Quiz: Exploring Your Emotional Connection

Staying connected and deepening connection in relationships requires a little intention. Asking meaningful questions and responding with thoughtful answers is one way to start taking your conversations to a new level.

Use the conversation starters below to help you assess and deepen the emotional intimacy with your partner.

  • What messages about love and marriage did you get from your parents? Your community? 

  • How was trust modeled for you by others growing up?

  • Do you have an image of a safe trusting relationship in your head, a model you can draw from as we create our relationship?

  • What have your past relationships taught you about safety and vulnerability? How has empathy played a role in your past partnerships? 

  • What have your past relationships taught you about reliability?  What did they teach you about responsiveness?  How have they informed your ability to trust partners?

  • What strategies have you used in the past to overcome distance and build closeness?  How do you respond when you sense distance and disconnect?

  • How do you cope when you need someone and they cannot be with you?  What have you learned from experiences like this in your past?  How does that impact your present relationship?

  • If it's hard for you to trust others, what do you do when life gets too big to handle on your own?

  • Can you ask your partner when you need comfort and closeness?  Rate on a scale of 1-10 (ten being high) how difficult this kind of request is for you. 

  • When you feel disconnected or alone in your present relationship how do you respond? How do you try to reconnect?  Give specific examples.

  • List three bonding moments in your relationship.  Share the times you feel emotionally connected and secure with each other.  

Based on Hold Me Tight, by Dr Sue Johnson

 

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

 Gina Senarighi Polyamory Coach | Relationship Expert
  • 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, Oregon. 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.  

Non-Traditional Polyamorous Relationship Structures

 examples of healthy polyamory | healthy non-monogamy |what is polyamory

Last week I posted about relationship options in non-monogamy, I wanted to dive in a little further this week to share some of the more specific ways people enact different kinds of open relationships for all of you who are new to polyamory.  

Once you're tailoring your relationships to your unique needs, you get to define the structures as they best fit you. Most successfully polyamorous couples are pretty creative in order to best meet the needs of their evolving relationship.

Here are a few examples of poly relationships most folks never consider:

  • "We're both dating many people because one main relationship doesn't fit with our lives while we travel/go to school/insert-whatever-valid-reason-here.  We're open with everyone we see that we see each other most often and that we're not looking for monogamy."

 

  • "My husband travels for work.  He's out of the country two weeks every month. We both understand the other may need company or intimacy during that time so we decided to explore non-monogamy.  At this point he has several women he hooks up with when he's lonely and I have a very casual boyfriend who snuggles with me when [husband] is out of town.  It works for us."

 

  • "My partner and I basically behave like most monogamous couples do 355 days of the year, but once a year he goes to a conference where I know he has many past lovers.  They live far away but stay in contact online and via phone call the rest of the year.  But when they go to conference together I know they might be affectionate, stay together, and it's likely they sleep together."

 

  • "My wife is bisexual and I am a cisgender man.  We're monogamous in most ways (because we're the only mixed-gender couple in each other's lives and we're the only marriage either of us plan to have) but she has a few girlfriends who help her feel connected to parts of her sexuality I can't fulfill because I'll never be a woman."

 

  • "My husband and I have threesomes on a semi-regular basis. I feel like we're still monogamous because all the sex we have with other people is a shared and agreed-upon experience."

 

  • "My wife is bisexual and I am a lesbian.  I didn't want her to give up part of herself when we started getting more serious. I actually really like her part-time-lover.  He watches the game with me when she's working late and now he and I hang out (as friends) almost as often as they go on dates."

 

 

  • "My boyfriend is kinky in ways that really turn me off. He has a couple play partners he meets with and I know they're intimate, It's really not a big deal for me."

 


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

 new to polyamory coach | open relationship counselor
  • 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, Oregon. 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.  

How to Establish Consent (Even When You've Been Together a LONG Time)

 CONSENT IN RELATIONSHIPS | HOW TO GET CONSENT

What is consent?

Consent is a voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement.

Critical elements of consent:

·      Consent is an active agreement- and can be revoked or amended at any time.

·      Consent cannot be coerced.

·      Consent is a process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask.

·      Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.

·      The absence of a "no" doesn't mean a partner consents.

·      Both people should be involved in the decision to have sex

·      Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality

 

Let’s look at consent for the two of you…

Complete the following phrases:

When I want you to stop I will say…

 

 

When I like what you’re doing I will say…

 

 

When I want to check in with you I will say…

 

 

When you want me to stop, I want to hear…

 

 

When you like what I am doing, I want to hear…

 

 

When you want to check in, I want to hear…

 


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

 OPEN RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING | OPEN MARRIAGE THERAPIST | OPEN MARRIAGE COUNSELING
  • 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, Oregon. 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.  

New to Polyamory? Here Are a Few Structural Options to Consider

 polyamory structures | polyamory options | new to nonmonogamy

Hey there,

When I work with couples considering opening their relationships most are overwhelmed at the idea of opening up simply because they can't imagine what that will look like. 

Will we see three people? 

Will we date together?  

What will we call it?

