nonmonogamy

Awkwardness in Open Relationships & Dating

POLYAMORY COACH - POLY COACH - OPEN RELATIONSHIP COACH

One thing that comes up really frequently in sessions with folks who are starting out in non-monogamy after a lifetime of default monogamy is how awkward it can feel. 

There are LOTS of valid reasons why this happens, and I wanted to share a few with you.  but before I dive in, I wanted to emphasize one critical skill to move through the awkward new beginning phase: self-compassion.  

Self-compassion is having the ability to recognize when things are off and loving yourself anyway. Learning to strive for greatness, acknowledge your growing edges, and love yourself all at once. 

It takes practice (just like dating while partnered) but there are lots of tools that can help you get there. Check this website for some great resources.  

Okay, now back to the main point.

Why it's awkward when you start opening your relationship:

BACK IN THE SADDLE

If you've been practicing monogamy in a long-term relationship, then reentering the dating scene can feel like a whole new world.  There are new apps, sites, groups, and places to meet folks and it can be a little overwhelming. 

Not to mention the courage it takes to put yourself out there meeting strangers. 

And then there's the hard truth that the majority of real dating doesn't match up with the fantasy you might have had coming into this.  I mean, sure, you'll meet some fantastic babes out there.  But the majority of dating is really spending time with nice people and have lukewarm connections you're not sure about until you do hit it off or meet someone else who you're more excited about.  Not quite as sexy as you may have hoped.

NEW TERRITORY

If you've been living a mainstream monogamous lifestyle until now, practicing ethical non-monogamy means a whole new world of language and clarity when talking about consent, boundaries, and expectations in your partnerships.  

Figuring out how, and when to bring these things up can be a little bumpy at first because you haven't practiced.  With time and practice, that awkwardness will go away and you'll be able to be clear and consistent with greater confidence.

ACKNOWLEDGING HOTNESS

Mainstream/default monogamy in our culture loves to pretend it's possible to be attracted to only one person for years (or a lifetime).  And while lots of people philosophically understand that simply cannot be true, few folks have any practice talking or hearing about other attractions in their partnerships.

As you begin talking about the attractions you're feeling come and go notice what shows up for each of you in your partnerships and give yourself plenty of time and space to feel through your reactions so you can learn from them.  

BALANCING NEW ENERGY

Many people who are new to non-monogamy simply haven't had much practice balancing time and sharing emotional presence with multiple partners. 

Being intentional and clear with your time and space boundaries will take a little practice- be patient with yourselves.

ME TIME

Starting out in non-monogamy can be really exciting, and I frequently see clients get a little carried away with the momentum of this big change.  It's not uncommon to lose track of your self-care routine, friendships, or get distracted from work and other passions.

 But in order to make a non-monogamous lifestyle sustainable you've got to have me time outside your new relationship(s).  Keep track of your self care needs to help you stay connected to your wellness routines, friendships, and other commitments even if it gets exciting.

TAKING NEW RISKS

For a lot of people the begining of ethical non-monogamy is also the first time they really start asking for what they want in relationships and setting boundaries and expectations.  This can be a monumental shift in the way you're doing relationships (it is for lots of people).  

So trying all that new self-connection, self-advocacy, and self-regulation can feel awkward, or unusual because it is new.  

KEEPING GROUNDED

Finally, beginning a practice of ethical non-monogamy with a partner can bring up intense and surprising emotions.  You'll want to build skills and practices that help you stay grounded even when those emotions show up, but to shift your responses you'll need to change things- and change often leads to a little awkwardness.  

WATCH ME

Here's a little video I posted on my facebook page about this very topic.  If you want to talk more about this (or about relationships in general) give me a call, I'd love to chat.


POLYAMORY COACH - POLY COACH - OPEN RELATIONSHIP COACH

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.  

20 Seconds & 20 Slides on Default Monogamy

Default Monogamy | Non-monogamy | Why Nonmonogamy is Better

I had the privilege of giving a talk at PechaKucha last month, it was Unity night and I guess I thought, "What a perfect night to bring non-monogamy to the conversation?" 

I was really nervous, as even in progressive Portland, Oregon mainstream audiences are a little skittish about non-monogamy.  Typically my work is met at dinner parties with bemused curiosity, blatant defensiveness, or awkward fetishization. 

