Blogs on polyamory, non-monagomy and open relationships.
One of the things I have noticed over the past number of years is how often a simple relationship mistake can bring drama with a capital D that lasts for ages.
Often these mistakes fall into a few obvious categories.
1 It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.
This quote originally came from Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper who was a US naval officer and an early computer programmer. She said this in an interview with Chips Ahoy when she asked the magazine why they didn’t just go ahead and print and they said they were trying to get permission.
The problem with asking for forgiveness instead of getting permission in a relationship (especially in non-monogamous relationships) is that when you make the conscious choice to do this, you are admitting that you are doing something behind your partner’s back. In essence you are lying because omitting is also lying. Dishonesty is the number one cause of relationship breakdown.
By avoiding talking with your partner about something you know they are likely to find difficult, you also assume your partner’s feelings, thoughts and reactions. You make it impossible for them to grow because you are not having the difficult conversation with them.
You also avoid having to hear someone say ‘no’ and then abide by that ‘no’ because you have agreed to do so. In non-monogamous relationships this is particularly damaging. Most people in non-monogamous relationships have agreements about how other relationships are started and conducted, what types of sex are permissible and what types of relationships are permissible. If you ignore these agreements, you are essentially saying that they are not important and therefore you diminish the importance of your commitment and your relationship.
Jeffrey and Cindy are married and identify as polyamorous. The one rule they have about choosing other partners is that they need to talk with each other before sleeping with someone else and that in some circumstances, the other partner can say ‘No, I don’t want you to sleep with that person.’. Margaret kept pursuing Jeffrey over a period of two years. Margaret’s son and Jeffrey and Cindy’s son were great friends and in the same class at school. Jeffrey finally decided he wanted to sleep with Margaret but he knew that Cindy would say no. Cindy would not like that Margaret was someone at the school and was the mother of one of their son’s friends. She would be concerned that if there were relationship problems between Jeffrey and Margaret, everyone at school would hear about it and also that their son’s friendship would be disrupted. Jeffrey decides not to ask Cindy and starts a relationship with Margaret that goes on for 6 months. Cindy found out because everyone at school knew and there was a large scene between Jeffrey and Margaret. Cindy ended her marriage as a result of this messy affair in part because of the drama it brought to her son’s life and to her life.
2 Pressure to try ‘new’ things.
People who are non-monogamous often feel a need to try anything. There can be considerable social pressure to try the newest activity, relationship style or type of relationship rules out there. Pressure can be applied before an idea is thought through and discussed. For example, in some circles, women are expected to try sexual activity with other women. People are sometimes pressured to be friends with each other’s metamours (the partners of your partner).
3 Believing that opening up your relationship and becoming non-monogamous will resolve all relationship issues
It is trendy to be non-monogamous. It doesn’t suit everyone. Non-monogamy requires LOTS of good communication. I have seen many couples whose relationships have become sexually stagnant or who have been having difficulty with desire latch on to the idea that opening their relationship up will solve all their relationship issues. If you already cannot communicate well with each other and don’t have the communication skills to resolve your existing relationship problems, opening up your relationship will only make things more complex. Before deciding to open up, why not work with a coach or take a class to improve your communication skills including negotiation and conflict management?
The idea that opening up will solve things is like the idea that moving will solve issues that you are having. It never words because where ever you go, there you are. You take the issues with you. And with opening up your relationship, you take your relationship issues with you and also bring them into new relationships thus creating lots of drama in many cases.
4 Misunderstanding what making all relationships equal means.
Non-hierarchical polyamory is also trendy now. People get extremely upset when someone talks about having primary relationships and will shame people who don’t agree that all their relationships should be non-hierarchical. Leaving aside people who are in authority transfer based relationships which by their nature are hierarchical, there are a number of issues with trying to make all relationships ‘equal’. Equal is identical in mathematical value, of the same quantity or number. Seeing all relationships as of equal importance or all people as of equal value is acceptable (though often problematic. After all, my one night stand is not of equal importance as my marriage, nor is it of equal value). Better yet is looking at all people as being of equal value. In reality, a relationship in which I am financially supporting someone is not equal to one in which I see someone once a year. I have responsibilities in the first relationship that I do not have in the second relationship. Which usually means that I need to give more time to the first relationship. Many people just the ‘equality’ of a relationship with how much time is spent together. Once making relationships equal becomes the focus, counting becomes a focus as well. Counting leads to disaster.
