Open Relationship Advice: Can We Really Open a 15-Year Marriage?

polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist turned couples retreat leader who offers online support for non-traditional relationships of all flavors.  

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here or read more Ask Me Anything here.


This week's question: 

"In your professional opinion, is it even fathomable to think a marriage after 15 years could ever be an open one? "

Yes.  Absolutely, any relationship could be an open one.

But it may not be easy to get started. 

There are a couple big hurdles in the way for most people who've been practicing monogamy a long time.  First, there's a HEAP of cultural conditioning you're going to face and second, there's a skillset required if you're going to stay together- skills most of us never received training for.

As far as the cultural conditioning part, that is something most my clients call a mindset shift.  We often talk about it as of they've been able to see the Matrix (yes, I am seriously dating myself here) and once they can see it, they never think about relationships the same way again.  

The thing is, there are a lot of default assumptions we base relationships on in our culture- but we rarely check those assumptions.  A large part of putting ethical non-monogamy into practice is checking assumptions.

Here's one example: I'm presuming you and your spouse have been practicing monogamy for the last 15 years.  If so, have you ever talked about what the boundaries of your monogamy are?  Most folks don't.  But in ten years of asking couples I rarely have clients who are 100% on the same page about their monogamy expectations.  Here are some of the things I hear:

  • We'd never have sex (oral, anal, or vaginal) with anyone else but we do kiss some friends hello
  • I expect you'll never be alone with someone of the opposite gender in a private space
  • I don't think we should dance with other people
  • We don't get naked with members of the opposite sex (except massage tables)
  • We don't hold hands or sit touching other people
  • I would never share secrets with anyone else
  • We don't make future plans with people we're attracted to

Usually, couples I see are clear on one of those items, but most of them are unclear about the rest.  I often recommend couples try getting clear about their current/standing monogamy agreements before trying to discuss ethical non-monogamous agreements.

As far as the skills, they're easy to outline but more difficult to practice.  Really practicing non-monogamy ethically means being much more careful and intentional about the promises and commitments you make, the expectations you hold, and the personal work you do to regulate difficult emotions. 

It's usually really helpful to hire a support person to help you learn the skills and practice them with support.  

So, like I said, yes, ABSOLTELY you can open any relationship- if you're willing to do the work of shifting perspective, learning and implementing new skills. Let me know if you'd like help along the way.


    polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

    Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a retired couples therapist, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and keeping non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant.  

    She can help you:

    • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
    • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
    • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependecy
    • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
    • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnection
    • break stale or unhealthy communication patterns 

    Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

    Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

     

    Are We Ready to Open Our Relationship?

    ready for open relationship

    Over the last ten years I've seen hundreds of couples through deciding when and if and how they want to open their relationships.  I do believe almost anyone is capable of managing an open relationship with a little training- if they want it.

    But not every relationship is ready to dive in right away.  Lots of folks have co-created dynamics that need to shift to support a consensually non-monogamous relationship.  Plenty of people need to work on changing perspectives and gaining or fortifying skills before an open relationship will suit them well.  

    Here are a few questions to ask yourself to self-check your own readiness for an open relationship.

    What kind of time, energy, financial, and physical resources am I willing to share?

    Love is limitless, but resources (time, money, and physical energy for starters) are not.  For example, I once had a client who ran two successful businesses, started full-time graduate school, was training for a marathon, and was considering starting a relationship with a third partner.

    I'm not saying it's impossible to do all those things at once.  But her energy for all those things was going to be compromised.  And in order to practice ethically its important she is up front with her current and potential partners about just how much (or little) she has to give.

    Take stock of your resources and your willingness to divide them even further.  

    How do my current partner and I handle and resolve conflict?

    You will hit bumps in the road if you decide to open your relationship.  It's inevitable.  There's just so little good information and social support in our society for folks building relationships outside cultural norms, and you're up against a heap of bad relationship advice we often take as truth. 

    Those bumps don't mean there's anything wrong with your relationship, but if you have little or no solid practice working through things together (without one of you feeling slighted, or someone avoiding the issues) it's going to be difficult to start when emotions are running high and you're trying something so brand new.

