Breaking Down Consensual Non-Monogamy

Most of us were taught to associate love and romance with monogamous relationships only. However, love exists in many forms! The number of people involved doesn’t define whether it is or is not a genuine relationship. As long as there’s consent from everyone involved, you may find that relationships are more meaningful to you when you add more people!

Let’s break down consensual non-monogamy.

Consensual Non-Monogamy in a Nutshell

You may not have heard of the term “non-monogamy” before, but you’re more than likely familiar with it. Non-consensual non-monogamy is when someone else is invited into the relationship without one of the partner’s consent—a.k.a. cheating.

Consensual non-monogamy, however, means that everyone involved consents to the specific people and dynamic of the relationship. This umbrella term represents many variations of non-monogamy, from open relationships to polyamory.

Assuming someone’s non-monogamous relationship is just as taboo as having an affair is offensive. These relationships can often be healthier than monogamous relationships because of how much communication and vulnerability they require.

Let’s break it down.

Open Relationships

Open relationships involve one primary couple where one or both partners are “open” to sexual activity with people outside of the relationship. The person who isn’t in the primary couple typically has a specific role and is seen as a secondary addition to the couple.

Open relationships most commonly take place between couples who have been married/committed for a long time and are looking to spice it up in the bedroom by inviting another person. You make the decision together, and couples should establish clear boundaries about what sexual contact is okay and what isn’t.


While swinging is technically a kind of open relationship, couples who swing are typically more open to meeting with strangers, and tend to engage with more of a swinging “culture”.

Swinging is a diverse space. It could mean kissing strangers briefly at parties, or it could mean getting together with a group of friends you’ve known for years to swap partners.


Polyamorous relationships are relatively popular in certain cultures around the world. Polygyny, for example, is often seen in Muslim parts of the Middle East and Africa. It is when one husband shares sexual relationships with multiple wives who have no sexual contact with each other. We sometimes see this in the U.S. as well.

Polyandry, the same thing with reversed gender roles, happens rarely, as it’s less likely to receive social and cultural support.

The Tenants of Consensual Non-Monogamy

Some people think that having a relationship with multiple people dilutes the relationship you have with each individual. This isn’t true.

Consensual non-monogamy idolizes the same standards that monogamy should—no lying, no sexual pressure or coercion, and no making decisions that affect the relationship without everyone’s voice present.

Everyone’s relationship is unique, even in monogamous relationships, so every relationship should have its own unique set of expectations. With consensual non-monogamy, couples should consider a few things before introducing another cook to the kitchen…

  • Is the relationship casual, committed, brief, or long-term?
  • What role does each person serve in the relationship? (Primary, secondary, tertiary…)
  • What is okay and what is off-limits between partners sexually, romantically, and emotionally?
  • To protect us from STIs and/or unwanted pregnancies, what kind of sexual behavior is okay?

For consensual non-monogamy to work, you need to take a genuine interest and care for your partners’ feelings. You need to establish a foundation of trust, vulnerability, and communication. If boundaries get crossed, it’s important that you each have the reflective tools and communication skills necessary to problem-solve without feeling betrayed.

To better understand how your own insecurities, upbringing, and preferences may affect you in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, work with a therapist! Schedule your first appointment today.

Here’s How to Navigate Those Hard Conversations About How to Spend the Holidays

‘Tis the season of long text chains, strict schedules, and your dad blaming your mom when things go wrong. We understand the pain and frustration that comes with celebrating the holidays in a broken family.

This year, spend the holidays how you want to. Here is how you can navigate the hard conversations that come with attending multiple holiday events:

Be Realistic About What You Can Do

You want to say yes to everything, but one parent is in another state and the other is right down the road. If you travel to see one, you no longer have time to stop by the other. And your partner wanted to go to their family Christmas this year. Will you face the wrath of both of your parents by telling them you will not be in attendance?

If you know this anxiety all too well, it is time to get realistic about the holidays. You are only human. You cannot possibly make everyone happy, and trying to attend every event you can will only end up making you deeply unhappy and exhausted at the end of the day.

Accept that stress is going to be a part of this season no matter what. However, it is up to you to decide what stress you want to forgo and what stress is worth the fun. Choose with intention!

Separate Your Relatives’ Feelings From Your Own

Adult children of divorce tend to feel a deep sense of obligation to see their family. For especially empathetic people, this can mean feeling shame from mom or disappointment from dad—two feelings that can cause anxiety to shoot through the roof.

Remember that these are their feelings, not yours. While you can acknowledge them and apologize for the frustration, it is not your guilt to bear.

You can work on separating their feelings from yours by building healthy boundaries. Learn to say “no” with confidence, meaning without offering adjustments. If you know it will be stressful to balance another stop on your holiday road trip, do not even think of offering up, “Maybe I can leave one early…”

Once you set your boundary, come up with a ritual to “cleanse yourself” of the emotions that are not yours. Some people like jumping into the shower after spending time with others to enjoy some alone time, mentally reset, and metaphorically “wash” away the feelings of others.

