Why I Like To Practice Ethical Non-Monogamy


If you’ve been browsing Bumble or Tinder lately, you might have noticed “ENM” in some bios. ENM, or “ethical non-monogamy,” is the practice of having multiple relationships in which all parties are aware of what’s going on — so no, it’s not cheating. Although it’s called “polyamory” in some circles (having intimate relationships with more than one person at the same time) and often confused with “polygamy” (being married to multiple partners), the term “poly” may sound tainted to some, evoking the drama of the TV show “Sister Wives” and the disempowerment of women. My partners and I prefer to use the term “ethical non-monogamy” because it truly embodies who we are: mutual respect, intimacy, and exploring multiple partnerships.

I currently have a husband and a girlfriend. My husband and I began exploring this lifestyle during our long-distance relationship before we got married. Frequently driving 6,000 miles between our homes in Hawaii and Florida wasn’t feasible, but we knew we wanted to be together for the long haul. Although we had a rich relationship via FaceTime and over the phone, we both longed for an in-person connection. I also identify as bisexual and have found myself yearning for a deeper female connection. We decided to open up our relationship – something neither of us had thought of as a possibility before.

At first, we didn’t ask about dating or the physical intimacy we had with other people outside of our relationship. But after a few dates, we realized that sharing what we were doing and how we were feeling actually helped dispel jealousy and brought us even closer together. Sure, my heart ached when he went on dates, and I sometimes felt guilty meeting a potential partner at first, but as we worked together to create our own definition of a relationship , I saw us getting closer. I have never trusted anyone more. When I finally moved to join him in Florida a year and a half later, we expanded by choosing to meet each other’s partners early in their relationship. We have found that this has built trust and understanding between us and has also made our partners feel more comfortable. No one had to worry about deception or bad intentions; everything was up front. We didn’t have to be friends, but a few of his former partners are now my closest friends.

My husband is considered my main partner – we chose to live together and get married, make financial decisions together and raise a dog. (We’ve decided not to have children, although we’ve heard of successful ENM relationships that choose to co-parent.) Our partners, though traditionally referred to as “secondary,” are anything but. They are part of both of our lives. My ex-boyfriend was originally my husband’s best friend, and these days we’re spending time with my current girlfriend, together and apart. We have a weekly trivia team, go to dinner parties and go out together. We shared friends and carved space in each other’s circles, developing unique and estranged friendships with meme-filled text message chains. We take care of each other. It has become a community.

When some people first hear that I’m in an open relationship, they’re quick to joke, “I could never do that!” I would be too jealous”; “So you’re not really in a ‘real’ relationship or committed”; or “You’re just doing this so you can have sex with multiple people.” I understand that the ENM lifestyle is not for everyone, but having a husband and a girlfriend (and in the past, a boyfriend), has allowed me to continue exploring my fluid sexuality while developing deep and intimate relationships with my partners and developing my abilities out of love. It’s not just about sex. In fact, I’ve had partnerships devoid of physical intimacy. For me, it’s about building deeper relationships and not limiting what they look like and how they grow.

It’s not just about sex. . . . For me, it’s about building deeper relationships and not limiting what they look like and how they grow.

Over the years, our opening has changed. We work together to set boundaries around what we’re comfortable with, like how much time we spend with another person or travel with another partner. Some ENM relationships place boundaries around physical acts outside of the primary relationship. For us, making sure we both feel valued and fulfilled in our relationship is our first priority. It is also important to ensure that our external partners are also comfortable and that their needs are met. We understand that these limits may change; they are always ready to chat if needed. There are times when we have taken a step back from our external partnerships to focus on developing our own relationship – especially as newlyweds – and there are times when we have had to end a external relationship because it was no longer healthy for our shared relationships.

Breakups always hurt, even when I know my primary partner is always there for me at home. I’m currently working on the grief that accompanies the loss of a boyfriend because he was someone I enjoyed spending time with, was very close to, and considered one of my best friends. Someone I loved. But like in any relationship, we have to know when to move on when one or both parties are hurting. Because of my openness throughout all of this with my husband and my other partner, having their support and listening ears has helped me heal.

Being in an open relationship allowed me to fully enter into my sexuality, and it brought me deeper connections with my husband and other partners. Even if you don’t like the idea of ​​NPE, the concepts of honesty and communication taught in these circles can be applied to any relationship. We are not looking for a hot body to fill a hole in a relationship. Instead, we expand our vast capacity to love ourselves and our external partners, to continue to learn and grow, and to break the mold of what society claims a marriage “should” be like. We have a solid foundation of trust and clear communication channels. We do not fear infidelity or replacement. With our mutual understanding, safe boundaries, and willingness to truly listen to each other’s needs, I have never felt closer to my husband.


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