My editorial Spidey-sense tells me there’s a good chance that some readers will raise an eyebrow—or maybe two—at this issue of the magazine. My mother did, my neighbor did, and several couples therapists who got a sneak peek at what we were ginning up certainly did. After all, we’re choosing to explicitly explore perspectives that push the boundaries of many time-honored principles—in our culture and our field—around how we approach intimate relationships. In doing so, we expose a lot of conscious and unconscious assumptions around secure attachment—and we highlight opportunities for therapists to help partners have more imaginative and honest conversations about their options.
Contrary to what some may think, given our unflinching commitment at the Networker to challenging the status quo, we didn’t put this issue together to be provocative. Rather, our unique position as host of one of the world’s largest annual conferences for therapists allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of movements making their way from the larger culture into the consulting room. In other words, when more and more therapists start to seek out information—and offer trainings—on how to approach certain topics with their clients, we know a shift is afoot: perhaps not a tectonic one, but one worth tracking.
In response, our first piece, “Exploring Consensual Nonmonogamy,” illustrates how therapists can work sensitively and effectively with the issues that nonmonogamous couples often face when it comes to communicating well, attuning to one another’s needs, and creating safety—issues which, when it comes down to it, most clinicians are already adept at addressing. Another piece examines the novel concept of rewriting one’s marriage contract in lieu of divorcing, especially when children are involved. Elsewhere, we learn firsthand from a widowed couples therapist what it’s like to date—and savor sex—in one’s 70s. And in a piece on choosing singlehood, senior writer Lauren Dockett uncovers unexpected findings on the relative happiness quotient of single versus coupled folks. Finally, we look at an experience that might be called “unrequited kink,” in which one partner has a fantasy, fetish, or other erotic craving their partner doesn’t share.
As interest in these issues grows, therapists are realizing that regardless of their personal opinions about the best way to be in committed relationships—or even whether we need to be in one at all to be happy and fulfilled—they need to be comfortable with and knowledgeable about the options that speak to today’s clients.
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.