Monogamy or Not | Couples Therapy
More than 50% of men and women have had an affair while in a primary relationship, according to Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy, 2012. About 70% said they would have an affair if they never got caught. With these statistics in mind, we encourage and welcome an open discussion about the relationship you have.
Some people have monogamous relationships because it is what works for them. Others may prefer variations of this form or a completely different model, but commit to monogamy to conform to societal, cultural and religious expectations.
What is considered morally acceptable is progressing to reflect the true diversity of human nature. Several relationship forms, alongside monogamy between one man and one woman, are now possible, as the negative consequences have lessened.
We welcome a kinder and more accepting vision that will hold men and women to the same standards, and embrace any relationship between consenting adults. We realize that there is still a long way to go in achieving full acceptance of non-traditional forms of relationship, but we support you on the road to full realization and expression of your uniqueness and capacity for love.
Are you in the midst of wrestling with this topic and not sure how to proceed? The feelings that are evoked when thinking about ways to express love are powerful, and have a profound impact on your choices for relationship(s). In honestly looking at your life and what is right for you, we encourage you to talk with someone who has deep experience in healing what has been and manifesting a new vision moving forward.
We have seen and supported a variety of successful relationship models. What we have found most critical in determining success is that you are honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, and that you come to an agreement that supports each of your visions for the relationship.
It may be helpful to look at a few models for relationships:
Most people who are in relationship with another person will have a monogamous agreement that they will not have sex or deep emotional relationships with others. Sometimes people agree to be monogamous because any other choice is unacceptable to the partner, and being with their partner is the most important priority. Other times they both agree that this is the best model.
If the desire to maintain a monogamous relationship changes for either of you, we encourage an open conversation however difficult this may seem to be. An honest conversation can potentially avoid the tremendous harm involved in the discovery of an affair and can also revive the desires with current partner and lessen the desire to have an affair in the first place.
Open, but don’t tell me:
Partners may agree to have sex with someone outside the primary relationship without disclosing when this happens. Parameters that should be discussed and agreed upon can include how many times with the same partner, safe sex rules, where the encounters take place, and if there are restrictions on whom the other can be (for example no friends or neighbors).
Open, but tell me:
Partners may agree to have sex with someone outside the primary relationship, but this needs to be disclosed. Parameters that should be discussed and agreed upon can include whether the information is shared before or after the encounter, where the encounters can take place, safe sex rules, and if there are restrictions on whom the other can be, and how much disclosure is needed.
Open, but include me:
Partners can have sex with others, but with full participation by both or all primary partners. Parameters that should be discussed and agreed upon can include what happens if the attraction is not mutual, where the encounters can take place, safe sex rules, and if there are restrictions on who the other(s) can be.
This is a primary or ongoing relationship between three or more partners. It can also be more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. One example is a primary partnership where two people share a home, and a secondary partnership that involves one or more of the primary partners. Another example is three partners sharing a home and life together in a committed relationship.
Success in any of these relationship forms depends on clear and negotiated agreements. We help by asking questions to clarify what your hopes and fears are, and what behavior will create well-being, acceptance, safety and fun.
You have probably had to wrestle with ideas of what the ideal relationship arrangement would be for you. It can be very difficult to navigate the feelings that arise, and make good decisions that are true to your deepest desires and values, and also is respectful of the other person involved.
We support clients as they navigate their wishes and desires for relationship so they can have loving, respectful and honest relationships that work now and in the future.
Questions for Thought
Below are a few questions that are intended to help you consider your personal situation more closely. If your responses cause concern and you want to make changes, we encourage you to contact us to discuss how we can best help.
- Can you imagine having sex with only one person for the rest of my life?
- How do you manage different and sometimes incompatible sexual desires?
- Do you feel able to have an open discussion about your sex life?
- Do you engage in risky sexual activities without telling your partner?
- What do you each want your relationship to look like?
- What do you hope to achieve if you were to open your relationship?
- What are the pros and cons of an open relationship?
- How do I handle it if one partner wants to be monogamous and the other does not?