opening up

Navigating the Holidays for Open Relationships

I was so honored to be interviewed on the Hearts and Other Sex Parts Podcast last week specifically because we focused on one of the biggest topics of conversation in my practice this time of year: how to manage holidays when you have more than one partner.

For most people certain holidays carry real meaning- and Valentine’s Day is often a romantic holiday for couples (monogamous or otherwise). When you have more than one sweetie it can add pressure to plan for holidays because while love is infinite, time, money and energy are limited. And when scarcity arises often anxiety isn’t far behind.

Listen in to my conversation with podcast host Keely Helmick for a few tips on navigating the holidays with more than one partner and leave a comment on my page if you’ve got advice to share about managing multiple partnerships over holidays form your own life. I’d love to hear from you!

How to Spot a Relationship Expert

relationship expert open relationship coach polyamory coach nonmonogamy

GAH! Here I am trying to eat between sessions and I run into yet another set of terrible relationship advice by some online "expert!"

Folks giving out awful advice and opinions abound online, here's what you need to know to find someone who can actually help you.

BOUNDARIES

When you're seeking advice consider the source.  If you want ongoing support for your relationship you need someone who understands clear boundaries, expectations, and communication.  If they can't do it in a professional setting, be sure they can't help you learn to do it in a personal one.

Find someone with clear professional guidelines they follow. This helps them be sure they can support you without getting tangled up in your (or their own) shit.  

I outline my boundaries on my website, in contracts, in initial sessions, screening calls, and by following the ethics codes of two professional organizations.  If you're hoping to work with someone ask them about the boundaries of their work.

EXPERIENCE

Find someone with lived and professional experience related to whatever topics you want to focus on.  Lived experience helps them have empathy and deeper understanding.  Of course, if they have solid boundaries they're not going to use your time to go into great detail about their own stuff- but you can ask if they've experienced similar struggles.  

At the same time be sure they don't ONLY have personal life experience, but also PROFESSIONAL experience to back up their work.  There are far too many opinionated "experts" who just want to teach you the way they do relationships who don't actually know what they're talking about, or how to help you. Hire someone trained. 

You can ask them about their experience- or better yet, ask them how many folks they've supported (professionally) who are working on the stuff you want to focus on.  If they haven't had much experience hire someone else, you're not here to train them.

EDUCATION

Lived and professional experience is critical, but they are two of three critical pieces of this work. You also want someone who has studied or read a few things to back up whatever they're selling you.  Ask them what books, teachers, research, and training they draw from when they work with people.  Be sure you hire someone who knows what's up.

PROOF

Ask to see proof their work actually, well, works.  Do they have testimonials or data that shows they're good at what they're doing?  You don't want to hire someone who over-promises in an inauthentic program, but you need to know what to expect.  Ask how they measure success in their work.

NON-JUDGMENT

Finally (but probably most importantly) it is essential you find a professional who takes a non-judgmental approach.  Far too many therapists, coaches, and healers come to the table with their own biased agendas that will compete with your needs.

Are they pushing non-monogamy? Do they believe monogamy is the best path? Are they really shame-free about sexuality? If they've got hang-ups in these areas they're going to carry over into your work.

If you can't say things to them for fear of judgment, shame, or criticism, please please please hire someone who can set all of that aside and meet you with clear presence.

Thanks for reading through my rant.  I get protective of my clients and see far too many people who've had negative experiences with couples therapists, marriage counselors, and sex educators along the way.  It's super risky to reach out for help- I hope this helps you discern a solid fit for your vulnerability work.


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

gina senarighi polyamory coach open relationship coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. 

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.  

Polyamory Success Stories: Beth & John's Example

open relationship examples | case studies in open relationships | successful open relationship

Name: Beth (32) & John (35)

OCCUPATION: Author & Financial Consultant

HOMETOWN: New York City

MET:  while volunteering with the Peace Corps. 

TOGETHER: 7 years married, polyamorous since the beginning

FORMAL COMMITMENTS (Spiritual, Financial, or Legal):  legally married, finances shared, one kid (Emma, 3), two cats (Prince and Ivan)

 

WHY DID BETH & JOHN WANT COACHING?

IN THEIR WORDS:

Beth: “We’ve seen couples therapists and never lasted more than a session or two. They all seem to think polyamory is the cause of all our issues.  All we need it a little communication skills training here or there.”

