Does Ethical Nonmonogamy Work? What the Research Says

Presenter: Lindsay Hayes

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Saturday 3:30 – 4:45 PM

Sturm Hall 186

Program Description

Studies suggest a growing number of people are increasingly curious about and accepting of nonmonogamy and polyamory (Rubel & Burleigh, 2020). Stephens and Emmers-Sommer (2020) found a statistically significant relationship between emerging adults’ (age 18-29) choice for relationship style and their identity. Research suggests that a growing number of emerging adults are becoming more accepting of various relational practices, which in turn, is helping to shift these young adults’ sexual identities (Stephens & Emmers-Sommer, 2020). Findings also suggest that those practicing nonmonogamy are underserved and understudied, potentially further perpetuating stigmatization and marginalization (Brewster et al., 2017). As nonmonogamy becomes more common, scholarship must keep up to help educators understand these relationships.

Despite the stigma, research has found that nonmonogamists report sexual and relationship satisfaction and psychological wellbeing at similar levels to monogamists (Rubel and Bogaert, 2015). Other researchers report strengths and benefits associated with practicing nonmonogamy (Vaughn & Witherspoon, 2022; Moors, et al, 2017). Another common concern is that having additional romantic relationships will damage the primary relationship. However, research has shown that people can meet the relational needs of multiple partners without doing so at the expense of other relationships (Mitchell et al., 2014).

We associate sexual exclusivity with commitment, safety, and security, but research shows that relationships can be all of these things without exclusivity (Moors et al., 2015). Sexual safety is another common concern cited by those hesitant about nonmonogamy yet research has shown that nonmonogamous individuals are more likely to engage in safer sex behaviors, including condom use and STI testing (Conley, Moors, Ziegler, & Karathanasis, 2012; Lehmiller, 2015) than monogamists (including serial monogamists).

Learning Objectives

As a result of this presentation, attendees will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of nonmonogamy and explain healthy aspects of nonmonogamy to others. Time for Q&A and a list of additional resources will be provided.

Presenter Bio

Lindsay Hayes, MA MFTC holds an MA in communication and an MA in Couple and Family Therapy. Her master’s thesis was a qualitative study on polyamory. She co-founded the Sex Positivity Society at CU Denver, Lindsay is currently studying in the PhD in Counseling Studies program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where she continues to study nonmonogamy. Lindsay is a practicing psychotherapist at The Arbor Therapy and lives in Denver.

Previous speaking engagements include presentations at London Polyday (2019), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality annual conference (2022 & 2023), and the AAMFT Systemic Family Therapy Conference (2023).