Thinking about an “Open Relationship” or CNM? You’re not Alone.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in societal attitudes towards relationships and sexuality. One significant trend that has emerged is the growing interest in open relationships and consensual non-monogamy (CNM) or ethical non-monogamy (ENM). As a Psychotherapist specializing in marriage and relationship counselling, these topics emerge more often than they once did. And for some therapists, this can challenge their own values or understandings of relationship norms (with monogamy being the dominant model for most).  This blog will help to clarify some underlying reasons behind this phenomenon, to better support individuals navigating these complex dynamics.

Changing Cultural Norms:

Traditional monogamy has long been considered the default relationship model in many cultures. Indeed non-monogamy is still largely stigmatized — especially with so many couples therapists dealing with ‘affair recovery’ in their work.  However, societal norms are evolving, and individuals are increasingly questioning the one-size-fits-all approach to romantic partnerships. With greater acceptance of diverse sexual orientations and relationship structures, people feel more empowered to explore alternative arrangements that align with their values and desires.

Individual Autonomy and Freedom:

One driving force behind the interest in open relationships and CNM is the desire for personal autonomy and freedom. In today’s fast-paced and individualistic society, people are seeking relationships that allow them to express their authentic selves fully and to satisfy parts of themselves that they need to suppress in a monogamous relationship. For some, this means embracing non-traditional relationship structures that prioritize honesty, communication, and mutual consent.

Expanded Definitions of Love and Intimacy:

Another factor contributing to the rise of open relationships is the recognition that love and intimacy can take many forms. While monogamy works well for some individuals, others find fulfillment in connections with multiple partners. Open relationships offer the opportunity to explore diverse expressions of love and intimacy, challenging the notion that romantic fulfillment can only be found within the confines of a monogamous partnership.

Navigating Sexual Compatibility:

Sexual compatibility plays a crucial role in the success of any relationship. In traditional monogamous partnerships, mismatches in libido or sexual preferences can lead to tension and dissatisfaction. Open relationships provide individuals with the freedom to explore their sexuality outside the primary partnership while maintaining emotional connection and commitment.

Embracing Ethical Non-Monogamy:

Ethical non-monogamy emphasizes honesty, communication, and mutual respect among all parties involved. Unlike infidelity or cheating, which involve deception and betrayal, open relationships and CNM are based on transparency and consent. By openly negotiating boundaries and agreements, couples can cultivate trust and intimacy while exploring non-monogamous dynamics.

Addressing Relationship Needs:

Every individual has unique relationship needs and desires. While some people thrive in monogamous partnerships, others may find fulfillment in polyamorous arrangements or open relationships. As a psychotherapist, it’s essential to help clients identify their relationship goals and explore strategies for meeting those needs in healthy and fulfilling ways.

Challenging Jealousy and Insecurity:

One of the most significant challenges in open relationships is navigating jealousy and insecurity. In a culture that often equates love with possessiveness, individuals may struggle with feelings of jealousy when their partner explores connections with others. As a therapist, it’s crucial to help clients understand the root causes of jealousy and develop coping strategies to manage these emotions effectively.

Cultivating Communication and Trust:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful open relationships. Couples must openly discuss their desires, boundaries, and concerns to ensure that all parties feel heard and respected. By fostering a culture of honesty and trust, couples can navigate the complexities of non-monogamy with greater ease and resilience.

To conclude, the growing interest in open relationships and consensual non-monogamy reflects a broader cultural shift towards more inclusive and diverse relationship structures. As societal norms continue to evolve, it’s essential for therapists to offer non-judgmental support and guidance to individuals exploring alternative relationship dynamics. As therapists, we can help guide clients who want to embark on this path, by helping them embrace principles of honesty, communication, and mutual respect, couples can cultivate healthy and fulfilling connections that honour their unique needs and desires.


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