What do I mean by counting? Counting is when you compare relationships and look at how much time, how many holidays, how many photos posted on Facebook and then make assumptions about the value of the relationships based on the numbers you come up with. Arly gets angry with Marco regularly because they post more pictures of themselves with Annie than they do of themselves with Arly. To Arly, this means that Marco values their relationship with Annie more than they value their relationship with Arly. In fact, Annie takes the photos and Marco simply shares them. To Marco, this means nothing. They love Annie and they love Arly. Arly also insists that Marco spend the same number of days with him that they spend with Annie. Arly says that if Marco doesn’t agree to this, Marco is being hierarchical. It isn’t practical for them to spend the same number of days with each one as Arly lives 1000 km away and Annie lives in the same house. Quality over quantity is a maxim that needs to be adopted often in non-monogamous relationships styles. Scheduling time is one of the most difficult things to manage as time is finite and we all have many demands on our time beyond our relationships.
5 This is the ‘right’ way to be polyamorous.
The ‘right’ way changes depending on the trends. As I said earlier, non-hierarchical polyamory is trendy now so hierarchical relationships are seen as ‘wrong’. Except that some polyamorous people are in authority transfer based relationships and these are hierarchical and as a result, the way they do polyamory is usually hierarchical because the dominant in that hierarchical relationship holds the agency and decides what other relationships the submissive will be allowed to be in, what the submissive can do in those relationships and how much time the submissive can give to those relationships. Of course YMMV. In some cases, the submissive may have agency to carve out time for a specific other relationship and this may be kept sacrosanct. There are no right ways only the right way for you. Figuring out what is right for you takes looking at all the possibilities, examining what feels right for you in any given situation and final discussing possibilities with partners and negotiating until parameters are agreed upon and clear.
6 We shouldn’t have to work on our relationships ongoing.
Once we have negotiated and agreed a contract of sorts or a set of rules, that should be OK going forward. Polyamory should be fun and spending time working on relationships is not fun.
All relationships require work. Work doesn’t have to be arduous. Work could just be a good conversation. Work could be time spent each week checking in with a partner as to how they are feeling and making sure there are no issues that are brewing. Relationships require attention no matter what type of relationship they are. Relationships are more fun when there aren’t any unexamined issues around casting negative shadows over the enjoyable bits.
Are you in a non-monogamous relationship? Are you creating one? If you would like help creating a workable structure, sign up for a free 30 minute discovery session here and why not work through my online course here?
I have written about polyamorous D/s relationships in the past. Recently, in a mentoring session with the head of the leather household, House of Trei, Choc Trei, polyamory in a full Master/slave or Owner/property authority transfer based relationship came up as part of a discussion of their House tour. The discussion raised new points and led to me re-examining the many types relationship style that people who are in an authority based relationship might adopt.
As a refresher, authority transfer based relationships are ones in which one person is definitely the leader and the other is the follower.
These are consensual relationships in which the person who is in the subordinate role, surrenders part or all of their autonomy by surrendering authority over part or all of themselves and their lives to the one who is in the dominant role so that the dominant is the one who makes the decisions or has the final say.
There are a number of different flavours of authority transfer based consensual relationships The most common are:
D/s (Dominant/submissive) In D/s relationships, the submissive gives the Dominant partner limited authority over themselves and over their lives. They negotiate the areas of service and of authority transfer.
M/s (Master/slave) In M/s relationships, the slave surrenders authority over themselves and their lives to the Master. This is a full transfer of authority as opposed to in D/s.
O/p (Owner/property) In O/p relationships, the Owner has full authority over the property just as in M/s.
However, as with most definitions, these tend to evolve so YMMV.
How does this intersect with non-monogamy?
