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By Hein Kaiser


What is ethical non-monogamy and is it the right relationship move for you?

Is ethical non-monogamy still taboo? A sex educator gives some insight.

It could be a relationship minefield or it could save a stale sexual relationship between couples. But ethical non-monogamy remains a dinner conversation taboo, and while the fantasy may appeal, many couples may not be ready for a commitment to breaking the mould, and a union of two.

Ethical non-monogamy explained

Ethical non-monogamy is for couples who feel that monogamy doesn’t work for them. According to Lisa Welsh, a sex educator, it can be a way for individuals to explore their feelings and desires with the knowledge and support of their partners.

Welsh said that ethical non-monogamy can take many forms, including polyamory, open relationships, and swinging.

In a polyamorous relationship, individuals have romantic relationships with multiple partners at the same time, with some individuals having a primary partner and one or more secondary partners, while others may have multiple partners who are all equally important in their lives.

“In an open relationship, both partners are free to have sexual experiences with others outside of the relationship. Swinging, on the other hand, involves couples engaging in sexual activities with other couples or individuals,” explains Welsh.

Before exploring ethical non-monogamy, Welsh says couples need to ask themselves whether it’s the right next step for their relationship. And it is a giant leap.

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How to make ethical non-monogamy relationships work

Welsh says couples should have a strong foundation of trust, communication, and honesty before considering ethical non-monogamy.

“It’s also essential to consider whether both partners have similar desires and needs, and what they hope to gain from exploring ethical non-monogamy,” she said.

Welsh suggests that couples approach the conversation with respect and empathy and avoid making assumptions or accusations.

“It’s important to express one’s own feelings and desires and give one’s partner space to share their thoughts and feelings without judgment.”

While there is no “rule book” for ethical non-monogamy, there are some key principles that couples can follow to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. Welsh said that these include honesty, communication, and consent, as well as prioritising safety, wellness and health.

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Welsh also emphasises the importance of respecting each other’s emotional and mental health needs and supporting each other through any challenges that may arise.

But isn’t ethical non-monagomy cheating?

But action between the sheets with someone other than your partner can be considered cheating. Welsh says the truth lies somewhere in between two ends of the same argument. The opposite of cheating, that multiple partner relationships work.

How to make ethical non-monogamy relationships work
Sex educator Lisa Welsh says that ethical non-monogamy allows individuals to explore their sexuality. Picture: Supplied

“The answer depends on the specific situation and the agreement between partners. As long as everyone involved is aware of and comfortable with the arrangement and communicates openly and honestly, ethical non-monogamy can be a fulfilling and rewarding relationship style,” she says.

Despite the misconceptions and stigma that often surrounds ethical non-monogamy, Welsh believes that it can offer individuals an opportunity to explore their sexuality and relationships in a way that feels authentic to them.

It doesn’t patch up an already troubled relationship though.

“If a couple is having problems, ethical non-monogamy is not going to solve those problems. Instead, couples should focus on building a strong foundation of trust and communication before exploring ethical non-monogamy,” she says.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea

But its not for everyone despite a growing number of couples exploring various sexual segues in the bedroom.

“Everyone’s relationship is unique, and what works for one couple may not work for another. It’s important for couples to communicate openly and honestly with each other about their desires and needs and to respect each other’s boundaries,” says Welsh.

“Ethical non-monogamy is not about avoiding commitment or emotions; it’s about exploring those things in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling,” Welsh emphasised.

Ultimately, ethical non-monogamy is a relationship style that requires a lot of work and communication. It can be a way to build deeper connections with multiple partners, explore new sexual experiences, or have the freedom to love and be loved in different ways.

As Welsh put it: “Ethical non-monogamy is not for everyone, but for those who are interested, it can be a beautiful and fulfilling way to build a relationship that works for them”.  

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