Ball gags, leather and latex clothing, and crotchless underwear were all big sellers during the lockdown, according to the LA Times. And it looks like Fetish Fashion may be going mainstream.
I wrote this for a publication. I don't know if they will use it, but I thought I would post it here as well. Please let me know your thoughts.
Some key tips for people exploring an open relationship:
1) Talk about it. No really, TALK about it. Then, talk about it some more. I tell clients one of the best things about consensual non-monogamy is it requires a LOT of communication between partners. And one of the most annoying parts of consensual non-monogamy is it requires a LOT of communication between partners. Talk about what you want...why you want it....what DON'T you want....why DON'T you want it. Explore it in the theater of your mind before jumping into the real world. But then take the leap. If you wait until you are absolutely sure this is all worked out...you'll never move. And, spoiler alert, even if you absolutely think you've prepared for all contingencies...you haven't.
2) Know what TYPE of consensual non-monogamy you want. I worked with a couple who had done the communication. They were both excited about opening their relationship up. They both went out on dates. They both supported their partner being on dates. They had amazing sex with others, and that actually heated up their OWN sex life. It was great. BUT...they hadn't discussed the level of connection they wanted. She wanted great sex with multiple partners, but her relationship with her primary partner would be the only emotional connection. He, on the other hand, needed emotional connection to enjoy a sexual experience with someone. He wanted to be with other partners and form a true bond with each of them, while still keeping his primary partner at the center. She felt betrayed, like he was emotionally cheating. He felt frustrated that she was changing the rules on this thing they had agreed on. For all the communication they had done (and it was a lot) they never explored emotions.
What type of open relationship do you want? Do you want to be swingers, where essentially both partners are together while they explore sex with others? Do you want a hall pass....if one partner is out of town on business she/he can do whatever? Do you want to actually DATE other people? And if so...can you stay overnight? What about safer sex? What about love? Figure out the structure of your open relationship. But recognize that structure probably will change as you explore, experience, and evolve.
3) Consider this a science experiment. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying (there's a lot of dispute whether he really DID say this...but who cares?) that he had never failed in his experiments. He had successfully discovered 1,000 ways NOT to build a light bulb. It's the same thing with open relationships. You probably will make a mistake...find something that you thought would work for you but doesn't. That's not a failure. It's one of the thousand ways NOT to do it. Good work!!
4) Feeling jealous doesn't mean it isn't working. Consensual non-monogamy can tap on a lot of insecurities and emotional vulnerabilities. That, believe it or not, is a good thing! Don't try to push the feelings into a corner. Explore them. What are you learning about yourself? How can you self-soothe? How many of your feelings and fears actually are realistic?
Most importantly, breathe! Know you will make mistakes. But, as long as you and your partner(s) have each other's backs (and sometimes fronts) you'll grow and learn from the experiences you have.
(David Singer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. He has more than a decade experience working with couples and individuals looking to find more intimacy and connection in their lives. He specializes in working with people exploring, experiencing and evolving in consensual non-monogamy. You can find him at LAKinkShrink.com)
I can't express how honored I am to be one of the first guests on Dr. Joe Kort's new podcast "Smart Sex Smart Love". We talk about consensual non-monogamy, kink, and Disney movie endings! Give it a listen!
I was interviewed about Consensual Non-Monogamy (I continue to prefer the term Ethical Non-Monogamy but hey, that's just me), kink, and relationships for "The Relationship Show with Dr. Wendy & Miss Jenni". We covered a lot of topics, from why people have CNM relationships, to what is kink. We even took an unexpected turn into puppy play and cuddle-puddles. It was a lot of fun and I think we covered some important topics.
Please give it a listen, and let me know what you think.
September 4th is World Sexual Health Day. And, it turns out, your sexual health may be better than you realize. Slate has an excellent article on how science is rejecting the concept of pornography addiction (as well as sex addiction and other similar "disorders"). Here's a link to the article:
That being said, or at least linked, I do think watching porn, or sex, or ANYTHING can be problematic, if it's done compulsively, or to avoid other aspects of life. If you are watching porn instead of talking to your partner about what you yearn for in your sex life, you are robbing yourself of that sex in reality. Same thing with any compulsive behavior. Take "exercise addiction" (something my clients, colleagues and anyone who has seen me know I do NOT experience). If you are doing it to avoid emotions or real-life connection, it robs you.
