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.  

Example Polyamory Rules (Agreements for Healthy Non-monogamy Part 6)

I started writing a blog about open relationship boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: MANAGING PERCEPTIONS

These are some of the most difficult boundaries to clarify. ALL OF US enter into and navigate relationships with some expectations and some tender spots that require consideration. ALL OF US attach meaning to certain behaviors we share with other people. 

VERY FEW OF US are clear about those expectations, tender spots, and meaningful behaviors within ourselves- let alone with our partners. And the more we can get clear about these for ourselves, the better we can communicate them to partners. And the more we can navigate them without feeling as though we're walking through a minefield.

IMPACT/PERCEPTION-BASED AGREEMENTS, EXPECTATIONS, & CONSIDERATIONS

The other tricky component of these is how much of them is based in perception- which can lead us straight into judgment of a partner without any input from them. I can imagine any of these are part of my partner's experience and grow resentment without ever checking in with them. This is a trap (and a surefire path to relationship troubles).

Usually sharing these meaningful actions are part of deepening intimacy in couples. That’s also why some of them have such deep impact when we start sharing them with others. We start thinking we and/or our relationship is less important, meaningful or special.

Checking our assumptions, stories, and perceptions in these areas will bring you closer, and help you stay out of hurtful misunderstandings. I ask you to consider the most common tender spots I've witnessed among my clients and notice which topics resonate with you.

The areas I’m sharing are often ways we measure our importance in another person’s life. Notice if any feel especially meaningful, special, or precious to you in your relationships. 

COMMUNITY, FRIENDS & FAMILY

Often when we’re in a long-term committed relationship we meet each other’s family, close friends, and build shared community. This is an important part of deepening intimacy. However, these elements carry different weight in every relationship and with each partner. 

Here are a few agreements clients of mine have discussed in the past: 

  • "We meet each other’s new partners before they meet our shared friends or family."
  • "We don’t date people from our church or work."
  • "Our other partners don’t meet our children until further notice."
  • "I'd rather we don't share pictures of our kids online."
  • "I love being on the dodgeball team with you.  I want to avoid drama or complication by avoiding romantic or sexual connections there."
  • "Please let me know if you think you might introduce your new girlfriend to your best friend."
  • "We are only out about being polyamorous to [friend or family member]."
  • "I want to go to this family wedding with you, and no other partners."
  • "We’ll tell our family about our other partnerships when we’re both present."
  • "I want to check in before we tell anyone about being in an open relationship."

SPACES, EVENTS, RITUALS & HOLIDAYS

In the typical relationship trajectory couples ultimately build a shared home.  If you’re building an intentional relationship you know this is optional, but it may still be meaningful. Many of us attach meaning to special days and events. 

Knowing which of these are meaningful to you will help you communicate compassionately to create open relationship agreements with your partner. Here are a few examples to consider:

  • "I’m not ready to share space with your other partners."
  • "I’d rather we use the same overnight guest processes we use with out of town friends with our dating partners: two weeks notice whenever possible, we still sleep next to each other, they sleep in the guest room, we don’t share a bathroom."
  • "You’re the only person I want to kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve."
  • "Can you make sure our messy closet is closed when you have people over?"
  • "Let’s leave that restaurant/club/park/city just for us."
  • "It’s important to have us both present opening gifts on Christmas morning."
  • "I’d rather you don’t see that movie/show/band without me."
  • "Even if we celebrate your birthday differently, it’s important to me we spent the actual day of your birthday together."
  • "Let’s not date any neighbors or anyone from the kid’s school."
  • "We’re very involved in the Timbers Army.  We’re not going to mix in drama by dating others in this community."
  • "My bedroom is my sanctuary.  I’d like to know anyone before I share a bed with them, and that includes you inviting anyone else into our bed."
  • "When I hear the news about [exciting thing I’m anticipating] I want to call you right away."
  • "I’m not looking to trade wedding vows with anyone else."
  • "I would never get a tattoo or piercing with another partner."
  • "We make mac n cheese every year on our anniversary. Silly or not, I’d rather not share mac n cheese with anyone else."
  • "We planted this garden together and I’m not ready to share it with other friends."
  • "We lift together every day, so we have agreed not to date anyone from the gym."
  • "I want to be you’re only wedding date."
  • "When we have an emergency we’re still each other’s first call."

