Relationships are Relationships, And They’re All Unique

I really only had one objection to the presentation on ethical non-monogamy: That it treated ENM relationships as something “different” than monogamous relationships.

I’ve tried to emphasize this before with everything I’ve written about relationships.

Every relationship has the same (possible) qualities, faces the same difficulties and challenges, and figures out ways to deal with (or ignore) those challenges within the relationship.

The classification of relationships – monogamous, non-monogamous, romantic, platonic, friendship, lovers, marriage, single, and so on – is entirely arbitrary. That classification is for convenience and speed, nothing more.

Take the quality of “sexual exclusiviity”. That possible quality applies to all the above types of relationship. For some of them – say, platonic friendship – the value of “sexual exclusivity” is “not applicable”. For some of them – say, monogamous romantic – there’s an assumed default value of “yes” (even if that’s not always the case in practice). For some of them, it has to be explicitly discussed or negotiated.

That kind of explicit discussion/negotiation most often shows up in ENM, because there isn’t any one way to “do” ENM (or any of the categories underneath that rather large umbrella). That’s not a bug, that’s a feature.

That’s because most problems in relationships – regardless of classification – usually arise from bad assumptions about expectations and obligations.

Those assumptions can come from observing others, our past experiences, religious upbringing, cultural norms, romantic comedies, or society in general. And those assumptions are not universal, even if the aspect of the relationship is.

Take “cheating”. All of those – including platonic relationships – can have some form of “cheating”, but what “counts” varies wildly. Does it count if you were “on a break”? What about “emotional infidelity” or “emotional affairs”? Does watching pornography count? Masturbation? Simply being attracted to someone else, even if you do or say nothing about it? Go to an event with one friend instead of another?

Your answers are going to be different than mine. And that’s okay.

As long as you talk about them with the people you’re in relationships with and figure out what works for everyone in that relationship.

No matter what label you give the relationship.

Featured Photo by Will O on Unsplash