Should we open our marriage?

Q: We have been seriously talking about opening up our marriage and I think I’m ok with it now. At 40 and having been out of the dating scene for 20+ years, I’m not even sure how to go about finding someone. I’ve been talking to a friend of a friend that may be interested and we have sexted once, but I’m not sure if he’s really down or not. Do you know other people that have open marriages? I’ve been hearing that the younger generation is more ok with open relationships. What are your thoughts?

A: Consensual non-monogamy seems to be getting quite the press lately, and I think a lot has to do with the internet. Although the idea of having multiple partners has been around for ages (think concubines, harems, etc.), it’s becoming less taboo because of the ability to connect virtually with so many others who are curious as well. I also believe that as we evolve, we are always looking to better “adapt” to new knowledge that we acquire.

A brief history lesson, shall we?

The truth, whether it’s easy to hear or not, is that sexual monogamy is not a biological “thing”. It’s a cultural and religious construct that many are content to align with. Marriage was more of a business/logistical decision to protect and preserve property and assets – it did not begin for love and sexual pleasure. Sexual monogamy was born out of wanting to control who women slept with so there was never a question as to who the child belonged to – again – this was important in terms of lineage and the passing down of assets.

Bored yet?

So, here’s my own take on what’s happened to monogamous relationships…

The main reasons for creating marriage and monogamy have sort of gone away for most of us, yet the expectations have remained. If someone is royalty or insanely wealthy and they want to know who their biological child is, we have paternity tests now. So….there’s that.

Now, we have monogamous couples who are married and wondering where lust and passion have gone, or why they are struggling to be satisfied with one person for a lifetime. Humans are not designed to be sexually monogamous. As a matter of fact, there’s only about 3%-5% of mammal species (humans included!) that are monogamous for life.

The urge to stray will be there because of human nature, but what we choose to do with that urge is what makes the difference. I speak to so many people who are riddled with guilt over lusting after someone else, and I have to explain to them that I would actually be MORE surprised if they weren’t! So, what do we do?

We make a choice. Sexual monogamy is a daily choice that we make – oftentimes without thinking. The truth is, we all have the free will to walk out and be sexual with someone else. So, what keeps us from doing it? Well, we already know that there are many who DO choose to act on the urges, and the consequences can be devastating to the relationship. Some may remain sexually monogamous but feel bored and resentful, and others may not have any issues with being sexually monogamous at all! Then there’s the rest…

If you haven’t watched the Ted Talk by Dr. Jess O’Reilly, titled “Monogamish”, do yourself a favor and watch it. This is where I believe most people fall in terms of monogamy. Research has found that very few relationships THRIVE in 100% monogamous relationships, and very few THRIVE in 100% open relationships. The majority of us actually exist somewhere along the spectrum. Now, before you take that the wrong way, let’s talk about what I actually mean by “spectrum”. Relationships aren’t always black and white in terms of sexual behavior.

So, what sort of behaviors can be found on this spectrum? Mind you, these would all have to be CONSENSUAL and AGREED UPON or else you’re risking betrayal, infidelity, and ultimately, the end of a relationship. To give you some examples (from more vanilla to less vanilla):

  • Flirting with other people (with your partner knowing)
  • Discussing people that you both find sexy, and maybe using it as fuel in the bedroom
  • Going to a strip club together and watching your partner get a lap dance
  • Sexting a third party (again, with your partner either participating or knowing that you’re doing it)
  • Exchanging videos or pictures with another couple online (there are safety tips to this, so please don’t do this if you haven’t thought it through. The internet can be amazing, but also very dangerous.)
  • Going to sex clubs to watch others have sex
  • Occasional make-out sessions with a mutually agreed-upon third person
  • Agreeing on specific parameters for consensual non-monogamy (i.e. must be in a different state or certain distance away, certain sexual behaviors being off-limits, not engaging in sexual behaviors with the same person more than once, no exchanging of contact information, etc.)

To answer the other questions – yes, I do know people who have open relationships. Does it work for them? Yes. Does it work for everyone? Nope. The younger generation seems to be more open to it, but they are also more open to other non-traditional lifestyle choices as well. So, I think as a general rule, younger folks seem to be likely to challenge the status quo, rather than roll with it.

