The Most Common Open Relationship Rules

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And How to Set Yours

We’ve been inundated with the concept of “the one” throughout our lives. But what if “the one” is really more like a great entrée with some side dishes? Although we’re led to believe that monogamy is the gold standard of relationships, sociologist Dr. Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff says that “polyagomy is far more common across cultures and societies and history than monogamy.”

In fact, thanks in part to the internet and dating apps, open relationships are seemingly on the rise (or perhaps more people feel comfortable openly acknowledging them). According to a 2016 study, one in five Americans has been in a non-monogamous relationship at some point. Plus, age, race, political affiliations and socio-economic status doesn’t seem to affect the likelihood of someone entering an open relationship. However, people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were slightly more likely to have experienced non-monogamy.

As we all know, relationships are work. And when you add in more parties, it gets decidedly more complicated, and you might discover that sometimes more isn’t merrier. So if you’re considering starting an open relationship, you’ll need to weigh your wants and needs, consider your partner’s and establish some guidelines beforehand. But first things first…

What exactly is an open relationship?

“Open relationships fall under the umbrella of consensual non-monogamous relationships and generally, but not always, tend to focus on sexual activities over emotional with other partners,“ explains clinical psychologist Dr. Catalina Lawsin. “Under this larger umbrella there are many types of consensual non-monogamous relationships, some of which include: polyamory (where partners support one another having both emotional and sexual relationships with other partners with the understanding that love can take many forms and individuals can love more than one person at a time), monogamish (similar to open, but restricted only to sexual activity with other partners), swinging (exploring sexual activities together at social events and meetups with other couples), and relationship anarchy (there are no set rules but instead the relationship is flexible to the needs of each partner).”

She also emphasizes that open relationships are not like affairs, a common misconception. “It’s quite the opposite,” she says. “The core ingredient of an affair is the secrecy of it. In open relationships partners are open in their sexual activity with others and supportive of it.”

Is an open relationship right for you and your partner?

First, for an open relationship to work, both partners need to enter it willingly, not begrudgingly. If a person acquiesces to an open relationship, perhaps out of fear of losing their partner, it’s “a disaster because open relationships are challenging, even if everyone wants to be in them. Relationships in general are challenging. If it’s a non-monogamous relationship, and someone has been pressured or bullied into it, or has given in because they feel the person will leave them if they don’t, then that builds up resentment,” Dr. Sheff says,author of The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. “And then when something happens, [for example] someone accidentally gets pregnant, someone gets a sexually transmitted infection, then that just blows up.”

Also, it’s not a strategy to fix turbulent relationships, Dr. Lawsin cautions. “On the contrary, consensual non-monogamous relationships rely on trust and require a healthy stable relationship that is mutually supportive to succeed. All relationships require negotiation, and bringing in additional partners to a relationship often requires more negotiation, communication and planning.”

To start, figure out why you want an open relationship. “People should think deeply about their motivations,” says Dr. Sheff. Do you want multiple partners, but recoil at the thought of your partner being with other people? Are you simply looking for an excuse to hook up with other people? Or a way not to fully commit? “It’s not reasonable to expect a partner to be sexually exclusive with you, while you have sex with anybody that you want,” she adds. “Sometimes couples can work out a poly-mono relationship, but in my experience, as a relationship coach and in my research, I have seen that that hardly ever works…Usually people who want a monogamous relationship want their partners to be monogamous with them.” So make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

Next, consider how well you communicate and handle conflict as a couple, which are key ingredients for relationship success, especially in non-monogamous ones. “Because conflict will inevitably arise in any relationship. And if you add additional people into it, the potential for conflict dramatically increases,” Dr. Sheff says. “So if people don’t know how to handle conflict and then they enter a potentially incredibly sticky situation like non-monogamy, that could definitely blow up in their faces.”

Psychotherapist Dr. Kristie Overstreet also suggests working with a certified sex therapist if you need help navigating the possibility of an open relationship. And if your gut is saying “yes yes yes” or “oh God, no no no,” listen to it.
What type of open relationship works for you?

The type of relationship that’s best for you and your partner really depends on what you’re seeking. Dr. Overstreet says that “both partners in the couple need to decide if they are open to emotional, physical or both aspects for an open relationship.”

Dr. Sheff breaks it down like this: “Are you both wanting sexual variety with no strings attached? Then swinging is good for that. Are you wanting more emotional intimacy? Then polyamory is better for that. Do you want no rules and for each relationship to be taken on its own individual independence? Then consider relationship anarchy.”

People who practice relationship anarchy choose to be together out of desire rather than obligation, Dr. Sheff explains. “They are not necessarily on this ‘relationship escalator,’ where there’s one way to have a relationship with increasing exclusivity and commitment until you’re married, with sex only happening with that one partner. Relationship anarchists are not down with that at all.”

The rules of an open relationship

While no two relationships are alike, there are some general guidelines to consider when trying to establish a healthy open relationship. Dr. Lawsin offers the following checklist, adding that any rules or boundaries should be discussed, negotiated and reassessed occasionally throughout the relationship and adjusted as needed.

