They both take turns sharing their side of a very human love story.
Andrew Gotzis, a Manhattan psychiatrist with an extensive psychotherapy practice, has been treating a straight couple, whom we’ll call Jane and John, for several years. They have sex about three times a week, which might strike many as enviable, considering that John and Jane—who are in their 40s—have been together for nearly two decades. Based on numbers alone, one might wonder why they need couples counseling at all.
But only one of them is happy with the state of play. And it isn’t Jane.
“The problem is not that they are functionally unable to have sex, or to have orgasms. Or frequency. It’s that the sex they’re having isn’t what she wants,” Gotzis told me in a recent phone conversation. And like other straight women he sees, “she’s confused and demoralized by it. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.” John, meanwhile, feels criticized and inadequate. Mostly he can’t understand why, if his wife is having sex with him and having orgasms, she wants more. Or different.
Despite “fears of seeming sex addicted, unfaithful, or whorish” (Gotzis doesn’t like these terms, but they speak to his patient’s anxieties, he explained), Jane has tried to tell John, in therapy and outside of it, what she’s after. She wants to want John and be wanted by him in that can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-way experts call “limerence”—the initial period of a relationship when it’s all new and hot. Jane has bought lingerie and booked hotel stays. She has suggested more radical-seeming potential fixes, too, like opening up the marriage.
Jane’s perseverance might make her a lot of things: an idealist, a dreamer, a canny sexual strategist, even—again channeling typical anxieties—unrealistic, selfish, or entitled. But her sexual struggles in a long-term relationship, orgasms and frequency of sex notwithstanding, make her something else again: normal. Although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.
Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.
But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.
“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.) And a Finnish seven-year study of more than 2,100 women, published in 2016, revealed that women’s sexual desire varied depending on relationship status: Those in the same relationship over the study period reported less desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Annika Gunst, one of the study’s co-authors, told me that she and her colleagues initially suspected this might be related to having kids. But when the researchers controlled for that variable, it turned out to have no impact.
Many women want monogamy. It’s a cozy arrangement, and one our culture endorses, to put it mildly. But wanting monogamy isn’t the same as feeling desire in a long-term monogamous partnership. The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. “The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.” Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.
What does it all mean for Jane and the other straight women who feel stultified by long-term exclusivity, in spite of having been taught that they were designed for it and are naturally inclined toward it? What are we to make of the possibility that women, far from anxious guardians of monogamy, might on the whole be more like its victims?
“When couples want to remain in a monogamous relationship, a key component of treatment … is to help couples add novelty,” Gordon advised. Tammy Nelson, a sex therapist and the author of The New Monogamy and When You’re the One Who Cheats, concurs: “Women are the primary consumers of sex-related technology and lubricants, massage oil, and lingerie, not men.”
Of course, as Jane’s example shows, lingerie might not do the trick. Nelson explains that if “their initial tries don’t work, [women] will many times shut down totally or turn outward to an affair or an online ‘friend,’ creating … a flirty texting or social-media relationship.” When I asked Gotzis where he thinks John and Jane are headed, he told me he is not sure that they will stay together. In an upending of the basic narrative about the roles that men and women play in a relationship, it would be Jane’s thirst for adventure and Jane’s struggles with exclusivity that tear them apart. Sure, women cheating is nothing new—it’s the stuff of Shakespeare and the blues. But refracted through data and anecdotal evidence, Jane seems less exceptional and more an Everywoman, and female sexual boredom could almost pass for the new beige.
It’s not uncommon for women to let their straight partners play in a “monogamy gray zone,” to give guys access to tensional outlets that allow them to cheat without really cheating. “Happy ending” massages, oral sex at bachelor parties, lap dances, escorts at conferences … influenced by ubiquitous pop-cultural cues, many people believe that men need these opportunities for recreational “sorta sex” because “it’s how men are.” It’s how women are, too, it seems.
Women cannot be pigeonholed; the glory of human sexuality is its variation and flexibility. So when we speak of desire in the future, we should acknowledge that the fairer sex thirsts for the frisson of an encounter with someone or something new as much as, if not more, than men do—and that they could benefit from a gray-zone hall pass, too.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.
Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.
“Often they’re scared of losing their jobs, not getting a job, losing family or friends who won’t respect them anymore or scared that their children will be taken away,” says Carrie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia and the author of What Love Is: And What It Could Be.
But Jenkins, who participates in polyamorous relationships herself, cautions that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships. “One impression that I don’t want to give is that I think polyamorous relationships are better for everyone,” she says. “We’re all very different from one another.”
Still, experts who study relationships say polyamorous relationships can provide useful lessons for monogamous couples. Here are a few areas where, researchers say, polyamorous couples are particularly successful:
Successful monogamous relationships require communication about desires, needs and problems, says Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University who studies monogamous relationships. And this is one area where polyamorous couples excel.
A May 2017 study published in PLOS One noted that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships communicate to “negotiate agreements, schedules, and boundaries, and to work through the kinds of problems that emerge when negotiating polyamory, amongst the typical relational problems that can emerge in any relationship.” The study found that polyamorous individuals tend to communicate better with their primary partner than secondary partners — because “greater communication may be necessary for primary relationships to endure while other relationships are pursued.”
This is one area particularly relevant to monogamous couples, according to Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at UCLA who researches monogamous relationships. “I don’t see studying non-monogamous couples as studying a totally separate country with no relevance to monogamy at all,” he says. “Consensually non-monogamous couples might have a lot to teach everybody about negotiating desire and competing interests.”