John: “Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye and we get stuck in old patterns.  We say a marriage therapist but she just wanted us to stop seeing other people and barely talked about the things we brought up. We wanted something change-focused that wouldn’t shame our lifestyle.”

 

MY JOURNEY COACHING BETH & JOHN

Beth and John are a great example of healthy polyamory so I knew I wanted to include them in these case studies right away.  I picked them for a case study for these specific reasons:

  • I work with lots of clients brand-new to non-monogamy who want to hear examples of couples who make it work.

  • It is not uncommon at all for healthy poly folks to experience unintentional shame from the helping professionals they try to hire.

  • Even healthy couples need a communication tune-up every once in a while.

Read more about Beth & John's story (and those of three other successful open relationships) here.

 


nonmonogamy examples | healthy nonmonogamy examples | healthy polyamory examples

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.  

Healthy Open Relationship Examples: Jennifer & Brian's Case Study

open relationship examples | case studies in open relationships | successful open relationship

Name: Jennifer (38) & Brian (37)

OCCUPATION: Grant Writer & Marketing Executive

HOMETOWN: Portland, Oregon, USA

MET:  at a friend’s dinner party 

TOGETHER: 12 years together, 8 years married and monogamous

FORMAL COMMITMENTS (Spiritual, Financial, or Legal): legally married, most finances shared, two kids (Tyler 10 and Rowan, 6), one dog (Coco)

 

WHY DID JENNIFER & BRIAN WANT COACHING?

IN THEIR WORDS:

Jennifer: “I’ve come to some realizations that make a lot of sense, but they put other things in question.  I’ve always had a really strong connection with other women, but just didn’t really take bisexuality seriously until I met someone this year. I don’t think it’s a big surprise to anyone.  And I know I still love Brian and want to be with him, but I feel like this is a part of me I never got to figure out.  So we found Gina because we’re hoping polyamory or an open relationship might be a way for me to be with women without ending our marriage.”

Brian:  “I love her and I want her happy.  I’m just not sure how to make space for her to do what she needs to do and still feel like things are fair between us. I don’t want to feel like I just get left at home with the kids while she’s out meeting people.  But in all honesty, I’m not that interested in dating anyone else either.”

Jennifer: "We're both most worried about what this could do to our kids, or their friends at school if anyone finds out. I mean, it's a pretty liberal school as far as gay people go, but this is something else."

Brian: "That is the biggest concern for sure. They're pretty young now, but soon they'll be asking questions.  I don't know what we'd tell them or the other parents at soccer for example."

Download their full case study to learn where Jennifer & Brian's non-monogamy path took them.


nonmonogamy examples | healthy nonmonogamy examples | healthy polyamory examples

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.  

Open Relationship Success Stories: Amy & Mark's Case Study

open relationship examples | case studies in open relationships | successful open relationship

Name: Amy (41) & Mark (42)

OCCUPATION: Full-Time Parent & Contractor

HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois, USA

MET:  in high school geometry class

TOGETHER: 22 years together, 20 years married and monogamous

FORMAL COMMITMENTS (Spiritual, Financial, or Legal): 

legally married, all finances shared, three kids (Chris 18, Allyson 14, Mercer 12), two dogs (Filbert & Dallas)

WHY DID AMY & MARK WANT COACHING?

IN THEIR WORDS:

Amy: “We love each other and our life. I’m really proud of what we’ve built together and things between us are really good.  We’re great communicators and we are both really good parents.  But we’ve been together our whole lives and…”

Mark: “… there’s not the same kind of spark anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, when we have sex it’s great.  I think we both are really into it.  But we’ve only really been with each other all these years and...”

Amy: “…I think we both want to know more about what else is out there.  We never had the wild twenties phase everyone else had sleeping around.  I think we both might have good things to learn if we did a little exploring.”

Mark: “Plus I think it could sort of re-inspire us together.  Like if we do some “exploring” on our own we can bring that back to our time together for more adventurous stuff together.”

Amy: ”We’ve seen lots of friends over the years who were in our position start cheating.  That’s not something we’ve ever had to deal with- but I don’t want to see us end up there.”

Mark: “I also think that because I’ve only ever really been with Amy I’m not as confident as I could be trying new things.  I’m the guy you know.  I want to be a super confident lover. I think having other experiences could make me feel stronger.”