1. Negotiate your sexual boundaries

Boundaries regarding sex should be explicitly negotiated, such as how often sex can occur (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.), with how many partners at a time, where (e.g., on business trips) and whatever additional physical or logistical (e.g., time) dimensions a couple wishes to define in their relationship. This includes the type of sex as well. For example, is penetrative sex OK or just oral? What about BDSM? Also, do you prefer your partner to only have sex with strangers who they will never see again or rather with someone you already know and trust. Yes, it might get weirdly specific, but you’ll want to figure this stuff out before you open the flood gates.

2. Define your emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries can be harder to define and set, but they should definitely be discussed, with each partner being honest about what they can manage for themselves and their partner.

3. Safe sex is a must

When you transition your relationship from exclusive to open, you might be super excited to get started with your new ventures, but don’t let all those safe sex practices fly out the window. Discuss with your partner what you’re both comfortable with and how you’ll actually practice safe sex IRL.

4. Be honest

Open relationships relinquish partners from needing to hide or suppress their sexual needs, therefore honesty about what they’re doing should be maintained. Couples need to specify how many details the other wants to know (if any at all) as well as how often. This should be reassessed as needed (and this also applies to #3).

5. Schedule check-ins with your partner

Transparency about how each partner is feeling about the other’s sexual pursuits should also be negotiated and checked on. Partners can make assumptions in any type of relationship, so it’s important to have check-ins with one another to provide a safe space to process emotions, make any adjustments to negotiated boundaries and assess the health of the primary relationship.

6. Don’t forget your about your relationship

Schedule time and space to nurture the relationship and make sure to maintain this. Date nights, trips away and expressing love need to be prioritized to maintain the relationship foundation. Dr. Sheff agrees, saying that it’s easy for one partner to get distracted with a shiny new, exciting relationship and forget to pay attention to the longer-term relationship. “Don’t just save all the fun juju for the new relationship,” she adds.

What about jealousy?

You’re gonna get jealous. It’s inevitable. So, Dr. Sheff says, people “should anticipate it and start building skills around dealing with it before they even engage in open relationships.” And if you do get jealous that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea of an open relationship altogether. Rather, you need to face the jealousy head on and figure out why you feel that way, perhaps because you’re feeling insecure or threatened by your partner’s new relationship. Dr. Sheff says that this is a good time for your partner to reassure you (or for you to validate your partner) by saying, “I love you. It’s OK. I’m not leaving you and here are all the reasons why I love you.”

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Signs an Open Relationship Could Be Right for You

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(and 3 That It’s Probably Not)

Sometimes it’s good to shut the door on monogamy.

By Zachary Zane

Here’s a universal truth we generally don’t discuss enough: It’s totally normal to fantasize about other people even when you’re so happy in a relationship that your heart almost bursts every time your partner wrinkles their nose right before laughing at one of your terrible puns. That definitely doesn’t always mean that you want to act on those urges—that might seem like a bad idea for a variety of reasons. But in some cases and for some people, acting on these thoughts with the blessing of their partner is a really attractive idea. Enter: non-monogamy.

Non-monogamy refers to relationships that allow people to have sexual and/or emotional intimacy with people besides their primary partners. People who may be interested in non-monogamy include those who want to explore multiple facets of their sexual orientations or who don’t feel as though it’s natural to only love one person romantically, for instance. Fortunately for people who are interested in pursuing something like this, relationship models beyond monogamy are rising in mainstream visibility, which is where open relationships can come in.

More people are visibly warming up to the idea that it’s OK to want to have sex with more than one person for life. (Forever is a really, REALLY long time.) But knowing that open relationships are a thing doesn’t help much when it comes to figuring out if one might be right for you.

Since every relationship has its own strengths and weaknesses, there’s no One Easy Trick that will reveal if an open relationship could be great for you and your partner. However, there are various tip-offs that can indicate if your relationship would thrive or crumble after opening it up. To help you figure out where you fall, we reached out to experts in ethical non-monogamy (as in being non-monogamous without being an asshole). Here are the signs they say can hint at when it might and might not make sense to consider experimenting with an open relationship.

Here’s when it could make sense to have an open relationship.

1. You’re both genuinely interested in non-monogamy.

As the founder of the educational platform Unscripted Relationships, Stephanie Webb, Ph.D., often gets the question, “How do I get my partner to agree to an open relationship?” That’s completely the wrong way to go about opening up a relationship, says Webb.

“You don’t ‘get’ them to,” Webb, whose Ph.D. is in communication with a focus on nontraditional relationships and who has personally practiced ethical non-monogamy for over a decade, tells SELF. That kind of phrasing implies that one partner is interested in an open relationship and trying to bend the other’s will, which definitely isn’t a healthy relationship dynamic for introducing non-monogamy (or just in general).

“Many people do not want to be in an open relationship and forcing a [partner] is not a way to approach it at all,” Webb says. “Instead the interest can be raised, but not pushed. If the [partner] draws a line and wants monogamy because that is what was initially expected in the relationship, it should be respected or the relationship should end.”

