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What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

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

Keep in mind, when I speak of ethical non-monogamy 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.

Okay, we all know about swinging. Get on with the polyamory thing.

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 literally 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 become potentially 5 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 these following things that apply to any relationship possible: Consent, chemistry, compassion, positive communication, openness, reliance, and most importantly, respect.

I want more information.

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


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.


David Ober on April 14, 2019:

Llily. Intolerant. Probably religious. You know, some kind of religion that has in it’s tenants compassion, inclussion, love. Except for these kinds of people. And those. As a polyamorous person I would argue I love deeper with my partners and more truly than you with your self-righteousness and judgement. We don’t judge you for you monogamy. Although I peronally think it’s silly and leads to much of the married world’s misery. Let people love how they want to love.

LLily on November 23, 2018:

Fyi people...wake up. There is absolutely nothing "ethical" about non-monogamy. Grow up can't have your cake and eat it too. If you're miserable in a marriage get divorced bc no matter how complicated it is it's better to have some Integrity than NONE. Or If you know you're a cheating liar then don't get married in the first place. YOU PEOPLE are the reason relationships and marriages have become so very disposable in this Society. Grow up. Wake up.

Kitty on August 31, 2018:

Polymory.. just foolish.

TK on August 10, 2018:

I think people need to understand. If this type of relationship is not for you. It's not for you. You cannot force it. Both parties need to be comfortable with whatever the rules/ situation is. If one or more are not you are asking for trouble. We are in the swinging lifestyle for many years. We both have a set of rules before we leave the house. Also a set of rules when we meet a single or couple. If their idea of a fun night is outside our comfort zone (as a couple) we say no thank you. Have never met pushy or ride people except those that are in the lifestyle for the wrong reasons. It is not a ticket to cheat on your spouse. My partner approves of those we hook up with together and I approve as well. We do not hook up separately. Many do, but personnaly that is not for us. If you are looking at exploring you have to be able to be open and discuss likes, dislikes, boundaries, etc. You can have a little of fun if you are both in it for the right reasons.

Durga Foss on August 09, 2018:

My husband claims to be polyamous. I am not poly. But I’m open minded if he was treating me like gutter trash. He didn’t tell me he is in capable of being with only one woman, before we were married. But when he stoppes spending time with me, and has another woman becomes distant and obviously doesn’t care because he thinks the new woman should be happy. He also brought her to my house I made all of us dinner, then we watched a movie. (They said they were only friends) when I found out they’ve been sleeping with each other the entire time. This woman had convinced me she was my friend, called me sister, and called me on the phone with problems regarding her boyfriend ... I counseled her and tried to raise her self esteem... I had no idea she was talking about my husband. We had a 4 hour conversation over the phone one night. My husband was constantly gaslighting me, is mentally hurting me on purpose. Is this what being poly is? It hurts that and my heart is breaking. Because now he’s taking her on romantic weekend getaways to the hot springs, the place we used to go, movies, dinner etc. But he’s neglecting me and it makes me cry myself to sleep every night. So can anyone answer me, is this normal?

walden_lake on February 22, 2018:

Is ethical non-monogamy really all that ethical when there is a discernible lack of dating parity between partners? This is a question that is not well examined on sites designed to introduce people to the concept. From my conversations with people one-on-one, as well as listening to podcasts of people's experiences, it seems that women have an easier time finding partners than men do in this particular lifestyle. Given this disparity, I think that discussions of ethics should be more nuanced, especially when there is a lack of compersion (happiness for your partner's sexual freedom) as a result of this imbalance.

ArticleDon on July 28, 2016:

Do you know how many negative racial stereotypes have been projected onto non-white males over "ethical non-monogamy" since the 80s?

"Hook-ups" in which both parties knew better than to try to obligate the other to pursue anything more than consensual casual sex were "ghetto" until white people began trying to rationalize THEIR participation in similar relationship schemes? Only after demonizing other racial groups first?

