This article is an abbreviated version of a chapter from my upcoming book, shared with gratitude to all the individuals who offered feedback to the draft and asked to be able to share it with their friends and loved ones.

Image of a tree reflected in the water, with storm clouds, photo by Johannes Plenio

We can work out logistics, share google calendars, make relationship agreements, and practice our non-violent communications with all our partners, but ignoring Trauma — and the role it can play in our relationships — is like ignoring another person in the relationship. And when Trauma is ignored, it directs us through an unconscious undercurrent in ways that may harm our partners and ourselves. 

Trauma work is vital for healthy relating.

Understanding and working with the ways that Trauma shows up in our relationships is a profound way to grow more radical and authentic relationships. It is, however, not an easy one, and it asks for self reflection, humility, and perseverance. It is also not just an intellectual pursuit: learning about trauma, and then addressing it in practice, takes time. 

In many ways, Trauma-Informed-Relating is an art

I have been on the journey of trauma-informed relating for many years now, and I know there is still more for me to learn and put into practice. I also see that the moment I began addressing how Trauma was impacting me (and my relationships), everything in my life began to change for the better. In working with my coaching clients, I have witnessed time and again how even just growing greater awareness of trauma creates profound shifts in the way they experience their relationships too.

What Is Trauma?
silhouette of a person curled over their knees, resting their heads on the arms, as if in saddness. Photo by Pixabay
While we might commonly associate Trauma with extraordinarily horrific events like genocide, war, personal injuries, or interpersonal violence, Trauma encompasses so much more than that. 

We might experience hurt and harm early in life, such as the pre-verbal trauma when infants are separated from caregivers — whether forcibly by the state or due to caregivers returning to work without adequate parental leave. 

Childhood experiences like bullying, social ostracization, inappropriate adult interactions, violations of our agency by family members, and encountering societal and systemic issues like racism and homophobia can also leave us with an imprint of trauma. As adults, abusive relationships, poverty, health crises, social unrest, migration, and witnessing harm to others can contribute to overwhelming our nervous systems. 

There is also intergenerational trauma, passed down through family lines, including genetic changes as well as learned behaviors and family traditions. Geneticists have found DNA alterations can occur as a consequence of adverse experiences: as an example, the children of holocaust survivors have been shown to have more challenges in adapting to stress. In racialized communities who have experienced oppression, it is noted that there is an increased occurrence of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more. But Intergenerational Trauma isn’t just something in our DNA: it can also show up in the behaviours, attitudes, and practices that families and cultures adopt as part of coming with traumatic events, that they then pass on to their descendants.

There are many different examples of experiences that can create disruption and leave someone with trauma. And, two people could go through the same experience and have drastically different trauma, depending on their prior experiences and the way they’re supported after the disruptive event. 

Trauma isn’t a contest, even when the pain and disruption we’ve experienced feels uniquely challenging. 

This is something that I think needs to be more widely understood: a person can go through an experience that sounds incredibly traumatic, but with access to resources — such as community, skilled healers and therapists, and time — they are able to live in such a way that the pain from their past does not cast shadows over their present. 

Can you imagine if we were all supported in the aftermath of overwhelming events, how different might our individual lives be? How different might the whole world be?

Non-Monogamy, Nervous System Disruption, and Trauma
Lightning hitting a hill, photo by Frank Cone
Trauma can be understood as a consequence of adverse or disruptive experiences that happen without the support to cope with, process, and integrate them: our nervous system goes into a state of alert to protect us from harm — but when it never finds resolution, ie we never find a way to orient ourselves to safety — those self-protective responses can continue to manifest, even in the absence of harm.

As you read this, some part of your marvelous brain is attuned to the space you occupy  — registering the temperature, the lighting, the presence of people, and the elements surrounding you. Your brain is processing sensory information from sound, smell, sight, taste, and touch, assessing potential changes or shifts that may necessitate a response. Our brilliant nervous systems are wired to seek safety, and we learn to orient ourselves within the context of our personal landscape as a means to know whether we are safe or not.