My personal thoughts…

  • I think it’s absolutely a viable option for long term relationships to keep the spice alive and satisfy the sexual and emotional urge for variety.
  • I think people sometimes jump into it way too quickly, and unfortunately, it’s not something that can be erased. Remember that fantasy is almost always better than reality.
  • There MUST be agreements and parameters along the way
  • Take it step-by-step, and don’t go from sexual monogamy directly into sex with others – try the smaller steps first (see the list of monogamy spectrum examples above) and build a foundation as you go.
  • Communication is non-negotiable. Jealousy is a human emotion and not to be ignored. Just talk about it.
  • Opening up a marriage should never be done to save a failing one.
  • To remotely begin to navigate an open marriage, your CURRENT relationship should be as foundationally sound as possible.

I urge you to do your research first. Check out online communities of others who have been in the lifestyle for a while, and pick their brain. Hire a coach who can be a resource guide (ahem, ahem!), and help you navigate the process. Sometimes, we get so excited about something sexual, that we neglect to think about what could go wrong. Having an unbiased person on your team can make a huge difference.

When do the “Birds and Bees” have to make an appearance for my kids?

Q: As a mother yourself, what age do you think is appropriate to teach your kids about the birds and the bees? I’ve taught my son, who’s 6, that half the baby comes from Dad’s penis and the other half from mom. Daddies have to plant their half in the mommy’s vagina. My family thinks I’m crazy for teaching that to him. I remember (over 25 years ago) I learned from a friend in 2nd grade. I just wanted him to know the truth from me and not another kid in school. And where would you draw the line? My daughter is 4 and I’m teetering on the idea of telling her, too. What’s your opinion??

A: This is such an amazingly powerful topic, and I would be a millionaire if I had the exact age and method of explaining sex to children. But alas, I don’t. Nobody does. You will find an infinite amount of articles on this topic, and depending on the level of progressiveness of the author, you will be told something different each and every time. I am happy to give my opinion on the topic, but remember that my opinion is just that…my opinion. Here it goes…

I personally think you did great, and I’m proud of you. I believe you should explain sex to your kids at whatever age they ask. That, I’m pretty set on. The difficult part is WHAT we’re supposed to tell them. Let’s be honest – even though we have heard the research time and time again that talking about sex does NOT lead to kids HAVING sex, we still believe it does. I am a former health teacher, I should know better. However, when it comes to my kids, all bets are off and I lose my rational thinking capabilities.

I am FAR from a perfect Mother (newsflash: perfect Moms don’t exist), but here’s how I’ve handled it: I always ask them what THEY think it is first. Often times they have heard some bogus explanation from school kids and I want to be the first to correct that misinformation. Every now and then, they will actually present you with ACCURATE information that they’ve heard at school, and you can literally confirm it, and be on with your day!

If they ask for further information, I use this line: “I am happy you asked. These are great questions and your curiosity is 100% normal. My job as your parent is to explain things to you that make sense for someone your age. As you get older, I can explain it differently because you will be able to understand even better. Deal?”

To explain my reasoning even further, I use the analogy of driving. I say, “You’re 7 years old. If I told you that we were going to go to a parking lot and I was going to teach you how to drive and parallel park, what would you say?” They will inevitably respond with something along the lines of, “But, I’m too young! I can’t even drive yet!”.

BINGO! It makes no sense for me to bog their brain down with things that truly have nothing to do with their experiences at their age. I ask again, “Now, what if you were 15 years old and I told you we were going to practice driving?” They get it at that point. I explain that as they get older, I PROMISE to explain things to them in a way that is relevant to their age. What I DON’T want my kids to feel is that I am hiding some Holy Grail secret from them. The truth is, they will find out regardless (Hello, Internet. Ugh), and I’d rather it be from me.

I try not to use words that have a negative vibe to them because I don’t want anything about sex to be negative for my kids (although I’m certain I’ve already messed that up). I don’t want anything to seem wrong or taboo – I just focus on the TIMING and depth of information I share. I rarely, if ever, say, “You’re too young to understand.” I think that actually creates a dynamic that doesn’t lend itself to open communication. Your child will see you as doubting their ability to emotionally handle something. Although that may be true, it doesn’t feel so great to a kid.

Educate them on the basic biology when they ask – sperm meets egg, and a baby is made (sometimes). If they want to know how the sperm meets the egg (which is what happened with my child), I told her that when two adults who are in love want to make a baby, the penis goes into the vagina. Did I wanna die at that moment? Yup! Was I totally irrational and fear that she was going to go out the next day and get pregnant at 8 years old, even though it’s borderline impossible? Yup! I could barely sleep that night and feared she’d be the next star on “I’m a Teen Mom”. Welcome to parenthood.

Depending on their age, you can even go on to say that sometimes adults need Doctors to help make it happen, but that’s up to you. I’ve had to explain that to my kids because we have cousins who have two mommies, and we have cousins who have been pregnant many times, miscarried, and required reproductive medicine.

