Consensual non-monogamy continues to trend in the mainstream media. Since Swingset began, we have been watching the coverage go from “look at these freakish people over here” to “maybe those freakish people are on to something.” Of course, we are just over here having a good time, so we aren't waiting with bated breath for the media to take us seriously. But now that outlets like National Public Radio, The New York Times, and The Atlantic are running stories, it is time for us to weigh in.
Let's start with what we are even talking about here. The term consensual non-monogamy itself is an amorphous mouthful. Let's break it down.
Consensual means that all parties consent to multi-partnering. That doesn't mean every person who is consensually non-monogamous has multiple partners themselves. Most do, but some are simply partnered with people who have multiple partners.
All parties have consented to not only being open to multiple partners, but also to direct, honest, clear communication with all humans involved. This is the reason when you ask a consensually non-monogamous person what is the most important aspect of being consensually non-monogamous, they will say excellent communication. The complexity requires communication to support the evolving needs and desires of all involved.
Consensual eliminates any multi-partnering where there is dishonesty and deceit, i.e. cheating. Cheating is not consensual, so therefore has exactly zero in common with consensual non-monogamy.
The non-monogamous part of consensual non-monogamy can be described as openness to multiple partners. The relationship styles of the consensually non-monogamous include but are not limited to swinging, open relationships, polyamory and any hybrid that you can imagine. Some partnering is based solely on sex. Some partnering is based solely on love. And since we are the amazing messy human animals that we are, consensual non-monogamous relationships tend to incorporate some wonderful mix of the two.
Even with all partners consenting, having more partners in the mix can bring particular challenges that monogamers don't have. The daunting complexity of navigating the emotional waters of more than one other person takes increased work and focus, but this is a path that consensual non-monogamers choose with wide open eyes. For the vast majority of us, the risk is worth the reward of creating relationships that we can allow to blossom into whatever they are meant to become. In fact, many people who are consensually non-monogamous would say that it is more than a choice and that it is just how we are built.
The beauty of the increasing and (slightly) more accepting media coverage is people outside of the consensually non-monogamous communities are now starting to see that non-traditional or alternative relationships are indeed not myths. Each person negotiating and designing their own relationships is simply a step on the path to life fulfillment, monogamer or non-monogamer.
We are everywhere. Living among you. Working with you. The time will come when we can all be open about the special people in our lives. Until then, we will gently come out to those around us and slowly build the visibility illustrating that consensual non-monogamy is real and no big deal.
Want to learn more? Our go-to resource is friend of the show, Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up. Or drop us a line at 573.55SWING with your voice mail or text. Cheers!