With that said there’s a huge difference between a partner who makes it clear that they would never want any form of an open relationship and a partner who is interested but may need time to understand how an open relationship would manifest.

“Fears and insecurities about a new type of relationship style are typical,” board-certified clinical sexologist Rhoda Lipscomb, Ph.D., tells SELF. Experiencing these emotions at the thought of opening up a relationship doesn’t automatically mean it’s not a good idea. “This can actually help the couple so long as they are able to communicate well about what the fears mean and move forward at a pace that works for both of them,” Lipscomb says. That brings us to our next point.

2. You’re ready to communicate your ass off.

A healthy open relationship does not start after a single talk. “Opening a relationship takes so much time and work,” Webb says. Properly navigating this new terrain requires a series of ongoing conversations where you and your partner discuss what you’re looking to get out of the new relationship dynamic along with any rules you need to follow to make that happen.

Perhaps in order for you both to feel fulfilled and safe in your open relationship, neither of you can have sleepovers, play with friends, tell each other details of your trysts, have sex with other people without protection, or have sex with others inside your shared home.

Discuss emotional boundaries too. Are you both only interested in having sexual connections with other people? Or are you OK with polyamory, which allows for emotional connections and even loving other people too? Making sure you both agree upon these types of boundaries is key.

3. Your relationship currently stands on a foundation of honesty and trust.

Every expert quoted in this piece made one thing abundantly clear: Successful open relationships can require even more honesty and confidence in your partner than monogamous ones.

When a couple has this foundation, it’s a lot harder for non-monogamy to harm their bond, Lipscomb says. But without that trust or ability to be completely truthful, it’s much easier for an open relationship to exacerbate your relationship issues or create new ones. For instance, if you don’t trust your partner as much as possible, will you believe them when they say they’ll always use protection? If you feel like you can’t be honest with them, will you be able to share what about an open relationship makes you feel most vulnerable—which is the only real way you can get reassurance for those fears?

It’s necessary that both of you feel comfortable discussing questions and concerns you might have even if you’re a little nervous. Otherwise, your open relationship could implode pretty quickly.

4. You and your partner have mismatched libidos or kinks.

“Some folks have a partner who is uninterested in having a sexual relationship but still desires an emotional connection,” clinical psychologist and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists–certified sex therapist Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., tells SELF. This may happen when one partner falls on the asexual spectrum, is taking medication that stunts their libido, is too stressed from work to want much sex, or for any number of other valid reasons. On a similar note if one of you is all about a certain kink and the other has absolutely no interest, allowing one partner to practice that kink with others might offer a solution.

Of course these types of situations still require honesty, trust, and thorough communication. Those are nonnegotiable in any good relationship, especially open ones.

5. You’re in a mixed-orientation relationship.

If you’re in a mixed-orientation relationship, you may already know that term for it, but just so we’re on the same page: A mixed-orientation relationship means that partners have different sexual orientations.

Here’s when opening up your relationship might not be the best idea.

1. It’s in direct response to infidelity.

One of the worst things you can do after a partner cheats is immediately open the relationship. That’s not to say you can’t open it up if one of you has cheated in the past, but there’s that trust issue again: You both need time to work through infidelity as a unit before bringing anyone else into the mix, even if it’s no longer in secret.

“Open relationships of all kinds require trust, knowledge, consent, and emotional (and sometimes physical and spiritual) labor,” says Webb. “Infidelity breaks trust; opening the relationship when this kind of trauma has occurred is not impossible, but it does not set anyone up for success either. I recommend doing the work to rebuild the relationship and then approaching openness from a foundation of trust.”

2. Your relationship is already on the brink of ending.

Opening up a relationship in a desperate attempt to stave off a breakup isn’t a great idea. Without the strong, healthy bond that’s necessary for an open relationship to work, introducing non-monogamy might just push you over the breakup precipice.

People who try an open relationship as a last-ditch effort to avoid a breakup typically already have one foot out the door, Lipscomb says. “They do not have a strong connection and want someone—anyone—other than their primary partner,” she says, but they might be staying because of children, a fear of what their family will say, comfort, worries about hurting their partner, social stigma around divorce, or other reasons. An open relationship might seem like the perfect compromise in these cases, but it won’t work as a bandage over fundamental relationship issues or unhappiness.

3. One or both of you can’t handle jealousy.

It’s a misconception that people in successful open relationships never feel jealousy. The difference is that they know jealousy can happen, respect boundaries in an attempt to avoid it, and deal with it in a healthy manner if it arises anyway.

None of this is possible without—say it with us, folks—honesty, trust, and communication. That essential combination is what allows you to say something like, “Hey, I don’t know what it is, but I get wildly jealous when I know you’re seeing that guy.” It’s also what allows your partner to accept this kind of statement from a loving, empathetic place and reassure you as necessary.

