polyamory advice

Polyamory Advice: How to Find Professional Support

poly therapist polyamory couples counseling nonmonogamy open marriage therapist polyamory coach 

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist turned 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: WHERE CAN WE FIND PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT?

 

From my inbox:

What would be your recommendations for attempting to find a similar practice locally to (STATE NAME) state? I'm in (PLACE NAME) so odds are if anything is at least as far as (CITY), a 1 hour drive. But I am sure you get this question a lot.

Me and my fiance are starting poly and I know I am a human so I will hurt her feelings, eventually. I just want to look up all the options to setup a healthy and timely recovery system. I know I need strong communication skills and that's another thing I want to work on.

 

From my sent box:

Thanks for reaching out!  I see far too many people dive into non-monogamy after a lifetime of monogamy without setting clear intentions, expectations, and boundaries or cultivating necessary communication skills.  I often wish more people were proactive.

I don't know of anyone doing this work locally for you, but I actually have other clients in your area, and we've worked together three months without issue.  If you're at all interested in relationship coaching via FaceTime I am happy to support you.  

If you want to find a couples therapist or coach in your area I would recommend contacting them via Psychology Today or the International Coaching Federation and asking four screening questions:

1) How many polyamorous, open, or otherwise ethically non-monogamous couples have you worked with in the past?

2) What professional training do you have to support your work with consensually non-monogamous couples?

3) What personal beliefs do you hold about the health and wellbeing of non-monogamous couples that might impact our work together?  

4) Do you have any lived experience in consensual non-monogamy?

One other thing I can recommend is looking into Nonviolent Communication (NVC) training in your area.  It is NOT the same as therapy or coaching for you as a couple (I would recommend both) and while it's not specifically designed just for non-monogamous folks, NVC has helped polyamorous couples communicate effectively across/through challenging emotions for decades.  I strongly recommend finding a training or practice group now to start developing those communication skills.

As far as the hurt that will happen- that part is well within your control.  If you start working on things with a trained professional before you start practicing poly (building emotional or physical intimacy with other people) you can avoid most potential hurt and misunderstanding.  Communication skill development is essential for both of you.  

I hope that's helpful.  Please schedule a free consultation if you'd like to talk about working together.  I'm happy to support you.  

Warmly, Gina

 


polyamory coach | polyamory advice | open marriage therapist

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: How do I Work on My Insecurities?

how do i work on insecurities.jpg

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist turned 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 lived with/dated a poly man for 18 months. He is a gem of a person! His wife, her boyfriend and I had a good relationship and are still in touch.

These last few months I've been dealing with jealousy and insecurity, so much so that we broke things off and he moved out.

I'm pretty devastated, and really want things to work, but need time to get my head on straight. We agreed to check back in a few months and see where things stand. I want to be ready and healthy for this.

How do I figure out how to work on jealousy and insecurity?"

I'm so sorry you broke up. I hope you'll consider working on your insecurity and jealousy for your own well-being, whether you get back together or not. 

The first step in managing jealousy and insecurity is learning to allow them. Most of us struggle with jealousy and insecurity and most of our struggle is beating ourselves up because they exsist.  

But jealousy and insecurity are normal, natural emotional states. If we ignore them we're ignoring part of ourselves. And we would never ignore other emotions (joy, excitement, calm etc) so why sever this part of ourselves?

I know joy and happiness are so much easier to sit with. But if you can bring yourself to accept that jealousy and insecurity are natural, you may be able to sit with them a while and learn from them. Often they're trying to tell us something useful. 

Next time they show up, find somewhere comfy and get something to write with. Then do a free-write (unedited, no-judgment allowed) interviewing them.  Ask your jealousy and insecurity:

  • What do they want most?
  • What are they trying to tell you?
  • What other emotions are they traveling with?
  • What are they trying to protect?

And answer for yourself:

  • How does spending time with jealousy/insecurity help me?
  • How do I feel when I believe my jealous thoughts?
  • How do I feel when I choose to believe my insecure thoughts?
  • How do I want to feel in this moment? What do I want to focus on/be present for?
  • Who would I be if you weren't focusing on them?

Notice what you can learn from these emotions if you allow them.  There is likely some important learning here for you.  If you want a coach to walk you through creating a different relationship with your jealousy and insecurity, call me, I'm here for you. 


polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC keeps non-traditional relationships healthy and vibrant as a coach and retreat leader in Portland, OR.  

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).

