Can An Ethical Non-Monogamous Relationship Actually Be Healthy?

There's been some buzz around the topic of ethical non-monogamous relationships lately with shows like Wander Lust presenting interesting positions for traditionally monogamous couples and those currently 'dating' to ponder. So what exactly is an ethical non-monogamous relationship and can it be healthy? According to PsychCentral, ethical non-monogamous relationships are relationships involving more than two individuals, where all parties involved are aware of the other members, and everything is consensual. Where monogamous relationships require that the primary couple only intimately engage with one another, ethically non-monogamous relationships open the doors for other sexual (and sometimes romantic) partners to enter.

A key note is that the term "ethically non-monogamous" refers to an array of relationship types that fall outside the traditional monogamous relationship (via PsychCentral). Not to be confused with infidelity, which is where specified or set relationship boundaries are broken by one or both partners, ethical non-monogamy focuses on the idea of consent between the dating or romantic partners. In fact, even in ethically non-monogamous relationships, infidelity can be an issue, according to BetterHelp. Open relationships, casual dating, polyamorous relationships, quads, triads (or throuples), swingers, and swappers are a few types of relationships that can fall under ethical non-monogamy (via PsychCentral). The individual relationships between those involved vary depending on the type of relationship boundaries established.

How do ethically non-monogamous relationships work?

While you may be scratching your head at the idea, the decision between monogamy and ethical non-monogamy is one that has been practiced in human society throughout the decades (via Brides). The question of whether or not to seek out an ethically non-monogamous relationship can be a challenging one. In fact, BetterHelp explains that often while monogamous relationships are seen as normal by societal standards, polyamorous relationships are often more taboo. So what are some key reasons that people engage in ethical non-monogamy? 

BetterHelp explains that for some people, these relationships can offer freedoms that monogamous relationships may not. One or both partners may be interested in exploring their sexuality in a safe way or choosing to reject traditional monogamous relationships due to the association with possession and control issues that are often present. Others may find themselves attracted to multiple people or in love with multiple people and simply wish to craft a life that allows them the fullest expression of that love. 

To be or not to be...ethically non-monogamous?

So now that you know a bit more about ethically non-monogamous relationships, you may be wondering if these types of relationships can actually be healthy for you and the others involved. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, when compared with individuals in traditional monogamous relationships, those in ethically non-monogamous (or consensual non-monogamous) relationships report similar levels of sexual and romantic satisfaction to their counterparts.

Psychology Today also suggests that while traditional monogamous relationships can provide unique benefits, ethical non-monogamous relationships, particularly polyamorous relationships, may offer individuals the opportunity to have their needs met by multiple persons, rather than one individual expected to meet every need. 

Determining if an ethically non-monogamous relationship is right for you is a highly personal decision. If you're currently in a relationship, consider having an open and honest conversation about your desires, needs, and wants within the boundaries of your relationship, according to WebMD. Being attracted to the idea of ethical non-monogamy isn't something to be ashamed of. A traditional monogamous relationship may or may not be the type of relationship for you. And the good news is, traditional monogamy isn't the only option. The key is determining what type of relationship provides you with love, support, encouragement, and the partner(s) that help you to live your best life!