...if you are considering opening your relationship, have been an active CNM individual for years, or are just curious about what it would look like- having a counselor who can relate to and understand the challenges you and your partner(s) face is an important aspect of receiving treatment that meets your needs.
Consensual Non-Monogamy is a non-traditional means of approaching and engaging in intimate relationships with others. Some people identify as being born with the capacity to manage multiple intimate relationships and others may choose to pursue non-monogamy as a means of creating a lifestyle that is more suited to their personal style, goals, and identity they discover later in life.
The landscape of non-monogamy is different for everyone, as is the language used to define it. While many use the terms ENM and CNM interchangeably, I prefer to use the term "consensual" non-monogamy due to the emphasis on consent in the relationship structure. Those involved in dynamics of non-monogamy will know that consent and communication are key to developing healthy relationships without trespassing into cheating or unethical practices.
Furthermore- using the word "ethical" would suggest that non-monogamy is, in itself, not ethical behavior and lend to a sense of stigma in a non-traditional lifestyle. Consent and communication are what make any relationship ethical: I'm fairly certain that those involved in traditionally monogamous relationships also hope their partners would behave in an ethical manner, and we don't label that "ethical monogamy".
There are so many ways to be non- monogamous, and there is no one "right" way to do it. Every consenting relationship has its own rules, agreements, and structure that make these relationships safe and fitting for those involved.
Under the broader umbrella of "non-monogamy" there are many relationship structures and some more common labels. However, even these labels like mean something more nuanced to those involved- the only way to know is to ask!
Some common (general) structure terms include:
Other related terms for structure and those in relationships include relationship anarchy, solo poly, monogamish, heirarchies, metamours, unicorns, dragons, satellites, and more...
Again, these are just a few basic examples that, by no means, cover all of the options, structures, or consenting rules possible. Due to the large breadth of non-monogamous options, navigating these non-traditional relationships can be quite tricky.
You're right, it is complicated!
Just as in any monogamous relationship, it takes time, effort, communication, responsibility, and commitment to addressing some challenges and emotions that may arise. Working through jealousy, scheduling, safe sex, and other difficulties are a part of any relationship, no matter the structure. All intimate relationships require the hard work and dedication of striving to be your best self for both you and your partners (and partner's partners!).
Just as there are many structures of non-monogamy, individuals may engage in CNM for a variety of personal reasons. Some of these may include:
Many wonderful books, podcasts, and community groups exist to educate and support those interested or involved in a CNM lifestyle. Cultivating resources, community, and safe spaces are important elements to exploring your identity.
New resources pop up quite frequently, but here are some recommended starting points for reading, exploring, and learning more:
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