A Guide to Navigating an Ethical Non-Monogamous Relationship

Open relationships, open marriages, swinging, multi-partner dating, and polyamory are terms we keep hearing about, but admittedly, most of us don’t have a clear idea of how these types of relationships work. 

Although there are differences between the types of non-conventional relationships, all of them can be classified under “ethical non-monogamy” depending on the arrangement between partners. 

According to a poll of more than 1,300 adults in the US, about 32% of them mentioned that their ideal relationship is non-monogamous to some extent. It only proves that non-monogamous relationships are becoming more popular, especially among the youth. 

Today, we’re here to shed some light on what ethical non-monogamy is and how people navigate it. Let’s start with the definition of “ethical non-monogamy”. 

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What is ethical non-monogamy?

In order to know the definition of that word, let’s take a look at monogamy first. Monogamy is defined as the practice of staying with one sexual partner for the duration of that relationship. 

If you engage in sexual relationships with another person while in a relationship, you are no longer monogamous. It becomes ethical non-monogamy when both partners have agreed that each may have sexual relations with other people in a consensual way. 

For a non-monogamous relationship to count as “consensual”, both individuals have to establish rules and guidelines and follow them at all cost. 

What are the types of non-monogamous relationships?

There may be different types of non-monogamous relationships, but all of them require constant communication, just as all conventional relationships do. 

Here are some examples of non-monogamous relationships:

  • Polygamy – it’s a marriage with more than one person
  • Swinging – it’s when two couples exchange partners
  • Open relationship – it’s when at least one person in a relationship is having sexual relations with other people
  • Monogamish – it’s when a couple is mostly monogamous, but has occasional sexual relations with other people. 
  • Polyamory – it’s when a person in an open relationship is having sexual and romantic relations with multiple people
  • Throuple – it’s when there are three people in a relationship
  • Polyfidelity – is a relationship involving more than two people who don’t allow additional partners without the approval of everyone involved
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How to navigate an ethical non-monogamous relationship?

Communication is important

Communication is the key to beginning and maintaining any type of relationship, so non-monogamous relationships are no exception. 

People engaging in ethical non-monogamous relationships should maintain an open and honest communication with their partner(s). If there’s an issue about their feelings and desires that needs to be talked about, all individuals involved must be willing to listen and come up with a solution, if needed. 

Agree on what you and your partner(s) will and won’t do

Before entering a non-monogamous relationship, the people involved will need to establish boundaries that will determine the dynamic of the relationship.

When it comes to ethical non-monogamous relationships, it’s important to set boundaries, and ensure that every individual is committed to following them. Otherwise, issues will surface along the way.

In any type of relationship, partners need to decide if their relationship will be committed, casual, short term, purely sexual, or an amalgamation of these things. Partners have to mutually agree on their connections with other people and the things they can do with them, among other things. 

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Practice safe sex at all times

Being in a sexual relationship with multiple people can put one at risk of contracting different types of sexually transmitted diseases, if they’re not being careful. It only highlights the need to practice safe sex at all times, especially when engaging with various sexual partners. 

People in any type of relationship, not just those participating in non-monogamous practices, are highly advised to always use condoms and get tested regularly for various STDs. 

Some STDs can even be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, according to the specialists at Dermatologists Singapore. These can manifest in the form of anal warts, genital warts, and herpes, among others. 

Feeling jealous is normal

Feeling jealous while engaging in an ethical non-monogamous relationship is completely normal, which is why honesty and communication is needed. There’s nothing wrong with being jealous as it’s a normal human reaction. 

Monogamy is a practice that’s programmed everyone’s brain, so practicing otherwise doesn’t mean the feeling of jealousy will go away completely. One way to deal with this is to communicate with your partner(s) and look into why you’re feeling that way.

Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash

In Conclusion

Ethical non-monogamous relationships may not be as accepted and prevalent as the conventional monogamous relationship. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less worthy of exploration. In fact, more and more people are starting to be open to the idea of non-conventional relationships. 

In a way, ethical non-monogamous relationships work just like a normal relationship between two people: constant communication and honesty are needed for them to thrive. 

Exploring ethical non-monogamous relationships can be a liberating and exciting lifestyle choice, but they can also be hard, stressful, and confusing, just like any other type of relationship. Put work and honesty into them, though, and you’ll be fine. 




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