A variant of the Love Triangle and Love Dodecahedron.
Rather than requiring someone to pick one person out of several potential love interests, or have a Your Cheating Heart situation, all parties involved agree to be together and share cooperatively. This typically lacks any drama of the decision itself, but has a different form of drama in how people make arrangements with each other, manage jealousy and households, and deal with the disapproval of society as a whole.
Individuals who identify as polyamorous may consider themselves "Ethical Sluts". Not all ethical sluts are polyamorous, and not all people in polyamorous relationships have the "ethical slut" attitude. The difference between a polyamorist and a swinger is that the former seeks out full-spectrum relationships with each of his or her partners. The latter is largely there for the sex, often for the novelty of an unfamiliar (or unconquered) partner.
Polyamorous relationship structures can take many forms, of which the Love Dodecahedron is one. Unlike swingers, however, relationships with secondary partners will go beyond mere sex or intimacy, to include broad-spectrum involvement in their lives.
Compare Marry Them All. Contrast No Romantic Resolution. When a foreign or alien culture is particularly accepting of this, you may get Exotic Extended Marriage. OT3s, when they become canon, are a specific case. For more details and some Real Life tidbits, visit Useful Notes On Polyamory.
Not to be confused with Polyarmory.
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Anime and Manga
Done with after the credits in Kanokon's Gecko Ending — Chizuru wins, and Nozomu is Put on a Bus... But wait, she returns after the credits and they decide to share Kouta. Which kinda sucks for him, as both of them are extremely oversexed yōkai (Japanese demons), and he's mostly Asexual. Of course, he doesn't get a say in the matter.
Her Royal Majesty Iono from Iono the Fanatics somehow manages to be in a romantic relationship with an entire kingdom worth ofSchoolgirl Lesbians. And satisfy them all. Unless, of course, she is traveling abroad, in which case her paramours start a civil war, with one fraction believing in her eventual return and the other striving to bring her back by force.
The last chapter of To Love-Ru hints that this might be a viable option for Rito; at the very least, Lala is enthusiastic about to the point that it seems to be her preferred option. In the sequel, To Love-Ru Darkness, one of the girls tries to open up this route (Lala approves), and is only hindered by Rito's belief in monogamy.
Oh, he HAS made his choice known. He likes the First Girl/s, and very much so. He's just being ignored.
Jin and Rumi Koishikawa, and Youji and Chiyako Matsura (later Jin and Chiyako Koishikawa, and Youji and Rumi Matsura) seem to hint at this. Swapping spouses is one thing; all moving into the same house together and spending all their free time together.... awfully suggestive.
Ayumu of Hayate the Combat Butler seems to suggest this style of solution, but it seems that she's doing it more out of caring for Hinagiku's worry about being defiled for marriage than for any sexual implications (and at the point it's suggested, Hinagiku doesn't think Ayumu knows about their mutual crush on Hayate).
Tenchi Muyo!: Seina slips into this trope at the end via a Marry Them All resolution, though it still has the feel of the former, and in fact, Word of God says Tenchi himself also fits this trope. In both cases, it helps that they're in line for the throne of Jurai (Tenchi being the Crown Prince), a position that, as far as we can see, traditionally comes with multiple wives (the current one has two). It also helps that the Jurian equivalent of the Queen Mother fancies herself a matchmaker, is a master of The Plan, and seems to prefer this outcome.
Girlfriend 1: Why are we dating such a playboy again?
Girlfriend 2: Because it's one of our weird hobbies.
Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei has a rather complicated example of this. Nozomu loves the First Girl, Fuura Kafuka. However, it's revealed in the final chapters that she was Dead All Along. Her organs, however, went to the girls in Nozomu's class, causing him to see her in his students one at a time. (As his sister Rin puts it, he's in love with her corneas-in Abiru-then her lungs-in Komori-then her heart-in Chiri.) On paper, he's in an endless cycle of marriage and divorce between the girls. In Nozomu's eyes, he's married to Kafuka and Kafuka alone. To outsiders, it looks like this trope, especially since all the girls have children by him (that eerily look like Kafuka).
High School DxD is based around this trope. Initially set up as a traditional Harem Series, it deviates from the norm because none of the girls care that the others like him too. The rest of the harem even helps the Ise and Rias become an Official Couple. At least two of them stated they were waiting for this to happen before they went any further with Ise themselves.
Canonly used in Anatolia Story, crossing with Twin Threesome Fantasy. Yuri's handmaidens Ryuhi and Shala both like Kail's advisor Kikkuri, and they bed him separately. They both get pregnant. Kikkuri had actually believed he was sleeping with one of the girls, but instread of "choosing" he marries them both. At the end of the story, the girls have given birth to... twins! (Ryuhi has two boys, Shala has two girls). They all live more or less happily under the same rooftop.