OBJECTS & GIFTS

Many of us cherish special jewelry, photos, mementos, or gifts because they are unique and/or meaningful to the relationship. They remind us of a special time, event, or interaction.  And because they carry meaning it can bring up tenderness to share them with others.

I’ll share some examples to consider, notice which spark thoughts about your own relationship.

  • "Please don’t loan anything from our house to other people without checking in with me."
  • "I bought special desserts for the event tonight, please don't eat them."
  • "We have a “leave no trace” policy, where we don’t bring anything (even carry out or receipts) home from other dates."
  • "I’m not ready to trade wedding bands with anyone else."
  • "I know you like sleeping in my t-shirts, but I’d rather they not go on sleepovers to your other date’s houses."
  • "I save ticket stubs to events I go to with special people.  I’ve decided not to co-mingle my collections from different relationships."
  • "I’ll have too much trouble with comparison if you tell me the gifts you get other partners. I don’t want to know that piece."
  • "I’d prefer you not wear the special perfume I bought you on dates with other people."  

LANGUAGE, STORIES, & WISHES

The language we use, stories we tell ourselves and others and the dreams we share all carry deep meaning in most relationships.  It can be upsetting to imagine expanding these to include other people.  Many partners start wondering what their role is now, and the words we use to tell our relationship stories really matter.

Here are a couple examples to spark your own inquiry:

RESPONSIBILITIES & ROLES

  • “I’m not interested in sharing a pet with anyone else.”
  • “Part of how we keep our relationship light is avoiding shared responsibilities or obligations. Those feel like more commitment than we want here.”
  • “I like knowing we’re the primary consult partner for each other in all major life decisions.  Of course, we talk about things with other people, but we’re the only ones who share decision-making authority.”
  • “I’m fine with him seeing other women as long as it doesn’t mean he slacking around the house.”
  • “We have an agreement not to disrupt out kid’s lives with our additional dating life.”
  • "I like being your only dance lead. Can we talk about formal dancing with other people?"
  • “I just don’t want to play babysitter while you’re seeing other people.  When either of us goes on a date with someone else it's their responsibility to find a sitter so the other can go out or have personal space too.”

LABELS & FEELINGS

  • “I’m not ready to use terms like girlfriend or partner we’re just friends with benefits.”
  • “We don’t use the word ‘love’ in other relationships.”
  • “I like being called you’re ‘lover’.”
  • “It’s important to me that we call each other ‘primaries’ and have a set of boundaries to enforce that role behaviorally.”
  • “I prefer to describe us as polyamorous and I know he tells people we’re in an open marriage.”
  • "I'd like to know you're in love before you tell someone else."

DREAMS & FANTASIES

  • “We’ve been dreaming of going to Paris for years. It would really hurt me if you started building that dream with another partner.”
  • “Let’s check in about our future visions if and when they start including more partners.”
  • “We’ve agreed not to share fantasies that involve other people because it’s too triggering for us emotionally right now.”
  • “It’s hot for me to hear about the sex you’re having with other people. Will you check with them to make sure it’s okay to tell me all about it?”
  • "I know you want to be a father and I don't want to be a parent.  Maybe there's a way to find another partner who wants to co-parent with you?"
  • “I’ve been really open and vulnerable with you about my new crush, but I feel so sensitive about it I’d prefer you not tell anyone else about it for now.”
  • “Can we keep this dream between us for now?”
  • “We’ve been imagining living on a large community farm with lots of loving friends and partners living on the land for a long time.  I know we want to invite others when we feel close to them but can you and I check in first before we start talking about that dream with other people?”

