Questioning the Rule-Making Imperative in Therapeutic Stabilizations of Non-Monogamous (Open) Relationships

Mark David Finn


Given increasing social scientific and public interest in open relationships, attending to therapeutic engagements with such a lifestyle choice is of topical concern. Specifically, the rule-making imperative for the creation and stabilization of open non-monogamies involves the widely embraced principle in counseling and self-help literature that a "couple's" rules for their non-monogamous engagements are crucial for personal and relational well-being. Data presented in this article stem from semi-structured interviews with seventeen UK counselors/psychotherapists who identified their therapeutic engagements with consensual non-monogamies (primarily in gay male open relationships) as being "affirmative" in some way. A Foucauldian-inflected thematic analysis highlighted patterns of meaning in relation to: perceived non-monogamous disorder; clinical recognitions of the inevitability of disorder; and ways in which assumed non-monogamous disorder, and thus the warrant for rule-making, can be reinforced in psychological terms. Drawing on the notion of "bifurcation" put forward in chaos theory, it is argued that to enlist the imperative of rule-making as a precautionary or remedial strategy is to overlook the more productive aspects of chaotic turbulence in open relationships and thus undermine alternative recognitions of relational health and well-being.



bifurcation; counseling; interviews; non-monogamy; open relationships; order; rule-making; thematic analysis

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Copyright (c) 2014 Mark David Finn

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