Consensual non-monogamy: Before you take the plunge
Humans are emotionally driven, impulsive, and often illogical creatures. We don’t always make the best decisions, especially when love and sex are involved. When it comes to relationships, our imperfect natures can not only negatively impact, us, but also the people we love.
That is why it’s so critical to consider the real reasons behind what we do, say, or want. The better you and your partner understand yourselves, the easier it is to make informed choices and stand by them.
There are lots of different reasons why you may want to have a conversation about breaking from monogamy. Some reasons are not as healthy than others, but there is always an alternative perspective to explore on the flipside of the coin.
Here’s a few examples of both – does anything resonate with you?
Unhealthy reason: My partner and I have stopped having sex.
Non-monogamy is often seen as a way to ‘spice things up’ in the bedroom. And it absolutely can! But this mentality assumes two things:
- If you’re not having sex, something is wrong.
- Sexual issues are always about sex.
In fact, neither are necessarily true. In this situation, it’s really important to identify whether this is truly an issue for one or both of you and, if so, why it’s really happening.
Once you understand the root causes of what’s going on, you and your partner will be in a much better position to assess if consensual non-monogamy is the best solution.
Ultimately, consensual non-monogamy should enhance your relationship, not be used as a band-aid.
The better you understand yourself, the easier it is to make informed choices and stand by them.
Healthier reason: I get different things from different people – I don’t want my partner to feel pressured to fulfill all my needs.
We all know that relationships are complex. We all have different and unique needs and expecting one partner to satisfy all of them can be a daunting prospect.
A change in sexual frequency or satisfaction within a relationship may be one indication that, for whatever reason, your partner isn’t able to fulfill all your needs. In this situation, you have a few different options:
- Accept this as the new status quo.
- Break up with your partner.
- Explore non-monogamy as a way of getting your needs met safely and consensually.
NB: Cheating on your partner is also technically an option here, but we don’t condone this.
Unhealthy reason: I cheated on my partner and I feel guilty… but I also wanna do it again.
Just to be clear, the unhealthy part of this scenario is not the desire to have sex with someone else, but rather the desire to do it non-consensually (or the inability to have the conversation before it’s happened).
Being attracted to people doesn’t simply go away because you’re in a relationship – emotions and desires don’t work that way, it’s not a tap you can just turn off. So you need to be prepared for the reality that you and your partner are inevitably going to have these feelings.
Being attracted to people doesn’t simply go away because you’re in a relationship.
Healthier reason: I’ve got a crush on someone, and I want to explore it, but I’m already in a relationship.
Recognising your attraction to at least one other person besides your current partner is a common part of the human experience (except for some on the ace and aro spectrum) and being in a relationship doesn’t change that. Many people are completely fine with remaining monogamous while dealing internally with these attractions.
However, having a desire to do something about that attraction is a clear sign that a conversation with your partner needs to happen, and this may result in CNM being discussed as an option.
It’s very important that, where possible, you have this conversation with your partner before you act on your desires. This does mean though that your partner may not be open to the idea. What would this feel like for you? It’s a very real possibility to consider.
Unhealthy reason: I feel like my partner and I are just friends – I want something more.
So far, we have primarily talked about sex, but consensual non-monogamy is about so much more than that! One of the things that excites polyamorous people in particular about CNM is the way it can open up our romantic lives as well.
The whole “we’ve become like friends” thing is often linked to sex –this phase of a relationship can be equated to friendship because of a reduction or cessation of sex – but it can also be about the quality of the romantic connection itself. Couples may feel like they’ve ‘lost their spark’ or they’re ‘too comfortable with one another’.
These couples feel like they’ve lost something, and these feelings are legitimate. But it is worthwhile exploring whether these feelings mean that something is wrong with the relationship, or whether something is wrong with our assumptions about what relationships need to be.
This question should be answered before any decisions around consensual non-monogamy are made. Becoming consensually non-monogamous in an instance where you might be happier separately will only complicate things, and potentially make it harder to know when the right time may be to call it quits.
One of the things that excites polyamorous people in particular about CNM is the way it can open up our romantic lives as well.
Healthier reason: My love for my partner has evolved, but I don’t want to throw away what we have.
What we know for sure is that relationships do change over time, because we are constantly evolving as humans, therefore the way we relate to one another will also change. We are also constantly learning more about one another.
A big part of being non-monogamous means expanding your understanding of what a relationship ‘should’ look like. If you have identified that this is the reason why you’re having doubts about your relationship, having a conversation about consensual non-monogamy may be a great solution.
Being consensually non-monogamous means that you can keep all the good stuff about your relationship whilst not being restricted in seeking out new and different relationships that meet other needs. At the end of the day, love is an infinite resource, and one we can absolutely capitalise on.
Now that you have a better understanding about some of the healthy (and unhealthy) reasons to consider consensually non-monogamy, it’s a good time to ask yourself whether you’ve used any of these reasons in the past, whether in practice or just in your head.
If so, perhaps it’s an opportunity to have that conversation with your partner?
CNM comes in many different forms
If you are interested in having a conversation with your partner about consensual non-monogamy, it might be worth figuring out what sort of CNM you'd be comfortable with.The different types of consensual non-monogamy