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The Open Relationship Model

Podcasts will resume next Monday, September 6th.

Deviating from the norm. Is it worth it?

Since the launch of the Sex EDGE-U-cation podcast series in early 2009; I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are considering opening their relationships to include additional partners to augment their primary relationships. People point to the increasing media attention polyamory is garnering as a way of justifying their interest.

It’s true; polyamory is enjoying an efflorescence in popular culture these days. But this mirrors the spike in interest that swinging had a couple of decades ago. This suggests to me that there is a fissure at the foundation of the dominant relationship model of the monogamous heterosexual, reproductive pair. All the sociological underpinnings of why our culture promotes this paradigm aside, I think it is undeniable that there is a level of dissatisfaction on the part of many who initially bought into this model as the only way to live, love and raise small herds of children. But is it?

People may feel trapped in the traditional expression of a committed relationship. But while they may be second-guessing the party line, they are equally wary of throwing open the doors in a haphazard way, and rightfully so.

I’ve been reading a lot about polyamory lately. It seems it’s the topic du jour in all the women’s magazines. Do open relationships really work?
—Cameron

For starters, the viability of an open relationship depends on the maturity level of the people who are considering opening up their sexually exclusive relationship. And how much they’re willing to work at communicating with one another through all the little details that such a decision entails. One thing for sure, I am willing to go on record to say that the devil, in this case, really is in the details.

That being said, there are a few things us sex researchers know for sure. In most cultures, people claim to practice sexual exclusivity, which is commonly referred to as monogamy. Although I think that’s a misnomer. Monogamy literally means having one union, which as we all know tells us nothing about the sexual expression either or both partners are supposedly sharing in.

Lifetime sexual exclusivity (being sexually involved with only one person for one’s entire life) is rare. Serial sexual exclusivity (having a series of exclusive relationships over one’s life) is much more common. And despite knowing that we humans do not mate for life, we continue to presume that sexual exclusivity, or monogamy is the only legitimate form of coupling.

This, unfortunately, leads to our culture’s obsession with cheating—that is, having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship. And frankly, what I know about humans, human relationships and human sexuality; I can say for certain that fidelity is not necessarily a genital issue. One can indeed be faithful to someone else and still have the freedom to express him/herself sexually with others. It happens all the time. In these cases, fidelity is to the relationship and the agreements, parameters and boundaries mutually agreed upon by the partners. Which gets me back to my opening comment about the need for communication. Of course, it’s much easier to presume that everyone in a relationship is working under the same rubric, but that kind of presumption is a fool’s paradise.

Another shortcoming of setting up sexual exclusivity or monogamy as the only legitimate type of coupling is that it diminishes all the other types of relationships that flourish, albeit in a more covert way. And here I’m talking about an array of open relationship models—and polyamory. The fact that we’re only now hearing about these non-traditional relationships shouldn’t suggest to you, or anyone, that they don’t exist; or that they aren’t practical alternatives to the traditional monogamous model, or that they aren’t practiced by a lot of people. They do and they are! It just means that most people in non-traditional relationships know not to go public in a society that would denigrate them for their lifestyle choices. That’s how things are here in the good old US of A; and I’ll wager it’s also true for the rest of the world. Am I right, or am I right?

Open relationships and polyamorous relationships work because the people in them adhere to some basic tenets about how to conduct themselves.

First among them is the notion that these alternative relationships must be chosen; they can’t be mandated. If one or another of the persons considering an open or poly relationship is being pressured to go along with the flow, or is fearful that he/she will be alone if he/she doesn’t comply with the will of the other(s). That kind of emotional duress will not work.

Each person in the relationship needs to take responsibility for the choices he/she is making. If you’re not up for the task, or if this kind of arrangement is not compatible with your personality type, don’t attempt to override that. You will only jeopardize the relationship for the other(s) involved. However, if the idea appeals to you, give it your best shot. I can guarantee that it will be a learning experience. Just remember, exploring something and having it carved in stone are two very different things.

Second, communication is key. The more complex the relationship structure, the greater the need for open lines of communication. Know your boundaries and express them clearly. Ask questions; never assume you know something when you don’t.

