Within ethical non monogamy lies the polyamory umbrella, which includes kitchen table polyam, parallel poly, solo poly, and more. What do all these mean?
The Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM) Umbrella
To begin with, there's three broad categories: monogamy, cheating, and consensual/ethical non-monogamy (CNM/ENM). ENM allows for people to have multiple sexual or romantic relationships at a given moment. Unlike cheating, ENM involves the shared understanding of non-monogamy between all those involved, along with enthusiastic consent. ENM is based in openness and communication, not secrecy.
Ethical non-monogamy encompasses not just polyamory, but also other activities such as swinging, casual sex, open relationships, and more. They are all forms of multiple sexual or romantic relationships.
Polyamory is an umbrella of relationship styles in itself too, though they are all focused on multiple intimate connections, romantic and emotional and oftentimes sexual as well. Heck, it's in the name – "many loves." The variety to polyamory is staggering, but there's a few central labels that are largely agreed upon.
What is Kitchen Table Polyamory?
What if you want to build a sense of community amongst all your partners and metamours? If metamours have plenty of companionable interactions together, it's a good sign that kitchen table polyam is taking place.
Colloquially the name comes from partners and metamours being comfortable enough to share a meal around the kitchen table, chatting all the while. Metamours are like extended family, and are prone to hanging around with each other.
Kitchen table polyamory is thus a communal style of polyamory.
What is Parallel Poly?
By contrast, parallel polyamory is where people don't interact with their metamours. People in a relationship pursue polyamory independently, in parallel with each other.
That's not to say that these two big types are mutually exclusive – it's more like a spectrum, with kitchen table at one end and parallel at the other. Some people are more comfortable with more contact than others, and more information.
I see parallel polyam as being more about relationship building, and strong interpersonal bonds, whereas kitchen table polyam is about community and family and a support network.
What about Solo Poly, Hierarchical, and other types?
There's a few other types of polyamory common enough to deserve labels.
Hierarchical polyam is where there are different degrees of relationships. Normally there's a "primary" relationship and "secondaries." This is more common when primary partners have kids together, entangled finances, or are married. Those all necessitate a dedicated allotment of time and energy that favours one relationship over others.
Solo poly is where a person has no "primary" relationships, only what would be considered secondaries. This style of polyamory is more transient and ephemeral, where you enjoy your time with partners but do not end up wrapped up in their lives.
Mono-poly relationships are where one person is monogamous and the other is polyamorous. Which mostly means that the monogamous person is committed to their polyam partner, whilst the polyam partner builds relationships with others too.
There are, of course, many more forms of non-monogamy and polyamory. These are but some of the most well known. Hopefully this is enough of a primer for you to begin to understand the many loving arrangements that relationships may take!
If you are interested in reading about my personal polyamorous and kinky relationship with my dearheart, I invite to your attention this post: