Polyamory refers to simultaneously engaging in multiple romantic relationships with consent of all involved parties. There is much stigma surrounding polyamory, but those who identify as polyamorous believe their relationships are healthy and honest. The term is fairly nebulous, referring to many different forms of relationships involving multiple partners, but the essential characteristic is a lack of sexual and romantic exclusivity.
Reasons for Non-Monogamy
Some religions allow and even encourage relationships with multiple partners, including polygyny and polyandry. Muslims and Mormons are both known to practice polygyny. Other polyamory practitioners claim social or political reasons. These are people who see polyamory as a progressive lifestyle that accompanies their liberal values.
Distinction from Cheating
In western culture, non-monogamy has negative stigma because of cheating. Polyamory involves a respectful approach to having multiple partners, but cheating means that one or more people involved are non-consenting. Cheating typically involves deception, whereas polyamory means that all involved persons are open and accepting of the concept.
Polyamory hinges on open communication. There may be rules and structures governing types of contact that polyamorous individuals must follow. These distinctions will be different for every relationship, making polyamory fairly complex. For this to be a healthy lifestyle, those involved must be honest and communicative, otherwise resentment is likely to crop up, making the arrangement more like cheating than polyamory.