Consensual Nonmonogamy

Consensual Nonmonogamy

When Is It Right for Your Clients?

By Margaret Nichols

January/February 2018

You’ve been seeing the couple sitting across from you for a little more than six months. They’ve had a sexless marriage for many years, and Joyce, the wife, is at the end of her rope. Her husband, Alex, has little or no sex drive. There’s no medical reason for this; he’s just never really been interested in sex. After years of feeling neglected, Joyce recently had an affair, with Alex’s blessing. This experience convinced her that she could no longer live without sex, so when the affair ended, the marriage was in crisis. “I love Alex,” Joyce said, “but now that I know what it’s like to be desired by someone, not to mention how good sex is, I’m not willing to give it up for the rest of my life.” Divorce would’ve been the straightforward solution, except that, aside from the issue of sex, they both agree they have a loving, meaningful, and satisfying life together as coparents, best friends, and members of a large community of friends and neighbors. They want to stay together, but after six months of failed therapeutic interventions, including sensate-focus exercises and Gottman-method interventions to break perpetual-problem gridlock, they’re at the point of separating. As their therapist, what do you do?

    • Help them consciously uncouple
    • Refer them to an EFT therapist to help them further explore their attachment issues
    • Advise a temporary separation, reasoning that with some space apart they can work on their sexual problems

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