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Example Non-Monogamy Rules (Agreements for Healthy Open Relationships Part 5)

I started writing a blog about open relationship boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


OPEN RELATIONSHIP RULES & POLYAMORY AGREEMENTS: SHARED RESOURCES

RESOURCE AGREEMENTS

I'm often quoted by clients for saying "love and attraction are infinite, but time, money, and energy are not."  Because these are limited in quantity they lead to lots of conflict in couples practicing polyamory and non-monogamy.  It can be very important to create agreements around them.

Lots of folks build relationships based on assumptions that the ultimate goal is to share all our time, all our money, or all our energy with just one person.  While that may be the right plan for some relationships, defaulting to this assumption without intention leads many to misunderstandings.

Shared resources are also often a way we measure intimacy, demonstrate priority, or evaluate importance in relationships.  For couples practicing hierarchical non-monogamy (where one relationship is deemed more significant than others), it's essential to get clear about the weight these carry in your relationship.   

TIME

If you read anything about polyamory you'll see this is the number one area of conflict for folks navigating open relationships. Folks often attempt to measure time in quality and in quantity. Typically agreements reflect this. Here are a few examples:

  • "We know to put things on hold if our family schedule is disrupted."
  • "It's hard to see you spending quality time with other people when we spend so little together.  Can we set up some special time just for us?"
  • "We try to go on more dates with each other than other people."
  • "Our weekends are just for us."
  • "I'm open to seeing folks any night, but our Sunday morning sleep-in sessions are important to me. Can you make sure nothing interrupts those?
  • "We make our travel plans before making plans with other partners."
  • "We only see other people on Fridays."

MONEY

Because our society emphasizes money, and for many of us it represents stability, it brings up intense feelings of scarcity, uncertainty, and/or personal worth when it's connected to relationships. Here are a few agreements couples have made to help navigate those feelings.

  • "We only share finances with each other."
  • "We check in before loaning anyone more than $50."
  • "We don't give gifts to other partners."
  • "We need to save up for the new roofing project.  I'd like to hold off on expensive dates for a while."
  • "I don't care how much money you spend on your dates or gifts for other partners."
  • "We shop for Christmas gifts for our partners and give them together."
  • "We created separate accounts for our private dating lives."
  • "We have a household budget for porn and leather supplies."
  • "He funds his own travel to see her."

ENERGY

This resource is often overlooked in our over-busy over-committed society, but there is a limit to personal energy. I once had a client suggest she could run two businesses, be in graduate school, train for a marathon and add a third high-intensity partnership to her life.

Yes, you can do all the things, but you cannot do them all at once. 

So I often think about physical energy boundaries as a far more personal boundary to set. How will you maintain the energy needed to maintain and manage multiple relationships? How will you reserve the energy needed to do your own emotional work as you open your relationship? What indicators can you watch for that will let you know your tank is nearing empty?

Here are a few ideas from my clients:

  • "I know I'm out of balance when I start skipping the gym."
  • "If I am complaining I'm tired two days in a row I need to refocus on sleep.
  • "I can't take on another partnership until I complete my dissertation."
  • "One of my partnerships needs a lot of care right now, I'm not going to pursue any new relationships until this one has stabilized."
  • "I feel out of touch with myself. I think I'm too caught up in new relationship energy."
  • "I know this is taking up too much energy because I'm not getting any alone time."
  • "I feel overwhelmed by the response to my OKC profile. I didn't do this to add stress. I'm going to limit how often I check the account."

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Example Polyamory Rules (Agreements for Healthy Non-monogamy Part 4)

I started writing a blog about open relationship boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING

SITUATIONAL/CONTEXTUAL AGREEMENTS

Many clients come to me with a singular focus as their intention in beginning non-monogamy. These often are:

  •  There is a specific person one or both of them want to build an ongoing relationship with
  • One partner is bisexual or pansexual and wants to explore their sexuality with a different gender
  • One partner has a specific kink or fetish interest that isn't shared by the other or they don't want to share in their current relationship
  • One partner travels for work often or for long periods of time and they both get lonely
  • There is a specific inspirational or stimulating event where they imagine they might connect with other people

These focused conversations in non-monogamy often center the conversation on specific interactions. They are often layered with other types of agreements and support the inevitability in polyamory that relationships need to evolve with the situations, opportunities, and contexts that arise.