As you know, healthy non-monogamy usually includes some flow and flexibility as your relationship needs (and the needs of each new partner) get added to the mix, grow, and change.  Relationships are ever-evolving, and non-monogamous ones have more variables to contend with.  

I found a diagram online I love because it outlines most the main options people employ when practicing ethical non-monogamy.  I'm pasting it below as a reference to all of you.  I hope it helps! 

And, of course, if you want to talk through the options and sort out which might be best for you give me a call, I'd love to support you on this journey.

Gina 

A VENN DIAGRAM OF POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIPS

 examples of polyamory | how to be polyamorous

 OPTIONS IN POLYAMORY | RELATIONSHIPS IN POLYAMORY

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, Oregon. 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 Counts as an Affair?

 definition of affair | define cheating | infidelity definition

Hey y'all,

I've been working hard on the Opening Up Retreat I'm hosting and my online group coaching program (registration for both just opened- join us) so I haven't had as much time to write but I walked out of sessions tonight and made two quick videos about the most common question I've gotten lately. 

I thought they might be of use to you.  If you like them please check out my instagram because I'll be sharing more. 

More posts to come soon I promise!  - Gina


HOW DO YOU DEFINE AN AFFAIR?

WHAT COUNTS AS AN AFFAIR?

Being a supportive partner

 meaningful support.jpgsupportive relationships \ support and trust in marriage | how to be supportive

Giving and receiving meaningful support is essential to lasting loving relationships.

Most relationships start out strong, but as time passes fewer and fewer people say they get the support they need from their partner.

The word “support” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So one way to get more of the love and support you want is to clarify both your request and what you can offer.

Consider the six central themes of support here and ask yourself what you’re really looking for when you ask for help in situations with your sweetie.  You can use the examples here to get clearer with your partner. 

Ask yourself “What does meaningful support look like to me in this situation?” 

Or ask them, “What can I do to show you support in this situation?”

The clearer you become in your request, and in clarifying your partner’s requests, the better equipped you are to meet each other’s needs.

Here are a few more reflection questions to help you get clear. Take a moment to write out your thoughts on each to help you get clear before making requests of your partner.

  • What has meaningful support looked like in the past, in friendships and my family?
  • What actions would be most helpful? What could my partner do to make my experience easier?
  • When do I feel especially cared for in this partnership? What can I apply from that experience to this one? 
  • When do I feel respected in this relationship? What behaviors from my partner foster that feeling?
  • When do I feel most reassured and grounded in this partnership? Are there elements of that experience I would like in this situation?

I created a worksheet to help you dive deeper into this work and get even more clear.  Enter your information below to download it and get access to my full relationship tool library.

Name *
Name

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

 polyamory coach | open relationship counselor | nonmonogamy
  • 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, Oregon. 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.  

Polyamory Success Stories: Beth & John's Example

 open relationship examples | case studies in open relationships | successful open relationship

Name: Beth (32) & John (35)

OCCUPATION: Author & Financial Consultant

HOMETOWN: New York City

MET:  while volunteering with the Peace Corps. 

TOGETHER: 7 years married, polyamorous since the beginning

FORMAL COMMITMENTS (Spiritual, Financial, or Legal):  legally married, finances shared, one kid (Emma, 3), two cats (Prince and Ivan)

 

WHY DID BETH & JOHN WANT COACHING?

IN THEIR WORDS:

Beth: “We’ve seen couples therapists and never lasted more than a session or two. They all seem to think polyamory is the cause of all our issues.  All we need it a little communication skills training here or there.”

John: “Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye and we get stuck in old patterns.  We say a marriage therapist but she just wanted us to stop seeing other people and barely talked about the things we brought up. We wanted something change-focused that wouldn’t shame our lifestyle.”

 

MY JOURNEY COACHING BETH & JOHN

Beth and John are a great example of healthy polyamory so I knew I wanted to include them in these case studies right away.  I picked them for a case study for these specific reasons:

  • I work with lots of clients brand-new to non-monogamy who want to hear examples of couples who make it work.

  • It is not uncommon at all for healthy poly folks to experience unintentional shame from the helping professionals they try to hire.
  • Even healthy couples need a communication tune-up every once in a while.

Read more about Beth & John's story (and those of three other successful open relationships) here.

 


 nonmonogamy examples | healthy nonmonogamy examples | healthy polyamory examples

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.  

Free Love vs Consensual-Non-Monogamy

 FREE LOVE AND NONMONOGAMY POLYAMORY OPEN RELATIONSHIP OPEN MARRIAGE

I spoke with a client today about the troubles she's having with her girlfriend, and while there are a few unique elements most of what they're struggling with I've seen a hundred times before. 

The girlfriend doesn't believe in agreements or negotiating expectations before they meet at events. 

"She's more of a go with the flow kind of person." my client tells me.  She doesn't want to be confined by rules and thinks they connote ownership over each other in the partnership. 

The girlfriend lives in the moment and trusts her intuition and inner compass to guide her toward behavior that won't hurt anyone. Her relationships don't need to be defined and she's beautifully unattached to outcome in all of them.  

It's both inspiring to my client (one of her partners) and intimidating.  I've been working with this client for a while and she follows a much more intentional approach, focusing on longer-term commitments and ongoing partnership building. 

