Non-monogamy, or having an open relationship, refers to a relationship in which the partners have agreed that the relationship is not monogamous. In a blog post last year, I wrote about open relationships and whether or not they are a real option for a long-term relationship (spoiler: sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, just like monogamous relationships). In the past year, the topic of open relationships or non-monogamy has continued to be a common one in the popular press, and we’re also seeing more discussion of it in academic circles.
As a couple and sex therapist who works with both monogamous and non-monogamous clients, I’ve been happy to see the increased attention to alternate forms of relationships. But what if you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and considering making a change, opening up your relationship to a non-monogamous one? While popular press includes some resources for couples in this situation, there is almost nothing on the topic in the academic literature to help support couple and relationship therapists working with clients in this situation. This is a significant issue, since most therapists lack any formal training on non-monogamy, and many people still hold negative assumptions about consensually non-monogamous relationships. So I decided to do something to begin to address this gap in resources for therapists.
Based on a review of the current research on non-monogamy and on my own clinical
experience as a couple therapist, I wrote an article titled: Couples Exploring Nonmonogamy: Guidelines for Therapists (Bairstow, 2017), published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. This article provides therapists with information about how to increase their capacity for working with consensual non-monogamy and with couples who are considering becoming non-monogamous.
But if you’re looking for a therapist, how do you know if they are knowledgeable about non-monogamous relationships? If you are currently in a monogamous relationship and looking for support as you consider transitioning to a non-monogamous one, or if you are in a consensually non-monogamous relationship and looking for counselling or therapy, there are a few steps you can take to increase your chances of finding a qualified therapist. Take a look at the therapist’s website, do they make any reference to alternative forms of relationships? Talk to the therapist and ask them if they have experience with consensual non-monogamy, and about their perspective on non-monogamy. Finally, word of mouth can be helpful to find a qualified therapist. Consider asking friends or posting in online forums for consensual non-monogamy to ask for the names of therapists who are experienced in working with non-monogamous relationships.