nontraditional weddings

20 Seconds & 20 Slides on Default Monogamy

Default Monogamy | Non-monogamy | Why Nonmonogamy is Better

I had the privilege of giving a talk at PechaKucha last month, it was Unity night and I guess I thought, "What a perfect night to bring non-monogamy to the conversation?" 

I was really nervous, as even in progressive Portland, Oregon mainstream audiences are a little skittish about non-monogamy.  Typically my work is met at dinner parties with bemused curiosity, blatant defensiveness, or awkward fetishization. 

I knew the audience would likely fit largely into the mainstream culture of default monogamy, and though my work focused on polyamory, open relationships and consensual non-monogamy, most of the work I do with couples is rethinking the cultural norms they've been taught about relationships.

Which mostly means, challenging deeply held patterns of default monogamy.  

So I decided to shift my talk's focus a little to how our culture of default monogamy is damaging relationships.  How if more monogamous couples held the bandwidth to acknowledge there is value in the emotional intimacy, inspiration, and curiosity brought out in relations with other people (even if it never becomes physical or sexual) they might be able to withstand the passing personal transformations that come with growing and changing over a lifetime.  

But if you know anything about PechaKucha, you know speakers are given a STRICT timeline and structure to follow.  Twenty seconds per slide and only twenty slides.  It sounded like a lot to me until I tried it.  Nothing has ever made me have to choose my words more carefully (right down to the syllable).  

Which meant I had to leave a lot out, but I'm really proud of what I was able to work in, and based on the conversations I had after the event, I certainly got people talking and thinking about evolving relationships in new ways.  

Watch the video below and let me know what you think on my facebook page.  I'd love to hear from you.  


Gina Senarighi | Polyamory Counselor | Nonmonogamy Therapist

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.  

What is LGBTQ Affirming Therapy

Happy Pride Month!

I often get asked why I advertise my services as LGBTQ-Affirming on my website.  Which is a great question.  Check out my video response:

 

Lots of LGBTQ folks have trouble finding supportive professionals who truly understand their unique needs.  They end up explaining basic principles to their therapists, coach, or consultants during session instead of focusing on what they really need.  

Sometimes other providers will get caught up in their own curiosity and unintentionally force clients to focus on gender and sexuality instead of whatever agenda the client needs help with.

As an LGBTQ-Affirming provider, I have professionals training and knowledge in addition to personal experience that helps inform our work together.

But, just because I have this knowledge doesn’t mean I turn straight clients away.  Many of my clients are straight-identified but choose to work with me because they feel comfortable sharing liberal political views, sexual creativity, opening up their relationship, and other topics they fear might be judged in other therapist’s offices.  

Watch my video response here to learn more about my work with more traditional couples.


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, 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).

11 More Vows for Non-Traditional Weddings

Your big day is coming and it’s going to be the beautiful, exciting, emotional, dream commitment ceremony you have wanted since you were a little kid crushed on a camp counselor and dreaming of long term committed same-sex love.

Nontraditional, unconventional, queer, LGBT, polyamorous and kinky weddings are my favorites because we are up against so many invalidating messages about our love.  It is uniquely beautiful to see two people choose to validate their commitments on their own terms.

 

There’s just that one thing: your family.  Your mom wanted you to invite your aunt, but you have seen the hateful homophobic and transphobic stuff she posts on facebook.  Imagining what she’ll be like in the same room with your beautiful drag queen friends makes your stomach flip.

You think about your grandpa, and how he stopped talking to you after you brought your sweetheart home for the holidays two years ago.  He’s been distant ever since.  Will that be a downer on your special day?

And then there’s your cousins, you never really came out to them.  Is it weird to come out in a wedding invitation?

Despite all the advice you are going to get, there is no one right or wrong way to decide who should or shouldn’t be there.  No matter what you do, there will always be another possibility to entertain.  The one thing you can be sure of, is that you are doing the right thing for you.