Much of this process occurs automatically within us, and while our responses are not always perfect, we can generally navigate our environments effectively and safely. Occasionally, when we have had very painful experiences, we learn to interpret certain events, words, circumstances, behaviors, or people as indicators of risk, and we may have self-protective responses to those indicators that seem to others as disproportionate. 

And, there are also times when we lack the context to understand what we are experiencing, and thus cannot know whether we are actually safe or not.

Think of a time you visited somewhere new. If you were taking a vacation, perhaps you purchased a guidebook, or downloaded some articles about the place you were going? You might take a look at a map and figure out where you will be staying, where the attractions are, and maybe you look up some restaurants that you’d like to try out. Maybe you talk to friends who have been there before and ask for their recommendations. This is part of how you orient your nervous system to be able to engage with being in a new place. If you arrived at your vacation destination and found that the maps were inaccurate, that an attraction you had hoped to see was closed for the season, or discovered that the restaurants couldn’t cater to your dietary needs, you might find yourself feeling agitated and anxious as your nervous system experiences the disruption of expectations being dashed, and facing unexpected changes instead.

Similarly, when we embark on open relationships, we seek out the guidebooks, and the guides. We look for the articles that tell us what to expect. We reach out to people who have done this before us and ask for their advice. 

However, the landscape of open relating is so vast and so filled with possibilities that it is impossible to be prepared for it all, and so our ability to orient towards safety is disrupted, because we lack enough context through which to understand the new experiences we begin to have. 

There will always be some who enjoy the adventure of wandering without a guidebook, but for many, exploring a new place without any sense of where you are going or what you are going to find can be disorienting. And even the boldest of adventurers can find themselves caught unprepared for what they are about to encounter.

In the same way, venturing into non-monogamy without a contextual framework for our experiences can be overwhelming. As a result, our nervous systems may respond in the same ways that we respond to disrupting and traumatic experiences: panic, anxiety, and controlling behaviors can all show up as we attempt to establish some semblance of direction in this vast and open landscape.

Trauma and Loss
lightpainting of a person touching their face and turning their head to the side, the details obscured by swirls of light. Photo by Merlin Lightpainting
Our relationships significantly contribute to the sense of safety, stability, and security in our lives — or lack thereof. From the moment we are born, the way we are cared for by others registers in our nervous system: if we are fortunate to have many kind, loving, nurturing adults in our infancy and childhood we may grow up feeling very safe, whereas if the adult caregivers responsible for us were unkind, emotionally unavailable, or unable to care for us, we may feel the need to protect ourselves from possible loss, harm or abandonment. Many of us experience loving and kind relationships in adulthood to be supportive in healing the wounds left by the unsupportive and unkind ones, and this isn’t limited to romantic relationships: our platonic relationships and familial relationships can also support us in ways that we may not even be aware of.

When any relationship ends, whether through breakup or bereavement, our lives experience disruption. Without additional supportive relationships (friends, community, or other partners) we may feel like we become stuck. We might lament the relationship, or dwell on the past to the point that it becomes hard to engage with what is here and now. Or, we may become fixated on planning for the future to the point of not being attuned to the present moment. We do this because to sit with the pain of loss is hard, especially if we do not feel supported or understood (which can be the case for non-monogamous breakups). 

One of the ways I can recognise that what a client is going through is trauma related is that they will have a challenging time to stay present to what’s happening in the moment. If they are narrating a series of events to me, they might jump around in the timeline, or keep returning to something from the distant past. In some partnerships, one (or both) partners might keep coming back to a moment in their relationship history where there was pain or hurt, and struggle to see the loving connection that is available in the present. 

I think of this aspect of Trauma as ‘time-traveling’, and it can be very challenging to work with: our Nervous Systems often need time and support to re-learn that the present moment can hold safety and pleasure and joy, before we can fully resolve the pain we are holding on to from the past. Indeed, new research supports this: in a study published in November 2023, a team from Yale University conducted scans on the brains of 28 people with PTSD and, based on the neural activity in the brain, found that traumatic memories aren’t just remembered, they are re-lived.

Trauma can also be a loss of relationship with Self, where our self-protection mechanisms urge us to run from ourselves and others, to fight ourselves and others, to go numb to ourselves, and to capitulate to others and override our own needs for the sake of maintaining an external relationship.