Third, know yourself! You must be able to deal with your emotions, particularly jealousy, in an up-front, adult way. This is often much easier said than done. If you need to be the center of attention just so you can feel good about yourself, or you have serious territorial issues—this is mine, this is mine, and THIS is mine!—then alternative relationship models are probably not for you.

Know what keeps you even keel in terms of what you need and what you are able to give. There has got to be a healthy tension between these two things. If you’re the kind who gives too much and resents not being rewarded for your gifts, stay away from alternative relationships. Or if you are so needy that you can’t stand it when someone else is enjoying his/her time in the sun; open or poly relationships are decidedly not for you.

You should also know that alternative relationships, of whatever stripe, are, for the most part, on the fringes of what society will accept. And some are outright taboo. This doesn’t mean you will have to slug it out on your own in a vacuum of support. On the contrary, you will, no doubt, find that the people who are living contrary to the expectations of the popular culture are often a whole lot more generous with their support and compassion then those following all the rules.

You will find that your support system will shift from more traditional sources like traditional family, church and community to alternative sources like clubs and social groupings of other like-minded individuals as yourself. A common mistake made by those in non-traditional relationships is to take their problems and issues to their traditional support systems. This rarely works because the traditional support system will inevitably blame the non-traditional relationship setup for the problem. This is not true, of course, but how would those in traditional relationships know otherwise.

I always suggest that those in non-traditional relationships bring their issues to a non-traditional support system. Here you are less likely to encounter judgments about your life choices and more help with overcoming the problems at hand.

In the end, it’s your call. Are the potential rewards as well as challenges associated with an open relationship worth taking more than the voyeuristic peek behind the curtain that the women’s magazines provide you?

Good luck!

Come As You Are

Name: Valeri
Gender: Female
Age: 38
Location: Dubuque IA
Dr Dick: I just went through a very painful divorce. My husband of 18 years up and decided that he wanted to start over…in a new job, in a new state with a new girlfriend, someone 12 years his junior. I must be completely blind, because I didn’t see any of this coming. Sure we had our problems, what marriage doesn’t? I want to move on too, but I feel so stuck. I feel like this big loser. The few tentative forays into dating have been horrible. Every guy I meet is this lying sack of shit. Sorry, does that sound too bitter? HELP!

Damn girl, that’s fucked…big time! It’s hell when relationships go belly-up, and I don’t care if they are business relationships or relationships of the heart. If there’s an established bond of trust that is broken it’s gonna smart. And when the bond is broken unilaterally, it’s even worse. But what can you expect when you’re dealing with humans.

Surviving a break-up is not unlike surviving a death. In fact, the demise of a relationship is very much a death in every sense of the word. I believe that any relationship worth talking about has a life of its own; you see, it’s greater then the sum of its parts. I gotta tell ya, I see a lot of this in my private practice. A couple drags in their relationship and it’s immediately apparent that it’s on life support. They’ve actively throttled the relationship to within an inch of its life, and they want me to fix it. Most of the time the option to “fix” has long passed. All we can hope to do, at this point, is preside over the death of the thing, providing its passing with as much dignity as possible. But to tell the truth, when a relationship is in such grave condition, and there is very little good will left between the partners, sadly there’s not gonna be a lot of dignity when the thing finally expires. It breaks my heart, but what are ya gonna do?

Many years ago a therapist working with sick and dying people wrote a book called, On Death and Dying. In it the author, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, identified five stages of dying — 1. Denial: The initial stage: “It can’t be happening.” 2. Anger: “Why ME? This is so unfair!” 3. Bargaining: “Just let me live to see my son graduate.” 4. Depression: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” 5. Acceptance: “It’s going to be OK.”

I find it helpful to use these same identifiable stages to talk about the end of a relationship, particularly a relationship that ends unilaterally. If you don’t mind I’d like to walk through these stages with you so that you can see how applicable they are to someone in your situation.