Issues besides jealousy might come up when you’re in an open relationship, just like they would in a monogamous one. Bottom line: “Partners need to be able to listen to one another with compassion and not defensiveness, communicate their wants and needs, express themselves honestly, and take responsibility for their actions,” says Pomeranz.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s What a Polyamorous Relationship Actually Is…

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and What It Isn’t

Jessamyn Stanley recently talked about the many misconceptions surrounding polyamory. We reached out to experts to learn more about the relationship practice.

By Gabrielle Kassel

Bethany Meyers, Nico Tortorella, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jessamyn Stanley are all stylish AF, badass entrepreneurs making waves on your social feeds. But they have another thing in common: They all identify as polyamorous.

By now you’ve likely heard of “polyamory” and “polyamorous relationships.” But do you know what they mean? Unless you’re also poly, Stanely says you probably don’t. In a recent Instagram Story, she said, “Polyamory gets confused with wanting to have sex or needing to have sex with a lot of different people, which is really not what it’s about.” (Related: How to Have a Healthy Polyamorous Relationship)

So what are polyamorous relationships actually about? To find out, we consulted with sex educators who specialize in ethical non-monogamy. Here, they explain the dynamics of polyamory and dispel some of the most common misconceptions surrounding it.

What’s the definition of polyamorous?

Our ‘ole friend Merriam Webster says the term “polyamory” refers to folks involved in more than one romantic relationship at a time. While an OK start, sex and polyamory educators say this definition misses one vv vital component: consent.

“Polyamory is an ethically, honestly, and consensually driven relationship structure that allows us to engage in many (poly), loving (amorous) relationships,” says pleasure-based sex educator and sex-positivity advocate, Lateef Taylor. “The consent component here is vital.” So while there may be multiple intimate and/or sexual relationships happening concurrently, everyone (!!) involved is aware that these are the relationship dynamics in place.

Note: If you’ve ever been in a committed monogamous relationship and cheated or been cheated on, know that that is not polyamory. “Cheating is a behavior that can happen in any kind of relationship because it’s any broach in the agreements or boundaries of the relationship,” explains sex educator and licensed psychologist Liz Powell, Psy.D., author of Building Open Relationships: Your Hands-On Guide To Swinging, Polyamory, & BeyondTranslation: Calling yourself “poly” isn’t a free pass for you or your partner to hook up with whoever you want.

Polyamorous relationship ≠ open relationship

Many non-monogamous relationship terms are often conflated and confused. Sex and relationships educator Sarah Sloane, who has been teaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 2001, explains that consensual non-monogamy (sometimes called ethical non-monogamy) encapsulates all of these.

Maybe you’ve heard the word “queer” described as an umbrella term? Well, Sloane says “consensual non-monogamy similarly operates as an umbrella term, too.” Under that umbrella are other types of non-monogamous relationships, including polyamorous relationships, as well as swinging, open relationships, throuples, and more.

Wait, so what’s the difference between polyamorous and open relationships? “These relationship terms may mean slightly different things to different people,” explains Sloane. Typically, though, “when someone uses the phrase ‘polyamorous,’ they’re using it to explain relationships that are emotionally intimate and romantic, as opposed to just sexual,” she says. Open relationships, on the other hand, tend to involve having one partner who’s your main squeeze/your boo thing/your partner/your honey, and other partners who are ~purely sexual~. Simply put, while open relationships and polyamorous relationships are both practices of ethical non-monogamy, polyamorous relationships typically have wiggle room for more than one emotional connection. (Related: 6 Things Monogamous People Can Learn from Open Relationships)

Just remember: “To find out what someone means when they say they’re in a polyamorous relationship, ask them, because it does mean different things to different people,” says Sloane.

Some poly relationships have “structure” while others do not

Just as no two monogamous relationships look the same, nor do two polyamorous relationships. “There are so many different ways to have intimate relationships with multiple people, so there are so many ways polyamorous relationships can manifest and play out,” says Amy Boyajian, CEO and co-founder of Wild Flower, an online innovative sexual wellness and adult store.

Sloane explains that some folks follow a relationship hierarchy in which partners are considered “primary,” “secondary,” “tertiary,” and so on, based on the level of commitment involved. “Others won’t use formal labels, but will arrange the ‘importance’ of their relationships around who they’re living with, have kids with, etc.,” she says. On the other hand, some people avoid “ranking” the folks they’re woo-ing and being woo-ed by, adds Sloane.

Figuring out a relationship structure (or lack thereof) that works best for you requires understanding yourself and what you need from your relationships, says Boyajian. “You need to deep-think on what you’re comfortable with, what your needs are, and then be able to communicate those things to your partners and potential partners.”

Folks of any gender, sexuality, and relationship status can be poly

“Anyone who believes in and is committed to having ethical non-monogamous relationships can explore this love style,” says Taylor.

BTW, you can also be single and identify as poly. You can even be sleeping with or dating only one person and still identify as poly. “Identifying as poly doesn’t mean you always have multiple partners at once,” says Boyajian, “It’s like being pansexual. You’re still pansexual even if you’re not currently dating or sleeping with anyone!” (Related: What It Really Means to Be Gender Fluid or Identify As Non-Binary)

No, being poly isn’t a “new trend”

Polyamory may seem like something ~all the cool kids are doing~ but it has a rich history. “Indigenous people and queer folks have been doing it for many, many years,” says Powell. “And when we call it a ‘trend’, we erase the history of the variety of folks who have been practicing ethical non-monogamy throughout history, before the white West started doing it.”