Polyamorous partners often define boundaries and form agreements about what each relationship should look like, and Conley says these agreements can be beneficial to monogamous relationships, where partners might assume they’re on the same page about what monogamy means.
When deciding to enter a relationship, “there might be a conversation beyond that about what that means: does it mean we’re monogamous? What does it mean to be monogamous?” Conley says. “For some people, even mere thoughts of attraction to someone else can be defined as cheating. For other people, anything but intercourse is OK.”
Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms. Sometimes, partners will know each other and form a family-like network sometimes called “kitchen table polyamory“, according to Kate Kincaid, a psychologist at Tucson Counseling Associates who works with polyamorous couples. Another style, known as “parallel polyamory,” means that all of the partners are aware of each other, but have little to no contact, Kincaid explains.
Kincaid says that she works with couples to figure out which model is best for them — though she often recommends kitchen table polyamory because it’s often more efficient for all parties to communicate directly. She says that one of the biggest challenges she encounters with polyamorous couples is time management.
“Everyone jokes that love is not a finite resource, but time is,” Kincaid says. “You can have multiple partners you want to see a lot — you have to negotiate time and space to do that.”
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that individuals in polyamorous relationships were more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat in monogamous relationships. The study showed that monogamous individuals often consider monogamy a safe sex practice in and of itself, so “sexually unfaithful individuals may reject safer sex strategies because of the presence of a stable relationship.”
Kincaid says that she works with clients to fill out a questionnaire about what sexual acts they’d be comfortable with them doing with other partners to make sure they’re on the same page. Amy Moors, an assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University who conducted the 2012 study with Conley, says consensually non-monogamous couples often make explicit agreements with partners to use condoms and get information about STI history with each new partner.
“They have to navigate the sexual health of a bunch of people,” Moors says. “Implicit in that is that there’s very clear conversations about sexual health that are happening in consensual non-monogamous relationships that may not be happening in monogamous relationships.”
But in monogamous relationships, couples often “stop using condoms as a covert message of intimacy: now, we’re really dating,” Moors says. But if a monogamous individual decides to cheat on their partner, there’s no guarantee he or she will practice safe sex.
You might think that having multiple romantic partners would elicit more jealousy than being in a monogamous relationship. But according to a a 2017 study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, that’s not necessarily the case.
The study, which surveyed 1,507 people in monogamous relationships and 617 people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, found that people in consensual non-monogamous relationships, including those who engaged in polyamory and swinging, scored lower on jealousy and higher on trust than those in monogamous relationships.
“People in monogamous relationships were really off the charts high on jealousy. They were more likely to check their partners’ phones, go through their emails, their handbags,” Moors says. “But people in consensual non-monogamous relationships were really low on this.”
Davila, who also works as a couples therapist, says that she’s observed monogamous couples avoid addressing jealousy altogether, whereas consensual non-monogamous couples might be more vocal with their feelings. “In consensual non-monogamous relationships, jealousy is expected,” Davila says. “But they see what feelings arise and actively work to navigate them in a proactive way.”
Another area where polyamorous couples tend to excel, according to Kincaid, is allowing their partners to maintain a sense of independence outside of their relationship. Conley and Moors found in their 2017 study that monogamous couples are more likely to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their relationship, while polyamorous couples put their own personal fulfillment first.
“The biggest thing that I appreciate about poly people is that they focus on knowing what their needs are and get their needs met in creative ways — relying more on friends or multiple partners instead of putting it all on one person,” Kincaid says. “Once [monogamists] get into a relationship, they tend to value their romantic partner above everyone else.”
She suggests that doing the former allows your relationships to be deeper and can enable you to get a lot more support from your loved ones.
Karney says that he could also see how having your needs met by others might strengthen consensual non-monogamous relationships.
“If we’re a married monogamous couple, we have to figure out what to do about our problems. We’re either going to avoid them, resolve them or break up,” Karney says. “But if I’m in a non-monogamous relationship and I have the same problem, I might not have to resolve it if I’m not getting all my needs met from you.”
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
Around 30 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 40 and 59 report at least one problem in the bedroom.
The most common sexual problem is low desire, according to a research study we recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Around 40 per cent of the women we asked, and 30 per cent of men, reported experiencing problems with low desire during the last six months.
Many women also reported difficulties reaching orgasm (15 per cent), as well as problems with vaginal dryness (29 per cent) and vaginal pain (17 per cent). Nearly a quarter of the men had difficulty ejaculating and maintaining or acquiring an erection.
These rates suggest that a variety of sexual problems are quite common among midlife Canadians. Our findings are also largely consistent with published research from the United States and the United Kingdom.
I am a PhD candidate in family relations and human development at the University of Guelph and my research typically focuses on “keeping the spark alive” in long-term relationships. My main interest is the intersection of relational and sexual elements within romantic relationships.
This study was co-authored with Robin Milhausen from the University of Guelph, Alexander McKay of the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Stephen Holzapfel from Women’s College Hospital Toronto. It was aimed at addressing a lack of available data on the frequency and predictors of sexual problems among midlife Canadians.
Individuals who are married are more likely to report low desire than those who are not married, according to our results. Married men are more likely to report ejaculation difficulties.
These are interesting findings, and not unexpected. Other research has shown that sexual satisfaction decreases over time in long-term relationships. Together, this suggests that over-familiarity with a partner in some cases may lead to the sexual “spark” burning less bright, which may also contribute to sexual problems.
Our research also suggests that participating in novel sexual activities may enhance desire by breaking up routine and therefore enhancing the spark.
