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

  • Mark David Finn University of East London
Keywords: bifurcation, counseling, interviews, non-monogamy, open relationships, order, rule-making, thematic analysis


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.



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Author Biography

Mark David Finn, University of East London

Mark FINN is senior lecturer in psychology, teaches qualitative research methods, and has published several papers on relational non/monogamies. This and a recent paper on therapeutic engagements with open non-monogamies are the results of a small-scale research project funded by the School of Psychology, UEL. His research interest continues to be in contemporary forms of coupledom, particularly alternative relational practices and the productivities of chaos.

How to Cite
Finn, M. D. (2014). Questioning the Rule-Making Imperative in Therapeutic Stabilizations of Non-Monogamous (Open) Relationships. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 15(3).
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