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Confusion arises when polyamory is misapplied in a broader sense, as an umbrella term for various forms of consensual non-monogamous, multi-partner relationships (including polyamory), or consensual non-exclusive sexual or romantic relationships.In 1999, Zell-Ravenheart was asked by the editor of the OED to provide a definition of the term, and had provided it as The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.La Veyan Satanism is critical of Abrahamic sexual mores, considering them narrow, restrictive and hypocritical.Satanists are pluralists, accepting polyamorists, bisexuals, lesbians, gays, BDSM, transgender people, and asexuals.Areas of difference arise regarding the degree of commitment, such as in the practice of casual sexual activities, and whether it represents a viewpoint or a relational status quo (i.e., whether a person without current partners should be considered "polyamorous").

Some bigamy statutes are broad enough to potentially encompass polyamorous relationships involving cohabitation, even if none of the participants claim marriage to more than one partner.The practice of engaging in closed polyamorous relationships is sometimes called to indicate a hierarchy of different relationships or the place of each relationship in a person's life.Thus, a person may refer to a live-in partner as their primary partner, and a lover whom they only see once a week as their secondary partner, in order to differentiate to the listener who is who.In most countries, it is legal for three or more people to form and share a sexual relationship (subject sometimes to laws against homosexuality or adultery if two of the three are married).About 25% of countries recognize marriages between a man and more than one woman, although with only minor exceptions no developed countries permit marriage among more than two people, nor do the majority of countries give legal protection (e.g., of rights relating to children) to non-married partners.

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