We also examined the effect of menopause — finding that postmenopausal women were more likely to report low desire and vaginal pain. This is consistent with other literature showing declines in desire for postmenopausal women. It complements other research, which suggests that physiological changes like thinning of the vaginal walls and reduced lubrication that can occur after menopause may lead to vaginal pain.
We conducted this research with a large national sample of 2,400 Canadians aged between 40 and 59. Our findings showed that sexual problems are very common in this age group. This is one of the largest Canadian demographics and will continue to grow. More national Canadian data is needed to understand the health-care needs for this group.
One important limitation of this study is that we based our research on participant self-reports and did not assess whether they met the diagnostic criteria for a clinical diagnosis of sexual dysfunction (e.g. erectile dysfunction).
Previously published research reveals that more midlife Canadians would like to be asked about sexual problems by their doctors, but more than 75 per cent had not sought help for these problems.
Read together with the results of our study, this suggests an emerging health-care issue that requires attention and research.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
Cheating = bad. Fidelity = good.
This is the logic to which most of us subscribe. And yet if you ask a relationship expert, they’ll likely offer a more nuanced perspective, both on people who stray and on the implications of affairs.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken to a series of therapists about infidelity among modern couples, and they’ve all surprised me with their insights. Below, see three of the most intriguing observations I heard about cheating:
Couples therapist Esther Perel would never recommend that someone deliberately cheat on their partner in order to improve their relationship.
But she has observed the way some couples find renewed honesty and intimacy after it’s revealed that one partner has had an affair.
Perel told Business Insider, “It’s a reevaluation of what happened: How did we become so estranged from each other? How did we lose our connection? How did we become so numb to each other? And the galvanizing of the fear of losing everything that we have built sometimes brings us back face-to-face, with a level of intensity that we haven’t experienced in a long time.”
Some people who cheat on their partners really do want out — and having an affair is the only way they know how to begin that process. But other people are simply looking to spice things up.
That’s according to Tammy Nelson, a sex and relationship therapist and the relationship expert at Ashley Madison, a website for people seeking affairs.
Nelson shared a hypothetical example: “Maybe their marriage gives them physical and emotional validation, but they’re not getting the sexual risk-taking that they would want. So they get that from the affair.”
In fact, Nelson said some people may only see their affair partner a couple times a year — “but when they do, it’s like a full blowout, and then they come back to their marriage and they’re perfectly happy.”
“Emotional affairs” are becoming increasingly common, and unlike with a physical affair, it can be hard to know if your partner is having one.
According to marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers, it’s important to listen to your intuition. Maybe you’ve noticed your partner changing the way they act when the other person is around, or maybe they’ve been weirdly critical of that person.
If you feel like there might be something not exactly platonic going on between your partner and their friend, that’s worth exploring — even if ultimately you’re wrong.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
Monogamy;— to have only one partner at a time — is considered a social standard in modern human society. But is it a necessary component of a satisfactory relationship?
Canadian researchers present new findings, suggesting that it may not have to be the ideal relationship structure. People in open relationships report feeling just as happy and content as those in conventional, monogamous ones.
The study titled “Reasons for sex and relational outcomes in consensually nonmonogamous and monogamous relationships” was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on March 23.
“We are at a point in social history where we are expecting a lot from our partners. We want to have sexual fulfillment and excitement but also emotional and financial support,” said lead author Jessica Wood, a Ph.D. student in applied social psychology at the University of Guelph.
“Trying to fulfill all these needs can put pressure on relationships. To deal with this pressure, we are seeing some people look to consensually non-monogamous relationships.”
While monogamy is omnipresent, Wood said that open relationships are actually more common than most people would expect. Currently, somewhere between three to seven percent of people in North America are said to be in a consensual, non-monogamous relationship.
For the study, the team surveyed around 200 people in monogamous relationships and around 140 people in open relationships to compare the data sets. Both groups were asked questions regarding how satisfied they felt, whether they considered separating, general happiness levels, etc.
Research has shown that many people tend to have a negative perception of open relationships. Some find it to be immoral, some equate it to cheating or sex addiction, and some simply believe it offers low levels of satisfaction.
“It’s assumed that people in these types of relationships are having sex with everyone all the time. They are villainized and viewed as bad people in bad relationships, but that’s not the case,” Wood said. “This research shows us that our choice of relationship structure is not an indicator of how happy or satisfied we are in our primary relationships.”
The results of the study revealed that people in open relationships actually had similar levels of relationship satisfaction, psychological well-being and sexual satisfaction as those in monogamous relationships.
Sexual motivation appeared to be the biggest predictor of satisfaction, regardless of relationship structure. This was because of how closely sexual satisfaction is tied to our psychological needs.
“In both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships, people who engage in sex to be close to a partner and to fulfill their sexual needs have a more satisfying relationship than those who have sex for less intrinsic reasons, such as to avoid conflict,” she said.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
[M]arriages fall apart for many different reasons, but one of the most common and most challenging to overcome is the discovery that one partner has “cheated” on the other.
I put the word cheated in quotes because the definition of infidelity can vary widely among and within couples. Though most often it involves explicit sexual acts with someone other than one’s spouse or committed partner, there are also couples torn asunder by a partner’s surreptitious use of pornography, a purely emotional relationship with no sexual contact, virtual affairs, even just ogling or flirting with a nonpartner.
Infidelity is hardly a new phenomenon. It has existed for as long as people have united as couples, married or otherwise. Marriage counselors report that affairs sometimes occur in happy relationships as well as troubled ones.
