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    Navigating the Complex Landscape of Ethical Non-Monogamy: A Closer Look at Concealed Identities

    In the digital realm of dating apps such as Hinge and Bumble, a fascinating tapestry of individuals emerges, exuding a proud embrace of polyamory from the outset. With eloquence and unapologetic clarity, these non-monogamous souls describe intricate relationship structures that defy convention. It’s a refreshing sight to behold, particularly among women who unapologetically wield agency, articulating their desires and establishing unequivocal boundaries. However, this facade of transparency conceals two minuscule yet telling details: a distinct lack of verification and the use of initials instead of genuine names.

    The reasons behind this concealment of personal information on dating apps, particularly among women, are manifold, with one prominent factor being the proliferation of overzealous suitors who seldom react gracefully to rejection. Interestingly, this trend is most pronounced among women seeking various forms of Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM), spanning open relationships, polyamory, polyfidelity, or even anarchist relationships.

    A recent 2023 Bumble survey unveiled a startling statistic: approximately 60 percent of single Indians view ethical non-monogamy, encompassing open relationships and polygamy, as the future of romantic entanglements. Paradoxically, this same platform, along with its counterparts, witnesses individuals unwilling to openly identify with such arrangements. The aforementioned markers—concealing identities and forgoing verification—serve as shields of plausible deniability.

    Kriti*, a 34-year-old lawyer, who has embraced an open relationship with her partner Adarsh* for eight years, with four of those years in marriage, elucidates their unique dynamic. While Kriti and Adarsh are exclusive to each other emotionally, they welcome shared sexual experiences with others. “We’re not inclined towards polyamory,” Adarsh explains. “Developing deep emotional connections with others doesn’t align with our vision. Nevertheless, we are receptive to enriching experiences with others and then returning home to share our adventures.”

    For Meher* and Rahul*, who share a similar CNM structure, discretion takes on a slightly different form. “We’ve selectively disclosed our open relationship to a handful of trusted friends who we believe won’t divulge this information further,” Meher confides. It’s a revelation they deem unfit for public consumption, as Meher teaches at a primary school, and Rahul works at an American VC firm governed by stringent moral clauses. Rahul expounds, “Our relationship is far from being immoral, in fact, it’s healthier than many monogamous ones I observe daily. Unfortunately, my company’s code of conduct doesn’t share our perspective.”

    Priyanka*, a solo polyamorist leading a life enriched by multiple intimate relationships while maintaining an independent lifestyle, attributes her discretion to social stigma. She works in the fashion industry in Delhi, a seemingly progressive yet paradoxically judgmental sector. She recalls conversations with women who flaunt their long-standing monogamous marriages as badges of honor, perpetuating the idea that women who embrace non-monogamous lifestyles are somehow different. “Monogamy is upheld as the epitome of relationship success,” she laments, “and explaining solo polyamory to an audience that perceives it as ‘promiscuity’ is an arduous task. Hence, I keep my relationships discreet and present myself as single to simplify matters.”

    Contrastingly, Amar* and Faizal*, together for 14 years, have consistently embraced openness. Amar astutely observes that openness is more commonly embraced in queer relationships than in heterosexual ones. Nonetheless, they refrain from disclosing this facet of their lives to their straight friends or colleagues. Faizal highlights the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in having their long-term partnerships recognized and respected in society. “Our queer friends are privy to our relationship dynamics, and they not only accept but also comprehend them, as many of them share similar structures. However, we avoid divulging this information to individuals outside our safe, queer circles, as it often leads to questioning the authenticity of our love for each other—a scrutiny we already endure excessively.”

    One disconcerting aspect for Meher is the unpredictability of people’s reactions when she reveals her affiliation with the burgeoning community of non-monogamous Indians. In her experience, women face the brunt of unwelcome advances, as the concept of open relationships remains poorly understood in the country. She recounts an unsettling incident where she confided in a close male friend, only to have her trust violated. “During a subsequent outing with friends, he insinuated a romantic encounter between us, given my open relationship status. It was a sleazy overture that left me deeply uncomfortable. That day, I resolved to restrict such disclosures to those who truly need to know, especially men.”

    Priyanka concurs, sharing a similar ordeal. “A former partner once divulged to a close colleague that he was one of my three partners at the time. He did so in good faith, aiming for honesty. However, what followed was an inappropriate comment from the colleague regarding the capacity for more partners in my life, accompanied by a laugh. I felt objectified and cheap,” she recalls, the discomfort palpable in her voice. “It reminded me of the unsettling moment in ‘Pretty Woman’ when Richard Gere’s friend propositions Julia Roberts’s character. Since then, I have conveyed to my partners that they should refrain from sharing information about my other relationships unless we have explicitly discussed it beforehand. Only individuals deemed trustworthy are privy to such details.”

    Adarsh, on the other hand, adheres to a contrasting philosophy. He never allows his social and professional circles to intersect, only engaging with people from different spheres on dating apps to prevent complications arising from changing emotions. Honesty, however, remains a cornerstone of his approach. “While I cannot explicitly state my non-monogamous status on my profile, out of concern for someone I know stumbling upon it, I disclose this facet to every match on the first day. They have a right to be informed,” he asserts. He acknowledges apprehension about his acquaintances discovering this aspect of his life, as it might lead to misconceptions about his intentions. “Being perceived as a happily married man is more convenient and not entirely untrue—I am genuinely content in my marriage.”

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