Much of the time, that loss of relationship to Self is momentary: maybe something unexpected happens in our day, perhaps we are surprised by someone. There is temporary stress that passes (sometimes with ease, sometimes with a bit of work) and we’re able to continue on. 

Other times, the disruption might feel continuous, or the stressful event exhausts us. In such moments, we may find ourselves feeling reminded of past traumas, or may feel so dysregulated that we are pulled under by the gravitational pull of a vortex of Trauma.

I see the loss of relationship to self show up when a client is struggling to talk about themselves. I might ask a client how they are doing, and they tell me about their partners. Or I ask them to describe their feelings, and they tell me instead about their surroundings. Even though they may not be able to answer the question I have asked them, what they do share tells me a lot: a person who is struggling to connect to themselves may not feel safe enough to be with themselves. They may have Trauma related to shame or guilt, which could be from a recent relationship or possibly something they’ve been experiencing since childhood. 

Anything that disrupts our ability to feel safe enough to be with ourselves, or tells us that we are in any way ‘less than’ or ‘unworthy’ also interferes with our ability to experience empathy and meaningful connection with other beings, and this will inevitably impact our relationships. 

Trauma doesn’t happen in isolation: if one person in a relationship is feeling activated, under capacity, or challenged by a situation, chances are the other people in the relationship may be feeling the consequences of that as a disruption to their own nervous systems. Navigating trauma within relationships is intricate, as we all bring our wounds from childhood and past romantic relationships, interpreting our present experiences through this lens. 

The very nature of embarking on open relationships — whether that is opening up an existing relationship, or beginning new relationships with an intention to steer away from assumptions of monogamy — holds risk, uncertainty, and unknowns. The complex dynamics of open relating can shake up our internal status quo, and cause old wounds, hurts, and painful memories to begin to surface — experiences which we must try to make sense of within the context of new ways of relating, even while still trying to figure out what those new ways are! People in the early years of their non-monogamy journey might experience dynamics of aggression, avoidance, dissociation and people-pleasing manifest in quick succession as they wrestle with the complex fears and traumas that open relating can bring to the surface.

Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that well-meaning therapists and individuals with limited understanding of consensual non-monogamy and alternative relationships may sometimes dismiss them as harmful. However, open relationships can be a catalyst for the shaking up of our inner worlds, and are not necessarily the root cause of the disquiet we experience. That root cause lies in the systemic, intergenerational, and personal traumas and pain that we may hold in our psyche, and all the ways we have adapted to and integrated (or not) around them.

Even in healthy and well resourced relationships, the ways we have adapted to survive hurt, harm, and a lack of safety in the past can profoundly impact our ability to be present to our loved ones: defensive behaviors, emotional withdrawal, difficulty trusting and/or expressing vulnerability. 

We might more readily shut down in the face of conflict, or we may feel compelled to stoke conflict. These responses which once supported us to find safety, can inadvertently sabotage intimacy, creating barriers that hinder authentic connection — and these will inevitably become amplified if we are simultaneously experiencing disruption to the experience of safety we derive from our relationships, or navigating the uncertain waters of being new to open relationships. 

The impact of this is felt not only on an individual level but can ripple through the dynamics of all our relationships, including our friendships, metamorships, and wider polycules or anarcules, bringing challenges in communication, empathy, and mutual understanding. 

Self-Protective Responses In Non Monogamy
person hides behind a piece of abstract art. Photo by Athena
Self-protective or “trauma” responses are instinctive reactions stemming from primal, physiological changes that occur when our nervous system perceives a threat to our safety. These responses serve us well in times when we are unsafe, facing attack, or are otherwise threatened. 

All of these protective Responses are normal and natural, and arise for a real reason: because we feel unsafe, and their purpose is to return us to safety. Most of the time they are temporary, and as soon as our nervous system experiences safety, we will drop the behaviors associated with self-protection. However, sometimes we can get stuck — especially if we don’t find safety, can’t trust the safety that we do find, or we feel like threats to our safety are continuous.

