Consensual non-monogamy is practiced by a rapidly growing portion of our population. An estimated millions of people live in non-traditional, but committed, relationships - quietly (1). As Kinsey showed through his ten thousand research interviews conducted in the 1940's and 50's, all kinds of people do all kinds of things no matter how relationships appear to an outsider. I'm not aware of research since that indicates things have changed. In the film Kinsey (Liam Neeson), Dr. Kinsey tries to comfort a gay young man who'd been horribly abused. Kinsey explained to the young man that homosexuality comes in and out of fashion, depending on the era. Historically speaking, this is true. For the out of fashion homosexual in Kinsey's time, it was not a comfort to hear that his time might come if he lives long enough. We've finally accepted and "legalized" homosexuality, CNM is the next frontier with a growing body of science behind it (2). This does NOT mean that CNM is "better," nor that traditional sexually monogamous relationships are "wrong." That said, new ways often come with lack of knowledge that can cause concerns and fears. Let's clear up a few.


What consensual non-monogamy is NOT

  • not for everyone!
  • not polygamy
  • not against the law
  • not against all religions
  • not easy
  • not deceiptful
  • not cheating
  • not just about the sex
  • not safe to disclose
  • not easy to find qualified professional help for
  • not a threat to children or families
  • not a threat to traditional, monogamous relationships
  • not "sex addiction"
  • not "attachment disorder"
  • not about avoiding commitment

FACTS: What consensual non-monogamy IS


Polyamory (loving more than one person intimately, genuinely, honestly with all partners)

Expanded monogamy:

  • swinging (often with anonymous partners; love relationships are not sought or intended)
  • any couple/person who is open about additional partners BUT does not call themselves polyamorous, may not know/espouse poly specifics

Consensual non-monogamy, also known as responsible multi-partnering, means partners have decided together to allow - and be honest about - having more than one intimate relationship at the same time. Consensual non-monogamy (CNM) includes but is not limited to "polyamory," a word coined in the 1990's meaning many loves(3) . CNM also includes expanded monogamy (see above). 

All forms of CNM require that all partners know about all others involved. This way, each person is making an informed decision to be intimate, even if indirectly, with more than one other. This CONSENSUS creates the necessary context for all parties to incorporate health safety and emotional responsibility with each and every partner. 

Sound fun? The "poly curious" think it must be fun, and people who practice CNM say it can be, but that overall it's a lot of work to carry out responsibly more than one intimate relationship at a time. "Poly" people and those in expanded monogamy are human - no more amazingly gifted at relationships than anyone else may be! They just find themselves compelled by genuinely loving more than one person and/or are oriented toward a more open, varietal sex life; they choose to live honestly about it. 

Research shows that success at CNM means

(getting help if necessary with): 

  • personal growth
  • communication skills
  • placing more value on love and freedom than on jealousy
  • managing jealousy
  • developing and maintaining boundaries and "rules"
  • maintaining family commitments
  • good time management
  • good self esteem
  • respect for each partner
  • among other things  (4)


Consensual non-monogamy is an evolved version of the most prevalent form of marriage and family system on the planet. Multiple partners as the legal form of marriage has dominated more cultures worldwide than has sexual monogamy. In historic models, marriage commitments were enforced by law and divorce was nearly impossible. Roles of men, women, and all partners were proscribed by religion, law, and common knowledge. Most historic models of marriage are sexist, chattel based, and can engender abuse and coercion. To the extent that people mix up polyamory with polygamy for example, Its very important to realize that emerging modern life ways of polyamory and other forms of CNM have important and significant differences from now undesirable aspects of traditional historic marriage arrangements. New relationship blueprints are part of social evolution and current models of CNM have been developing since the 1960s in the United States and around the world.

Modern responsible multi-partnering is a paradigm in the making. Every 21st century couple/partner is pioneering. As of yet, disclosing CNM is not entirely safe and as a new wave, CNM is not yet in fashion, as Kinsey might say. But the designers and models for CNM are growing more and more prevalent! Safe, effective help for "poly" families and CNM partners is being sought and found scarce. Information for therapists is being developed. Some of it will be in my upcoming book, working titled: Therapist's Handbook to Consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, and more, due to publish in 2018 (Routledge, NY/London). 

If you are in a CNM relationship and need help

with personal, relationship, sexual, or family issues,

Dr. Orion offers in-person and SKYPE sessions.

Call 707-819-2900 or email lovehelp@me.com

to set up a consult.



  1. Cloud, J. (1999, November 15). Henry & Mary & Janet &….New York: Time, 90-91; Emens, E. F. (2003). Monogamy’s law: Compulsory monogamy and polyamorous existence (Working paper No.58). Chicago: Chicago Law School; Haupert, M., Gesselman, A., Moors, A., Fisher, H., & Garcia, J. (2016): Prevalence of Experiences with Consensual Non-monogamous Relationships: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Samples of Single Americans, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy; King, Barbara, J. 2017. A cultural moment for polyamory. NPR article posted by “Alan M,” blog Polyamory in the News at polyinthemedia.blogspot.com, March 23, 2017; Lovemore.com. (2007). http://www.lovemore.com/faq.shtm. Retrieved October 17.
  2. Haslam, K. (2007, August 15). Email from Kinsey Institute Librarypolyresearchers@yahoogroups.com; Henrich, R., & Trawinsky, C. (2016). Social and relationship challenges facing polyamorous clients. Sexual and Relationship Therapy. http:/dx.doi.org/10.1080/148681994.2016.117.4331; Sheff, E. A. (2014). The polyamorists next door: Inside multiple relationships and families. Maryland & London: Rowman & Littlefield.
  3. Anapol, D. (1997). Polyamory, the new love without limits: Secrets of sustainable intimate relationships. San Rafeal, CA: IntiNet Resource Center.
  4. Orion, R. (2008). From traditional to open marriage. [Case study report]. San Francisco: Saybrook Graduate School & Research Center.

    Orion, R. (2008, April). Polyamory as treatment for low desire. Paper presented at the Western Regional Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, San Diego, CA.

    Orion, R. (2011). Examining definitions and treatments for low desire and low sex marriage. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Saybrook University and Research Center, San Francisco.

      Haupert, M., Gesselman, A., Moors, A., Fisher, H., & Garcia, J. (2016). Prevalence of experiences with consensual non-     monogamous relationships: Findings from two nationally representative samples of single Americans. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2016.1178675

      Wasick-Correa, K. (2010). Agreements, rules and agentic fidelity in polyamorous relationships. Psychology and Sexuality, 1, http:/dx.doi.org/10.1080/19419891003634471