Is Consensual Non-Monogamy Right For You? What it is and How to Make it Work

Perhaps you’re here because you’ve been pondering the intricacies of relationships, and the word ‘monogamy’ no longer fits your vision of love and sexuality. Or maybe you just want to learn more about consensual non-monogamy; what it is, what it isn’t, and if it’s right for you.

Perfect! Because today I’m talking about consensual non-monogamy (CNM), an umbrella term that explores romantic and/or sexual relationships involving more than two people, with everyone’s consent.

Now, I’ll be honest with you—this journey isn’t meant for everyone. But for those with a free-spirited nature and a yearning for exploration, it offers the potential for incredible self-discovery and growth.

In this guide, I’ll help you understand what CNM is, figure out if this unconventional path may be right for you, and help you navigate that path with some key tips. Ready for a voyage into uncharted waters of love and relationships? Let’s go

First up: What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?

An estimated 4-5% of individuals in the United States engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM). But what exactly is CNM? And is there any difference between polyamorous relationships and consensual non-monogamous relationships?

Let me break it down for you. Consensual non-monogamy (sometimes referred to as ethical non-monogamy) involves romantic or sexual relationships with more than one person, all above board, and with everyone’s agreement.

Just like love, CNM comes in different shades – polyamory, open relationships, swinging, you name it! Before you ask, no, it’s not cheating. Cheating involves dishonesty and betrayal, while CNM is all about open communication, consent, and respect.

It’s like comparing apples and asteroids, both round but worlds apart!

Before we dive into some other CNM myths, let me clarify what kind of CNM relationship structures you could engage in:

  • Polyamory: Picture this: multiple romantic connections all happening at the same time, with everyone involved knowing and agreeing to it. Successful polyamorous relationships require deep emotions, love, and a whole lot of open-heartedness.
  • Open Relationships: You’re in a romantic relationship with a primary partner, but you’re not limiting yourself to just one. You’re open to exploring sexual connections with multiple partners while maintaining that loving commitment to your main squeeze.
  • Swinging: Imagine a fun and adventurous world where you and your partner(s) get to join other couples or individuals for consensual, playful, and steamy encounters. That’s what is known as swinging. Or, if cuckolding/cuckqueaning is your thing, you can simply watch your partner get it on with someone else!
  • Solo Polyamory: Independence is your jam. You’re all about cultivating relationships with multiple romantic partners while keeping your own personal autonomy front and center. It’s about loving freely without the need for a primary partner.

Now Let’s Bust Some CNM Myths

About 1 in 6 folks in the United States have a desire for polyamorous relationships, open relationships, or other forms of non-consensual monogamy. That’s about the same percentage of people who own a cat (just to put things in perspective!).

This figure even checks out in Justin Lehmiller’s book, “Tell Me What You Want.” He found that 79% of men and 62% of women fantasize about being in a CNM relationship. Now, I’m not saying that you need to try out every fantasy, just that it’s on a lot of people’s minds.

Yet, even with CNM becoming more popular, there are still so many myths about this lifestyle. So Sexplorers, let’s strap in and navigate through some commonly held misconceptions about CNM.

Myth: It’s all about sex

Whoa there, let’s set the record straight. CNM isn’t just some free-for-all sexual marathon. It’s about creating and fostering meaningful connections, relationships, and trust. Sure, sex is a part of it, but it’s not the heart of the matter. We’re talking companionship, mutual respect, shared experiences – all the elements that constitute any loving relationship.

Myth: CNM relationships are unstable

Hold your horses. The number of partners doesn’t dictate the stability of a relationship, folks. Relationships thrive on understanding, open communication, and mutual respect. Whether it’s a monogamous relationship or a CNM one, these principles apply across the board. It’s not the quantity but the quality of relationships that matter.

Myth: Everyone in CNM is promiscuous

Let’s deflate this inflated notion. CNM is not a promiscuity free-pass. It’s about maintaining multiple romantic relationships where everyone involved is on board, giving their consent freely. The objective isn’t to rack up sexual encounters; it’s about deepening connections and enriching your emotional experiences.

Myth: CNM will doom my current relationship

This is a tricky one. Unfortunately, a lot of people try out CNM in order to “save” their relationship. Statistically, those relationships end. It’s like trying to build a new house on a bad foundation.

On the other hand, research by Lehmiller tells us that adding an extra partner can really enhance your relationship. He found that “the more satisfied people are with a second relationship, the more committed they were to their primary relationship.”

