The monogamy mindset is still going strong, so for those people who look to diverge from it, or simply research other possibilities, some degree of confusion right off the bat is a safe bet. Let's start with the basics: In consensual nonmonogamy (CNM), partners approach relationships with some openness, and all parties involved are aware of and in agreement on the situation (ahem, if you lose that last piece, the consensual aspect is gone and you're just in the realm of infidelity).
Google CNM and your head will soon be swimming with phrases such as metamours, kitchen table poly, NRE, relationship anarchy and the like. But there are two types of CNM relationships that you might already be familiar with: open relationships and polyamory.
In an open relationship, committed partners are sexually nonmonogamous; a polyamorous relationship involves having more than one sexual or romantic partner. Yes, they definitely sound similar—but there are some important differences to keep in mind if you're interested in dipping your toe into the vaguely murky waters of consensual nonmonogamy.
The main differences between open relationships and polyamory
Most often, people in open relationships seek out solely sexual experiences beyond their primary partnership, while the point of polyamory is to engage new romantic partners as equal additions to a previously established partnership, explained Dana McNeil, a San Diego-based therapist who works with CNM couples and individuals.
In an open relationship, "it's likely that friendships or other emotional connections are not part of the goal," McNeil said.
Instead, these relationships develop for a range of reasons,