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs. The incidence is about 20 percent higher when emotional and sexual relationships without intercourse are included. As more women began working outside the home, their chances of having an affair have increased accordingly.
Volumes have been written about infidelity, most recently two excellent and illuminating books: “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity” by Esther Perel, a New York psychotherapist, and “Healing from Infidelity” by Michele Weiner-Davis, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colo. Both books are based on the authors’ extensive experience counseling couples whose relationships have been shattered by affairs.
The good news is, depending upon what caused one partner to wander and how determined a couple is to remain together, infidelity need not result in divorce. In fact, Ms. Perel and other marriage counselors have found, couples that choose to recover from and rebuild after infidelity often end up with a stronger, more loving and mutually understanding relationship than they had previously.
“People who’ve been betrayed need to know that there’s no shame in staying in the marriage — they’re not doormats, they’re warriors,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said in an interview. “The gift they provide to their families by working through the pain is enormous.”
Ms. Perel concedes that “some affairs will deliver a fatal blow to a relationship.” But she wrote, “Others may inspire change that was sorely needed. Betrayal cuts to the bone, but the wound can be healed. Plenty of people care deeply for the well-being of their partners even while lying to them, just as plenty of those who have been betrayed continue to love the ones who lied to them and want to find a way to stay together.”
The latter was exactly the position a friend of mine found herself in after discovering her husband’s affair. “At first I wanted to kick him out,” she told me. “But I realized that I didn’t want to get divorced. My mother did that and she ended up raising three children alone. I didn’t want a repeat of my childhood. I wanted my son, who was then 2 years old, to have a father in his life. But I also knew that if we were going to stay together, we had to go to couples counseling.”
About a dozen sessions later, my friend came away with critical insights: “I know I’m not perfect. I was very focused on taking care of my son, and my husband wasn’t getting from me whatever he needed. Everybody should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. We learned how to talk to each other and really listen. I love him and respect him, I’m so happy we didn’t split apart. He’s a wonderful father, a stimulating partner, and while our marriage isn’t perfect — whose is? — we are supportive and nurturing of each other. Working through the affair made us stronger.”
As happened with my friend, most affairs result from dissatisfaction with the marital relationship, fueled by temptation and opportunity. One partner may spend endless hours and days on work, household chores, outside activities or even social media, to the neglect of their spouse’s emotional and sexual needs. Often betrayed partners were unaware of what was lacking in the relationship and did not suspect that trouble was brewing.
Or the problem may result from a partner’s personal issues, like an inability to deal with conflict, a fear of intimacy, deep-seated insecurity or changes in life circumstances that rob the marital relationship of the attention and affection that once sustained it.
But short of irreversible incompatibility or physical or emotional abuse, with professional counseling and a mutual willingness to preserve the marriage, therapists maintain that couples stand a good chance of overcoming the trauma of infidelity and avoiding what is often the more painful trauma of divorce.
Ms. Weiner-Davis points out that “except in the most severe cases such as ongoing physical abuse or addiction,” divorce often creates more problems than it solves, an observation that prompted her to write her first book, “Divorce Busting.”
Ms. Weiner-Davis readily admits that recovering from infidelity is hard work and the process cannot be rushed. Yet, as she wrote in her new book, “many clients have shared that had it not been for their partner’s affair, they’d never have looked at, discussed, and healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship.”
Rather than destroying the marriage, the affair acted as a catalyst for positive changes, Ms. Weiner-Davis maintains. In her new book, she outlines tasks for both the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful one that can help them better understand and meet the emotional and physical needs of their partners.
Both she and Ms. Perel have found that, with the benefit of good counseling, some couples “divorce” their old marriages and start anew with a relationship that is more honest and loving.
It is important to find a therapist who can help the couple weather the many ups and downs that are likely to occur in working through the issues that lead to infidelity, Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If they expect setbacks and are willing to work through them, the odds are good that they’ll end up with a healed marriage.”
“Infidelity is a unique situation that requires unique therapeutic skills,” she said. She suggested that in selecting a therapist, couples ask if the therapist has any training and experience in treating infidelity and how successful the therapist has been in helping marriages heal.
Complete Article ↪HERE↩!
[W]hen I embarked on the seven-year journey that would result in a trilogy of comedy shows and my first book, I had no idea what a huge part sexual orientation would play.
Yes, I’m a lesbian and that has influenced much of how I’ve socialised and dated for the 20 years or so since I came out. Yet, as I talked to more and more LGBT people – particularly those a little older than me who had experienced way more discrimination – I realised that being forced to think ‘outside the box’ around the concepts of love and family had resulted in some very self-aware, savvy and compassionate strategies for coping with the complexities of human relationships.
While I welcome the progressive legal changes that have seen a huge rise in acceptance for LGBT people, I worry that a blanket assumption that we all aspire to marry, have children and be ‘normal’ means that we might lose sight of some of the very best of these pioneering ideas.
Open relationships can be incredibly successful. Gay men fairly typically negotiate sexually open partnerships and have done for many decades. However, what is less widely-reported is just how good they are at remaining emotionally faithful to a primary partner. Their separation rates are the lowest of any section of society. Figures from 2013, from the Office of National Statistics, showed that civil partnership dissolution rates were twice as high for female couples as they were for male. While early divorce statistics in the UK evidence that ratio increasing further still.
So what are the relationships lessons straight couples can learn from the gay community?
