Three signs you are practising basic forms of Ethical Non-Monogamy in your relationship

Rosie Kay aka ThisKindaGirl
9 min readAug 16, 2023

What are the basic forms of Ethical Non-Monogamy?

No, it’s not secretly deleting ‘just a text’ off your phone, nor is it watching pornhub whilst your partner is asleep; basic ethical non-monogamy, or the practice of it, is a thing. And it might be something you do in your relationship without even realising it!

But first, let’s talk about what ethical non-monogamy is.

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is an umbrella term for a relationship where romantic or sexual connections are extended past the committed relationship of two people. ENM can take on many forms, involving both parties acting outside the relationship or just one.

So if ENM is the ‘full fat’ version, where potentially you could couple swap or watch your partner have sex with someone else, what’s the ‘skimmed milk’ option? Talking about it? Thinking about? Making a profile on a swinger dating site but never having the confidence to reach out to people?

Hmm, potentially, but in my experience, practising basic Ethical non-monogamy is about accepting that your partner is human and has very natural human instincts and desires, regardless of whether they choose to act on them. The term basic ethical non-monogamy was one I heard from a fellow relationship coach when I was having a conversation about what sparks people’s interest in alternative lifestyles.

It got me thinking about my own experiences of practising basic ENM. You may find this strange, but even I, as a swinger lifestyle expert and open relationship coach, have practised basic forms of ENM, and one of those was quite recently when my partner and I both agreed that a woman who we had spoken to about the value of a property was ‘stunning’.

After reading this article, more than a few of you will go, wait, that’s us! And that’s fine, as I’ve also included advice on taking the next steps (should you wish to) and, of course, things to be aware of!

So, let’s discover what basic forms of ethical non-monogamy are there.

Flirting in front of your partner

We all flirt, and in most cases, we do it almost subconsciously. Sometimes we can’t help it; we interact with someone, they smile at us, we talk to them, they flirt with us, and maybe just maybe, we do it back.

It doesn’t hurt anyone, and usually, it’s so insignificant it’s forgotten about pretty much straight away. Why? Because it doesn’t impact our life. And we do it, especially when we are alone (for example, at work), to interact and build rapport with people. And that’s fine. I don’t know anyone who’s never flirted; it’s normal, it’s natural and second nature.

This flirting is what I’m going to call ‘functional flirting’ It takes place, for example, at work, when sometimes, you need to have that bit of flirty banter to get the job done. It’s flirting that is essentially done alone.

So when I say flirting in front of your partner, I’m referring to flirting, which occurs when both of you are present and can be with either of you or, in some cases, both. Sometimes, we are in situations where someone flirts with our partners in front of us, and they flirt back. For some people, this is a step too far, and they can’t hack it; if this is you, I suggest you read my work on jealousy in relationships and return to me.

But for the rest of you who are secure in yourselves, seeing your partner respond in this way and not reacting negatively and watching them blush or laugh is, for me, practising a basic form of ethical non-monogamy. You are allowing your partner the freedom to interact, express themselves, and act without the fear of repercussions. Sure, you could talk about the interaction later, but you aren’t looking to blame your partner or make them feel guilty.

Fantasising in bed

We all do this as it’s a natural and normal part of being intimate. Fantasising about situations, people, feelings, and scenarios is deeply personal and usually one that we, the fantasiser, are privy to in our thoughts. But what if you decided to share your fantasies whilst being intimate? What if you wanted to tell your partner how you imagine another person might get involved or wonder what it’s like having people watch you in a swingers club?

Sharing your fantasies is a profoundly intimate and sometimes quite vulnerable act, too, and allowing yourselves to become involved in the fantasy scenario is one form of basic ENM that you might enjoy. Allowing your partner to enter that world with you becomes a journey for both of you.

Both checking people out.

Much like flirting, checking people out and being checked out is something we do subconsciously, which happens to us un-subconsciously.

We can’t fight off everyone who checks out our partner (I used to be like this, and trust me, it’s exhausting), neither can we appear with a megaphone, ‘Do Not Check Me Out’.

It happens; get over it, and much like flirting, it’s one thing that we do, especially when we are alone, and similar to the workplace, ‘functional flirting’ checking people out does very little to impact your life or your relationship.

So what happens when you both check someone or, say, a couple out together? I can speak from a place of recent personal experience regarding this topic. A few weeks ago, my male partner and I had an appointment with an estate agent to discuss the value of a property. The female estate agent was strikingly beautiful and incredibly charming. When we left the office, he turned to me and said, ‘Babe, did you see that girl!’ The conversation that followed is not one I shall share here, but you will catch my drift.

Now, two things; firstly, he shared this with me becuase he felt able to share without fear of repercussions. But secondly, and more importantly, he was registering his interest; he didn’t know if this interest would be reciprocated in me or if I felt the same. But he still felt able to share.

