should we open our relationship

Consider These Two Questions Before Making Your Relationship Rules

2 Questions Before Making Your Open Relationship Rules | Poly Counseling in Portland

Most of the couples I work with struggle when making rules (I prefer to call them agreements) up to navigate their open relationship.  

Lots of people fear feeling controlled or manipulated in the process.  Many others aren't sure what they want or need from this kind of relationship change.  

I have found these two questions especially helpful when coming up with agreements.  Consider them before making your own.

Questions for Healthy Open Relationship Agreements

Question One: What is sacred in this partnership?

One of the biggest areas of struggle for non-monogamous couples comes up around the ideas we have about what's special or sacred in our relationship.  I'll give you some examples of each:

Special identity: I want to believe I am the most beautiful person you know.  I love knowing I am the best lead dancer you dance with.  I trust you enough to be fluid bonded and I want to know that's unique to the two of us.

Sacred spaces: The restaurant we go to every year on our anniversary is really special to me.  It helps me to know our home is a space just for the two of us.  We moved to Portland to be together and I have trouble imagining sharing this city with anyone else.

Meaningful items: The canoe we made together is really special to me.  We share wedding bands and it's important to me you wear it when we're not together.

Rituals and traditions: We have always gone to March Fourth together and I would like to keep that sacred.  We pull tarot together every weekend, and I really like doing that together.  We have Timbers season tickets and it's important to me we continue going to the games as a pair.  

Community connection: Our church community is so important to me I would like to keep it just for the two of us.  It's important to me we check in before other partners meet family because family is such a strong value of mine.

Often the challenges couples face are less around sexual activity and more focused on these sacred and special parts of our relationship.  

Once we're clear what's sacred and special we can nourish those traditions to strengthen our relationship.  

We can also create agreements and understandings about what we're willing to share with others and what we are not.

 

Question Two: What is private in our relationship?

The other greatest challenge I see couples go through relates to privacy.  There are two critical questions to ask yourselves here:

1.  What are our privacy agreements in this relationship?  

Do you read each other's text messages or check emails?  What happens if you overhear something about another partner?  Most importantly, what do you anticipate keeping private about other partners, and what won't work for you?

If you aren't clear and specific now it's a great time to get clear- even if you never choose to practice non-monogamy.  Navigating consent around personal privacy can be a great area to practice before adding additional parties to your partnership.

2.  What information are we each uncomfortable sharing with others?

Some of the couples I work with create agreements like, we won't talk about our relationship struggles with others, or we agree to speak only positively about each other with other partners.  And sometimes there are specific pieces of our life or history we don't want our lovers sharing with others like our mental health status, addiction history, sexual fetishes, fantasies, or trauma history.  

Think about what kinds of information you would be uncomfortable with your partner sharing with others about your life or your relationship- maybe even make a list and share it well before you start seeing other people.  


Gina Senarighi Poly Counseling Portland Oregon

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 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).

Are You Ready for Polyamory?

Ready for Polyamory | Uncommon Love Poly Counseling in Portland

Lots of us think about trying polyamory, open relationships, or non-monogamy in relationships after successful monogamy- but how do you know if you (and your relationship) is ready for that change?

I've been working with open relationships for years and have identified four key questions to consider to know if polyamory is right for you and your relationship.  

Ask yourself the following questions to get clear.

 

Polyamory Self-Check Questions:

1.  What do I really want?

Lots of folks come to me thinking they want nonmonogamy in their relationship because they philosophically agree with the concept- but they have no idea what they want.  Spend a little time getting clear about what you might want.  Here are some more questions to help:

Who do you want to be involved with?

What do you hope to share with these people?

When or where might you connect with them?

2.  What do I have to give?

Open relationships often sound like a lot of fun- you get more affection, sex, and friendship for example- but when considering them we rarely consider the energetic commitment we're making as poly people.  Relationships take work, and more relationships means more work.  

Do you have the free/flexible time, physical energy and emotional energy (this is a big one) to invest in multiple relationships?

3.  How do I (and we) cope when things are really hard?

First experiences in open relationships can bring up lots of unexpected self-learning - often some of the most challenging learning we can face.  

If you and/or your partner have a hard time managing emotional reactivity, insecurity, and/or loneliness I highly recommend in learning some self-care and self-soothing practices before attempting non-monogamy.

4.  How do we resolve conflict now?

Adding more people to a relationship means more variables and often this means more opportunity for misunderstandings.  If you and your sweetheart have a hard time resolving misunderstandings as is adding more partners to the mix will only further complicate things.  

Take some time to work on your conflict resolution together before starting an open relationship.  

Start your open relationship with confidence.  Use these questions to help lay a foundation for successful non-monogamy.  

Download this free self-check tool to expand your self-awareness and prepare for healthy polyamory.


Gina Senarighi Sex Positive Counseling in Portland

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:

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).

 

10 Reasons NOT To Choose an Open Relationship

10 Reasons NOT to Choose Polyamory | Uncommon Love Poly Counseling in Portland

Often new clients come to me wondering if I have an agenda- that polyamory is somehow better than monogamy for relationships.  The truth is polyamory is a choice and it works well in some relationships (just like monogamy is a choice that works well for some relationships) but there are plenty of reasons NOT to choose polyamory or open relationships.  