Long before American author and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas devised the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ and Gwyneth Paltrow made it famous, lesbians were the godmothers of the concept of compassionate endings.
Recently, Dr Jane Traies conducted the first comprehensive study of older lesbians in the UK. She told me, “It’s not uncommon for a lesbian’s ex-partner to be her best friend.” She described one couple, now in their seventies, one of who had previously been in a straight marriage. The other had always been openly gay and had many more significant exes, who they would regularly spend time with. The central relationship seemed to be richly rewarded by having this framework of other ongoing connections supporting it.
Although the idea of ‘LAT’ couples is now more widely discussed, it was the LGBT community who originally piloted this idea. As my friend, the gay poet Dominic Berry, points out, “Perhaps if people are doing something widely viewed as deviant, making another deviance from the norm isn’t too big a jump.”
A lot of the automatic assumptions that are made about relationships – that you must get married, be monogamous, have children, move in together – have been cheerfully dispensed with. In many cases, an alternative romantic framework suited the individuals in the relationship much better.
When I conducted a survey for my comedy show, I asked respondents if they actually discussed sex and fidelity with a partner. One straight woman wrote, ‘Good lord no! It’s one thing to do the deed but we’re too uptight to actually talk about it. Thank goodness.’
My gay friends, by contrast, tend to have spent so many years agonising about their sexual identity that discussion of it with friends and families has been essential as part of the ‘coming out’ process. In many cases, this had lead to a readiness to air other really important questions around desires, boundaries and consent once they were in an adult relationship.
When I arrived in London as a young student in the Nineties, the LGBT community provided me with the strongest sense of belonging I have ever experienced.
In the face of prejudice and discrimination, gay people historically partied hard together and took more care of one another within the bubble of separatism. They cultivated a concept of ‘friends as family’, something the writer Armistead Maupin refers to as ‘logical family’.
Because films depicting same-sex relationships have generally been far-removed from the sugary rom-com ideal, gay people are more pragmatic and realistic about the extreme challenges of falling in and out of love and staying together.
In 2017, we may not be facing quite as much adversity as the characters depicted in Carol or Brokeback Mountain, but we know that the ‘fairy tale’ romance is a load of old hokum.
When the activism group Gay Liberation Front formed in the early Seventies, they gleefully celebrated their difference from the oppressive, beige ‘norms’ that most of society were having to follow. This resulted in an inclusive, embracing atmosphere and a sense of fun and freedom for anyone who wanted to reinvent and rethink traditional relationships and try out different models of being together.
Complete Article HERE!
[S]cientists have uncovered the secret to a happy sex life – time and effort.
A new study has found that individuals who believed in ‘sexual destiny’ expected satisfaction to simply happen if them and their partner were meant to be.
The team had discovered that these individuals saw a lack of chemistry in the bedroom as a sign of incompatibility and instead of working to resolve the issues or giving it time, they simply ended the relationship.
‘People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole,’ said Jessica Maxwell, a PhD candidate in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto.
‘Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction.’
Maxwell collaborated with a team at Dalhouse University to explore how ‘people can best maintain sexual satisfaction in their romantic relationships’.
Together they conducted six studies during their analysis to uncover the factors that impact a couple’s relationship and sexual satisfaction, reports Psychology Today.
During the study, researchers interviewed a range of couples, a total of 1,900 participants, who were at different stages of their relationship – some individuals were still in college, others lived together and a few were new parents.
Each couple was asked a series of questions that reflected either their ‘sexual soulmate’ or ‘sexual growth’, the idea that sexual satisfaction takes time, ideologies.
The team found that couples who followed the ideas of sexual growth had more of a connection during sex, higher sexual satisfaction with their partner and even a better relationship than those who endorsed the sexual destiny belief.
And people who were firm believers ‘that two people are either sexually compatible or they are not’ reported lower relationship quality and less sexual satisfaction.
It was also found that this group viewed sexual performance as playing a key role in determining the success of a relationship – which may have added pressure during sexual encounters and affecting performance.
But the other group, sexual growth believers, were much more open when to sexual changes from their partner – even if they were not compatible.
This has suggested ‘that individuals primed with sexual growth are not threatened by incompatibility information and still think it is important to work on the sexual relationship in such cases’, reads the study published in APA PsycNet
‘Those primed with sexual growth may be deeming sex to be more/less important to maintain their global relationship views, but their belief in effort and work allows them to remain committed on working to improve their sexual relationship.’
Maxwell said there is a honeymoon phase lasting about two to three years where sexual satisfaction is high among both sexual growth and sexual destiny believers.
But the benefit of believing in sexual growth becomes apparent after this initial phase, as sexual desire begins to ebb and flow.
‘We know that disagreements in the sexual domain are somewhat inevitable over time,’ she said.
‘Your sex life is like a garden, and it needs to be watered and nurtured to maintain it.’
Complete Article HERE!
Sex between two people can provide a host of infections and diseases; sex among three people triples those odds. A threesome is riskier than sex in a mutually monogamous, long-term relationship where both people have been tested. For example, if you touch one person, and you get fluids on you, and you touch the other person, fluids have been exchanged.
There’s a risk of exposing the third partner to bodily fluids when two fluid-bonded partners engage in unprotected sexual acts. In the book The Ethical Slut, author Dossle Easton uses the term “fluid bonding” to describe when partners involved do not use condoms or other barriers during sex.
Barriers for all sexual activities can go overlooked in threesomes; all partners should use a new barrier every time they switch sexual acts. If one person goes from intercourse to fellatio, or vice versa, you change condoms. You also need to change condoms if you move from penetrating one partner to penetrating another. You need to pick up a new dental dam when performing oral sex on someone new.