Was I angry that he had checked her out? Hell no! I’d only be upset if he could not share his thoughts with me or if I’d asked him, ‘Did you check her out?’ and he replied with ‘no’, as he clearly was

(This is what I refer to as teaching your partner to lie, and it’s a topic that I wrote about previously). So the next time someone catches your eye, why not share your thoughts with your partner? If you are feeling uncomfortable about hearing your partner’s thoughts on someone else or who they are attracted to, remember this, them checking someone out, in reality, has very little impact on your life together. It doesn’t mean they no longer find you attractive; it means they can display that level of honesty with you.

The next steps

Practising basic forms of Ethical non-monogamy doesn’t mean your partner is going to leave you, wants to replace you or is planning to cheat on you. Because let’s face it, if someone wants to do one of those things, they will go and do it, regardless.

Instead, it means that you have the type of relationship where you can share openly and show vulnerability with one another, which is a positive trait in any relationship, ENM or not.

If you can accept that yes, your partner will check people out, have flirty conversations and might even fantasise about having another person in bed with you, understand that they are simply responding to situations in a way that we humans are wired to respond. If you can appreciate that this has little to no negative impact on your life and relationship, then you might be open to practising basic ethical non-monogamy.

If this is the case, however, it doesn’t mean that you are about to open your relationship up or have a 4-person swap, and it could be that having conversations about others (what you find attractive in other people), enjoying fantasies together or watching your partner flirt when then they are paid a compliment as far as you are willing to go.

Being content and secure enough in who you are to allow any of the following to happen is a big step that not many people can do, so if you can, then that’s a huge step that should be recognised.

But does it mean my wife wants to swing?

Not necessarily, no, and presuming that because someone feels comfortable enough sharing their fantasy with you, they definitely want to go to a swinger club is a mistake that some men make. Likewise, if a person of a certain race flirts with your partner, it doesn’t mean that your partner suddenly has a race fetish.

Why do I say this? Well, I’ve heard from many men over the years who have said things like,

‘I know she wants to go to a club; she just hasn’t said that yet’

or

‘She talks about it when we are in bed, but the next morning, she won’t discuss it, but I know she wants it.’

No, sir, on both these occasions, you are presuming what your wife wants, and when we write the narratives for our partners, we are treading into dangerous territory.

Now it could be that she would like to turn fantasy into reality. Still, before you even use the word ‘swinger club,’ you both need to be comfortable discussing sex and intimacy away from the heightened bedroom environment.

‘I always want to be able to share our thoughts, have honesty, and grow as a couple. Is ethical non-monogamy something you might enjoy?

It would be a much better conversation to have. But on the flip side, when we don’t communicate fully what we want, and at times show our partner a green light, then suddenly put the brakes on, in the case of Mr ‘I know she wants it’, we are sending our partner’s mixed messages and signals. It’s no wonder they are then filling in the blanks. So instead of skirting around the issue, or getting angry that they have asked you, have a conversation about what you want or how you feel.

Your reaction is so important.

Just as we need to be clear in our conversations, we also need to be aware of the impact the reactions we display can have on our partners. If your partner feels they are able to open up to you and does so, remember they are doing that not because they want to scare you, replace you or compare you, but they are doing so becuase they feel comfortable enough to show that side of themselves to you. You will inevitably damage your relationship if you react negatively when your partner is open with you and displays vulnerability. I am not saying you should be enthusiastic when you are not, be coerced or feel pressured into anything you are uncomfortable with. But shutting down that conversation because it’s not what you want to hear will not be constructive.

Instead, what you should do is acknowledge that their opening up to you in the first place took a great deal of courage, and listening to them without judgement is the first step.

If your initial response is negative, you could reject your partner, and they might feel alienated. This initial rejection may lead to a situation where neither of you can discuss intimacy or explore vulnerable emotions within your relationship. I understand that you may initially be hostile to Ethical Non-Monogamy, but try showing compassion before judging.

Why basic ENM is a great thing (in my belief)

Let me share with you an insight into what happens when we are vulnerable in our relationships. Spoiler alert. It’s all positive. When we expose our vulnerabilities within a relationship, we reveal an extremely private and intimate part of ourselves. Sharing this conveys deep insight into who we are, and only those we consider the most deserving do we share this with.

These vulnerabilities stem from deep within us, and although it is very often a gradual process to share them with our partners, deep bonds between you begin to form once we start that process. You have a deeper shared connection built on honesty, intimacy and communication.

Talking about sex isn’t easy; people like me would be out of a job if it were. But by exposing your vulnerable emotions, you have a solid foundation to build on. Suppose you can talk openly about sex, intimacy, and emotion and have conversations that perhaps are uncomfortable. In that case, you will inevitably be a stronger couple for it. Even if you don’t wish to go down the open relationship, swinger lifestyle or polyamory route, I think developing this ability is an important and valuable skill in any relationship.

If you want detailed advice on how to have that conversation with your partner, overcome that initial fear and learn exactly what to say to minimise the risk of rejection, I am here to help you. If you want to introduce swinging or discuss non-monogamy in your relationship in a non-threatening way, I can show you how; click here and discover how I can help you overcome fear within your relationship.

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Rosie Kay aka ThisKindaGirl

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