ENM is an abbreviation for ethical non-monogamy or ethically non-monogamous. This umbrella term encompasses a wide range of non-traditional relationship structures in which people have multiple romantic partners. Learn more about what distinguishes these types of consensual non-monogamy to determine if they are appropriate for you and your partner or partners.
What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM)?
Ethical non-monogamy refers to any relationship dynamic in which partners agree to pursue s*xual and romantic relationships with multiple people.
While monogamous people only have one serious relationship at a time, non-monogamous or polyamorous people see no reason to limit their options in this way. They also do so with the knowledge and consent of any current partners. These kinds of arrangements have become more common in recent years.
The primary goal of ethically non-monogamous relationships is to form a strong sexual or emotional connection with multiple people. This can manifest in a variety of different relationship dynamics.
People may share partners at times, but they may also keep their various relationships separate at other times. Some people prefer casual s*x, while others hope to form a lasting throuple, quadruple, or polycule.
Is Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM) Cheating?
It's a common misconception that ethical non-monogamy equates to cheating. Those in these kinds of relationships are put off by the comparison. After all, cheating necessitates a breach of trust, which breeds jealousy and a sense of betrayal. All romantic and s*xual partners in all forms of ethical non-monogamy are aware of one another and are eager to pursue multiple relationships or engage in s*xual encounters together.
5 Types of Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM)
Intimate relationships can take a variety of forms. If you're thinking about starting your own partnership, here are a few non-monogamous relationship styles to consider:
1. Monogamish: Some people prefer to be mostly monogamous with the option of having occasional extramarital affairs. In such a situation, both people remain loyal to their primary partner and must obtain consent if they wish to engage in a night of casual s*x or dating outside of the relationship. Monogamous people may temporarily bring others into their mutual relationship (as in the case of a threesome).
2. Open relationships: Consider an open relationship if you and your partner are content with your romantic relationship but want to spice up your s*x life. While some of these arrangements emphasize emotional connections, many prioritize s*xual experimentation with like-minded partners outside of the primary relationship.
3. Polyamory: While this umbrella term can refer to all ethically non-monogamous relationships, it also refers to a specific type of relationship in which all partners have a s*xual and emotional relationship with one another. To avoid confusion, some call this arrangement polyfidelity. Keep in mind that polygamy and polyamory are not the same thing. The former denotes having multiple spouses, whereas the latter denotes having multiple relationships.
4. Relationship anarchy: Consider relationship anarchy if you're less interested in a polysecure approach. This arrangement, perhaps the most open of all open relationships, completely disregards the concept of secondary or primary relationships. People who take this approach believe that labels are unnecessary when it comes to love and s*x.
5. Swinging: Some otherwise monogamous couples engage in swinging, or swapping s*xual partners on a regular basis. When it comes to sharing partners, swingers are more relaxed than their polyamorous counterparts. They see it as a recreational activity rather than an extramarital relationship.
Tips to Practice Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM)
Ethical non-monogamy necessitates a high level of self-awareness, integrity, and openness. Follow these guidelines to ensure the success of your ethical non-monogamous relationship:
Be truthful. In ENM relationships, open communication and honesty are essential. Make sure your current partner is on board before you begin experimenting with new relationship models. If you find yourself withholding information from or lying to your partner or partners, you've crossed the line into unethical behavior. Everyone must always be on the same page.
Check in with each other. Exploring new relationship dynamics can elicit a range of emotions in people. Regular check-ins allow you to better understand how everyone is feeling. The goal is to have fun forming new romantic and s*xual relationships with new people. When you keep each other updated on a regular basis, you ensure that everyone is satisfied with the current situation.
Inform yourself. Before you use a dating app to find new partners, do some research. Listen to podcasts or read articles about what makes a non-monogamous relationship ethical. Consult a s*x educator or therapist to make sure you're putting your best foot forward.
Keep things fluid. Sometimes ethically non-monogamous relationships reveal insecurities that you or your partner or partners were unaware of. It's okay if you thought you were ready for a certain type of relationship and then realized it wasn't for you. Make everyone's emotional and mental health a priority, including your own, and be prepared to shift gears if necessary.
Keep yourself safe. Maintain your s*xual health and wellness in any type of relationship, whether monogamous or non-monogamous. Use protection, especially with new partners, to avoid the spread of STIs, unwanted pregnancies, and other negative outcomes.