13 Things Women Think About During Sex
March 26, 2015
Show all

The Beginner’s Guide to Non-Monogamy

Have you ever thought that traditional marriage wasn’t right for you? Maybe you love someone, and maybe you even want to be with that person for the rest of your life, but not just that person?

Well, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans and people from around the world are starting to embrace the idea of open relationships and many believe it makes relationships happier, stronger, and last longer.

What is an open relationship?

An open relationship is where a couple is committed to one another, yet open about the possibility of having sex with others. Open relationships come in many forms, from a husband and wife that sometimes swing with friends, to polyamorous relationships that can get rather complex: “This is my wife, her boyfriend, my boyfriend, and our girlfriend. Her husband will be joining us later.” While both of these examples feature non-monogamous open relationships, they are very different.

  • Non-monogamous partners have sex with others, but it’s not romantic: “We can have sex with other people as long as it’s just sex. No love.” This couple may have sex with other couples, or single men or women. They may always do it as a couple, or they may do it on their own. Sometimes spouses want to be aware of who the partner is and what’s going on, other times they don’t.
  • The second example is more about feelings, and each partner forms romantic relationships with other people. Often these relationships bridge sexes and conventional relationships. Partners are held equal to each other regards of sex and legal ties. For example, just because he’s your husband and she’s your girlfriend, both relationships are equally significant and both partners equally important.

Here’s a large graph that illustrates the many types of relationships people can have:

Within each of these divisions, there’s so much more and the lines become blurrier. There are couples that swing or have threesomes. Some of these threesomes are just for fun, while some form into relationships. There are some couples that have sex in front of others, but not with others.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common forms of non-monogamy.

  • Swingers: Couples that switch partners with another couple for the sheer purpose of sex.
  • Unicorns: Single females that have sex with couples.
  • Monogamish: These are normally monogamous partners who, at certain times or during certain circumstances, are allowed to engage in some sort of sexual contact with another: “We’re monogamous. Except when he’s on the road.” Sometimes, only certain sexual activities are allowed: “You can have oral sex, but no intercourse.”
  • Polyamorous: Couples that have open, sexual, and emotional relationships outside the primary relationship.
  • Polyfidelity: People in multiple sexual and emotional relationships, but sex is limited to the bounds of those relationships. All members have fidelity with one another.

Here’s another graph to illustrate the different types of relationships:


A Word on Cheating.

Just because someone is non-monogamous does not label them a cheater. Often the relationships, although different from traditional, still have structure and rules that each partner follows. Sometimes, even in open relationships, there’s still cheating. The difference is consent. Partners in open relationship practice consensual non-monogamy. Cheaters practice non-consensual non-monogamy. Huge difference.

What Do You Think?

So what do you think about non-monogamy? Is it the next great move in modern relationships, or a catastrophe waiting to happen?

Have you ever been in one of these non-monogamy paradigms? Did it work?


 Additional image: Flickr



Molly Carter
Molly Carter
Molly is a freelance writer who talks about everything and anything from addiction, to sex. to skinning a deer. You can find her at MollyCarterWriter.com, or Facebook.