles due to associations with unethical practices.)
Polygyny – Having more than one wife.
Polysaturated – Regardless of how many relationships a person already has, their lack of capacity/interest to pursue additional intimate relationships.
Polyunsaturated – A person’s capacity/willingness to pursue additional intimate relationships, regardless of how many relationships a person already has.
Primary Relationship(s) – The relationship(s) which is (are) considered the most important/committed. See Hierarchy.
Privacy – Respect for a person’s right not to have intimate information shared without their consent, including with other partners.
Queer – Historically a term of abuse, Queer has been reclaimed by people who are part of the LGBTIQAP+ communities as a short and inclusive descriptor, or to differentiate themselves from heteronormative/heterosexist society. (People who are not connected to the LGBTIQAP+ communities should exercise caution using the word ‘Queer’ and may cause offence.)
Relationship – A connection between two people. Relationships consisting of multiple people contain multiple relationships.
Relationship Anarchy – Relationship(s) which are not bound by rules aside from those the people involved mutually agree on. There need not be a formal distinction between different types of sexual, romantic or platonic relationships.
Relationship Escalator – The culturally sanctioned assumption that all successful committed romantic/sexual relationships progress in a similar manner and in one direction, with ‘progress’ markers including dating, cohabitation, marriage, children, etc.
Relationship Transition – An alternative to a relationship ‘break up’. The people involved may keep some aspects of the relationship (such as friendship, co-parenting or being part of the same community) while ending or changing aspects that are not working for one or all partners (e.g. sexual, romantic or co-habiting).
Romantic – Refers to emotionally intimate relationships, often involving affection, love and social recognition. Many but not all romantic relationships include sexual intimacy.
Rules – Limits on what a person can acceptably do within the bounds of a particular relationship.
Sapiosexual – A person who does not (usually or at all) experience sexual feelings unless they have a strong intellectual attraction to a partner.
Secondary Relationship(s) – Close, ongoing romantic and/or sexual relationship(s), but with a lesser degree of commitment and/or status than a primary relationship.
Secrecy – Withholding relevant information from someone which may affect their informed consent.
Serial Monogamy – Having one exclusive relationship at a time, but multiple partners over a lifetime.
Single Poly – A polyamorous person who is unpartnered. This is not the same as Solo Poly.
Sneakyarchy – When polyamorous people initially claim that all partners are equal, but the behaviour of one or more partners demonstrates the existence of a hierarchy.
Solo Poly – A polyamorous person who values independence and personal agency. Solo poly people usually prefer to live separately from their partners, regardless of how committed they are.
Swinging – A subculture of people who enjoy consensual recreational sex with acquaintances or friends. Swinging is often couple-based, with rules restricting emotional relationships outside of the primary partnership.
Triad – Three people who have relationships with each other (quad is four people, etc.) A triad can be open or closed.
Transgender – When a person’s personal sense of gender is different to the sex assigned to them at birth (in contrast with cisgender).
Unicorn/Unicorn Hunting – Describes a couple (usually opposite-sex) seeking a ‘third’ (usually a bisexual woman equally attracted to both partners) to ‘join their relationship’ for a closed sexual/romantic triad. The analogy is used because a willing and compatible ‘unicorn’ is much rarer than the number of couples seeking. ‘Hunting’ describes the predatory or other unethical behaviour of some couples seeking this arrangement. It is possible to have a closed triad relationship without ‘unicorn hunting’ behaviour.
Vee (hinge/pivot) – When a person has two (or more) partners who do not have a partner relationship with each other.
Veto – An agreement whereby one or more partners are given power to prohibit or limit their partner’s relationship/s with others, without the additional partners’ consent. To have the desired effect, the partner being issued with a veto must choose to follow through, without damaging the initial relationship/s.