If there were a Venn-diagram for non-monogamous relationships it would probably start as a big circle for non-monogamy. Inside that would be polyamory and inside that would be polyfidelity. Each of these circles would be blurry or maybe dotted lines instead of hard ones. Each circle would overlap with multiple other relationship configurations and various other types of relationship orientations and… well, maybe a Venn-diagram isn’t the most helpful illustration.
When defining a term that has to do with relationships or personal identities in any manner there is always some level of fluidity and openness to take into account. You may know this already, but I’m starting with the basics.
In the book Opening Up Tristan Taormino defines polyfidelity as “a multipartner group of three or more people who have made a commitment to each other to be in a primary relationship.” This can be different or exactly the same as polyamory simply depending on the identification of those within the group. There are no hard and fast lines here, and the terms really just depend on what the people within the relationship are most comfortable with.
Despite the “fidelity” part of the term, which makes most people think of having closed sexual conduct polyfidelity does not always exclude other relationships outside of the polyfidelitous group. Fidelity essentially means “faithful” and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sexual faithfulness (though it can). Taormino describes two types of polyfidelitous groups: closed and open, meaning closed or open to new relationships outside of the primary. Not all members of a polyfidelitous group have to be sexually involved, either.
While I dislike the terms “primary” and “secondary” or so on and I think maybe a better way to describe it is that everyone in a polyfidelitous relationship is committed to everyone else. Even if there isn’t a sexual or romantic relationship between the individuals there is always an emotional one and a commitment to being with the other in some way shape or form.
As I mentioned, this could look identical to polyamory or it could look completely different, it just depends on how the individuals want to identify.
So, why am I writing all this about polyfidelity? I will probably be using it in the future and now I can reference this post whenever I mention it.
I posted a while ago about our transition from mono to poly to triad and Not long after that I brought this difference up to Marla and Onyx and we all agreed that the definition for polyfidelitous fit our relationship.
Generally speaking the term triad is used to describe a polyfidelitous relationship between three people, so we had already kind of figured that out but at the same time I’m a sucker for semantics and finding new terms and labels to describe myself so that I can add them on to the long list of labels I already embrace to make such a long string of labels I eventually essentially become label-less again, though that’s another post.
Another term Taormino mentions in Opening Up is “trilationship” which is fairly self-explanatory I think. I pronounce it similar to tree-lationship so it sounds similar to relationship only different–also because pronouncing it try-lationship is kind of awkward. This is another term I will be using in the future.