Many people who practice non-monogamy, particularly those who identify as practicing polyamory dislike the idea of hierarchical relationships. They eschew the previous common polyamorous structure that had one relationship identified as a primary relationship and others as secondary, tertiary and so on. They feel that no relationship should be more important than another, no person taking precedence over another, all relationships be seen as and treated as equal.
In practice, equal is truly the wrong term.
While relationships may be treated equally in mind and heart – be equal in value, in day to day life, equal is very difficult if not impossible to achieve. Equal means to be the be the same in degree, size or quantity. Attempting to create equality of time alone can be a challenge.
When one of the relationships is a hierarchical one as all authority transfer based relationships are, equal becomes difficult at best and impossible at worst.
If the authority transfer based relationship is a D/s one, it is possible to create equal other polyamorous relationships as both parties retain at least some agency. However, if it is an M/s or O/p relationship, equal other relationships are not truly possible.
Why is this so? In surrendering authority, the submissive also surrenders agency. Some agency is usually returned except in the most restrictive and micro-managed M/s relationships where the Master controls every aspect of the slave’s live. But even though the subordinate regains some agency, the ultimate decision maker is person in charge. They can allow the subordinate to have other romantic and/or sexual relationships and they also have the authority to end these relationships.
Full polyamory requires full agency.
As the slave does not have the agency to create the relationship without permission, to define the parameters of the relationship, or to choose if the relationship is to continue or to end, then it is not polyamory as such.
Therefore what is it? It is consensual non-monogamy that is taking its form from the hierarchical authority transfer based relationship.
Choc Trei calls this ‘loaning’ as the Owner/Master/Mistress is the party with the agency to begin the second relationship, negotiate it’s parameters and to end it. In discussing this, she used the example of a car. Two people can purchase a car together, share the use of it, the maintenance of it and both names are on the title (registration document). This is polyamory – with two people each having a relationship with a separate third person. In the car analogy, both people have agency to use the vehicle as they see fit as they both own part of it. In the polyamory example, the separate relationships can take any form as all parties have agency over the relationship (which is the car).
However, when there is an M/s or O/p relationship, the car analogy becomes one person (the M/O) purchases the car, takes responsibility for maintenance of it, uses it and that person’s name is on the title (registration document). The owner of the car can choose to lend it to another person. The owner would define the terms of the loan. For example, don’t take the car over state lines, don’t use cheap petrol, wash the car every week. In addition, the owner could end the loan for any reason. For example, the person who borrows the car uses the wrong petrol or simply the owner has need of the car. More or less agency can be awarded when making a loan of property, but the final decision point is always the Owner.
The Owner sets the tone for all other relationships that their property has whether these relationships are sexual, romantic and sexual, friendships, business or family relationships. The Owner can award more or less agency to their property to create and maintain relationships but the owner has the final say.
People often believe that this relationship structure is overly complicated.
In my experience, it depends wholly on the tone set by the dominant partner. Some Owners love to micro manage and sometimes that means that any other relationships can become complicated as permissions and negotiations happen on a regular basis. Other Owners give significant agency and freedom to their property which tends to mean that other relationships are less complicated.
Jarrod and Seth are in an authority transfer based relationship. Jarrod sees himself as a benevolent Owner. Seth has always been able to have casual sexual liaisons with minimal interference. Jarrod requires Seth to ask first and to make clever choices. ‘Clever choices’ means to choose people who won’t bring any drama into their relationship. Jarrod does not ask to meet most of the people Seth becomes involved with as he feels no need.
When Seth meets Angelo, the connection is extremely intense. Seth asks Jarrod for permission to have sex with Angelo and Jarrod grants this. Seth realises that he wants an actual relationship with Angelo and brings this to Jarrod. Jarrod sits down with Seth to discuss what kind of relationship he would like to have with Angelo and after this discussion, asks to meet Angelo so they can negotiate the terms of the relationship and discuss the rules.