    I recommend hiring a professional to give your relationship a little tune-up when it comes to conflict so you're better prepared for the bumps you're going to face when you start seeing more people.

    How do I currently manage my emotions?  What happens when I experience severe anxiety, fear, jealousy, or insecurity?  

    Even the most even-keeled clients have told me starting to practice non-monogamy brings out the most unpredictable and surprising reactions in them.  That's totally okay.

    How you handle those emotional reactions however can have huge implications for your well-being and the long-term success of your relationship.  Feeling intense emotions is no excuse for being unkind or disrespectful.  

    Take stock of the skills that help you manage intense reactions with care. Review the self-care practices that help you stay balanced (and bolster them to help anchor you).  Again, hire a professional to talk through these if needed, you won't regret using care when starting out.

    Where can I find support for a polyamorous lifestyle?

    When starting out in non-monogamy lots of folks feel alone because they perceive the monogamous community around them as pretty unsupportive.  It can be really difficult for people to find supportive polyamorous or open community.  

    And going it alone with your partner creates a vacuum for the two of you to incubate unhealthy polyamorous dynamics if you've got any brewing.  You need outside voices to support your learning and growth in this process.

    Start looking for folks you can talk with well before you start taking action steps toward non-monogamy. You can find communities online via fetlife and facebook or support groups in your community to talk through your questions and concerns among others who get it.

    This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list.  I'm happy to give you a more tailored list of considerations (specific to your situation) just give me a call.


    open relationships online counseling

    Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

    • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
    • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
    • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
    • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
    • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

    I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

    Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

    Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

    Essential Reading for Ethical Non-Monogamy

    open relationship counseling | open marriage counselor

    Most people never even hear the word non-monogamy until they're starting a conversation with a partner about doing it.  

    Needless to say it sounds foreign, and without relationship role models to look to, it can be really overwhelming to try re-envisioning your relationship in a more open way.  

    Getting good information is essential to making intentional choices- but where should you look first?  Here are the three books I recommend most often to clients considering non-monogamy. 

    The Ethical Slut, by Janey Hardy and Dossie Easton

    This book is a great primer on how to do intentional consensual relationships in general.  I think it lays a solid foundation for the conversations you're going to have with any future partners (monogamous or not).  If you're asking "how do I know if this is right for me?" this book is one step in the right direction.

    Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino

    Tristan Taormino interviewed hundreds of non-monogamous couples (and triads and more) to collect incredible examples of how people make it work across the spectrum of non-monogamy.  I love that this book walks you through many possibilities and brings up common concerns for each of the most common types of ethical non-monogamy folks practice. 

    If you're having trouble envisioning a life without monogamy, this book will help you dream up possibilities.

    More Than Two, by Franklin Veaux

    I've gotten mixed feedback from clients on this one. but for those of you thinking polyamory (many loves or romantic connections) is a possibility for you, More Than Two walks you through the kind of issues that arise when heart-centered connections get more complex with more partners.  Yes, it's a little heavy, but if you're considering poly, it's arguably the best out there. 

    If you have reading suggestions I'd love to hear them.  Leave a comment with your recommendation on my facebook page so I can take a look. 

    And if you want help sorting through what you read in these give me a call, I'm here to help you!


    open relationship counselor | open marriage counselor 

    Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

    • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
    • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
    • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
    • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
    • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnection
    • change communication & codependent patterns
    • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

    I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

    Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

    When You're Hooked on the Wrong Kind of Partner

    stuck in a bad relationship

    I was chatting with a client last week and she said something far too familiar. I'm going to share a quick synopsis because I know it's going to resonate with some of you: 

    "I love him so much and I know he's all wrong for me.

     I usually lead a drama-free life... this just isn't me!  

    I am totally in control in the rest of my life, but somehow whenever he's in my life I'm a mess.  

    I can't seem to stop myself from going back to him.

    But also when we're together it's just SO GOOD sometimes too- you, know?  It's like... intoxicating and sweet and overwhelming.  

    It's like an addiction in the way I can't keep any real boundaries with him.

    Why do I keep getting hooked by this guy!?  I don't know what's wrong with me!!"

