With more and more people interested in ethical non-monogamy and ENM relationships, are monogamous relationships a thing of the past?
For many people, pairing up one on one in a monogamous relationship makes sense. But historically and in contemporary society, there are many who feel that polyamory or polygamy, or other expressions of non-monogamy make sense.
As taboos against other cultures and personal sexual freedoms break down, and women’s and same-sex rights and sexual liberation become important (or acts of resistance), ethical non-monogamy is a growing movement and lifestyle. ENM relationships resist both monogamy as well as unequal or dishonest non-monogamy.
What Is An ENM Relationship?
Ethical non-monogamy and ENM relationships are any relationships that are not monogamous, when those ENM relationships are based on trust, honesty, and consent.
Non-monogamy lifestyles reject the idea that monogamous sex or love is the only right and natural sexuality. They reject the idea that you can only love one partner at a time, and they reject the idea that you should only have sex with one person at a time.
However, as the title “ethical” expresses, ethical non-monogamy proponents expect like-minded lovers to follow guidelines of general ethics- that is, to conduct their relationships in ways that are loving, caring, equity-minded, honest, trustworthy, and consensual.
Non-monogamy is not an excuse to lie, cheat, or shirk consent and boundaries. Ethical non-monogamy is a lifestyle that is both non-monogamous and ethical, just the way it sounds.
10 Types of ENM Relationships
There are many ENM Relationship types and styles.
People may lean strongly to one or more ethical non-monogamous relationship styles, or pursue a specific ENM relationship. Others may find themselves in a type of ethical non-monogamy because of the beliefs or lifestyle of someone they happen to be dating. They may choose to explore different ENM relationships to find what works best for them personally.
1. Casual Relationships (FWB)
The friends-with-benefits relationship is when you’re friendly with someone you have casual sex with. Both partners want sex, but they don’t want strings or commitment. They may have various other friends with benefits, or they may have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.
Swinging is an ENM relationship where partners choose to take other partners, together, as lovers. One couple “swings” with another couple. This is sometimes called “wife swapping” but that hints at non-ethical, non-equal statuses. Not always, of course, because many relationships have a dominant partner consensually who calls the shots, and this arrangement could be called “husband swapping” when the couples are female-led relationships.
However, the somewhat old fashioned name “swinging” is making a comeback because it is sounds like what it is, and it’s hot. Most often, swinging is a sexual relationship or a friends-with-benefits relationship with another couple or couples, rather than a relationship or polycule between two or more couples.
3. Open Relationships
An open relationship is an ethical non-monogamous relationship that has an open-door policy. One or both partners is free to seek out extra sexual relationships. Who steps out and what the boundaries or rules of the arrangement are is determined consensually.
While most often, in an open ENM relationship, both parties are free to find other lovers, there are all kinds of variations. If it is a one-sided open relationship, it may be by mutual agreement because of one sex drive is higher, because of a kink the other chooses not to fulfill, or many other reasons. If both lovers are free to pursue other lovers, they do not necessarily have other lovers at the same time or all the time.
Polyamory means “love of many,” and polyamory is an ethical non-monogamy lifestyle that has a variety of different ENM relationship styles.
Polyamory may have a primary partnership and be “open” to numerous other lovers, but it often involves non-hierarchical relationships, throuples (three lovers), or polycules (relationships between many lovers at once.)
5. Solo Polyamory or Independent Polyamory
Independent or solo polyamory refers to someone who has many relationships and lovers in polyamory, but who is not committed to any of those people in particular. Their primary partner, you could say, is themselves.
Polygamy refers to having multiple spouses. Usually, it is when a man has multiple wives, but his wives only have the one husband. This is a very common arrangement in different cultures due to wartime, patriarchy, religion, communal childcare culture, and more.
Polygyny is the technical name for males with many wives, and polyandry for a woman with many husbands.
Read: Polygamy vs. Polyamory
7. Relationship Anarchy
A radical form of ethical non-monogamy is relationship anarchy. This is an extreme revisioning of both polyamory and monogamy, and a philosophical belief in constructing relationships, both sexual and platonic or familial, the way you want them rather than based on society’s models.
Hotwifing is a red hot ENM relationship. Both partners’ consent to the woman taking on numerous lovers or studs called “bulls.” The stag, her husband, doesn’t require more as she is more than enough for him, and he takes sexual excitement from her extracurricular affairs.
The idea behind hotwifing is different from cuckolding because it’s not about the man’s humiliation—he may even be dominant and is seldom submissive—it’s about his wife being so damn hot that he relishes sharing her and indulging her needs.
9. Cuckolding Relationship
In cuckolding, the male’s humiliation is consensual. As with hotwifing, the wife seeks out extra sex, but he thrills in the humiliation that she is stepping out, because he is not man enough to satisfy her.
10. Threesomes and Group Sex
Lots of ENM relationships are sexual, of course, and so it figures naturally that sex is not limited to two people or two people at a time. There are lots of threesomes and group sex in non-monogamous lifestyles.
Are you in an ENM relationship? How would you describe your ENM dynamic?