ElfQuest. Many of the elves end up 'lifemating' with two others, and their relationships are generally loving and long-lasting (and in at least three cases, explicitly mentioned as a sane alternative to jealousy and rivalry). Problems tend to arise only with Recognition, a form of 'love'/lust based entirely on involuntary instinct.
In Strangers in Paradise After David reveals to Casey and Katchoo that he is dying, they decide to live together to take care of him for what he has left for a life, and it's Casey's idea for Katchoo and David to try to conceive a baby that both girls will raise together.
A DC Elseworlds story, "Superman/Wonder Woman: Whom Gods Destroy", written by Chris Claremont, is set in a world where Superman made his first public appearance in the 1930s, when he met Lois Lane. Cut to the present day, where Lois Lane and Lana Lang are in their seventies and are very close friends. Despite Superman's presence during WWII, the Nazis are still in power in Germany, due in part to the interference of Ares and several other Greek Gods. Another faction of Greek Gods, led by Artemis and Athena, grant Lois and Lana eternal youth and power (Lana becomes the Oracle of Delphi and Lois becomes Wonder Woman), and they team with Superman to defeat Ares' faction. Part of Ares' plan is to separate Clark from Lois and Lana, since their powers somehow bind them together. When Lana explains to Superman, "Ares doesn't want the two of you together," (referring to Clark and Lois), Hecate, the Greek witch-goddess, corrects her, "No, the three of you." By the end of the four-issue arc, Clark, Lois and Lana are happily living together in his Fortress of Solitude (the now young Lois changed her name to Lois Lang) in a polyamorous relationship.
At the very end of Superman: Red Son (an Elseworld), when Lex Luthor uses his genius to turn Earth into a utopia, it's said that the "triple" replaces the "couple" in human relationships.
In the last issue of the Secret Six ongoing, Scandal Savage decides she can't choose between her girlfriends and proposes to both of them at once.
Poly seems to be a normal state of affairs in the universe of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever; that doesn't stop there from being issues of jealousy and insecurity, however. Mamoru is not terribly happy about Usagi's affections for her senshi, especially Rei, but he also knows that he has no right to deny them. For poor Ranma, from another world entirely, the concept of sharing is even harder to deal with.
The Epilogue of I Am What I Am has this, but with a twist. Xander (who has the memories of his entire life up to his death which he has been using to alter and improve things) is now with Buffy AND Faith and it's heavily implied that all three are sharing the other two (no sex yet, though).
In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon's uncle Keiichi arranges this with his aunts. Also, Haruhi is working towards this with Kyon and all females of SOS Brigade.
Too many examples of Harry Potter fanfics to count have the characters in polyamorous relationships, usually in the form of Harry getting a harem of girls. It's not uncommon for the girls to all be bisexual either.
In Time Braid, Sakura, Hinata and Naruto eventually get to the point where all three are romantically involved, though Sakura does state that it takes effort to make their relationship work.
Extremely common in the Glee fanfic-community. Especially used in Faberritana relationships (that include Quinn, Rachel, Brittany and Santana).
Other common variations are Fuckurt (Finn, Kurt and Puck) and Seklaine (Sebastian, Kurt and Blaine).
In Strangetown, Here We Come, the main trio eventually end up like this with Ripp and Johnny both going out with Ophelia, and before the fic died it was implied that Johnny and Ripp might start going out as well - Ripp was canonically interested, and Johnny at least had a whole lot of Ho Yay on his side.
Hands: The Love Triangle between Andrew, Twilight, and Fluttershy eventually evolves into this, as the girls are willing to share Andrew if it means not fighting over him anymore.
In the first chapter of the Doctor Who fanfic "Come And Knock On Our Door" by Maribor (the title is an homage to Three's Company), Amy attempts to seduce the Doctor. When he protests that she's married, she answers, "We talked. He's on board." The story, along with the sequel "Man About the House" explore the Doctor, Amy and Rory in a polyamorous relationship and impending parenthood (the Doctor is able to help Amy conceive despite her inability to have children, as mentioned in "Asylum of the Daleks").
Maribor's "Epistolary", which follows Amy and Rory's lives after they were stranded in the past after "The Angels Take Manhattan", also implies an 11/Amy/Rory relationship existed in flashback scenes.
Bandits has both the main characters falling for their hostage turned ally. When she is pressed to chose she deliberately chooses "not to chose," and is last seen happily with both of them in Mexico.
