polyamory rules

When to Check-In With Your Partner About Your New Crush

open relationship advice | open marriage advice | polyamory advice 

Often the biggest issues couples who are opening their relationships go through aren't about experiences with other people but are about the decision-making misunderstandings they share with each other in the process.  

Most folks agree they'll "check in" with each other along the way but when I ask "How will you know when to check in?" they're rarely on the same page.  I'm offering a few common check-in indicators my clients use below to help you discuss your own expectations about when you'll check in.

  • Meeting someone I feel attracted to.
  • When I notice myself withholding information about a crush.
  • If I share my contact information with someone.
  • If someone reaches out to me online.
  • If I create an online dating or hook-up app profile.
  • If I tell someone cute we're in an open relationship.
  • When I notice myself becoming attracted to a friend or colleague.
  • If I notice myself fantasizing about someone else.
  • If someone asks me out.
  • When I start thinking about making plans with another person who I am attracted to,
  • Before I follow through on tentative plans I make with someone.
  • Before I leave for a date.
  • Before I engage in any physical sexual contact with someone.
  • When I start thinking about spending time alone with someone I am intrigued by.
  • If I dance with someone I think is hot.
  • When I get clear about the boundaries of my BDSM play needs.
  • When I want to negotiate a scene with someone new.
  • When I get my new partners STI test results. 
  • When I get STI tested.
  • If someone I'm crushing on somehow falls outside or near the boundaries we've already discussed.
  • If I want to change the agreements we've set up.
  • If I notice the agreements we've set up don't work for me anymore.
  • When I know I want to get naked with someone I'm attracted to.
  • If I'm not coming home that night.

As you can see there are lots of options.  Many couples I work with use a combination of a few of these.  I wanted to share them with you as you start thinking about your own process to help you get clear about what might work for you.  

If you'd like help talking through your open relationship agreements I'm always happy to chat.  Give me a call.


polyamory coach | open relationship counseling | open marriage help

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.  

Keys to Creating Successful Lasting Open Relationship Rules

rules in open relationships

Most the couples who seek me out to help them open their relationships are eager to start setting up rules and agreements right away.  Maybe 75% of the questions I get in my free calls center on these rules/agreements.  

This is a perfect reaction to the chaos and uncertainty that often swirls about after you start discussing an open relationship. Often folks have been operating under an assumption of monogamy-forever (even if you mentioned you might be open to non-monogamy one time many years ago).

So when the idea of polyamory comes into focus most people are surprised and have very little information on the topic.  It can be really unsettling and you're likely to look for something solid you can agree on to help you get some clarity and certainty.  

That's not entirely a bad thing.  However, jumping to commitments and agreements too soon and without careful consideration will likely lead you to more conflicts.  There's no reason to rush this.

Many new clients want me to ham a list of recommended agreements to start out.  Unfortunately, no one set of rules works for every relationship, so you really do have to move slowly with consideration in order to custom tailor agreements to work best for you.

In addition to moving through the conversation slowly, there are a few well-researched basics to keep in mind as you begin considering the which agreements are best for your unique partnership.  

Mindset

It is really important you come to the table with clarity, a positive mindset, and strong self-care to help soothe your reactions when you start these conversations. Read more in-depth about how to get in the right headspace for these negotiations here.

Process

Having a rough idea of how you'd like to handle conversations and conflicts about this in advance can really help you when emotions get heated along the way.  

Sometimes it's too easy to let this conversation take over your everyday interactions in the beginning.  Think about how you can contain the conversation in a healthy way so it doesn't overwhelm you.  

I also see plenty of folks get carried away with urgency.  This usually results in feeling rushed or forced to change course.  Remember, there's really no reason to rush into this.  You can't force anything good.

Some of my clients save the conversation for our regular meetings.  Others set certain times of days or locations where they refuse to check-in on this topic.

Finally, remember having more relationships requires more relationship maintenance.  Some people are really uninterested in taking on more work in that area.  If that's you non-monogamy may not be the best fit right now.

Consider the following:

  • How often am I willing to talk about this topic?

  • How can I set up check-ins about our non-monogamy for success? How can I ensure I'm in a solid energetic place or mindset when we talk about this?

  • How open am I to input from my partner about who/when/how I am connecting with other people?

  • How will I slow myself down when I start moving too fast?

  • What happens if we disagree?

  • At what point will we seek professional help?

