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What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?

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Stellar Pro affirms and welcomes all types of relationships, including consensual non-monogamy (CNM) and polyamorous relationships. We highlight clinicians certified in consensual non-monogamy who are here to help you navigate your desires, needs, and relationships.

Not sure what consensual non-monogamy is? Wondering if CNM therapy is for you? Read the article below to learn more.

What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?

Consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term for relationships in which all members give explicit consent to engage with multiple people. This can include romantic, intimate, and/or sexual relationships. Every relationship that practices consensual non-monogamy has their own boundaries. Some relationships allow for romantic attraction while others only allow for sexual relationships. Remember, these are agreed upon terms. From a monogamous perspective this may seem like cheating but from a consensual non-monogamy perspective it isn’t.

Polyamory, open relationships, swinging relationships, and cuckolding/cuckquean are all examples of consensual non-monogamy and are some of the most common. Let’s break down the definitions of each below.

What is polyamory?

Polyamory is a form of a consensual non-monogamy relationship. Polyamory refers to a relationship where people have multiple romantic and/or sexual partners. A polyamorous person may have their primary or nesting partner or they may have multiple. Polyamorous relationships can consist of groups of people or multiple, concurrent independent relationships. Each polyamorous relationship has their own unique definition.

The main difference between polyamory and open relationships is that polyamory can consist of multiple romantic partners and having intimate relationships with more than one partner.

What is an open relationship?

Open relationships are another form of consensual non-monogamy. This type of relationship can be a huge source of love, joy, and excitement for both couples and individuals. The term open relationship itself serves as an umbrella term for all types of open relationship structures. These include: open, poly, solo poly, swinging, kink, and more.

Not all open relationships involve each partner having many significant others, but it can. Each open relationship is unique and there are millions of combinations and styles.

What is swinging?

Swinging is a third form of a consensual non-monogamy relationship. With origins dating back to World War II, the practice began with “wife-swapping” among U.S. Air Force Pilots. Since then, swinging has become quite popular and widespread.

Each swinging relationship has their own definition but what makes swinging different from polyamory or open relationships is the word “swapping”. Most commonly, swinging relationships are defined as an open style relationship within a committed partnership.

What is cuckolding/cuckquean?

Another way people engage in CNM is Cuckholding. Cuckholding is when a couple allows another individual to have sex with their partner, typically while they watch. Participation from the cucked partner may or may not be allowed.

While cuckholding is largely depicted in pornography as heteronormative, cuckholding can involve any number of people regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. As with other forms of CNM, every cuckolding/cuckquean relationship is different. Some may prefer to only do threesomes, stay celibate during the act, or have multiple partners are once.

What makes cuckolding different from other forms of CNM is that pleasure is derived from humiliation. Romantic relationships, outside of the primary, are not typically allowed.

If you’d like to learn more we recommend Dr. David Ley’s book Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them and this blog by the Sexual Health Alliance on cuckolding.

Why do people want to engage in Consensual Non-Monogamy?

People are beautifully unique and so are their reasons for engaging in consensual non-monogamy. Sometimes one partner wants one thing and the other is not wanting to explore. This may allow the partner to explore freely with minimal stress or concern.

Mismatched sexual desire can be another reason for wanting to open a relationship. If one partner feels that their sexual needs are not being met due to a libido issue they may want to engage in CNM.

Another reason is people in long-distance relationships. People in a LDR may agree to consensual non-monogamy. This allows each partner to fulfill their needs that their primary partner cannot.

What matters is that you and your partner have discussed consensual non-monogamy or polyamory and that terms have been established. If your partner begins to engage in a CNM relationship without discussing it with you, it’s up to you if you consider that infidelity.

Can infidelity happen in a CNM relationship?

Absolutely. Infidelity may take a different form in a CNM relationship than a monogamous one. If you find your partner(s) are going against the terms you may feel this is infidelity.

Professionals certified in consensual non-monogamy can help you talk about infidelity in CNM relationships.

What if I find out Consensual Non-Monogamy isn’t for me?

Trying something new can be difficult. Sometimes, it’s even more difficult to admit you didn’t like it. CNM isn’t for every person. It’s important to communicate your feelings towards your partner about closing your relationship back up. This is when a certified CNM therapist can help.

No matter your reason for wanting to close a relationship, CNM certified professionals are trained in both opening and closing CNM relationships and can help you. Remember, if you’re not enjoying CNM you shouldn’t have to grin and bear it. Communicating your feelings in a safe environment is the first step towards that.

Do I need therapy for my form of Consensual Non-Monogamy?

