CNM — it’s more pop­u­lar than you think

The scoop on con­sen­sual non-monogamy and why it works for some cou­ples

Richmond Hill Post - - Currents | Dr. Jess On Sex - Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, au­thor and sex­ol­o­gist (www.SexWithDrJ­

In my line of work, I’m privy to an of­ten un­so­licited glimpse into the in­ti­mate lives of cou­ples from all walks of life. From chatty Uber driv­ers to long-lost child­hood friends, it’s not un­com­mon for peo­ple to open up as soon as they find out what I do for a living.

One of the trends I’ve ob­served over the past 10 years is an in­crease in con­sen­sual non-monogamy (CNM). Data from two rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples of 8,718 adults sug­gest that 21 per cent have been in some form of a CNM re­la­tion­ship. And al­though non­monogamy has al­ways ex­isted in mul­ti­ple forms (e.g., cheat­ing), it seems that con­sen­sual non­monogamy may be on the rise.

Some, like Mandy* from For­est Hill, say CNM is a more re­al­is­tic op­tion given the di­vorce, in­fi­delity and marital dis­sat­is­fac­tion rates.

“I didn’t want to be an­other statis­tic. Af­ter watch­ing my parents and so many of their friends and sib­lings, I knew there had to be an­other way.”

Oth­ers dis­cov­ered CNM by chance and were pleas­antly sur­prised.

“It had noth­ing to do with our up­bring­ing,” says Yorkville res­i­dent Pe­tra*. “My parents have been hap­pily mar­ried for fiftysome­thing years. But monogamy just isn’t the best fit for us. We opened up 12 years ago af­ter talk­ing to some new friends we met in France, and we couldn’t be hap­pier.”

There are, of course, many rea­sons peo­ple opt for CNM, and no two re­la­tion­ships are alike. And al­though Mandy and Pe­tra see CNM as the key to re­la­tion­ship suc­cess, peo­ple in monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ships view monogamy sim­i­larly. This is be­cause we tend to gen­er­al­ize our de­sires as uni­ver­sally ideal. The data, how­ever, sug­gests that both CNM and monogamy can be suc­cess­ful. Al­though those prac­tis­ing CNM ex­hibit higher lev­els of trust and lower lev­els of jeal­ousy, re­search re­veals that lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion, pas­sion and com­mit­ment are sim­i­lar.

Your chances of suc­cess, in ei­ther ar­range­ment, in­crease when you thought­fully con­sider the op­tions in ad­vance and opt in as op­posed to ac­cept­ing one struc­ture as a de­fault.

Just like monogamy, CNM does not work for ev­ery­one (there is some pre­lim­i­nary ev­i­dence that cer­tain per­son­al­ity types are drawn to it), and it is not the an­swer to a fail­ing monog­a­mous re­la­tion­ship. It won’t elim­i­nate com­mon re­la­tion­ship stres­sors, but its ben­e­fits might in­clude ex­panded sup­port net­works, al­ter­na­tive open­ings for per­sonal growth and an em­pha­sis on ex­plo­ration over re­stric­tion. As CNM re­quires greater speci­ficity with re­gard to de­lin­eat­ing re­la­tion­ship bound­aries and ex­pec­ta­tions, it can lead to more com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which has the po­ten­tial to in­crease in­ti­macy and de­crease ten­sion.

“I also feel less pres­sure around sex than I did be­fore,” says Pe­tra.

“I feel like it helps us to con­nect in other ways, and be­cause we’re open about other peo­ple, I’m not afraid of los­ing him to some­one else.”

CNM is about much more than sex, and al­though it is of­ten dis­missed as a way to con­done sex­ual in­fi­delity, the clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween CNM and cheat­ing is con­sent by all par­ties in­volved.

*Please note that names have been changed and re­la­tion­ship de­tails have been shared with per­mis­sion from all par­ties ref­er­enced.

Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion key as part­ners de­lin­eate re­la­tion­ship bound­aries

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