Although non-monogamy may get a bad rap, ethical non-monogamy centers on happy and fulfilling non-exclusive relationships built on open communication and mutual trust.
While most sexual and romantic relationships are monogamous, some feel that monogamy is not for them. Pursuing sexual and romantic connections with multiple people can be more fulfilling for some people. Ethical non-monogamy is a type of romantic relationship which is not exclusively between two people. It’s specified as ‘ethical’ because it’s all about engaging in non-monogamy in a way that works for everyone involved. Specifically, ethical non-monogamy must be enthusiastically consented to and agreed upon by all parties. Typically, those partaking in non-monogamous relationships will have a set of specific rules and boundaries in order to make it work for them.
Many people, both singles and partners, choose to deviate from conventional monogamous relationships because they want to try something new, they’re struggling in a long-distance relationship, they have a high libido or a high capacity for romantic love with multiple people. Depending on what you’re looking for, non-monogamy may be right for you.
Types of Ethical Non-Monogamy
While all relationships are unique and nuanced in their own ways, there are several general types of ethical non-monogamy. These include swinging, open relationships, and polyamory. Swinging is done between two couples who switch sexual partners in order to have sexual relations with a new person, outside of their partnership. Open relationships are between two people who have consented to romantic and/or sexual relationships with others outside of their relationship. There are many different types of open relationships. Polyamory, also varied, consists of romantic relationships between more than two people. Relationships may be reciprocated amongst an entire group, or there may be several separate partnerships which one person has. Although ethical non-monogamous relationships are diverse, there are a few universal rules which are important to follow.
Pursuing Ethical Non-Monogamy
There is no set system that applies to every relationship, but you can follow these guidelines to establish the rules for your ethically non-monogamous relationship.
- Consent and agreement: Most importantly, non-monogamy is only ethical and sustainable if it’s between people who are equally excited about the prospect. The parameters of the relationship must be clearly and enthusiastically agreed upon. Nobody should be coerced into any type of relationship which they are not comfortable with.
- Boundaries: Set boundaries from the get-go. Talk to your partner(s) about what you are and are not comfortable with. Listen to them and respect the boundaries they set for themselves as well. You will need to address questions such as “Is penetrative sex with strangers okay?” and “Should we use dating apps?” and “Will we be building emotional connections with others?”. Healthy non-monogamous relationships are all about boundaries, so make sure you agree on clear rules for your specific relationship. And, of course, adhere to those boundaries! This will ensure that everybody is comfortable and confident in the relationship.
- Open and honest communication: Just like in any type of relationship, communication is key. This is particularly essential in non-monogamous relationships as there are several parties involved, meaning there’s a higher chance of miscommunications and hurt feelings that come with them. Make sure to be completely honest with everybody involved in your non-monogamous relationship, even when it’s difficult. This includes vocalizing your feelings with your current partner(s) as well as being transparent about your situation with any potential new partners.
- Regular check-ins: Comfort levels and personal boundaries may change over time, so make sure to check in with your partners to ensure that everybody remains on the same page. Maintain a thriving non-monogamous relationship by keeping open lines of communication through regular group meetings and emotional check-ins.
- Discuss long-term relationship goals: Make sure not only to discuss the short-term boundaries and relationship goals, but also what you envision in the long-term. Just like any relationship, it’s important to share any expectations to avoid miscommunications and hurt feelings. For example, what if one person envisions an open relationship lasting for years, but another sees it as a more short-term experiment? Make sure to avoid any false assumptions by discussing the future.
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