A Beginner's Guide to Consensual Non-Monogamy

Two men and two women walking away from camera arm in arm

People...I’m a shameless slut. I see sexual partners as Pokemon - you gotta catch ‘em all! But I’m also super into doing it consensually. I mean, who wants to bone someone that isn’t screaming “fuck yes I’m so fucking into this!” So when it comes to slutting around, I like to make sure that I’m doing it in a way that everyone is on board with. Which is why you’ll normally find me practicing some variety of consensual non-monogamy. 

Okay, but what the hell is consensual non-monogamy?

What is consensual non-monogamy?

We all know what ‘monogamy’ is, right? It’s the structure that the majority of people follow in their relationships. One person with one partner. But then you have people who try and pull a fast one and have a second partner on the side. Or sometimes an entire second family! This is definitely non-monogamy, but it’s not consensual if the initial partner and/or second partner don’t know what’s happening. The first step to getting consent is asking someone for it. If you skip that step, everything else is non-consensual by default. 

So consensual non-monogamy is when you ask your partner first if they’re cool with you dating or sleeping with other people - and they say ‘hell yeah I am!’

The thing is though, everyone does consensual non-monogamy in their own way. There’s a variety of structures and labels out there for a whole lot of different ways of dating. And none of them are objectively right or wrong, it’s just about figuring out what’s right for you and your relationships. Sometimes you might even mix and match your styles with your partners, and that’s cool too!

So let’s have a look at the different ways you can practice consensual non-monogamy.

Monogamish - dipping your toe in the water

This is a word that was created by American sexologist and podcaster Dan Savage, on his show “Savage Lovecast” 

A monogamish couple is one that have acknowledged that monogamy isn’t their thing, but they’re still looking for something that is. 

A monogamish couple will have had an initial conversation about being with other people, so consent has been established. But after that point they might decide on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, where any hookups they have aren’t disclosed to their primary partner.

Usually people who are monogamish don’t go actively looking to hookup with other people, but have an ‘if the opportunity arises’ type policy. This means that if one of them is at a bar and gets hit on by a hot stranger, they’re free to pursue the opportunity. But neither of them is likely to be downloading dating apps or going speed dating. 

Monogamish relationships are a good way to test the waters and see if consensual non-monogamy is for you. You can establish the rules and boundaries that make both of you the most comfortable.

Swinging - sex with moral support

We have a heap of fantastic articles about swinging on the blog. So if this is something you’re interested in, I strongly recommend checking them out! 

In a nutshell, swinging usually means an otherwise monogamous couple who attend events where both people can play with others. Often this means playing with one or two other people together as a couple, but can also involve the couple splitting up for the night and then reuniting at the end of the evening. 

Swinging is a great way to sexually explore other people, from within the safety of your relationship. 

Open Relationships - no strings attached

An open relationship is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. There’s two people who are married or dating each other, but they’re free to go out and have sex with other people, and they’re open about it. The specifics of how it works will vary from one relationship to another, but they’re usually focused on having sex with other people, but not developing intense feelings outside of the primary relationship. 

Essentially you can have one night stands, hookups and even casual fuck buddies, but neither of you are looking for additional romantic partners. For many people this provides the comfort and security of emotional monogamy, with the freedom and release of sexual availability. 

Polyamorous Relationships - love is infinite, time isn’t 

Polyamory translates to ‘many loves’. People in polyamorous relationships may have more than one person with whom they’re in love.

Once again there’s a huge variety of ways to practice poly. In fact, you don’t even need to be in a relationship to be poly; many people practice solo polyamory. Solo polyam people will have multiple partners, but no one person that they’re prioritising above the others. 

People in an established or ‘primary’ relationship will practice polyamory by seeking out additional romantic partners that they can date, romance, sleep with, and have emotional connections with. 

The crux of polyamory is that love is an infinite resource, we all have an unlimited amount of it to give. And it’s unreasonable of us to expect one romantic partner to fulfill all of our needs, so it makes sense to have multiple romantic partners to help ensure that everyone’s needs are met. The only trick is making sure that you’ve got a really good calendar setup, because it doesn’t matter how many people you’re dating, there’s still only going to be 7 days in a week and it can be tricky to make enough time for everyone! 

