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Episode 23: The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy (2/2)

In the second episode of our two-part interview with Dr. Heath Schechinger, we talk about how to craft a relationship that’s right for you, more about jealousy and how it relates to anxiety, and envy, different approaches to talk to your partner about CNM relationships, and we learn more about the American Psychological Association Division 44 Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force. Dr. Heath is a researcher and psychologist at The University of California, Berkeley. Visit BBXX.WORLD for more information, links, or to give us your feedback, etc :)
The transcript wasn’t added for this episode.

In the second 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), we dive deeper into jealousy—how it manifests in both CNM and monogamous relationships, how it relates to anxiety, and the subtle difference between its equally complex sister emotion: envy. We also further unpack communication tools and techniques to talk to your partner about CNM. Spoiler: it’s not always easy. Let’s get into it!

Navigating Jealousy in Any Type of Relationship

The inconvenient truth is that jealousy can be present in every type of relationship—monogamous or not. The difference, however, lies in the expectations surrounding jealousy within a CNM partnership and a monogamous relationship. While jealousy is expected in CNM relationships (and thus regularly unpacked and discussed), jealousy is expected not to exist in monogamous relationships, attaching shame and guilt to the emotion.

Call it like it is! Jealousy & Anxiety 

Similar to anxiety, the more we avoid or dismiss our jealousy, the more it grows. If we want to address either our anxiety or jealousy, the best thing we can do is give these emotions space to exist. That means: remove the guilt, the shame, the demonization. If we call these emotions out and address them by name, we’re creating the space to unpack and deal with these emotions in a healthy way.

I believe that every person has areas of enduring vulnerability. For a marriage to succeed, these vulnerabilities need to be understood and honored.

John Gottman

Jealousy vs. Envy — What’s the Difference? 

Let’s take a moment for semantics. Envy is the desire to have what another individual has. In other words, envy comes from a feeling or place of lack. Whereas jealousy is the experience of feeling threatened by the potential of losing something/someone we already have. Many times we confound these feelings, and it’s important to differentiate between the two in order to deeper understand our feelings of insecurity.

Moving From Monogamy to CNM

It’s natural to experience an increase in jealousy when transitioning from a monogamous relationship to one that is CNM. Think of it like a muscle: you haven’t used or tested these relationship skills yet, so you’re likely to feel weak or clumsy at first. Once you break the monogamous structure you were once operating within, you can create a new (potentially stronger) definition of security and intimacy.

Monogamy can act as a construct or stand-in for security in a relationship.

Communication Tip for CNM Conversations

Let’s break another common myth: people who are opening up their relationships are dissatisfied. False! Studies have shown that psychological well-being and relationship satisfaction are not correlated to relationship structure. You can be satisfied in a relationship, while still experiencing an attraction to other people! Starting the conversation from this viewpoint will help eliminate many of the insecurities that will inherently arise during the conversation. 

A Quick Note on Exclusivity vs. Commitment

Inmany cases, exclusivity and commitment go together, but the two words are not synonymous. An exclusive monogamous relationship doesn’t necessarily signify commitment and vice versa: a non-exclusive relationship doesn’t signify a lack of commitment.

Let’s (Not) Talk About Sex

Well, at least not all the time. Dr. Heath points out the harmful tendency to hyper-sexualize CNM, which inevitably isolates and silences narratives surrounding non-sexual forms of CNM like polyamorous asexuality.

The American Psychological Association Division 44 CNM Task Force

As we mentioned, Dr. Heath is the founder and co-chair of this organization, which promotes awareness and inclusivity about consensual non-monogamy and non-traditional relationships.  But how? The task force focuses its energy on generating research, creating resources, and advocating for the inclusion of CNM relationships in four areas:

  • Basic and applied research
  • Education and training
  • Psychological practice
  • Public interest

The goal of the task force is to de-stigmatize CNM and non-traditional relationships in both social and medical realms in order to embrace intimacy in all its diverse forms and structures. 

About the Expert

Heath Schechinger - profile

Heath Schechinger

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.

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