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Episode 23

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, 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.

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Sasza Lohrey: Hello, and welcome to the BBXX podcast. Let’s get intimate. I’m your host Sasza Lohrey. And we’re here to challenge the way our culture has conditioned us to talk about sexuality, intimacy and healthy relationships, to question everything, to embark on a journey of self understanding, and to begin to rewire some of the backwards thinking that we’ve absorbed from the subconscious influences that have shaped us all. Our hope for you, and for myself, and for all of us here at BBXX, who are here with you on this journey every day is that through a better understanding of our own identity of who we are and why we are that way, we can form deeper connections with other people and live healthier, more fulfilling relationships as a result.

Join us as we change the conversation, and the culture surrounding intimacy and relationships. And remember that better relationships equals a better life. Dr. Heath is a researcher, psychologist at the University of California Berkeley, and co chair of the American Psychological Association division 44 consensual non monogamy Task Force. The task force was recently deployed by the American Psychological Association, and it is the first of its kind. Its purpose is to promote awareness and inclusivity about consensual non monogamy and diverse expressions of intimate relationships, such as training clinicians, and how to approach and treat patients from an informed perspective on a complicated theme. In the first episode of our tuber interview with Heath, we talked about terminology, understanding the nuances and important differences between different types of non traditional relationships. We touch on jealousy and how much there is to be learned, regardless of what type of relationship you’re in. From the important communication required to navigate such a complex emotion, we talk a lot about how much there is to be learned from all of the open communication required for non traditionally structured relationships. And lastly, we discuss some of the expectations of monogamy.

And so one of the biggest ways I think, that non monogamy confronts and teaches communication is specifically in the case of jealousy. And how people kind of navigate that space because in consensual, non monogamous relationships, jealousy is expected versus jealousy is expected not to exist in monogamous relationships. But the difference is that those people the differences that people in non monogamous relationships, have to actively work to navigate and be proactive in their communication to to kind of navigate that space, and the possible consequences that it could easily lead to. And so I’d love to hear about kind of what people in monogamous relationships because learn about jealousy in this context of non monogamous relationships, and what kind of other communication skills people might learn about that they could put into practice? 

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Sure. Well, I think of jealousy as being maybe similar to anxiety. It’s something we all have the capacity to experience. And similar to anxiety, the more that we avoid it, the more that our anxiety tends to grow. And if we want to address our anxiety, or address our jealousy, that some of the most effective strategies for doing so are creating space to talk about it, of normalizing that it comes up or that it can happen. And so certainly the more space that a partnership has to talk about it, the better off that they tend to be. And so, in terms of navigating it, creating structure for your relationship that’s right sized for you tends to be most helpful. And there’s, as we talked about with the different types of relationships, that there can be different structures that work for different people. And it can also work for those relationships structures can evolve along the way, as well. I think it’s important to have periodic check-ins about the arrangements that you have. And those can be revisited along the way.

Sasza Lohrey:  What are some practical examples of, of kind of jealousy and from a proactive sense that you think people could employ, regardless of their relationship structure?

Dr. Heath Schechlinger: Yeah, I think naming your authentic experience in the moment, or even I’m a fan of using language, such as the story that I have in my mind, or I don’t know if this is true or not. But this is what I’m experiencing, this is where my thoughts are going. And I’m wondering if we can check in about that. It may not be true, but this is something that I’m experiencing. And so I think naming that. I also think that or identifying the difference between envy and jealousy can sometimes help create space in those conversations. Envy is when I am experiencing a desire to have what somebody else has, versus jealousy is when I don’t want that other person to have it. I want that for myself. So by naming it as being envy, again, many times when we are experiencing what we often label as jealousy, it’s actually envy. It’s just me saying, “Hey, sweetie, I want you to have that connection, I’m open to you feeling that way. That’s a normal thought and feeling for you to have that connection, or want to affirm that part of you that’s, that’s drawn to that other person. And I am needing some reassurance about the parts of me that want that too, the parts of me that want a similar connection or wanting you to look at me in that way too.”

