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Consensually Non-Monogamous People Discuss Healthcare Needs and Experiences

Consensually Non-Monogamous People Discuss Healthcare Needs and ExperiencesPeople in consensually non-monogamous relationships often face stigma when seeing healthcare providers, researchers say.

Such relationships allow for sexual activity outside of a committed relationship. For example, in a polyamorous relationship, a married couple might agree that it’s okay to have romantic and sexual relationships with others, as long as a set of ground rules is followed. Swinging and open relationships are other examples.

Experts estimate that between 3.5% and 5% of people in the United States practice consensual non-monogamy. However, the practice is not always accepted by doctors.

To learn more, researchers asked 20 consensually non-monogamous people to participate in one of three focus groups. The discussions yielded several common themes:

  • Healthcare providers often assume their patients are monogamous and aren’t aware of what consensual non-monogamy is all about.
  • Some doctors and staff judged the participants with “raised eyebrows” and “dirty looks.” Some were condescending.
  • Some participants didn’t disclose their relationship situation for fear of being judged. Others avoided doctors that made them feel uncomfortable.
  • Participants asked others in the consensual non-monogamy community for referrals to medical practices that would accept the lifestyle.
  • Frequent testing for sexually transmitted infections was important for health and for relationship agreements.
  • Participants wanted their healthcare needs met in an inclusive, accepting environment.

“Instead of saying, ‘Well, don’t be involved with that particular behavior,’ say ‘How can we make healthier choices within those behaviors?’” one man said.

The study was published in the January 2019 edition of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Vaughan, Michelle D., PhD, et al.

“Healthcare Experiences and Needs of Consensually Non-Monogamous People: Results From a Focus Group Study”

(Full-text. January 2019)