Dating Apps and Ethical Non-Monogamy

Dating Apps and Ethical Non-Monogamy

Posted By Javay- The Millennial Sexpert
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Dating Apps and Ethical Non-Monogamy

Swipe with confidence and curiosity

So you are ready to hit the dating apps again? With the growing participation in non-monogamy (also known as ethical non-monogamy – ENM), it is common to see folks on dating apps who are ENM. Knowing how to navigate ENM on dating apps can help lessen one of the stressors or worry factors with dating, especially online dating. Here are some tips to prepare you for your journey, but we recommend following educators around ENM and polyamory if you want more in-depth guidance.

Get in the know

When you are on dating apps, you may see many different languages referring to ENM. You have the acronym, open-marriage, polyam (you may also see poly – there is debate about the use of poly as some feel it erases Polynesian identities), swingers, unicorns, and so much more. To best understand all the different terminology and language you may see on apps, you have to grow your wealth of knowledge. Ethical Non-Monogamy looks different depending on people’s relationships, the boundaries they have set in their relationship(s), and so much more. Books are your best friend to give you some grounding in the different relationship makeups. 


Books about Non-Monogamy

Let’s Talk About Non-Monogamy by J. R. James

Ask Me About Polyamory by Tikva Wolf

Love’s Not Color Blind by Kevin A. Patterson

More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino

Polysecure by Jessica Fern

Thriving in Non-Monogamy by Erin Davidson

The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton


Ask the right questions

Now that you have a foundational understanding of ENM and are swiping until your fingers go numb, you have to prepare to actually have a conversation with someone or multiple someones. Opening lines can be difficult, but not asking the right questions is even more difficult. 

So, what questions should you ask when you match with ENM folks? Most importantly, is their partner(s)/spouse/lover(s) are aware of their involvement in ENM? There is no way to know if they are telling the truth, but doing your due diligence in asking is what matters. Even though ethical is in the name, not everyone is ethical. You have to pay attention to their behaviors, primarily if they act in a way that makes it seem like they may have a partner or partners that do not know about you or them being “non-monogamous.” 

Now that you know they are ethically engaged in non-monogamy, you can move on to some critical questions:

                     - What are you looking for in a new partner?

                     - How long have you been participating in ENM?

                     - What type of ENM are you involved in?

After those initial ENM questions are answered, you can dive into the really tricky stuff – the getting to know you questions. You’re on your own for those. (Jk, you can check out this article for tips on pick-up lines and how to talk to people on dating apps).

Discuss boundaries

You’ve found an individual (or a few) that you are interested in, and things are progressing, so what’s next? Boundaries are an essential aspect of all relationships and especially non-monogamous relationships. When it comes to ENM, you have to account for boundaries with your partner directly, and boundaries they may have with their other partners. 

Boundaries look different for everyone, so you want to have the conversation and not make assumptions based on others. Asking people what boundaries or rules they have in place with their existing partners is extremely important as they will impact your dynamic and relationship. For example, some relationships may agree to no overnight stays, or some may request no posting on socials because they aren’t publicly out. There may be a boundary where primary partners/spouses have to meet you before things go past a certain point, or they may limit contact outside designated date nights. Boundaries do vary, so the conversation is paramount. If there are any boundaries you aren’t comfortable with, you need to evaluate if you want to continue pursuing something with this individual.

Let go of “tradition”

Alright, so you have defined your boundaries and begin dating someone(s). Now you have to brace yourself. Though ENM is growing in popularity and more publicly talked about, we still live in a society that shames things that aren’t traditional. It will take some time and work, but you should try to let go of “traditional” things and views. 

ENM doesn’t have to look like and go like traditional monogamous relationships and often won’t look like that. So let go of the expectations of what relationships are supposed to look like from society’s standards. It’s your relationship(s), not society’s. And in the vein of letting go of tradition, know that not everyone publicly shares their relationship status and all of their partners to protect themselves from the backlash, shame, and other repercussions that can be experienced.

Dating couples

The last thing to remember about ENM and dating apps is that couples may be using them to find thirds for a hook-up. There is no shame in threesomes (and personally, I love them), but it is important to recognize the differences between “unicorn hunters” and folks engaging in actual ethical non-monogamy. 

Some couples engage in ethical non-monogamy and date as a unit, but you may want to be extra cautious when you see couples on dating apps. Unicorn hunters have a reputation for not viewing thirds as individuals worthy and deserving of respect and care but more so as accessories to their relationships, sex life, and desires. If you are a unicorn and into just being a third and nothing else, do your thang, but if you are looking for relationships that value you and treat you as an equal, unicorn hunters may not be for you.

Now that you have a little more guidance on where to start with dating ENM folks and meeting them via apps, you can feel a little more confident.

Now go forth and get your ethical non-monogamy on!