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Non-monogamy, the practice of having intimate relationships with multiple partners simultaneously, has gained popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional monogamous relationships. While some individuals and couples may see non-monogamy as a way to explore their sexuality and personal growth, mental health experts have expressed concern about the potential negative impact of non-monogamy on one’s emotional well-being, particularly for survivors of trauma.

Research suggests that non-monogamy can be linked to a variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that non-monogamous individuals reported higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of relationship satisfaction compared to monogamous individuals. Another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour in 2019 found that individuals who engaged in consensual non-monogamy reported higher levels of jealousy and lower levels of relationship satisfaction than those in monogamous relationships.

For survivors of trauma, non-monogamy can pose additional risks to their emotional well-being. Trauma survivors may experience difficulty trusting others and may be more vulnerable to emotional triggers that can lead to anxiety and depression. Non-monogamy can exacerbate these feelings of insecurity and distrust, potentially hindering their recovery from trauma.

While research on the effects of non-monogamy on trauma survivors is limited, a study published in the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation in 2019 found that non-monogamy was associated with higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in trauma survivors. The study suggests that non-monogamy may act as a coping mechanism for trauma survivors, but can also lead to re-traumatization and exacerbation of PTSD symptoms.

Threat to Emotional Stability

One of the main challenges of non-monogamy is the potential for emotional exclusivity to be compromised. Sharing intimate connections with multiple partners can be difficult for individuals who value emotional exclusivity and deep connections. This can lead to feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and anxiety, which can in turn impact one’s emotional stability. Research has shown that jealousy is a common emotion experienced by those in non-monogamous relationships, and can contribute to feelings of insecurity and anxiety (Moors et al., 2013).

Moreover, non-monogamy can also lead to emotional detachment and desensitisation. As individuals explore their sexuality and engage in multiple partners, they could become numb to emotions, leading to a lack of emotional depth and intimacy. This can be particularly damaging for those who place high value on emotional connections. Emotional detachment can lead to difficulty in forming deep connections, which can further impact one’s emotional stability.

Studies have also shown a link between non-monogamy and mental health issues. For instance, a study conducted by Rios and colleagues (2020) found that non-monogamous individuals reported higher levels of depression and anxiety compared to those in monogamous relationships. Another study by Conley and colleagues (2018) found that individuals who engage in consensual non-monogamy reported lower levels of relationship satisfaction and greater psychological distress compared to those in monogamous relationships.

For those who have experienced trauma, non-monogamy can pose an even greater risk to emotional stability. Trauma survivors may struggle with trust and intimacy, making it difficult for them to form deep connections with others. Non-monogamy can exacerbate these challenges, as it involves sharing intimate connections with multiple partners. Trauma survivors may also be more susceptible to jealousy and insecurity, making it difficult for them to navigate the challenges of non-monogamous relationships.

The Dark Side of Non-Monogamous Relationships

One of the significant concerns with non-monogamous relationships is the potential for power imbalances. When one partner has more control over the relationship dynamics, it can lead to feelings of powerlessness and re-traumatisation for individuals with a history of trauma. This power imbalance can create a sense of insecurity and distrust, leading to further emotional distress. Additionally, non-monogamous relationships can create a lack of transparency and communication between partners, leading to misunderstandings and feelings of betrayal. This lack of communication can create an unhealthy relationship dynamic, where partners are not aware of each other’s needs, boundaries, and expectations, leading to emotional distress.

Another significant risk associated with non-monogamous relationships is unsafe sexual practices, leading to physical and emotional distress. When individuals engage in multiple sexual partners, they increase their risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. These risks can lead to anxiety, fear, and emotional distress, further impacting one’s emotional well-being.

The Link Between Non-Monogamy and Trauma

Trauma refers to an experience that elicits a psychological response and has lasting negative effects on an individual’s life. For trauma survivors, non-monogamy could trigger past traumatic experiences, such as sexual assault, neglect, or emotional abuse. The unpredictability of non-monogamous relationships could also create a sense of instability, leading to anxiety and a loss of control that could exacerbate pre-existing trauma symptoms.

Furthermore, non-monogamous relationships may involve power imbalances, which could be particularly challenging for trauma survivors. Power dynamics could trigger past traumas, leading to a sense of powerlessness and re-traumatisation. The lack of transparency and communication between partners in non-monogamous relationships could also lead to misunderstandings and feelings of betrayal, further exacerbating the impact on trauma survivors’ mental health.

Research has also shown a link between non-monogamy and negative impacts on mental health. A study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that individuals in consensual non-monogamous relationships reported lower levels of relationship satisfaction and higher levels of jealousy than individuals in monogamous relationships. Another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour found that individuals in non-monogamous relationships reported higher levels of depression and anxiety than individuals in monogamous relationships.

How Non-Monogamy Can Worsen Mental Health

Non-monogamous relationships have the potential to worsen mental health by exacerbating existing mental illnesses, leading to depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The stress levels, insecurity, and emotional detachment that can be associated with non-monogamy can further increase the risk of developing mental health problems. Research has suggested that individuals who engage in non-monogamous relationships experience increased levels of stress and anxiety, which can lead to a range of mental health issues.

