Feel Like You Can Be Both Poly *and* Monogamous? You Might Be Ambiamorous

ambiamorous definition, what is ambiamorous, ambiamory definition, what is ambiamory
Ambiamory, ExplainedKaran Kapoor - Getty Images

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

We’re living in an age of bucking binaries, where man and woman are far from the only two genders on people’s radars, and gay and straight are just two options in a spectrum of sexualities. Relationship orientations aren’t limited to just monogamous and polyamorous, either. Enter: Ambiamory.

Ambi means “on both sides,” and amorous means “love,” explains founder and host of the Live Your F*ck Yes Life podcast, Amanda Katherine Giles, a somatic mentor and polyamory coach who identifies as ambiamorous. It’s a relationship orientation wherein an individual knows they'd genuinely be happy and fulfilled in both monogamous and polyamorous relationship structures, so long as those relationships are loving, she says. Often joked to be "the bisexuality of relationship orientations," folks who are ambiamorous are open to dating both monogamously and non-monogamously, says Giles.

Related terms:

Ahead, a full rundown on exactly what ambiamory is, how to know if you’re ambiamorous, and tips on how to date as an ambiamorous person, complete with insights from polyamory and ambiamory educators and coaches.

What Is Ambiamory?

Ambiamory is a relationship orientation marked by a willingness to and enthusiasm for being in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships, explains relationship and polyamory educator Emily Matlack, co-host of the Multiamory podcast and co-author of Multiamory: Essential Tools for Modern Relationships. As a refresher:

A monogamous relationship is one that is sexually and romantically closed to outsiders. In a monogamous relationship, the two people in it are pair-bonded to just one another, and any romantic or sexual interaction with someone(s) else would be considered cheating.

A polyamorous relationship is one wherein the individuals are capable of, allowed to, and often encouraged to form and maintain multiple loving connections.

“An ambiamorous person has no preference for one over the other and is equally comfortable in either,” says Ally Iseman, a non-monogamy sexpert and founder of Passport 2 Pleasure, a concierge wellness guide for couples and individuals exploring non-monogamy. As such, their relationship structure at any time might be informed by factors like their partners’ relationship orientation(s), what’s best for the health or longevity of their relationship(s), and the relationship agreements they currently have established, says Matlack.

How Do You Know If You’re Ambiamorous?

Some people know they’re ambiamorous in the same way they know their eyes are green, says Giles. They just know. Other people will have to (nay, get to!) explore different relationship structures to learn what type of relationship(s) works best for them.

Below, three steps you might take to help you discern whether ambiamory is right for you.

1. Reflect on your dating history.

Your dating CV does not need to show proof of a wide variety of relationship structures and dynamics in order for you to be ambiamorous. All you need to be any label in the realm of sexuality is to claim it—whether that’s to the broader world, or just to yourself.

That said, most people who identify as ambiamorous have had both polyamorous and monogamous relationships in the past, because it can be hard to know if polyamory works for you until you try it, says Matlack. “Polyamory can bring out a lot of insecurities and force a person to have to confront many things within a relationship and within themselves that they simply don’t have to confront while in a monogamous relationship,” she explains. As such, in order to really know if polyamory (and therefore, ambiamory) actually works for you, you should have some non-monogamy experience, she says.

Your move: In the event that you do have both monogamous and non-monogamous dating experiences, consider how you felt in each of those relationship styles. If you felt happy and comfortable in both dynamics and can see yourself feeling that way in the future, odds are, you’re ambiamorous.

2. Do a gut check.

The way you feel as you read this article (hi!) might give you some insights on your relationship orientation. The term ambiamory is still relatively new to the dating lexicon, so this might be the first time you hear it. Some readers might feel like a lightbulb is going off, while others might feel totally distant from the term.

“Someone who intrinsically identifies as polyamorous and couldn’t imagine being in any other type of relationship structure won’t feel connected to the term ambiamory,” says Matlack. The same sentiment stands for those who are monogamous through and through.

If you feel firmly in either camp, you’re probably not ambiamorous. Or, at least not at this particular period in your life. However, if learning about ambiamory is sparking curiosity, or "lighting up" portions of your brain and heart, you might benefit from exploring it further. Pay extra attention to how you feel in your relationships going forward.

3. Understand compulsive mononormativity.

Society may be seeing a rise in polyamory, says Giles, but monogamy is still the assumed default for relationships at large. Why? Blame compulsory mononormativity, or the assumption that monogamy is both more natural and "normal" than any other relationship structure, and thus, that ending up in a two-person marriage is The Goal™.

