What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?
Consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships include many variations in relationship structure in which all of the partners involved agree that having sexual and/or romantic relationships with other persons is acceptable. Another term that is often used is Ethical Non-Monogamy, which highlights the consentual part of the non-monogamous relationshis as being an ethical choice as opposed to non-consentual forms of non-monogamy (i.e. an affair).
CNM relationships sturctures can vary greatly. This umbrella term can be used to describe polyamory, swinging, and open relationships. Pople in this type of relationship may negotiate the rules and boundaries of these relationship structures differently, based on the things that are important to them.
Depending on their situation, community, and family attitudes, persons in CNM relationships may not share their situation with others for fear of judgement and/or discrimination. Common discrimination of individuals in CNM relationships have included things such as the loss of friends and family, loss of jobs, judgements about their parenting and even loss of child custody, and identification as "sexual deviants".
The unfortunate truth is that most mental health training does not include education in non-monogamy relationship structures, and research either neglects the study of these types of relationships, or do not differentiate consentual from non-consentual non-monogamy when looking at relationships beyond a two person structure.
Here at the Ohio Center for Relationship & Sexual Health, we not only support and celebrate individual choice in relationship structure, but also work with people who are navigating the complexities of CNM relationships in a non-judgmental and informed manner.
Despite the fears portrayed in majority culture and media, CNM relations can work and are NOT a sign of problems or pathological relationships. In fact, CNM relationships can be just as healthy, happy, and fulfilling as monogamous ones. And even though monogamous relationships are the normative and assumed relationship structure in the US culture, there are many more CNM relationships than most are aware.
If you are in a CNM relationship and seeking therapy services at OCRSH, we invite you to share this aspect of your identity without fear of negative judgmnet or reactions, and without the assumption that your personal life difficulties are directly correlated with your relationship structure. Additionally, if you are working on navigating difficulties in your CNM relationship, we are here to help address the common pitfalls that can get in the way of a fulfilling CNM relationship structure.