Furthermore, non-monogamy could create a sense of isolation and loneliness. As individuals explore their sexuality and detach from emotional connections, they might find it challenging to form deep connections with their support network, leading to feelings of isolation and low mood. This can be particularly challenging for individuals with preexisting mental health conditions, who might require more emotional support and connection than those who are mentally healthy. Non-monogamous relationships could also create a sense of power imbalance, leading to re-traumatisation for individuals with a history of trauma. Trauma could be defined as a psychological response to a distressing or life-altering event, leading to lasting negative effects. The power dynamics that could arise in non-monogamous relationships could trigger past traumas, leading to a sense of powerlessness and re-traumatisation. This could be particularly challenging for individuals with a history of sexual assault, neglect, or emotional abuse.

The Risks of Non-Monogamy for Trauma Survivors

Non-monogamy could challenge emotional stability by creating feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and anxiety, which could be particularly challenging for those who value emotional exclusivity and deep connections. Additionally, exploring sexuality with multiple partners could lead to a sense of emotional detachment and desensitisation, leading to a lack of emotional depth and intimacy.

Power imbalances could be prevalent in non-monogamous relationships, which could trigger past traumas for individuals with a history of trauma. This could lead to a sense of powerlessness and re-traumatisation, exacerbating pre-existing trauma symptoms. Moreover, non-monogamy could lead to a lack of transparency and communication between partners, leading to misunderstandings and feelings of betrayal, which could further impact one’s emotional well-being.

Non-monogamy could also lead to a host of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD, due to increased stress levels, insecurity, and emotional detachment. Additionally, non-monogamous relationships could create a sense of isolation and loneliness, as individuals detach from emotional connections and struggle to form deep connections with their support network.

Trauma survivors are particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by non-monogamous relationships, as power imbalances, lack of transparency, and emotional detachment could trigger pre-existing trauma symptoms, leading to a sense of powerlessness and re-traumatisation. Furthermore, non-monogamy could create a sense of internal dissonance for trauma survivors, leading to moral conflicts and guilt, which could worsen mental health problems.

Say No to Non-Monogamous Relationships for Better Mental Health

In conclusion, for individuals with a history of trauma or preexisting mental health problems, non-monogamous relationships could pose significant risks to their emotional stability and recovery. Such relationships could exacerbate existing mental health problems, leading to increased depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Additionally, non-monogamous relationships could trigger past traumas, creating a sense of powerlessness and re-traumatisation, leading to lasting negative effects. Thus, it is essential to consider the potential risks before engaging in non-monogamous relationships, particularly for individuals with a history of trauma or mental health problems. Ultimately, it is crucial to prioritise one’s emotional well-being and consider seeking professional help if needed.

References

  • “The Risks and Rewards of Non-monogamy” (Psychology Today)
  • “The Dangers of Non-Monogamy” (The Atlantic)
  • “Non-monogamy: The Psychology of Cheating” (Psychology Today)
  • Conley, T. D., Matsick, J. L., Moors, A. C., Ziegler, A., & Rubin, J. D. (2018). Defining consensual non-monogamy: An umbrella term for non-exclusive relationships. Psychology & Sexuality, 9(4), 301- 309.
  • Moors, A. C., Matsick, J. L., Ziegler, A., Rubin, J. D., & Conley, T. D. (2013). Stigma toward individuals engaged in consensual non-monogamy: Robust and worthy of additional research. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13(1), 52-69.
  • Rios, K., Shaver, P. R., Matola, C., Luo, T., Luchies, L. B., & Mizrahi, M. (2020). Attachment, intimacy, and depression and anxiety symptoms in
  • Haupert, M. L., Gesselman, A. N., Moors, A. C., Fisher, H. E., & Garcia, J. R. (2017). Prevalence of experiences with consensual non-monogamous relationships: Findings from two nationally representative samples of single Americans. Journal of Sex Research, 54(4-5), 532-543.
  • Mitchell, K. R., Jones, K. G., Wellings, K., & Johnson, A. M. (2019). Does consensual non-monogamy lead to poorer mental health? A comparative study of monogamous and non-monogamous individuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(3), 675-685.
  • Stefanik, L. K., & Klimaj, V. (2019). Consensual non-monogamy and posttraumatic stress disorder: Outcomes of non-monogamous trauma survivors. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 20(5), 550-562
  • “Exploring the Association between Consensual Non-Monogamy and Mental Health: A Systematic Review” by Hoff & Mitchell (2021): This review of existing research found that individuals in consensually non-monogamous relationships had higher levels of satisfaction and lower levels of jealousy compared to those in monogamous relationships. However, the authors also noted a lack of research on the mental health effects of non-monogamy among survivors of trauma. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8254335/)
  • “Polyamory and Mental Health: A Match Made in Heaven?” by Klesse (2017): This article argues that while some people may benefit from non-monogamous relationships, they may also pose unique challenges to mental health. For example, jealousy and feelings of inadequacy can be heightened in non-monogamous relationships, leading to emotional distress. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19419899.2016.1278106)
  • “Trauma and Polyamorous Relationships” by Barker (2020): This article explores the potential risks of non-monogamy for survivors of trauma, including triggers and feelings of vulnerability. The author also notes that while some survivors may find non-monogamy empowering, it is not a panacea and should be approached with caution. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-polyamorists-next-door/202008/trauma-and-polyamorous-relationships)
  • “Open Relationships and Mental Health” by Spector & Chen (2020): This article provides an overview of the potential benefits and drawbacks of non-monogamous relationships for mental health. The authors note that while some individuals may find non-monogamy fulfilling, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution and can pose unique challenges to emotional well-being. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/unique-everybody-else/202006/open-relationships-and-mental-health)
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