Sasza Lohrey:  I love that kind of clarifying the difference between envy and jealousy. And I think that also, there’s so many different nuances that play into this. Because I think there are differences in jealousy too, in terms of people having curiosities, or engaging outside of their main partnership, whether it’s sexually or emotionally. And again, even in polyamory, there’s some people who have outside relationships that are purely sexual versus some people who actually don’t even engage sexually with the people. And it’s a purely emotional relationship. So understanding those differences in terms of labeling these different relationship structures, but also in terms of recognizing where jealousy might be coming from.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Absolutely. Monogamy can or when people are opening a relationship up, it can evoke additional jealousy, it certainly that in that makes sense or envy. Because monogamy can act as a construct or a stand in for security in a relationship. And that may not necessarily be a bad thing, if both people want that and are committed to that. But you just don’t have to think about this, whatever it is that’s coming up for you, because you’re trusting that, hey, we just having a relationship agreement that that’s they’re not going to do that. Now, like I said, people ironically end up having more jealousy or experiencing more jealousy in monogamous relationships. But it is something that can protect against that. And so it’s, it’s only natural for people when they are starting to navigate those conversations, that if you’re lifting that structure, and you haven’t been working those muscles, that you’re understandably going to feel maybe weak in the knees, and it’s, I think well advised to go slow. To take your time, you’re oftentimes when you’re opening relationships, you have one person that’s more motivated or more interested in it than the other person. And that can be a really difficult thing to manage. Because for one, it might feel like that this is their identity, this is a part of who they are. And they might even just be discovering it and feel very much alive and wanting to explore it. And the other partner might be thinking, whoa, hold on. What? That you know, and so they may not be inclined in that same way. And it’s a really difficult it can be a difficult position for both people to be in when they’re trying to navigate being their most authentic self.

Sasza Lohrey:  And so I guess if anybody listening is thinking of having this conversation or perhaps has tried to and it didn’t go well, what are kind of some phrases or kind of conversation? Cautious things that they can approach it with?

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Well, I would say it’s important to first name that it’s a myth that people opening a relationship are dissatisfied. There certainly are going to be people who are dissatisfied in a relationship and wanting to open it to help oxygenate the relationship, but your partner may be wanting to open it for reasons other than being dissatisfied, that people can hold, they are mutually exclusive, that you can be very satisfied in a relationship and still experience attraction to other people. And I think that that is one of the byproducts of being in a society that stigmatizes non monogamy so heavily is that the reaction from partners is so severe, or can be so severe because of the potential loss and social capital from bringing up a fear of judgment, that that causes people that, let’s say, are inclined toward non monogamy. And let’s say it is an orientation if they are naturally inclined toward non monogamy and would be more satisfied in that, that it creates this pressure point for them to try to be authentic and to try to navigate those relationships. So that’s why I think, in part, it’s healthy for our culture to create more space to talk about that so that it is safer to, even if I don’t want to act on that, but that I can go to my partner and talk to them about that. And how much easier would it be if there was we had this social model term relationships, where non monogamy or consensual non monogamy, which is considered one of multiple relationship or viable relationship structures. So I think that one, contextualizing it and just naming how, given our environment, this is a really difficult conversation to have. And especially since we go into it, just assuming monogamy, and we enter into an agreement. And so it’s understandable that a partner is going to feel deceived or potentially frustrated or scared, because we made an agreement about monogamy, it might have been implicit, just because it’s so mainstream and so handed to us at birth. That, you know, understandably, it’s going to be difficult to navigate that conversation. In terms of strategies. I don’t I’m not convinced there’s a one size fits all model. But I think with there being more and more depictions of non monogamy in our popular media.