Jarrod likes Angelo immediately upon meeting him. He explains to Angelo that he is happy for him to start a relationship with Seth, his property, with certain rules in place. Rule number 1 is Angelo is always to be available to him (Jarrod) when needed. Jarrod tells Angelo that he will do his best to respect their time together, but reiterates that if he needs Seth, his need will come before Angelo’s needs or desires. Jarrod goes on to say that if he becomes concerned about the relationship between Seth and Angelo and his concerns cannot be resolved, he (Jarrod) will end the relationship between them. The rest of the rules include safe sex only, no group scenes, no cuts or skin breaks of any kind and no permanent marks. Angelo agrees to these rules and pursues his relationship with Seth.
After 6 months, the relationship between Angelo and Seth is still going strong. Angelo tells Seth that he has fallen in love with him. He becomes uncomfortable with Jarrod having the final say over their relationship. He wants to their relationship to be completely autonomous and resents that Jarrod has some say over their relationship even though Jarrod doesn’t interfere and never has interfered. At first, Angelo urges Seth to address this with Jarrod. Seth refuses and says that Angelo must have this conversation. Seth tells Angelo that he does not want to change his relationship with Jarrod. Angelo is upset by this but decides to talk with Jarrod about changing the rules anyway. The conversation doesn’t go well and the relationship between Seth and Angelo ends.
In that example, the intensity of the relationship between the property and the outside person changed and this lead the relationship ending as the other person would no longer respect the rules set by the Owner. I see this type of situation in my consulting room regularly either because Owner and property come in to make sense of the drama that has entered their relationship or because the outside person comes because they are not happy having a relationship that is not completely autonomous. This type of situation can often be avoided if all parties are clear at the outset as to what the relationship possibilities are and what kind of parameters will be put into place.
I often see people who are in an M/s or O/p relationship and want to have other M/s or D/s relationships. In these relationships, the negotiation can be easier as all parties understand authority based relationships. It can also be more complicated while people try to figure out who is ultimately in charge of whom. Short term encounters are mostly easily managed. It is the longer term relationships that require the most care and attention to negotiate.
For people whose primary sexual orientation is dominance or submission, it is not unusual for most of their romantic relationships and sexual encounters to have at least an element of dominance/submission.
Though many of my romantic relationships are not D/s, almost all of my sexual relationships involve submission as this is my primary orientation. My husband and I are in an M/s relationship and so he has the last word on any other relationships that I become involved in. He gives me lots of agency to form relationships and does not micromanage any of these relationships. He has only a few rules and is laid back as long as these rules are adhered to. Everyone I become involved with is well aware of the hierarchy before they get involved with me. People who only want egalitarian polyamorous relationships don’t usually get involved with me because I am in a hierarchical relationship.
The trend to denigrate all hierarchical non-monogamous relationships works to exclude many people who choose authority transfer based relationships as part of their relationship structure.
By their nature, authority based relationships are hierarchical and this does impact upon non-hierarchical relationships that a person has as well. It doesn’t always mean that the authority based relationship is creating and controlling the hierarchy but often this is the case.
Are you in an authority based relationship and non-monogamous? If you would like help creating a structure that works well or managing the issues that arise out of the relationship structure, sign up for a 30 minute free discovery session with me on my contact page. If you want to learn more about authority based relationships, check out my online course here.
People often become confused about the language used around non-monogamy and polyamorous networks of relationships. I will start with a disclaimer: Language changes quickly. New terms are added faster as the internet expands. These terms and polyamorous definitions are up to date at the time of writing. However, your mileage may vary.
With that said, here is my list of non-monogamy terms that are essential.
A relationship or relationship style that does not conform to monogamy. In monogamy, a person has a sexual relationship with only one person at a time. In non-monogamy, a person can have multiple partners at the same time.
This is an updated term for having an affair or cheating. Unethical non-monogamy is when one partner makes a unilateral decision to have a relationship with another person without gaining the agreement or consent of their current partner. Any time an agreement between two (or more) people is violated (instead of negotiated and changed), it is considered unethical.
Any relationship in which the parties make agreements about having multiple sexual and/or relationship partners.