    Lots of people get hooked into these kinds of relationships.  They're indescribably hot and fascinating.  They feel overwhelmingly life-giving and affirming.  You might feel like you've found a soul mate- or at least someone who you connect with deeper than anyone in a long long time.  You might feel happier than ever with them.  

    I've seen hundreds of clients go through this kind of intoxicating infatuation because it feels SO GOOD.

    It really does.

    And (until) it doesn't.  

    When you start noticing yourself behaving in ways you normally wouldn't, or your distracted from all your other relationships (or work) with tension and drama, when you feel overwhelmed by a push-pull tension, or sacked with confusion and overwhelm you might be headed in a messy direction.

    The most concerning thing I hear from folks hooked in this kind of dynamic is how not-themselves they feel.  They often find themselves doing things or putting up with things they never would consider in any other friendship or relationship.  

    They tell me they would advice friends in similar situations to walk away.

    They feel like they've lost sight of themselves.

    They acknowledge it's unhealthy and yet these healthy people just can't seem to let go.

    "Why am I doing this to myself?"

    When you start to notice this kind of imbalance in your relationship it's time to step back for some reflection.  Usually these folks come into our lives to help us learn some important lesson and can foster our growth in some important way- if we pay close attention.

    The first thing you want to consider is if there's some kind of theme you can learn from here.  In psychology this is called "transference."  It's what happens when there's some old issue at hand arising in a new person. 

    Try the questions below to check if there are energetic boundaries you need to shift:

    • Why/how is this dynamic familiar?

    • Where in my life have I felt this way before?

    • Who in my past is this person reminding me of?

    Often when we're stuck in some kind of transference we'll keep repeating the same cycle in relationships until we start changing part of our pattern.  You can get free with greater awareness if it also leads to greater intentionality.  

    • How do you wish you might have handled those past dynamics differently?  

    • What can you learn from them and apply here?

    Odds are very good you can learn something here to shift the dynamic you're stuck in.  It's not so simple as they're a bad person and you're a good one- but something between you is clearly off if your actions lack integrity, you feel shame, or you're behaving fully in a space of reactivity (instead of intention).  

    Let me know if you'd like to dive deeper in this learning.  I love talking relationships and have plenty more to share on this topic.  


    dating the wrong kind of person

    Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

    • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
    • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
    • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
    • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
    • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
    • change communication & codependent patterns
    • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

    I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

    Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

    Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

    Open Relationship Advice: Is There Hope for Our Mono/Poly Relationship?

    polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

    Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist turned couples retreat leader who offers online support for non-traditional relationships of all flavors.  

    Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here or read more Ask Me Anything here.


    This week's question: 

    "I am naturally a monogamous person and I fell in love with a polyamorous person who is in love with me... 

    ...Is there hope?"

    Honey, I am sorry whatever you're going through has you asking if there's hope. Mono/poly can absolutely work out, but it's essential (in any relationship) you hold fast to hope. When it's gone there's not much that can keep you together. 

    And questioning hope is a really hard place to sit.

    You say you're in love. I want to know more about what that means for the two of you.  Lots of folks say they're in love and they mean lust. Others mean comfort.  Neither of those are bad things, but neither will sustain you if staying together long-term is your goal.

    The behaviors that make up your love are what will help you stand the tests of time. And it sounds like you're standing in a test right now. Identifying the behaviors that show love in your relationship will help you reorient to the strengths you share in hard times. And it will help you (as the monogamous person in a polyamorous relationship) get clear in a world that can seem so counter to the lessons our culture has taught you about love.

    Most couples try to choose monogamy. Of those, most end up choosing unethical non-monogamy (cheating) at some time. Which means most of us have very little information, and social support as well as few role models to look to when we start talking about ethical non-monogamy. It can seem really foreign.

    One of the biggest struggles I see monogamous folks deal with when partnered with someone who wants to practice polyamory is that feeling of overwhelm and uncertainty- because we have so little exposure or support. Don't worry, there are a few things you can do to help you through.

    1) Study Up- get some baseline information about what consensual polyamoryand ethical non-monogamy can look like.

