Counseling for Polyamory and Non-Monogamous Relationships in Charlotte, NC—Counselors and Therapists
If you’ve made it this far, you know you are interested in what healthy relationships could look like with more than two people involved. There are a lot of concerns and fears people have about expanding or opening up their relationships, but there can also be some amazing benefits. For some, being poly is a preference, and others it is an orientation. Therapy can help you find out. If this is the kind of relationship you are in, if you are thinking about beginning one, or if you stumbled into one backwards, talking to a trained, poly-informed therapist can be an invaluable resource to both empower yourself and the people you love.
A quick set of terms:
- Consensual Non-Monogamy: “We all are on the same page that there will be multiple emotional and/or sexual relationships, with respect and honesty, no matter what form that takes.” The broadest term.
- Polyamory: “We have opened or expanded our relationships to include other people who we are also in some form of committed relationships with one or more than one of us, generally in a transparent way where everyone either knows or knows about each other.” Often still broad.
- Swinging: “We occasionally have times where we meet up and engage in sexual experiences (not always sex) with others we trust.” Generally not someone you’d call your partner. Could be a form of poly but isn’t itself poly.
- Hierarchy: “We have our primary partner, and each of us have other partners who we invest in less than the primary.” More stable in the short term, but often with built-in power inequities.
- Poly-Friendly Therapy: “When we go to therapy, our therapist is comfortable with and does not judge our relational choices or structures. They also don’t make everything about the poly stuff, since most of the time, it’s not even about that. They are more fluent with queer language and often even is reflected in the structure of how therapy meets our polycule’s needs.”
Here is a quick set of real statements that might help you know if therapy for your non-monogamous relationships will be for you.
- “My wife isn’t enough for me.”
While this on its face looks like someone who might be ready for the inclusion of other relationships in their/her/his life, chances are someone who is saying this is not ready for those other relationships yet. When I hear a phrase like this, it tells me that person is struggling to accept themselves and is searching for some deep meaning in various relationships. While this can be a way to meet this need, a successful poly person will do their own work first, without placing the responsibility of being okay on others. Therapy can help discern which motivation/impulse/need with which.
- “I want to date other people, but I don’t want to leave my husband.”
It is true that more often than not, it’s the female partner who is the one who initiates more open relationships. This might go against the stereotypical “horndog” man, but it turns out when men want more partners, they are more likely to cheat than to talk. This is clearly a problem and is often destructive to relationships. (It’s also just a generalization. All the gender norms and roles are more fluid than people realize, and a good queer-aware therapist will take this into account.) This is a classic attempt to have a hierarchical polyamorous relationship in which the original couple hold higher status than the other relationships. There are all sorts of power dynamics embedded throughout these structures, and therapy can help re-balance and empower both the various individuals, dyads, and the whole. Non-hierarchical principles tend to create stronger polyamorous systems, even if the structure remains hierarchical. Additionally, many times this kind of therapy can help couples reveal they were able to meet each other’s needs in monogamy, they just didn’t know how.
- “So I’m dating a couple, but Partner X doesn’t really like me.”
Just like there are power dynamics all over the couple in hierarchical relationships, it is often even harder for the third (or fourth/fifth/etc) partner. This person is often left without a say in many of the decision of their own relationship. Poly-friendly therapy can be useful in these situations because it focuses on the person not in the original couple to find their own purposes and worth, as a secondary partner, or independent of the couple altogether. Even worse, many of these situations are set up to fail, because it started without honesty and the other partner in the couple didn’t (or still doesn’t) know. Deception is a terrible way into poly, but so many people do it because being honest and vulnerable is too hard/scary for them. If you are in a deception-laden system, please come to therapy. We’ll figure out what can reasonably be salvaged, repented/learned from, and discarded so you can live your best life moving forward.
- “I’m really worried about the kids.”
Obviously, this could be said by non-poly people as well. One of the myths of non-monogamy is that everything is about sex without concern for children. Another is that children won’t have proper parenting if there are more than two. Both of these are false, and in fact the small research that has been done with poly families has shown that kids who are loved and cared for have no better or worse childhoods or development than couples or single parents (you single moms and dads know y’all are ballers out there!). In fact, poly systems that all live in the same house tend to share parenting in ways that allow for children to be more monitored with a greater variety of people they also can connect with. Lastly, since it takes really good communication to successfully have a long-term poly relationship, children report that when they grow up, their own communication skills are more advanced than their peers. With this being said, if you’re blending families with pre-existing children, a poly therapist would be helpful in that transition. Also, don’t be a jerk and forget a poly family is about the whole family, not just your need to be relational or sexual with people outside your home. If you or someone you know is that jerk, come see us for that as well.
There are so many other situations (relationship anarchy, solo poly, BDSM/kink, quads, vees, zees, triads, opened, closed, religious, sex workers, etc.) in which consensual non-monogamy might be an excellent decision for you and your partners/family. It won’t be easy, but with the right therapeutic help, you all might just find the right relational, sexual, and emotional connections for you all.
Daniel Stillwell, PhD is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with couples and relationships. To get started today at Thriveworks Charlotte, simply give us a call at (704) 969-2597 or request an appointment online!