As they get older, I think it’s important to introduce pleasure education, because they won’t EVER get it here in the US unless they take a college course on it (mega eye roll). If you’re four-year-old is asking, go ahead and explain the basics about the sperm meeting the egg. Chances are, she will not be very interested in it and she’ll move on.

Again, it’s more about how well you know your children. You’re their mother and you will always be met with opposition – that’s just life. I think most of us are fighting more of a cultural war than anything else. The truth is, the less of a deal you make of it, the less intriguing it will be.

Good luck, Mama! You’re doing great =)

Extramarital Tickling

Q: I love tickling women in bondage. It’s a huge sexual fantasy for me. My wife isn’t into it at all. I’ve sat down with her and told her how much it means to me but she really doesn’t want to try it. If I tickle other women and just not tell her about it, am I justified?

A: Good for you for being open about what you want! The downside is, our partners are not always going to be game for what we want, and that’s ok. There are a plethora of fantasies that we have, and to expect our partners to entertain them all would just set us up for disappointment, right?

So, here’s where we make choices in relationships. In my personal opinion (and that’s all it is…an opinion), I would highly discourage engaging in behaviors behind your partner’s back. That rarely, if ever, ends well. It also starts to place a massive wedge between the two of you, and intimacy is about connection, not betrayal.

When I work with clients, I try to get to the psychological experience they are seeking. After all, sexuality is actually more about our psyche than anything else. So, what about tickling a woman in bondage gets you excited? What feeling does it create that is arousing? Often we can find several other activities that can elicit a similar response that your partner may be up for!

I would also be curious as to the reasons your partner is not comfortable doing it. Is it being tied up? Is it being tickled? Maybe there’s a middle ground that you can meet on. For example, let’s say she doesn’t like the idea of being tickled, but she is ok being tied up. Maybe you can use a feather on her to cause pleasure, but not tickle her. Maybe you can use temperature play and rub an ice cube on her body.

Often we are uncomfortable with what we don’t know. If this is something foreign to her, maybe show her what it looks like. Show her a clip of the fantasy you’re seeking. I’d also challenge you to think about how you would react if she wanted something sexual that you were not comfortable with. What sort of ways would you try to navigate the situation to try to satisfy her desires without doing something that makes you uncomfortable?

My first line of defense will always be honest and open communication with your partner. If she is adamantly against it, and you feel like this is a deal-breaker for your marriage, I would explain to her that your desire for this is strong, and you want to work together to figure out a way to experience this without jeopardizing your marriage.

If it’s something that isn’t a deal-breaker for your marriage, I would either try to find a happy medium, or you may just have to chalk it up to the fact that our partners aren’t always going to be up for what we want sexually! I’m pretty confident that if you can try to dig and figure out exactly the feeling you’re looking to experience, you’ll find a million other sexual things you can do to get that desired feeling – and who knows – she may be ready to explore it with you!

Good luck =)

Porn Addiction – Is it a thing?

Question: I watch porn 2-3 times a day, and get off as well. Is that considered a porn addiction?

My usual caveat here, folks: I am not a Psychiatrist or Therapist. I am, however, a human being with very strong feelings about being exactly that…HUMAN. My opinions are not gospel, but if they provide a different perspective that helps you reduce or get rid of shame and guilt, then I’ve done my job.

Porn Addiction. Is that a thing? All the stuff out there on this, in my opinion, is just that – opinions. You want mine? Here it is…

I don’t care if you watch porn 763 times in an hour, or once a day. The ONLY question that should ever come up is whether or not it is negatively impacting your daily life – and I don’t mean some moral dilemma you’re having based on outside influences. I’m talking whether or not you are literally missing out on life because of it. Are you staying home from work just to watch porn? Are you skipping all social events just to stay home and watch porn? Have your expectations changed so much that you no longer find pleasure in non-porn activities? Has your view of your current sex life plummeted because of the unrealistic portrayal of sex in porn? Even if you answered yes to any of these – it just means that you need to reevaluate your porn-watching habits. It doesn’t mean you’re some sexual deviant who needs to be quarantined. And if that IS what it means, then you’ll have millions of other “deviants” right next to you in the cell (insert sarcasm and eye roll).

Do I think that porn contains chemicals that are addictive when ingested? Clearly not. Although, that would be pretty cool if you could actually ingest porn…but I digress. Do I believe that your brain enjoys the good vibes (pun intended) that it gets when watching porn? Absofreakinlutely. However, if you watching porn gets you horny, feeling good, into orgasm land, and no one is hurt in the process – WHY. THE. HELL. NOT?