    There are two great books (Opening Up and More Than Two) I frequently recommend to clients who need more info. They're great because they give lots of real life examples from actual couples. Check them out. 

    2) Define Your Poly- Once you have a little background information you're going to start an important conversation conversation with your partner about what the words "monogamy" and "polyamory" mean to you. 

    You see, no two open relationships are structured the same, and they change over the course of time. So if you want to stay with this person, you will need to get clear about what each of you want right now and you'll need a way to process how and when that changes over time.  

    Plus, it's possible what your sweetie means by polyamorous might not even be that far out of what works for you. The clearer you two can be, the better equipped you are to discuss consent.  

    My wish for you is that you don't lose hope. I've seen LOTS of couples figure out ways to navigate non-monogamy that work for both parties. Let me know if you'd like help along the way. 


      polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a retired couples therapist, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and keeping non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant.  

      She can help you:

      • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
      • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependecy
      • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
      • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnection
      • break stale or unhealthy communication patterns 

      Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

      Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

       

      25 Things to do When Your Partner Goes on a Date

      opening relationship open marriage polyamory help

      Even the most secure folks sometimes have trouble when opening a relationship goes from philosophy to practice.  And the first times your honey is out with someone other than you can be particularly challenging if you've only experienced monogamy before.  

      Its totally common for me to hear from folks who say they've been fine all along and suddenly when the house is empty- or their partner isn't available by phone insecurity, jealousy and anxiety swoop in for an unplanned visit.  

      If you haven't thought ahead it's really easy to get swept away in an anxious surprise.  So I often urge clients to think up a self-care action plan before that trifecta of emotion comes knocking.  Here are some of the ideas my clients have come up with:

      1. Take a colleague to dinner
      2. Call/Skype/Facetime that far away friend you haven't spoken with in a while
      3. Got to the spa
      4. Take a run/hike/jog/walk/roll
      5. Go to therapy
      6. Find an art gallery you haven't visited (or return to your favorite one)
      7. Take yourself to the movies
      8. Plan a date with your sweetie in the future
      9. Yoga
      10. Go to a concert
      11. Wander through Powells (or whatever your favorite bookstore is)
      12. Plan your own date
      13. Find a meditation space near you and join others for meditation
      14. Go to happy hour
      15. Try that class at the gym you've always been curious about
      16. Host a dinner party
      17. Travel to see that friend all the way across town you never get over to see
      18. Take a long bike ride
      19. Eat something you normally wouldn't with your sweetie
      20. Enroll in that class you're curious about and see it through
      21. Find somewhere to dance it out
      22. Plan a big trip you've been dreaming about
      23. Find a poetry reading to attend
      24. Play with your pets
      25. Slow-cook yourself something special

      If you want more ideas about structures that support healthy open relationships give me a call- I'm happy to help you create a tailored plan for success.


      when spouse is polyamorous

      Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

      • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
      • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
      • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
      • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
      • change communication & codependent patterns
      • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

      I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

      Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

      What I Wish I Had Known...

      Polyamory Mistakes | Opening Marriage Regrets | Opening Relationship

      I recently had a great conversation in my Opening Up Support Group I knew I had to share (with their permission of course).  All the folks in the group are in the beginning stages of opening their relationships and after weeks and months of ups and downs and navigating big changes (mostly really smoothly) they've gathered a lot of great experience and perspective.

      Because I work with so many greta folks considering opening their relationships, I wanted to gather their thoughts looking back- what (if anything) would they change about how they started out?

      I was most surprised to learn how many of them wouldn't change a thing- ups and downs and all.  Those folks said the long-term outcome was gaining priceless self-awareness and for many a deeper commitment and connection to their partners.  Looking back, they wouldn't change anything.  

      But the majority had some thoughts to share.  I did my best to preserve their words just as they said them (save any identifying information).  I share these with the hope they may help you navigate new openness with greater ease.  

      "I wish I had realized earlier it's really okay to have feelings for more than one person at a time.  I mean, I knew it in theory, but it took a long time to really sink in and own it.  This led me to lots of second-guessing."

      "Sometimes losing a partner is less painful than staying with them."

      "Yeah, and you have to be ready to do a lot of emotional labor. Relationships take work."

