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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Non-Monogamy

    There are an endless array of relationship types and flavors, so we’re here to break it down for you.

    Are you completely monogamous? Monogamish? Are you only in a sexually open relationship, or are you seeking more of an emotional connection?

    If you’re looking at opening up your relationship, you’re not alone. Ashley Madison members tell us they are looking for a wide variety of connections. According to a recent study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, approximately 1 in 5 Americans has participated in consensual non-monogamy, more commonly known as an open relationship.

    While you’re free to classify your relationship any way you wish, understanding where your boundaries lie is an important step when you and your partner identify—and negotiate—your relationship.


    Affairs are the most common form of non-monogamy, with 63% of men and 45% of women saying they’ve had an affair at least once. Some couples adhere to an “I’d rather not know” policy, while others pursue affairs without their partners’ knowledge. When having an affair, discretion is usually a necessary ingredient. People have affairs for a multitude of reasons—they love their partner but the spark is gone, they don’t want to disrupt the family unit, or they have needs their partner can’t/won’t fulfill so they seek out someone who can. Because of the high need for discretion, many people turn to Ashley Madison to find an extramarital affair partner.

    Open Relationships
    In an open relationship, both partners agree that it’s OK to have connections with others outside the relationship. People define open relationships differently and there are many different types of open relationships, but all fall under the non-monogamy umbrella. What’s common is that you are open to one or many different partners. Whether you’re both experiencing these other people together, or you’re off on your own, an open relationship is one that is clearly communicated and negotiated in advance by you and your partner.


    Probably the most widely accepted and practiced form of non-monogamy, swinging became popular during the sexual revolution in the 1960s. It’s most typical of couples who have been in relationships for an average of 10 years and are looking for something to “spice things up.”

    In fact, a 2011 CNN article claimed that there are as many as 15 million couples in the United States alone who engage in the swinging lifestyle. Swingers can find additional partners in a number of different places, and if they’re looking to keep their lifestyle on the down low these couples can find willing partners on

    Swing experiences aren’t purely about sex, as couples report that their relationship actually benefits from pursuing and exploring their fantasies together.

    According to a poll by the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality of 1,000 couples who self-identified as swingers, 60% said that they are emotionally closer to their partner because of swinging, and 90% said swinging drastically improved their relationship.


    We’ve discussed polyamory before here at Ashley Madison. Polyamory means exploring multiple relationships with different people simultaneously, based on negotiation and open communication between all partners. These discussions regarding multiple relationships aren’t restricted to putting boundaries on sex; they focus around being incredibly communicative about your feelings and understanding what you want and need from a partner.

    Polyamory can cover anything from one partner having another partner, to polyfidelity relationships that can encompass a plethora of people in a group relationship. In these situations, entire groups of partners may live together as part of a larger family unit.

    A 2015 study, reported in Multiamory blog, reports that 55% of people would consider an open relationship if their partner asked about it. But those considering polyamory need to also consider the amount of communication required for an open relationship to work. People may be up front and honest about what they want, but that doesn’t mean they’re up front and honest about what they’re actually doing.


    In both swinging and polyamory dating lifestyles, there are a number of ways of approaching and negotiating relationships. Monogamish is a phrase coined by Dan Savage which empowers couples to write their own relationship rules.

    Emotional monogamy refers to couples that are generally monogamous, but may branch out sexually. This may be an activity that they do together, like swinging. Or they may agree to freely explore their sexual options separately. The overarching premise is that sex is casual and for physical release, not emotional bonding—unless it’s between the two of you. In many cases, couples may decide that out of love and respect for each other, certain intimate acts are shared only with each other and are off-limits with casual partners. For instance, couples may decide that “dates” are off-limits for casual encounters.

    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can be applied to any and all types of relationships, but means that whatever happens doesn’t need to be openly discussed. “My wife is free to have sex with other people, I just don’t want to hear or think about it,” would be an example of this kind of unspoken agreement between couples. While this may work for some (see: relationship anarchy), this may also result in hurt and shock when partners do come across undeniable evidence that their partner is pursuing other people.

    Relationship Anarchy

    Hard to define—and even harder for outsiders to understand—is relationship anarchy. This form of relationship is very open, usually abiding by a form of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” because everyone is free to do whatever they desire.

    It’s similar to the Summer of Love era of the 70s and Free Love movements (concepts that actually date as far back as the 1700s) that focused on the abolition of marriage, but welcomed sexual liberation—especially for married women.

    When it comes down to determining what kind of open relationship you want to participate in, the key is knowing yourself and knowing your partner. While jealousy is a factor, it goes beyond that: it’s about clearly communicating what your expectations are and laying down any ground rules to keep the relationship(s) healthy.

    No matter what’s right for you, you can discreetly browse for potential partners on, a community where you can explore your inner-most needs and desires.

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