Traditional relationships are not for everybody. Not everyone wants to be with one person for the rest of their life, get married, or even have a committed relationship in any way, shape, or form. It sounds a little weird, right? I mean, it certainly makes your ears perk up.
You start thinking about ego, jealousy, an unhealthy perception of ownership, and you say, “If I were to work on all of those issues and truly make them a non-factor in my relationships, what would I really want out of dating?”
The answer may be the same! Perhaps you’ll still want monogamy, marriage, and whatever else is the widely accepted norm. Or perhaps you find out that you, like many others, wish to live in a way that grants you more freedom to explore and more room to like, love, and lust after other people.
If the more “non-traditional” route sounds like you, then maybe, my friend, you need to try something called non-monogamy. Now, non-monogamy comes in many different forms, but today we’ll be exploring 4 types: hierarchical relationships, polyamory, monogamish, and casual dating.
Before we start, let’s get clear on what ethical non-monogamy is:
In short, ethical non-monogamy is similar to healthy monogamy in a sense that it means that everyone needs to respect the boundaries that both they and their partner(s) but in place.
Yes, you can still cheat in a polyamorous relationship. Yes, you can still betray and deceive your partner(s) in all relationship structures. Non-monogamy is not some excuse to do what you want and simply disregard everyone’s feelings but your own. Hence the emphasis on ethical.
So what exactly are the qualities that make non-monogamous relationships ethical? Well, that’s easy. They are:
- Consent. Everyone knows that the relationship is non-monogamous and are all on the same page about the boundaries in place.
- Honesty and respect. Relationships aren’t built off of dishonesty or coercion. This includes infidelity and being dishonest about what it is you truly want as a way of controlling your partner(s). This also means not gaslighting or discouraging your partner if they decide to change their mind about what they want.
- Understanding. Relationships are a same across the board. There will still be arguments, jealousy, and yes, there can still be a violation of boundaries. Always seek to not only make yourself understood, but to clearly understand your partner(s).
If you thought you could use non-monogamy to get away with being a jerk, I am so sorry to inform you that’s not the case. Not only is this not your chance to be a jerk and date around with little discretion or concern for other people’s feelings, people certainly can’t do that to you, either.
Now that we’re clear on what ethical non-monogamy is and how to engage in it in a way that erects healthy boundaries and is empathetic, let’s take a really quick look at the 4 types of non-monogamous relationships to explore.
A relationship where there is a set of primary partners and set of secondary partners. Typically, the primary partners prioritize each other. They may live together, make major life decisions together, and even get married—just like a monogamous couple.
The key difference here is that both of them have a secondary partner, which is someone who may be equally cared for and respected, but does not hold the same priority as the primary partner. So you may like or love these people, but you likely won’t commit to or establish a life with them in the same way you would with your primary partner.
Polyamory is just an approach to relationships wherein people have multiple romantic relationships. The key word here is romantic. Many people are under the impression that polyamory just means engaging in sexual activity with multiple people outside of your established relationship. And while that is possible, that’s not necessarily the definition of polyamory.
In polyamorous relationships, you and/or are your partner will be building emotional, romantic, and sexual connections to other people. After all, the basic definition of polyamory is “a form of ethical non-monogamy that involves committed relationships between two or more people.”
How you choose to go about that is completely up to you. This may look like you and your partner dating a third person or even you committing to someone else and your partner being totally OK with it. There are basics to polyamory that make it what it is, but it’s certainly not a “one size fits all” approach.
This is exactly what it sounds like—a relationship that is mostly monogamous but it has an element that isn’t traditionally considered monogamous. For example, people who are OK with both them and their partners occasionally having sex with people would fall under this umbrella.
Situational swingers or couples who would like to try a threesome one day may also be considered monogamish. It’s important to note that the foundation of this relationship is still very much monogamy, so if you’re interested in this romantic structure, be prepared for their to be similar boundaries and ground rules as any other traditional partnerships.
If committed relationships aren’t your thing, either for the moment or forever, you can always just not do it. It sounds overly-simplistic but that’s literally what casual dating is—having sexual and/or casual romantic relationships with multiple people.
The one catch here is that, to make casual dating completely ethical, everyone must know that you’re dating and being sexual active with multiple people. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to spill all the dirty details of your dating life, but it does mean you have to at least let them know they’re not the only ones.
While this might sound like the low maintenance option, it actually requires a lot of maturity because you will be having some uncomfortable talks more often than you’re used to while dating.
Open and honest communication while casual dating is necessary because it prevents mismatch expectations, unnecessary talks about commitment, and most importantly, keeps everyone in the loop and away from feeling misled and betrayed.