People who engage in polyamory have more than one romantic and sexual relationship at a time. Polyamory is usually assumed to include love rather than simply having multiple sexual relationships at a time.
A relationship where there is one woman and multiple men.
A relationship where there is one many and multiple women.
A single person (often a woman) who is sought by a couple to join them for short term sexual relationship or a long-term relationship.
This is when a couple or a group of people choose to dispense with barrier protection and have sex where fluids are exchanged. If a couple is fluid bonded, they have usually had multiple clean STI tests and use condoms and other barriers (dental dams) when they have sexual contact with people outside the fluid bond.
Feeling fantastic because of the joy your partner is experiencing with someone else. It is the opposite of jealousy. It is when someone else’s excitement and joy brings you excitement and joy. This is one of the most wonderful parts of being non-monogamous if you are able to experience compersion. Some people find it hard to experience compersion but it is a skill that can be learned.
This is when relationships are prioritised. Sometimes people talk about their primary or secondary partner and this suggests they are in a hierarchical relationship. If you are raising children with someone, you may prioritise that relationship. However, prioritising the relationship does not necessarily mean that you consider someone more important than other partners. It often refers to how you divide and prioritise your time. Many people in the poly community now prefer to aim for non-hierarchical relationships – noting that no relationship holds more sway inherently than any other.
When I first entered the world of polyamory, it was common to use the terms primary and secondary relationships. Now hierarchical language is frowned upon so people often refer to nesting partners to describe the person they live with rather than a primary partner as that is seen as too hierarchical.
Some relationships are by their nature hierarchical. Relationships in which there is an authority transfer are always hierarchical as the person who holds the authority is at the top of the hierarchy. This doesn’t always mean that when someone is polyamorous and in a relationship which involves authority transfer that the authority transfer relationship is always given priority and seen as primary in the hierarchical sense. People can have a number of different types of relationships and keep them all equal. However, it is common for authority transfer relationships to be seen as primary. I have also noticed that in real life, equality is rare but striving for equality is common. This is the subject of an upcoming blog.
This is when someone chooses to focus on the individual rather than becoming couple focused. Many of the people I have met who identify in this way are clear that they prefer their own space and do not want to live with or marry anyone. They talk about being their own partner first. They enjoy the flexibility and autonomy.
Traditionally this terms refers to couples enjoying sexual encounters with other individuals or couples. It is usually specific to sexual bonds rather than creating emotional bonds. Lots of swinging takes place in clubs or at private parties. Traditionally, swinging is an activity that favours heterosexual couples and bisexual women. In more modern clubs, bisexual men also engage and in some clubs same sex couples engage as well. However, same sex couples, queer and non-binary people tend to create their own events and don’t usually call this ‘swinging’. Some people go to swing clubs to watch rather than to have sex with others. The couple has sex with each other while watching the activity of the other people at the party or club. This allows them to engage in voyeurism and exhibitionism. There are closed swinging groups where people have regular STI tests and agree to only swing with each other.
A polyamorous relationship in which all of the partners agree to remain faithful to the group. Some relationships have a process that allows new members to be added and others don’t. Some of these are relationships in which everyone lives together and others are not. Polyfidelity.
A relationship involving three people.
A triad where the person at the apex of the V is involved with the other two people but they are not sexually involved with each other. The person at the apex is also known as the pivot.
A relationship involving four people.
A relationship where one person is polyamorous and the other is monogamous.
Don’t ask, Don’t Tell:
A relationship in which partners are allowed to have sex with others outside the relationship as long as it is not talked about.
Friends with benefits:
When a person decides to have a sexual relationship (sometimes just once, other times regularly) with a friend and there is no expectation of a romantic relationship developing. Also known as a fuck buddy.
This is the network of a person’s romantic and sexual partners and their romantic and sexual partners.
From the 1970’s – Originally a wife swapping/swinging event where each couple places their car keys in a bowl when they arrive and then at the end of the night, each woman picks a set of keys from the bowl and then goes home with the man whose keys they are for the night. There are still key parties held.
The partner of your partner. Sometimes known as lover-in-law.
