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Motivations for Engaging in Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships

14 May 2021

Publication Date
14 May 2021

Original Abstract

Sexual, romantic, and intimate relationships provide opportunities for individual and interpersonal fulfillment and the enhancement of well-being. Though research has identified that consensual non-monogamy (CNM) offers unique relational benefits, little work has examined why individuals pursue CNM relationships. Both self-determination theory and self-expansion theory provide frameworks for understanding the range of intra- and interpersonal motives for choosing or negotiating a multipartnered relationship. We explored the reasons for which people engage in CNM and discuss how motivations for CNM might be linked to well-being and need fulfillment. Our study used a qualitative approach to examine the motivations individuals report for engaging in CNM relationships. As part of a larger online survey, participants completed open-ended questions examining motivations for, and experiences of, CNM relationships. Data from participants who indicated that they were currently in a CNM partnership was selected for the analyses (n = 540). Data were analyzed using thematic analysis, within a critical realist framework. Motivations were organized into six interconnected themes: reasons related to autonomy, beliefs and value systems, relationality, sexuality, growth and expansion, and pragmatism. Individuals reported diverse reasons for engaging in CNM relationships; reasons addressed both individual and relational needs and well-being. Findings contrast with stereotypic views of CNM relationships as unstable/unfulfilling or that individuals engage in CNM because of relationship problems. The findings may facilitate therapeutic interventions for counselors working with individuals who are in the process of negotiating or re-negotiating relationship boundaries.

Wood, J., De Santis, Carm, Desmarais, S. & Robin Milhausen. (2021). Motivations for Engaging in Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01873-x

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relationship motivation, consensual non-monogamy, thematic analysis, sexual motivation, well-being


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