So why does it seem like it’s suddenly something everyone’s doing? First off, relax. Not everyone is doing it. While one survey found that about 21 percent of Americans have tried consensual non-monogamy at some point in their life, another source says only 5 percent of folks are currently in a non-monogamous relationship. However, the most recent data is at least two years old, so experts say the percentage may be slightly higher.

Sloane also offers her own hypothesis: “As a society, we may be in a place where we are having more conversations about what constitutes love and relationships,” she says. “And the more conversations we have about polyamory, the more people are able to consider it for themselves.” (Related: The Surprising Reason Women Want Divorce More Than Men)

Polyamorous dating isn’t just about getting laid

There’s a misconception that polyamory is about a need or desire to have a lot of sex with a lot of people, Stanley recently shared on Instagram. But “it’s really just a lot of radical honesty,” she wrote. As Powell explains: “Polyamory isn’t about sex, it’s about the desire (or practice) of wanting to have multiple loving relationships.”

In fact, sometimes sex is never on the table. For instance, folks who identify as asexual (meaning they don’t experience a desire to have sex) can be in polyamorous relationships, too, says sex educator Dedeker Winston, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory. “For people who are asexual, polyamorous allows them to cultivate relationships around commitment, intimacy, shared values, and shared experiences with a partner or partners, while still allowing that partner to be sexual.”

But, of course, sex can be part of it

“Polyamory is about designing an intentional relationship style that works for you, so sex can be a primary driver or just a component,” says sex educator and gender researcher Ren Grabert, M.Ed. (BTW: If you’re thinking poly=orgies all the time, guess again. Sure, group sex may occasionally be part of it. But that’s not a defining feature of polyamorous relationships.)

And when sex is part of it, Boyajian says communication around safe-sex practices and STI status is key. “Are you using protection with all of your partners? Are a group of you exclusive to one another and therefore not using barriers? Are you to use protection with all partners but one, who you’re fluid bonded to?” These details should be agreed upon before sexual contact happens and should be an ongoing conversation. (Here’s how to ask your partner if they’ve had an STD test.)

Polyamorous relationships *aren’t* for commitment-phobes

There’s a misconception that being polyamorous is synonymous with “bad at commitment.” That’s hogwash. In fact, Taylor says poly requires a ton of commitment—to yourself and to the people you’re seeing. “Think about it: Being in a relationship with multiple people requires committing to the folks you’re dating or seeing and honoring them and the boundaries of your relationship.”

In fact, if you start dating polyamorously specifically because you have a fear of commitment, your relationships will likely fail, says Powell. “What tends to happen is folks end up bringing their commitment-aversion—and the issues that come with it—into multiple relationships, instead of just one.” Woof.

If you want to experiment with polyamorous dating, you need to do your research

Maybe you’ve always wanted to explore polyamory. Maybe Stanely’s loving post for her partners after a bike accident (“I’m also feeling so f*cking grateful for my partners and the way in which they held me and each other down last night/this morning”) piqued your interest. Or maybe you’re just curious for future reference. Whatever the reason, if you—or you and a partner—want to experiment with polyamory, you need to do your research.

Kudos, this article counts. But if you’re actually looking to date polyamorously, it’s not sufficient. “Doing research on polyamorous relationships, boundaries within that relationship, and what you’re looking for from polyamorous dating is vital,” says Grabert.

For that, the experts interviewed have the following suggestions:

Complete Article HERE!

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The Modern Monogamous Marriage Is Built on Lies, Not Sex Research

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By Carrie Weisman

With some exceptions, gender constructs have served men well in the modern world. It’s landed them in more high-powered positions. It’s gotten them higher wages. And, yeah, it’s given them license to pursue sex in ways that would lead women to be ostracized or shamed. In her new book Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women Lust and Adultery Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free, author Wednesday Martin digs into the damage incurred through this “boys will be boys” mentality. And she blows a whistle on the many biases that have boxed their female counterparts into such sexually constrained identities.

Fatherly spoke to Martin about what authentic sexuality looks like in women and how men can help them find their own special shade.

A lot of Untrue is about adultery. Why was it important for you to look into how women function in relationship to non-monogamy?

Infidelity is really a great test case for how we actually feel about gender parity. We have people who believe women should make the same amount men do. We have people who believe that women should hold political office. But how do they feel when women seize a privilege that has historically belonged to men, the privilege of not being monogamous? We don’t have any autonomy if we don’t have the autonomy to do what we want with our bodies.

This book really looks at how science and social science has conspired to put out a narrative that keeps women from attaining sexual autonomy. We think it’s physical violence, coercion, and slut-shaming that keep women in their place within this culture, but it’s also bad science and bad social science. So much of it has been abused to coerce women into monogamy and to discourage us from being sexually autonomous.