There are many reasons why a person and their partner(s) may seek out a professional certified in consensual non-monogamy. There is no one type of CNM that needs therapy more than the other. All CNM relationships can benefit at some point in their lives. Some of these reasons include:

– Navigating boundaries

– Communication issues

– One partner wishes to engage in consensual non-monogamy and the other does not

– Jealousy or anger

– Deciding what type of consensual non-monogamy is right for your relationship

– Understanding your options in each consensual non-monogamy relationship style

– Broken agreements

– Negotiating contracts

– Infidelity

– Grief and Loss

– Stigma from cultural or family

– Navigating personal sexual values and belief systems

– Being hesitant or skeptical

– NRE or New Relationship Energy

– Throuple’s V’s, W’s and moresomes

If you find yourself relating to the items on the list, you and your partner(s) may benefit from seeing a certified consensual non-monogamy therapist.

You can find benefit in talking to a consensual non-monogamy therapist as they are educated in CNM already. Some clients feel ashamed about their CNM due to societal stigma. Because of that, 25-30% of clients who practice alternative sexualities (such as CNM) never tell their therapist about it. If consensual non-monogamy is a major part of your life, you should feel comfortable talking to your therapist about it!

Stellar Pro makes it easy to find a professional certified in consensual non-monogamy. By working with a certified consensual non-monogamy professional , you can build healthy and long-lasting consensual non-monogamy or polyamorous relationships.

Do I need to be in a consensual non-monogamy relationship to attend consensual non-monogamy therapy?

That’s the best thing. You don’t! Consensual non-monogamy certified therapists welcome all individuals. Even if you’re just thinking about CNM to CNM veterans. Talking about your needs, desires, and any questions you may have with a professional certified in consensual non-monogamy can be beneficial. You may find that CNM is perfect for you. Or you may find that CNM isn’t for you at all.

My partner wants a Consensual Non-monogamy relationship or poly but I do not.

Consensual non-monogamy is not right for everyone. Just how monogamy isn’t right for everybody.

Even if you’re confident in your stance on CNM, attending consensual non-monogamy therapy can still be beneficial. You and your partner can discuss your feelings as to why you do and do not want to open the relationship. You two may discover a deeper reason for wanting to engage in consensual non-monogamy that can be satisfied without opening the relationship. Or you may learn that opening the relationship is the only way to satisfy that desire.

Why is it important that my professional is certified in Consensual Non-Monogamy?

Consensual non-monogamy can be complicated to navigate. In a study, it was found that one-fifth of consensual non-monogamy-affirming therapists were found to lack the basic knowledge of consensual non-monogamy issues to be effective for their clients. You shouldn’t have to explain to your therapist what consensual non-monogamy is.

That’s why, having a professional certified in consensual non-monogamy is important. A therapist who is certified in CNM has undergone extra training inCNM and understands the different types of relationships. They can help you navigate your relationship, your desires, your needs, and answer questions you might have about CNM without judgment.

Starting CNM can be a huge change. Sometimes this change is painful and/or takes work to sort out what’s okay and what is not. This is where therapy can help.

A consensual non-monogamy certified professional will have received extra training in the following:

– Reasons to be in a poly or consensual non-monogamy relationship(s)

– Common mistakes when starting out

– Structures of new relationships

– Negotiating, renegotiating, and setting boundaries

– Making sex-safe agreements

– How to deal with jealousy

– Managing daily life – finances, time management, paid vs unpaid work

– Managing conflict and power dynamics

– How to deal with consent violations

– Defining members in a polyaffective family

– Coming out – including as a poly parent

– Polyaffective marriages

– Poly-pregnancy

– Dealing with friends, family, coworkers, and school

– Aging body and mind

– Retiring and how that relates to consensual non-monogamy – including shifting relationships

– Impact of consensual non-monogamy and poly on raising children

– Legal issues, medical institution tips, dealing with discrimination

– Breaking up

– Death and dying

– Addressing grief

The above is not an all-inclusive list but is meant to give you an idea of the extra training a consensual non-monogamy certified therapist will have received.

Professionals certified in consensual non-monogamy are also encouraged to examine and reflect on their own relationship biases.This, combined with the tools to help clients develop support system and healthy coping skills means a certified consensual non-monogamy therapist is the best join to assist you in your CNM or polyamorous relationship journey.

Stellar Pro has clinicians experienced in consensual non-monogamy or polyamorous relationships. A clinician who has submitted verification of their training in consensual non-monogamy will have a badge on their profile.

What benefits can I expect from Consensual Non-Monogamy therapy?

Each CNM relationship is unique. Some benefits you may experience are:

– Deeper connection to your partner(s)

– Understanding what type of consensual non-monogamy relationship is right for you

– Improved communication skills

– Increased pleasure and satisfaction

– Understanding how to set boundaries and what to do when those boundaries are violated

– Increased confidence

All therapy takes time and effort from all parties to be effective. Some clients only need 1-2 sessions while others may want or need many more. What matters is that you feel you are gaining a deeper understanding of your relationship and CNM.

Why should I choose Stellar Pro to find a Consensual Non-Monogamy Certified Professional?

Stellar Pro is the only mental health directory that verifies and highlights clinicians’ advanced training and expertise. We make it easy to find a professional that specializes in consensual non-monogamy. When you find a therapist on Stellar Pro you are assured that you are matching with somebody who is trained in consensual non-monogamy.


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