Hadley Finch Intro: Consensual Non Monogamy
is a hot topic. Find out how spouses manage
sexual relationships outside of marriage in a
guest post courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
written by Elizabeth Bernstein.
Open relationships are having a moment. Who has
time for this?
Kitty Chambliss is already planning her
Valentine’s Day. Her husband will make ravioli
and roasted vegetables. She’ll bake a
Then she’ll set a table for three: her husband,
herself and her boyfriend.
You may have noticed that polyamory is having a
Pursuing multiple romantic, emotional or sexual
relationships, with the permission of all
involved—known as consensual non-monogamy—is
increasingly out in the open, as adherents tout
what they see as the benefits, such as more
opportunities for emotional support and connection
as well as sex.
There are challenges, too, from the
mundane—calendars—to the existential. First,
there’s dating, just when you thought you’d
put that hell behind you. It’s expensive:
restaurants, hotels, cute outfits and even condoms
add up. The scheduling could make a military
planner sweat. More relationships mean more drama,
from in-laws to breakups. Not to mention the lack
I know what you’re thinking: Who has time for
Plenty of people, it turns out. Twenty-two percent
of Americans say they have engaged in consensual
non-monogamy, which is also sometimes called
ethical non-monogamy, at some point in their life,
according to a nationally representative study by
researchers at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana
University. That’s almost the same
percentage—23%—as people living in the U.S.
who have a bachelor’s degree as their highest
Many more think about doing it. Research on sexual
fantasies shows that nearly one-third of people in
monogamous relationships report that being in some
type of an open relationship is part of their
favorite sexual fantasy. Eighty percent of those
people said they’d act on the opportunity given
Open marriage buzz
This probably isn’t even the first thing
you’ve read about the subject lately. A spate of
podcasts, books and social-media accounts with
hundreds of thousands of followers has brought
polyamory to dinner conversations and coffee
Molly Roden Winter, wrote a new memoir about her open
marriage with Stewart Winter.
Molly Roden Winter, a wife and mother who lives in
Brooklyn, N.Y., writes about her struggles,
self-exploration (and busy sex life) in “More: A
Memoir of Open Marriage.” The book, published
this month, has received so much attention—much
good, some judgy—that when I called her husband,
Stewart Winter, for an interview and asked how he
was, he blurted out: “Losing my will to live.”
Being the new face of non-monogamy isn’t easy.
Before their wedding 24 years ago, Stewart asked
his wife to tell him if she was ever tempted to
cheat on him. If that happens, he said, he might
be OK with her sleeping with someone else as long
as she was upfront with him about it. “I wanted
the chance to fix what was broken,” he said.
Flash ahead almost a decade. Molly met a man and
started “obsessing” about him. She told
Stewart, and he told her to go for it.
“I was terrified,” says Molly, 51. “But I
had to see what was there.”
Over the years, both spouses have dated, had lots
of sex and formed long-term relationships with
other people. They established rules, which have
evolved over time. Some early ones that quickly
fell by the wayside: no sleepovers, no falling in
love, and Stewart wanted Molly to share details of
her encounters and what she enjoys so he could
learn more about what she likes.
“Maybe I never thought of dressing like a
shepherd,” jokes Stewart, 56, a composer for TV
The couple has confronted jealousy, tried therapy,
learned how to process feelings and talk about
their arrangement with family, friends and their
sons, ages 18 and 21. They plan to stick with it,
at least for now.
Molly says “it’s catapulted our marriage to
the next level.”
Yes, there’s research
Most of the time when people talk about consensual
non-monogamy they take one of two extreme
perspectives, says Justin Lehmiller, a social
psychologist and research fellow at the Kinsey
Institute who studies sexual behavior. They say it
will never work and that it is morally wrong. Or
they claim that it is a morally superior, more
evolved way of being. The truth is somewhere in
between, he says.
One soon-to-be-published analysis of 26 studies
found no differences in relationship satisfaction,
sexual satisfaction, commitment or relationship
length between those who practice consensual
non-monogamy and those who are monogamous, says
Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at
Chapman University and research fellow at the
Kinsey Institute, who is lead author on the study.
People tend to be more committed to their primary
partners in terms of building a life together and
have more sex and more sexual satisfaction with
their secondary ones, says Rhonda Balzarini, an
assistant professor of psychology at Texas State
University and research fellow at the Kinsey
Institute, who has conducted research on this.
Asked by researchers about the downsides of
pursuing multiple relationships, people described
challenges such as the stigma, lack of legal
recognition, communication and time-management
issues. Wrote one participant: “Communication
can be a pain.”
Kitty Chambliss practices polyamory and lives with
her husband and her partner.
Chambliss, of the shared Valentine’s dinner, has
been married for 18 years and with her boyfriend,
whom she considers a full life partner, for eight.
The three of them live together in Alexandria, Va.
A relationship coach who specializes in consensual
non-monogamy, Chambliss, 54, says she enjoys
traveling and discussing business with her
husband; with her boyfriend, she talks philosophy
and takes trips to the beach.
She says that she’s had arguments with her
partners about miscommunications over scheduling.
(A color-coded shared online calendar saved the
day.) And there have been tough talks about deal
breakers and insecurity. But Chambliss says the
connection and sense of family far outweigh the
As for sleeping arrangements, Chambliss sometimes
sleeps with her husband and sometimes spends the
night with her boyfriend in his room.
“If I am sick of them both, I sleep in the guest
room,” she says.
Write to Elizabeth Bernstein at
If your marriage vows didn’t include ethical
non monogamy, how will you keep your
relationship fresh and create happy, sexy love
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