Exploring the Dynamics of Ethical Non-Monogamy in the Online Dating Era


Table of contents

What is ethical non-monogamy?
Practicing ENM
Non-monogamy on dating sites
Forms of non-monogamy
Potential problems with ENM

You've noticed the abbreviation ENM, which stands for ethical non-monogamy, on dating sites. This is where partners are not in exclusive relationships. The "ethical" part comes in because the relationship involves consent and open communication.

In 2024, it's estimated that around 20% of people take part in non-monogamous relationships at some point in their lives.

Practicing ENM

There are countless ways to practice ethical non-monogamy, and these romantic relationships are becoming more popular. The dynamics of such relationships can be non-hierarchical. That means they are focused on a primary couple, where one or both parties are dating multiple people. It may involve romantic and sexual connections with others, only sexual connections, or only romantic ones.

If the primary relationship is hierarchical in nature and both partners practice ENM, they may have different preferences, feelings, and habits in terms of the emotional intimacy and connections they build with their additional sexual and/or romantic partners.

Non-monogamy on dating sites

Mainstream apps are being inundated with people looking for multiple partners. Between 2022 and 2023, there was a 670% increase in users looking for three-way relationships. The number of men and women using the keywords "ethical non-monogamy" or "polyamorous" increased by 500% and 400%, respectively.

Forms of ENM

There are variations within the broadness of non-monogamy. Polyamory, which literally means "many loves," is technically an umbrella term with many types of relationships existing underneath it. People practicing non-monogamy may be into swinging or cuckolding. They might have an open relationship, which is a general term, which usually means having one main connection and several ancillary ones.

Finally, there is also the term "monogamish," which Dan Savage coined. This means anything from the occasional threesome to being monogamous 300 days of the year.

Potential problems with ENM

Ethical non-monogamy, like any relationship type, has potential problems. With more than two people in the mix, these problems have added layers of complexity.

When considering NM, jealousy may be at the top of your mind. When it comes to being jealous of a partner, it's not considered an acceptable emotion to feel, and it can be seen as a red flag. With this in mind, it's not advisable to jump into non-monogamy. It's reasonable to think about how you will deal with complicated emotions when they surface, including jealousy. The proverbial "jealous type" would not flourish in such a relationship. People who practice non-monogamy successfully can get jealous, too, but they tend to recognize it's a typical emotion to experience. They are honest with their partners and work through it by communicating openly.

As long as both partners are willing to make it work and they have support systems in place, being non-monogamous can be a highly satisfying experience. Communication is of paramount importance in all types of relationships, including non-monogamous ones. You should be honest and willing to recognize your shortcomings beyond simply communicating with your partners.

Interestingly, people are more likely to get jealous when they suspect "emotional" cheating rather than physical. Most respondents in a recent survey classified cheating as flirting with another person, fantasizing about another person in a romantic way, and keeping your online dating profile up after establishing a relationship with someone. Having sex with another person came in fourth.

The risk of overcommunicating

Experts warn that there is such a thing as communicating too much. One downside is when one partner becomes overly focused on non-monogamy to the point where it becomes the only thing they want to discuss. You shouldn't allow this to happen. Relationships are multifaceted, and all of their aspects should be nurtured.

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