ask me anything

ASK ME ANYTHING: IS IT TOO SOON TO OPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP?

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

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.  Or Read more Ask Me Anything here.

 

This week's question: Do we need to be together longer before we open our relationship?

Here's the full question: I feel excited and terrified at the thought of opening up my relationship. I've been with my partner for 3.5 months and the topic came up a few times. Before meeting him I was curious about open relationships but when he brought it up, I was totally freaked out and felt very insecure.  Two weekends ago he had a panic attack and it ended with him breaking up with me.  Soon after I connected with another man. Two days later my partner came back.  We talked things through and decided to be together.

My questions are: is it a good idea to establish our relationship more, get to know and trust each other better, and again, before exploring an open relationship? Or better to have the early foundation of our relationship be that of an open one? 

I found you through your don't ask don't tell article. I don't know if I'm ready to kiss and connect with others (our agreement is that when we aren't together we can kiss others). I don't know how to talk to him about kissing someone else, I don't want to hurt or lose him, and I don't like the idea of hearing about him kissing someone else... But ultimately I'd love to feel good sharing things and being open, honest and happy for each other. Is it just too soon?

Are we not ready or is this just something we have to force ourselves to go through so we can learn from it and get to a place where we can be open and share experiences?

 

I'm so glad you wrote me!  I know it's a hard place to be in, but I'm hoping it helps to hear you are far from alone.  The tension you describe between being curious and terrified at the same time is all too common among people who are first starting to think about openness.  I meet with lots of couples who say trying to open their relationships felt like a wild emotional roller coaster ride (articulated in your panic attack/break up example).  

There are a couple phrases you used in your message that I want to point out to help respond.  You asked "is it too soon for us" in a number of different ways.  I find a lot of people get stuck on that question  because their individual truth is "this is too soon for me."  Check in with yourself- does that resonate?  Is it too soon for you?  

There is no exact right or wrong time to start negotiating openness in a relationship for the first time.  There are plenty of reasons it can be a struggle when you're just beginning with a new partner and I've seen lots of people struggle to open previously monogamous relationships as well.  

But a couple things you said made me think you might want to put on the brakes a bit for now.  First, hearing that the conversation about openness lead to panic attacks and break ups tells me you might want to ease in more gently and have stronger resiliency support around you both.  You also want to commit to working together instead of threatening break ups.  I would recommend sorting out those things for now, so your conversations about openness can feel less dramatic.  

Finally, your word choice "is this something we just have to force ourselves..." is really telling to me.  I often tell clients "you can't force anything good" and ask people I support to reconsider the "have tos" in their lives.  Relationships function better with want tos instead of have tos.  This more than anything tells me it's time for you to slow down.  

Please understand by slow down I am not saying you should stay monogamous now or forever- you can (and should) revisit this conversation often and with each new partner you build relationship with.  I'm saying it sounds like things have progressed more quickly than either of you may have anticipated and it's time to pause for more reflection before taking more action.  

It's not about how long you've been together, it's about the way you're being together dear one.



Gina Senarighi Oregon Couples Retreat Polyamorous Couples Retreat

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

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 disconnect
  • break 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).

ASK ME ANYTHING: Comparing Myself to Others

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

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This Weeks Relationship Advice Question:

Let's see, I'm in a monogamous relationship (and super happy about it. It's the right person).  I feel super embarrassed about being jealous sometimes. I do healing work with people -so shouldn't I have this one figured out by now?  My jealousy seems to stem from comparing myself to other women something I've been doing since I was a little girl. This is the biggest problem: I compare myself. It sets the stage for jealousy and deep shame. 

Oh my gosh, I am so glad you wrote about this. Comparison (and related shame) is a HUGE part of the work I do with so many people.  So many of us get caught up in comparison traps and end up feeling small, or reacting with jealousy.  

[side note: I often daydream about what a wonderful world this might be if more of us were set free from limiting beliefs and diminishing emotional experiences... I digress...]

I wonder what might happen for you if you sat with your comparison a little bit.  I think it might have something to tell you.  Try asking it a few questions in meditation and journaling whatever responses come up.

Ask your comparison:

How is it serving you?  Is comparison protecting you in some way?  Does it think it's being helpful?

What does your comparison really need?  What is it looking for?  What does it want?

Is your comparison traveling with other emotions?  Often envy, admiration, bitterness, desire, curiosity, aspiration, jealousy, insecurity, or fear might be traveling alongside comparison- who is there for you now?  

