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ENM Relationships: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Sunny has experience exploring swinging and ENM with her partner.

What Does ENM Mean? Why Do People Do It? Is It Really "Ethical"?

Keep in mind that when I speak of ethical non-monogamy (ENM) and the relationship models within it, it usually means consensual and safe relationships. The term ethical suggests that all the partners and players involved in various forms of relationships consented to it, and boundaries are observed. The things I mention do not involve forcing or attempting to convert a partner into something they do not want to do.

Now, What Does Ethical Non-Monogamy Mean?

Ethical non-monogamy really speaks for itself. It is a broad term that brushes over relationship models that appear complete opposites of monogamy. I don't care much for the term because those relationships have their own umbrella term that doesn't seem to dismiss monogamy as a potential relationship model. The best umbrella terminology to go by is open relationships, in my opinion.

The best definition to date is from Wikipedia (of course!):

“Nonmonogamy is a blanket term covering several different types of interpersonal relationships in which some or all participants have multiple marital, sexual, and/or romantic partners. This can be contrasted with its opposite, monogamy, and yet may arise from the same psychology.”

Open relationships involve the various polyamorous relationships and swinger relationships. Swinging is by far the most known emerging lifestyle. This lifestyle is known to be a recreational activity that married couples take part in. That means their relationship or marriage is open to extramarital sexual experiences.

However, the partners are still monogamous in that they don't partake in extra romantic/non-platonic relationships. They are the primary and the only couple, thus monogamous. Often, the rule they undertake is that the couples are the primary sexual partners and life partners; therefore, the outside sex is sex only and no romance.

This varies from couple to couple. There are people who enjoy friendships with people they become sexually involved with usually comes with the term friends with benefits. Then there are those who prefer to keep it casual and leave emotions out of it.

My experience in swinging has been that there are always boundaries you must keep because you have your own comfort zone when it comes to going outside of the relationship. I enjoyed this lifestyle because I had the opportunity to explore my bisexuality with my partner, which is something for another article.

What Is Polyamory?

At the very basic and simplest that I can put it, polyamory means multiple loves. The most obvious and well-known fact is that the term polyamory is actually a mixture of Greek and Latin. "Poly" is Greek for many or several. "Amor" is Latin for love. This is actually quite the opposite of monogamy and is as ethically non-monogamous as you can get.

Essentially, polyamorous folks are those who believe in the concept that love is infinite, even if time and resources are not. They do deal with jealousy and communication issues from time to time. They deal with that by keeping the mindset of being loving at all times. Not only that, they often practice exactly what they preach; open communication, boundaries, trust, and honesty.

As I mentioned before, there are various kinds of polyamorous relationships. The main thing is that it is more than two partners. This can potentially become five or more partners, but many people like to keep things simple.

The most frequent configuration is a triad or a vee. This means three partners. A triad means all three of the partners are romantically involved with each other. A vee means one partner is romantically involved with two other partners, while the two other partners are simply friends or two people sharing one partner.

Why Do People Do [Polyamory, Swinging, etc.]?

Well, why do people 'do monogamy'? I believe that open relationships and non-monogamy as a whole are valid options as they do not infringe on the rights to have other types of relationships (i.e., monogamy).

There are various reasons. Some do polyamory because they feel that they are capable of loving more than one because they are hardwired this way. Some feel that swinging adds spice to their relationship. Some just want to explore all the options, consensually and safely as possible.

How Can Non-Monogamy Be Ethical?

Let me pose this question: How can any relationship, monogamous or not, be ethical? What makes it a question of ethics? I suppose it is ethical when the people involved are not hurting others. It can be a question of what makes any relationship safe and consensual, as well. Every single relationship learns their own boundaries and their compatibilities.

Being ethical also goes into the great parts of what keeps relationships going. Consider the following things that apply to any relationship possible:

  • Consent
  • Chemistry
  • Compassion
  • Positive communication
  • Openness
  • Reliance
  • Respect (the most important one!)

I Want More Information

There are also many articles and books available with a great amount of information. There are some great writers out there who advocate open sexuality and relationships. I would suggest checking those out.

Resources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.