Thanks to decreasing stigma, the number of people practicing ethical non-monogamy (ENM) today in the United States is huge—even comparable to the population of LGBTQ+ folks. And because many singles are opting to meet their partners online anyway, it’s time to take a look at the best dating apps for those who identify as non-monogamous.
For starters, there are so! many! ways! to identify under the umbrella term of non-monogamy. But the one thing everyone has in common if they do: no expectation of exclusivity. Whether physical or emotional, exclusivity is not present in these relationships.
Now as an ethically non-monogamous person, I’ve always used dating apps—from my first open relationship at 19 to my solo-polyamory today. Through Tinder, I’ve found two of my long-term partners. Via Hinge, I had my first relationship with another woman. And while on Feeld, I’ve met all sorts of wonderful ethically non-monogamous folks.
In general, it’s been a pretty positive experience. Dating apps help people like me represent ourselves properly. We can usually state directly in our profiles “I am ethically non-monogamous,” which is much better for someone who, like my partner, is married and wears a wedding band. He can’t walk up to a cute girl in a bar and chat her up without negative assumptions arising like: “Omg, he’s cheating!” or “Ew, what a sleaze ball.”
Basically, by putting ourselves on outline platforms, we can remove those knee-jerk reactions that may arise IRL.
But even with that in mind, ethically non-monogamous people can often run into ideological differences on the apps too. ENM allows many of us to free ourselves from typical timelines and expectations: We have different views on what constitutes a relationship, cheating, and what lifetime partnership looks like.
And yet unfortunately, we are often stigmatized to just want sex—and only sex. Which isn’t the case.
So what apps can help us navigate these difficulties? How can ENM people work their way into a world—and an app market—that perpetuates the concept of finding a “one and only?” Well, first, we pick our battles. Then, we pick our apps.
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My personal experience using dating apps as a queer, non-monogamous woman
Despite meeting my first romantic female partner on Hinge, this app in particular is one of the least amenable apps for ethical non-monogamy. It is, after all, coined as “designed to be deleted,” which perpetuates monogamy, so it’s not surprising that I found it difficult to be ENM on this app.
It doesn’t give you an option in your profile to designate the level of exclusivity you desire, which isn’t expected—but paired with the fact that your bio is actually a series of answers to their pre-selected questions, you have to get creative if you want to make it clear you’re ethically non-monogamous.
Still, because it attracts folks who are looking for more serious (monogamous) relationships, I’ve received the most skepticism about my lifestyle on it. Most of the men I spoke to on Hinge were confused about the workings of ENM or they saw me as a challenge. (In that case, no one really won because I’m still writing this article and I’ve deleted the app).
Tinder and Bumble, while not perfect, are pretty decent options for ENM folks. Their benefits have to do with numbers and simplicity. In the United States, Tinder and Bumble are the dating apps with the largest user base. Because these two apps are so popular, you’re more likely to run into others who are ethically non-monogamous—or at least open to it. The hard part: Wading through the mass of humans (and bots) in order to find what you’re looking for.
The winners for non-monogamous dating, though: Feeld and OkCupid. They are two of the best options for ethically non-monogamous dating. I mean, Feeld was made for ENM and OkCupid has survived due to its willingness to adapt.
In 2014 OkCupid added expanded gender and sexuality options for users to select. In 2016, it added non-monogamy options. That, along with the questionnaire driven algorithm, allows folks to more easily pursue what they’re looking for.
Then, there’s Feeld, which was formerly called 3nder. Feeld claims to be “a sex positive space for humans looking to explore dating beyond the norm” and I’d say that’s true.
When you make your profile, you can upload photos of yourself, link your account to a partner, and specify your “interests” and “desires”. There are a litany of options in terms of choosing your gender identity and sexuality, as well as the types of accounts you want to see. If you don’t want to see couples? Cool. If you’d like to only see women? Great. It allows you to tailor toward the experience you’re looking for.
Obviously, my opinion isn’t the only one that matters. So, I spoke with seven other folks who identify as non-monogamous about their favorites and definitely-not-favorites.
Here’s what dating apps are worth taking up storage space, according to others who identify as non-monogamous:
“I started with Feeld, which was great when I was first exploring and is incredibly [non-monogamous] friendly, it was an education and chance for me to learn a lot (especially what various abbreviations meant!) and met some amazing people who have been really influential for me.” — Sammy, 29, London
“I gravitate more towards Tinder because the interface is better and I think it has something for everyone. So like, there’s a lot more biphobia sometimes and a lot more people who are staunchly against ENM but there’s also a lot more people who practice ENM. There’s a higher volume of users.” — Gabrielle, 28, New York
“The number and types of filters you can set on OKCupid is super helpful because I can adjust settings so that I only see folks who are non-monogamous or are open to non-monogamy, which is a feature none of the other major apps seem to offer.” — Michelle, 27, Oregon
“I felt that connections through Tinder and Hinge bred insecurity and performative detachment, whereas people on Feeld have an appetite for exploration and at the same time take a people-caring approach to their connections, which fosters a sense of openness and security in the ethically non-monogamous space.” — Kana, 23, New York
“I’ve found that apps like Tinder are more likely to draw in very casual dynamics, whereas OkCupid can be casual without the high traffic of glorified unicorn hunters (which in my opinion, are super unethical). Polyamory just felt less fetishized on OkCupid.” — Hanaa, 27, North Carolina
“I’m still active on Tinder, I like how the stakes feel low and it feels like a more casual way to just chat with people I think are cute. OkCupid makes the most sense to use for me as an ENM person. It’s so awesome to see so many other ENM folks on there, and I feel the most potential to form genuine and meaningful connections through there.” — Leah, 24, New York
“I don’t believe Tinder is great for ENM.” — Noa, 23, Colorado
Unfortunately, there will never be a perfect dating app for all non-monogamous folks. After all, we’re not a monolith. And despite ethical non-monogamy becoming more popular, the bulk of the world continues on with their assumptions.
The irony lies in the fact that folks who practice non-monogamy are the ideal customer for dating apps—we keep them, even after we fall in love.
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