What's Ethical Non Monogamy?

By: Michael Arangua

Updated September 09, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Ann-Marie Duncan

Are you and your partner thinking about opening your relationship but unsure where to start? How do you comfortably discuss the proposition of polygamy? This concept has been around for as long as time, but has caught attention in recent years.

What Is Monogamy?

Monogamy is the practice of staying with one romantic/sexual partner for the duration of that relationship. If you begin relations with another person during that time, this is a breach of the relationship's understanding, and you are no longer considered exclusive. This is often considered unethical non monogamy, or ENM. Therefore, ethical non monogamy means having multiple sex partners. To practice ENM safely, both parties must understand the different types of ethical non monogamy relationships. Here are some examples we'll cover in more detail later:

  • Polygamy
  • Open relationships
  • Swinging
  • Monogamish
  • Polyamory
  • Relationship anarchy

What Is Ethical Non Monogamy?

Ethical non monogamy, or having multiple partners, is not for everyone, and that's okay. Most people are in committed relationships with just one person. However, it's estimated that over one-fifth of Americans have engaged in consensual ethical non monogamy relationships (21.9%). Unfortunately, those interested in multiple partners or ethical non monogamy often lack social support and understanding. Since the concept of ethical non monogamy is relatively new, it can be difficult to breach the topic with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. There are also harmful stereotypes about ethical non monogamy, which may intimidate those interested in it. When couples make the consensual decision to embark on the a-traditional journey, it can be challenging. However, the partners that receive help in the beginning stages of ethical non monogamy have a greater chance at success-and you can, too!

Why People Enter Ethical Non Monogamy

Here are some of the more common reasons why people don't commit to just one person, or engage a relationship of ethical non monogamy:

They want to explore their sexuality. To some people, one partner at a time makes them feel like they can't explore their sexuality to the fullest. Ethical non monogamy allows them to explore their sexuality while still being fully emotionally committed to one person.

They love more than one person at a time, and are better suited for ethical non monogamy. Some people are programmed to romantically love two or more people, and feel that they can be their truest self with ethical non monogamy.

Partners believe monogamy is the product of jealous or possessive feelings. ENM involves letting go of these feelings to experience more love.

Some people like having variety in their sex life, and ethical non monogamy allows them to do so without receiving negative consequences.

One partner may not be able to meet all of their needs. In some cases, a partner may not be in a position physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally to have sex. One person may be into BDSM but their partner is not. In this case, ethical non monogamy allows these desires to be fulfilled by a different person.

Defining Ethical Non Monogamy 

When most people think of an ENM relationship, they don't associate it with rules. But to be successful, you and your partner must agree to a contract. This contract will outline what does and does not count as infidelity, and both must be equally on board. In ENM relationships, it's important to follow the contract-if not, resentment may develop. Most people share society's view of polyamory (ethical non monogamy) as unethical, regardless of consent. Yet, many married people are unfaithful. About a quarter of men and about 15 percent of women cheat. However, ENM has an ingredient cheating lacks: open and honest communication.

When someone is cheating, they aren't communicating ethically, and this does not count as ethical non monogamy. They are lying, deceiving, and disrespecting their partner. In reality, there should be open communication. All people involved in ENM reveal as much as they agree to in the contract. For some couples, this might be every detail of who, what, when, and where. Others might not want to know more than a name.

Types

There are many different types of ethical non monogamy relationships, and all require communication and consensual agreement:
 
Open Relationships

Open relationships or ethical non monogamy are when at least one person in a committed relationship is open to sex with other people. Ethical non monogamy requires much communication, which can change over time as the partnership evolves. It's become an umbrella term for any sexual relationship.

In the past few years, Dan Savage has popularized the term "monogamish". Monogamish is when a couple is mostly monogamous but allows the occasional sexual relationship with others. Like other similar ethical non monogamy relationships, there are many rules the participants must follow. These determine things such as the frequency of partners, frequency of meetups, and types of sexual activities. Ultimately, it's up to the couple to decide.
 
Swinging

Put simply, swinging is when couples exchange partners. Swinging can involve partners, clubs, friends, parties, and so on.

Open Relationships: Polyamory (Polyamorous, Open Relationships) 

Polyamory is when someone is in an open relationship with multiple people at once. It can be sexual or romantic, and everyone involved in the polyamory circle stays informed through communication, making it ethical non monogamy. Polyamory is different from polygamy, as marriage is not involved. 

Relationship Anarchy

Relationship anarchists want to end the barrier between sexual and romantic relationships. Our society values sexual relationships over friendships. Relationship anarchy wants to judge the value of relationships on a case-by-case basis, independent of sex. According to relationship anarchists, every relationship is unique and evolves with time. A relationship anarchist may believe in the abundance of love, and that people can have as many relationships as they want.

Polyfidelity

People practicing polyfidelity agree that all members in their relationship are equal. This form of an ethical non monogamy relationship involves people in the relationship exploring sex with each other (and not with others outside of their relationship).

Polygamy
 
We've all heard of polygamy. To be considered a polygamist, you must marry more than one person. Polygamy is mentioned in many religious texts, and some sects still practice it.
Polyandry vs. Polygyny

This form of ethical non monogamy involves a wife having multiple husbands. Whereas polygyny involves a husband having multiple wives.

Ethical Non Monogamy Counselor Reviews

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Conclusion

Engaging a relationship of ethical non monogamy is not only possible, it can be incredibly rewarding. Open, honest communication will guide your way, and online counselors are here to help light the path.


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Monogamy: How Is It Defined?
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