open relationship advice

Open Relationship Advice: Can We Really Open a 15-Year Marriage?

polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

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

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here or read more Ask Me Anything here.


This week's question: 

"In your professional opinion, is it even fathomable to think a marriage after 15 years could ever be an open one? "

Yes.  Absolutely, any relationship could be an open one.

But it may not be easy to get started. 

There are a couple big hurdles in the way for most people who've been practicing monogamy a long time.  First, there's a HEAP of cultural conditioning you're going to face and second, there's a skillset required if you're going to stay together- skills most of us never received training for.

As far as the cultural conditioning part, that is something most my clients call a mindset shift.  We often talk about it as of they've been able to see the Matrix (yes, I am seriously dating myself here) and once they can see it, they never think about relationships the same way again.  

The thing is, there are a lot of default assumptions we base relationships on in our culture- but we rarely check those assumptions.  A large part of putting ethical non-monogamy into practice is checking assumptions.

Here's one example: I'm presuming you and your spouse have been practicing monogamy for the last 15 years.  If so, have you ever talked about what the boundaries of your monogamy are?  Most folks don't.  But in ten years of asking couples I rarely have clients who are 100% on the same page about their monogamy expectations.  Here are some of the things I hear:

  • We'd never have sex (oral, anal, or vaginal) with anyone else but we do kiss some friends hello
  • I expect you'll never be alone with someone of the opposite gender in a private space
  • I don't think we should dance with other people
  • We don't get naked with members of the opposite sex (except massage tables)
  • We don't hold hands or sit touching other people
  • I would never share secrets with anyone else
  • We don't make future plans with people we're attracted to

Usually, couples I see are clear on one of those items, but most of them are unclear about the rest.  I often recommend couples try getting clear about their current/standing monogamy agreements before trying to discuss ethical non-monogamous agreements.

As far as the skills, they're easy to outline but more difficult to practice.  Really practicing non-monogamy ethically means being much more careful and intentional about the promises and commitments you make, the expectations you hold, and the personal work you do to regulate difficult emotions. 

It's usually really helpful to hire a support person to help you learn the skills and practice them with support.  

So, like I said, yes, ABSOLTELY you can open any relationship- if you're willing to do the work of shifting perspective, learning and implementing new skills. Let me know if you'd like help along the way.


    polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

    Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a retired couples therapist, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and keeping non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant.  

    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 disconnection
    • break stale or 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).

     

    Open Relationship Advice: Is There Hope for Our Mono/Poly Relationship?

    polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

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

    Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here or read more Ask Me Anything here.


    This week's question: 

    "I am naturally a monogamous person and I fell in love with a polyamorous person who is in love with me... 

    ...Is there hope?"

    Honey, I am sorry whatever you're going through has you asking if there's hope. Mono/poly can absolutely work out, but it's essential (in any relationship) you hold fast to hope. When it's gone there's not much that can keep you together. 

    And questioning hope is a really hard place to sit.

    You say you're in love. I want to know more about what that means for the two of you.  Lots of folks say they're in love and they mean lust. Others mean comfort.  Neither of those are bad things, but neither will sustain you if staying together long-term is your goal.

    The behaviors that make up your love are what will help you stand the tests of time. And it sounds like you're standing in a test right now. Identifying the behaviors that show love in your relationship will help you reorient to the strengths you share in hard times. And it will help you (as the monogamous person in a polyamorous relationship) get clear in a world that can seem so counter to the lessons our culture has taught you about love.

    Most couples try to choose monogamy. Of those, most end up choosing unethical non-monogamy (cheating) at some time. Which means most of us have very little information, and social support as well as few role models to look to when we start talking about ethical non-monogamy. It can seem really foreign.

    One of the biggest struggles I see monogamous folks deal with when partnered with someone who wants to practice polyamory is that feeling of overwhelm and uncertainty- because we have so little exposure or support. Don't worry, there are a few things you can do to help you through.

    1) Study Up- get some baseline information about what consensual polyamoryand ethical non-monogamy can look like.

    There are two great books (Opening Up and More Than Two) I frequently recommend to clients who need more info. They're great because they give lots of real life examples from actual couples. Check them out. 

    2) Define Your Poly- Once you have a little background information you're going to start an important conversation conversation with your partner about what the words "monogamy" and "polyamory" mean to you. 

    You see, no two open relationships are structured the same, and they change over the course of time. So if you want to stay with this person, you will need to get clear about what each of you want right now and you'll need a way to process how and when that changes over time.  

    Plus, it's possible what your sweetie means by polyamorous might not even be that far out of what works for you. The clearer you two can be, the better equipped you are to discuss consent.  

    My wish for you is that you don't lose hope. I've seen LOTS of couples figure out ways to navigate non-monogamy that work for both parties. Let me know if you'd like help along the way. 


      polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

      Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a retired couples therapist, sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and keeping non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant.  

      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 disconnection
      • break stale or 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).

       

      Can You Help My Fiance and I Decide About Polyamory?

      polyamory advice

      Ask me anything is a relationship advice column run by Gina Senarighi, a former therapist turned sex educator and sexuality counsellor who offers online support for non-traditional couples.  

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

       

      This Weeks Relationship Advice Question:

      My fiance wants to do a poly and we have talked about and I've said maybe but honestly I'm scared and I feel he doesn't understand me. Is this something you'd be able to help with?

      Simplest answer, YUP.  I've worked with hundreds of couples who are considering non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging, or other kinds of open relationships for the first time.

      It's not uncommon for them to come to me with one partner who wants to try polyamory and another who is hesitant.  And I don't believe polyamory is for everyone, (neither is monogamy) so it often works well for us to talk through lots of options to help you decide if polyamory if right for you right now, and if so, what kind of boundaries and communications skills need to be in place for you to succeed.

      It's also not unusual to feel some fear when thinking about non-monogamy for the first time.  Lots of people experience insecurity, jealousy, and fear related to relationship change.  Whether you two do choose nonmonogamy or not, you might want support just to work through the kinds of intense feelings that show up when people start this conversation.  I can support you in that or am happy to give you a referral to another provider.

      I'm curious about why your partner is thinking about this now and I'm curious about your fears.  If you want to set up a consultation to talk more about working together or so I can send you specific resources for your situation please set up a free call here.

      Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

      Read more ask me anything here.


      polyamory therapist in portland

      Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

      She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

      She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

      She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

      Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

      Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

      If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.