 One, one potential strategy is watching a movie or a show or a series or an article that you’ve come across, and just putting out feelers to see what your partner thinks about it and engaging their reaction. Again, I don’t think that there’s a one size fits all, but that might be something of even just kind of in your own way, putting out feelers or seeing how your partner responds. And there certainly are resources out there. There’s a number of books that talk about, I spoke about mating in captivity, there’s a number of books that talk about opening relationships. But mating in captivity tends to be the one that even for people that are early on in that process, I think, introduces the topic in a digestible way that’s not coming right out and saying, “Hey, I’m interested in an open relationship,” because it frames it for how do we sustain long term connection and sexual satisfaction in a relationship and it happens to touch on non monogamy. And so I oftentimes am recommending that book as a starter book for navigating those conversations.

Sasza Lohrey:  Hello, hello, and welcome back to season two of the BBXX podcast. Let’s get intimate. We’ve been counting the days leading up to this relaunch. It feels so good to be back. And we have some exciting announcements for you. Our podcast and book club will now be building off of one another. You told us you’d love to dive deeper into each theme. So that’s what we’re going to help you do. Every other week. We’ll release a new podcast interview at the beginning of the week, and a new book club edition at the end of the week. on the same topic. The week in between the new releases will send out a premium book club edition with even more content thoughts and reflections as well as the best insights from other BBXX community members themselves. Speaking of community, you said you wanted to know what other people’s answers word of the reflection questions we send out in the book club. So we’ve got you covered there as well. We just launched our BBXX Facebook group, BBXX, let’s get intimate insiders, where we’ll be posting discussion questions and sharing exclusive content. The only catch is that for the premium book club and the Facebook group, you have to earn your way into them. A lot of you asked us how you can help spread the word. So we’ve launched a referral program for every person, you get to sign up for the BBXX book club, you work your way up the rewards ladder and get awesome perks. For example, even if you just get one person to join, you get access to an E book of our favorite podcasts, TED talks and documentaries, get three people to join. And you get the premium book club edition email every other week with the reflection questions. And if you get five people to join well, then you get access to the Facebook group, where you can read other people’s answers to the reflection questions and join us firsthand in changing the culture and the conversation surrounding intimacy and relationships during the month of October only to celebrate our relaunch for every person you get to join. You’ll also be entered to win an Airbnb gift card to help you sponsor a treat yourself solo trip or perhaps a romantic getaway with a BFF or a new adventure with a partner. And if you leave us a podcast review on iTunes, you get three bonus entries for the Airbnb gift card. Just be sure to email us to let us know you left a review, so we can be sure to count it. Lastly, we’ll also be launching an ambassador program soon. So contact us if you’re interested in becoming a BBXX ambassador. That’s all for the announcements for now. Thank you so much for listening. And be sure to share this info with your friends. You can also find the info for everything I just mentioned at bxx.world/lazy, which has all your go to links. 

Sasza Lohrey:  You mentioned the, at one point in their kind of commitment. And it reminded me of another thing I read about in these clarifications that I’m going through here is the difference between exclusivity and commitment. In many cases, they go together. But you can obviously have exclusivity without commitment. And you can have committed commitment to one partner, or multiple partners at the same time in a deep connection and in certain successful, consensual, non monogamous relationships. Another thing you kind of mentioned is the lack of but also kind of how more media is coming up and the way that we’ve come to be shaped by so many different cultural influences. So I was wondering kind of for you what you see is the biggest factors in this whether it’s, you know, culture in terms of media, or politics or religion that kind of have have shaped this topic?

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Well, the first one that comes to mind is just the stigma around sexuality more broadly, and the assumptions and in terms of the rightness or being God’s will. So religion certainly plays a role in terms of shaping our perspectives about what relationship ideals are, again, we have data that suggests that people in consensually non monogamous relationships tend to be just as happy just to satisfy just as committed so they last on average, just as long. But But certainly, that that has come out in our data in terms of the differences that we see. In terms of what draws people or why people do or don’t enter into or which relationship structure they enter into certainly religious values is going to influence that. I also think that in light of that there’s going to be a tendency to hyper sexualized, consensual non monogamy. And I think it’s important that we’re even highlighting narratives about asexual identified individuals that are polyamorous or identify as polyamorous and that aren’t sexual. And for them, it really truly is not about sex. But it’s about love and connection. And so I think that those narratives are important to highlight. And I think it’s going to be a similar strategy that is used against the LGBTQIA movement in terms of spreading fears about sexuality, or hyper sexualizing, or making it about sex or deviant acts of sex. And I think another ground is going to be children, and just demonstrating and continuing to look into research around one of the impacts that it’s going to have on children or the traditional family a few.