Grieving the death of a loved one, or a relationship, involves the whole of us — our physical, emotional and social selves. We have to relearn, or cognitively adjust to, our new self without the loved one or relationship. Moving through the end of things is hard to work. And to survive it; we need be patient with ourselves. You, on the other hand, seem to be having a particular problem with this since you say you feel like a loser. That kind of mindset is not going be particularly helpful. So, if you can please jettison that kind of thinking. Or at least try to have a bit more compassion for yourself. Maybe you could shelf that self-deprecation for a while, until you get your bearings once again.

A person is faced with a fact that is too painful to accept and so she rejects it instead, insisting that it can’t possibly be true despite overwhelming evidence. This is Stage 1 — Denial! “Honey, I’m moving out. I’m getting a new job in a new state. Oh, and I have this new, much younger girlfriend too.” “This can’t be happening! Sure we’ve had our troubles, I’ll grant you that. But so does every relationship.” Denying the reality of the unpleasant fact may actually serve a purpose. It’s a coping mechanism for dealing with something overwhelming and too shocking to take in at once.

We have a gut-wrenching emotional response to the injustice, humiliation, and betrayal. This is Stage 2 — Anger. Depending on the kind of person we are, we may actively express our anger by lashing out verbally or physically. Or we may passively express our anger — turning it inward becoming silent, sulking or passive-aggressive. We may even consider harming our self as a way of punishing the other.

We try to fix what’s wrong. This is Stage 3 — Bargaining. “We can make this work! I’ll change, I promise! I know I can make you happy. Stay for the sake of the kids. What will the neighbors say? This will kill your mother! What does she have that I don’t have? You’ll never be able to show your face in this town again.” Hmmm, does any of this sound familiar, Valeri?

All our efforts to reverse the inevitable course of things leave us emotionally drained and exhausted. This is Stage 4 — Depression. Why bother with anything — family, friends, work, personal appearances, whatever — life as we knew it is over. We can’t seem to project ourselves beyond the ending of things. In the bleakness we often begin to self-medicate. A little too much food, booze, drugs? As if depression is not punishing enough, we often pile it on. I’ve heard some many people say; “hurting myself is the only thing that makes me feel I’m still alive.”

Slowly we begin to regroup. Maybe it’s through sheer willpower, or the interventions of friends and family, or maybe it’s just time itself. But we stop resisting and move toward acquiescence. This is Stage 5 — Acceptance. We stop resisting what we cannot change. Even if the end was un-chosen, undesired and inescapable, we can still willingly choose to accept it.

I hasten to add that these stages are guidelines. They are not presented in the order that they always happen. Nor is one stage predicated on the other. How long a person is in one stage or another is situational. However, I do hope this was helpful. What is certain is you will experience a wide range of feelings and emotions.

Some suggest the therapy of keeping yourself busy as a means of healing and moving on. This may sound elemental, but it’s not as easy as it seems. Most of us tend to wallow in our misery. We are way too indulgent with sitting on the pitty-pot. While you definitely need time to recover from the divorce, this period of heartache will have an end. And ends of things always led to beginnings of other things.

You now have certain freedoms that you may not have had while you were married. Once the initial period of grieving is over, it is important to jump back into life. Become more involved in your social group. Going out might seem unappealing at first, but it’s better than staying home and feeling sorry for yourself. If you’re only dating assholes, I’ll bet you’re fishing in the wrong holes, so to speak. The internet makes it so much easier to connect with quality people of ever stripe. Use this tool wisely. May I suggest that you start by connecting with people with similar interests as you, rather than posting a profile and photos on a dating site.

Of course, it is necessary to have some time with yourself to realize that you can survive and even be happy without your dick of a husband. The secret to successful grieving is that you need to feel the pain in order to get through it. Therefore, using drugs (prescription or recreational) and alcohol to numb yourself only make things worse.

You might consider working with a therapist to help you understand why your relationship ended. With a little luck you’ll learn how to avoid blaming yourself for the demise. No one is without fault, and your husband definitely has more than his share. But blaming him for everything will do you no good. You are neither totally to blame, nor are you the helpless victim. Lingering at either extreme will rob you of your self-esteem.

