Entries in polyamory (9)


Polyamory: Understanding Relationship Geometry

Relationship Configurations

When relationships are examined by the media and/or empirical research, the focus is often on the traditional monogamous couple (i.e., one male and female, two males, or two females). These monogamous relationships are depicted as the natural and healthy ideal.1 Conversely, the media often portrays those in consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships as deviants; and therapists also suggest that the existence of CNM relationships mean the primary relationship is troubled.1 Clearly, there is a stigma surrounding non-monogamy, and, therefore, non-monogamy is generally not openly discussed. This is problematic, not only because non-monogamous individuals are often stereotyped, but they also suffer from a lack of support within the therapeutic community. Nicole Graham, a psychiatrist, writes, “It is apparent that a lack of awareness of and appreciation for non-traditional relationship patterns can have deleterious effects, including but not limited to a lack of objectivity, inadvertent criticism and potential pathologization of individuals, damaged therapeutic alliances, resultant treatment non-adherence, and potentially poorer patient outcomes.”2

This article will discuss why it is so important to understand the various types of relationship configurations that exist, specifically polyamory, as well as provide a first-hand account and a deeper understanding of the polyamorous community. First, it is important to recognize that there are a variety of relationship configurations. For a brief discussion of non-monogamous relationships, please refer to my previous article on open relationships (see here).3

As previously mentioned, there are many societal, as well as therapeutic benefits of taking a closer look at CNM relationships. Mental health practitioners must be able to recognize the sexual fluidity both within individuals and within their relationship arrangements.  Marianne Brandon, a clinical psychologist asks,

“If we as treators cannot accept and contain the monogamy challenge, how can we help our patients to do the same?...And if we chose to criticize our patients’ non-monogamous choices can we still optimally assist them in the intimate challenges for which they seek help? Probably not. And our patients need our help now more than ever”4

In order to be able to help those who come in with an “unconventional” relationship style, therapists must address their personal biases, and what better way to do that than by learning more about unconventional relationships?

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Is Marriage Really Synonymous with Monogamy?

After her husband of 18 years reveals that he has gotten a vasectomy, successful magazine journalist Robin Rinaldi comes to the sinking realization that she will not have the family she had once hoped for. Being that she can’t create the home life she dreamed of, she decides to go down a different path and explore her sexuality. In her book, The Wild Oats Project,1 Rinaldi discusses her quest for passion after she proposes an arrangement in which she will live on her own and be free to take on lovers during the week, while returning home to her role as a wife on the weekends. The book discusses her sexual quest to feel fulfilled as she takes on both male and female lovers and attend workshops geared towards getting in touch with her sexual self. Lest I spoil the end of her intriguing narrative, it would be better to leave you questioning whether or not her marriage was able to sustain the shake-up caused by this mutually, albeit somewhat coerced, agreement. Also, whether or not her marriage survived, it begs the question: Is marriage really synonymous with monogamy?

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Consensual Non-Monogamy and Attachment Avoidance: Relationship Matters Podcast 32

In the 32nd installment of SAGE’s Relationship Matters podcast, hosted by Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Champlain College, Amy Moors (University of Michigan) discusses her research on consensual non-monogamy (an umbrella term that refers to polyamory, swinging, and open-relationships) – or relationships where partners do not have an expectation of complete sexual exclusivity.

Dr. Moors points out that our society generally views monogamy as the ideal form of partnering within romantic relationships and stigmatizes consensual non-monogamous relationships. Despite such a stigma, however, a sizeable minority of people (3 to 5% in her samples) engage in non-monogamous relationships and report high levels of relationship satisfaction.

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When Three (or More) is NOT a Crowd

What do you know about polyamory? Can polyamory or open relationships really work?

This is a timely question, as there has been a surge of interest lately on this topic. In fact, according to a recent study, between 4-5% of Americans report being in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship—this is when both partners agree that they and/or their intimate partner(s) can have other sexual or romantic partners as well.1 Consensual non-monogamy describes many types of relationships, such as swinging (recreational sex with others) and polyamorous relationships, where the partners consent to each other having intimate, loving relationships with others (more intimate than just an “open” relationship). Researchers (including me) are starting to explore how theories we have about intimate relationships extend to our understanding of relationships that include more than two people. There is not a lot of work yet on non-monogamy, but we can look to a paper that Dr. Terri Conley and colleagues recently wrote challenging assumptions about the benefits of monogamy.2

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New Developments in Consensual Non-Monogamy Research

An up-and-coming area of relationships research examines “consensual non-monogamy”—the phenomenon in relationships where partners engage (sexually and emotionally) with other people, and that this is a mutually-accepted norm. This symposium featured our own Jennifer Harman and Bjarne Holmes (both ScienceOfRelationships.com contributors).

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“Tulizana!”: Taming Sexual Networks in Tanzania

There has been a lot of talk in the American media recently about a perhaps more “evolved” form of love in which people have open or multiple relationships—polyamory. Tanzanians have a history of this practice through polygynous practices (having multiple wives), which is rooted in the Bantu tradition. In fact, polygyny is permitted for up to 4 wives in Tanzania, with the permission of the first wife.

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Opening Up: Challenging Myths about Consensual Non-Monogamy

What do sex columnist Dan Savage and politician Newt Gingrich have in common? Probably not a lot, but they have both been in the media recently in regards to open relationships.

In a recent article in the New York Times, sex columnist Dan Savage discussed the benefits of a monogamish relationship – one where partners are committed to each other but free to occasionally pursue sex partners outside of the primary relationship. He believes that opening up a relationship in this way can promote honest communication and prevent actual “infidelity.”

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The More the Merrier?

Although I had a fantastic date with The Consultant a few weeks ago, he travels a lot for work and I have not been able to see him again. Rather than put all my eggs into one basket too soon, I had a date with someone else this week. This guy’s on-line dating resume had many of the requirements I am seeking: highly educated, attractive, and seemingly adventurous. He selected an upscale bar/restaurant for our date.

After a few light-hearted exchanges, I asked him how he has been enjoying the dating scene. Turns out he was enjoying it just fine, except when the women he dates were uncomfortable with him being polyamorous. Hold up! I about choked on the olive I was eating out of my martini. “Did you say... polyamorous? Yes, that is what he said. He had conveniently left that out of his internet profile.

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Why Do Some People Date Multiple Partners at the Same Time?

A reader asked the following question: I'm interested in why some people like dating multiple people at a time and others only focus on one. Is it just for attention? Low self esteem? Or maybe it's survival of the fittest- don't stop on one until you're officially locked down?

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