Download their story and read three other examples of healthy non-monogamy right here.


nonmonogamy examples | healthy nonmonogamy examples | healthy polyamory examples

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.  

Open Relationship Advice: What Can I Ask About My Partner's Dates With Other People?

open relationship advice | nonmonogamy advice | polyamory advice

Being curious about your partner's new adventures, relationships and friendships is totally natural.  In fact, genuine curiosity (trying to get to know more about your partner without ulterior motives) is really healthy.

But sometimes when we're opening a relationship it gets pretty difficult to sort out the healthy curiosity from those other motives.  

Genuine interest in your partner and their experience is fine.  But honestly, you don't need a lot of detail (especially not about other people) to get connection with your sweetie. 

If you find yourself getting curious and aren't sure what's okay to ask- or what's too much use the reflection questions below to help guide your process.

Does this information intrude on anyone else's privacy boundaries?

First and foremost if the information involves another person (even if you're not crazy about that person) considering their boundaries and respecting their privacy has to be part of the equation too.  

Often I talk with couples who assume they'll share any and all information about dates- without checking with the dates. Instead, I urge you to get consent from the other folks you're seeing- is there anything they'd rather you not share?  

If you want a respectful relationship with them too, their boundaries have to be respected too.

How does it help me to know?

When you notice yourself getting curious about the details of your partners' dates pause and ask yourself how the information you're seeking will help you.  

For example: 

If I'm asking my partner about the restaurant they went to with a new date I want to be clear how the information will help me.  It might help me to know if the food was good, the service great, if they would go back- because I might be interested in going to that restaurant.

Or It might be helpful to know my partner had a good time and might want to hang out with this person again.  This might help me calibrate my expectations around further practice in nonmonogamy.

But it would not be helpful for me to get ensnared in comparison (or try to trap my partner in it) asking if they had a better time than with me, if the person was more attractive than me, or they kissed better. 

Comparison will never lead to connection in relationships. If you notice comparison showing up, write out what she's saying to you and notice any themes.  There may be important lessons in what she's trying to tell you- but those lessons can't come from your partner, only from reflection (or coaching).

How does this info impact me either way?

Of course you want information about things that will directly impact you.  And you are entitled to it.  But it can be easy to expand the impact further than is appropriate.

For example:

If I ask, "When will you be home?" I want to know because I want to make my own dinner plans and don't know if I'll see you for dinner. 

Or I want to know if I should go to bed before you're home vs waiting up. 

Or I want to know when I can use the shared car again.  

Or I want to know when I should start worrying if I haven't heard from you.

But when will you be home is different than, "Be home by eleven or I'll be worried."  Eleven doesn't directly impact me.  And worry is something we can create agreements to resolve.  

Why is it important to me right now?

This final question helps us clarify if we do have ulterior motives for asking- and what they are. 

This awareness helps us know what to do to reach the result we're looking for (usually connection or reassurance) in a direct trustworthy manner.

For example:

 If I ask, "Did you have a good time?" I might be trying to say:

"I'm really nervous about this and need some reminders you have fun with me." or

"When you stay out late I worry about your safety." or

"Do you still love me?" or

"Are you going to leave me?" or 

"Am I still special to you?"

Or any number of other things.  But by taking a beat to get clear and stating what you're really after you create a much deeper more authentic connection between you and your sweetie.  

If you want help working through these questions or applying them in your newly open relationship give me a call.  


polyamory coach | polyamory advice | open relationship advice | open relationship coach

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.

Success Stories in Open Relationships: Cheyenne & Clay's Case Study

open relationship examples | case studies in open relationships | successful open relationship

Name: Cheyenne (26) & Clay (28)

OCCUPATION: Blogger & Personal Trainer

HOME TOWN: Living together in Eugene, Oregon, USA

MET:  At a March Fourth party in Portland, OR

TOGETHER: 2.5 years “Monogamish”

FORMAL COMMITMENTS (Spiritual, Financial, or Legal):  Shared bank accounts and pets (kittens: Tamarind and Musky) 

WHY DID CHEYENNE & CLAY WANT COACHING?

IN THEIR WORDS:

Cheyenne:  “I’ve always known monogamy is unrealistic.  The idea of just being with one person for the rest of my life seems… well, I haven’t seen it work for many people.  But I have never met anyone I wanted to be with a long time who I could really work on things like this with.  I want to figure out how to have an open relationship the right way.”

