As the collective conversation about embracing human sexuality extends to a broader range of ideas, more and more people are asking the question: “Is monogamy really the best choice for everyone?”
Although polyamory has only recently gotten its big moment in the spotlight, it’s far from being a new practice. Evidence of polyamorous relationships goes so far back into our history that many researchers believe our brains have adapted for them. Despite this, our society largely presents the monogamous relationship as the only one that is “normal” and/or “natural.”
As a intimacy and relationship coach, many of my couple clients are curious about including more than one partner in their relationships or having separate relationships altogether. There is much to consider before I recommend that they try it out.
It is important that I meet my clients where they are. Our natural programming is often overridden by our social programming, and some people will have more reservations about polyamory than others. I encourage my clients to explore the idea at a pace that is comfortable for them.
For example, I may see a couple who are both very eager to have an open relationship, but they have not yet learned how to set strong personal boundaries. Working as a sexuality expert puts me in a position to offer a professional recommendation that works in favor of your client’s growth, rather than against it. In cases like this, it could mean encouraging your clients to proceed more slowly than they would otherwise.
With that said, polyamory is a wonderful choice for many people. Here’s one possible scenario: you’re coaching a couple, and one partner is totally unwilling to participate in the other’s most-desired sexual kink. Provided they communicate openly and are otherwise satisfied in their relationship, starting a discussion about polyamory could be helpful as a way for the kinky partner to get their needs met without imposing those behaviors on the non-kinky partner.
If I suggest polyamory as an option to a couple, I’m sure to let them know there are various approaches they can take. Would they prefer to bring a single person into their relationship? Would they be more comfortable approaching couples with similar interests? Maybe they’d like the freedom to individually pursue outside relationships with others.
I present my clients with different possibilities and see which ones get them curious and excited. Then give them the resources they need to have a productive conversation on their own.
Like their monogamous counterparts, polyamorous relationships thrive on clear communication, healthy boundaries, respect, and acceptance. If I’m working with a couple who needs healing in any of these areas, I will often advise them to focus there, to start.
Polyamory is rarely a sound choice for couples who struggle with trust, or for couples who view it as a way to save a troubled relationship. As always, actively observe my clients as I work together with them. When they speak about exploring a more open relationship, I always pay attention to their tone, body language, and expressed intentions.
I Keep an eye on the dynamic between both partners. Does one party seem less enthusiastic than the other? Do you sense that some pressure is involved? If you catch subtle clues of discomfort or apprehension, I won’t let them go unaddressed.
It is often exciting when you consider whether or not you’ll work with a monogamous couple around the ideas of opening a relationship to polyamory. Many times the suggestion itself opens a couple to deeper levels of personal communication
I’m comfortable or knowledgeable enough to give my clients the guidance they need or refer out to another professional who does. Some providers, like myself, specialize in non-monogamous relationships, and many others are poorly equipped to work with them.
Regardless of how and whether my clients choose to approach polyamory, I will offer non-judgmental acceptance of their decision. It doesn’t matter how right I think polyamory could be for any given couple; it’s their right to decide what can work for them.
No matter what, I encourage them to make their choice to either pursue some form of polyamory or to remain monogamous a conscious and informed one.