Solid Relationships = Solid Non-Monogamy

Welcome to Building a Solid Foundation for Non-Monogamy!

Feel free to listen to the audio version of this segment, or scroll down to read the transcript.

Hello folks. Welcome to Building a Solid Foundation for Non-Monogamy. I'm really glad that you're here. I'm just going to dive straight in. My name is Dedeker Winston. I am a relationship coach, author, and I'm also one of the hosts of the Multiamory podcast. I have been working with individuals, couples triads, more since 2015. In addition to being a certified coach, I'm also in training to become a Somatic Experiencing therapy practitioner. I'm also certified in levels one and two of the Gottman Method for couples therapy. The Gottman Method and the Gottman Institute is going to be a primary focus of this course, so I want to spend a little bit of time also explaining who the Gottmans are. 

Relationship Research

Drs. John and Julie Gottman created the Gottman Institute, which has been conducting research on relationships for upwards of four decades now. From their research, they have developed what they call the Gottman Method for relationship therapy. This method is based on firstly taking a thorough assessment of what state the relationship is in when people first come in for therapy or counseling or coaching, then combining that with interventions and tools that are all based on their research.

Now I really, really like that approach. I really appreciate being able to use tools with my clients that are actually evidence-based. The Gottmans also developed what they call the Sound Relationship House Theory, sometimes also called the Sound Relationship House Model. They found in their research, these certain fundamentals of what makes for a good, healthy, thriving relationship. We're going to get more into the Sound Relationship House a little bit later on.

I do have to say that the Gottmans are not perfect for a number of reasons. There's a reason why, in addition to my Gottman training, I also incorporate a bunch of other training, approaches, and methods in my work that I do with clients. One of the reasons why the Gottman Institute is not necessarily perfect is because their research has left a lot of people out. Historically, like a lot of relationship research, queer relationships are left out, and non-monogamous relationships especially have been left out. For quite a while, the Gottman Institute has been actively against non-monogamy. Fortunately, that is starting to change for them. A couple of years ago, I was even invited by the Gottman Institute to write an article about non-monogamy and my non-monogamous experience. I will link to that below so that you can check that out if you're interested. 

Something that I do really appreciate about the Gottman Institute approach is that they're pretty good at making all of their research findings public. This is not just something that you can only do for your relationship if you're with a trained professional who's been in a program studying this method for years and years and years. This is stuff that you can apply to your relationship today right now, based on the research, which is fantastic.

Why I changed the way I work with clients

The Gottman Institute leans pretty heavily into assessment -- evaluating and taking stock of what shape your relationship is in before any work begins or before any major changes are made to the structure of the relationship. 

The comparison that they tend to make is that if you went to a doctor, you wouldn't want the doctor to just launch straight into prescribing a drug or scheduling you for surgery without doing tests, running diagnostics, asking you some questions, or examining you in order to really make sure that she knew what the underlying problem was. The same exact thing goes for relationships. 

Unfortunately, a lot of therapists and counselors and coaches out there work in this way -- launching straight into problem solving with a couple before actually taking stock of the whole structure. There is a lack of taking the time to find out what strengths are present and what weaknesses are present in the relationship.

To be totally honest, I also used to work in this way. Because I specialize in non-monogamy, most of the clients who come to me are coming to me because they're in some form of non-monogamous, polyamorous, or otherwise non-traditional relationship. I fell into the trap of thinking, I'm only here to solve problems related to non-monogamy. All the other relationship stuff can just stay on the back burner. It's less relevant, less important. We're just going to zero in on the non-monogamous issues. 

And that did work for some people, but for a lot of people, it meant that the work would stall out pretty quickly. We would reach a point where we couldn't make any further progress because we'd run into a bad communication habit, a bad pattern that it's been there for years, or we'd uncover the fact that someone has felt alone and unappreciated since way before the decided to try opening up the relationship or way before their partner started dating another partner. It was all stuff that we could work on together, but many of these issues were things that could have been really easy to uncover if we had all just invested the time and the effort into doing a thorough investigation before the work even began. 

Why is this important?

This isn't just about what a therapist or a coach should be doing. This is also relevant to you. You might be new to non-monogamy. Maybe you're newly opening up a relationship. Maybe you've been practicing non-monogamy or polyamory for some time now, but you've run into a snag. Or maybe you just want more information on how to have better relationships. 

What I've found time and time again, after working with hundreds of clients, is a very simple truth.

Solid relationships make for solid non-monogamy.

That may sound obvious, but it's really easy to forget. It's really easy to get bogged down in all kinds of stuff -- in the terminology of non-monogamy, in all the different ways that people practice non-monogamy and trying to figure out which way is the right way. It's really easy to get hung up on our own specialized and unique problems -- problems which get particularly complex the more people that you add to the equation. 

Time and time again, I have found that if you are in a close, intimate, attached relationship, and if you don't have a solid foundation to your relationship, or if there are fundamental aspects of the relationship that are not working, then going on to practice solid, healthy, functioning mon-monogamy is most likely going to be impossible.

I don't like saying impossible. I don't like saying never, but I have seen so often that a lot of non-monogamy problems can be directly traced back to some fundamental relationship problems. It's really, really important for you to take stock and to assess the state of your relationship.

If you've been monogamous up to this point and you're considering the transition to non-monogamy, it's even more important to take that inventory and figure out the answers to these questions:

What do we have going for us?

What are our strengths?

What are our challenges?

What are the things that we need to work on?

Answering these questions is going to upgrade your non-monogamy and help it to feel much better.

Let's bring it back to the Gottman Institute. They developed their Sound Relationship House model based on their research of real relationships. The model really easily and efficiently lays out the systems and foundations that are needed to have a thriving and functioning relationship. This is something that I explain to all of my new clients and new incoming couples. But what I find myself doing over and over again, is going through the extra step of also explaining why these things are relevant to non-monogamy.

What to expect in this course

I'm going to be going through each level of the Gottman's Sound Relationship House model with you. I will be explaining what each level is, but I'm also going to be explaining specifically how and why each level is important and applicable to non-monogamous relationships. Every single segment is going to have an audio version as well as a transcript. If you're more of an auditory learner or if you prefer consuming your content that way you can just listen. If you prefer reading, you can read as well. 

As you're reading or listening to the course content, take the opportunity to evaluate for yourself and ask some questions:

How strong does this aspect feel in my relationship or in my relationships?

Do I feel like this is already a strength for myself or a strength between myself and my partner?  

Does this feel like this is something that could be improved?

These are all questions that are great to ask yourself, or you could use these as discussion prompts with your partner or partners. Each section will include some homework. There'll be prompts, questions, or actions that you can incorporate into your relationship today in order to start building or improving these fundamentals. 

That's it! I hope that this sounds exciting for you. I hope that it sounds doable for you. And most of all, I hope that you enjoy.  

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