How Does Ambiamory Bring Together Monogamy and Polyamory?
As more Americans move away from traditional romantic confines, some are finding success in ambiamory, the experience of enjoying monogamous and polyamorous relationships at the same time.
Mitchell, a 26-year-old in North Carolina, happily started dating his boyfriend about seven years ago. Within the first few months, however, a third partner was introduced, staying in the relationship only briefly.
"It opened my eyes to the idea of polyamory as something that I could work with," Mitchell said.
A year later, Mitchell ended up in a similar situation. A mutual friend of Mitchell and his boyfriend had developed feelings for them both, and they felt the same way. They've been a triad ever since. The throuple getting together was happenstance, not intentional.
"It was never a case of me or my boyfriend actively wanting to add another member to the relationship, but instead, feelings developed as they seem to randomly do, and we had clear communication," he said. "We both went, 'Sure, let's try this out,' and it was that specific decision-making process that helped me realize I'm ambiamorous."
So what does ambiamorous mean?
While ambiamory existed long before now, it's become a fairly popular Reddit topic this year, especially on the polyamory subreddit. Users are wondering if they identify as ambiamorous.
Mitchell explained ambiamory is when someone is equally happy in monogamous and polyamorous relationships. Like gender and sexuality, romantic attraction doesn't exist on a binary of either wanting one partner or multiple partners.
"People can determine if they are ambiamorous if they do not have a preference about their partner or themselves having a physical or emotional relationship with someone else if your needs are being satisfied. If you can identify the pros and cons with [each] relationship dynamic," said Tarmen Siaway, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, a counselor with Samaritan Counseling Center in Alabama.
It's important to note ambiamory differs slightly from polyflexibility and biamory. Polyflexibility is when people prefer polyamorous relationships but try monogamous ones, while a biamory relationship is when someone wants to be with exactly two romantic partners.
For Mitchell, relationships and ambiamory are more about partners meeting each other's needs, not a certain amount of sexual relationships.
"For my emotional needs from a relationship, I mostly need people who will correctly tell me when I can be gentle with myself, who help boost my ego through any bouts of self-doubt and who can help handle my less-than-perfectly controlled anger issues, along with just a nice healthy serving of intimacy and quality time," he said. "None of these things tend to favor any specific relationship dynamic and so I do not tend to favor any specific relationship dynamic."
Healthily communicating a monogamous versus polyamorous relationship
Mitchell said he doesn't explicitly pick between monogamy and polyamory with each partner—he just listens to his feelings.
"For me, it's less about polyamory versus monogamy in a vacuum, and more, 'What are my feelings at a given moment, what are the feelings of other people involved, what will work out as best as possible when considering both myself and the group writ large?'" he said.
Both polyflexible and ambiamorous people usually focus on specifics.
"It always comes down to the right fit time, the right fit, and of course, all about the love," said Tiffany Jones, M.S., CCTP, CGCS and resident in counseling at Thriveworks in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Jones agreed that ambiamorous people have to decide how the relationship structure will look with each new partner and explained how to communicate that effectively.
"The key is to make your intentions clear, boundaries definable and [to where] both partners feel secure within the relationship," Jones said.
But here's the hard part: realizing your partner may not feel the same about this romantic relationship.
"You must be accepting and understanding of the other party's feelings if they are not accepting of your feelings," Siaway said. "Most importantly, be calm and your authentic [self] about your needs."
Ultimately, Mitchell and his partners know the importance of talking everything out and being honest.
"The situation doesn't always lead to as easy of answers…but you do get to an answer with strong communication and emotional effort," Mitchell said.
Misconception: Polyamorous relationships are harder
Mitchell shared that even though a common misunderstanding about polyamorous relationships is they're harder than monogamous ones, his relationship with his two partners is easier because of communication.
"I find my current triad way easier than any monogamous relationship I've been in, but that's largely because the three of us have developed incredibly strong communication tools—ways to say, 'I need to interject something,' or, 'I need to calm down before having this conversation,' or 'Just dogpile some love on me please,'" he said. "How hard or easy a relationship is about the people you're with, not the dynamic you're in."
He explained jealousy can occur even in monogamous relationships when your emotional needs aren't being met, and overall, both types of relationships can be tough.
"As someone who's down for both, I can say in my experience, they are equally hard," he said.
While you by no means need to label yourself—even Mitchell isn't into labels—knowing terms such as "ambiamorous" exist can help you feel more seen and validated. Just make sure both you and your partner (or partners) are happy.