TIME mag: "What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships"
We'll soon find out whether it'll be in Time's next print issue, when 2 million copies go to subscribers and newsstands.
What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships, According to Experts
Pakorn Kumruen / EyeEm—Getty Images
By Samantha Cooney
...Experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.
Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.
But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.
“Often they’re scared of losing their jobs, not getting a job, losing family or friends who won’t respect them anymore or scared that their children will be taken away,” says Carrie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is: And What It Could Be. ...
...Still, experts who study relationships say polyamorous relationships can provide useful lessons for monogamous couples. Here are a few areas where, researchers say, polyamorous couples are particularly successful:
Successful monogamous relationships require communication about desires, needs and problems, says who studies monogamous relationships. And this is one area where polyamorous couples excel.
A May 2017 study published in PLOS One noted that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships communicate to “negotiate agreements, schedules, and boundaries, and to work through the kinds of problems that emerge when negotiating polyamory, amongst the typical relational problems that can emerge in any relationship.” ... According to Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA ... “Consensually non-monogamous couples might have a lot to teach everybody about negotiating desire and competing interests.”
Defining the relationship
Polyamorous partners often define boundaries and form agreements about what each relationship should look like, and Conley says these agreements can be beneficial to monogamous relationships, where partners might assume they’re on the same page about what monogamy means. When deciding to enter a relationship, “There might be a conversation beyond that about what that means: does it mean we’re monogamous? What does it mean to be monogamous?” Conley says. “For some people, even mere thoughts of attraction to someone else can be defined as cheating. For other people, anything but intercourse is OK.”
Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms. Sometimes, partners will know each other and form a family-like network sometimes called “kitchen table polyamory”, according to Kate Kincaid, a psychologist at Tucson Counseling Associates who works with polyamorous couples. Another style, known as “parallel polyamory,” means that all of the partners are aware of each other, but have little to no contact, Kincaid explains.
Kincaid says that she works with couples to figure out which model is best for them — though she often recommends kitchen table polyamory because it’s often more efficient for all parties to communicate directly. ...
Practicing safe sex
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat in monogamous relationships. ...
Kincaid says that she works with clients to fill out a questionnaire about what sexual acts they’d be comfortable with [partners] doing with other partners to make sure they’re on the same page. ...
Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University who conducted the 2012 study with Conley, says ... “They have to navigate the sexual health of a bunch of people. Implicit in that is that there’s very clear conversations about sexual health that are happening in consensual non-monogamous relationships that may not be happening in [supposedly] monogamous relationships.” ...
...A 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science ... found that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, including those who engaged in polyamory and swinging, scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust than those in monogamous relationships.
“People in monogamous relationships were really off the charts high on jealousy. They were more likely to check their partners’ phones, go through their emails, their handbags,” Moors says. “But people in consensual non-monogamous relationships were really low on this.”
...Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University, says, “they see what feelings arise and actively work to navigate them in a proactive way.”
Maintaining a sense of independence
Another area where polyamorous couples tend to excel, according to Kincaid, is allowing their partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship. ... “The biggest thing that I appreciate about poly people is that they focus on knowing what their needs are and get their needs met in creative ways — relying more on friends or multiple partners instead of putting it all on one person,” Kincaid says. ...
Karney says that he could also see how having your needs met by others might strengthen consensual non-monogamous relationships.
“If we’re a married monogamous couple, we have to figure out what to do about our problems. We’re either going to avoid them, resolve them or break up,” Karney says. “But if I’m in a non-monogamous relationship and I have the same problem, I might not have to resolve it if I’m not getting all my needs met from you.” ...
Read the whole 1300-word article, with many links (online August 27, 2018).
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