Here’s what these self-protection responses can look like in Non Monogamous relationships:

The Flight Response: This emerges from a primal urge to run away. The muscles involved in movement might tense up, ready to spring away from danger. Our brains may feel anxious, our breath more shallow and our heart racing. In our relationships the flight response might result in avoidance of conflict, or with-holding information from a loved one that we fear might lead to conflict. In non-monogamy, where we experience the stimulation of multiple relationships (through having multiple partners and their partners), there can be a tendency to push or rush through any discomfort we feel in order to be able to maintain our engagement with everyone in our anarcule — and slowing down can feel scary, because in slowing down we feel more. More of the good things, and more of the uncomfortable things too. This can also show up in an urge to resolve discomfort quickly, by shutting down the perceived source of discomfort, for example, vetoing a partner’s new partner.

The Fight Response: This response comes from a primal urge to defend ourselves from a threat. We may feel as if our center of gravity moves lower in our body. The phrases “digging your heels in” or “standing your ground” are evocative of what it might feel like to be moving into a state of a Fight Response. In our relationships, a fight response might look like stubbornness, rigidity, or inflexibility about scheduling, our own needs (or our partners), or an inability to find compromise. In multi partner relationships, the fight response can feed into unhealthy triangulation — where a 3rd party is enrolled as a person to take the blame for all challenges in the relationship.

The Freeze Response: When we have lingered for a long time in either fight or flight, or events happen that are highly disruptive, we may experience the state of Freeze. In this state, it may feel difficult (and perhaps impossible) to move our bodies. Our minds and bodies may feel numb. It may be challenging to attune to our emotions. In relationships, this can show up as a kind of dissociation from our loved ones, forgetting conversations moments after they have happened, or even falling into heavy fantasizing about what a relationship is. It’s not uncommon for people newer and struggling in non-monogamy to silo their relationships, and keep connections compartmentalized. This may work as a short term strategy to give an existing partner more time to adjust or explore their own feelings and reactions, however if practiced over an extended time, it can play into disconnected experiences for the hinge partner and possibly even impact the clarity of communication between all parties.

The Fawn Response: This is a habitual response that many of us have learned as a strategy for safety: putting our needs and boundaries aside for the sake of others. It can be much harder to notice, because it’s natural to find ourselves feeling agreeable to the desires of our loved ones. However, capitulating to partners, potentially telling partners only what we think they are comfortable knowing, and not giving them information they might find upsetting can be indicators of a Fawn Response at play. Another way I have seen this show up is when a partner offers reassurances of how “everything will be okay”, despite a situation carrying risk and potential discomfort.

It is normal and natural to feel these responses arise within us as a consequence of events that disrupt our experience of safety and relational equilibrium. They become a challenge in our relationships when they continue to occur, either to a degree that is disproportionate to the perceived threat, when a challenge is continuous and there is no opportunity for the nervous system to find reprieve from activation other than a Freeze/shut down, or even after the threat itself has passed.

This last scenario, an incomplete self-protection response, can feel like being stuck in a loop. We ride a proverbial hamster wheel of emotions, sometimes oscillating from one mode to the next — from flight, to fawn, to fight, to freeze, though not necessarily in that order — and keep cycling until something supports our nervous system to know that we are safe enough to re-engage with the present moment.

It’s not uncommon for us to experience incomplete self protection responses in a relationship: think of a time you held back from asserting a boundary with a loved one, or you struggled to sleep because an argument wasn’t resolved. Whilst our nervous systems usually have good resilience to be able to navigate this stress in the short term, if the issue is never addressed and our nervous system never moves back into an experience of safety then these responses become stuck. The behaviors associated with self-protective responses can come to dominate our relationships, and the stress within our nervous system can even manifest in physical tension, pain, or other psychosomatic symptoms.

