ethical nonmonogamy

What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

ethical open relationship | ethical open marriage | ethical polyamory

When I talk about ethical non-monogamy, I'm talking about relationships who consciously choose to allow space for intimacy between more than just two people. They might identify as swingers, polyamorous, or in open relationships.  

But in all cases, intimacy is shared with more than just one partner.  This could mean sexual, sensual, emotional, or physical intimacy that typically in monogamous relationships is saved for just two partners.  

There are four key elements that make this different than infidelity or cheating- which can sometimes be confused for ethical non-monogamy (I often call those examples unethical non-monogamy).  You can use these elements to help keep yourself in check if you're asking "How do I know if I'm practicing ethically?"

Intentionality

This is what separates solo polyamory from traditional dating, and monogamy from default monogamy.  Intentionality means making a conscious choice about the kind of relationship you want to create and being upfront with all people you want to be intimate with about your intention.  It might sound like this:

"I'm really not looking to commit to an on-going relationship, but I want to sleep with you."

"I want more than one love in my life. I hope we can continue building our love while I connect with other potential loves."

"My partner and I often see other women together and individually.  I hope you're comfortable knowing I am not interested in finding another life-partner, but I really want to spend more time with you."  

Honesty

The examples above also demonstrate the kind of honesty required in ethical open relationships.  Unfortunately, it's not always easy to get clear about what you want, and (just as in monogamous relationships) sometimes what you want changes.  

If you're going to practice ethically it's essential you have a way to get clear about what you want.  This might mean hiring a coach or counselor, joining a polyamory support group, or telling a few close friends who can help you work through the sometimes confusing desires you'll have in non-monogamy.

Lots of folks also benefit from having a meditation or writing practice where they can tune-in to themselves and find clarity so they can chare it honestly with the people they care about.

The bottom line is: you cannot practice ethically if you cannot practice honestly.

Consent

Here's the really big difference between ethical and unethical non-monogamy.  If you're practicing consent (meaning each partner gets to sign on, yes, they want in on this arrangement) then you 've got this ethical thing down.

But the thing about consent is, it can shift at any time.  So to practice consent well you have to have a process to communicate about and circle back checking-in to make sure folks are still on the same page. 

And a lot of times not everyone is on the same page.  I mean in a two-person relationship it can be difficult to find agreement, so the more folks you have the more complex this can become.  It can become especially difficult when one of you wants to "take things slower" than the other.

Boundaries

Finally, ethical non-monogamy means respecting the boundaries of each partner in the dynamic. Here are a few ways I've seen boundaries violated in unethical non-monogamy:

In primary relationships:

  • reading each other's texts without permission
  • online stalking new partners
  • using technology to follow a partner on a date
  • pushing a partner or trying to convert them to something they don't want
  • prying for information when a partner returns from a date

In additional relationships:

  • sharing online profiles with original partners
  • sharing photos with primary partners
  • giving other partners private, identifying, or demographic information without checking in first
  • pressuring a partner to change their agreements with other people

Just be sure you have consent to offer whatever you're sharing.  Agreement and checking-back are key to consent.  

If you want help implementing ethical non-monogamy for the first time give me a call.  That's my favorite topic to chat about!


ethical open relationships | ethical open marriage | ethical polyamory | consensual nonmonogamy

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term relationships
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • change communication & codependent relationship patterns
  • open your relationship & practice ethical polyamory 

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Are We Ready to Open Our Relationship?

ready for open relationship

Over the last ten years I've seen hundreds of couples through deciding when and if and how they want to open their relationships.  I do believe almost anyone is capable of managing an open relationship with a little training- if they want it.

But not every relationship is ready to dive in right away.  Lots of folks have co-created dynamics that need to shift to support a consensually non-monogamous relationship.  Plenty of people need to work on changing perspectives and gaining or fortifying skills before an open relationship will suit them well.  

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to self-check your own readiness for an open relationship.

What kind of time, energy, financial, and physical resources am I willing to share?

Love is limitless, but resources (time, money, and physical energy for starters) are not.  For example, I once had a client who ran two successful businesses, started full-time graduate school, was training for a marathon, and was considering starting a relationship with a third partner.

I'm not saying it's impossible to do all those things at once.  But her energy for all those things was going to be compromised.  And in order to practice ethically its important she is up front with her current and potential partners about just how much (or little) she has to give.

Take stock of your resources and your willingness to divide them even further.  

How do my current partner and I handle and resolve conflict?

You will hit bumps in the road if you decide to open your relationship.  It's inevitable.  There's just so little good information and social support in our society for folks building relationships outside cultural norms, and you're up against a heap of bad relationship advice we often take as truth. 

Those bumps don't mean there's anything wrong with your relationship, but if you have little or no solid practice working through things together (without one of you feeling slighted, or someone avoiding the issues) it's going to be difficult to start when emotions are running high and you're trying something so brand new.

I recommend hiring a professional to give your relationship a little tune-up when it comes to conflict so you're better prepared for the bumps you're going to face when you start seeing more people.

How do I currently manage my emotions?  What happens when I experience severe anxiety, fear, jealousy, or insecurity?  

Even the most even-keeled clients have told me starting to practice non-monogamy brings out the most unpredictable and surprising reactions in them.  That's totally okay.

How you handle those emotional reactions however can have huge implications for your well-being and the long-term success of your relationship.  Feeling intense emotions is no excuse for being unkind or disrespectful.  

Take stock of the skills that help you manage intense reactions with care. Review the self-care practices that help you stay balanced (and bolster them to help anchor you).  Again, hire a professional to talk through these if needed, you won't regret using care when starting out.

Where can I find support for a polyamorous lifestyle?

When starting out in non-monogamy lots of folks feel alone because they perceive the monogamous community around them as pretty unsupportive.  It can be really difficult for people to find supportive polyamorous or open community.  

And going it alone with your partner creates a vacuum for the two of you to incubate unhealthy polyamorous dynamics if you've got any brewing.  You need outside voices to support your learning and growth in this process.

Start looking for folks you can talk with well before you start taking action steps toward non-monogamy. You can find communities online via fetlife and facebook or support groups in your community to talk through your questions and concerns among others who get it.

This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list.  I'm happy to give you a more tailored list of considerations (specific to your situation) just give me a call.


open relationships online counseling

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.