How does that message relate to the current cultural climate? How does it relate to the ways in which women are now asserting their sexual autonomy?

In terms of the #MeToo movement, well, I feel like bad science brought us to this moment. There’s been inaccurate science that posits that men are naturally sexually aggressive and that the male sexual coercion of females is natural. There’s a lot of more recent science that tells us that’s not true. I think a lot of that bad, biased science helped bring our culture to a point of crisis.

What are some other misconceptions surrounding female sexual identity and desire?

There is some research to suggest that the institutionalization of a relationship, whether it’s marriage or moving in together, dampens female sexual desire even more than male desire. There are studies that document women talking marriage and long-term partnership as anaphrodisiacs, as something that dampens sexual desire. They talk about familiarity and security killing their libidos. Men need to understand this about the women that they’re with. These women need sexual adventure just as much as men do.

Okay. That’s probably going to unnerve or surprise some guys out there. And maybe that’s indicative of the issue. Why do you think so many women have a hard time coming out about their genuine attitude towards polyamory and other nonconforming sexual behaviors?

You pay a high price for being honest about your sexual desires in this culture. Everything from slut-shaming to lethal violence to someone just thinking that you’re weird. Women who do step out face a lot of danger. In this country, so many mass shootings involve men trying to control women who have left them. And a lot of the triggers don’t even involve infidelity, but the suspicion of infidelity. It’s still really dangerous for women to exercise that really basic form of autonomy within the U.S.

How can men help women feel safe speaking about their desires?

I think men need to educate themselves. They need to understand the female erectile network, the extensiveness of the clitoris, the possibility of multiple orgasms, the fact that we have no refractory period. This all seems to suggest, to me, that women really evolved for sexual pleasure and serial sexual pleasure.

What about guys in monogamous relationships with wives who are not likely to be experiencing serial sexual pleasure any time soon? How can they help their partners enjoy a more diverse sex life?

I wrote the book to be a conversation starter between women and their partners. Men should know that some women really struggle with monogamy. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re going to go invite a “third” into the bedroom as a way to attain novelty. But it should encourage men to step up their game. Buy her a sex toy. Talk about sexual fantasies. Watch porn together. Go on adventures that have nothing to do with sex. Go on a zip line. Learn to tango. Take a trip. Remember, adrenaline can deliver a similar feeling to what sexual novelty gives us. These are all options if you don’t want to seek out adventure by way of consensual non-monogamy.

What about men with daughters? How can they impart healthier sexual attitudes?

It would be extremely helpful to start educating kids about female sexual pleasure at home. It’s important we teach them that women are more than an extension of male desire. Girls are more than precious little things who have to protect themselves from the boys. They are thinking, feeling people who have an amazingly evolved sexual anatomy with an extremely high capacity for pleasure. This is really basic information that kids aren’t getting in school.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have a polyamorous relationship…

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because it’s more complicated than just casual sex

Being in a polyamorous relationship is more complicated than just casual sex. We spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of “Many Love,” on what you should know about polyamory.

By Elizabeth Entenman

“In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?” When Carrie Bradshaw uttered that rhetorical question during a 1998 episode of Sex and the City, little did we know how common polyamory would become. Carrie was never in a polyamorous relationship, but if the show premiered today, the topic would probably come up in her column quite often.

Polyamory (or “poly” for short) is the belief that you can have an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners consenting. Being in a polyamorous relationship is not, as many people wrongfully believe, an exotic trend or an excuse to sleep with as many partners as you want. It’s an alternative to monogamy for people who don’t see themselves being with only one partner, emotionally and/or sexually, for the rest of their lives. Some research suggests that about four to five percent of people in the U.S. are polyamorous.

Polyamorous relationships (also known as consensual non-monogamy) require a lot of honesty and communication. To get a better idea of what it’s really like to be in a poly relationship, we spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s). She opened up about challenges, offered advice for maintaining strong communication, and shared important safety precautions for exploring polyamory. Read on if you’re curious about what it’s really like to be poly.

HelloGiggles: Is a polyamorous relationship the same thing as an open relationship?

Sophie Lucido Johnson: I describe it as being like squares and rectangles—you know, how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship, but not every open relationship is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory requires enthusiasm, knowledge, and consent from all people involved.

HG: What are the basic communication “rules” of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: Every poly relationship is different, so the rules will absolutely depend on the people participating in the relationship. In my relationship, it’s 100% communication about everything all the time. Defusing the tension around talking about my partners’ other relationships has taken away the power there. For me, that works really well. I very rarely experience jealousy anymore, and when I do, it’s a great opportunity for my partners and me to talk about where it’s coming from.

HG: How can people in polyamorous relationships set boundaries?

SLJ: Once again, every poly relationship is different. Every person has to establish their own boundaries and communicate about them; their partners have to listen and honor those boundaries. But I’m working on a book right now where I asked a therapist about boundaries, and he said that boundaries are tricky because it’s hard to know where yours are until they’ve been crossed.