The Window Of Tolerance
The experience of safety within our nervous systems isn’t static: it’s something that we continuously seek to move towards. Even when we feel safe, our nervous system endeavors to remain aware of our surroundings.

image of an open window with sunlight streaming in

Many of us spend our lives addressing one alarm after another, and might not immediately be able to tune in to what the sensations of feeling safe enough are. For some this might feel like ease, tranquility, happiness, or joy. For others, they notice it when they are able to tune in to sensations of pleasure, or attune to the pleasant things their senses are picking up. You might experience it as a feeling of being steady in your body, or like being comforted from the inside. Some people find it is possible to tune into this experience through familiar surroundings, music, or even television shows, whereas sometimes it is easier to sense when we are with specific people with whom we feel understood and cared for.

As you read this, perhaps you are feeling relaxed. You might be at home with music playing, or you might be in a busy coffee shop, or transiting on your way to work. Whatever your environment, if an alarm were to go off, your nervous system would respond, and attempt to assess what action you needed to take. 

Complex and Complicated: Relating With Trauma
When we grow relationships with multiple people, not only are we learning to relate with more people who each have their own unique traumas that may play into their needs, desires, and responses in our relationship, but also, the inherent complexity of non-monogamous relationships, and the limited resources for understanding their dynamics, means there is the potential for more overwhelm, as well as more relationship ruptures — and that can take a toll on individuals, and their relationships.

Another way to think of it: when we relate with anyone, we relate not just with who they are on their good days when they feel well resourced and at ease, we also relate with who they are on the not so great days, when they feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and in turmoil. 

I refer to this part of myself that emerges when I am overwhelmed as my Trauma Body: a wounded, vulnerable facet that reverts to childhood patterns and self-protective behaviors from past relationships. The Trauma Body is where I go the moment I start to get pulled into that vortex of Trauma: it feels disconnected from what is happening and is hyper-focussed on strategies that it thinks will keep me safe, be it fighting, fleeing, freezing up, or capitulating to what someone else wants of me. This Trauma Body is like a whole other person within the relationship.

And Trauma is a tricky metamor.

Trauma Informed, not just Trauma Aware
To embrace a path of Trauma-Informed Relating we have to do more than just acknowledge trauma: we have to develop a relationship with it. 

The ways we respond to the trauma and distress of others can also take us into a trauma response. Think of how you respond when you hear of atrocities happening in a war: for many, comprehending them will be overwhelming. For some, they may be able to comprehend some part of it, but not all. Even those who have themselves survived atrocities may find it challenging to connect to their empathy when they hear of atrocities happening to others, because the trauma they carry is still so raw and painful.

Image of a forest in fall, with a bright light at the end of a pathway. Image by Johannes Plenio. To face and understand our own Trauma can be a life-long journey, and to embrace the trauma our loved ones may carry with them asks of us that we deepen our capacity for empathy, compassion, and understanding of the ways trauma and self-protective responses show up. Without the context, resources, and some basic understanding of what Trauma is and how it plays out in relationships, we may feel overwhelmed or scared by a partner’s trauma, and we may feel an urge to dismiss them, to minimize their pain, or to even gaslight them because we ourselves are uncomfortable and unsure how to engage with their Trauma Body.

We are often more available to hold space for the trauma of people whose experience we relate to in some way, whether that’s because of gender, racial dynamics, socio-economic class, or backgrounds. And when we love someone who is different from us, and carries trauma that we might not have personal reference points for, engaging with them may feel overwhelming, and cause us to experience distress that activates our own nervous systems.

Becoming trauma-sensitive in how we relate is useful not just in terms of understanding ourselves, but also for understanding others. It allows us to support the integration and healing of past traumas whilst, hopefully, not creating new situations of harm or trauma in the process. 

Trauma Informed relationships are compassionate, they are patient, spacious, non-coercive, and loving. A trauma sensitive relationship is mutually respectful. It honors that the most important dynamic in any relationship is each individual’s somatic experience of safety.

Trauma-Informed Relationships are like physiotherapy for our psyche: we grow our capacity for nervous system resilience, we address the scars from the past, and we remedy the patterns of behavior that are no longer supporting us. They are spacious, and compassionate. They aren’t rushed. They ask us to hone awareness of both our personal and collective needs, to cultivate resilience rather than greater endurance. As we navigate the presence of trauma in our bodies and in our relationships, we not only can potentially heal from the disruption and pain of our past, but we can grow in ways of relating that allow us to show up as authentic, embodied, and fully present to all that is.