Les Chansons d'Amour: Julie and Ismaël resolve Ismaël's attraction to his coworker Alice by forming a ménage à trois which doesn't survive the first act: when Julie dies, Alice and Ismaël go their separate ways.
Jules et Jim focuses on a three-way pairing, with an eye to determining whether it can possibly last. In and of itself, polyamory is deemed acceptable, but "pioneers must be humble and unselfish," and jealousy results in a murder-suicide.
Another one from Woody Allen. When Melodie's disapproving mother Marietta shows up in Whatever Works,she goes on to date two men that agree to share her.
A woman and two men try this in Paint Your Wagon. It sort of works for a while; one of the men eventually departs, not so much because of the triangle, but that the area's becoming too civilized for his taste.
In the film adaptation of the Scott Pilgrim comics, Wallace Wells, Scott's gay roomate sleeps with Stacey Pilgrim's boyfriend Jimmy and another nameless guy later on. His boyfriend, 'Other Scott' does not seem to mind as at one point they're all seen sleeping in the same bed together, as well as Scott.
Robert A. Heinlein's works feature this heavily, especially as he got farther into his career, which gives it strong overtones of Author Appeal, even though he never commented on whether or not he and his wife Virginia were exclusive. Most of the works in question advance the concept that a truly free individual should not be restricted by cultural taboos in choosing whom or how many to love.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress features protypical matriarchal group marriages - that is, the woman is the dominant partner and has full discretion as to whom or how many men she marries.
Stranger in a Strange Land has Mike, a human with Martian values, form an entire quasi-cult around the notion of Free Love. Said novel was widely influential in the counterculture of the American 1960s and arguably predicted it.
Friday starts with the titular protagonist in a group marriage in New Zealand, although they divorce her after she exposes their racist hypocrisy. She later joins a much healthier group marriage.
Time Enough For Love and all subsequent novels in his "Future History" series feature Lazarus Long's increasingly extended family, designed as a group marriage in which individuals are free to come and go as they please but all are mutually responsible for the maintenance of the household and care of the children. The only restriction on who sleeps with whom is genetic compatibility, and not even then if there is no risk of pregnancy.
In The Number Of The Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, the protagonists of those novels all eventually fall into Lazarus' polyamory through various circumstances including Time Travel and dimension hopping.
Most of the main cast of Diane Duane's Door Into... series. Including the dragon. And the FIRE ELEMENTAL.
Gail Dayton's One Rose Trilogy takes place in a realm where group marriage is the norm.
In Realm of the Elderlings, Fool told Fitz that he had two fathers and one mother, which was quite common in his land.
Polyamory (in the sense of a priestess having both a human consort and a vampyre mate) has been suggested as a solution to Zoey's Unwanted Harem in The House of Night.
The main character Rand al'Thor from the Wheel of Time series, falls in love with three women, who in turn all fall in love with him. Leads to a fair bit of angst until the women decide to share, and put it to Rand as a fait accompli. Slightly averted, as one of the women grew up in a culture where this is common unheard of; however, her culture does accept the (still rare) arrangement whereby a man can marry two women who are de facto married to each other as well.
The hero of With a Single Spell by Lawrence Watt-Evans falls in love and gets married during his quest to win a princess. The king is still insistent about reducing the headcount at his castle, and his wife is very practical.
Lizzie ends up with both Beardsley twins in the Outlander series.
Some of Octavia Butler's novels involve people ending up in this sort of situation, usually because of Bizarre Alien Biology — which the humans may struggle against before finally giving in. In the series Liliths Brood a family may involve a human male, a human female, an Oankali male, an Oankali female, and an ooloi. In Fledgling, each vampire keeps a small collection of humans as a family (and a food source).
In Wen Spencer's A Brother's Price, a plague has left the world seriously gender-skewed, with 5-10 girls born for every boy. The solution for this is for boys to marry all sisters in a family. The hero, of course, goes on on to marry all of the princesses of the realm.
In Isabel Allende's Eva Luna, male lead Rolf Carlé gets into a relationship like this with two girls that not only are both his lovers, but his cousins as well. It lasts some years, until Rolf leaves the "colony" they live in and goes to the city; there's no ultra dramatic break-up, and the cousins are later Happily Married to local males whereas Rolf becomes an Intrepid Reporter and gets involved with Eva, the female lead.
In Honor Harrington, Honor becomes romantically entangled with her former boss, Hamish Alexander, the Earl of White Haven. This is the cause of much personal angst for the both of them, because he is married to and still in love with his quadriplegic wife and they don't want to commit adultery. They also want to avoid the media circus and political maelstrom that would entail. Eventually, Emily figures out that they love each other on her own, before they act on anything, and suggests that Honor marry them both. Problem solved—it's good to be in the future.
