top of page
pastel.jpeg

RELATIONSHIP THERAPY  - Nonmonogamous/
Polyamorous/Open Relationships

First and foremost, I will never tell you that polyamory or non-monogamy is the cause of all of your problems because that’s essentially impossible and research suggests that people in non-monogamous relationships report equal to or better levels of relationship satisfaction than monogamous relationships.

Non-monogamous relationship groups seek counseling for the same reason people in all relationship styles seek counseling, disagreements, communication issues, unmet needs or expectations, or feeling trapped or stuck in silent agreements that you didn’t intentionally make or explicit agreements you would like to change but don’t know how to bring it up. 

Why should you engage in relationship therapy? Do you ever feel like your partner is not listening to you or they do not do what they agreed to do? Do you or your partner avoid seeking intimacy for fear of rejection? Do you or your partner shut down or emotionally withdraw when difficult topics are presented? Have you and your partner stopped complimenting each other, flirting, or laughing with each other? Do you wish your partner noticed all the little things you do to take care of your partner, the kids, and the household? Do you feel as though you do more work in your relationship than your partner? Do you yourself struggle being present during difficult conversations because you find your mind wandering to similar past situations? Do you find that you do not really listen to your partner when they are trying to discuss something they would like you to do or change because you are internally preparing a rebuttal using all the negative things your partner does? Do you or your partner hold on to negative thoughts, feelings, or memories to the extent that they prevent you from noticing anything positive in your relationship? Do you avoid any type of conflict or agree to things you do not want to do for fear of being hurt or rejected?


 

What to expect

 

All of our counselors are trained in multiple approaches to therapy and we provide an integrative approach to relationship therapy. Some therapists may only practice from one approach such as The Gottman Method or Emotion-Focused Therapy. Both of these are excellent approaches that we incorporate into our integrative approach to relationship therapy. We also incorporate existentialist therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, solution focused therapy, and sex therapy into our relationship therapy treatment model.

 

When working with polycules or any type of non-monogamous relationships I still follow the divided sessions introductory model. The first session I meet with all partners who will be participating in counseling to get a general idea of what issues have brought you to counseling. The second and third (and any additional partners) sessions are individual sessions with each partner (billed at the individual session rate). Once all the individual sessions are completed I meet with all of the partners again to discuss what I have learned and I offer recommendations for treatment moving forward.

I work from a systemic framework because I believe that most issues in relationships can be traced to sources outside the relationship. This may include, but is not limited to, family of origin, religious beliefs/upbringing, past relationships, friends, societal expectations or beliefs, and work environments. Additionally, we will be talking about your sex life and non-sexual intimacy behaviors, not because you’re non-monogamous but because you’re human and sex and intimacy are vital parts of the human existence. If any of the partners are asexual I do not mean any offense, asexuality individuals do connect with their partners in various ways which will we need to talk about in counseling.

In general relationships go through changes in relation to frequency of sex and non-sexual intimacy and in most relationships there is or has been a desire discrepancy where one individual desires sex more than the other partners. This desire discrepancy can have an effect on other aspects of all of your romantic relationships. For the partners inside the relationship when there is tension, jealousy, a feeling of imbalance or fighting it is often difficult to see beyond the immediate issue to other factors that may be contributing to that tension. Some times in relationship therapy one of more parties will feel worse after the counseling session because even though I might give you a perspective and tools in the session one or more parties may feel drained and be hurting emotionally. As much as no one wants to feel that way the best way to heal your relationship and move forward is to deal with some of those old wounds.

Relationship counseling works better if you're able to purge and process some of those feelings to a neutral party and work on your feelings and accepting your part in things without feeling like your partner or partnersare judging you. It helps to have a counselor who can look at outside factors and in-relationship factors to help you navigate through life’s challenges and any communication issues.

Occasionally there will be therapy homework such as trying to implement date nights, communication techniques, and trust rebuilding exercises (if applicable). But to be honest I hate doing therapy homework as a client so I rarely use it in my practice.

 

I strongly encourage all partners to have their own individual therapists. This works best if I have some ability to collaborate with your individual therapists. I do not need intimate details of your therapy sessions more specifically I need to know if there are things I should avoid bringing up in relationship therapy. For instance, if one of you is undergoing treatment for sexual trauma, the individual therapist may communicate to me to avoid talking about sex for a period of time. You are allowed to dictate what information your individual therapist can share with me. However, I have a NO SECRETS policy with relationship therapy which only includes information directly told to me by the client(s). Whatever one partner says to me in their individual sessions that directly affects the relationship will be discussed in relationship therapy. Secrets are not healthy for relationships in general and definitely not helpful when you are seeking therapy but only telling your partners some of the information they should know.

If you have secrets that are affecting your relationship I strongly recommend that you work through them in individual therapy and then bring them to couples therapy when you are ready. However, there is a big difference between secrets and private information. If you are actively having an affair that you are keeping secret, that information is counter to the purpose of relationship therapy which is why, if I am your relationship therapist, I will recommend that you disclose that information in your relationship therapy session or I cannot in good concience continue relationship therapy. But there are many types of information that can and should be kept private until or unless you are ready to discuss them with your partner such as personal insecurities, sexual interests or fantasies your partner would not approve of, or any information that could be harmful to your partner to hear but would serve no therapeutic purpose to share. This type of information I can and will keep private. 

Opening your existing relationship

Perhaps you are not practicing non-monogamy yet but are interested in doing so. You and your partner may have been talking about opening your relationship but you can't seem to get on the same page. One or both of you may be struggling with mononormative beliefs or societal expectations that you need time, space, and assistance to process. You may have posted on social media platforms looking for advice and everyone is telling you to do the work first but you don't know what "the work" is. Going from a non-monogamous relationship style to any variety of open relationship requires a lot of communication between you and your partner and there will be bumps in the road under the best of circumstances. We can help you strengthen your existing relationship and improve your communication skills to make these any missteps less difficult for each of you. 

bottom of page