What will make you most comfortable that day?  

What decision will you feel best about one year from now?

Give some thought to each of these relationships.  You don’t have to respond the same way to every one of your relatives.  Choose the path of greatest integrity in each scenario.  Every time you reach a conflict you have five options on how to address it.

Here are some options to consider based on the Five Conflict Management Styles according to Thomas, K.W., and R.H. Kilmann:

Conflict Style 1: Accommodating: This is when you cooperate to a high-degree, and it may be at your own expense, and actually work against your own goals, objectives, and desired outcomes.  This approach is effective when the other party is the expert or has a better solution.  It can also be effective for preserving future relations with the other party.

In your wedding scenario: This means you just invite them.  Your mom is happy to have everyone in one place, and they have the option to say no.  If you choose this option you may want to create support structures for yourself, your partner, and your friends to help buffer them from  homophobic stuff.  Maybe you have a special gathering for just your queer friends, or ask a friend to act as a bigot bouncer at the actual event.  If you choose to go this route, come up with plans to support your celebration so you don’t have to put up with junk you don’t want on your day.

Conflict Style 2: Avoiding:  This is when you simply avoid the issue.  You aren’t helping the other party reach their goals, and you aren’t assertively pursuing your own.  This works when the issue is less meaningfulor when you have no chance of winning.   It can also be effective when the issue would be very costly.  It’s also very effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to create some space. Sometimes issues will resolve themselves, but “hope is not a strategy”, and, in general, avoiding is not a good long term strategy.

In your wedding scenario: This means you just don’t invite them.  Your mom may be disappointed (and they might too) but you avoid the issue of having conversations before the day, and or trying to overcome your emotions (and their possible outbursts) on your wedding day.  It is especially helpful if you have family members who are particularly volatile or unsafe in their actions.  Think about the person who just can’t control themselves from saying something rude during your special moments.  If and when physical safety is a concern this is definitely the best route to choose.

You have permission not to invite anyone who will just plain make you uncomfortable.  Remember it is YOUR DAY, YOUR PARTY, YOUR MEMORIES and you have every right to stick to what will being you greatest happiness.  A lot of well-intentioned allies will try to help you just “get over it”, and may even guilt you about your lack of compassion. No matter what they (or I) say only you get to decide what is right for your day.

Conflict Style 3: Competing : This is the “win-lose” approach.  You act in a very assertive way to achieve your goals, without seeking to cooperate with the other party, and it may be at the expense of the other party.  This approach may be appropriate for emergencies when time is of the essence, or when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach.

In your wedding scenario: You have been practicing setting clear boundaries and stating your expectations with compassion for years, here is a big opportunity to put that practice into action.  Maybe you send them an invite with a letter stating exactly what you expect for their behavior.  Maybe you call them when you receive their RSVP and give them behaviorally specific examples of how you want them to show their support.  Let them know clearly, and with respect, exactly what you want from them on this day, and if they can’t participate and demonstrate support for your partnership they can show they care by staying home.  Or, maybe you don’t invite them and you send them a specific letter addressing why you aren’t including them with compassion, care, and respect.

 

Conflict Style 4: Collaborating: This is where you partner or pair up with the other party to achieve both of your goals.  This is how you break free of the “win-lose” paradigm and seek the “win-win.”  This can be effective for complex scenarios where you need to find a novel solution.  This can also mean re-framing the challenge to create a bigger space and room for everybody’s ideas.  The downside is that it requires a high-degree of trust and reaching a consensus can require a lot of time and effort to get everybody on board and to synthesize all the ideas.

Conflict Style 5: Compromising: This is the “lose-lose” scenario where neither party really achieves what they want.  This requires a moderate level of assertiveness and cooperation.  It may be appropriate for scenarios where you need a temporary solution, or where both sides have equally important goals.   The trap is to fall into compromising as an easy way out, when collaborating would produce a better solution.

