Words Matter! A Glossary of Relationship Terminology

Heather Edwards

There will be lots of terms I use throughout this website, in event descriptions and other blogs so here is your go-to page for all the "what exactly does that mean?" questions you might have about terminology that I use. 

This set of terms have to do with relationship structures and concepts such as monogamy and polyamory. 

Relationship Structure Terms: 

Boundary: Boundaries are how someone sets the expectations of how they consent to be treated and to treat others within a relationship. It can be thought of as a way that one regulates their own emotional space. Rules differ from boundaries in that they are generally set to regulate someone else's behavior in order to manage emotional space.  

: Describes the joy of seeing your partner happy, typically describes seeing your partner enjoy the aspects of another sexual or emotional relationship with one of their partners. Compersion is often suggested to be the opposite of jealousy. 

Consensual Nonmonogamy (CNM)
: Typically describes a relationship dynamic where two (or more) individuals are consenting to have relationships both sexual and/or emotional outside of a traditional monogamous dynamic and all parties are aware of one another’s need/desire to search for those other connections. Non-consensual nonmonogomy is typically described as cheating. CNM can have many different structures.

Hierarchical Polyamory
: Typically describes a relationship dynamic where two partners are each other’s primary partners and other relationships (both sexual and emotional) are secondary to the primary relationship. 

: (coined by Dan Savage) A relationship dynamic where two monogamous partners have some flexibility about what "monogamy" might mean to them and that definitions might be somewhat fluid and flow into some CNM structures at various times.

: A relationship dynamic where two consenting partners are only in sexual and emotional relationships one another

NRE (New Relationship Energy)
: Describes the feeling of a new relationship, be it sexual overdrive, giddy butterflies, or general excitement at new or budding relationships

Open Relationship
: Typically describes a relationship dynamic where two consenting individuals have an emotional relationship with one another but can have sexual relationships with individuals outside of the relationship. 

: Typically describes a relationship dynamic where individuals have multiple emotional and sexual relationships with multiple partners

Relationship Anarchy
: Describes a non-monogamous relationship dynamic in which the only rules affecting each individual relationship are set and decided by the individuals involved in each separate relationship. 

Solo Poly: Describes a relationship structure where an individual is open to having multiple non monogamous partners but does not attach themself to any one partner over any others. 

: Describes a relationship dynamic where a couple participates in group sex or partner-swapping with other couples/individuals but usually does so together (as a couple). 

Thank you to Lane Wagner for helping with the creation of these glossaries!

Other Glossaries Available:
Pelvic Health
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