 

Relationship Advice: How do I Regain Her Trust?

polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open marriage advice

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist turned 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've been in a relationship for nearly two years. Recently we had some misunderstanding issues, regarding privacy, boldness, and respecting each other's feelings. How can I solve the problem, and regain trust?"

I'm so glad you're asking.  Rebuilding trust is so critical to staying together- and most of us are clueless when it comes to relationship repair work.  Thanks for bringing this up!

Trust is touchy because it's so difficult to build up and so easy to lose.  It gets built up in the tiniest of everyday actions - so small it can seem invisible.  And so tiny building it back can seem like it takes forever. 

And building trust back after it's been broken is a struggle because we rarely can see the full impact our actions have on a partner.  Just as it's built in tiny increments, it can be broken in tiny increments- so tiny we can miss them if we're not invested in paying attention.

I offer that information only to help give you a little perspective. Lots f folks get impatient when trying to earn trust from a loved one after we've broken it. But it takes time- sometimes, lots of time to get back to a similar trusting place. And getting impatient isn't going to help.

You can do it though. If you stick with it.  

The keys to building trust after a break are twofold: you have to both repair the specific break, and you have to keep momentum building on the tiny incremental trust-installments you've already made. 

Repairing the Trust Break

When trust has been broken you have to apologize.  But that doesn't mean just saying you're sorry.  Apologies have four essential parts if they're going to work. 

  1. Acknowledge the specific behaviors you did that broke trust
  2. Acknowledge the emotional impact on your partner
  3. Suggest an alternative behavior you'll do if a similar situation comes up in the future
  4. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Follow through on what you said in #3

The more specific you can be when taking ownership of your actions and the more clearly you can connect to the impact it had on your sweetie the better.  But above all, be sure when you suggest alternatives for the future, you offer something you KNOW you can commit to following through.  Follow through is where trust is built.

Keeping Trust-Momentum Building

The other part of regaining trust is to keep the day-to-day trust nourishing behaviors you already have in place moving in the right direction.  We build trust when what we do and what we say are in alignment. 

So start paying extra close attention to the agreements, promises, and commitments you make with your partner and be especially careful not to over-promise. And start looking for ways to make more promises you KNOW you can follow through on.  As you create verbal agreements and follow through on them- even tiny ones- trust between you will slowly return.

I'm sorry you and your sweetie are in the difficult place of repairing trust.  But with care and intention, you can get back to a sweetly connected place again. 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: 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).

         

        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).

        The Right Mindset for Creating Agreements in Open Relationships

        Mindset for creating open relationship agreements.jpg

        Plenty of relationship research has shown the way a conversation begins often predicts the outcome in conflicts.  John Gottman coined the term "harsh start-up" to describe how frequently couples argue about nothing, meaning not the topic at hand, but how their partner is approaching the conversation.  

        I've seen first hand this is especially true when couples start opening their relationship. So frequently the tone at the start leads to longer lasting more hurtful communication- right when connection and vulnerability is critically important. 

        If you've noticed you and your sweetheart in a downward spiral each time you bring up nonmonogamy it might be time to shift your mindset in advance of the conversations to make sure you start things out right.  

        In the last ten years supporting open relationships, I've noticed a critical difference in the folks who navigate these conversations successfully and those who don't.  I'll outline them below to help you move forward in your own negotiations.  

        Effective Mindset for Open Relationship Negotiations

        Self-Awareness and Compassion

        Beginning a conversation about nonmonogamy can bring up lots of surprising reactions if you've never practiced consensual open relationship before. Even some of the most self-reflective skillful communicators find themselves managing overwhelming emotions and unpredictable reactions.

        If you're experiencing those waves of emotion, you know all too well how ineffective conversation is when you're overwhelmed by a reaction.  And yet if you're like most folks you're probably trying to stuff or deny that reaction because it can feel so ugly.

        The first step in managing that kind of reactivity is acknowledging it's there or "name it to tame it" (as we say in the field of psychology).  Name it and accept that the reactivity is a very normal part of this process.  

        That doesn't mean you get to lose all control or be unkind when you feel reactive. But start noticing when it shows up and what you feel like right before it visits you.  By collecting a little self-awareness data on the specifics of your reactivity you can start to take action and negotiate agreements based on the information you pick up.

        Developing more self-awareness about your reactivity also paves the way to humility- an essential ingredient for success in non-monogamy. When we stop trying to be perfect (and shadow-emotionless) we can connect with deeper authenticity to those we love.