The Monogamy Detox

The Original, Innovative, Trauma Informed Non Monogamy Workshop.

6-week online, life-time access, runs every spring & fall.

About Mel

Relationship Coach and Facilitator, Queer, Kink, and Polyamory Friendly

I just wanted you to know that our call helped me strengthen my relationships by thinking about and communicating my boundaries. So now I’m relieved AND more in alignment with my authentic self.
Nanaimo, Canada
Our session three weeks ago was absolutely amazing. You had so many helpful insights and really saw and understood what I am going through. It helped me so much!!
New York, USA
Our session was a game changer. It was like I found a rope in the dark to hold onto and slowly I will climb out of the deep well I've been in.
Pennsylvania, USA
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you SO MUCH for the absolutely illuminating, grounding and mind blowing session last night. I can't wait to integrate the awareness that emerged yesterday.
Your work is profound! Thank you so much! 
Vancouver, Canada
I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated our session - it was deeply helpful, validating and liberating!!! 
Costa Rica
"This was one of the best workshops I have taken regarding polyamory and trauma informed agreements in twenty-five plus years of seeking to develop skills within myself and relationships."
Anon Workshop Participant
Seattle, Washington
Thank you for the space in which you held during the workshop, the skills that were taught, the emotions opened and above all the clarity it allowed in how I present myself to the world and areas in which I was holding back. Thank you! So much thank you and gratitude for this. This workshop was the beginning of a month of so much opening and healing and realizing potential, I am beyond grateful.
Victoria, Canada
Thank you so much for yesterday's session. I think it was probably pretty obvious that it was a powerful and meaningful session for both of us. We feel very lucky to have found you, and we're very grateful for your support, acknowledgement and care of us.
California, USA

"You’re a gem of a coach... There are so few as well-researched, as curious, as principled, and as grounded as you. Your resources are pure gold."

Nanaimo, BC

The Monogamy Detox course has been such a landmark in my life. You rock!
I've been able to articulate and communicate much better within my relationships and to create safe spaces.
Course Participant

"I felt completely isolated and confused when it came to relationships when I first found Mel for coaching. After only one session, I knew she was a relationship mentor I could trust and wanted to learn more from."

Atlanta, Georgia

Mel is an incredible listener and her attention to detail was crucial. I walked away with much more than I had anticipated: I came away with a lot of tools to work with, and also a comfortable understanding of who I am and how I present myself to others. Mel is nothing short of awesome at what she does, and I will continue to use her as a resource and recommend her.

Thank you so much Mel, you rock!!!
Colorado, USA
"Thank you so much for a wonderful workshop! Thank you for the space you held and your guidance. So enriching to spend time with good people on a path of evolution."
Victoria, BC, Canada
"My session with Mel went beyond value for money. She created an immediate sense of being seen and heard in non-judgmental space. Mel reflected accurate insights to me, and held space for me to explore things that were beneath the surface. I was moved by the integrity she worked from in our sharing. I felt great compassion and wisdom with her, and my thoughts and emotions  shifted to we worked. Mel is sharing a gift with her energy. "
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Thank you Mel for such an enlightening and helpful workshop! I thoroughly enjoyed all of it and look forward to continued learning from you. So grateful for all these extra resources. 
The work you are doing is changing the world in such positive ways, and helping people change their own worlds, both inner and outer. 

Anon Workshop Participant
BC, Canada

"It was so good for me to open up and a relief to see that things don't have to be so black and white but within this there is still the possibility of clarity and a more personal, creative and radical approach to relationships... Love what you are offering Mel. You are awesome at what you are doing! It was great for me to be out of my comfort zone and to hear from folks who appeared to be very much in theirs. Thank you!"

