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consensual non-monogamy

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If you think people who participate in non-traditional relationships are a fringe part of society, think again. According to a poll by YouGov, nearly a third of American adults say their ideal relationship is a non-monogamous one. And between the years 2016 and 2020, the number of people who said they prefer a monogamous relationship dropped by four percent. Monogamy – particularly in marriage – is ultimately a societal construct that works in tandem with other governmental institutions. It’s neat, organized and simple, but it’s not for everyone.

It turns out that plenty of adults want to experience love and connection in a less restricted and less structured way. And they’ve come up with many methods for doing just that. The three main non-traditional relationships we’re seeing rise in popularity are consensual non-monogamy, polyamory and open relationships. While these all share some similarities, there are important differences when it comes to consensual non-monogamy versus polyamory, and both of those can be quite different compared to an open relationship.

 

What Is Consensual Non-Monogamy?

Young woman with eyes closed kissing girlfriend on bed

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Consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term that encompasses any sort of relationship in which the parties involved are allowed to pursue intimacy of either a romantic nature, sexual nature, or both, with more than one person. Non-monogamy is a catch-all term for non-traditional relationships of most types. It can contain swinging, polyamory, open relationships and beyond. If someone is involved with multiple people, and all parties involved know about and consent to it, it falls under consensual non-monogamy.

The key term is * consensual * — it is what differentiates these types of relationships from infidelity. And it pertains to consent in all directions. For example, someone in an open relationship (has a primary partner but can have sex with outsiders) would need to inform any outside party they have sex with of the arrangement, so that that person can consent as well.

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