As expected, men are more likely to initiate asking women for a ménage à trois . Women are more likely to be aware and concerned about the potential emotional pitfalls and hurts that can be detrimental to all relationships. This is why couples should discuss their physical and emotional limits before the third person becomes involved.
“I have seen some serious fall-out from threesomes gone badly. It can be hard to predict the intensity of jealousy and hurt when it comes to sexual experience and bringing another person in,” Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, told Medical Daily .
Finally, remember that the “special guest” is a person, too. They need to be treated with respect. It’s important to ask them about, and listen to, their limits as well. As with any other sexual experience, everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable enough to say no as well as yes.
The threesome fantasy is a common one, whether we like to admit it or not, but should we act it out?
“… Not everybody wants to act out their fantasies,” Masini said, and some people have very good reasons for abstaining.
Many people keep their fantasies in their imaginations because they know if they acted on them, they’d lose their primary relationship. If we fantasize about sex with a neighbor or a colleague, acting out the fantasy could lead to rejection from the object of our fantasies, and a break-up with our significant other.
This is not to say threesomes can’t go well. Those who really know themselves and their partners can have successful trios.
Saltz advises: “It needs to be thoroughly talked through with openness to [discuss] concerns, fears; [couples should be willing] to listen to each other, and retreat if one needs to.”
Once we see our partner enjoying sex with someone else, we can’t unsee it. The potential vulnerability it introduces, and the potential desire for the third person could be detrimental to a relationship.
Before we start calling up friends, or putting “Special guest wanted” in classified ads, we should ask ourselves why we want one in the first place. To fulfill a fantasy? To feel more desired or wanted? Are we trying to fix our intimate relationship with our partner?
Threesomes can be a fun, adventurous sexual experiment, but can they replace true intimacy between two people?
The idea of a threesome is hot, but it doesn’t mean you should actually do it.
We’re in control of our bodies, and our sexual escapades, so whether that means a intimate twosome or a frisky threesome, it’s up to us.
Complete Article HERE!
by Joamette Gil
[Y]ou might know about the type of non-monogamy that gets most mainstream media attention. But do you know about these other relationship styles outside the status quo?
This comic sheds light on the types of non-monogamy that tend to get ignored.
Whether non-monogamy’s for you or not, you can probably learn something from these examples of how people create options to put feminist values at the core of their relationships and reject oppressive expectations.
Do they challenge what you think a healthy partnership means?
Complete Article HERE!
By Liz Connor
How do you rekindle the passion and improve your sex life in a marriage or long term relationship after the honeymoon period is over?
While magazine articles might advise candles, hot baths and music, a new study suggests that the answer may lie in the way that you treat your partner.
Psychology professor, Gurit E Birnbaum conducted a series of experiments, setting out to determine the best conditions for a healthy sex life, for both men and women.
The results of the study, which were published in the American Psychological Association Journal, found that the secret to optimum sex is all to do with the way you talk to your partner and respond to their emotional needs.
Birnbaum found that being responsive and empathetic to your partner’s wishes made them more receptive and open to spicing things up in the bedroom.
Researchers conducted three experiments in order to determine the factors that might affect sexual desire.
The first saw 153 couples discuss a positive or negative experience with their partner. Afterwards, they were asked to comment on how compassionate their partner was, and how much they wanted to have sex following the conversation
Following the trial, men’s interest in interest in sex remained the same, whether they were met with empathetic or completely unresponsive remarks from their partner.
However, women reported feeling a “greater desire” when talking to a sensitive partner, rather than an unresponsive one.
The second experiment asked the couples to discuss both positive and negative life experiences with one another, face to face.
The results showed that both men and women experienced heightened sexual attraction to their partner – but only when they were telling a cheerful story.
According to researchers, this may be because moaning about bad life experiences can render a partner less desirable – as you’re more likely to notice their personal weaknesses or stressors.
The final experiment saw 100 couples complete a diary of their nights together for six weeks.
They were challenged to write down the quality of their relationship based on how their partner made them feel.
Both genders reported feeling ‘special’ if their partner was compassionate and responsive to their conversation, although the number of women who reported this was far greater than the amount of men.
While women may be more sensitive to their partner’s conversational hospitality, all three experiments concluded that both men and women who felt valued in their relationships had the highest level of desire for their partners.
In short, listening + empathy = sexual chemistry.
Time to put the bubble bath and Barry White on ice and start working on your best listening face…
Complete Article HERE!
A new poll from YouGov.com indicates that young Americans are more likely to accept non-monogamous relationships than their elders. Nearly a fifth of people under 30 had some kind of sexual activity with someone else while their partner knew about it. This is not to say that the youngsters are rejecting monogamy outright, as 56% of them still think it’s the only way to go. That number rises to 74% for people between 45-64 and 78% in folks 65+.
Perhaps this is not very surprising as people under 30 are less likely to be married and are still looking for a partner. It’s even less surprising once you consider the rise of what has been described as “hookup culture”, courtesy of the proliferation of apps like Tinder, which streamline the process of finding a temporary sexual partner.
Notably, the median age for marriage in 1970 was 21 for women and 23 for men. By 2010, that’s risen to 27 and 29, respectively. Marrying later certainly increases the opportunity for premarital sexual encounters. On the larger scale, a bit over half of Americans are not married at all, so that creates quite a few singles.
