Simply put, consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term for what is more commonly referred to as swinging, polyamory, or other ethically “open” relationships. And while consensual non-monogamy has become a hot topic of national conversation, the practice of a couple staying together but seeking outside physical, romantic and/or emotional coupling is nothing new. What you might not know is that those involved in these relationships take their lifestyle very seriously and due to potential complexities, often are far better at laying out rules and discussing feelings and situations than many monogamous couples. Consensual non-monogamy may be nothing new, but for too many couples, taking a dip in this water brings with it high risk. Consensual non-monogamy: what does it mean, and why should you care?
Why Consensual Non-Monogamy?
Marriage vows are something to be taken very seriously. The same is true of those who have committed to long-term relationships. Consensual non-monogamy may have found its place when couples choose to stay together, but for whatever reason, go outside the marriage or bond to satisfy any number of needs. It could be that a couple chooses to explore sexual satisfaction elsewhere with a member of their own or opposite sex; perhaps a couple wants to include another member or couple into their relationship. Sometimes divorce simply is not in the cards and it just makes sense to keep a marriage amicable but seek outside relationships. No matter the reason, the keyword is “consensual” – no secrets and no affairs. Oftentimes with consensual non-monogamy, a contract or rules of engagement are followed and updated, as the scenario or participants see fit.
Types of Non-Monogamous Relationships
There are many types of non-monogamous relationships and each has its own set of rules, although some do overlap in places.
- Polyamory has been described as the practice of and desire for intimate relationships with more than one partner with the consent of all parties involved. Those who engage in polyamory see the practice as ethical, consensual, and responsible non-monogamy, although that may slowly be changing; in a more modern context, traditional polyamory is evolving into more non-monogamous, multi-partner, non-exclusive sexual or romantic relationships.
- Group marriage is when several people form a single familial unit and each is considered to be married to the others. More specifically, “line families” are group marriages that are continual over time: as older an older member pass away, new younger members are brought in as replacements until all the people who created the union are long gone but the union still stands. Poly families are similar to group marriage except members do not necessarily consider all partners as spouses.
- Polyfidelity is when participants have multiple sexual partners, but all are part of a larger, closed group.
- Polygamy occurs when a spouse has more than one spouse. In many cases, one spouse has no clue his or her spouse has another spouse (or family). If this is the case, it is not considered consensual non-monogamy as no consensus has been reached. However —
- Polygyny is a form of polygamy in which one man can have several wives and all act together in concert as one big married family.
- Polyandry is a result of one wife, having multiple husbands.
- Open relationships or open marriages permit one or both members in a committed relationship to explore sexual activity with other partners. This often has a set of boundaries, although some practitioners have no boundaries. Swinging is similar to open relationships, except that the rituals are conducted as an organized social activity.
Agreement through Consensus
Surprisingly, statistics show that persons involved in serial monogamy scored far lower in trust and higher in jealousy than those in polyamorous. This likely has to do with the open communication necessary to develop agreement through consensus. Do any of these arrangements sound good to you? Not so fast. Before you and your partner jump into a non-monogamous relationship, it is wise to seek guidance from an expert. When done right and with care, non-monogamous relationships can be successful and nurturing. Some may even bring a couple closer together. To be sure it’s right for you, it’s best to meet with a therapeutic professional who specializes in all types of non-traditional arrangements. Located in Montclair, Advanced Psychology Partners’ sex and relationship experts Donna Lobiondo and Eric K. Larsen have years of experience discussing these sometimes awkward subjects are here to help you and your loved one make wise and informed decision. Call them today at (973) 743-2990 or, request a complimentary meet and greet to see if one of these lifestyle changes can benefit your existing relationship.