More and more, clinicians are seeing couples who fall outside of the traditional roles when it comes to relationships. Two examples of relationships I see popping up more includes couples who are polyamorous and couples who live kink lifestyles. As clinicians, it is important that we be helpful to couples in all walks of life with various backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. However, it can be confusing to know when and how best to intervene, especially if you are not familiar with the lifestyle approach.
What is polyamory? Essentially, polyamory is when a couple believes they can have multiple loves for a variety of people. These relationships are meant to be completely consensual for all parties involved. Polyamorous couples can organize in a variety of ways. Some have a primary couple, and then have extra relationships on the side such as one night stands or even boyfriends/girlfriends. Other polyamorous couples try to hold each relationship as equal and will organize into triads or even groups of two couples living together.
What is a kink lifestyle? A kink is most directly defined as a bend from a straight line. If you are thinking about sexuality, a kink lifestyle would be a bend or difference from a typical vanilla relationship. Usually people accept making out, massage or heavy petting, oral sex and penetrative sex as vanilla in terms of sexual style. A kink lifestyle could include any sexual life choice that falls outside this definition. There are different levels to the kink lifestyle. Some couples enjoy trying new sexy things here and there. At a more advanced level, there are couples who get very into doing kinky things and even go to classes or public events in which they can engage in their specific kinks. Some couples go beyond this and enjoy kink in their day to day lives.
How is polyamory different from living a kink lifestyle? One does not equal the other. There are polyamorous individuals who are relatively vanilla in the kinds of sexual acts they enjoy. There are kinky individuals that are monogamous and there are kinky individuals who have multiple partners.
If you are interested in learning more about how you as a clinician can better serve kink and polyamorous clients, please join my webinar on March 10 from 3-4:30pm Eastern where I will cover basic information about these lifestyles, a model for sexual ethics that expands across sexual lifestyles, and helpful strategies for working with clients in these lifestyles. This will be offered using a sex positive approach.
Angela Skurtu, M.Ed., LMFT is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist in St. Louis, MO. You can visit her website at www.TherapistinStLouis.com for more information or to follow her video and podcasting blogs on sexual and relationship health. You can also follow her on https://www.facebook.com/MarriageFamilyTherapy/