        Self-awareness and humility also foster forgiveness in relationships. Humility and humor help couples stay buoyant in conflict instead of sinking in difficult times.  While it's not uncommon to start catastrophizing in these conversations it's also not helpful.  Humility helps us remember everything isn't actually on the line.

        If you're looking to shift the nature of your conversation be sure you're truly in a place to self-reflect and develop self-compassion.

        Ask yourself:

        • How do I know when I am in a reactive headspace? 

        • How can I re-center myself when I feel off balance?  

        • Am I able to have this conversation without catastrophizing?  

        Trying to navigate an open relationship for the first time often destabilizes folks for a bit. But if you want to create meaningful sustainable agreements create them from a stable headspace.

         

        Personal Accountability

        Mistakes are a natural part of developing authentic relationships.  But that doesn't mean they don't hurt.  And when we hurt a common defense mechanism is to blame others.  

        Unfortunately (like all defense mechanisms) blame gets in the way of connection and learning.

        It also shifts the focus from the things we can control (our behavior and choices) to things we can't control (our partner's behavior and choices) which leads to feeling more chaotic. 

        To regain a sense of control, and move through difficult negotiations more easily work to notice when you start shifting to blame and instead notice where you can own your contribution to the issue.  

        Ask yourself:

        • Am I willing to own my contribution to this dynamic?

        • Am I in a headspace to look at how I would behave differently in the future?  

        If you're not, please pause before starting your conversation about agreements.

         

        Benefit of the Doubt

        Being able to give a partner the benefit of the doubt in difficult times is a baseline for trust in partnerships. It sounds like this, "I felt lonely when you were out and disappointed when you came home and didn't enthusiastically greet me.  But I know you would never intentionally hurt me." 

        Starting from the benefit of the doubt creates openness for possibility and forces us to let go of assumption-making and resentment-building (both HUGE problems in relationships). It shifts our baseline from focusing on the negative to possibility.  

        If I am in this kind of trusting headspace it is much easier to try to really see things from my partner's perspective.  Perspective-taking is a critical skill for couples (monogamous ones too) to get through challenging times.  It helps you keep a big-picture mindset (instead of getting stuck in negativity and unnecessary details) and most importantly it encourages empathy. 

        If you can't empathize with your partner's emotional experience (read: this doesn't mean you avoid or fix all their negative experiences- but it does mean you deeply care about them) it is going to be very difficult to maintain connection as you begin practicing ethical non-monogamy.

        Ask yourself:

        • Am I able to consider this situation from my partner's point of view?

        • Am I willing to connect with their emotional experience- even if it is a painful one? 

        • Is there anything standing in the way of giving them the benefit of the doubt?

        If you're not able to connect with their point of view, or there's something standing between you and trust you may want to focus on repair work and rebuilding trust and empathy in your relationship before trying to navigate open relationship dynamics for the first time.

         

        Fear into Gratitude

        One of the most common experiences among folks attempting an open relationship for the first time is fear. Fear of losing someone, of heartbreak, or divorce, of comparison... fear can be completely overwhelming.

        According to Gary Zukov, the antidote to fear is love. I started a practice helping folks shift from fear, jealousy, and insecurity to love seven years ago and I know it often sounds like fluff to folks who are immersed in anxiety when I first say it.  

        But folks who try to create fear-based agreements are far less likely to sustain them, and far more likely to develop codependent patterns in their relationship (which are NOT sustainable either).   

        To generate longer-lasting agreements, you need to come at them from a place of love and gratitude.  Instead of focusing on what you fear, look toward when you want to preserve. Instead of centering anxiety create a plan to reinforce the strengths you share with your partner. Instead of trying to avoid discomfort develop structures to reinforce the resilience, courage, and sweetness you share.

        Ask yourself:

        • Am I able to set fear aside and focus on our strengths?

        • Can I identify when I want more of in this relationship? 

        • Am I willing to hear what my partner wants to nourish, bolster, and fortify between us?

        Couples I've seen stay together through newly open marriages and relationships take on a positive pro-active mindset when they begin the conversation.  If you're not in a place to make that shift you might want to start by nourishing your strengths before you take on the conversation about openness.  

        If you want to talk more about any of these considerations I'm happy to talk with you. I've got a few openings in my practice for online clients (video connections) and in-person Portland-area clients who are thinking about opening their relationship for the first time.  Give me a call.


        mindset for open marriage agreements

        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.  

        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.  

        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.