Relationship Red Flags: Non-Monogamy

Updated: Apr 21

I put myself in a particular challenge with our mini curriculum this week. After four wonderful full zines in our “Non-exhaustive guide to relationship structures” series, I decided it is important to highlight a few non-monogamy red flags which I have seen, heard about, and have even experienced myself. As non-monogamy becomes more normalized (which is great!) it is important to address communication patterns, agreements, or habits that may undermine the loving, communicative relationships you’re attempting to navigate. So this week, I wanted to discuss red flags in non-monogamous relationship structures.

Framing red flags in a sex-positive manner was hard, especially since these behaviors do not feel great when we are experiencing them. However, being the pleasure and sex-positive educator I am, I found a way to frame them positively!


So, what is a reg flag? I define a red flag as an unhealthy relationship pattern or behavior that indicates a need for a conversation and possible reevaluation of how your relationship, communication, and/or agreements are going.


A red flag does not need to end a relationship, rather it signals a need to have a conversation about how to improve. Red flags can be seen as learning moments to see how you and partners can establish more trust, communication, and respect in your chosen relationship structures. This revaluation may result in a change, or termination of a relationship however, this does not have to be the case! Remember, we are all on our own learning journey of navigating relationships with very few examples of how to do so healthfully so it makes sense that there may be some bumps along the way. Relationships, especially those which are not the social norm (aka anything non-monogamous and/or heterosexual) are things we are constantly learning to do, which means there is always room for improvement, whether in current or future relationships.

When I think of reg-flags, I try not to think of a stop sign or red light, but rather a yellow light. This yellow light indicates for you to slow down, and evaluate this flag and figure out together why it is unhealthy and how to move past it.


Everyone has their own personal reg flags and for this post and mini-lesson, I will focus on some more overarching red flags I have heard about, read about, or even experienced. The following behaviors are flagged as red to me as they are all rooted in control of a partner’s behavior which indicated a lack of trust, which is essential to all relationships. These behaviors are often based on a lack of honesty and openness between partners and/or personal feelings and insecurities surrounding other partners. While jealous, insecurities and personal feelings are okay it’s important to remember that these feelings are never an excuse for controlling behaviors or dishonesty. How are we supposed to move past these things if we don’t admit to them and work on them? Remember that a partner’s partner is a person too with their own feelings and experiences. We can't control others, but we can control our responses (don't worry, there will be more work about this coming soon).




Controlling Red Flags

Why is this unhealthy? Because they are rooted in a lack of trust in a partner’s decision making.

  • Needing to “clear” or “approve” a partner's possible partners beyond already decided consensual agreements/boundaries.

Example: “You have to show me their social media before you go on a date”

  • Arbitrary rules which are based on controlling your partner’s behavior with another partner

Examples: No sleepovers (this can be an issue of safety and transportation), no kissing, no dates, “no real sex” (which is often homophobic, implying some sex acts are more valid than others)


Communication Red Flags

Why is this unhealthy? Because they are rooted in a lack of communication, openness, and honesty between partners.

  • Assuming rather than discussing

  • Not being open about discussing who is “off-limits” due to emotional complexities/pre-existing relationships (for example: family members, close friends, pre-existing partners, exes)

  • Don’t ask don’t tell policy

Example: “You can do what you want, I don’t want to know about it”

  • Not being willing to have open honest conversations about one’s relationships or feelings with other partners

  • Being shut down immediately by a partner when healthily expressing feelings of hurt

  • Lying about time spent with other partners

  • Assuming agreements rather than discussing agreements

  • Don’t ask don’t tell policy

Example: you can do what you want, I just want to know about it.

  • Not being open about discussing who is “off-limits” due to emotional complexities or pre-existing relationships

Example: family members, close friends, pre-existing partners, ex’s

  • Not being willing to have open honest conversations about one’s relationships or feelings with other partners

  • Being shut down immediately by a partner when calmly expressing feelings of hurt

Competition Reg Flags

Why is this unhealthy? Because sex and relationships are never a competition. A partner’s partner is a person with their own feelings and experiences. Everyone always deserves the same level of respect.

  • Keeping score and/or comparing numbers of sexual partners in a competitive manner

  • Verbally undermining a partner’s relationship with another partner to favor oneself

  • Jealousy used as grounds for ending another relationship or asking a partner to end that relationship

  • Any ultimatum

Example: it’s me or them


Do you have any other non-monogamy red flags or questions you can think of? Let us know and we can add them to our list! Remember, challenges in relationships are normal and these are all things we can work through with ourselves and our partners. Thank each other for this space to grow. Through trust, communication, and honesty, you'll be amazed at the new dynamics, experiences, and relationships that are possible!

What else are you wondering about relationships, non-monogamy, or anything else? Your contributions to our curriculum are what makes our content so special. Please feel free to contact us through the website or any of our social media channels, we would LOVE to hear from you!




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