Rules, Agreements, and Considerations

As I said earlier, lots of people are searching for certainty when they start trying to create agreements.  However, research has shown that creating hard unmoving "rules" doesn't often work in polyamorous couples favor long-term.  

Often folks try to make up rules to protect themselves from discomfort.  These rules rarely last and are often traps for other partners because they can't know for certain when a partner will experience discomfort.  

Instead I recommend founding agreements in your shared core values and to address them from a positive headspace.  It's also important to connect them to the specific direct impact on each partner. 

Meaning instead of: "I can't even think about you being intimate with someone else, it makes me so uncomfortable."  

Try: "My health is very important to me. I want to figure out agreements that will help protect my health."

Or: "I want to know you prioritize our time together above others.  Can we agree to check in about our date night plans together before committing to plans with other partners?"

Couples who thrive and stay together are far more likely to have just a few simple "rules" that rarely if ever change and a LOT of agreements and considerations.  Read on to learn more about each.

Rules

Rules that work have two important facets: 1) they are simple and stated very clearly worded and 2) they rarely (if ever) change.

Common examples of "rules" might include:

  • We don't share bodily fluids (other than saliva) with other partners

  • We don't co-parent with other partners

  • We won't marry other partners

When thinking about your "rules" consider the following:

  • How can I phrase my non-negotiables so they are easily applicable?

  • How can I honor my partner's connections with others while stating my needs?

  • What is our process for if one of these rules needs to be adjusted?

Agreements

Agreements are negotiated and more temporary.  These are where we focus most of our time in proactive work before couples start connecting with other people.  They are renegotiated in a check-in conversation and are usually either time-limited or situational.  Often they expand upon the less-malleable rules.

I often see couples get tripped up in what seems "fair" or even when creating agreements.  But it's not possible for both of you to be equally comfortable with all the same things and it is incredibly unlikely the same opportunities will present themselves to both of you.  

Polyamory isn't fair.  At times, it'll feel extraordinarily unbalanced.  But everyone having the same thing isn't the goal, the goal is everyone experiencing love/sex/joy while staying connected.

Common examples of agreements might include:

  • When you attend [conference/festival/convention] I know you might have sex with other attendees.  

  • We'll talk to each other in person before any other partner's come to our home.

  • When we are out with other people we won't interrupt each other's time.

  • Sleeping together is especially important in our relationship.  Let's agree not to have sleepovers with others until we check in about this again.

When thinking about your "agreements" consider the following:

  • How will you respect the different needs you and your partner may have?

  •  How will you know when to re-assess your agreements?

  • What happens if an agreement is broken?

Considerations

Considerations boil down to one simple phrase: you can be considerate of your partner's feelings without being responsible for your partner's experience.

If you are interested in trying out open relationships because you want to see other people without prioritizing your partner's experience that is completely valid.  However, that is not an open relationship.  That's solo polyamory (being your own primary partner).  

Choosig an open relationship structure means a much greater willingness to consider the impact on others around you, and hold space for their emotional journey in this process.

I ask clients to anticipate possible areas of tenderness as they start opening their relationship.  These might include:

  • I know you feel really nervous about me connecting with other femmes.  

  • I know you want to try rope bondage with me, but I would prefer to try it with other people.

  • I know you feel really insecure about your income right now. 

Having awareness of these tender spots doesn't mean I never connect with other femmes, try rope bondage, or date rich people.  But it means I use extra care bringing this up with my partner and I may hold extra space for them to adjust.

There are two main issues with this part of clearing up considerations:

1) I can't truly anticipate every area of consideration for a partner.  I'm not a mind reader and even if my partner is really forthcoming about their tender spots, there may be some we never think about until they are happening in the moment.  

2) Walking the line between being considerate and over-compromising is a very delicate balance.  It may take a while to moderate and find a healthy balance.  

Ask yourself:

  • How will I work on reassuring my own insecurities instead of expecting my partner to do this work for me?
  • How can I clearly articulate areas of concern while holding space for the discomfort that comes with rubbing up against them?
  • How can I remain open to my partner's concerns even when they impact things I am very excited about?

Call me if you want to dive deeper into these.  I love walking folks through the agreements-creating process.  


lasting rules in open marriage

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.  

Negotiating Successful Agreements in Open Relationships

Negotiating agreements in open relationships

Hey y'all!

Just a quick SUPER EXCITING announcement (and an explanation on why I haven't been blogging as much) for you.  