Anon Course Student
"Mel has been an incredibly valuable asset to me in helping to evolve my relationship skills and helping me to empathize with my partners. Her workshops and her coaching have drastically improved the communication level and quality of my relationships."
BC, Canada
"This was my first polyam-related workshop, and I really loved it. Mel was an excellent facilitator: welcoming, knowledgeable, professional, well defined boundaries at beginning, knew when to stay on a subject and when to move on, etc. I was incredibly impressed and would love to attend more!"
Non Monogamy 101 Workshop Participant

"I first took the class in spring 2020. The experience was like a seed planted in the garden that sprouted and continues to sink deeper roots and grow taller, reaching for the sun and remaining an important part of my relationship garden"

~ Paul, Monogamy Detox Course Student

"I desperately knew in my bones there was another script out there for me but when I struggled to find a healthy version of one, I haphazardly began writing it myself. And now?! To come into an entire community of people actively peeling back the veil to reveal their own trauma and vulnerability?? I am over the moon and feel so enthusiastic all the time. It's the first time in the last several years where I have had such sustained joy and direction."

~ Anon Course Student

"I receive so much incredible value from your work — I LOVE how you organize your rich information. You also have a knack for setting up a really safe, thoughtful, reflective container for learning. I really appreciate and admire your brain! Hoorah! In addition, your teaching brings together an amazing community of courageous humans that gather to learn and practice trauma-informed relating with ourselves and others!

Sunday's class was a deeply nourishing in ways I didn't know I missed / needed. THANK YOU!
I look forward to your next session!"
Joan Trinh Pham
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mel is an exceptional communicator and listener. Having known her personally and attended several of her workshops I can attest that she has the rare combination of perspective and presentation that many more experienced facilitators lack. I highly recommend her offerings.
BC, Canada
Mel has been a tremendous source of inspiration for my relationships and my community at large. She presents with a combination of professionalism, knowledge and open-minded curiosity that makes her safe and approachable. My profound journey through love and relationships has definitely been helped through the time I have spent with Mel.
Rotterdam, Netherlands

"Your work has reminded me that perhaps there isn’t anything wrong with me at all. I am amazed at the deep levels of shame we carry as human beings because we don’t fit into the construct that is given to us as a model for our life. It feels exciting because I can now explore what I want for my life rather than be gifted something that just doesn’t feel right for me." 

Craig P

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your coaching yesterday. It really helped me to focus in on what mattered and what I want and to know where I stand in my relationship and with these shiny new polyboots!
The conversation with my partner went amazingly well. Like really really well. We found much common ground and even discovered our common kinks. I am feeling so loved and supported and ready for this next adventure. Thank you for being a part of that!
Vancouver, Canada
Mel maintains a calm demeanor with low pressure conversation. She's approachable and accessible. She cares. It shows. Her passion for intimacy and relationship actualization shines through. Sex positive, poly aware, and kink aware, Mel is a very versatile specialist and adviser - the perfect counselling choice no matter how simple or complicated your concern or situation is.
BC, Canada
"You've already made a VERY positive impact on me. It feels so much better to feel you in my corner. Thank you again and again and again..."
Alberta, Canada
Mel's skill and comfort with questioning and reformulating beliefs regarding relationships is contagious. If you want to open up to new possibilities, she can be a resource for you.
BC, Canada
"Thank you for your kind help and wisdom at such a fragile time - I appreciate it so much and it helped a lot."
"Your workshop was SO helpful and amazing. THANK YOU! Magnificent and earth-moving! Like moving things that have felt stuuuuuck!"
Anon Workshop Participant
Portland, Oregon
Just wanted to send my deep gratitude and appreciation for your workshop. I let go of some self-indictments around believing something "different" about love, and was able to move towards being more in integrity with myself (and those with whom I relate). I was also able to become really clear about my core "essentials" in relationships (whether monogamous or non-monogamous; romantic/sexual, emotional, social/community or other), and am certain these breakthroughs will only serve my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those I have relationships with now and in the future more than I can even comprehend.
Victoria, BC, Canada
I’m so very appreciative for you, your humanness and your work.
Massachusetts, USA

"After the workshop I felt like I could breathe again. I felt like my version of non-monogamy wasn't "wrong" and, even more helpful, my former partners wasn't either. I connected with people thinking of the same things as I was, struggling with the same things, and asking questions like me. I cried. I breathed. And for the first time in my life I didn't feel like a love alien dropped onto this planet."

~ Anon,
BC Canada