These two conflict styles may overlap in your wedding scenario.  They require more work (in conversation) but can create even stronger more satisfying outcomes.  You have to decide, are these relationships you want to invest in?  Are the other parties willing to meet you somewhere in the middle?

In your wedding scenario: These conflict styles will likely mean these folks come to your ceremony or celebration.  However, they also mean they are coming with an understanding of what you want, hope for, and expect.  And when they arrive you will have a clear understanding of how they can either meet those needs or not.  Either way, you will have had a conversation and may have laid a welcome mat for more communication in years to come.

Remember, only you get to decide what is right for your day.  Consider what will make you most comfortable at your commitment ceremony and in years to come.  Act with integrity and compassion and you won’t regret your choices. 


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, 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).

Wedding Vows for Independent People

Every year I am blessed with the opportunity to perform weddings as an officiant.  With the recent changes in the legal definition of marriage and more and more awesome couples redefining with marriage and commitment mean to them I have had more exciting offers to join families for these beautiful occasions.

However, so many of my wonderful unique, nontraditional, feminist, or queer couples have difficulty coming up with a ceremony that really works for them.  So many parts of this tradition are linked to beliefs and rules that just don’t fit every loving couple. Frankly, when I look for vows and readings, a lot of them sound pretty codependent.

As a marriage therapist, I know full well the importance of balancing independent well-being with the well-being of your relationship.  In order to help you get started planning your special day I want to share some of the vows couples have used in my ceremonies to give you ideas for your own.  Congratulations on wanting to commit to a shared life- and continue to grow as individuals too!

 Share the vows from your wedding in the comments- I would love to read more!

 

I don’t believe in marriage. No, I really don’t. Let me be clear about that. I think at worst it’s a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it’s a happy delusion – these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they’re about to make each other. But, but, when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don’t think it’s conservative or delusional. I think it’s radical and courageous and very romantic.

- “To Diego and Frida” from the movie Frida

I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone…
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carried the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.

- II from Twenty-One Love Poems by Adrienne Rich

Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming over the oaks.

I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.
Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.
I know that they support you,
and that your sweet weight
rises upon them.
Your waist and your breasts,
the doubled purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

- Pablo Neruda

To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one’s inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child’s scars
Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

- To Love is Not to PossessJames Kavanaugh

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, ” You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed- well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

- Union from The Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum

I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.

- Love by Roy Croft

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

- i carry your heart by ee cummings


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, 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).

11 Vows For Non-Traditional Weddings

 Nontraditional Weddings are Beautiful

Every year I am blessed with the opportunity to perform weddings as an officiant.  With the recent changes in the legal definition of marriage and more and more couples redefining with marriage and commitment mean to them I have had more exciting offers to join families for these beautiful occasions.

However, so many of my wonderful unique, nontraditional, feminist, or queer coupleshave difficulty coming up with a ceremony that really works for them.  So many parts of this tradition are linked to beliefs and rules that just don’t fit every loving couple.

In order to help you get started planning your big day (or weekend, or whatever) I want to share some of the vows couples have used in my ceremonies to give you ideas for your own.  Congratulations on wanting to commit to a shared life.

For more non-religious non-traditional vow ideas click here

 

Share the vows from your nontraditional ceremony in the comments- I would love to read more! 

I choose you to be my partner, my love-equal, and mirror for my True Self.  Be my partner on this path.  I will honor you and cherish you in rain and sunshine till death do us part.

Sweetheart, with all my love, I take you to be my life partner, best friend, and constant companion. I will love you through good and the bad, through joy and the sorrow. I will try to be understanding, and to trust in you completely. Together we will face all of life’s experiences and share one another’s dreams and goals. I promise I will be your equal partner in a loving, honest relationship, for as long as we both shall live. 

When you need someone to encourage you, I am there. When you need help, I am there. When you long for someone to smile with, smile with me. When you have something to share, share it with me.