Clay: “I’m totally down with the idea of an open relationship, but once we start trying to talk through the day-to-day parts we get lost in logistics.  I’m all about figuring this out but we’re a little stuck.”

Cheyenne: “We’ve tried a few things with other people together, and more recently we each met other people at Beloved.  Now we don’t know what to do.  The first people we sort of one-time things, these new people are more like real relationships.”

Clay: “We’ve both been having trouble with these really intense emotions that come over us.  Like one day I’m fine –like really really fine with everything- and then all of a sudden I’m not and it gets pretty bad.” 

Cheyenne: “We’ve always been really good communicators.  I’ve never had a relationship so strong.  It’s like I didn’t know it could be this good.  But since Beloved there’s been a lot of tension and misunderstanding.”

Clay: “We know we want to stay together but I don’t know how we’re going to move forward.”

Download their full case study to learn more about how I worked with Cheyenne and Clay, and where their non-monogamy path took them.


nonmonogamy examples | healthy nonmonogamy examples | healthy polyamory examples

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.  

Awkwardness in Open Relationships & Dating

POLYAMORY COACH - POLY COACH - OPEN RELATIONSHIP COACH

One thing that comes up really frequently in sessions with folks who are starting out in non-monogamy after a lifetime of default monogamy is how awkward it can feel. 

There are LOTS of valid reasons why this happens, and I wanted to share a few with you.  but before I dive in, I wanted to emphasize one critical skill to move through the awkward new beginning phase: self-compassion.  

Self-compassion is having the ability to recognize when things are off and loving yourself anyway. Learning to strive for greatness, acknowledge your growing edges, and love yourself all at once. 

It takes practice (just like dating while partnered) but there are lots of tools that can help you get there. Check this website for some great resources.  

Okay, now back to the main point.

Why it's awkward when you start opening your relationship:

BACK IN THE SADDLE

If you've been practicing monogamy in a long-term relationship, then reentering the dating scene can feel like a whole new world.  There are new apps, sites, groups, and places to meet folks and it can be a little overwhelming. 

Not to mention the courage it takes to put yourself out there meeting strangers. 

And then there's the hard truth that the majority of real dating doesn't match up with the fantasy you might have had coming into this.  I mean, sure, you'll meet some fantastic babes out there.  But the majority of dating is really spending time with nice people and have lukewarm connections you're not sure about until you do hit it off or meet someone else who you're more excited about.  Not quite as sexy as you may have hoped.

NEW TERRITORY

If you've been living a mainstream monogamous lifestyle until now, practicing ethical non-monogamy means a whole new world of language and clarity when talking about consent, boundaries, and expectations in your partnerships.  

Figuring out how, and when to bring these things up can be a little bumpy at first because you haven't practiced.  With time and practice, that awkwardness will go away and you'll be able to be clear and consistent with greater confidence.

ACKNOWLEDGING HOTNESS

Mainstream/default monogamy in our culture loves to pretend it's possible to be attracted to only one person for years (or a lifetime).  And while lots of people philosophically understand that simply cannot be true, few folks have any practice talking or hearing about other attractions in their partnerships.

As you begin talking about the attractions you're feeling come and go notice what shows up for each of you in your partnerships and give yourself plenty of time and space to feel through your reactions so you can learn from them.  

BALANCING NEW ENERGY

Many people who are new to non-monogamy simply haven't had much practice balancing time and sharing emotional presence with multiple partners. 

Being intentional and clear with your time and space boundaries will take a little practice- be patient with yourselves.

ME TIME

Starting out in non-monogamy can be really exciting, and I frequently see clients get a little carried away with the momentum of this big change.  It's not uncommon to lose track of your self-care routine, friendships, or get distracted from work and other passions.

 But in order to make a non-monogamous lifestyle sustainable you've got to have me time outside your new relationship(s).  Keep track of your self care needs to help you stay connected to your wellness routines, friendships, and other commitments even if it gets exciting.

TAKING NEW RISKS

For a lot of people the begining of ethical non-monogamy is also the first time they really start asking for what they want in relationships and setting boundaries and expectations.  This can be a monumental shift in the way you're doing relationships (it is for lots of people).  