You want to watch porn while peeing? Go for it. Doing the laundry? Then, too! While you’re on a conference call? Sure – live on the edge! (ok…maybe go easy on that one due to potential screen share accidents.)

So much of our guilt from watching porn is instilled in us via outside influences (religion, family, culture, etc.). However, if you remove all of that and take it for what it ACTUALLY is, it’s pretty straightforward. Porn can be exciting, stimulating, and for many, a NECESSARY component in orgasmic sessions. So, go ahead – keep rocking it. If you find it starts to negatively impact your life, take a step back and make some changes. Maybe it’s the type of porn you’re watching. Maybe it’s the types of bodies you’re getting used to seeing.

When I work with clients who openly enjoy porn but are having trouble separating it from reality, the first thing I tell them to do is to watch homemade porn for a while and see if that shifts. Additionally, I recommend (especially for those who have a vagina), to watch porn that you can actually connect with. If you typically orgasm by using a toy, then watch porn where the performers are using toys. If you have a curvier or softer body (all genders), then search for porn with similar body types. If you want to take a break for a little bit completely, then go ahead and take a break! It will be there when you return from your porn hiatus, so never fear.

So go easy on yourself, ok? Getting off 2-3 times a day is an amazing self-care routine and one that is both physically AND mentally healthy for you.

Anal Play Basics

Question: How do we start anal play? I want to make sure it doesn’t hurt and that we do it correctly.

The awkward hurdle of bringing up the topic of anal play has been cleared…now what? Aside from the mental uneasiness surrounding the idea of anal play, many fear the physical “uneasiness” as well. This is a legitimate concern and one that absolutely needs to be considered. The downside? It can be uncomfortable if not approached carefully. Upside? There are ways to make anal play extremely pleasurable. Let’s be honest…that’s the goal here, right?

The anus is naturally tight and does not lubricate in the same way a vagina does, for example. I know what you’re thinking…how can tight and dry ever work together? And you’re right – if left alone, those two adjectives do not lend themselves to pleasurable anal play.  However, with a few other “ingredients”, you have the makings of one HELL of a recipe! 

Anal play can be mind-blowing if done correctly. What’s “correctly”? Well, here are a few tips to help ensure a pleasurable experience and one which your partner just might be open (pun intended) to trying.

1)  WAIT: Yes, you read that correctly. Rushing right into anal play is not the best idea. Getting worked up and waiting for your inhibitions to fall away is when your mind and body will be more receptive to engaging in something that may be new or uncomfortable. Pay attention to your partner’s body movements. Are they tense and reserved or are they relaxed and inviting?

*Caveat* I’m a huge believer in trying things on yourself before trying with a partner. There are many anal “starter kits” that can help you adjust to the sensation and figure out how you like it, which can then be explained to your partner.

2) BABY STEPS: When you and your partner have been going at it for a while and you can tell they are totally into the moment, start by grabbing and/or rubbing their ass. That simple move will start to wake up that area on their body. Next, try licking your finger to lubricate it and slowly rub up and down the crack of their ass and over their anus. The anus has a high concentration of nerve endings, so rubbing gently over it is rarely protested. Again, you’re moving slowly to gauge their level of comfort each step of the way. If you get the green light, then it’s time for your next move. When in doubt, ASK! Consent. Is. Sexy.

3) OPTIONS: To take it to the next level, you have several options. Your next move will depend on your ultimate goal at the moment (oral-anal, genital-anal, toy-anal, digital (fingers)-anal, etc.). The “safest” bet is to start with one finger – the thinner the better.  Making sure it’s lubricated (saliva works and doesn’t interrupt the moment, but lube is preferred!) and start to focus on rubbing directly around the anus applying a small amount of pressure. Slowly (keyword here!) insert the tip of your finger inside. Their natural reaction will be to tense up – that’s ok. Leaving your finger in there as you continue to kiss will allow their body (and mind) to begin to relax around it. If you’re looking to add another finger or move to something larger, just ASK! It doesn’t have to be clinical or corny. It can be sexy! Like, “Are you ready for something bigger?” “Do you want more, baby?”

Too often, I feel people believe that asking for consent has to be this super professional and formal moment. Not true! You are technically asking for a level of consent to do something/continue to do something every time you ask your partner if something feels good!

