As digitally-based relationships become the norm, a growing desire to explore non-monogamy combined with advancements in sextech means that intimacy between multiple people is becoming more creatively accessible.

While navigating alternative relationship styles outside of the virtual world poses its own perks and pitfalls, digital non-monogamy offers people a chance to push their interpersonal boundaries in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Why practice digital non-monogamy / digital polyamory?

A recent study found that up to 33 percent of us fantasize about being in some type of sexually open relationship, 80 percent of whom said they wanted to act upon this fantasy. That’s perhaps not so surprising when you discover that among humans, only 43 of 238 societies across the world are predominantly monogamous.

Let us bear in mind there is nothing wrong with choosing to be monogamous. Yet, it’s important to be aware of how society prescribes heteronormative and patriarchal monogamy as the epitome of upholding society – and anything that threatens the ‘familial norm’ is condemned as deviant and shameful.

Nevertheless, in a global post-pandemic society, many of us are forced to live apart from – or exclusively with – loved ones, thus forcing couples to be more creative with their sex lives (with apps for couples designed to help with exactly that).

Though there are challenges with migrating your polyamorous lifestyle into a virtual space, an inquiry into digital non-monogamy might just be the safest option for the time being.

Cathy Keen, community and events manager of polyamorous dating app Feeld, says that exploring alternative relationships in this way is a healthy step towards negotiating boundaries for non-monogamous experiences, saying it is “essential preparation for when we can finally meet our connections in person”.

What is digital non-monogamy?

When OkCupid added ethical non-monogamy to its relationship statuses in 2016, it marked a turning point in online dating, and saw the growth in popularity of Feeld (previously called 3nder).

Ethical non-monogamy and consensual non-monogamy incite a relationship dynamic that is openly communicated and mutually agreed upon, by all participants involved, as existing outside of a traditional two-person relationship.

Digital non-monogamy also sits under this umbrella of ethics and informed consent. Yet, it encompasses its own range of sexual or romantic relationship dynamics that is facilitated by technology or exists in the digital realm.

Some types of digital non-monogamy

  • Digitally monogamish – mostly monogamous, but rules that allow for exploration with other people online
  • Digital threesomes/triads – inviting a third into the relationship for sexual or romantic interactions
  • Digital open relationship – both partners in a couple can have cybersexual relationships with other people
  • Digital closed relationships – whoever is involved in the multiple-person online relationships is set in stone and not open to anyone else to join
  • Digital swinging – couples having sexual relationships online with other couples
  • Digital cucking – watching your partner have cybersex with another person
  • Digital polyfidelity – everyone is considered an equal partner and agrees to restrict sexual activity to only other members of the group online
  • Digital hierarchical polyamory – a ranking system for the online relationships involved, potentially the real-life partner being the person’s “primary” relationship, and the online relationships as secondary, tertiary, etc.

What is possibly unique to digital open relationships compared to non-digital non-monogamy is the fluidity of navigating interpersonal relationships in an online sphere.

Feelings of jealousy (typically rooted in fear) are natural, and likely will come up, but there might also be more space for exploring ‘compersion‘ – the feeling of joy associated with seeing one’s partner enjoying sexual or romantic relation with another.

Isn’t digital non-monogamy just cheating, but online?

Anyone looking to open a digital relationship with more than one person has to be honest about what they want to get out of it, set personal boundaries and express themselves without fear.

Cheating is dependent on the unique boundaries put in place per relationship, monogamous or not. If those are overstepped, it becomes non-consensual and duly unethical.

Before you go on to explore digital non-monogamy, make sure everyone is on the same page, and explain this to anyone new you add into the mix.

Ways to explore digital non-monogamy

Flirt virtually

Flirt technology, such as crush analyzer Mei, allows you to analyze whether someone is flirting with you. Or, why not practise your sexting skills with virtual coach JuiceBox? For the purists, simply inviting a third party to a Whatsapp chat to send naughty voice notes and sexy pics to might be a simpler suggestion.

Explore intimate tech

FeelHey bracelets come in pairs to feel your loved one from afar – just order multiple for your multiple relationships. Or try the Kissenger device, allowing you to enjoy the kiss of long-distance partners from afar.

Expand your online dating pool

Use poly-positive platforms such as OkCupid, Fantasy Match, or Feeld where you can create group chats for 3-20 participants so that everyone can connect in one place.

Try a digital threesome

Feeld’s Cathy Keen told SEXTECHGUIDE that to allow the app’s users to safely explore their desires during lockdown, the team created virtual locations or ‘cores’, such as Remote Trios, where users could join to connect with others wanting to have a digital threesome experience. It found that digi-threesomes was the top desire for singles, with a 670% increase this year compared to 2019.

Spend some time in sexy chatrooms

Feeld’s ‘For Play’ microsite is a ‘digital foreplay’ experience for the age of social distancing. Using your camera feed, your amorphous avatar is assigned to a digital room where you can interact with up to three other live participants, before you move on to chatting on the app.

Invite a +1 (or +2…) to an online sex party

If you’re curious, explore the world of online sex parties and virtual orgies, whether it’s alone or swinging with your partner,

Play with interactive sex toys

Enjoy long-distance intimacy with app-controlled sex toys, from two-way interactive control with teledildonics, to giving a stranger the chance to control your toy with Lovense Life. Add your primary partner to the mix, and this could make for a steamy cucking session.

How about bringing in an AI partner?

What would you say to opening up the relationship to include… technology? We already bring our phones into the bedroom, so how different could it be?

Ever seen the film Her, where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his OS? Well, perhaps we’re getting closer to this concept of artificially intelligent companionship.

In his book Love and Sex with Robots, David Levy predicted we’d be marrying our sex robots by 2050, and in 2018, a man in Japan married his AI hologram companion. A We-Vibe survey this year found that 14 percent of men were turned on by their Amazon Echo assistant Alexa during lockdown, yearning for a more intimate relationship with their smart assistants.

A digital partner can also offer couples a chance to explore an open-relationship without the difficult emotions that could arise with a human third.

Additional considerations

  • Good broadband: Digital non-monogamy comes with a pre-requisite of a decent computer, smart device and broadband connection. Think about it, if you live out in the sticks, only have a smartphone and generally don’t get more than 2mbps downstream on broadband or 4G, it’s probably not viable to have a DNM relationship.
  • Not everyone’s primed for cam fun: When exploring digital relationships, video sex doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Be open-minded when being intimate online, and don’t force it if you feel uncomfortable or not video-ready!
  • Therapy for poly couples: For those new to opening their relationship up, there may be a whole world of new emotional issues that arise. Thankfully, with increasing online services, there are specialized therapists who can assist you in this process.

Whether you’re open-minded about opening your relationship to a human or a non-human, the virtual world is primed for exploration – but remember that it’s up to you to make the rules.

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