Ethical non-monogamy Relationships(ENM): Definition, Types

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is a type of relationship where all partners consent to have multiple romantic or sexual relationships. It is also known as consensual non-monogamy (CNM).

In Ethical non-monogamy relationships, all actions are ethically conducted, with respect for everyone’s boundaries and feelings. They are not fully monogamous and may involve having multiple sexual or romantic connections with the understanding and consent of all parties involved.


The types include:


This is perhaps the most well-known form of ENM, where individuals have multiple committed romantic and/or sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners.

Polyamorous relationships can exist in various forms such as Triad or Throuple, Quad, Solo Polyamory, and Vee relationships.

Open relationships

In this type of relationship, partners agree to have emotional and/or sexual connections outside the primary relationship, with clearly defined boundaries and expectations. Unlike polyamory, it doesn’t necessarily involve multiple committed partnerships.

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Swinging specifically involves couples engaging in consensual non-monogamous sexual activity with other couples. The focus is primarily on sexual exploration and experimentation, with emotional connections usually not part of the equation.


This is the feeling of joy one has when one partner experiences happiness or pleasure with another partner. It’s often referred to as the opposite of jealousy.

Relationship anarchy

Relationship anarchy is a philosophy of relationships that rejects all predefined roles, rules, and expectations. Relationship anarchists believe that relationships should be created based on the needs and desires of the individuals involved, and they are not bound by traditional relationship structures.


When couples are generally monogamous but have, a healthy understanding of human sexuality. Monogamish couples are usually committed to one another but agree that occasional sex outside of the relationship isn’t the end of the world.

Why do people choose ENM

There are many reasons why people choose it. Here are some of the most common:

For Exploring sexuality

In ENM relationships, people may have different sexualities, and agree that it’s healthy to be authentic with each other.

To Meet other needs

In monogamous relationships, people may expect one partner to fulfill all their needs. ENM allows people to meet these needs that their current relationship doesn’t provide.


People who practice ENM may have a lot of self-awareness and emotional security. They may not let their partner’s choices impact their emotions, and vice versa.

Love more than one person

Some people may feel that they can be their truest selves with ENM and that they may be better suited for a non-monogamous relationship.

Not being forced to stifle sexual identity

In this, people may agree that it’s healthy to be their most authentic self.

To Strengthen communication and trust

ENM often requires open and honest communication about desires, boundaries, and feelings. This can lead to deeper trust and intimacy within existing relationships.

How Do You Know if it Is Right or not

It is not for everyone. You should only consider it if:

  1. It feels comfortable
  2. You get clear consent
  3. Your current relationship is solid
  4. You have a secure attachment style
  5. You are energized by learning new things

Are Ethical Non-Monogamy relationships healthy?

They can be healthy, unhealthy, or both, depending on the individuals involved and their dynamics. A study found the same levels of relationship satisfaction between monogamous and ethically nonmonogamous people.

Some say that ENM can be healthy if it allows for open and honest communication. Research has shown that people in ENM experience greater trust, honesty, intimacy, and even friendship toward their partners.

Tips for Practicing ENM

Here are some tips for practicing ENM:

  1. Be honest
  2. Check-in with each other
  3. Educate yourself
  4. Keep things fluid
  5. Stay safe
  6. Prioritize your primary partner
  7. Care about your partner’s feelings
  8. Have a plan for how to address feelings of jealousy or insecurity

Difference between Ethical non-monogamy and polyamory

Ethical non-monogamy is a broad term that includes polyamory, but polyamory is not the only form of ENM.

ENM is a relationship style that involves consensual, non-exclusive, and honest connections with multiple partners.

Polyamory is a form of ENM that involves having multiple romantic and emotional relationships at the same time.
It usually involves an openness to multiple loving relationships.

In an ENM relationship, sleeping with someone else without the consent of your partner may be considered cheating or unethical non-monogamy.

Difference between Ethical non-monogamy and cheating

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is different from cheating because all parties involved in this consent to the arrangement. In cheating, the partner does not consent.

In cheating, partners are not aware of one another.
For example, people in these may overstep boundaries and betray or deceive their partners.

Difference between Ethical non-monogamy and open relationship

Open relationships are a type of ENM, where partners are open to sexual or romantic relationships with other people outside the relationship.

In an open relationship, partners can date and find new partners while staying committed to their main partner. These are often focused on having physical relationships outside of a committed relationship.

In an open relationship, both partners have agreed that each may have sexual relations with others in a consensual and ethical manner.

The Bottom Line

While ethical non-monogamy (ENM) isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, it can be a fulfilling and enriching path for individuals and couples seeking alternative relationship structures. It emphasizes consent, communication, and respect for all involved, offering the potential for diverse forms of love, intimacy, and connection beyond traditional monogamy.

However, it requires emotional maturity, open communication, and clear boundaries to navigate the complexities and potential challenges. Ultimately, the decision to explore ENM depends on individual desires, relationship compatibility, and a willingness to invest in understanding and navigating this unique relationship style.

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