Relationship Anarchy (RA) - Jumping off the escalator

Relationship Anarchy is a new entrant to the consensual non-monogamy space. To oversimplify it a little, RA is basically the art of communicating with your partners about what each of you expect, instead of following a social script about what a relationship ‘should’ be. This social script is also referred to as the ‘relationship escalator’ and is the idea that when we start a romantic relationship, we have certain expectations about where it will go (eg. first date, then kiss, then sex, then moving in, then marriage, then kids, etc) 

However someone practicing RA might have several close friends with whom they also happen to have sex, and two people they don’t have sex with but have intense emotional connections with, and someone they live with and have sex with, but aren’t in a romantic relationship with; and none of these relationships will necessarily have a label. 

RA is about remaining open to changes and transitions within relationships, and communicating with the person you’re in that relationship with, rather than the need to define something as “friends with benefits” or “significant other” and putting the relationship in that box along with the defined expectations that go with that label. 

The great thing about RA is that you can practice it in a monogamous relationship, in a work relationship, in a polyam relationship, basically in any context where you have a connection with another person. It’s a great foundation for practicing consensual non-monogamy, because anything that emphasises communication means you’re emphasising the informed consent of the person you’re connecting with. Some people find RA a bit overwhelming, because they prefer the social script and having clearly pre-defined boundaries for relationships. And that’s okay too, as long as everyone involved is consenting. 

So there you have it! A beginners guide to consensual non-monogamy styles and practices. We’ll be exploring some of these concepts more on the blog, so be sure to suggest a future blog topic if there’s anything in particular that you’re curious about and let me know in the comments if you’ve explored any of these relationship styles and how it worked for you. 

We’re very excited that new profile options for non-monogamous members are available to display if you are in an Open Relationship are Polyamorous or subscribe to Relationship Anarchy. 


Have your say! Login to comment.
  • MikeyMadness


    More than a month ago

    Sit down and have a cuppa tea and talk smut?!? Lol. I love it. I've often heard of "shameless sluts" (the very best kind!) as ending up working in the sex industry in one capacity or another. And I think that's a pretty good way to deal with it! As long as you can pick and choose the people with whom you are having sex etc with, then that's even better again! Good luck and enjoy your cuppa! Hope to read more of your enjoyable AND educational writings soon!

  • Pleasuremywife2


    More than a month ago

    An excellent beginners article thank you. We are of the opinion that too many people see love and sex as having a one-to-one relationship. That happens of course, but it's quite common to have sex without love and vice versa. We've been married for over 50 years, love each other to bits, but have sex with others without love. We still have sex with each other of course (and love that too). It's quite fashionable to bang on about consent, but you are quite right to put it at the very front of your article, because it's much more than fashion. How one gains that consent could be the subject of another article. I'm sure you'd do a much better job than our 'out of touch' politicians.

  • Howdy1967


    More than a month ago

    Love this article x

  • Photos in private gallery


    More than a month ago

    Such a great idea but honestly I’ve never ever come across anyone that is that honest about everything and I think that has to be the key to making it work for everyone involved I’ve been brunt by the lies simple little white untruths become full blown betrayal or lead on in a situation where the other parties have no right to put out there messy hurtful not worth it
    I’d love to sit down chat and pick the brains of couples that have made this work

  • Btrue2U


    More than a month ago

    I really like the idea of "consensual non-monogamy"...I'm in a sexless marriage and haven't had sex with my husband in 13 long painful years which includes "rejections" every time I bring up the subject of being intimate with him...it really hurts like hell.

    So yes I would love it if he gave me his "consent" to be intimate with other people. I've tried asking him but he still refuses for me to be intimate with other people...even though I've given him the opportunity to be intimate with other women, if the favour is returned, he doesn't want to.

    I'm stuck in a "rock and a hard place" and have been for all those painful years.

    I'm lost, I can't get through to him.

    What do I do? Go behind his back and have affairs? I'm way too young to stop having sex...I'm soooo sick and tired of waiting for him to get his act together...I still love the bastard and I don't want to divorce him...

    Please HELP, someone, anyone...

    From a Heartbroken women.

    • funsexysacouple


      More than a month ago

      13 years. Ask him one more time. Mention you have needs that are required to be met.
      Then.....go your own way and have some excitement. You need it girl. Go for it.

    • Btrue2U


      More than a month ago

      Thanx babe, I'll do that one more time and then i think i might go "rogue"...I'm sick and tired of getting rejected everytime I ask him to be intimate...I'm going to take matters into my own hands, my sanity depends on it.

  • AdHoC47


    More than a month ago

    I'm not normally big on labels but this makes a lot of sense, also makes it easy for those clinging to the "escalator" to understand others and their situation without judgement.

    Great article, thanks.

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