Here are a few sample polyamory agreements or open relationship "rules" to consider:

  • "Enjoy the bachelorette party this weekend. Please go ahead and do what you want, but use protection."
  • "Just for tonight, while we're at the club lets try to meet someone to join us at home, but let's check in before we make plans or get their number."
  • "We've been talking about exploring with other people at Burning Man. Let's come up with a different set of agreements just for that week to help us make the most of it."
  • "We don't date members of the opposite sex, but since he's bisexual every other weekend he hooks up with guys on Grindr usually at their homes.  I just like him to let me know where he is and use protection so I know we're safe."
  • "Go ahead and make out with all the other women you want.  I think it's hot."
  • "Look, since we both agree Joe Manganiello and Sofía Vergara‎ are the hottest couple alive. If either of us ever has a chance with either of them I say we go for it."
  • "While you're away at your 3-month European internship I'd like to date other people.  Can we agree to limit connections to that time frame?"
  • "Please feel free to find a fuck-buddy or a bed-warmer who can keep you company while I'm on assignment out of the country. If I have space amid this project, I might hire a sex worker to fill my needs too."
  • "I know you're going to see your long-lost-love at this event. If you feel connected to them and want to be physically intimate, will you just text me so I have time to work through my feelings before you get home?"
  • "You have always been inspired by colleagues at {conference in another city} if something comes up there please enjoy it, but know I will be uncomfortable if it continues beyond the conference."
  • "I can't stand the idea of her being hurt, so I don't want to go to the dungeon with her.  But I help her get dressed and pick out outfits. I know it's not a sexual thing even though it's arousing for both of us."

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Example Polyamory Rules (Agreements for Healthy Non-monogamy Part 3)

I started writing a blog about open relationship boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: THE BOTTOM LINE

Often when I work with folks new to non-monogamy they are looking for a clear-cut set of immutable rules they can hold tight to. Unfortunately, that philosophy comes from the world of default monogamy, and human relationships are far too complex for one simple set of rules to apply for all- or for a lifetime.  

That said, there are often a small number (3-5) of agreements that are foundational sort-of guiding principles or clear triggers a couple will agree to avoid- and these may not change at all (or they may not for many years).

HARD NOS & ABSOLUTE YESS

One way to think about bottom line agreements is to come up with your individual hard nos and absolute yess.  These are things you know you don't accept or seek in relationships in general.  Most of us have a few of these that guide our romantic and sexual interactions. 

The other end of the boundary spectrum is to think about what you're inviting or requesting. Many people come to non-monogamy seeking something specific.  The more you can be upfront about what you're looking for, the more you can connect with partner's who share interests, and the clearer you can be with any original partners who want clarity about your process.

The clearer you are about these individually, the clearer you can be with your partners about what you already know you're interested in.  

Here are a few examples of these hard nos:

  • "I don't date liars."

  • "I don't tell anyone my last name until we've met twice."

  • "I'm only available after 7:00 PM on Weeknights."

  • "I don't want to sleep next to anyone else."

  • "I only want to play, not have sex."

  • "I'm not interested in relationship maintenance or emotional labor."

Here are a few examples of absolute yess"

  • "I'm looking for funny, smart people to build a social network.  I might be open to more sexual or romantic connection after we've met a few times."

  • "I'm really just looking to flirt, share pics, and message online."

  • "I'm interested exploring in rope bondage and suspension play."

  • "I've always wanted to have a threesome."

  • "I'd like to find some hot who'll be okay with me watching them fuck you."

  • "I want to find a friend I can fuck casually."

 

BLANKET/FOUNDATIONAL AGREEMENTS

Every couple has a different set of these, but some of the most common ones I hear (again, not shared by every couple) are:

  • "We'll always be honest with each other."

