Ethical Non-Monogamy: Somewhere Between The Black & White Of Modern Dating

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Ethical Non-Monogamy

From ‘hum bane tum bane ek dooje ke liye’ to ‘do baar nahi ik baar sahi ik raat ki kar le tu yaari’, love and dating has evolved at the speed of a bullet. After every 6 months or so, we hear of some new dating trend or newer dating dynamics. Virtual dating, open relationships, open marriages, friends with benefits, etc are some new-age dating trends which we are all familiar with. Now, there is yet another dynamic (though not very new) that is garnering acceptance from many. They call it Ethical Non-Monogamy. 

Let me get straight to the point, Ethical Non-Monogamy is a kind of dating where one chooses to enter romantic relationships which are not completely exclusive between two people. As the theory goes, ethical non-monogamy or ENM must involve two key factors – open communication and consent between all partners involved. 

This form of dating is very flexible. ENM can have one or all partners acting outside the relationship with the consent of all involved in the dynamic. It can involve only sexual relations with others, only romantic connections, or both. Further, each may also have certain boundaries that might vary from their partner/partners. 

Ethical non-monogamy comes with its own set of benefits which is making people sign up for it. Under this form of relationship, an individual gets a chance to explore their sexuality and sexual desires which they might not be able to with their primary partners for varied reasons. Individuals who wish to feel loved and belonged romantically from more than one person can definitely enter into ENM. Further, individuals can meet their added needs which might not always get fulfilled by their primary partners. No two people can truly tailor each other perfectly. For instance, you might want to explore or try out certain things in life which your primary partner wouldn’t want to. Under ENM you can find someone who is willing to fulfil your unmet needs. 

Ethical non-monogamy must not be confused with polygamy. Yes, polygamy does involve having multiple partners, more specifically spouses. ENM on the other hand involves having multiple partners who also might have multiple partners outside your committed relationship with them, unlike Polygamy. 

ENM must also not be conflated with being single. Ethical non-monogamy involves being responsible – taking responsibility for all your partners, considering their emotions and feelings, upholding your commitment towards each of them, and respecting their boundaries. 

Although by the theory of it, ENM might come across as liberating, a lot of people are using it as a means to get away with the responsibility that comes along with commitment. This has especially become common in the world of online dating. Many have interpreted ENM in their own convenient ways giving rise to toxicity in relationships. This has a far-reaching impact on one’s mental health and self-perception. 

A lot many people who end up feeling hurt after choosing ENM are often guilt ridden for mistakes they didnt commit. Take Niyati a 24 year old woman for example. She matched with a man on a dating app who was in an open relationship. He was transparent about it. He communicated to Niyati, his boundaries, and reasons why he had opened up his relationship with his primary partner. Niyati didn’t mind this dynamic. Both got to talking and enjoyed conversations they had. Niyati appreciated the openness, clarity and honest take her match had about his primary relationship. After a week’s talking, the two decided to meet. 

Their initial dates went well. Both enjoyed each other’s company. After about three months of dating, Niyati started developing a strong liking towards the man and decided to take things a few steps further. She suggested a committed relationship which the man refused stating that he and his primary partner had agreed mutually to not get involved in a romantic committed relationship. Niyati was left not just feeling dejected but also used. She said, “he had never brought this up in the three months during which we shared special moments together. Had he told this to me, I would have taken my decisions differently.” 

Since the man had already mentioned in his profile bio about being into ENM, Niyati felt she couldn’t voice her disappointment. This ended up making her feel guilty that inspite of him mentioning about his open relationship, she kept wrong expectations. 

This is where the problem lies. Most of us are not really clear about what ENM entails and what is acceptable and what is not. Further, each has a different understanding of the concept. Things get worse where those involved fail to communicate clearly and set firm boundaries. 

So what can one do? 

Communication is the key. Be open and transparent about your needs, wants, expectations as well as your boundaries. Ask as many questions as you want to your partner which will help you get clarity. Only when your mind and heart gives mental ticks to all your doubts must you think of getting involved in this kind of unconventional dynamic. 

Ethical non-monogamy might work for some and might not for others. Everything truly depends on what you want out of your relationship of any kind.  

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