"The Latest Psychological Guide to Sexually Open Relationships "
More therapists are getting it about poly, or should. Knowledge of the subject is spreading, and therapist-oriented material is increasingly accessible — such as What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory (send this link to your shrink so you don't have to waste session time educating them), academic articles, and presentations at conferences (for instance).
Yesterday a pair of researchers and therapists in the UK and Finland posted a review of what they call "the latest psychological guide to sexually open relationships": the paper Clients in Sexually Open Relationships: Considerations for Therapists by Kevin Zimmerman in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy (vol. 24, issue 3, July-Sept. 2012).1 The 17-page paper is available only by payment or through an academic library, but Raj Persaud and Helinä Häkkänen-Nyholm give a rundown of its contents:
Kevin Zimmerman from Iowa State University... marshals a host of scientific research which questions whether everyone was really meant to be monogamous, and whether a great deal of couples' unhappiness arises out of pre-supposing monogamy is the only option.
Zimmerman raises the question of whether we could be socialized to believe that to be devoted to a second person is to love the ﬁrst less, even though this standard does not apply when discussing adoring more than one child, for example.
Zimmerman explains that open relationships are different from inﬁdelity or cheating because partners agree on the sexual boundaries of the relationship, and there is no deception about sex. Successful open relationships typically involve those who privilege authenticity over conformity in their relationships. 'Open' relationships can be characterised by more honesty and better observation of boundaries.
...'Open' relationships are sometimes seen as raising the status of women, releasing them to be with whom they want, bestowing greater power over their own bodies. Some heterosexual feminist women prefer 'open' relationships, he points out, to avoid appearing dependent on men, or out of contempt for being 'submerged' into a couple.
Monogamy is also the exception to relationships throughout the animal kingdom... Zimmerman cites work contending that of 4,000 mammal species, only about 3%, have been found to be monogamous, plus of the world's roughly 400 species of primates, monogamy has been reported for only nine.
Zimmerman argues even the shape of the male penis, together with male thrusting, apparently facilitates removal of other males' semen from the vagina, according to previous research....
Of the 185 human societies investigated in one study, only 29 restricted their members to monogamy, in addition, 154 of the 185 societies allowed men to have multiple partners if they could afford them.
Zimmerman explains that 'Partnered non-monogamy' refers to a committed couple that allows for sex outside the central relationship. Swinging is non-monogamy in a social context, also referred to as "the lifestyle", 'Polyamory' allows for partners to have more than one relationship that is sexual, loving, and emotional....
Bisexual women appear numerous in polyamorous communities... the standing joke being that they can "have their Jake and Edith too". According to Zimmerman, research confirms homosexual couples are much more likely to allow extra-dyadic sex.... Zimmerman also cites surveys which confirm that heterosexual couples in open relationships can be happy, intimate, and well-adjusted.
In a society in which monogamy is the only acceptable way to be in a committed relationship, Zimmerman contends individuals who experience attraction for anyone else besides their primary partner often experience guilt, shame, and deceit. Being too invested in the idea of monogamy and marriage paradoxically makes it more likely that many ﬁnd the only way to accommodate our non-monogamous biology, is to cheat.
These arguments and evidence suggest the stigma over open relationships could be changing, and in the future, this lifestyle might even become the norm. Zimmerman compares [it to] co-habitation before or instead of marriage, around which there was a similar strong taboo just a generation ago....
Read their whole post (May 18, 2013; Huffington Post/ Lifestyle/ UK).
Another article about the paper appeared on a blogsite with 13 therapists, "Analyzing Adultery — Why Do People Cheat?"
It’s only cheating if you’re supposed to be monogamous … right?
...Cheating can still occur in nonmonogamous – or open – relationships....
In an article aimed at therapists who may come across clients in open relationships, Kevin Zimmerman outlines the various types of nonmonogamous relationships:
● Partnered nonmonogamy – “a committed couple that allows for extradyadic sex”
● Swinging – “nonmonogamy in a social context”
● Polyamory – “partners have more than one relationship that is sexual, loving and emotional”
● Solo polyamory – “nonmonogamous individuals who do not want a primary partner”
● Polyfidelity – “three or more people who have made a commitment to be in a primary relationship together”
● Monogamous/nonmonogamous partnership – “one person is monogamous and the other is not”
The key to all of these open relationships is honesty and boundaries, according to Zimmerman. For partners to be successful in a nonmonogamous relationship, they must be honest with their partner about what they want and the actions they partake in outside of the primary relationship. There must also be clear boundaries set and continually negotiated between the partners to make sure neither is unhappy with the situation.
...So in open relationships, much like in traditional relationships, cheating is whatever deviates from the rules about the relationship set down by both partners. In monogamous relationships these rules can be unspoken and are understood based on societal ideas of monogamy. In open relationships they often need to be worked out in a more explicit fashion....
The whole post (Oct. 23, 2012).
1. Abstract: "Clients who are in or who wish to pursue a sexually open relationship may challenge therapists' heteronormative biases. Through this article the author provides an overview of open relationships and some research related to monogamous sexual behavior. Issues of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and SES pertaining to open relationships are considered. The author offers some guidelines for therapists, including topics to discuss with clients, comorbidity issues, and assessment and treatment approaches. The Intersystems approach to sex therapy is then presented which can frame therapists' understanding of open relationships, and the author concludes with some ideas for future research and attention."