4) TALK: Aside from paying attention and being in tune with your partner’s body language, check in with your partner. A simple, “Does that feel good?”, “Do you like that?” or “How’s this?” can not only add to the sexual atmosphere, but it allows your partner the chance to let you know how they’re feeling. Remember that anal play does not have to be painful and, if done right, can be immensely pleasurable. Take your time, check in with your partner, make sure to lubricate, and ENJOY!

Broaching the topic of anal

Question: How do I bring up the topic of anal play with my partner?

Introducing anal play into the bedroom requires sensitivity and tact. Best case scenario, you are 100% positive that your partner is down for it and, in that case, what the hell are you waiting for? Stop reading this and go play!

However, if you are one of the many who are in a relationship where the idea of anal play has not come up yet or it’s come up but you’re still unsure about your partner’s feelings on the topic, then listen up. 

Let’s take an all too common situation and break it down. You’re with your partner and it’s getting heavy. You’re both turned on and crawling out of your skin. Clothes are off, moans are loud and the smell of sex is surrounding you. In the midst of your animalistic lust, your senses are on overload. You’re enjoying touching each other’s “fun parts” and all of a sudden…WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! Your partner decides that it was a good time to slowly slip the tip of their finger into your ass. No warning, no preparation, nothing. Your body tenses up, you laugh awkwardly, panic sets in and the mood is…well…gone. Nothing like ruining a porn style moment with an unexpected finger in the ass. This, my friends, can be avoided (and it really should be avoided…).

Here are some tips for communicating about anal play:

1) Bring it up OUTSIDE of the bedroom. If you’re in a relationship and comfortable enough to be sexually active, you’re probably comfortable talking about sexual topics. Even something as simple as asking if your partner has ever done anything anally (not just anal sex). If the answer is yes, they will most likely say how they felt about it. If they don’t volunteer the information right away, it would be totally natural to respond with, “Oh really? What did you think?”

If the answer is no, it would also be completely ok to follow up with a question like, “Oh really? Not your thing, huh?” Approaching the topic without judgmental statements or opinions is crucial here.  You can even use THIS BLOG as a conversation starter and feel out their reaction.

2) DO NOT attempt to try it and just, “see what happens”. Not only can this cause some serious awkwardness, but with a topic that is as sensitive (pun intended) as anal, it really is important to respect the fact that your partner may not be comfortable with it at all. Contrary to what you may see while watching porn, the stealth ass hole poke is not highly recommended.

3) Be careful with your response. Regardless of your partner’s answer, be conscious about how you respond. If you find that they are open to it, don’t automatically assume they are ready for it right then and there, or even that night. I know, I know…you’re excited and I just popped your bubble, but trust me – there are ways to initiate anal play that are more successful than others. Contrarily, if your partner is not interested in it, do not attempt to shame them into it or make them feel bad. “Different strokes for different folks” is spot on when it comes to sex, and getting your partner to do something by pressuring them with guilt is a surefire way to negatively affect your relationship (and then anal will be the LEAST of your worries). There are plenty of people who have started out being uncomfortable with it and, over time, the tides change. If the tides don’t change, you may just have to accept that and find other fun ways to enjoy each other.

Let’s review, shall we? The topic of anal play can be uncomfortable for many people for a variety of reasons. So, approach the conversation in a neutral environment, steer clear of the spontaneous finger jab and love on your partner regardless of where they sit (get it?) on the anal comfort continuum.

Threesomes

Question: How do I bring up threesomes with my partner?

Ahhh…the infamous threesome question. First and foremost, you are NOT ALONE whatsoever in your desire to have a threesome. This is one of the more common porn scene searches for both men AND women, and a fantasy that most have had at one point or another. Whenever you’re discussing fantasies with a partner, the most important piece is to go slow (don’t spring it on them the moment they walk in the door). Timing. Is. Everything.

One “rule” I try to stick with is not to have uncomfortable sex chats in the bedroom, or directly following a sexual session. We tend to be super vulnerable during and after, and we want to approach the topic at a neutral time (and even a neutral location!). If you’ve already watched porn together, try watching threesome porn together and see how your partner reacts. Maybe even ask them, “What are your thoughts on threesomes? Did you think that clip was sexy, or no?” Sometimes it’s easier to have a laid back conversation about the idea in general, versus flat out asking them for a threesome.

Their answer will determine whether or not to take the conversation to the next “phase”. If your partner says that they think it’s sexy, you can say something like, “Yeah, I think so, too. Would you ever do that in real life, or is it more of a fantasy thing?”

If you ever decide to have a threesome, there are a number of questions you want to ask yourself before making it happen. But that’s for another blog post…