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Alternative Lifestyle Glossary of Terms

To fully understand the rapidly changing alternative lifestyle world, one should understand the language used.

Starting out with relationship classifications. Have you wondered where you “belong” within the lifestyle? Personally, I don’t like labeling myself or relationships, as I prefer staying as open minded as possible in all scenario. However, these terms may help guide you when understanding your own wants and needs.

Remember, this is your lifestyle and can be lived however YOU choose.

Relationship Classifications

BDSM Non-Monogamy

BDSM elements can be present in any relationship form but some non-monogamy relationships allow for an extra BDSM relationship, either with or without a sexual component. It’s usually, but not always because the other partner just doesn’t share the same kinks as their partner.

Closed V

The closed V is a handy way of describing the dynamics of a polyamorous relationship where two people share a romantic and sexual connection with the third, but not to each other. The third person who is involved with both people is sometimes called “the hinge of the V.” And since the two “legs” of the V don’t connect together, it doesn’t make a triangle. A closed V is generally used when both partners have a decent level of closeness otherwise but aren’t sexually involved. This generally comes up when all three partners live together but don’t operate as a triad.

Ethical Non-Monogamy

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is the practice of taking part in romantic relationships that are not completely exclusive between two people. The practice of having more than one sexual partner, although the “ethical” part is used to differentiate it from cheating. It’s also sometimes called consensual non-monogamy or sometimes just plain ol’ open relationships.

Hierarchical Polyamory

In this situation, a couple, either married or in a long-term relationship, decide to embark on the journey of polyamory together. But the hierarchical polyamorous couple is open and transparent that they are each other’s priorities and that their relationship comes first. This relationship is called the Primary. The arrangement is usually consensual and understanding among all parties.


Relationships that are romantically monogamous also allow for agreed-upon outside sexual relationships. Usually, you live your lives as a monogamous couple with all of the benefits, but you happen to engage in outside sexual play at times,”


A form of polyamory in which a group of people agrees to be sexually exclusive with each other and not have lovers outside of the group. Also known as a “polycule.”


A quad is genuinely a free-for-all. Four people maintain some kind of romantic and sexual connection, but it’s not necessarily in every configuration. In fact, it’s fairly common for at least one person in a quad to have a close relationship but not a sexual one, to another person in the group.

Relationship Anarchy

The application of anarchist principles to intimate relationships. Its values include autonomy, anti-hierarchical practices, lack of state control, anti-normativity, and community interdependence.

Throuple or Triad

In a traditional triad, all partners are in a romantic and sexual relationship with each other. So a triad actually has four relationships playing out: the one-on-one relationship between each person in the triad to each other, and then the relationship between all three partners.