More to the point, it's good that Honor has de facto dual citizenship with Grayson, where polygamy is part of the culture.
In the Wicked Lovely series, Leslie, Niall and Irial are all totally cool with their threeway -but not threesome- relationship.
To a lesser extent, Ani and Rae seem fine with sharing Devlin as well.
In The Sharing Knife, polyamory is rare, not surprising given the pre-Industrial setting. However, it's not unheard of among the Lakewalkers. When one of the Otter women realizes her husband is sterile, she is urged to divorce him and take another who can give her children. Out of love for him, she refuses. Instead, she chooses a second husband, and all three of them marry each other. Among the Lakewalkers, marriages are proven by magical wedding bracelets. As each of the threesome has two bracelets proving that they are simultaneously married to two different people, there is nothing anyone else can do. The clan eventually gives up trying to break up the threeway marriage, and the children are considered the offspring of all three parents.
This seems to be pretty common practice in Kushiel's Legacy wherein many people have multiple sexual partners with whom they are in love.
Older Than Print: In the eighth story of the eighth day of Boccaccio's Decameron, "Two men keep with one another: the one lies with the other's wife: the other, being ware thereof, manages with the aid of his wife to have the one locked in a chest, upon which he then lies with the wife of him that is locked therein." At the end, they call it even and, decide, along with their wives, to live so that "each of the ladies had two husbands, and each of the husbands two wives."
In Jennifer Crusie's Crazy For You, the female protagonist's mother is involved with a best friend as well as a husband.
In Sewer, Gas & Electric, the eco-pirate Dufresne is in a polyamorous relationship with an online journalist and her male-model second boyfriend, complete with threesomes. The model is bisexual and has no problem with this, but Dufresne's own lingering insecurities from an Amish upbringing compel him to wrestle his co-husband into submission each time they meet, offsetting his doubts about his own masculinity.
This is the resolution to the love triangle between Eric, Beth, and Korendil in Mercedes Lackey's Urban FantasyA Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. The relationship continues happily throughout the next book, but Eric breaks up with them amicably between books two and three.
In the sci-fi Uplift series, some alien species require more than two individuals all mating together in order to reproduce. Among the species with this variety of Bizarre Alien Biology are the Gubru (require one female, one blue male, and one yellow male) and the Brma (require an alpha female, a beta female, an alpha male, and a beta male). It's also becoming popular among humans, possibly because of our uplift of the by no mean monogamous chimps and dolphins. Robert's mother has four husbands for instance.
In Existence it's briefly mentioned that Hacker has two girlfriends and Gerald is in a group marriage.
Vonda McIntyre seems to like this: In the Starfarers series, there's at least one married triad (who were previously a tetrad, and almost became one again, but in both cases someone died); in Dreamsnake, it's monogamous characters like Arevin who stand out.
The sci-fi novel Forget Yourself features polyamory as a major theme, though it is never mentioned by name.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Aegon the Conqueror was married to both of his sisters; each of them rode one of the three famous Targaryen dragons. It's been suggested to Daenerys that she should have two husbands likewise.
Dr. Phlox of Star Trek: Enterprise comes from a poly civilization. He has three wives, each of whom has three husbands.
Each of them has a different set of husbands who themselves has three wives each. In a way you can say that all the Denobulan are part of one giant marriage group.
There's also indication that three ISN'T the limit, since Feezal, who already had three husbands, attempted to seduce Trip. Phlox felt that Trip should have gone for it, indicating that Denobulans also lack any concerns about marital fidelity.
At least one Star Trek novel has indicated that group marriage is legal on Earth.
On DS9, there's a throwaway reference to a Bolian officer having a wife and a co-husband.
In the Next Generation episode "Data's Day", Data mentions that four-person family units are the norm among Andorians.
Big Love, being based around Fundamentalist Mormon Polygyny is both an example and a counterexample to this trope, especially since it's depicted that women are often wed as young teens, ergo matches are made outside of the realm of informed adult consent. However, the family of the main characters did come together as consenting adults.
Nope. Margene revealed in season 5 that she was only 16 when she married Bill. The age of consent in Utah is 18.
Clarice on Caprica is married to multiple men and women, who are all married to each other. This is implied to be unusual but perfectly legal.
Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 has three wives and a mistress, but it's kind of an aversion since he would gladly toss the polyamory and his three wives out the window, and marry just the mistress he truly loves (his marriages were political ).