Not only did I become a parent very suddenly and unexpectedly this year, but I have been working really hard to meet a publishing deadline for my book: Negotiating Successful Agreements in Open Relationships.  

Every time I meet with a new client it becomes more clear just how needed this resource is in the world so I've been working my tail off this summer to bring it forth.  It'll be out in a couple months.  

In the meantime, I wanted to share the purpose behind this work for those of you who are interested. Here's the deal: there are a FEW great books sharing basic vocabulary and compelling stories of folks living non-monogamous lifestyles... but there are NONE that really outlining the nuts-and-bolts HOW to manage the day-to-day in an open relationship.  

If you're like most my clients you've read tons of blogs and the three big books on polyamory or non-monogamy and they may have been triggering and affirming in many different ways.  

But after talking through the decision-making and negotiation process with thousands of couples it's clear- the books and blogs are great- but they just don't help you with the HOW part when emotions run hot.  

AND while some of those books and blogs are written by great people who've been practicing nonmonogamy for a while- many of them have no expertise or training in relationships.   

So that's where this book comes in.  I'm bringing ten years professional experience and research on successful open relationships to the table as well as my training in couples counseling to help readers access proven tools for navigating open relationships- and staying together.  

Here's what you'll walk away with:

  • Preparation for agreement negotiation: what you need to do before you even start the conversation& how to know if you’re ready

  • Keys to successful agreements: well-researched formulas for staying together with partners as you open your relationship. 

  • Tools to make solid agreements and change them as you grow together over time.

  • The most important considerations for maintaining respect, desire, and care when beginning your open relationship.

  • The skills you need to manage jealousy and insecurity in healthy ways.

  • Awareness of the most common pitfalls when beginning an open relationship.

  • A process for conflict resolution and care that’s neither codependent nor callous. 

  • A solid baseline for balancing healthy boundaries and connectedness.

  • Tools to stay connected to your original partner while developing new relationships.

  • Skills to communicate in meaningful positive ways through potentially rocky times.

Enter your information below to be notified when the pre-order begins.  I'd love to have you.  

Name *
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negotiating successful polyamory 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.  

5 Essential Agreements for Open Relationships

Five Essential Agreements for Open Relationships | Uncommon Love Polyamory Counseling in Portland

After working with nonmonogamous couples for eight years some basic themes become apparent.  

Certain parts of living in an open relationship are more challenging to more people than others. 

While there is no set of "rules" or "agreements" that works for every couple, there are a few I wish more folks talked through before heading into open relationship territory- to help them stay connected when it gets hard. 

And it will get hard- monogamy or not. 

So here are a few agreement recommendations to consider for you and your partner.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt when I feel insecure.

This above all else.  I've seen far too many wonderful people give in to spice, malice, sarcasm, and bitterness when insecurity comes to visit.  And insecurity visits us all (even in monogamy).  

Insecurity likes to help us make up stories.  It tells us negative things about our partner- often based in little fact.  

Instead of letting insecurity run the show, offer your partner the benefit of the doubt.  Try trust first.   

I will learn to take care of my emotional reactivity. I will take time and practice self-care to be at my best.

Insecurity isn't the only emotion who will try to run the show.  Anger, defensiveness, jealousy, anxiety, and lonliness are all kinds of emotions can try to take over when we're reacting to something new and unknown.  

It can help to work with an individual therapist or coach to understand and change the way you react when triggered.  Practicing excellent self-care will also help.  

Take good care of yourself to improve you and your relationship.

I will hold trustworthiness as my top priority and communicate honestly.

Notice when you feel drawn to be dishonest with your partner.  It is an important indicator of the health of your relationship. 

You can't do nonmonogamy ethically without honesty because you can't have consent without honesty.  

If you're not ready to be honest you're not ready for an open relationship.

I will show you kindness, warmth, and empathy when we have a hard time.

You will have hard times.  One or both of you will go through rejection and heartbreak.  One or both of you will face insecurity, jealousy, defensiveness, and abandonment issues as you open your relationship. 

It will be much harder for each of you without the support of the other.  Find ways to communicate with empathy and care even when you're having a hard time on your own.

I will listen to you- even when it is hard.

Even the strongest couples have trouble really listening once in a while.  But for non-mongamous couples staying open to listening can be an added challenge when emotional reactivity is in the air.  

Promise yourself and your partner you will listen- and really practice at it even while things are going well, so you have the skills to listen when it gets hard. 


Gina Senarighi Couples Counseling in Portland

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).