      "I wish we would have taken things much slower.  I would have hired Gina sooner for support to get us through the parts where we just couldn't figure things out.  We needed an outiside opinion."

      "I got carried away too. It was like a drug. All that outside attention really caused problems between [my partner] and I. ...Never make life-changing decisions quickly."

      "I wish I had kept my self-care in check in the beginning. I totally stopped going to the gym when I was in NRE [New Relationship Energy]."

      "I'd have taken things slower too. I don't know why we were in such a rush. It got overwhelming quickly and I kind of lost myself in it. I mean, it was fun, but I was drained. I needed to learn balance."

      "Non-monogamy is a valid choice. Pure and simple."

      "I wish I would have figured out how to connect with all parties involved sooner.  I found out months in my boyfriend's wife was not consenting and the whole situation imploded."

      "There's no one right way to 'do' polyamory."

      "Equal is not the same as fair."

      "Jealousy is natural.  I wish I had accepted that and stopped spending so much time beating myself up about it.  It's a natural emotion and there's nothing wrong as long as I don't expect my partner to fix it for me."

      "All your same old relationship patterns are still going to be there when you start practicing non-monogamy.  So if you are terrible communicators before you start, you'll still be after you're seeing other people but you'll have even more you need to talk about."

      "Yeah, I'm a people pleaser.  So seeing more people just meant more people to try to please. It was exhausting."

      "I wish I was better at asking for what I need."

      "It's ok to not be ok with something that your partner is doing."

      "I needed to learn more about how to be okay with being alone before we got started. Poly FOMO is terrible."

      I hope that helps those of you considering opening your relationship somewhere to start a conversation or a little self-work.  If you'd like some support (or you want to join our group) set up a free call with me.  I'd love to help you sort out what's best for you.


      BW Gina Senaeighi Headshot.jpgopening marriage regrets | open relationship mistakes | polyamory regrets

      Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

      • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
      • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
      • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
      • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
      • change communication & codependent patterns
      • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

      I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

      Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

       

      Bookend Rituals and Successful Open Relationships

      bookending successful open relationships

      When I started out serving folks in non-monogamous relationships many years ago there were VERY few resources and tools available that specifically focused on open relationships and polyamory.  So I spent years borrowing tools form other areas of psychology and tailoring them to meet the needs of our community.  

      Enter "bookending," a concept from addiction recovery communities designed to help folks in recovery create intentional structures when they knew potentially triggering events were coming near.  

      For example, someone in recovery for alcohol use might set up bookend structures like a call to a sponsor before and after they attend a wedding where a lot of drinking could occur.  By creating a purposeful strategy they're setting a mindset for more positive interactions.

      And by reaching out to someone who cares they're combatting the shame often debilitates people in recovery processes.  Shame prefers isolation and secrecy.  

      Some people opt for more introverted bookend supports.  They might outline a self-care plan for before and after an event, they might text a friend or review their personal accountability agreements before and after to honor their growth and continued progress.

      So what does this have to do with open relationships?

      Non-monogamy is not the same as addiction.  But the experience of triggering and overwhelming emotion couples with high-reactivity that comes up in many people can lead to a similar shame spiral felt by those in recovery. And it can feel like reactions are out of control in a very similar way.  

      Plus, these reaction/shame spirals can damage relationships in similar ways to the outcomes in addition relapse. Not the same, but similar. 

      So I ask my couples to anticipate potentially triggering events on their path to non-monogamy and create individual and relationship/couples bookends around them.  

      Individual Bookends = self-care plans to support your integrity and health and manage reactivity that could arise.

      Relationship/Couples Bookends = practices of rituals that nourish your connection before and after the event.

      Here's an example:

      Kelly and Thomas have decided to open their relationship after six years of monogamy and want to start by meeting people on OkCupid.  They anticipate having threesomes and dating separately in the coming weeks and months.  

      When I ask them to identify potentially triggering events they gave me four right off the bat:

      1. When their online profiles go live
      2. When one of them "clicks" with someone online
      3. When they have their first date with a third person as a couple
      4. When either of them has their first solo date

      Each of these triggering events carries different meaning and different potential emotional triggers for the two of them so I'm not going to go into all three (Kelly, Thomas, and their couple) bookends for each here.  But I will outline them for the first example (online profiles going live) below.