At first, being single might seem weird or even unappealing. But being single has its perks. Being single allows you to focus on you and take better care of yourself. And what better way to do that then by reconnecting with your sexual-self. Masturbation is gonna be your best friend during this transition period. Lavish time and pleasure on yourself. You’re worth it! Indulge yourself; instead of chocolate, get yourself a supped up vibrator and kick that thing into first gear, maybe even second! By spending more private sexual time with yourself, you’ll reconnect with who you are and what you want. This will make it easier for you to later choose a partner who can and will satisfy your needs.

Good luck

More of Sophia Sky – Podcast #227 – 08/18/10

Hey sex fans,

My friend, the exceptional educator, Sophia Sky, returns today with more of her excellent SEX WISDOM. I love talking to Sophia; she is so accessible and down to earth.  Yet her knowledge and perceptions on a wide range of topics are so insightful you can tell that they are the result of a life thoughtfully lived.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our conversation that appeared here last week at this time, did you? Well don’t worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive, right here on my site. Look for the site’s search function in the sidebar to your right, type in Podcast #225 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Sophia and I discuss:

  • Processing pain — other applications;
  • Her connection with erotic art —
  • …Modeling;
  • …Performing;
  • The Little Red Studio;
  • The Seattle Erotic Art Festival;
  • Erotic art and porn;
  • Female oriented pornography;
  • Kink, BDSM, mind games and power play;
  • Preorgasmia and masturbation;
  • Her sexual heroes.

Sophia invites you into her world HERE!  Look for her on Twitter, Facebook, and FetLife too.

I’m taking a brief hiatus from podcasting while I work on the remodel of my websites. The next podcast will appear Monday, September 6th.

See another slideshow of Sophia at work and play.

Click on the thumbnails below.

[nggallery id=83]

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: : Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

Sex Wisdom with Sophia Sky – Podcast #225 – 08/11/10


Hey sex fans,

Holy cow! I’ve apparently fallen into a pot jam; gorgeous and talented Seattle women surround me! Monday I posted the first part of my conversation with the artistic knockout, Jesse Belle-Jones.  Today the equally stunning and gifted Sophia Sky joins me for some of her topnotch SEX WISDOM. This podcast series, as you recall, brings us conversations with movers and shakers in the field of human sexuality — researchers, educators, clinicians, pundits and philosophers — all who are making news and reshaping how we look at our sexual selves. And Sophia fits that bill beautifully.

Teaching, bodies, BDSM, art and performing are among Sophia’s passions. And she selflessly offers us her insights and acumen in the most charming and disarming manner. You’re gonna love this my friends!

Sophia and I discuss:

  • Being a pervicacious, strong and playful switch;
  • Becoming Sophia Sky;
  • The history of her anatomy classes;
  • Massage therapy;
  • Anatomy 101 for kinksters;
  • Head Games — Anatomy for Edge Play with the Head and Neck;
  • Genital Anatomy for Pleasure & Fun
  • Using the Senses in BDSM Play;
  • Processing Pain as a Team.

Sophia invites you to visit her in her den of iniquity HERE!

See a slideshow of Sophia at work and play.

Click on the thumbnails below.

[nggallery id=82]

 

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

 

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Meat Substitutes

Hey sex fans!

And now for something completely different! It’s Product Review Friday and instead of reviewing a sex toy sent to us from a manufacturer or retailer we’re gonna make our own sex toy. That’s right; thanks to our friends at Empire Labs we’re gonna make some vibrating dildos.

Dr Dick Review Crew members Glenn & Hank and Ken & Denise will show you around the two kits we got.