The overall number of Americans who are not ok with their partner stepping out on them is at 68%. Still, some certainly do it. About 11% of Americans report having had sexual relations with someone else with their partner’s consent, and 19% have done so on the sly (basically, cheated).
Again, younger Americans are more likely to cheat, with 17% of under-45s reporting such activity, while only 3% of over 65s admitted to having sex with someone without their partner’s knowledge. This last statistic can also be explained by generational mores. It’s likely the older folks aren’t as open about such behavior as the much more open younger generation, which grew up in the era of social media and reality TV.
Other studies have found that, puzzlingly, even though millennials may have a more open attitude towards sex than their parents, the average number of sexual partners for Americans has actually decreased. The number of sexual partners for baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) was mostly the same, clocking in at 11.68, as the number of partners for those born in 1980s and 1990s. This number for millennials? 8.26.
If you are in a non-monogamous relationship, what rules should you follow to make it work for you? Certainly, each situation is different, but research has shown that key components of what’s being called “ethical non-monogamy” should be trust and communication.
Without honesty, such a relationship is just cheating, and openness can go a long way towards defining the boundaries of what is acceptable to you and your partner. Non-monogamous partners are less likely to experience jealousy if the situation is properly discussed. They know that what their partner finds in another relationship (especially if it’s merely sexual) may be the kind of fulfillment they are not willing or able to provide.
Complete Article HERE!
By Maya M
[I]n our culture and many others, the typical relationship narrative goes like this: You date around a little, eventually finding one true soulmate—the one person you’ll grow old with, raise children with, and the one and only person you’ll have sex with.
But there are a lot of people who don’t subscribe to this narrative, myself included. The problem with the concept of “the one” is that it undermines each and every human’s capacity to love many different people in many different ways.
After I decided to try out non-monogamy with a former girlfriend, I realized how the standard concept of monogamy erases the complexities of sexuality, passion, and romance. Though I still loved her as deeply as ever after opening up the relationship, I also learned to love another person on a completely different level. With my girlfriend, the love was deep, full of history, and adventurous; with my second partner, the love was fiery and playful.
Non-monogamy gave me the opportunity to intimately learn about another person’s body and mind without restriction or fear, and ever since that relationship, I’ve practiced non-monogamy with all my partners. While it can look different for different people, in my case, I prefer having a primary partner—someone I can call my girlfriend, make a home with, and introduce to my friends and family. I’m also comfortable with us having other partners, whether they are sexual, romantic, or a combination, as long as there is open communication about all relationships. We make sure we’re on the same page about what is and isn’t OK.
What I’ve been most grateful for is how non-monogamy has made me a much better partner and person. Here’s what I mean.
When someone hits on my girlfriend or when I see her express interest in someone else, I actually get excited for all the potential thrill and adventure that relationship could bring. This decrease in jealousy helps me fully enjoy my time with my partner and not question her use of time when we’re not together.
And when I do feel jealous, I handle it better than I used to. No relationship, whether monogamous, polyamorous, or non-monogamous, is totally exempt from jealousy. If you’re someone trying out an open or non-monogamous relationship for the first time, know that it’s totally normal and OK to get a little envious.
I like to sit down with my partner the moment I start feeling this way and ask some questions: Where is this coming from? Is it a little irrational? How can we work together to fix the problem now and avoid it in the future? By tackling these questions head-on, we avoid the nasty things that sometimes happen when people let jealousy fester.
People in monogamous relationships often say things like “that’s my girl” or “you can’t talk to my man.” This reduces your partner to property, and though many people don’t mind this kind of language, I prefer to see, treat, and speak about my partner as her own person. When my partner is on a date with someone else, I am reminded that, though I love her, she’s not only mine to love.
As I’ve come to understand that my partner’s body does not belong to me, I’ve become opposed to policing others’ bodies. To me, bodies are about safety, health, and pleasure, and while I may feel bodily pleasure through exercise, sex, and deep-tissue massages, other people may feel that pleasure through different sensations and actions. Before I started practicing non-monogamy, I gave my friends who abstained from sex a hard time about their choices. But opening up that aspect of my romantic life has taught me all the nuanced ways people use (and don’t use!) their bodies, and I’m a better person for it.
Compersion is a term used in non-monogamous and polyamorous communities to describe the romantic or sexual pleasure that comes with seeing your partner loved or aroused by someone else. The first time I experienced compersion was during a threesome with one of my former girlfriends. I enjoyed watching the third person kiss her because I knew she enjoyed the kiss.
Compersion can cause an immediate surge of endorphins and arousal in sexual situations, but I’ve learned to translate the feeling into non-romantic and non-sexual situations as well. By embracing other people’s joy, I’m able to feel genuine excitement for their accomplishments (instead of jealousy) and happiness for their successes (instead of bitterness).
Many people think non-monogamous people only open up their relationships for sex. While this isn’t always true, the improvement in my sex life has been undeniable. I’ve learned so much more about different ways human bodies feel pleasure, and I’m generally willing to act on fresh ideas in bed.
As a queer, non-monogamous woman of color, it’s sometimes hard to stumble upon communities who share all my identities and can intimately relate to my trials and triumphs. But when I do, the feeling is magical. Though I love my straight, white, monogamous friends, meeting a non-monogamous brown or queer girl like myself helps me expand my perspective on my own identities as well as empathize with (and learn from!) the perspectives of someone else in a position similar to mine.
