Consensual (or Ethical) Non-Monogamy is the practice of having more than one romantic and/or sexual partner, where all participants explicitly agree and have knowledge of one another.
*This term represents those who are dating non-exclusively, swingers, polyamorous partnerships, and other ethical open relationships.
If you had to take a wild guess, what percentage of people do you think have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at one time or another? #wildguess #youdbesurprised
The answer is 20-25% of people. A number that surprised the fuck out of me at first, as I was completely naïve as to how common consensual non-monogamy actually is.1
Not too long ago I had some serious opinions and judgements about consensual non-monogamy. #ignorant #whatabitch
I was incredibly uneducated and ignorant on the subject matter. The idea of having multiple sexual and/ or romantic relationships at the same time sounded pretty “out there” to me.
I mean, sometimes I struggle to understand how monogamous couples manage to maintain healthy and happy relationships, so the idea of having successful relationships with multiple people at once seemed pretty fucking challenging.
When it comes down to it, I simply didn’t understand unconventional relationships that functioned differently than from what I had been taught or personally experienced. Also, I was a judgemental little bitch. (That has since changed, I promise!) #imsorry #judgementalbitch #ignorantturnededucated
I’m excited to share with you what I have learned on this topic over the last little while. *I am by no means a pro on the subject matter. I continue to learn and seek out educational opportunities.
It’s no surprise that consensual non-monogamy can be accompanied by some emotional ups and downs. Knowing that your partner is also intimate with other people can definitely be a tough pill to swallow.
The start of these relationships can be a sensitive and rocky time. Especially if it’s your first time in a non-monogamous partnership. #itsahardknocklifeforus #rockyroad (yum, ice cream. Haha!)
One of the main things I have come to realize and appreciate is the incredible amount of open and honest communication and self-love required to maintain a satisfying and healthy consensual non-monogamous relationship. #doyouhavewhatittakes
It’s crucial for couples to discuss their boundaries, to share openly, to set rules/ terms that all participants are comfortable with (ie: always wear a condom, no sexual interactions with each other’s friends, no fucking others in your shared home), and to express - jealousy, sadness, fear, anger, insecurity, and any other emotions that have the potential to turn into resentment and hurt if left unsaid. #honestyisthebestpolypolicy
I have a newfound respect for those in consensual non-monogamous relationships, as I have come to realize the amount of vulnerability, honesty, trust, mutual respect, and effective communication that must be present in order to maintain loving, long-lasting, healthy, and satisfying relationships. #respect
The More the Merrier?
Most people have more than one friend, right?
Why is that? – From my perspective, each friend brings something unique and wonderful to the table, and satisfies a different need that we have.
When I think of it like that, it almost sounds unreasonable to think that one partner could possibly satisfy all of our many needs; emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, etc... #themorethemerrier
This is a mentality that many in the world of consensual non-monogamy resonate with - feeling that every sexual and romantic partner brings with them unique qualities, serves different purposes, and satisfies different needs.
Benefits Enjoyed Exclusively by Consensual Non-Monogamous Relationships
A recent study in the European Psychologist found that many benefits that those in consensual non-monogamous relationships experience, are similar to those experienced by monogamous couples: a desire for love, family and connection, frequent sex, trust and loyalty, commitment and acceptance.
The study also discovered three benefits that appear to be experienced exclusively by those in consensual non-monogamous relationships — They are:2
Diversified needs fulfillment: each partner has their own set of unique needs that they want satisfied — “Primary” partners don’t always have the same set of needs as one another. Having the permission to be with another partner gives one the ability to get needs met that may otherwise go unfulfilled. *This arrangement can also reduce the pressure that primary partners experience in feeling responsible for satisfying all of their partners needs.
Provides you with a variety of new experiences, both sexual and non-sexual — when you are able to spend time with multiple partners, you have the opportunity to participate in a wider range of activities, as each person enjoys different things (ie: from going for coffee down the street, to going backpacking around the world). *This can help prevent your primary relationship from falling into a routine and becoming stale.
Personal autonomy and growth — partners have the freedom to explore various aspects of themselves by participating in different (sexual) activities that can open their minds and encourage growth and development (ie: if one partner identifies as bisexual, consensual non-monogamy can provide them with the freedom to partake in novel romantic and sexual experiences with alternative partners). *The freedom to explore and do what feels right, with limited restrictions, is important in order for self-discovery and growth to take place.
Wrapping it Up: Conclusion
Consensual non-monogamy is still highly stigmatized and misunderstood by many, and is often thought of as being inferior to monogamous relationships.
Well, studies suggest that these non-monogamous relationships are not inherently less satisfying or stable compared to their counterpart. The two types of relationships actually seem to share many benefits, with consensual non-monogamy having three additional bonuses that are unique to it.1
Instead of viewing consensual non-monogamy as controversial and wrong, perhaps we can expand our thinking to see it as an alternative relationship style that allows people to explore, grow, and love without limitations.
There are no right or wrong ways to love and be in partnership. If your relationship works for you and your partner(s), and you are happy and satisfied, keep doing what you’re doing, enjoy what is hopefully wonderful sex, and continue living a meaningful life.
1Engagement In and Benefits of Consensual Non-Monogamy. (2018, July 3). Retrieved from Discovery Society: https://discoversociety.org/2018/07/03/engagement-in-and-benefits-of-consensually-non-monogamous-relationships/.
2The Unique Benefits of a Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationship. (2017). Retrieved from Sex and Psychology By Dr. Justin Lehmiller: https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2017/4/24/the-unique-benefits-of-a-consensually-non-monogamous-relationship?rq=poly