Sasza Lohrey:  Yeah, I love that clarification, or kind of that note about it being often hyper sexualized, which I think is definitely the case. And it’s again, though, a reminder that that’s only in contrast to the so sternly traditional model that is enforced in some ways and reinforced through kind of the law practically, with kind of rewards being provided to people who live in one house together, or who are married, really shaping the history and the structure of relationships in a way that creates a much starker contrast in our heads, then to what the actual reality behind their behaviors is.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  And you mentioned the law. And one of the 12 initiatives that we have with the APA division 44, consensual non monogamy Task Force and division. 44 is the Society of sexual orientation and gender diversity. So I think it’s really important to note that we are housed within the LGBTQIA division of the American Psychological Association. I also think it’s important to name that they approved our task force by a 13 to zero vote. So it was unanimous. So it was clear that these leaders of the LGBTQIA division, were saying, hey, yep, this is overdue, this is needed. They’ve been very intentional about going out of their way about expressing their interest in what we’re doing and supporting what we’re doing. So we’ve been just very thrilled by the support that we’ve received from them. And one of the issues that we’re taking on is addressing whether it should be considered a legal legally protected status. And so we have a group of I think there’s close to nine or 10, psychologist and lawyers that are writing, I think, three papers now addressing different issues of the law regarding discrimination, and whether or not it should be a legally protected status. And I won’t speak toward their conclusions, because they haven’t written the papers yet. But it is something that is being taken on. And it’s also being brought up in different city ordinances. And so we’ll see where this goes. But I anticipate that it’ll be something that becomes more and more in the spotlight as we move forward.

Sasza Lohrey:  So as we just touched on kind of how society shapes these sort of things, it reminds me of the work that you’re doing with the task force. And so I’d love to kind of for our listeners, if we could get just a higher level kind of description and understanding of what it is you guys are doing in that space and the purpose and implications behind it.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger: Sure. So the task force is housed within division 44 of the American Psychological Association, which is the LGBTQIA division or the Society for sexual orientation and gender diversity within the APA. We have four different areas that we are focusing on generating additional or generating research and creating resources and advocating for the inclusion of consensual non monogamy in research, education and training, clinical practice, and the public interest. Our projects really range we have 12 different initiatives and 90 people working on these initiatives. And they range from creating a fact sheet about consensual non monogamy to promoting research to creating a campaign to integrate non monogamy into LGBTQIA resources.

Sasza Lohrey:  And so it’s about kind of generating a better understanding and therefore more resources and better care. For example with the therapist for people who identify with cnm.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Yep, it’s advocating for it to be included in research. So even including it on, let’s say, demographic forms, or training therapists on how to work with people who identify as consensually non monogamous and advocating for issues such as being able to find a therapist on a therapist directory, we’re kind of touching on it all. Yeah.

Sasza Lohrey:  That’s so interesting. I love kind of the cultural implications and how all of that just goes back to kind of the way we’ve been conditioned to think, which is exactly what we try and kind of unravel through these conversations, and not necessarily questioning, you know, the structure of your own relationship, but taking the understanding of both sides, and contextualizing your own thoughts and behaviors to lead kind of a more informed life and a more informed relationship that is kind of more of that refreshing authenticity that you spoke to in the beginning.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Yeah, and there’s not, there’s not a prescriptive one size fits all model that’s going to fit the diversity of all of who we are. And so by having more space and more freedom to choose, I think we all serve to benefit from just knowing that there’s other options out there. And there’s other people out there like us, that are inclined in similar ways, and that we’re not demonizing that desire or that curiosity. And I think, how beautiful would it be if there’s just more safety to talk about that within the construct of relationships, regardless of relationship structure.

