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Polyamory Vs Polygamy: How Are These Relationships Different?

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Polyamory, polygamy, solo polyamory, bigamy…There are tons of different types of relationship models out there, and you might not have even heard of them before! In fact, many people ‘fit’ into a certain model without even knowing it.

Polyamory vs polygamy is an easy thing to get confused about, given that both words sound so similar!

However, there are some very important differences that you might not be aware of. One is an increasingly popular type of relationship that embraces personal freedoms. One is…not that.

If you’re not sure about what the difference between polyamory and polygamy is, let’s break down the most important factors.

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory simply means loving more than one person at once. There are more and more people out there who identify as polyamorous, which means that they are in a loving, romantic relationship with more than one person.

A survey in 2018 found that “19% of those answering identified as polyamorous” in the UK, so it’s definitely becoming more accepted and mainstream.

Crucially, everyone involved in a polyamorous relationship will have given their consent to be in one, whether that’s purely sexual relationships or ongoing ones, and all parties involved will communicate openly about their feelings and expectations.


Is Polygamy a Type of Polyamorous Relationship?

Technically, sort of? In the strictest possible sense, polygamy would fall under the umbrella term of polyamory as there are more than two people involved in the situation.

But while polyamory is all about openness and honesty, polygamy often is not. Indeed, polygamy can often be about depriving partners of their freedom rather than embracing it.

What is Polygamy?

Polygamy is the practice of being married to more than one person at the same time. If you’re wondering, “isn’t that illegal?” the answer is: yes, polygamy in the UK is illegal. It’s against the law to have more than one spouse.

Polygamy is a practice that dates back centuries and has often been connected to the oppression of women, as men would take multiple wives. The term also applies to women who have more than one husband.

Now, polygamy is pretty rare, partially because it’s illegal and partially due to the fact that we are (thankfully, hopefully) seeing fewer opportunities for men to take advantage of multiple women in this way.

What is the Difference Between Polyamory vs Polygamy?

Although polygamy could fall under the term polyamory, they are very different.

In polyamorous relationships, people are comfortable and open to having multiple romantic partners, and comfortable with their partners doing the same thing. There may or may not be a commitment to those extra partners, but there shouldn’t be any jealousy or hiding of what you are doing.

One of the reasons why polyamory has become more popular is that people are rejecting the old social norms that a healthy relationship must be between two people and two people only, but it is not the same as polygamy.

  1. Polygamy refers to marriage, polyamory does not.
  2. Polygamy is illegal, polyamory is not.
  3. There is often a power imbalance in polygamy, and there is not in polyamory.
  4. Polyamorous relationships can be between people of any gender.

It is as important to highlight the differences in power and freedom between polyamory and polygamy as it is to note the illegality of the latter.

Polygamy is something that has been forced on people. Polyamory should be an empowered choice.


Who Can Enter a Polyamorous or Polygamist Relationship?

Technically speaking, no one can enter a polygamist relationship because it is against the law. Even the Mormon church, which is often thought of as allowing it, has actually ruled that they no longer condone it (as you may know if you watched the TV show, Big Love).

Anyone can enter into a polyamorous relationship. There are no rules about gender or sexual orientation.

The idea is that you are open to loving more than one person at once, regardless of how they identify. But it needs to be a conscious choice that everyone involved is aware of and has agreed to. Whether that’s a purely sexual or romantic relationships, or even a mix of both, it is completely up to the partners involved.

Are there Different Types of Polyamorous Relationships?

There are actually several different types of polyamorous relationships, as you may have found on dating apps, and a lot of them vary pretty simply on how many different people are in it. However, there are also key differences based on the dynamic.

For example, some may vary depending on whether or not there is a core couple at the centre of it. Others may have a strict set of rules about what is allowed and what isn’t.

It’s always going to be up to the people in the relationship to decide what kind of polyamorous relationship they want, but here are the most common types in the UK.

Triad or Quad

As the name suggests, this is when a couple decides to include a third and/or a fourth partner in their relationship. Finding a woman to join a triad can be tough, which is why they are sometimes referred to as unicorns.

With a Quad, it’s often the case that a couple will decide to date another couple.


A vee is one of the most common types of a polyamorous relationship, and it gets its name from one person dating two people. In some cases, the two other partners might know each other, but they won’t be in a relationship with each other.

A variant of this is solo polyamory, when one person decides to date multiple people, and might be what first comes to mind when you think of polyamory.


There are multiple different partners in a polycule relationship and everyone involved knows each other. They might have relationships outside of the polycule, but there is this central core which will discuss any changes to the hierarchy and any future decisions.

There are also hierarchical polys, where there is a central couple who has multiple partners with other people, but the central couple is the focus of all relationships.


Polyamory vs Polygamy: The Differences and Why it Matters

It’s so important to define the differences between polyamory and polygamy. One is a type of open relationship that opens the door to new experiences and more love in your life; the other is illegal and can be used to create power imbalances and trap people in marriages.

Historically, there have been religious and social scenarios where polygamy has been accepted, but it is prohibited by law in the UK.

There is a huge difference between open marriage and polygamy. If you think that you are in a polygamous relationship, there are charities and legal services available to you who can advise and support you.

That being said, if you are married and your relationship is a little boring or stale, you can always look into polyamory as a way to open things up and bring some new life into your relationship.

Here at Illicit Encounters, there are over 1.5 million members whose marriage just isn’t giving them what they need anymore. So, why not try something new? Start your free account today and see what happens!


Is polyamory better than polygamy?

Polyamory gives everyone the same freedom to explore and experience love with more than one person. Everyone in a polyamorous relationship must agree on the rules, whereas polygamy can be used to trap people and exploit them.

Polyamory should be empowering when it works, and there are many different dynamics that can be explored and experimented with.

Is polygamy legal in the UK?

No, polygamy is illegal in the UK. According to the Home Office, a polygamous marriage will only be recognised if the marriage occurred in a country that permits it, and only if the people involved are living in that country.

If you live in the UK, you cannot be in a polygamous marriage, and you will not be entitled to state support and benefits.

What is the difference between bigamy vs polygamy?

The main difference between bigamy and polygamy is that a bigamist will be married to two people, but a polygamist will have several spouses. It’s more common for people to commit bigamy unintentionally.

For example, one partner may have thought their divorce papers had already gone through when they got married, but if they hadn’t then they would be breaking the law.

Is polygamy adultery?

This is often a religious question, which makes it slightly tricky territory, but generally speaking, it would not be considered adultery. Adultery is when you cheat on your spouse with another person.

Technically, if you are a polygamist then you would be married to your multiple partners and would not be committing adultery. However, your multiple marriages might not be considered legal.

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