Phoebe finds out at the end of the third season of Friends that the mother who raised her isn't her biological mother; when she meets her biomom in Montauk, she tells Phoebe that herself and her parents were "kind of a couple" together.
In an early arc Chandler is in a relationship with a woman who has two other boyfriends, he finally cuts it off when she gains a fourth.
Mac on JAG has to defend a polygamist in "Killer Instinct".
One of the victims of the week in Pushing Daisies has three wives. The heroes are pissed about this—not for any moral reason, but because it makes "My wife killed me" a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be.
In The Tribe, Ram made wives out of sisters Java and Siva, mostly to show off his own power. When he meets Ebony (the third sister) he want to marry her too, to "complete the set", and she seem receptive to this at first. When she falls in love with Jay instead he becomes heartbroken for her betrayal.
"Millionaire Girlfriend" by Jonathan Coulton seems to suggest this, since it will be "my beloved and my millionaire girlfriend and I", until the last verse where it's revealed that he's just working to get power of attorney over all her assets.
Although a different BioWare Game, Jade Empire, allows you to do this if you keep insisting to Dawn Star and Silk Fox that you can't choose just one of them. Humorously enough, you later find out that they're cousins.
There are fan mods that let you have a relationship with more than one Love Interest in Dragon Age: Origins (one of them is actually called Polyamory). If you then marry Alistair to Anora and make him sleep with Morrigan or marry her yourself love polygon gets rather complicated.
One of the (very hard to get) endings in School Days has Sekai and Kotonoha do this to the protagonist Itou Makoto.
Angel Starr references having multiple boyfriends in Ace Attorney, even telling the judge that there's a slot open for him.
In the final route of Duel Savior Destinynote And also the original Justice, though much more blatantly this seems to be the final solution to the romance. Crea takes center stage, though.
The ending of Fans!, Rikk, Alisin and Rumy become a couple triple.
Not the ending: more impressively, this arc has continued with the marriage surviving some storms to the point where thanks to alien medtech Alisin is currently carrying a baby Rumy and Rikk conceived.
Angela of Punch an' Pie believes in polyamory, but isn't successful in practicing it.
Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot from Arthur, King of Time and Space have something like this in the Space Arc, and a reference to the Fans! example above hints to be going there in the Modern Arc as well.
The Heterodyne Castle seems to prefer this as the ultimate solution for the Love Triangle between Agatha, Gil, and Tarvek. Comments by the Castle indicate that this was likely a common practice for previous Heterodynes. The Ho Yay / Foe Yay between Gil and Tarvek doesn't really do much to rule out such a solution. Many real life fans seem to prefer this as well, if comments and fan-fiction are anything to go on.
Family, an Internet television show, features a polyamorous triad (V formation).
Mackenzie in Tales Of MU falls into this situation pretty quickly. As things stand, she is the lover of Ian, Steff, and Amaranth, the former two also being Amaranth's lovers (but not with each other as well).
Metamor City has the Psi Collective members live in families/cells, with (preferably) one male and several females. This is because they believe that a war with the "mundies" (unpowered humans) is inevitable and that they'll need to prepare by breeding as many psychics as possible, but there aren't many powerful males. At the end of Making the Cut they even considered Gender Flipping "surplus" males.
The titular Chakats having a certain saying, "love doesn't divide, it multiplies."
In addition, Foxtaurs are polygynous due to a 3:1 ratio of vixens to todds and todds are "obligated" to make themselves available once every five years.
Caitians (aliens based on lions) are even worse, with an 8:1 ratio.
Stellar Foxtaurs, having been designed with the best traits of Chakats and Foxtaurs, tend to have similar views towards casual sex. Though mating habits vary with some breeds, Polars don't form permanent relationships while Deserts tend towards triads, and Starwalkers mate as a large group but carefully control breeding.
"It’s the way we have been for nearly four years. I’m very fortunate. It takes some extraordinary men to make a situation like that work."
Misha Collins (Castiel) had a threesome relationship with his wife and another woman for some time, as explained in her book. She describes how a night of cosmos with a friend led to them all in bed together, which led to her later realizing that she had fallen in love with her friend, while still remaining in love with her husband, and that both of them loved each other and her. It all worked out in the end.
William Moulton Marston (creator of the lie detector and, as "Charles Moulton", Wonder Woman) lived this with his wife Elizabeth and Olive Byrne...the relationship was so stable that the two women continued it after his death and until Olive's about forty years later.
When two Hydrogens and one Oxygen love each other very very much they form a water molecule, which is responsible for all life on Earth and possibly all life in the universe. At least, as far as science can tell. So life, brought to you by a threesome.
In September 2012, three people were married to each other in Brazil.