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  • Writer's pictureLyvia Hughes

What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

Registered Provisional Psychologist and Sex Therapist Lyvia Hughes walks us through ethical non-monogamy and the various relationship dynamics it includes.





You have probably heard the terms ENM or non-monogamous relationships. It seems to have taken over the dating world with dating apps such as Tinder including it as an optional

relationship dynamic. But what exactly IS ENM?


ENM - or ethical non-monogamy, is used interchangeably with CNM - consensual non-

monogamy. It is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of different relationship

dynamics, some with subtle nuances. Ethical non-monogamy is the act of partaking in non-

traditional relationship dynamic, with the full knowledge and consent of all parties.


While ENM may be used as a term to encompass many different relationship dynamics, it is

important to note the difference between the dynamics, and the subtle nuances that make them different.


Polyamory - this is a relationship dynamic where members will have multiple and simultaneous romantic/sexual relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all parties. This can look like a married couple having separate relationships outside of the marriage. These other members may interact with their “metas” (their partner’s partner) known as Kitchen Table Poly, or they may chose to avoid contact with their metas. This is known as Parallel Poly. In the middle is Garden Party Poly, where members of the polycule will interact only during special events, such as birthdays, grad parties etc.


Open Relationship/Marriage- this is a common form of ethical non-monogamy and is often

confused with polyamory. Within open relationships, members will partake in a sexual

relationship with another individual, outside of the marriage/primary relationship. This may be an ongoing connection, or a short-term connection. The difference here is that the romantic/emotional aspect of the relationship is often ignored or avoided.


Swinging/Progressive Swinging - Swinging is defined as sexual relationships with another

couple. This is different from an open relationship, as the couple will swing with another

individual, or couple, with the boundary being that both members of a couple are to be present during this time. Progressive Swinging is a newer term that is closely related to polyamory. Progressive swingers look to have an emotional relationship, but not a romantic relationship with whom they engage.


As the differences can be subtle, it is not uncommon to find some overlap in certain

relationships. Progressive swinging can easily border on polyamory. To avoid confusion, and

prevent the crossing of boundaries, it is imperative that:


1. The individuals within the relationship(s) know what they want to get out of the relationship, and

2. That those expectations, boundaries, and desires are clearly communicated to all parties within the relationship.

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