Read More From Pairedlife

Come on. Amazing.

gepeTooRs on April 02, 2016:

With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of unique content IÕve either created myself or outsourced

smithnadine2007 from Billings, MT on March 20, 2012:

So helpful as always...I'm finding :)

kerrygirl2010 on May 17, 2011:

so nice to discover this topic, when I fist searched I could not find any and thought it was an underworld society! Surely our world has many voices, opinions etc and people should be free to experience what they desire (hopefully once they don't hurt anyone!) Why is "society" so slow to support this when so many open minds exist?! :-)

Justsilvie on November 15, 2010:

"Being ethical also goes into the great parts of what keeps relationships going. Consider these following things that apply to any relationship possible: Consent, chemistry, compassion, positive communication, openness, reliance, and most importantly, respect."


Interesting Hub. I do think if you have two people whose relationship met the mentioned criteria the threat of other people entering their circle would be greatly diminished because it would be a mutual decision with set rules. But I don’t think the majority of people in our western culture can handle this type of thinking because we are brought up with the ideals of monogamy and projections of romantic love.

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on October 20, 2010:

We went to one (Sunny Rest in PA) that had a more adult attitude. You could get thrown out - that happened to a really funny couple we had met there - but you had to be really outrageous. But others we visited were really nasty - so much so that it made us uncomfortable even though we were not there for that. We believe in live and let live.

We've met some very obnoxious and annoying swingers - the kind that won't give up - but have generally liked most and appreciated their honesty more than the hypocrisy of those who hated them.

Sunny Robinson (author) from Tennessee on October 20, 2010:

I was bracing myself for negative comments since I first wrote this hub! If it got really bad, sure, I would delete some so it wouldn't damage the spirit of mutual, open-minded conversation. But nothing like that has even come up. I'm just as surprised as you are. ;)

I understand, Pcunix. It's really in the intentions and attitude of people involved. It's understandable if they kindly were just to say that they wanted to minimize sexuality on their resort so that nudity would be perceived as something utterly comfortable for families and not some horrid, sexual guilty pleasure for adults. On the other hand, if they were really acting very discriminating about another group (naturists vs swingers), then it is super disappointing.

My opinion on that is very basic. I believe that sexuality and nudity doesn't have to be interchangeable. And that (most) swingers are very good about keeping things in the spirit of positivity and mutual respect. So, it would be relatively easy to keep from going out of control in a clothing optional resort. But that doesn't really stop most resorts from being very, very cautious.

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on October 19, 2010:

I am really surprised there were not more negative comments - unless you deleted them?

My wife and I had a summer place at a clothing optional resort for years. Of course there were some swingers there, but they had to keep it very quiet - you could get thrown out for even inquiring about possible interest.

I found that odd and disappointing. Here was a group (the naturists) looked down on by most of society, yet they discriminated against another group also disdained by the Dulls. It seemed wrong to me. I understood the argument that allowing open sexuality could damage the resort, but the anger often went much farther than just that would warrant.

Sunny Robinson (author) from Tennessee on October 18, 2010:

Tatjana, I honestly think polyamory works the same or as well as monogamy. It's all in how you want to do things, in who and how many you fall in love with. Personally, I prefer monogamy and it feels really right for me to be in love with just one. It doesn't mean that it's right for everyone else to be that way. It's me, not them.

Nathan, jealousy is a sticky subject to combat. Actually, don't combat it at all. Resolve to understand what is causing that feeling, dig for underlying issues, and more often than not, jealousy has a message for you.

Well, Google does put ads in most of my hubs. If the hub is titled with any 'sexual' terms (like a few of my other hubs are), it is flagged as against the rules for promotion. However, it's not against Hubpages, it just won't have ads, and I don't make money off of it.

Which is totally fine. :) I have other hubs that work well for me.

Thank you!

nathanaelig from Burlingame, CA on October 18, 2010:

Hmmm... I find your talk of polyamory very well done. I used to be in one relationship like this, but it got too complicated by jealousy. I wonder how you combat this.

I'm also amazed to hear about Google not putting ads in your other hubs. That's crazy!

Can't wait to go read them now!

Tatjana-Mihaela from Zadar, CROATIA on October 17, 2010:

Just to add - there were another times, when my decisions were different then now. Poliamory happens more often then people are ready to admit.

People are rarely really monogamous (real monogamy = one partner for whole life), but because of lack of time and energy, and complications that might occur while having more partners then one at the same time, majority simply change partners. But this is not real monogamy, whatever we try to think about it.

