Polyfidelity is a form of polyamorous group marriage wherein all members consider each other to be primary partners and agree to be sexual only with other members of this group. This term originated within the Kerista Village commune in San Francisco which practiced polyfidelity from 1971–1991. Kerista also expected all members of a polyfaithful group to be sexual with all other members (within bounds of their sexual orientations), but this aspect of polyfidelity is not always expected today.
Polyfaithful relationships are closed in the sense of closed and open marriages, in that partners agree not to be sexual outside the current members of the group. New members may generally be added to the group only by unanimous consensus of the existing members, or the group may not accept new members.
Previous to the Kerista Village experience, people would have likely called this arrangement "complex marriage" or simply a "group marriage". Indeed, one might think of polyfidelity as being very much like monogamy except that it may include more than two people (and may or may not be open to adding new members). The broader term polyamory was coined later, in the early 1990s.
One commonly cited advantage of this form of polyamory is the ability to fluid bond among more than two people while maintaining relative safety regarding STDs, so long as any new members are sufficiently tested before fluid bonding with the group, and keep their commitments. This would have health advantages similar to monogamy, although risks rise somewhat with each person added. (Many polyamorists achieve similar goals through forming condom commitment or latex barrier circles whose members are fluid bonded only with each other and agree to use appropriate safer sex practices with anybody else, without the other restrictions of polyfidelity).
Others seek emotional safety from the relatively closed nature of the polyfaithful commitment.
Some polyamorists desire more flexibility than polyfidelity provides. For example open relationships do not restrict sexual and emotional bonding in these ways. Some polyamorists also report that it is difficult to find partners who are mutually compatible enough to form committed group marriages like polyfidelity.
In the book Lesbian Polyfidelity author Celeste West uses "polyfidelity" in much the same way that others use polyamory. This may represent independent coinage of the same term within a different community, and this usage is not common among polyamorists in general. West uses the term to emphasize the concept (common in polyamory) that one can be faithful to one's commitments without those commitments including sexual exclusivity.
- Fluid bonding
- Free love
- Polyamory 101 - definitions
- Responsible Non-monogamy: A Brief Introduction to Polyamory - definitions
- Kerista Website by and for former members of Kerista commune