opening up

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.  

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.  

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).

Nine Online Resources for Open Relationships

I have been writing about the need so many of my couples face for more community and resources.  It's only natural to want to learn from and with others when trying something new- and since so many non-monogamous relationships are closeted, it can be hard to find people you connect with face to face.  

Check out the online resources below to build your knowledge base as you begin to consider non-monogamy.  You can also use these to meet other couples in open marriages and relationships. 

OpeningUp.Net is one of my favorite resources based on my favorite book for newly open couples ,Opening Up.  Check their free downloads and the blog for great information and gatherings for non-monogamous people like you!

FetlLife.com has been described as a facebook for sex-positive or kinky folks.  There are great educational forums and discussions, even listings, and personals adds all offered in this online social networking community.  

Poly in the News is a great regularly updated collection of resources from across the web- like a newspaper of non-monogamy.

Freaksexual.com is a blog with great reading material for people new to polyamory and non-monogamy.  

Poly From the Inside Out shares personal stories and general resources for polyamorous community members.  

Poly Weekly Podcast focuses on issues related to open relationships and stories within our poly community.  If reading isn't your thing, download a few episodes and give it a listen!

PuckerUp is a sex-positive and open relationship affirming blog by my favorite author and sex educator, Tristan Taormino.  Check it out for a very wide array of resources!

The Stranger Articles by Dan Savage can be great because Dan has been writing about sexuality and non-monogamy for longer than many.  He's pretty outspoken and has been known to offend- so reader beware.  

The Stranger Articles by Mistress Matisse is another great source for sex-positive writing that affirms the experience of sex workers (Matisse is a professional dom).  

Good luck to you on this reading journey!  Let me know if you want some professional support along the way!


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).