      Kelly Self-Care Bookends:

      "I plan to take a run the day our profiles go live to help me get rid of excess anxiety.  I also want to talk to my individual therapist beforehand and then I have a girlfriend who knows what's going on I plan to call if something intense comes up."

      Thomas Self-Care Bookends:

      "I already made an appointment with a new therapist for the day we picked to go live.  I think it will help me to use the Self-Control app to block the website once we make it live so I don't check the app all night.  I told my good friend at work what's going on and we're getting breakfast the next morning I I need to debrief (if not we'll just have a good hang out)."

      Couple/Relationship Bookends:

      Kelly, "I'm going to feel better about this if we have time to cuddle before we publish our profiles."

      Thomas, "Yeah, that'd be sweet.  We should make dinner and just chill a bit before we do it."

      Kelly, "What about after?"

      Thomas, "We can just take the dog for a long walk together.  I like our walks."

      Kelly, "Great.  And I will make sure I turn the app off that night so I don't get distracted from our connected night either."

      If you want help creating these kind of bookend practices to support your relationship's health as you start opening things up I'm happy to talk with you.  Set up a free consult, I have room right now.


      bookending successful open relationships

      Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

      • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
      • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
      • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
      • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
      • change communication & codependent patterns
      • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

      I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

      Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

      Negotiating Successful Agreements in Open Relationships

      Negotiating agreements in open relationships

      Hey y'all!

      Just a quick SUPER EXCITING announcement (and an explanation on why I haven't been blogging as much) for you.  

      Not only did I become a parent very suddenly and unexpectedly this year, but I have been working really hard to meet a publishing deadline for my book: Negotiating Successful Agreements in Open Relationships.  

      Every time I meet with a new client it becomes more clear just how needed this resource is in the world so I've been working my tail off this summer to bring it forth.  It'll be out in a couple months.  

      In the meantime, I wanted to share the purpose behind this work for those of you who are interested. Here's the deal: there are a FEW great books sharing basic vocabulary and compelling stories of folks living non-monogamous lifestyles... but there are NONE that really outlining the nuts-and-bolts HOW to manage the day-to-day in an open relationship.  

      If you're like most my clients you've read tons of blogs and the three big books on polyamory or non-monogamy and they may have been triggering and affirming in many different ways.  

      But after talking through the decision-making and negotiation process with thousands of couples it's clear- the books and blogs are great- but they just don't help you with the HOW part when emotions run hot.  

      AND while some of those books and blogs are written by great people who've been practicing nonmonogamy for a while- many of them have no expertise or training in relationships.   

      So that's where this book comes in.  I'm bringing ten years professional experience and research on successful open relationships to the table as well as my training in couples counseling to help readers access proven tools for navigating open relationships- and staying together.  

      Here's what you'll walk away with:

      • Preparation for agreement negotiation: what you need to do before you even start the conversation& how to know if you’re ready

      • Keys to successful agreements: well-researched formulas for staying together with partners as you open your relationship. 

      • Tools to make solid agreements and change them as you grow together over time.

      • The most important considerations for maintaining respect, desire, and care when beginning your open relationship.

      • The skills you need to manage jealousy and insecurity in healthy ways.

      • Awareness of the most common pitfalls when beginning an open relationship.

      • A process for conflict resolution and care that’s neither codependent nor callous. 

      • A solid baseline for balancing healthy boundaries and connectedness.

      • Tools to stay connected to your original partner while developing new relationships.

      • Skills to communicate in meaningful positive ways through potentially rocky times.

      Enter your information below to be notified when the pre-order begins.  I'd love to have you.  

      Name *
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      negotiating successful polyamory agreements

      Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

      • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
      • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
      • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
      • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
      • change communication & codependent patterns
      • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

      I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

      Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

      Six Common Concerns When Opening Your Relationship for the First Time

      concerns about opening your relationship

      If you're worried about opening your relationship trust me you are not alone.  Talking about this with a partner when you've only practiced monogamy in the past can bring up a lot of anxiety.  

