- Episode 49: This Is Actually Happening (3/4)
- Episode 48: Standing By vs. Being An Ally (2/4)
- Recommendations & Reviews: Boogie Nights
- Food For Thought: Contradiction vs. Complementation
- Food For Thought: Curiosity vs. Criticism
- Episode 47: Sexual “Empowerment” Sells (1/4)
- Recommendations & Reviews: The Culture Map
- Food For Thought: Celebrating The Small Wins
- Food For Thought: The Many Roads To Happiness
- En Español: Sexualidad e Igualdad
- Casual Conversations: Communication, Mindfulness, and Pleasure
- Food For Thought: Operational Definitions
- Food For Thought: Memory Tissue
- Episode 46: The Nutrition Facts of Life
- Casual Conversations: The Lost Art of Letter Writing
- Food For Thought: Attribution Theory
- Food For Thought: Coronavirus vs. Connection
- Bonus Episode: The Psychology of Solitary
- Episode 45: Love, Loss & The Meaning Of Life (2/2)
- Episode 44: Love, Loss & The Meaning Of Life (1/2)
- Live Workshop: Navigating Anxiety During COVID
- Episode 43: The Body Knows Best
- Episode 42: (Un)Censoring Pleasure
- Episode 41: Bring On The Heat (2/2)
- Episode 40: Bring On The Heat (1/2)
- Episode 39: The Myth of Marriage (2/2)
- Episode 38: The Myth of Marriage (1/2)
- Episode 37: Same Page, Different Book (2/2)
- Episode 36: Same Page, Different Book (1/2)
- Episode 35: Humans In Progress (2/2)
- Episode 34: Humans In Progress (1/2)
- Episode 33: The Strength In Our Scars (2/2)
- Episode 32: The Strength In Our Scars (1/2)
- Episode 31: Masculinity & Authenticity (2/2)
- Episode 30: Masculinity & Authenticity (1/2)
- Episode 29: Addiction & Intimacy – From Harm to Healing (2/2)
- Episode 28: Addiction & Intimacy – From Harm to Healing (1/2)
- New Trailer: Let’s Get Intimate!
- Episode 27: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See (2/2)
- Episode 26: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See (1/2)
- Episode 25: Why Relationships Fail vs. Flourish (2/2)
- Episode 24: Why Relationships Fail vs. Flourish (1/2)
- Episode 23: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (2/2)
- Episode 22: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (1/2)
- Episode 21: “Pleasure Is The Measure” (2/2)
- Episode 20: “Pleasure Is The Measure” (1/2)
- Episode 19: Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells… (2/2)
- Episode 18: Sex Sells? Or Insecurity Sells… (1/2)
- Episode 17: DON’T Fake It ‘Til You Make It (2/2)
- Episode 16: DON’T Fake It ‘Til You Make It (1/2)
- Episode 15: Mindfulness For Sexual Connection
- Episode 14: Keeping It “Casual” (2/2)
- Episode 13: Keeping It “Casual” (1/2)
- Episode 12: The Birds & The Bees (2/2)
- Episode 11: The Birds & The Bees (1/2)
- Episode 10: Love & Death
- Episode 9: Communication- Mind and Body
- Episode 8: The Power of Sexual Healing (2/2)
- Episode 7: The Power of Sexual Healing (1/2)
- Episode 6: Redefining Masculinity and “The Million Dollar Point”
- Episode 5: Creating Body Maps and Reconnecting with Pleasure
- Episode 4: (In) Fidelity in The Time of Technology
- Episode 3: Let’s Get Cliterate! Narrowing The Orgasm Gap
- Episode 2: Today’s Not So “Liberated” Sex Culture (2/2)
- Episode 1: Today’s Not So “Liberated” Sex Culture (1/2)
- Episode 0: Google doesn’t have all the answers
- Trailer: Let’s Get Intimate!
Let's Get Intimate!
Episode 22: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (1/2)
This is the first episode of our two-part interview with Dr. Heath Schechinger, a researcher and psychologist at the University of California Berkeley who specializes in consensual non-monogamy (CNM). Dr. Heath is the founder and co-chair of the American Psychological Association Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force, an organization that promotes awareness and inclusivity of CNM and non-traditional relationships.
Dr. Heath first walks us through his initial foray into the study of gender, sex, and relationships through the lens of CNM, before diving into the historical progression of the CNM movement and the nuances that differentiate non-traditional relationships.
Terminology: Defining Non-Traditional Relationships
CNM is an umbrella term to capture all forms of consensual relationships where there is unanimous consent that it is permissible to have multiple concurrent sexual and/or romantic relationships.
