Consensual Non-Monogamy: Definition, Types & Tips
Although most couples in our culture are monogamous, consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is on the rise. Monogamy means that once you are engaged, you do not have romantic or sexual interactions with anyone else. Yet, we know that around one-fifth of the population engages in non-monogamous relationships at some time in their life.
Consensual non-monogamy can be practiced in various ways; one of the most important is an honest and open dialogue between partners. Partnerships that aren’t monogamous yet are morally acceptable include polyamory, open relationships, and swinging.
Let’s take a closer look at consensual non monogamy, its types, and how to start practicing CNM.
What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?
The phrase “consensual non monogamy” is an umbrella term, meaning its broad definition encompasses various individual connection types. A relationship may exhibit consensual non-monogamy, or CNM, in multiple ways, from entailing simply romantic relationships to purely sexual relationships, or both romantic and sexual. One person may behave outside the boundaries of the partnership or even both parties.
The fact that both partners agree to whatever kind of consensual non-monogamy is used in the partnership distinguishes it from infidelity. The partner does not agree to cheat. Because you and your partner have already decided to practice non-monogamy, CNM is not considered cheating.
There are numerous good reasons to prefer a non-monogamous relationship structure, including:
- Being able to explore sexuality,
- Understanding that one relationship doesn’t satisfy all your needs,
- You want to give love and affection to more than one person.
Monogamy vs. Consensual Non-Monogamy
Everyone spends a certain amount of time dating before settling down with “the one.” Meeting the one you’re meant to be with at a young age is a rarity, yet it does happen. So many people have to keep looking before they meet someone they click with. Some people may keep dating even after discovering someone they can settle down with.
Everyone participating in a non-monogamous relationship must agree to its structure to be considered consensual. One of the most common misunderstandings about non-monogamy is that cheating on a spouse or partner is a license. Consensual non-monogamy, on the other hand, is fundamentally distinct from cheating because of its emphasis on consent, openness, and honesty. Contrarily, cheating is a severe breach of trust.
How to Practice CNM
Consensual non-monogamy, like any other relationship, thrives based on mutual understanding, respect, and trust. Everyone should know what they’re getting into and provide their complete, informed permission before entering into a relationship. Practicing CNM is similar to being in any relationship, except for setting initial boundaries, expectations, and wants.
These tips might make it easier for you to maintain fulfilled relationship(s):
- The two of you have settled on a list of dos and don’ts for your relationship.
- Transparency is essential.
- Have respect for your partners’ emotions and talk about them.
- A primary partner is possible in CNM if you want one.
- Non-hierarchical connections are an option to consider.
- Expect highs and lows, just like in any relationship you have had.
- Jealousy is completely normal, and it’s okay to feel it.
Consensual Non-Monogamy Examples
It doesn’t work to generalize consensual non-monogamous relationships. Different types of relationships range from romantic to sexual to platonic feelings between partners. Let’s go through some of the most common types of CNM relationships that I see below.
The idea of love is vital to polyamory, yet instead of being limited to a single partner, it is shared in many forms among many individuals. Friendships might be seen as polyamorous since we often cultivate close bonds with several people at once. Persons who practice polyamory are like those with more than one relationship because they satisfy their emotional demands in this way. Polyamory is not exclusively practiced by any one sexual orientation, although bisexuals and heteroflexibles seem to embrace it the most.
Hierarchy in Polyamory: the Primary/Secondary Model
Primary and secondary exclusive non-monogamous relationships vary primarily because both partners can have sexual and/or emotional connections with others. The passionate commitment to the principal partner in a non-monogamous relationship is equivalent to that to the only partner in a monogamous relationship.
Individuals in CNM relationships tend to be satisfied inside the partnership, yet research has shown that a deep bond with one primary partner might diminish happiness in secondary relationships.
Picture three persons, one on each of the letter V’s vertical sides. The other persons in the V are only linked to the person at the bottom. As a result, a closed V involves a single individual having love ties to two others who are not linked.
A throuple or quad consists of three persons, or four people in the case of a quadruple, who are romantically or sexually associated with one another, as opposed to the closed V, in which only one person is romantically involved with two others.
These hybrid monogamous/polyamorous couples share characteristics of both types of relationships. It often works because, at some point in time, one or both parties will decide to introduce a third party into the relationship. In most cases, this is done to gratify sexual desires rather than form meaningful bonds with others.
Because of this, firmly attached persons are more likely to have a sense of emotional safety and contentment in their closest personal connections. They may relax in a relationship or be independent if they choose.
Whether single or in a committed relationship, you may participate in swinging, also known as wife-swapping, husband-swapping, or partner-swapping. Swinging is an open, non-monogamous relationship. Reasons vary for why people decide to adopt a swinging lifestyle. According to proponents, both the quality and amount of sexual activity improve. Swinging is a form of sexual experimentation that may appeal to those bored with or seeking variation in their sexual life. Swinging is seen as a positive way to release stress and enhance bonds by some couples.
A kinkster is someone who engages in sexual behavior that deviates from the conventions of their society. It’s derived from the word “kink,” which in the context of sex means any sexual activity other than “norm” of heterosexual, cisgender missionary with the goal of having children.
People who prefer BDSM and those who engage in polyamory are most likely to identify as kinksters, yet it may be extended far more broadly to persons with fetishes and other wants (e.g., pet play, role play, leather, etc.).
If you’re interested in starting your journey at home, let us be your guide. Start here!
Check Out All Our Additional Therapy Video
About Life Coaching and Therapy
Life Coaching and Therapy (LCAT) is a therapy and coaching practice that transforms our clients lives through our flexible. Multi-technique approach and pleasure-skills training provided by systematically-trained and licensed therapists!
Get to know our founder and owner, Amanda Pasciucco, (a.k.a. The Sex Healer) PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist (CST) that has developed innovative therapy programs and therapy videos that get results.
Our team of compassionate, licensed therapists and certified sex therapists help all clients who visit us for a variety of personal, relationship, intimacy and sex problems.
LCAT provides on-site appointments, as well as video chat and text therapy programs.
Learn more about how LCAT can help improve your life at What We Do.