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Non-monogamy (or nonmonogamy) is an umbrella term for every practice or philosophy of non-dyadic intimate relationship that does not strictly hew to the standards of monogamy, particularly that of having only one person with whom to exchange sex, love, and affection. In that sense, "nonmonogamy" may be as accurately applied to infidelity and extramarital sex as to group marriage or polyamory.
More specifically, "nonmonogamy" indicates forms of interpersonal relationship, intentionally undertaken, in which demands for exclusivity (of sexual interaction or emotional connection, for example) are attenuated or eliminated, and individuals may form multiple and simultaneous sexual or romantic bonds. This stands in contrast to monogamy, yet may arise from the same psychology.
The concepts of monogamy and marriage have been strongly intertwined for centuries, and in English-language dictionaries one is often used to define the other, as when "monogamy" is "being married to one person at a time." A common antonym is polygamy, meaning to have more than one spouse at one time. As a result, monogamy is deeply entrenched within many religions and in social regulations and law, and exceptions are condemned as incursions on both morality and public health.
In recent years,[when?] consensual non-monogamy (CNM) or ethical non-monogamy (ENM) have been used to typify relationships (or hope to create relationships) where partners mutually agree to form relationships with others as well, protected by superficial monogamy and marriage. This may encompass swinging, polyamory, and other non-exclusive intimacy, depending upon the degree to which the involved individuals are seeking a sexual encounter or an emotional connection, but able to freely return to the socially safe appearance of monogamy.
Many terms for non-monogamous practices are vague, being based on criteria such as "relationship" or "love" that are themselves questionably defined. There are forms whose practitioners set themselves apart by qualifiers, such as "ethically non-monogamous" which intends a distancing from the deceit or subterfuge they perceive in common cheating and adultery.
As well, usage creates distinctions beyond the definitions of the words. For example, though some relations might literally be both polygamous and polyamorous, polygamy usually signifies a codified form of multiple marriage, based on established religious teachings, while polyamory is based on the preferences of the participants rather than social custom or established precedent. Similarly, swingers may intentionally avoid emotional and social connection to those—other than their primary partner—with whom they have sex, so may or may not be polyamorous.
Forms of non-monogamy are many, a few being:
- casual relationship—a physical and emotional relationship between two unmarried people who may have a sexual relationship
- cuckoldry—a person has sex with another individual without the consent of their partner(s) or purposefully excludes them from sex
- group marriage—several people form a single familial unit, with each considered to be married to one another
- poly families—similar to group marriage, but some members may not consider themselves married to all other members
- group sex and orgies involving more than two participants at the same time
- line families—a form of group marriage intended to outlive its original members by ongoing addition of new spouses
- ménage à trois—a sexual (and sometimes domestic) arrangement involving three people
- open relationship (incl. open marriage)—one or both members of a committed (or married) couple have the express freedom to become sexually active with others
- polyamory—participants have multiple romantic partners
- polyfidelity—participants have multiple partners but restrict sexual activity to within a certain group
- primary/secondary—there is a main romantic relationship with all other relationships being second to it.
- polygamy—one person in a relationship has married multiple partners
- relationship anarchy—participants are not bound by set rules
- swinging—similar to open relationships, but conducted as an organized social activity, often involving some form of group sex
- triads/quads—three or four participants make up the primary partnership.
- V-Structure—one person is equally involved with two partners.
The "love outside the box" symbol for polyamory and non-monogamy.
- Are you open to an alternative lifestyle?
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