Polyamory would then fall under this CNM umbrella, as it’s defined as the state or practice of having multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously. It’s important to note that polyamory places an emphasis on permitting multiple romantic and/or love-based connections within a relationship, as opposed to permitting a purely physical connection with other people.
By contrast, an open relationship and “swinging” typically focus more on the permission to experience physical connections with other people, while restricting romantic connections. As a result, it’s possible for “emotional cheating” to occur within an open relationship or a swinging partnership.
Polygamy by definition is the act of being married to more than one person. Dr. Heath notes two important historical and social nuances between polygamy and polyamory. The first being the role of gender — in polyamory, gender is never prescribed, creating a more queer-affirming and queer-focused relationship, while polygamy has historically been attached to heterosexuality. Secondly, polyamory finds its roots in feminism, while polygamy has historical foundations in religious fundamentalism and is often tied to misogyny.
Finally, monogamish (a recently coined term made famous by relationship and sex columnist celebrity Dan Savage) describes a couple that predominantly views themselves as monogamous, while occasionally allowing sexual encounters with other individuals.
Breaking Myths of Non-Monogamy
Myth #1:People who are drawn to non-monogamous relationships belong to a specific, limited demographic.
The types of people who pursue non-monogamous relationships cross all spectrums. Dr. Heath mentions The Polyamorists Next Door by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, a book that studies the upsurge of CNM nationally across a variety of demographics.
Myth #2: CNM doesn’t work and negatively impacts relationships.
A number of studies suggest that CNM is an equally viable alternative to monogamy. There is no evidence to suggest that non-monogamy will harm a relationship, or that those in CNM relationships are less happy or less satisfied.
Myth #3: People in CNM relationships experience more jealousy.
Research has indicated that those in CNM relationships report lower levels of jealousy than those in monogamous relationships.
Myth #4: CNM relationships have higher rates of STIs.
While people in CNM relationships have more partners on average than their monogamous peers, studies have shown that CNM partners are more likely to be open about their sexual health and are thus more likely to practice safe sex.
Myth #5: CNM relationships have a negative impact on children.
Recent studies have suggested that children raised by parents who practice CNM are not faring any better or worse than children raised by monogamous parents.
Wait, does this mean everyone should be non-monogamous?
Not necessarily. Keep in mind that there are different types of people with different types of emotional wiring and companionship preferences. Think of it like this: Just because you’re a dog person, doesn’t mean you should try buying a cat. But, maybe there is something a dog-person could learn from their cat-loving neighbor! We’ll ditch the analogy and summarize it this way: examining your own thoughts, feelings, curiosities, and doubts surrounding non-monogamy is a great way to examine your own belief system in order to deepen your self-knowledge and self-awareness.
Conflicting Cravings: Security vs. Novelty
Dr. Heath mentions the importance of communication when navigating the instinctual, yet paradoxical, desire for both security and novelty in a relationship. He references Mating in Captivity, a book written by Esther Perel that studies this common conundrum.
If people had more space in a relationship to talk about their attraction to other people, would that prompt people to cheat less?
In order to create the space for this communication to take place, we need to eliminate the shame attached to experiencing attraction outside of a relationship. But how? By normalizing these feelings and creating greater visibility of non-traditional relationship structures in mainstream media and culture. Dr. Heath briefly mentions Wanderlust, a new Netflix series that spotlights this topic.
What can people in monogamous relationships learn from non-monogamy?
- Your partner shouldn’t be responsible for fulfilling all of your needs.
- Communication is essential. The process of naming our feelings out loud prevents us (and our partners) from misinterpreting and creating false narratives.
Dive Into More Research & Resources
- 5 Ways To Handle Jealousy In Open & Polyamorous Relationships
- Harmful and helpful therapy practices with consensually non-monogamous clients
- Comprehensive Glossary for Non-Traditional Relationships
- What Therapists Need to Know About Consensual Non-monogamy
- Consensual Nonmonogamy: Psychological Well-Being and Relationship Quality Correlates
About the Expert
Dr. Schechinger offers therapy and consultation for individuals, couples, and multi-partner relationships from a feminist, sex-positive lens. As founder and co-chair of the APA Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Taskforce, he has considerable experience supporting the non-monogamous, kink/BSDM, TGNC/NB, and LGBQIA communities. He also offers support for individuals & partners processing infidelity or experiencing sexuality concerns. In addition to his private practice, he's also on staff at the University of California, Berkeley.