In discussions about monogamy and polyamory, I find I’ve recategorized the two ideas into something that feels more functional for me, and I accidentally try to use them synonymously with the original words. This ends up getting pretty messy, so I’m going to do the obvious thing: invent more words and then explain them!
(there’s a good chance someone has already written about this somewhere.)
Presenting: The Uniamory/Multiamory Spectrum
Your position on the Uniamory/Multiamory spectrum depends entirely on how many restrictions you place on your partner’s romantic/sexual behavior. It doesn’t matter what restrictions are placed on you, or what your partner actually does, or what you actually do, or the functional habits in your relationship.
You are uniamorous if you have rules, expectations, or agreements placed on your partner that state they cannot engage in relationships besides you.
You are multiamorous if you have no rules, expectations, or agreements about your partner’s romantic/sexual behavior with people besides yourself.
Remember this is a spectrum, going from lots of rules (no flirting) to medium rules (you can kiss but no sex) to no rules (you can do literally anything you want). For fun I’m going to provide the Amory Spectrum:
- 0. Exclusively uniamorous; all extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are disallowed; no flirting, sexting, nude photos; can include forbidding being alone for too long with other people or ‘leading them on’; usually uncomfortable with watching porn or expressing attraction to others
- 1. Predominantly uniamorous, only incidentally multiamorous; all obvious extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are disallowed, but leniency for flirting or engaging in light touch. Acceptance of expressing attraction to others and porn use.
- 2. Predominantly uniamorous, but more than incidentally multiamorous. Most extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are disallowed, but with strong leniency; can include approval of nude photos, kissing and light petting, or attending sex/nude/kink parties (as a couple, without interacting with others). Most camgirl’s partners fall within this category.
- 3. Equally multiamorous and uniamorous: Includes swinging, having threesomes, and occasionally allowance of very casual/occasional extrarelationship interactions, but with disallowance of any serious or regular extrarelationship interactions.
- 4. Predominantly multiamorous, but more than incidentally uniamorous: general extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are allowed with several rules, such as strongly enforced relationship hierarchy, and can include regulations of number of partners allowed, the frequency of their interactions, or moderate restrictions on their sexual activities
- 5. Predominantly multiamorous, only incidentally uniamorous: the majority of extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are allowed with few rules; can include light prescriptive hierarchy or minimal regulation of sexual behavior.
- 6. Exclusively multiamorous: all extrarelationship romantic/sexual expressions are allowed; no rules or requirements are instituted, and no prescriptive hierarchy is instated
Also: rules for the purpose of sexual safety, such as getting tested regularly or using condoms, do not count towards the multiamory spectrum.
If you date someone for twenty years with no rules about what they can or can’t do, but they never actually get involved with anybody else, then you are multiamorous but functionally monogamous.
If you prefer relationships that tend to be functionally monogamous, you can actively search for monogamous partners while both of you remain multiamorous.
If you insist that you and your partner will only love each other forever, that neither of you even experience the desire for others, and you also have rules that your partner can’t act upon desires even if they do have them, then you are both uniamorous and monogamous.
If you have no rules about your partner’s behavior but they have rules about your behavior, then you are multiamorous dating a uniamorous person, in a monogamous relationship.
Uniamory instituted out of fairness does not count; if you are level 6 multiamorous but dating someone who is level 2 uniamorous, and your partner agrees to not take advantage of your level 6 leniency because it wouldn’t be ‘fair,’ and instead acts as though you are level 2 uniamorous too, then this does not make you uniamorous.
Polyamory and uniamory aren’t really compatible, but sometimes you see poly relationships that rank low on the amory spectrum. If you consider yourself poly but are a 3 on the amory scale, then you might be on the uniamorous side of polyamory.
Basically, I think putting “restrictions placed on partner” into a highly defined, separate role to be a strongly illuminating way of looking at relationship structures. Frequently I find people citing monogamous motivations to explain their uniamory implementations (e.g., “We’re level 1 monogamous because neither of us find anybody else to be attractive!”)