FAQs: Ethical Nonmonogamy (Part 2)

FAQs: Ethical Nonmonogamy (Part 2)

By Kari Castor

Missed Part 1? Read it here.

Is nonmonogamy just an excuse to be a slutty slut?

Why should anyone need an excuse?

Most nonmonogamous people would say there is nothing wrong with being a slut, and so there is no reason to need an excuse for being one. A lot of us have reclaimed this word from people who would use it to disparage us for having and enjoying sex.

Some ethically nonmonogamous people self-identify as sluts, and some do not. Some ethically nonmonogamous people have lots of sex with lots of people, and some do not. Some ethically nonmonogamous people engage in casual sex, and some do not.

In other words, some nonmonogamous people may qualify for your definition of “slut.” Others probably do not, unless you think a slut is literally anyone who has ever had sex with more than one person. And chances are that none of them care whether you think they’re a slut, and whether you think that’s a bad thing, or not.

Don’t all nonmonogamous relationships end in fiery disaster?

No, but you’re probably asking this question because you’ve heard about at least one that did. Your cousin’s best friend’s brother opened his relationship and then his wife left him for her new girlfriend, right?

The truth is that many relationships, nonmonogamous and monogamous alike, end in fiery disaster. These are inevitably the ones we tell stories about and use as a basis for warnings to each other: “Never date a guy who keeps a special cupboard full of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos; he’s bound to break your heart when he dumps you for some girl he met playing Halo online.”

We don’t generally pay much attention to the relationships that don’t end in disaster. Plenty of functional nonmonogamous relationships simply fly under the radar. Many nonmonogamous people are some degree of closeted about their relationships, because there’s a stigma and because there are no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of relationship structure. Because of this, many people in stable nonmonogamous relationships prefer not to be highly visible — they are just quietly living their lives without your attention.

Johnny Depp once said, “If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t be taking advice on love from an alleged domestic abuser.

Can you love more than one child at the same time? Can you love both your mother and your father? Can you love multiple siblings, or multiple friends? In western culture, we tend to believe that romantic love is somehow more exclusive and finite than other kinds of love. Many ethically nonmonogamous people disagree with that idea and posit instead that our capacity for love, including romantic love, is infinite.

That said, it’s possible this is a true statement for some people. But no one person’s experience is universal. And no one has a right to dictate how other people experience the world. If a person tells you they deeply love more than one partner, it’s not up to you to validate the truth of that statement.

Also, note that not all ethically nonmonogamous people choose to have loving or romantic relationships with multiple partners. Some have a single romantic relationship with a committed partner, and only engage in casual relationships with others.


Why do nearly all articles about nonmonogamy have a stock photo of three pairs of feet at the end of a bed?

We’re tired of those photos, too, sorry. Apparently no one can come up with a better visual metaphor.

I’m interested in nonmonogamy but my partner doesn’t like the idea. What can I say to convince them?

Trying to coerce your partner into a nonmonogamous relationship that they don’t want is not ethical. Don’t do that.

It is okay to discuss your desires with your partner. You should be able to do that, and you should both be able to agree on boundaries that make sense for your relationship. Some people’s preferred boundaries are incompatible. If this turns out to be the case in your relationship, you may need to make a decision about which is more important to you — your partner or your desire for a different kind of relationship structure.

If you’re looking for educational resources that can help you both understand ethical nonmonogamy and have a discussion about whether it makes sense for you, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino is a solid place to start.

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