HG: What’s the biggest challenge of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: The biggest challenge is also the biggest gift: Polyamory asks for its participants to get in bed with their uncomfortable emotions. You can’t push away feelings of fear or jealousy or anger; you have to go into those feelings, pick them apart, and try to understand them. This is hard work, but it’s profoundly rewarding, too. Polyamory and radical honesty are closely linked, in my opinion. The truth isn’t always pleasant and lovely and comfortable. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell it.

HG: Are there any safety precautions people should take?

SJL: All the precautions. My brand of polyamory is not super sex-focused—I’m more interested in emotional intimacy with some kissing on the side. But when I do engage in sex with people, it’s always protected, except with my husband, with whom I am fluid bonded. Ask people when they last got tested; ask them if they’ve been with anyone since then; ask them what they feel is important to share about their sexual history. Always check the expiration date on your condoms and dental dams. Use condoms on sex toys and invest in some sexy latex gloves for hardcore finger play.

And then beyond that, work to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections. Most of them are relatively harmless (meaning: they’re not going to kill you, although they’re unpleasant). We have ideas about STIs that are way out of line in comparison to the way we look at other chronic infections. They’re not grosser because they’re on your genitals. Sexual health is just health. It is crucial that we begin to talk about it that way.

HG: How can someone bring up the subject of opening their relationship with their partner?

SLJ: Don’t open up your relationship because something inside your relationship is broken. Opening it up is not going to fix the broken thing. Work on the broken thing first and establish whether it can be fixed. If one person wants to be open and the other person really doesn’t, then that relationship is probably not going to work in the long run. Honor each other’s realities. If both partners are eager and excited to pursue other relationships—versus, say, terrified or desperate—then establish what rules and boundaries make the most sense for you.

I have personally never met a couple who has made a parallel polyamorous situation work out for more than a year, but the internet swears that it’s possible. Parallel polyamory is the sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell version, where you and your partner date on the side but don’t tell each other details. I’m a big advocate of telling the truth. The difficult conversations are the ones that bring us closer.

HG: What’s the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships?

SLJ: That polyamory is all about sex. For me (and tons of poly people I know), it’s about two main things. One: accepting and embracing that relationships do not stand still and will change over time, and committing to a partner or partners that everyone is going to communicate, constantly, about those natural changes. And two: shifting priorities to embrace friends, chosen family, and non-sexual romantic relationships, where traditionally our social priorities have been around a single partner. None of that has to do with sex. Assuming that polyamory is all about orgies and millennials three-way kissing in bars does the culture a tremendous disservice and excludes a ton of people who are asexual or sexually transitioning and are uncomfortable with sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Nonmonogamy Is Not The Answer To All Your Relationship Problems

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By Effy Blue

Nonmonogamy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate relationship structure with more people talking openly about their practice. Although it certainly is not for everyone and definitely not the “easier” option, it is piquing the interest of plenty of people for many reasons.

For some people, monogamy or nonmonogamy is an orientation on par with sexual orientation. It’s a part of who they are. For others, monogamy or nonmonogamy is a choice. It’s in line with what they want to create in their lives and in their relationships. It’s a reflection of their value system. Some people may value security, safety, and stability, and those may opt for a monogamous relationship, while others may choose nonmonogamy because they value multiplicity, sharing erotic energy, or exploring broader sexual orientation.

In an ideal world, partners are on the same page: They either decide on a structure at the beginning of their relationship, or they decide to shift into a different structure later on in the relationship with a consensus, through open communication.

Actively and consciously designing your relationships, including deciding on whether you want to be monogamous or not, can be a very powerful force for your relationship and set you up to thrive as a couple in the long run. However, if you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and considering opening it up, it’s important to note nonmonogamy is not an effective strategy to solve your current relationship problems or alleviate the boredom you associate with it.

When nonmonogamy doesn’t work.

Because I am a relationship coach specializing in consensual nonmonogamy, so many people come to me thinking an open relationship will fix their relationships. They come defeated, disconnected, and dissatisfied while still feeling very attached to each other. It soon becomes obvious they are reaching out for a life raft in the shape of nonmonogamy. A desire for nonmonogamy turns out to be a bid for space, a bid for attention, a bid for autonomy, a bid for a solution. 

But despite all its potential benefits and excitement, opening up your relationship is not a “solution” or a way to “fix” a relationship that feels negative, stale, or otherwise off.

The best relationships to open are healthy and thriving ones. A healthy relationship of any kind—but especially a nonmonogamous one—requires a foundation of vulnerability, open communication, and trust. Kindness, compassion, mutual respect, and joy for one another along with a desire to address and resolve conflicts create the ideal environment for people to thrive in nonmonogamous relationships. It’s essential for partners to feel heard and their needs highly regarded. If I were to be listening in to a relationship with a stethoscope like a physician to gauge the health of it, I’d be listening for thank you’s and I’m sorry’s. The more genuine gratitude and heartfelt apologies, the healthier and stronger the connection.

