In a cultural landscape where relationships are increasingly diverse, polyamory emerges as a notable phenomenon. This relationship style, characterized by multiple partners and consenting dynamics, has drawn considerable attention. However, empirical research in this domain has been scarce. Rhonda Balzarini and her team's recent study delved into the intricate facets of polyamorous relationships, shedding light on the nuanced interplay between nurturance and eroticism within these dynamics.

Defining Polyamory Beyond the Surface

Polyamory, a relationship style gaining attention in research circles, involves multiple partners, often a primary spouse or co-parent, and consenting secondary romantic partners. While it's a subject that has found space in various publications and therapy settings, empirical research on this subject has been notably lacking until more recently.

Exploring Key Aspects: Nurturance and Erotic Dynamics

Rhonda Balzarini and her team at York University conducted one of the initial empirical studies on polyamorous relationships. They aimed to explore and measure specific aspects: nurturance and eroticism.


Emphasizes emotional qualities within relationships—factors like security, emotional attachment, commitment, warmth, and comfort.


Encompasses passionate love, desire, sexual excitement, and pleasure.

Research Findings and Challenges: Overlapping Concepts

The study encompassed over 1,000 polyamorous subjects recruited from social media platforms dedicated to discussing polyamory. Participants reported an average of seven years in their primary relationships, with secondary relationships extending for about two years.

However, the research encountered challenges due to the overlap between nurturance and eroticism. Elements like perceived closeness to each partner and sexual satisfaction were categorized under "eroticism," blurring the distinction between these aspects and hindering precision.

Unveiling Intriguing Patterns: Nurturance vs. Eroticism

The study indicated that polyamorous individuals reported higher levels of nurturance from their primary partners compared to secondary partners. Conversely, they associated their secondary relationships with more intense erotic experiences.

Comparisons with a group of over 2,000 monogamous subjects in conventional relationships spanning an average of 17 years highlighted that individuals in monogamous relationships reported lower levels of eroticism but exhibited higher nurturance over extended periods.

Critical Perspectives: Addressing Limitations

The study's sample selection from social media platforms might introduce biases toward specific demographics, potentially skewing the representation of the entire polyamorous community. Moreover, the comparison of polyamorous relationships averaging seven years with monogamous relationships spanning 17 years raised questions about potential influences on observed differences in nurturance and eroticism between these groups.

Insights and the Call for Deeper Understanding

Despite its limitations, the research illuminated potential insights into the dynamics of polyamorous relationships. It hinted that individuals engaging in polyamory might experience elevated levels of nurturance and eroticism concurrently, facilitated by having multiple partners to fulfill diverse needs.

However, these initial findings underscore the need for more nuanced, comprehensive research on polyamory. Further investigation is essential for a deeper understanding of polyamory's intricacies and its differentiation from conventional monogamous relationships.


Polyamory, as explored in this study, presents intriguing insights into the simultaneous experiences of nurturance and eroticism among individuals engaged in multiple partnerships. While the research unveils compelling aspects of these relationships, it also prompts a deeper call for more comprehensive investigations into the complexities and distinctions between polyamory and traditional monogamous unions.

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Dr. Kathy McMahon

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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