  • "We don't share bodily fluids (other than saliva) with other people."

  • "We get STI tested quarterly."

  • "We don't give out our home address."

  • "We'll never to go (favorite restaurant) with a date."

  • "We only see other people when traveling."

  • "We started Prep."

  • "We only do (specific sex act) with each other."

  • "We won't use the word "love" with other people."

  • "We don't plan to share finances, children, or a home with another lover."

  • "We only sleep with other partners together."

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Example Polyamory Rules (Agreements for Healthy Non-monogamy Part 2)

Okay, I started writing a blog about boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: PROCESSING

PROCESS/COMMUNICATION AGREEMENTS FOR OPEN RELATIONSHIPS

Lots of couples have mismatched and unspoken expectations about how and when they'll check in with each other and/or negotiate boundaries as they open their relationship. This leads them to one of three common problems on polyamory and open relationships:

AVOIDANCE

Not talking about the hard stuff leaves HUGE gaps in communication where assumptions, missed connections, misunderstanding, and unmet expectations will lead to resentment, hurt, and distance.  

OVER-PROCESSING

Lots of couples have so much distress or difficulty sitting with discomfort they add enormous pressure to their conversations trying to resolve all tension by every conversation's end. These conversations can drag on for hours and are an incredible emotional drain for most couples. They often end up talking about non-monogamy more often than any other topic and find themselves processing agreements every day.

DIVING IN

Lots of couples dive into non-monogamy well before they've created a plan to check in.  They might go to their first sex club or play party without having clarified intentions or specified ways to check in throughout the night, only to find themselves triggered, miscommunicating, or feeling misunderstood and overwhelmed midway through what they dreamed would be a fun night out together.

Creating process agreements is less about WHAT you're going to discuss and more about HOW you're going to engage in effective conversations about tough subject matters like opening your relationship.  Once you're clear what works best for you, you can apply these to other areas that get tense too. 

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  1. Take into consideration the time, place, and manner that works best for you to be fully present in challenging situations.  
  2. Try beginning from a place of connection. The tone you set at the beginning determines the tone of the entire conversation.
  3. Have a clearly stated intention for your conversation.  Ask yourself: Why is this important?  What's my ideal outcome? 
  4. Be willing to own your contribution to any challenging conversation.

 

 

EXAMPLE COMMUNICATION AGREEMENTS IN CONSENSUAL NON-MONOGAMY

Here are a few examples of process (or communication) agreements.  Remember, no two relationships are the same so not all of these may be a fit for you.

  • "I'm not at my best before coffee or after 9:00 PM. Let's agree to check in after coffee and well before bed."
  • "I don't care if you meet people online and flirt text/chat with them, but let me know when you start thinking about or initiating in-person plans."
  • "If either of us raises our voice that's our signal we need to take some deep breaths before we continue talking."
  • "If we meet another couple we're interested in let's step away to check in before giving out our contact information."
  • "Can we agree to save this topic for couples coaching appointments?"
  • "I'd rather not watch you play with someone else at this party, so I'm not going to the playspace with you right now. Can we reconnect in this room at midnight?"
  • "Let's agree not to interrogate each other from a place of comparison."
  • “Can we talk about non-monogamy for only one hour at a time? That will break up the intensity and give me time to think.”
  • "I'd like to process this with my therapist first. Let's set up a time to revisit this tomorrow."
  • "When you tell me you find someone interesting or attractive, can you also tell me if you have intentions for further contact with them?"
  • "Let's check in an hour after we get to the party and see if we want to play together, separately, or not at all."
  • "If we start to escalate let's take a 30-minute break and come back."
  • "Can we agree not to communicate with other partners (chat or text) from our bedroom?"
  • "Let's set aside one night a week where we're fully present for each other and not in contact with other partners."

I made a little worksheet to help you create process agreements.  Download it here.

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Example Polyamory Rules (Agreements for Healthy Non-monogamy Part 1)

Okay, I started writing a blog about boundaries and recommended rules for polyamory for newly open relationships and got so into it I wrote a book. I’m going to break is down into a series so you can more easily dip in and out as you need.