She's used to communicating expectations, negotiating plans with partners, and using more careful discernment to move through a (relatively new to her) non-monogamous world.

Neither of them is wrong in the way they practice non-monogamy. They're both up front with partners about the ways they approach relationships.  But they're also not on the same page.

This leads them to miscommunication when they go out. One of them wanting to clarify if and when they might play with others at play parties. The other wanting to follow inspiration and let relationships unfold as they may. 

Sometimes they run into other partners. My client wants to be clear about how they share space, time, and information with other intimate partners.  Her girlfriend trusts all her partners will sort out their feelings for themselves. 

There are serious concerns in both approaches. My client can rely too heavily on partner's for emotional labor, gets jealous, and sometimes is perceived as uptight or clingy. Her girlfriend often unintentionally hurts partners who have specific expectations (spoken or implied) and finds herself mixed up in accidental miscommunications.

I wanted to write a little about them because they (like anyone) are working to find their way together in the world beyond traditional relationships- and it's not easy. Their polyamorous principles aren't right or wrong, but each has its own challenges and setbacks.

On one hand, we have a girlfriend who thinks she can set aside expectations in relationships.  I would say, this is more like solo-polyamory, where her primary relationship is with herself.

Even in solo-polyamory, we impact others with our behavior, and if we want ongoing relationships with partners we need to work with them to manage expectations and offer support.

On the other, my client practices more of a hierarchical polyamory, where she places importance on one relationship. This model is often reassuring to people who have had successful relationships in a more traditional monogamous format.

Without care, these relationships can become codependent and can replicate other unhealthy patterns from partner's pasts.

They're a perfect example of why getting relationship support can be useful for non-traditional relationships. With support, they're able to name the difference in their guiding principles and clarify what they need moving forward. 

If you're having trouble getting on the same page with a partner please don't hesitate to give me a call.  I'm happy to help you work out a plan that supports both your needs- no matter how different they seem.  


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

 polyamory counselor | open marriage therapist | open relationship counseling
  • 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
  • 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.  

Trust in Relationships: Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

 trust in relationships | trust and nonmonogamy | trust in polyamory

At dinner parties, hair salons, on airplanes, and grocery lines people LOVE talking about what I do for a living.

They always ask how I know if a couple needs help.  Like, how do I know when they REALLY need to see a counselor.  Everyone (I mean EVERYONE) asks this.  

One easy way to read the strength of a couple is to notice how present trust is this:

Can you give them the benefit of the doubt?

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt means you have a general baseline of goodwill and trust. 

Couples with a generosity of trust are better equipped to stay connected through tough times and handle conflict with less intensity.

Here are a fre examples of how the benefit of the doubt might show up.  Notice if any of these resonate for you:

You're able to hear a short tone in their voice and think "they don't mean to be short, they've probably had a hard day."

You ask your partner for help in the kitchen and don't get a response. You think "I bet they didn't hear me." 

They're late to arrive and before getting upset you think they must be stuck in traffic, or something important must have come up.

Bottom line: before taking something personally, jumping to negative conclusions, or getting defensive, you assume your partner has your best intentions at heart.

This generosity of trust will carry you through challenges unlike any other relationship skill. 

If those aren't present for you, it doesn't mean you have to end things, but we've got work to do. Perhaps trust has been broken in this relationship or others from your past and there's room for resolution. 

There are plenty of reasons this happens in relationships- but it's important to get out of this pattern sooner rather than later. Come in for a free consultation to talk about supporting your relationships health.


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

 Gina2018Headshot.jpgpolyamory coach | open relationship coach | open marriage coach
  • 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, Oregon. 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.  

Do We Really Need a Safe Word?

 safeword sue | what is a safeword | safewords in relationships

What is a safeword anyway?

A safeword is a word or phrase that can be used to communicate when a person is nearing or crossing a physical, emotional, or ethical boundary.

They can be a shortcut to creating consent and can make communicating easier in moments of intense emotion or pleasure.

Some safe words are used to stop a situation outright, while others can request reduced level of intensity. Often people use red (stop), yellow (slow down or pause), and green (keep going) as an example of these.

I've recommended asexual safewords to clients when engaging in vulnerable potentially emotionally triggering situations as well as intimate situations. They can be a shorthand or code for nearing emotional overwhelm or tender topics and can help couples slow down conflicts when they arise.

Safewords originate in BDSM community where safety and consent are critical to ethical respectful play. Many organized BDSM and play groups and spaces have standardized safewords that members agree to use to avoid confusion at large group events. 

If they're going to work for you, safewords have to be discussed before you enter an intimate situation with a new partner. You can ask if they have a safeword they like, or you can offer words that work well for you. They can be playful, or direct depending on the mood or scene you're creating with your partner. For some people safewords can be an important part of sexual role play.

Here are some of the words my clients have chosen:

Pause

Foul ball

Don't stop

Banana bread

Strike one

Stop

FUCK

Mr. Big

Grandma

Yes please


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

 open relationship counselor | open relationship coach | polyamory coach
  • 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, Oregon. 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.