This might be a bummer, but just because we're trained from birth to believe that monogamy is the only "right" way to be, doesn't mean we're all monogamous. For anyone with even a glimmer of interest in non-monogamy, Giles says that just identifying that compulsive mononormativity exists can be the first step in exploring non-monogamous identities, like being ambiamorous or polyamorous.

How to Explore Ambiamory

Behold: Four tips on exploring ambiamory, no matter your current or past relationship structure(s).

1. Study-up.

Get out those reading glasses, because learning the ins-and-outs of compulsory monogamy, polyamory, and other forms of non-monogamy can help you understand your own relationship impulses and desires, says Matlack.

She suggests reading The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedeker Winston, and Polysecure by Jessica Fern. Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan, and The Ethical Slut by Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton are good options, too.

If you prefer to listen to your content, you might also check out podcasts like Multiamory, Amory, or Remodeled Love. Iseman also suggests attending in-person events or taking online classes about dating and non-monogamy. (Her online course, ENM 101: Exploring Healthy Non-Monogamy, is a great starter option.)

2. Spend some time self-reflecting.

Consider this permission to daydream. “Journaling about what your values are, what your ideal relationship would look like, and what a healthy and egalitarian partnership would look like for you can all be helpful,” says Matlack, who suggests thinking through your own relationship with jealousy, as well your propensity to be possessive. “These insights can help you determine which structure(s) you might ultimately thrive in.”

3. Date around.

“Just as you discovered your favorite food(s) by trying a bunch of them, you can discover your favorite relationship structure(s) by trying them,” says Iseman.

If you’re currently single, you’re optimally situated to do just that by dating and mating folks across the relationship orientation spectrum. Using dating apps that are friendly and inclusive of non-monogamous folks (like Feeld and #Open) can be hugely helpful.

Giles recommends being up-front about the fact that you’re exploring ambiamory right in your dating profile. Adding a line like, “I've been happy in both monogamous and polyamorous dynamics,” right in your bio can do the trick, she says.

Of course, you don’t have to share that you are—or might be—ambiamorous. You can also share the info during a first or second in-person date. But honesty is always the best policy, so it's a good idea to tell the people you're seeing that you're on this journey when you feel comfortable.

4. Talk to your partner(s).

If you’re currently partnered—be it with one or with multiple people—Matlack says it’s important to realize that your interest in exploring ambiamory could be extremely intimidating for your current partner(s). If you’re in a monogamous relationship, your partner might think you’re asking to open up your relationship. While, if you’re dating multiple people, your partner(s) might think they're going to get the boot in favor of someone who's down to be monogamous, or that you want to close up your relationship.

Get ahead of any potential misunderstandings by sharing exactly what the term means to you, and what exploring ambiamory means (if anything) for your relationship structure(s), says Iseman.

“It is going to take a lot of very open, honest, and vulnerable communication to help partners feel comfortable and cared for while broaching this sensitive topic,” says Matlack.

Recognize that ambiamorous folks might be subjected to relationship discrimination.

Similar to how people who are bisexual sometimes feel “not gay enough” for queer spaces, and “not straight enough” for straight spaces, sometimes people who are ambiamorous feel alienated from both monogamous and polyamorous communities.

Some people within the polyamorous community choose not to date anyone who identifies as ambiamorous, due to fear that the ambiamorous person will eventually leave them for a monogamous person, says Matlack. “Monogamous people may have a similar bias because they might worry that an ambiamorous person will be interested in non-monogamy again at some point in their lives,” she explains.

Who someone wants to date is their own prerogative, but as Matlack puts it, “people may be missing out on fantastic dating opportunities and partners because of these biases.”

And that someone might be ambiamorous… and have a preference!

For the record: It is possible to be ambiamorous but to intentionally choose monogamy or polyamory due to current life circumstances.

Someone might be over-committed in other areas of their life and find that dating more than one person is just too overwhelming and time consuming, Matlack says. Or, they might be craving partnership and choose to date within the monogamous dating pool because it's vastly larger than the non-monogamous community, she says. Plus, “most helpful modalities of therapy tend to operate from an overwhelmingly monogamous lens,” explains Matlack, which means that people in monogamous relationships tend to have greater axes of support.

Meanwhile, someone might find the exploration and freedom from social expectations that are inherent in polyamorous dating to be hugely appealing, says Matlack. Or, someone might be attracted to the sense of community non-monogamy can provide.

Ultimately, someone who’s ambiamorous may have a (current) preference for being in a monogamous or polyamorous relationship. But the fact that they know—and have a word for their relationship orientation—can enable them to show up in their romantic and sexual dating lives as their most authentic selves. And being loved for their authentic self? Whether it's by one person or many, that’s the jackpot.

You Might Also Like