How to navigate anxiety in ethically non-monogamous relationships

This Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to explore how anxiety can show up in non-monogamous relationships and how to address it if it becomes problematic. This year's theme is 'Anxiety', and while anxiety is a normal human experience, it can cause issues if we don't have the tools or awareness to keep it in check.

Ethically non-monogamous relationships can offer a unique blend of flexibility, freedom, and intimacy in relationships. They create a broad space for diverse forms of emotional and sexual expression, from relationship anarchy to polyfidelity. Yet, like any form of relationship, they come with their own sets of challenges and potential stressors. 

It’s important to understand what anxiety might look like in a non-monogamous relationship so that you can recognise and develop the tools to navigate it in a healthy way. 

Recognising anxiety in ethically non-monogamous relationships 

Anxiety in non-monogamous relationships often manifests as increased worry, fear, and stress about various aspects of the relationship. For instance, it could be fear of being replaced, anxiety about unequal feelings or time spent with different partners or worry about potential conflicts arising from the complexity of managing multiple relationships. Some people feel overwhelmed by the choices and decisions that they face and can find this scary through a feeling of being uncontained and anxiety-inducing. 

There's also the societal aspect to consider. Despite growing acceptance, non-monogamous relationships can still face societal stigma which can lead to feelings of isolation, fearing judgment from others, experiencing internalised shame, or experiencing actually being shamed or judged by others about the relationship structure. 

Ethical non-monogamy and anxious attachment  

There are various ‘attachment styles’ and people with this attachment style often worry about their partners' availability, mood or behaviour and may feel the need to seek frequent reassurance that everything is OK. They’re more likely to be seen as “clingy” and can experience heightened feelings of neglect or abandonment. They are preoccupied with checking in with others to ensure that ‘we’re ok’. This can be emotionally exhausting and take a toll on anxiety. 

In an ethically non-monogamous relationship, these fears might be amplified due to the multiple dynamics between partners. However, this relationship style is entirely possible for someone with an anxious attachment, and it can be a journey of personal growth with the right support. 

How to develop coping strategies  

Whether you have an anxious-attachment style or not, anxiety can come up in and make it hard to feel secure and happy in our relationships. Developing tools to help you recognise and deal with these feelings can help prevent spiralling and damage to the relationships. 


This is the first step in managing anxiety. Recognise when you're feeling anxious and try to identify the source. Is it related to jealousy? Fear of abandonment? Self-doubt? Understanding the root cause can help you take the right steps to address the issue. In terms of anxious attachment style, a good question to ask yourself is ‘am I trying too hard to please everyone else?’. 


Prioritising your well-being by engaging in activities that reduce stress, promote relaxation, and lift your mood is really beneficial when dealing with anxiety. Exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, or finding a hobby are all great places to start. 

Seek Support 

Speaking to others can help you feeling supported and accepted when you’re experiencing anxiety. Reach out to your friends and family and consider speaking to a trained relationships counsellor if you think you’d benefit from professional support. 

Remember that communication is key 

Open, honest, and continuous communication is the bedrock of any relationship, but it is particularly important in non-monogamous relationships. Here are some suggestions on how to use communication to manage anxiety: 

Express Your Feelings

Share your feelings of anxiety with your partners. It's okay to be vulnerable and admit when you're feeling anxious. This can help your partners understand your perspective and work with you to find solutions. 

Set Boundaries

Clear boundaries can help create a sense of security in non-monogamous relationships and ensure you and your partners have clear understandings of expectations. Make time to discuss and define the boundaries within each relationship and remember that boundaries should be flexible and can change as the relationship evolves. 

Regular Check-ins

Regular check-ins can help maintain open lines of communication. Yes, it’s more time-consuming but the good stuff often is! They provide a platform to discuss any changes in feelings, address any issues that might have arisen, and reaffirm commitment and care for each other. 

Anxiety can feel overwhelming, especially in the context of non-monogamous relationships, but remember, it is a common human experience. Nobody likes feeling anxious. But it is JUST a feeling. With good awareness feelings can be directed in a more positive way. All relationships come with their unique challenges and rewards and with self-awareness, self-care, open communication and professional support, if necessary, it can be effectively managed.  

If you’d like professional support to speak about anxiety in your relationship, find out how we can support you here.


How we can help

If you’re looking for support with your relationships, we can help. We offer a range of ways to speak with a trained relationship expert including ongoing counselling, 30 minute web and phone chats, and one session therapy.

Find out which service is right for you


How you can help

Have you found this advice helpful? Make a donation to help us reach more people and continue supporting the nation’s relationships:


Can't afford to donate? We understand. Instead, we ask that you leave us a 5 star review on Trustpilot.

Leave a review


Join our newsletter to get relationship advice and guidance straight to your inbox