Nonmonogamy, Polyamory, and Kink

There’s no one way to engage in a relationship. Nonmonogamous, polyamorous, and kink relationships open possible relationship structures that may feel more authentic and enjoyable for many.

What are nonmonogamy, polyamory, and kink?

When someone is in a relationship with more than one person, it’s called nonmonogamy. Ethical nonmonogamy is a relationship structure where partners explicitly engage in a romantic relationship together, as well as sexual or romantic relationships with others. When there are more than one romantic partners in a relationship, this is called polyamory. In a polyamorous relationship, there are multiple romantic or intimate relationships. There can also then be additional sexual relationships.

These types of relationships are structured, committed, and otherwise very similar to the traditional, monogamous understanding of relationships. Generally, partners who engage in nonmonogamous or polyamorous relationships set out the rules of the relationship early on. These relationships, as with monogamous relationships, require a huge amount of communication for them to remain healthy.

Kink relationships are also structured, though kink generally refers to a sexual preference between partners. While most people connotate BDSM with kink, there are many different types of kinks. Being in a kink relationship means consensually engaging in kink behavior for the pleasure of one or more parties.

Types of nonmonogamy, polyamory, and kink

Each relationship will vary from the next in terms of structure, wants, and needs. Nonmonogamous, polyamorous, and kink partners communicate clearly about the rules of the relationship. These rules can look differently and may fit into the below categories:

  • Hierarchical relationships are nonmonogamous relationships where there is a primary relationship. Outside of this relationship, there may be other partners, who might be referred to as “secondary partners.”
  • Non-hierarchical relationships do not have the primary or secondary partner designations and all partners are seen as equal in the relationship.
  • Open relationships describe when someone is in a committed relationship, however has the consensual freedom to engage in intimacy with another person or people outside of the relationship.
  • Relationship anarchy is a movement that puts forth that romantic or sexual relationships are no more important than platonic friendships. Relationship anarchists do not play by the rules of society when it comes to connecting with others.

Therapy for nonmonogamy, polyamory, and kink

As with any relationship, non monogamous, polyamory, and kink relationships take work to build, grow, and enjoy. Therapists who specialize in working with people in these types of relationships have experience in non-traditional relationship counseling. They understand the nuances – and unfortunately, sometimes the stigma – that come with these relationship structures.

Clients who attend relationship therapy may work with the therapist individually or with one or more partners. They’ll learn healthy communication skills, how to advocate for themselves, and how to promote bonding in the relationship. Therapy is a place for clients to talk about their feelings and process through any feelings of distress that arise from the relationship. Therapists do this in a nonjudgemental way, as their goal is to help non monogamous, polyamorous, and kink relationships thrive.