If you haven't seen yet, Revolution Therapy and Yoga has a new addition to our lobby: the Sex Questions Box! This box is dedicated to (as you ca probably guess) all of your sex, sexuality, and gender related questions. We routinely check this box for your completely anonymous questions and work to use our experience and education to give the best advice we can, like we did with the question below:
"How do I talk about ethical non-monogamy with my friends and family?"
This is a super subjective question and will ultimately depend on each person's individual situation and varying strengths, but there we can definitely give you some solid yet general advice to get you started on your journey! I myself am in a ethically non-monogamous relationship and have definitely had a hard and/ or interesting time navigating conversations about this with friends and family, we all go through it!
What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?
To start, we should probably define ethical non-monogamy (ENM) for those who don't know. Simply and broadly, ENM is when people engage in sexual or romantic relationships that includes more than just two total people.
This may sound a lot a lot like polyamory, and you'd have some credit in that! Polyamory is just one of many ways to practice ENM, along with having friends with benefits during a relationship, having an open relationship, relationship anararchy, swinging, throuples, polyg– okay, I think you get the point. There's no one right way to practice ENM, and with that, it also means that there are a lot of ways to answer this question, but let's take a shot at it.
ONE. What is Ethical Non-Monogamy for you?
When you're trying to tell your friends and family about your relationship with consensual non-monogamy (pun not intended) it will always be important to get a sense of what that really means for you, specifically what kind of ENM you are a part of or interested in.
This may seem overly simple, but when we're talking about something as varied, vast, and vague as CNM, there really is a need to solidify what exactly it is you'll be explaining.
TWO. Set The Scene
Okay, maybe you don't need to roll out the red carpet and formally announce that you're having soooo much sex with soooo many people or that you have three partners (if either of those are your speed) over a candlelit dinner with everyone you know and love.
With that said, it may be good to pick a couple people you may want to tell first and talk with them when everyone is calm and not preoccupied. That way you can control the situation, limit the possibility of any negative outcomes, AND make sure you don't have to repeat yourself (which is enough to make me not want to tell anyone just about anything.)
THREE. Educate and Expect Questions
Okay, so it's time! one of the first things you're going to want to do when you start the conversation is talk with your loved ones about what ENM is, how it applies to your life, and most importantly, why it's important to you! This last one is going to be a major factor is the success of your conversation, as cluing your family into the significance of ENM in your life and relationships is going to make them much more likely to be invested in learning more about it and being supportive of you and your journey.
With this, know that there will also probably be a LOT of questions: about you, your relationship(s), the concept of ENM, society, misconceptions, etc. Hopefully these will all be kind, considerate, and well-thought-through questions, but it may also be good to prepare for the potential of more ignorant questions that come from a lack of education around ENM.
FOUR. Think Through Boundaries
Which parts of your relationship do you want to talk about with this person and which not? Sharing with friends and family is not an all-or-nothing decision. Remember your intention for sharing and the fact that you still have a right to have privacy in your relationship.
If you think through any particular dimensions that you don’t want to discuss with the particular person you are sharing with ahead of time, you’re less likely to overshare and regret what you shared. It also can be an opportunity to point someone towards other resources like the books Opening Up or Polysecure or The Ethical Slut so they can educate themselves.
FIVE. You Don't Have To
Despite the advice that I've given and how I'd love for everyone to be able to or want to talk with their loved ones about their relationship with ENM, it isn't always possible, nor is it always necessary! At the end of the day, your relationships are just that, YOUR relationships! they're private and don't need to be discussed outside of them if you don't want to!
Kamryn Gillham (They/ Them)
Social Work Student and Sexuality Advocate
Kamryn is a social work student at the University of Georgia that has a special interest in sexuality and working with erotically marginalized communities. They teach sexuality and relationship workshops and groups at Revolution Therapy, where they are an intern.