Consensual Non-Monogamy: How to Begin
It’s in the name. Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM) is defined by an open relationship with the enthusiastic consent of all partners involved. Emphasis on enthusiastic, as all parties should be in agreement without feeling coerced into engaging in this lifestyle. CNM allows you and your partner(s) to explore what being non-monogamous means to you all. The next step is where I see my clients struggle the most: How do we go about this?
Here are a few tips to consider when beginning this conversation with yourself and your partner:
First, enthusiastic consent is key. So, you want to explore CNM? It’s not about being pushy or impatient. If a partner feels as if they can’t say no or that their boundaries won’t be respected, consent becomes lost in the discussion. Giving all parties time to process their own beliefs and feelings while deciding how to move forward is generally the most effective way to begin. Ultimatums and sudden demands for drastic shifts in a relationship dynamic are a recipe for disaster.
Second, know your definitions. What type of non-monogamous relationship are you searching for? Sexual? Emotional? Group or solo interactions? Knowing your definitions can help you decide what type of relationship style you’re looking for. You can range from a Monogamish Style (just a dash of sexual encounters or flirting with the primary relationship in mind) to a Relationship Anarchist style (full autonomy for most, if not all, relationships to blossom naturally). Of course, all types lead with enthusiastic consent. Relationship anarchy doesn’t mean disrespecting partners or disregarding boundaries.
Third, check your expectations. Are they realistic? Where are these expectations coming from? Expecting everyone to magically get along right away isn’t reasonable. Expecting everything to go how you planned at all times isn’t reasonable. You’ll likely not be encountering an explosion of sexual/romantic encounters just because you decided on non-monogamy. It takes time, effective and constant communication, and respect for all parties’ autonomy and boundaries. If your mindset is ME-ME-ME, having a multi-person relationship style may not be your best bet.
There will be a ton of information to consider when embarking on this journey. It will be confusing and eye opening, but worth it- if you truly value this lifestyle. It takes patience, communication, and accountability to lay the groundwork for any relationship. Exploring CNM can benefit those who want to truly question their own beliefs and values about relationship structures. It can be a powerful framework to explore jealousy and expectations for romantic love in our culture. However, if you’re struggling with conflict/communication in your current mono relationship, that may be the area of first priority before adding more people to your dynamic. A house can’t be built to last on a faulty foundation. Follow for more tips on CNM.
Written by Hendrix Scott, MA, LMFT, CST
Disclaimer: This is not meant to act as or replace therapy in any way.
If you have any further questions about this topic or to schedule a session with one of our clinicians, please CONTACT US.
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