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Ethical Non-Monogomy with Chantelle Otten

Interview of Chantelle Otten by Haylee Penfold

Ramona recently had the opportunity to chat with Sex Educator Chantelle Otten about all things ethical non-monogomy (ENM). With these types of relationship styles on the rise, we spoke about how dating app Bumble is making it easier to find like-minded people within your community.

What exactly is ethical non monogomy?

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is when you choose to be non-monogamous, not when you’re non-monogamous by infidelity. It’s basically consensual non monogamy which means the relationship is not exclusive to two people. This can look like a couple wanting to try swinging, polyamory or hosting sex parties. How each couple chooses to explore an ethically non-monagomous relationship will be unique to the individual and the couple.

And it’s more common than you think! Bumble did research and it showed that fluid relationship structures are becoming more and more appealing, with a third (33%) of single Australians thinking ethical non-monogamy is the way of the future. Gen Z are the most likely generation to agree with this statement (42%), followed by Millennials (36%) and Gen X (24%).

How can I introduce ENM in my own relationship?

First things first, ask yourself why you want to try this within your own relationship. Being honest with yourself and your own intentions is so important before beginning the process of introducing this style of relationship. If you’ve explored your intentions and you are in a happy, healthy monogamous relationship, and still want to explore ENM with your partner, then you need to start talking about it.  ENM does really involve a higher level of honesty and communication.

Next, set some realistic expectations. If you say you want to have a sexual or emotional connection with another person, you will have to be prepared for what this may bring up for your partner. In many cases it can challenge their self worth and value, however if you’re open and honest every step of the way, and everyone involved is comfortable with ENM, you’ll be setting the foundations for a healthy relationship.

Approach it at the right time. For this conversation, you need to choose the right time and place. For example I wouldn’t recommend approaching this topic in bed or doing it when you’re having an argument. I’d also recommend only having this conversation if your relationship is really healthy and strong. If you do decide to have this conversation with your partner, you really need to go into it being non-judgemental and always coming from a kind and respectful place.

How is Bumble making things easier for those couples wanting to try ENM?

Bumble makes a conscious efforts to create a community that is safe and enjoyable no matter what you’re looking for. When you sign up to Bumble you can explain how you want to date, what you’re into and who you want to date.  When you’re really honest and open in your dating profile, you’ll likely have more fun.

Bumble also puts a lot of content out there that helps their community discuss these types of topics and I think that’s really important to break down any stereotypes when it comes to dating and relationships.

What is the best way to use dating apps as a couple or someone wanting to try ENM?

Be clear with what you’re looking for: When it comes to ethical non-monagmous relationships, make sure you put your relationship style, especially if you’re looking for more than just sex.  So you could say something like “I’m heterosexual, kinky, in a polyamorous relationship and I’m looking for someone to join me…”

There are so many ways to do ethical non-monogamous relationships, and the more specific you get, the healthier things will be for you.

Watch your wording: You have to put detail in your profile that is respectful, mature and true to your values and desires.  So if you’re looking for a unicorn (a third person to join your relationship), then you need to explain exactly what you want from that. Having a unicorn join your relationship is totally fine, but just watch your wording. So for example you may want to say “we’re a loving couple, looking to date someone together.” And if you’re joining a relationship, you need to consider there may be some power discrepancies that will need to be considered and managed carefully by all involved.

Act respectfully: There is a thing such as “unicorn chasers” and these are couples who are chasing a third individual to join them sexually. I think a lot of people have done this in the wrong way in the past. Couples have sought a unicorn but then placed rigid rules, inflexibility and even controlling behaviours over that person. The unicorns have been viewed as just a body, rather than an individual. This can be really difficult and challenging for the unicorn.

I think because the topic of ENM hasn’t been spoken about in the past, many people haven’t known how to approach it. So my top tips are more communication, being respectful to all involved and giving it time – you may want to talk about it for months or even years before you potentially start doing it. Once you start exploring ENM, it really can’t be undone so you need to make sure everyone involved is really comfortable with it.

Have you considered trying ENM? Let us know! We’d love to hear your stories!

Check out Chantelle’s book here.

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