Welcome to Episode 14 of F*ck Like a Woman. Today’s show gives you a first-hand peek inside the bedroom, and the minds, of a couple who has successfully navigated an open relationship.
Today’s episode is about an open, consensual non-monogamous couple who shares their story about ending their dying marriages, finding new love in an exciting and sometimes unnerving journey of sexual openness, and what they’ve learned from transitioning from serial monogamy to an open relationship. I recommend listening all the way through no matter what relationship style you’re in because there are nuggets in this episode we can all take away from their story about how to respect your partner’s wishes, how to communicate what you want, and finding excitement in planning your sex play. And after our conversation, I’ll give you my closing thoughts on non-monogamy.
But first, I want to make sure everyone listening has a clear idea of the variations within non-monogamy. I’ll quickly go over 6 different kinds of non-monogamy.
- Cheating – this is where both partners have not consented (side note: there are a million different definitions of what actually constitutes cheating these days and as of yet there is no universally agreed upon definition),
- Polygamy- a form of marriage consisting of more than two people,
- Open relationships- which is really an umbrella term for consensual non-monogamous relationships, which includes a primary committed relationship with secondary relationships; the primary couple either plays all together with the secondary playmates or separately as individuals, or both. The primary couple always remains a priority even if they engage with their secondary companions. There are usually specific rules, expectations, and communication between everyone involved, and open relationships come in lots of varieties and may evolve over time to meet the needs of the people involved. Examples of open relationships could be: swinging, monogamish, polyamorous, and anarchistic relationships.
- Swinging- there are many variations within this definition, but in very broad terms, it involves committed couples consensually exchanging partners specifically for sexual purposes.
- Monogamish- is a term popularized by Dan Savage to describe couples who are primarily monogamous, but allows varying degrees of sexual contact with others, which vary per couple. Examples of this could be agreements like, one night stands are okay, or kissing and groping with clothes on is okay, or sexting is okay but no real sex, or sex on business trips is okay to name a few.
- Polyamory and Polyfidelity- Polyamory is a relationship style that allows people to openly conduct multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously, ideally with the knowledge and consent of all involved in or affected by the relationships. Polyfidelity is similar, except that it is a closed relationship style that requires sexual and emotional fidelity to an intimate group that is larger than two.
These are the topics we discuss:
- How they transitioned from serial monogamy to an open relationship (consensual non-monogamy)
- How they communicated their wants/needs to the other when beginning the relationship
- Their experiences having sex with others separately to having sex with others together
- What recommendations they have for couples looking to open discussions with their partner
- Respecting your partner- their desires, their wishes, and their sexual fantasies
- My thoughts on monogamy & ethical non-monogamy, and what we can take away from this intimate conversation
Resources Mentioned: FEELD, 3FUN, Cafe Desire & Cassidy
My Closing Thoughts:
When I listened to James and Ellen, what stood out was their mutual sense of respect for each other and their deep consideration for the other person’s feelings. They put more intentionality and pre-meditated planning into their love lives than most “by-default” monogamous couples. And I would argue that they have even more communication and emotional intimacy than just about every monogamous couple I’ve ever known. And it makes me think, when lovers stop taking sexual exclusivity for granted, they see that their partners don’t really belong to them at all. Yes, they have entered into some sort of romantic arrangement and committed themselves to each other, whether it be an implicit or explicit agreement, married or not married, but there is a deeper awareness that their partner’s sexual desires aren’t simply confined to them. The interesting part to me is that even in open, non-monogamous couples, there are still aspects that mirror monogamy, such as the exclusivity of the heart. But one difference that stands out to me, is the conscious and deliberate act of choosing one another time and time again, which tells me that they are staying awake in their relationship. They’re not becoming complacent and drifting asleep on auto-pilot. There is a symbolic renewal of the relationship after each encounter with other playmates. I think this is something that most “by-default” monogamous couples don’t give enough thought to, which often leads to a slow deterioration of their sexual and emotional glue that once bonded them together.
Now this doesn’t mean that because we’ve talked with one open couple that they represent how all open couples are, but it certainly speaks to the degree to which an open couple must delve deeper into their emotions and expectations so as to not break a level of trust and bondedness that is no longer under a false guise of being guaranteed as it is portrayed in monogamy. The beautiful thing with all of these discussions of non-monogamy is that we’re now seeing more examples of how others have tailor-made their relationship agreements from the ground up to suit their individual needs based on where they are in their life journey, how much and what type of sex they want, and finding the right amount of sexual freedom and emotional stability that best fits their life.
There is a simple fact of life that monogamous couples usually want to deny and ignore, and that is, the presence of the 3rd. This represents the presence of all other sexually appealing others, I say others because it’s not confined to just humans anymore – it includes robots, sex toys, digital screens of porn, and sexualized cartoons. The 3rd represents an outside force or person that exists and lurks all around us, appealing to our sexual interests regardless of how much we sometimes wish it didn’t. When we acknowledge its presence, we are in a way, taking control of how we let it direct our emotions and insecurities, thereby using it as a tool to elicit more passion and connectedness rather than letting it consume us with jealousy and fear.
Relationship agreements are living agreements. Partners must continually be engaged in each chapter of writing their own story, adding and removing according to their wishes and needs, otherwise relationships and even love, can and often do die. If fear is what’s holding you back from having the conversations that your relationship necessitates in order to survive and thrive, like inviting the presence of the 3rd, then I encourage you first to think about how healthy is your relationship. Be as honest with yourself as you can. If the dynamics between you and your partner are not already strong and stable, then adding other lovers into your sex life is only going to fuck up your relationship even more, especially when you get to the part about outlining boundaries, because once you cross a line you didn’t know you wanted crossed, then you’re really in deep shit because there’s no undoing that deed.
But if you’re in a stable and committed relationship with 2 emotionally mature and emancipated individuals, think about the conversation as a process, possibly a slow process, one that requires patience, discussion, listening, and speaking from the heart. Your partner and you should be granted the opportunity to take it in bite size pieces if needed, let it sink in, and then have a discussion about it. Understand that some people need more stability and some people need more freedom. And that can be a delicate contract to negotiate, but having empathy for where they’re coming from is key. There are an infinite amount of shades of grey when it comes to playing with the idea of an outsider, whether it be going to a bar and seeing how many people hit on your lover while still choosing to go home with your own, or teasing your partner that someone hit on you at the gym, or browsing an online dating app together to imagine what kind of lovers you think would be fun to invite home even if you don’t go through with any of it. Get creative, because you might find that you don’t need a full execution to ignite more passion and eroticism into your sex life. Sometimes just the idea is enough. I hope this was helpful and if someone you know might enjoy this, feel free to share it with them. Have a great week, everyone.