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:
- 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.