Ménage a Trois or Threesome:
French for a triad – though usually this term is used for experiences rather than to describe relationships that last longer involving three people.
A romantic network or a subset of a romantic network.
A romantic network or subset of a romantic network
Monogamish: (term coined by Dan Savage)
A couple in a committed relationship who are monogamous with some agreed exceptions. For example, kissing a friend may be acceptable. Some people who are monogamish allow sexual relationships outside the couple but not romantic relationships.
New relationship energy (NRE):
The excitement and quasi obsessiveness that happens when you begin a new relationship. It includes infatuation and also that ‘in love’ feeling and can last a few years.
One Penis Policy (OPP) :
A relationship where the man is allowed sex with multiple female partners and the female partners can have sex with other women but no one is allowed to have sex with another man.
Any relationship that is not monogamous. For some this term is only used to describe relationships in which other sexual relationships are allowed but there are no other romantic relationships. In this way it excludes polyamory.
This is when people are free to engage in any type of relationships that they choose. People who practice relationship anarchy see any relationship that restricts a person’s ability to express themselves as negative. Freedom and spontaneity are seen as highly desirable traits. For many people who practice relationship anarchy, there is not always a clear distinction between partner ad non-partner.
A group of people in a polyamorous network.
There are also a lot of very colloquial terms so as with all relationships, it is important to communicate fully and clearly in order to make sure you and the person or people you are speaking with are understanding each other.
Want to define your own relationship? Join me for a free 30-minute discovery session.
They’ve been talking about how cool they find the idea of inviting someone else into your bed for a while now but you never really took them seriously until they handed you a copy of ‘The Ethical Slut’ to read. Is your parner polyamorous? Now you are completely freaked out that they will want to bring some other woman or man into your bed and might even want to have a relationship with that new person as well as with you.
You always took your monogamy for granted. You felt safe because you knew that you were settled in a good stable monogamous relationship. OK so maybe sex wasn’t as much fun anymore and maybe you didn’t have sex all that often. But you get along well most of the time and you are happy with your life together. The idea of adding another person and being polyamorous is petrifying.
Maybe the idea of having more than one partner appealed to you in the past or maybe it even appeals to you now, but as soon as they bring it up as something you might actually do, you freeze. Sit down. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Many of the people I have helped had the same reaction you are having.
Here’s what you need to do to figure out how you really feel about the possibility of a polyamorous partnership:
1. Educate yourself about polyamorous relationships
Non-monogamy comes in many forms from monogamish where you are monogamous except for one particular thing (like kissing one person or inviting one person to come play with you once a year on their birthday) to polyamorous where you have multiple romantic, sexual and emotional relationships to polygamy where there is one husband and many wives (or one wife and many husbands).
There are a couple of books that I recommend: The Ethical Slut, Re-Writing the Rules. Read my other blogs on the subject. Listen to my podcasts (1, 2, 3, 4) on polyamory and to my series of podcasts called sex love stories for some individual stories about non-monogamy in all of its different forms.
To make the best use of your education, start a journal. Take notes about what you are learning. Pay attention to your feelings as you are reading and listening and learning. Are you interested? Excited? Worried? More freaked out? Write all of this down.
3. Own your feelings and work on them
If you are feeling angry, then own this. If you don’t acknowledge your anger, it will play out in passive-aggressive ways that destroy relationships. If you are able, try to figure out exactly where your anger comes from. Anger often comes from fear. If this is where your anger is coming from, what information do you need to allay your fear? It might be re-assurance that your partner still fancies you.
It might be clear information about what your partner is actually proposing. You might be feeling jealous, frightened, sad or a whole host of things. If you don’t have a regular way of soothing yourself and working through your feelings, now would be a good time to do some individual coaching to help you work through the feelings but also to teach you some practical skills to help you work through emotions as they arise in the future.