Clone-A-Willy Kit Original —— $39.95

Glenn & Hank
Glenn: “What’s more fun than buying yourself a sex toy? Making your own, that’s what.”
Hank: “Glenn nearly wet himself when he caught sight of the Clone-A-Willy Kit. He can’t help it; he fancies himself a regular Martha Stewart. I swear this man can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Glenn: “Awww, see how you are? Isn’t he sweet? It’s true though, I got an instant hardon thinking about cloning Hank’s willie.”
Hank: “At first I thought, damn, my hog ain’t gonna fit in that tube. But it did and the rest is history.”
Glenn: “Hold on there, big fella! We didn’t even tell them what happened.”
Hank: “Yeah, sorry, I got a little ahead of myself.”
Glenn: “If you don’t mind me quoting from the Empire Labs promotional materials. The Clone-A-Willy’s medically tested molding gel process captures incredible, life-like detail, making this the most personalized vibrating sex toy you will ever own. Each kit contains everything you need to create an exact replica of any penis in the comfort of your own home.”
Hank: “There are several things you ought to know from the get-go. First, you must follow the directions exactly as presented. Second, it’s essential that you have everything near-to-hand before you start to mix any of the ingredients. Third, if it’s your cock that’s getting molded, you will have to maintain an erection under some stressful conditions; like ‘hurry up and wait!’”
Glenn: “All very good points! I will add that the process can get a little messy. If you’re anal retentive like me you will want to use disposable plastic containers to do your mixing. And be sure to cover your countertop and floor with some plastic sheeting. I used some leftover plastic painting tarp that I draped over the counter and on to the floor.”
Hank: “While Glenn was busy in the kitchen I put on some porn and stretched out on the couch. I slipped on a snug cock ring and started to pull my pud using a little water-based lube. I wanted to make sure that I was at full-mast for my big close-up.”
Glenn: “Once I had everything set up I called for Hank to join me. He had this sheepish look on his face, but he also had a raging hardon. I think he was afraid that he would lose his wood before the mold was set. I assured him we’d work fast. Well actually, that’s precisely what you have to do…work fast. We trimmed the plastic tube to the right size. I mixed the molding powder in water and filled the tube. Hank plunged in his dick and we held it there till the mold set.”
Hank: “The anticipation was the worst part. But it’s over almost as fast as it began. I think it only took a minute for the mold to set. I pealed off the excess molding material, twisted the plastic tube a bit and out popped my cock; no worse for the wear.”
Full Review HERE

Clone-A-Willy Kit Glow in the Dark —— $44.95

Ken & Denise
Ken: “We didn’t exactly know what we were getting into with this Clone-A-Willy Kit. It promises a lifelike replica of my dick that would Glow in the Dark. I was game, at least initially.”
Denise: “Yeah, we thought it would be a fun little project full of laughs. Well that’s how it started out anyway.”
Ken: “Since I was the one being ‘molded’, the pressure was on me to maintain an erection under less than erotic circumstances. I tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I have a renewed appreciation for all the male porn stars out there, who seem to have a perpetual bone.”
Denise: “I don’t suppose I helped the situation all that much, because I became increasingly anxious about following the directions for preparing the molding goop. You actually have to have the water you mix with the powder at the precise temperature. And I read a lot of comments online posted by couples who screwed up the process and I sort of lost my nerve.”
Ken: “I suggested that we put the kit away till we were in a better mindset and I wasn’t worried about my boner.”
Denise: “We checked in with Dr Dick about our apprehensions and he told us to approach it alike a game, not a project. That helped some, because Ken and I were beginning to freak out about messing things up.”
Ken: “Dr Dick also suggested that I wear a cockring to help with maintaining my stiffy. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I also decided I’d slip in a little butt plug, because that always gets me going.”
Denise: “I decided to have a glass of wine…ok, it was a big glass of wine. And that helped too; it really took the edge off.”
Ken: “Denise was too busy organizing everything and mixing stuff to help me with my wood. Generally all she has to do is go down on me and I’m as hard as a rock.”
Denise: “Actually he did fine on his own. He’s such a trooper. All I can say is that I’m happy it wasn’t me that had to get turned on under these conditions.”
Ken: “Once the molding goop is ready it all has to be done very quickly. Luckily, I was ready. I sunk my junk into the goop and prayed that I’d hold the erection for the minute or so it takes for the mold to set up. A minute never lasted so long. We like totally recommend that you have something on the floor and the countertop to prevent spill messes.”
Full Review HERE

ENJOY