Honestly saying, if I could live in different, healthier society, that would not judge, suffer from jealousy, prejudices, guilt or play games of dominance e.t.c. who knows what would my choice(s) be now.

I wish you a lot of luck.

Sunny Robinson (author) from Tennessee on October 16, 2010:

Tatjana, I totally understand needing a lot of time on your own. I'm that way. I'm also much more comfortable giving my attention to one at a time. I love all the time I can get with one guy.

Your decision is *your* decision. And it seems you're perfectly happy with that! So, that rocks, and I commend you for knowing yourself well enough to know what you want.

Thank you for reading. :)

Tatjana-Mihaela from Zadar, CROATIA on October 16, 2010:

Tecnically, I don`t have TIME and ENERGY for poliamory. Every loving relationship requires very many of both, and I need a lot of time on my own in addition. So monogamous relationship is wise decision for me (sigh).

Thank you for interesting topics of your Hubs.

Sunny Robinson (author) from Tennessee on September 17, 2010:

The Ethical Slut is actually a popular book and is quite positive. ;P

Nope, I've not had to revise this. However, my two other hubs, one on bisexuality and one on "Musings on Sex and Love", both have ads disabled because of the titles. Anything to do with 'sex' at all, it is flagged or disabled. I've left them as is because changing the title seems wrong anyway. So, Hubpages is okay with those articles, Google isn't. I don't mind having a few hubs that won't pull in income.

ralwus on September 15, 2010:

I had to revisit this. I laugh now at the response and the ad up there, The Ethical Slut. Have you had to revise this for the google bot any?

kcp on December 12, 2009:

I found this piece of writing rather interesting. I stumbled onto hub today and have been taking the time to wander around the various writings.

My husband and I are polyamorous, so of course, I was drawn to the ethical non-monogamy part of this site! lol

This piece is a good example of advice for those interested in learning more about polyamory.

R. Blue from Right here on June 13, 2009:

Ahhhh....I see the usual suspects here...CC...Raiderfan and first here....Badcompany......any hint of sexuality and these sharks can smell the blood from miles. Me????? uhhh.....I hit this accidentally.....I was looking for the church schedule for Sunday's service.....but as long as I'm here anyway.....I did read a few lines. Great job with a fun subject.....I could never write about such sexual topics. Where do I sign up????

raiderfan from Arizona on June 11, 2009:

I wish my wife would let me bang some of her friends. Hell Yeah!

ralwus on June 09, 2009:

@Benji LOL. He may be young to understand such things, hehe and too 'in love' at this point in time. One's relationship ages and in danger of going sour and exploration may be what svaes it all. For some that may be the cse, but my Wee One would never do such a thing and I just don't think I would either. Good read dear Sunny, interesting lifestyles. I had a good friend who was a Swinger, he and his wife. A heavy equipment operator and a School bus driver. What a pair they were.

Benji Mester from San Diego, California on June 08, 2009:

That's very interesting.  I'll have to ponder it some more.  Thanks for answering the question so thoroughly. And yes, it was helpful :)

Sunny Robinson (author) from Tennessee on June 08, 2009:

Good question. ;)

if that is your main aspiration, then yes, that can get lost if you have multiple partners. If you want her to be the only one, then multiple partners isn't for you. However, different people meets different needs; much like friendships. You could make her feel as special as possible by respecting her enough to evolve in relationship where it may go and share things together, if she wants that.

You and the love of your life have that choice. Relationship evolves with or without multiple partners. Having more than one isn't inherently important; it's an option and a possibility. I don't think loving your partner gets lost in any of that and the romance doesn't really become overrated.

In regards to old-fashioned romance, I'm more about simply being with the one I love than I am about romantic ideals.

I hope this helps. :)

Benji Mester from San Diego, California on June 08, 2009:

For my own part, I'm just an old-fashioned romantic. I didn't even know there were terms for things like these, haha :) As a romantic, I have to pose a question. Once I fall in love with a girl, it's my aspiration to do everything in my power to make her feel as special as possible, that she's the only one in the world for me. Doesn't that sort of thing get lost when people have multiple partners?

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