I vow to always keep my love as pure as it is today. I promise to be there for you in your laughter and your tears, in your sickness and your health, in your comfort and your fears. I promise to be there for you for all your life, come what may.

My love from this day forward I promise you, I will laugh with you in times of joy and comfort you in times of sorrow. I will share in your dreams, and support you as you strive to achieve your goals. I will listen to you with compassion and understanding, and speak to you with encouragement. I will remain faithful to our vows for better or for worse, in times of sickness and health. I will love and respect you always.

 I promise you to laugh more than we cry.  To comfort, encourage listen, and hug.  I promise to love you in sunshine and rain for the rest of my days.  I am grateful for every moment I am fortunate to spend with you.

 I promise to encourage us to try new and unusual things.  I vow to invest in loving you daily and to snuggle you as often as possible.  I vow to be the best parts of me that fit perfectly with the best parts of you.  Although I will be imperfect, I pledge to be sensitive and respectful of your unique talents, abilities and quirks.  I pledge to lend you strength for all of your dreams. Through our union we can accomplish more than I could alone.  I believe in you.

Today I join myself to you before this company to share our love with the world. May our days be long, and may they be seasoned with love, understanding and respect.  I choose you to embark upon this great journey of marriage with me.  I am stronger with you than alone. 

From this moment, I take you, as my companion for life. I pledge to honor, encourage, and support you on this long walk together. When our way becomes difficult, I promise to stand by you and uplift you, so that through our union we can accomplish more than we could alone. I promise to work at our love and always make you a priority in my life. With every beat of my heart, I will love you. This is my solemn vow.

My love, our miracle lies in the path we have chosen together. I enter this partnership knowing that the true magic of love is not to avoid change, but to navigate it successfully.Let us commit to the miracle of making each day work – together.

I take you to be my my spouse, my partner, my friend, my confidant, my soul mate.  Our love may be like the ebb and tide of the ocean, but it will always flow. I will be true and loyal, and cherish you for all the days of our lives.  I promise to love, honor, and offer. I promise to be good, giving, and game in all aspects of our lives.  I love you forever. I pledge my all to you.

Please feel free to edit these as you see fit!  They are just a starting point.  Again, congratulations on your celebration of love!


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, 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).

Feminist Wedding Readings

Every year I am blessed with the opportunity to perform weddings as an officiant.  With the recent changes in the legal definition of marriage and more and more couples redefining with marriage and commitment mean to them I have had more exciting offers to join beautiful non-traditional families for these beautiful occasions.

However, so many of my fabulous feminist partners have difficulty coming up with a readings that really work for them.  So many parts of this tradition are linked to beliefs and rules that just don’t fit every egalitarian loving couple.

I mean the institution itself isn’t really based in a social justice framework.  But isn’t reclaiming the ritual on our own terms an activist statement?

I digress….

In order to help you get started planning your big event(s) I want to share some of thequotes and readings couples have used in my ceremonies to give you ideas for your own.  Congratulations on wanting to commit to a shared life.

 Share the vows from your feminist ceremony in the comments- I would love to read more!

 

Search your profile
For a translation
I study the conversation
Like a map
’cause I know there is strength
In the differences between us
And I know there is comfort
Where we overlap

–          Ani Difranco

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

–          Madeline L’Engle

You have to learn to love yourself before you can love me or accept my loving.

–          Audre Lorde

Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.

–          Audre Lorde

Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.

–          Bell Hooks

Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment…’dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love — which is to transform us.’ Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling.

–          Bell Hooks

Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.

–          Bell Hooks

To return to love, to get the love we always wanted but never had, to have the love we want but are not prepared to give, we seek romantic relationships. We believe these relationships, more than any other, will rescue and redeem us. True love does have the power to redeem but only if we are ready for redemption. Love saves us only if we want to be saved.

–          Bell Hooks

Love is an action, never simply a feeling.

–          Bell Hooks

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

–          Louisa May Alcott

 


Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a polyamory consultant, 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).