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8 Things to Understand Prior to Beginning a Consensual Non-Monogamous Relationship

Most people consider monogamy the default model for relationships. They look at it as the gold standard and the perfect way to achieve bliss as a couple. But things are different now and times are beginning to change.

Consensual nonmonogamous relationships are receiving more interest now than ever before. There are many TV shows including Polyamory: Married & Dating, Unicornland, and You Me Her, that dominate the television airwaves.

Even more telling, the sex columnist named Dan Savage recently coined the term monogamish, which is a fun way of saying consensual non-monogamy.

At this time, it is estimated that 3% to 7% of the couples in North America are currently in some type of consensual nonmonogamous relationship.

The terms polyamorous, nonmonogamous, and consensual non-monogamy all have different meanings for different people. For some, CNM (consensual non-monogamy) regards open sexual relationships with knowing partners in a completely transparent fashion. On the other hand, polyamory is different because it involves an emotional and real commitment to multiple partners, and it consists of closeness and genuine love.

I have practiced polyamory and non-monogamy for many years and it’s taken a while to come up with the right words to describe these preferences. In the past five years, I’ve fully adapted a polyamorous and nonmonogamous lifestyle and it’s provided greater relationship satisfaction and even more happiness.

I am fully invested in communicating, respecting, and trusting my partners. I feel a deep sense of love for whoever I feel like loving, and I can love them for as long as I choose in my own way. I meet my emotional and physical needs and feel 100% satisfied. I also feel blessed to enjoy love and experiences brought on by relationship flexibility. My romantic life is brimming with excitement and I’m incredibly happy for this opportunity.

Starting a Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationship

Are you considering exploring the world of CNM? Learn about eight important things to understand before starting a consensual nonmonogamous relationship.

  1. CNM Relationships Thrive on a Solid Foundation

Are you in a stable primary relationship? This is critical to the success of consensual nonmonogamous relationships because adding more partners creates bigger levels of complexity. There also needs to be a tremendous amount of trust in this relationship setting.

Entering a CNM as a couple, with the intent to save the relationship, will likely end up being a huge blunder. The relationship will most likely fall apart. The most successful CMN relationships thrive when the partners communicate effectively and feel tremendous trust, acceptance, and love toward one another.

  1. Agreements in the Relationship Should Be Negotiated Upfront

There are experts in CNM relationships that believe it’s best to cover all potential scenarios in a written agreement before beginning a relationship. But other relationship experts feel this approach is fruitless because there are limitless possibilities for things to go wrong. Instead of having a loving and committed and trusting relationship, the relationship is founded on a legal agreement, which isn’t very good for anyone.

But it’s also important to decide about certain aspects of the relationship upfront. As an example, you may want to know things like, “Are certain activities potentially off-limits?” Or information like, “Should your partner share information with you about every potential new lover?” And you should establish whether or not you need to meet the person prior to your partner beginning dating them. Is there a don’t ask, don’t tell policy? Is this appropriate?

  1. Consider Making Your Sexual Health a Big Priority

The World Health Organization says that over 1 million people contract a new STI each day. At any given time, there are over 110 million people with an STI in the USA at any given time.

In a consensual nonmonogamous relationship, it’s important for everyone in the partnership to have a sexual health exam before starting this relationship. It’s critical to get tested for the full range of STIs consistently on a 3 to 6 month basis.

And if a new partner is joining the relationship, everyone should get tested within a few weeks. Why? Because when you’re dealing with multiple partners, it’s best to be cautious because you never know when someone might contract an STI and pass it along to the rest of the group.

  1. Constant Communication Is Critical

It can be very difficult and stressful to talk about sex. But you shouldn’t avoid this type of communication altogether. This is especially true in a CNM relationship because communication is critical in this scenario. Remember, you’re dealing with multiple dynamics at any time in this relationship, so honesty and transparency is of the utmost importance if your relationship is going to work.

In fact, prior to beginning a CNM relationship, you should sit down and speak with your partner. During this conversation you can talk about your expectations, learn about their thoughts on certain issues, and discuss positives and potential negatives and get everything out in the open.

Just like any relationship, you’ll only have a successful CNM as long as the partners care for and trust one another. Even better, the more you converse about sex and topics related to sex, you’ll feel much less awkward having these conversations with your partner.

  1. Understand & Acknowledge That Relationship Boundaries Will Shift

In a CNM relationship, you may have agreed to a specific boundary at first, but later on decide that you’d like it to change. In fact, something you envisioned in the beginning before the relationship started is very different now and you aren’t happy. In this case, you need to talk to your partner about shifting boundaries.

Remember, this type of relationship is like going on a journey. It should change and morph into something new, different, and exciting as you add new partners to the mix. Pay attention to your main partner and listen to them. You will learn more about them, yourself, and life throughout this process.

  1. Express Your Desires with Words

We all have certain needs that must be met. We all have certain desires and wants that we need from a relationship. It’s important to express these desires with words to let your partner know what you expect from the relationship, what you want in the bedroom, and much more.

Remember, your partner isn’t a mind reader and communication can become difficult in a CNM. So remember to share your feelings and thoughts and speak them clearly using your words. Otherwise you could end up very unhappy in your relationship for no reason at all.

  1. Realize That It’s Normal to Feel Jealousy in CNM Relationships

It might not be fun, but jealousy is quite common and very normal in a CNM relationship. No one wants to think about their partner having sex with another person or even going on a date with them. It’s natural and normal to feel jealous in this case.

The CNM community is ready to provide support for people who feel this way. There are lots of books on the topic and you can even attend workshops to help you learn how to cope with your feelings.

Even more important, you better share your feelings with your partner. They will help you by providing reassurance when jealousy rears its ugly head, and it will happen.

  1. You Can Hit Pause or Stop a CNM Relationship Whenever You Want

No one is saying you have to stay in a CNM relationship forever. If you explore this type of lifestyle and find that it isn’t working for you, you could always put an end to it because it’s your right.

Many couples experience a relationship boost and a greater sexual connection when they enter into a CNM. Some couples have the opposite experience unfortunately and it doesn’t always work out so well.

Just remember the most important rule of all. It’s absolutely okay to stop this relationship whenever you want. Or if you prefer to slow down or pause it, you can do that as well as you explore your feelings and consider other options.


Calvin Riddle created Casual Sex Calvin as a way to entertain like-minded individuals on sex topics and solve many of life's problems people are too shy to talk about. When he's not working his 9-5 importing fine wines, he enjoys watching sports and will never turn down a good debate.

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