I knew the audience would likely fit largely into the mainstream culture of default monogamy, and though my work focused on polyamory, open relationships and consensual non-monogamy, most of the work I do with couples is rethinking the cultural norms they've been taught about relationships.

Which mostly means, challenging deeply held patterns of default monogamy.  

So I decided to shift my talk's focus a little to how our culture of default monogamy is damaging relationships.  How if more monogamous couples held the bandwidth to acknowledge there is value in the emotional intimacy, inspiration, and curiosity brought out in relations with other people (even if it never becomes physical or sexual) they might be able to withstand the passing personal transformations that come with growing and changing over a lifetime.  

But if you know anything about PechaKucha, you know speakers are given a STRICT timeline and structure to follow.  Twenty seconds per slide and only twenty slides.  It sounded like a lot to me until I tried it.  Nothing has ever made me have to choose my words more carefully (right down to the syllable).  

Which meant I had to leave a lot out, but I'm really proud of what I was able to work in, and based on the conversations I had after the event, I certainly got people talking and thinking about evolving relationships in new ways.  

Watch the video below and let me know what you think on my facebook page.  I'd love to hear from you.  


Gina Senarighi | Polyamory Counselor | Nonmonogamy Therapist

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.  

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.  

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.  

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.  

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).

Is it about polyamory or do you just want to leave?

polyamory counselor portland polyamory couples therapy

So your long-term monogamous partner just told you they want to open your relationship up.  Odds are you've wondered if they really want an open relationship, or if they're looking to leave you.  

This is one of the biggest fears people face when their partner brings up open relationships.  

It's a valid question, in ten years of working with couples opening up, about 30% ultimately decide they want to break up.  Lots of folks start dreaming of non-monogamy when what they're really dreaming about is escape or change.  

But that leaves nearly 70% of the couples I've seen who do want to stay together- and somehow add other people to the mix.  I want to emphasize that the majority of folks I see want to (and ultimately do) stay together.  

But how can you determine which group you fall into?  Here's what I look for when I work with newly open relationships.

Do you still have emotional energy to invest in this relationship?

All relationships require some emotional energy and maintenance work.  One of the simplest indicators of your interest to stay in a relationship is if you are willing to invest emotional energy in the relationship.  

If you're not willing to keep improving your current relationship and learning to love each other better this can be a pretty clear message you are ready to leave.

How will you continue to cultivate connection with your original partner?

The difference between typical dating and being in an open relationship is that there is a relationship in the picture.  If none of your dreams about life post-monogamy include your relationship this could be an indicator you want to leave.  

I'm not saying you have to include threesomes or shared partners in your vision of the future.  But if you can't think of tangible ways you will work to stay connected to your original partner it might be time to leave.

Are you still open to the input of your original partner?

There's been plenty of research on successful couples showing that accepting your partner's influence is critical in long-term happiness.  Here's what that actually means:

  • Do you care how your partner feels?  
  • Are you willing to talk with them about their emotions and experiences?
  • Will you take their input into your decision-making process?
  • Are you willing to really consider their perspective?  

Many of the couples I see in that 30% group want to pursue an "open relationship" where they each "do whatever they want" without talking.  It is extremely rare for that kind of open marriage to work out because it is not essentially an open relationship, it's likely dating or solo polyamory.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to date or practice solo-poly, but moving in that direction is usually in direct opposition to having an ongoing relationship.  Think about how much input and influence you really can be open to moving forward.  

Accepting influence from a partner is one of the cornerstones differentiating consensual non-monogamy from infidelity, dating, or solo-polyamory.

Why choose a relationship with this specific partner now?

This is the big one.  Every day you are in a relationship you choose to stay in it.  You have the power to chose to leave, to chose a single life, or to choose other partners- but for some reason you've chosen this partner right now.  

It's shocking how many times I ask this question and people can't identify a specific reason why they're staying with this person.  They tell me they're sure they love this person- but when I ask why they can't give me a reason. 

Or often the reason is outdated.  Maybe they used to love something about this partner and they're hoping that something will return.  Or they've changed over time but haven't updated their reasons to stay in this relationship with that personal growth.  

If you can't look at the person you're with and list clear and specific reasons you're choosing to commit to a relationship with them today, it's a good time to invest in some relationship work.  

Successful long-term couples work to stay curious about one another.  It's not easy, but staying invested in learning about your sweetie is another well-researched critical piece of relationship health.