Monogamous relationships that lack these fundamental qualities and skills likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the transition to nonmonogamy. If you are finding yourself in the same arguments over and over again, exclaiming “I want an open relationship” as you slam doors; or if you have a closet full of desires that you’ve decided cannot be satisfied by your current partner, and you are not willing to talk about it; or if you feel you are drifting in a haze of sameness and can’t figure out how to break out, nonmonogamy is not the answer.

If you are in a sexless relationship and you aren’t able to have conversations about it; or if you feel chronically lonely in the relationship and aren’t able to restore frayed connections; or if you feel either unheard, unappreciated, uncared for, dissatisfied, smothered, or trapped, and you can’t find words to express these feelings to your partner, nonmonogamy is not going to save you.

Similar to any big change, be it moving to a new state or deciding to have kids, opening up a relationship will shine a sports-stadium-sized spotlight on the issues in your current relationship. Unresolved arguments, hidden resentments, ignored boundaries, delayed conversations, shelved desires, and unmet needs will all come to light and will demand attention. Without well-practiced tools and skills for communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution, nonmonogamy will only apply further tension to the relationship.

Further, if you do open up your relationship with current issues unaddressed and unresolved and start dating other people, you’ll be dragging unsuspecting new partners into your dysfunction.

Do some soul-searching. Are you saying, “I want an open relationship” because you can’t bring yourself to say, “I want to break up”? Are you running away from real or perceived conflict? Have you checked out of the relationship but you feel you can’t leave? If the answers are yes, I recommend you either get support to resolve these issues or find the courage to end your relationship in a kind and compassionate way.

Doing the work.

The truth is “wherever you go, there you are.” If you think the relationship or your partner is the problem and you are trying to get away to have something different, chances are you’ll only have more of the same. We are the common denominators of our lives.

Start with yourself. If it’s available to you, spend a period of time in personal therapy. Also invest in some personal development in the areas of sex and relationships. There are some excellent books, workshops, and online courses and communities dedicated to pleasure-based sex education for adults and communication skills. I also strongly recommend working with a professional, be it a couples therapist, counselor, or coach to address the relationship struggles. Make sure the people you choose to work with are open-minded to the idea that ultimately you may want to move to a nonmonogamous structure.

And last but not least, spend some time focusing on your relationship rather than running away from it. Find ways to have those unresolved conversations. Schedule time to reconnect in line with the way you show and receive love, be it a sensual massage or a picnic in the park.

Here’s the thing: There is no relationship free of conflict or struggle. It doesn’t mean you have to address everything before you can even begin to think about opening up your relationship. Research does show people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships are “more satisfied with and committed to their relationships,” suggesting nonmonogamy can absolutely breathe new life into a relationship. When practiced consciously and ethically, it can be an agent for new energy and connections, self-expression, adventure, discovery, and community.

Nonmonogamy can be a part of a creative, solutions-based approach to making sure everyone gets what they need in the relationship. It requires a goodwill effort to address the relationship as it is today, to hear and attend to the needs of the people in the relationship.

When will you know you are ready? When you feel you can approach nonmonogamy with curiosity and a spirit of exploration—not as a cure-all or an escape.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Bored Sex

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Women, more than men, tend to feel stultified by long-term exclusivity—despite having been taught that they were designed for it.

The “distracted boyfriend” meme gets reversed.

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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!

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What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships

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By Samantha Cooney

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.

But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.

“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:

Communication

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.”

Defining the relationship

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.”

Practicing safe sex

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.

Managing jealousy

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.”

Maintaining a sense of independence

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!

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Midlife sex problems?

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New research says you’re not alone

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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.

Novel sex enhances desire

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.

After years of marriage, it can take work to rekindle the sexual spark.

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.

When doctors don’t ask

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!

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3 sex and relationship therapists demystify infidelity

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  • Sex and relationship therapists say infidelity is more complex than most of us are inclined to believe.
  • For example, couples can sometimes find renewed honesty and intimacy after the discovery of an affair.

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 sometimes reconnect emotionally after the discovery of an affair

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.”

Most people who cheat don’t actually want to leave their relationship

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.”

Don’t discount your gut feelings about your partner’s attraction to a ‘friend’

“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!

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How Satisfying Are Open Relationships Compared To Monogamy?

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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.

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When a Partner Cheats

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[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.

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What straight couples can learn from gay couples

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[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.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used the term ‘consciously uncoupling’

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?

1. An ex can be a best friend

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.

2. ‘Living Apart Together’ can be great

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.

Some straight couples can be reluctant to talk openly about sexuality

3. Talking about love, desire and sex is good

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.

4. ‘Family’ doesn’t have to mean blood

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’.

5. Love isn’t like it is in the movies

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.

6. Rules are made to be broken

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.

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Do YOU believe in true love?

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It may be killing your sex life: Those who believe in soulmates make no effort to improve chemistry in the bedroom, study finds

A study found that people who believe in ‘sexual destiny’ expected satisfaction to simply happen if they were meant to be. These individuals saw a lack of chemistry as a sign of incompatibility and instead of working to resolve the issues, they ended the relationship

By Stacy Liberatore

[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.

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.’

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