I imagine your comparison has a message for you about what you really need, want and are feeling.  Comparison might be the thought pattern on the surface, but by giving it a little space we can really see what's underneath- and take more meaningful action.  

I know there are times my comparison is all about my admiration for another.  Sometimes it's a reminder of an aspect of myself I want to grow.  Other times it tells me where I want to nourish a relationship.

Ultimately a dedicated self-compassion practice is one of the most solid antidotes to comparison I've seen (I talk a lot about this in my Daring Way workshops and retreats if you ever want to join me).  

Until you're able to join me at a workshop I highly recommend taking a look at the following resources and tools to fortify your self-compassion practice:

Self-Compassion, by Dr Kristin Neff

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Dr Brene Brown

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

relationship advice | comparison in relationships | marriage advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

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

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).

ASK ME ANYTHING: He's Like a Drug

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Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

This Week's Relationship Advice Question:

I'm in a passionate intimate relationship with a guy I use to work with. He told me from the start that he just wants to have fun and he's married. I agreed because I like him soooo much. I feel powerful and sexy when we get together. I feel like I'm making love to the sun!  He's like a drug and I'd like to break out of this but I often say to myself ...fuck it, the heart wants what it wants....Kindly advise please and thank you.


Oh sweetheart, drugs are bad.  Not all drugs, not all the time, but there are a couple easy ways to tell when a drug isn't working for you:

  • You can't stop thinking about the drug, you're distracted and not fully present in other parts of your life
  • You're not paying attention to the warning labels written on the bottle/case/whatever.  You take them as often as you can get them.
  • You feel moody or out of control.  
  • The drug interrupts your other healthy functions (sleep, friendships, exercise, sleep) so you're not well.
  • You can't seem to stop yourself from taking it.  

I know the drug might feel good, but you need to keep focused on those warning labels to keep your use in check.  In this case, your drug (Mr. Sunshine) is telling you his energy limits and boundaries, and it sounds like you might be caught up in some fantasies about those changing, or you're ignoring them.  

Some people can recover from addiction with focus and limitation.  I'd love for you to be one of those folks so you could keep feeling all that sexy powerful energy you're getting.  Is there a way for you to create better boundaries for yourself?  

Some people have to quit completely to recover.  I imagine that would be very hard for you and it might not really be necessary.  

What I know for sure is most people who successfully "quit" have a community of supporters around them helping them stay clear and accountable.  Who can you call for support?  Do your friends or other lovers know what's going on?  What do they say?  

Ask yourself what meaningful support might look like for you here and find a compassionate well-boundaried friend who can help you out.  If not, hire a coach or therapist who can help.

Not all drugs are bad- but most can be dangerous.  Be careful with your heart dear one.


relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

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

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).

ASK ME ANYTHING: Crushing on a Friend

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Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

Read more ask me anything here.

This Week's Relationship Advice Question:

Two months ago I got job and met a lady who I've been working with as a partner since. She's a beautiful lady and I love her so much. Right now we are friends and I'm really interested in her but I fear letting her know that will ruin our friendship. Please help- it's been giving me stress!

Okay, I know it may not help your stress, but I have to say it's really sweet you're having such strong feelings for her.  

There's really only one sure way to clear this up for you and that is is to tell her.  

Yes, tell her.  

Tell her you are worried about harming your friendship (it clearly means a lot to you).  And tell her you also have feelings for her.  

It's going to take some courage to be that vulnerable with someone, but vulnerability is also where we create the most authentic meaningful connections.  

And then listen to her.  She might need some space.  She might want a little time to think about it.  She might not know how to respond.  

You're going to need to sit with your anxiety about all of that in order to respect her and let her respond honestly.  Make a plan to keep yourself in check if you have to wait a while.  Call a friend.  See a movie. Go for a run.  Do all the self-care.

If she's into you, she'll tell you. In a perfect world she'd also tell you if she isn't interested.  I hope you have the kind of friendship that has space for honesty like that.  But in our culture girls and women are taught to be nice above all else- so we're often unclear with people when we need to say no or set a boundary. 

I'm not making an excuse for her here, but I want you to pay close attention to the behaviors she expresses in response to your big disclosure.  Our behaviors are often the clearest indicator of what's going on in situations where complicated feelings arise.  

If she's not into you, I hope you can still maintain your friendship.  It might take you a minute to soothe disappointment and hopefully she'll understand that.    

Hopefully your connection will continue to grow even stronger because of your courage and vulnerability in telling her the truth.  

Good luck brave friend.

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

polyamory help | relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

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

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).