In a monogamous relationship, when an S.O. is expected to spend all their romantic and sexual energy on you, things can sometimes get a little stale and monotonous. When I opened up my relationship, I treated all the time we spent together like a gift and not necessarily an expectation. Despite what people may think, we didn’t spend significantly less time together. But on the nights she would be on a date with another person, I would have time to reflect on how much I loved her (and missed her!), so I was better able to cherish the time we spent together.
From improvement strategies to big next steps (like moving in together or adopting a puppy) to simple check-ins, non-monogamy has made me a better communicator in general. I’m able to apply the same open communication principles to serious relationship talks, positive or negative.
It’s no secret that non-monogamy is unconventional and often frowned upon. As someone who takes pleasure in something society deems “unnatural” or “irregular,” I understand how important it is to approach any other lifestyles with an open and accepting mind (as long as those lifestyles don’t bring harm upon others).
When I was 17, I came out as a lesbian and understood my sexuality to be strictly one that aggressively favored women. But as I opened up my relationships and started sleeping with men, I found that though I still prefered women over men in every way, there was definitely room for men (both cis and gender non-conforming) and people who don’t identify within the binary. I started identifying as queer and learned that my own sexuality can be very fluid. Understanding my own sexuality helps me talk to my partners about theirs and ultimately helps me create safe spaces for friends and family to discuss the issue with me as well.
Having a variety of different partners means taking responsibility to ensure pleasant and safe experiences for everyone. I get tested for STIs more often and also make sure to tackle infections more quickly now that a variety of people may be exposed to them. Taking better care of my reproductive health contributes to better communication, since sharing sexual history with partners can be crucial in many non-monogamous relationships.
Since I go on a lot more dates, I’ve become much better at sensing when I’m not compatible with someone. Because of this, it’s easier for me to tell people that things won’t work out, which spares a lot of hurt feelings.
As a final thought for anyone confused about non-monogamy or considering exploring it with a partner, I want to emphasize it is not just fueled by a desire to have sex with other people; in fact, people who are non-monogamous often seek to better their relationships with their primary partner and lead more understanding, open lives.
Complete Article HERE!
When we say that someone is monogamous, we usually mean that he/she is sexually exclusive with one partner. But does that mean only intercourse or all sexual acts? Does that include emotional intimacy? How about cuddling or other nonsexual types of intimacy? Since we relate to people in so many ways, how we draw the boundary between monogamy and non-monogamy varies from relationship to relationship. It turns out that monogamy is not a binary, any more than polyamory can be described as simply the opposite of monogamy. Both monogamy and polyamory are on a continuum with multiple dimensions, which I’ll describe here as social, emotional, physical, sexual, and familial.
Humans are social creatures, and even though most of us want to pair up with a special someone, we often maintain social bonds with others. Do you go out to dinner, see a movie, go hiking or shopping with friends by yourself, or do you prefer to do those things with your significant other? People who are socially monogamous feel that forming a social bond with a person of the opposite sex (or same sex if homosexual) is a slippery slope to infidelity. Therefore they may prioritize socializing with other couples, keeping very transparent and casual all relationships with the opposite sex, and socializing as a unit as much as possible.
Sometimes friendships turn into deep emotional bonds and couples find themselves having to negotiate to what extent they feel emotional intimacy with others is acceptable. For example, would you be ok with your partner having a close friendship with his ex-lover? Would you be ok with your partner forming a close friendship with a person of the opposite sex? Would you be ok with your partner saying, “I love you,” to someone of the opposite sex? Some emotionally intimate couples are purely platonic while others develop romantic feelings. How would you feel about your partner being romantically involved with someone without sex? Do you need emotional exclusivity with your partner?
Not all physical ways of relating are sexual, and they may or may not be within the bounds of a monogamous relationship. Some individuals are very affectionate and can kiss, hug, and cuddle with their friends and it’s not at all sexual. Some cultures are more physically expressive than others. Some monogamous couples are fine with their partners hugging and even flirting with others, but draw the line at kissing. Others may engage in massage or sensual touching but agree not to have sex with others.
We tend to think of sex as the last stop on the monogamy train. Some people need sexual exclusivity to feel safe with their partner, even when they are permissive in all other areas. For others, sex is not the ultimate symbol of love and devotion, but emotional intimacy is. One person may feel that “it’s fine for my partner to have sex with someone else, but I’m the only person who is allowed to cut his hair!” Some couples reserve specific sexual acts with each other or permit certain ones with others. For example, a couple may decide that BDSM with other partners is ok but they will only make love with each other. Some couples are ok with their partners having sex with others but don’t want them to sleep with other partners or go on vacation with them. Swinging is considered to be the type of non-monogamy that is sexually open but reserves emotional intimacy for the primary couple.
While love may be infinite and potentially shared with an unlimited number of individuals, time, space, and money are limited and we may be able to share them with only one or two individuals. It is quite common that individuals who are polyamorous in all aspects may only share finances, parenting, or cohabitation with one partner. In those cases extra partners are like friends of the family or extended family. If other partners become integral members of the nuclear family and they become exclusive with each other, this type of arrangement is sometimes called polyfidelity. Even with people who consider themselves totally polyamorous, not every partner can be equal when it comes to the limited resources of time, money, and space.
As we can see, monogamy is not as straightforward as we may think it is. A couple may be emotionally monogamous but not physically or sexually so. Or they may be sexually exclusive but physically and emotionally open to others. Polyamory also has social, emotional, physical sexual, and familial dimensions. It is important to ask specific questions and understand each other’s level of openness instead of assuming we know what someone else needs. Understanding our own and other’s boundaries can also help us stretch them and grow in directions that will benefit us and our relationships.