Polyamory is a lifestyle that most people do not understand and most believe is illegal. Polyamory is a lifestyle that involves multipartner relationships and families. These relationships are not illegal because they usually do not consist of more than one, if any, legally recognized relationships. Many people believe those that lead a polyamory lifestyle one of bigamy and unlawful interactions, but it's really a subculture of consenting adults. Simply put, there is nothing unlawful about the polyamory lifestyle.
People who really do not understand it at all often criticize the polyamory lifestyle. Because being a polygamist and bigamy is so closely related in most people's minds, polyamory is looked upon as amoral and unlawful. Polyamory is also known as being a swinger. A couple or an individual who has more than one intimate relationship practices polyamory. While these relationships aren't always sexual, a good percentage of the time sex is involved. What separates a polyamory from a bigamist is the consent or knowledge of all parties that there is more than one intimate relationship being nurtured, and often all parties participate in each relationship, and bigamy is against the law.
Bigamy is another type of relationship altogether. Bigamy is against the law because it involves more than one legally recognized relationship. Basically, a bigamist is a person who is married under the law to more than one person at the same time. Most of the time, the people who are in relationships with a bigamist are not aware that the law is being broken. Bigamy tears apart relationships, trust, and the way the world is viewed when the truth is finally revealed. Bigamy is typically based on broken relationships and an inability by the offending party to end one relationship before starting another one.
A polygamist is sort of the middle ground between polyamory and bigamy. A polygamist is a person who has more than one mate at a time, but not legally recognized relationships. A polygamist often will have one legally recognized relationship and then have a few "secret" relationships that he nurtures with the understanding that all of the relationships are monogamous in nature. Just like the victims of bigamy, the victims of a polygamist are often hurt and betrayed when the truth comes to light.
So, a polyamory lifestyle is the way to go for individuals who want to maintain more than one relationship at a time. It's the honest polygamy, and while many may question its moral implications, at least it is honest. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get to know people and experience things with a group or more than one person, but it's not okay to hurt people in the process. Those who practice polyamory get to experience the same things as the dishonest, but they can still sleep well at night. And, while it may not be for every one, it works for them!
Polyamory will probably be hotly debated and widely misunderstood as long as it's around. But, most people become a little bit more accepting when they realize the differences between all of these words and lifestyles that are easily mixed up by the uneducated.