Read the whole thing here.

There are many kinds of agreements couples sort out to make consensual non-monogamy work for them.  Because they are often one of the first things new clients ask about I wanted to outline the main ones here to help all of you wondering the same things. 


POLYAMORY RULES & NON-MONOGAMY AGREEMENTS: PRIVACY

PRIVACY BOUNDARIES

The first area of non-monogamy agreements or polyamory rules I focus on in my work with couples is about privacy boundaries. It's important to think about privacy boundaries in three overlapping circles: a boundary around just myself, a boundary around the two of us in this dyad, and boundary around me and each of my other partner(s). I'll share examples below.

AROUND ME: Things I don't share with anyone (or not with my partner)

  • "I don't share my passwords or logins with other people."
  • "I don't share some of my most private sexual desires with anyone."
  • "I don't even like to look at the mistakes I made as a teenager with myself- I won't share them with you."
  • “I don’t use the bathroom with the door open.”

AROUND US: Things we keep in a locked vault between us.

  • "I would never share the sexual kinks and adventures we've shared, or the fantasies you've told me about with anyone else."
  • "We don't talk about our financial issues or our arguments with people we're dating."
  • "Let's check in before we tell anyone else we go to therapy."
  • "Please don't tell anyone about how insecure I am about _______."

AROUND OTHER RELATIONSHIPS: These are things you might not share with your original partner in order to respect a new partner's privacy boundary.

  • "I want to check with {new partner} before I share their dating profile or picture with you to make sure it's okay with them."
  • "Can you tell me what area of town this person lives in so I can avoid running into you on a date? All I need is a general idea of where to avoid."
  • "I want to know every detail of your sexual encounter when you get back because I might find it hot. Is that okay with both of you?"
  • "It's important to me you tell them we're married and not splitting up. Are you willing to work that into the conversation tonight?"

Please note privacy is not the same as secrecy. Hiding and withholding information is very different than having agreed upon boundaries for information sharing. One honors the relationship and builds trust. The other does not.

Wanna talk about healthy boundaries or opening your relationship? Give me a call.


 Gina Senarighi POlyamory Coach | Open Relationship Therapist | Open Marriage Therapy

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, 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.  

Relationship Tips: Get Their Attention

Communication Patterns in Successful Relationships

Loads of research has been done on the behaviors of successful couples and one of trend holds true: satisfied couples in happy relationships are more likely to bid for attention in a few key ways.

Read on to add these skills in your relationships.

Bids for Attention

We bid for each other's attention all the time.  We do this by gesturing, making eye contact, initiating affection, making a joke, pointing out something.  

For example I might turn to my sweetheart and say, "I really like your shirt."

Successful couples bid more frequently. But there is a second part of bidding that keeps them in a loop of communicating with kindness.  

Receiving Bids From Your Partner

When someone bids for attention we have four real options in our response.  I will give you examples for each.

Warm:  

"Thanks for noticing my shirt babe."  This is a kind or friendly response.  It invites more interaction.

Neutral:

"Oh." This isn't a kind or unkind response.  It doesn't invite more communication or connection, but it doesn't overtly harm the relationship.  However, over time it can divide a couple if it is the only response given.  

Cold:

"Why are you talking about my shirt?!?"  This might be an angry, defensive, or judgmental response.  This response doesn't invite more positive interaction and often leads to disconnection and conflict.  

Often we think this is the most problematic response- but when this response is handled respectfully couples can still grow.  

Non-response:

This is the most detrimental to the relationship.  When someone doesn't respond we feel ignored and we are far less likely to continue bidding for our partner's attention.  This gap in responses starts growing distance between people.

We fill in the gap with our assumptions, resentments and judgments and distance grows.  But sometimes our partner has innocently missed the bid- maybe they simply didn't hear us.  They don't even know how we've been hurt- and aren't able to effectively repair the missed bid. 

