Learn about The Hierarchy of Dating and Relationships (and how to Transition as a Couple)
in the Coaching Workbooks:
I'm A Man, That's My Job and I'm A Woman, It's My Time
Couples in Transition:
Monogamy and Non-monogamy
By Frank Kermit
Couples who are experiencing a transition in the status of their relationship may sometimes look to explore new ways of redefining their sex lives by experimenting with the boundaries of sexual permissions. This includes couples who are monogamous that are interested in exploring the terrain of the swinger lifestyle, as well as, couples who were previously non-monogamous in some way, that now want to stop any extra-circular sexual activities with others and be monogamous.
Transitioning from monogamy to non-monogamy or from non-monogamy to monogamy is not always simple process. It can be challenging, because the rules for each kind of relationship are different. The mindset for monogamists is different than the mindset of non-monogamists. Also, each relationship structure faces risk factors that are not always thought of ahead of time.
The main 2 rules of monogamy are
(1) you only have sex with one person and
(2) you never do anything that could potentially threaten rule #1.
Where this gets complicated is trying to identify what exactly is a threat to monogamy. Are using sex toys, watching pornography or contact with ex-lovers threats to being monogamous? You will learn to identify which are threats to your monogamy by communicating with your partner, and finding out where your partner is comfortable. Each individual has particular boundaries, and the goal is to find a common ground about what each partner feels comfortable with while at the same time not enforcing rules that might be too constrictive which could lead to any resentment.
In non-monogamous relationships the main 2 rules are
(1) you can structure any kind of sexual permissions you and your partner both agree on and
(2) you have to make sure that you find likeminded new partners that are capable of respecting your rules.
Where this gets complicated is for the two partners to figure out what sexual permissions to agree too. It does not matter where you and your partner draw your lines in regards to sexual permissions to engage in activities with others. As long as you and your partner agree to the stipulations, it is no one else’s business.
One couple may believe kissing and heavy petting with others is fine, but not intercourse. Another couple may only engage in sex with a single woman, but not engage with sex with another man or another couple. Another couple may only allow for group sex activates, but not allow for either individual of the couple to have sex with others if both partners cannot be present.
Some couples may also take a lax attitude towards using condoms and encourage bareback penetration. It is no one’s business as long as you and your partner agree, and that you deal with other adults who consent to those rules.
In either case, whether monogamy or non-monogamy, it is important to keep in mind that what seems like a good idea in discussion, may in fact not be a good idea in practice. For monogamy; In theory, never spending any time away from your partner which includes turning down invitations to take part in a boys’ night out, or for your cousin’s bachelorette party may seem like the right thing to do as a means to help preserve and protect the monogamy of your relationship. After all, if you eliminate any potential threats to your monogamy, you are better able to keep your monogamy intact.
However, such restrictive rules may be too confining for some people, and could also be interpreted as emotionally abusive by people outside of the couple, which may result in more social hardships for the couple when having to explain why various invitations get turned down. In addition to this, there is the consideration that one or both members of the couple may even start to feel suffocated and held back in the relationship which also leads to social hardships between the couple.
For non-monogamy; In theory, who your partner may decide to get sexual with outside of your primary bond should be of little concern for you, because the sex is strictly recreational and is not a threat to your relationship.
However, if your partner is uncomfortable with the way you enjoy yourself with your new lover, especially if your new lover is capable of enduring certain sexual experiences that your partner does not have the stamina for, it can cause great levels of jealousy to muster.
Another side effect that many people who experiment with non-monogamy tend not to be aware of: when a problem exists between how your partner relates to their new lover turns sour and they start fighting, it will actually have an effect on your own primary relationship.
Few people going into it realize that when your partner breaks up with one of their lovers, it can feel like you and your partner may be experiencing the effects of a divorce as well…and you may not have even been involved in the relationship that ended!
But neither relationship structure is better than the other. It is up to the couple to find the relationship structure that best works to meet their particular emotional needs and that also helps them keep what is important to them in the relationship.
Simply put, you and your partner must look at what you both VALUE about the relationship structure that you are currently in, and to find ways to maintain what you VALUE about it, while at the same time find a balance with being able to explore.
Both lifestyles, monogamous and non-monogamous, have their positive points and their negative attributes.
Monogamy has fewer rules to understand, paternity of children is predictable, there are less people to take into consideration and there is little risk of sexual transmitted infections.
However it is easier to take your partner for granted as you are not reminded of how much others may desire your partner, the restrictive rules may lead to resentment if either person starts to feel too constricted and monogamy requires work to keep building the relationship to continually be able to address each other’s emotional and sexual needs, as neither of you has the opportunity to have those needs addressed elsewhere.
