Family and consensual non-monogamy: Parents’ perceptions of benefits and challenges



This study explores the perspectives of parents in open or polyamorous relationships with regards to challenges and benefits of practicing consensual non-monogamy (CNM).


Studies show that about one in five people, both in Canada and the United States, have been involved in a CNM relationship in their lifetime, a proportion that is even higher among today’s young adults. While we know that many of those people have children, little research has focused on the experiences of parents practicing CNM.


This article begins to fill this gap, drawing on 34 individual semi-structured interviews with Canadian parents involved in CNM relationships and their partners. The author explores the benefits and challenges associated with raising children in the context of CNM, as experienced by the participants.


The vast majority of participants argued that the benefits of being polyamorous or in an open relationship considerably outweighed the difficulties they encountered. Six overarching themes emerged from the participants’ discourses, namely: (1) social acceptance and legal protection, (2) coming out to children, (3) time management, (4) reconciling family obligations and personal needs, (5) it takes a village to raise children, and (6) teaching important values to children.


Ultimately, this study shows that parents practicing CNM perceive their relationship model as mostly beneficial for themselves, as parents, and for their family.

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