Can you really have your cake and eat it too?
A guy I dated once broke up with me because, quote: “I’m not the marrying type.” At the time I was gutted, mostly because that was so confusing for me. One second you liked me, the next you think I’m supposed to be a Stepford wife? What the fuck? Although I have always found it better to work within a structure, I’ve also always been a bit of a rule-breaker.
Perhaps he picked up on this aspect of my personality in some way, because being extremely confined has never been quite my style. It still hurt, because I was essentially told that I wasn’t worth the time or effort into whatever traditional role he was trying to fit me into. But that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to be married someday. Yes there are structures for marriage, but from my experience, if you know where the boundaries are on the playing field, you know when it’s okay to break the rules, just a little.
That’s essentially how I feel about monogamy. It serves a purpose, provides structure, and adds security and safety in a relationship. But does that leave room for fresh, fun, or novel experiences? Not always.
is becoming increasingly popular in today’s society. According to Jessica Fern, a psychologist and author of Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy, as of September 2020, about 4% of Americans, nearly 16 million people, are “practising a non-monogamous style of relationship” while a 2016 study said that over 21% of Americans have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at “some point in their lifetime.”
Ethical non-monogamy is not polygamy.
Polygamy is the practice of having multiple spouses, usually based on religious beliefs. Polygamy has its basis in patriarchal family structures in which the husband has power and authority over the wife. Women in polygamous marriages are generally seen as property, with no value except to bear children and satisfy the husband.
Ethical non-monogamy is not openly cheating on your partner(s).
That’s where the whole “ethical” part comes in. There is no hiding, there are no secrets. In essence, there is no cheating at all. It’s highly structured in such a way that the parties involved are all aware of what is going on, and in some cases, also participating as well. It’s relationship 2.0 — an evolved form of partnership, that places autonomy, openness, and honesty on the forefront.
is a form of relationship where two or more people have a romantic relationship with each other, but are also allowed to have other partners. It is seen as an alternative to traditional monogamy, and can be a great way to explore and express your sexuality. Navigating these types of relationships can definitely be tricky, and it’s not easy to juggle multiple relationships. But I have compiled a few things to consider about ethical non-monogamy if you are thinking about getting involved in this type of relationship with a partner:
1. Understand the Rules.
It’s important to set some ground rules in an ethically non-monogamous relationship. This includes things like communication, safety, and respect. Everyone involved should be clear on what is and what isn’t acceptable in the relationship. This will help ensure everyone’s needs and boundaries are respected, as well as honors the partnership or relationship.
2. Be Honest and Open.
Honesty and openness are key when it comes to ethical non-monogamy. Everyone involved should feel comfortable talking about their feelings, desires, and needs. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and can make sure their needs are being met. This level of honesty can actually strengthen a relationship and encourage more open communication.
3. Be Respectful.
Respect is essential in any relationship, but especially in ethical non-monogamy. Everyone involved should be treated with respect and their feelings should be taken into consideration. It’s also important to respect the other partners in the relationship and make sure everyone is comfortable with whatever situations arise. If things start souring, it is a clear sign someone’s boundaries have been crossed or issues need to be addressed.
4. Be Prepared for Jealousy.
Jealousy is a perfectly normal emotion and can be a challenge to deal with in any relationship. In ethical non-monogamy, jealousy is something that certainly comes up. But its presence isn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. Jealousy can actually be a tool to understanding yourself and the reasons you compare yourself to others. Whoever it is you are comparing yourself, perhaps has some things that you don’t, but they are in fact not you, and addressing the reasons you feel inadequate are important in maintaining a relationship.
5. Take it Slow.
It’s important to take things slow and not rush into anything. Ethical non-monogamy can be a great way to explore and express yourself, but it’s important to make little steps rather than jumping right into it. This is especially true if you’ve never explored non-monogamy before, or if the relationship is already in troubled waters. Don’t rock the boat and explore, slowly.
I know that we all have been spoon-fed this fairy tale that there is one person for everyone, and that’s a nice thought to have, but it doesn’t always work. Divorce rates have risen and it seems like everyone is going through a breakup. That could be because we may still be holding onto this old concept of what a relationship should be instead of embracing what it is. We are placing too much pressure on one person, and when they don’t live up to that, we say goodbye.
Ethical non-monogamy isn’t for everyone. There are many people who need the structure and security of a traditional relationship, and that is perfectly fine too. But for the rest of us, who perhaps have difficulty being confined, there is another type of relationship that we can perhaps thrive in. One that allows us to evolve out of an outdated concept and start embracing our own rad, autonomous selves, and to cherish our partners for what they bring to our lives, and to embrace them with radical honesty and openness. If we do that, then maybe we can be embraced the same way also.
Useful articles about non-monogamy:
- “Dealing with Jealousy in Non-Monogamous Relationships,” Rosie Kay, Medium.com — https://medium.com/polyamory-today/dealing-with-jealousy-in-non-monogamous-relationships-2623667f8a52
- “5 Ways Non-Monogamy Can Strengthen A Relationship,” Kristen Sollee, Bustle.com — https://www.bustle.com/articles/100091-5-ways-non-monogamy-can-strengthen-a-relationship-if-youre-looking-to-explore-something-new
- “Rethinking Monogamy Today,” Ian Kerner, CNN — https://www.cnn.com/2017/04/12/health/monogamy-sex-kerner/index.html
- Kavanagh, Jess (September 19, 2020). “Building bridges: How polyamory made me a better friend, lover and person”. Irish Times. Archived from the original on October 3, 2020.
- Haupert, M.L.; Gesselman, Amanda N.; Moors, Amy C.; Fisher, Helen E. & Garcia, Justin R. (June 20, 2016). “Prevalence of Experiences With Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships: Findings From Two National Samples of Single Americans”. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. 43 (4): 424–440. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2016.1178675. PMID 27096488. S2CID 6855648.