Non-monogamy is an umbrella term for every practice or philosophy of intimate relationships that does not strictly adhere to the standards of monogamy. Non-monogamous relationships come in different varieties including polygamy, polyandry, open relationships, swinging, polyamory, polyfidelity, monogamish, and more. Non-monogamous relationships work for people who are not able to meet the strict standards set by monogamy. Ethical non-monogamy describes the practice in which people by mutual agreement agree to step outside of their primary relationship for sex or romance. Here are the common myths about non-monogamous relationships.
Myth: It’s unethical
Non-monogamy when all parties are in agreement and follow the agreed-upon ground rules is referred to as ethical non-monogamy (ENM). There’s nothing unethical if you’re honest and adhering to the boundaries and guidelines you’ve agreed on.
Myth: It’s cheating
Cheating is generally done in secret and goes against the boundaries agreed upon in the relationship. With non-monogamy, there are no secret lies and affairs, everything is open and honest with permission and guidelines regarding stepping out. This isn’t to say the can be no infidelity in non-monogamous arrangements, just that it’s not inherently cheating.
Myth: Means you’re unhappy
Desiring a non-monogamous arrangement doesn’t mean you’re unhappy with your partner. There’s a growing view that monogamous relationships put exceeding pressure on one person to meet all your needs. For people who choose non-monogamy, it seems unrealistic to expect this from one person. It makes more sense for them to explore connecting with other people even as they enjoy their primary relationship.
Myth: Inherently damaging
When outside partners are discussed and agreed upon and open communication is a priority for all involved, the chances of damaging the relationship drop. The challenge with non-monogamous arrangements rests primarily in communication and transparency.
Myth: Higher risk for contracting STD/STIs
According to one study, people in monogamous relationships are just as likely to get an STI as ethically non-monogamous people.
Myth: Less functional than monogamous relationships
The way relationships are framed in popular media has an ownership element to it. Jealousy is framed as an indicator of true love which it certainly isn’t. This is the root cause of jealousy, propelled by the underlying fear of abandonment. Non-monogamous relationships are not less functional, the partners may just need to navigate more uncomfortable feelings than many monogamous couples. They have to face jealousy, and fear of abandonment, deal with conflict better and be more vulnerable in their communication. It also requires more self-awareness of their needs.
Myth: No commitment
There’s a prevailing belief that people in non-monogamous relationships are not committed to each other or worse, are people who are just commitment-phobes. Non-monogamous relationships show that there are different ways to structure intimate relationships.
Myth: It’s just for the queer
Non-monogamy is often assumed to be specific to the LGBTQ+ community which it isn’t. To quote Neil Patrick Harris, “It’s not just for gays anymore.”
Myth: Orgies all the time
Don’t believe the hype, it’s not all orgies all the time. And no, you don’t have to have a high sex drive to be non-monogamous.
Myth: Your partners mean less than your primary partner
The easiest way to respond to this is with a question. If you have two close friends, does your relationship with one make the relationship with the other inherently meaningful? Hopefully not. What makes a relationship special is not exclusive access to someone’s genitals. Human beings have an infinite amount of love to give if they want.
Managing multiple relationships is complicated and requires a lot of vulnerability, honesty, and boundary-setting. It may not be for everyone but it’s a valid path for those interested in that.
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