4. Once you have worked through some feelings, decide if this is a deal breaker for you
If you are unwilling to even consider opening up your relationship in any way, it is important for you to acknowledge this so that you can discuss it with your partner. Some people decide to become monogamous in a polyamorous relationship. If you are really good at communicating and able to own and manage your own feelings (especially jealousy and anger), then this is an excellent option. The clearer you are on your own needs and limits, the easier it will be to talk with your partner about all the options.
If you are having difficulty thinking things through on your own or talking them through with a friend who can be neutral, this is also a time to speak with a coach or therapist so that you can clarify your own needs and limits. It is best to speak with someone who is poly friendly so that the whole range of options is easily open to you.
5. Have a conversation with your partner to find out exactly what they are proposing. Polyamorous? Swinging? Something else?
Ask what triggered this desire now and be prepared to hear any answer. Before the conversation starts, create a safe space by making sure you have plenty of time to talk and that no one will interrupt. Make it a non-judgemental space and manage your emotions even if something they say is upsetting to you. If you want them to talk honestly to you, you have to be willing to truly listen.
Consider recording the conversation (with an agreement of course). Taking notes is often really difficult during an emotional conversation. You are recording so that you can both make sure to catch any ideas you have about moving forward in a positive manner. If you have never been able to talk about difficult subjects well or if you never manage to resolve any issues together, this is not the issue to try to start on alone.
Agree to go see a poly-friendly sex and relationship therapist or sex and relationship coach together and start the dialogue there. Having someone who can help you to stop and reflect instead of ending up in the same negative communication loop is invaluable when you are looking at making major changes in your relationship. Make sure you are seeing someone who knows about non-monogamy who can bust the myths and provide you with good solid information.
After you have had your freak out, breathe deep and start working your way through the steps above until you reach clarity. Whatever you decide – polyamorous or monogamous, this relationship or your future relationships will ultimately be much richer and more exciting as a result of the emotional work that you do.
As you work your way through this challenge, remember you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re worried that your relationship is in jeopardy and you’re unsure how to explore polyamory or to how to talk to your partner about your true feelings, I can help you. Over the past 30 years, I have worked with hundreds of couples in this same boat. Some choose to explore polyamory with their partner, others don’t. The choice is yours. Let me help you by booking a free session with me so we can talk about the best steps for you and your relationship.
Are there polyamorous D/s (dominant submissive) relationships? Yes there are.
Polyamorous D/s relationships come in an infinite number of configurations. For more about how different open relationships might look, you can find one of my articles here and a series of podcasts here.
D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature. In these relationships, people usually take on one role (either the dominant role or the submissive role). Sometimes people are switches meaning that they enjoy switching roles and sometimes they even switch roles within the same relationship. But I will talk about that later. For now, I will talk about the situations in which a person takes on one role in each relationship. Some polyamorous D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not. The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange. One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule. Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship). D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out. Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects. The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else. The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire. This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship. For more on these relationships, listen to this series of podcasts from Sex Spoken Here and D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ™ podcast.
D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex. Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power. There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships. However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner). As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.
One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship. A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other. Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation. When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.
Myra and Robin were involved in a polyamorous D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together.
At first things work well. Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship. During the week they look like any other couple living together. Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work. But things are still working and they are both still happy together. After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical. She is working on a book and needs the time to write. They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months. This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.
The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra. They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive. After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship. She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else. At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship. After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations. They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom. After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them. After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching. A year later they came back for a ‘check-up’ and reported that they had restarted the D/s part of their relationship and it was going really well. They continued to keep their other relationships and said that this added richness to their sexual lives.
There are people in D/s relationships agree that the dominant person can choose to introduce other people into the relationship. These are not truly polyamorous D/s relationships but usually occasional sexual liaisons with others controlled by the dominant partners.
Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter power exchange or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them. They choose to open their relationships. In my experience many of these relationships are poly monogamous relationships. For more on poly monogamy see my article here. These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate extremely well in order for them to do so. Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.
Check out my YouTube channel for videos on topics including polyamory, jealousy, and power exchange. Listen to my podcasts: Sex Spoken Here and The A to Z of Sex â for more information on all of these topics and more. Interested in exploring further? Book a free discovery session with me here.
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