Is CNM Right For You?

Ah, the world of relationships – a vibrant tapestry as diverse as the people weaving it. If you find yourself having thoughts like is polyamory right for me? Should I open up my relationship? Am I into swinging? Do I want multiple partners? You’re about to (hopefully) gain some clarity.

Let’s dive into the deep end of this relationship pool, exploring the qualities that might make CNM an enticing option.

CNM Might Be Right For You if:

  • You’re emotionally expansive: Are you capable of nurturing deep emotional connections with more than one person? CNM isn’t just about dividing your time between partners but also sharing emotional intimacy and investing in multiple people simultaneously.
  • You’re a communication powerhouse: Effective and open communication is the backbone of any relationship, more so in CNM. Can you express your needs, wants, and feelings candidly? Are you comfortable discussing relationship dynamics, boundaries, and fears?
  • You find comfort in shared love: Are you comfortable knowing your partner(s) have other partners? This may require confronting and managing feelings of jealousy and insecurity.
  • You embrace flexible relationship constructs: CNM challenges the traditional narrative of what a relationship should look like. Are you open to redefine love and relationships beyond societal norms?
  • You value freedom of personal exploration: Are you someone who values personal growth and self-discovery? CNM can provide opportunities for exploring yourself, expanding your horizons, and experiencing different facets of your own identity within multiple relationships.

However, CNM May Not be Right For You if:

  • Jealousy and possessiveness dominate: Though people in CNM relationships experience jealousy, they’re willing to work with it – building trust in their relationship. However, If you tend to really struggle with feelings of jealousy or have a tendency to be possessive, CNM relationship styles might prove challenging.
  • You prefer monogamy’s predictability: The structure and predictability of monogamous relationships provide comfort for many. If that’s what resonates with you, CNM may feel disconcerting.
  • Open communication isn’t your forte: CNM requires continuous, honest, and candid communication about emotions, expectations, and boundaries. If that’s a challenge for you, navigating CNM might be tough.
  • You need a dedicated focus: If you prefer to devote your time and energy to one primary partner, giving them your undivided attention and building a deep connection, CNM may not align with your desires.
  • You need clear boundaries and structure: If you thrive in relationships with clearly defined boundaries and a structured framework, CNM’s fluidity and flexibility may feel overwhelming or lacking in stability for you.

Getting Ready for CNM

So, you’re considering the CNM path and want to explore romance with more than one person. Here’s how you can prepare:

Become self-aware

Start by getting clear about your personal boundaries, desires, and non-negotiables. How comfortable are you with your partner having other partners, both emotionally and sexually? What are the potential deal-breakers for you in a CNM setup? Identifying these early on will make subsequent conversations and decisions easier.

Practice open communication

CNM demands a high level of communication. Discuss your boundaries, fears, and expectations with current or potential partners. Transparency is key. Remember, it’s perfectly okay to start slow and gradually evolve your relationship boundaries.

Educate yourself

CNM is not a cure-all for relationship problems. It carries its own set of challenges, requiring as much work, if not more, than monogamous relationships. Understanding this can prevent unrealistic expectations and subsequent disappointments.

Find support

If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed by all this, don’t worry! That’s where professional sex coaches like me come in. Exploring the CNM path can be a bit unnerving, and having a skilled guide can make all the difference.

Seeing a sex coach or therapist doesn’t mean you’re lost; it’s a sign of wisdom, acknowledging you could use a map and compass in uncharted terrain.

So, is Consensual Non-Monogamy Your Thing? That’s For You to Decide!

The backbone of a healthy CNM relationship? You got it! It’s all about consent, communication, and mutual respect.

Nail these, and your CNM journey can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as any monogamous relationship. Remember, there’s no one ‘right’ way to love or to live. Just what’s right for you.

Embarking on the journey from monogamy to consensual non-monogamy can be a rollercoaster ride. But guess what? You’re not alone.

I’m thrilled to guide you through this exploration, unraveling the complexities, and helping you embrace the connections that CNM brings.

At Revel Sex Coaching, I’ll help you explore and embrace your unique relationship structure and intimate relationships in a safe, non-judgmental, and practical way. Let’s create the fulfilling love (and sex!) life you deserve. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation to get started.

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Mark Vaughan
Mark Vaughan

Hey there, I'm Mark, a sex coach, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified Sex Therapist. I have dedicated my career to helping people explore and embrace their sexuality in a safe and healthy way so that they can create a sex life they love. Learn more about me here.

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