Notice how interested you are in getting to know your partner again.  Are you curious about them?  Are you open to learning how they have changed in time?  There are lots of great ways to strengthen your partnership and reconnect (whether you decide to open things or not). - I help a lot of folks with this.  Call me if you want assistance.

A real lack of interest in getting to know your partner more might be an indicator you're moving in different directions.  

Next Steps

I hope these questions help you get some clarity about your interest in staying together.  I made a simple reflection guide to help you dive deeper into these questions.  

Download the relationship worksheet by clicking below.

If you want more personalized attention call me for a consultation.  I'm happy to talk with you about your relationship goals.


polyamory counseling online couples therapist for non-monogamy

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

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

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.

 

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

You Asked, I Answered: Questions About Polyamory

open marriage poly questions | polyamory advice | nonmonogamy | open relationships

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work- especially my work with polyamory and non-monogamy.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions about open relationships.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

poly questions | polyamory advice | nonmonogamy | open relationships

Do you believe polyamory or monogamy is healthier?

I don't think relationship health is determined by the number of partners involved- but I do believe it can be measured by the level of communication, empathy, trust, and connection experienced by partners.  

For some people open relationship structures are overwhelming.  And for others monogamy is stifling.  I don't think you always have to choose one or the other, but I want all my couples to be able to openly discuss these with kindness and ease.

How did you learn about open relationships?

I became interested in couples work when I was in graduate school studying couples counseling.  I was fortunate to study in a holistic program that emphasized non-traditional therapeutic styles.  I was also really lucky to intern at the Gottman Relationship Research Institute when I finished school and really learn about strengthening trust in relationships.  

I wrote my final research on non-monogamy in couples therapy and have only expanded my research and education since then.  I left the profession of mental health therapy in 2016 to focus on coaching this population.

Does non-monogamy really work?

Absolutely.  If you define "working" as being together a long time, I will tell you I've supported couples who are married or who have been together for 14, 17, 22, and over 40 years while practicing many forms of nonmonogamy.  

If you define "working" by being generally satisfied with your relationship, supporting one another's growth, feeling empathy and desire for your partner I will tell you I've supported couples who are married and/or who have been together for 4, 17, 22, and over 40 years while practicing many forms of nonmonogamy.

But to make non-monogamy work, you need to be willing to do some work.  That's where I can help you.

Do you work with monogamous couples?

Even for clients who choose monogamy, it can be important to know this is a specialty of mine. These clients love working with me because I apply the same open non-judgmental approach to my work with all couples.  

I love all kinds of love - monogamous love too!

What about affairs in polyamorous relationships?

Affairs happen in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.  I work with couples to rebuild trust and overcome jealousy every week in session.  I have helped hundreds of couples move forward after an affair.  (Read more about my work with infidelity here)

I can to help you build and repair trust no matter your relationship structure. Schedule a consultation to get started with me here. 

Are you poly/open/non-monogamous?

Yup.  But I won't give you a lot of information about my relationship structure beyond that because if we're going to work together I want to keep the focus on you.  


sex counselor in portland sex therapist | couples therapist portland sexuality counselor

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

Considerations for Opening Your Relationship in Portland, Oregon

Open Relationships in Portland | Uncommon Love Polyamory Counseling in Portland

After supporting hundreds of couples opening relationships and maintaining polyamorous relationships in our beautiful weird city, I wanted to share some of the most common considerations that might be specific to Portlandia.

This town has a lot of great resources to nurture non-traditional relationships, from tantra classes, to sex positive meet-ups, to erotic-themed poetry readings, there are a lot of great events in Portland for less-mainstream couples.  

 

3 Considerations for Opening Your Relationship in Portland

Small Town

Portland is just big enough to host a lot of great events and be home to some really incredible people (over 600,000 of us).  And a lot of people say they moved here from other cities because of Portland's weirdly small-town feel.  

Portland's in-between size has been such a huge factor for so many of the couples I support.  It shows up in three main ways:

  • The dating pool is smaller

So there are less folks to choose from in the first place- let alone those who really understand nonmonogamy and how it works.  There's also less poly, nonmonogamous, and/or swinger community to connect with than say, San Francisco or Seattle merely because Portland is much smaller.

  • The ex-pool is closer

Right, so if the dating pool is small, the ex-pool is even smaller.  It's likely you will cross paths with someone you hooked up with (or your partner did) at some point.  Plan accordingly.