Here are some reasons not to choose nonmonogamy:

You don't have much spare time  

You can't have a healthy relationship without quality time and energy.  More relationships require more time.  If you don't have time to give, maybe wait until you do or restructure your schedule so there is space when you want to share it.

You are physically exhausted

Not only is nonmonogamy draining of time, but it takes physical energy.  If you are physically exhausted you may want to consider if you have the physical energy to sustain more than one relationship.

You don't like talking about sex, boundaries, and intimacy in detail.

Part of negotiating consent clearly with any partner requires getting specific and being up front about sex, sensuality, kinks, and play.  The more people you add to a relationship the more these conversations need to happen.  If you're uncomfortable having then with one person, do you really want to have them with many?

You have a hard time saying no.

Setting and maintaining boundaries with minimal resentment is a huge part of the process of healthy nonmonogamy.  Learn to say no to the things you don't want before starting a relationship- monogamous or otherwise.

You don't like to ask for what you need.

Well, if you're not going to ask for what you need it's highly unlikely anyone will meet them.  People can't read minds.  Part of negotiating in a healthy relationship is getting clear about what you want and getting comfortable asking for it.

You don't have extra emotional bandwidth to discuss relationship maintenance.

The top two complaints I hear from couples in open relationships is the lack of time (see above) and the amount of emotional work involved.  Especially if you are in a new relationship, or have not practiced nonmonogamy before opening up can require tons of emotional labor and if you're not into it that could be pretty hard.

You don't have a lot of patience or empathy for your partner's jealousy or insecurity.

Yes, your partner needs to learn to self-soothe and take care of their own emotions.  But you need to have patience and understanding for their process.  If you can't hold space for them with compassion, an open relationship is unlikely to serve you.

You suck at sharing.

Sharing is the name of the game in open relationships.  Sharing time, cars, financial resources, bodies, emotional space... if you hate having to share then polyamory isn't for you.

You can't take care of your own emotional reactivity, insecurity, or envy.

Opening up means all kinds of unexpected things will come up and some of them you can process with your partner- but most of them you need to work through on your own.  Learning to self-soothe when you feel reactive will save your relationship, especially if it's an open relationship.  If you're expecting your partner to "make you feel better" every time they spend time with someone else this is going to be a long hard road.

You don't want to take another person's needs into account when making relationship decisions.  Or You don't want to compromise

Any relationship requires some compromise.  But respectful nonmonogamy will bring new understanding to meeting in the middle.  If you're too rigid it could cost you your relationships.  

Before diving into an open relationship consider your own reasons for choosing a monogamous or an open relationship.  

  • Which model works best for you and why?

  • How do you define the boundaries of your monogamous or open contracts?

  • How do you communicate expectations about intimacy with others with your partner?

  • How have your beliefs about monogamy and non-monogamy changed over time?

  • What beliefs do you have about other relationship models?  

  • How do you know which model is best for you?

No one is born polyamorous or monogamous, these are relationship models we choose. Neither option is right or wrong when made honestly and intentionally.  

If you're thinking about opening your relationship and want help talking about it with your partner you might want to attend the Polyamory 101 course I am leading on July 13, 2016.  

Or give me a call for a free consult. I am glad to help.

 


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).

 

Two Kinds of Jealousy

Kinds of Jealousy | uncommon Love Open Marriage Counseling in Portland

The most common question I get (as a therapist who works with open relationships and non-monogamous marriages) is how I help people work through jealousy.  

Although jealousy takes many forms in these diverse relationships, there are two sources driving most of our conversations on the topic.

Most of the time, jealousy is based in fear.  It is an incredibly common emotion, and is important to acknowledge as a natural and healthy occurrence- when handled with integrity. However, when jealousy gets out of hand, it can be incredibly destructive to the foundation of any marriage or partnership.

All too often jealousy results in worried and distrustful behaviors (like snooping, spying, and interrogating).  It seems to impact relationships regardless of demographic- everyone experiences some bitter envy from time to time.

The first kind of jealousy worth noting is reactive.  

Reactive jealousy happens when you are experiencing an actual threat to your relationship.

Reactive jealousy is painful, but due to its specific focus, it can appear easier to problem solve (by addressing the threat openly, and lovingly).

On the other hand, suspicious jealousy can be very difficult to resolve.  Suspicious jealousy is not based in fact or evidence, no commitments have been broken and the relationship isn't at risk.  

Instead of being driven by a real threat, suspicious jealousy originates in one partner's insecurities.

Insecurity can come from any number of life experiences or current situations in a partner's life and in the course of a relationship it is only natural either partner will feel some insecurity rise from time to time.  Regardless of its cause, insecurity, it is important the couple work together to prevent damage that can be caused by this kind of jealousy.

Here are a couple simple but effective strategies you can work on when the green-eyed monster attacks your relationship.  

If you want help moving past jealousy in your relationship call me for a free consultation to see fi I can assist you.

 

poly counselor | polyamory couples counseling | open relationship threapist

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).