Your relationship challenge:

Notice the bids for interaction this week and work to respond with warmth as often as possible.  Notice how it shifts your relationship's energy.   

 


 Healthy Relationships | Couples Therapist | Sex Therapist

Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.  

Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow. 

Call for a consultation to see how she can help you deepen connection, communicate effectively, and passionately reignite your relationship.

Quiz: Exploring Your Emotional Connection

Staying connected and deepening connection in relationships requires a little intention. Asking meaningful questions and responding with thoughtful answers is one way to start taking your conversations to a new level.

Use the conversation starters below to help you assess and deepen the emotional intimacy with your partner.

  • What messages about love and marriage did you get from your parents? Your community? 

  • How was trust modeled for you by others growing up?

  • Do you have an image of a safe trusting relationship in your head, a model you can draw from as we create our relationship?

  • What have your past relationships taught you about safety and vulnerability? How has empathy played a role in your past partnerships? 

  • What have your past relationships taught you about reliability?  What did they teach you about responsiveness?  How have they informed your ability to trust partners?

  • What strategies have you used in the past to overcome distance and build closeness?  How do you respond when you sense distance and disconnect?

  • How do you cope when you need someone and they cannot be with you?  What have you learned from experiences like this in your past?  How does that impact your present relationship?

  • If it's hard for you to trust others, what do you do when life gets too big to handle on your own?

  • Can you ask your partner when you need comfort and closeness?  Rate on a scale of 1-10 (ten being high) how difficult this kind of request is for you. 

  • When you feel disconnected or alone in your present relationship how do you respond? How do you try to reconnect?  Give specific examples.

  • List three bonding moments in your relationship.  Share the times you feel emotionally connected and secure with each other.  

Based on Hold Me Tight, by Dr Sue Johnson

 

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

 Gina Senarighi Polyamory Coach | Relationship Expert
  • 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.  

Non-Traditional Polyamorous Relationship Structures

 examples of healthy polyamory | healthy non-monogamy |what is polyamory

Last week I posted about relationship options in non-monogamy, I wanted to dive in a little further this week to share some of the more specific ways people enact different kinds of open relationships for all of you who are new to polyamory.  

Once you're tailoring your relationships to your unique needs, you get to define the structures as they best fit you. Most successfully polyamorous couples are pretty creative in order to best meet the needs of their evolving relationship.

Here are a few examples of poly relationships most folks never consider:

  • "We're both dating many people because one main relationship doesn't fit with our lives while we travel/go to school/insert-whatever-valid-reason-here.  We're open with everyone we see that we see each other most often and that we're not looking for monogamy."

 

  • "My husband travels for work.  He's out of the country two weeks every month. We both understand the other may need company or intimacy during that time so we decided to explore non-monogamy.  At this point he has several women he hooks up with when he's lonely and I have a very casual boyfriend who snuggles with me when [husband] is out of town.  It works for us."

 

  • "My partner and I basically behave like most monogamous couples do 355 days of the year, but once a year he goes to a conference where I know he has many past lovers.  They live far away but stay in contact online and via phone call the rest of the year.  But when they go to conference together I know they might be affectionate, stay together, and it's likely they sleep together."

 

  • "My wife is bisexual and I am a cisgender man.  We're monogamous in most ways (because we're the only mixed-gender couple in each other's lives and we're the only marriage either of us plan to have) but she has a few girlfriends who help her feel connected to parts of her sexuality I can't fulfill because I'll never be a woman."

 

  • "My husband and I have threesomes on a semi-regular basis. I feel like we're still monogamous because all the sex we have with other people is a shared and agreed-upon experience."

 

  • "My wife is bisexual and I am a lesbian.  I didn't want her to give up part of herself when we started getting more serious. I actually really like her part-time-lover.  He watches the game with me when she's working late and now he and I hang out (as friends) almost as often as they go on dates."

 

 

  • "My boyfriend is kinky in ways that really turn me off. He has a couple play partners he meets with and I know they're intimate, It's really not a big deal for me."

 


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

 new to polyamory coach | open relationship counselor
  • 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.