ENM Relationships: What Is It & Does It Work For You?

3 could well be the magic number.

ENM Relationships: What Is It & Does It Work For You?

In the modern world of dating and relationships, it is considered perfectly normal for someone to be speaking to, and even seeing, multiple people at once. We’re not here to discuss why someone wants to engage in this type of behaviour, but instead, we want to focus on a relationship type that accepts this kind of behaviour: the ENM relationship.

You may not have heard of the term before, or you may have seen someone mention it in their Tinder bio and thought “what is an ENM relationship?”

Well, ponder no more as we’re going to explain what an ENM relationship is and how they work. And, who knows, it could be just the thing your love life needs to kick it up a notch.

What is an ENM relationship?

An ENM relationship stands for an Ethical Non-Monogamous relationship. It refers to someone who is romantically involved with more than one person, and all parties accept and agree to the structure. Ethical Non-Monogamy is an umbrella term for a variety of different relationship types, which we discuss in a bit.

ENM relationships are different to conventional non-monogamy, which is also known as infidelity, or cheating. In this instance, one member of the couple doesn’t consent for the other to engage in any romantic or intimate relationship with someone else.

With ethical non-monogamy, it is agreed that those involved are allowed to seek other romantic and sexual partners. The “friends with benefits” relationship could be considered an ENM relationship.

ENM relationships have entered the mainstream in a big way in recent years, although could in some ways be seen as an ‘allowed’ route for someone to effectively cheat on their partner. If they agree to let you sleep with other people, then there’s no need to be so sneaky about it. Sounds great, right?

If you’re someone who turns their nose up at the thought of someone (or all parties, for that matter) being genuinely happy with an ENM relationship, then it’s worth remembering that men in relationships live healthier lives compared to single men.

While the research to support these findings likely relates to monogamous relationships, if an ENM relationship is established, agreed upon and successful, there’s no reason why the man can’t still live a healthy life.

Types of ENM Relationship

As we mentioned earlier, an ENM relationship is an umbrella term. Various relationship types fall underneath it, including open relationships, polyamory and swinging.

Open Relationship

An open relationship is one where two people involved in a relationship openly agree to see other people. It may be the case that only one person wants to be ‘open’ while the other is happy with their partner. This can, of course, introduce difficulties in the original relationship but if one partner is happy for the other to see other people, it can still be healthy.

Open relationships don’t necessarily have to be romantic or sexual in nature, it could just be that the couple wants to be able to freely meet, talk with and perhaps even flirt with others. For an open relationship to be successful, both parties need to agree upon a set of rules of what the other can or cannot do. These rules are allowed to change over the course of the open relationship if necessary, in order to make sure both members of the original couple are satisfied.


Polyamorous relationships differ from other types of ENM relationships because they refer to people who seek out more intimate, romantic connections with other people. In some cultures, it is accepted that one person may actually be married to multiple partners and has loving relationships with them all.

Polyamory can also refer to a single person who dates multiple people at once and there is also the term ‘polyfidelity’ which refers to a group of three people who are in a committed relationship with each other and don’t date outside of the group. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘throuple’.


Swinging relationships are defined as allowing one or both members in a relationship to have sexual experiences with others. They are kept strictly casual and, as with open relationships, specific rules and boundaries should be defined.

Swinging differs from polyamory because people who engage in swinging don’t form a romantic connection with the other people they have sex with. It is kept strictly casual.

Why Do People Have ENM Relationships?

The quick answer to this question is that it’s none of your business. What someone else does with their private life is up to them.

But, if you like the idea of seeking out an ethical non-monogamous relationship, but are keen to understand some reasonings to help you make up your mind, then the following can apply:

  • Exploring one’s sexuality: In conventional committed relationships, you’re tied to the one person you’re with. But people’s desires, fantasies and sexual preferences can change over time. An ENM relationship can allow the two parties in a relationship to fulfil any desires they may have, without having to risk the breakdown of their current relationship. 
  • To satisfy all needs: Some people in a relationship may find their partner meets most, but not all of their identified needs. You may love their company and the support they provide, but when it comes to bedroom antics, you may be a little bit unsatisfied. Agreeing to an ethical non-monogamous relationship can allow both parties to then seek out other partners that fill these voids. 

How To Have A Successful ENM Relationship?

Communication. Communication. And more communication. For an ENM relationship to succeed, both parties need to have lengthy discussions to understand why they want to have one, how they want to go about it and cover any other rules to abide by so that both parties are satisfied.

ENM relationships obviously won’t be for everyone, and you may still be wondering how they can be practised and how the original relationship can remain intact without any arguments occurring. They’re just another prime example of what works for one person, and may not work for someone else.

It’s quite literally, each to their own.