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Consensual Non-monogamous Relationships

When you have all the love to give…

I wonder how relatable this narrative is for you…

“When I grow up, I’m going to find a partner, get married, and live happily ever after”?

That was the way, that many of us were modelled by not only our caregivers, but as well in mainstream media, hell, this is the main premise of all the classic fairy tales. Beginning to normalize all relationships, specifically those that fall outside of the heteronormative, empowers younger generations, our peers, and friends, to gravitate towards what feels most fitting for them. In respect to relationships falling outside of the heteronormative, has been termed ‘non-monogamy’; an umbrella term that aims to reflect the diverse nature of relationships outside of what is deemed as traditional, including, but not limited to, polyamory, swingers, open relationships, and relationship anarchy (Carlström & Andersson, 2019).

Polyamory for example, is defined as, more than two people being involved in an intimate and or sexual relationship; all individuals are welcomed to have multiple relationships at one time (Carlström & Andersson, 2019). Moors & Ramos (2022) concluded that 1 in 5 people, from surveys covering both the United States and Canada, have reported having practiced consensual non-monogamy at least once in their lifetime. Consensual non-monogamous (CNM) relationships have been often researched as intimate and or sexual relationships that have stemmed from within a queer paradigm (Klesse et al., 2022). Ferrer (2018) defined the intimacy that is generally present within CNM relationships is “connected with sexual and emotional freedom, personal empowerment, liberation from patriarchal oppression, ethical interpersonal behaviour, honesty and communication, nonpossessive love and overcoming of jealousy, and psychospiritual growth (p. 818). Some of those who practice CNM have either, historically, and or presently, have/can experience interpersonal and or societal challenges including, but not limited to, stigmatization experiences, fear of rejection, legal challenges (i.e., child custody, property, inheritance, and medical decisions), and self-stigma (Moors & Ramos, 2022). The demographic characteristics of those who practice CNM include both, gender identity and sexuality; men reportedly being more likely than women to practice CNM and LGBTQIA identifying individuals being more likely to practice than their heterosexual identifying counterparts (Moors & Ramos, 2022).

In my working with CNM practicing individuals and or couples, it has been apparent that there are many overlapping issues/concerns that get brought into the therapeutic space, with those who practice or are in monogamous relationships. Two primary strengths/positives that have stood out while working with CNM practicing individuals and or couples, often include, their ability to communicate openly and freely with one another, while recognizing the importance of having an open dialogue with all partners involved. The second strength/positive that has been observed, has been that those who are in, CNM relationships can have their partners meet the individual’s physical and emotional needs. In my work with monogamous practicing individuals, generally speaking, there are times when their emotional and or physical needs can go unmet, which can happen for various reasons (i.e., fear of communicating their individual needs, their partner not having the capacity and or ability to meet these needs, etc.).

It is important, that if you’re seeking therapy pertaining to, navigating/exploring practicing CNM or relational work, to work with a therapist who is familiar and comfortable in supporting relationships outside of the heteronormative structure of relationships. At Healing Roots Therapy, we have therapists who are open and willing to support you and or your relationship, from an anti-oppressive and non-heteronormative lens.


Carlström, C., Andersson, C. Living Outside Protocol: Polyamorous Orientations, Bodies, and Queer Temporalities. Sexuality & Culture 23, 1315–1331 (2019).

Klesse, C., Cardoso, D., Pallotta-Chiarolli, M., Raab, M., Schadler, C., & Schippers, M. (2022). Introduction: Parenting, polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. Critical and queer perspectives. Sexualities, 13634607221114466.

Klesse, C., Rothschild, L., & Walker, J. (2022). Queer (ing) consensual non-monogamies, queering therapy: queer intimacy, kinship, and experiences of CNM in LGBTQIA+ lives.

Moors, A. C., & Ramos, A. (2022). Stigma and Prejudice Endured by People Engaged in Consensual Non-Monogamy. The Handbook of Consensual Non-Monogamy: Affirming Mental Health Practice, 50.

Written by: Sara Scott, MACP, RP, Individual, Couple & Family Therapist

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