Non-monogamy lets the couple negotiate ways to keep sexual variety a priority in the relationship, gives the couple a chance to explore fantasies and experiences that being with just one partner could not fulfill, and can be a means to quash any incentive for infidelity or abandonment. Having a non-monogamous relationship can alleviate one partner from being asked to please the second partner in ways that that the second partner simply has no interest in. The first partner can have those experiences fulfilled by someone else, and help the second partner not feel guilty for not being interested in participating with the first partner.
However whenever you involve new people into your existing love life, you also invite their personal issues. The people you may choose to associate with may not care as much about your primary relationship as you do. Sexual accidents like a condom breaking can force a couple to be very mindful of the dangers that safe sex is supposed to protect from, and you may also have to contend with your lover’s other lovers in ways you did not fully appreciate until it is too late.
Commitment to your commitment is the key element in ANY transition a couple is going through. The decision to do whatever it takes to work it out and stay together
It may take a long time to figure out how strict a monogamy you need to feel secure, or how freely open a non-monogamous relationship you can handle.
In that time of experimenting, you must both prepare yourselves to forgive each other for the hurt you will each feel from the mistakes you both may make, and the unexpected consequences your new relationship rules may bring about.
You may likely miss out on some major events that you later regret not taking part in because you were trying to establish a means of respect for your monogamy. You may end up going too far in your experimentation with non-monogamy and crossing a line that your partner and you were not clear on.
Remember that this is just as much a learning journey as any, and your commitment to commitment may be the only thing that reminds you of why you entered the transition to begin with…to find a new way of staying together.
Revealing the Secret of Your Sexual Orientation
By Frank Kermit
I recently watched a YouTube video that one of my colleagues sent me, as an example of what may happen to a young adult (even a teenager) who publicly declares to his or her family, their homosexual sexual orientation.
As I told my colleague, it saddens me that such intolerance still exists, and that violence can occur within a family structure. However, this is nothing new.
Probably, what is likely the worst element of that video is that it seems to imply (at least to me) that the young man in this video was led to believe he could trust his stepmother with his secret and she fed him a false sense of support, only for her to refuse to support him when he came out to the rest of his family.
The young man in the video was living with his grandparents, and when they disowned him and told him to move out, the young man asked to live with his step-mom and dad, and they also refused him. By the end of the video the young man is physically attacked by his step-mom and verbally insulted by his own father. It is very sad indeed.
In my practice, I sometimes deal with adults who are still learning about their sexual orientation. Some are questioning if they are straight or gay. Some are not interested in choosing sides as they are attracted to both genders and come to see me about figuring out what kind of relationship they can structure with a long term partner and what is realistically possible.
Still others find they are attracted to all genders, transgender individuals, and even some fetish sexual practices (they may occasionally refer to themselves as pansexual).
When the question comes up, as to how out these individuals should be about their evolving sexuality the answer I give tends to be along the lines of balancing what you think you may get from it, and what it is going to cost you.
In a perfect world, everyone would be able to be completely open about their views, about their ideas, and about their sexual orientations without any fear of consequences or repercussions. However, it is not a perfect world, and depending on where you live, and whom you may take a chance in trusting, it could also be a very dangerous world.
So if you are in a position where you want to share a secret of yours to the world, and you cannot predict how others may react to you, here are some tips to keep in mind.
First, you are under no obligation to ever reveal a truth about yourself if you will be on the receiving end of violence or abandonment that could lead to your life being threatened. If you are living with people that may kick you out into homelessness, and you have no means of living independently, then do not reveal your secret.
If you have nowhere to go, or if you are going to be attacked and left on the street to fend for yourself, then wait until the time comes when you are independent enough that even if you lose people in your life, your basic survival will not be threatened.
Second, although fully accepting yourself is part of a healing process, and loving yourself despite others intolerance and disapproval is a must for your own balanced emotional well being, that does not mean you have to put yourself in any position where you will be harassed or victimized all in the name of self-love.
Part of self-love is about never putting yourself in harms way. There are times when publicly announcing self-acceptance cannot be held off until you are free from oppression, but it is always important to pick and choose those battles. Use good judgment about when that time is.
If you have any doubt about how the people around you would react to your outing yourself, hold off for now. There will come a time in the future when it will be safe for you to express yourself. Until then, stay safe, and work towards the day that you will never have to be dependent for your survival on people who would just as easily abandon you, for you being true to yourself.
Dr. Laurie Betito Quotes