      I hear a lot of concerns and complaints from folks at the start of their process so I wanted to share the six most common complaints I hear and how you might work through them.  

      Let me know if you'd like to talk through any of these as they relate to your unique relationships, I'm here for you!

      I want to know I'm important to you.

      When folks say this they're touching on one of the keys to success in a relationship.  Couples who stay together know they truly matter to one another.  Lots of people start questioning if and how they matter when partners see others. 

      Ask yourself:

      • When in this relationship have I been certain I matter to my partner?  
      • What specifically were they doing when I felt that way?  
      • What was I doing when I felt that way?

      Talk your answers through with your partner.  It's possible you can practice non-monogamy and fortify the actions that reassure you about your mattering.  Or you may want to take some time to focus on those behaviors before including more people in the mix.

      I won't feel special anymore if you do special things with others.

      When people bring up feeling special they're often questioning what will bring meaning if they're not exclusive.  But what brings meaning to one person may not be interpreted the same to a partner.  Let me help you get clear: start by listing all the things that carry meaning in your relationship.  Here's an example list:

      • wearing wedding rings
      • making each other coffee in the morning
      • the story of how we met
      • the inside jokes we share
      • two-step dancing at the Cuff to our song
      • our family's holiday celebrations
      • our promises to stay together for life
      • taking care of each other when we're sick
      • spooning when we sleep next to each other
      • how thoughtful you are when you pick out my birthday gifts
      • the way you look at me when you say thank you and really mean it

      Having specific details about what carries meaning in your relationship can both deepen your connection and help you nourish it with specific behaviors moving forward.  

      These can also help you craft a conversation to draft your open relationship agreements with respect to specific behaviors you may not want to share with others.  And it can help you identify ways to reassure each other moving forward.

      How will we stay connected?

      Usually when folks are asking their partner this question, they really mean: do you "get" me? Do you understand me? Will you still as we move forward?

      This question is great because it highlights the importance of keeping rituals and events in place that create a sense of connection.  Often long-term and live-in couples get a little lazy about sharing fully present quality time.

      Consider this your call to schedule some uninterrupted distraction-free time together.

      I wonder if you still care about me after meeting someone new.

      Wondering if there's enough love and care to go around is a common concern.  Luckily, love is infinite.  But every one of us has specific ways we like to be loved most. 

      Get clear about how you like to care and be cared for with your partner. Ask each other, how do we demonstrate meaningful support? And offer specific examples of behaviors that feel supportive.

      You'll have lots of examples of ways to keep showing you care even if you also care for others.

      Will you respect me anymore if we sleep with other people?

      Respect can be really difficult to quantify, so when I hear clients asking this question it usually tells me you're concerned about your role or place in a partner's life shifting. "If you have other girlfriends, then what am I to you?"

      In non-monogamy each new partner and friend has a role or place in our life.  Some of us fill many.  Take a look at the examples below and notice which are fitting roles for the two of you.  And feel free to add more to the list that could be unique to you. 

      • roommate
      • cuddle-buddy
      • first call in case of emergencies
      • favorite problem solver
      • the one I geek out with about ________
      • co-parent
      • sous chef 
      • domme
      • bottom
      • the one I watch my favorite show with
      • house manager
      • co-adventurer
      • lead dancer
      • social planner
      • commedian
      • my first call when I need advice

      How can I trust you if we open our marriage?

      Finally, the most important question of all: how can I trust you? When I hear this I know my client is asking, will you be there when I need you?

      Trust is built on following through and showing up in difficult times.

      Consider these question when creating open relationship agreements. 

      • How can you show up for each other while still holding space to connect with others? 

      • How can I take care of myself when there's a delay and my partner can't get back to me immediately?

      • How have we shown up for each other in the past? How might that change?  How will it stay the same?

      I hope this helps you re-imagine these questions for your own open relationship conversations.  It's natural to wonder about these things when you start thinking about non-monogamy.  Let me know if you'd like help working through them.


      open relationship worries | concerns about open marriage

      Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

      • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
      • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
      • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
      • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
      • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnection
      • change communication & codependent patterns
      • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

      I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

      Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.