The Many Colours of Open Relating
here are numerous different ways of having a relationship beyond monogamy. From swinging to polyamory, many people have been questioning the norms of how a relationship should look like, and exploring what feels right for them. Here are some of the most common forms of open relating:
Ethical non-monogamy is an umbrella term for relationships where all parties involved know about and consent to the possibility of multiple romantic and/or sexual partnerships. The keyword here is ‘ethical’ – open communication and mutual agreement are the pillars of any style of ethical non-monogamy.
This term was popularised by sex columnist Dan Savage to describe relationships that are primarily monogamous but allow for some degree of sexual activity outside the partnership, often under specific circumstances or conditions depending on the couple’s agreements. This could include playing together or separately.
Often considered a sexual hobby of sorts, swinging involves established couples exchanging partners for sexual experiences, typically at organised events or venues. Swinging can be a way for couples to explore their sexual desires while maintaining their primary relationship.
Can also be an umbrella term for non-monogamous relationships. Often used, however, when talking about relationships that are opened sexually, but not emotionally / romantically.
Polyamory involves multiple consensual, loving relationships, sometimes but not necessarily interconnected. Unlike open relationships, which might focus more on sexual openness, polyamory places an emphasis on emotional connection among multiple partners.
Ultimately, there is no right way to do it, and it is common for a relationship to change forms as people better understand what works for them, their boundaries, and desires.
The Pleasures and Growth-Opportunities of Ethical Non-Monogamy
Ethical non-monogamy can serve as a great tool for personal growth. From learning how to set clear boundaries to understanding the nuances of consent and mastering the art of effective communication, there's so much someone can learn from exploring open relating. Plus, of course, the sexual aliveness that comes from exploring new experiences with a partner and the excitement of new connections.
The Roadblocks You Might Meet
Unfortunately, it is not all rainbows and butterflies. Societal norms often stigmatise non-monogamous relationships, and legal frameworks in many places don't recognise anything beyond monogamous unions. Then there are the personal challenges: jealousy, time-management, and potential misunderstandings, especially when boundaries are not clearly set.
Open Communication is Key
Talk, talk, and then talk some more. I can’t highlight enough how important having effective, empathetic, and honest communication is in maintaining multiple relationships successfully. Learning how to communicate clearly and openly, not expecting a partner to read between the lines, is important in any kind of relationship, but especially when exploring open-relating.
Feeling jealous? That's okay; it's a human emotion. The key is to use that feeling as a window into your own insecurities or past wounds, not as a blockade to shut down your relationships. Open discussions with your partner and personal self-reflection can go a long way in making jealousy work for you, not against you. In open relationships, you can learn how to communicate with a partner around what they can do to help you feel secure while keeping self-responsibility for your own emotional wellbeing, learning and developing a scope of tools for self-care and self-resource.
Health and Wellness in Ethical Non-Monogamy
To maintain a healthy lifestyle in this relationship structure, don't overlook self-care and regular health check-ups. Taking care of your physical and sexual wellness by having regular STI screening and sexual health chats with possible partners is crucial. Also, don't forget about your emotional and psychological well-being. Regular check-ins with yourself and your partners can help everyone stay on the same page and feel well.
How to Start Exploring
Curious about exploring non-monogamy? My main advice is to do a lot of research, get clear on your desires, your insecurities, and boundaries. Seek out online forums, read literature, or join support groups. The non-monogamous community is super welcoming, and there's a wealth of information and support available to newbies like yourself. If you have a partner and are considering opening your relationship, I recommend doing your research together, discussing different possible challenges, and coming up with agreements. And remember: a lot can change along the way. You will only understand how you feel in a situation when you actually live it. And it is ok to change your mind.
There isn’t a single recipe for exploring love and pleasure beyond monogamy, and that’s what makes it so special and exciting. If you wish to go into this journey, there will of course be challenges along the way, but I guarantee it to be a path full of opportunities for personal growth, abundant love, and yes, a lot of fun. So if that’s your desire, why not explore and see where the journey takes you?