• Dee Morgan

What Does the Infinity Heart Signify?

Black image with a whilte inifnity heart in the centre. Above it reads 'does the infinity heart symbolize polyamory & non-monogamy?' Pink arrows off the inifity heart lead to a variety of words, including 'forever love', 'love is infinite', 'never-ending love', 'love is boundless', 'infinite loves' and 'love is eternal.' The @polyamproud logo is at the bottom right.

If you’ve been part of or adjacent to the polyamorous/consensually non-monogamous community for a while, chances are that you’re familiar with the Infinity Heart symbol. Some folks have it permanently marked on their skin or wear the symbol on jewellery, and a number of the previous polyamory flags have it as a significant part of their imagery.

But where did it come from? And it is actually a symbol for polyamory?

One of our great PolyamProud volunteers, Cassie Webb, said recently: “I keep seeing posts in polyamorous groups saying ‘The secret’s out; this jeweller has heart infinity pendants’. Polyam people think we're the only ones using the symbol and Christian / monogamous people think they're the only ones using the symbol.”

As you can see in the infographic below, both the heart symbol and the infinity symbol have quite the heritage: the heart was originally a stylised depiction of a leaf, and not associated with love until the 13th century. The infinity symbol grew out of another mathematical symbol known as the lemniscate, and eventually grew to represent not only mathematical infinity but also philosophical eternity.

Text reads: "The case against the infinity heart. There's no reason you can't use it, but it may not work on the flag for polyamory. A little historical context: The heart symbol and infinity symbol have existed for centuries. What we recognise today as the heart symbol was, originally, simply the depiction of a leaf. It wouldn't be associated with the concept of love until the 13th century at the earliest. Before the infinity symbol was the infinity symbol, it was the lemniscate - a geometric figure-eight first produced by ancient Greek mathemeticians, and mathematical infinity was a nascent concept. It wasn't until the 17th century that English mathemetician John Wallis first introduced the horisonally-oriented figure-eight symbol to represent the concept of infinity. Over time, the infinity symbol came to represent both the mathematical notion of infinity and the philosophical and theological concept of eternity - the boundlessness of existence. Today, the infinity symbol is a popular representation of everlasting, monogamous love, as well as one of the predominant symbols of the neurodivergence and autism spectrum awareness movements. The Infinity Heart is not only ours. (quote) 'The design is popular with folk who are most definitely monogamous too. They see it as a means of showing affection for one other person only. A declaration of fidelity and of love that will last an eternity.' - Jude Tresswell, polyamorous novellist." Further quotes: @loopybowl "...the infinity symbol is overused, and a lot of monog couples already use the [infinity heart] symbol to represent everlasting love." @the_unliving_room: "As a tattoo artist I cannot STAND [these symbols]. They are way too played out and are definitely not unique to the community." u/the_sir_z: "It's completely ambiguous and no one who sees it thinks of poly[amory] unless they already knew about it. It's meaningless as a public symbol."

And then there’s the combination of the two images. If you do an image search for ‘infinity heart’ you get an enormous variety of images, many of them tattoos, wall hangings, or jewellery. Search for ‘“infinity heart” polyamory’, on the other hand, and you get quite a different subset (one that can appear to be quite a bit more colourful!).

Heading says 'the conundrum'. On the left of the image is an infinitty heart symbol, with brackets off to a heart and an infinity to it's right. Brackets off the heart lead to the words 'romantic love' and 'all/other forms of love'. Brackets from the infinity lead to the words 'a limitless quantity', eternity, forever' and 'boundlessness'.

A red heart outline with a blue infinity symbol horizonally across the centre. The infinity symbol has a small open portion at the top right edge

As it turns out, the infinity heart both is and isn’t a polyamorous symbol. In the mid-1990s Brian Crabtree put together a blue infinity sign with a red heart shape to make the classic image shown here, and placed it into the public domain. It, along with other variations on the infinity heart, slowly increased in popularity within polyam/CNM circles, and over the next decade or so it became familiar enough that it replaced the ‘poly parrot’ (which had originally been used on the alt.polyamory Usenet group).

Given those of us who identify as polyamorous / CNM know this as a symbol about us, it can get rather confusing - in both directions - when someone uses it with an entirely different intent and meaning. There are examples of being used in mother/daughter tattoos; to signify monogamous marriage; for friendship; and symbolise eternal love and commitment. The infinity symbol itself is often related to spiritual meanings, so some interpretations of the infinity heart also look at eternal commitment to another entity, rather than another human being.

So, will the new polyamory pride flag have the infinity heart symbol on it? It’s possible - after all, that’s up to the people who design our potential flags, the selection committee who whittle down the options, and to all of you who vote. But however the final design looks, we encourage you to please keep using the polyam symbols that you love!

Just remember that outside of polyamorous circles? They might be misinterpreted.