Recently Kristen Bell shared with Upworthy how her husband, actor Dax Shepard, is able to openly share with her who he finds attractive – without jealousy, insecurity, or judgment.
“He can tell me [about] someone he finds attractive, female or male, ’cause he pauses the Olympics on a lot of runners, but it doesn’t make me feel like he’s going to leave me for that person because I’m not allowing my self-esteem to be affected,” she told Todd Perry in the recent article.
First, who doesn’t love Kristen Bell? Now we have even more reason to respect her and her relationship with her husband. Dax and Kristen have what I call Open Monogamy; they are committed to their relationship, and yet they can talk about other people. They still find other people attractive and can be honest about their feelings, without feeling threatened. Open Monogamy doesn’t necessarily mean having multiple sexual or emotional partners. There is a continuum of Monogamy, which can include a variety of ways to include discussion about a more flexible way of being committed, starting with fantasies and moving to a more independent, separate relationship. But all of these places on the continuum include honesty and transparency first.
Being on the continuum doesn’t mean you have to move from one end to the other. Wherever you are is fine. For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, their place on the Fantasy portion of the continuum is comfortable for them. They talk freely about their attractions and it’s honesty that creates trust. If they wanted to move to a more actionable place on the continuum, they would discuss that openly first.
Creating a Space for Discussions
Often couples want to talk about their feelings, attractions, and fantasies, but don’t know how to approach the topic with each other. A recent study on YouGov found that 26% of Americans feel that an ideal relationship would include some form of non-monogamy. 82% of Ashley Madison members agree. But 76% of people don’t know how to bring up the topic.
Therapy can help. Therapists who are trained to guide couples to open discussion can create open, honest, and productive discussions, without letting their own biases, either for or against monogamy, get in the way.
Our job is to help our clients build trust. Before they leap ahead too fast, we can help them begin a conversation and discuss their own personal boundaries. I find that questions like “What should we do if we are curious about opening our marriage, should we talk about it?” or “What if we told each other about fantasies of other people we find attractive?” Having a ‘what if’ conversation can be a safe way to start an open monogamy agreement.
Are you looking for ways to help your clients with open monogamy or would you like to learn more yourself? My book, Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement, is available now on Amazon. If you’re looking for therapist training and want to learn more about integrating sex and relationship therapy into your practice, join ISTI for our live learning events, check out our eLearning, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to stay informed.