Sasza Lohrey:  Summing that all up, and really kind of synthesizing everything as, as we close out the interview here. It’s about learning from other people’s stories, other people’s experiences and preferences about our own, and whether those reflected or just solidify kind of our own differences from that. But it’s about, it’s about understanding, and kind of through this conversation about how cnm isn’t for everybody, again, you know, the other day, I went and visited a friend who lives in a cooperative living space, kind of a shared house, shared food, shared everything, and I couldn’t necessarily live there. And I know people who, even more so than me, could definitely never live there. You know, whether it’s dietary preferences or just like basic needs, or I’m a credibly light sleeper, and I would not survive. They’re just practical things and that that’s not going to change my disposition. And my kind of willingness to engage in that is not going to change. But I can go there and kind of talk to people and learn more about the benefits and about how great it is for some other people, even though that might not change anything about myself. So it’s about knowing, you know, whether or not this sort of thing is a fit for you. But again, taking the lessons that can be learned, regardless of your relationship structure, and how it all comes back to communication, and communication to get us to a space of kind of self awareness and that authenticity, that helps us recognize where we need space, in our relationships, and kind of who we can go to, to kind of create or fill that space and how it doesn’t always have to be that one person. And it’s about kind of understanding our own needs and expectations and managing them as well according to to what’s best for ourselves and for our relationships, regardless of structure.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Yep. And I would say it is outside the interest of the non consensual non monogamy movement, to try to promote this one size fits all model in the opposite direction. But really just embracing the beauty of diversity and naming the importance of how you feel most secure in living in a house by yourself and who would be to judge someone for for preferring that over living in cooperative living. And I think it’s important to just really promote this message of inclusion and really valuing diversity in personal preference, and just naming that they are all equally viable.

Sasza Lohrey:  Well, thank you so much for joining us today. And we’re looking forward to hearing more about the progress of the tasks force.

Dr. Heath Schechlinger:  Thank you for having me.

Sasza Lohrey:  The BBXX podcast let’s get into it is produced by Sasza Lohrey in Berkeley California dialogue narrative and content crafting by Amy Soper audio editing good music vibes and sound mixing Daniel Herrera. You can learn more on our website or on our social media at bbxx.world. And if you believe in what we’re doing, please do help spread the love by sharing this with someone you care about. Until next time.

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. 

No additional resources found for this episode.

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.

Episode Discussion

Home Forums Episodes 22 & 23 – "The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy" with Heath Schechinger

  • Episodes 22 & 23 – "The Evolution of (Non)Monogamy" with Heath Schechinger

  • Valentina 

    October 12, 2020 at 12:19 pm
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    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about culture?
    • What was your favorite quote?
    • What surprised you most?
    • What is one way you can enact what you learned in your own life?
    • How can we each help shift the culture and the conversation surrounding this topic?
  • Hope

    October 19, 2020 at 9:07 am
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    What I learned about myself from this episode was that I personally could not be apart of a nonmonogamy relationship. I feel as though my insecurities would be heightened because if my partner wants to be with other people consistently during our relationship, what am I not able to provide? However, I liked the line that nonmonogamy is for people who want to connect with other people. I do think that this could help relationships if it was discussed previously so infidelity doesn’t happen during the relationship. The most interesting things from the episode to me were the nonmonogamy myths–consensual nonmonogamy relationships are more likely to be unhappy, nonmonogamy relationships lead to contracting more STIs, and they leave negative impacts on children’s relationships with their parents. I thought these were interesting because they all seem to be assumptions made by a person who wouldn’t be able to process a nonmonogamy relationship; they don’t seem to come from someone who has personally experienced these things. The line that said monogamy leads to lower jealousy levels also stood out to me, because Schechinger ends up saying that nonmonogamy relationships actually lead to lower jealousy levels because you both understand there will be other partners involved. Whereas, monogamy entails it is just the two people. So, if someone gets hit on or if someone ends up cheating it will leave a larger impact on the relationship due to the expectations they have for the relationship.

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