Acknowledge The Feelings That Come Up

You are not a failure for feeling sad around the holidays. Not being able to see certain family members is upsetting, and sometimes just being put in the position of having to choose at all is what is most frustrating.

Remember that these feelings are completely valid, so try not to minimize or suppress them. Let yourself feel them by journaling, talking them out with a loved one, or sharing them with a therapist.

Know that you may not be the only one feeling hurt this year. While it is certainly not your responsibility to do everything your family wants you to do, it is your responsibility to treat them with love and respect.

You can apologize for the hurt and disappointment they feel without changing your plans and being overly accommodating. Offer up something like, “I’m sorry that I’m not coming to Christmas. I know you’re disappointed we can’t see each other, and I miss you a ton! I just can’t make it happen this year.”

Tense conversations tend to go over better when you validate the other person’s feelings first, but still stand your ground.

If you have a habit of dreading the holiday season, consider starting counseling today. Together, we can uncover those deeper issues so you can go on to enjoy happier, healthier holidays.

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship

At some point in life, most of us have experienced being in a toxic relationship, whether we’re aware of it or not. People of all ages, nationalities, and sexual orientations can find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, confused as to how they got there, or perhaps even unsure the situation is unhealthy.

While physical abuse is obvious, mental and emotional abuse can be subtle. It can also be particularly hard to notice things are wrong when you suffer from low self-worth. Abusive behavior can seem right to those who don’t know their own value.

Here are 5 signs you’re in an abusive relationship.

1. Undermining
When you try to speak with your partner, do they refuse to hear your side? Do they deny everything you say to the point of questioning your sanity? Do you question your own? Having disagreements is normal, but a partner who refuses to have an open conversation is problematic.

2. Isolating You from Others 
If you feel you need the love, support, and energy of close friends and family, but your partner isolates you from them, this is a sign of abuse. It could be subtle, pretending to be sick or in a funk to get you to stay home with them instead; or it could be more obvious, as in forbidding you to see certain people.

3. Put-Downs
Saying something you know will be hurtful to someone is a form of verbal abuse. You are intentionally causing them pain. Though it may be said in jest, the humor may simply be a cover for cruelty.

If your partner is constantly putting you down or intentionally pushing your buttons, this is a sign of disrespect and even hostility.

4. Using the Guilt Card
Much abuse comes in the form of manipulation, and guilt is one of the easiest ways to manipulate another’s emotions to get them to do what you want. If you feel you are being manipulated through guilt to the point where you’re ready to give up any power you have in the relationship, this is a sign something may be going on. For instance, it is natural and healthy for a person to need time alone. Does your partner guilt you into spending your alone time with them?

5. Controlling Your Behavior
This could mean a broad range of things, from controlling how you dress to what you say and where you go. Again, it may be subtle. Maybe they buy your clothes often and tease you about your sense of style, or lack thereof. Maybe they tease you and say that you sound “silly” not knowing what you’re talking about regarding politics. This is disrespectful and abusive.

How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship

 Learn how to spot controlling behaviors so you can be clear about what is happening to you.
 Become your own greatest strength and support by beginning to trust your instincts, thoughts, and feelings.
 Surround yourself with those who love and respect you and want the best for you.

You may also want to seek guidance from a trained counselor. They can help you see reality clearly and offer strategies to extract yourself from the relationship so you can begin to heal.

If you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship and are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may help.

Advice for Balancing the Power in Your Relationship

When it comes to relationships, it seems there is often a driving force behind the couple, or one partner who seems to always have the upper hand. This is often referred to as “wearing the pants.” The partner who “wears the pants” is the one most often in control of the relationship.

“Wearing the Pants”

But what does it mean to have control in a relationship? For one partner to have more control over the other often means that one partner in the relationship is more committed to and interested in it than the other. If one partner is less interested than the other, then the partner with more interest is frequently the one giving up their power in the relationship. This partner may do a lot of chasing and begging while the other wields the upper hand, giving little.


To avoid this scenario, each person in the relationship must value themselves. Each person should see themselves as “a catch” – a person with value, who deserves an equal and loving partnership.

Maintaining a balance of power in a relationship requires self-respect. If one person in the relationship doesn’t value themselves and they’re willing to do anything to keep the other person in a relationship, they are also setting the relationship up to fail. The person in control will lose respect and attraction, while the person giving up control will build resentment towards their partner.

Balancing Power

To create or maintain balance in your relationship, you must learn to stand your ground. Make your demands known, figure out what your deal breakers are, and be prepared to walk away if necessary.

As you make your needs known, be sure to do so in a calm manner and don’t create an argument. If there are important things that your partner needs to change, set a time limit. For example, if they frequently put you down or name-call, give them a period of time in which they have to make significant improvements. Know in advance what you’re willing to accept, and what behavior is unacceptable. It’s possible that your partner won’t change, and if so you need to be prepared to walk away while your self-esteem is still intact.


Are you having difficulties in your relationship, and require the help and guidance of a licensed professional? Call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.