If you’ve been following my columns this year, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been a bit obsessed with this new craze that’s taken over the dating world called ENM.
It is defined as a committed romantic relationship in which all partners consent to sexual and/or romantic encounters with other consenting individuals.
I debated whether this was a healthy or terrible idea for a relationship. I wanted to add this to my dating life and am still on the fence. Some days I think, “Yeah, I could do that,” but then I get a dose of envy and think, “No, absolutely not.”
So I decided to take my research further and look at it from a new angle. You see, ENM seems to be wreaking havoc not just on single dating, but in the married world as well. Only, there is a slight twist.
If you have watched White lotus this week (spoiler alert) you might have noticed a plot line involving Cameron and Daphne Sullivan, a young, married couple with kids, who we learn this week has some/sort of ENM situation.
From the very beginning they seem mad, and to be fair, they’re scratched and you’ll quickly find out they’re deceiving each other and enjoy a good mind game or two.
Yes, they like to keep each other on their toes. The storyline suggests that this is why their relationship never fell into the trap of getting stale after years of marriage.
Now this is where the moral part of their ENM-situation gets tricky. It’s as if they both know about each other’s infidelity, but they don’t discuss it.
By now you might be thinking that this is all great and dramatic, but it’s just a plot line from a TV series. But it’s not, dear reader.
Because the older I get and the more open friends I have, the more married people I see in real life.
Some travel a lot for work, some are in relationships that have lost their sexual desire, and others dream of something every day just to make their life more interesting.
A while back I had a nice conversation with a dear friend who said he felt like he was going through a constant underground day.
Her husband traveled a lot for work, so she often lived the life of a single mother. Wake up, make the kids breakfast, take them to school, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch TV for a bit, and then head to bed where he passes out exhausted every night.
She felt that her husband was playing in his absence and went to the doctor about her constant anxiety.
Her doctor told her to find a hobby that would allow her to shut out the rest of the world and remind her that she’s not just a “mom.” It gives 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 course and there she met a flirtatious young man. He quickly discovered that the serotonin was not coming from his paintbrush, but from their brief encounters.
Soon they were hooking up after class, and she discovered that she was more concerned about her own than her husband’s unusual behavior.
She says that turning a blind eye to her husband’s very public affairs helped save their marriage and allowed her to have the best of both worlds. The spouse returns his spark and the lover offers him a way to escape.
Of course, this method he’s using to save his marriage comes with a whole host of red flags. For example, what if she catches her feelings for an artist friend or her husband does the same? We’ve seen how it plays, and it’s not pretty!
But for now, if everyone looks happy, is it okay? And more importantly, if everyone knows each other but there’s no real conversation, does that qualify as a “morally non-monogamous” relationship?