Okay. So the truth is that a few months ago, someone on Tinder, (yep I was on Tinder) asked me about something that I had written in my profile. What was it? You guessed it, I included - “Ethically Non-Monogamous”
Because I love to text on that stupidly small keyboard on my phone, I came up with 10 different things I have learned about being ENM. #8 was created by my dear friend, and partner in developing the concept of ENM, Kris.
And, I have to admit, I am no expert.
More often than not, I have “defaulted” to monogamy.
And then, after that, anywhere between 3 months and a year I get tired.
Worried that I am playing small.
Or rather, making myself small in order to feel love. Again.
So then I discovered, accidentally yes, Ethically Non-Monogamous.
It is three words together that I made up. Though influenced by Polyamory, open relationships, and authentic relating, Ethically Non-Monogamous is based on one main principle: Ethical Choice. You do not HAVE to be in open relationships and you do not have to be in a monogamous relationship. You get to make a choice.
Ethical Non-Monogamy is a perspective and set of guidelines for sexual and intimate relationships. ENM does not default to 1x1 intensive boyfriend/girlfriend relating as the end goal. Rather, it allows one to take the time to enjoy people and give yourself, and them, the freedom, respect, security, and love that we are all really looking for. For me it was also a way to take action and explore a relationship dynamic that allowed me to play outside of the normalized “must make myself be girlfriend now” zombie-esque programing.
So here they are -
The most 10 important things I have learned about being ENM:
1. Don't make promises, ever. But stick by your commitments & communicate clearly if you cannot complete the agreed upon terms. Be willing to apologize when you are not able to stick by your commitments, or when you hurt someone's feelings. Click here to read about The Power of Apology.
2. Tell 100% of the truth, with 100% empathy & care. This especially goes for the items that feel *sticky* (ex's, other lovers etc). If it comes up, and you don’t want to say it, say it.
3. Give space for the other person to have their own experience (emotional, sexual, spiritual, physical etc) without needing to change it. Code here: that person DOES NOT want you to fix them. On any level. Even if they are telling you - “fix me!” - don’t do it. It will drain your energy and eventually you will resent them, and they you.
4. Create a safe space for yourself & others to communicate expectations, desires, gratitudes, needs & hurts. Meaning, allow yourself to communicate expectations, desires, gratitudes, needs & hurts. Safe-porting is a great way to do this. Safe-porting is a practice that someone taught me a long time ago (I would really love to give some credit here, but I just can’t seem to figure out to whom…)
- Name what you are going to do, before you do it. Example: “Hey, I want to tell you a need of mine.”
- Make a request: “Would you mind just listening until I am complete? Then I would love to know how this impacts you.”
- Show gratitude, and ask for their input: “Thank you for listening. And I would love to know, how did what I say impact you?”
5. When in question, be gentle. Most people are walking around with a broken heart, either self-recognized or not.
6. Show yourself and your partner(s) gratitude for being awesome and not just falling into the mold of "typical" relationships
7. Remember that Non-monogamy is not an easier, cooler, or more exciting a way to fuck a lot of people. It is a way to explore another form of mindful relationships, and requires MORE - not less - attention, love, care & consciousness. And, with ethics, you can choose to date and fuck a lot of people without that feeling like you are letting others down, leading them on, or being an ass hole.
8. Then in the end, you leave everyone better off and more full of love and joy than before they met you. That's the beauty of doing everything out in the open and with tenderness is you end up showing people by example that you can have your cake and fuck it too.
9. If you do DECIDE to go into a 1x1 monogamous relationship, it is done mindfully, with the desire and full on excitement of both people. If one partner wants monogamy, and the other does not, ENM says, no, I do not compromise my life for another. I will however listen to you, and share with you 100% honesty and 100% empathy.
10. Have fun. Explore with curiosity and allow yourself to be open to the newness of creating your own version of ENM.
So how has it worked for me?
I practiced ENM for several months, and related to many different types of people. Earlier in 2016 I met someone and we decided to enter into a 1x1 monogamous relationship. We both wanted it, fully. And we still use many of the ENM principles in our current relationship. It feels good to be here now, based on choice, and the desire to be in this relationship, rather than it being something that I defaulted to, or "fell" into one day.
The journey into relationship of any kind is extraordinarily personal, based on where you are at, and what you are wanting to explore. Above all, bring choice to your relationship(s) so that they can be a place for fun and healing.
Briana Cavion, MA, MAnlp
Briana is a Communication and Relationship Coach for WholeLife Neuro-Linguistic Programing (wholelifenlp.com). She and her clients get real about what is working (and not) in their careers and relationships. She has been described as having a "magical" way of helping her clients identify and release what has been slowing them down, stopping them and sabotaging their communication and relationships. Together they journey to discover personal power, soulful leadership and authentic communication. She works from the premise that life is not about one goal achieved after another, or one relationship onto the next, but an incredible opportunity to create the truest expression of your highest purpose, greatest impact and deepest gifts.