What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?
Ethical Non-Monogamy is a class of romantic relationship styles that involves more than 2 people. What makes it ethical is that everybody involved is aware of and has agreed to take part.
There are many different forms of Ethical Non-Monogamy, including (but not limited to):
A lifestyle that allows sexual connections outside of the primary relationship, and tends to stay away from romantic connections.
- Open Relationships:
Each person is allowed to pursue outside relationships, likely with limits on time, or level of emotional/sexual connection.
- Hierarchical Polyamory:
Each person is allowed to pursue other romantic and sexual relationships, where one relationship is the “primary”.
Each couple has different criteria as to what makes a relationship “primary”
- Non-Hierarchical Polyamory:
Each person is allowed to pursue other romantic and sexual relationships, with no designation of “primary” or “secondary” (aka hierarchy).
- Relationship Anarchy:
Each relationship is allowed to develop outside of artificial limitations or expectations.
Ex- child rearing is not exclusively assigned to life partners, sex is not exclusively assigned to romantic partners, etc.
There are many more terms, but these are the basics. Many of these terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, meaning: when defining a particular relationship, it can correctly be categorized under multiple terms.
Ethical Non-Monogamy does not include cheating, where “cheating” means starting a relationship that is against the rules of the existing one, without the other person knowing. Cheating, by definition, does not give an opportunity for prior informed consent, so is not ethical. It’s sometimes referred to as “Unethical Non-Monogamy.”
How can I tell if ethical non-monogamy is right for me?
People practice ethical non-monogamy for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes a partner is unable to have sex because of a medical condition. Sometimes there’s a need that one partner has that the other cannot fulfill. This is particularly applicable with kink, where one partner is kinky and the other is not. Sometimes there is love, partnership, and romance but no sexual attraction any more.
Whatever your reasons for being interested in or curious about ethical non-monogamy, those that tend to be successful tend to be:
- Willing to examine their own behavior and be responsible for their own reactions and emotions;
- Willing to master certain social skills that were never taught in school that are crucial to being successful in non-monogamy. These include: self-awareness, emotional maturity, communication, and negotiation;
- Willing to confront your own discomfort;
- Drawn towards self-development, spirituality, or other type of actualization.
How can I learn more about Ethical Non-Monogamy?
The easiest way to learn more about ethical non-monogamy is by reading up on it. There are some books that are pretty standard reading for anyone curious or interested:
The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (for understanding the perspectives and practices of polyamorists)
More than Two, by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux (what you will encounter and how to navigate nonmonogamy)
Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino (the process of opening up an existing relationship)
There are also facebook groups and some online forums you can join where experienced non-monogamists can offer advice or different perspectives. Online Forums are nice because they allow a layer of anonymity while still allowing you to be connected to a greater, sometimes international, community.
Some search terms you can try: polyamory, nonmonogamy, open relationship.
I’m not going to directly recommend certain ones since everybody has their own preferences for what kind of group they’re looking for. But trust me, there’s plenty out there if you just start searching.
How can I try this out responsibly?
The key here is consent and agreement. If you’re exploring or practicing non-monogamy, disclose it as soon as possible. For some people, this means during the first date. For me, it means prior to the first date. It starts to tread into the realm of UNethical non-monogamy if you’re telling them after several dates, and it’s definitely unethical if you’re telling them after you’ve already had sex with them.
Again, what makes all of this ethical is the prior informed consent of everyone involved.
There is definitely more to be said about non-monogamy, but this is a great starting point! From here, pick up a book or two, join an online forum, find polyamorous meetups and events, chat with some polyamorous people.
Then, once you’re ready to start your exploration, I’m here to help.