new open relationship

Compersion is a Lofty Goal

compersion in polyamory | open relationships and compersion

Dear ones, I shot you a quick video about compersion because, well, it comes up a LOT in sessions about open relationships.  And honeys, a lot of you are way too hard on yourself about not feeling all compersion-y when you start out in non-monogamy.  

Yes, compersion (feeling joy for another's joy or love when seeing your partner experience another love) is a beautiful thing.  It can feel really wonderful to share.  But it is extremely uncommon in beginning open relationships.  

Many people go YEARS without really experiencing compersion in a polyamorous context.

It's not impossible, but what I know to be true is for most folks their internal pressure to "get over it" when experiencing (totally normal) jealousy, insecurity, and anxiety and pressuring themselves to feel compersion instead only makes it harder to get there.  

Ease up dear ones.  Give yourself a little compassion and patience.  Allow yourself to feel your feelings.  Practice self care.  And please, recalibrate your goals from compersion to simply managing reactivity, finding peace, acceptance, ease, or comfort in non-monogamy.  You can always bring yourself around to compersiontown later.   

Be well, Gina


open relationship help | polyamory advice | compersion

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.  

Before you talk about opening your relationship talk about this

open relationship | prepare for open relatoinship

Every nearly-non-monogamous couple I've worked with has missed this one critical step and I just can't go one without addressing it.  

We can't start a conversation about non-monogamy without understanding monogamy. 

I know you think you understand it.  Almost every couple I work with thinks they have a working definition of monogamy.  But so far, NONE of my couples have ever talked about specifically what monogamy means in their relationship.  

None.  Zero.  Zip. 

We walk through life in partnerships with this (pretty big) gap in clarity about what we expect from each other.  This is a problem.  

Most of us assume we mean the same thing when we say we're monogamous- but all too often we don't.  Here are some of the many areas I have seen people face extreme misunderstandings about monogamy.  

What does "monogamy" mean to you?

Check out the questions below to start examining your own working definition of monogamy.  If you haven't talked about these things in your relationship, please do before talking about opening things up.

Kissing

Plenty of folks will say kissing other people is off limits.  But many of them make exceptions for same-sex kissing (if they are straight) r opposite-sex kissing (when they are gay).  They tell me it "doesn't count."

There are also plenty of cultures where kissing is the norm.  Not just international cultures, but friend circles, families, and spaces based on tradition can be the norm.  Kissing cheeks, hands, faces, or lips... it "doesn't count" because it's not erotic.  

Which may be the case, but how do you know when kissing is and isn't erotic for someone?  When is kissing okay in your relationship?  When do you share it with others?

Touching

This is the big one where I see people get into trouble.  Some of my couples don't touch other adults- ever.  But most hug friends, or might hold hands with friends.  

Some even snuggle with people they care about and I've seen it become a problem for partners- when it hasn't been discussed.

I'm always surprised when I bring up dancing with other people.  Some folks are very sensitive about sharing intimate dancing with others.  Others love to grind on a dance floor with strangers but would never dream of slow dancing with anyone but their partner.  

If you've never talked about what monogamous touch means to you, now's a great time to start.

Emotional Intimacy

Are there special secrets you share with others?  Do you have certain closeness or fondness for people outside your romantic relationship?  What do you do when those feelings and friendships arise?  

Are there certain pieces of information you want to keep private between you and your partner?  Odds are, there's something they know about you that you'd prefer kept between you.  How can they meet your privacy expectations if you don't tell them?

Spacial Intimacy

Many of the monogamous couples I work with have unsaid expectations about spaces they share with people outside their relationship.  Do you enter a bedroom alone with a friend's spouse?  Will you travel alone with people your partner might find threatening?  

If we're not clear about what kinds of spaces or behaviors indicate intimacy with our partners it becomes very easy for them to misstep.  

Sex with other people

This seems like the most obvious topic to cover, and is usually where people begin to define non-monogamy.  But many of the people I've worked with have sex with other people and still define their relationships as monogamous. 

Some of them have shared partners and experiences.  I once had a client say, "If we're all present, then it's within the confines of our marriage bed."  

And similar to kissing (above) many of them have caveats for non-emotive sex, or sex with people of other genders.  I've had many straight couples tell me they don't view lesbian sex as threatening or "real sex" and therefore it "doesn't count."

I'm not suggesting one definition of monogamy should (or could) work for everyone here.  But I am certain clarity about your own and your partner's definitions is a helpful discussion to have before exploring non-monogamy.  


gina senarighi | poly counselor portland | polyamory portland

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).

How to Deal When Your Partner Has a Crush

Dear Ones, 

My clients often come to me when they are just beginning the open relationship/non-monogamy journey and one of the most difficult period of growing pains is when one of you gets their first crush.  

If you have been practicing traditional monogamy this can really be difficult.  Most couples don't practice acknowledging attraction to other people when in a relationship, so acknowledging the attraction alone can seem like a huge leap.

That said, with some care and honesty you can easily get through this together.  Here are a few things to focus on:

Acknowledge other people are attractive.  

It's true and if this is going to work out you are going to have to face it.  Other people are attractive.  Pretending this is not true only forces you and your partner to be dishonest with each other.  

Even if you never have intimacy with another attractive person, being able to openly acknowledge other people are in fact interesting, smart, funny, or beautiful allows you an opportunity to learn and connect at a deeper level.  

Understand other people's attractiveness does not diminish yours.

Many of us like to believe a fantasy that we are the only smart, special, funny, interesting, or beautiful person in our partner's life.  However, clinging to that fantasy puts undue stress on the relationship, both for you to try to be all of those things and for your partner to try to get all their needs met just with you. 

We fear that if someone else is funny, smart, interesting, or beautiful that makes us less so.  Fortunately there is plenty of funny, smart, beautiful and interesting to go around in this world.  You are still all of those things even if someone else is too. 

Getting stuck in comparison will only bring you pain.

Practice self-soothing.

Your emotions are yours to take care of.  It would be nice to hand off all our emotional responsibility onto our partner to "make us" feel more confident and secure, but the kind of confidence we get from others isn't as long-lasting as the kind we build for ourselves.

When you find insecurity and distrust comes to visit practice focusing on gratitude for your awesome relationship instead of fear you will lose it.  Start a gratitude list in your head to remind yourself why you want to hang onto this relationship.

When comparison and insecurity start to sneak around remember why you are special and important.  Do something that helps you feel great about yourself.  Surround yourself with people who you feel strong around.  

Do things to remind yourself instead of depending on your sweetheart to remind you.

Ask for reassurance.

Once you have practiced self soothing it is perfectly fine to ask for specific acts of reassurance.  Think about a time you felt really strong about your relationship and remember what you and your sweetheart were doing.  What specific behaviors helped you feel so safe and strong?  Ask your partner to engage in those with you now.

Sometimes I see clients mistake information for reassurance. They ask a lot of questions or start doing detective work about the crush as a way to find security.  Usually that kind of information really only feeds comparison and insecurity.  Instead try engaging in specific behaviors that build you up together (instead of secretly internet searching for information, checking phones, or other detective work).  

You can totally get through the first crush one of you has, but it will take care and intention.  If you want help moving through this difficult time please set up a free consultation with me.  

Gina

 


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

She can help you:

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).