Have you heard the word? There are newer, more modern approaches to having a relationship that are taking our world by storm. Terms like ENM, open relationships, and polygamy are being tossed around like a magic sex ball. But, let’s take a couple steps back for a second. You might be wondering, “what is an ENM relationship” and that’s perfectly valid. Let’s get into it.

ENM stands for Ethical Non-Monogamy which is defined by the arrangement to take part in a romantic relationship with more than one person. This could mean that only one person in that relationship is exploring either romantic or sexual connections with other people, or both people in the relationship are taking part in those relations. What matters most in these relationships is that everyone consents to the circumstance without lying or coercion. Explicitly, that’s the non-monogamous meaning to life.

What is monogamy, the opposite of ethical non-monogamy? Simply stated it’s a relationship commitment between two people, and no more, to engage in a sexual and romantic relationship. Monogamy is the majority of love we see expressed, as ENM is still underrepresented in our media, culture, and daily discussions.

How can a non-monogamous relationship be both healthy and pleasurable? What are some open relationship rules in order to feel fulfilled? How is polyamory different? These are questions we hear all the time and it’s about time we answer them. No judgement. Nothing feels better than having an open mind.

Two women kissing in front of two men kissing while practising ethical non-monogamy.

1. Non-Monogamous Relationships 101

Evidently, ENM is not for everyone. People’s values and morals may lie outside of having a relationship with more than one human. And non-monogamy can be very complex. Undoubtedly, people are given a guide at a young age on romance represented by two people, and two people only. As we get older, however, we can see other forms of love and make our own choices.

You might be curious about exploring the freedoms that can come out of a non-monogamous relationship but, on the flipside, are worried about the emotional back and forth it can cause you. Rest assured, we’re coming from a place of education - not from a place of influencing you or steering you in an ENM direction. Ultimately, you make the choice to do what you want with your body and your sex life. We can only help give you the tools of knowledge.

While knowledge is power, communication is key - listen to our sexpert Yonathan discuss How To Communicate Your Likes & Dislikes while dating for more honest interactions.

Four people discussing “what is an ENM relationship” together.

2. Types Of ENM

What is an ENM relationship? Actually, there’s more than one type. ENM is an umbrella term for different relationship practices. They can be labelled as:

  • Polyamory - several people sharing a relationship altogether or a pair of two people committed to other partners on their own. Alternatively, one person in the ENM relationship may be poly while the other may not want additional partners.
  • Open relationships - open relationship rules involve the deal that the primary partnership is prioritized even though both partners may pursue outside sexual, emotional, or romantic connections
  • Monogamish - a term to describe couples who actively practise monogamy but, on occasion, explore outside non-romantic sexual encounters
  • Polygamy - the polygamy meaning boils down to marrying multiple people. Historically, it has religious roots but is not currently legal in Canada. If we were to compare a monogamous vs. polygamous ordeal, we wouldn’t personally know as we don’t break the law at Durex Canada.

Three people feeding each other croissants in bed.

3. Exploring ENM

Circling back to the title: What It Means To Be In A Non-Monogamous Relationship, let’s focus on direct ways to go about it (if that’s what you’re into) that can sustain a stable relationship:

  1. First off, decide if it’s what you really want. Have a conversation with your partner. Or multiple. Make sure they consent and are on the same page. If you have the emotional capacity and energy to be involved in more than one relationship, then proceed accordingly.
  2. Be considerate, honest, and accountable. This goes for your partner(s) as well.
  3. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with loving and being committed to more than one human being. Release yourself from guilt. What differentiates ENM from cheating is that both people in the relationship consent to it!
  4. Further connect with a community of people who practise ENM for more validation and comfort (you can find them on podcasts, community events, and other media).
  5. Recognize jealous patterns and squash them as best you can through listening and affirmation from your partner(s). Healthy jealousy can even ignite more sexual hunger.
  6. Have an ongoing talk about boundaries and expectations. Make it clear what’s acceptable behaviour and what may be crossing a line for you. Also, it’s okay to not feel okay with your ENM relationship anymore. Trial runs are valid.

Speaking of boundaries, pay attention to our sexpert Karine in A Quick Guide To Setting Limits In Your Sexual Relationships for poignant advice.

4. Benefits Of Exploring ENM

Ethical non-monogamy can be a beautiful way to bind people who share common sexual desires together. It gives people the freedom to delve into their sexuality and experiment, which could lead someone to become more in touch with their sexual identity. ENM can also give someone more of a range of sexual and romantic interests. For example, one person alone may not meet all the needs of their partner. Finding it elsewhere, in doses, can take some pressure off.

Mixing Durex® Mutual Climax* condoms with added Durex Play Tingling** can also help subside pressure walking into consented sexual situations.

And, of course, there’s more safe ways to go about an ENM lifestyle. Learn How To Go About Sleeping With Multiple People Safely if this article appealed to you.

A woman holding the face of her partner as she leans in for a kiss.

5. An Open Ending

Now that you won’t be asking “what is an ENM relationship” it’s time to ask yourself if it’s really for you to discover or if it was simply just an informative read. Make sure to keep yourself in check and be honest with your partner(s) and, as always, have safe and pleasure sex.


*Ensure this product is right for you. Always read and follow the label before use.

**Do not use Durex Play Tingling on the outside of a condom.

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