NonTraditional Relationships: One Size Does Not Fit All

What do you think of when I say traditional relationship? Two people, falling in love, faithful to one another, making plans for their future together, sharing an exclusively intimate connection? Sounds nice, right? Monogamy can be a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t work so well for everyone. Introducing: nontraditional relationships. In the 21st century, there is more than one way to be with someone. In fact, there are more than two ways, three ways, even four ways. “Nontraditional relationships” is an umbrella term for the various options there are to explore. These options are slowly but surely growing in popularity and acceptance; an estimated five percent of Americans participate in some form of non-monogamy. This is not to say that one version of a relationship is better than the next. Different things work for different people. It never hurts to stay open-minded!

If you aren’t familiar with nontraditional relationships, the vocabulary can be overwhelming. There are various terms that you may encounter, and not fully understand. Never fear; here are a few of the most common:

Open Relationship/Open Marriage - This term is an incredibly broad one. An open relationship consists of two people who want to be together, but agree to be intimate or sexual with others. It is potentially the most popular form of nontraditional relationships. Jada Pinkett Smith has expressed details of her marriage that read as an open marriage with Will Smith. Their marriage is all about trust. Trust is the key component!

Polygamy/Polyamory - Polygamy is a marriage consisting of more than two people. This occurs often due to religious reasons, but sometimes simply from personal preference. Polyamory is a similar idea, but with dating. It is the practice of openly having more than one romantic relationship/partner at a time.

Swinging - Swinging is when two committed people, usually married, exchange partners solely for sexual purposes. This often occurs in social settings, like parties or night-clubs.

Monogamish - This is one of the newer nontraditional terms. It is a sort of “in-between-state.” Monogamish describes a person who is primarily monogamous, but allows a certain amount, or specific types of sexual contact with others. For example, maybe you don’t mind your partner kissing other people sometimes, but you are not comfortable with a completely open relationship.


There is one essential rule that all of these nontraditional relationships have in common. If you decide that non-monogamy is the choice for you, it needs to be consensually non-monogamous. All partners involved must agree to the rules and boundaries. If it’s not consensual, there may be jealousy and distrust. Things are sure to get messy, and people are bound to get hurt. It is a necessity to the success of the relationship that all parties are on the same page!

Sadly, it is incredibly difficult for some people to grasp nontraditional relationships. You don’t see it much in the media, and you probably didn’t hear much about it growing up. For many, it is a fairly new concept. As we know, people tend to frown upon what they do not fully understand. As I mentioned before, non-monogamy isn’t for everyone! If you are more comfortable with a traditional relationship, that is absolutely fine. The important thing is that we remain considerate and open-minded. For those who do appreciate nontraditional relationships, it is all about trust and connection. Making genuine and intimate connections with more than one person openly and honestly can be pleasing to all parties involved. Many even argue that it may be the more natural thing, described as giving into basic human nature. The fact of the matter is, relationships aren’t one size fits all anymore. You have choices; you are free to decide who you want to love and how you want to love them... With consent and boundaries of course!