But that being said, chill out about porn in moderation! It doesn't mean you don't desire your partner. It doesn't mean you are being exploitative. And studies find porn watching can ENHANCE, not detract from, your real-life sex life.
Now, how's the rest of your sexual health? Maybe World Sexual Health Day is a good time to take a sex checkup (no doctor necessary...unless you're into medical play!) Are you getting the sex you want? Are you and your partner(s) communicating the way you want? Are you and your sexual desires treated with respect....including by YOURSELF? Some of the worst "slut-shaming" people experience is often done in their own head. (And if you do that....remember SLUT stands for Sexy, Liberated, and UnTamed!)
Here's wishing you great sexual health and freedom....today and every day!
In general, I'm not a fan of definitions. I think they are often used more to divide or judge, than actually define. But I do think a quick overview of the different types of ethical non-monogamy can help people considering jumping into the pool (c'mon in, the water's fine!). So I'm just listing a few general templates. Please know....you can make up any relationship structure you want, and call it whatever you want. But here are some possibilities to choose, or blend, or make your own however you want.
It's important before you take the step to open your relationship, or to launch a new ethically non-monogamous relationship, that you spend some time really thinking about what KIND of relationship do you want. Many people think about polyamory, because that's the word they've heard. But there are other types of non-monogamous relationships. And as any traveler can tell you...if you want to get to your destination, it's important to know where that destination IS!
The idea of polyamory is many loves....the freedom to have more than one loving relationship. But that's not what everyone wants. Maybe you want the freedom to have more than one SEXUAL relationship....but let's keep the love part to your primary partner. That's great if that's for you!. You get the excitement of different sexual partners, but the stability of just one love relationship. An important part of this, though, is being able to separate sex and love. If you are someone who tends to develop deep feels for your sexual partners, this may not work well for you.
Maybe you are more interested in swinging. This is where you and your partner find partners together...either other couples of the rare semi-mythical unicorn. This can add a lot of excitement to couple's sex lives, and can be something that becomes an exciting shared adventure.
Or, on the end of the spectrum, there's relationship anarchy. This is where there isn't any hierarchy among relationships. They are all equal, although definitely not the same. There is no assumption that one relationship is primary, and friendship relationships are no less important than sexual ones.
Credit Dan Savage for the great term monogamish. Think of this as sort of a hall-pass relationship. The couple is primarily monogamous, but every now and then, each can be sexual with someone else, or have a friend with benefits.
Somewhere in between, there are primary and secondary relationships. When you enter into relationships with new partners, the expectation is there that the primary relationship comes first. Some couples set that up by making Saturday nights special to them, while Friday nights may be with the secondary partner(s).
And hey, let's not forget good ol' monogamy. With all the buzz about polyamory and ethical non-monogamy it's easy to think of monogamy as a concept that's dead and gone. It's not,nor should it be. My experience is some people are hard-wired toward being monogamous or non-monogamous almost as much as research shows people are wired toward being gay or straight. And just as gender is not binary, neither is the polarity between non-monogamy and monogamy.
None of these choices is right or wrong. And there are worlds of possibilities somewhere between each concept I've laid out. They key is finding which one is right for YOU, and which one is right for YOUR partner. You may switch from one to another depending on what is going on in your life. Heck, you may invent something brand new. (In which case, please write me to let me know about it!)
Don't expect to get it all figured out right away. Feel your way along, and talk about it with your partner(s). Then, after you've talked about it....talk about it some more! Opening a relationship brings a lot of emotions to the forefront. That's not a bad thing, at all. But it can feel overwhelming in the moment. Be gentle with yourself, and with your loved ones. Think of it as an experiment, an adventurous search to find the life that is right for you.
Like I said, these are just templates. NO ONE gets to decide what your relationships look like except you. And you may find your mind and heart changing as you go along. It's a cliche...but it's a good one: it's about the journey not the destination. HAPPY EXPLORING!