If you think this has to do with a couple that opens up their relationship, then you’re pretty much on the mark. Ethical non-monogamy alludes to a relationship where one or both of the partners are able to engage in romantic and/or sexual activities with people aside from their actual partner. The key here is the ethics involved. There is a lot of transparency in a relationship where anyone is engaging with another person outside of the immediate unit. There has to be genuine consent to any and all activity that either of the partners engage in, without any coercion, gaslighting, or pressure of any kind.
There are a few things to remember when we talk about ENM, the first being that this isn’t a form of cheating. If you are thinking of engaging in ENM and your partner has no idea how you feel or the extent to which you are hoping to go, then that’s cheating. The one core aspect of ENM is that the original ‘couple’, so to speak, has to be completely open about what is or isn’t okay. For instance, if your partner is fine with you having a booty call but draws the line at any kind of emotional connection, then that’s a boundary you’ll have to keep.
What does ethical non-monogamy look like?
If you’re looking to experiment with an ENM relationship, you’ll have to see what model fits you. For instance, some couples opt to become polyamorous, meaning you can either begin a relationship with someone as a couple or become a throuple. Some people also have several partners while their original partner remains solo.
Another model requires opening the relationship, which allows each partner to look outside for someone for themselves. Their original partners are seldom introduced or involved with the person they are seeing outside the relationship. The original partner retains their position as being the “main” partner, however.
Another version of this is to be monogamish, where your actual committed relationship is the only one which takes priority. However, a person can reach out to others for the sole purpose of sexual pleasure.
What ethical non-monogamy gets right
It allows people to freely explore their needs. Some people may have kinks their partners are not comfortable with. Others may be excellent romantic partners but not care for sex. And some may even have trauma that makes connecting physically difficult. There are a whole host of reasons why sexual compatibility can go out the window for two people who are otherwise perfectly matched. In this case, instead of throwing an entire relationship away, some people are now choosing to substitute or supplement others for the things they don’t get from their main partner.
In the same vein, some people can be matched in absolutely all ways except emotionally. It’s possible that your love languages don’t align, or that your partner is aromantic and doesn’t understand some of your needs. Relationships are more than just love and sex; there are a whole bunch of things that bring people together. And ENM can help weed out issues that are not resolvable.
Where ethical non-monogamy can fall short
If you approach ethical non-monogamy as a “fix all” for your relationship, you will fail because it is not a band-aid that will solve your problems. couples mistake lack of intimacy or communication problems for needing to branch out and end up wrecking their relationships instead. The ideal scenario would be to really communicate every single thing on your mind before you take the plunge.
We would even recommend getting some couple’s therapy so that you can avoid a situation that you can’t reverse. Remember that this isn’t just about one couple looking for more people; those people too have feelings, wants, and needs, and they too need to be treated with dignity and respect.
Do regular health checks on your relationship and ask your partner how they are so that you’re on top of any issues that may unexpectedly (or expectedly) pop up. Have a list of expectations that you both have from the situation ready and thoroughly discussed so that there are no surprises.« Back to Glossary Index