  • You're going to run into people you don't expect

Many of the couples I work with are not out to coworkers, family, or other community about their nontraditional relationship.  This is just fine until you're out on a date with your new fling and someone you know from church is in the same restaurant.  

It can be really limiting for couples who are not out about their polyamorous life.

"Liberal" Values

Portland is lauded for its liberal values and in many ways our cultural embrace on keeping Portland weird does help nonmonogamous relationships flourish here.  

BUT many of the couples I support have seen ways those liberal values are espoused- not necessarily actualized.  For example, many of the people of color I work with have experienced real racism at play parties, and genderqueer clients of mine are always concerned about safety due to prior harassment at non-queer events.  

Portland is very far ahead of many parts of the country in terms of acceptance and social justice- but there is still progress to be made.

Quality Sex-Positive Spaces

We are lucky to have many sex-positive formal and informal events in Portland, it's true, but many of them have been very hard to find for my clients.  The events might be private, difficult to access, or unclear in their boundaries.  

For example, I had clients report back to me after attending a sex-positive event in Portland that no one explained the house rules to them, they were gendered, and they witnessed many non-consensual acts between adults while attending the party.  

The in-between size of Portland means less space- and I would argue, less quality space for couples seeking sex-positive community.

 

It's not impossible to nourish an open relationship in Portland, but there are important considerations that make our weird and wonderful city unique for folks embracing a non-traditional relationship format.  

Think about what you might need to overcome these in your own Portland partnership.

 

If you want support overcoming these challenges give me a call for a consultation.  I'm happy to help you nurture your relationship (monogamous or otherwise).


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).

 

 

 

Polyamory Vocab Lessons: Polyamory

Polycule | Portland Poly Counseling | Polyamory Counseling in Portland

Dear readers, 

I work with so many couples who are considering open relationships and so many of you have asked for some basic facts in polyamory, nonmonogamy and open relationships.  

I decided to start breaking down some of the most commonly used terms in the wide field of nonmonogamy.

Of course, every individual and relationship is different, so it is important to get clear with people about what they mean by these terms (especially if you're considering an intimate relationship with them).  

You could ask any of the following questions:

"Lots of people use that term, what does it mean in your relationships?"

"I know that can actually mean a lot of things, wow does {term} actually play out in your life?"

These conversations will also help you get clear about what to call your own relationship.  

I'll keep adding more terms over time so check back time to time to learn more.  

This week's focus: Polyamory

As we know, non-monogamy is an umbrella term that includes lots of different kinds of relationships.  Polyamory or poly community is one of the possibilities that falls under the umbrella of nonmonogamy.

Some basic general information on polyamory:

Most basically, polyamory means many loves. But because the word love means different things to different people polyamory is different in each and every relationship.  

Polyamorous people live in all parts of the US (and the world), identify as many different genders and sexual orientations, and participate in all sorts of relationship arrangements.

Some polyamorous relationships include shared partners, community and friends making a large web of supporters and chosen family.  

Some, but not all poly people participate in BDSM and kink community.

Some, but not all poly people are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.  

Many members of poly community are straight and are legally married, but have additional lovers and/or partnerships.  Some choose to live together and parent with individual or multiple partners.

 

One of the best things about being polyamorous is the freedom to create and tailor the relationship structure(s) that best serve you and your partner.  

Polyamorous relationships also often include more understanding and agility for relationship change, growth and development over time.  

Polyamory Resources:

Openingup.net

My favorite resource for all my nonmonogamous couples.  This site covers the full range of possibilities in open relationships and the book dives into many scenarios outlining how specific couples create polyamorous networks that work for them.  

Morethantwo.com

For couples considering more romantic or emotional connections with partners, More Than Two is my go-to resource to find balance and maintain connection while incorporating other people into the relationship.  More than two focuses mostly on polyamory.

Poly in the Media

This resource tracks news and events related to all things polyamory.  If you're ever feeling alone as a poly person you can easily find information on others living a polyamorous life here.

Lovemore.com

The only nationwide magazine dedicated to polyamory, Love More also hosts conferences and poly events throughout the country.

Polyamory On Purpose

One of the better practical blogs of poly-related information for oply families, legal issues, financial stressors and more.

Poly Weekly

A podcast about polyamory and the people who choose this kind of open relationship.

If you are considering opening your relationship give me a call for a consult.  I am happy to help:


Sex Counselor Portland | Portland Couples Counseling

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).