If you’ve been following my column this year, you will notice I’ve become slightly obsessed with this new craze taking over the dating world called ENM which stands for ethically non monogamous.
It is defined as a committed romantic relationship wherein all partners consent to sexual and/or romantic encounters with other consenting individuals.
I’ve debated whether it’s a healthy or terrible idea for a relationship. I’ve umm’ed and ahh’ed about incorporating it into my own dating life, and I am still sitting on the fence. Some days I’m like, ‘Heck yeah I could do that’ but then I get a dose of jealousy and think, ‘Nope, absolutely not.’
So I decided to take my research further afield and take a deeper look at it from a new angle. You see, ENM is not just for those of us who are loosely dating, it seems to be running havoc in the married world as well. Only, there’s a slight twist.
If you watched The White Lotus this week (spoiler alert) you would have noticed the plot line involving Cameron and Daphne Sullivan, a youngish, married couple with kids, who, we found out this week have a kinda/sorta ENM situation going on.
From the very start they appear deliriously happy and, to be fair, they are, but scratch under the surface, and you quickly find out they are both cheating on each other and enjoy a good mind-game or two.
Yep, they like to keep each other on their toes. The plot line reveals that this is why their relationship has never fallen into the trap of becoming stale after years of marriage.
Now here’s where the ethical part of their ENM-situation get’s tricky. It’s like they are both aware of each other’s philandering ways, but they just don’t discuss it.
By now you’re probably thinking, sure that’s all fabulous and dramatic, but it’s just a TV series plot line. But it’s not dear reader, it’s not.
For, the older I get, and the more friends who feel comfortable opening up to me, the more I discover just how many married people are in this situation in real life.
Some travel for work a lot, some are in relationships where one has lost their sex drive, and others are just longing for something to make their every day lives just that little more exciting.
I had a good chat with one dear friend a little while ago who revealed she felt like she was experiencing constant groundhog day.
Her husband travelled a lot for work, so most days she was living a basically single-mum life. Wake up, make the kids breakfast, take them to school, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch TV briefly and then head to bed where she would pass out with exhaustion each night.
She had a feeling her husband was playing up while he was away, and she went to see a doctor about her constant anxiety.
Her doctor told her to find a hobby that allowed her to shut out the rest of the world and remind her that she was more than just a “mum”. It would give her a good dose of serotonin, and a way to reconnect with herself outside of her role as Mother and Wife.
She enrolled in an art class, and it’s there that she met a guy who was an outrageous flirt. She quickly discovered that the serotonin wasn’t coming from her paintbrush, it was coming from their brief encounters.
Before long they were hooking up after class and she discovered she cared less about her husbands antics, and more about her own.
She said turning a blind eye to her husband’s rather obvious affairs helped save their marriage and has allowed her to have the best of both worlds. A marriage that’s got it’s spark back, and a lover that offers her a form of escapism.
Now of course this method she’s using to save her marriage comes with a WHOLE heap of red flags. Like, what happens if she ends up catching feelings for her painting buddy, or husband does the same? We’ve seen how that plays out, and it ain’t pretty!
But for now, if everyone seems happy, does that make it OK? And more importantly … does it qualify as a ‘ethically non-monogamous’ relationship if everyone is kinda/sorta in the know, but no actual conversation has taken place.
Oh lord, who said life gets boring once you get married.
Jana Hocking is a columnist and collector of kind-of-boyfriends | @jana_hocking