So trying all that new self-connection, self-advocacy, and self-regulation can feel awkward, or unusual because it is new.  

KEEPING GROUNDED

Finally, beginning a practice of ethical non-monogamy with a partner can bring up intense and surprising emotions.  You'll want to build skills and practices that help you stay grounded even when those emotions show up, but to shift your responses you'll need to change things- and change often leads to a little awkwardness.  

WATCH ME

Here's a little video I posted on my facebook page about this very topic.  If you want to talk more about this (or about relationships in general) give me a call, I'd love to chat.


POLYAMORY COACH - POLY COACH - OPEN RELATIONSHIP COACH

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

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.  

PRIVACY VS SECRECY IN RELATIONSHIPS

PRIVACY VS SECRECY IN RELATIONSHIPS

Several people have raised the issue of secret vs. private in session recently, wondering about the difference and how that plays out in healthy relationships.

While the dictionary does not make a clear distinction between the two, in practice they are different.

 

Here are my distinctions:

PRIVACY

Privacy is the state of being unobserved. That which I keep private, I am merely withholding from public view. Private matters are those traits, truths, beliefs, and ideas about ourselves that we keep to ourselves. They might include our fantasies and daydreams, feelings about the way the world works, and spiritual beliefs.

Privacy is a choice we make to have our own boundaries around what we will reveal or not reveal to our partner.  Privacy is the inner space that is like an inner sanctum protected from outsiders.  What we choose to keep to ourselves may be things that we want only for ourselves.

In time intimate relationship privacy boundaries usually soften. Sharing vulnerable or private information (trauma history, family issues, health concerns) often requires trust that must be built over time. Private matters, when revealed either accidentally or purposefully, give another person some insight into the revealer and should be treated with respect.

Sharing private information with a trustworthy partner can greatly deepen the connection between partners.

Which is why some people think sharing everything is the best path.  But respecting boundaries and honoring privacy is just as solid a path to trust in relationships.  A healthy couple has to find a balance between respecting privacy and sharing to build a foundation of trust.

Keeping something private is an act of choosing boundaries and staying comfortably within them.  Withholding private information has very little to no direct impact on your partner.

 

SECRECY

Secrecy is the act of keeping things hidden -- that which is secret goes beyond merely private into hidden. While secrecy spills into privacy, not all privacy is secrecy. Secrecy stems from deliberately keeping something from others out of a fear. 

Secrets information often has a negative impact on someone else-emotionally, physically, or financially. The keeper of secrets believes that if they are revealed either accidentally or purposefully,  the revelation may harm the secret-keeper and/or those they care about.

Withholding secret information likely has a direct impact on your partner's trust in you.  Often the impact on our partner is WHY we are being secretive.

Sometimes a secret is something kept from someone else to protect behavior that you don’t want to give up, but that you know your partner might not approve of. You may be, embarrassed about it or feel what you are doing might be questionable. We keep something secret out of fear and shame of what others would think if they knew. 

Often secrecy becomes more rigid and stress-inducing in time, rather than softening like privacy. Typically secrecy causes the secret-keeper incredible stress until discovered or sabotaged, leaving them in pieces. 

Secrecy is when we choose to keep something to ourselves knowing that there may be negative consequences if it were to be revealed. 

 

Here are a few examples:

SECRECY

I have an online gambling addiction.

I forged my degree.

I peek at other people getting dressed in the morning.

I take showers with other people.

I'm acting on a fetish I'm not telling you about.

I'm sleeping with a coworker you don't know about.

PRIVACY

I don't share my internet passwords.

I got terrible grades in high school.

I like to dance naked when I get dressed in the morning.

I sing in the shower.

I have a fetish I am not ready to share with you.

I talked to my friends about my concerns at work.

 

This difference between secrecy and privacy centers on the feelings about the information which is withheld and our motivation to withhold it. 

 

ASK YOURSELF

To get clear about the secrecy and privacy boundaries you're holding ask yourself the following questions.

 

How will this information help my partner?

Why is it important to keep this information to myself?

Do I imagine this boundary could soften or change?

Why do I want to know this information about my partner?

How will my partner's possible answers directly impact me or our shared life?

How will it impact me not to have this information from my partner?

How can I respect my partner's boundary even if I don't understand it?

 


Polyamory counselor | open relationships therapist | open marriage 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.