Is Non-Monogamy Just Cheating? Here’s How To Tell The Difference

Is Non-Monogamy Just Cheating? Here’s How To Tell The Difference

Imagine this. 

You’ve met someone, either through friends or a common activity or through a dating app. You’ve seen them socially once or twice and the two of you get along great. Then, they ask you out on a date.

Of course, you agree, because it’s not often that you meet someone you vibe with quite so well, right? 

Then, they say, “Before we start dating, there’s something we need to talk about.”

Your heart drops. What is it? Are they married? Do they live on the other side of the world? It could be anything!

The person you really like tells you that they are non-monogamous. They may use different terms like polyamorous, ethically non-monogamous, consensually non-monogamous, solo polyamorous, a swinger, in an open relationship, or something else. But what does that even mean? 

Isn’t all that just an excuse to cheat on their partner? It might be. But many people who choose to have relationships this way are not cheating at all. How can you know for sure that they are not cheating?

What’s The Different Between Cheating and Ethical Non-Monogamy?

The Oxford Dictionary defines cheating as:

To act dishonestly or unfairly to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.

In regards to relationships that would mean that a cheating partner is purposefully lying to their partner about what they are doing, who they are having sex with, or what their intentions are. They are acting purely in their own interests and without the knowledge of their partner.

In an ethically non-monogamous relationship, both partners are fully aware of the other’s actions. They permit their partner to form relationships, sexual and/or emotional, with other people.

So, an ethically non-monogamous person is not a cheater. 

Usually. Ethically non-monogamous people are not some kind of higher-evolved human species who do not lie, cheat, deceive, or act in their own best interest. Some of them may indeed be cheating!

Signs That Someone Is Not Cheating

There are signs you can look for to know if the person is cheating on their spouse or partner under the guise of ENM. If you really like the person who asked you on a date but has told you that they are ENM, you might not think to look for the signs. It’s tempting to just trust them right?

Here are some ways to know if they are cheating or if they are truly ethical in their non-monogamous relationships.

They Don’t Rush You

If they are cheating and just want to act in their own interest, they won’t give you time to think about it. They will want you to just say yes, go out with them, and trust them. If they are truly ethical in their relationships, they will give you all the time you need. And if you decide not to go out on a date with them right now, they will understand.

They Answer Your Questions

If this is the first time you’ve met someone in real life who is polyamorous, a swinger, or in an open relationship, you’re going to have a lot of questions. 

You might not be interested in a sex-based relationship so you’ll want to know if they form emotional attachments as well. Are all your dates going to be the Netflix and Chill variety or can you go out in public together? What if you really like this person eventually? Will it end if their partner decides they don’t like you and wants them to stop seeing you?

There are a lot of questions that will come to mind. You should be able to ask all of them.

They Will Address Your Concerns About Their Partner

It might seem kind of weird but you might consider asking if you can meet their partner. You might feel the need to only meet them once for a few minutes, just to confirm that their partner is aware that the person you want to date is dating other people. Or you might end up sitting down and having an in-depth conversation.

Most people who are in ethically non-monogamous relationships understand that someone who isn’t familiar with how this works will have questions and will happily meet the romantic interests of their partners, at least once. 

What About Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Relationships?

Some people who are ethically non-monogamous are in Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) relationships. This might be because one of the partners in the relationship has a lower sex drive than the other or even has no interest in sex. The other partner might also have a health condition that prevents them from having sex.

This is a perfectly viable form of non-monogamy but it makes it difficult to know for sure if it is cheating or not. Usually, the other person in the relationship doesn’t want to know when or who their partner is dating or having sex with. They certainly don’t have any interest in meeting their partner’s partners.

There are ways that you can get verification from the partner who is on the other end of a DADT relationship. The other person can make contact with you via a messaging app. If you do this, you need to be able to verify that it is actually the partner you are speaking to. You can do this on Facebook. 

Verify the authenticity of messages by:

  1. Checking to see that the two of them are set as married or in a relationship with each other.
  2. Make sure the partner’s account is not new.
  3. Ask for picture verification (not ID but a live picture)
  4. Ask for a picture of them holding up a sign that says something like, “I consent to my partner dating other people.”

You could also ask for a brief phone conversation. If their partner allows this, keep it respectful with just one or two questions. Then, if you are satisfied, do not contact them again.

Be Respectful But Know You Deserve Respect

If you’re considering dating someone who is on the ENM scale in any way, know that you deserve respect. Even if the other person is their primary partner and will always come first, you have the right to know that before you begin dating an ENM person.

Take the time to think about your questions and then ask them. Even if they are hard questions, you deserve to know what you are getting into.

Don’t be discouraged. Dating someone who is ENM can be very rewarding. They can be very caring and loving people. It doesn’t mean you have to become ENM. However, you might find that this relationship style can be satisfying, and choose it for yourself, too!

Written by Autumn Seave